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.

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

30 thoughts on “Nats in the AFL: Buy, Sell or Hold?”

  1. Purke himself tweeted that he was going to Alabama to do a throwing test, undoubtedly referring to the Andrews Sports Medicine Clinic in Birmingham, but also recall that the Texan was willing to undergo an MRI prior to the draft so this could have been planned months ago. Other organizations (e.g. Boston) have been known to be this cautious, so I wouldn’t read anything else into this.

  2. I’m hoping that the Nats trade Jesus Flores this winter, for the sake of the team and Jesus himself. I would have to think that his VWL performance helped revive his value. This could delay or end thoughts of Norris moving from catcher, unless Solano proves to be good enough to back up in the Majors.


    1. I look at the callup of Solano & think the same thing – that a trade of Flores becomes more likely. I’d have to do some research on who would be a possible trade partner.

      A quick check of the rosters shows MIL, PIT, LAD, LAA, & CWS as a little thin behind the plate; But do they have a CF candidate that could be offered in trade?

      1. I dont think Solano being added means Flores will be traded, I think it just means they dont want to sign a catcher, and if something happens to Flores, or Ramos they want someone who can haddle the backup duties. I think it more shows that they want Norris to spend the entire year being the starter, and they dont think Maldonado has any value to the big club

      2. LAA : Peter Borjous. Catching sure? But to get Bourjos you would have to convince them to take a shortstop. Not sure the Nats pitching would attract them. Not sure this is a good match but you never know?

        MIL: Is short in CF **BUT** this is where Zach Grienke
        lives? And they are far weaker at shortstop?

        TB: There is talk about signing Crisp who would be cheaper than arbitration eligible BJ Upton. TB needs a shortstop and are short at catcher. They are also deep in young projectable top-of-the rotation starting pitching beginning with Shields. Looks like a great match but then so do many other teams.

        Pirates; they have Barajas but they could use a young catcher having lost Doumit and they too need a shortstop. But they would never give up McCutchen which would be a better deal than Borjous or Upton.

        LAD: In disarray thanks to McCourt. They could use a catcher and a 2nd baseman perhaps. They’ve just re-upped Matt Kemp. No CF there. Pitching?

        CWS: DeAza? Well he is left handed. Prolly more interested in giving Adam Dunn back.

  3. Terrific stuff, BinM.
    Harper sure has some pop in his bat, but everything else needs a LOT of work.
    Why would you hedge on ‘Beer League’ Martin? You only hedge if he has struggled at some point, which he hasn’t.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that Ink/MRI that Purke have before signing the most comprehensive testing there is? If so, no worries unless more news comes around. By the way, several national writers this summer were saying that the best way to ruin your career was to pitch for TCU, where the coach cares more about winning than the health of his players. Maybe he saved his career by signing with the Nats.

    I agree Walters was overmatched, but he’s young and another stint at Potomac might be just what the doctor ordered. Only OG’s above him.

    Also, there was a post by Buster Olney today saying after all the free agents sign, there will still be 5-6 teams looking for a shortstop. Maybe they package Desmond (hope,hope) & Flores for some parts the Nats could really use.
    Solano’s younger & better than Flores, IMO. Plus, he’s Columbian, as is my youngest son.

    1. The only flaw in Harper’s game is that he might be TOO agressive on the basepaths & in the field; He’s trying to make an impact with everything he does.

      With Martin, I saw him more than a few times in POT last year, and I’m just not convinced that his stuff will ‘play up’. In regards to Purke, I just think he’s going to need to strengthen his shoulder & upper body to meet the demands placed on a MLB starting pitcher. We’ll see what they both look like in Viera this spring.

      1. Martin’s time in Potomac was kind of a rehab assignment, as he was dealing with injuries during the season, so he might not have had his best stuff

  4. Sort of a reverse post of Mark L’s. If Flores gets near his pre-injury form, he is distinctly better than Solano and only one year older. A trade piece–of course, but Flores was, for a brief time, an above average major league catcher.
    If one divided Desmond’s two years into four parts, his offense in three of those parts was quite respectable. I like his defense and in that area he will only get better. So it better be a heck of a good trade if he leaves. He will not be as easy to replace as many think. (although I’m aware we have a couple of middle infielders with good to excellent potential).
    I’m wondering about the suggestion that Walters might repeat high A next year. I would think Martinson will occupy that spot.
    And count me as one of those who consider Harper major league ready in practically all areas. Obviously his defense in left field is not good, but I believe he’s a quick study and his offense and good arm will more than make up for it.

    1. Jackson, my main quibble with your post is in regard to Desmond. His offense barely plays to utility/bench player. We have a gold glove SS right now, playing out of position at 2nd.
      The offense with the big club was terrible.

    2. I’m wondering about the suggestion that Walters might repeat high A next year. I would think Martinson will occupy that spot.

      Unless he’s shifted to third base, which I’ve seen suggested elsewhere. And of course, what to do with Rick Hague (assuming he’s healthy) and what about Blake Kelso (supersub). About the only IF position for Potomac that seems near-certain is Adrian Sanchez at 2B.

      1. Sue, that reminds me, is it true that Adrian Sanchez is Rule 5 eligible this year?
        Not important this year, but definitely an issue going forward.

