Saturday, January 31, 2009

Introducing Chris Kay

I've got a bit of a new feature. A friend of mine, Chris Kay, graciously agreed to do a bit of guest blogging for me. What makes him relevant is the fact that he is not an outsider-he has a lot of insight to share as a college baseballl player, especially one in the ACC. He recently started a blog about Detroit/Michigan sports aptly named "We Talkin Bout Practice?" that is definitely worth checking out. I'll let him take it away:

My name is Chris Kay and I am from Marietta, GA, the home of East Cobb Baseball. Because of this, I have played with many young talents like Josh Smoker, Michael Burgess, Tim Beckham, Michael Main, and many others. I currently am a sophomore catcher for Virginia Tech. 

Here's the first player.. Weighing in at 6 foot 2 and 1 hundred and 85 poundsssssss. From Calhounnnnnnnn Georigaaaaaaaaa. Joshh Smoooooookeeeeerrrrrr. Ha sorry. Had a little too much fun right there. 

Josh Smoker is a talented lefty pitcher from Calhoun, GA. He was the 31st pick (1st in Supplemental) of the 2007 draft. I first met Josh when I was 14 and playing for East Cobb. The first thing I thought was “What a great name for a hard throwing lefty.” The kid was throwing gas from a young age and everyone knew he was going to be great. He throws a pretty good 2 seamer, solid curve and change, and when it’s on, a nasty splitter. Josh is a very mature pitcher for his age, and really has the tools to become a front end of the rotation starter. 

My favorite part about Josh is that he is such a great teammate and kid. He was very well brought up by his parents and you can tell by his manners. Over the last few years, he has learned to “flip the switch” per say, and turns into one hell of a competitor when he’s on the mound. Josh is a natural born winner and has won at every level. He has always been the guy that’s had the ball in his hands when the game or a championship has been on the line. Be excited Nats fans… Josh Smoker is a star in the making.

Thanks a lot to Chris for this guest blog. Chris will be doing this fairly regularly, so make sure to check back in here as well as over at his blog, We Talkin Bout Practice?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday night randoms

More random links for you:

Here's the find of the evening-a Paulie Lo Duca card plaque I found at Dick's Sporting Goods. Yikes!

Biggest news of the night: prospect Jack McGeary is gonna play full time this year, according to NFA. Yay!

-Elijah Dukes paid his ~$40k in overdue child support 3 minutes before the deadline (yes, 4:57 pm for a 5 pm deadline, folks). 
-It looks like Jordan Zimmermann is a favorite to earn a spot in the rotation during Spring Training. And Ross Detwiler perhaps by the end of the year? I'll believe it when I see it.
-And straight out of Chico's mouth/pen: "Bowden admitted that the Nationals would absolutely need to overpay for potential free agents." Not surprising.

Hondo could be returning. A nice Q&A session with Hondo here as well. Do it, Kasten.

The Nats have no interest in Fogg, but still have interest in Orlando Hudson and Adam Dunn. I wholeheartedly support going after either.

The Mets signed Rob MackowiaKKKKKKKKKKKKKK. Great move on Omar Minaya's part...NOT!

Friday randoms

A bunch of random thoughts today. Among them:

Prince Fielder signed a 2 year extension at $18 mil (essentially buying out arbitration years 1 and 2). Think that takes him off the trade market? Think again, says the Boras Blog (which, by the way, is NOT affiliated with Scott Boras...just an analysis of him and his moves), who speculates that,"possibly the cost certainty will make him an easier trade target." Interesting...I don't think Bowden will give up on his pursuit of the Fresh Prince of Milwaukee (pardon me if that's been used hundreds of times before).

Tom Ricketts and his family bought the Cubs. Good news for the Cubs-the new owners are actually Cubs fans. For some reason, I just don't think enough owners are fans. Imagine if more owners were fans.

Bruce Boudreau appears on nhLOL.

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs looks at possible change-of-scenery candidates, including our own Austin Kearns. If Luke Scott can play 1B, I'd certainly like to have him.

Boz is upset, but not TOO upset.

The Nats have interest in Josh Fogg (via MLBTR).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Nats add another minor leaguer

Per the Baseball America prospects blog, the Nats signed RHP Chris Rivera. Rivera spent 2007 with the Cubs organization, pitching in 22 games with a 3.57 ERA in rookie-ball.

Rivera's interesting to me because he's a semi-local guy. He's from Meadowbrook, VA (which is in the Tidewater area-click here for the map) and attended Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk. He played independent ball for the Washington Wild Things (Washington, PA that is) before signing wtih the Cubs.

