The NationalsProspects.com Top 10 Position Players

There are four players we can agree on: Victor Robles, Andrew Stevenson, Drew Ward, and Carter Kieboom. They’re the only ones named on every ballot. This is actually pretty normal, since the Nats aren’t typically deep in position players.

Twenty different players were named on 12 ballots (including mine), down one from last year. Robles was the clear #1 player, named #1 on eleven ballots. Juan Soto got the most second-place votes, but finished third behind Stevenson, who was in everybody’s Top 5.

Without further ado, ze list:

  1. Victor Robles
  2. Andrew Stevenson
  3. Juan Soto
  4. Drew Ward
  5. Carter Kieboom
  6. Pedro Severino
  7. Jose Marmolejos
  8. Brian Goodwin
  9. Anderson Franco
  10. Rafael Bautista

Others receiving votes: Osvaldo Abreu, Nick Banks, Kelvin Gutierrez, Yasel Antnua, Sheldon Neuse, Jakson Reetz, Raudy Read, Austin Davidson, Rhett Wiseman, Blake Perkins, Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

For those wondering, that’s five names carrying over from 2015, same as last year from 2014. Two players graduated (Trea Turner, Wilmer Difo), one was traded (Christopher Bostick), and the other two (Osvaldo Abreu and Spencer Kieboom) dropped out.

The Dominican presence also remains strong with six of the Top 10, ten of the 20 nominees being born in the D.R. or to Dominican parents. This ought not to be a shock to the mindful watchers of the Nationals minors (a.k.a. the regulars), but given the reaction to Washington refusing to overpay for a “closer,” I feel obligated to point this out for the folks who are new (and welcome) here.

Next up: The pitchers, which just got a whole less interesting (or more difficult to pick) with four would-be nominees traded in the last week.

Nats Go All in for Eaton

For those of you who work the third shift, aren’t on the Twitters, or had a date last night (hey, it could happen), Washington traded Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning for Chicago White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton.

This is hard for us as prospect followers because we become (or have become) enamored with the exploits of “our guys” and envision their future with the big club, which we saw briefly last summer with Giolito and Lopez, and were looking forward to with Dunning in 2-3 years. I’ll be the first to admit that my first thought was: “Just Adam Eaton? No PTBNL?”

That’s because I’ve become used to the consolation prize that Mike Rizzo seems to find with his trades: Joe Ross… Blake Treinen… Tanner Roark, etc.

Nope. Three maybes, two of them pretty strong, for one proven, in-his-prime major leaguer.

As the pic suggests, Rizzo appears to be going all-in for this season; at least that’s the knee-jerk narrative. But if you look more closely, and think about it a little more deeply, he’s got an OF option secured for the next five seasons at a reasonable price. This is critical because at least one of the two guys who’ll play next to him next summer won’t be here in 2019.

That’s not being Chicken Little – Jayson Werth’s skills are in decline, Bryce Harper may leave. If you’re a Pollyanna, then you look at this trade as freeing up the Cayman Island that it’ll take—and if he reverts to 2015 form, deserves—to keep Harper in DC.

If you’re bitter, or cynical, then you wonder if the Nats have soured on at least one of these three prospects and are dealing them because they’ve reached their peak and/or will get hurt. I certainly hope not because if a pattern like this emerges it will be harder for Rizzo to make trades in the future.

It’s worth paraphrasing what one scout tweeted yesterday: Prospects have three purposes (1) play for the parent club (2) use to trade for other players (3) fill out the rosters in the minors. Number one is obviously top of mind for us, but this is yet another reminder that number two may actually be number one in the minds of the Washington front office.

Last call for the Top 10 Nats Bats while we brace for the Rule 5 Draft.

Nats Make Some Minor-League Signs

As noted yesterday, the latest BA transactions post—first in nearly two weeks—was published yesterday. Here are Washington’s signees:

• RHPs – Dustin Antolin, Derek Eitel
• LHPs – Yoan Aponte, Braulio Lara
• C’s – Brian Jeroloman, Adderling Ruiz
• 2B – Corban Joseph

Antolin, whose full name (Dustin Kamakana Mai Ku’u Makualani Antolin) makes for a difficult time at the DMV, Aponte and Eitel appear ticketed for Syracuse as inventory while little can be found on Aponte, which leads to the inference that he’s low-tier IFA.

