Dec 192014
 

Baseball America for NPP
Having confirmed the new list via Twitter, here’s the new-and-improved Washington Nationals Top 10 list from Baseball America (Last year’s ranking in parentheses):

1. Lucas Giolito, RHP (1)
2. Michael Taylor, OF (7)
3. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP (–)
4. Erick Fedde, RHP (’14 Draft Pick)
5. A.J. Cole, RHP (2)
6. Wilmer Difo, 2B/SS (–)
7. Drew Ward, 3B (17)
8. Brian Goodwin, OF (3)
9. Nick Pivetta, RHP (22)
10. Austin Voth, RHP (15)

If you’re a TCU an A.J. Cole fan, you’re probably wondering what he did to drop three slots, but I think the better way to look at it is that the three guys ahead of him simply have either more upside (Fedde) or were in stratosphere this past summer (Taylor, Lopez).

Steve Souza was originally the #5 prospect on this list, though I think most most folks already knew this as the top 10 list was leaked (tweeted) earlier this week.

I’m a bit curious as to why Brian Goodwin remains ranked so high, given this tidbit (italics added):

They pushed him to Double-A Harrisburg by the second half of 2012, but he followed a lackluster 2013 with a horrific 2014 campaign at Triple-A Syracuse that ended on July 1 when he tore the labrum in his left shoulder sliding into second base.

Granted, Goodwin throws righthanded, but injury experts have long held that the torn labrum is baseball’s most fearsome injury, not to mention the conventional wisdom that shoulder injuries in general are what ends or alters baseball careers.

Unfortunately, BA did not weigh in on Difo’s defensive prowess so the SS vs. 2B debate will have to wait until the book is released or perhaps John Sickels’s book is released. They did, however, note that Drew Ward may outgrow 3B, pointing to his size-16 cleats and describing his footwork as merely adequate while noting his arm was strong and accurate.

BA’s projections for 2015 were as follows:

AAA –Taylor, Cole, Goodwin
High-A — Giolito, Lopez, Difo, Ward, Pivetta
Not specified — Fedde, Voth

I still believe Giolito will be jumped to AA (and would love to be wrong) because the Nats have not been keen on letting high-profile prospects play at Potomac (see: Strasburg, Harper, Goodwin). Voth is a near-lock to return to Harrisburg, while I’d expect Fedde to follow the track of Giolito and start out at the GCL and perhaps make an appearance with Auburn late in the year.

Dec 092014
 


While the participation wasn’t what I hoped it would be, it was enough to assemble a semi-decent Top 10 list.

One interesting trend is that youth seems to be getting served by virtue of Jakson Reetz as well as Dominican imports Wilmer Difo and Rafael Bautista, both of whom had breakout seasons with Hagerstown, with the former being added to the Nats 40-man roster.

Of course, some of that is attributable to three of last year’s Top 10 bats being traded away (Billy Burns, Zach Walters) or taken in the Rule 5 Draft (Adrian Nieto). And some of that is attributable to the “girl-watching” nature of prospect following (the prettiest one is the one that just walked by).

Anyway, a total of 15 players were named on the eight ballots received or submitted, which does include mine. I don’t find the 15 number all that disturbing since, as some put it, the bottom part of the list isn’t as clear-cut as the top, which was a near tie (77 points to 75 points) with Steve Souza the top pick on five.

And with that “said,” I present the list:

                              1. Steve Souza
                              2. Michael Taylor
                              3. Wilmer Difo
                              4. Drew Ward
                              5. Jakson Reetz
                              6. Brian Goodwin
                              7. Matt Skole
                              8. Spencer Kieboom
                              9. Rafael Bautista
                              10. Pedro Severino

Others receiving votes: Tony Renda, Drew Vettleson, John Wooten, Stephen Perez, Raudy Read

I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that half of these names won’t be on this list next year, given proximity to the majors, age, or “trade baitiness.” It’s tempting to conclude that that means we’re about to swing Broadway backward, but if past is prologue, those that move on will be replaced with players who had breakout seasons.

