Pirates Claim Aaron Thompson

The Pirates take the prospect waived to make room for Rick Ankiel

As mentioned earlier this week, the Nationals needed to make some 40-man moves and it’s come across my Twitter feed the wires that the Pirates have claimed Aaron Thompson. The estimable Mark Zuckerman also reports that Ryan Mattheus is not on the 40-man roster, but has signed a major-league contract, which happened before he was waived. If that means what I think it means, the Nationals have figured out a way to move a guy off yet still retain his services by virtue of making his price tag higher for the claiming team.

Thompson, as many will recall, was acquired as part of the 2009 Nick Johnson waiver-wire deal and finished that season in Harrisburg with an 0-3 mark but a 3.31 ERA. This past season, however, the lefthander struggled mightly, twice posting 8+ ERAs in a single month (May, August) and finishing a combined 5-13 in 26 AA starts and one AAA start. Unlike Matt Chico, Argentina nor the Natmosphere is likely to cry very much over his departure.

Baseball America Ranks The Top 10 Nats Prospects

A look at the Top 10 Nats Farmhands, according to Baseball America

A few surprises here. But first let’s get to the Top 10 list, from the home office in Durham, NC…

  1. Bryce Harper, OF
  2. Derek Norris, C
  3. Danny Espinosa, 2B-SS
  4. A.J. Cole, RHP
  5. Wilson Ramos, C
  6. Sammy Solis, LHP
  7. Cole Kimball, RHP
  8. Eury Perez, OF
  9. Chris Marrero, 1B
  10. Brad Peacock, RHP

As you might imagine, the free article focuses on Strasburg and his return and how much money the team has spent in bonuses the past two drafts. Four of last year’s Top 10 “graduated” (Strasburg, Storen, Desmond, Maxwell) and three prospects dropped off the list (Kobernus, Burgess, Hood) while Marrero fell from #6.  About the only quibble I have is the ranking of Kimball, which is particularly odd for BA, which worships youth.

Harper naturally was named as the system’s best athlete, hitter for both power and average, and OF arm. Perez got props for both his footspeed and fielding while Espinosa was named the best infielder and IF arm. Norris got the nod for the best strike-zone judgment. Kimball’s fastball was deemed the best, with A.J. Morris getting the nod for slider, Josh Wilkie for changeup, Brad Peacock for curveball, and Tom Milone for control. Ramos was named the best defensive catcher.

As for 2011 projections, which I know folks are always interested in, here’s where BA thinks they’ll start:

Low-A – Cole
Low-A or High-A – Harper
High-A -Solis, Perez
AA – Norris, Peacock
AAA – Marrero
AAA or MLB – Kimball
MLB – Espinosa, Ramos

None of those projections I can argue with. I am pleased about the respect that Peacock got, because he was one that caught my eye this summer. The Eury Perez disrespect may be over now, as they’re starting to see what we see in him using a word that one of our Hagerstown spies uses (“slashes”) to describe his game. Finally, don’t confuse my earlier statement with Kimball for anything other than surprise that Robbie Ray or J.P. Ramirez didn’t make the list. Obviously, the likes of Milone and Steve Lombardozzi not making the list was not a surprise for reasons we’ve discussed ad infinitum (not only that Skipper, over and over again).

Roster Moves

A rundown on recent roster moves as reported by Baseball America

A bunch of roster moves have come to our attention, so here’s a rundown on the ones that are new to us…

DESIGNATED FOR ASSIGNMENT

  • Matt Chico

Presumably, the first of few more to come to make room for the likes of Rick Ankiel, Chien Mien Wang and Ryan Mattheus.

SIGNED

  • C – Carlos Maldonado
  • RHP – Harvey Garcia
  • 3B – Alex Valdez

The 26-year-old Garcia was released by the Dodgers in May, but has made some noise in the VWL, striking out 28 and walking 20 in 38IP through Dec. 18. The switch-hitting Valdez, also 26, spent 2010 with AA with Midland, posting a .262/.317/.422 line in 574PA. He’s currently hitting .306 in 41G in the DWL.