Jeroloman and Ruiz are re-signs and will likely continue in their roles as player and player-coach, respectively. Jospeh spent 2016 with the Orioles organization as a stopgap at AA and AAA and will likely do the same for the Nationals in 2017

Vote for Your Favorite Bats

favbat2016Quick! Before they get traded!

It’s time to crowdsource our favorite position players in the Washington farm system as part of our annual offseason ritual to fill the void between when the Nats get eliminated in the playoffs and a season-ending injury in Spring Training the last pitch in September and the first pitch in April.

OK, so here’s how it 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 comments.

I’ll compile the votes and weight them in reverse order (#1 = 10 points, #2 = 9 points… #9 = 2 points, #10 = 1 point). When it feels like I’ve got a sizable number of submissions, I’ll update this post to let people know I’ve ready to write the “Top 10” post.

This will create the seventh annual NationalsProspects.com Top 10 Bats list.

Now, let’s not forget that “Bat” is my shorthand for “position player” – obviously there are guys for whom the glove is something to wear to blend in when they’re out in the field, but try to take into account both offense and defense. The National League remains stuck in the 19th century when it comes to the DH, so we can’t overlook defense entirely.

The Winter Meetings start up today at the Gaylord in National Harbor, so there’ll be plenty o’ speculation (because speculation is always Irish?) about proposed trades, both actual and agent-planted. Baseball America hasn’t had a Transactions post since before Thanksgiving but one is expected this morning, so we may have back-to-back posts this week!

As always, feel free to discuss in the comments…

The Next CBA

New CBAAs expected, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was agreed upon before the deadline last night. As predicted, there will be no international draft.

BUT…
(There’s always a but, isn’t there?)

In this case, the scuttlebutt on the “but” is higher bonus pools – somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 to $6M per team per year – in exchange for more severe penalties on teams that exceed the limits.

As Doug Gray pointed out over at Redminorleagues.com, this new limit of $150M to $180M is roughly 40-50% of what teams spent during the last full year of International Free Agency (2015-16), including penalties.

In essence, Gray says, the MLBPA gave away $120 to 150M from amateurs to the owners in exchange for not very much; slightly higher luxury tax thresholds, tweaks to the qualifying-offer system.

To me this is same shit, different CBA. The players’ union and the owners continue to negotiate over monies spent on (or to) people not at the table. Last time, it was the minor leaguers. This time it’s the foreign-born players.

Bottom line: the players we know and love to watch play are being attached to another object by an inclined plane, wrapped helically around an axis. (Translation).

Don’t even go down the path of what this means socioeconomically… in both cases, young men (or teenage boys) are being asked to trade their youth and/or postpone their education in exchange for a pittance and an infinitesimally small chance to make it to the major leagues.

The Americans at least have the threat of going to college; the (mostly) Dominicans and Venezuelans have nothing. And now they have less.

More details on the CBA are forthcoming, but I’m quite confident we’re not going to see anything that will be better for our guys.

The Preliminary 2017 Watchlist

Preliminary Watchlist 2017
Here we go again on my own, traveling down the only road I’ve ever known with the seventh edition of this site’s watchlist. There’s a certain degree of fear this time around because, CBA uncertainty aside, it feels like this might get blown up in less than a month.

Why? Because even Stevie Wonder can see that the big club’s window may be closing soon, and there are immediate needs at multiple positions. Free agency may solve some of the problems, but a trade or two seems possible, if not imminent.

That means some of these guys might not be here by the time this is finalized. It’s happened before.

Truth be told, I think they should listen to any and all offers for anybody listed below. The December 2011 trade accelerated the timeline from pretender to contender; we certainly don’t want to hear the jokes about no DUIs at Rizzo’s sports bar (because you’re done after just one round).

Now for a quick explanation on what the watchlist is (and isn’t):

Six years ago, I decided to list the players that had shown some promise by position; guys who were worth watching. I don’t give a rat’s @ss about what round a player was drafted in or how much of a bonus he got.

Those two things are decided by the market and the draft rules, neither of which are fair. But I understand that they influence decisions due to the factors of “sunk cost” and reputation (of the drafter, not the draftee).

Now for the “isn’ts”…

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 2016 usage. The Nats have a history of rotating MIs between 2B and SS, trying to develop utility players, and being weak at the corners of the IF and OF.

It’s preliminary. I can’t spend the time that I used to on this site, so I’m depending on my readers to call me out in the comments. That doesn’t mean that I’ll respond to every suggestion or crticism, but I will listen.

