Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jolly Ole Saint Rizzo

Are we getting a little carried away with the Rizzo love? I don't think so. He is making every opportunity to build the roster the way he wants.

Let's take a look at the members of the 40 man roster (plus some other notables) he has added since the Winter Meetings:
Matt Capps-9/3/83, R/R
Career Stats: 19-19, 67/89 saves, 3.61 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 6.89 K/9, 1.66 BB/9, 4.16 K/BB
2009 Stats: 4-8, 27/32 saves, 5.80 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 7.62 K/9, 2.82 BB/9, 2.71 K/BB
Things I love about signing Matt Capps: K/BB ratio, team-controllability beyond 2010 and his past closing experience.
Things I don't love about Matt Capps: intense deviation from his career norms in 2009 and how he was overworked in 2006/07.
All-in-all, a great signing.

Eddie Guardado-10/2/70, R/L
Career Stats: 46-61, 187/219 saves, 4.32 ERA, 4.45 FIP, 7.60 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, 2.29 K/BB
2009 Stats: 1-2, 0/0 saves, 4.32 ERA, 6.10 FIP, 4.70 K/9, 3.52 BB/9, 1.33 K/BB
Things I love about Eddie Guardado: The fact that the contract is not guaranteed.
Things that I don't love about Eddie Guardado: his rate stats since 2006.
An "eh" signing, but since it's not guaranteed, I can't disagree completely. Just don't expect any sort of spectacular return to pre-2006 form from Every Day Eddie.

Jason Marquis-8/21/78, R/R
Career Stats: 94-83, 4.48 ERA, 231 GS, 1485 IP, 4.82 FIP, 5.25 K/9, 3.50 BB/9, 1.50 K/BB
2009 Stats: 15-13, 4.04 ERA, 33 GS, 216 IP, 4.10 FIP, 4.79 K/9, 3.33 BB/9, 1.44 K/BB
Things I love about Jason Marquis: His durable-yet-mediocre self (a step-up for the Nats) and his hitting ability.
Things I don't love about Jason Marquis: 2006. A guy like Marquis who doesn't have great rate stats can be susceptible to losing it rather quickly, like Marquis did in '06 with a 6.02 ERA. That scares me.

Brian Bruney-2/17/82, R/R
Career Stats: 16-10, 13/22 saves, 4.27 ERA, 4.68 FIP, 8.86 K/9, 6.22 BB/9, 1.42 K/BB
2009 Stats: 5-0, 0/1 saves, 3.92 ERA, 5.10 FIP, 8.31 K/9, 5.31 BB/9, 1.57 K/BB
Things I love about Brian Bruney: Well, the ERA is shiny, but it is not representative of his true pitching talent. He has pitched for the Yankees and in the World Series, albeit unsuccessfully in both situations. Maybe he can succeed in a less stressful environment?
Things I don't love about Brian Bruney: Walk rate. Yechhhhhhhhhhhh.

Don't forget to think about Jesse English and Doug Slaten, a pair of lefties acquired toward the end of the season/beginning of the offseason that could make their way into the Nats bullpen in 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Two days, two inboxes

This post will be better than the Redskins' game, I promise. On a side note-the parking lot staff at Fed Ex are morons. They led my friends and I about a half mile in the completely wrong direction to get to a Metro Station. That's all I have to say on that subject.

On to the inbox:

How much playing time do you think Ivan Rodriguez will get? I think it would be a waste if he gets only the amount of playing time Wil Nieves had last year. Pudge can still provide some serious offense besides his defensive skills.
-- Alex C., Montreal

He'll get more than that just because Flores is so injury-prone. I have a feeling that Flores' injury might be worse than we think...if that's the case, Nieves might even get as much time this year as he did last year.

How much interest are the Nationals showing in Aroldis Chapman? It looks like his upside could be as high as Stephen Strasburg's and, if signed, would give the club an outstanding top of the rotation for years to come.
--- Jeff O., Victoria, Texas

I'm not expecting them to make a big run for them, and I can't really blame them. Chapman has a lot of talent, but he is nowhere near the polished prospect Strasburg is. A team that doesn't spend a lot of money throwing $15 mil at a guy who isn't a sure thing doesn't pass the smell test to me.

Would Felipe Lopez be a good fit at second base for the Nats?
-- Sean B., Washington

Absolutely not. What a friggin' bum. Whoever signs him is going to be disappointed-his BABIP in 2009 was almost 30 points higher than it had ever been before. He'll come back down to earth and make somebody else's fans miserable in 2010.

What happened to all the John Smoltz buzz? It seems like ages ago that we've heard anything about the Nats trying to acquire a starting pitcher. If you were in Rizzo's shoes, which free-agent pitchers would you sign?
-- Scott W., Onley, Va.

I agree with Ladson that Smoltz and the Nats have mutual interest, but more in terms of a each side having a backup date to prom. I think the Nats might chase Jon Garland but end up with Doug Davis. I'm always wary of both for some reason (I guess I just expect the bottom to fall out sometime soon), but if we could get either on a one-year deal in the $5-7 mil range, I wouldn't be opposed to it.

What are the Nationals' options if Cristian Guzman can`t play second base?
-- Ryan L., Dunn, N.C.

Gonzalez and Harris are the likeliest options, but a dark horse could be Mike Morse. He played 19 games at 2B for Tacoma in 2009. Reasonable FA options include Orlando Hudson, Mark Derosa, Kelly Johnson and even Ronnie Belliard.

What are the chances of bringing Vladimir Guerrero back into the organization?
-- Kelvin A., Rockville, Md.

None unless they trade Willingham or Dunn. Guerrero is not a good fit for an NL team anyways-he only played 16 innings in the field in 2009.

What's the status of Chris Marrero? Can we expect him in the big leagues anytime soon?
-- Colin W., Germantown, Md.

To be honest, I have no clue. Marrero is at the age where he can either catapult through the system and end up in DC in September (fairly likely) or bottom out completely and be done with baseball (highly unlikely). He didn't look very good in 84 PA's at Harrisburg, but that's a very small sample size. We'll know for sure when the ASG rolls around whether or not he can hack it in AA.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Inbox Time

This version of the mailbag is a week late, but your mail this week will probably be just as late, so we'll call it even.

