Mar 292013
 

Transactions for NPPLate yesterday afternoon, the Nationals announced the reassignment of 1B/LF Micah Owings and UT Carlos Rivero to minor-league camp. Both will presumably begin the season in Syracuse.

MLB.com beat writer Bill “No, I did not play Stevie’s Dad on Malcolm In The Middle” Ladson also had the news of another set of releases:

  • RHP Alex Kreis (Hagerstown)
  • OF Ray Kruml (offseason pickup)
  • LHP Brandon Mann (offseason pickup)
  • RHP Hassan Pena (Syracuse)

With less than a week to go before the minor-league season starts, it’s now a waiting game to see how the rosters shake out. Unfortunately, if there are any more releases, we’re back to relying on MiLB.com and Baseball America (warning: if you haven’t been to the site in a couple of days, it’s been redesigned) as the beat writers have (quite happily) left Viera for this afternoon’s cash cow vs. the New York Yankees.

I’m expecting rosters to be released on Tuesday and Wednesday (e.g. the 3rd is Media Day for Potomac). The past two seasons, the first roster to hit the streets, er, inboxes has been Harrisburg, which is quite apt this year since it’s the most anticipated roster of them all… Matt Skole, Brian Goodwin, Nathan Karns, and newly acquired Ian Krol, for example. Wait: Am I missing anybody?

As in years past, I’ll have a separate post for each roster with some analysis.

Mar 242013
 

We now interrupt your lazy Sunday afternoon for another transaction-oriented post.

The Washington Nationals announced late Sunday afternoon that out-of-options IF-OF Carlos Rivero passed through waivers and has been outrighted to Syracuse while RHP Christian Garcia was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a forearm tendon strain.

If there’s an underlying theme among these moves — minus Garcia — it’s that Nats GM Mike Rizzo is adamant that “surplus” players aren’t leaving without a decent return. Both Colorado and Detroit were looking to hold onto Danny Rosenbaum and Jeff Kobernus, respectively, but returned them because “the asking price was too high.”

It’s probably safe to deduce that the Nats were unable to trade Rivero for the same reason.

The Garcia move is retroactive to Friday, which would make the righthander eligible on April 6th. With zero exhibition appearances, his injury history, and the careful management of his workload last summer, estimates such as Adam Kilgore’s of Garcia missing the month of April seem rather plausible.

Mar 242013
 

Another day, another Rule 5 pick returned.

Multiple online sources are reporting that Colorado will return Danny Rosenbaum following the signing of veteran RHP Jon Garland. Rosenbaum was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in six appearances for the Rockies this spring, the last of which came a week ago when the 25-year-old southpaw gave up a single and a walkoff home run in a 9-7 loss to the Giants.

He had been competing for the final bullpen spot — five of his six outings were in relief — in a group of relievers that included notables such as Chris Volstad and Manny Corpas.

Like Kobernus, he’s expected to be reassigned to minor-league camp, but it’s much less clear where he’ll begin the season. Last season was arguably his worst, beginning with 7-2, 1.94 in his first 13 starts, but finishing in a freefall of 1-8, 6.54 in his last 13 starts for an 8-10, 3.94 mark overall.

While often compared to former Nats farmhand Tommy Milone, a comp that seems largely based on size (both are shade taller than 6′ with a “sturdy carriage”) and dexterity and the soft-tosser perception. The reality is that Rosenbaum has always thrown harder than Milone (low-90s vs. high-80s), but with a little less control (2.5 vs. 1.5 BB/9).

Still, it’s a understandable linkage because both have shown the ability to get guys out without lot of flash while pitching deep into games (e.g. 171⅓ IP in 2011). Rosenbaum works off a heavy, sinking fastball, which has produced groundball rates of 50%-plus the past two seasons, including 56.7% last year, while mixing in a cutter as well as a changeup and a curve as his secondary pitches.

Like a lot of the AA and AAA pitchers, it’s difficult to predict where he’ll begin the season given the signings of multiple free agents. What’s probably more certain is that he’ll return to starting, given his durability and track record.

The watchlist and the LHPs page have been both been updated to reflect his return.

Mar 232013
 

So LongAs reported earlier today, we heard the Nationals had made some releases, just not who. Now, we know. Per Bill Ladson and MLB Trade Rumors, it’s the following minor-leaguers:

  • LHP Ryan Demmin (Potomac)
  • RHP Inocencio Heredia (GCL)
  • IF Stephen King (Harrisburg, Potomac)
  • LHP Bobby Lucas (Hagerstown)
  • LHP Blake Monar (Auburn)
  • OF Wade Moore (Potomac)
  • RHP Casey Upperman (offseason pickup)
  • LHP Andrew Wall (Auburn)
  • OF J.P. Ramirez (Hagerstown, Potomac)
  • UT Delwyn Young (offseason pickup)

I don’t think there are any real surprises here. Maybe Inocencio Heredia, who just turned 21 in December, but had spent parts of two seasons in the GCL (and of course, mea culpa, I overrated him enough to put him on the “Notable Arms”). Wade Moore had retired last summer and was contemplating a return to playing football, but saw his change of mind go unrewarded. Without going down the line, there were hints for the others.

