Nationals Baseball: How do I like them

Friday, December 09, 2016

How do I like them

I like Adam Eaton as much as people who generally like Adam Eaton

I like the fact that he's an all-around player. He basically does everything well... except hit for power. Now, if you ask me what's the most important thing a player can do "hit for power" is probably #1, which is why he's not a quiet superstar in my opinion. But an All-Star caliber player? One with enough skills that if something isn't working he can contribute in other ways? All at an age where severe drop offs in talent would be surprising? Yes. The only way you can think otherwise is if you still evaluate players mainly on the AVG HR RBI set of stats.

I think the Nats have solved their CF problem in a good way, allowing them the ability, after this year to go for either a CF or a corner OF, depending on what they see as the best fit. I think they've found their Werth replacement, a productive outfielder who will help the team for half a decade.

I like Lucas Giolito less than most with casual knowledge in the Nats but apparently more than most that follow the Nats and their stats at a hardcore level

A lot of people with casual knowledge remember the hype for Lucas Giolito and see his rankings in the minor league Top 100 lists and think he may still be an ace sooner rather than later. I don't. I think the ship of "dominant early 20s starter" has sailed. Oh it's certainly not impossible for later blossoming to occur but 1) typically aces have at least untouchable stuff (if not be completely dominant) throughout development, and 2) the Nats see Giolito as a ticking clock. The TJ arm will go at some point around year 8. If he's more of a Lester (some touchy minor league seasons, took a couple major league seasons to settle in - Ace at 24) well you are now 7 years in on that arm before you get any significant return, if any.

On the other hand a lot of people have just given up on Giolito.  The velocity went and he got hit hard in the majors so he stinks.  I don't go that far. Here's a guy that undeniably has all the stuff you could want. He did fairly dominate the low minors at an age that was young for that and had swing and miss stuff in High-A ball just 18 months ago. The transition to AA did cause some issues. More hittable, less swing and missable in 2015. He improved on those a little in 2016 but at the same time became wilder negating those marginal improvements. But if you look more closely he got better as the year went on. In his first 7 games in AA he had four games where he walked 3 or more and 2 games where he walked one. Only one outing giving up a run or less, despite being held to shorter outings (no more than 4 IP) to start the year.  Only one outing striking out more batters than IP. In his second 7 he had two games where he walked 3 or more and 4 games where he walked only 1. Only one outing giving up more than 2 earned runs, despite now pitching 6 innings regularly. He struck out more batters than IP 3 times. He would spend most of the rest of the season bouncing between AAA and the majors but we saw something similar in his longest AA stint of 4 games. The first two games were rough, the next two were very good.

I think Lucas Giolito could be thrown in the majors and be a back of the rotation starter today. I think with time (or AAA seasoning) he's going to be a fine middle of the rotation pitcher, maybe a #2. Assuming his arm holds up.

I like Reynaldo Lopez less than most.

Most seem to think that Lopez could be a decent back of the rotation pitcher and failing that would be a strong reliever. I'm not sure where that is coming from.  Lopez' minor league success has come from being unhittable but not in the "strike everyone out" way. Instead it's in a weird, incredibly low BABIP way. Perhaps there is something to this, an ability to get the worst contact but I have my doubts. Mainly because he didn't get that in 2012 or 2013 or 2015 or his 2016 stints in AA or the majors. In all these places he was hit just normally and that led to expected ERAs from the below average to the "what I would put up if I were pitching". He did seem to strike out a lot of guys in AA this year.  However much like the BABIP thing it's an isolated incident. He didn't strike out a lot of guys at any other time at any other level. So if you like Lopez a lot you have basically convinced yourself that these two blips that are something like 33% and 25%  of his career are what is going to happen for him down the road at the same time. Call me crazy but I'd rather bet on the things that happened during 67% and 75% of career, including parts of last year, continuing forward. Maybe one gets solved (I'd bet on him striking out guys before maintaining crazy BABIPs) but it will definitely cap his expectations.

For those who say "Well I watched him in the majors last year and I liked what I saw" let's remember something. He pitched 44 innings in the majors last year. 23.2 of those innings, more than half, were against the 2nd, 3rd and 4th worst offense in the NL*. He still posted an ERA of 4.90.  In the other 21.1 innings when he wasn't facing the dregs of the league he gave up 15 earned runs. He was unusable.

