Nationals Baseball: Did we miss anything?

Friday, October 09, 2015

Did we miss anything?

I'll admit my attention to the Nats wasn't as strong once it was pretty clear they weren't going to win it the division. Obviously things like Max's resurgence weren't overlooked because they were stamped with no-hitters to get your attention, and we follow Strasburg enough that his awesome end wasn't missed either but I went back to see if there was anything else in the past month or so that deserves a minute or two of thought.
  • Felipe Rivero did a pretty good job in the closer role and relieving in general.  Remember how the question about good relief arms isn't if you can find them but how long it will take? Well thanks to a couple of untimely failures, it took most of the season to confirm but Felipe Rivero is pretty good. The five walks in 15 IP in Sept is a little high, but he was basically unhittable (0.533 WHIP) and got 14 Ks. Given his age and that he was mostly solid during the year too I think, yes, the Nats have a decent relief arm here
  • No other non-vet really stood out at year's end in the pen. You are dealing with very brief outings here - about half the amount of innings Rivero pitched. Solis and Grace got good results but weren't necessarily impressive. Martin pitched well but is 31 so I'm not betting on him. Not that these guys are bad, but you enter the 2016 season with no security that they will be any good. 
  • The pre-supposed "next-in-line" guys were terrible. Treinen and Janssen both finished the year in a bad way. Neither is a problem specifically but if Storen is going and Papelbon is going you kind of wanted these guys to be good to at least give you a starting point for next year. This is why it's not impossible Papelbon (who is good) or Storen (who is cheap) will be back next year. Right now the Nats are staring at a pen that's a 23yr old with one good year and that's it.
  • Roark didn't pitch all that well as a starter in Sept but it was mostly one bad start. He did seem to improve as he got back in the groove. This is important because it looks like the Nats will need two starters. Ross and Roark are projected to be the two. The question for Roark is how much of 2014 was a one-season wonder and how much was it that Roark is actually good? We can't take much of anything out of this season, but at least we are ending on somewhat of a good note with back to back solid starts. 
  • Gio also had a nice finish to the year. True there was a lot of terrible offenses in those games but if he pitches like he did this year stopping his sliding tendencies he'll be a fine 3/4. 
  • Trea Turner finally got a hit, and then got some more. .290 / .371 / .419 in Sept. He'll probably start 2016 in AAA but it's good to see him adjust. 
  • Matt denDekker hit pretty well too. .298 / .353 / .596. What does that mean? Well it means if he's your 5th OF to start the year and your 4th OF is a legitimate starter replacement, well, it's not a bad thing. It could become one quickly and he still probably shouldn't be in a situation where starting a bunch of games is possible but he gives the Nats an option at a cheap bench all around OF that they've lacked. 
  • Michael Taylor really tailed off at the end of the year. .180 with no power in September. Maybe he was tired after a full season? But looking at the whole year - he hit .222 / .278 / .340 from May 1st on so arguing that pitchers figured him out pretty quickly is reasonable as well. If he's going to be a low .200s batter with some streaky power, that's probably not enough. He might be the easiest player to bump from the line-up for a FA or trade acquisition. We'll see. 
  • Ramos and Lobaton both never got it going. I don't see the catcher situation improving without a move.  
  • Rendon and Werth both stopped hitting the last two weeks of the year. They followed the same pattern. Took about 2-3 weeks to get going, hit well for 2-3 weeks, then crashed the last 2-3 weeks. What exactly do we take from that? I don't know. One thought was that they were able to hit well because they began cheating on pitches, looking FB swinging early, and then the pitchers adjusted. Then again it might just be the aspect of barely playing for nearly 4 months. I think it leaves us, unfortunately, with no answers on whether these guys will hit next year. I'd bet on yes, but I wouldn't build a team around the assumption that they will.


Unknown said...

How much would you project in return for Taylor? A decent relief arm for 2016? I don't see him ever hitting for an average over 0.250. Seems he has no resistance to not chase the down and away sliders (in his defense 70% of the team can't). His defense is really fun to watch and his arm is Ankiel-esqe. But watching the offense completely sputter is getting old year after year.

