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.

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…

Plugging Away at the Watchlist

Plugging AwayStill here, still waiting for some new, relevant Nats- or minors-related news. In the meantime, I have been plugging away at the player reports while we wait out the winter.

Perhaps not coincidentally, one of the last times I wrote a post like this, there was a story from the St. Louis Dispatch‘s Derrick Goold about qualifying offers and their effect on free agents. This week, Goold wrote about Seth Maness, who could be the trailblazer for a new UCL surgery (Hmmm, maybe this is Nats-related after all 😉).

Until next time…

All Quiet on the Minor-League Front

Folks, we haven’t gone dark… there’s just not much going on. No relevant transactions – players getting assigned to a given roster at this time of the year is meaningless.

As promised, I’ve begun working on the player reports and have already knocked a couple, albeit with a couple of placeholders. Unlike years past, I would hold out hope that whatever BA won’t cover John Sickels might, but that option is gone. Now it’s a matter of guessing who might make the last 10 spots, and MLB Pipeline seems to have that largely covered.

This is the hardest time of the year for many us of anyways… holidays are over, diets have begun, and as we’ve seen this morning, cold and snow are back in the DMV (just in time for my being given medical clearance to run!). So my apologies in advance for the lack of enthusiasm. If the past is indeed prologue, something will break soon now that I’m written a post primarily designed to assure folks it’s still operating.

The 2017 NationalsProspects.com Watchlist

I know this keeps getting done later every year, but I won’t bore with you with why it’s been delayed. We’re all busy and it’s the holidays… yada yada yada.

I should be used to how trades and lower draft positions make this harder than the year before, not to mention my no longer following the lowest levels as closely. I spent a good chunk of time with a pen and a magic 8 ball notebook while bouncing back and forth between the preliminary post, its comments, and the “top prospect” posts from Baseball America and John Sickels.

So here we go with the seventh annual NationalsProspects.com watchlist. These are the five dozen or so players that we’re paying a bit much more attention to than the others for various reasons.

Few of these guys will actually make it to The Show—for Washington or any other organization—but we still watch and hope for them, just like their friends and families (and agents 😉) do.

Now for the obligatory caveats…

It’s not a depth chart – Players are listed primarily by the highest level they’ve played. This mostly applies to the pitchers and outfielders, but it’s a fool who assumes that the name at the top of the column is better than the one at the bottom.

It’s not a prediction of usage – Early on, I listed pitchers by whether they started or relieved. Now, I mostly list them by dexterity; this year I did break apart the “northpaws” because there are so damn many of them.

It’s not fair – Some names have been dropped and/or shuffled around since the preliminary list was released. Some guys get the benefit of being lefthanded. Others are listed because the position isn’t terribly deep, which unfortunately, is more common than any of us would like.

I haven’t yet added this sidebar to the right yet, but will soon. I hope my copyeditor made fewer mistakes than last month, but if you spot anything, please let us know in the comments.

The next few weeks will be spent writing the player capsules while I wait for the handbook(s) to arrive. I’ll hyperlink the category pages when I’m done and will keep you updated as usual.

In the meantime, feel free to discuss in the comments…

C 1B 2B/SS 3B OF RHRP
Severino Skole Abreu Ward Goodwin Glover
Read Marmolejos Sagdal Gutierrez Bautista Brinley
Reetz Simonetti Noll Neuse Stevenson Mendez
C. Kieboom Robles Pantoja
Agustin Peterson
Wiseman Fuentes
Johnson Howell
Perkins
Soto
Upshaw
Evangelista
RHSPs LHPs DSL Bats DSL Arms Notable Arms Notable Bats
Cole Crownover Cabello Sisneros J. Cordero Banks
Voth Borne Falcon Guillen Mapes Corredor
Fedde Guilbeau Mesa Chu A. Lee Franco
Simms Watson Morales Duran Rivera III L. Garcia
Valdez Mills Pascal J. Peguero Luzardo Antuna
Baez Y. Ramirez
W. Davis
Sharp
F. Peguero

AFL/Offseason Update: Oct. 15, 2016

andrew-stevenson-10-14-16It was a light night for the Nats in last night’s 8-7 loss by Glendale to Scottsdale.

Andrew Stevenson was the only prospect to appear, as the 22-y.o. started, batted ninth, and played left field for the Desert Dogs. At the plate, he went 0-for-4 while grounding into a double play. In the field, he had two putouts and fielded four singles.

