Transaction Update

We interrupt your Boxing Day celebration to bring you another transaction update, courtesy of BA and MiLB:

SIGNED
RHP Gabriel Arias – Did not pitch in 2016. Unable to confirm whether he was in Dr. Andrew’s waiting room when the Nats were stopped by for their monthly meeting.

• Player-Coaches Devin Ivany & Andruth Ramirez – Presumably both will return to Harrisburg and Potomac, respectively.

C-1B Pat Leyland – As noted in the comments, the son of manager Jim Leyland, and continuing the Nats’ fetish for legacy picks. Also did not play in 2016, though he was signed and released by the Reds last spring.

TRADED
RHP Mario Sanchez – The other cleat has dropped on the Jimmy Cordero trade with Philadelphia.

Happy Holidays

As expected, things have slowed down in our little world after an unusually busy December. With the weekend approaching—fast for the folks who’ve procrastinated, slowly for children and the folks who have to work today and tomorrow—I figured I’d post this a little earlier than usual.

Yesterday was the winter solstice, and that means that each day we’ll get just a little more sunlight than the day before. I need not remind anyone here what that means in terms of spring and baseball. (And if I do, what the hell are you doing here?!?!)

But it also signifies the beginning of some sort of holiday for multiple faiths and/or creeds for the next month. So whatever your reason for the season, please celebrate safely and in moderation.

And reach out to your friends, loved ones, and family (yes, you have to) and share what you can spare with those who have less.

The NationalsProspects.com Top 10
11 Pitchers

Much like the bats, there were handful of arms on which we could all agree, then it became a free-for-all.

This is actually par for the course – pitchers inspire a lot of strong emotions, in large part because the game begins with ’em and ends with ’em. Think about it: They’re usually the second question asked about your team (“Who are the _____ playing today? Who’s pitching?”).

Twenty-three different pitchers were named on ten ballots, same as last year. All three kinds were represented—old, young, and hurt—five, if you want to count the combinations.

Let’s do this…

  1. Erick Fedde
  2. Koda Glover
  3. Austin Voth
  4. Tyler Watson
  5. A.J. Cole
  6. Jesus Luzardo
  7. Joan Baez
  8. Weston Davis
  9. Ryan Brinley
  10. Matthew Crownover
  11. Tyler Mapes

McKenzie Mills, Andrew Lee, John Simms, Yonathan Ramirez, Nick Lee, Jaron Long, Bryan Harper, Jimmy Cordero, Steven Fuentes, Jake Johansen, Austin L. Adams, Gilberto Chu

Why 11? Well, because some idiot mixed up the days of service with innings pitched a couple of posts ago. So those of you who clarified or specified, I slotted him where you put him and if you didn’t I made him #5 since that was consensus (As it so happened, the gap between Cole and the Luzardo was so big that that maneuver made little difference).

Now for the requisite thoughts…

• Erick Fedde ends Lucas Giolito’s four-year run (which is a testament mainly to the latter’s age and hype) as the #1 pitcher in this highly unscientific poll. It would appear that two-plus years removed from TJ surgery that Fedde will be unrestricted in 2017, which is something to keep in mind if Joe Ross and/or Stephen Strasburg miss time or go under the knife.

• Most folks seem pretty confident Koda Glover will bounce back from labrum problems, which is good because he’s definitely a candidate to pitch in the late innings (don’t get me started on the whole closer misnomer).

• While Glover’s meteoric rise in 2016 enabled him to leapfrog Austin Voth, folks still believe in the Washington state native and truth be told, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got the nod ahead of Fedde, especially early in the 2017 season.

• Cole turns 25 early next month and one has to wonder how much longer the Nats will use him as a starter. He’s made 52 starts at AAA and hasn’t been significantly better than league average for the most part, with 2016 worse than 2015 and likewise 2015 vs. 2014.

• Luzardo has yet to throw a professional pitch, but folks seem very confident that he’ll recover. Just yesterday, however, we were reminded that the TJ surgery success rate is high, but it’s not (and never will be) 100 percent.

As always, feel free to discuss in the comments.

Catching up on Transactions


While I clean off this egg from my face from the last post, let’s take a peek at the latest transactions, via BA and MiLB:

SIGNED
RHP Michael Broadway – If the name’s familiar, it’s because Broadway spent a year (2013) in the system as a reliever for Harrisburg and Syracuse. Since then, he’s been mostly with the Giants, with a handful of appearances for the Yokahama Bay Stars of Japan’s Central League.

RHP Kyle Schepel – a bit interesting in that he went undrafted in 2012, pitched in the independent Frontier League, then hooked on with the Diamondbacks for two seasons, then spent the last two in the Mariners organization.

