The BA Prospect Handbook, Part Two

Because I know you’d just scroll down to this anyway:

16. Jackson Tetrault 21. Nick Raquet 26. Austin Voth (10)
17. Brigham Hill 22. Kyle Johnston 27. Joan Baez (29)
18. Jose Marmolejos (26) 23. Jose Sanchez (24) 28. Anderson Franco (14)
19. Drew Ward (12) 24. Jefry Rodriguez 29. Jakson Reetz (18)
20. Taylor Gushue 25. Telmito Agustin (28) 30. Osvaldo Abreu (21)
31. Gabe Klobosits

It was noted here last year and in the comments this year, but IFAs still dominate the list. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is the Nationals predominant source of teenage talent – just 11 signed, 45 drafted in the past five years; and five of those have been traded already.

As mentioned in the previous post, two of the nine newcomers weren’t pitchers: Daniel Johnson and Taylor Gushue. A tenth player that wasn’t on last year’s list is Jefry Rodriguez, who was on the list in 2016 and returns despite an 80-game suspension.

The rest are all pitchers taken in the 2017 Draft: Romero, Crowe, Tetrault, Brigham Hill, Raquet, Johnston, and Klobosits. All are 21 or older so the pressure will be on for them to move quickly up the ladder. And to be honest, there’s no one really blocking them.

Before we list the projected 2021 Nationals Lineup, let’s have a good laugh at the 2018 projected lineup from the 2015 handbook:
C – Wilson Ramos
1B – Ryan Zimmerman
2B – Tony Renda
SS – Ian Desmond
3B – Anthony Rendon
LF – Steven Souza
CF – Michael Taylor
RF – Bryce Harper
#1SP – Stephen Strasburg
#2SP – Jordan Zimmermann
#3SP – Lucas Giolito
#4SP – Doug Fister
#5SP – Gio Gonzalez
CL – Reynaldo Lopez

Three out of 14, five if you’re being generous about Strasburg and Gonzalez. Just your usual reminder about BA not taking into account free agency (Desmond), injuries (Ramos), trades (Giolito, Lopez, Souza), or a sudden decline in skills (Zimmermann, Fister).

Keep that in mind for this projection:
C – Raudy Read
1B – Daniel Murphy
2B – Wilmer Difo
SS – Trea Turner
3B – Anthony Rendon
LF – Adam Eaton
CF – Victor Robles
RF – Bryce Harper
#1SP – Stephen Strasburg
#2SP – Max Scherzer
#3SP – Joe Ross
#4SP – Erick Fedde
#5SP – Wil Crowe
CL – Seth Romero

We now return you to your baseball-less Saturday…

The BA Prospect Handbook, Part One

If you’re thinking this is late, you’re right. Usually the book arrives in January, sometimes in early February.

For better or worse, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook is the Bible for prospect followers insofar as everyone refers to it. I’d say more but—to steal from Jeff Foxworthy—who needs grief from folks who flip you the bird when you obey their “honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker?

The brethren from Durham have deemed the Nationals as the 15th-best organization of the 30, despite midseason trades that cost them last year’s nos. 15, 17, and 27 prospects (see below) and a breakout southpaw (McKenzie Mills). That’s how much they valued the 2017 Draft, which is represented by seven pitchers in the Top 31.

New to the book this year are positional rankings for prospects across of all of baseball, of which Victor Robles was ranked the #2 centerfielder, Juan Soto, the #7 corner outfielder, and Carter Kieboom, the #15 shortstop.

Despite the Nats yo-yoing him like an Italian rapper between starting and relieving, Erick Fedde was still rated the 29th-best righthanded pitcher. (For those wondering, they ranked 10 for C, 1B, 2B, 3B, and COFs, 15 for LHP, 20 for SS and CF, and 40 for RHP.)

Without further ado, let’s review how last year’s Top 30 fared:

Graduated (4) – Wilmer Difo*, Koda Glover, A.J. Cole, Brian Goodwin,
Traded (3) – Jesus Luzardo, Sheldon Neuse, and Tyler Watson
Dropped out (3) – Edwin Lora, Matt Skole, Nick Banks
* had already surpassed service-time limits in 2016

That’s roughly a third of list, which is fairly normal. Seven of the nine newcomers are the aforementioned pitchers from the 2017 Draft. One you’ll see today, the other you’ll see tomorrow. They should be pretty obvious.

