Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nationals Offseason Additions: The Complete List

If you look around, most blogs do some sort of "offseason in review" entry. These reviews are good and all, but are nowhere near complete, because they don't need to be. But here at DC Sports Plus, we try to be as complete and comprehensive as possible, so we'll go over every single addition and subtraction in the entire 2009-'10 offseason, starting at the trade deadline. I know this is not the usual start of offseasons, but that is when the beginning of personnel changes for the following season do begin, whether we admit it or not.

Let me clarify that my definition of "addition" is loose. This is for players who were signed, traded for, re-signed, had options exercised or were added in the Rule 5 draft. As you will see, there are a few little surprises thrown in there.

MLC means minor league contract. All other contracts should be assumed to be Major League.

NRI means Non-Roster Invitation to Spring Training

ACI means Accelerated Camp Invitation (essentially the minor league Spring Training)

If terms are not posted, that means I couldn't find them.

Additions (in alphabetical order):

RHP Miguel Batista (signed to MLC w/ NRI. 2009 org: SEA. 1 WS Ring)

The 39 year old righty (and writer) has bounced around the majors for parts of 15 seasons. I said in February that "I think Batista will be a heavily-used member of the Nats' bullpen this year. Maybe not good, but heavily-used." I'll stick with that assessment for now. Don't expect to see the 4.04 ERA he put up last year but at the same time, don't expect the 6.26 ERA he put up in 2008, either. Somewhere in the high 4's or low 5's sounds about right for both Batista and a 39 year old non-roster invitee.

Baseball-Reference Page, FanGraphs Page

RHP Andrew Brown (MLC w/ ACI, 2009 org: none)

Andrew Brown is such a common name, I hope I'm talking about the right guy...but Zuckerman said RHP Andrew Brown on his ACI list, and this is the only RHP named Andrew Brown. I can't find a reason for why Brown didn't pitch in 2009, despite a pretty solid 2008 season in the majors (take "solid" with a grain of salt). Brown has bounced around quite a bit, but has ML experience and okay peripherals. The 29 year old will be spending time in Syracuse, I'd say.

B-R, FanGraphs

RHP Brian Bruney (acquired from NYY in trade for Rule 5 pick OF Jamie Hoffman. Awarded $1.5 mil in arbitration. 2009 org: NYY. 1 WS Ring)

Bruney has a knack for putting up good numbers in even-numbered years as well as out-performing his FIP. His historically bad control is getting a little better (using the word "better" liberally, that is), with his BB/9 trending down from 7.76 in 2004 to the high 6's from '05-'07 to 4.19 in '08 and 5.31 in '09. Still crappy, but trending down! Bruney will be relied upon in the pen this year, so here's to hoping that BB/9 keeps dropping lower and lower!

Here's what I said about the 28 year old righty after the trade: "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." Yup, sticking to that, too!

B-R, FanGraphs

SS Eric Bruntlett (signed to MLC w/ NRI. 2009 org: PHI. 1 WS Ring)

Bruntlett's bat is tremendously bad. If he ever starts a game, it's like having two pitchers at the bottom of the lineup (he has a career isolated slugging of .099!). But due to his good defense, he's been above replacement value in 5 of his 7 seasons despite having a career .231/.303/.330 triple slash. Unfortunately for the Nats, even that seems to be fading, as FanGraphs lists Bruntlett as worth 2.9 fielding runs below average last year (paired with a .462 OPS, no less). I'm willing to let it slide due to a small-ish sample size for now, but if the downturn continues for the soon-to-be 32 year old, I don't see him sticking in Syracuse let alone DC. Funny how he will still be in Cooperstown forever (for 2 things, actually)!

B-R, FanGraphs

C Jamie Burke (re-signed to MLC w/ NRI. 2009 orgs: SEA and WAS)

I wouldn't be surprised if we saw Jamie in DC again this year. With Flores battling injuries, Pudge battling age and Nieves battling a lack of production, Burke could make his way up for a few games here and there. He put up Nieves-like numbers for Seattle from '07-'09, with a .256/.308/.337 triple slash and has thrown out 32% of potential base stealers in his career. Not what you want to see out of an everyday player, but not that bad for your 38 year old 4th catcher, either.

B-R, FanGraphs

RHP Matt Capps (signed to 1 year, $3.5 mil contract. 2009 org: PIT)

I'm a big fan of the Capps signing because I see a similar pitcher to what we hope Storen will become (minus the overworking and all). He is the Picasso of control artists (or of Nationals' control artists at least), with a career BB/9 of 1.66. His other rate stats are all around league average for his career, but for us, that's quite an upgrade. I expect for Capps to rebound from his poor 2009 season with an above-average 2010, although I won't go as far to say he'll be bounce back to his '07-'08 form yet.

B-R, FanGraphs

LHP Matt Chico (returning from Tommy John surgery in 2008)

I have tagged Matt Chico in more of my DC Sports Plus posts over the years than all past and present Nationals other than Dukes, Dunn, Milledge, Strasburg, Johnson, Kearns, Zimmerman, Guzman, Young, Bergmann and Flores, despite the fact that my blog's existence only overlapped with Matt Chico actually pitching for 3 months. Most of my posts about him have been negative. Don't get me wrong, I am very appreciative of him for showing up and giving the Nats 49 more innings than any other pitcher on the team in 2007. I don't think he'll be able to repeat them, though, as he was pretty lucky that year. A 4.63 ERA is fine for a Nationals SP, but when you look at his 5.56 FIP, 1.27 K:BB ratio and 1.40 HR/9 from his "good" year, it doesn't inspire a whole lot of confidence in his ability to perform on a ML level. I won't be surprised to see Chico in DC a little bit, but if the 26 year old lefty is relied upon for more than a few spot starts or long relief work, we're in trouble.

B-R, FanGraphs

C Chris Coste (claimed off waivers from NYM in March 2010. 2009 orgs: PHI and HOU. 1 WS ring)

Coste is a nice little addition right before the start of the season. While he has only thrown out 22% of potential base stealers over his career and hit .224/.301/.317, he provides insurance to the Nats if Pudge or Nieves go down early while Flores and Burke are still recovering from injury. If we see a whole lot of Coste in DC in 2010, it isn't going to be a good thing for the Nats, but he's a warm body to put into the Syracuse lineup when Jhonatan Solano needs a break.