I think Reynaldo Lopez won't ever amount to much in the major leagues

*All in the NL East! Adnd the worst? THE PHILLIES. The NL East had crazy bad offenses last year. 


Zimmerman11 said...

We also gave up our first round pick from last season in this deal. What has Dane Dunning for you lately?

Harper said...

I like Dane Dunning exactly as much as a person who heard the name Dane Dunning during the draft and has never thought of Dane Dunning again likes Dane Dunning

cass said...

I like Lopez's stuff. I like watching him pitch. He didn't get the results, but I get a good feeling about him. I am not a scout or pitching expert so my gut feeling on this is probably wrong but it also makes me sad to see him go. On the other hand, Eaton seems to be good so the deal makes sense. I just worry a bit about our starting pitching depth but I guess we'll just grab some more AAAA guys.

G Cracka X said...

Danny Espinosa hits for power (your stated #1 criteria). And he plays good defense at a premium position. And he's a good baserunner. Almost never GIDPs.

Should he be the one getting benched due to the arrival of Eaton?

PotomacFan said...

Let's put this in perspective, comparing the first half of 2015 to the first half of 2016:


Trea Turner replaces Danny Espinosa at shortstop -- HUGE upgrade, assuming that Trea is at least an average fielder.
Adam Eaton replaces Ben Revere -- HUGE upgrade, unless Eaton hurts himself during first plate appearance and stinks all year. Not likely.

No change:
Starting pitching rotation is the same.
Harper, Werth, Rendon, Murphy, Zimmerman (Nats weakest spot).
Bullpen is roughly the same, but without Rivero (eh), Oliver Perez (bad).

Norris/Lobaton/Severino replace Wilson Ramos.

In the 2nd half of the year, the Nats put Turner in CF to replace Revere, and picked up Melancon.

So, net net, Nats basically replace Espinosa with Eaton, lose Ramos, lose Melancon.

Hopefully, they will address catcher and/or closer in the off-season. If not, they can address this at the mid-season trade deadline.

Donald said...

If I were Danny Espinosa, I'd be frantically learning how to pitch. His best shot at staying on the team is if he can fill the closer role.

Harper -- what would you do with Danny? How much would he bring back? Do you try to flip him for some middle relief help or package him with a few other guys to try to get something bigger? Or would you try to keep him on the bench?

Harper said...

GCX - I don't think you are serious but I'll answer seriously. Arguably no, but only if you are going to sit Zimm - which you are not. So then Danny has to be benched.

What speaks to the power point is that Danny can't hit for average AT ALL (not merely below average like Eaton is with power) and has watched his speed diminish over the past couple years and yet is still a viable major league starer, if just barely. Why? Because of defense and mostly, because power. It's all a matter of scale. If he hit 30 homers instead of 24 no one would be talking about getting rid of him. If he hit 18 homers instead of 24 he might not have made it through the year.

Let's not overstate things. Danny has GOOD power, not great power. He hits homers and that's all, not enough to completely make up for the fact he hits very few doubles.

Harper said...

PF - how HUGE Trea will be over Danny is arguable. Or really is what we're going to find out. it could be HUGE or huge or not huge. That's what we have to accept with a 2nd yr bat

Also the downgrade is HUGE at C bc of Ramos' crazy year.

I'd say batting comes out a little ahead C +++ drop, FY Eaton for FY Espinosa ++ increase, Half-year Turner for Half-year Revere + increase (assuming Turner moderation and taking acct half year, room to become ++ depending giving this year edge)

pitching just slightly down (2 months of Melancon lost ast noted)

Donald - I bet you could package Danny to a team that needs a SS for a middle relief arm. that's about it. Only KC fits that for contenders though. If I could trade him I would trade him assuming you can get Drew back. He's versatile and good defensively enough.

SM said...

Poor Espinosa--any hope of substantial playing time choked off by the presence of Zimmerman.

Is this what the kids call "irony?"

#Werthquake (Formerly clip & store) said...

Honestly I see a good chance of none of the 3 guys given up amounting to much of anything.

Which gives you perspective how much a crapshoot prospect rankings are.. Even a top 40 guy (which sounds good) is likely to be nothing in the majors. And a top 5-10 guy like giolito very well may be nothing more than a mediocre starter, maybe even worse.

Never know what you got until you call them up.

Harper said...