Unfortunately, none of them are teenagers, thus the Nats’ Top 31 according to BA still skews older: four players are or will be 25 before the season starts, two more will turn 25 during the season, and two more will turn 25 by the end of 2018. Some things never change.

So, as we’ve done in years past – a look at the Top 15 today, nos. 16-31 tomorrow. Last year’s ranking, if applicable, in parentheses:

1. Victor Robles (1) 6. Luis Garcia (7) 11. Blake Perkins (20)
2. Juan Soto (3) 7. Wil Crowe 12. Kelvin Gutierrez (16)
3. Erick Fedde (2) 8. Daniel Johnson 13. Andrew Stevenson (5)
4. Carter Kieboom (8) 9. Raudy Read (22) 14. Pedro Severino (9)
5. Seth Romero 10. Yasel Antuna (25) 15. Rafael Bautista (11)

2018 Spring Training Thoughts

Pitchers and catchers report. They’re four great words, no doubt, but as you get older they’re surpassed by things like “they made an offer” or “kids start school today” or “the test was negative.”

So whether you’re ecstatic (like Boomer) or indifferent (like Lulu), Spring Training starts today for the Washington Nationals.

Yesterday, the Half Street politburo finally released the names of the guys you’ll forget in four weeks 17 non-roster invitees with minor-league deals, and four current minor-leaguers—Jimmy Cordero, Taylor Gushue, Spencer Kieboom, and Osvaldo Abreu. It’s rather telling that just one (1) of these 21 players is homegrown and not a pitcher or a catcher.

This is not anything new, mind you. For the past five spring trainings, it’s been pretty obvious that few, if any, of “our guys” have more than an infinitesimal chance of making the Opening Day roster (which is good; teams that do have that situation are usually on track to lose 90-100 games).

No, I’m not forgetting Victor Robles, but he’s already on the 40-man roster and it seems unlikely he’ll best Bryce Harper by breaking camp with the Big Club. I do hold out some hope that they’ll repeat his treatment and call him up after 19 days in the minors, thus preserving an option.

Now the realization should set in that we’re still 11 days away the actual games, of which I’ll cover gratuitously for about 2-3 weeks to get back into the habit of writing every day, then step aside and wait for the minors’ regular season to begin (which will be complicated this year by my having my annual business trip/conference around Opening Day; don’t feel too bad, it’s New Orleans this year).

Otherwise, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Raudy Read the Latest Nats Farmhand Suspended for PEDs

In 11 of 14 seasons, the Nats have had a minor-leaguer suspended for a banned substance

The news came across yesterday afternoon that Raudy Read had been suspended for 80 games for testing positive for a PED (Boldenone), and he was the first on the Nationals 40-man player to do so.

Why the italics? Well, as longtime readers know, Read is hardly the first Nationals minor-leaguer to be suspended for a banned substance. In 11 of 14 seasons since the franchise moved from Montreal, at least one player has been punished, including current minor-leaguers Read and Jefry Rodriguez, and former (but still active) players Steven Souza and Adrian Nieto.

While it’s been better of late—no suspensions in 2013 and 2014—there was a period from 2008 to 2012 where multiple players were dinged: two in 2008, five in 2009, six in 2010, two in 2011, and three in 2012. Read is also not the first to test positive for Boldenone (Weesly Hernandez, 2008; Jorge Hernandez, 2010).

The implication this is an isolated incident (italics above) is specious, if not outright laughable. Washington is no paragon of virtue and neither are the Sox (White and Red), Cubs, and A’s. It was bound to happen, sooner or later.

Why? Because the pressure to succeed hasn’t diminished since PED testing began in 2005. Wages haven’t kept pace with inflation while demand for younger (cheaper) players has increased. Players, many of whom forego an education (including the ones who go to college), bet their teens and 20’s to make it to The Show. The younger they get there, the sooner the financial reward. But those who take longer (or are stuck in a given system) can’t always afford to wait.

