Introducing Your 2012 Washington Nationals

September 24, 2007

With the playoff races heating up, and the Nats getting ready to cool down, I figure it’s time to look to the future, the year 2012. By then the Nats should be winning theConan Y2Kir second or third NL pennant and on their way to winning World Series. 5 years from now, the team should look pretty different. And smart trades as well as free agent pickups will hopefully be part of this teams’ plans for the future. But let’s take a look inside the organization to see who would most likely play in each position from within the system. So, knowing that the Nats are probably going to sign ARod to play SS and Johan to pitch, let’s try this anyway:

The Position Players

C – Jesus Flores – Brian Schneider’s bat has disappeared, he’ll be 35 in 2012 which is ancient for catchers, especially those who can’t hit at 30. Meanwhile, Flores, at only 22, has already shown some power, plate discipline, and the ability to really rake against lefties. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s there since he doesn’t play enough, but he projects to at least be able to carry the necessary offense to catch full time.

1B – Josh Whitesell – Whitesell is a semi-default guy here as Dmitri Young may not be ambulatory and Nick Johnson’s contract ends next season. I’d be surprised if the Nats, who dealt without Nick for 1/3 of his contract already, are the ones to take the chance on him. Whitesell has never been seen as a superstar, but he has produced most seasons. The positive about Whitesell – he hit .285/.425/.512 in a full season of AA this year. The negative is that he’s 25 already. It’s not ancient for a AA guy, but he’s got about 2 seasons to be on this roster before he is too old to be called a prospect. His OBP-AVG is over .100 which means he has incredible plate discipline and often predicts significantly increased power as players with that kind of vision learn more than what pitches to lay off, they learn what pitches they can smack.

2B – Stephen King – I’m not saying Felipe Lopez won’t be on this team in 5 years. He may recover and hit like he did in Cinci. But the fact is right now he doesn’t hit like a corner infielder and he doesn’t field like a middle infielder. He is a great stopgap, a good hitter to have on your bench, but maybe not worth building around. King is SS who has hit in rookie ball this year, and at 19 he has time to prove himself. He has a good amount of power and is regarded as a good enough hitter to possibly move to 3B or OF. But we’re not buying that move, the farm system is lacking in 2B, so put the King of Horror here. Some potential other guys are Ian Desmond (who is also a SS) or Leonard Davis.

SS – Esmailyn Gonzalez - No offense to Christian Guzman, but I have a tough time imagining him starting in 2 years, so 5 is out of the question for me. Switch hitting Gonzalez didn’t hit in rookie ball this season. But he is apparently an amazing fielder who can switch hit and someone the organization thinks will have some power, too. And at 17, 2012 may be his first full season. If he doesn’t pan out, Desmond or King may be here.

3B – Ryan Zimmerman – Hopefully, this is the easiest one to predict. If he isn’t playing there may be some serious anger among fans. In 2012 he’ll be up to a whopping 27 years old. In other words, just entering the prime of a major league hitter’s career. It’s exciting to think of him possibly improving every year for the next 5 – 7.

LF – Wily Mo Pena – He needs to be re-signed but I can’t imagine someone liking him more than Bowden, so I’m guessing that is offseason priority #1. The more I see him, the more I like him, too. People tend to forget that although he’s played in the better part of 5 seasons, plus a little in a 6th, he’s only 25 right now. His power is there, and so are his strikeouts. His walks aren’t. But despite that, he’s was an above average OF hitter in a couple of seasons already, especially if you only count his time in DC for ’07. Of course, we aren’t allowed to be so selective. The fact is, this guy is still pretty young, and has a career average around .260 with an ISO of .215. He is a very promising player with a high ceiling as a real slugger.

CF – Justin Maxwell – I had some trouble with this one. Keith Law of ESPN said hiMaxwell’s Slams .263/.333/.491 “was pretty bad in high-A as a 24-year-old. The odds are long that he’ll ever be a productive big leaguer.” Yikes. But Baseball Prospectus gave him an honorable mention in their list of top CF prospects. They call him “The best athlete in the Nats’ system,” most likely because he is a Terp alum. He did hit 24 HRs and had 34 SBs this season in the minors, and he has already tied Nook Logan for career HRs in the majors. That graniose slam was nice, too. Some other options here are Edgardo Baez, Mike Daniel, and the flying Dutchman Rogearvin Bernadina.

I wanted to add a comment from Baseball America’s Jim Callis in an ESPN chat on Wed 9/26:

” Age does matter, but you have to look at the context. Maxwell has had a series of injuries that held him back, so that’s why he spent most of the year in Class A at age 23. He has a lot of tools and would have been a possible first-round pick coming out of Maryland if not for injuries. He’s legit.”