B-R, FanGraphs

OF Chris Duncan (signed to MLC w/ NRI. 2009 orgs: STL and BOS. 1 WS Ring)

Here's what I wrote about Duncan earlier: "I think he has a great chance [to make the team]. The Nats don't have any lefthanded hitters with any pop to come off the bench. If he puts up decent numbers in Spring Training, I think he'll stick. With a career line of .270/.366/.485 against righties, I think he'd be an awesome guy to have around to serve as a late game pinch hitter or Elijah Dukes platoon partner IF he rebounds from an awful stretch in 2007-08. But like Ladson said, pairing him back up with Rick Eckstein could help him a bunch."

Duncan bouncing back is far from a guarantee. After awesome 2006-07 seasons, he battled injuries and ineffectiveness for the last two years. He's not a great fielder, but he is a lefthanded bat with the ability to put up 20 HR in a season. He's 28 (and will turn 29 in May), so this really was a make-or-break Spring Training for Duncan. He'll have to prove himself in Syracuse now, big-time.

B-R, FanGraphs

LHP Jesse English (claimed off of waivers from SF in September '09. 2009 org: SF)

In December, 2008, Marc Hulet of Fangraphs mentioned English, saying "the left-hander gets by with craftiness and deception, as his fastball does not exceed 88 mph. He also has a plus change-up, as well as a developing breaking ball." That was after he put up a 3.19 ERA in 26 starts in high A ball, with a K/9 around 9 and BB/9 of 3.39. Well, AA and 2009 were not as kind to English, even though his ERA remained respectable, at 4.20 in 100 and 2/3 innings. His rate stats were closer to Mike MacDougal than anything, with a 6.35 K/9 and 5.10 BB/9. Since he hasn't pitched above AA (and hasn't pitched effectively above high A), I wouldn't expect to see him in DC at least until September. But he's on the 40-man roster, so anything can happen. If he turns into Matt Chico, I think we'll be happy. If he turns into John Lannan, on the other hand...

B-R, FanGraphs

RHP Robinson Fabian (acquired from COL in July 2009 trade with RHP Ryan Mattheus for LHP Joe Beimel. 2009 orgs: COL and WAS)

Fabian is an intriguing prospect that is really frustrating to try and figure out. The 24 year old supposedly has a 97 mph fastball, but only struck out 5.4 batters per 9 innings in 2009 (as opposed to his career average of 6.8 K/9). For someone described as "a thrower and not a pitcher" (see the above link), he doesn't walk that many batters either, though: 2.10 BB/9 in 2009, 3.1 BB/9 for his career. But given the fact that Fabian has decent control (3.03 BB/9 or better from 2007-09), keeps the ball in the yard (0.77 HR/9 in low A and above) and has a 97 mph heater, he's worth something. We just don't know what to expect from him...still.

The Joe Beimel deal was a good one, even if Fabian and Ryan Mattheus don't turn out to do anything. Moving an upcoming free agent reliever at the deadline for two arms with upside is something a last place team should do 10 times out of 10.

B-R, FanGraphs

3B Adam Fox (signed to MLC. 2009 org: TEX)

Texas' 10th round pick in 2003 hasn't amounted to much in his seven seasons in the minors. He hit pretty well in his 5th go-around in AA last year if that makes a difference. I'll take organization fodder for $100, Alex.

B-R, FanGraphs

RHP Luis Garcia (acquired from LA in August 2009 trade with LHP Victor Garate for 2B Ronnie Belliard. 2009 orgs: LA and WAS)

Here's what I had to say about Garcia in August: "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."

Here's what John Sickels had to say about the 23 year old righty in November: "Garcia features a 90-94 MPH sinking fastball. His slider could use more definition, but he made huge improvements with his control last year: note his massively superior K/BB ratio compared to his rookie ball performance. He collects ground balls as well, posting a 1.76 GO/AO last year, and looks like he could be a useful relief asset down the line. I like the trend lines in Garcia's performance numbers, and he has a live arm."

Not bad for somebody we got for 2 months of Ronnie Belliard, eh? If Garcia turns into the 2006-08 version of Saul Rivera, sweet! If not, I guess we missed out on 2 months of Ronnie Belliard for nothing...oh well!

B-R, FanGraphs

LHP Victor Garate (acquired from LA in August 2009 trade with RHP Luis Garcia for 2B Ronnie Belliard. 2009 orgs: LA and WAS)

Garate put up great numbers in 2008 and '09 in the minors, but was thumped in his cup of coffee for the Nats last September. He routinely puts up huge K/9 numbers in the minors (11.5 K/9 for his career), but that can be semi-attributed to being old for his level and facing a lot of lefthanded batters. Since he was removed from the 40-man roster in January, he's more of a long-shot to make the team than he would have been in September. Like a lot of these guys, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in DC in 2010 for a little while.

B-R, FanGraphs

LHP Glenn Gibson (MLC w/ ACI. 2009 org: TB)

Gibson was traded away for Elijah Dukes in December of 2007 and has seen his career bottom out since then. But since he was listed as the 8th best Nationals prospect in 2008, with both the best changeup and the best control, he's worth another shot. While with the Rays, his walk rates skyrocketed while his strikeout rates plummeted. Maybe a familiar face in the organization can tweak something to turn him into something useful.

B-R, FanGraphs

3B Angel Gonzalez (signed to MLC. 2009 org: PIT)

Went 37 for 201 between A+ and AA in 2009. No, that's not a typo. He'll be a bench player for Potomac or Hagerstown I bet.

B-R, FanGraphs

RHP Livan Hernandez (signed to MLC w/ NRI worth $900 if he makes the team. 2009 orgs: NYM and WAS. 1 WS ring)

There has been a lot of scuttlebutt about the Livo signing, but I can't find anything wrong with it. It's not guaranteed. Livan's numbers don't look great as a whole, but we're the perfect team for him. Chico Harlan had it right, saying, "Hernandez...tends to have quality starts for two or three outings, then getting shelled in the fourth. For teams that don't mind the occasional stinker, this is a good trade-off." When Livan gets shelled, it's to the point where the team has no chance to win. But most of the time, he puts up 6 decent innings, which is valuable for a team like the Nats. Plus, it's not guaranteed and you can never have enough starters.