I personally see them going away from Ramos next year. Chase Wieters? Maybe Ramos was so focused on staying healthy that he played at a lower level? No clue, but it's crazy to think that a healthy season of Ramos might have been worse than a half season of injured Ramos.... I think they keep Lobaton around as a backup.

Chas R said...

Yes, a lot of question marks really. Other than rebuilding the pen, I'm not sure what Rizzo does to make them better. Does he finally build in some redundancy in anticipation of Werth, Zim, and Rendon being injury prone? Does he get some insurance for the rotation? All expensive and you know how they are about $$$.

Ramos was actually pretty good defensively. I am wondering of they don't give him another year to hit- ?

SM said...

What to do with Taylor, I think, is one of the trickier decisions.

For starters, the Nats' have recently been a more or less pitching-centric (pitching-emphatic?) organization. As you've noted before, there isn't much offensive juice in their minors.

When they chose to keep Taylor instead of Souza, they must have seen something there. Maybe he was pooped by season's end, as you suggest (and as many rookies are).

But let's say they give up on him, either as trade bait or bumped by a free agent. Then what? An outfield with no Span, Werth in the twilight of his career, Bryce and maybe a free agent or trade replacement. Who's your 4th outfielder, given the Nats' injury propensity? It'll probably involve considerable playing time.

Maybe the Nats have a cockamamie hope that they can teach Taylor to be a more patient and effective hitter, like Pittsburgh used Hank Greenberg w-a-a-a-y back when to tutor Ralph Kiner. (If they do, I bet it won't be Rick Schu.) Otherwise, tread water and pray Victor Robles or Andrew Stephenson or somebody deep in the bushes develops into a big league regular.

If you're going to rip off a scab, better have some anti-biotic ointment handy.

Fascinating--and tricky--days ahead.

Jay said...

I don't see Taylor hitting enough. I think you put Harper in CF and go get a masher to play either LF or RF. An outfield of CarGo, Harper, and Werth would be nice.

I agree with SM that this off season should be very interesting.

ProphetNAT said...

Just out of curiosity - why didn't we make a play at Dee Gordon last offseason? We were in need of a middle infielder, yet chose to dump Clippard for Escobar. Don't remember hearing us having any interest in him...

Also - Taylor is not our big-league CFer. We also need a leadoff hitter, unless we've resigned to the fact that it going to be Werth. Not okay with that. The way this lineup is constructed, it HAS to flow a certain way or it becomes streaky, which we've seen. Span provided all the balance, but part of me just wants this team to get some bashers and rely on the long ball. We clearly can't string hits together, and that is what Rizzo planned on doing with this lineup. We do alright in HR department, but why not go all in and get another big bat to compliment Bryce? Oh wait, we already have a big bat! 3 actually, says Rizzo - Rendon, Zimm, and Werth.

No thanks, Mike.

John C. said...

The question for Roark is how much of 2014 was a one-season wonder and how much was it that Roark is actually good?

To be fair, this is a question we were asking after 2013. So I'd say that for Roark we're now asking whether he was a two-season wonder. Which is somewhat more hopeful than being a one season wonder. Somewhat.

And generally, trying to draw conclusions from results from two- to four-week periods is pretty much a fool's game. There may well be results in there, but who can tell the signal from the noise of random baseball results? This is especially true in September when the clock is running out on a team.

Does he finally build in some redundancy in anticipation of Werth, Zim, and Rendon being injury prone?
The problem with building in redundancy is that the players that are good enough to step in for an injured Werth, Zim or Rendon without missing a beat aren't going to want to be sitting on the bench waiting for the chance to play. And they will have options that offer more playing time.

All expensive and you know how they are about $$$.
No doubt you are referring to the fact that the Nationals have one of the highest payrolls in the league despite not having control of their own local TV rights.

On Michael Taylor
I think his defense wins him every chance to prove that he can hit at the major league level. He's never going to be a high OBP guy, but if he can put up an OBP between .300 and .315 (league average) with his defense, baserunning (16/3 SB/CS last year) and occasional power he's got a spot on this team.