LHP Tim Collins – Another NDFA, the short lefty signed with Toronto in 2007 out of a Worcester, MA vocational HS, traded twice in July 2010 to Atlanta, then Kansas City, where he was a bullpen mainstay from 2011 to 2014 (228 appearances) before suffering an elbow injury in 2015 that’s required two TJ surgeries.

RHP Jacob Turner – Journeyman RHSP who split time between AAA and MLB for the White Sox, and was ineffective at both levels.

IF Emmanuel Burriss – Another former Nats farmhand (’14-’15), Burriss also split time between AAA and MLB for the Phillies, batting .263 and .111 in 50 and 39 games respectively.

RELEASED
• RHP Matt Pirro
• C Erik VanMeetren
• IF David Kerian
• RHP Yefri Pena

RETIRED
• SS Clayton Brandt

Vote for Your Favorite Arms

Favorite-Arms2
Well, thanks to an unusually busy December thus far (which could make for painfully longer January), we’re finally getting around to voting on Washington’s minor-league pitchers, a.k.a. the arms.

Like before, send your Top 10 list to enfieldmass-top10arms[at]yahoo[dot]com (link will open your preferred email client) or post them in the comments.

I’ll then tally the votes, weighting them in reverse order (#1 = 10 points, #2 = 9 points… #9 = 2 points, #10 = 1 point) and then post the results along with the requisite comments and/or snark.

Now, one of the things that came out of Tuesday’s post was a lovely little exchange on Twitter between myself and his holiness John Manuel of Baseball America. In case he deletes his response (folks have been known to do that), BA ignores service time in favor of ABs for position players (130), IP for starting pitchers (50), and appearances for relievers (30).

I bring this up because there is one rather notable pitcher who has exceeded his rookie eligibility – A.J. Cole. If you were under the impression that all September activity does not count, that’s not quite accurate. September doesn’t count towards service time, but IPs and ABs do.

Now, to make matters worse, baseball-reference.com is listing players that I’m 99% sure have not exceeded either limit of service or playing time (like this guy). This may very well explain why BA ignores that loophole; it is easier to calculate.

However, I still think rookie-eligible is the standard because these kind of exceptions usually aren’t a big deal. Let’s be honest: Cole and Wilmer Difo are in the conversation primarily because the upper levels of the Nationals minors have been thinned (or aged) out.

So A.J. Cole is off the table with four other pitchers are gone via trades this month, so this ought to be a very interesting exercise. So vote early (но не часто, спасибо), and let’s see how this goes.

CORRECTION
I got the 50 and 45 mixed up in my head. Cole is eligible.

Baseball America Ranks The Top 10 Nats Prospects

Baseball America for NPP
Yesterday, Baseball America released its postseason Top 10, and as already discussed in the comments, it’s full of specious goodness (last year’s ranking):

  1. Victor Robles, OF (3)
  2. Erick Fedde, RHP (4)
  3. Juan Soto, OF (’16-’17 IFA)
  4. Wilmer Difo, IF (6)
  5. Andrew Stevenson, OF (8)
  6. Koda Glover, RHP (30)
  7. Luis Garcia, SS(’16-’17 IFA)
  8. Carter Kieboom, SS(’16 Draft Pick)
  9. Pedro Severino, C (11)
  10. Austin Voth, RHP (9)

As you can see, it’s not too hard to figure out the process: Nos. 1, 2, and 5 were traded… so bump up the next three guys two slots… then slide in two of the most expensive IFAs… add the top ’16 Draft pick. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out the last three spots.

Let’s choose from the guys who were on the 25-man roster in August!

One of them has his service time exhausted? No problem, we’ll haughtily proclaim that only at-bats matter in determining prospect status; who cares if most folks use rookie eligibility? We’re the phone company Baseball America, we don’t care.

OK, end rant.

Time’s running short this morning, so tomorrow I’ll update this space with any tidbits from the chat this afternoon. In the meantime, keep the conversation going… it’s going to be cold (for DC, at least) later this week, so we’ll need the hot stove.

UPDATE:
There were a couple of tidbits from the chat worth mentioning, which answer some questions that folks had. The first relates to the two shortstops:

Ryan (Abingdon, MD): Why is Luis Garcia ranked ahead of Carter Kieboom? I get that they’re ranked together, but is Garcia’s upside really that much greater than Kieboom’s to get him placed ahead even though I assume he’ll have a considerably later ETA.

Teddy Cahill: It was difficult to order Garcia and Kieboom. They have the same BA Grade and the difference between them is slim. I think Garcia’s ceiling is higher than Kieboom’s, partially because he has a chance to be better defensively. I hesitate to call Kieboom the safer of the pair because no teenager in the complex league is “safe”,[sic] but he might have the higher floor (though part of the attraction of Garcia is how advanced he is for a 16-year-old). I don’t think Kieboom’s ETA is much ahead of Garcia’s. He’s two years older and has made his pro debut already, but it’s not like he’s in line to play in the big leagues in 2018. It’s going to take them both some time to get to Washington, and it will be interesting to watch them develop.