Nevertheless, I’ll rephrase I wrote last year… before you comment, just remember that for some of these young men, it’s the end of the road. Some will try to hook on with another organization. A few will try to play their way back via the indys. But all of them will have to figure out what’s the next chapter in the lives, baseball or otherwise.

UPDATE: Last night, Baseball America made its weekly transaction post for the period of March 14-20 (the releases above are believe to have occurred on Thursday). The following two players were among the previously unreported cuts:

  • RHP Randy Consuegra (offseason pickup)
  • RHP Francisco Samuel (offseason pickup)

Both pitchers were reclamation projects that were signed last November.

Mar 232013
 

Well, it looks like yesterday’s reports were wrong: the Tigers have returned Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus to the Nationals.

Kobernus hung a line of .220/.298/.300 in 50ABs for Detroit in 21 games while attempting to make the 25-man roster as a utilityman. The 24-year-old made appearances in all three outfield positions, playing there for the first time since his collegiate days at California.

Officially, he’s been reassigned to minor-league camp but is expected to open the season in Syracuse after an injury-shortened 2012 in Harrisburg. He played in 82 games for the Senators and hit .282/.325/.333 with 42 SBs with a career-best .982 fielding average.

The watchlist and the second baseman page have been both been updated to reflect his return.

Mar 202013
 

Other Shoe DroppedThe other shoe has dropped on the Michael Morse trade, as the Nationals announced that LHP Ian Krol is the infamous “player to be named later.”

Krol was drafted in the 7th round out of Neuqua Valley HS in Naperville, IL in 2009 and put together a 9-4, 2.65 season in 2010 that put him into the Top 10 (#9) of the A’s system, per Baseball America. Unfortunately, elbow problems and issues between the ears effectively turned 2011 into a waste.

Last year wasn’t much better (2-9, 5.20, 1.361 between High-A and AA), but as John Sickels put it:

Krol avoided injury problems and Archie Bunker outbursts last year… but struggled in the unforgiving California League. He pitched better as the season progressed, showing a better changeup in particular. He gave up some runs after moving up to the Texas League, but his K/BB and K/IP ratios were quite good and that’s more important for his future projection.

Krol features a low-90s fastball, but his curve and change have been praised as “plus” in the past, but what’s been missing is consistency on the field, and maturity off the field (he was also suspended in high school). He turns 22 in May, so suffice to write, there’s still time for him overcome this adversity and return to form.

Feb 172013
 

RestockingThe latest transaction post from Baseball America was issued last night, with the Nationals signing six pitchers and Micah Owings — a pitcher trying to convert to playing a position:

  • RHP Jeremy Accardo
  • LHP Will Ohman
  • 1B Michah Owings
  • RHP Mike Crotta
  • LHP Kelvin A. de la Cruz
  • RHP Adrian Green
  • RHP Luis Torres

Accardo, Ohman, and Owings have been previously reported or covered by the “Big Nats” beat writers. Here’s the information that I was able to dig up on the others…

Crotta is a 28-y.o. veteran of the Pittsburgh organization, drafted in ’06 but did not pitch in 2012 (elbow) after making the Pirates 25-man roster as a reliever in 2011. He reportedly was timed at 96 m.p.h. in his tryout. He’s mostly started in the minors, but to paraphrase the folks at PiratesProspects.com, Crotta has benefited from the love that Pittsburgh GMs such as Dave Littlefield have had with extreme GB pitchers with low BB and K totals.

…de la Cruz is a 24-y.o. six-year FA who was signed as a teenager by the Cleveland organization but was traded to Texas, then claimed by Detroit when the Rangers tried to pass him through waivers last spring. He has yet to pitch above AA, though 2012 was his first season since 2008 that he walked less than four batters per nine innings. Shortly after his trade to the Rangers, IndiansBaseballInsider.com posted this scouting report not the former Indians farmhand as originally reported (H/T to SpringfieldFan for pointing out the comments in the article). He is righthanded and appears to be ticketed for Auburn, but no further details could be found.

…Green cannot be located in any story besides the BA post, which either means he’s a relative of Sidd Finch or he’s “the kid that just showed up at that tryout for some other guy” from dime-novel lore.

…Torres is an 18-y.o. Venezuelan signed from the International Prospect League, which also lists the Nationals as having signed an Israel Mota, for whom there are no further details.

