Monday, August 31, 2009

Roster building

Today is not August 31. Okay, that's a bit of a lie. It is August 31, but today really is September call-ups eve. Even though the Nats have gone on record to say that they aren't making any call-ups until AAA Syracuse finishes their season on September 7 (assuming the Chiefs don't make the playoffs), it's still way past the time to make predictions.

Here are my picks:
C Gustavo Molina
From what we've heard, the Nats are going to call-up a 3rd catcher. Problem is-the three catchers who could possibly be candidates are all pretty awful. Luke Montz, the only candidate on the 40-man roster, hasn't had a multi-hit game since June 20 in AA, without missing any large stretches of time. Jhonatan Solano showed a bit of promise with a .280 batting average in 95 AA plate appearances, but has struggled imensely in AAA, with a .196/.236/.262 triple slash there in 184 plate appearances. This leaves Gustavo Molina, who should never appear on any ML roster, let alone a potential third in the Nats. He hasn't exactly torn up AAA this year, hitting .208/.235/.313. And no, he's not related to Bengie, Jose or Yadier. But given his tiny advantage in terms of ML experience (and the fact that he's regarded as a decent defender by Brian from NFA), Molina gets my vote.

SS Ian Desmond
The past four years or so have been fairly tumultuous for the Nats' (well, actually the Expos') 3rd rounder from 2004. Ever since being compared to Derek Jeter by both former Nats GM Jim Bowden and assistant to the GM Jose Cardenal in Spring Training 2005, the performance hasn't matched the hype behind the young SS from Sarasota, FL. That is, until this year, where Desmond has hit a combined .326/.398/.484 between AA and AAA. With an arm good enough to be named the best of both the International League (AAA) and Eastern League (AA) by Baseball America, the tools are coming together. If he can cut down on his errors and hit even 75% as well as he has this year, he might never go back down to the minors.

OF Justin Maxwell
It's more of a necessity than a deserved call-up, but it's going to happen nonetheless, according to Nationals Journal. It's not that Maxwell is bad-he's already an excellent fielder and has almost identical career minor league numbers to Mike Cameron (Maxwell's .257/.351/.442 to Cameron's .258/.343/.424). He's simply not ready for the bigs, having been overpowered in AAA this year. The 30% strikeout rates need to stop for him to be considered for a promotion, but a lack of CF depth in the system will force the Nats to recall him tomorrow. Norris Hopper would have been a better option in my opinion, but Maxwell is a) the future and b) on the 40-man roster.

LHSP Ross Detwiler, RHSP Shairon Martis and RHSP Collin Balester
Detwiler, Martis and Balester go together because they are almost surely locks to be called up. Detwiler has pitched 22 less innings in 2009 than in 2008, with Martis pitching 3 more than 2008 and Balester 30 less than 2008, so all three have a fair amount of innings left to throw. (Side note-I suggest checking out NFA's September call-up post for the innings pitched breakdowns of all of the candidates.) Brian from NFA noted in the comments of the above link that Balester may be shut down due to poor performance rather than IP counts, which could open a door for Marco Estrada.

RHP Zach Segovia
Segovia has been solid in AA/AAA this year, with a combined 3.34 ERA in 67 and 1/3 innings and a much higher K/9 rate than at any other point in his minor league career (8.2 K/9 overall this year as opposed to a 5.8 K/9 career average and a previous career high over a full season of 6.7. Most importantly, he can eat innings, as many of the current Nats young starters will likely be shut down early. Out of all of the pitchers after Detwiler/Martis, I'd say Segovia is the closest to a lock due to his stamina and experience at higher levels.