You can call it cheating, so long as you’re willing to concede that the amphetamine use (read: “greenies”) of generations past isn’t all that different. Ignoring the very real incentive to take these measures to succeed and casting moral judgment isn’t going change anything or make anyone feel better besides yourself.

Nationals, Harrisburg Extend PDC to 2020

One down, four to go…

While the focus for most of this year will be the fate of Washington’s AAA affiliate, the Nats officially re-signed its Player Development Contract (PDC) with Harrisburg for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Officially, the remaining affiliates – Auburn, Hagerstown, Potomac, and Syracuse – are all signed through this season. Despite their stadium woes, it’s quite likely both full-season “A” teams will renew for another two years.

The relationship between Auburn and Washington is fairly short (since 2010). With teams in Batavia and State College with no strong ties to a major-league affiliate, it’s possible that a switch could happen – especially if the Nats value proximity to its other affiliates, as the use of the team for rehab assignments for AA and AAA players suggests.

As aforementioned, the Nats will need to find a new home for their AAA team with the Mets’ purchase of Syracuse, and as of now, the best bet is on Las Vegas – the current Mets affiliate and typically the last AAA team standing in the biannual affiliate dance.

This is primarily because East Coast teams despise having affiliates in the Pacific Coast League due to the logistics of getting a player to the big club on short notice. It’s worth noting that Nashville, Oakland’s AAA affiliate and the team furthest to the east of the available PCL teams for 2019 and beyond, is up for grabs.

Otherwise, just five of the 14 teams in the International League have expiring PDCs. You can probably exclude Toledo and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre right off the bat, and perhaps even Norfolk; as much as Washington fans would love to stick it to Baltimore, it would be a major shock if the Nats were able to disrupt that partnership.

That leaves Buffalo (currently affiliated with Toronto) and Rochester (Minnesota) as potential targets for Washington for the next two seasons. To matters worse, or perhaps more interesting, there’s some drama regarding the stadium lease in Rochester which naturally boils down to money.

Presuming the folks who follow this stuff full-time (and believe it’s a scare tactic by the I.L.) are right, then it would seem that Rochester might be the best target for the Nationals.

P.S. Any scenario with Harrisburg becoming the new AAA affiliate involves a lot of hoops to jump through as noted by, which saw its local team do the opposite in 2010. Sorry, kids.

Five Nats Make 2018 Baseball Prospectus Top 101

How bad is this offseason? We’re past the Super Bowl and *still* talking about lists

The 2018 Baseball America Prospect Book still hasn’t arrived – and I always pay extra for rush shipping, even if I’m just one state away – so in an effort to keep the lights on…

Yesterday, Baseball Prospectus released its Top 101 Prospect List which includes the following Nationals prospects:

● #2 Victor Robles
● #22 Juan (not Jesus) Soto
● #71 Carter Kieboom
● #76 Seth Romero
● #87 Erick Fedde

This is up from three in 2017 (Robles, #7; Soto, #57; Fedde, #62) and four in 2016 (Lucas Giolito, #3; Trea Turner, #13; Robles, #29; Reynaldo Lopez, #75).

What does this tell us? Honestly, not much beyond as noted in the comments: The boys at BP are high on Romero (*ahem*) and Kieboom and haven’t given up on Fedde.

We now return you to your February loathing.

Baseball America Ranks Nats #15 Farm System

Ordinarily, this would probably be glossed over, but in the offseason from hell, this qualifies as news.

Here’s what the boys in Durham had to say…

The Nationals farm system has produced a steady stream of stars over the decade–Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner. With Victor Robles and Jesus Soto, the Nationals have another pair of potential stars, even if their prospect depth can’t match many of the teams above them in the rankings.

The development of Carter Kieboom, Daniel Johnson, and Raudy Read was also cited in the system’s rise from #19 last year. For those wondering, the Braves were ranked #1, followed by the Yankees at #2, while the Mariners were dead last at 30, ahead of the Royals at #29. Rounding out the N.L. Least: the Phillies at #6, the Marlins at #19, and the Mets were #27.