The loss drops Glendale to .500 with a 2-2 mark. They’ll close out Week 1 with a home game this afternoon against Salt River.
                          #                          #                          #

BA TOP PROSPECT LISTS

Despite having exhausted his rookie eligibility – the generally accepted, least arbitrary way to end prospect status – Baseball America continued its practice of ignoring this standard when it suits them to name Trea Turner the #1 “prospect” in the International League. A.J. Cole, who turns 25 in January, came in at #20.

TRANSACTION UPDATE
Still the slow season as folks await the World Series to end for full-fledged free agency to begin…
• Signed – OF Yadiel Hernandez (scouting report)
• Re-signed – IF Adrian Sanchez
• Released – RHP Bronson Arroyo

WINTER LEAGUE SIGHTINGS
It’s too early to list any stats, but for those desperate for something to talk about…
• Mexico – 1B-3B Matt Skole,
• Venezuela – RHPs Mitch Lively, Greg Ross, and Boone Whiting

THE HAGERSTOWN SUNS

We’re now in the full-season territory, where the sample sizes are larger and (Auburn excepted) there’s some actual local media coverage. I have a spy in Hagerstown, who has made posts about the Suns hitters and pitchers upon my request.

Disclosure: Shawn is not a fan of Washington teams, which is perfectly fine because only the Nielsen folks consider Western Maryland part of the DC-Baltimore market. I can relate, having grown up in Western Massachusetts, where some folks were fans of NY teams (particularly in football and hockey, thanks to Hartford and its top AHL team being in Springfield) because that’s who you could see if you didn’t have cable TV.

The Suns got back on the horse and played winning baseball from wire-to-wire, winning the first half by slimmest possible margin (½ game) and finishing second in the second half by five games to the Blue Claws, who swept them in the first round, two games to none.

Hagerstown was the #1 offense in the Sally League (4.77 R/G), buoyed by the likes of Victor Robles and Max “For Those About To” Schrock, and got league-average pitching from a mixed bag of pitchers and league-average defense (one interesting caveat: Hagerstown allowed the least number of stolen bases while throwing out 35% of those that did attempt to steal).

Now, for the obligatory Top 5’s…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Victor Robles, CF
.297 GPA, .459 SLG%
1. Jorge Pantoja, RHRP
2.63/2.67/1.15, 1.65 BB/9
2. Max Schrock, 2B
.286 GPA, 22BB, 20K in 67G
2. Tommy Peterson, RHRP
2.11/2.85/0.89, 0.70 BB/9
3. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B
.259 GPA, 19SB in 96G
3. Grant Borne, LHRP
3.34/3.35/1.20, 4.18 K:BB ratio
4. Austin Davidson, 3B/2B
.283 GPA, .473 SLG%
4. Andrew Lee, RHSP
3.71/3.15/1.24, 1HR in 51 IP
5. Ian Sagdal, 2B
.281 GPA, .303 BA, 30 doubles
5. Taylor Guilbeau, LHP
3.61/3.15/1.32, 8.3 K/9

Obviously, I’m probably giving short shrift to Rhett Wiseman again, but I also thought it’d be specious to skip over Schrock simply because he’s no longer in the organization. Had I gotten to see him in person, perhaps I might have slotted him ahead of the older, less talented players, i.e. like I did with Gutierrez.

It’s also worth noting that the tilt towards relievers on this list is an argument regarding performance vs. potential. The Nats kept giving the ball to the Dominican trio of Joan Baez, Jefry Rodriguez, and Pedro Avila—who started 72 games and went 23-25, 4.17 ERA combined—for a reason.

Again, this where we need to remind ourselves that development is the goal, and winning is nice but not necessary. As always, folks interested in seeing the full stats, are directed here.

Offseason Update: Oct. 8, 2016

We interrupt your wallowing in the Nats’ “missed chances” last night while downplaying (or ignoring) Max Scherzer’s continued generosity with the longball to catch up on what’s going on with the Washington minor-leaguers…

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
It seems like forever and a day since we learned which Nats prospects and Rule 5 candidates will be on the 2016 Glendale Desert Dogs, which (very quietly) added RHP Jake Johansen to the taxi squad (presumably), according to the current roster. Tonight is the [no free advertising] Hitting Challenge at Salt River, while games begin on Tuesday.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
Like discovering a Hollywood blonde was born a brunette, Baseball America shocked no one by naming Victor Robles to the Carolina League Top 20 at #3, where he was joined by Erick Fedde at #9 and ex-Nat Max Schrock at #20 (and another double-dip). Lucas Giolito came in at #5 for the Eastern League while Reynaldo Lopez was ranked #10.