Here are some links/articles if you want to get to know him:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Nats resign Colome, invite 63 to Spring Training

Thanks to Nats Journal for the news flash. Here's the pdf if you wanna see heights, weights, ages, stats, etc.

For those of you who don't feel like opening the PDF, here are your spring training Washington Nationals:
PITCHERS-40-Man Roster
RHP Luis Atilano+
RHP Collin Balester*
RHP Jason Bergmann*
RHP Daniel Cabrera^
LHP Matt Chico*
RHP Tyler Clippard*
LHP Ross Detwiler+
RHP Marco Estrada*
RHP Joel Hanrahan*
RHP Shawn Hill*
LHP Mike Hinckley*
LHP John Lannan*
RHP Shairon Martis*
RHP Garrett Mock*
LHP Mike O'Connor*
LHP Scott Olsen^
RHP Saul Rivera*
RHP Steven Shell*
RHP Terrell Young%
PITCHERS-Non-Roster Invitees
RHP Bobby Brownlie+
RHP Jesus Colome*
LHP Gustavo Chacin%
LHP Justin Jones+
RHP Preston Larrison%
LHP Wil Ledezma^
RHP J.D. Martin%
RHP Jorge Sosa^
RHP Josh Towers%
RHP Ryan Wagner+
RHP Jordan Zimmermann+

CATCHERS-40-Man Roster
R/R Jesus Flores*
R/R Luke Montz*
R/R Wil Nieves*
CATCHERS-Non-Roster Invitees
R/R Javier Herrera+
R/R Gustavo Molina^

INFIELDERS-40-Man Roster
R/R Ronnie Belliard*
L/R Kory Casto*
R/R Ian Desmond+
S/R Alberto Gonzalez*
S/R Cristian Guzman*
S/R Anderson Hernandez*
L/L Nick Johnson*
R/R Ryan Zimmerman*
INFIELDERS-Non-Roster Invitees
L/R Freddie Bynum^
R/R Jose Castillo^
R/R Brad Eldred%
R/R Joel Guzman%
L/R Peterson T. Orr*
R/R Matt Whitney%
S/R Dmitri Young*

L/L Roger Bernadina*
L/R Leonard Davis+
R/R Elijah Dukes*
L/R Willie Harris*
R/R Austin Kearns*
R/R Justin Maxwell+
R/R Lastings Milledge*
R/R Wily Mo Pena*
R/R Josh Willingham^
OUTFIELDERS-Non-Roster Invitees
R/R Destin Hood+
L/L Ryan Langerhans*
R/R Jorge Padilla+
L/R Corey Patterson^

*=spent time with the Nats in 2008
^=spent time with another ML team in 2008
+=spent time with the Nats organization in 2008, but not in the Majors
%=spent time with another organization in 2008, but not in the Majors

Guys who, in my opinion, have little-to-no chance to break camp with the team:
Atilano-almost 0 AA/AAA experience
Chico-terrible, plus we don't need another LH starter
Clippard-if he didnt get a chance last year, I doubt he will this year
Estrada-ineffective last year, could use more seasoning
Martis-I will go out on a limb and say he has less than a 5% chance of making the team-he's just not ready
O'Connor-see "Chico, Matt" except add 3 years of age
Desmond-still hasn't been able to field or hit consistently well in the minors
Bernadina-too many OF
Davis-too many OF
Maxwell-needs some time in AA/AAA to get back to speed, still too many OF
Brownlie-good in AA last year, terrible in AAA as a 27 year old
Chacin-doesn't look like he has "it" back yet, maybe he never will
Jones-still can't hack it in AA
Wagner-terrible in his return to Columbus, would have to seriously impress the brass-although Jimmy Leatherpants loves the guy so he might get more of a shot anyways
Herrera-Not bad, just too many people ahead of him on the C depth chart
Molina-Bad, plus too many people ahead of him on the C depth chart
Bynum-Terrible in ML last year, not much better in AAA, behind a bunch on the MI depth chart
Whitney-Needs to find his power, chances are he'll have a Larry Broadway-showing
Padilla-throwing the organizational fodder a bone

NRI guys with a chance, in my opinion to break camp with the team (percentages don't add up, just guesses):
Eldred-directly dependent on Johnson's health and Dmitri's weight, so basically 100%

Off the top of my head, the combination of most realistic and best 25-man roster we could have:
Pitchers: Balester (SP), Bergmann, Cabrera (SP), Hanrahan, Hill, Hinckley, Lannan (SP), Mock, Olsen (SP), Rivera, Young, Zimmermann (SP).
Catchers: Flores (starter), Nieves
Infielders: Belliard (platoon at 2B), C. Guzman (starter at SS), Harris (platoon at 2B/OF), Hernandez (platoon at 2B), Johnson (starter at 1B), Zimmerman (starter at 3B)
Outfielders: Dukes (starter at CF), Kearns (platoon at RF), Milledge (starter, split time between LF and RF), Pena (backup at LF), Willingham (starter at LF, backup at 1B)


Wednesday evening thoughts: Dukes, Caps, Draft

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Elijah Dukes is not stupid enough to go to jail for not paying child support. It will be taken care of, ESPN will add it to his list of "transgressions" and we'll be done with it. That's all I have to say. 

