Nats Top Prospect Update

June 28, 2012

The minor league season is well under way, and the major league club has been so good we haven’t had to look longily to the minor league system waiting for guys to come up. But those guys are there, so let’s catch up with the prospects that make Baseball Prospectus’ Top 11 Prospects report for the Nationals, written by Kevin Goldstein.

1. Bryce Harper

Heard of this guy? His numbers didn’t look great in 20 games in the minors this year, but that didn’t matter. Injuries hit the Nats outfield pretty hard as they lost their two corner outfielders in the first month, and Harper was squaring up on the ball well enough to convince Rizzo to call him up. It was not a mistake. Harper is currently hitting .281/.358/.483, his OPS ranks #13 among NL outfielders, and is second best on the Nationals, just behind LaRoche.

2. Anthony Rendon

Considered to be the best hitter in the organization, he was skipped over in the draft by a few teams due to injury concerns, and he only played in 2 games before breaking his ankle rounding the bases. Ankle injuries were an issue in college, and while this one isn’t serious (he’s expected to be back in July) it the concerns  about his ability to stay healthy enough to ever succeed certainly are. This injury serves to quiet down those making noise for him to try his hand at second base.

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Nats and the OBP Decline

June 26, 2012

The Nats are finishing up a relatively strong month, despite starting off a road trip 1-3, and remain in first place in the NL East by a healthy 3 1/2 games (it’s the biggest lead in the majors at the moment). But all is not well in DC, as this has been almost solely on the strength of pitching and defense, while the offense has been quite lacking. Last night’s 2 run loss in Colorado seemed to stir up emotions about how it is a microcosm of poor offense.

This is silly, nobody would have mentioned the offense if Roger Bernadina‘s liner had been hit about 5 more feet towards CF. One game just isn’t enough to tell you what any team is about. Texas leads the world in runs scored, they play in what Baseball Reference indicates is the best hitter’s park in the AL over the last three years, yet they only scored two runs last night against Rick Porcello, who entered the game with a 4.95 ERA… Oh my god, Texas can’t hit!

The Nats, on the other hand, have more going on than just one bad game, and it’s ridiculous to talk about one game like it means more than one game. It makes more sense to look at all the games, and when you do that, well, the Nats REALLY make the case that they aren’t performing. Here is what the team’s On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage have done this season, relative to today’s league average (click to enlarge):

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Bad Weekend, Good Month

June 25, 2012

The Nats had a bit of a rough weekend, losing to their alleged “rivals” the Baltimore Orioles in 2 out of 3 games. And they had a shot to win it until Sean Burnett, who had basically been perfect this year (2 saves, 19 holds, 0 losses, 3 ER) got his first loss after a 2-1 defeat. So the last weekend certainly could have gone better. The last month, on the other hand, could have gone much worse.

On May 21st they had just finished up a series loss against Baltimore again, and we spoke about their upcoming schedule on the podcast. They were about to go up against a month’s worth of teams with winning records, starting with Philly (who was over .500 when the series began) and we said at the end we’d have a much better idea of how this team was going to fare. Well that month is over, and the Nats certainly seem to be for real.

They took 5/6 from Philly and Atlanta, got swept by Miami, split a 2 game series with Atlanta, took a series with the Mets, swept Boston and Toronto in Boston and Toronto, came home and got swept by the Yankees, beat Tampa and lost 2/3 to Baltimore. They went 17-12 since the start of that series against Philly, and had a series record of 6-3-1. Every team that they played had winning records when they played them, and only Miami and Philly are below .500 today.

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Is There an Offense Here?

June 21, 2012

Despite this team’s record – and 39-27 isn’t just a good record, it’s 4th best in major league baseball and enough for 1st place in the NL East – the offense has looked pretty bad this year. It’s kind of remarkable, the pitching and defense have been so strong, that after the first month of the season when everyone was complaining about the lack of offense, the clamor about it has died down. It’s still bad, although it might not be as bad as you think.

Besides ranking 12th in the NL in runs scored per game, the individual numbers look awful. Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .226/.296/.317, a powerless display that has only gotten worse since returning from injury. Mike Morse came back from injury to contribute a paltry .219/.250/.328 so far this year. Jesus Flores, a backup catcher pressed into starting duty, is only hitting .236/.283/.339. And even Ian Desmond, despite impressive power, has an OBP of .289. That’s 4 out of 8 starting positing players with On Base Percentages lower than .300. And .300 isn’t exactly an OBP mark to strive for, even Danny Espinosa‘s .227/.312/.373 shows too little power to brush off an unimpressive on base.

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The Nationals Review Podcast Episode 8

June 20, 2012

Colm and Charlie bring you Nationals Review Episode 8

On this episode they discuss:

  • 3 sweeps (2 good, one bad)
  • Lidge, Other DFAs?
  • Maxwell and Bixler in Houston
  • Clemens/Steroids
  • All Star Vote

The DFA Express… Just Getting Going?