B-R, FanGraphs

LHP Chuck James (signed to MLC w/ ACI. 2009 org: none)

James was apparently out of baseball in 2009 and was awful in the majors in 2008. He was pretty decent in '06 and '07 for Atlanta if you look at his ERA and W-L record, but his career best FIP in the majors is 5.14. As I said on Monday, we probably have at least 10-15 better options than James to make the Opening Day roster, so his chances are slim-to-none. But if he makes it to DC at some point, Dan Steinberg will have a goldmine. James used to spend his winters working at Lowe's and refused medical treatment after being bitten by a copperhead. Nice!

B-R, FanGraphs

RHP Juan Jaime (added to 40-man on November 19)

Jaime came out of nowhere for me. The 22 year old spent 2009 in Vermont and Hagerstown, striking out over 12.28 batters per 9 innings but walking around 5 at the same time. It's a small sample size in a low league, but it was good enough to get Rizzo to add him to the 40-man. I'd say he's one of the biggest maker or break candidates going into 2010 for the Nats as he gets challenged on higher levels.

B-R, FanGraphs

C Josh Johnson (MLC. 2009 org: York (Atlantic League))

While it looked like Johnson was headed to Syracuse after he signed last week, the addition of Chris Coste all but assures that he'll be going somewhere else, and perhaps even cut. With a career .190/.274/.287 triple slash line in the minors, we won't be missing much.

B-R, FanGraphs

2B Adam Kennedy (signed to 1 year, $1.25 mil contract with $2 mil option for 2011. 2009 orgs: TB and OAK. 1 WS Ring)

Adam Kennedy is not the answer to our 2B problems. I'll get that statement out of the way now. He's a handy utility guy to keep around, but he's a below average starter. While his 2009 season showed a resurgence in his bat to a triple slash line of .289/.348/.410, most of his projections line up more with his 2006 and 2008 seasons where he hit around .275/.330/.380. Not bad, but not what you'd like to see out of a guy whose glove value took a huge hit in 2009. I think we'll be seeing a lot more of Ian Desmond, Cristian Guzman and Willie Harris at 2B than a lot of people think. Still a great signing as a depth guy, but not as a full-time starter.

B-R, FanGraphs

IF Chase Lambin (MLC. 2009 org: Chiba Lotte Marines (Japan))

The AAAA slugger spent 2009 playing for Bobby Valentine in Japan, struggling to the tune of .192/.254/.358 in 120 AB's. While at 30 years old his time to make a Major League roster may be running out, he's got a decent enough bat to get a shot. Think Rick Short!

OF Carl Loadenthal (MLC. 2009 orgs: NYM and Newark (Atlantic League))

The 28 year old has never gotten above AAA (and only spent half of a season there), so he's an organizational sign. His ability to take a walk plus his ability to steal bases make him an interesting pickup for Harrisburg or Syracuse, but the likelihood of ever seeing him in a Nats uniform are slim to none.

B-R, FanGraphs

SS Pedro Lopez (MLC. 2009 org: PIT)

Lopez is at least a little bit intriguing to me due to his age (26 in April) and his ML experience (16 games in 2005 and '07). Now, it wasn't good ML experience (.192/.222/.231), but there's something to say about a decent defensive infielder (listed as CHW's #1 defensive infield prospect) that can help fill in the holes in AAA. If he makes the ML roster at some point, we're in trouble, but he's a nice luxury to have around in AA or AAA to help out the youngsters.

B-R, FanGraphs

C Carlos Maldonado (MLC. 2009 org: BOS)

The 31 year old backstop spent a little bit of time in the bigs with the Pirates in 2006 and '07, hitting .163/.260/.326 in 50 plate appearances. Maldonado hasn't played in more than 100 games since 2006 and has a career .258/.330/.361 minor league triple slash line, so don't expect much more than Harrisburg or Syracuse out of him.

B-R, FanGraphs

RHP Jason Marquis (signed to 2 year deal worth $15 mil. 2009 org: COL)

Marquis was an average signing, just like he's an average pitcher. Giving a 31 year old pitcher a 2 year deal worth significant money can be dangerous, especially given his poor peripherals. But he (usually) gets guys out and eats a lot of innings. I like the idea of adding him so the Nats don't have to rush guys like Detwiler and Stammen to the bigs like they did last year, but the price is a little high for me. He's also a career .202/.223/.295 hitter, so it's nice to not have a complete automatic out at the end of the lineup. Don't expect him to break out in 2010, but be surprised if he pitches less than 180 innings at a 4.60 ERA or so.

B-R, FanGraphs

RHP Rafael Martin (MLC w/ ACI)

Martin has been getting a lot of press in the last week or so. The Mexican (but really Californian) righty spent a few years after high school working as a contractor before going back to baseball as a 22 year old (read Kilgore's article for more background). His peripherals improved over the years in the Mexican League, ending up with a 3.6 BB/9 and 9.2 K/9 in 2009, easily his best numbers in his 3 year career. I don't think he's quite as close to the Majors as Stan and the gang are playing him up to be, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see him in September if he pitches well in Harrisburg and Syracuse.

B-R, (no FanGraphs page available)

RHP Ryan Mattheus (acquired from COL in July 2009 trade with RHP Robinson Fabian for LHP Joe Beimel. 2009 org: COL)

Mattheus did not actually suit up for any Nats affiliates last year due to his Tommy John surgery in July. He's kinda old (26) for a prospect who has not reached the bigs yet, but his numbers look decent in his two seasons as a reliever in the minors (3.32 ERA, 7.96 H/9, 8.93 K/9, 4.08 BB/9, 0.86 HR/9 in 82 and 2/3 innings). We'll see whether or not the sinkerballer makes a full recovery from TJ and perhaps we'll see him in September or in Spring Training next year.

Here is one money quote from Chico's article about the deadline deals: "We felt it was a risk worth taking to roll the dice and see if this guy returns to his pre-injury form," Rizzo said, speaking of Mattheus. "If he does that, we've got a steal here for a situational left-handed reliever that was going to walk away in two months."