There was just one question about a player in the Top 20 Chat, and an answer that would make Crash Davis proud:

James Arnott (Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, Canada): Gut feeling on Reynaldo Lopez please. Does he continue as a starter or is he a closer candidate? What’s his ceiling as a starter? Thanks[.]

Josh Norris: They’re going to keep him a starter until he proves he can’t. If his command and control become more consistent he can be a No. 2-type of starter. If not, he has closer potential.

TRANSACTION STUFF
As it usually is this time of year, things are slow: RHP Greg Ross was re-signed while a bunch of guys were activated from the DL, some of whom may have been actually injured at some point during the year.

THE AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
The Doubledays won 12 of their first 20 before they played the eventual league-champion State College Spikes, who swept them and sent them into a 16-39 tailspin the rest of the way, including the last six in a row. As noted last year, the ascension of the Dominicans from the DSL and GCL has pushed the team from one of the oldest to near the league average for the bats (21.2 vs. 21.1) while the pitchers were the youngest (20.6 vs. 21.4).

Of course, it’s one thing to be young; it’s another to be good. Auburn’s pitchers were below average 4.25 R/G (vs. 4.02) while the hitters were the league’s worst at 3.13 runs per game. The defense was slightly better than the norm (.970FA vs. .969) while the CS% for the pitchers and catchers was second-worst at just 26 percent.

As I’ve done in the past with poorly performing teams (reminder/caveat: all sight unseen), I’m combining the list into one for what ought to be rather obvious reasons and presenting the Top 6…

1. Tyler Watson, LHSP 1-2, 0SV, 9GS 1.88/2.05/0.91; 10.05 K/9
2. Dane Dunning, RHSP 3-2, 0SV, 7GS 2.14/2.57/0.98; 1.87 BB/9
3. Weston Davis, RHSP 3-6, 0SV, 11GS, 2.67/3.07/0.93, 1HR in 54IP
4. Tres Barrera, C .244/.337/.366, 11.6% K rate (Lg. Avg. 20.2%)
5. Steven Fuentes, RHRP 2-1, 3SV, 17G, 1GS, 49⅓IP, 4.70 K:BB ratio
6. Dan Johnson, OF .265/.312/.347, 13SB

Just missing the cut is watchlister Rocky Harmening, who was just a shade better than league average in FIP (3.06 vs. 3.20) but only pitched 28 innings, all in relief. For the bats, that distinction goes to Nick Banks, who was a notch below league average on offense (.213 GPA vs. .215). Folks interested in seeing the stats for the full team can find them here.

Hello, October

We’re on the final weekend of the MLB season, but a week away from the start of the AFL season. The big boys are stumbling towards home-field advantage against the Dodgers in the NLDS, hoping to survive a series of late-season injuries at catcher, second base, and the outfield.

But this is a minors site, so let’s delve into what we can for today…

ORGANIZATIONAL AWARDS
It’s a bit of mystery why the team waited so long to announce its 2016 Organizational Awards, but then again, I wouldn’t put much money on the front office PR folks knowing the difference between Ed Bernays and Ed Walsh, never mind who they were.

Once Max Schrock was traded, the odds of Jose “Orange” Marmolejos repeating as Player of the Year went up tremendously, but I think he would have won anyway due to his performance at AA. Reynaldo Lopez winning Pitcher of the Year is also a, um, minor upset if you consider that the odds of a reliever getting named are very slim if he doesn’t rack up a garbage statistic. The fourth annual Bob Boone Award went to Rafael Bautista.

BA TOP PROSPECT LISTS
Nats 2016 1st Rd. pick Dane Dunning made Baseball America’s NYPL Top 20 at #6 while Victor Robles was tagged as the #1 prospect of the Sally League. Neither prospect was mentioned in the chats. For what it’s worth, former farmhand Schrock was #16 on the latter list. Given BA’s history of double-dipping, I’m expecting Robles to make the Carolina League list as well.

TRANSACTION STUFF
Nothing new here, thanks to my going “off cycle” with the previous post.