Who do you think will be the Nationals' Opening Day shortstop?
-- Patrick S., Chantilly, Va.

Ian Desmond. I honestly don't think the Nats will make a run at an ML-worthy 2B or SS, leaving them with Desmond at SS and Guzman at 2B.

It seems odd that the Nationals would offer arbitration to right-hander Jason Bergmann. Likeable as he is, he's an average pitcher at best.
-- Mike H., Washington

Average at best, yes, but what else describes the Nats bullpen? I'm surprised they didn't non-tender him and try to bring him back at a cheaper salary, but to be honest, it's not a truly cost-prohibitive decision.

What do you think the rotation and bullpen will look like on Opening Day next year? I expect Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen not to be on the roster until later in 2010.
-- Keith C., Greenbelt, Md.

Rotation: Lannan, Detwiler, Olsen, Garland, Marquis

Bullpen: Bergmann, Balester, Burnett, Clippard, Mock and Bruney as the Closer.

Strasburg and Storen will not be in the Majors until at least a month in, I bet.

If the Nationals are unable to land a "Big Time" starter this offseason, do you see any potential trade packages that could land Blue Jays right-hander Roy Halladay?
-- Michael L., Williamsburg Va.

Well, I obviously missed the boat on this one, but such a deal would cost some sort of a combination of Norris, Storen, Desmond and Marrero (plus maybe some pitchers like Detwiler and Mock), and I don't think the Nats could (or would even want to) match the Phillies' offer.

Will Clippard get a shot in the rotation? He's deadly against left-handed hitters. Just ask Bobby Cox, who would like to have him.
-- Brandon D., Muncie, Ind.

Deadly against lefties, yes, but he still had a .207 BABIP last year. Expect plenty of regression, and further bullpen relegation.

Not too long, it was reported that the Nationals were shopping Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn because they are defensive liabilities. Why? There bats are crucial parts of the lineup, and with Nyjer Morgan, Willie Harris, Roger Bernadina and Justin Maxwell in the mix, the defense is solid.
-- Ben F., Suffolk, Va.

The problem with the defensive whizzes is that only Morgan and Zimmerman are actually starters. The team, in my opinion, has 2 plus fielders in Morgan and Zimmerman, 2 minus fielders in Willingham and Dunn, 2 average fielders in Rodriguez/Flores and Dukes and 2 average fielders with a bigger potential to fall into the lower category than the higher in Desmond and Guzman.

I still like the potential of left-hander Matt Chico. Based on his progress in rehab, what do you think his chances are of being with the team in 2010?
-- Todd B., Smithsburg, Md.

I'm admittedly not a big fan about Chico. He had a below average, yet still lucky, year in 2007. I don't think he'll be back for good, unless he comes back with control and durability.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Five Non-Tenders the Nats Need to Sign

No need for an introduction-it's 5 am and I have been working on a paper for 7 hours.

RHRP Jose Arredondo-Yeah, he's having Tommy John surgery. But at the end of the day, he's still a young flamethrower with closer potential. Those guys don't exactly grow on trees, you know. Whenever you get a chance to sign a great (and controllable!) talent like Arredondo on the cheap, you do it. He'll probably even out to somewhere in between his lights out 2008 season and terrible 2009 season, but he still has a ton of potential after his return from TJ surgery in 2011.

RHSP Chien-Ming Wang-Another high risk, high reward guy, but with different implications. Wang proved in 2006-07 that he can be a huge innings eater in a hostile environment. But also, Wang could be a huge marketing piece. The DC area has a fairly sizable Taiwanese-American demographic, and I know from first-hand experience how much Taiwanese people love Chien-Ming Wang (a friend of mine's family essentially has a miniature shrine to him in their house. No joke.). Opening up the Nats to the Asian market could be a great idea at a fairly small investment (much smaller than, say, signing the next Daisuke Matsuzaka out of Japan); with only a few teams really reaping the benefits of a huge market, there is plenty to gain.

2B/OF Kelly Johnson-Johnson offers the right kind of flexibility for the Nats. If Desmond bombs, they can shift Guzman back to SS and start Johnson at 2B. If Guzman tanks, they can keep starting Desmond at SS and start Johnson at 2B. If they move Dunn or Willingham, Johnson can start in LF. Johnson is a solid hitter who had an unlucky 2009 but should rebound in 2010 and beyond.

RHRP Matt Capps-I don't care so much about the closer experience as I do about the awesome control. 1.66 K/9 for his career! I WANT! There is really a lot to like about the guy-3.61 career ERA and 67 saves for traditionalists, 4.16 career K/BB for people who love K and BB rates and 3.84 career FIP. Capps could have a huge 2010 impact as well as a huge future impact in general-he's only 26!

OF Ryan Church-Why not bring our old friend back? He's surely not spectacular in any facet of the game, but he's at least average in every facet of the game, which can't be said about a lot of players. I'd be a lot more comfortable having Church around given Nyjer's durability question marks, potential trades for Willingham/Dunn and Dukes' inconsistencies.

Rizzo, give these guys a call!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bullet point updates

Please forgive my lack of posting since Thanksgiving. I've been writing my senior thesis (as a junior, for no good reason) and it's taking a huge chunk of my time. Here are my thoughts on a few things that have been going on in the Majors recently:

Pudge signing: Kinda iffy. I don't mind signing the future Hall of Famer, who is still a huge upgrade over our backups from last year (side note-I wanted the Nats to go after him during Spring Training). I don't mind the $3 mil/year average, since it's not my money. I don't think a 2 year deal was necessary, though. I would have even preferred a $4 mil or maybe even $4.5 mil deal for just one year. While it's not an albatross of a contract like Vernon Wells or Alfonso Soriano, it will still be impossible to move if Pudge totally sucks. Hopefully he won't, and I'm actually pretty excited to see him play.

Bruney trade: The more I look, the less I like. Bruney has only sustained a BB/9 rate of 5 or below for a full season once since 2004. Once. I'm not even upset at what we gave up for him-in all honesty, the Nats have been pretty crappy in the Rule 5 draft outside of Flores and there are not a whole lot of interesting names this year anyways. Maybe we went after him because Bruney is worth a positive value in even years while being awful in odd years. I don't know, but I don't want to see him trotting out of the bullpen in the 8th or 9th inning...ever.