If you care to hear an informed person's opinion, check out FJB's take on the media-created "mess" that is Elijah Dukes' past. For those who don't feel like taking that extra click, or for those of you who are Jim Bowden and refuse to visit FJB, here is his two cents:
"Whenever these stories get written, I wonder why the media is so bent on casting Dukes in the worst possible light. Why go so far out of your way to omit mitigating circumstances? Why present information in a way that it implies more than actually happened? Why is the word "JAIL" screaming in every headline when he obviously isn't going to jail? It's slanted, sensationalistic journalism."
Well said, Steven.

Next in the order of business is the Caps. Since they made ESPN's front page with their win over Pittsburgh, I figured it necessitated at least a blurb. I went to Tuesday night's game (if you can even call it that, a pathetic 5-2 loss to the Oilers). Tonight's game was much more impressive-we still have issues, but they beat the Penguins, and that's all that matters. A nice game by Ovechkin and Tomas "Fire Ant" Fleischmann now has goals in his last 2 games. One other note-we're sick of the Ovechkin-Crosby "rivalry." Just because they're the two best players in the world doesn't mean they are rivals. I'm so sick of the attempted storylines both there and with the Crosby-Semin deal. And I'm sick of Evgeni Malkin because he looks like a horse. A very very ugly horse.

Last, I randomly came across some 2009 MLB Mock Drafts. Here are some guys the Nats could grab:
#1 Pick-Stephen Strasburg. No debate here. If Strasburg's stock falls dramatically (presumably only if a major injury occured), the Nats would probably choose between Southern Cal SS Grant Green, HS LHP Matt Purke, UNC 1B/OF Dustin Ackley or UNC RHP Alex White. If any of these guys slip to #10, we've hit the lottery.

#10 Pick-popular names have been Independent League RHP Tanner Scheppers, HS OF Donovan Tate, Mizzou RHP Kyle Gibson, Miami SS Ryan Jackson, HS LHP Tyler Matzek, Tennessee OF Kentrail Davis and Oklahoma State LHP Andy Oliver. Of these guys, I would say we need to absolutely stay away from Tate-he has bust written all over him. Scheppers has injury concerns (the only reason he wasn't taken in the top 10 last year), so I'd avoid him until the second round at the earliest. Out of these guys, I like Gibson a lot...but then you're drafting a Mizzou RHP with the pick the team gets from not signing a Mizzou RHP last year. Whatever works.

I won't go into the 2nd/3rd rounds because that's just too far along to project. One prospect to watch who is usually near the end of the compensation rounds/beginning of the 2nd round in mock drafts, though, is SS Deven Marrero, the cousin of Nats' top prospect Chris Marrero. I would be very happy if he fell to us.

Thanks a lot to DC Pro Sports Report for their MLB Mock Draft Database. Only 4 2009 mock drafts up so far, but most don't start going up until the high school/college seasons have at least begun. Also thanks to Orioles Hangout and, from which I linked most of the scouting reports.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Nats sign another pitcher

Don't get too excited, though. Baseball America listed 3 new Nats in the "Minor League Transactions" portion of their prospects blog. We already knew about Wil Ledezma and Gustavo Molina, but a new name popped up as well: Josh Towers.

Towers is an interesting specimen. Not too often will you see a major league pitcher with exactly the same amount of HR and BB allowed in his career, especially with 726 IP. That speaks volumes for his control (1.51 BB/9) but also his capacity for serving meatballs (1.51 HR/9). So when Towers is on the mound, we can start an outfield of Jesus Flores, Wily Mo Pena and Dmitri Young and it wouldn't make a difference. Good to know.

Towers, like most Nats acquisitions these days, has a few warts. He seems to run his mouth a little too much, which in itself isn't a big issue, until he starts calling out the Manager.

Good to know we now have the 2 best full-season starters from the 80-82 2005 Blue Jays, though. At least he knows Syracuse well, having spent a lot of time in 2003 and 2006 (and a little time in 2004) there.