The second is the Nats’ reigning, two-time Player of the Year, Jose “Orange” Marmolejos:

theaman (College Park, Md.): Jose Marmolejos seemed to come out of nowhere to win organizational player of the year and seemed like a surprise addition to the 40-man roster. What do the Nats have there? Enough pop to play 1B in the majors?

Teddy Cahill: Jose Marmolejos has been a fascinating player to evaluate for the ranking, especially after the Nationals added him to the 40-man roster last month. He has really performed the last two years, winning org player of the year twice. But he doesn’t really profile as a first baseman because he doesn’t have that kind of power. But as a lefthanded hitter that a good, disciplined approach at the plate, I think he can find a way to help a team off the bench or maybe as a platoon option. The bottom line is if he keeps hitting as he advances in the minor leagues, they’ll find a way to use him.

Finally, Cahill mentioned back problems for Anderson Franco to explain his limited playing time last summer. This, as we all know, is par for the course with the Nationals when it comes to injuries (say little, reveal less). Not necessarily the wrong thing to do, especially given the spate of trades lately, but still annoying.

Nats Make Second Annual Spare IF Trade to Angels for Two Pitchers

Pognophiles weep, N.L. infields a little less breezy in 2017

strictly-businessIn a move that seems a little too neatly timed, Nats Winter Fest no-show Danny Espinosa was traded to the L.A. Angels for two minor-league RHPs.

Kidding aside, as the headline suggests, it’s the second time in as many years the two teams have swapped an IF for a pair of “northpaws.” And it would appear to be the same return: one marginally major-league ready reliever, one roster-filler for AA/AAA.

Austin L. Adams is the former, and much will be made of his K rate (12.8 in ’16, 11.6 career) and velocity (95-97), while his BB rate (4.9, 6.4) gets overlooked, his age (turns 26 in May) is ignored, and inexperience (3⅔ career IP at AAA) is downplayed. He was just added to the 40-man ahead of the Rule 5 draft last month, so no space cleared on the 40-man.

Kyle McGowin is the latter, and likewise, folks will immediately gasp at the pitcher’s slashes in the PCL (6.11/5.09/1.62) but even if you’re inclined to write that off as the league, he’s had similarly subpar production at AA and lower (4.77 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, no FIPs lower than 3.53).

As folks smarter than I am about trades have noted, trading Espinosa after he had been replaced took away some leverage (counterargument: such a trade might have given opposing GMs a hint that the Eaton trade was in the works), and now leaves Wilmer Difo as the primary MI backup.

Next up (barring another trade, natch): BA will unveil its Top 10 Nats prospects, then we’ll vote on the Top 10 Nats arms.

Sickels Releases Top 20 Nats Prospect List

As noted in the comments, John Sickels released his Top 20 Prospects for the Washington Nationals last night. Here’s the breakdown by letter grade:

B+/A- Victor Robles
B+ Erick Fedde
B Juan Soto
B- Carter Kieboom, Koda Glover, Austin Voth, Sheldon Neuse
B-/C+ A.J. Cole, Andrew Stevenson
C+ Drew Ward, Wilmer Difo*, Pedro Severino, Brian Goodwin, Tyler Watson, Rafael Bautista, Kelvin Gutierrez, Osvaldo Abreu, Joan Baez, Yasel Antuna  *Not a prospect by the usual definition (exceeded MLB service time limit), but Sickels is taking the “I get a lot of questions about him” copout
C+/C Rhett Wiseman

Bold = 2016 Top 20 player, higher grade
Bold = 2016 Top 20 player, same grade
Bold = 2016 Top 20 player, lower grade
Italics = Not on the 2016 list
Green = 2016 Draft pick
Purple = 2016-17 International Free Agent

I simplified the explanation with a key so I can get to the commentary…

What struck me the most is that the clump of “a notch better than average” players continues to be a hallmark of these Top 20’s. This time, it’s half the list, same as it was in Year 1 of this website. There’s some consolation in that there are no “C” players to crack the Top 20, as three did that year (2010) and as recently as 2014, there were four.

Conversely, this is the first list since 2012 that has no A- or better players, which I think is fair. Yes, we love our Victor Robles, but let’s be honest: He is injury prone, the arm isn’t quite as good as initially advertised (Sickels does acknowledge this), and there’s some doubt he’ll develop home-run power. Remember, there is significant value in considering the opinions outside our little bubble.