Top 100 is more or less "good chance to be in the major leagues at some point for some period of time probably more than a cup of coffee"

Kevin Rusch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Rusch said...

call me crazy, but what I want on my bench is not power but on-base. why? because most of the time when an NL team is pinch-hitting, it's because a pitcher is up and there are 2 outs and you need to keep the rally going. Sure, a double or HR is great, but I'm also happy just having that guy work a walk or slap a single so that the top of the order can come up. That's where the damage will get done anyway, so I want someone who'll put the ball in play. So that pretty much rules Espi (and MAT) out as they're the exact opposite. I say sign Revere to an incentive-laden deal and if he's better, he's your 4th OF.

mike k said...

- Initial reaction to the trade was we gave up too much. I really wanted at least one of Giolito or Lopez to stay on the team so we can get a young pitcher come up and make an impact, and keep the rotation strong and not too expensive in the coming years. Now you either need to keep Gio for the two more years, or go out and get a replacement - and that guy is going to cost more and not be as good as Giolito, most likely.

Upon further reflection, I guess the trade ain't so bad. I'm with Harper in thinking that Lopez was overrated, but I still thought that with his stuff, he'd make a good future closer. Losing Giolito still stings a little. But considering we'd have him for six more years, and Eaton for five, and Giolito isn't a sure thing to be a top starter after last year, I suppose it makes sense. It's not like we have Eaton for 2-3 years...we have him for almost as long as if he were a rookie, and he won't be old at the end of his contract. Giolito would have to hit his old expectations, or two of the three guys we gave up would have to do very well, for the trade to be a loss. Both those things might not happen.

- Baker's got his lineup making skills cut out for him, though. Right now it's RLLLRRRR(pitcher).

- SM - perhaps if Espinosa got Zim his starting job, or something like that.

- Donald - that would actually be awesome. He should do it!

- Kevin - I actually like Espinosa as a bench player. He can play any IF position. He's still fast enough to pinch run. He's a switch hitter, so you can't play matchup with him. He has some power. Power off the bench is good for when you're down one with 2 outs and no men on, or you just need a HR. Of course, you want AVG/OBP guys too - a balanced bench is a happy bench! If someone has both, then, well, they're not a bench player now are they. Same thinking applies to MAT, except IMO he's a tick worse hitter than Espinosa.

That being said, they should definitely shop Espinosa. He's making too much to sit on the bench for a team not named Yankees/Dodgers (and is not a platoon guy), and the Nats have bullpen needs.

PotomacFan said...

"He's a switch hitter, so you can't play matchup with him." That's one way of looking at it. Another way is that he cannot hit from either side, so there is no reason to bring in a new pitcher. And all things considered, you would want the other team to burn a pitcher.

Anonymous said...

Clearly you lead off Eaton and have Trea hit second, right? Trea has more power and Eaton's just about as good at getting on base (and more established, to boot). As a bonus that lets you go LRLL in front of all the righties instead of RLLL and then all the righties in a row too, and at least one of Eaton / Trea has a chance against the specialist who comes in to get late-inning outs.

PotomacFan said...

I don't think so. Trea is one of the two best base-stealers in MLB. Assuming that he maintains a high OBP, I would have him bat first. He then has the opportunity to steal second, get pushed to third, and score without a base hit. By contrast, Eaton is not much of a base stealer. Sure, he gets some steals, but he also gets thrown out a fair amount.

Gregory said...

I have an idea for batting order with L/R balance, mostly. Please expose its flaws so that I can stop thinking about it. (One flaw is obvious, but I'll explain my reasoning below.)

Eaton (L)
Rendon (R)
Harper (L)
Turner (R)
Murphy (L)
Werth/Resurgent Zim (R)
Non-R Zim/Werth (R)
Lobaton (S)/Norris (R)

Not batting Trea lead-off is predicated on his expected Year Two regression and his lousy BB rate. Might at well take advantage of his power and give him some protection with Murphy. And the three ahead of him have speed, so he unclogs the bases even with a single.

Another predicate is that I do not want Rendon batting 4th, his spot in most line-up proposals I've seen. He looked miserable and tight batting 5th after Ramos went down. He hit .150 in that slot during the NLDS and K'd at least twice with runners on in key situations. (Granted, he did homer off Maeda in Game 3, but ... Maeda.)

DezoPenguin said...

