Friday, November 30, 2012

What the Span acquisition means.

With the Nats trading prospect Alex Meyer to the Twins for CF Denard Span, a few things start to become clear for the team going into 2013. Span is one of the league's premier defensive CF, so he will be entrenched there and most likely at the top of the order. Harper and Werth become the team's corner OF, with debate to ensue about needing more range and athleticism to play LF (Haper wins there) and wanting your best arm in RF (Harper wins there too). Their positioning could go either way, but LF is bigger than RF in Nats Park, so you might expect to see Harper in LF and Werth in RF at least to start the year.

This moves Morse to 1B where he's got a lot of power, but not the OBP that LaRoche brings. The team says that it is still focused on resigning LaRoche, which would send Morse to the trading block (he may be better suited for an AL team where he can DH, since his glove is pretty sub par), but it remains to be seen if they will meet the 3 years and $11m per season plus he is looking for. The team is rumored to be kicking tires on Grienke, which would give them hands down the best rotation in baseball, and if they went that route they would go with Morse at 1B to offset the money. Signing a mid rotation guy like Jackson last year will be about $10m, and LaRoche would be about $11 so that $21m could be spent on Grienke and Morse and his affordable contract placed at 1B.

The team should be active tying up this triangle and deciding if they are going after pitching or hitting at the Winter Meetings next week. The OF seems shored up now, and with seemingly somewhere in the ballpark of $20-25m to spend they could make one big splash or two smaller splashes next week. In addition they have key trade piece Anthony Rendon getting healthy, and you could see him packaged out next in a deal for whatever piece puts them over the top this year.

As I said last year when they traded for Gio, they were a playoff team, they proved me right once, and now I'm saying that they are poised to become a WS favorite depending on how these few moves shape up.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bryce Harper Groupies Will Hate Me For This

The Washington Nationals “Phenom”, Bryce Harper, is in quite a slump these days. He’s hitting just .176/.276/.265 since the all-star break, which gives him the lowest batting average and lowest OPS (.541) in the majors in the second half.
Apparently, part of his struggles is that umpires are being mean to him – let’s just say he had a little run in with one of MLB’s worst umpires, Angel Hernandez, last night.
Harper was even asked if he feels he has been pitched to differently in the second half and he suggested that pitchers have taken advantage of strike zones that have given opposing pitchers a few extra inches off the plate.
My suggestion to Harper is to stop whining and figure out the strikezone the umpire is calling that night, and then make your adjustments. The strikezone is rarely, if ever, fair to any one player (hitter or pitcher) and to suggest that it could possibly be more unfair for him is an insult to baseball and the umpires out there that actually try really hard to call a good game.
Many fans of the Nationals and Bryce Harper like to use the excuse that he’s still just 19 years old so some of his behavior can be attributed to being a bit immature – you know, because he’s so young.
The Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout is only 20 years old and he has yet to declare himself bigger than the game.
The Baltimore Orioles Manny Machado just turned 20 years old on July 6 and, after going 2 for 4 with a triple last night in his major league debut, he’s not declaring himself – or being declared - Baby Jesus over all of baseball either.
Now, before some of you start googling my name to find out where to send your hate mail to (please direct all hate mail to and address it to Jon), let me ask this:
Why would you Harper fanatics anoint the kid the King of all Baseball, or the Phenom before he has even done anything substantial?
The “Phenom” was the instant National League Rookie of the Year winner before the season began and even now that he’s batting just .251 with 10 home runs on the season he will still garner far more of the RoY vote than he deserves, in my opinion.
Look at the four players listed below – how many of them would you choose to have on your team over Harper right now?
Player A
.287/.354/.421 batting line with six home runs and 14 stolen bases over 321 at-bats.
Player B
.272/.342/.399 batting line with six home runs and three stolen bases over 386 at-bats.
Player C
2.85/3.21 ERA/FIP with a 1.09 WHIP and 97 strikeouts over 132.2 innings of work.
Player D
3.97/3.80 ERA/FIP with a 1.35 WHIP and 96 strikeouts over 138.1 innings of work.
If you said to yourself that you wouldn’t take any of the four players listed over Harper right now, just for this season, then you are out of your mind and there is no hope for you – please stop reading…now.
Player A is Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki who would be the leading candidate for National League Rookie of the Year among position players.
Player B is the San Diego Padres first baseman/outfielder Yonder Alonso. I consider him to be the second best position player in the N.L. RoY debate.
Player C is Wade Miley of the Arizona Diamondbacks and he is having the best season of all rookie pitchers in the National League.
Player D is Lucas Harrell of the Houston Astros who is having a pretty good season considering he’s playing for the worst team in all of baseball, gets no run support, and the defense behind him fails him just about every start.
What do all four of these players have in common?
I would select every single one of them ahead of Bryce Harper for N.L. RoY right now. Wade Miley would be my actual choice for N.L. RoY, but all four of these players would get my vote for what they’ve done this season before Harper would.
So you see – declaring Bryce Harper the shoo-in for National League Rookie of the Year as well as the best player in the game today is quite preposterous. Harper isn’t even the best rookie in the National League, let alone the best player in the game today.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe that Harper will be a great player one day – but that day is not today.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Off to a strong start