B-R, FanGraphs

OF Kevin Mench (MLC w/ ACI. 2009 org: Hanshin Tigers (Japan))

Mench's .148/.179/.204 triple slash from Japan last year can be semi-discounted because he only played in 15 games, but he wasn't that great in the PCL in 2008, either. He last topped a 100 or better OPS+ in a major league season in 2005. And got a huge head. Given the Nats' apparent obsession with keeping speedy centerfielders on the roster (Morgan, Bernadina, Taveras), I don't know that we'll be seeing a whole lot of Mench, even though he's had a rock-solid Spring Training.

B-R, FanGraphs, The Baseball Cube (includes Japan stats)

OF Nick Moresi (taken from HOU in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. 2009 org: HOU)

The 2006 3rd round pick out of Fresno St. never seemed to get a groove during his three years in the Astros' system, ending up with a .219/.286/.355 triple slash. He stole 28 bases out of 38 attempted, and hit 27 HR with K% around 28% and a BB% around 7%. All I could dig up on him was this quote from this quote: "He can run and play all three outfield positions, but he's not much of a power guy," (Astros) assistant general manager Ricky Bennett said. "But he's a good defensive player and can run the bases." So we're thinking organizational fodder here as well.

B-R, FanGraphs

C Derek Norris (NRI, 2009 org: WAS)

I won't go too in-depth on Norris (or the other two top prospects on this list), but I will say that 2009 is a very encouraging year. The power (.227 ISO) and patience (16.7% BB%) are a great combination behind the plate, assuming his defense is good enough to stick around there (not a safe assumption). He's still far from a guarantee, as 2009 was his first full season and he still hasn't played above A ball, but he's looking pretty good to us right now.

B-R, FanGraphs

LHP Scott Olsen (re-signed to 1 year deal worth $1 mil. 2009 org: WAS)

Here's to hoping Olsen will get some velocity back in 2010 and stay healthy. He can't be worse than he was in 2009, can he? I think he's capable of bouncing back this season if his arm gets better, but when his fastball isn't reaching 90, it's not pretty.

B-R, FanGraphs

IF Luis Ordaz (MLC. 2009 org: none)

Nothing to see here. Ordaz has 496 career PA in the majors with a .218/.274/.248 triple slash line. He'll turn 35 in August and will probably serve as a bench/utility guy in Syracuse.

B-R (Majors), B-R (minors), FanGraphs

OF Jerry Owens (MLC w/ NRI. 2009 orgs: CHW and SEA)

The speedy outfielder was originally drafted by the Expos in the 2nd round of the 2003 draft and dealt to the White Sox for Alex Escobar in February of 2005. He's basically a lefthanded version of Willy Taveras, with a career .262/.319/.305 triple slash line in 430 major league plate appearances. He's not young anymore (29) and doesn't have enough power (or performance in general) to benefit from Elijah Dukes' release, but he's a solid defender with plenty of speed.

Here's what Dave Cameron of FanGraphs had to say in November:

"Owens has been the focus of scorn and derision from White Sox fans who had to endure Ozzie Guillen’s attempts to make him an everyday player, which he simply isn’t cut out for. However, as a fourth outfielder, Owens is actually a useful player. His defense is a real positive at all three spots and he’s a very good base stealer. He doesn’t have any power, but he’s an excellent contact hitter who is willing to draw a walk from time to time, so he won’t kill you at the plate."

So while he may not be a candidate for a starting role, Owens could help out off of the bench this year.

B-R (Majors), B-R (minors), FanGraphs

RHP Joel Peralta (MLC w/ NRI. 2009 org: COL)

Peralta looked to be a useful bullpen piece for the Royals after his solid 2007 season (3.80 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 6.78 K/9, 1.95 BB/9). Unfortunately for him, it looks like that was his peak rather than a sign of more good things to come. Peralta's ERA has bounced around 6.00 each of the last two seasons, which makes it no surprise that he was re-assigned to minor league camp fast. His 2010 projections are semi-optimistic, but I would be surprised to see him under a 4.50 or so ERA. He'll be a National at some point during the year...just not a good one.

B-R (Majors), B-R (minors), FanGraphs

OF Pedro Powell (MLC. 2009 org: TB)

Another all-speed, no-power guy. Powell turns 26 in May and does not look like a ML player (let alone AAA or AA) at this point. Career .204/.254/.231 hitter in AA leads me to believe that he'll start in Hagerstown or Potomac and end up either cut or in a different organization by midseason.

B-R, FanGraphs

LHP Jeff Ridgway (MLC. 2009 org: ATL)

Ridgway missed the 2009 season after being released by the Braves in Spring Training and having bone fragments removed from his elbow. The lefty will turn 30 in August with only 10 ML innings to his name, but I wouldn't count him out just yet. In his short ML stint with the Braves in '08, he only allowed lefties to hit .194 off of him with a .237 OBP. Unfortunately for him, 4 of the 7 hits he allowed were for extra bases and 3 were homers. If his arm is fixed, there's a decent chance Ridgway makes it back to the bigs this year as a LOOGY, but he will begin the year buried behind the likes of Burnett, English, Slaten, Severino and Garate.

B-R (Majors), B-R (minors), FanGraphs

C Ivan Rodriguez (signed to 2 year deal worth $6 mil. 2009 orgs: HOU and TEX. 1 WS ring)

Signing Pudge for two years was probably not the best idea, but he will help the team in the short term. His ability to hit and get on base has waned every year since 2004, but he still throws out his fair share of attempted base stealers (35% in 2009, 31% in '08, 51% in '05 and '06). He can be a nice mentor for both the young pitching staff and the young catchers in the system. I think Pudge was the right man to bring aboard, but I think the Nats overpaid by a lot for him.

B-R, FanGraphs

LHP Atahualpa Severino (added to 40-man on November 19)

Just like Juan Jaime, Severino was not on my radar in 2009. He's a little bit old for his level of competition (did not reach AA until last year, when he was almost 25), but he did hold his own to some extent in Harrisburg, with a 2.78 ERA, 3.64 FIP and a 10.72 K/9 in his 22 and 2/3 innings there. While his BB/9 skyrocketed up to 5.56 in the same stint, I would expect the K/9 rate to normalize around 7.5-8 K/9 and 3 BB/9 in Syracuse this year.