RF – Chris Marrerro – The much talked about prospect for this team is going to be so old by then: 23. But if his talent is there, he should be in the majors by 2012. Again, he’s only 18 and while he didn’t do as well in high-A this season, he has improved plate discipline, exhibited good power and has time on his side. He will be watched closely and hopefully not rushed, but this team’s best hitting prospect should be there eventually.

The Pitchers

SP – Shawn Hill – If he can stay healthy, he’s a real asset to any team. His numbers this year speak for themselves.

SP – Matt Chico – He is still young, and showed flashes of brilliance this year. He needs to make sure his mechanics allow for consistency, but he’s already shown he can handle major league hitters. He’s was projected to be a back-of-the rotation starter, but you need those, too. And despite struggles this season, he already looks better than that.

SP – Collin Balester – The surfer dude probably needCollins a little more seasoning in the minors, in AAA this season, he has been only ok, with a 4.18 ERA. But don’t get too hung up on the numbers, as he is most likely going through all kinds of tweaks to his delivery. He’s only 21, has already seen some success all over the minor league map, and Baseball America has said that he could be a #1 pitcher in the future.

SP – Colton Willems – Baseball America considered him the #2 pitcher in the system last season, with the best fastball. He held low-A hitters down with an ERA of 1.84 and he has serious stuff, he needs to fix his other pitches and get his walks down. A fireballer with control problems? Unbelievable!

SP – Ross Detwiler – Their top pick from this year’s draft is on the team now, so after being shoved back down, he’ll be up by then.

Closer – Carlos Peralta – Sorry to Cordero. If he’s still closing here in 5 years, I’d be pleasantly surprised because sucky closers don’t last, and good ones often get traded on teams like this. Peralta, a 21-year-old, performed exceptionally well in rookie ball this year. 42 Ks to 15 BB, an ERA of 1.72 and a WHIP of 0.99, along with 15 saves and a 4-1 record gives him the nod at the position. They have another possible closer in Josh Wilkie, who has alot of K’s but his numbers just couldn’t compare to Peralta’s.

Let’s not forget about…

Kory Casto – We saw him struggle at the plate in a Nats uniform, and he didn’t fare well in AAA this season. But he is still considered one of the team’s top prospects, has hit at every level prior to this season, and has a great eye. Look for a bounce back year and another trip up to the show in 2008.

Jake Smolinski – Considered one of the steals of this year’s draft – because he signed and didn’t go to college – the Nats may be forced to stick this guy somewhere in the lineup. Probably will end up in the OF, but he can play some infield, too. He hit just over .300 in rookie league this season and he is just 18.

Micheal Burgess – This guy is the real power prospect in the system. He’s just 18, and managed to hit .336/442/.617 in rookies league, so they promoted him to the low-A club where he hit .286/.383/.457, pretty impressive for his age. Of course people say he has a propensity to swing an miss, which may hold him back. 60 Ks in 55 games (198 ABs) indicates that is an accurate statement.

Glenn Gibson – A starting pitcher who had a 3.10 ERA in low-A, he’ll move up quickly enough. His Dad pitched in the major, which usually means he’s got some real talent and was trained very well from a young age. He’s got lots of pitches, even if he fastball doesn’t scare anyone, and his periphals (58Ks/15BBs this year) show he uses them well.

One thing you may have noticed is the lack of position players that are on the current roster. Maybe it is a souring opinion after this season of offensive woes, but I’m not sure if anyone playing now other than Zimmerman is really the answer. I have said before and I’ll repeat – Kearns and Church could put up some offense. If either of them do, I’d figure they could still be here in 2012, but again, this is all for fun, and after watching them this season, there is little fun in imaging those guys on the team next season.

Finally

Is there anyone I’m leaving off of here? Let me know if there’s someone you think is in the farm system, or on the team right now, that might be in that core group of players in 5 years. And no free agents, so you can’t fill in Miguel Cabrera playing OF. Also, let everyone know what you think of the picks as they stand right now. Throw them in the comments below, be the first on your block!


Nats OF… so many spots, so little power

September 17, 2007

As we speak, the Nationals OF isn’t looking that pretty. Who deserves a spot next season? Austin Kearns, entering the prime of his career (27 years old) was supposed to hit about .275 with 25+ HRs. Instead, while his average isn’t bad (.263) and his OBP is decent (.348), he’ll be happy if he gets to 15 HRs. The last time he had an ISO under .200 was in 2004, when he was at .189. This year he’s sitting at .140. It’s not just a bad season, it’s his worst so far, by about .040 points. It’s simply not a competitive number for a starting RFer.

