Five Nats Make 2018 Baseball Prospectus Top 101

How bad is this offseason? We’re past the Super Bowl and *still* talking about lists

The 2018 Baseball America Prospect Book still hasn’t arrived – and I always pay extra for rush shipping, even if I’m just one state away – so in an effort to keep the lights on…

Yesterday, Baseball Prospectus released its Top 101 Prospect List which includes the following Nationals prospects:

● #2 Victor Robles
● #22 Juan (not Jesus) Soto
● #71 Carter Kieboom
● #76 Seth Romero
● #87 Erick Fedde

This is up from three in 2017 (Robles, #7; Soto, #57; Fedde, #62) and four in 2016 (Lucas Giolito, #3; Trea Turner, #13; Robles, #29; Reynaldo Lopez, #75).

What does this tell us? Honestly, not much beyond as noted in the comments: The boys at BP are high on Romero (*ahem*) and Kieboom and haven’t given up on Fedde.

We now return you to your February loathing.

Still Quiet on the Minor-League Front

It’s the final Sunday of a brutally slow and long January.

If you’re into helping publishers get their pageviews, then you probably noticed Top 100 posts from Baseball America, Keith Law, and MLB.com. That these came during the week between the NFL’s Conference Championships and the Super Bowl is just a coincidence*
* Narrator: It was not a coincidence

TL;DR – Victor Robles and Juan Soto made all three lists, Carter Kieboom was #90 on the MLB.com list. Robles was ranked anywhere from #4 to #6, Soto was #29 (MLB), #42 (Law), and #56 (BA).

The BA 2018 Prospect Handbook is probably going to come in the mail this week, which will give us some discussion fodder (maybe) and enable me to finish up the 2018 Watchlist (probably). MLB.com claims it will update its Top 30 Lists in February. Whether that’s Feb 1, remains to be seen.

Finally, MASN has announced another bloc of (woo-hoo!) Orioles-free Spring Training games for 2018:

Sun., Feb. 25 vs. Braves, 1 p.m. Tue., March 6 vs. Astros, 1 p.m. Sun., March 11 vs. Cardinals, 1 p.m. Tue., March 13 vs. Mets, 7 p.m.
Fri., March 16 vs. Cardinals, 1 p.m. Wed., March 21 vs. Astros, 1 p.m. Fri., March 23 vs. Astros, 6 p.m.  

Nationals (Finally) Name 2018 Farm Managers, Coaches

Hinted at earlier this month, the Washington Nationals finally announced who the managers and coaches will be in 2018:

Affiliate Manager Pitching Coach Hitting Coach
Syracuse Randy Knorr Brad Holman Brian Daubach
Harrisburg Matthew LeCroy Michael Tejera Brian Rupp
Potomac Tripp Keister Sam Narron Luis Ordaz
Hagerstown Patrick Anderson Tim Redding Amaury Garcia
Auburn Jerad Head Franklin Bravo Mark Harris
GCL Mario Lisson Larry Pardo Jorge Mejia
DSL Sandy Martinez Pablo Frias Freddy Guzman

Bold = New to the organization
Italics = Different than 2017

As noted in Chelsea Janes’s WaPo story the changes center on pitching: Just one level (DSL) has the same coach as last year and there are new coaches at AAA and the GCL.

Chris Michalak (Marlins), Bob Milacki (unknown), and Josh Johnson (Padres) are out while Billy Gardner, manager at AAA from 2014 to 2017, remains as a “roving coordinator.” He joins usual suspects (e.g. Spin Williams, Tommy Shields, Jeff Garber, Troy Gingrich, Paul Menhart, et al).

Why this took so long to release remains a mystery. Typically, this news comes around the winter meetings, but three times in the past four seasons it’s been in January; this is the latest since this site was begun in 2009. That I’m complaining about this shows you just how slow this offseason has been.

The 2018 Watchlist is on track to be finished by the end of the month. I’ve punted on a few players, but I’ve written up six of the ten categories, including all the position players and the RHPs. Until something else breaks… as you were.

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…

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.

The 2018 NationalsProspects.com Watchlist

Thanks to a lot of thoughtful comments last month—and more time spent following the GCL last summer—this was easier to put together than last year.

One thing I did do this time around vs. pervious years is let the “Notables” be a larger contingent than usual instead of agonizing over whether to put a guy into a positional column (sounds dirtier than what it really means).