RHP Clint Everts
Everts is pretty much the anti-Wilkie. As the 5th overall draft pick in a 2002 draft that saw Royals ace Zack Greinke go 6th overall, Brewers slugger Prince Fielder 7th and Phillies ace Cole Hamels 17th, it would be ideal to squeeze out at least a little bit of production. While Everts' days as a starting pitcher are long gone, he looks to be fairly good out of the bullpen, with strikeout rates trending up and walk rates trending down since being converted to a reliever during the 2007 season. While the Nats don't necessarily have to "save face" by promoting him, it would be nice to see them get at least a smidge of performance from that stud-laden draft.

RHP Josh Wilkie
A Disney story in the making, the undrafted Wilkie has been ridiculously good in his 4-year minor league career. With a career 2.91 ERA and consistently low FIP's (click the link to learn more on Fielding Independent Pitching), he has both the ideal actual performance and expected performance to earn him a spot on the Nats.

I'm admittedly not very high on LHRP Yunior Novoa, RHSP Marco Estrada or LHRP Jack Spradlin, all of whom have put up decent 2009 numbers. If any of the 3 get a call-up, it will be Estrada, as he is already on the 40-man roster.

Other dark horses include LHP Aaron Thompson (needs to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid the Rule 5 Draft this offseason but probably too high in innings), LHP Horacio Ramirez (unlikely due to poor performance with Syracuse), 1B Daryle Ward (unlikely due to poor performance with Syracuse), OF Norris Hopper (possible, but unlikely due to the calling up of Maxwell), IF Seth Bynum (unlikely due to poor AAA performance in 2009, low BB rates and high K rates), IF/OF Kory Casto (unlikely due to lack of sustained power since 2007), 1B Brad Eldred (possibility, but due to the fact that he's an Adam Dunn all power-no glove clone at 1B, I doubt it).

Note-Molina, Segovia, Everts and Wilkie need to be added to the 40-man roster. The Nats are currently standing at 39/40 roster spots, but have up to 5 players who can be placed on the 60-day DL, as they are likely out for the season: RHP Ryan Mattheus, LHP Scott Olsen, C Jesus Flores, OF Austin Kearns and OF Nyjer Morgan. Off the top of my head, Flores has missed enough time retroactively that, if healthy enough, he could be placed on the 60-day DL now and be able to be activated at any point still.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Suddenly it all makes sense...

Ronnie Belliard has been traded to the Dodgers. So this is why we called up Pete Orr the other day!

The deal: Belliard for minor league RHP Luis Garcia and a PTBNL.

A quick look at Garcia:
-22 years old, 6'2" and 175 lbs
-Always puts up good ERAs (4.32, 3.55, 2.40 and 2.92 in his 4 minor league seasons).
-Walk and K rates? All over the place. Walks are way down this year, from 5+ BB/9 each year to 1.9 this year. K's aren't much more consistent, but have gone up last year and this year to 7+ K/9.
-Doesn't give up many HR and has a pretty decent H/9 as well.
-A potential workhorse. 8 GS over the last 4 years suggest he's not really a rotation candidate, but he has pitched 71 innings already this year. He has pitched less than 2 innings in only 9 of his 33 games this year.

Can't find any scouting reports, so I doubt he's really much of a prospect. Adios, Ronnie!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Night Thoughts

Before I say anything else, I'd like to point out that you don't need to watch the game to hurt after games like tonight. I may be unable to watch games anymore, but I do still follow them!

That being said, I have a few links to throw out:
Nats call up Pete Orr. Didn't see that one coming. I guess since there are only 3 more games left until September call-ups, it didn't really matter who they called up...I assume they would have called up Orr anyways. But I could probably name 10 players I would have rather seen called up than Orr. Also not exactly pleased that Orr wore Nicky J's old number.

Which current Nats player holds the record for most HR in a season without a sacrifice fly? Shouldn't be too difficult of a guess.

Which current Nats player was designated by Dave Allen at FanGraphs as "August's Best Hitter"? Also not too hard to guess.

Old friend Jon Rauch was traded to the Twins today for a PTBNL. I love Jon Rauch, but I am definitely not betting on the Twins next year after seeing the Diamondbacks turn into a pumpkin this year.

