Time to Start Believing What You See

June 1, 2010

It’s June 1, it’s the day after Memorial Day, and it’s 2 months into the season. The Nats have played 26% of their season, over one quarter of their games. It’s time to start believing what you’re seeing. Whatever they’ve done up to this point is probably pretty indicative of the type of team they are. Here are a few observations on what we’ve seen:

Thanks to an offensive outburst yesterday, the team is no longer being outscored by a massive amount. They’ve allowed only 10 more runs than they’ve scored, so with a record of 26-26, they are only considered “lucky” by one game. Their pythagorean W-L record is 25-27, still impressive considering where this team has come from. It’s been my opinion that a team with an effective bullpen is likely to play better than their Runs Scored/Runs Allowed would indicate – and that seems to be what is happening with the Nats. They’ve lost a few blowouts that got out of control, but other than that, their bullpen has kept them in it, and they’ve won (and lost) their share of very close games.

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Your Guide to Nats Nicknames

May 3, 2010

The Nationals Journal was nice enough to post a link to a completely insane interview with Nyjer Morgan today. If you’re not fully awake yet, I wouldn’t recommend reading it. Maybe after lunch. The interview was a waste of time if you’re into stats, gleaning any real info about the team, or silly stuff like that. But if you want the REAL news, that is, what Nyjer Morgan calls everyone on the team, here’s your run-down:

Nyjer Morgan: “Tony Plush” (of course)

Ian Desmond: “Hee-Sop’s Fables”

Ryan Zimmerman: “The Franchise” (aka “Peter Franchise”)

Adam Dunn: “Freddie Physical” (no longer “The Big Donkey”, he’s too athletic for that name)

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Get Ready for Your Short Term Team

March 29, 2010

You expect changes with a young team. You expect changes with a bad team. You expect changes with a team that has a talented, ready for prime time prospect in the minors. So the Nats, who are all of those teams, should see some changes real soon. But just how many changes? Well some of them are obvious, like the rotation, but there is still possibilities for changes throughout the lineup, and of the course the bullpen is a work in progress. Changes are afoot, so if you don’t like the way this team looks right now, you’ll be happy to know it won’t look the same in short order.

I listed the team’s alleged lineup going in to the season, and then put out some possibilities that may be coming by the end of the year. This isn’t necessarily my prediction for April’s team and September’s team, just more a demonstration of a possibility. Now that all that caveating is out of the way…

Rotation

Firstly, the rotation has the potential to change big time by as soon as June or July.
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What Now? Elijah Dukes Released…

March 17, 2010

In the past you might have thought those words would be followed with “on his own recognizance,” but it’s just followed with “by the Washington Nationals.” It was a surprise, I’m sure, for most, as there was no indication that this was going to happen. It leaves a void in the assume starting roster, as Dukes was penciled in to be the right fielder. But he didn’t hit much at all so far this spring, and for whatever reason, they decided to end the relationship today. Time to move on, so the question now is who will be the starting right fielder? A few options:

  • Mike Morse – Looked ok in September for the Nats (.250/.291/.481) and has has a strong spring so far (.259/.310/.519)
  • Ian Desmond – If he’s the best hitting option, I guess they could put him out there, but I’d really rather see him playing SS in the minors than OF in the majors unless he proves he can’t play infield
  • Jermaine Dye – He’s out there, he still can hit, and they need someone. But he’s a terrible fielder towards the end of his career. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Things That 10 Games of Spring Training Have Shown

March 15, 2010

Since I’ve been somewhat cynical mentioning the meaninglessness of individual games in spring training, and the overall deceptiveness that stats can give you from this month, I wanted to show that I do think a few things can be learned from the month. It’s more than just a tuneup, it can give managers a very good idea of what to expect. I just believe that a month of games when people don’t care shouldn’t override several years of evidence. Anyway, here are a few things I’ve noticed in the first half of the spring:

  1. Strasburg has looked very good – his second start wasn’t as well-covered or noticed, but it was just as good as the first. He’s pretty impressive so far
  2. Elijah Dukes hasn’t looked very good – hitting .174/.263/.294 so far probably won’t make him lose his job, but it will significantly shorten his leash in April. He’s gotta start hitting, although at least he still can walk
  3. Ian Desmond has alot of good news surrounding him – he’s hitting the hell out of the ball (.455/.580/.815, if you must know – whatever I’m sure that’s real sustainable) but Rizzo has also said he’s definitely NOT coming on the club as a utility man. This was assumed, but there were rumors to the contrary – like when Riggleman went on XM-Sirius last week and said he might be a utility man. He’s gonna start in Washington or Syracuse at SS – my guess is in Syracuse until they figure out whether they could get anything for Guzman
    Read the rest of this entry »

Spring Games Start Today

March 4, 2010

Remember, spring training is not regular season baseball. If Ryan Zimmerman has a bad month, it doesn’t mean he can’t hit anymore. It may indicate a slow start, but he didn’t forget how to do it. If Jason Marquis dominates, mowing down starting cleanup hitters and lifelong quadruple-A players alike, it doesn’t trump what he’s done in almost 1500 regular season major league innings pitched. His career ERA+ is 99, and he only had one year under 4.00. Not saying he’s terrible, but a perfect spring probably doesn’t indicate an upcoming Cy Young season.

That being said, younger players do have a chance to show they can succeed at yet another level. A perfect 3 innings by Shairon Martis is much more exciting than the same performance by John Lannan in the spring. So, here’s a few things I’ll be paying attention to today and in the upcoming games, and I few things I won’t:

Interested


A Look at the Top Prospects

March 1, 2010

Baseball Prospectus came out with their list of the Nationals Top 11 prospects. They did it over the weekend, thinking nobody would notice, but I saw it. Suckers.

You can check out the actual list on the link, or look below this line:

Five-Star Prospects
1. Stephen Strasburg, RHP
2. Derek Norris, C
Four-Star Prospects
3. Drew Storen, RHP
4. Danny Espinosa, SS
Three-Star Prospects
5. Ian Desmond, SS
6. Michael Burgess, OF
7. Eury Perez, OF
8. Jeff Kobernus, 2B
9. Chris Marrero, 1B
10. Juan Jaime, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
11. Paul Demny, RHP

Then they get into the review of each guy – which you can’t see. I’m not going to reproduce everything they say there. 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.

1. Stephen Strasburg – Surprise suprise. Just to remind you, the mention that he his a fastball that’s 95-98 mph and “touches triple digits regularly.” He’s also very very accurate, with a “plus-plus” power breaking ball that “can be an absolute wipeout offering.” His downside is apparently his “problems” with the media. I think that’s crap, in my opinion, he wasn’t overwhelmed by that first press conference, he was a little surprised and joked about it. That doesn’t show makeup issues to me.

2. Derek Norris – The much talked about catching prospect is their other 5-star guy, whatever that means. It’s his bat that people love, a catcher that can hit and has patience and power. He’s also got a great arm, but he’s still not a great defensive catcher. He’s got a few more years in the minors.

3. Drew Storen – Pretty good first draft for Rizzo, they rank this guy here. Of course, he was the 10th overall pick, and it may show more of the issues with the farm system before he took over… Anyway, they love his command and control on his 92-95 mph fastball. They don’t think he’s gonna be a great closer, but could be pretty good, although some see him topping out as a setup man. Either way, valuable addition to the bullpen.

4. Danny Espinosa – BP sees him as a good all around player, with nothing particularly outstanding about any of his skills. That being said, they also noted “Espinosa just plays the game right.” They mention he takes walks, plays good defense, runs the bases well, has good power and “his high baseball IQ leads to excellent jumps defensively.” Whether or not he’ll hit enough to play in the majors remains to be seen. But if there’s something to be excited about, it’s the thought of a double play combo of him and…

5. Ian Desmond – We had a glimpse of him last year after a great minor league season and he hit a homer in his first AB. That doesn’t squash the questions about his power, but it does quiet them. He has a “rocket arm” but still makes the “good plays and then boot routine ones.” His bat may not be all there yet, we’ll know soon if he starts on the bench with DC or plays every day with Syracuse.