Next up: The pitchers, which always leads to much more discussion (dissension?)…

Nov 212014
 

Confession: This is a reclamation of a post that I began yesterday and couldn’t finish by the time the moves were made
With the additions of A.J. Cole, Willem Dafoe, Wilmer Difo, Brian Goodwin and Matt Grace, the focus now turns to who is now exposed to next months Rule 5 Draft. Grace is an outlier; usually once a guy is exposed to the Rule 5 draft at his age, he makes it through subsequent drafts. So let’s look at the Nats draftees who appear to be eligible for the first time (H/T to SpringfieldFan for her efforts in keeping the Draft Tracker updated):

DRAFTEES ELIGIBLE FOR THE FIRST TIME

Matt Skole* Caleb Ramsey* Khayyan Norfork Shawn Pleffner* Kylin Turnbull
Brian Dupra Manny Rodriguez Nick Lee* Travis Henke Bryan Harper
Richie Mirowski*


Asterisks are for 2014 watchlist players. Notable IFAs believed to be eligible include Wirkin “For The Weekend” Estevez, Wander Suero and Kelvin Rodriguez.

Bear in mind, this is for the MLB phase. The AAA and AA phases are impossible to guage because the protected lists aren’t made public. Organizational soldiers tend to go in those phases, and if folks will recall, only one player acquired by Washington last December played in the minors last season: 23-y.o. Martires Arias, who was returned to the Mets and pitched 57 innings in short-season ball. (Theo Bowe was the other and all indications are that he retired).

I had planned on predicting that either Matt Skole or Brian Goodwin would be exposed, as it seemed likely that either the former’s struggles or the latter’s injuries would be enough to take the risk. Had I been pressed in the comments, I would have leaned towards Skole because Tyler Moore is out of options while the ascendance of both Michael Taylor and Steven Souza could cushion the “loss” of Goodwin.

Another theory/explanation is that the Nats brass believes that Souza can still function as a 1B/OF type (defensively, he’s head and shoulders above Moore anyway). Viewed through that prism, the decision not to protect Skole makes sense.

Grace is a small surprise, until you consider that he’stough on lefthanded batters (.371 OPS in ’14) and generates ground balls (3.23 G/F ratio). He’ll get an audition in spring training and if he loses the numbers game, sent back to Syracuse to await a callup, perhaps assuming the role of out-of-options Xavier Cedeno.

I believe the selection of Difo says less about him — despite an MVP season in the South Atlantic League, including 14HRs, 90 RBI and 49 SB’s — and more about the other middle-infield options available at the upper levels and the fringes of the 40-man. With no offense to Jeff Kobernus, but it would seem he’s a candidate to get cut loose when the Nats are next looking to clear room.

Finally, there’s little to be said about the protection of A.J. Cole. Even F.P. Santangelo could have predicted this; it was that obvious. Conventional wisdom has always been that hard-throwing pitchers can be hidden in a bullpen, especially for a team that’s budget-conscious or realistic about its chances of contention.

Nov 202014
 

For the first time since 2011, the Washington Nationals have added more than a couple players to its 40-man roster in preparation for next month’s Rule 5 draft. RHP A.J. Cole, IF Wilmer Difo, LHP Matt Grace, and OF Brian Goodwin were added this afternoon while RHP Ryan Mattheus (released) and IF Pedro Florimon (waived) were removed. Earlier this week, LHP Matt Purke was also released as was longtime backup backstop Jhonatan Solano.

Even F.P. Santangelo could have predicted the inclusion of Cole; that’s how obvious it was. A hard-throwing RHP is relatively easy to bury in an MLB bullpen, not to mention that GM Mike Rizzo traded for him in January 2013 some 13 months after dealing him away as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade. Cole figures to begin 2015 in AAA, but if history is any guide, a strong spring and/or injuries could have him making his MLB debut before Memorial Day.

Perhaps it’s more of an indictment against the other MI options than an endorsement of his future viability, though Wilmer Difo did about as much as a Low-A prospect could do in 2014, winning South Atlantic League MVP while earning the second annual Bob Boone award. The 22-y.o. posted a .315/.360/.470 line while showing both power (14HR) and speed (49SBs). Difo figures to begin next season in Potomac, though I’m sure his inclusion on the 40-man will spur speculation of a two-level promotion.