I also broke form a little bit and did put one guy with zero AB’s as a professional (Freeman) and moved a guy that I knew in my heart was only there in the first place because the position is so thin (Davidson). And I’m already bracing myself for soap-opera name Chance Shepard to be the 2018 version of Connor Simonetti (a 1B that made the list because the Nats have so few and flamed out in Auburn).

Away we go with the eighth annual NationalsProspects.com watchlist – the five dozen or so players that are worth watching a bit more than the rest.

Reminder: very few of these guys will actually make it to the majors for any organization. In fact, the majority won’t even make it past Potomac, which is roughly in the middle of the organizational ladder (three steps down from MLB, three steps up from the GCL).

Now for the obligatory caveats…

It’s not a depth chart – Players are listed primarily by the highest level they’ve played in the minors. Do not assume that the guy at the top of the column is better than the one at the bottom.

It’s not a prediction of usage – At times, I’ve broken apart the pitchers by starter or reliever, but it’s easier to go by dexterity. Many of the infielders have played three or more positions, especially at the GCL and the NYPL.

It’s not fair – A couple of names have been dropped, a few have been moved around since the preliminary list was released. Being lefthanded reduces your life expectancy in the real world, but on the diamond, it extends it. As I’ve already mentioned, some positions are very shallow, and power is in short supply almost everywhere.

I will soon add this to the sidebar on the right. I’m hoping that our expanded editorial department will be better than in years past.

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
Severino Marmolejos Freeman C.Kieboom Ward Stevenson
Read Corredor Noll Antuna Gutierrez Robles
Gushue Shepard L. Garcia Jo. Sanchez Franco Johnson
Reetz       Meregildo Soto
          Perkins
          Connell
          Ri. Mendez
RHPs LHPs DSL Bats DSL Arms Notable Bats Notable Arms
Fedde Borne Perez A. Hernandez Bautista Adams
Suero Howard Liriano R. Gomez Abreu Valdez
J. Rodriguez Braymer L. Pena Adon Davidson W. Davis
Baez Troop Aquino N. Gomez Lora Y. Ramirez
Sharp Chu Sanfler P. Gonzalez Agustin B. Hill
Bogucki Romero     O. Ortiz Infante
Crowe Raquet     Barrera Jimenez
Klobosits Galindez     Pineda Stoeckinger
Tetrault          
Alastre          
Guillen          

Vote for Your Favorite Arms


Well, the Shohei Otani sweepstakes are over (read—if you can—Lt. Dans: It wasn’t the highest bidder) and the Giancarlo Stanton drama continues, but otherwise the hot stove remains unlit.

Perhaps that will change when the Winter Meetings convene tomorrow in Orlando, but in the meantime, let’s use this downtime to vote on Washington’s minor-league pitchers and find out who will be #2. (If you don’t know who #1 will be, please do not operate machinery – heavy or light).

As always, 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.

The votes will tallied with weighting in reverse order (#1 = 10 points, #2 = 9 points… #9 = 2 points, #10 = 1 point). Once I feel like I’ve gotten enough votes, I’ll post the results along with the usual commentary and snark.

Thankfully, the Nats don’t have anyone on the 40-man who’s both on the cusp of exhausting his rookie eligibility and good enough to be considered, but for future reference, I’m cool with using BA’s simpler limits of 130AB, 50IP and/or 30 appearances for something like this.

Vote for Your Favorite Bats

It’s time to put up a post before people think the site’s gone dark.

This is our 8th annual crowd-sourcing exercise for the Top 10 (or more likely, Victor Robles and the next nine) minor-league position players.

Quick rundown on how this works: Send me your Top 10 list of minor-league position players (40-man guys are eligible as long as they have rookie status) to enfieldmass-top10bats[at]yahoo[dot]com (link will open your preferred email client) or submit them in the comments.

I’ll tabulate the voting with a reverse-order weighting (#1 = 10 points, #2 = 9 points… #9 = 2 points, #10 = 1 point). When it feels like I’ve got a decent number of submissions, I’ll either update this post (if nothing new has happened) or create a new one to let folks know the Russians told me to stop I’m ready to post the “Top 10 Nats Bats” post.

As you might have guessed, I use the word “Bat” as a shorthand for “position player” – we all know too well there are guys in the system who need to be hidden on defense and guys at the plate who look like Jeff Sessions in a Big & Tall store. Try to account for defense when making your picks since the N.L. enjoys losing out on free agents, the All-Star Game, and the World Series still doesn’t have the DH.