Transactions around the league:

Randy Wolf (signs with MIL, 3 years, ~$30 mil): Money sounds about right, but I would have offered no more than 2 years. A better signing than Jeff Suppan was in 2007, that's for sure.

3 way AZ/DET/NYY deal (Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy to AZ, Phil Coke, Daniel Schlereth, Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson to DET and Curtis Granderson to NYY):
Terrible for Arizona, good for Detroit, great for the Yankees.

BAL/TEX deal (Kevin Millwood and $3 mil to BAL, Chris Ray to TEX):
Great move for TEX, allowing them to free up money to sign Rich Harden and still come out ahead financially. Bad move for Baltimore. They will be paying Millwood $9 million when they could have gotten a better pitcher much cheaper.

HOU/FLA deal (Matt Lindstrom to HOU, Robert Bono, Luis Bryan and HOU's Rule 5 pick to FLA):
The prospects heading to Florida aren't really impressive, but are definitely sleepers...and finding a keeper for Lindstrom is a win for them. Not sure why the Astros would want to give up even 2 C prospects plus their rule 5 pick when they could have gotten Bruney for cheaper, though.

Players on my short list for the Nats:
2B Orlando Hudson at 2 years/$14 mil-his value has fluctuated between $9.1 mil and $13.7 mil over the last 4 years. I would go as high as $8.5-9 mil for one year. He doesn't cost a draft pick, so nothing to lose but somebody else's money.
OF Rick Ankiel at 1 year/$2 mil-interesting buy-low candidate. Tons of power and good arm, and another lefty bat in the organization can't hurt.

One of the following SP's at 1 year/$5-$7 mil: Erik Bedard, Justin Duchsherer, Ben Sheets, Jon Garland
One of the following SP's at 1 year/$750k-$3 mil: Livan Hernandez, John Smoltz, Brett Myers,
One of the following SP's at 1 year/$500k-$1 mil: Rich Hill, Shawn Hill, Mark Prior, Noah Lowry

One of the following RP's at 1 year/$4-6 mil: Mike Gonzalez or Kevin Gregg
One of the following RP's at 1 year/$1-2 mil: J.J. Putz, Joe Beimel, Bob Howry, Octavio Dotel
One of the following RP's at 1 year/$500k-$1 mil: Chad Cordero, Eric Gagne


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Who's Who of Minor League Free Agent Catchers

Here is the first part of your list of minor league free agent hitters. Catch the pitchers list here.

CATCHERS (ages as of April 1, 2010)

Robby Hammock (R/R, 32 years old): Career major league line of .255/.313/.409, but hasn't surpassed a .300 OBP at any level since 2007. Career CS% of 30%. Can play corner infield and outfield positions. Caught Randy Johnson's perfect game.

Orlando Mercado, Jr. (R/R, 25 years old): Zero power, but awesome plate discipline. More BB's than K's every year since 2003 (when he was 18 years old and in rookie ball). Supposedly a good defensive catcher but possesses a below average arm. Son of former ML catcher Orlando Mercado, Sr.

J.R. House (R/R, 30 years old): Career AA line: .290/.351/.437. Career AAA line: .293/.352/.458. Only 63 PA in the majors. Can also play 1B/3B. Despite defensive question marks behind the plate, I'm surprised nobody has given him a real chance.

Vance Wilson (R/R, 37 years old): It would have been easy to tell him to hang up the spikes after missing almost all of 2007 and 2008 to Tommy John surgeries (yes, two of them), but he rebounded well in 2009 and posted his highest isolated slugging at any level since the late 90s (albeit in AA). Maybe he's got another year or two left in him.

J.D. Closser (S/R, 30 years old): Good batting peripherals, but a pretty bad defensive catcher. Think of him as a mid-2000s Matt LeCroy without the ML track record.

Chris Stewart (R/R, 28 years old): Similar to Mercado, Stewart has good on-base skills but non-existent power. With good defense, Stewart will continue to stick in AAA for some time and will probably get a decent chance of being a ML backup at some point.

Brandon Yarbrough (L/R, 25 years old): Lots of walks, lots of strikeouts, a BABIP-inflated batting average and below average power. But since he's a lefthanded hitter and has thrown out 35% and 39% of would-be basestealers in the last two years, he's worth a chance.

Kyle Phillips (L/R, 25 years old): Consistent .300 hitter in the minors with BB rates between 7 and 9%. FanGraphs calls his defense "questionable" but I think he can make it as at least a ML backup.

Luke Montz (R/R, 26 years old): What a difference a year makes. Went from an awesome 2008 season to not being able to break a .190 batting average in 2009. A .200 BABIP will do that to you, though. I'm guessing he'll bounce back to a .250/.350/.410ish line in 2010 for somebody in AAA.

Hopefully the infield and outfield lists will be done soon! Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Mailbag

Still working on the hitters list. Hopefully it will be done by Wednesday. For now, here is your inbox.

Should we start being concerned about the durability and toughness of right-hander Stephen Strasburg? It seems every week or so he is being scratched for some reason or another?
-- Kerm S., Gettysburg, Pa.

Until he starts having arm problems, I'm not really worried. A neck tweak and a knee injury don't sound like long-term injuries. Also, there is the possibility that Strasburg could have/wanted to play but the Nats didn't want their number one investment to get hurt worse.

Now that they have locked up the No. 1 pick in the First-Year Player Draft for the second successive year, are the Nationals hesitant to spend a lot of money for Bryce Harper?
-- Jack T., Winter Park, Fla.

Anything you've heard Rizzo say about Harper so far is just posturing. We really won't know who the #1 pick should be until the season starts...there is no guarantee Harper stays healthy or adapts to JuCo ball. I don't think Harper will command much more than the average #1 overall pick, which the Nats have to plan on budgeting anyways.

Will left-hander Sean Burnett get a chance to be in the starting rotation?
-- Jim M., Chattanooga, Tenn.