B-R, FanGraphs

LHP Doug Slaten (claimed off waivers from ARI in November 2009. 2009 org: ARI)

Slaten was drafted in 2000, Rizzo's first year as Arizona's scouting director (also chosen by ARI in that draft: Brandon Webb, Brian Bruney and Ian Kinsler). The lefty is looking like a LOOGY at this point in his career, with a career .261/.322/.394 line against lefthanded batters as opposed to a .278/.358/.468 line against righties. After being removed from the 40-man for the Bruneyacquisition, Slaten has a bit of an uphill climb back to the major league roster, especially with Jesse English's good Spring Training showing, but he will probably be up at some point during the year.

B-R (Majors), B-R (minors), FanGraphs

OF Sean Smith (MLC. 2009 org: Somerset (Atlantic))

Smith is yet another Nats offseason signing out of the Atlantic League, joining Josh Johnson and Carl Loadenthal. Smith spent the last two years with Somerset, with a combined .274/.352/.421 line. He's got a lot of speed (207/262 career SB, good for a 79% success rate), but simply has not hit well enough over the years to be looked at serious for a starting role in the organization.

B-R, FanGraphs

RHP Ryan Speier (MLC w/ NRI. 2009 org: COL)

I had a feeling that the submariner would make the Opening Day roster, but he didn't really get much of a chance, with only one Spring Training inning pitched. The West Springfield and Radford grad has only allowed 4 homers in his 99 and 1/3 innings pitched over his career, but gives up a fair share of both hits and walks. I bet we'll see Speier throw at least 20 innings for theNats this year, but maybe that's just my WSHS homerism talking. Still, Nats NQ and I have the Spy's back!

RHP Drew Storen (drafted 10th overall in 2009, NRI)

We all know who Drew Storen is, so I'm just going to assess his 2010 roster chances. Storen hates walking batters (unlike most other Nats pitchers who seem to love doing so), which is a big plus. His very good 2009 numbers in Hagerstown, Potomac, Harrisburg and the Arizona Fall League make it look like he's on the fast track to DC this summer just like the next big name; all he has to do is keep his K's up, his BB's down and the ball in the yard and he should be fine.

B-R, FanGraphs

RHP Stephen Strasburg (drafted 1st overall in 2009, added to 40-man roster)

He'll be up in June to anchor the rotation. That's about all there is to say.

B-R, (no FanGraphs page yet)

OF Willy Taveras (MLC w/ NRI. 2009 org: CIN)

I'm trying to rationalize the idea of Taveras making the Opening Day roster in my mind, but no amount of mind-altering drugs could bring anyone to such a conclusion. Taveras is an awful hitting centerfielder with some speed. He might be able to run around and catch some balls in RF, but his arm and bat aren't good enough to make him worth carrying on the roster to do that. Unless the Nats think they can flip him for something useful at the deadline, I simply can't see why they would keep him around right now-Bernadina, Mench, Maxwell, Duncan, Daniel, Lowrance and even Jermaine Dye are better options in my mind.

B-R, FanGraphs

LHP Aaron Thompson (acquired from FLA in July 2009 trade for 1B Nick Johnson. 2009orgs: FLA and WAS)

I may be a little too optimistic about Thompson, but his rate stats improved a lot for the Natsafter being acquired at the trade deadline. The 23 year old lefty improved his K/9 from 5.9 to 7.4 and his BB/9 went down to 3.03 from 3.39. While it was only in 32 and 2/3 innings, maybe the Nats' minor league pitching coaches are onto something. I doubt we'll see Thompson before September, but he could be called upon as a LOOGY if needed before then.

B-R, FanGraphs

2B Greg Veloz (acquired from NYM in August 2009 trade for IF Anderson Hernandez. 2009orgs: NYM and WAS)

Veloz is basically a younger version of Hernandez. With plus speed and a serviceable glove, the switch-hitting 21 year old has a chance to contribute in come capacity in the majors if his contact and walk rates develop. But with a .215/.285/.289 triple slash last year in high A ball (and 14 AA plate appearances), I wouldn't count on his bat developing all the way. Best case scenario is that he turns into the infield version of Willy Taveras (aka Anderson Hernandez, who he was traded for).

B-R, FanGraphs

RHP Tyler Walker (signed to 1 year deal worth $650k. 2009 org: PHI)

Walker may have found a way to pitch his way out of a roster spot, although he has improved of late. Since he allowed 11 runs on 14 hits in his first 2 and 2/3 innings of Spring Training this year, Walker has only given up 2 runs on 5 hits in his last 5 and 2/3 innings. Given his relative success over the years, I expect him to make the team, at least until Storen is ready to come up in June. Plus, who doesn't want a guy nicknamed "The Gobbler" to pitch for their team? Here's the story on the nickname from Wikipedia:

"Apparently, as Walker was making the transition from catcher to relief pitching, and fighting nerves, Walker would take a shot of Wild Turkey before jogging down to the bullpen. "

B-R, FanGraphs

RHP Chien-Ming Wang (signed to 1 year deal worth $2 mil. 2009 org: NYY)

I liked the signing back in February and I like it for the same 3 reasons now: we control his rights through the end of next season, he's a great groundball pitcher and he essentially hands the Nationals the Taiwanese market (which is not a big market, but a foreign market nonetheless). Even if Wang doesn't bounce back to his 2005-08 form (and there's no guarantee that he will), it's still the type of signing the Nationals should be making.

1B Josh Whitesell (MLC w/ NRI. 2009 org: ARI)

I was very upset when the Nats lost Whitesell on waivers before the 2008 season to make room for the likes of Ray King, Paul Lo Duca, Johnny Estrada and Rob Mackowiak. Funny how things turn out-he's back in a Nats uniform and wasn't really THAT good in the first place. He put up ridiculous numbers for Arizona's AAA squad in '08, hitting .328/.425/.568. He followed that up with a .293/.398/.471 line in half a year there last year as well before hitting .194/.346/.287 in 133 ML plate appearances. He's not going to be an all-star at the major league level, but I could see him getting ML bench time throughout the year and moving into the starting role if Dunn is traded at the deadline.