Unfortunately, the Winter Meetings are still more than a week away—the Rule 5 Draft nearly two weeks away—so we’re looking at some more dead time on the minor-league front.

Byron Kerr has been profiling the 2018 Nats Top 10 per Baseball America and is halfway through, having recently finished with #6 Luis Garcia.

And if you’re the sort who obsesses over former players who, for the most part, couldn’t hold a spot on the current 25-man roster, Mark Zuckerman has you covered.(No offense to Zuckerman, he’s drawing a paycheck and needs to file stories – my derision is with the subset of “fans” who wax nostalgic for players who weren’t as good as their typed-with-one-hand comments would suggest.)

Otherwise, I think we’re in for another week of the Shohei Otani sweepstakes and whither Giancarlo Stanton, a.k.a. how fast can a popular player become more hated than the team’s previous owner?

As always, feel free to discuss in the comments…

AFL/Offseason Update: Oct. 14, 2017

The Solar Sox got three in the first and never looked back as they held on for a 4-2 win over the Javelinas.

Daniel Johnson got the start in right field and led off again but was 0-for-4 at the plate with two strikeouts. Defensively, he had just one putout.

Taylor Gushue started at catcher but was also 0-for-4 but with only one whiff. He threw out two of three runners trying to steal against him.

Dakota Bacus made his second appearance, a scoreless 8th inning with one hit allowed and one K on 12 pitches.

Mesa remains on the road to close out the week, visiting Glendale this afternoon.
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BA TOP PROSPECT LISTS
Baseball America completed its fall SEO campaign swing through the League Top 20s this week and, as mentioned in the comments, Luis Garcia and Yasel Antuna came in at nos. 4 and 5 respectively. Garcia is obviously more advanced defensively, but Antuna is proving the inference that there must be a reason why they’re tolerating 26 errors in 36 games, and that reason is that he can hit (.301/.382/.399). With more than $5M “invested”* between them, the 2017-2018 offseason question is whether one or both start next spring in Hagerstown.
* Quotes because the signing bonus is reflection of the IFA system, not the players. About the only thing that makes it better than the NCAA is that nobody’s pretending that it’s not about the money.

TRANSACTION UPDATE
Just some releases from the DSL:
• RHPs Christian Flores, Hector Ramirez, Francisco Constanzo, Rafael Melendez
• LHP Yelmery Sisnero
• 1B Luis Santana
• LF David Escobar

WINTER LEAGUE SIGHTINGS
Winter Leagues have already begun in Venezuela, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Rosters are incomplete, but there is a sizable contingent on Los Tigres de Licey in the DWL.

THE HAGERSTOWN SUNS
Finally, we’ve reached the full-season teams – where we have some semblance of non-team coverage – but we’re also hitting the divide between prospects and minor-leaguers. This is the apex, after this week it’s going to be Victor Robles and a whole lot of “well, maybe if…”

We’re also at the first of two levels where we have some eyes on the field. My “Hagerstown Guy,” who has a love-hate relationship with both the Suns and the Nationals (i.e. he loves to hate on them 🙃), has his thoughts on the hitters as well as the throw…er, pitchers.

The Suns were one of two (2) affiliates with a winning record in 2017. However, unlike the G-Nats, they did not make the playoffs as the first-half champion Intimidators swept them by a combined score of 28-7 in a pair of doubleheaders in the final week before the All-Star break and they missed the mark by 1½ games. A tailspin on 13 losses in 17 games in mid-to-late August sealed their fate in the second half, as four straight wins to finish out sliced the margin to 2½ games.

Injuries (Juan Soto, Carter Kieboom) and trades (Tyler Watson, Sheldon Neuse) ate into the Hagerstown’s production, which was third in the 14-team Sally Lg., while the pitching was 11th. The team outperformed its Pythagorean projection of .500 as it scored 643 runs and allowed 643 runs. Oddly, the Suns allowed the fewest stolen bases and threw out the fewest baserunners.

Now, for the Obligatory Top 5’s (of the players who remain)….