Ladson says no, Burnett says no, and I agree. He's a lot better as a reliever.

Whatever happened to former pitching coach Randy St. Claire? Did he land on his feet somewhere in the Majors? How is he doing? I miss St. Claire. I thought he was a pretty good pitching coach.
-- James W., Warrenton, Va.

He moved south to the Marlins. I wish him the best of luck, but something had to change and he was the first scapegoat.

Do the Nats still have interest in Tom Glavine? Is there a chance that they'll make him an offer this offseason?
-- Kevin H., Westminster, Md.

I don't see the upside of adding Glavine anymore. He hasn't pitched since 2008, hasn't been average since 2007 and hasn't been good since 2006.

The club should go with Cristian Guzman and Willie Harris at second base. They should be splitting time 60-40 in favor of Guzman. Your thoughts?
-- Dean O., Winnipeg, Canada

Eh...I'd say 75-25 at most. Harris is too valuable as a utility man to stick at 2B even semi-permanently.

I am of course still an Expos fan, and I was wondering if you could tell me which players from the 2004 team are still left on the Nationals' roster?

-- Jonathan S., Montreal

Ladson says it's just Livo.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Who's Who of Minor League Free Agent Pitchers

The one thing I love most in blogging: lists. It gives me great joy to share the best list of the year with you today: Baseball America's list of minor league free agents.

Without further ado, here are some interesting names (in no particular order) in the minor league free agent pitching market (ages as of April 1, 2010...I'm sure I've gotten some wrong, so post corrections in the comments):

LHP Jon Coutlangus (29 years old): Very unlucky in 2009 for the Diamondbacks organization, was useful in 2007 for the Reds. Only pitched 5 and 2/3 innings total in 2008, so I'm guessing he had some sort of surgery (although I couldn't find online confirmation). His inability to keep the walks down makes him no better than an average option as a LOOGY.

RHP Scott Dohmann (32 years old): He's good when he's lucky, and he's not good when he's not lucky. He was decent for the Rays in 2007, but has been shaky in both the minors and majors since then. Not a bad AAA filler, but not somebody you want to count on coming out of the major league bullpen.

RHP Bobby Korecky (30 years old): Impressive minor league numbers throughout his career, but always seems to forget how to pitch when he reaches the majors. But he's pitched very, very well in 2008 and 09 in AAA, so he deserves a shot in Spring Training.

LHP Mariano Gomez (27 years old): Doesn't have particularly impressive rate stats, but does have an impressive record of getting outs and keeping runs off of the board. Without hit and miss stuff (even in AAA), I can't guarantee success in the Majors, but he should get a Spring Training chance for a team looking for a LOOGY.

RHP Lance Niekro (31 years old): Before you ask, you already know. Yes, he was a 1B and yes, he converted to a knuckleballer like his father and uncle threw. He wasn't very good in rookie ball for the Braves organization this year, but what else could be expected out of someone who probably hasn't pitched in a decade? Stick him on your GCL team and the worst case scenario is he turns into a mentor for your recent high school draft picks.

RHP Ben Davis (33 years old): Also attempting to recreate his career as a knuckleballer after a so-so journey as a backup catcher. Better low-minors stats than Niekro, but we're talking very small sample sizes. Worth a shot in GCL as well.

LHP Casey Fossum (32 years old): Sure, his ML experiences have been pretty bad, but he pitched pretty well in 2008 and 2009. I would be surprised if he didn't end up in somebody's camp in Florida or Arizona come spring.

RHP Greg Atencio (28 years old): Let me know when guys with double digit K/9 rates and respectable BB/9 rates stop getting offers. Until then, I'll invite Atencio to Spring Training and have him serve as a setup man in AAA in the meantime.

LHP Alex Smit (24 years old): He's young and he's pitched fairly well since joining the Reds organization in 2007 (albeit at lower levels). Unlike Shairon Martis and Andruw Jones, he's in "from the Netherlands" Dutch.

RHP Scott Chiasson (32 years old): He's bounced around a whole lot, but has put up very good numbers in Mexico for the last two years as well as in AAA for the Reds and Orioles organizations for the last 4 years. He probably won't stick, but he could be a useful arm for AAA/emergencies.

RHP David Pauley (26 years old): Could be the J.D. Martin of the 2009-10 minor league FA class. Has generally put up good numbers in the higher levels but has been knocked around in 9 career ML games. Young enough to be able to make a difference at some point, even though his ceiling is a 5th starter/long relief type.

RHP Jarod Plummer (26 years old): Although he had uncharacteristically high walk numbers this year, he is usually known for his great control. He has put up good-but-not-great minor league numbers, but like Pauley, is young enough to be worth a longer look.

LHP Derrick Loop (26 years old): Ripped apart high A ball this year, but as a 25 year old. Push him up to AA and then AAA quickly and see if his rate stats stick.

RHP Dylan Axelrod (24 years old): Still young, and impressive minor league track record through the 2008 season. Rate stats really fell off in 2009, however, and he still hasn't thrown a pitch above high A ball.

RHP Fernando Hernandez (25 years old): Taken in the Rule 5 draft before the 2008 season by the A's, but didn't stick. Had a breakout year in 2009, but must keep the walks down to make it in the majors.

RHP Ryan Speier (30 years old): Sure, I have a soft spot for Speier because he went to my high school. But the fact of the matter is: he threw 99 and 1/3 quality innings in the majors for the Rockies since 2005 (3.99 ERA, 3.96 FIP). His K and BB numbers might not wow you, but he gets outs with his submarine pitching motion.

LHP Ryan Ketchner (27 years old): Ketchner's control has been very good over the last 2 years (2.34 BB/9 in that span, including a 1.32 BB/9 rate in 2009). Because of this improvement, I'm willing to overlook his general mediocrity and see if he can convert this newfound control into real success in 2010.

RHP Jason Waddell (28 years old): After experimenting with unusually high walk rates in 2008, Waddell settled down in 2009. Since 2006, he has a 9.21 K/9 and a 3.37 BB/9 in A+, AA, AAA and ML. Take out 2008 and he had a 8.91 K/9 and a 2.59 BB/9. I'm cool with either set of numbers.