Call me crazy, but doesn't the Angels trade for Scott Kazmir make it more likely that John Lackey becomes a free agent this offseason? I'd like to see him wear a different shade of red if you know what I mean.

This is a little dated and a little off-topic, but Fantasy Sports Insurance? Really?

Dulles District

Just a heads up-my posts will now be double-featured here and at Be sure to check it out!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Morgan out for the year: who will replace him?

By now, I'm sure most of you have heard that Nyjer Morgan is out for the season, after breaking his hand sliding into third. That leaves us with a gaping hole to fill for the last 34 games of the season. I've come up with a list of players both inside and outside of the organization who could fill in for Morgan in CF for the remainder of the season.

Internal options:
Willie Harris-Probably the most popular option amongst the Natmosphere, but is it the right one? He's not a natural CF, and despite being fast, is not much more than average defensively. I expect Willie to get more starting time at CF, but would highly doubt seeing the Nats hand him the full-time role.
Elijah Dukes-Moving Dukes to CF gives the Nats the most flexibility, as they do have plenty of corner outfielders who can fill in at least temporarily there. Dukes is not as good of a defensive CF as Willie Harris, but the ability to have Harris fill in around the field and off of the bench may be more valuable than the difference in fielding ability.
Jorge Padilla-In a a pinch, sure. As a starter, no.
Justin Maxwell-I'd like to see Maxwell finish the year in the minors and get a grasp on hitting. He's a good fielder, but he simply doesn't have the bat yet.
Norris Hopper-read up about this possibility at FJB.

External options:
Matt Murton-Adding Murton would likely shift Dukes to the full-time CF role, but I'm fine with that. Murton is a good, cheap, reliable player and I would love to see him in a Nats uniform. Kinda like a poor man's 2006 Austin Kearns.
Chris Duncan-Just like Murton, signing Duncan would probably shift Dukes to CF. Unlike Murton, Duncan is a free agent, and would only cost the Nats the pro-rated league minimum for the rest of the season (Murton was DFA'ed, giving the Rockies 10 days to try and get something for him).

My vote is for the Nats to acquire Murton or Duncan to play a corner and shift Dukes to CF, while giving Harris spot starts in CF for the rest of the year. Obviously, Nyjer being healthy would be plan #1, but that's not an option anymore.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Inbox

The inbox is back and better than ever!

Of all the trades that were made so far this season, do you think that acquiring Nyjer Morgan was one of the best ones?
-- Bill D., Cromwell, Conn.

Out of all of the trades this year, it has helped the team the most in the short-term, but as FJB noted on Friday, it was a trade that was made for now rather than later.

Any chance the Nats will consider Adam Dunn as part of the long-term solution at first base?
-- Travis M., Alexandria, Va.

Consider? Yes. Seriously consider? I doubt it. I think that if Willingham plays 1B in Spring Training, he'll learn it well enough to be at least league average, which would be a huge upgrade over Adam Dunn at 1B.

Do you think Mike MacDougal and Ronnie Belliard will be back? At the very least, MacDougal could bridge the gap between Drew Storen, and every team needs a versatile pro like Belliard.
-- Dave F., Seaford, Del.

Gut guess: MacDougal-yes and Belliard-no. As Ladson said, Belliard is a big waiver trade candidate over the next month or so. I expect him to go (and will be surprised if he doesn't). MacDougal is interesting becuase he's still under team control for 2 more years. They'll keep him around and try to trade him next year at the deadline I bet.

What are the chances that we see Storen in a Washington uniform this September?
-- Xavier N., Houston

I doubt it. There's no reason to rush him, start his service time, spend a 40-man spot, etc. No need making the Ross Detwiler mistake twice, even though it wasn't really a big deal.

Recent trade rumors about Cristian Guzman and other players have me wondering: When do the Nats trade for some bats? I understand the need for solid pitching, but there were stretches of the season in which the offense was totally dormant.

