Checking In…

Like the past couple of Septembers, we’re in a weird lull between the usual offseason sequence of events. The big club has already clinched – though that says a lot more about the division than the Nationals – but most of the focus on “the kids” is the singular (i.e. Victor Robles), which is fine when he’s doing well. I don’t envy Dusty Baker’s task in picking when, where, and how to play Robles because if he is indeed being groomed to take a postseason roster spot, he’s going to have to limit the chances for advance scouts to find a flaw.

As noted in the comments, the instrux roster was released, which, thankfully, doesn’t have the urgency that it once had. For me, it’s mostly an indicator of who the club values for next season, who may have underperformed this season, and confirmation that some names that we haven’t seen in quite some time weren’t quietly released in April or May.

The organizational awards, which used to be named in early September, are still unannounced. You can probably bet the farm on Robles getting the nod as the Player of the Year, but Pitcher of the Year is going to elicit arguments.

You can’t give it to McKenzie Mills, who was the actual best pitcher until he was traded. Erick Fedde? Is that a consolation prize for how badly he was mishandled? Try selling Joan Baez, even if he led the Nats minors in innings pitched and strikeouts and was second in wins (yes, really). Wander Suero? That begs the question of why he wasn’t called up or put on the 40-man roster.

It will be interesting to see who the Nationals pick because there really isn’t one currently in the organization who merits the title. Not to mention finding out who’s the coaches’ favorite this year’s Bob Boone Award winner.

Until or unless something else comes up, season reviews begin next week.

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of NationalsProspects.com. 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.

41 thoughts on “Checking In…”

  1. When I floated the POY question a couple of weeks ago, there was some debate between Robles and Johnson for the hitter. I think it probably will be Robles, though. When’s the last time a true top prospect won the award?

    For pitcher, the consensus seemed to be Suero, with Fedde as the alternative if they feel like they HAVE to give it to a starter (even though he wasn’t a full-time starter.) Maybe you give Fedde the Boone award for his willingness to be jerked around in that manor? (Not that he had much of a choice!) Maybe Nick Lee gets consideration for his comeback from an awful-looking injury during the spring?

    1. Luke, yes, it’s curious that Suero didn’t get put on the 40-man or sent to the AFL. I had argued at the time he didn’t show up on the AFL roster that his “consolation prize” was probably a call-up. No such luck.

  2. What do folks think about Johnson being sent to the Instructional League instead of the AFL? I know he’s still considered “raw” in some areas of his game, but it would have been interesting to see how he would have fared against more advanced competition.

  3. On quick glance at the IL roster, here are a few random omissions that come to me: Yonathan Ramirez, Hayden Howard, and A. J. Bogucki. The latter two in particular were better than a number of guys who were named to the roster, and Ramirez is a young starter who put up promising numbers at Auburn over two seasons before struggling a bit at Hags.

    1. Maybe useage during season
      Had something to do with three noteworthy arms in lower levels.
      I would love to see Armond Upshaw be the Bob Boone award winner next year .
      Let’s take a crack @ 2018 Potomac staff sometime next season :
      Crowe
      Borne ( Harrisburg)
      DeRosier
      Gilabeau ( spring repeat)
      Reyes
      Baez (shift to swing guy?)
      Braymer
      Troop

      Harrisburg built around the two guys getting vegetables thrown @ them from the peanut gallery :
      Austen Williams
      Kyle McGowin
      Matthew Crownover
      Grant Borne
      Wirken Estavez??
      Hector Silvestre ??

      And the usual minor league FA
      Mercenaries for hire to fill IP @ top two levels joining Greg Ross….

      1. We need to get a 411 on Tyler Mapes, Andrew Lee and Wolfpack
        Lefty Williamson in regards to how their timetable is to get back to contributing on a full season affiliate.
        Maybe Mapes does transition to that Craig Stammen ish role. Or
        Fit nice in a chief rotation ??

        1. Williamson is on the Instrux roster. Lee appeared for a GCL inning, then disappeared. No word all season about Mapes.

          Williamson had a sub-3 ERA in the ACC, making him an interesting prospect when he gets healthy.