Drunk Jays Fans has do I describe it..."farewell" to Josh written when he left the team after the 2007 season. A warning-language is NSFW, starting with the title. also has a look from a few days ago, wondering where Towers would end up.

So now presenting one of your possible 2009 Washington Nationals, Josh Towers!

Friday, January 9, 2009

What to strive for

I'm going to admit, this is much more of a Nats blog than the name suggests. I don't give the Caps nearly enough love, so here goes.

In July of 2001, the Caps traded for Jaromir Jagr and things were looking up. Peter Bondra was still in his prime, Adam Oates was an assist machine, Olie the Goalie was a beast and there was going to be plenty of secondary scoring from the likes of Sergei Gonchar, Ulf Dahlen, Chris Simon, etc. But they missed the playoffs by 2 points. Something wasn't clicking. 

The simple solution was to buy more, so they bought more. In the summer of 2002, they signed Jagr's ex-line mate Robert Lang. They fired their coach Ron Wilson, who just couldn't get the team over the hump and hired the supposed-phenom Bruce Cassidy. Early on in the season, they traded draft picks for Mike Grier. Later on, they traded veterans Andrei Nikolishin and Chris Simon for Michael Nylander and a draft pick. Things got a little better, as they at least made the playoffs in the 2002-03 season.

Then the wheels really fell off. Fan favorite defenseman Calle Johansson retired over the summer and a string of cast-offs, including Joel Kwiatkowski, Josef Boumedienne, Todd Rohloff and Jason Doig simply couldn't replace him. After a 6-1 victory over the Islanders to start the 2003-04 campaign, the Caps went into a tailspin, with an 8 game winless streak (0-7-1). They reached the 8-18-1-1 point and finally had enough with the Butch Cassidy's idiot non-brother. Glen Hanlon was hired as the new coach, and this is where the story really begins.

The "spend money" plan failed. The team was finally willing to admit it. And better yet, the team was willing to take a publicity hit to fix it.

First to go was Steve Konowalchuk, Captain and a fan favorite. He was dealt to Colorado for Bates Battaglia and prospect Jonas Johansson. Result: Jonas was no Calle and Bates was no Kono. Guys like Konowalchuk just haven't appeared in the Caps organization much since, which is sad.

Next was the big kahuna: Jaromir Jagr's salary dumped to the Rangers for Anson Carter. Now Carter was a nice player to have, don't get me wrong, but this was a step almost few teams would have been willing to make: trading a superstar player away just a few years after he was first acquired, thus "giving up" on things so to speak. Result: Jagr was, is, and will always be a better hockey player than Anson Carter, but the move wasn't about that. Probably the best move the Caps will ever make.

A little less than a month later, fan favorite Peter Bondra was traded to Ottawa for a mid-level prospect and a 2nd round pick. Oh yeah, that mid-level prospect turned out to be Brooks Laich, a key cog in last year's playoff run. As much as it hurt to lose Bondra (who is, no doubt, my favorite player ever in any sport), the move was in the best interest of the club. It's a business. Sometimes it's time for your favorites to move on. It's hard (and trust me, at the time my childhood hero was traded for what seemed like a pile of scraps, it SUCKED), but it's life. Result: Laich is 7th on the team in points this year and was 6th last year. The 2nd rounder was dealt to Colorado to move up in the draft to select D Joe Finley, who is still regarded as a good prospect. Good deal.

Next came another great deal: Robert Lang to the Red Wings for prospect Tomas Fleischmann and 1st and 6th round picks. Now keep in mind that Robert Lang was leading the league in points when he was traded, marking it the only time in league history where the current points leader was dealt. But I think the Caps got a pretty good return in Fleischmann, who (despite being one of the more frustrating players on the team) can make you say "WOW." Oh yeah, and they used that 1st round pick to pick some defenseman named Mike Green. I heard he's alright. Result: AWESOME!

Within a week came the Caps' last 2 deals of the season, both (separately) to Boston: Sergei Gonchar for Shaone Morrisonn and 1st and 2nd round picks (the 1st rounder was used to pick Jeff Schultz and the 2nd was used to choose Russian prospect Mikhail Yunkov) and Michael Nylander for a 2nd rounder (used to pick Francois Bouchard). Result: The Caps got a 1st, 2 2nds and a good prospect for two veterans, always a good idea.

The Caps didn't have much left to trade in 2005-06, so it was almost 2 years before they made any more moves (remember the lockout), but there were still a few left to be made:
Jeff Friesen was traded to Anaheim for a 2nd round pick (used to pick Keith Seabrook)
Brendan Witt was traded to Nashville for former uber-prospect Kris Beech (the centerpiece of the original Jaromir Jagr deal, ironically) and a 1st round pick (used to pick current uber-prospect goaltender Simeon Varlamov). Both deals were great successes.

