The Top 10 Pitchers

The pattern of a (near-)unanimous few then the biases of the many continues with the votes for the Nationals’ Top 10 Pitchers. Thirty different pitchers received votes, but only two appeared on each of the thirteen ballots cast (Lucas Giolito and Nathan Karns) while two more were named on all but one (Sammy Solis and Matt Purke).

1. Lucas Giolito
2. Nathan Karns
3. Matt Purke
4. Sammy Solis
5. Christian Garcia
6. Erik Davis
7. Danny Rosenbaum
8. Aaron Barrett
9. Brett Mooneyham
10. Robbie Ray

Others receiving votes: Rob Wort, Rafael Martin, Neil Holland, Paul Demny, Pedro Encarnacion, Taylor Jordan, Christian Meza, Jeff Mandel, Cole Kimball, Brad Meyers, Wirkin Estevez, Pat McCoy, Ryan Tatusko, Robert Benincasa, Derek Self, Hector Nelo, Josh Smoker, Jack McGeary, Nick Lee

Perhaps more disturbing is that we don’t see a pitcher who hasn’t had shoulder or elbow surgery until the #6 hurler, Erik Davis, who instead has had knee problems, according to MASN’s Byron Kerr.

Close behind is the realization that half of this list is 25 or older. Put another way: just 10 of these 30 pitchers voted for were born after 1990.

As I wrote back in September in discussing the Nationals farm, it’s pretty clear that the organization’s strength has shifted away from developing pitchers to position players. Perhaps more evident: surgery and long periods of rehab seem to be the gamble the Nats are willing to make — regardless of a pitcher’s age or ailment — to get pitching potential. What remains to be seen is whether this approach will pay off frequently enough to warrant the shifting of innings or roles away from healthier and/or lower-ceiling guys.

I hope folks enjoyed this experiment in crowdsourcing. Next up on the minor-league calendar is the Rule 5 draft. The Nats are nearly certain not to be takers in the MLB phase (thus, no preview this year), and may even have a player or two taken, though the odds are extremely short that any player taken will be gone for good.

Spring Training Broadcast Schedule (UPDATED)

As predicted, MLB Network has picked up some of Nationals games in its broadcast schedule. Most, however, are rebroadcasts of the MASN feed, some live, some tape delayed. Three road games have been added, with one live (at Atlanta on March 14) and two tape-delayed (at St. Louis on March 22, at Mets on March 28), increasing the total to 13 games on cable TV this spring and nine games on local radio.

Here’s the updated schedule with the live and/or unique games:

Day Date Time (ET) Opponent Network
Sat. Mar. 3 1:05 p.m. Houston 106.7 FM
Sun. Mar. 4 1:05 p.m. Houston MASN
Mon. Mar. 5 6:10 p.m. NY Mets MASN
Tue. Mar. 13 6:05 p.m. Detroit MASN*
Wed. Mar. 14 6:05 p.m. Atlanta MLB Network#
Thu. Mar. 15 1:05 p.m. NY Yankees MASN**
Fri. Mar. 16 1:05 p.m. NY Yankees MLB Network
Sat. Mar. 17 1:05 p.m. Miami 106.7 FM
Sun. Mar. 18 1:05 p.m. Detroit 106.7 FM
Wed. Mar. 21 1:05 p.m. Atlanta MASN*
Thu. Mar. 22 10:00 p.m.+ St. Louis MLB Network
Sat. Mar. 24 1:05 p.m. Baltimore MASN***
Sun. Mar. 25 1:05 p.m. NY Mets 106.7 FM
Wed. Mar. 28 4:00 p.m.+ NY Mets MLB Network
Fri. Mar. 30 6:05 p.m. Miami MASN*
Tue. Apr. 3 3:05 p.m. Boston MASN

* = Not simulcast on 106.7FM  ** = Simulcast on 1580AM instead of 106.7FM  *** = Orioles MASN broadcasters
+ = Tape delay  # = Also on 106.7FM

And in case you’ve been living under a rock, Sammy Solis appears to be the latest National to undergo TJ surgery, while Anthony Rendon has become the ST flavor of the week. Here’s a take from outside the Natmosphere from national baseball writer Rob Neyer.

