Offseason Update: Sept. 23, 2017

Fall arrived yesterday afternoon but we’ve yet to see the chill rains come. The big Nats are lurching towards the postseason, the drama reduced to who will make the postseason roster (a.k.a. who’s healthy enough to play) and how he’ll be used.

100 wins? Home-field advantage? Both possible but not probable. Even Stevie Wonder can see that Dusty Baker has been managing the club to minimize fatigue, which has prompted the knee-jerk comparisons to spring training.

But we’re here to talk/read about the minor-leaguers….

STATE OF THE FARM
As noted in the comments, the Nats were near the bottom of the collective standings with a .456 winning percentage, tied with the Mets. While it’s tempting to put that all on the Syracuse Chiefs, the worst team in AAA at 54-87, the Harrisburg Senators (60-80), Auburn Doubledays (30-45), and DSL Nationals (28-43) also “contributed.”

Unlike a year ago, we can’t point to the breakthrough of a new starter or position player or even a key reliever. It was supplying the “next man up” (my apologies, but DC is still a football town) for the bevy of injuries that have dogged this team/organization like they were wearing Milk-Bone underwear even more than last season, which was a lot.

There’s still some guys to be excited about, but the vast majority of them are in the lower minors, which means a lot of the buzz is based on things that are constant variables like their age or their draft position. And if we’re honest, there are roughly half a dozen guys that wouldn’t make a Top 30 list in most other organizations.

I can’t say that the organization isn’t still meeting the bare minimum requirements of developing talent that can be useful to the big club, albeit mostly in depth and trading chips. But I can say it’s not doing much else.

BA TOP 20 LISTS
I’m sure you’ve gotten over the shock of not a single Chief making the International League Top 20 for Baseball America, but you may be a little surprised that two Nationals farmhands made BA’s Eastern League Top 20 – Victor Robles and Erick Fedde.

About the only argument you can make against Robles is that he didn’t play enough, though BA – as it usually does – sets the bar very low: just one PA or ⅓ IP per team game for position players and starting pitchers (20 appearances for relievers). Personally, I’d set it at about twice those marks, except for the relievers; that does seem about right.

Fedde, on the other hand, wasn’t exactly dominant at any level this season. Yes, I know it’s not all about stats but I do believe the two are not mutually exclusive. I’d also have to question his placement since he split time between starting and relieving for Harrisburg. But incumbency is also a BA hallmark…

I’d expect Robles to make the Carolina League Top 20, and FWIW, Carter Kieboom does have the necessary number of PAs for the Sally Lg. so stay tuned this week.

THE WATCHLIST AND THE GBI
As noted a year ago, these have become more difficult to do. The system isn’t as deep as it used to be (or seemed to be) and all the losing tends not to produce the kind of numbers or streaks that are “G-worthy.” I had forgotten about my “note to self” to drop the GBI from every three weeks to monthly. That seems about right these days, and that’ll be the goal in 2018.

As for the watchlist, it may get shorter, but it’s a core part of the offseason ritual, and it’s how I get caught up on the short-season guys, so I don’t see it going away.

TRANSACTION UPDATE
We’re now in the re-signing season, where would-be FAs opt to stick around rather than try their luck elsewhere:
• RHP Brady Dragmire
• LHP Hector Silvestre
• IF-OF Khayyan Norfork

No huge surprises here. Dragmire was (finally) starting to pitch well at the end of the season. Silvestre turns 25 in December and has yet to pitch above High-A, but between Washington’s pitching-starved upper minors, and it’s “sunk-cost” approach to Dominican prospects, he might get that chance in 2018. Norfork has made a career thus far on his versatility, and let’s face it: He could be the next Adrian Sanchez.

THE DSL NATIONALS
Despite having a handful of players in their third DSL season, the team actually had a fairly normal blend of players in terms of age. Like a year ago, the batters were a shade older than league average (18.2 vs. 18.1) while the pitchers were slightly younger (18.4 vs. 18.7).

The offense was right around league average (4.65 R/G vs. 4.60) but the pitching was 35th in the 40-team DSL and nearly a run worse (5.49) per game. The defense was also right around league average (.955 FA vs. .956). All of this is sight-unseen, strictly numbers-based observation, so take it with a fistful of salt.