It should be noted that these rankings can change very quickly. Just two years ago, the Nationals were ranked #5. Three years ago, the Cubs (#28 in ’18) were #1, four years ago, it was Pittsburgh (#16), and five years ago, St. Louis was #1 (#13).

My concern is precisely that which BA cited regarding the system’s depth (or lack thereof). Victor Robles is going to graduate this year, Erick Fedde probably will, too.

Even if the short-season guys (Seth Romero, Wil Crowe, Yasel Antuna, Luis Garcia) have strong seasons, that will merely continue the trend since roughly 2012: five-to-six blue-chip guys, another five that are a notch or two below, and then little-to-no difference between the #12 guy and the #42 guy.

As noted in the comments, the system is precariously short on pitching and will need several guys besides Romero and Crowe to step up in 2018. It was an embarrassment to have a mediocre 26-y.o. free-agent pitcher named as the best right-handed starter in the entire system.

We’ve been told that 2017 Draft was all about pitching. Here’s to hoping that promise will be fulfilled.

Still Quiet on the Minor-League Front

It’s the final Sunday of a brutally slow and long January.

If you’re into helping publishers get their pageviews, then you probably noticed Top 100 posts from Baseball America, Keith Law, and That these came during the week between the NFL’s Conference Championships and the Super Bowl is just a coincidence*
* Narrator: It was not a coincidence

TL;DR – Victor Robles and Juan Soto made all three lists, Carter Kieboom was #90 on the list. Robles was ranked anywhere from #4 to #6, Soto was #29 (MLB), #42 (Law), and #56 (BA).

The BA 2018 Prospect Handbook is probably going to come in the mail this week, which will give us some discussion fodder (maybe) and enable me to finish up the 2018 Watchlist (probably). claims it will update its Top 30 Lists in February. Whether that’s Feb 1, remains to be seen.

Finally, MASN has announced another bloc of (woo-hoo!) Orioles-free Spring Training games for 2018:

Sun., Feb. 25 vs. Braves, 1 p.m. Tue., March 6 vs. Astros, 1 p.m. Sun., March 11 vs. Cardinals, 1 p.m. Tue., March 13 vs. Mets, 7 p.m.
Fri., March 16 vs. Cardinals, 1 p.m. Wed., March 21 vs. Astros, 1 p.m. Fri., March 23 vs. Astros, 6 p.m.  

Transaction Update

As noted in the comments, the latest transaction post from BA has more than one item for the Nats:
• RHPs Taylor Hill (re-signed), Justin Miller
• OF Moises Sierra
• 1B Balbino Fuenmayor

No word on whether batters in the International League and/or Eastern Leage have a sent thank-you notes to the Nats for potentially scheduling another season of in-game batting practice (Hill). The rest are your usual, run-of-the-mill MLFAs to fill out the rosters in AAA and AA.


Yesterday in the Post, Chelsea Janes passes along news that Bryan Harper has been (or will; neither BA nor MiLB has listed a transaction for Harper since September) re-signed and will be extended a non-roster invite to spring training.

It is amusing that some people believe how the Nationals treat Bryce’s big brother will have any tangible effect on his impending free agency. Sure, it can’t hurt, and unlike other legacy picks (*cough* Shane McCatty *cough*), the elder Harper has performed well enough to defuse any accusations of nepotism.

But methinks Bryce and uber-agent Scott Boras are a bit more pre-occupied on how the younger Harper is going to get paid.

Initial 2018 Player Reports Are Completed

I’ve made it through the first pass of writing the 2018 Watchlist and Player reports as I await the arrival of Baseball America’s 2018 Prospect Book, which is the only prospect book I use these days.

I really wish there was a worthy successor to Sickels. A few years back, there was the Minor League Baseball Analyst by Deric McKamey, but like a lot of folks from that era (~2005-2011), he’s now working for an MLB organization. I gave his successors (Rob Gordon, Jeremy DeLoney) a chance but when back-to-back editions (2010 and 2011) were nearly identical to each other, I called it quits.

So like last year, I didn’t punt as very many players. When the BA handbook arrives, I’ll finish ’em up, edit those that need it, and then lock ’em down. After that, it becomes clickbait reference material for the rest of the season.

As always, feel free to discuss in the comments as we wait out the offseason from hell…