Nats Make Some Minor-League Signs

In the latest BA transaction post, we’re finally seeing some free-agent signings for Washington:

• 3B Michael Almanzar BRef
• SS Jason Martinson BRef
• OF Ryan Raburn BRef

Yeah, the band’s getting back together…

…Almanzar re-signs after splitting time between Detroit and Washington’s AAA teams in 2017.

…Martinson, who went solo signed with Texas last winter, returns to the organization that drafted him in the 5th Rd. of the 2010 draft.

…Raburn, who also split time in AAA for two organizations (Chicago and Washington) in 2017, comes back with the hope of sticking with the big club on the bench, as he did for two months last summer (albeit thanks to plethora of injuries).

All three would appear to be ticketed for Syracuse for next summer, though the Nats do have a history of using veteran free agents to fill gaps at both AA and AAA.

Stay tuned for the “Favorite Pitchers” post.

The Top 10 Position Players

The pendulum has swung back to a consensus again, with just 17 different players named on 10 ballots. The top three players were so named on every ballot but one, as predicted in the comments.

What’s perhaps the most glaring, albeit probably not unwarranted, is that last year’s #4 position player—Drew Ward—not only dropped off the list but had zero votes.

Before I go any futher, ze list:

  1. Victor Robles
  2. Juan Soto
  3. Carter Kieboom
  4. Daniel Johnson
  5. Yasel Antuna
  6. Luis Garcia
  7. Raudy Read
  8. Andrew Stevenson
  9. Jose Marmolejos
  10. Blake Perkins

Others receiving votes: Kelvin Gutierrez, Pedro Severino, Eric Senior, Jake Noll, Israel Pineda, Tres Barrera

For the third straight year, five players were holdovers. But unlike years past, none were traded away and just one (Brian Goodwin) graduated. The other four (Ward, Rafael Bautista, Anderson Franco, and Severino) dropped off the list, thought it should probably be noted that a list like this will tend to skew to the new, particularly in a system that’s never been very deep in position players.

Next up: The pitchers, a.k.a. Erick Fedde and the 2017 draft class, which promises to be much harder to pick even without anyone having been traded this month.

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…

Preliminary 2018 Watchlist

With the passing of Thanksgiving, it’s time to take a look at the next edition of the watchlist.

This is one of the most difficult/depressing exercises because I kept running into two scenarios:

  • The player had good numbers, but was (very) old for the level
  • The players was age-appropriate for the level, but had terrible numbers

Now, I realize in the case of the latter—and especially in short-season ball—the statistics are not meaningful. But in the case of the former, there are very, very few late bloomers.

This past season I spent more time covering the GCL since 2014, “thanks” to Syracuse being as unwatchable as daytime TV.* But I still got the distinct impression that the IFAs were the ones to watch, not the draft picks.
Remember I was hospitalized twice last year; at least there I could ask for painkillers (*rimshot!*)

Before I go any further, let’s lay out the caveats…

It’s not a depth chart. It’s ordered by the highest level played to date. The guys at the top of the column are not necessarily better than the guys at the bottom.

It’s (mostly) based on 2017 usage. The Nats have a history of rotating IFs between 2B, 3B, and SS and are usually not very strong at 1B or the corners of the OF.

It’s preliminary. This is no longer a side project that I hope might lead to bigger things, it’s now a hobby that I’ve figured out how to keep doing.

I’m expecting and depending on readers to write in with omissions, criticism, and/or suggestions. Doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily respond or react, but I will read them.

What this is are the players who I think are worth keeping an eye on for one reason or another… but hardly ever because of when he was drafted or how much Washington spent to acquire him. I’m all too aware of how that does lead to some guys getting far more chances than they may actually deserve.

Sometimes it’s based on what I see for myself at Potomac (or what people I trust see at Hagerstown) and sometimes it’s based on what I see from the statistics. I do take into account what the experts think at MLB Pipeline, Minorleagueball, and yes, even Baseball America, even if I have my qualms about its editorial independence.

This year I’m simplifying and not listing any “DSL Guys” or “Notables” – the former isn’t going to change, and the latter is most useful as a place to list the folks that people will bring up in the conversation that follows. About the only “rule” I have is to not list anyone in the “Notables” from one year to the next.

So let’s kick off the 2017-18 offseason, and take a look at what we got here:

C 1B 2B SS
Severino Marmolejos Davidson C. Kieboom
Read Corredor Noll Antuna
Gushue Shepard L. Garcia  
Ward Stevenson Fedde Borne
Gutierrez Robles Valdez Howard
  Johnson Baez Braymer
  Soto Sharp Romero
  Perkins Bogucki Raquet
  Connell Crowe Stoeckinger
  Evangelista Klobosits Infante
    Tetrault Jimenez

Happy Thanksgiving

Another year has gone by and we’re at the cusp of the holiday craziness. I’m certainly thankful that I’ll be able to partake in Thanksgiving this year, having had : to ; surgery 53 weeks ago. Later this week, my oldest will turn 18, which is mind-boggling to me because it feels like this was only 10 years ago.

I’ll keep it short and sweet this year. I’m grateful for this little hobby and this community of fans who make this worthwhile.