As noted in the previous post, Grace’s 2014 season earned him a place as a situational lefty and could be the next Aaron Barrett. He may not throw 95 mph but does generate a lot of ground balls (3.23 G/F ratio) and is tough on left-handed batters (just a .371 OPS). If he doesn’t make the 25-man roster, look for him to return to Syracuse in 2015 and have a carry-on bag ready to go.

Brian Goodwin was once the heir apparent to Denard Span but now has Michael Taylor breathing down his neck. Injuries limited Goodwin to just 81 games last season, but having turned just 24 less than three weeks ago, it would seem that the Nats brass seem willing to let him get healthy in 2015 while also serving as insurance should Taylor falter. It will be interesting to see how the two (Goodwin & Taylor) will be used when they appear in the same outfield, though I’d be more surprised about seeing Goodwin in LF than Taylor in RF, given the latter’s cannon right arm.

Oct 052014
 

Renda-Bunting-2014I had been hoping as I plugged away at this week’s column/post during my time confetti to be able to make some reference to how the parent club is doing in the playoffs. Now, I’m just hoping this will get read between wailing and second-guessing from last night’s 2-1 loss in 18 innings.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
The “other” fall baseball starts up on Tuesday, with sponsor-contrived exhibition festivities held last night (hence, the pic). It looks like there won’t be a taxi squad guy this year, as the Nationals also officially placed the seven players named in late August onto the roster of the Mesa Solar Sox.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
The love-fest for Reynaldo Lopez continues as Baseball America named him the #2 prospect in the New York Penn League, citing what we all know now: a 96-99 FB, a killer 11-5 CV, and a devastating changeup. Also named (#13) was catcher Raudy Read, who may be more intriguing given how thin the position had gotten. The trio of Pedro Severino, Read and Reetz are all under 22 and should populate the rosters at AA, Low-A, and SS-A with a resurgent Spencer Kieboom the likely starter at High-A (though he’ll be 24).

BA loves to double-dip, which is why Lopez got the nod as the #3 prospect of the South Atlantic League, two spots behind Lucas Giolito. In a bigger market, or a true baseball town, these two would have a nickname by now (Giopez?) though I suspect they won’t be teammates again until they’re both in AA. Coming in at #14 for the Sally Top 20 was Wilmer Difo, which I suspect is a function of his age (22) as twelve of the thirteen players ranked above him were 21 or younger.

TRANSACTION STUFF
So far, it’s quiet, which is the norm. Thus far, two players have been re-signed for next year — IF Cutter Dykstra and RHP Sam Runion. As much as we’d like to read into that, Occam’s Razor suggests it’s simply that both the organization and the player are content to continue with the 2014 arrangement for 2015.

2014 AFFILIATE SHUFFLE
Thankfully, the Nats affiliates will remain the same for another two years, which is hardly a shock — even with the rumblings in Hagerstown and Fredericksburg, which continues to be more talk than walk. It does however mean that they’ll be seeing some new opponents, as the Rockies join the Eastern League and the Cubs join the Carolina League, replacing the Twins and Rangers, respectively. Jamestown will be moving to Morgantown, which will require some new scheduling for Auburn and longer bus rides for everyone.

THE GCL NATIONALS
Let’s face it: No matter what this team did in 2014, it would be a disappointment compared to 2013. It also bears repeating that folks shouldn’t get too high or too low about performance in the short-season leagues (and yes, I’ve been guilty of that “crime”). So even though the team reverted to the mean — 25-35, .417 — there’s still some kids to get excited about (ok, that sounds a little creepy).
Offensively, the team was pretty much league average (4.32 vs. 4.37) but the pitching was second-worst in the league, giving up nearly a run more per game (5.32 vs. 4.37).