So WAS is off to a 9-3 start and leading the NL East. They have the best pitching staff in the majors leading in ERA, Quality Starts, and Batting Average Against. While they are 2nd in OBP, they are struggling in SLG% and middle-of-the-pack in Batting Average.

Individually, Jayson Werth is on a tear hitting .362 through his first 12 games, and Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond are both also over .300 on the season. Strasburg has 19K in 19IP, Zimmermann has a 1.29ERA, Gonzalez has 21K in 17.2IP and even Jackson has 15K in 14IP with a 2.54 ERA.

Not all the news has been great so far. Mike Morse is injured and out for 6-8 weeks, seeing him personally on rehab assignment, it's good news there was a setback because he looked terrible trying to rush back against AA pitching. Ankiel was activated this week which should add a little extra pop to the lineup in the OF, and once Zimmerman warms up the lineup should come around. The bullpen looks very deep and is getting some stellar performances so far, but hasn't been tested much as the starters have been so great. All of this, and Lannan, who has requested a trade is still sitting in AAA and could either bring some pop to the offense, or provide injury protection.

This team is built to surprise people, and judging by the people hopping on the bandwagon, it's working.

Friday, March 9, 2012

News and Notes

The Nationals are the trendy pick to make the playoffs these days. Odds-makers in Vegas have been improving their odds for weeks, national writers are choosing them for wild-card spots as I have been for a few weeks now. It's almost setting them up to fail, but that is probably just my pessimistic view brought on by being an Orioles fan for the past 14 years. Now that spring training has started, what are some story lines to follow for the next 3 weeks?

Will Harper make the opening day roster?

It's no secret that D. Johnson would like to see the wunderkid break camp with the big league team, but I'm sure he wants him to EARN his way on the squad as well. While many teams believe in delaying ML debuts to save the team money and control of players, Harper making the ML team out of camp would be setting him up to be a 25 year old UFA and quite possibly in line for the biggest contract in MLB history if the hype holds true. Purists will say at 19 he can't be ready for the emotional responsibility that comes along with being a professional athlete, time will tell.

What order will the rotation follow?

Will Johnson mix left and right handers to keep teams off balance? Truth is, this only matters for the first couple weeks of the season when the 5th starter won't get as much of a workload, and Strasburg, Zimmermann, Jackson and Gonzalez will all be getting their starts. Rumors of a potential trade of John Lannan persist through camp, and one could argue that he would be of more use turned into prospects than as a $5m swing starter out of the pen, although with questions around Wang, and injuries in baseball, a smart team would hold on to him if they are going to challenge for the playoffs

Will everyone stay healthy?

This is a question no one can answer, a little luck is always a good thing and this may be one of the more important keys to the season. So far, top prospect Sammy Solis has gone down for the year with TJ surgery, but hopefully with a healthy year we can see the results of good drafting and smart moves made over the past couple years.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Taking a look at the bullpen

Candidates for the Nationals bullpen this season (barring injuries) look like:

Name: Throws: 2011 Stats:
Sean Burnett: L 56.2 IP 15 HLD 33K 3.81 ERA
Tyler Clippard: R 88.1 IP 38 HLD 104K 1.83ERA
Ross Detwiler: L 66.0IP 5QS 1HLD 41K 3.00ERA
Cole Kimball: R 14.0IP 0HLD 11K 1.93ERA
Brad Lidge: R 19.1IP 8HLD 1SV 23K 1.40ERA
Drew Storen: R 75.1 IP 43SV 74K 2.75ERA
Craig Stammen: R 10.1IP 1HLD 12K 0.87ERA
Yunesky Maya: R 32.3IP 1QS 15K 5.23ERA
Ryan Mattheus: R 32.0IP 8HLD 12K 2.81ERA
Tom Gorzellany: L 105IP 6QS 4HLD 95K 4.03ERA
John Lannan: L 184.2IP 16QS 106K 3.70ERA
Chen-Ming Wang: R 62.1IP 4QS 25K 4.04ERA
Henry Rodriquez: R 65.2IP 10HLD 2 SV 70K 3.56ERA

Early in the season when pitchers are still being stretched out, it's more common to see teams keep a short bench and an extra guy in the pen to start the season, but until the 5th starter is needed you may see both Wang and Lannan pitch out of the pen the first week or so taking care of that need. Spring Training will probably decide whether Johnson feels like he needs a deeper bench or a deeper pen to start the season.