Without further comment, here are the obligatory Top 5’s, excluding “three-timers” and players who were old for the level…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Wilmer Perez, C/1B/DH
.288 GPA, 17-2B, 4-3B, 3HR
1. Alfonso Hernandez, LHSP
2.10/2.53/1.17, 9.86 K/9IP
2. Adrian Liriano, SS/2B
.242 GPA, 15BB
2. Rafael Gomez, RHSP
4.09/2.88/1.27, 1HR in 55IP
3. Landerson Pena, RF/LF
.244 GPA, 13SB
3. Joan Adon, RHRP
3.54/3.12/0.96, 9.96 K/9IP
4. Luis Aquino, SS/LF
.240 GPA, 19SB
4. Niomar Gomez, RHSP
4.07/3.17/1.27, 2.52 K:BB ratio
5. Caldioli Sanfler, CF
.237 GPA, 58 of 60G at CF, .984 FA
5. Pedro Gonzalez, RHSP
5.30/3.51/1.63, 12GS, 52⅔ IP, turned 17 in July

An honorable mention goes to Geraldi Diaz, the analog to Pedro Gonzalez. He also turned 17 in July and appeared in 41 games behind the plate with a .989 fielding percentage while hitting .001 below the .232 league-average GPA. Folks interested in seeing the entire team’s stats can find 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.

Offseason Update: Sept. 25, 2015

Now I can follow last year’s digital size 13’s, so here goes…

THE STATE OF THE FARM

All seven affiliates had losing records and missed the playoffs. Obviously, that’s not the only measuring stick or even the most important one. But I’ve long felt that the reflexive, “stats are meaningless in the minors” trope by baseball folks to be disingenuous. I’m sure many of you had this reaction at least three times a week when looking at the daily rundown. Like a taxi on a rainy night, offense (age-appropriate or not) was hard to find. A lot of you are pinning your hopes on the influx of talent from the D.R. and I have little reason to disagree.

BA TOP 20 LISTS
Victor Robles was named the #2 prospect in both the GCL and the NYPL (remember Baseball America loves to double-dip) and was joined by Erick Fedde (#4). That, of course, means there’s a small chance that Fedde will make the cut for the Sally Lg., too. Aside from Lucas Giolito, I have little confidence we’ll see many more.

THE 2015 WATCHLIST
The logical inference from the previous two items is that the watchlist has become a depth chart. This has always been my worst fear, and it makes me less interested in creating a 2016 edition. This is not necessarily a result of a disappointing season; a year ago I wrote that I knew the list will become smaller and less comprehensive, but I was hoping not to scrap it altogether. Perhaps I’ll feel differently in a few weeks, or someone can make a case in the comments for a way to preserve this.

THE DSL NATIONALS
After years of being one of — if not the — oldest teams in the DSL, the 2015 edition had the youngest set of position players in the league (average age: 17.6 vs. 18.3) and the fourth-youngest pitching staff (18.3 vs. 19.0). But being young is only a part of the equation; were they any good? In the 38-team DSL, the bats were 29th (4.46 R/G vs. 5.02) and the arms were 33rd (5.74). The defense was also below average with a .947FA (.952).

So, no, not really.

The million-peso question is how many of these guys will repeat, with the follow-up of how many will be let go. We won’t know until next May. But the hope is that those that do repeat — and are still age-appropriate — will improve dramatically.

Without further ado…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Aldrem Corredor, 1B/OF, .289 GPA, 39 BB 1. Pedro Avila, RHSP, 2.26/1.87/1.06, 13.1 K/9
2. Luis Perdomo, LF, .275 GPA, 16 2B 2. Francys Peguero, RHRP, 1.82/1.99/0.84, 13.5 K/9
3. Edwin Ventura, RF, .265 GPA, 15SB 3. Yonathan Ramirez, LHSP, 2.75/2.91/1.12, 1.7 BB/9
4. Roberto Medina, C, .278 GPA, .442SLG% (34G) 3. Gilbert Chu, RHRP, 2.55/2.90/1.09, 11.0 K/9
5. Juan Evangelista, CF, .258 GPA, 108 TB 5. Warner Duran, RHRP, 2.67/2.35/1.22, 0HR in 33⅔ IP

 

Honorable mentions go to 17-y.o. Omar Meregildo, who led the team in slugging at .443 (but also faded badly, .450 OPS in August vs. .643 in July and .885 in June) and 18-y.o. RHRP Angel Guillen, who had a very respectable 3.02 FIP and an extremely unlucky .423 BABIP, which can be obscured by his ERA (6.08) and H/9IP (10.8). Folks interested in seeing the entire team’s stats can find them here.