THE 2016 GCL NATIONALS
The team finished second with a 30-23 mark – the first winning season since 2013 when the team ran the table and won the GCL Championship. Thanks in part to 17-y.o. phenom Juan Soto, the team was nearly a full run above the league average (5.06 R/G vs. 4.12) on offense, which enabled them to overcome slightly subpar pitching (4.17) and defense (.962FA vs. .965). Thanks to the influx from the DSL, the team’s hitters were close to the league average. Thanks to the practice of using the GCL to rehab, the team’s pitchers were the oldest in the league, though the cohort of 21 and younger (13 total) weren’t bad: 11-11, 8SV, 3.18/3.28/1.31 in 217⅔ IP over 80 appearances.

After the obligatory reminder that short-season = small sample size (and that very, very few of these guys will rise above Low-A)…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Juan Soto, RF
.322 GPA, .550 SLG%
1. Francys Peguero, RHSP
2.20/2.59/1.10, 6.80 K:BB ratio
2. Connor Simonetti, 1B
.261 GPA, 6HR
2. Jeremy McDonald, LHRP
3.24/1.85/1.22, 9.23 K/9
3. Carter Kieboom, SS
.258 GPA, .452 SLG%
3. Sterling Sharp, RHSP
3.24/2.85/1.27, 1.3 BB/9
4. Joey Harris, C
.269 GPA, .414 OBP
4. Carlos Pena, RHSP
2.95/3.50/1.29, 0HR in 39⅔ IP
5. Darryl Florentino, CF
.267 GPA, .340 BA
5. Ben Braymer, LHRP
4.12/3.02/1.32, 10.98 K/9

After the first three pitchers, I may as well have taken a dartboard to pick the last two. Honorable mentions go to Aldrem Corredor and Michael Rishwain for batter and pitcher, respectively. Folks interested in seeing the full team stats, can see them here.

Offseason Update: Sept. 24, 2016

Well, it’s been a week. I know some of you are still smarting from another late-inning collapse by the big club, complete with the requisite angst of “the guy we traded away did better than the guy we traded for,” as well as another managerial blunder (pro tip: when you have a true CF available in the late innings, you might want to use him on defense), but this is a site devoted to the minor leagues, so let’s follow my digital 13’s from last year and see what’s what…


THE STATE OF THE FARM

Two of the seven affiliates made the playoffs (Hagerstown, Potomac) and two narrowly missed (Harrisburg, GCL). Unfortunately, the other three were not believers in corporal punishment (that’s no hitting, kids) and had league-average pitching (Syracuse, DSL) or worse (Auburn), which resulted in finishes at or near the bottom of the standings.

Naturally, this is not the best bellwether. The system generated another starter for the big club (Trea Turner) and was able to call on a trio of upper-level starters (A.J. Cole, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito) to fill in 16 times (as of this writing) for Joe Ross and Stephen Strasburg with subpar-but-not-bad-considering results (4-6, 5.11/5.04/1.51) as well as a hard-throwing reliever (Koda Glover). Even F.P. Santangelo can tell you that most of these guys were probably rushed a little, but it’s in line with the shift league-wide towards going younger.

As written in this space a year ago, the hopes for an influx of positional talent from the D.R. was fulfilled with the strong seasons from Juan Soto, Kelvin Gutierrez, and Jose “Orange” Marmolejos, with half-a-dozen or more guys behind them, though defense is a big “yeah, but” with the latter (e.g. Raudy Read, Osvaldo Abreu). And that’s not to overlook the ascendance of the age-appropriate Americans like Andrew Stevenson and Drew Ward.

In short, the system is still developing talent on both sides of the ball that can be used for both short-term and long-term needs.

BA TOP 20 LISTS
These are just starting up, so it looks like it’ll be another few days before we see our first Nationals, though I think most of us can probably guess it’ll be only a handful total and usually one or two (tops), for any given league. In other words, SSDY.

THE WATCHLIST AND THE GBI
A year ago, I was worried that this may have to be scrapped. I’m less worried about that than I am in keeping the GBI. I scaled it back this year and it still felt like a struggle to produce. I know it’s a popular feature, but if it stays, I think it’ll be monthly in 2017. My apologies in advance.