Without further ado…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Jakson Reetz, C, .285 GPA, 26BB in 43G 1. Jean Ramirez, RHP, 3.41/3.60/1.45, 0HR allowed in 36⅔ IP
2. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B, .250 GPA, .934FA 2. Luis Reyes, RHP, 4.42/3.86/1.42, 2.95 BB/9
3. Aldrem Corredor, LF, .256 GPA, .411 OBP 3. Yorlin Reynoso, LHP, 3.38/3.97/1.75, 73.8 LOB%
4. Thomas Alvarez, 2B, .253 GPA, 4.65 RF/G 4. Maximo Valerio, RHP, 5.23/4.28/1.45, 7.3 K/9
5. “Fred” Aguero, IF, .249 GPA, .400 SLG 5. Jose Morales, RHP, 4.68/4.58/1.68, 3.03 BB/9


I’d give an honorable mention to Edwin Lora who batted .293 and stole 13 bases, but worry about the lack of doubles (just eight out of 53 hits). It was a stretch to name five pitchers, as it seemed like the best you could say for most of these guys is that they were still teenagers. Folks who are interested in seeing the entire team’s stats, should click here.

Sep 052014
 

Our final look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues. Repeats from 2013 are in italics.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS
81-62, 1st place International League North, 2½ games ahead

Good Bat: Steve Souza .350/.432/.590, 18HR, 75RBI, 26SB in 96G
Arm: Taylor Hill 11-7, 1SV, 2.81 ERA, 1.56 BB/9, 144 IP
Bad Bat: Josh Johnson .622 OPS in 90G
Arm: Josh Roenicke 5.45 ERA, 1.71 WHIP in 23 appearances, 15 starts (79⅓ IP)
Interesting Bat: Emmanuel Burriss .300/.377/.412, 22SB, 22E in 116G
Arm: Rafael Martin 1-1, 10 SV, 0.80 ERA, 0.80 WHIP in 33⅔ IP


HARRISBURG SENATORS
53-89, 6th place Eastern League Western Division, 26 games behind

Good Bat: Michael Taylor .313/.396/.539, 22HR, 34SB in 98G
Arm: A.J. Cole 6-3, 2.92/2.58/1.32, 61K in 14GS (71IP)
Bad Bat: Adrian Sanchez .568 OPS, 11E in 89G
Arm: Zach Kroenke 3-9, 6.72 ERA, 1.82 WHIP, 13HR in 83IP
Interesting Bat: Kevin Keyes .740 OPS, 20HR in 114G
Arm: Matt Grace 3-1, 3SV, 1.02 ERA, 1.25 WHIP in 22 appearances (35⅓ IP)


POTOMAC NATIONALS
40-27 in 2nd half, 1st place Carolina League Northern Division, 7 games ahead
38-31 in 1st half, 1st place, 4½ games ahead
78-58 overall

Good Bat: Tony Renda .307/.381/.377, 10SB in 107G
Arm: Matt Spann 9-5, 3.81/4.09/1.38, 4HR in 106⅓ IP
Bad Bat: Justin Miller .625 OPS, 53K in 62G
Arm: Brett Mooneyham 2-4, 7.36 ERA, 2.12 WHIP in 33IP (10 appearances, 7 starts)
Interesting Bat: Pedro Severino .308/.379/.477 in 2nd half, .199/.246/.335 in 1st half
Arm: Ian Dickson 3-4, 2.64 ERA in 2nd half, 1-4, 6.25 in 1st half


HAGERSTOWN SUNS
43-27 in 2nd half, T1st place South Atlantic League Northern Division, won on tiebreaker
44-26 in 1st half, T1st place, lost on tiebreaker
87-53 overall

Good Bat: Wilmer Difo .315/.360/.470, 14HR , 49SBs in 136G
Arm: Lucas Giolito 10-2, 2.20/3.16/1.00 in 98IP (20 starts)
Bad Bat: David Masters .522 OPS, 7E in 51G
Arm: Jake Johansen 5-6, 5.19/4.05/1.74 in 100⅔ IP (29 appearances, 18 starts)
Interesting Bat: Rafael Bautista .290/.341/.382, 69SB in 134G
Arm: Reynaldo Lopez 4-1, 1.33/2.91/0.80 in 47&8531; IP (nine starts)


AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
34-41, 3rd Place Pinckney Division of New York-Penn League, 13½ games behind