6. Michael Burgess – This is the Nats big time power prospect, he didn’t look great last year. That being said he still knows the strike zone, can mash the ball, and fields well. This year will be a big indicator of what they have from the guy.

7. Eury Perez – News to me as well. But he hit .381/.443/.503 at rookie ball last year, so he is a bit of good news out of their Dominican Republic debacle. He a toolsy guy (which isn’t a bad thing, even though Bowden hearted tools) who is fast but also has some power, but he’s very raw. That being said, he can hit, has the opportunity to continue to impress and won’t be rushed. 20 years old is still young, especially coming from overseas, so he’ll have time to develop.

8. Jeff Kobernus – This was the Nats first pick after Strasburg and Storen last year, and he didn’t play much last year due to injury. He’s speedy and athletic, with good defense and has “a quick, line-drive bat to spray balls to all fields with occasional gap power, and a possible ceiling for more.” Not sure if more power will ever get there, and he doesn’t walk that much, which could be bad as he moves up levels. He’ll have time though, as you figure he’s blocked for a bit by the Espinosa and Desmond. Unless of course, he starts really impressing.

9. Chris Marrero – Once considered one of the truly top prospects in the system (and probably a 5 star guy at times) he has fallen off recently. But after a broken leg in 2008, he came back last year to well in high-A and pretty good in AA. He’s got power and hits the ball well, but besides that it is not pretty. Can’t field well, stuck at first base, and not a great defensive one at that. He’s kinda like a slow version of their current first baseman, and when that contract ends, if he’s hitting good enough, he may get a shot at the big leagues. He’s gotta do something in AA first, though.

10. Juan Jamie – Another bright spot out of the Dominican, he throws a blazing fastball, with some action and he “is an aggressive pitcher who tries to blow away every hitter.” Unfortunately he doesn’t have much beyond that, and he’s still pretty raw despite turning 23 this coming August. He probably doesn’t have enough pitches to start, so look for them to eventually move him to relief. He’s got to get some work outside of short-season teams, but he could move quickly if things work out well for him.

11. Paul Demny – Oh good ol’ Paul Demny… yeah, I didn’t know the name either. The Nats took him in the 6th round in 2008, and his numbers in 2009 weren’t anything to make you notice him (5.14 ERA). But despite being inconsistent he has a good fastball and slider, and has made some impressive starts. They see him as having a back end of the rotation ceiling, although he may be tried out in relief soon as well.

Rounding out the list but not expounded upon were Destin Hood, Justin Maxwell, Bradley Meyers, and J.R. Higley, so how bout I give you a little bit on each.

12. Destin Hood – He’s still young, he’s raw and he’s got power. He’ll only be 20 this year, and I picked him as my LFer of 2014 when I did that exercise. People will be paying alot of attention to what he does this year.

13. Justin Maxwell – The Maryland grad has potential to be like Mike Cameron… low AVG, decent OBP, big power, lots of Ks, very good CF. Hasn’t shown that he can reach that potential and the clock is ticking.

14. Bradley MeyersAnother surprise pick to my Nats of 2014 preview, it’s nice to see some amount of validation. He is not young, not raw, but had good really numbers in A and AA last year. BP mentions he has good command and control, and potential to show up in the back end of the rotation.

15. J.R. Higley – One of the Original Kings of Comedy… er… I mean a toolsy outfielder who is turning 22 this year. He was selected in the 8th round in 2008 and hit well in his brief time at Hagerstown last year. Hasn’t shown a ton of power yet but has taken walks and hit for average. Let seem him do it more in high-A, and he might get a shot to move up to AA Harrisburg this year.


