What about these bench players?

February 26, 2013

Tyler Moore is a great player for the Nats to have. He is a bench player who had a .840 OPS with 10 HR in only 171 PAs last season. PECOTA actually predicts him to have 13 HRs next year in 251 PAs, which is a lower rate, but still works out pretty good for the playing time.

His projected numbers for 2013 don’t look bad, unless you compare them to his 2012 numbers. But I don’t think the projections of .248/.298/.477 is that crazy for him, considering what he did in the minors. Even if he’s slightly better than that, he’s not a starting caliber 1B or LF (unless you really believe in the 2012 #s), so he’s essentially a strong bench player.

Having a strong bench is important, especially in the face of injuries, but the question is how important. If the Yankees, after the injury to Granderson, panicked and offered Michael Pineda for Tyler Moore, would you take it? Obviously, the Yankees aren’t going to do that, I’m just using them as an example.

I want to reiterate – I don’t think Pineda for Tyler Moore or Michael Morse would ever happen. But the injury got the wheels turning. At what point does the strong bench give way to something better?

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5 Nationals on Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospects List

February 5, 2013

ESPN’s prospect guru Keith Law listed his Top 100 Minor League prospects today, and 5 Nats made the list. For a shallow farm system (ranked 21st by Law), the fact that there are so many high end guys is good, and a little surprising. So let’s see who he put here, and why:

#17 Anthony Rendon

This one isn’t too surprising, most places list Rendon as the team’s best prospect. The fact that he’s top 20 in the minors is nice, and he would be higher for certain if he wasn’t so damn fragile. But Law like his swing and his ability to hit for doubles, even if he doesn’t see him as a big HR guy. Rendon is 22, and hit .233/.363./.489 throughout the minors last year, finishing up in AA. He dominated the other leagues, but wasn’t great in AA, so he’ll start 2013 in Harrisburg.

#44 Brian Goodwin

Goodwin has been moving up prospect lists over the last few seasons, but to be a top 50 prospect… that’s impressive. Heck, he wasn’t even on Law’s list last year. Goodwin was highly regarded back in college but several factors caused him to slip out of the first round, and out of elite prospect status. Law says he has “plus-plus speed, quick bat, and surprising power” and using the Mike Cameron comparison (speed, defense, power… and strikeouts) that we’ve already seen for Goodwin. Goodwin is 22 and hit .280/.384/.469 in A+ and AA last year. Like Rendon, he wasn’t so spectacular in AA to force the Nats to promote him, so expect him in Harrisburg this spring as well. Road trip, anyone?

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Nationals Arizona Fall League Roundup

November 19, 2012

The first thing you must understand about AFL stats is that they have to be taken with a grain of salt. Teams don’t tend to send their best pitchers out there, because they’ve thrown enough innings during the regular season. You will get some good pitchers who were hurt, or perhaps signed late, but for the most part, pitching isn’t great. So hitting tends to be inflated. The small sample size also means a hot week can make your numbers look really really good. That being said, let’s take a look at what did happen

Anthony Rendon

Rendon was the most important member of the team out there, as he is predicted by many to be on the Major League club at some point in 2013. And he did very well, hitting .338/.436/.494 in 77 PAs. This was good enough for 11th best OPS in the league, and 8th best OBP. A little more troubling was his lack of power, hitting no home runs. Although his strength was never thought to be as a home run hitter, he’s gonna need to hit a few more than zero. More heartening, though is the 6 SBs (to 1 CS) he managed on his seemingly healthy legs/ankles.

Brian Goodwin

Goodwin didn’t start out great, but he did finish the short season hitting .238/.340/.475. Not a good average, a pretty low OBP for the league, but at least a good display of power. He hit 3 HRs and also managed 2 triples, and his .815 OPS put him 24th in the AFL.

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Brad Meyers Returns

October 31, 2012

Today the Yankees returned Rule 5 pick from the Nationals, Brad Meyers. In order to keep him, he had to be on the 25 man roster all year. Instead he was on the DL all year except for one rehab game in the minors. So the Nats got him back and he was optioned to Syracuse. If you remember, a few people were a little upset that they didn’t protect him by putting him on the 40 man (thus preventing any team from taking him in the Rule 5 draft), especially after the success he saw in 2009 and 2011. Let’s first take a look at what he did there.