Let’s Try This Weekly Thing

Letstrythisweeklything
Bear with me — without the structure of the regular season and the divergence from what I’ve done in past offseasons, the first couple of posts might be a bit of a dog’s breakfast.

The most obvious thing to me is to touch upon what I would have written about in shorter form until the AFL starts up (good news — our man out there says he’ll continue to take pics and share with us). Then, the weekly posts will be AFL-centric with some news and notes thrown in.

THE STATE OF THE FARM
It’s been rebuilt and it’s churning out talent, though the run of uber-prospects (Strasburg-Harper-Rendon) may be over once Lucas Giolito makes his way to Washington. That’s okay because that’s how it supposed to work with World Series contending organizations. I’m still concerned that the organization runs old and that it relies very heavily on the Dominican Republic for its teenage talent, but it’s hard to argue against the results even when some of the injury gambles don’t pan out (see Solis, Sammy; Purke, Matthew).

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
In years past, the first couple of weeks of BA issuing its Top 20 lists could be summed up in a picture or two for Washington fans. For the second straight year, the Nats have a GCLer on the list, as Jakson Reetz was named the #14 guy. A third-round pick in June, Reetz posted a line of .276/.431/.376 line as an 18-y.o. catcher, which of course, has drawn comps to 2007 4th Rd. pick Derek Norris. Defensively, he’s considered ahead of the A’s backstop at this stage in his career.

THE 2014 WATCHLIST
After clinching all that can be clinched in the day game on Friday — sounds a little dirty, no? — the Nats trotted out what some Twitterati geniusly called “your 2014 Syracuse Chiefs” on Friday night; an observation sharp enough to slice warm butter. Thankfully, there are those who understand how things work better than that. That said, it pains me a little to know two things: (1) A lot of the names are going to change in the 2015 edition (2) that edition is going to have to be smaller and less comprehensive. The alternative, of course, is to scrap it altogether, which, as you can see, I’m trying to avoid.

THE DSL NATIONALS
The trend of getting younger and better has continued — the average bat was 17.7 years old, the average arm was 18.4 years old; a half-year younger than the league averages for both. Despite their youth, the D-Nats were among the more potent offenses, tied for 4th at 6.19 R/G (lg. avg. 4.98) and leading the circuit in HRs. The flip side is that the pitching (5.36 R/G) and the defense — with the exception of the stolen-base prevention (2nd in CS%, 48; lg. avg. 34) — were both below average (.942FA, .951 lg avg.).

Cutting to the chase…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Davinson Pimentel, C/1B, .337 GPA, 6HR 1. Joan Baez, RHP, 1.15/2.96/0.91, 2.8 BB/9
2. Telmito Agustin, LF/CF, .310 GPA, 25SB, 10 3B 2. Steven Fuentes, RHP, 2.30/2.90/1.23, 10.2 K/9
3. Victor Robles, CF, .305 GPA, 22SB 3. Angher Cespedes, RHP, 3.94/2.52/1.16, 11.0 K/9
4. Israel Mota, RF, .281 GPA, 8HR, 47RBI 4. Yonathan Ramirez, LHP, 2.63/2.60/0.91, 2.0 BB/9
5. Andres Martinez, SS, .280 GPA, .908FA 5. Juan Bermudez, RHP, 2.08/3.55/1.05, 2.97 BB:K


Honorable mentions go to Jeyner Baez, an 18-y.o. catcher with a 50% CS rate and a .256 GPA, and Wilber Pena, an 18-y.o. RHP who led the team in IP and tied with Bermudez with 14 games started. Folks can see all the team stats here.

As Promised…


As promised, I’m providing a spot for discussion, even if there ain’t a whole hell of a lot to talk about in terms of the farm. Ordinarily by now we would have heard/read/seen who’s going to instrux or who the Nats Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year are, but so far… nada. I hope this is just a byproduct of the parent club chugging towards the playoffs, but it still seems a little weird to me.

If you missed it in the comments, Karl Kolchak has begun a blog with a minors focus, which began with a post about the DFA of Eury Perez and is now counting down his Top 30 prospects.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t pass along Zach Spedden’s post wrapping up the 2014 Minor-League Season, which is written through the lens of the 2014 Draft Class. Spedden also runs the Hagerstown Suns Fan Club.

I think that’s about it for now. Please feel free to discuss things in the comments and keep the conversation going until my next post.