Now, for the annual reminders:
       Travel safe
       Show some plate discipline
       Call your mother

Nats Add (Just) Two to the 40-Man Roster

For the first time in five years, the Washington Nationals added just two players—IF Kelvin Gutierrez and RHP Jefry Rodriguez—to its 40-man roster ahead of the deadline to protect players from the the Rule 5 draft. I suppose you could count Wander Suero, but he was about to become a free agent so that’s really accurate to lump him together with these two, unless you happen to have noticed that none of these players were 2014 or 2013 draft picks.

Don’t get me wrong — that they’re all IFAs doesn’t bother me aside from the fact that foreign-born players are subjected to different level of exploitation by major-league baseball. So in that sense, I’m happy that these two (three) have taken one step closer to The Show because they’ve sacrificed more.

Kelvin Gutierrez is one of my current favorites and while I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Rodriguez in the past, it’s hard for me to look past his drug suspension, which begs the question why are the Nats doing so, too?

But to return to my original point… aside from Erick Fedde, which is nearly a given for a 1st-Rd pick, the 2014 draft has produced zero players on the 40-man roster and neither of the 2013 draft‘s two (2) HS picks were protected, either.

Explain to me again why Mike Rizzo, et al are supposed draft gurus?

I’ve been hearing/reading/seeing this for years, that the Nats have the knack for finding talent in the draft despite picking lower and lower. Well, perhaps they’re more like The Knack with two big hits early and not much since.

Supposedly, it takes five years to truly judge a draft, but 2012 doesn’t look much better and I’m not even going by the number of major-leaguers. I see far too many that barely made it to High-A and few that were truly good at that level, never mind AA or AAA.

So can we please just acknowledge that Washington isn’t better than anyone else when picking low? Thank you.

Mesa Loses AFL Title Game, 8-2

The game started with so much promise for Mesa, with Victor Robles (pictured above, greeting the Braves’ Ronald Acuna) leading a salvo of back-to-back-to-back singles to open the game and take a 2-0 lead early.

But it was all Peoria after that as the Javelinas scored eight unanswered runs to win the 2017 Arizona Fall Championship game, 8-2.

Robles singled again in the 8th to finish the game at 2-for-4 and go 12-for-45 in 14 AFL games. He was joined in the lineup by Kelvin Gutierrez, who once again played 1B to make room for former Nats farmhand Sheldon Neuse. Gutierrez went hitless, but still had a much stronger fall (10-for-44, 7BB, 9RBI in 14G) than most would have expected after an injury-shortened 2017.

Dakota Bacus also appeared in the game but retired just one of three batters faced and was charged with the final two Peoria runs.

# # #

Sad-SpicklesAnd that’s a wrap on the 2017 minor-league season, No. 8 for this space, and the sixth for which Lee Magehenim has added pictures far better than the one- or two-hundred word summaries on how the Nats did in Arizona.

Saturday Smorgasbord

No AFL update, but if you need a breathless preview of today’s title game, here you go.

As we’re all familiar with the offseason cycle, with the AFL’s end comes the Rule 5 protection deadline (Monday, 8 p.m.) This, of course, has become less and less meaningful as the Nats system has thinned while the big club has become a contender (and a favorite of MADD, because they’re done after one round).

Todd Boss breaks it down at NationalsArmsRace and about the only thing I’d disagree with is protecting Drew Ward – he can’t be hidden on a bench as he’s not a viable defensive replacement and is not very fast. About the only intrigue is learning which of the IFAs the Nationals feel (fear) might be the next Felipe Rivero.

No news on the transaction front but if you’re of a mind to see where the recent free agents re-sign, you can visit BA’s free-agent tracker, which is better-looking but a little more cumbersome than its previous iterations. Spoiler alert: just three FAs have signed as of this writing.

Speaking of Baseball America—and looking at you MLB—the line between editorial and advertising is getting blurred. Let’s just say that when I write an article, I put my name on it. When I write advertising, I don’t.

AFL Update: Nov. 17, 2017

The Solar Sox ended the regular season with a thud, losing to Suprise, 10-5.

Three Nationals saw game action.

Daniel Johnson led off and played center field, going 1-for-5 with a two-run double and two strikeouts. Defensively, he had three putouts.

Kelvin Gutierrez (pictured) took third base and had an assist and an error. At the plate, he went 1-for-4.

Austen Williams was lit up for five runs again – this time on five hits over 2/3rds of an inning. In nine AFL appearances, he’s had just two outings in which he did not allow a run.

Today’s an off day before tomorrow’s obligatory Championship Game between the Solar Sox and the Javelinas. The game will be broadcast on the MLB Network and at 3 p.m.

AFL Update: Nov. 16, 2017

The Solar Sox clinched the AFL East with a 5-2 win over Surprise.

Like yesterday, there were just two Nats in the starting lineup.

Victor Robles reached base twice without getting hit by a pitch as he drew walks in 7th and 9th innings. Defensively, he had two putouts in centerfield.

Daniel Johnson ended an oh-for-ever streak (Ok, fine – 25 AB’s) with a two-out double in the 5th. Pictured is his reaction to the bench cheering for the hit. He fielded just one ball in right field, a single to lead off the bottom of the 1st.

The two teams rematch and play the final regular-season game this afternoon in Mesa.