          1. Indeed and yet another lefty.
            Interesting how farm clubs are built around 6-8 guys who can pitch 3-6 IP as in spring training games. One day two guys handle 1-6 or 7 depending on the pitching quality. Guys are just filling Innings not as in the majors where 5 guys take the ball each day in succession .
            Bingham Hill and Kyle Johnston drafted to be those 1-5 or 3-6 IP eating types .
            No offense to James Borque but if he has hung around an extra year I will predict Voth will get another look in spring. . Ok toss the vegetables now …lol

          2. I meant the health status of the rehabbing guys. Not to boast but I don’t miss much for a globetrotter over 50

      2. Sept transactions in BA proves
        Brass will stock those minor league mercenaries : Dragmire Ross, Williams , McGowin and Silvestre @ AA or AAA for Ross.
        Norfulk should see Cuse since
        David Masters seems ready for AA
        And I still go against the grain with Meijia heading to that small park on city isle.
        We shall see how many 4Aers brass signs before March.
        Great patience last night by Nats with wild Braves bullpen !

    2. Ramirez a very young 19-20. Just a puppy
      Hagerstown out of the 2018 gate?
      Davis, Bourque, Pena, Hill, Ramirez , Troop, Acevedo , Johnston,
      Braymer probably gets bump to POTNATS with DeRosier to join Crowe , Reyes, Baez, Jefry-Rod
      And Gilabeau .
      A long winter to wonder.

  4. I should know this but don’t. Are the intruxs strictly for High A players and below?

    I agree the surprise with no Hayden Howard.

    1. No, they’re for whomever they want to spend extra time with. Fedde, who was already in AA, went last year as did J.D. Martin in his comeback bid.

    1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/nationals-journal/wp/2017/09/18/the-nationals-typically-pass-on-players-with-off-field-issues-seth-romero-is-an-exception/

      I think they’re downplaying how many guys have had off-field issues, including the current manager of the GCL team. This is not to say that folks haven’t learned their lessons but to imply that this is an exception as opposed to taking advantage of having a good relationship with one of, if not the, best agents is disingenuous.

  5. Sterling Sharp and Brigham Hill were the minor-league pitchers selected to pitch to Bryce in game simulation conditions yesterday. Stephen Drew also hit in the “game.”

  6. Today, Baseball America published the overall organizational standings for 2017. Not pretty for the Nats:

    Washington finished tied with the Mets for 26th out of the 30 MLB organizations. Collectively, the Nats organization went 314-374; a .456 winning (losing) percentage. With one team making the milb playoffs (the GCL Nats), only the Braves with zero teams qualifying for the post-season were worse.

    BTW, pretty remarkable how poorly NL East teams (except for the Phillies) performed:

    #6 Phillies .528
    #21 Marlins .483
    #23 Braves .471
    #26 Nats .456
    #26 Mets .456

    FWIW, the top organization was the Yankees (.602); the worst organization was the White Sox .438

    1. And yet the Pale Hose have some of the best individual talent in baseball. Of course collectively, the Nat minor-league teams weren’t performing that well even in the recent years when their system was being ranked in the top 10 in baseball.

      I do wonder how much it impedes the development of good players to play on bad teams. Difo put up really lousy numbers at Harrisburg and Syracuse over the last three years but has done significantly better at the MLB level. Roark (in)famously went 6-17 at Syracuse in 2012 but then 7-1 in the majors in 2013. He gave up 89 runs in that 2012 season, but only 72 of them were earned. How much does it rattle a young pitcher’s confidence to have a defense that crappy behind him? I don’t want to relitigate all that was or wasn’t “wrong” with Giolito, but in the majors with the Nats last year, he looked like he had lost his best friend every time a bloop or an error went against him. Could some of that have been from years of having bad defense behind him in the minors?

      I don’t think there are easy answers. Star players have come out of crappy systems, and some players who have played on good teams in the minors haven’t replicated their success in the majors.

      FWIW, I do think the Nats are moving in the right direction for improving the overall quality of the minor-league teams. They seem to be having some sustained success in their Latin crops, and they seem to have gotten some decent org-player quality out of the senior draftees in the later rounds this year. Of course if these guys reach their peaks at Hagerstown or Potomac, that doesn’t leave a lot support at the upper levels. The org guys at places like Harrisburg over the last several years have not been AA-caliber players.