A SHOUTOUT TO DISTRICT ON DECK
My season reviews are much, much shorter than they used to be (like below). But one of the writers at District on Deck has taken on that task, and I’m passing along links to his work on the Potomac Nationals and, with my sympathies (for him, not you), the Syracuse Chiefs.

THE DSL NATIONALS
In a word, disappointing. While I don’t follow this level as closely as I used to, it just seems to me that a team with a lot of guys repeating the level should have done better. After being the youngest set of batters in the DSL in 2015, the pendulum swung back to just slight older than the league average (18.4 vs. 18.2) while the pitching staff was still younger (18.7 vs. 19.1).

As alluded to above, the offense was horrible: 35th in the 42-team league and more than a half-a-run worse than the league average (3.80 vs. 4.46). The pitching improved from near-the-worst (33rd out of 38) to middle-of-the pack (4.43 R/G vs. 4.46). The defense was, like 2015, slightly below average (.953FA vs. .957FA — remember, all we have to go on are the stats).

Without further comment, here are the obligatory Top 5’s, excluding the old-for-the-level players…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Jose Cabello, C/1B
.259 GPA, 28 BB
1. Yelmery Sisneros, LHSP
0.43/2.39/0.91, 4.56 K:BB ratio
2. Santo Falcon, CF
.234 GPA, 12 SB
2. Angel Guillen, RHSP
1.67/2.61/0.94, 4.17 K:BB ratio
3. Brailin Mesa, RF/LF
.225 GPA, 16 2B
3. Gilbert Chu, LHSP
3.18/2.68/0.96, 1.6 BB/9
4. Jesus Morales, 2B/3B
.215 GPA, 10E
4. Warner Duran, RHRP
1.65/2.59/1.22, 6BB in 32⅔ IP
5. Juan Pascal, SS
.209 GPA, 55 of 56G at SS
5. Jairon Peguero, LHRP
4.91/2.91/1.46, 0HR in 33IP

As you might imagine, there are no honorable mentions this year, especially since there were just two (2) batters above the league average and under the age of 20. Folks interested in seeing the entire team’s stats can find them here.

Checking In…

Uninspired for NPPFor those of you not celebrating National Apple Dumpling day, today’s just another Saturday. For us, it’s that weird limbo with the big club steaming towards the playoffs, which nowadays means that “our guys” are mostly sitting the bench until the division is clinched.

Believe me, I prefer this to the earlier days of this site’s existence when WAY TOO MUCH attention, hopes, and pent-up desire for a contender was projected onto players who could only have gotten a shot on a losing team with a farm system that had been stripped for parts by the team’s first GM, then run into the ground without changing the oil, filter, or tires by the team’s second GM.

I don’t miss those days… or the pseudofans who would reflexively (repeatedly) wail about the team’s spending (“The Lerners Are Cheap!”) who I now refer to as the Lieutenant Dans (because they don’t have any legs to stand on), though I believe they’re now lurking in the comments section of MASN and WaPo, where there’s so much stupid, I wouldn’t advise visiting without a dumbrella.

I rather like the folks who’ve stayed here past the meteoric rises of Strasburg and Harper and enjoy following the development of guys who might replace today’s Washington Nationals in a few seasons, but also understand they might be traded away, too. (If we’re honest, it may be more of the latter than the former ☹)

About the only thing I can add to what our diligent commenters have beaten me to the punch in the previous post is the almost fait accompli of the Nationals renewing its PDCs with Auburn and Potomac this month, joining Hagerstown last month. This ensures that all five affiliates that the team doesn’t own will remain in place through the 2018 season.

I know this doesn’t sit well with some folks, who’d like the AAA and AA teams to be closer, but Bowie isn’t going to open up without an apocalypse (Richmond is both farther away in miles and drive time, not to mention its stadium is AA’s analog to the Pfitz) and Norfolk might only be a shorter drive if you’re willing to go there in the middle of the day and the middle of the week.

In my opinion, the substandard facilities in Hagerstown and Potomac notwithstanding, the current arrangement is about as good as we can reasonably hope for. It’s better than it was 10 years ago, when Washington’s AAA affiliate was in Louisiana, Low-A was in Georgia, and SS-A was in Vermont. Maybe you could ask for a switch in the NYPL to State College from Auburn or for Washington to make an arrangement with an Appy League team, I suppose.

That’s about it for now as we shift from daily posts to weekly posts before the AFL starts up. Enjoy your dumplings! 😉