Good Bat: Raudy Read .281/.332/.462, 6HR in 57G
Arm: Travis Ott 1-2, 3.05/3.98/1.24 in 44&⅓ IP (10 starts)
Bad Bat: Osvaldo Abreu .584 OPS, 20E in 58G
Arm: David Ramos 1-2, 1SV, 7.97 ERA, 1.82 WHIP in 15 appearances
Interesting Bat: Jose “Orange” Marmolejos-Diaz .265/.341/.385 in 65G
Arm: 19-y.o. Mario Sanchez 6-1, 3.50 FIP, 1.17WHIP in 35IP (18 appearances)


GCL NATIONALS
25-35, T3rd place Gulf Coast League East Dvision, 12 games behind

Good Bat: 18-y.o. Jakson Reetz .274/.429/.368 in 43G
Arm: 19-y.o. Jean Ramirez 3-1, 1SV, 3.41/3.60/1.45 in 31⅔ IP (14 appearances)
Bad Bat: Darryl Florentino .195/.222/.273 in 43G
Arm: Deibi Yrizarri 2-4, 9.08 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 10HBP in 36⅔ IP
Interesting Bat: 18-y.o. Aldrem Corredor .411 OBP, 25BB, 18K in 32G
Arm: 20-y.o. John Feliz 3-1, 1.08 ERA, 0.72 WHIP in 10 appearances (promoted to Auburn)


DSL NATIONALS
42-28, 3rd place, Boca Chica South Division of Dominican Summer League, 8½ games behind

Good Bat: 17-y.o. Davinson Pimentel .350/.443/.550 in 55G
Arm: 19-y.o. Joan Baez 4-1, 1.15/2.96/1.00 in 71⅓ IP (15 appearances, 14 starts – promoted to GCL)
Bad Bat: 18-y.o. Neivy Pilier .171/.265/.205 in 37G
Arm: 18-y.o. Jose Nunez 0-0, 8.25ERA, 2.50 WHIP in 24IP (12 appearances, 4 starts)
Interesting Bat: 17-y.o. Telmito Agustin .300/.413/.495, 25SB in 60G
Arm: 17-y.o. Yonathan Ramirez 3-0, 2SV, 2.63/2.59/0.91 in 27⅓ IP (11 appearances)
Aug 282014
 


With a long weekend to get the hell of out of Dodge enjoy, league offices aren’t waiting until the regular season is over to churn out the postseason accolades.

Well, two can play at that game. Here’s a look at the how the Nationals have been honored thus far this week…

SYRACUSE
Steve Souza was named the International League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year (an award that meant more prior to expansion) while necomer Billy Gardner took home Manager of the Year honors. Souza was also named to the postseason All-Star team along with teammates Emmanuel Burris and Brandon Laird.

HARRISBURG
Amid the worst season the Senators have had since the Expos became the Nationals, Michael Taylor was a bright spot until his callup to Syracuse (and briefly, Washington) as he was named the Eastern League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year as well as a postseason All-Star.

POTOMAC
The full list has not yet been announced, but should be soon as former National Michael Burgess was named to the C.L. Team and the Frederick folks have been quick to publicize the exploits of a 25-year-old in his fifth year at the High-A level.

UPDATE: Tripp Keister was named the Manager of the Year while IFs Stephen Perez, Shawn Pleffner, Tony Renda, and Oscar Tejeda were named to the Carolina League Postseason All-Star Team.

HAGERSTOWN
Lucas Giolito was named both Most Outstanding Pitcher and the Most Outstannding Prospect for the Sally League while Wilmer Difo was the third Nationals farmhand to garner an MVP title. Joining them on the All-Star team is outfielder Rafael Bautista, who leads the league with 66 steals.

The GCL, which finishes today, and the NYPL have not yet announced their postseason teams/awards.

Aug 082014
 

GBI for NPP 2Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 66-51, 1st place I.L. North, 2 games ahead

Good Manny Delcarmen 0-1, 1.26 ERA, 0.63 WHIP in last 10 appearances
Bad Josh Johnson .043 ISO
Interesting 803 batting K 3rd fewest in 14-team I.L.