-- Luke H., Prince Frederick, Md.

I don't see where an upgrade is sorely needed. Dukes, Dunn, Guzman, Morgan, Willingham and Zimmerman are all league-average or better with the bat and Jesus Flores will be solid next year behind the dish. I'm happy with those 7's bats and an all-glove, no-hit 2B in my lineup any day.

Guzman has lost a step defensively. Any chance the Nationals can move Guzman to second base next year and sign a shortstop?
-- Rich R., Slingerlands, N.Y.

This idea has been shut down too many times for me to believe it's possible, but I don't see what the risk of trying something like this in Spring Training for a couple of games is.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Time to give 'em hell

According to Gordon Edes of Yahoo Sports, the Nats are close to replacing interim GM Mike Rizzo with Diamondbacks assistant VP Jerry Dipoto. Let me repeat that. The guy who has started to rebuild a organization in shambles with good players who understand how to play the game is going to be replaced.

This is ridiculous, if true (which isn't a safe assumption). No wonder the Nats have no respect in the industry...there is absolutely no consistency in the organization. Bowden does everything wrong for 4 years and never gets fired. Rizzo does nothing wrong for 6 months and is going to be replaced.

For the sake of discussion, here's what Rizzo has done:
Signed #1 pick Stephen Strasburg to a deal at or below his percieved market value.
Signed 30/51 draftees, including 14 of the top 15 picks.
Resigned the face of the franchise, Ryan Zimmerman, to a deal at or below his market value.
Signed higher-ceiling "scrap heap" players such as LHP Joe Beimel, RHP Mike Macdougal and C Josh Bard to one-year contracts.
Cut ties with ineffective players who showed no signs of improvement (Steven Shell, Julian Tavarez, Kip Wells, Gustavo Chacin, Josh Towers, Alex Cintron, Corey Patterson, Daniel Cabrera).
Traded the two best players with expiring contracts, 1B Nick Johnson and LHP Joe Beimel, for mid level prospects with decent upside.
Traded two players with upside but poor ML performance (RHP Joel Hanrahan and OF Lastings Milledge) for two players with decent ML performance but less upside (LHP Sean Burnett and OF Nyjer Morgan).
Traded a low-level prospect with good minor league performance (RHP Kyle Gunderson) for a ML reliever with poor ML performance but upside (RHP Logan Kensing)-pretty much the only bad move he's made, unless you count signing guys like Kip Wells to minor league deals bad.

It's a nice change from Bowden, eh? Consistency and stability are two things Rizzo obviously values with his team-building. Too bad the organization doesn't understand the value of either.

Let's give 'em hell, Natmosphere. It's time to stand up for Mike. He has his own plan-let him implement it.

I told you we would sign him

But had signed up just in case. But I was still right!

$15.67 over 4 years isn't bad at all...and what a wonderful way to end my 300th post: STEPHEN STRASBURG IS A NATIONAL!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Less to complain about than we're used to

I don't think "spoiled" is an appropriate description of Nats fans right now, as our team is still way in last place, but the month of August has been a fun time to cheer on the boys wearing red, white and blue. And with Logan Kensing being DFA'ed today, there's less to complain about.

But that being said, what's a blog without some whining? Here are a few things on my mind:

Strasburg will sign a "fair offer." There is still no doubt in my mind that if the Nats really did offer him a contract with a $17 million signing bonus, he'll sign it. I don't mind him holding out till the last second to squeeze a little more out of the Lerner's pockets, because it keeps the Nats from pitching him too much this year. He's not ready for the majors, and him holding out until mid-August pretty much guarantees he won't be here in September.

Riggleman should not be the manager beyond 2009. I love Riggleman as a guy and as a bench coach, but we can find a better manager. I don't want to get nit-picky and blame everything that goes wrong on him, but in a game like yesterday the Nats basically won in spite of his managing. I'm not begging for Manny back...I just think the "interim" should stay on Riggleman's title.