The Top 10 Pitchers

Fear not, seamheads. The list will be here before the weekend.

The turnout the second time around was a little less — 17 vs. 19 — and lot closer. Twenty different hurlers got a vote, with four named on every ballot. No perfect score this time, which was not a surprise. Without further ado, the results in reverse order with points in parentheses:

10. Rafael Martin (14)
9. Danny Rosenbaum (28)
8. Brad Meyers (44)
7. Robbie Ray (68)
6. Alex Meyer (90)
5. Matt Purke (106)
4. Tommy Milone (110)
3. Sammy Solis (114)
2. A.J. Cole (142)
1. Brad Peacock (166)

Others receiving votes: Kylin Turnbull (13), Wirkin Estevez (11), Taylor Jordan, Josh Smoker, Paul Demny, Taylor Hill, Atahualpa Severino, Marcos Frias, Cole Kimball, Pat Lehman

As you’ve probably already surmised — and the mathmetically inclined, deduced — Peacock, Cole, and Solis were the every-ballot picks; Ray was the fourth. Purke, Milone, and Alex Meyer were named on 16 of 17 ballots. After that, it’s scattershot.

Unlike the bats, I think this list shows our biases, Brad Meyers and Rafael Martin in particular. I called out the votes for Turnbull and Estevez because you can see that just one or two more votes would have put them in the list. I voted for “For The Weekend” because he’s one of the handful of Nats’ teenage pitchers that have pitched north of Viera, but didn’t for Turnbull because he’s thrown less than a 100 innings since H.S. and the guess is that he’ll be used as a reliever not a starter.

Unfortunately, the starter vs. reliever bias is probably hurting Josh Smoker the most, but like favoring youth, it’s prospect prejudice that’s right more often than it’s wrong. I’d have probably voted for Jordan if he’d finished the season at Hagerstown, but fair or not, my inclination is to hold injuries against a pitcher until he proves that he’s healthy. And I write that having had some of the problems (back, hip, knee) that come with the pitcher’s physique without any of the incipient stress (or talent) of actually throwing a baseball.

Have at it in the comments. The winter meetings start next week and finish with the Rule 5 draft. Yesterday, we got a little touch of the hot stove and let’s hope it burns steadily for the next two months.

Nats in the AFL: Buy, Sell or Hold?

[Ed. Note: Another guest column from frequent commenter BinM]

Here’s an alternative rating to how well (or poorly) the Washington Nationals prospects performed with Scottsdale in the AFL this year, using simple stock market terminology. Did they either gain, lose, or maintain value in your eyes, based on their AFL results (Buy, Sell, or Hold)?

These are solely my opinions, and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and/or its employee

Bryce Harper, OF — 2010 Draft Pick (#1 overall, 19yo)
Coming off an injury out of AA Hagerstown, he delivered as expected in a repeat role for Scottsdale, producing an offensive line of 25GP, .333BA/.400OBP/.634SLG/.338BPA, 14EBH, 4SB with a 16-game hitting streak to boot. His OF errors still show he has room for overall improvement in the field.
Opinion: He’s only 19; still an unquestionable ‘Buy’ player for 2012.

Pat Lehman, RHP —2009 Draft Pick (13th round, 25yo)
Coming off a solid season divided between High-A and AA, this , 25yo) stumbled when presented with a chance to move up in the Nationals RP rankings. His final line of 12GP, 14⅔IP, 1.98WHIP, .382OBA, 4.3:1K-W, 2BS, 0-4 W-L left more than a bit to be desired for a prospect.
Opinion: Sell. This is basically the same kind of results seen from Jeff Mandel and Josh Wilkie in 2009, who also had chances to move up but posted uninspiring AFL results and slid into OG status.