RHP Jonathon Fulton (26 years old): The converted third baseman put up very respectable numbers in his first two years of professional pitching in 2008 and 09, with good ERA, FIP and K numbers but (as expected), shaky BB stats. At 26 years old, he really needs to be pushed to higher levels quickly if he wants to be a major league player.

RHP Clay Hensley (30 years old): He's a depth guy, someone you don't mind having around in case of injury. He is not as good as his 2005 and 06 numbers for the Padres indicated, but he's better than Levale Speigner.

RHP Brian Lawrence (33 years old): Time might be running out for Lawrence, but he looks to be back to his old tricks in AAA, with a K/9 rate hovering near 6 and a BB/9 rate just over 2. Another depth guy that could turn out to be a pleasant surprise.

RHP Kasey Olenberger (32 years old): Normally I wouldn't look twice at a guy like Olenberger, but he looks to be remade as a reliever. In his first year as a full-time reliever, Olenberger put up a 1.10 ERA, a 2.6 BB/9 and a 8.8 K/9. I wouldn't mind seeing him get more reps as a AAA reliever and then considering him for an injury replacement or September callup.

RHP Casey Daigle (28 years old): For some reason, I feel like Daigle has been around forever. Nonetheless, he looked good out of the bullpen in 2009 (and in 2008 as well) and can throw a lot of innings. If he can bring his walks down, he can be a ML reliever.

RHP Abraham Gonzalez (23 years old): A lot of 22 year olds can strike out over 10 guys per 9 innings in rookie ball, but not so many can do so while only walking a little more than 2 guys per 9. While the sample size is pretty small, somebody will sign him.

LHP Andy Van Hekken (30 years old): Doesn't walk anybody and puts up decent stats otherwise. Sign me up!

LHP Heath Phillips (28 years old): He's nothing special anymore, but he is a solid LHP who can help out in AAA or the majors if needed.

RHP Kendy Batista (28 years old): Has put up good numbers the last few years but has always been too old for his level. Try him out in Spring Training and at AAA and see if he can handle the highest levels.

RHP Travis Chick (25 years old): Nothing left to prove in AA, consistent K/9 rates in the mid 7's and BB/9 rates in the low 3's. Old enough to make a difference soon, young enough to be worth investing in...I'm a fan of this Chick.

RHP Hyang-Nam Choi (39 years old): Phenomenal AAA numbers in 2006 with the Indians organization and with the Dodgers organization in 2009. All I know is that 12 K/9 is something any team could use.

RHP Francisco Felix (26 years old): Very good 2009, I'm surprised the Dodgers let him go. He'll be a nice pickup for somebody.

RHP Jordan Pratt (24 years old): Tons of K's but tons of BB's. Maybe a different organization can help him straighten out his live arm.

RHP Scott Strickland (33 years old): Might be finally recovered from Tommy John surgery. Walks are a little bit up, but he looks like he can still make a difference on the ML level.

LHP Chris Capuano (31 years old): There is no guarantee Capuano will make a full recovery from his second Tommy John surgery, but 2010 will be the season where he tries. With only 9 innings of actual game pitching in the last two years, it will be tough to count on him for a lot of innings, but he's at worst an average starting pitcher when healthy.

LHP Chase Wright (27 years old): AAA depth guy/emergency 5th starter. You could do much worse with a Spring Training invitation, but also much better.

RHP Jim Ed Warden (30 years old): Somebody's got to give this guy a shot in the Majors, right? He's got nothing left to prove in the minors, and will get invited to Spring Training by somebody.

LHP Adam Bostick (27 years old): High K rate, high BB rate (broken record, I know), but maybe somebody can straighten him out!

RHP Scott Mitchinson (25 years old): The Aussie has always put up good minor league numbers, but simply has never pitched many innings or been promoted much. His 2009 wasn't great, but his peripherals held up. I see him getting a chance with somebody's AA squad this season.

RHP Humberto Sanchez (26 years old): The former top prospect hasn't thrown much since having Tommy John surgery, but the K's are still there. I don't know why any team wouldn't call his agent and line up a tryout.

RHP Jose Valdez (27 years old): BB's rose significantly in 2009, but he still pitched well. He'll stick with somebody and probably make his ML debut in 2010.

LHP Justin Hampson (29 years old): I don't know why he only threw 6 and 2/3 innings in 2009, but he pitched well in San Diego from 07-08 (well enough to be rumored in a Adam Dunn-to-the-Padres trade in 2007). I'd give him a chance.

RHP Alex Conception (25 years old): 1.13 BB/9 in 95 and 1/3 innings in 2009. Sure, he doesn't strike out a whole lot of batters, but I'll take that kind of control any day.

RHP Gary Majewski (30 years old): Remember when he, Luis Ayala and Chad Cordero were a monstrous 7th-8th-9th combination for the Nats in 2005? It's hard to say who has really fallen the most since then, as all have had a ton of injuries and very little success afterwards. Majewski looked decent in AAA this past year, putting up a 4.02 ERA. He doesn't strike out enough guys and walks too many to be a force in the majors, but he can still be a decent ML injury replacement.

RHP Oneli Perez (26 years old): Put up video game numbers for the White Sox organization in 2006 and 2007, regressed a bit in 2008 and then was solid in 2009 for the Cardinals, striking out 8.19 per 9 and walking 2.96 per 9 in 67 innings. I guess having 12 fingers makes it easier to put up beastly stats.

LHP Gustavo Chacin (29 years old): Might have "it" back. His rate stats still stink, but they aren't so different from those of his breakout 2005 season for the Blue Jays.

RHP Randy Messenger (28 years old): Continues to prove that, while he's nothing special in terms of an ML talent, he can fill in from time to time and not look completely out of place.

RHP Richard de los Santos (25 years old): I'm not sure why he got demoted back to A and high A ball in 2009, but other than a rough 15 inning stint in AAA in 2007, he has been at the very worst an average pitcher since 2006, flirting with being a pretty good one. Low K rate, but low BB rate as well. Worth a shot.

RHP Calvin Medlock (27 years old): Went from walking 32 batters in 63 innings pitched in 2008 to 16 in 82 innings pitched in 2009. If the former is the real Calvin Medlock, he's out of time. If the latter is the real Calvin Medlock, he's simply running out of time.