I am a little surprised that Andrew Stevenson didn’t bump up to at least a straight-up B-minus. Before folks start howling about he was the hit leader of the 2016 AFL, remember it’s a SSS and the pitching isn’t as consistent as it is in AA or AAA. Sickels is citing questions in Stevenson’s swing mechanics, which I’d infer comes from a scout or two.

Before folks get a case of the Mondays, Sickels is high on Soto:

I normally take a wait-and-see approach with guys like this but in my opinion Soto is definitely for real; features bat speed, raw power, sound swing mechanics, and a good batting eye; has the tools to be an excellent hitter and the skills to make those tools work are advanced; mediocre speed is the main weakness but he can handle a corner and I strongly believe in the bat. ETA: late 2020

He’s also a believer in both Glover and Voth, which is good news because the big club can use them this upcoming season. And for those wondering, LHP Tyler Watson is Sickels’s “SLEEPER ALERT” again.

Unlike MASN, I encourage you to click through to the link above—Sickels is no longer doing the BPB, so let’s give him some traffic, shall we?—and then comment below.

The NationalsProspects.com Top 10 Position Players

There are four players we can agree on: Victor Robles, Andrew Stevenson, Drew Ward, and Carter Kieboom. They’re the only ones named on every ballot. This is actually pretty normal, since the Nats aren’t typically deep in position players.

Twenty different players were named on 12 ballots (including mine), down one from last year. Robles was the clear #1 player, named #1 on eleven ballots. Juan Soto got the most second-place votes, but finished third behind Stevenson, who was in everybody’s Top 5.

Without further ado, ze list:

  1. Victor Robles
  2. Andrew Stevenson
  3. Juan Soto
  4. Drew Ward
  5. Carter Kieboom
  6. Pedro Severino
  7. Jose Marmolejos
  8. Brian Goodwin
  9. Anderson Franco
  10. Rafael Bautista

Others receiving votes: Osvaldo Abreu, Nick Banks, Kelvin Gutierrez, Yasel Antnua, Sheldon Neuse, Jakson Reetz, Raudy Read, Austin Davidson, Rhett Wiseman, Blake Perkins, Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

For those wondering, that’s five names carrying over from 2015, same as last year from 2014. Two players graduated (Trea Turner, Wilmer Difo), one was traded (Christopher Bostick), and the other two (Osvaldo Abreu and Spencer Kieboom) dropped out.

The Dominican presence also remains strong with six of the Top 10, ten of the 20 nominees being born in the D.R. or to Dominican parents. This ought not to be a shock to the mindful watchers of the Nationals minors (a.k.a. the regulars), but given the reaction to Washington refusing to overpay for a “closer,” I feel obligated to point this out for the folks who are new (and welcome) here.

Next up: The pitchers, which just got a whole less interesting (or more difficult to pick) with four would-be nominees traded in the last week.

Nats Go All in for Eaton

For those of you who work the third shift, aren’t on the Twitters, or had a date last night (hey, it could happen), Washington traded Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning for Chicago White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton.

This is hard for us as prospect followers because we become (or have become) enamored with the exploits of “our guys” and envision their future with the big club, which we saw briefly last summer with Giolito and Lopez, and were looking forward to with Dunning in 2-3 years. I’ll be the first to admit that my first thought was: “Just Adam Eaton? No PTBNL?”

That’s because I’ve become used to the consolation prize that Mike Rizzo seems to find with his trades: Joe Ross… Blake Treinen… Tanner Roark, etc.

Nope. Three maybes, two of them pretty strong, for one proven, in-his-prime major leaguer.

As the pic suggests, Rizzo appears to be going all-in for this season; at least that’s the knee-jerk narrative. But if you look more closely, and think about it a little more deeply, he’s got an OF option secured for the next five seasons at a reasonable price. This is critical because at least one of the two guys who’ll play next to him next summer won’t be here in 2019.

That’s not being Chicken Little – Jayson Werth’s skills are in decline, Bryce Harper may leave. If you’re a Pollyanna, then you look at this trade as freeing up the Cayman Island that it’ll take—and if he reverts to 2015 form, deserves—to keep Harper in DC.

If you’re bitter, or cynical, then you wonder if the Nats have soured on at least one of these three prospects and are dealing them because they’ve reached their peak and/or will get hurt. I certainly hope not because if a pattern like this emerges it will be harder for Rizzo to make trades in the future.

It’s worth paraphrasing what one scout tweeted yesterday: Prospects have three purposes (1) play for the parent club (2) use to trade for other players (3) fill out the rosters in the minors. Number one is obviously top of mind for us, but this is yet another reminder that number two may actually be number one in the minds of the Washington front office.

Last call for the Top 10 Nats Bats while we brace for the Rule 5 Draft.