RELEASED

  • RHPs – Martin Beno, Dustin Crane, Zach Gerler, John Santiago, Shane Zellers
  • LHP – Randy Mower
  • OFs – Marcus Jones, Nick Moresi

Presumably, Beno’s injury is career-threatening but the giving up on Santiago at 22 is a bit curious (any insight VladiHondo?). The rest of the pitchers fit the mold of unimpressive at the lower levels whereas Jones and Moresi were career journeyman, clearly pushed out by the Hagerstown crew of outfielders. As is always my hope for guys like that, let’s hope they can hook on in an indy and experience some success before hanging it up.

I expect to post later with a story on the Baseball America Top 10 Washington Prospects.

More Minor-League Signings

Four 28-year-olds get signed for Spring Training

Some 40-man moves will be coming shortly, as MASN’s Ben Goessling is reporting that Ryan Mattheus has been signed to a major-league deal, as was Chien Ming Wang, but the following the minor-league deals were announced today:

  • IF Brian Bixler
  • RHP Tim Wood
  • 1B Michael Aubrey
  • OF Jeff Frazier

Bixler spent 2010 with three AAA clubs (Columbus, Indianapolis, and Syracuse) and is likely an insurance policy for Danny Espinosa. Wood split time between AAA New Orleans and the Florida Marlins, posting a 4.32 ERA over 44 games for the latter. Aubrey is a former first-round draft pick by the Cleveland Indians and spent 2010 with AAA Norfolk, hitting .235 with 22HR in 102G. Frazier hit .217 in 9 games with Detroit but .256 with 25HRs in 123 games at AAA Toledo. All four men are 28 years old.

Winter Baseball Update

A look at the stats of the Nats in the Winter Leagues

Here’s a look at how the Nats prospects are doing in the in the Winter Leagues thus far. Stats are through December 18.

BATTERS

PLAYER LG AB R H HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA SB
Chris Marrero PWL 85 11 26 2 16 7 25 .306 .351 .424 .264 2
Wilberto Ortiz PWL 118 24 38 1 14 9 15 .322 .375 .449 .281 2
Eury Perez DWL 101 14 35 0 5 4 17 .347 .400 .396 .279 18
Wilson Ramos VWL 147 26 45 6 28 14 26 .306 .366 .510 .292 1
Jesus Valdez DWL 37 3 11 1 4 0 8 .297 .297 .432 .242 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER LG W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Erik Arnesen PWL 3 3 0 2.47 8 8 43⅔ 44 17 12 3 8 18 1.19
Jeff Mandel PWL 1 1 0 2.19 19 0 20⅔ 20 5 5 1 8 16 1.35
Yunesky Maya DWL 4 1 0 0.69 7 7 39 21 3 3 1 9 41 0.77
Pat McCoy PWL 1 0 0 4.43 19 0 20⅓ 22 10 10 0 8 7 1.48
Hassan Pena PWL 1 0 0 1.23 19 0 29⅓ 15 4 4 0 8 25 0.78
Elvin Ramirez DWL 1 2 0 1.88 19 0 24 18 7 5 0 4 28 0.92
Henry Rodriguez VWL 0 1 5 1.69 18 0 21⅓ 11 4 4 0 9 28 0.94
Jack Spradlin VWL 0 0 0 1.54 16 0 11⅔ 12 4 2 0 4 9 1.37
Cory VanAllen PWL 0 0 0 5.06 10 0 10⅔ 11 7 6 1 5 2 1.50
Josh Wilkie VWL 1 2 0 4.50 14 0 14 13 7 7 3 3 2 1.14

PWL = Puerto Rican Winter League
DWL = Dominican Winter League
VWL = Venezuela Winter League

I’ve omitted a couple of names that have small sample sizes (Sandy Leon, Jhonatan Solano, John Santiago) or have gotten injured (Danny Espinosa). Unfortunately, it’s been like the office holiday party for the soft-tossers (Arnesen, Wilkie), getting lit up for six home runs combined in less than 60 innings pitched. That’s, of course, a knee-jerk observation but it stands out to me, particularly in the case of Wilkie.

