Preliminary 2018 Watchlist

With the passing of Thanksgiving, it’s time to take a look at the next edition of the watchlist.

This is one of the most difficult/depressing exercises because I kept running into two scenarios:

  • The player had good numbers, but was (very) old for the level
  • The players was age-appropriate for the level, but had terrible numbers

Now, I realize in the case of the latter—and especially in short-season ball—the statistics are not meaningful. But in the case of the former, there are very, very few late bloomers.

This past season I spent more time covering the GCL since 2014, “thanks” to Syracuse being as unwatchable as daytime TV.* But I still got the distinct impression that the IFAs were the ones to watch, not the draft picks.
Remember I was hospitalized twice last year; at least there I could ask for painkillers (*rimshot!*)

Before I go any further, let’s lay out the caveats…

It’s not a depth chart. It’s ordered by the highest level played to date. The guys at the top of the column are not necessarily better than the guys at the bottom.

It’s (mostly) based on 2017 usage. The Nats have a history of rotating IFs between 2B, 3B, and SS and are usually not very strong at 1B or the corners of the OF.

It’s preliminary. This is no longer a side project that I hope might lead to bigger things, it’s now a hobby that I’ve figured out how to keep doing.

I’m expecting and depending on readers to write in with omissions, criticism, and/or suggestions. Doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily respond or react, but I will read them.

What this is are the players who I think are worth keeping an eye on for one reason or another… but hardly ever because of when he was drafted or how much Washington spent to acquire him. I’m all too aware of how that does lead to some guys getting far more chances than they may actually deserve.

Sometimes it’s based on what I see for myself at Potomac (or what people I trust see at Hagerstown) and sometimes it’s based on what I see from the statistics. I do take into account what the experts think at MLB Pipeline, Minorleagueball, and yes, even Baseball America, even if I have my qualms about its editorial independence.

This year I’m simplifying and not listing any “DSL Guys” or “Notables” – the former isn’t going to change, and the latter is most useful as a place to list the folks that people will bring up in the conversation that follows. About the only “rule” I have is to not list anyone in the “Notables” from one year to the next.

So let’s kick off the 2017-18 offseason, and take a look at what we got here:

C 1B 2B SS
Severino Marmolejos Davidson C. Kieboom
Read Corredor Noll Antuna
Gushue Shepard L. Garcia  
Reetz      
3B OF RHP LHP
Ward Stevenson Fedde Borne
Gutierrez Robles Valdez Howard
  Johnson Baez Braymer
  Soto Sharp Romero
  Perkins Bogucki Raquet
  Connell Crowe Stoeckinger
  Evangelista Klobosits Infante
    Tetrault Jimenez
    Alastre  
    Guillen  

Happy Thanksgiving

Another year has gone by and we’re at the cusp of the holiday craziness. I’m certainly thankful that I’ll be able to partake in Thanksgiving this year, having had : to ; surgery 53 weeks ago. Later this week, my oldest will turn 18, which is mind-boggling to me because it feels like this was only 10 years ago.

I’ll keep it short and sweet this year. I’m grateful for this little hobby and this community of fans who make this worthwhile.

Now, for the annual reminders:
       Travel safe
       Show some plate discipline
       Call your mother

Nats Add (Just) Two to the 40-Man Roster

For the first time in five years, the Washington Nationals added just two players—IF Kelvin Gutierrez and RHP Jefry Rodriguez—to its 40-man roster ahead of the deadline to protect players from the the Rule 5 draft. I suppose you could count Wander Suero, but he was about to become a free agent so that’s really accurate to lump him together with these two, unless you happen to have noticed that none of these players were 2014 or 2013 draft picks.

Don’t get me wrong — that they’re all IFAs doesn’t bother me aside from the fact that foreign-born players are subjected to different level of exploitation by major-league baseball. So in that sense, I’m happy that these two (three) have taken one step closer to The Show because they’ve sacrificed more.

Kelvin Gutierrez is one of my current favorites and while I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Rodriguez in the past, it’s hard for me to look past his drug suspension, which begs the question why are the Nats doing so, too?

But to return to my original point… aside from Erick Fedde, which is nearly a given for a 1st-Rd pick, the 2014 draft has produced zero players on the 40-man roster and neither of the 2013 draft‘s two (2) HS picks were protected, either.

Explain to me again why Mike Rizzo, et al are supposed draft gurus?

I’ve been hearing/reading/seeing this for years, that the Nats have the knack for finding talent in the draft despite picking lower and lower. Well, perhaps they’re more like The Knack with two big hits early and not much since.

Supposedly, it takes five years to truly judge a draft, but 2012 doesn’t look much better and I’m not even going by the number of major-leaguers. I see far too many that barely made it to High-A and few that were truly good at that level, never mind AA or AAA.

So can we please just acknowledge that Washington isn’t better than anyone else when picking low? Thank you.

Mesa Loses AFL Title Game, 8-2

The game started with so much promise for Mesa, with Victor Robles (pictured above, greeting the Braves’ Ronald Acuna) leading a salvo of back-to-back-to-back singles to open the game and take a 2-0 lead early.

But it was all Peoria after that as the Javelinas scored eight unanswered runs to win the 2017 Arizona Fall Championship game, 8-2.