Rizzo should be the General Manager beyond 2009, but will he be? We've been telling ourselves that Rizzo's handling of the Strasburg negotiations will be the make or break point of his audition for full-time GM. Once tomorrow strikes and Strasburg is officially a National, it's time to name Rizzo GM. If they don't remove the interim within the next week, I don't believe he'll be back becuase if that's the case, I don't think he's their guy. After tonight, he's got nothing else to prove...either commit to him now or let him loose.

Bill Ladson is a pretty good reporter. I've been harsh on him in the past, but I'd like to point out publicly that his blog is becoming a must-check for breaking Nats news. Now, this doesn't mean I'm retiring my inbox/mailbag answering really means I'm having trouble being snarky, as Bill has been leaving me with nothing to snark at!

Chico Harlan is a really good reporter. Reading his stuff almost makes me feel sophisticated and well-read...but then I remember that I am neither. Still, Chico is well on his way to being the food critic or whatever it is that he has always wanted to be. I will be happy for him but sad for the Nats coverage the day he leaves the beat.

Monday, August 10, 2009


It's Ladson inbox time!

What's the deal with Strasburg? Will the Nationals sign him?
-- Jeff G., Esperance, N.Y.

Without a doubt, yes.

How do you think Adam Dunn is doing at first base right now?
-- Yu-Hung S., Chiayi, Taiwan

He's better than I expected he would be...I'll take him over Dmitri. Still would like to see Willingham get some PT there as well, though, because he might end up being a good defensive 1B rather than the liability that Dunn still is.

The Nationals have been a totally different team after the All-Star break. How has Jim Riggleman changed the attitude and approach of the ballclub?
-- Asher K., Birmingham, Ala.

I'm not going to lie-I'm a fan of managers like Riggleman rather than Acta. It seemed like nobody cared about losing when Acta was the players seem to me like they're more into games and are enjoying winning more than before.

I was surprised by your answer that sticking with Austin Kearns too long was former manager Manny Acta's worst move, even though I totally agree. Weren't you the first to defend him all the time, saying that he was a superstar and could hit 40 homers?
-- Alex C., Montreal

"I never said Kearns was a superstar and could hit 40 homers. I often complimented Kearns for his work ethic. Last year, for example, it always stuck out because there were players on that team who didn't give it their all."

I looked into this and Ladson's telling the truth as far as I can tell. He once said "There is no question that he must produce with the bat this year. I would like to see him hit 35 home runs and drive in 110 runs. I've been told many times by members of the Nats' front office that Kearns is the club's second-best player behind Ryan Zimmerman. Now it's time for Kearns to put up Zimmerman-type stats." I think people misconstrued that to be a prediction rather than the challenge it looks like in retrospect.

How much longer do the Nationals have Nyjer Morgan under contract? I think he's the answer in center field and in the leadoff spot. He could contribute for many years in D.C.
-- Chris M., Springfield, Va.

As Ladson noted, he can be auto-renewed for 2 more years and then is arb-eligible for 3 years after he's ours for quite a while.

I have a great admiration for Bard for playing in such pain. But why do the Nats keep playing him when he is obviously injured?
-- Roy H., Fredericksburg, Va.

They don't really have another option to call up, so I guess they're just doing what they can with what they have. If he says he can play, who are they to tell him no?

I think the Nationals have a nice young core of young starting pitchers. If the Nats could add a veteran through free agency this offseason, who would be a good fit?
-- Bryan A., Fairfield, Conn.

John Lackey, Jason Marquis and Randy Wolf are 3 guys who stick out to me as reasonable candidates. MLBTR has a list of 2010 free agents here.

I was wondering the status of catcher Jesus Flores. How is he doing in his rehab?
-- Roy H., Charleston, S.C.

In his NJ interview from late July, Flores sounded very gung-ho about being back for Winter League, but didn't sound like he would be back this prepare for more Bard/Nieves.