Rafael Martin, RHP — 2010 Int’l Free Agent (27yo)
Signing with Washington just weeks shy of age 26, he entered the 2011 AFL season as a bit of a wildcard, with no real expectations. His season in Scottsdale yielded an overall line of 10GP, 12IP, 1.17WHIP, .200 OBA, 1.3:1K-W, showing both a cut fastball and a sinker.
Opinion: Hedging toward a ‘Buy’ status, but may still cap off at the AAA level.

Derek Norris, C — 2007 draft pick (4th round, 22yo)
Coming off a decent season at Harrisburg, Norris compiled a very good results in his second pass at the AFL, with a 21GP, 90PA, .276BA/.367OBP/.382SLG/.261BPA, 22RP, 4SB offensive line, as well as a 17-game on-base streak. The bat is there for this converted catcher, but the defense still needs work.
Opinion: Buy. His eye at the plate is rock-solid, he’s quicker than you think on the bases, and that bat should play somewhere in the field in the next year or two.

Matt Purke, LHP — 2011 Draft Pick (3rd round, 21yo)
Purke was a slightly suprising addition to the Scottsdale roster who seems to have settled down after a horrid start. His final line of 7GP, 7⅓ IP, 2.05WHIP, 1.2:1K-W, .353BAA shows some additional work is needed.
Opinion: Hold. I’m not yet convinced that he’s completely healthy, and might spend at least a partial season in a minor-league bullpen before returning to a starters’ role. As a result, he could still be a year or two out.

Sammy Solis, LHP — 2010 Draft Pick (2nd round, 23yo)
An up-and-down fall season for the southpaw, following a regular season shortened by minor injuries. His final line of 7GS, 26IP, 4.50ERA, 1.73WHIP, 1.4:1K-W, while still possessing a high-end FB, and the ongoing development of a solid overhand curve bodes well for his future with the organization.
Opinion: Buy, but don’t overcommit. He’s a LH with a likely #3SP role in the majors as his top end, but could still be two years away.

Zach Walters, IF — 2010 Draft Pick by Arizona (9th round, 22yo)
Coming from the Diamondbacks in a July trade for Jason Marquis, Walters was a steady player at SS in Potomac late in 2011. Shifted to 3B by other prospects in Scottsdale, he compiled a less-than-impressive 24GP, 89PA, .205BA/.253OPB/.301SLG/.189BPA, 6EBH, 14RP, 5.3:1 K:W overall line, with a high number of errors (albeit out of position).
Opinion: Hold. He was clearly ‘in over his head’ this fall season, but that doesn’t preclude some growth as a player going forward. A player to watch in 2012.

AFL Update: November 10, 2011

Sammy Solis wasn’t as sharp as his last outing, getting touched for three runs (and the loss) in the first as the Scottsdal Scorpions would go on to lose, 5-0.

The southpaw would finish with three innings pitched, four hits allowed, two walks surrendered, and two strikeouts while throwing just 33 of his 63 pitches for strikes. The loss evened his AFL mark at 1-1.

Pat Lehman would receive a similar greeting in the fourth, giving up two runs and finishing with four hits allowed over his two innings pitched. He walked none and struck out two.

Rafael Martin appeared in the 7th and tossed a 1-2-3 frame with a strikeout.

Nats bats Bryce Harper, Derek Norris and Zach Walters appeared in the game in left field, catcher and third base respectively…

…Harper extended his hit streak to 15 games with a second-inning double, and committed the cardinal sin of making the first out of the inning by getting thrown out at third. He struck out twice and made two putouts on defense.

…Norris reached base for the 18th time in as many games with a sixth-inning single. The Desert Dogs were successful in both steal attempts against him.

…Walters went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and had no defensive chances.
                                          #                                     #                                     #
By now, many of you have heard that Wilson Ramos was kidnapped in his native Venezuela — it was first brought to my attention by Jeff550 via the comments — and as of this writing there’s still no word as to his fate.

