2017 Spring Training Thoughts

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training today, but as you might imagine, the signing of Adam Lind has further depressed the chances of any of “our guys” making the big club.

Not that it was all that likely anyway. Don’t get me wrong: When a lot of young players have a good chance of making the Opening Day roster, it’s usually not for a contender, which the Nationals are and have been for several seasons now.

This is the eighth spring training since the site began in late 2009, and it seems like I keep writing that it’ll be a shorter time covering spring training than the year before.

I’m not alone in thinking this, though. Todd Boss has painstakingly analyzed the non-roster invitees and come to a similar conclusion: It doesn’t look good for anyone not already on the 40-man roster.

So once again, I’ll post about Nationals spring training for as long as it’s both reasonable and feasible. That’ll probably work out to about mid-March, after they’ve played about 17 or 18 Grapefruit League games.

But those don’t start for another 11 days, so we’ll have to work through stories about the new digs and Dusty Baker rolling off clichés about who will pitch the 9th inning.

Finally, for your reference, when the Nats will be on TV and/or radio this spring.

Watchlist Reports Are Finished

As promised, I’ve taken a pass through the 2017 watchlist filled in the unwritten reports while editing a handful.

The “donuts” have been made.

It also usually means that we’re almost at the beginning of spring training, which promises (again) to be pretty quiet for “our guys,” unless (until) there are injuries. There’s already angst over who the Nationals will use for the closer, which of course, longtime readers know is bullsh!t.

For those who like to obsess over Top XX lists, Baseball America has released its latest, which finds Victor Robles at #13 and Erick Fedde at #52.

Pitchers and catchers report on Tuesday – free to discuss in the comments.

Nats Trade for Hard-Throwing Reliever

Out-of-options southpaw sometimes gets it over the plate, too

If you’re left-handed, you get more chances. If you throw hard, you get more chances. And if you’re both, well, someone might trade for you, as the Nats did yesterday when they dealt RHP Jeffrey De La Rosa to Tampa Bay for LHP Enny Romero.

Truth be told, the Nats got Romero for a song: De La Rosa has been old for the level at both stops in the DSL and GCL the past two seasons and was—at best—ticketed for a stop in the NYPL this season.

The Nats will try to leverage Romero’s 96.7mph average fastball while lowering his walk rate, which is daunting because the 26-y.o. has averaged 5.0 BB/9 in 80⅓ MLB innings and 4.4 in 698⅓ MiLB innings. He’s also given up nearly a hit per inning for his career (713 in 810⅔IP).

If it works out, the Nats will have perhaps as many as three lefties for manager Dusty Baker to abuse out of the ‘pen. If it doesn’t, Romero could be the next Henry Rodriguez.

The gamble does also come at the cost of a 40-man slot and GM Mike Rizzo’s ego. The former will make it less likely for anyone not already on the 40-man roster to make the Opening Day roster. The latter will make it more likely that Romero will be held onto for far, far longer than he deserves (see two sentences ago).

Transaction Update

Back to the offseason grind, where we pass along the signings of journeymen with non-roster invitations and pretend that it’s meaningful:

• RHP Matt Albers
• RHP Joe Nathan
• RHP Vance Worley
• 2B Grant Green

[Crash Davis] They’re just happy to have the opportunity to see if they can help this ballclub win, and if they can’t make the Opening Day Roster, showcase themselves to the other 29 teams. [/Crash Davis]

The BA Prospect Handbook, Part Two

Alright, no sense in wasting time; here’s nos. 16-31:

16. Kelvin Gutierrez 21. Osvaldo Abreu (15) 26. Jose Marmolejos
17. Sheldon Neuse 22. Raudy Read (22) 27. Tyler Watson
18. Jakson Reetz (14) 23. Edwin Lora (22) 28. Telmito Agustin
19. Brian Goodwin (31) 24. Jose Sanchez 29. Joan Baez (18)
20. Blake Perkins (12) 25. Yasel Antuna 30. Matt Skole
YOUR AD HERE 31. Nick Banks

It’s worth noting that this year there are three IFAs who are ranked in the Top 31 without playing a single inning of affiliated baseball (Garica, Sanchez, and Antuna) and five total that cost the Nationals $900K or more in signing bonuses.

Good for them, but here’s the obligatory reminder of what it’s like for the other 99% of minor-leaguers. / steps off soapbox

As mentioned yesterday, the list is now tilted towards IFAs 16 of the 31. The past two drafts is still sizable portion (seven), though it falls off precipitously (not only that Skipper, it drops off pretty quick) after that: two from 2014, none from 2013.

Here’s a breakdown of the newcomers:

2016 Draft – Carter Kieboom (8), Jesus Luzardo (15), Sheldon Neuse (17), Nick Banks (31)

2015 Draft – Tyler Watson (27)

Int’l Free Agent – Luis Garcia (7), Kelvin Gutierrez (16), Jose Sanchez (24), Yasel Antuna (25), Jose Marmolejos (26), Telmito Agustin (28)

I suppose I could further break down the IFAs by their signing year, but I also think that would be really splitting hairs.

Finally, here’s BA 2020 projected Washington lineup, which ignores such things as free agency, injury, or a sudden decline in skills. BA didn’t project the 2017 lineup in the 2014 book, which I find a bit odd since they marketed it as a “secret weapon for fantasy league success” so we’ll miss out on seeing how wrong they were three years ago. (They brought it back in 2015).