June 18, 2012

It was certainly a worthy attempt to add to the bullpen. Brad Lidge, a former closer who had pitched well in limited time last year, seemed like he could be a good addition. He wasn’t just any former closer, he was one who had been great, then got famously rattled after a crushing playoff loss thanks to an Albert Pujols home run, and then turned his career around with 3 more impressive seasons. And in the midst of those 3 was another horrendous one. But throughout the time there were strikeouts, always. Even in his last 2 seasons in Philly – 75 Ks in 65 IPs.

So he had something to teach the young bullpen about overcoming adversity with sheer talent, trusting your stuff, and not letting one bad outing (or season) get you to lose your confidence. Because he had done that, but had come back. So I don’t fault Mike Rizzo for trying him out, and early on, he seemed alright. April resulted in a poor ERA, but that was on the basis of 2 bad out of 7 outings. And he was still striking out a batter an inning. But he walked guys more than ever, then he got hurt, and coming back he looked worse. It didn’t seem that a few blips in April would be evened out by the end of the year anymore, it seemed like they were going to happen more and more.

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Nationals Memes

June 8, 2012

I’m gonna be on vacation next week, so rather than have a dated post in the front of the site, I came up with a couple of internet Meme’s for the Nats. I used this website to make them, and that’s where I got the names for the memes that are in parenthesis. If you’ve got moar, please feel free to add to comments.

Henry Rodriguez (Futurama Fry):

Ankiel Meme (Boromir- based on his line “One does not simply walk into Mordor”):

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The Nationals Review Podcast Episode 7

June 6, 2012

This episode,  Nationals Review Episode 7, Charlie & Colm talk:

  • Draft – Luc Giolito and the rest
  • Tuesday night’s win – Desmond and Harper
  • Harper’s hot hitting
  • Nats in the All Star Game (Harper?)
  • Return of Morse
  • Espinosa’s last month

Nats First Pick in 2012 Draft – Luc Giolito

June 4, 2012

The Nationals surprised everyone by taking Luc Giolito, a high school pitcher with ace upside. He’s a 6’6″ righty who can hit 100 mph, but he had to shut it down in March due to an elbow injury. Perhaps the Nats history with Strasburg and Zimmermann makes them believe even if he needs a year off for surgery, they’ll still get their money’s worth, although hopefully it won’t come to that.

He impressed everyone until the injury, thanks to has mid to high-90s fastball and a strong curveball. His command is good as well, and as a total package he does project as a potential ace. Keith Law said of Giolito

Had he been healthy all spring, he would probably have been my No. 1 overall player. If the doctors clear him, he could be excellent value in the pick 6-15 range as perhaps the only pitcher in this draft who has true No. 1 starter upside.

Kevin Goldsten felt equally strong about his potential

Among the best high school righties in recent memory, as he has everything scouts look for… much more than just a pure arm, as many teams also saw his power curveball as one of if not the best breaking ball in the draft.

There is, to reiterate, no doubts about his talent. But the elbow injury probably scared quite a few teams away. So did signability, as he did commit to UCLA. If he ends up going there and is healthy (and as good as people think) he’d come out as an overall number one pick. But that couldn’t be for another three years, and Kevin Goldstein is our guide once again

Hopefully that will assuage all of our fears, of course, if he signs it’ll probably be 10 minutes to the deadline so we’ll have some time yet to sweat it out. Goldstein didn’t say whether or not he liked the pick over Twitter, but commented that he has insane upside. Keith Law was more direct:

So once again, the people who know about scouting are pretty darn excited about what the Nats did. I personally really like this pick. There is no reason to pick for need ever in baseball, but especially when you are already a contender. It doesn’t make send for the Nats to draft someone who likely won’t be in the lineup for a couple of seasons at minium to fill a need when they’re trying to win it now. So another great pitcher despite the dominance of this staff? Absolutely!

I appreciate what they’re doing here, and they probably felt they couldn’t resist this level of talent when it fell to them. Its another year and another guy who truly has the potential to be the best player in the draft. But don’t take my word for it, here’s what Baseball America’s prospect guru Jim Callis said on MLB Network last night:

If you’re talking about a guy in this draft who has the highest upside of any pitcher… it could be Giolito… Huge upside. What amazes me is you’re talking 4 drafts in a row now, just by circumstances and where they picked and how the draft’s fallen, they got Stephen Strasburg, the best pitching prospect in the history of the draft, next year you got Bryce Harper, the best power prospect in the history of the draft, last year picking 6th they got the best hitter in last year’s draft in Anthony Rendon, and this year picking 16 they may have gotten the highest ceiling in the draft. That’s unbelievable. If he stays healthy, that’s an unbelievable 4 year run for the Nationals.

Now we just gotta figure out what to call him. Because we’ve already got a Gio. And it’s very nice.


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