LHP Ian Ostlund (31 years old): Rough year in 2009 by Ian Ostlund standards, mainly because of poor luck. I still think Ostlund would be at least an average LOOGY in the majors.

LHP Charlie Manning (31 years old): An average choice at best, as this year he was under 4 BB/9 for the first time in a full season since 2006 (at any level).

RHP Sean Smith (26 years old): Very good year in 2009, but the walks still scare me. 2010 may be his last real chance to shed the AAAA label.

RHP Chad Cordero (28 years old): Can you believe he'll only be 28 in March? The Chief was a pretty darn good closer for the Nats in their first 3 years in DC but had Tommy John surgery early in the 2008 season. Bad news: he was awful in 2009 in rookie and A ball, allowing 23 hits, 15 runs and 2 homers (with a 15 K and 5 BB) in 14 and 1/3 innings. 2010 could very well be his make or break year to see if he'll recover from this surgery. I certainly hope he recovers 100%!

RHP Clint Everts (25 years old): The former 1st round pick (taken 1 pick before Greinke and 2 before Fielder) blossomed for the first time in 2009, putting together a 1.65 ERA and 10.2 K/9 (although with a scary 3.9 BB/9). He'll stick with somebody in 2010 and I bet he will make his ML debut as well.

This list took longer than expected and my work schedule has changed a little bit, so I wouldn't expect the hitters list to be finished until Tuesday or Wednesday. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An update on future posts

Right now, I'm feverishly working on a list: the Best Minor League Free Agents. Last year's list was a relative hit (and was featured on's "Baseball Blogs Weigh In"), so I figured I'd give it another shot (keep in mind that out of my top 10 last year, only 3-Shelton, Langerhans and Martin-played in the Majors, to a tune of 150 total plate appearances and 77 innings pitched, so take my findings with a grain of salt). Right now I'm working on pitchers and have gotten through the D's (meaning I have Atlanta, Arizona, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colorado and Detroit done). As of now, I am predicting that the pitchers post will come on Friday and the hitters post will come on Sunday. Hopefully, I'll get them out sooner, but that's the latest you can expect them.

Here is an example of what these write-ups will look like:

RHP David Pauley (26 years old): Could be the J.D. Martin of the 2009-10 minor league FA class. Has generally put up good numbers in the higher levels but has been knocked around in 9 career ML games. Young enough to be able to make a difference at some point, even though his ceiling is a 5th starter/long relief type.

Here is the list if you're anxious like me, and here are short lists from FanGraphs and The Hardball Times.

I am also working on a recap post of the preseason predictions I posted as well as the Over/Under contest from February. That post will probably come later next week.

To help you pass the time, go to Minor League Ball and discuss the Nats' preliminary prospect grades! It looks to me like John Sickels is pretty high on the Nats' system, handing out an A to Strasburg (semi-surprising, as Sickels heavily incorporates minor league numbers in his lists), B+'s to Norris (semi-surprising as well due to Norris' question marks over whether or not he'll remain behind the plate) and Storen (projectable, but I see a B+ as a guy with lights-out potential) and a B- to Burgess (awful in 2009, hasn't shown many signs of improvement). Desmond is the only one I could see as underrated, as a C+, but a year of AAA success doesn't negate 5 years of poor batting, especially for someone with a shaky glove (maybe "shaky" isn't the right word, but rather for a guy who makes a lot of errors). But these grades are preliminary as I said, so don't get too worked up over anything yet!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nats Hire Bryan Minniti

Although it has been rumored for almost a week now, the Nats made the hiring of new Assistant GM Bryan Minniti official today along with new Director of Baseball Operations Jay Sartori.

Minniti is not yet 30 years old, landing a promotion from his former post as the Pirates' Director of Baseball Operations for the past two years. The Nats' press release says the following about him:

Minniti joins the Nationals after spending the previous nine seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the last two as their Director of Baseball Operations. With the Pirates, Minniti's focuses included rules compliance, transactions, budgeting and contract negotiations. Minniti graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a double major in Mathematics and Statistics.

Some blurbs on Minniti:

"(Minniti will be) in charge of handling the Major League rules and regulations as well as waivers and transactions for the Pirates...will help with the negotiation process of salary arbitration cases, as well as in other player contract negotiations."-(, 11/2007)

Minniti previously worked for Dave Littlefield as, essentially, his point man on baseball rules, waivers and the like. Under Huntington, he handled those issues but had additional responsibility, including accompanying the team on the road when Huntington did not." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/2009)

"'I do a little bit of everything,' (
Minniti) said. 'I'm responsible for managing the major league rules and regulations, along with waivers and transactions. It means a lot of late nights, but it's also been a lot of fun.'" (The York Dispatch, 2/2008)

Minniti is twenty-seven-years-old, single, loves Jazz, and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2002 with dual majors in mathematics and statistics. But don’t call him a Moneyball executive. 'I would say I’m less a statistics oriented guy but I don’t have the applied scouting experience. My belief is in the people who have spent their lives out there watching, and playing, and coaching it. The level of appreciation I have for that will never wane – it’s such a difference maker.'
Today, Minniti’s job responsibilities include “assisting Neal Huntington on everything and anything including contracts, rules, budgets, transactions, pro scouting issues, clubhouse issues, intern program, etc…essentially, anything that doesn’t directly fall into [player development] or scouting.” (, 5/2008-I implore you to read the entire interview)

"There had been some speculation
Minniti was being sought out by Josh Byrnes in Arizona last year and even more speculation he was being pursued by another club this winter (maybe the D’backs again?). I interviewed Minniti back in 2008 and found him to be a very articulate individual with a deep passion for the game. He’s not a traditional scout type of AGM, although he’s been dipping into scouting for years now. Instead, he’s a mathematical wizard who intimately knows the inside of the paperwork game. He’s a perfect fit for Rizzo who is the ultimate scout." (NewBucs, 11/2009)

Looks like a good hire to me. As the last quote said, he looks to be a pretty good fit with Rizzo. Well done, Nats. Keep building this system up right!