      1. The primary purpose of a minor league system is to feed the MLB franchise with talent and/or develop talent that can be traded for players that help the MLB team.

        So, there is no doubt that when assessing a system the W-L record is not a key factor. KW’s examples of Difo and Roark are excellent. Neither one stood out in AA or AAA before becoming valuable MLB players. The Nats had so many players (Goodwin, Difo, Sanchez, even MAT and Grace) contribute to the MLB success that failed to flash in a major way in AA and AAA that it shakes the importance of MILB numbers in predicting MLB success.

        All that said, it’s better to have winning minor league teams than losing teams, and a lot of the players that have succeeded as rookies for the Nats in recent years did play on winning team in the minors. For example, between 2102 and 2014 Hagerstown Suns went a combined 249-165 (84 games over .500; best record in the Sally League by far during that period) and were an amazing +379 in run differential.

        The rosters on those teams included future MLB players:

        -Stephen Souza
        – Wilmer Difo
        – Rafael Baustista
        – Pedro Severino
        – Bryan Goodwin
        – Billy Burns
        – Aaron Barrett
        – Nate Karns
        – Josh Smoker
        – Nick Pivetta
        – Alex Meyer
        – Sammy Solis
        – Felipe Rivero
        – Lucas Giolito
        – Reynaldo Lopez

        Guessing that the fact that those Hagerstown teams had a lot of future MLB talent contributed to their success.

  7. Winning isn’t everything . Developing next wave of pitchers after Eaton deal.
    Vuckovich should be a brilliant jack of all trades for Rizzo and Spin:
    Roving instructor and scout .

    1. Jeff – what do you know about Vuckovich? I remember him as a pitcher, but know next to nothing of him as a front office guy. Other than having the Arizona connection, what are his strengths?

      1. He was the dude in Pitt before Ray Searage surfaced
        Pete pitched on Brewers playoff blue in early 80s when Buck Rodgers was around before being axed for Harvey Keane. Then Murray cook hired buck for AAA Indy. As they say. The rest is history
        Maybe Vuck will ride his Harley into WPB to work with certain guys . Voth????

        1. Pete Vuckovich also played “Haywood” in Major League. Haywood was the NY Yankees slugger that Charlie “Wildthing” Sheen struck out at the end of the movie.

          1. Heywood leads the league in most offensive categories, including nose hair. When this guy sneezes, he looks like a party favor.

    2. Yeah. The purpose of a minor league system is to feed talent (directly or indirectly) to the MLB team. Winning along the way is nice if it happens, but isn’t the point.

      I remember when Bowden [SPIT] was GM, and the Nats minor league system stunk notwithstanding solid W/L records. That was because the system mostly consisted of has beens (aging former marginal big leaguers) and never weres (AAAA types).

  8. Random question:

    Was looking at the roster of the 2013 GCL Nats who went an unprecedented 52-9 to win the GCL title, and saw that the closer for that championship team was a 34th round pick from the 2013 draft named Jake Walsh.

    These are Walsh’s stats in 3 seasons in the Nats organization (moving from the GCL t0 H’town to Potomac):
    6-3 (W-L) 1.65 (ERA) 109 (IP) 68 (H) 33 (BB) 104 (Ks) 0.927 (WHIP) 3.15 (K/BB Ratio) 29 saves

    Walsh’s highest ERA for any of his 3 seasons was 1.95.

    Walsh hasn’t played professional baseball since the 2015 season when he played for H’town and Potomac. Did he retire, get hurt or something else? Weird that a successful prospect who was climbing the organizational ladder in a steady progression would just quit. Every MLB team is looking for relievers that can get outs. Odd.

    1. My guess is that he retired after he didn’t make the opening day rosters last spring (2016). There are always about a half dozen guys like him who just fade away.

      FWIW, he wasn’t a terribly hard thrower and wasn’t very good in his second go ‘round at Potomac.

    2. I do remember there being some head-scratching when Walsh showed up on the release wire, but I don’t remember any of the details. Age could have been one. He was a college senior draftee, so he would have been 25 in 2016. If they didn’t think he was ready for Harrisburg, then a third year on the Hags-Potomac shuttle didn’t make a lot of sense.

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