Now, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that I’ve collapsed two categories and expanded another. This is for aesthetics: Washington has a shipload of right-handed pitching prospects, and thimbleful of middle infielders worth listing.

Take a look a look, tell me what you think, and let’s get the 2016-17 offseason started.

C 1B 2B/SS 3B OF RHRP
Severino Skole Abreu Ward Goodwin Glover
Read Marmolejos Sagdal Gutierrez Bautista Brinley
Barrera Simonetti C. Kieboom Davidson Stevenson Mendez
Harris Bogetto Keller M. Sanchez
Robles Pantoja
Agustin Peterson
Wiseman Fuentes
Johnson F. Peguero
Soto
Florentino
RHSPs LHPs DSL Bats DSL Arms Notable Arms
Notable Bats
R. Lopez Crownover Cabello Sisneros Mapes Ballou
Giolito Borne Falcon Guillen J. Rodriguez S. Kieboom
Voth Guilbeau Mesa Chu Baez Banks
Simms
Watson Morales Duran Rivera Corredor
Valdez McDonald Pascal J. Peguero Rishwain Franco
Avila Braymer
A. Lee
Dunning
W. Davis
Sharp
C. Peña

Saturday Smorgasbord

A lot of this has already been discussed in the comments, but for the sake of posterity…

NATS ADD FIVE TO THE 40-MAN AHEAD OF THE RULE 5 DRAFT
• Matt Skole
• Austin Voth
• Rafael Bautista
• Raudy Read
• Jose Marmolejos
Let’s be blunt: the Rule 5 Draft is like the pickings at a singles bar at the end of the night (or so I’m told 😉 ) – it’s a function of attention relative to what else is available. It’s not difficult to break down: They’re all relatively cheap backups to the backups, as were Bostick, Lee, and Kieboom a year ago. I’m always happy to see our guys win this “lottery” because the system otherwise is stacked against them — especially the guys from the D.R.

But let’s not kid ourselves that this is anything more than procedural maneuvering. GM Mike Rizzo just raised the price on five trading chips as the Winter Meetings approach (yeah, I know they’re local this year, but I don’t think I have the guts to go *rimshot!*).

AFL THOUGHTS
Very little that’s been posted in the comments I would disagree with… Andrew Stevenson has raised his stock and scouts have noticed, which makes other folks more tradeable. It’s no secret that the ideal path for Trea Turner is Robin Yount in reverse, but Rizzo appears to be showing folks with the placements of Stevenson and Bautista that he does have CF depth and therefore Victor Robles may be had (albeit along with someone else, no doubt).

Drew Ward had the kind of fall that everybody has been waiting for while Osvaldo Abreu held his own, thought not enough to be protected from next month’s Rule 5. Nick Lee wasn’t re-added, so he’s eligible to be drafted, as is Jake Johansen, whom I suspect the Nats wouldn’t mind terribly if he were taken because it’d take away some of the disappointment that’s almost entirely due to his draft position. Ryan Brinley, who got lit like Kennedy at an open bar at AA, seems to have re-established himself.

IT’S THE BUIES CREEK ASTROS
Those of you on the Twitters have already seen this rant, but for the rest of you: Yesterday, the new, 10th team in the Carolina League was officially introduced — the Buies Creek Astros.

Ultimately, the team will be located in Fayetteville, but for two seasons the Astros affiliate will call tiny (pop. 2,942) Buies Creek, NC its home on the campus of Campbell University.

It’s a boon for the small, private college, which will see its facility upgraded by the Astros and will reportedly collect all revenue generated by the games. And it’s a HUGE MISSED MARKETING OPPORTUNITY.

Why? Well, anything with “Buies Creek” is already a collector’s item. But they could have had fun with that it’s a dry town and (mostly) a dry county and called themselves the Buies Creek Bootleggers. Instead, they chose the least imaginative name and logos.

AFL/Offseason Update: Nov. 12, 2016

The Desert Dogs got two-spots in the 5th and 7th innings to overcome a 2-1 deficit and beat the Scorpions, 5-2. Combined with a Peoria loss, Glendale returned to within 1½ games of the AFL West lead.

Osvaldo Abreu got the start at shortstop and batted ninth. He reached base three times with a single and two walks and stole his fourth base. Defensively, he committed his fourth error while collecting five putouts and two assists, including a double play.

Nick Lee made his eighth fall appearance and got four outs in relief, allowing one hit, no runs, no walks, and struck out one. In ten innings, he’s allowed four runs (two earned) on ten hits and nine walks while striking out eleven.