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Carter Kieboom, SS
.304 GPA, .497 SLG%
1. Sterling Sharp, RHSP
3.69/3.81/1.23, 1.36 BB/9
2. Daniel Johnson, OF
.295 GPA, 17HR in 88G
2. Hayden Howard, LHRP
2.95/3.63/1.31, 3.22 K:BB ratio
3. Juan Soto, OF
.323 GPA, .523 SLG%
3. Ben Braymer, LHSP
5.26/3.47/1.43, 8.84 K/9
4. Tres Barrera, C
.275 GPA, 3PB, .995 FA
4. A.J. Bogucki, RHSP
3.56/3.78/1.24, 3HR in 55⅔ IP
5. Blake Perkins, OF
.254 GPA, 31SB, 7E, 8 Assists
5. Matt DeRosier, RHSP
3.60/3.45/1.18, 8.5 K/9

Picking the hitters was easy. I’m sure someone will argue for Jake Noll over Perkins or Barrera; I saw him in Potomac in August and he didn’t impress me. Maybe I’m being unfair to Aldrem Corredor, but he’s just 22 and with a shortage of 1B in the system, he’ll more than likely make the 2018 watchlist.

Picking the pitchers was not easy. Trades took away the no-doubt guys, and no one (even the traded pitchers) had a league-average FIP.

As always, folks interested in seeing the full stats can find them here.

Offseason Update: Oct. 7, 2017

They only got two hits. Neither was a home run. You tend to lose those games when that happens, no matter how well your pitcher pitched.

Back to our weekly minors update…

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
With the addition of Victor Robles to Washington’s NLDS roster, his replacement on the Mesa Solar Sox roster has not yet been named. Should Rizzo’s sports bar continue its anti-DUI practice–you’re done after one round–it’s still possible that he could play in the opening game on Tuesday.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
As usual, the Nats had no top 20 prospects in the New York Penn League Top 20. There was just one question in the NYPL Top 20 chat:

Sammy (DC): Where would you have placed Seth Romero on this list? Any word on whether or not his makeup had improved?

J.J. Cooper: The reviews were less complimentary than expected. The stuff was solid as he showed three average or better pitches, but the slider wasn’t as devastating as evaluators expected. Fellow 2017 Nats draftee Nick Raquet looks just as good or better with a plus fastball, some funk to his delivery and a quality breaking ball. Romero may have been rusty after a long layoff, but next season is a big one for him as he needs to show consistency both on the mound and being a professional off of it.

TRANSACTION STUFF
Just two re-signings: RHPs Wirkin Estevez and Greg Ross.

THE AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
It’s been five straight seasons without a winner at Falcon Park (the home team, natch), which may lead some folks to wonder about the water in the region. Alas, it would appear to be more attributable to either drafting lower or better prospects skipping past the level.

Unlike a year ago, hitting was not the problem. The Doubledays were fourth in runs scored (4.33 R/G), which you’d expect from the oldest team in the league. Almost 60% of the PAs were made players older than 21 and almost 16% by players 23 or older excluding rehabs.

It was the pitching: 13th in the 14-team NYPL at 4.89 R/G (Lg. Avg. 4.05), surpassed only by the team they tied for last place in the Pinckney Division, Batavia, at 4.93. The relief pitching in particular was bad, with several relievers sporting ERAs of 5.00 or higher and FIPs above 4.00 (i.e. nearly a run higher than lg. avg).

As I typically do with cellar-dwelling teams, I’m combining the list into one. Like the GCL and DSL, I’m excluding age-inappropriate players. But this year, I’m not ranking them because it’ll just create pointless arguments in the comments. The sample sizes here are so small and there are some rather noticeable red flags in the stats, as “meaningless” as they may be.

Wil Crowe, RHSP 0-0, 0SV, 7GS, 2.61/4.45/1.02, 3HR in 20⅔ IP
Kameron Esthay, OF .273/.320/.411, 5HR, 30RBI in 52G
Gabe Klobosits, RHRP 0-0, 5SV, 15G, 1.66/2.74/1.15, promoted twice in 1st yr.
Nick Raquet, LHSP 3-2, 0SV, 11GS 2.45/3.55/1.23; 3.9 K/9
Seth Romero, LHSP 0-1, 0SV, 6GS 5.40/1.13/1.25; 14.4 K/9
Chance Shepard, 1B/DH .249/.372/.459, 7HR in 54G
Jackson Tetrault, RHSP 2-2, 0SV, 11G, 6GS, 2.58/3.15/1.25, 38⅓ IP

For those wondering about Oliver Ortiz and Andres Martinez, who are age-appropriate and had decent production: both were repeating the level and/or had been dropped down from Hagerstown. Full stats for the team can be found here.