Despite being decidedly closer to the scene, farmhand Ryan Tatusko said via Twitter that he found out about it via the Washington Post. Fortunately, the young man had the presence of mind to write something about it on his blog, giving us some perspective on what it’s like as a jugador de bĂ©isbol americano.

Baseball America Ranks The Top 10 Nats Prospects

For most of you, this list is hardly new. But the blogging protocol is that I needed Baseball America to officially release its list so I could link to it before mocking discussing it. Without further ado, here’s the list from the home office in Durham, North Carolina…

1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B
3. Brad Peacock, RHP
4. A.J. Cole, RHP
5. Brian Goodwin, OF
6. Alex Meyer, RHP
7. Matt Purke, LHP
8. Sammy Solis, LHP
9. Derek Norris, C
10. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B/SS

So what’s with the picture, Sue? Glad you asked. I’ve put the prospects with zero regular-season pro experience in italics. As the old expression goes, when you’re girl watching the prettiest one is the last one to walk by. It’s a crude metaphor, but we all know there’s some commonality here with ranking prospects.

Of course, this is not to say that none of these four isn’t a prospect. It’s just my personal conviction that placing a guy with no professional track record over a guy that does doesn’t pass the sniff test — especially when two of these four have injury issues, one of which we’ve been tracking from afar in the Arizona Fall League. For example: Which Matt Purke is the real Matt Purke — the one that’s turned in two scoreless innings in his last two outings, or the one that threw in-game BP the two appearances prior?

Maybe that’s just a pet peeve, so forgive me for seizing the chance to rant… I’m not as diplomatic as others have been on the subject.

Like last year, the free article focuses a lot on how the Nationals have spent freely and heavily the past three drafts. Two of last year’s Top 10 “graduated” — Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos — while a third went down with a season-ending injury (Cole Kimball). Chris Marrero dropped off the list while Cole, Harper, Norris, Peacock and Solis are repeats from last year.

What’s perhaps more interesting is the “best in the system” lists. Harper remains the best power hitter and best outfield arm, but lost the title of “Best Athlete” to Michael Taylor, who was also named as the best defensive outfielder (disagree, but no argument over naming Steve Lombardozzi as the best defensive infielder). Anthony Rendon with his undefined pro average (zero divided by zero) is the best hitter for average and those zero walks drawn have earned him the system’s best strike-zone discipline, topping Derek Norris’s .403 career OBP in 1,815 more plate appearances (OK, so maybe I’m still ranting). Brad Peacock’s curve was named the best in the system while Alex Meyer and A.J. Cole were said to possess the best slider and heater, respectively.

Among the non-Top 10 tools, Eury Perez retains the title of fastest baserunner (Kobernus is close, but Perez has that proverbial fifth gear). Tommy Milone retains the title of best control and takes the best changeup honors away from Josh Wilkie (which might explain why he’s demoted his bender to a show-me pitch). Deion Williams has the strongest infield arm while Sandy Leon was named the best defensive catcher (agreed).

Lastly, here’s where BA thinks these guys will start the 2012 season:
MLB or AAA – Lombardozzi
AAA – Norris
AA or AAA – Harper
AA – Solis
High-A – Cole, Purke
Low-A – Goodwin, Meyer

BA took no guess at Rendon, but my rule of thumb is to take whatever level you think is about right, and drop back one: In this case, Hagerstown instead of Potomac. If he’s as good as advertised, I’ll get to see him in June or July, presuming that field conditions won’t play a factor in promotions as they allegedly didn’t this past summer.

Byron Kerr will be running a series based on his conversations with Aaron Fitt of Baseball America (author of the article linked in the first graf), beginning with Lombardozzi. I encourage you to take a look, as that’s where we learned that the Nigel Tufnel is Destin Hood.

AFL Update: Nov. 8, 2011

After the entire Nats contingent was trotted out last Friday, just two made into Monday’s night contest, which the Scottsdale Scorpions lost, 9-4.

Derek Norris caught and kept his on-base streak perfect at 17 with a 1-for-5 night. No baserunners attempted to steal against him, and he had no errors or passed balls, assisting on a infield roller and registering six putouts on strikeouts.

