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…

Nationals (Finally) Name 2018 Farm Managers, Coaches

Hinted at earlier this month, the Washington Nationals finally announced who the managers and coaches will be in 2018:

Affiliate Manager Pitching Coach Hitting Coach
Syracuse Randy Knorr Brad Holman Brian Daubach
Harrisburg Matthew LeCroy Michael Tejera Brian Rupp
Potomac Tripp Keister Sam Narron Luis Ordaz
Hagerstown Patrick Anderson Tim Redding Amaury Garcia
Auburn Jerad Head Franklin Bravo Mark Harris
GCL Mario Lisson Larry Pardo Jorge Mejia
DSL Sandy Martinez Pablo Frias Freddy Guzman

Bold = New to the organization
Italics = Different than 2017

As noted in Chelsea Janes’s WaPo story the changes center on pitching: Just one level (DSL) has the same coach as last year and there are new coaches at AAA and the GCL.

Chris Michalak (Marlins), Bob Milacki (unknown), and Josh Johnson (Padres) are out while Billy Gardner, manager at AAA from 2014 to 2017, remains as a “roving coordinator.” He joins usual suspects (e.g. Spin Williams, Tommy Shields, Jeff Garber, Troy Gingrich, Paul Menhart, et al).

Why this took so long to release remains a mystery. Typically, this news comes around the winter meetings, but three times in the past four seasons it’s been in January; this is the latest since this site was begun in 2009. That I’m complaining about this shows you just how slow this offseason has been.

The 2018 Watchlist is on track to be finished by the end of the month. I’ve punted on a few players, but I’ve written up six of the ten categories, including all the position players and the RHPs. Until something else breaks… as you were.

Plugging Away at the Watchlist

Plugging AwayOne of the saddest things in the offseason is doing a search for when you last did a post and finding it was roughly this time a year ago. Sadder: About 80% of it I could reuse word for word.

As the headline says, I’ve begun writing the player reports for the 2018 Watchlist and have finished a couple of pages. It’s been a tough go because I can already feel the fan half of my brain fighting the analyst half and have keep reminding myself that the system is top-heavy (and has been for quite some time).

It’s also harder than in years past because I’m down a valuable resource. I used to be able to punt on a dozen or so guys in the hopes that John Sickels would write about them in his annual prospect book.

Now, I can look at the MLB Pipeline page and know that it’ll have about 25 of the 31 guys who will written up in the BA handbook. It also doesn’t help that the Pipeline page often has outdated scouting reports (pro tip to MLB: if you’re going to compete against BA, you need to do more than just poach a couple of its longtime writers).

Following up on a story from this post from last year, Seth Maness, who underwent an alternative to Tommy John surgery in August 2016, was able to pitch all of 2017, albeit for a new club (Kansas City), mostly at AAA, and not at his pre-surgery level of performance.

If he’s able to avoid a second surgery may be the true bellwether—and still pitch this season, natch—but I fear his inability to return to form quickly (or at all) will be how this procedure is judged, which would be a tragedy because it seems that this could be used instead of TJ for minor-leaguers (or, *ack* HS and collegiate pitchers) and have them miss less developmental time.

Until next time…

Changes Down on the Farm?

Over at, where I’ve been cross-posting to help drum up page views, there’s a story about how the Nationals will be changing things up with the minor-league coaching staffs.

The focus is on the realigning of the pitching coaches – Franklin Bravo to Auburn (from Potomac), Sam Narron to Potomac (from Hagerstown), and Tim Redding to Hagerstown (from Auburn). Presumably, this means Chris Michalak and Bob Milacki will still be the pitching coaches at Harrisburg and Syracuse, but that has not been confirmed.

According to this article, Randy Knorr will be replacing Billy Gardner as the manager of the Syracuse Chiefs, though in fairness, I don’t think his efforts (or lack thereof) were the cause for the Chiefs’ dreadful performances the past two seasons. One has to wonder if this is the Nationals throwing him a bone after passing him over twice now in the past three seasons.

My interpretation is that they’re looking to keep some continuity with the arms they had Auburn last summer and want a veteran pitching coach working with the 2018 Draft picks and 2017 GCL grads.

We can only hope that light may be dawning over Marblehead, that Nationals are realizing that they need the best teachers at the lowest levels and not vice-versa. It’s still back-asswards to have 17* coaches in DC instead of Florida or New York, but baby steps.* Sarcasm

I suspect we’ll see something from the beat writers soon, though a tip of the hat to Steve Mears for beating them to this – especially in the slowest baseball offseason in this decade… century… and maybe even since the strike of ’94-’95.

Morning Reading (Happy New Year)

It’s Day 17 since the kids were in school and it feels even longer than that since there’s been any real baseball news.

It’s so quiet that otherwise smart baseball writers are suggesting that a 28-y.o. LHP with 25⅓ IP (zero since 2016) of AAA experience might be the key to keeping Bryce Harper in Washington after this season. And it’s so slow that people are not chortling and mocking as much as they should.

The reason for this, we’re told, is the competitive balance tax, which is functioning like a soft salary cap. I’m not 100% sure why that would preclude the signing of minor-league free agents, but if you look at the latest BA transaction post, you’ll see less than 20 players who’ve changed teams. Best guess: teams are playing the waiting game with minor-leaguers, too.

Finally, the “three prospects to watch” on Sickels’s site has gotten to the Nationals, and it’s pretty disappointing. I thought the premise was to shine a light on unheralded guys with decent upside*. Instead, we got a selection from the last half-dozen slots on the 40-man roster. That this might interest the fantasy baseball crowd is just a coincidence, right?
* FWIW, I’d take three from this group: Gutierrez, Daniel Johnson, Blake Perkins, Justin Connell, Nick Raquet, Jackson Tetrault.