Then in 2006-07 they shook things up some more:
They acquired Richard Zednik from Montreal for a 3rd round pick (used to pick Olivier Fortier). Zednik's value improved over the year, and he was exchanged for a 2nd round pick (used to pick Ted Ruth-more on him later).
They traded Dainius Zubrus (and some guy named Timo Helbling) to Buffalo for Jiri Novotny and a 1st round pick (later traded to San Jose for 2 2nd round picks, 1 used to pick and Eric Mestery and the other traded to Philly for a 2nd and a 3rd rounder, used to pick Russian blogging phenom Dmitri Kugryshev and Phil de Simone). Both moves were well-made.

This put the Caps in a great position in the 2007 offseason: the promising youngsters of their first few trades (Green, Laich, Fleischmann, etc.) were beginning to blossom, there was money to spend (hello, Tom Poti and Viktor Kozlov, and welcome back Nyles!), and there was an NHL-ready player still on the draft board when pick #5 came up, Nicklas Backstrom. Early on in the 2007-08 campaign, the Caps made what ended up being 1 more move-former 1st rounder Brian Sutherby to the Ducks for a 2nd round pick. And the turnaround began, notably with coach Bruce Boudreau's Jack Adams Award-winning tutoring, plus some shrewd deadline moves by George McPhee: the 2nd rounder acquired from Anaheim to Montreal for Cristobal Huet, Ted Ruth, the pick from the Zednik upgrade to Columbus for Sergei Federov and underachieving forward Matt Pettinger to Vancouver for Matt Cooke. 

The Caps simply built their system the right way. Look at their current roster's breakdown:
Via Draft (9/29): Alzner, Backstrom, Fehr, Gordon, Green, Ovechkin, Semin, Schultz, Varlamov
Via trade/FA as prospect (6/29): Collins, Fleischmann, Giroux, Laich, Sloan, Steckel
FA Signing (9/29): Bradley, Brashear, Erskine, Helmer, Kozlov, Nylander, Pothier, Poti, Theodore
Trade (3/29): Clark, Federov, Morrisonn (debatable)
Waivers (2/29): Johnson, Jurcina

So a little more than 50% of the roster was built from the ground up pretty much. And then you have guys like Federov, who was acquired from a home-grown guy and Morrisonn, who was still a prospect when acquired (but listed with the regular trade guys b/c he had NHL experience). 

So there you have it: The Washington Capitals. Think of them as the Washington team with the plan before "The Plan." The Nats need to aggressively shop their Belliards, Youngs, Guzmans, etc. in the future if they ever want to keep up with the Joneses. It may not look like much on the surface, but look what the Caps did with their Zedniks, Sutherbys and Friesens.

(I will add player links so those of you who were not Caps fans in the early-to-mid-2000s will kinda understand who I'm talking about)


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

We've got the market cornered

No, not on toolsy outfielders....on Wil(y/l/lie)s! That makes 4 (Wily Mo Pena, Willie Harris, Wil Nieves...and 5 if you count Josh Willingham).

If you haven't heard by now, the Nats signed Wil Ledezma to a minor league deal worth $750k.

Can't argue with the price, as 3 of his 6 seasons have been at least average in my book...and he's very good in April. If we're paying $2.5 mil for Daniel Cabrera, there's no reason not to pay this guy $750k. Look at him as the insurance policy just in case Mike Hinckley doesn't keep that 0.00 ERA rolling.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Monday Links

Check 'em out!

RotoAuthority takes a look at the "cliches" of Spring Training-losing weight and gaining muscle and their correlations with player performance.

Baseball Insider gives us some hope that Randy St. Claire might be able to turn Daniel Cabrera into a good pitcher (but why isn't this on Nats Journal?).

Alex Ovetjkin defends Alex Semin's "fighting" style, comparing it to the hammerfist.

Chris Cooley buys a yellow shirt, can't start his Mercedes, has a dance party in the back of a taxi.

3 days after winning the Orange Bowl, the Hokies already aren't getting any respect for next year.

That's all for now, hopefully there will be some Nats news sometime soon!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hokie Dominance

What a way to start 2009. WAY TO GO HOKIES!!

EDIT-good news-starting FS Kam Chancellor announced after the game that he will return for his senior season. This team is going to be LOADED next year, losing only 9 players that really contributed at all this year (although the number could rise to 10 if G Sergio Render ends up declaring, as he has submitted paperwork but has not hired an agent).