Robles singled again in the 8th to finish the game at 2-for-4 and go 12-for-45 in 14 AFL games. He was joined in the lineup by Kelvin Gutierrez, who once again played 1B to make room for former Nats farmhand Sheldon Neuse. Gutierrez went hitless, but still had a much stronger fall (10-for-44, 7BB, 9RBI in 14G) than most would have expected after an injury-shortened 2017.

Dakota Bacus also appeared in the game but retired just one of three batters faced and was charged with the final two Peoria runs.

# # #

Sad-SpicklesAnd that’s a wrap on the 2017 minor-league season, No. 8 for this space, and the sixth for which Lee Magehenim has added pictures far better than the one- or two-hundred word summaries on how the Nats did in Arizona.

Saturday Smorgasbord

No AFL update, but if you need a breathless preview of today’s title game, here you go.

As we’re all familiar with the offseason cycle, with the AFL’s end comes the Rule 5 protection deadline (Monday, 8 p.m.) This, of course, has become less and less meaningful as the Nats system has thinned while the big club has become a contender (and a favorite of MADD, because they’re done after one round).

Todd Boss breaks it down at NationalsArmsRace and about the only thing I’d disagree with is protecting Drew Ward – he can’t be hidden on a bench as he’s not a viable defensive replacement and is not very fast. About the only intrigue is learning which of the IFAs the Nationals feel (fear) might be the next Felipe Rivero.

No news on the transaction front but if you’re of a mind to see where the recent free agents re-sign, you can visit BA’s free-agent tracker, which is better-looking but a little more cumbersome than its previous iterations. Spoiler alert: just three FAs have signed as of this writing.

Speaking of Baseball America—and looking at you MLB—the line between editorial and advertising is getting blurred. Let’s just say that when I write an article, I put my name on it. When I write advertising, I don’t.

AFL Update: Nov. 17, 2017

The Solar Sox ended the regular season with a thud, losing to Suprise, 10-5.

Three Nationals saw game action.

Daniel Johnson led off and played center field, going 1-for-5 with a two-run double and two strikeouts. Defensively, he had three putouts.

Kelvin Gutierrez (pictured) took third base and had an assist and an error. At the plate, he went 1-for-4.

Austen Williams was lit up for five runs again – this time on five hits over 2/3rds of an inning. In nine AFL appearances, he’s had just two outings in which he did not allow a run.

Today’s an off day before tomorrow’s obligatory Championship Game between the Solar Sox and the Javelinas. The game will be broadcast on the MLB Network and MLB.com at 3 p.m.

AFL Update: Nov. 16, 2017

The Solar Sox clinched the AFL East with a 5-2 win over Surprise.

Like yesterday, there were just two Nats in the starting lineup.

Victor Robles reached base twice without getting hit by a pitch as he drew walks in 7th and 9th innings. Defensively, he had two putouts in centerfield.

Daniel Johnson ended an oh-for-ever streak (Ok, fine – 25 AB’s) with a two-out double in the 5th. Pictured is his reaction to the bench cheering for the hit. He fielded just one ball in right field, a single to lead off the bottom of the 1st.

The two teams rematch and play the final regular-season game this afternoon in Mesa.

AFL Update: Nov. 15, 2017

Glendale got two in the 1st and never trailed as they handed Mesa another loss, 5-1.

Just two Nationals played in yesterday’s game:

• Kelvin Gutierrez got the start at first base, where he played error-free and took par in a double play. At the plate, he was 0-for-3 to lose his modest hit streak but drew a walk to reach base for the 10th time in the last 10 games.

• Jimmy Cordero (pictured) pitched two innings, giving up a run on three hits and a walk. He threw 40 pitches, 22 for strikes.

Despite the loss, the Solar Sox still hold a 1½ game lead with two games to play. They play the Saguaros this afternoon with a chance to clinch a spot in Saturday’s title game with a win.

AFL Update: Nov. 14, 2017

Mesa is still on track to the Finals, but it was over early as Glendale lit up both Kyle McGowin and Austen Williams for five runs in a 10-3 loss.

McGowin got knocked from the box in the second after giving up five hits, including a three-run homer an a solo shot. Williams got the last out of the 2nd on a strikeout and the first two of the 3rd but was lit up for five hits before he hit the showers. McGowin took the loss, his first of the fall.

Victor Robles walked, singled, and scored a run to improve his fall line to .263/.388/.526 in 12 games. He had three putouts in centerfield.

Kelvin Gutierrez had an infield single to drive in a run and extend his hit streak to five games, but fell below .400 with the 1-for-4 effort. He played third but had no defensive chances.

The Desert Dogs also lost yesterday, which keeps the Solar Sox’s lead at 2½ games with three games to go. Mesa and Glendal switch venues and rematch this afternoon.

# # #

Some sad new to pass along: former Nats farmhand Richie Mirowski passed away earlier this month at the age of 28. Folks who don’t feel comfortable posting to Facebook should probably express their condolences here.

I’d also like to ask folks to not speculate on the manner of his death out of respect for his friends and family, and in particular, his parents.

AFL Update: Nov. 12, 2017

Mesa went to town on Salt River with a seven-run 5th en route to a 16-2 demolition to take one giant step closer to securing a spot in next Saturday’s championship game.

Victor Robles (pictured from Friday afternoon) was the only National to appear in the game. The 20-y.o. reached base twice with (*gasp*) a hit-by-pitch and a walk and scored twice. He also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and stole his seventh base in his eleventh AFL game.

The Solar Sox return to action on Monday with a visit to the Desert Dogs, the first of just four games in this, the final week.