The two teams switch venues this afternoon to finish out the last full week of the 2016 AFL season.

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FREE AGENTS
On Tuesday, minor-league free agency began, which saw 20 guys become former Nationals farmhands, some for the first time:
RHP – Erik Davis, Justin DeFratus, Paolo Espino, Michael Brady, Mitch Lively, Sam Runion, Boone Whiting
LHP – Aaron Laffey
C – Brian Jeroloman, Devin Ivany, Andruth Ramirez, Adderling Ruiz
IF – Steve Lombardozzi, Jose Lozada, Jason Martinson
OF – Matt den Dekker, Kevin Keyes, Narciso Mesa, Drew Vettleson

It’s worth noting that Ivany and Ramirez were player-coaches, so their free agency may merely be a formality. As aforementioned, for a few of these guys it’s their chance to hook on elsewhere and get a second chance (or an easier path) to The Show.

WINTER LEAGUES

To me it seems like a smaller group than usual, but let’s a take a quick peek at how some of the non-AFL guys are doing:

DWL – Rafael Bautista, .276/.338/.293, 5SB, 6BB, 8RBI in 15G
DWL – Jose Marmolejos, .231/.268/.410, 1HR, 2BB, 8RBI in 13G
DWL – Raudy Read, 1-for-2 in 2G
DWL – Wander Suero, 1IP, 1H, 0R, 1BB, 2K in 1G
DWL – Philips Valdez, 0-0, 0SV, 0.00ERA, 1.07WHIP in 3G
MWL – Matt Skole, .237/.367/.320, 2HR, 7RBI, 24K in 27G
PWL – Neftali Soto, .442/.444/.674, HR, BB, SF, 5RBI in 10G
VWL – Aldrem Corredor, .133/.235/.133, 2SB, 2BB, in 9G
VWL – David Ramos, 1-0, 0SV, 2.45ERA, 1.23WHIP in 6G/7⅓ IP
VWL – Greg Ross, 3-1, 2.25ERA, 1.16WHIP in 7GS/32IP

AFL/Offseason Update: Nov. 5, 2016

andrew-stevenson-11-05-16The Desert Dogs got three in the 1st and cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Javelinas for their fourth straight win.

Spider-man Andrew Stevenson was the sole National to play yesterday. The 22-y.o. led off for Glendale and reached base four times with two singles and two walks, which pushed his fall line to .327/.368/.500 in 13 games. In the field, he made three putouts (all in the 6th inning).

Tonight is the Fall Star game, for which Drew Ward and Ryan Brinley have been named to the West Division roster. It will be broadcast on the MLB Network at 8 p.m. Warning: Tom Verducci, a.k.a. proof that writing and broadcasting are two very different skills, may be on the telecast.

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TRANSACTION UPDATE
Minor-League Free Agency will coincide with Election Day (or the apocalypse, depending on your political leaning or choice of cable news provider) on Tuesday, but the latest dispatch from Baseball America has some re-signs and a release:
• Re-signed – RHP Whit Mayberry, C Nick Rickles
• Released – OF Brian Pruitt

I’d love to know exactly why the Nationals chose to keep Pruitt, a 2008 34th Rd. Pick who hit .172/.293/.234 in parts of two seasons with the Vermont Lake Monsters, on the Reserve List for more than six years. Maybe it’s an early 30th birthday present? Sadly, it may be as simple as: Because they could.

HAGERSTOWN SUNS FOR SALE

In the short term, this is mostly meaningless – the franchise has a PDC with Washington through 2018 and a lease on Municipal Stadium for the same period of time. In other words, the franchise is at its maximum possible value and this is a trial balloon to guage interest.

As longtime readers know, buying the team is only part of the equation, and relatively easy. Getting a stadium is the other part, and much, much, much harder. Something to keep an eye on, of course.

THE SYRACUSE CHIEFS

Were it not for tradition, I might start with the Chiefs to cleanse the palate. In seven seasons of this site’s existence, they’ve had two (2) winning seasons. In four of the other five, they were within shouting distance of .500. In 2016, they were just plain awful.

How bad? They had the worst record in the I.L. (61-82) and the second-worst in AAA (Omaha was 58-82). Statistically, they had league-average pitching (3.96 R/G) and somehow weren’t the worst-hitting team (3.55 R/G, Buffalo was 3.47) or the worst-fielding team (12th of 14 by FA; though dead-last in CS% at 22 percent). Even more surprising, Syracuse had a winning home record (37-34).