On Wilson Ramos
He's the starter next year. As Chaz noted earlier, Ramos is a very good defensive catcher. He had a crappy year at the plate, but 2015 is not destiny. His offense was average for a catcher in 2014, and better than average period for the three seasons before that. We've written off players after crappy years many, many times, and many times they've bounced back (Werth, Span, LaRoche twice).

Wieters? Meh. He's a better bat than Ramos but hasn't been a positive defender since 2012. His arm hasn't made it back from his TJ surgery, and even this year, two years out, he only played 55 games behind the plate. He's scuffled so much the past couple of years that the Orioles may not even extend him a QO. If he gets a QO from Baltimore, fuhgeddaboudit, it's simply not worth the first round pick.

part of me just wants this team to get some bashers and rely on the long ball.

Heh. You have some high standards, my friend. Despite the injuries suffered by Werth & Zimmerman the Nats finished 3rd in the league in HRs.

I think the Nats extend qualifying offers to Desmond, Zimmermann and Span, and I'm confident that they all decline them. I do think there is some chance that the Nats work something out with Span to shore up the outfield - having a Werth/Span/Harper OF with MAT and MdD as the 4th and 5th seems like a pretty solid group to me. More likely Span goes, and the Nats have an option to look at a trade for an outfielder. CarGo is an intriguing option, BUT ... his home/road splits are pretty stark; his OPS is over 200 points lower away from Colorado both for 2015 (214 points) and his career (234 points). Do the Nats really want to invest $37M over the next two seasons in an injury-plagued OF who is likely to put up an OPS of just above league average? And give up one of their premium prospects (Giolito, Turner, Ross, Robles, Lopez, Fedde), plus a couple more prospects, to do it? That trade would make me very nervous.

Anonymous said...

MAT is a valuable commodity. He'd fetch way more than relief pitcher. He's a good defender at an up-the-middle position who can steal bases, with ~6 years of service time left.

In many ways, he reminds me of early Ian Desmond. Both are toolsy, strikeout prone athletes playing premium positions. In MAT's favor, he's younger than Desmond was when he broke in, has shown more power than Desmond at comparable points, and appears to be a better defender at his position (though being able to play SS is more valuable than being able to play CF). Although Desmond had strikeout issues, he's never had as high a K rate as MAT posted last year. Both guys are/were high variance guys: straddling a fine line between star and unplayable, all based on how much they put the ball in play. It'd be foolish to give up on MAT now and watch the star potential come to fruition.

The big problem between comparing 2011 Ian Desmond to 2016 MAT is that the 2011 Nats were shooting to be a .500 team whereas the 2016 Nats expect to be a playoff contender. In 2011, the opportunity cost of finding out what you have in Ian Desmond is much less than the same for MAT in 2016.

I think MAT has to be the starting CF on opening day unless either Span takes the qualifying offer or Rizzo decides Bryce can play CF long-term and makes a deal for a big corner bat. I don't see a free agent CFer being a better bet (including cost) than MAT over the next few seasons.

DezoPenguin said...

Taylor kind of reminds me of Jackie Bradley Jr. in Boston--excellent glove, speed, some pop, low plate discipline, questions as to whether he'll hit enough to justify his presence. I definitely wouldn't give up on him after one year.

I'm not too worried about Rendon bouncing back because of his youth; Werth makes me much more concerned because of his age.

John C. said it well about Roark: he was excellent in 2013 as well. I don't see a lot of risk in penciling him in as the 5th starter. Obviously starting pitching depth is important, but with Scherzer/Stras/Gio/Ross/Roark I'm worried about injuries, not meltdowns.

Not sure about catcher. At the least, I'd want an upgrade over Lobaton; he screams "generic backup catcher" at this point, and with Ramos's injury history and poor 2015 hitting campaign that.

The real problem for 2016's lineup is the same as 2015's, though: too many parts that are just too unreliable for one reason or another. Werth, Rendon, Escobar, Espinosa, Zimmerman, Taylor, and Ramos might all be good, or might all crash and burn from injury, age, or regression to the mean. That means a definite need to acquire players to back up at IF, OF, and C that are a step above the usual grade of backups. We actually had three of those this year (Espinosa, Robinson, Taylor)...unfortunately, we ended up needing four and Desmond and Ramos also were sub-par beyond that.

