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.

Jan 152013
 

More ST cutsIt’s a weird world we live in when a mere tweet can be the peg for a news story.

Such was the case yesterday when Jake Skole, the younger sibling of Matt Skole, congratulated his brother on his invite to Washington Nationals spring training, prompting this story from Byron Kerr, who confirmed it independently. The younger Skole’s feelings were echoed by teammate Jason Martinson (both of which I retweeted).

Hours later, Ryan Tatusko gave out the props to his AAA teammate Zach Walters for the same honor. Neither invite has been officially confirmed as of this writing, with the Nationals PR Twitter account dark since Friday.

Like most non-roster invitees, Skole and Walters do not have a strong chance of making the parent club this spring, but the invite is significant nevertheless because it means more time spent in Viera with the major-league coaches.

The logical inference is that both will spend time working on their defense. Walters has been pegged by some as having a future as a utilityman, and if so, will need to refine his defense at the non-SS positions and learn the OF, a la Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore last year.

Skole spent time at 1B in the Arizona Fall League and it’s probably fair to deduce he’ll spend more time learning the position, given that No. 1 prospect Anthony Rendon also plays 3B (and some other guy in DC).

Finally, in keeping with the theme of news-by-Twitter, MLB.com beat reporter Bill Ladson is reporting that former Dodgers/Pirates UT Delwyn Young has been signed to minor-league deal with no invite. The 30-year-old Young, perhaps most famous in Nats lore for hitting a two-run HR in Stephen Strasburg’s MLB debut in 2010, played just 35 games in 2012 with the Camden Riversharks after failing to make the White Sox out of Spring Training.

UPDATE:
This afternoon the Nationals officially announced the spring-training invites of LHPs Fernando Abad, Bill Bray, Brandon Mann, RHP Ross Ohlendorf and IF Will Rhymes, which were previously reported here, here, there, and everywhere, along with the official announcements for Skole and Walters.

They also extended non-roster invitations to C Carlos Maldonado, LHP Pat McCoy, and RHP Tanner Roark and officially announced that pitchers and catchers are due to report on February 12, position players on February 15.

Jan 102013
 

20120
The latest transaction post from Baseball America is in and it’s the beginning of comings and goings to/from the farm. First, the additions:

  • RHP Ross Ohlendorf
  • LHP Sean West
  • C Joe Witkowski

Ohlendorf, a former stalwart in the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation, has been largely ineffective since suffering a shoulder strain in 2011. He began 2012 with the Boston Red Sox, opting out of his contract and signing with the San Diego Padres, where he was pounded for a 7.77ERA (yes, even in Petco Park) over 13 appearances last summer.

West was the 44th pick overall from the 2005 draft by the Florida Marlins and made it to the majors in 2009 but has been frequently injured, not pitching at all in 2012, and spending most of 2010 and 2011 in AAA New Orleans.

Witkowski was signed as an NDFA by the Houston Astros in 2011, playing in the GCL for 18 games and released last June, shortly after the draft.

Now, the subtractions…

  • LHP Bobby Hansen
  • 2B Hendry Jimenez
  • C Jeremy Mayo
  • 1B Brett Newsome
  • OF Tony Nix
  • LHP Joe Testa

Some familiar names here, with three of these six having spent five (or more) seasons in the system (’07 IFA Jimenez, ’08 draft pick Hansen, and ’08 NDFA Newsome), Mayo an inaugural watchlister, and Testa coming via the Matt Capps trade in July 2010.

Jan 102013
 

Big In JapanUnfortunately, he’s an American returning back to affiliated baseball for the first time in three years. Sorry.

Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com has reported that LHP Brandon Mann has signed a minor-league deal with the Washington Nationals. The deal also includes an invite to spring training.

The 28-year-old southpaw has spent the past two seasons in Japan with the Yokohama BayStars, going 1-1 with a 1.16 ERA in 12 relief appearances in 2011, but just 2-8 with a 5.32 ERA (though a decent 1.357 WHIP) in 15 starts in 2012. He was originally drafted by Tampa Bay in the 27th Rd. of the 2002 draft as a HS pick from Des Moines, WA.

Mann reached as high as AA in 2009 when he went 7-9 with a 4.44 ERA in 27 appearances (21 starts) with Montgomery. As a MLFA, he hooked on with the L.A. Dodgers in 2010 but was dropped down to High-A and released after 37 games in relief, going 3-0 but posting a 4.12 ERA and a 1.833 WHIP. He was picked up by the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs later that season and made five starts for a 1-2 record and a 5.14 ERA, 1.643 WHIP.

Dec 292012
 

minor leagues signs 2The estimable Bill “The Rocket” Ladson has passed along news that the Nationals have signed two more minor-league free agents.

Both are of the veteran variety, likely to fill out the Syracuse roster.

Mike “Don’t Call Me George” Constanzo is a corner infielder who was originally drafted by the Phillies in the second round of the 2005 draft. He has also spent time in the Baltimore and Cincinnati organizations, making his MLB debut last May with the Reds but was an abysmal 1-for-18 in 17 games. For his career, the 29-year-old has a .258/.349/.430 line and has played 682 of his 848 minor-league games at 3B, compiling a .928 fielding percentage.

Matt Torra is a RHSP who was originally taken by Arizona (*shock!*) in the supplemental round of the ’05 draft out of UMass, where he posted a 1.14 ERA in his senior season (albeit in the A-10). Shoulder woes (*another shock!*) delayed his full-season debut until 2007, where he struggled to a 6.01 ERA albeit in the Nintendo California League. Torra split time between AA and AAA from ’08 to ’10 before the Diamondbacks released him after 15 starts in 2011. He was picked up by the Rays and finished the ’11 season and pitched all of 2012 with Durham, going 16-9 with a 3.97 ERA in 34 starts.

The 28-year-old Torra features a high-80s sinker (previously low-90s, touching 95), an 11-5 curveball and a changeup but fits the moniker of “pitching to contact” with career marks of 10.3 H/9, 1.8 BB/9 and 5.6 K/9. While he’s improved since this article was written, the conclusion is still apt.

Dec 162012
 

RestockingThe latest transactions have been released from Baseball America, and as predicted following the Rule 5 draft, the Washington Nationals have signed three minor-league pitchers:

• LHP Francis Castro

• RHP Tyler Herron

• RHP Paterson Segura

Given the likelihood that 29-year-old Francisco Castro has come out of retirement, the logical deduction is that Castro is an IFA.

Herron, however, appears to have done just that after skipping the 2011 season and pitching 2012 for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the independent American Association, where he compiled a 12-3 record in 23 games (17 starts) with a 3.29 ERA and a WHIP of 1.163.

The 26-year-old was a sandwich pick (46th overall) for St. Louis in the 2005 draft but was released midway through the 2009 season with the Cardinals citing performance issues despite the then-22-year-old’s 2-4, 4.34, 1.533 marks at AA Springfield. He was picked up by the Pittsburgh organization and released following the season. He spent 2010 with the Kalamazoo Kings of the Frontier League, where he was 1-3 with 3 saves in 14 appearances.

I was unable to find any mention of surgery for Herron, only speculation from websites such as Future Redbirds that the specificity of on-field performance was code for off-the-field issues.

The 16-year-old Segura (turns 17 on January 1) was signed last weekend by the Nationals from the Dominican Prospect League. He’s said to feature a FB-CV-CH arsenal with a 88-91 velocity and a high 3/4 arm slot with an unorthodox “pie throwing motion.”

Best guesses: Castro and Segura will be assigned to the DSL while Herron goes to Woodbridge (the AAPBL is roughly equivalent to Low-A).