Inbox Time

Here's some jibberjabbering to wake you up on Monday morning!

What did you think about the Nationals making Jim Riggleman the permanent manager?
-- Charlie B., Washington

Pros: The team was much better when he started managing (regression to the mean?), players like him but also respect him, local guy, easy to cut bait with in the next few years if a better candidate comes along, no worse than Bobby Valentine.

Cons: Lots of baserunning mistakes, terrible track record with young pitchers, etc.

Overall, I think it was a good move because the Nats aren't particularly obligated to keep him around like they would be if they tried to "develop" a major league manager. It was slim pickens out there, so there was no real wrong (or right) answer. This way, the Nats can groom Tim Foli or Matt Lecroy to be a ML manager in a few year.s

Do you see a double-play combination of Ian Desmond and Cristian Guzman?
-- George M., Burke, Va.

No. I bet it will be Adam Everett (SS) and Desmond (at 2B). Like Ladson, I think the Nats will try and trade Guzman.

I was a big Ronnie Belliard fan. Do you see the Nats signing Belliard as a backup again?
-- Patrick S., Chantilly, Va.

I think he enjoyed the pennant chase a little too much to come back to the Nats as a bench player. I would be surprised if he didn't end up with the Dodgers.

What do you expect from Scott Olsen in 2010?
-- Ed B., Miami

A different uniform.

One of my favorite players is Jamey Carroll. He worked hard, was very fundamentally sound and was a great veteran player to have in the clubhouse. I hear he is a free agent. What are the odds of the Nationals bringing him back?
-- Justin F., Vienna, Va.

Ladson says 50% or less (which aren't bad odds when you think about it). I think that the Nats have a pretty good chance of getting something done-they have the playing time to offer in the infield and he's already a fan favorite. Why not bring Jamey back?

Ross Detwiler pitched much better after being recalled in September. Is there a good chance he will be in the Opening Day rotation?
-- Ryan K, Carlisle, Pa.

I would be very surprised if he wasn't, half due to how well he pitched down the stretch and half due to the lack of organizational depth.

How do you see Justin Maxwell fitting into Nationals' long-term plans?
-- Jack S., Jackson, Miss.

I have made it fairly well known that I don't think Maxwell is ready for the big leagues, and I don't know if he ever will be. He's an excellent fielder and a great bench bat, but I don't see him as much more than a platoon starter versus lefthanded pitching/bench bat/defensive whiz.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Quick links

I've got too many links to post on Twitter, so here goes:

Riggleman thinks a decision on the Nats' managing job is coming soon. [Ladson's Blog]

MASN's Phil Wood thinks the Nats should (and could) make a run at Rich Harden. [MASN]

The Hardball Times takes a look at Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria in "Clone Wars" [THT]

FanGraphs gives a short 2009 minor league review of the Nats: Zimmermann, Nieto, Perez, Norris and Smiley. [FanGraphs]

Ronnie Belliard, Felipe Lopez, Joe Beimel and Nick Johnson are all type B free agents. Those sandwich picks would have been nice... [The Biz of Baseball]

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Slump-busting Inbox

Finally, I've got a break from 3000 word papers and can take the time to answer this week's inbox questions!

Is Mike Morse being considered for any Major League role in 2010? He was as impressive as any player on the team.
-- Joel G, Lynchburg, Va.

Morse should be in the mix, but he shouldn't be guaranteed a spot. He is much better defensively at 1B than Dunn and showed signs of brilliance with the bat, but 2009 Mike Morse is not what we should expect next year if he gets significant playing time. I'd put him down for an improvement in batting average, more walks, less strikeouts but a drop-off in power.

I don't think Adam Dunn's fielding was that bad at first base. How many errors did he make at the position?
-- Craig B., Gaithersburg, Md.

He only made 8 errors, but that doesn't tell the whole story. He has the worst UZR/150 out of all 1B over the last 3 years with at least 600 innings played in the field, twice as bad as Dmitri Young. It's a small-ish sample size, but Dunn simply does not reach the balls in play that a Major League 1B should be able to do.

What do you think right-hander Shairon Martis must do to be successful in the Major Leagues?
-- Daniel G., The Netherlands

He absolutely needs to start striking out more batters and walking less. Having more BB than K is simply not something you can do as a Major League SP. I'm not going to lie: I'm not a big believer in Martis.

Who will be the Nats' closer next season?
-- Jose C., Silver Spring, Md.

Hopefully somebody not in the organization. Ladson noted Mike Gonzalez as a possibility, and I wouldn't mind that. There are a handful of decent closers on the market: Kevin Gregg, Fernando Rodney, Rafael Soriano, Jose Valverde and Billy Wagner. I would not be surprised if the Nats made a run at one of them. I really, really, REALLY hope MacDougal is not the closer next year. He will not repeat his 2009 "success."

Jermaine Dye is a free agent. Could we see general manager Mike Rizzo make a move for him?
-- Nick S., Erma, N.J.

No. Dye is still a great hitter, but he has the outfield range of an elephant these days. He's still a useful player by AL standards for a team looking for a DH, but he's not a fit for the Nats.

What is your conclusion about Alberto Gonzalez? I think it's clear that he doesn't have what it takes to be a starter in the Majors.
-- Alex C., Montreal

I'm not ready to give up on him yet. He's been wildly inconsistent in the minors and majors throughout his career, so nobody really knows what to expect. He needs to be more patient, but his pre-2009 numbers suggest he will walk more than the 4.6% of the time he did in the majors this year. I think he has the ability to end up as a Guzman-type player, but then again, Guzman doesn't have what it takes to be a starter in the Majors either. I like him on the bench, though.

Are the Nats content with starting Wil Nieves next season at catcher until Jesus Flores is healthy?
-- Will S., Reston, Va.

Please, no. Nieves is barely passable as a backup let alone a starter. He's a great guy and everything, but he's not a great player.

What is happening with Tim Foli? I heard a lot of positive things about his work as the Syracuse manager, but now I read that Trent Jewett was just named to that position. Will Foli be a coach for the Nats? Is he in the running for the manager position? Thanks.
-- Scott S., Vienna, Va.

