Thursday, July 29, 2010

Who is Wilson Ramos?

The newest member of the Washington Nationals, that's who! The Nats made their first splash on the trade market Thursday night, moving All-Star closer Matt Capps to the Minnesota Twins for minor league catcher Wilson Ramos and lefthanded pitcher Joe Testa. The 22 year old Venezuelan catcher hit .296/.321/.407 in 7 games for the Twins this year, but struggled in 71 games in AA, to the tune of .241/.280/.345. The 24 year old New Jerseyan reliever burned through low levels of the minors after being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008, but has been hit hard in his first stay in AA this year, allowing 22 earned runs in 25 innings.

Ramos' rankings amongst all prospects:

#42: Keith Law of ESPN (1/28/2010)

#58: Baseball America (2/23/2010)

#65: Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus (3/3/2010)

Ramos' rankings amongst Twins prospects

#2 overall prospect, best power hitter, best defensive catcher: Baseball America (1/12/2010)

#2 overall prospect, Marc Hulet, Fangraphs (12/14/2009)

#2 overall prospect, Josh Johnson, Josh's Thoughts (4/16/2010)

#4 overall prospect: John Sickels, (10/19/2009)

Winter League Player of the Year: Baseball America (3/5/2010)

Notes on Ramos:

"Grade B-. Power and defense are positives, main question is weak walk rate." John Sickels, (10/19/2009)

"The Venezuela native isn’t far from being MLB-ready after hitting .317/.341/.454 in ’09 at double-A. Ramos has always hit for a solid average, but he’s also consistently produced healthy BABIPs, although many catchers suffer from chronically-low numbers in that area (due to a lack of foot speed). A catcher with raw power, he has nonetheless failed to post an ISO above .149 in his four-year career. Ramos also posted a walk rate of just 2.8% in ’09, so that obviously has to improve and he typically walks about 7.0%. His strikeout rate plummeted from 22.8% in ’08 to 11.2% in ’09, but injuries took a chunk out of his season and he had just 214 plate appearances. We’ll have to wait for 2010 to see if that was a true adjustment, or a small-sample-size blip. Behind the dish, Ramos has thrown out +40% in each of the past three seasons." Marc Hulet, Fangraphs (12/14/2009)

"While Ramos seems capable of becoming a quality starting catcher in the majors one day, he has struggled to stay healthy: he broke the tip of his left middle finger and injured his hamstring last year, missing nearly three months total. Also, Ramos doesn’t have much experience in the upper levels of the minors. He took 214 trips to the plate at Double-A last year and was off to a slow start at Triple-A this season (.179/.214/.328 in 70 PA, with three walks and 15 punch outs). CHONE projected a .263/.303/.394 line prior to 2010, and ZiPS had a .256/.297/.369 forecast. Four-for-five start aside, Ramos might not hit the ground running." David Golbiewski, Fangraphs (5/3/2010)

"A key factor for Ramos going forward will be learning when to use his aggressiveness, strength and bat speed, and when to lay off pitches. His plate discipline showed signs of improvement in winter ball. Overall, after drawing just six walks in 224 at-bats during the minor league regular season, Ramos drew 29 in 273 at-bats in Venezuela." John Manuel, Baseball America (3/5/2010)

"Ramos' offensive prowess is mostly what he is known for, but Ramos is also a stout defender behind the plate. Pitchers like the way he calls the game and his strong arm makes it hard for base runners to steal on him." Josh Johnson, Josh's Thoughts (4/16/2010)

"Even if this year's struggles can be chalked up to some bad luck, however, Ramos is far from a sure thing as a prospect. His walk rates, while along his career norm, are still very low. For his professional career, Ramos has walked just 82 times in 5 seasons, spanning over 1400 plate appearances and coinciding with 242 strikeouts. Without the power to compensate such free-swinging tendencies, Ramos will have to hit for a high average in the majors in order to avoid being an out-making machine. Whether or not he is able to adjust to major league pitching and curtail his tendency to hack away at the plate will ultimately determine his career path as a major leaguer, but his Mendoza Line-straddling batting average this year in Triple-A is no more a prediction than was his red-hot major league debut." MLB Prospect Watch (7/6/2010)

"On the other hand, Wilson Ramos has been totally overmatched by Triple-A pitching, posting a hideous 41-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio while hitting just .208/.244/.319 in 52 games. Ramos showed reasonable enough plate discipline in the low minors, but since advancing to Double-A last year he has 14 walks and 64 strikeouts in 106 games. He's making contact at a palatable rate, but the total lack of patience is disturbing along with a .427 career slugging percentage.

Ramos remains a very solid prospect largely due to projecting as a good defensive catcher, but it was always wishful thinking to assume he was even close to an MLB-ready impact bat and that notion now looks silly. With that said, he's still just 22 years old and has fewer than 450 plate appearances above Single-A, so there's no need to sour on Ramos too much." Aaron Gleeman (7/7/2010)

Here are Wilson Ramos' Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference links.