Zach Walters played third base and went 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, and an RBI double. Defensively, he had no putouts or errors and assisted on four groundouts.

In an upset of near miniscule proportions, Bryce Harper was not named the AFL Player of the Week last week despite hitting .500 with 2HR and 8RBI. Instead, the honor went to Texas’s Mike Olt, who bested Harper by batting .571 with the same HR and RBI totals. Sammy Solis’s 9K over 4IP outing on Friday did, however, garner him the AFL Pitcher of the Week award.

AFL Update: November 5, 2011

With solid Solis outing, the Scottsdale Scorpions won 9-2, taking back-to-back games for just the fourth time this fall.

Solis threw four shutout innings, allowing three hits and three walks. He struck out nine, hitting 94-96 m.p.h. per Mark Zuckerman, and undoubtedly had his new overhand curve working (first spotted by commenter Ernie Salazar) as Solis threw 40 of his 67 pitches for strikes. He was credited with the win.

Solis was followed in the bullpen by his fellow farmhands Pat Lehman, Matt Purke, and Rafael Martin, while Bryce Harper played left field, Derek Norris caught and Zach Walters played third base. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo was reported to be in attendance at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, which may explain why every Washington player was playing.

Here’s a rundown on how they did…

  • Lehman pitched a scoreless inning, allowing a hit, but walked none and struck out two.
  • Purke threw a 1-2-3 inning with no hits, walks, or strikeouts.
  • Martin also put up a goose egg, giving up a hit, but no walks, and whiffed one.
  • Harper went 1-for-5 (the streak is now 13 games) with a run scored and an RBI, gunning down a runner at the plate and making a putout.
  • Norris’s safety skein was snapped after 10 games with an 0-for-3 game, but drew two walks to keep his on-base streak a perfect 16-for-16 this fall. He threw out a baserunner and had no errors or passed balls.
  • Walters went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts but had two assists.

Harper and Norris are expected to play in tonight’s AFL Rising Stars game, which will be televised tonight at 8 p.m. on the MLB Network.

AFL Update: October 30, 2011

The Scottsdale Scorpions couldn’t make it three in a row, falling 4-3 to Salt River.

Derek Norris pushed the safety skein to eight games (hey, that rhymes!) while going 2-for-5 with a strikeout. Defensively, it was a mixed bag: a passed ball, 1-for-2 in runners caught stealing.

Sammy Solis scattered five hits over four innings, but needed 71 pitches to do it. He walked two and allowed an unearned run (Norris PB) while striking out five.

Pat Lehman ended his in-game BP tendencies with a scoreless inning — his first in more than three weeks — retiring all three batters he faced in the 6th, two by way of the K.

Unfortunately, Rafael Martin’s fifth appearance was marred by a 9th-inning solo HR that gave the Rafters its fourth and deciding run. Martin was tagged with the loss and had no walks and no strikeouts.

It’s a five-game this week as the AFL holds its “Rising Stars” game on Saturday, which will be televised on MLB Network at 8 p.m. Rosters are expected to be announced on Tuesday.

AFL Update: October 29, 2011

Bryce Harper homered for the third straight game in a 9-5 win by Scottsdale over Salt River, just the second time this fall the Scorpions have won consecutive games in consecutive days.

Harper also drew a walk and scored two runs for his 1-for-4 game. He drove in two with home run #4 and struck out twice while playing left field (no putouts, errors, or assists). The hit extended his streak to nine games.

Derek Norris was the designated hitter and extended his hit streak to seven games with single in the 7th inning. He drew a walk but struck out three times for his 1-for-4 game.

Zach Walters played third base and snapped an 0-for-10 skid with an RBI double in the 4th. He later drove in runs a la Homer Simpson (HBP) and via sacrifice fly to finish the game 1-for-3 with 3RBI. Defensively, he had two putouts and an assist.

Sammy Solis is expected to make his fifth start tonight as the Scorpions rematch against River Rafters to close out the week.