Somehow, there’s a list of four players to highlight that can be extracted from this morass, five if you’re disregarding stats, six if you’re feeling generous (and looking the other way on age):

1. Koda Glover, RHRP — 1-1, 2SV; 2.25/2.92/0.79
2. Pedro Severino, C — .995FA, .226 GPA
3. Brian Goodwin, OF — .267 GPA, .438 SLG%, 14HR, 15SB in 119G
4. Austin Voth, RHSP — 7-9, 3.15/3.53/1.24 in 157IP
5. A.J. Cole, RHSP — 8-8, 4.26/3.96/1.33 in 22GS
6. Matt Skole, 1B/3B — .261 GPA, 24HR, 66BB in 140G

Folks interested in seeing the full stats can find them here.

AFL/Offseason Update: Oct. 29, 2016

austin-voth-10-29-16The Desert Dogs avoided the shutout with a second-inning run but not the loss, as they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Rafters yesterday afternoon.

Austin Voth (pictured) made his fourth start this fall for Glendale. He gave up four runs on just two hits, but both were home runs – a two-run shot in the 1st, then another in the 4th. Both longballs were preceded by a hit batsman.

Voth threw 74 pitches, 41 for strikes, over five innings. He walked two and struck out two while suffering his second loss, but actually lowered his ERA to 10.43 for the AFL campaign.

The two teams switch venues for this afternoon’s game to finish out the third week of the 2016 AFL season.

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TRANSACTION UPDATES
• Fans of “The Onion” need not shed any tears, as the Nationals have re-signed C Jhonatan Solano.
• RHP Aaron Barrett was outrighted to Syracuse on Tuesday and he elected to become a free agent
• OF Yadiel Hernandez was placed on the Hagerstown Suns roster, which means… well, nothing since this is the offseason
• Likewise for P Thony Amoroso, though it’s nice to think that the recently signed IFA from Venezuela may bypass the DSL in 2017

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS FOR SALE
While this isn’t news per se — minor-league teams are bought and sold all the time — what is unusual is that both the Doubledays and their facility are city-owned. And like many businesses in upstate New York, they’re losing money. Thus, Auburn is looking to sell.

This is the fiscally right thing to do, as the local media notes in an Op-Ed that urges the city government to be transparent as it does so — unlike their counterparts in Northern Virginia.

THE HARRISBURG SENATORS
A lot of folks obsess over how a farm system is ranked relative to the other 29 teams in MLB, but where it really matters can be boiled down to two questions: (1) Does it produce players that can play? (2) Is there enough depth to sustain injuries?

Obviously, we know the answer to both of those questions. But what’s less obvious is the effect that has on the minor-league teams, especially in the upper minors where there’s not a half system. The 2016 Harrisburg Senators were an example of the roster churn that ensues as 50 players suited up (not counting MLB rehabs) and a dozen pitchers made five or more starts.

Indeed, it was that pitching that carried the team as the E.L.’s third-best staff (4.16 R/G vs. 4.34 Lg. Avg.) was able to withstand the E.L.’s second-worst offense (4.01 R/G) and nearly made the playoffs anyway. Though it should be noted that the Eastern League was similar to the Carolina League in that just six of the 12 teams had winning records and two teams were over the .600 mark.

For the fifth straight season, however, the Senators list is combined into a single Top 5:

1. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP – 3.18/3.03/1.23, 100K in 76⅓ IP
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP – 3.17/3.30/1.42, 72K in 71IP
3. Christopher Bostick, IF – .290/.356/.462 in 71G
4. John Simms, RHP – 3.30/3.84/1.08 in 29 appearances, 11GS
5. Rafael Bautista, OF – .282/.344/.341, 56SB

OK, before you rip into me about Tyler Mapes, who’d probably #6 if I were to go further, take a look at his K rate (4.53). That’s more than two full whiffs per 9IP than the league average. Coupled with nearly a hit per IP for his career… that’s just too much contact to succeed long-term at AAA or higher. And I’ve seen it before.

To be honest, after Lopez and Giolito, it’s pretty dicey. Bostick didn’t exactly light it up at AAA and is no longer a National. Simms, like Mapes, will be entering 2017 at age 25 (though he’s six months younger). Bautista, despite all that speed, had just 20 extra-base hits and just 12 doubles.

As always, folks who wish to see the full team stats can find ’em here.