Not a whole lot on Testa.

He had a Q and A with in 2009: "I throw a fastball, curve, slider, change up and a cutter. I’d say my out pitch would be my fastball and cutter. I’ve been working a lot more on my off speed pitches and my pick off move."

Bleacher Report (via Baseball News Share, as the original article has been taken down) had him as the 49th Twins prospect in 2010. Top insight: "He doesn’t have great velocity on any of his pitches, in fact he tops out around 90 mph, but he does fool hitters with outstanding movement."

Here are Joe Testa's Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference links.

Getting a top 50-75 prospect in return for a non-elite closer is a great deal in my opinion. Getting an interesting lefty as well is icing on the cake. Well done, Mike Rizzo. Best of luck in Minnesota, Matt Capps.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

3 reasons why the Nationals should avoid Edwin Jackson like the plague

MLB Trade Rumors first reported a month ago yesterday that the Nats were interested in Edwin Jackson. I thought the interest was just going to blow over, as teams have "interest" in dozens of players at any given time. But on Saturday, Jackson's name was tied to the Nats again. And yesterday, Tim Dierkes reported on two different rumors, one where the Nats would get Jackson in a 3-way deal that would send Adam Dunn to the White Sox and another where the Nats would simply acquire Jackson for prospects. There are more than just 3 reasons I think making a move for Edwin Jackson would be a bad idea, but these are 3 reasons I think are specific to the Nats.

1. In a deal for Dunn, Jackson is worth less to the Nats than an elite prospect would be.

Daniel Hudson alone is worth more than Edwin Jackson to me. If the Nats can snag him alone for Dunn, they've made out okay at least. If, as rumored, they can come up with another nice prospect like Danks/Flowers/Morel, or even a guy a tier below that, they've blown a Jackson-for-Dunn deal out of the water. The prospects they can get back for Dunn can come close to Jackson's performance right off the bat, but will also be controllable (and cheaper) for many more seasons. This leads into my next point.

2. Jackson is expensive and only controllable through 2011.

Jackson signed a 2 year, $13.35 million extension with the Diamondbacks in February, with $8.35 of the payment planned for the 2011 season. He stood at 4 years and 70 days of ML service time going into the 2010 season and is more or less a lock to hit the 6 years of service time needed to reach unrestricted free agency at some point next year (thanks to Cot's for the info).

While Jackson is on the borderline between Type A and Type B status in Eddie Bajek's latest Elias Rankings Update on MLB Trade Rumors, his value there is trending downwards. It stands at 70.663 now while it stood at 73.050 on July 14 and 74.41 on May 23 (a score of 71.5 is currently the cut-off in the NL between types A and B). Jackson will need to repeat (or better) his 2009 performance in 2011 to be a type A, as the rankings only take into account the last 2 seasons. The Elias Rankings involve some combination of games, innings pitched, wins, ERA and K's, and Jackson's win total and ERA this year have seriously underwhelmed. He'll have to work himself back towards the 13-9 record and 3.62 ERA he put up last year to make it back.

While there is always a chance the Nats retain him into his free agent years, he's not worth as much to the team them. You trade for young pitchers in part to try and get as many years out of them as you can at less than market value. Once pitchers hit free agency, you start paying true value or more for them.

3. Jackson is potentially overworked.

This is my biggest beef with Jackson. Not every pitcher is made equal, and I certainly am not an expert on pitching, but if I had a penny for every red flag there is concerning Jackson's workload, I would be a rich man.

Jackson's 149 pitch no-hitter leads the league in pitches thrown by 17. He's atop the charts by an obscene amount in total Pitcher Abuse Points (151623 to second place Roy Halladay's 84331). You can check out this Baseball Prospectus sortable stats page if you want to sort through these things yourselves.

Some pitchers, Livan Hernandez for example, can handle a lot of Pitcher Abuse Points. But the Nats are paying Livan $900k. If I'm paying a guy $8 million+, I want to know for sure that he isn't damaged goods.

(Some links on Jackson's workload: 6/2009 (Baseball Daily Digest), 6/2010 (FJB), 6/2010 (Sabernomics), 7/2010 (AZ Central)

If the Nats could acquire him for a combination of fading prospects like Shairon Martis and middle relievers like Sean Burnett and Joel Peralta, sure. Jackson can an effective middle-of-the-rotation starter But if the Nats have to give up Adam Dunn or anyone that sniffs their top 15 prospects for him, I'll pass.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

2 more draft pick signings to look at

(Kevin Keyes via John Sickels' Minor League Ball)

Since my last update, the Nats have signed 2 outfielders: 7th rounder Kevin Keyes and 32nd rounder Randolph Oduber. Keyes has been verified by the Nats official site. Oduber, on the other hand, has been reported on by Gastonia Gazette but not by the Nats yet. Once again, if you missed the earlier editions, here are parts one, two, three and four plus an extended look at undrafted FA signing Mike Gallo).