        1. Yes, I have him as having five seasons in the system (07-08-09-10-11) and was signed before age 18. That’s the downside to signing teenagers if they don’t develop quickly.

      2. You could put me firmly in the “Martinson to 3B” camp right now. His glovework at SS leaves a great deal to be desired, and might help cover system shortfalls at third as well.

  5. Olney @ESPN seems to think many more teams are desperate for a shortstop. As opposed to catcher.

    Here’s what he lays out: TB (Upton/SP), Giants, Marlins (They want Reyes for some odd reason.), Brewers, Braves, and even the Phillies …

    They want young, high ceiling shortstops.

    And here the Nats are with Desmond, Espinosa, Lombardozzi, Kobernus with 52 SB’s in high A, Hague, Walters … and Sanchez. They also had Bixler and Antonelli …

    Have to wonder if these will instead be the trade chips used as opposed to Flores, to get a guy like Borjous or Upton. Albeit it does seem likely that Flores will be traded. Solano is the better backup catcher, especially defensively. Flores projects as more of an offensive catcher and a starter. If he is past his injuries.

    1. Or he could be a younger version of Alfonso Soriano. Maybe even better ….

      He is only 26 and so he still has ceiling.

  6. I’llbe back with more specifics Mark. But if you take out three months of Desmond’s two years and one month in the big leagues, the kid would be batting at least 275, would be averaging 30 doubles, 5 triples, 8 home runs, and 20 stolen bases ( based on 500at bats). His oba, admittedly, his worse offensive stat would be in the area of 320. Those stats would be better than the majority of shortstops in MLB.
    Check out his splits. Especially impressive this past September.

    1. Having three potential starting MI who are young and still projectable makes for interesting trade scenarios especially when you can throw in a catcher and some pitching.

    2. Jackson, going to have to respectfully disagree again.
      Ian Desmond has had 1300 AB’s in the bigs. His career OBP is .304, which is terrible, and his carrer OPS is 100+ points below major league average.

      This is just fun Hot Stoving, but the Nats were a bad offensive team n 2011 and they have chips where there’s a big league shortage, catcher & shorstop.
      Losing Desmond would hurt a less in NP nation than that stupid trade of Manno & Rhinehart for a mediocre platoon bat who wasn’t even good enough to be a Type B free agent.

  7. Back again, Mark. Just spent an hour and a half crunching the numbers, then converting them to one season (550 at bats). Of the thirteen months Desmond played in the majors, I eliminated three (June of both years and also May of this year).
    His converted stats (to 550 AB’s) over those ten remaining months were 278 BA, 64R, 64RBI’s, 31doubles, 5 triples, and 12 HR’s. Also 18 stolen bases. His OBA over that time would be about 220, obviously not good, but the last three months of this year he averaged close to 330.
    These would be above average stats for a major league shortstop. And he’s heading in the right direction.
    And yes, the Manno trade was ridiculous.

    1. Some of the folks that migrated from NFA might remember that some of us thought that Desmond might have been better off as a convert to CF. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20 but it is sure is nice to wonder what if… Zuckerman’s post today broaches this subject as well. As much as I’d like to say: Oh, it’s simple: give 2B to Lombardozzi, shift Espinosa to SS, I know that that assumes Espinosa rebounds to first-half form and Lombardozzi suffers no hiccup in moving from AAA to MLB. That’s an awful lot to hope for.

  8. One can always hope Sue! I have argued regularly for Desmond to be converted and he could even be a Melvin Mora type guy who can play wherever you need him. I am not holding my breath but a Lombo-Espy middle infield works for me.

  9. There are a few of us who still believe that could work, and it bubbles to the surface on various blogs from time to time; Sadly, the idea hasn’t gained traction with either the fanbase or Nationals’ management.

  10. Because I view 2012 as a transition year (LaRoche finishes up and moves out with Morse going to 1b; Harper up sometime, either early or late; Strasburg on an innings limit, etc), I don’t think the Nationals are in a position where they have to pay a premium price to get a CF. Because all of the players are young I also don’t think that they should assume that all of their middle infielders establish themselves – which mitigates against trading one just to trade one at this time. So to me the smart play (again, assuming no trades) is to have Lombardozzi on the 25 man roster to replace Alex Cora in the utility role. Lombo also would provide a fallback option if/when either Espy or Desmond falters.

    By the end of 2012 the Nationals will have more answers.

  11. Hey BinM, you’re a Star!
    This is the most comments since the seasons ended.

    Turn that Hot Stove on!

    To be said with the same tone as “turn that damn guitar DOWN”.

    1. Thanks, but commentary that generates return views & additional dialogue benefits all of us. NationalsProspects gets more webhits (making Sue_D happy), more ‘new eyes’ possibly view the site & join the dialogue, and the regulars read a broader opinion of what might be going on outside our little group.

      As an aside, I’d love to get NatsJackinFla from NI over here, as I think he’d bring some welcome insight. Unfortunately, I lost my posting ability on NI for a period of time, due to changes to MarkZ’s website. I’m back now, but maybe we need to both gently tease him over here every now & then

      1. Yeah, we greatly missed TBRFan’s insights this year at the FIL. You have to figure that NatsJack was there.

Comments are closed.