And yeah, the bullpen needs huge quantities of spackle and duct tape just to get back to "adequate," let alone "good." If we keep either Papelbon or Storen, I hope it's Papelbon, since he's just an ass, whereas Storen may well be a genuine headcase (he's got great talent, but at some point, the meltdowns have to carry weight) and has probably worn out his welcome in Washington. Of course, this is where the rest of the roster probably deserves a voice as well. Can Bryce bury the hatchet, and not in Papelbon's skull? (Whomever our new manager is, there's a fair whack of dysfunction in the clubhouse he'll have to sort out.)

Give Zimmermann the QO, of course. If he actually takes it for some reason, then seek to trade Roark (2015 tells me, if nothing else, that the guy needs to be either LR or starter, not flopping between the two and used in random situations). I wouldn't give Desmond the QO, just because this is his third straight year of decline, but then again given the worries about all the other IF, maybe it's worth the risk just to get a major-league bat? Span? That wholly depends on his health. His bat's been exceptional these past two years, but between his declining defense and inability to stay on the field, the QO seems like quite an overpay on a cash-per-year basis, even if Taylor isn't the ideal solution.

And I have no idea what to do about the Werth/Zim situation. Aging, hurt, and expensive players limited to LF/1B. At least Zim can play a good defensive 1B if he stays healthy.

John C. said...

Span's inability to stay on the field? He played 153 games in 2014, 147 in 2013.

Desmond gets a QO because he's not going to take it. Not just because he's a union man and has talked about the sacrifices other players have made in the past to get the market where it is. He's going to get more than $15.6M guaranteed (even though his AAV won't be close to that). Even if his deal is 4/$36M (which is practically peanuts in today's game) that's $20M more guaranteed! He's not taking the QO.

Span also gets a QO because he's not likely to take it; remember he changed agents to Scott Boras. And in the (very) unlikely event that he does take it he's likely to be worth it even if he doesn't quite match his performance level from the last couple of years. As well as the fact that he fills a couple of needs for team (OF depth, LH bat), and because a one year deal will have no impact on their ability to lock up anyone else long term.

Donald said...

@ProphetNAT -- I think (hope) the future lead-off hitter is Trea Turner. He makes good contact, can hit for average, and has better speed than Taylor. They'll keep him in AAA for a few months to gain an extra year, but that's ultimately where he should slot. If they can stay healthy, a line up of Turner, Rendon, Harper, Zimmerman, Werth, Escobar, Taylor, Ramos would be okay, though very righty-centric.

The thing is, while we all know that Zim and Werth will spend time on the DL next year, they pretty much have to start if they are healthy. A good hitting / defensive catcher is worth more than gold, and given all the other needs, I don't see the Nats spending their money there. So that leaves Escobar and Taylor as the only real positions that you could replace. For Taylor, my guess is that they make an effort to retain Span, though I don't think they'll succeed. And they'll probably keep Escobar for depth. So we'll see.

They have to do something, and there aren't any obvious moves, so whatever happens it'll be a surprise.

Sammy Kent said...

1. Sign Fister. Despite his bad season, he's a veteran pitcher that made a huge difference in the effectiveness and attitude of the entire staff last year. If he wants to compete for a starting spot, I say let him. If he's willing to work from the pen, I'm fine with that too. Heck, maybe he's the next Dennis Eckersly.

2. Do everything possible to sign JZimm, even though it's probably a hopeless cause.

3. Keep Michael A. Taylor. He's still a kid, and with the right coaching he can be a solid hitter. We need his speed on the bases and in the outfield. He is the future. Good power and speed combo. Just needs to learn how to hit a breaking ball, or at least fight them off.

4. Trade Escobar while his value is high. Throw in a good, young pitching arm like A.J. Cole, and package them (add a PoNats prospect if you have to) to Cincinnati for Todd Frazier or St. Louis for Matt Carpenter. THIS TEAM DESPERATELY NEEDS A POWER HITTING INFIELDER. I'd love to see an infield of RZim, any two of Rendon/Espinosa/Turner, Frazier/Carpenter. Rizzo needs to stop his Black Friday type shopping for batters and actually pony up something to get the real article.

