Nats Fall to the Twins, 5-2

Minnesota jumped on starter A.J Cole for four runs in the 2nd and cruised to a 5-2 win over Washington.

Cole faced 10 batters but retired just five of them, giving up four runs on four hits and a walk while striking out two (both looking) over an inning and two-thirds.

Offensively, the Nats were a woeful 0-for-11 with RISP and managed just five hits total. Eleven men were stranded on the basepaths.

Here’s a rundown on how the watchlist players performed:
• Erick Fedde was easily the most effective pitcher of the game, with six and up and six down and two whiffs over two innings (5th & 6th).
• Austin Voth pitched around a leadoff single during a scoreless 8th innings.
• Matt Skole was the starting DH but was 0-for-2 with a K.
• Brian Goodwin started in RF and was also 0-for-2 with a K.
• Andrew Stevenson pinch-hit for CF Michael Taylor and drove in the second DC run with an RBI groundout in the 9th. He was 0-for-3.
• Drew Ward was the second DH and went 0-for-2 with a K.
• Rafael Bautista subbed for Goodwin in RF and scored the second run after a leading off the 9th with a single, taking third on a subsequent safety by Emmmanuel Burriss, and scoring on Stevenson’s groundout. He finished 1-for-2

The Nats complete their three-game road trip to start the 2017 Spring Training with a visit to Jupiter to face the Cardinals. The game will be broadcast on MLB Radio (St. Louis feed).

Nats Go Deep Four Times, Win Grapefruit League Opener, 8-6

The barrage began with a long home run by Bryce Harper in the 2nd, continued with two-run blasts by Neftali Soto (5th) and Andrew Stevenson (6th) and finished with Matt Skole’s solo shot as the Nats totaled four long balls in an 8-6 win over the Mets in the 2017 Grapefruit League opener.

Beginning with Gio Gonzalez, the Nats paraded seven pitchers for an inning apiece before Austin Adams and Derke Eitel imploded in New York’s three-run 8th, and Mike “No Relation to Larry” Broadway coughed up two runs in the 9th.

The “W” was credited to Matt Albers and an “H” went to Eitel despite letting in two of three inherited runners. The Nats pitchers walked nine total and struck out six.

Here’s a rundown on how the watchlist players fared:
• Rafael Bautista followed Adam Eaton in CF and went 1-2 with a run scored before he was replaced by Brandon Snyder
• Brian Goodwin subbed for Harper in RF and was 0-for-2
• Skole also walked in relief of Adam Lind at 1B to reach base twice
• Drew Ward took over for Neftali Soto at 3B and went 0-for-1 with a walk
• Raudy Read pinch-hit for DH Clint Robinson in the 9th and grounded into a 5-4-3 DP

Tomorrow, the Nats visit the Twins in Game Two of the three-game road trip to open the 2017 spring training schedule.

MLB.com Updates its Top 30 List for 2017

With the demise of the John Sickels prospect book, there’s one less news peg to use during the offseason. Hence, today’s post.

For those who prefer to cut to the chase – IN: Armond Upshaw, Jose Marmolejos, and Jose Sanchez; OUT: Rhett Wiseman, Tres Barrera, and Spencer Kieboom.

I mainly bring this to folks’ attention because the 2017 list has the most up-to-date scouting reports (although some have just barely been changed). When I was using the 2016 List to write the player capsules for the 2017 Watchlist, it was frustrating to see that for all the updates that were made to the list as players hit rookie limits last year (e.g. Wilmer Difo) or trades, the scouting reports weren’t changed; just the new players added.

This is also something to keep in mind for during the 2017 season, as several players on this year’s list could be dropped for that reason… Koda Glover, A.J. Cole, Pedro Severino, and Brian Goodwin.

As for movement up and down the list: Nos. 1 and 2 are the same. Juan Soto jumped from 12 to 3, Luis Garcia jumped from 21 to 11 (without playing a single game), Anderson Franco edged up from 17 to 15 (despite a back injury and playing at a lower level in ’16 vs. ’15), Drew Ward dropped from 7 to 14 (despite making the All-Star team and getting promoted), Nick Banks fell from 8 to 25.

In other words, rankings have changed based on largely arbitrary factors that question the validity of the original enumeration. But they’re worth some pageviews (*ahem*).

First spring training game is tomorrow… not a day too soon.

Morning Reading

No, the site hasn’t gone dark. It’s just been slow on the minor-league front.

To be honest, it’s been slow on the major-league front, too. Maybe there are some folks who care about Adam Eaton’s choice of t-shirt or which hat Bryce Harper wears, but I’d rather pass along something more meaningful, albeit tragic.

The folks over at TalkNats.com have an interesting rundown of the current slate of Nationals blogs and podcasts. There are a lot more than you may realize, or at least I was surprised. Who knew there was a Nats blog in Japan? Well, now you do, too.

My fellow “single author blog that focuses on a niche,” (I believe both of us are married, FWIW) Todd Boss is at it again with a post that breaks down the option status of the 2017 Nats. If you’re wondering why I’m feeling like this spring training will be especially specious for me to post about, this is why.

That’s about all for now. T-minus four days until the games begin.

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