The fact that Lannan, Gorzellany, Detwiler and Burnett are the only LH in the competition could work against Lannan in the 5th starter competition. If Detwiler is sent to AAA to start the season, that creates more of a need for a LHP versus a RHP in the pen, so if things are fairly even between Wang and Lannan, Lannan could end up in the pen out of concerns for balance.

Storen established himself as quite a young closer last season, but when Lidge is healthy he's one of the best in the game. This could turn into a 2-headed closing monster before long. The Nationals came dangerously close to dealing Storen this offseason for a CF, so maybe they aren't as confident in them as they should be, but either way those two should start at the back of the pen in some form. After that Clippard and Burnett should be 1-inning options for the 7th/8th area as a R and L option.

There are 12 men in the mix for an 8 or 9 man BP (my guess is 8) which means that 4 guys aren't going to make the opening day roster. Detwiler could be sent to AAA to be a starter, which means that 3 more out of Rodriguez, Kimball, Mattheus, Maya, and Stammen are probably headed to AAA. Overall, it's one of the more solid BP in baseball as is, with 2 solid closing options (Lidge, Storen), two established set up men both R and L (Clippard, Burnett), and a couple guys who could be 3rd starters on some teams in the long roles (Lannan, Wang).

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Future Is Now

Since Les Expos moved to DC, the fan-base that has been alienated by one of the worst owners in sports 40 miles away (Baltimore) has been waiting for the losing years to give way to promise and growth. It looks like the wait is over...

The Edwin Jackson FA watch was nearing an end, with him supposedly weighing a one-year offer from BOS, a multi-year offer from BAL, and two possible other multi-year offers. Then comes the news that's he's agreed to a one-year deal, and people start typing the headline Jackson to WHAT? He took a one-year deal, but in WAS??? Were they even looking for another pitcher with Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Lannan and Wang penciled into the rotation?? Well, now they've got 6 legit starters for 5 spots because they did indeed swoop in and sign Edwin Jackson to a one-year $8M deal on Thursday.

The rotation was already looking really good with a tough 1-2-3 punch, young and controllable, but now adding a 28 year old who has been around the league and has put up a sub-4.0 ERA splitting time between CHW and STL. Last year, in fact, the Cards don't win the WS without Jackson getting them there. Jackson has always been a little hit or miss, he will strike out 10, but walk 6 in the process, as illustrated by his no-hitter in 2010 while walking 8. A one year contract in a pitchers park for an up and coming young team is a good way to draw attention before UFA, however there is always risk, such as injury or ineffectiveness that could end up costing him money.

I think that it's a good deal for him, and provided healthy, he's setting himself up for the $10m/yr contract he wants next offseason. He'd be a nice consolation prize to a team missing out on Cain, Grienke, Marcum, Moon, or the other starters available, but that is a lot of competition for money next year, so time will tell if this backfires.

With a rotation of Strasburg-Gonzalez-Zimmerman-Jackson-Lannan/Wang/Detwiler they look like they are ready to hang with anyone in the East. A lineup of Ramos, LaRoche, Espinosa, Desmond, Zimmerman, Morse, Werth and Harper could be good enough to make some noise, although there are still questions about if Harper is ready or not, I'd be surprised if he's not in the lineup by July.

By rolling out a promotion about taking back the park and not letting Phillies fans roll en masse into the stadium, it looks like the Nationals are ready to make some noise, but the two issues that plague all young teams are and development.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Nationals in the Outfield

No...this isn't a straight to dvd Disney sequel, it's an entry about the Nationals OF for 2012 and the issues it may pose. As of right now, the OF is looking like Jason Werth, a converted Catcher in CF, Michael Morse, a converted 1B in LF, and either Bryce Harper, a converted Catcher in RF, or Roger Bernadina who was brutal in CF and would just be a stop gap until Bryce is ready.

An outfield made up entirely of Catchers and First Basemen with a rather spacious OF area doesn't sound like the greatest formula for saving runs. The offensive implications are rather nice, if Werth can bounce back and have a normal year, combined with a young slugging 1B who if not for a decent contract for LaRoche would be the starter there, and possibly the best offensive prospect in the game in the same OF has some real potential.

