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 It also doesn’t help that the Pipeline page often has outdated scouting reports (pro tip to MLB: if you’re going to compete against BA, you need to do more than just poach a couple of its longtime writers).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 TalkNats.com, 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.