B-R (Majors), B-R (minors), FanGraphs

Monday, March 22, 2010

36 Names for 25 Spots

The Nats sent OF Chris Duncan, IF Pete Orr and SP Shairon Martis to minor league camp today, leaving the Spring Training roster with 36 players: 18 pitchers, 3 catchers, 8 infielders and 7 outfielders. While a few names like Ross Detwiler, Chien-Ming Wang and Jesus Flores stick out as players who will open the season on the DL, there are still plenty of position battles left. Here are my thoughts.

PITCHERS (18 candidates for 11-12 roster spots)
RHSP Luis Atilano: A lock to be sent down. He's only pitched 3 and 1/3 innings so far, allowing 4 earned runs, 6 hits and 1 walk while striking out 4. He pitched okay in AA and AAA last year, but there is no reason to rush him to the majors. Verdict: not on the Opening Day roster.
RHP Miguel Batista: It all comes down to how many pitchers the Nats keep, but I see Batista competing with Livan Hernandez, J.D. Martin, Craig Stammen and Tyler Walker for the last three or four spots in the rotation. If the Nats keep 12 pitchers, I think Batista will make the team. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as a reliever.
RHRP Jason Bergmann: Not as much of a lock as we give him credit for, but in a bullpen full of guys who have underwhelmed during Spring Training, he's at least the one that we know the best. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as a reliever.
RHRP Brian Bruney: A lock for the roster. He didn't really have to pitch that well in Spring Training to make the roster, but he pitched fairly well anyways when guys like Tyler Walker who could have challenged him did not. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as a set-up man.
LHRP Sean Burnett: Burnett has been awful in Spring Training and is far from a lock to make the team. But since Jesse English is the only other lefthander in camp and has options remaining, I think Burnett wins a spot by default. While Tyler Clippard is essentially a lefthanded pitcher when you look at his splits, I think the Nats carry a real lefty as well. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as a reliever.
RHRP Matt Capps: A lock for the roster. He's been awful in Spring Training, but it's too early for the Nats to give up on a guy who they spent a nice chunk of change on this offseason. If he falters early, I wouldn't be surprised to see Riggleman go to a closer-by-committee with Capps, Bruney and Clippard involved, but Capps will start the season as the closer. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as the closer.
RHRP Tyler Clippard: Was close to being a lock before Spring Training and cemented his status by being better (aka not totally sucking) than guys like Tyler Walker and Sean Burnett. Even though he's a righty, he's basically the best LOOGY we've got, with a .122 BA against, 9.59 K/9 and 3.28 BB/9. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as a set-up man.
LHSP Ross Detwiler: With an average Spring Training, I think he would have made the roster, but he's hurt. Verdict: starts the season on the DL. Not on the Opening Day roster.
LHRP Jesse English: I think that English still being in camp shows how unsafe Sean Burnett's job is right now. English has been solid but far from spectacular and I think that that combined with his lack of experience above the AA level and the fact that Sean Burnett is out of options will put him in AAA to start the year. Verdict: not on the Opening Day roster.
RHSP Livan Hernandez: Livan has only pitched in one Spring Training game so far, but I think he'll open the year in the bigs. For me, it comes down to Hernandez, Martin and Stammen for the final two spots in the rotation, and I think that the team will send Stammen back to the minors for more seasoning. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as the #5 starter.
LHSP John Lannan: Along with Marquis, Lannan is as big of a lock you can get on this staff. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as the #1 starter.
RHSP Jason Marquis: A lock, even though he's been bombed in Spring Training. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as the #2 starter.
RHSP J.D. Martin: Because Stammen was rushed to the Majors last year and Martin wasn't, I think the Nats will open camp with Martin as the #4 starter. Martin has pitched pretty well, with only 3 hits allowed and 0 walks in 5 innings. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as the #4 starter.
RHSP Garrett Mock: Mock has thrown three more innings in Spring Training than any other Nats pitcher, which leads me to believe he's getting the longest look. While he has given up 4 homers in 14 innings, he only has handed out 1 walk. That to me is a great sign of improvement for someone who was in the 4's and 5's in BB/9 in the big leagues in 2008 and 09. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as the #3 starter.
LHSP Scott Olsen: I'm sure by now you're wondering what about Scott Olsen? The truth is, I don't think he's ready to start the year in the majors. If his fastball is only at 86 mph right now, he'll get eaten alive if he starts the season in the big leagues. From what I understand, Olsen has an option left and a DL stint is also a possibility. There's no reason to rush him back to the majors just because he has a longer track record than Mock, Martin or Stammen. Verdict: starts the season on the DL. Not on the Opening Day roster.
RHSP Craig Stammen: I'm not a Craig Stammen hater, I swear. I think that he could use a little more time in AAA to fine-tune his pitching and try to bring up his K/9 rate (3.15 K/9 in AAA and 4.09 K/9 in the majors in 2009 screams uh-oh after being in the high 6's to low 8's previously). Making him into a reliever is not an option in my opinion, so I think he'll be the last cut. Mark Zuckerman thinks Stammen has the edge, but I think that ultimately the Nats will decide to send Stammen to AAA for a little more seasoning. But he's a professional blogger and I'm still amateur, so take that with a grain of salt! Verdict: not on the Opening Day roster.
RHRP Tyler Walker: While Walker has been horrendously bad in Spring Training, I think he makes the team simply because the Nats shouldn't prematurely turn any of their young starters into relievers just to get them ML experience. I think Walker is in more of a battle with Miguel Batista, Livan Hernandez and Jesse English than he is with Craig Stammen or J.D. Martin. Might as well start him in the majors and see if he can work out the tweaks. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster.
RHSP Chien-Ming Wang: Wang will be on the roster once he's healthy, but he's not yet. Verdict: starts the season on the DL. Not on the Opening Day roster.