C – Pedro Severino
1B – Daniel Murphy
2B – Wilmer Difo
SS – Trea Turner
3B – Anthony Rendon
LF – Adam Easton
CF – Victor Robles
RF – Bryce Harper
#1SP – Max Scherzer
#2SP – Stephen Strasburg
#3SP – Erick Fedde
#4SP – Joe Ross
#5SP – Austin Voth
CL – Koda Glover

Feel free to discuss in the comments. By the way, is there anything on TV tonight worth watching?

The BA Prospect Handbook, Part One

As always, when I make a post to refresh the site, something comes up to predicated an additional post. As the headline gives away, the 2017 Baseball America Prospect Handbook came in the mail today.

For those obsessed with how the Washington organization ranks relative to the rest of MLB, it came in at No. 19. Considering that the Nats traded away four pitchers who would have no doubt made this year’s Top 30, that ain’t bad.

As they did a year ago, the folks in Durham continue to praise the Nationals’ efforts in Latin America, which is also reflected in roughly half of the list being from the D.R. or of Dominican descent. We’ve been seeing (and mentioning) this for several years now, so I don’t think it’s really all that much of a secret except maybe to the folks who run the MASN’s social media or F.P. Santangelo.

As we’ve done before, let’s review how last year’s Top 30 fared:

Graduated (3) – Trea Turner, Wilmer Difo, Sammy Solis

Traded (4) – Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Chris Bostick, Taylor Hearn

Waived (1) – Abel de los Santos

Dropped out (5)

That’s almost half the list. Despite an influx of some IFAs, there are four players who are or will be 25-or-older before midseason, although that includes the not-a-rookie Wilmer Difo (turns 25 in April) and just-barely-a-rookie A.J. Cole (turned 25 last month), so it’s roughly the same as a year ago with Brian Goodwin (turned 26 last November) and Matt Skole (turned 27 last July) taking the place of Sammy Solis and Nick Lee as the aging prospects.

With that, I’ll close out this post with a look at the Top 15 and continue with nos. 16-31 in Part Two. Last year’s ranking, if applicable, in parentheses:

1. Victor Robles (3) 6. Koda Glover (30) 11. Rafael Bautista (13)
2. Erick Fedde (4) 7. Luis Garcia 12. Drew Ward (16)
3. Juan Soto (24) 8. Carter Kieboom 13. A.J. Cole (7)
4. Wilmer Difo (6) 9. Pedro Severino (11) 14. Anderson Franco (10)
5. Andrew Stevenson (8) 10. Austin Voth (9) 15. Jesus Luzardo

All Quiet on the Minor-League Front

Hey, we’re still here. It’s just really, really slow.

The hope—as always—is that this post will jinx something into happening so I have something better to write about than, say, the 2017 spring training uniforms and caps or the trucks arriving amid the frenzied construction at the Nats new digs in West Palm Beach.

Until then, please continue to keep the hot stove going in the comments…

Initial 2017 Player Reports Completed

I’ve made it through the first pass of writing the 2017 Watchlist and Player reports as I await the arrival of Baseball America’s 2017 Prospect Book. With Sickels no longer doing his book, I couldn’t punt on too many guys, which may be better because it forced me to write and research a little more.

While it’s a lot of work, it pays off down the line. Once the season starts up, the focus is on delivering the news and notes every day, which I enjoy, but gets progressively harder as the season progresses (even with reduced coverage of the DSL and GCL).

This is when I get the legwork done, and more than a few times during the season I’ll use this as reference material (and I’m sure others do, too, so you should know what to do with that the images that appear under “Pay The Bills”).

As always, feel free to discuss in the comments – (UPDATE) preferably here, but I just enabled them on each category page.

Transaction Update

Yes, it’s so slow that we’re doing back-to-back transaction posts. Yesterday, the folks at Baseball America posted their latest, which contained two signings for the Nationals:

LHP Jordan Mills – It’s no secret that the Nats are loading up on lefties. What’s not clear is why Mills was cut loose by the Astros after a single season at High-A in which he posted a line of 3.81/5.16/1.77 in the notoriously hitter-friendly California Lg. Last summer, he pitched in the Can-Am Lg. with good nos. 6-0, 1.96 in 44 appearances (which is a lot considering it’s a ~90-game season).

IF-OF Mario Lisson – Lisson, who split time between Harrisburg and Syracuse in 2015, returns to the Nationals after spending 2016 in Mexican League. He turns 33 in May, so it’s pretty clear he’s a roster-filler first and an emergency fill-in second.

A Few More Minor-League Signs

minor leagues signs 2Baseball America released its latest transaction post, and with it comes a few more signings:

LHP Neal Cotts
Irving Falu
Alex Santana

Cotts and Falu are the classic minor-league deals with a non-roster invite to spring training, i.e. longshots who will most likely get mentioned here again when they are released in about eight weeks. They are insurance policies against injuries and folks to push the backups along with the younger players in camp.

It should come as no surprise to learn that Santana is the son of a former major-leaguer (Rafael), continuing the fetish fascination with legacy players. Santana was released at the end of spring training in 2016 by the Dodgers, who drafted him in the 2nd Rd. of the 2011 Draft. He had risen as high as Low-A, but despite his 6’4″, 200-lb size slugged just .324 in 64G at the level in 2015. He did not play professionally last summer, in which he turned 23.

Bak