As mentioned in the recently completed series on the pitching staffs of the four full-season affiliates, the odds are long for the veteran pitchers to stick around past March. Coming off an elbow injury, Crotta fits the m.o. of an injury reclamation that has become a Nats hallmark. de la Cruz is probably the most likely to make an upper minors roster, given his age (24) and laterality (left).

Feb 052013
 

minor leagues signs 2After a couple of uneventful weeks on the signing front, the Nationals have started back up, announcing the signing of a pitcher and a catcher with an invite to spring training this afternoon.

Former Toronto fireman Jeremy Accardo is the pitcher. The 31-year-old Accardo split time between both AAA and MLB and Cleveland and Oakland in 2012, making 27 appearances in the majors with a 4.82 ERA and a 1.554 WHIP, and posting marks of 2.25 ERA and 1.208 WHIP in 20 appearances in the minors.

Former Houston backstop Chris Snyder is the catcher. The almost-32-year-old spent 2012 as the Astros backup, slicing through National League pitching like (warm) butter with a triple-slash of .176/.295/.308 in 76 games.

Last week, the Nationals signed veteran AAA outfielder Jerad Head to a minor-league deal. The 30-year-old former Cleveland farmhand hit .268/.353/.451 in 85 games for AAA Columbus last summer. He is a career .276/.343/.495 hitter in four AAA seasons, and got a cup of coffee with the Indians with 10 games in late August/early September 2011.

All three guys are most likely destined to see time at Syracuse, presuming that neither non-roster invitee is released outright during spring training.

My apologies to anyone who might have been trying to access the site this afternoon — like Alois Bell and Applebee’s, we were having server issues. *rimshot!*

Jan 192013
 

Catching Up On TransactionsLost amid the excitement of the Michael Morse trade and the arbitration-avoiding deals with six players was another couple of pickups in the minors, as reported in Baseball America’s latest transaction post:

  • RHP Casey Upperman
  • OF Delwyn Young

Upperman* is a 22-year-old who was released by Arizona last April. He has had the “requisite” Tommy John surgery, which is presumably why he did not pitch in 2011 after throwing 25⅔ innings in 2010 as a 47th-round pick from Yavapai College (Prescott, AZ). Prior to his surgery, you can see in his scouting video from MLB.com, he threw in the low 90s with movement and a slow bender. As you might imagine, there’s not much else written about him, given his limited innings and subpar results (5.96/1.675/6.7/8.1). *With that surname, we can only hope he never tests positive for amphetamines (*rimshot!*)

As previously reported, Young is a former L.A. Dodgers/Pittsburgh utilityman who played 35 games last summer for the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League. He spent 2011 in AAA for the Phillies and was cut at the end of Spring Training by the White Sox in 2012.

Jan 162013
 

With the three-way trade of Michael Morse, 2010 4th Rd. pick A.J. Cole has returned to the Washington Nationals organization.

Cole, who had been dealt away 13 months ago in the trade for Gio Gonzalez, was acquired along with 24-year-old Blake Treinin and the ubiquitous “Player To Be Named Later” from Oakland for OF-1B Michael Morse, with Seattle sending Oakland C John Jaso to round out the deal.

Cole’s 2012 season was a rough one, getting pounded in his first eight starts for 60 hits including seven HR’s and seven losses for High-A Stockton before the A’s dropped him down to Low-A Beloit of the Midwest League. He rebounded to post a 6-3 record and a 2.07 ERA, which would have been league-best had he thrown more innings.

Scouts identified a tendency to fly open and leave his pitches up during his time with Stockton, but the better news for Nats fans is that his velocity, which had faded badly during his H.S. senior year, has returned and his control remains very good (1.8BB/9 for Beloit). His changeup has also reportedly improved, but his breaking ball — a slurve of sorts — remains a work in progress, which is not uncommon for A-ball prospects.

Given his age and praise, I’ve put Cole immediately onto the 2013 Watchlist.

Treinin is an unusual story, spending time but not pitching at the varsity level for Baker University and Arkansas before finally getting to pitch for South Dakota State in 2010, his junior year. He was drafted in 2010 by Florida in the 23rd round but had his contract voided when an MRI indicated damage. A strong senior season moved him up to the 7th Round, when Oakland took him and sent him to Low-A Burlington for 27 relief innings after a three-inning look-see in the Arizona League.

Treinin features a mid-90s fastball and what Sickels called “a workable slider” in his book last season. He also throws a change. As predicted by Sickels, the 24-year-old was given a shot at starting last summer and went 7-7 with a 4.37 ERA and a 1.350 WHIP with good peripherals (2.0BB/9IP, 8.0K/9IP). It’s too soon to tell what the Nats have planned for him, but a guess would be that if he starts, it’s Potomac; if he relieves, he might have a chance at Harrisburg.