HARRISBURG SENATORS 47-70, 6th place E.L. West, 18½ games behind

Good Quincy Latimore .323/.462/.742 4HR, 11RBI in last 10G
Bad Current pitchers with a sub-3.00 ERA: 1 (Derek Self, 2.67)
Interesting Paolo Espino 10HBP, 1.97 BB/9IP, 4.3 K:BB ratio



POTOMAC NATIONALS 26-18, 1st place C.L. North, 4 games ahead (64-49 overall)

Good Ian Dickson 1-0, 2.76 ERA since return to rotation (3GS)
Bad Khayyan Norfork .188/.257.250 in last 10G
Interesting Lead league with intentional walks drawn (12)



HAGERSTOWN SUNS 29-18, T1st place Sally North, 2 games ahead (73-44 overall)

Good Wilmer Difo .454 SLG%, 40SB, 32-game on-base streak
Bad Wirkin Estevez 0-2, 9.18 ERA, 1.98 WHIP in five Low-A starts
Interesting 0-for-6 in pinch-hitting



AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 24-28, 2nd place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 8½ games behind

Good Mario Sanchez 4-0, 3SV, 2.49 ER, 1.07 WHIP in 12 appearances
Bad Chris Riopedre .447 OPS in 14G
Interesting .964 Fld. Pct. 11th in 14-team NYPL



GCL NATIONALS 22-21, 3rd place GCL East, 5½ games behind

Good Jorge Tillero .316/.381/.368 in 23G
Bad Daury Vasquez 0-2, 9.22 ERA, 2.27 WHIP in eight appearances
Interesting 2nd fewest passed balls (7), 2nd worst CS% (24) in the GCL



DSL NATIONALS 34-24, 3rd place Boca Chica South, 6½ games behind

Good 18-y.o. Wilber Pena 2-0, 1.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP in last three GS
Bad 19-y.o. Sandy Guerrero .167/.300/.292 in last 10G
Interesting Team batting 6th in 36-team DSL (6.34 R/G)
Jun 032014
 


For the second straight season, six Hagerstown players have been named to the Northern Division’s entry into the Sally League’s All-Star game on June 17th. But, instead of just two coaches in 2013, manager Patrick Anderson, hitting coach Luis Ordaz, and pitching coach Sam Narron have been asked to join their charges at L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory, NC.

Without further ado, here’s who’s been named:

  • 2B Wilmer Difo
  • C Spencer Kieboom
  • RHP Nick Pivetta
  • RHP Austin Voth
  • LHP Jake Walsh
  • RHP John Wooten

Also, for the second straight year — all six players appear to be going to an All-Star game for the first time. Manager Patrick Anderson was named to the same position on the 2013 GCL postseason all-star team after guiding the 2013 G-Nats to the GCL Championship.

For highlights on the Hagerstown players, visit the Suns official press release.

May 302014
 

Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 29-24, 1st place I.L. North, ½ game ahead

Good Taylor Hill 7-1, 1SV 1.57/3.38/0.90, 2CG in 11 appearances, 10GS
Bad 31 team HR, 11th in 14-team I.L.
Interesting Destin Hood .410/.452/.744, 3HR in last 10G



HARRISBURG SENATORS 18-34, 6th place E.L. West, 14½ games behind

Good Michael Taylor .370/.442/.730 in May (27G)
Bad Omar Poveda 5.82/4.21/0.94, 5HR in 3GS at AA
Interesting 23 pitchers, 12 starters, 2 position players have pitched in 52 games



POTOMAC NATIONALS 26-26, 3rd place C.L. North, 1½ games behind

Good Derek Self 2-0, 2SV 0.42/2.11/0.51 in 14 appearances (21⅔ IP)
Bad Mike McQuillan .111/.273/.111 in last 10G
Interesting 41% CS rate by catchers is No. 1 in eight-team Carolina Lg.



HAGERSTOWN SUNS 36-16, 1st place Sally North, 5½ games ahead

Good Wilmer Difo .317BA in May, .313 in April, .310 in last 10G
Bad R.C. Orlan 0-2, 6.35/4.24/1.68 in five appearances
Interesting Brendan Middleton .406/.500/.406 in last 10G