And all I have to say on ZNN-crap. We're pulling for you, Jordan...we'll be ready for you in ST 2011.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Two trades that I like

First off, the Nats dealt 2B Anderson Hernandez back to the Mets today for 2B prospect Greg Veloz. I like. Hernandez isn't doing anything, is never going to do anything, etc. While Veloz probably won't either, he at least has "tools," a scary word when used in Jim Bowden context, but not one you want to avoid. He's very fast and has a good enough glove to handle 2B in the bigs. If his contact and on base skills (and I use "skills" broadly), he could be mildly case scenario he turns into Emilio Bonifacio and worst case scenario he turns into Anderson Hernandez.

The other deal was for Daryle Ward and Norris Hopper. Both guys are organizational depth at this point, but a) the Nats didn't give up anyone, b) they're not blocking anyone (and its probably more beneficial for most of our guys' development to leave them where they are) and c) Daryle Ward is back! I loved Daryle in 2006 when he had a .958 OPS off the bench for the Nats. He hits righties hard and can play 1B when Dunn turns the circus music off.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Inbox, other stuff

Before I start with the inbox, check out the Facebook group "I <3>." Coveroo has agreed to give one lucky winner who guesses Strasburg's SB closest without going over a free Nats Coveroo.

Now, for the Inbox:

Johnson was a great player and a face of the franchise, but does Aaron Thompson have a chance to make as much of an impact as Johnson?
-- David W., Potomac, Md.

It depends on what you define "as much of an impact" as. I'm pretty sure Thompson will be worth more to the Nats over the next year years than two months of NJ would have been, but at this point he's really just another pitching prospect to stockpile. My guess is he'll end up as a #4/5 starter but the same was definitely said about John Lannan a few years back!

Craig Stammen continues to struggle. They should put Tyler Clippard in the rotation and move Stammen to the bullpen. What are your thoughts?
-- Joshua, Puerto Rico

I think at this point there's no point to switch them. Clippard (admittedly in a small sample size) has only been effective against batters the first time through the lineup. And besides that, after converting him to a reliever, I don't see them reversing it anytime soon. And while Stammen has gotten hit fairly hard in his last 2 outings, I'm not willing to give up on him yet.

What options do the Nats currently have at first base now that Johnson is gone?
-- Mike B., Washington, D.C.

Over the longrun, I think it will be Willingham. He's got the athletic ability to play there. It won't be pretty at first, but after a month or so I'm sure he'll look better than Dunn/Belliard. Once September rolls around, you might see Kory Casto, Mike Morse, Joel Guzman or Jorge Padilla there, depending on how the 40-man roster looks.

How does a player fail a physical for the Nationals and become an All-Star for the Dodgers? I'm talking about Hudson.
-- Peter R., Vancouver, BC Canada

He. Was. Not. Healthy. Enough. To. Give. A. Contract. To. Not sure how this is so hard for people to understand. It is never a good idea to sign someone who fails a physical. Get over yourself and hope they can sign him this offseason.

It has been stated a few times that the Nats will be looking for a shortstop in the offseason, and that Cristian Guzman's defense has become suspect. Were the Nats shopping Guzman before the Trade Deadline?
-- Frank H., Washington, D.C.

I hope so.

Some other links:

Jon Heyman had a few Nats-related snippets today. Don't mistake me for Heyman fan, because I'm surely not...just passing info along.

1-Dunn is likely to clear waivers, Villone might, Willingham won't.

2-Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd and Dodgers GM Ned Colletti both have expiring contracts and could be targets for the Nats' GM job in the offseason. Other potential targets could include former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker, White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn, Marlins assistant GM Dan Jennings and Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer. Heyman notes that Hunsicker and Hahn aren't locks to accept a job if it is offered.

Daniel Cabrera signed with the Diamondbacks and Corey Patterson signed with the Brewers. Pity their fans.