Since it’s come up in the vein of trades, Jesus Flores is hitting .355/.388/.548 in 17 games. Unfortunately, with few box scores (OK, no box scores) to look at, it’s tough to extrapolate how he’s throwing. As you can see, Ramos is also hitting well (and in the same league) so if Flores is actually healthy again, this puts the Nats in the position of not only being able to trade but release Ivan Rodriguez if need be.

Who’d we get from the A’s?

A quick take on the two prospects acquired in the Josh Willingham trade

Most of you already know that Josh Willingham has been traded to the A’s for two prospects. After an eternity in Internet time (a couple of hours), the news is out on who they are. The Nats will receive RHP Henry Rodriguez and OF Corey Brown from Oakland.

Rodriguez fits a rather familiar description — short and stout (6′ and 220lbs), fastball approaching 100mph, hard slider with some tilt, and control problems. The 24-year-old-in-February posted a 4.55ERA in 29 games for Oakland after saving 11 games with AAA Sacramento and struck out more than a batter per inning at both levels. He is, however, one year removed from a 5.77ERA/1.740WHIP at AAA and two years removed from 7.46/2.317 campaign at AA. As you might imagine, scouts are intrigued with his power and believe he’ll be a force if he can learn to stop overthrowing and tame the wildness. Baseball America named him the #17 Prospect out of the Pacific League for 2010.

Brown split time between AA and AAA in 2010, posting a .320/.415/.502 line at the former but just .193/.253/.378 at the latter. Sickels described him in ’09 as a cross between Jeromy Burnitz and Kirk Gibson… on a good day, but when he’s bad, he’s horrible. He’s struggled with strikeouts (443 in 390G) but draws a fair amount of walks (185) and has good speed and a strong throwing arm. He just turned 25 in late November.

Catching Up On Transactions

The latest signings per Baseball America’s report from Dec. 9-14

Baseball America released its weekly transaction report after yesterday morning’s post, so I’ll pass this along with some commentary. Some of these were referenced in the comments of yesterday’s post, but to put ’em all in one place (and recycle a visual pun)…

  • Re-signed RHP Joe Bisenius
  • Signed IF-OF Buck Coats
  • Signed OF Archie Gilbert
  • Signed OF Jonathan Van Every

Coats is a 28-year-old utility guy that has gotten three cups of coffee with the Cubs, Reds, and Jays from ’06 to ’08 and has a career .294/.352/.407 line at the AAA level. Gilbert is a 27-year-old CF speedster (57 in ’10) with little power and mediocre fielding stats (career .979, strictly as an OF). Van Every is a 31-year-old OF that’s been stalled in the Boston system, with a skill set that’s similar to Justin Maxwell.

Hot Stove Thoughts

Offseason in the minors isn’t quite as busy…

As mentioned in the comments section, things have slowed down here while we wait for winter to pass. And I know it’s not technically even winter yet.

There aren’t much in the way of transactions, but I’ll report the few of note in the past couple of weeks…

  • Resigned RHP Jimmy Barthmaier
  • Signed OF-1B Jonathan Tucker (spent 2010 with AAA Norfolk)
  • Outrighted RHP Ryan Mattheus to Syracuse

I’m sure more news will trickle in, once folks get over the shock of the Matt Stairs signing.

My buddy Shawn in Hagerstown posted a story about winter in Hagerstown, updating us on the changes to the field and stadium that have been going on since the team was sold. It’s a little amusing to me that the Suns are selling the Bryce Harper angle less than one year after another highly touted prospect didn’t quite start where everybody thought he would. But then again, with 24 home games before Memorial Day to sell, you can’t really blame them that much.