Moving right to left on TV screen, in CF, Nook Logan has effectively hit his way out of acceptability into the area of not-goodness we all expected. Great, he’s super fast. As the saying goes, you can run yourself into being a .250 hitter if you’re fast. What’s he got above that? Not much it seems. Despite starting hot, he’s now down to .264/.307/.341, which means he is barely getting on base, he hits with almost no power and his speed is wasted since he can’t get on enough to steal. He’s a valuable resource to have, with the speed and the glove, but he certainly hasn’t shown he’s earned a spot in the starting lineup.

And finally, in left field, former starter (?) Ryan Church‘s disappointing performance has been the topic of many discussions already. Suffice it to say, he hasn’t hit nearly as poorly as everyone has said. It’s not corner outfield outstanding, but .265/.341/.442 is not terrible. As a CF, this would make him one of the better ones (in terms of OPS) in the league. For LFers, it puts him squarely towards the bottom.

Then we move on to the much loved Wily Mo Pena, Wilhelm Moishe, WiMo, WiMax, Wily Coyote, etc etc. Definitely the player of the month on this team (.327/.373/.582 in September), despite having a reputation as an atrocious fielder, he has shown the kind of bat that keeps players in the lineup despite the occasional misplay. So far, in about 60 FEWER at bats, he has hit 3 more HRs as a National then as a Red Stocking. His ISO is a whopping .287 as a Nat. The righty only hit 1 HR in tiny Fenway, despite 92 PAs, while he’s already hit 2 in spacious RFK with only 40 PAs. Sure its only one more, but it may be a predictor of something more. He has also seem to have cut down on the strikeouts. He only has 26 with this team, projecting out to something like 140 in a full season. This is high, but better than rates he’s shown in the past. And it’s not comically high these days. Unfortunately, the exuberance for Wily may be of the irrational variety. He needs to do this over a longer stretch than a month, or even two. The kind of power he has shown, in a team with no real power hitters to speak of, should put him on the fast track to being the starting LFer next season.

So what to do with Kearns, Nook and Church? Well, logically it seems that Kearns and Church may benefit from moving outside of RFK. As I mentioned in a previous post, their home and away splits would be laughable… if they were on a different team. Since they’re on the Nats it just should fill you with melancholy. But hope springs eternal. Perhaps the new park will give more power from both of them. And neither had a horrendous season, there was enough there to be optimistic, albeit not enough to be excited. Nook, to paraphrase Denny Green, appears to be just what we thought he was. A new ballpark isn’t gonna help him. The scary thing is, if he sees closer fences, he may get even WORSE as he thinks he can hit the ball over them. He can’t, so he shouldn’t try. If I was managing this team, going to bat with the team I had, I’d put Pena in LF, Kearns in RF and Church in CF, because that’s the best I could go with. Then I’d cross my fingers and hope someone else appears in my roster for the spring. But that’s something I’ll talk about after the playoffs.

Shawn Hill and some other guys

Well, since I again talked about the OF situation, and I’m nothing if not repetitive, let me repeat something else. Shawn Hill is good at pitching. I’m not getting all crazy about it, he’s not gonna strike out 200 batters, but if he can stay healthy, he appears to be a top of the rotation guy. 63/24 Ks/BBs is pretty damn good, approaching 3/1 makes stats guys smile (4/1 is incredible and 5/1 is Johan). He hasn’t given up a lot of hits either, and his ERA has maintained it’s slim figure at 3.01. He’s a definite starter for next season, with Patterson falling into a black hole, if he can stay healthy he’s the best one the Nats have. I’d say he’s the only good one, but shockingly Tim Redding doesn’t allow for that. Because he’s been really good, too. Reddings peripherals are scary (in a bad way), an exact 1/1 K/BB ratio and a WHIP of 1.44 tells you that he isn’t killing guys out there. But those numbers are a little skewed by some really shaky starts, especially recently. If he can get back on track, he will be penciled in as a starter next season. Maybe O’Connor and Chico can round out the starters with a healthy dose of Bergmann, Lannan and Patterson (is there such thing as a healthy anything of Patterson) as #5. Detwiler is probably not ready to start, and relieving up in the majors is nice, but he’d probably learn more about his own pitches by having to turn a lineup over 3 times a game. So if he plays, he should start. If you don’t see him make all batters look foolish next spring, don’t expect to see him early next summer. Looking at the rotation, it needs to be healthy to be decent, but there is some talent there. Young talent, too, which should make Nats fans nervously optimistic.