I hope you're right about the prospects. For Giolito and Lopez, one washout and one mid-rotation or good relief guy would be a nice "we won the trade, but didn't completely screw over the other team." (Dunning I don't care about. He might or might not be good, but he won't be good during the next three years, and we're firmly interested in winning now.)

I have reasonable confidence Eaton will be, if not necessarily six-win good (he'd need to be back in right field for that), but at least equal-to-Dexter-Fowler-but-younger-and-much-cheaper good. What I don't know--but would like--is to be reassured that the Nationals' front office has a sound estimate of the true value of our own prospects. Rizzo hasn't hit on all of his signings and trades, but he also hasn't yet traded away guys that became superstars to haunt us.

DezoPenguin said...

Espinosa now a Los Angeles Angel. With Danny at 2B, that's going to give Simmons more ability to shade towards 3B and cover for Yuney's crappy defense. (...The fact that Espinosa was a clear upgrade to the Angels' 2B *offense* from 2016 is kind of mind-blowing.)

The two prospects coming back basically look like org filler. Maybe something might come of them, maybe not, but at least we get salary relief ($5-6M more to throw at Jansen!) and Danny was already in sulk mode following the trade. I don't think Difo plays SS, so we may be looking to bring back Drew or another utility infielder type, though.

Flapjack said...

Lots of ways to view the Eaton trade, but here's one that hasn't been mentioned yet: the new CBA. Beginning next year, when teams won't automatically lose a 1st rounder for signing high profile FAs, salary caps should loom larger as a constraint on roster design. Most of the moves made this offseason have had an economizing air to them.

There is a method to Rizzo's madness; we just have to figure out what it is.

NotBobby said...

I like dropping TT down in the order. Eaton allows the team to have a tablesetter at the top. It also takes some pressure off TT in year two. The lineup can obviously be changed later when TT has shown last year was not a fluke. I like something like:

Eaton (L)
Murphy (L)
Rendon (R)
Harper (L)
Werth (R)
Turner (R)
Zim (R)
Norris (R)

blovy8 said...

Woof. The Angels' 30th prospect is probably as likely to pitch a major league inning as anyone who has ever posted on this board. Given his stats, he's more likely to take innings from a pitcher with something going for him.Total salary dump. I hope this was a "where do you want to go, and we'll see if they'll take you deal."I kept hearing about Tampa, but I guess they wanted $$. Difo can play short, but they'll probably aim higher.

blovy8 said...

I want Turner to lead off until he proves he can't. Haven't seen much of Eaton but he would seem to go deep into counts and allow Turner to run. As weird as it is to have three lefties in a row, it's probably just Harper that it affects a lot. I can see Rendon breaking them up putting Harper fifth sometimes.

ClassOf87 said...

There's no way you bat someone with TT's speed anywhere but leadoff. He can create a run out of a walk, an HBP, an error, a bloop, with only a good AB from the number 2 or 3 hitter. Will want to watch Eaton play every day before making a final determination but from what I've read he certainly looks like he can handle the bat and hit second.

John C. said...

I'm all for Eaton/Turner at the top of the order. Turner has more pop, and so makes more sense batting #2. Eaton is a consistent .360+ OBP guy with no pop, and so makes perfect sense batting leadoff. The concern about "clogging the basepaths" in front of a basestealer is silly. First of all, even with a .360 OBP that means that for most of Turner's at bats Eaton won't be on first. Peel away Eaton's XBH (he only had 14 HRs, but also had 29 2b and a league-leading 9 3b) and you have even fewer at bats where Turner has Eaton on first. And stealing bases is just part of baserunning; Eaton is one of the best in baseball at taking extra bases and not getting thrown out. He's in the top ten in MLB by FG's baserunning metric over the past two seasons. So for a lot of Turner's singles Eaton will be going to third. It also means that Eaton will be scoring on Turner's XBH. The impact on Turner's base stealing opportunities will be minimal, and offset by the advantage of better leveraging Turner's extra base hits with someone on base - as well as breaking up the LH batters.

Nor is there an advantage to be gained with a LH batter hitting second to take advantage of the hole created by the 1b holding the runner. Not with these players, anyway. Eaton is a slap/spray hitter, and has one of the lower pull percentages in MLB.

Eaton/Turner/Harper/Rendon/Murphy/Werth/Zim/catcher/pitcher is the way that I'd line them up, at least to start the season. Of course, I fully expect Baker to bat Turner leadoff because WHEEE! FAST! Fortunately lineups don't matter that much ...