I don't have the answer, but Ladson does:

"Foli has done great things in the Nationals' Minor League system. One could say he is the best manager/coach they have ever had in the system. I would have to believe a promotion to the big leagues is in order. From what I understand, if Foli is not promoted to the big leagues, he will be an advisor in the Minor Leagues."

I'm glad to hear this, because the Nats should not let Foli get away from the organization.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Inbox spectacular

Here's your inbox:

Right-hander Drew Storen has been touted as a closer. If he makes the big league team, how about starting him off as a setup man, and then working him into the closer role by midseason?
-- Shane B., Vancouver, Canada

Sounds good to me. Who else is going to close? If the team keeps MacDougal around, they're insane...wayyy too expensive for a guy who is probably going to implode at some point. I think it's funny that Hanrahan is five times better than MacDougal and got run out of town while MacDougal should be a guaranteed non-tender and everyone wants to hold on to his lucky 2009 ERA.

I don't think it's necessary to trade Adam Dunn. Look at first basemen such as Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Carlos Delgado. They don't have the defensive skills at first base, but each had brought their teams into the playoffs.
-- Yu-Hung S., Chiayi, Taiwan

They didn't singlehandedly bring their teams to the takes a whole team of talent to matter. I hope the Nats do the right thing and move either Dunn or Willingham for a great young starting pitcher before the season.

What is the status of left-hander Jack McGeary? Is he a Major League talent? Will he get a look at next year's Spring Training?
-- Larry L., Spring Springs, Md.

I like what Spin Williams said in this article: “Some of Jack’s numbers aren’t what you would like to see but he has competed. We really feel good about his progress. He’s really still a first-year player.’’ He wasn't so impressive this year, but what can you really expect from a guy going from 63 and 2/3 innings to 112 innings? The fact that he made it through the season is impressive. The walk rates are frightening, but he has plenty of time to straighten them out...he's only 20 for goodness sake.

Do you see the Nats going after right-hander Pedro Martinez if he becomes a free agent?
-- Isaac R., Baltimore

I doubt it. They didn't go hard after him this season and he's only going to be more expensive and a year older next year.

I would love to see the Nationals add someone like Mark De Rosa to their lineup. He could be a huge upgrade.

-- Travis A., Cornelius, N.C.

I like DeRosa, but he only had a .319 OBP this year...while it will probably stabilize to the .340s or .350s, he'll be 35 next year coming off of a poor year. If he comes cheap, I'll take him, but not at more than $1.5 million.

The Nationals played better when Ian Desmond and Justin Maxwell were in the lineup. Why is it that the fans always seem to "wait" with our prospects when it's clear they have the ability to play at this level? The atmosphere at the ballpark was completely different when these kids took the field. Your thoughts?

-- Mick F., Springfield, Md.

There is no question that Maxwell and Desmond are incredibly talented, but Desmond hadn't broken a .800 OPS in the minors since 2004 and Maxwell was pretty awful in AAA even this year. Don't overlook sample size with early ML results.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

First wave of minor league free agents

Last week, Baseball America released the names of the first wave of minor league free agents this year. Amongst the names I think the Nats should check out:

LHP R.J. Swindle-has always put up ridiculous minor league stats, but has only 11 and 1/3 innings of Major League experience to show for it.

2B Craig Stansberry-who wouldn't want to have the first Saudi Arabian-born ML player on their team? His minor league numbers are pretty good for a second baseman, showing both a little bit of pop and a little bit of speed. I have no clue whether or not his glove is up to par, but he could be worth a shot.

RHP Chris Schroder-remember me? The guy who put up a 3.18 ERA and 3.04 FIP in 45 and 1/3 innings for the Nats in 2007? Well, I was a little more lucky than good in 2009, but tell me I am not a better option than Mike MacDougal.

1B Chris Shelton-the AAAA label has been thrown at him lately, but a .347 wOBA in over 1000 career ML plate appearances is nothing to sneeze at. I don't see any harm to adding him to the bench.

LHP Royce Ring-lefthanded relief pitcher? Warm body? Sign him up.

RHP Joe Nelson-more lucky than good over his ML career, but I'm willing to sign him in hopes that his luck continues in 2010.

LHP Javier Lopez-track record of stability and relative success was blown up in 2009, but it was only in 11 and 2/3 innings.

LHP Geoff Geary-track record of stability and relative success was blown up in 2009, but it was only in 20 innings.

RHP Philip Humber-the key prospect in the Johan Santana trade. Arm seems to have fallen apart, but so did J.D. Martin's back in the day. Worth a glance at least.

RHP Bryan Bullington-rate stats looked really good in AAA this year, could be at least average out of the Bulling-pen.

RHP Vinnie Chulk-average at best, but wouldn't it have been nice to even call the 2009 bullpen average at best?

Catching Up

If it seems to you like all of my posts these days are about "catching up" and inboxes, you are correct. As much as I'd like to implement a blog-first, school-second priority scale, I can't. But what I can do is give you this week's inbox and some other goodies!

Do you see the Nationals bringing in another bat this offseason? And who might be the fit at the position?
-- Justin L., Washington

I doubt it. The only field positions I really see the Nats adding players at are middle infield and catcher, and I expect them to pick up defensive-minded players at both positions.

If you think the Nationals are one or two years away from having a winning season, you are a fool. Who do they have in the Minor Leagues that could step up and play in the Majors?
-- Nguyen B., Washington

Here's a list of 7 rookies who can potentially make a big impression in the Majors this year:

1-Stephen Strasburg, RHP

2-Drew Storen, RHP

3-Ian Desmond, SS

4-Justin Maxwell, OF

5-Bradley Meyers, RHP

6-Clint Everts, RHP

7-Chris Marrero-1B (only if he sets the world on fire during spring training, and even so he would likely not be up until at least the All Star Break).

Which players are guaranteed to start for the Nationals next year?
-- Rich R., Slingerlands, N.Y.

Dunn, Morgan, Willingham and Zimmerman are the only 4 I can see being guaranteed spots.

Do you think the Nationals should pursue Mets catcher Brian Schneider?
-- Gloria L., Washington

Absolutely. The Nats haven't had a consistently good defensive catcher since he left.