Jumping on the Optimism Bandwagon

February 22, 2010

Pitchers and catchers are in, position players are starting to show up. Meanwhile, some young prospect threw down in Viera this weekend. Teammates were calling him Jesus, people were talking about how he’s the best thing they’ve ever seen, and there was a general feeling of optimism for the future. So let’s get on the train to positivityland and figure out what is the ideal scenario for this team. Not record-wise. If everything goes right they probably won’t be very good. And I’m talking about the big boy team right now, so I’ll avoid talking about development of guys that won’t see the pros this year.  I’m talking about what would help set up a winning season in 2011 – a complete list of things that would be good for this team, but trying to keep them all realistic. So, no, I’m not going to say that it would be awesome of Craig Stammen struck out 250 hitters and won a Cy Young, or if Josh Willingham became a gold glove outfielder.

Instead, here’s a list of the good things I’d hope to see, that actually have a chance to happen

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The Washington Nationals 2014 Lineup

November 13, 2009

Now that the offseason has begun, let the speculation begin. This is the 3rd annual “Nationals in 5 years” lineup, and it’s something I really enjoy thinking about. Of course, I’m judging prospects and predicting that there are no free agent acquisitions, both ridiculous for me to do. Unfortunately my goal of getting this out before BA does their’s didn’t work out this year, so feel free to accuse me of stealing from them. Just make sure you accuse them of stealing from me last year. Not that our lists are the same. Regardless, here’s my team based on the current farm system, and alot of  guessing:

The Position Players

C -Derek Norris – Last year, I had Flores in this place. And I think Flores still has a future for this team. But Norris is really impressing everyone, and 5 years will give him time to establish himself and work his way up. So don’t think of this as a knock on Flores, more of a nod to Norris. Norris had a great year, hitting .283/.413/.513 at single-A Hagerstown with 30 doubles and 23 home runs, leading the league in OBP and finishing 2nd in HRs. He was named the minor league player of the year by the organization. The 20 year old prospect also garnered other recognition, as Baseball America named him the #2 prospect on the Nats, the #4 prospect in the Sally league and the player of the year for the organization.

1B – Chris Marrero – His presence here was more doubtful last year, after the injuries of 2008. But he has recovered nicely and put together a strong 2009 season. Baseball America’s statement that his “best tool is his plus-plus raw power to all fields” is pretty enticing, and he’ll have to hit with power, because he will swing and miss, and he’s not a great fielder. But he’s got ability, and if they can develop him in to the true power hitter that they think he can be, he’ll be an asset for sure. For what it’s worth, he’s also crushing the ball in the AFL this year.

2B Read the rest of this entry »


Strong Septembers Setup Spring

October 6, 2009

How’s that for alliteration? The Nationals finished the season going 13-16, after September 1. Nothing spectacular, but that .448 winning percentage certainly beats their .364 for the whole season. Of course, their second half winning percentage of .440 trounced the .229 in the first half. Just goes to show you how bad that April and May really was. Anyway, you’d expect some players, therefore, to have done well in that post-August timeframe. And certainly some of the vets did play pretty well. But the youngsters are playing for a spot on the team next year, and auditioning to be part of a rebuilding process. Let’s take a look at some guys who impressed:

Ian Desmond

By now, everyone knows what this Desmond did, but it’s not a bad idea to recap. He showed incredible range at short, looked a little more flustered at second, lost in the outfield, and still had some trouble on the “easy” plays. But with his arm and his range, he may be hard not to play at short. What was surprising was how well he hit. After struggling at the plate for much of the last few years, he put together a great offensive season in the minors, earning his promotion. He hit a homer in his first game, and while having some ups and downs, finished with 4 HRs and a line of .280/.318/.561. The fact that he hit with such power shows he can handle major league pitching, and he’ll need to develop a little more patience. But he looks like he could be a solid regular if not more in the near future.

Ross Detwiler

Detwiler is a former first rounder and will just turn 24 next spring. The 6’5″ lefty looked great in September, and has an impressive 1.92 ERA after being called up. He still has some work to do, as he pitched 23 2/3 while walking 11 and only striking out 10, but he showed promise nonetheless. He worked himself out of trouble on several occasions, and lowered his ERA for the season from 6.40 on Sept 1 to 5.00. He looks like a different pitcher mentally than the one that was playing in the early part of the year, and may already be penciled in as part of the starting 5.

Justin Maxwell

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