OF Kevin Keyes (7th round-University of Texas)

Keyes was widely seen as a top 100 player looking toward the 2010 draft, but weight and position issues tanked his value all the way to the 7th round. Keyes hit .311/.384/.550 with 15 homers in 63 games this year, with 27 BB and 46 K, even stealing 14 bases in 17 attempts. Thanks to NFA commenter David in Midlothian for pointing out his signing!

Sickels (6/13/10): "He has very strong power potential and a good throwing arm, but got fat last summer, lost athleticism and speed, and didn't get all of it back this spring, killing his defensive value and reputation with scouts."

Sickels (3/17/10): "Keyes doesn't run as well as he did when I saw him last year and he needs to be careful: if he picks up much more weight, he won't run well enough to play the outfield. That said, he did get a good jump and showed some legs with a successful steal attempt, so I don't think his speed is a lost cause as long as he keeps his conditioning up. I never did get a good read on his throwing arm and he wasn't significantly challenged on any of the defensive plays. His bat, however, looks special. He had the best power of anyone on the field, and he has a good hit tool too, showing he can pull the ball for power but also take the pitcher to the opposite field when necessary. He jumps on hittable fastballs, but will lay off curveballs and sliders he can't handle. Main weakness was against changeups: he will chase them, and toning that down will be necessary in pro ball. He makes an effort to work the count. I like him and see him as a possible supplemental round hitter."

Sickels (3/14/10): "He can pull the ball for power, or take it to the opposite field. He makes a good effort to control the strike zone and has plenty of bat speed. He's thickened up a bit and doesn't run quite as well as he did when I saw him last spring, but if he can avoid further weight gain I think he can remain in the outfield. I didn't get a read on his arm but will concentrate on that this afternoon."

Seiler (6/17/10): "Keyes was looking like a potential top fifty pick in this class a little over a year ago, but he became out of shape in the summer playing on the Cape last summer, and he never really recovered. As you can tell by his frame, he's a big, powerful guy whose only above-average tool is his plus power, but he does everything else well enough to possibly be a starting right fielder. He's going to have to stay on top of his conditioning, but I like this pick for value here. His season just ended over the weekend, so I expect him to sign fairly soon, as he'd be hard-pressed to improve upon this slot next year."

Seiler (4/29/10): "Keyes has been fairly well-known on the prospect scene for awhile, and he was a 26th round draft pick of the Rangers coming out of Connally High School in 2007. He didn't play much of a role during his freshman year, but he really turned some heads with an impressive sophomore year with the Longhorns. However, he imploded on the Cape, looking tired after a long season that included a trip to the College World Series. He ended up gaining weight, leading to a temporary assignment to first base in the fall. However, he's back in right field now, and he seems to have gained back some of the athleticism he lost over the last year-plus. He features above-average raw power and a fringe-average hit tool, and when he's at his best and in shape, he's an average runner. However, he's going to be a corner outfielder at any level, but he has a big enough arm to handle right field, while having average range. He's not having the best season, but he's still an attractive prospect, especially in a thin college class"

I asked Andy in his 6/19/10 All Questions Answered thread, "Do you think Kevin Keyes will ultimately be an ML starter, or do you think his lack of secondary tools will keep him from getting there?" to which he answered, "I don’t think he makes it, but he has the tools. His power is a true plus, but with his frame, it’s going to be hard to keep him in right field unless he stays on top of his conditioning. There are still questions about whether he can hit with wood, too."

Brian Oliver (6/10/10): "Guy looks like a linebacker. Big swinger = big homers and big strikeouts. Nats listed him as a RF but he has also played 1B. He should be fun to watch in a HR derby kind of way. Middle of the order guy for Vermont."

OF Randolph Oduber (32nd round-Western Oklahoma State)

The Groovin' Aruban hit .472/.526/.995 with 32 HR, 98 RBI and 49 total extra base hits in 218 at bats. His 25/27 SB success rate is encouraging as well. He struck out 46 times with just 21 walks, so there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Seiler (6/17/10): "Oduber was a late-round pick by the Giants a year ago, and I thought he'd be drafted in the teens this year. However, after a late commitment to Oklahoma State, who raided the junior college level this year, dropped his stock. He has above-average raw power and can run, so he could go much higher next year if he figures it out. I don't think he'll sign."

Seiler (7/18/09): "I liked Oduber more than his teammate Cotton who was picked twenty rounds higher by the Giants. Oduber’s got solid pro tools, and I thought the only thing that held him back from being picked in the top 15 rounds was the fact that he was a JUCO freshman. He is 20 already, but he won’t sign since he went so far down."

I'd like to see some international free agents sign with the Nats, but getting some guys like Hanks, Oduber and Nunez that we might not have expected to sign is nice, too.