According to Rtot (BBREF DEF metrics) Werth has been an above avg. defensive CF for his career including more than usual in WAS last year. Bernadina has been pretty bad in CF, but has done well in the corners, LF more than RF because he doesn't have the arm you'd like to see out there, a tad below average. His Rtot numbers are off the chart for LF, good for RF and not good for CF. Morse is interesting because has been right about avg. at 1B before last year and then was pretty bad last year when he had his most playing time there. In LF he wasn't any better, and he looks like he would be the guy that would be moved to DH if this were the AL. Hiding him in LF is made harder when you don't have great OF in Center and Right that you can shift over. It's a bit too early to get a good read on Harper since advanced metrics really aren't kept on minor leaguers, but his .960 fielding % and 8 errors isn't really encouraging.

All things considered, this is a situation that requires more watching as the Nats have been feeling out trades for CF all offseason, and Werth should in theory be more of an asset in RF than in CF, with him in RF and a better defensive CF out there you can cheat players over towards LF saving some of the exposure that Morse leaves you with in order to get his 30HR in the lineup.

Possible solutions:

Cespedes, OF - DR: He was granted FA this past week, and it's open season for the cuban export. He is viewed by some, including members of the Nats FO that think he's more of a corner OF than a CF. That might explain the shifting of Werth to CF, but it's hard to tell at this point.

Adam Jones, OF - BAL: Questions about his true intentions of extending in Baltimore have been hanging around for a year now, and with him a few years out from FA, his value could be at it's highest. A good mix of offense and defense could be exactly what WAS needs, but do they have the pieces to go get him? Rendon could make things work, but he can't be dealt until the summer.

A spring training casualty. Every year guys get cut, maybe someone will show up on the scrap heap that could help, but the odds aren't great for that one.

While it's not exactly a glaring black hole, this is definitely a position that the Nats can upgrade in. A midseason trade is likely, depending on the advancement of both Rendon and Harper.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Top 10 least according to me.

Everyone and their brother has a top 10 prospects list these days, so while I was going to NOT do one in protest, my fondness for scouting and development got the best of me and I gave in. Well that, and Christmas is this weekend, so this was an easy one to write giving me more time to focus on holiday preparedness. I'm sure no one wants to hear about shopping, wrapping, and travel logistics though, so lets get to the meat and potatoes.

Nationals 2012 Top 10 Prospects:

1. Bryce Harper -RF: Duh. I mean if you don't know who this guy is, the rest of this blog isn't going to make much sense. He's got a strong arm, he's young (just turned 19 in October), already in AA and oh yeah, has the power for 500+ feet HR. Ladies and gentleman, the number one prospect in all of baseball.

2. Anthony Rendon - 3B: Yep, you read that right, 3B. The consensus was that WAS would move him to 2B to get him ready for a quick assent and playing in the same infield as team cornerstone, and all-star Ryan Zimmerman. However, this offseason the team announced it would play him at 3B for now and handle the problem when it arises. Reading between the lines it sounds like it plans on moving either Zimmerman or Rendon before he would get to the big-leagues, but that could just be speculation. Rendon has a strong arm, and good footwork over at 3B, enough where he could also be a great defensive 3B. His bat was the best in college and isn't far off from being ready. He's got the fastest wrists I've ever seen, and generates a lot of power from there. He will probably start in high-A, but a promotion to AA shouldn't be far behind.

AJ Cole - SP: Traded

Brad Peacock - SP: Traded

3. Brian Goodwin - OF: He's a bit of a tweener for me that got bumped up do to the trade. Not a pure speedster, but can run ok. Has some power potential, but probably not a masher. Pretty good defensively, but there are questions of if he has the speed and range to play CF or if he has to settle into a corner spot, seems like more of a LF to me. Still fairly raw and has some ceiling left to reach. If things click, he could be a solid LF, if they don't he's a borderline 4th OF/AAAA player.

4. Alex Meyer - SP: Was rumored to go in the top 10 for a good chunk of the season, but slipped to WAS at #23. Has a plus FB that sits around 95mph and a nasty power slider. Also has a changeup that is still a work in progress, but he throws it around 79mph and the near 15mph difference makes it more effective. Has some command issues, so that could be the decision maker of how effective Meyer will be, but there's some real potential there.

5. Matt Purke - SP: He is the big wild card here, a guy that was projected to be in the top 5 draft picks for a long time, if not #1 overall. Concerns with his mechanics, followed by injury led to him dropping like a rock and the Nats scooping him in the mid rounds. He came back healthy and then was rocked in the AFL , but just hoping that was rust, and he'll be fine in the spring. If he gets back to what he should be, he will be a top prospect in no time.