WiMo’s response…

September 11, 2007

Wily Mo Pena, an avid reader of The Nationals Review (in my head, at least) responded to my comments by going 3 for 4 with 2 HRs. It raises his OPS to .890, ranking him #8 in the NL and #14 in the majors among the 300 PAs outfielders (of which he is not one). This just goes to show you, these numbers tend to wash out at the end of a full season, but playing less than 2 full months means that one really good or really bad day can make a big difference. Hopefully his stats in the NL as of Tuesday are more indicative of the future than his stats as of Monday…

WiMo


The only offensive thing this team has is the offense

September 10, 2007

The season is almost at an end. 3 weeks left, 19 games remaining. This team, supposed to be among the worst in history, needs only to go 6-13 to finish with the same record as last year. Chances are, they’ll do better. Where did this all come from? Certainly not the offense. As a team, they are sad, and we know that. But just how bad are they?

#29 in the league in HRs
#30 in Runs Scored
#27 in Hits
#23 in SB
#28 in OBP
#30 in SLG

So what do all of these disappointing stats tell us? Well, first of all, as anyone who watches the Nats, then watched any other team in the league knows, they can’t score. SO where are the big problems? Well right now, at 3B and 1B they are doing well. Zimm isn’t the top of the 3B class in the NL, he’s in the middle of the pack with things like OPS and RC. That isn’t great, but at 22 years old, improvement can be expected. Additionally, he was so awful at the beginning of the year, that he has been better than average over the last few months. At 1B, Young has been better than average for sure. He is at the top in AVG, and his OPS is #6 at the position. So at corner infield they are average to slightly above average in terms of offenseive production. At corner outfield, while Kearns and Church may seem to have not contributed, they have. Sort of. Out of OFers with 300 or more PAs, Church ranks #25 in the NL and Kearns ranks #36 in the NL for OPS. Throw the AL in there too and they are at #48 and #62. Neither is particularly great, but they are servicable. Let’s say average to just below average. Wily Mo, as the seeming Ryan Church replacement, has an OPS of .759 (and falling) in under 100 PAs in the NL. This puts him just above Kearns and is generous considering how poorly he hit in Boston. If the time in DC allowed him to be in the ranking, he’d rank #34 in the NL and #58 in the whole league. Also none to impressive.

The other positions, not so good. Despite what seem at first glance to be decent numbers, Belliard is ranked #11 out of 16 for OPS of NL second baseman, and it’s not like he has a great glove to make up for it. Guzman’s .850 OPS would have put him #4 among NL shortstops, instead Lopez ranks 15 out of the 17 in the NL with 300 or more PAs, and the 2 below him are Cesar Izturis and Omar Vizquel, who are both incredible fielders. Offense from Brian Schneider is as bad as Brad Ausmus, ranking just above him to come in at #14 in OPS in the NL. And finally, at CF, Nook Logan ranks #15 out of 17 who qualify. He does rank 6th among those guys in SBs, though.

So what’s happening? They have better than average corner infielders. And while both Zimmerman and Young are better than most every other hitter in the LEAGUE, they are only slightly better than other corner infielders (it’s hard on them, as we’re comparing them to Wright, Cabrera, Chipper, Pujols, Howard, Prince, etc, etc). At corner outfield, their starters are serviceable major leaguers, not that they shouldn’t be playing, their stats landing them somewhere between a low end starter or a 4th OFer. The rest of the starters are below average at offense and despite the presence of Logan, Zimmerman and Schnieder, this team isn’t exactly built around defense. What’s happened is that their good hitters are slightly above average for the position, and there’s really only two of them. The rest of the team are average at best, but mostly are just bad hitters that are below average. Hence the crappy cumulative numbers at the top of the post.

There are a couple of rays of hope in this offense as it currently stands. First is Christian Guzman. As scary as that is to say, he is a plus defender who ranked as one of the top SS in the league, in the tier below Hanley and Reyes. If he could do that next year (and all past stats suggest he can’t, but whatever) that would be a bug plus. Secondly, Jesus Flores, at only 22 years old, has an OPS of .702 which would rank him top 10 among NL catchers. Good signs from a young player in his first major league season. The third bit of hope is the new ballpark, one where hitters can see the fences without a telescope. While it spells trouble for home run prone Matt Chico (we’ll touch on this another time, I’m depressed enough here talking about the hitters), guys like Church and Kearns bothl are significantly better players away then at home. Church’s OPS split home/away is .747/.811 and Kearns is .691/.812. NONE of the rest of the starters have drastic splits like these, you can only hope it is both the physical and mental aspects of playing in RFK canyon, problems that should disappear next season.