That leaves the Nats with an Opening Day rotation of Lannan, Marquis, Mock, Martin and Hernandez, with Batista as the long reliever, Walker and Bergmann as middle relievers, Burnett as a LOOGY, Clippard and Bruney as set-up guys and Capps as the closer. If the Nats decide to break camp with 11 pitchers, I expect the final decision to rest between Hernandez, Batista and Walker, with Batista likely getting cut.

CATCHERS (2 real candidates for 2 roster spots)
With these guys, it's pretty much a foregone conclusion. Flores will start the season on the DL, Pudge will be the starter and Nieves will back him up until Flores can return.

C Jesus Flores: Hurt. Keeps looking worse rather than better. Verdict: starts the season on the DL. Not on the Opening Day roster.
C Wil Nieves: So this is why he was tendered a contract! Even though his OBP is lower than his AVG in Spring Training, he gets a spot for now. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster.
C Pudge Rodriguez: Not terribly impressive during Spring Training, but was a lock to make the team anyways. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster.

INFIELDERS (8 candidates for 6-7 roster spots)
2B/3B/SS/OF Eric Bruntlett: He can play anywhere. That's about it. He can't hit, can't get on base and has lost a step in the field. But for some reason people think he's worth a roster spot because he has a .276/.344/.517 triple slash line in 29 Spring Training AB's. I prefer to look at the 31 year old's career line of .231/.303/.330, or his 2008 season line of .217/.297/.297 or his 2009 season line of .171/.224/.238...but now that I think of it, a tiny sample size in Spring Training really should trump all of those! Verdict: Not on the Opening Day roster.
2B/SS/OF Ian Desmond: Here's my fearless prediction. If Guzman can't throw by then, Desmond will be the starter on Opening Day and will retain that role unless he seriously falters. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as the starting SS.
1B Adam Dunn: Duh. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as the starting 1B.
2B/3B/SS Alberto Gonzalez: He's made quite a case for himself this Spring Training, and since Alberto is out of options, I could definitely see him breaking camp with the team, but it would be a bit of a surprise. He's a much better option than Bruntlett and could be a nice platoon partner with Adam Kennedy at 2B (Gonzalez hit .397/.429/.603 vs L in 2009 and .337/.380/.429 over his career while Kennedy hit .307/.364/.438 vs R in 2009 and .285/.337/.409 over his career). I think ultimately the Nats will decide they can't afford to lose both Gonzalez and Guzman and decide at the end of Spring Training which one they really want to stick with through the full 2010 season. At the end of the day, I think he'll make the Opening Day roster because of Morse and Desmond's ability to play the outfield and Maxwell's struggles. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster.
SS Cristian Guzman: Meh. He's been lousy in Spring Training and has lingering shoulder issues, but I can't see a scenario where he's not on the Opening Day roster (unless it's the DL). If Guzman were tradeable, it would be a much different issue, but he's not. I don't think the Nats would cut him simply because if Desmond gets hurt or doesn't play well, they're stuck with Eric Bruntlett and Alberto Gonzalez at SS for the season. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster on the bench...and he won't be happy about it.
2B/3B Adam Kennedy: Already penciled in as the starting 2B. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as the starting 2B.
1B/3B/OF Mike Morse: Played his way out of "lock" status but should still be safe to make the Opening Day roster. Morse could really help his cause by bouncing his BB% up, but he's been a league average or better hitter during all 5 of his partial ML seasons. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster on the bench.
3B Ryan Zimmerman: Duh. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as the starting 3B.

I think that the versatility of guys like Bruntlett, Desmond, Willie Harris, Kennedy and Morse could allow the Nats to break camp with 7 "infielders" and 4 "outfielders," especially since Justin Maxwell basically played his way out of a roster spot.

OUTFIELDERS (7 candidates for 4-5 roster spots)
LF/CF Roger Bernadina: He's taking walks this spring training, but still has next to no power. Given his essentially lost season in 2009, I would be very surprised to see him make the Opening Day roster. With Nyjer Morgan and Willie Harris already locks to make the team and Willy Taveras fighting for a roster spot, Bernadina's remaining option also means he's likely on the way to Syracuse. Verdict: Not on the Opening Day roster.
2B/3B/LF/CF Willie Harris: I'm still not sold on him as a long-term RF, but I guess we'll see him there on Opening Day. He's a lock to make the team, especially after his .321/.472/.607 Spring Training. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster.
CF/RF Justin Maxwell: Why couldn't he just have a good Spring Training??? That would have made things so much easier. All he had to do was NOT hit .103/.250/.205. Off to Syracuse for Mr. Maxwell to regain confidence in his swing. Don't worry, he'll be in DC before too long. Verdict: Not on the Opening Day roster.
LF/RF Kevin Mench: "Shrek" has made a push for a roster spot, hitting .286/.333/.786 in 14 AB's (albeit a VERY small sample size). I didn't think he'd have a shot when I wrote my offseason additions post about two weeks ago, but circumstances have changed with Dukes being released. I don't think he's a long-term solution to the OF problem that the Nats have right now, but I think that he could realistically break camp with the team just because they need another righty power bat to platoon with Willie Harris. Call me crazy, but I think he can make team until Justin Maxwell straightens out his swing in AAA. This feels like picking a 16 seed in the first round of the NCAA tourney. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster on the bench.
LF/CF Nyjer Morgan: He's played his way out of a job. No, I'm kidding, that was just the Kevin Mench defending talking. Morgan has only played in 6 Spring Training games so far due to a pulled hamstring, but it looks like he'll return to the lineup on Thursday. Unless he hurts himself worse and starts the year on the DL, he'll be our Opening Day leadoff man. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as the starting CF.
OF Willy Taveras: Just say no. Don't let the .350/.458/.500 triple slash through 20 AB's fool you: Taveras still can't hit, get on base or play any position besides CF better than average. He might make his way onto the team at some point, but why carry a less talented righthanded version of Nyjer Morgan whose value is solely as a platoon partner and pinch runner when you have guys like Alberto Gonzalez and Kevin Mench who could actually make the team as legitimate contenders at meaningful playing time? Verdict: Not on the Opening Day roster. PLEASE, DO IT FOR THE CHILDREN!!!!
LF/RF Josh Willingham: Remember when he was the odd man out last year? Well he's definitely in now. The Hammer has a 1.440 OPS in Spring Training so far, too. Verdict: on the Opening Day roster as the starting LF.