Derek Norris - C: Traded

6. Sammy Solis - SP: A teammate of Brian Matusz in college, he reminds me a bit of him as well. A low-90s FB, with a knuckle-curve, cutter, and a plus changeup with good movement it's easy to make the comparison.

Tom Milone - SP: Traded

7. Steve Lambardozzi - 2B: Solid gamer, reminds of Brian Roberts. Doesn't have super speed but steals a lot of bases due to good technique and base running skills. Has a little bit of pop, low-mid teens power and should hit a good amount of doubles. Good eye for contact, will hit near .300. Got a cup of coffee in the ML last year, but should be given a shot to compete with Espinosa in the spring, at worst looks to be a very solid backup.

8. Destin Hood - OF: Has been in the organization for a few years now, and although loaded with raw talent, it hadn't broken through...until this year. Hitting 13 HR and stealing 21 bases is a great start, but more encouragingly he dropped his K-rate by 5% last year. AA looks like the next stop, and it being the make or break stage for most prospects, it will be a telling year.

9. Eury Perez - OF: A pure speedster, every team has one. If he can increase his contact at the plate and get on base a little more he could be a weapon. Big difference between being Kimera Bartee or Michael Bourn though.

10. Matt Skole - 3B: I am higher on Skole than most, with concerns about his ability to make contact at higher levels, but I'm a believer in the power, and he reminds me a bit of Chris Davis in BAL. Dozens of prospects like this in the minors, and most don't make it, but since 4 players were knocked off the list, and I needed someone to fill in here, I'll just go with him and hope he makes the adjustments he needs this year to put it all together.

Prospects to watch:

Rick Hague - INF
Chris Marrero - 1B
Cole Kimball - RP

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hunting a Prince?

As suitors for Prince Fielder are dropping out left and right for various reasons, it's starting to look like the Nationals might be one of the last teams standing by default. The NYY made some major moves to upgrade the rotation yesterday, and the big news that slid under the radar is that they are on a hard budget number that had to have special approval in order to sign Kuroda before they moved salary to pay for him. That takes them out of the mix (not that they were ever REALLY in it) for Fielder completely. The Red Sox have Gonzo, Youkilis and Ortiz at 1B/3B/DH already, so they are probably not in, and they have moves to make on the pitching end they haven't made yet.
CHC is looking to go younger and traded for A. Rizzo this week, without a DH, they don't have a place for Prince either if you follow the logic that you don't trade for a young ML ready player and then not play him. TEX still has to sign Darvish to a monster contract, and I'm not sure that they want to go on a spending spree like the Angels, but they are in the mix a bit.

As for the teams still IN the mix, SEA has long been rumored to be the front runner, but hasn't shown the willingness to get the deal done. Now with trading Pineda for Montero who looks to have to be a 1B/DH, it seems to be sending signals that it's out on Fielder, that is a LOT to give up for a young hitter, if you were about to sign a guy that plays the same position. TOR has been mentioned as being on the fringe of things for months, but there are rumors that they would rather save their money for a run at Canadian Joey Votto in 2 years instead. BAL has been mentioned because of the glaring hole at 1B they have, but most people seriously doubt that the team would pony up that kind of money to anyone since Angelos has become gun-shy. If his price comes down a bit, the O's could get in the mix, but it's a long shot after so many years of doing nothing in Baltimore.

With Spring Training set to start in a month, many people are baffled that Fielder still doesn't have a team, but there are so many issues with Prince that Boras is having a hard time working his usual magic. There just isn't going to be a bidding war for him at the price he's looking for. We could be looking at one of those rare instances where Boras doesn't get what he wants.

That brings us to the Nats. Word is that Morse is heading out to LF regardless of what happens in other places on the roster, with LaRoche at 1B. The hang up is that means LaRoche is dead salary since he can't play another position, and you might already have defensive issues with Werth going to CF this season (if they can't find another option), so you can't experiment with LaRoche in RF in addition to Werth in CF, and Morse in LF. You would have an OF with ZERO natural OF in it, that could be an issue in spacious Nationals Park. If you can get past all that, maybe Fielder makes some sense here. He's the type of player that puts WAS up in the division race for sure. A batting lineup with Harper-Fielder-Werth-Morse-Zimmerman in it isn't too shabby, and with the SP rotation looking very good right now, the Nats on paper could compete with anyone.

There is much to be seen, but I feel like the Nats have one more move in them at some level, and with 31 days to go before ST, it could happen at anytime now.