5. Trea Turner will eventually be the leadoff man, and I hope it's sooner rather than later. Jayson Werth is an absolutely awful choice for leadoff. His overall average was pretty good when he was in the #1 slot, but his actual first inning leadoff ABs were horrible. I haven't done the exact count recently, but it started 2 for 20 and ended something like 4 for 35. The first job of the leadoff batter is to get on base in the first inning and get in scoring position. That's basic. That's why leadoff hitters have high averages and speed. Jayson Werth just guarantees that the opposing pitcher will start the game with an out in his back pocket, and if by some miracle he does reach he's no threat to steal. Leadoff speed disrupts EVERYTHING for the other team (see Lou Brock, Ricky Henderson, Mickey Rivers.)

Sammy Kent said...

Oh, and find a place in some other city for Wilson Ramos. The everlasting image of Nationals catching prowess in 2015 is Ramos dropping ball after ball after ball on plays at the plate, grounding into double play after double play after double play, and admiring his home runs that wind up being long singles because he likes to watch.

That is all.

Anonymous said...

Nah. Here's what you do.

1. Sign Cepedes, which will thrill Harper (Bryce, that is) and make it more likely you can re-sign Him long term.
2. Trade Escobar, because smart GMs always buy low and sell high. Lots of teams need a versatile MI who can hit for high average. This makes room for Trea, who is a versatile MI who hits for high average and, importantly, is not slow or otherwise in his decline years.
3. Trade Moore for minor league [fill in the blank] talent.
4. Trade Taylor for major league relief talent or whatever. (I keep getting visions of... Melvin Upton.)
5. Do what it takes to sign a decent offensive catcher, including trading the aforementioned as a package.

The bullpen is a teardown, but I have no idea what the talent pool looks like out there. I do know that we have good arms coming up. And generally we have drafted well, meaning that the picks associated with the departing FAs will create some re-stocking opportunities. Lots for Rizz to work with here.

Harper, a question for you: What do you make of Giolito's AA performance this year? Just a guess, but he may not rank as high on everybody's prospect lists for 2016.

Zimmerman11 said...

Thank you harper and all the non troll participants here for another fun season ... I appreciate the comraderie.

Anonymous said...

Poor little LOLMets fan...

ProphetNAT said...

Harper/fellow Nats fans, I'd like to get your thoughts on some of these available FA's (with current contract status):

- Ryan Madesen, KC: 1yr/$850k
- Jim Johnson, LAD: 1yr/$1.6m
- Jason Motte, CHC: 1 yr/$4.5m
- Franklin Morales, KC: 1yr/$1.9m
- Jason Frasor, ATL: 1yr/$1.9m
- Blaine Boyer, MIN: 1yr/$750k
- Jerry Blevins, NYM: 1yr/$2.4m
- Shawn Kelley, SD: 1yr/$2.8m

- Mike Leake, SF: 1yr/9.8m
- Jaime Garcia, STL: 4yr/$27m ($6.75m/yr)
- John Lackey, STL: 6yr/$83m ($13.8m/yr)

- Daniel Murphy, NYM: 1yr/$8m
- Ben Zobrist, KC: 6yr/$30m
- Gerardo Parra, BAL: 1yr/$6.2m
- Yoenis Cespedes, NYM: 4yr/$36m ($9m/yr)

Some of these might demand more that what what their current deal indicates, but not all. There does seem to be a surplus of decent bullpen arms out there for us as well as another bat.


Also, Bryce should be playing CF - unless we get true defensive wizard out there. No sense in clogging up a corner OF spot with a 22 y/o when we can easily put his talent/athleticism elsewhere. The market is small for CF, not so small for a corner OF.

Ric said...

@SammyKent said, "The first job of the leadoff batter is to get on base in the first inning and get in scoring position. That's basic."

I'd say the job of every batter, every inning is to get on base and get in scoring position.

The job of the leadoff hitter, specifically in the 1st, I'd argue, is to take some pitches. The entire lineup is looking to see what the pitcher is bringing to the game that evening. If you pop up on the first pitch, you've failed your job.

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