In 2009, at age 23, after being in the minors for a year and a half (he pitched late in the summer he signed), he showed some real promise. He started out in High-A Potomac, and he succeeded, as most former college pitchers should. He also spent 1/3 of his season at AA, which is a much bigger challenge, and succeeded there as well. In 48 IP in AA, he struck out 43, only walked 11, and had a 2.25 ERA. His numbers in high-A were better than that, and he was named the Nats Minor League Pitch of the year. But he hurt his foot in the offseason, and didn’t start the season. He only was able to make 6 starts before re-injuring it (or realizing it wasn’t fixed, perhaps), but in those 6 starts he was very good – 35K/7BB in 30 2/3 IP with a 1.47 ERA.

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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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The Outfield Shuffle

April 30, 2012

When Bryce Harper was promoted from AAA this weekend, many people were surprised. After all, he had struggled to put up anything close to good numbers so far, and there were other players in Syracuse that were playing better. But after two games, he’s comported himself quite well, and while the numbers after two games should be irrelevent, his actions aren’t. He’s hit the ball hard and hasn’t looked anything like a 19 year old at the plate, while showing off a cannon for an arm. But before Harper’s recall, many thought that Tyler Moore, who’s already hit 7 HRs in AAA, was the one that would come up.

And so he did, a day later, when Mark DeRosa was sent to the DL. Moore is a 1B with little actual pro playing time anywhere else. And when I say little, that might insult the word little. In 436 minor league games, he’s played OF three times. I was doubtful that someone who scouts describe as unathletic could jump into LF immediately – not because I didn’t think he’d be ok there, but because he’s had no time there. But Amanda Comak assures us he’s practiced there plenty, so let’s assume he’s fine there. (Really, I’m ok with doing this). So the question that arises, now, is what is going to happen in the OF? Is Rick Ankiel consigned to a bench role? I don’t think so.

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Bryce Harper, RGIII Defeat Boston in OT Thriller, Advance to Second Round

April 27, 2012

Quite the week in DC sports. Not to be outdone by the Redskins drafting their possible franchise QB or the unimpressive all year Capitals winning a playoff series in game 7 OT against the defending champions, the Nationals, desperate for offense, are calling up Bryce Harper to make his Major League debut on April 28. Good way to finish a great sports week! I’ve gotta say, I didn’t pick this date in the office pool, but I don’t think many others did. In fact, may reaction was sort like this

“Oh, the Nats are going to call up someone to play LF? That’s cute, are they bringing in Brown or Moore, or maybe… whaaaaaAAAAAAAAA?!?!?”

Not to worry about service time, though. Harper has played enough in the minors to be a Super 2. That mean he’ll remain under team control through 2018. And that is the most important thing, that they keep him when he is much closer to his peak. Of course, that means they’ll have to pay him in arbitration an extra year, but that could be avoided by a contract extension. Personally, I think it’s a bit early for his debut. And I’m certainly not the only one who feels this way. He is starting to hit better in AAA, but he’s still not doing particularly well there. There are probably a couple of other guys (like the aforementioned Brown or Moore) who have a chance to hit more than him.

And that’s the big question – how will he hit? He’s obviously a great player, and calling him a future All Star is probably underselling him. But as a 19 year old, he’d be in rare company to actually have what we’d call a “good” season. Here’s what I wrote about this in February:

He’ll be 19 this year, and 19 year old superstars aren’t usually great yet. ARod spent some of his 19 year old season in the minors, and hit .232/.264/.408 in his 149 Major League PAs that year. Justin Upton hit .221/.283/.364 in his 152 PAs in the Majors at age 19. Ken Griffey, Jr. hit .264/.329/.420 when he was 19, pretty decent, although not at all Griffey-like, but that was after TWO seasons  in the minors.