Austin Kearns schmacking the ball


What to watch for with callups

September 4, 2007

Time for September call ups! For those who are new to the weird machinations of Major League baseball, you are forgiven. Teams have a 25 man active roster, plus a 15 man inactive roster that can be added to the 25 man roster at any time without having to do weird stuff with contracts. On September 1, those 15 extra spots get added to the regular roster. So you end up with a 40 man active roster. For most teams, it gives them a chance to bring up young talent to either a) help them in the playoff run or b) assuming there will be no playoff run, give guys real Major League experience. No need to guess which category the Nats are in.

Call ups since Sept 1 include Matt Chico, Winston Abreu, Ross Detwiler, Justin Maxwell, Ryan Langerhans, Jonathan Albaladejo and Arnie Munoz .

The guys we’ve seen

Chico, we know all about. When the 24 year old lefty was back down in the minors he pitched with mixed results. One game he looked very good, one he looked pretty bad. Which fits in well with his 2007 career. What’s important with him is that his mechanics are correct and he pitches to his ability. Winston Abreu is a middle reliever who isn’t young, has already spent some time with the club this year, and while he has given up too many runs in his career, he can strike people out. Meanwhile, he’s done great in the minors, a 1.20 ERA, 36 appearances, 20 walks with 82 strikeouts. Whatever he’s done down there, if he can come close to that with Washington, he’ll help bolster an already strong bullpen. Langerhans will continue his quest to have one of the worst offensive seasons in baseball history.

The guys we’ve heard about

On the other side of the call ups, there are the young’uns. The two big names are Detwiler Ross Detsand Maxwell. First up is the Nats’ first round pick from this year, Ross Detwiler. Detwiler has done ok in single-A baseball, a 3.51 ERA but with 12 walks and 28 RDetRDetstrikeouts in 33 /13 innings, his control has been decent but not spectacular. The 6’5″ lefty is one of the big names from this year and at 21 years old, will hopefully benefit from time spent in the bullpen with some real pitchers. If you have seen any Yankees games in the last month, phenom Joba Chamberlain always seems to be talking to Roger Clemens or Mariano Rivera about pitches, giving Yanks fans a warm and fuzzy feeling. While there isn’t that caliber of talent sitting around the Nats bench, conversations with vets like Redding, Cordero and King couldn’t hurt. On the other side of the ball Justin Maxwell is coming to show that Terp MLBers are more than just Eric Milton. Alright, he’ll probably play about as much as Detwiler this fall, but he is a 6’5″ righty who can hit for power. Baseball America lists him as the farm system’s best baserunner and best athlete. He destroyed low-A baseball, hitting .301/.389/.579 with 14 HRs in 56 games. After being promoted to high-A, he still hit well, but not as well. He hit 13 HRs in 58 games, but his splits dropped to .263/.338/.491. So his average dropped, but he still took walks and his ISO dropped from about .270 to about .230, which is still pretty good. An added bonus to the power is speed, he has stolen 35 bases over the year, making him 3 HRs away from being a 30-30 guy this season. He’s likely done with single-A, so we’ll see how he does a level or two up next season, but for now he might get a few pinch hit/pinch run appearances. Detwiler could definitely use some more time practicing, as could Maxwell before being exposed to any sort of major league baseball. But since the single-A season just ended, they aren’t missing any time at their level. You may not see much of them playing, but if you do, these guys are the alleged future of the franchise, so you may want to pay attention to their ability, while taking the results with a grain of salt.

And then 2 other guys

The other call ups are Jonathan Albaladejo and Arnie Munoz. Albaladejo is also listed at 6’5″, which makes me think the ruler is broken, how can everyone be that big? He isn’t so young at 25 and has pitched lights out in relief since coming to Columbus. 21 Ks, 7 BBs, and an ERA of 1.13 suggests he was ready to come up to the majors regardless of roster size. With that performance, he needs to be used over the next month. Munoz was also rewarded for a good season. He’s pitched all year in AAA with Columbus and compiled a 2.56 ERA, 46 Ks to 18 BBs, and he’s a lefty who has much better numbers against fellow lefties. Perhaps he will become the new lefty specialist since Ray King got traded today (thanks for the head up, Mike). So the big names probably won’t play too much, which is probably better for them, while the guys you may not have heard of should get a chance to show what they can contribute to a major league pitching staff.


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