As the picture suggests, this is the time of year when teams start selling their hot-stove banquets. Potomac has not yet announced its keynote speaker, but Syracuse (yes, they’re using a Facebook page) will have GM Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman. Harrisburg, meanwhile, is leveraging its new facility with a Holiday Sale to benefit local charities. Auburn has not yet made an announcement.

That’s all for now, folks. Feel free to use the comments for discussion.

Nationals Announce 2011 Farm Managers, Coaches

Nationals announce the 2011 lineup of managers and coaches

With the winter meetings complete, the Nationals announced today their lineup for the 2011 managers and coaches for their affiliates:

SYRACUSE

Manager – Randy Knorr (promoted from Harrisburg)

Pitching Coach – Greg Booker (returning)

Hitting Coach – Jerry Browne (returning)

HARRISBURG

Manager – Tony Beasley (Pittsburgh Pirates 3rd base coach in ’10)

Pitching Coach – Randy Tomlin (returning)

Hitting Coach – Troy Gingrich (returning)

POTOMAC

Manager – Matt LeCroy (Promoted from Hagerstown)

Pitching Coach – Paul Menhart (returning)

Hitting Coach – Mark Harris (new hire)

HAGERSTOWN

Manager – Brian Daubach (Managed Pittsfield/Nashua of Can-Am League 2009-2010)

Pitching Coach – Chris Michalak (returning)

Hitting Coach – Marlon Anderson (new hire)

AUBURN

Manager – Gary Cathcart (Managed Potomac in ’10)

Pitching Coach – Franklin Bravo (returning)

Hitting Coach – Luis Ordaz (new hire)

GCL NATIONALS

Manager – Bobby Williams (returning)

Pitching Coach – Michael Tejera

Hitting Coach – Sergio Mendez (Never gonna let you go, I’m gonna hold you in my… oh, wait different guy – returning)

Coach – John Poppert (returning)

DSL Nationals

Manager – Sandy Martinez

Pitching Coach – Pablo Frias

Hitting Coach – Amaury Garcia

Coach – Eddy de los Antos

For those interested in the coordinators, MASN has them listed here.

The only surprise to me was that there was no mention of Trent Jewett, who had said three weeks ago that he was staying with the organization. His name has not yet turned up in any Google News searches, which would be my first guess: That he’d been hired by another organization to manage elsewhere. I know that he rubs some folks the wrong way, but his no-nonsense, old-school approach does get results.

Otherwise, most of this was not terribly new news. The hirings of Daubauch and promotions of LeCroy and Knorr were discussed last month, leaving the new Harrisburg manager as the only real unknown. It appears that the DSL staff is completely new, but last year’s announcement did not mention it, which may explain why Brian did not report on it at NFA.

Rule 5 Draft Results

A quick peek at how the Nats fared in the Rule 5 draft.

Our commenters passed along the news first, but to summarize…

In the major-league phase, the Nationals selected RHPs Elvin Ramirez (Mets) and Brian Broderick (Cardinals) and RHP Michael Allen (Twins) in the AAA phase. The Phillies selected IF-OF Michael Martinez to the Phillies, which isn’t a terrible move because the odds are he’ll see less than 200PA, he can play multiple positions, and he can run. For $50K if he doesn’t stick and the MLB minimum salary if he does, that’s not a bad gamble.

As the pic suggests, here’s what I could find out about the new guys…

  • Elvin Ramirez — Converted to relief in 2010 and has been clocked at 98-99mph in the Dominican Winter League. Also throws curve, changeup and slider but has been prone to walks. He’s 22 years old and is listed at 6’3″ and 208 lbs, with a strong lower body.
  • Brian Broderick — Rather than summarize, let me link you to this detailed scouting report.
  • Michael Allen — Not much to find on him, probably because his numbers are awful (7.84ERA at AA, 5.24 career at A+) but this 23-year-old is clearly a project. The one report I could find described him as big, strong with a 92-94mph fastball, an average breaking pitch as a complement but with potential to be a workhorse

I’ll update later if/when more info becomes available.