And here's my Opening Day starting lineup prediction:
CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Willie Harris
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
SS Ian Desmond
2B Adam Kennedy
C Pudge Rodriguez
SP John Lannan

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Monday Inbox and update

A quick update: I am currently all the way through Chase Lambin on my (hopefully) exhaustive list of Nats additions since the trade deadline last year. I have 23 names finished and 28 names left.

Here are 2 examples of what I'm doing:
RHP Miguel Batista (signed to MLC w/ NRI. 2009 org: SEA. 1 WS Ring)
The 39 year old righty (and writer) has bounced around the majors for parts of 15 seasons. I said in February that "I think Batista will be a heavily-used member of the Nats' bullpen this year. Maybe not good, but heavily-used." I'll stick with that assessment for now. Don't expect to see the 4.04 ERA he put up last year but at the same time, don't expect the 6.26 ERA he put up in 2008, either. Somewhere in the high 4's or low 5's sounds about right for both Batista and a 39 year old non-roster invitee.
Baseball-Reference Page, FanGraphs Page, my original post

RHP Robinson Fabian (acquired from COL in July 2009 trade with RHP Ryan Mattheus for LHP Joe Beimel. 2009 orgs: COL and WAS)
Fabian is an intriguing prospect that is really frustrating to try and figure out. The 24 year old supposedly has a 97 mph fastball, but only struck out 5.4 batters per 9 innings in 2009 (as opposed to his career average of 6.8 K/9). For someone described as "a thrower and not a pitcher" (see the above link), he doesn't walk that many batters either, though: 2.10 BB/9 in 2009, 3.1 BB/9 for his career. But given the fact that Fabian has decent control (3.03 BB/9 or better from 2007-09), keeps the ball in the yard (0.77 HR/9 in low A and above) and has a 97 mph heater, he's worth something. We just don't know what to expect from him...still.

The Joe Beimel deal was a good one, even if Fabian and Ryan Mattheus don't turn out to do anything. Moving an upcoming free agent reliever at the deadline for two arms with upside is something a last place team should do 10 times out of 10.

Hopefully I'll have the list completely done at some point this week, depending on how much time it takes for me to study for a test I have on Thursday. Anyways, here's the inbox:

Nyjer Morgan has really sparked everybody in the short time he has been on the team. How important is he, and can he be a difference-maker to pull the team closer to .500?
-- Robbie C., Washington, D.C.

I've tried to be easier on Ladson lately, but he expects Morgan to score 120 runs in 2010. Over his career, Morgan has scored 108 runs in his 172 stats while hitting .310/.368/.399, which would equate to about 102 runs over a 162 game season (which is assuming he starts all 162 games). So 120 is a little out of reach in my opinion.

But, back to Robbie's question: Nyjer is very important and he can be a difference-maker. But he's not something we can count on 100%. At 29 (almost 30), he's at or around his peak. He's never played more than 120 games in an ML season. He still can't hit lefthanded pitching. So we're looking at a defensive whiz with potential durability issues who can lead off against righties.

Do you agree with manager Jim Riggleman with the fact that left-hander Scott Olsen is a lock for the rotation if he's healthy? With all those other pitchers battling for a rotation spot, don't you think Olsen needs a good Spring Training to make it?
-- Alex C., Montreal

I'm usually in the Olsen camp, but I don't see a reason why Riggleman guaranteed Olsen a rotation spot if he's healthy. His track record hasn't been that good as of late and I'm not convinced he's a better candidate than guys like Stammen or Martin (although he has a higher upside, as seen in his 2006 season). I think that if Ross Detwiler didn't get hurt, Riggleman might not have made the same guarantee.

What role do you see Willie Harris playing for the Nationals this season?
-- Craig E., Leesburg, Va.

I don't see it being any different than it has been for the last 2 years unless somebody goes down, just like Ladson. That being said, I could also see him getting a chance to start a few more games at 2B if Kennedy falters (which wouldn't be a huge surprise), but most of those innings would instead go to Desmond or Guzman I'm sure.

If the Nationals give Adam Dunn a contract extension, what does that mean for Chris Marrero?
-- Evan S., Chevy Chase, Md.

Marrero is far from a guarantee, and a lot of people think his ceiling is as a Major League regular. He's still a few years away, with less than 100 plate appearances at AA under his belt, so there's no rush to make a decision. Check out more on Marrero in my"Do or Die Time" post from January.

Does it worry you that no one on the Nationals collected more than 100 strikeouts? The closest one was right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, and he was out for most of the second half of the season.
-- Ray U., Washington, D.C.

Yes. In 2009, there were 16 teams with a .500 win percentage or better. Only 6 of those teams had below the league average in K's. On the other hand, the top 7 teams in K's all had 83 or more wins. It's not a perfect science, and teams that don't strike out a lot of batters can succeed (the 2009 Angels, Cardinals and Rangers can all serve as examples), but there is less margin for error for the defense. The Nats' defense, while improved, is still not that great. They committed 143 errors last year, 19 more than any other team. For every Zimmerman and Morgan they have, they have a Dunn, Guzman or Willingham to cancel them out. A few fireballers like Strasburg and Zimmermann could help the team steal some more games simply by keeping the ball out of the field of play.

Where does outfielder Justin Maxwell fit into the scheme of things?
-- Pam K., Frederick, Md.

I think Maxwell has a decent shot of making the team as a 4th outfielder, mostly depending on whether or not Nyjer Morgan can learn how to hit lefties in Spring Training. If Morgan can't, I think we'll see Maxwell up as a platoon starter who gets a few spot starts in LF and RF as well.

Why didn't the Nationals pick up Ryan Church after he was non-tendered?
-- Kimon G., Bethesda, Md.

I wanted the Nats to make a run after Church for nostalgic purposes, but he's not a make-or-break player that was needed. And he's not worth the $1.5 million plus incentives the Pirates are paying him. And I'm not sure he would really want to come back; Church's relationship with the Front Office was never sparkles and sunshine. Even though Leatherpants is gone, there are still plenty of remnants in the system from his time as commander-in-chief.