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Nats Top 11 Prospects for 2012

January 24, 2012

Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein has released his Top 11 Prospects for the Nationals, for 2012. For the third year in a row, The Nats have two 5-star guys. The most important takeaway, perhaps, is that the supposed thinning of the system after the Gio Gonzalez trade may not have been that bad, especially with their strong 2011 draft. If you click the link, you’ll see this list:

Five-Star Prospects
1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B
Four-Star Prospects
3. Matt Purke, LHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. Brian Goodwin, OF
5. Alex Meyer, RHP
6. Destin Hood, OF
7. Michael Taylor, OF
8. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B
9. Robbie Ray, LHP
10. Sammy Solis, LHP
Two-Star Prospects
11. Tyler Moore, 1B

Then he gets into the review of each guy – which you can’t see. I’m not going to reproduce everything he says there, because I would like that website to keep making money and continue producing great stuff, so you can buy a subscription for that. But a few highlights for each guy, just because you may not have even heard of some of them.

Bryce Harper - You’ve heard of this guy, right? He’s got an “easy 80 raw power” but understands the strike zone enough to hit for average as well. Nothing you don’t know in here, although Goldstein does mention that if things go right, he could hit near .600 slugging. He’s also going to be only 19 this season.

Anthony Rendon - He’s a very good offensive player, with great plate discipline and a very quick bat. He’ll be able to hit, and should move very quickly through the minors. He’s also a great fielder at third base. But his ankle injuries have lead people to believe he might be injury prone – that thought and the fact that these injuries have hurt his speed probably hurts his chances to actually play 2B effectively, although that’s the dream scenario for Nats fans.

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A Center Fielder Appears

November 7, 2011

Out of nowhere, a center field prospect has emerged, and he looks to be quite the talent. Ok, maybe this whole thing’s not out of nowhere, but I certainly hadn’t heard of Yoenis Cespedes before today. And now, thanks to his strange video below, which shows him hitting some slow mo homers, about 10 seconds of fielding, and lots of core training, he is clearly on his way to a hall of fame career:

Yoenis Cespedes The Showcase

All kidding aside, he’s probably considered the best position player in Cuba. He’s 26 years old, and defected from Cuba to the Dominican Republic. He’s looking for a major league contract, and people are taking him seriously. While Kevin Goldstein has a great overview of the ridiculous video, he also mentions a few important points. Cespedes hit .333/.424/.667 with 33 HRs last year, all those threes further adding to his mystique. He scored 89 runs and stolen 11 bases (caught 4 times) in his 90 games played. Goldstein writes that Cespedes is “a tremendous talent—arguably the best all-around player to come out of Cuba in a generation. He’s a legitimate center fielder with plus power and speed and is in his prime.”

And Goldstein isn’t the only one buzzing about Cespedes. Adam Kilgore over at the Post notes that the Nationals are definitely paying attention. He writes that Nats front office folks were in the DR, watching the Cuban star work out. And they are impressed with his talent, and his ability to hit and to field (although not with his arm). So will the Nats go after him?

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AFL Update – Go Scorpions!

October 27, 2011

The number one  rule of the Arizona Fall League: don’t talk about stats in the Arizona Fall League. It’s a super short season, about a month worth of playing time. It’s also at the end of a long season, and some guys respond differently than others. Some are returning from injury, some hitters are just trying to get more work in because they’re lost… all different reasons why it is important to take everything with a grain of salt. That being said, here’s some of the highlights from Nationals, playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions:

Derek Norris

Norris is once again having a great AFL season. He’s hitting well, has displayed power and showcased his ability to draw walks. Remember the caveat about stats, his .361/.457/.583 seems great, but that’s only 13 total hits. He certainly doesn’t look lost, and considering he hit .278/.403/.667 last fall, I’m starting to think he just likes Arizona. Because his .210/.367/.446 in a full season of AA this year was certainly disappointing, although the patience and power are clearly ubiquitous.

Matt Purke

On the other end of the spectrum, not only were Matt Purke’s stats terrible, so was he. His first pro start was 1/3 IP, 7 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 HR. Not good, not good at all. He was a little better coming out of the pen a week earlier, 2 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K, but his season ERA in those two appearances is in the low 30s. But, Keith Law assessment should put it some perspective, “velocity still isn’t back, couldn’t locate (obviously), arm action still a negative. All that said, we knew he wasn’t right from the spring, so I’d like to at least see where he is in 2012 after a winter of rehab.”

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