Nationals Baseball: October 2022

Monday, October 31, 2022

Off-Season Position Discussion - Shortstop

What a mess. If there was a position that was the 2022 Nationals in a nutshell it was shortstop. The Nats didn't have a solution to who would play the position after trading away Trea late in 2021. They lucked into a decent 70+ games from Alcides Escobar but no one could consider him a serious solution or even stop gap. Within the system they knew Garcia didn't have the defensive chops for the position and the only true prospect in Brady House was years away, if he would even play the position when he got here. 

So the solution seemed obvious - get a FA to play the position. If the Nats were willing to gamble they could sign a big name, with the idea that they would be good again soon enough for such a FA to matter. If they were not then any decent SS would do, someone to fill the role for a season while other parts of the Nats world worked themselves out. 

But that was not to be. The Nats decided to try several terrible ideas and waste 3/4 of the season on hubris.  Fun! They brought back Alcides Escobar and he failed as anyone would have expected. There was a quick attempt to use an out of position Dee Strange-Gordon.  He did do better than expected, but was still below average with the bat and glove. After that came the "force Garcia to be a SS" trial which again was something everyone knew would not work and didn't. And finally post-Soto trade it landed on an actual SS that made sense to try there., CJ Abrams. 

All in all Abrams did not hit well for the Nats, but he had some stretches that got fans excited. He is a singles hitter primarily and at times would run off 1-2 weeks of hitting .350 or better. However he did not walk or homer (1 and 0 in his time with the Nats respectively.  I'll now pause as you take in the one walk as a Nat...  




).  Defensively he was probably the best pure fielder, but also the most error prone. 11 errors in 366 innings at SS for the Nats, or about one every 3-4 games. If you are wondering yes 35+ errors in a season would be a lot. 

Presumed Plan : Abrams starts the season at SS and plays the full season barring complete hitting or fielding collapse. He is backed up by... ? Vargas? You guys seem very into Vargas. If not than a FA because there's little in house.

Reasons for Presumed Plan : For Abrams, it is full-scale rebuilding time for the Nats and that means playing kids and Abrams is a very high rated prospect that they got back in the Soto deal. Granted he was very highly ranked like 2 seasons ago, but still you don't get that highly ranked for no reason. You could stick him down in AAA to learn fielding but he can hit in the minors and there is little for him to gain by being down there for that. Eventually he will have to field in the majors so why not just try it now? Garcia, although out of position, probably, hopefully, showed them the folly of putting a guy that is more than ready at the plate back in the minors to field. 

As for back up well Escobar is gone. Strange-Gordon is gone. Garcia is at 2nd. Lucius Fox is no good. That doesn't leave many options. Brady House is years away and possibly not a SS. Vargas did play SS a little so if Abrams is your everyday guy then having him play once every 2 weeks isn't going to kill you. However he's more of a 2B/3B guy and it's a deep SS year and maybe you get lucky and a real decent back-up SS is there in February waiting to be picked up.

My take : On the back-up.  You are going to have to sign someone - a MI or CI so why not a SS which usually gives you a built in emergency 2B/3B, unlike the other way around?  Well one reason could be because you want to sign a real 3B rather than let Kieboom take another crack at things.  Ok I'd be for that and we'll talk about that next time. But assuming an "all kids" strategy, a SS just makes more sense than a 2B/3B.  Of course the competition for signing will likely be tough. I really don't like Vargas as the primary back-up here as he has big no-hit no-field potential as a SS. Jose Iglesias would be ideal and maybe seeing if Abrams can play 3B? Eh - won't happen. 

Why? Well the Nats want Abrams at SS and he has the range so if it works out it's great. It's worth giving it a try. I'm not sure if it will. Abrams is in that period where we are going to find out what kind of player he is. What we know is he can put the ball in play and he's pretty fast, that can last actually. But it would be MUCH better if he could supplement that with power or patience. That way he doesn't have to rely on being a good to great fielder (which he isn't yet but probably will be - errors can be corrected, range and instincts, which he has, is much harder to learn). 

 Having a high-contact guy is great but funnily enough the Nats are one team that doesn't necessarily need that change of pace in the line-up. Ruiz is a big contact hitter and Garcia and Yadi both have under 20% K skills, if perhaps they need to be directed to use them in that way.  Long play - Abrams might be better used as a trade chip for a young arms. Not if he develops into a star - you want to keep those, but into a solid SS.  There's a lot of value in a good D, .300 hitting, low K SS but there's more value in a top of the rotation arm... but now I'm going way out there.

It's a good plan Abrams at SS, but it needs a solid backup because we don't know if Abrams can hang full-time in the majors at the plate. Unlike Garcia he hasn't proved it. That makes it more of a gamble and you don't want him to be in the line-up hitting .150 on Memorial Day.  You need to fix that if it happens. Having a real back-up SS give you that ability.

Friday, October 28, 2022

World Series starts today

Who's the best*?!  We start to find out tonight. 

I'm rooting for the Phillies. I like Dusty and would like him to get a managerial WS title to cement his status as HoF manager** It shouldn't be a question now but you hate to leave anyone a reason to not make the vote. But I've always had a soft spot for the Phillies. Well that's not true. I did dislike the early 90s Phillies. But all around that? Good feelings. I also have a Phillie loving friend and I have no Astros friends. Dusty isn't a reason alone to root for the Astros he's a tonic that makes the bad feelings of them losing go down a little easier.

As for how I think the series goes? I think the Astros are better. I think the Astros will win. But if I have to make a prediction I'll do it this way. 

If the Phillies win G1, the Phillies will win in 5. The Astros will get in their own heads about failing to win in the end and it'll snowball. 

If the Astros win G1, the Astros will sweep. The Astros will be charged to be the first team in forever to go through the post-season undefeated, and the first one to do it in the WC era.***

For reference here is how I feel about every team 

NYY - The BEST! They should win every year!

BOS - The Worst! They should lose every game and have to move and we should raze Fenway!

TOR - I like their uniforms and logo but every time I think I might be ok with them I remember the early 90s Blue Jays who I did not like and I can't let it go 

BAL - Extremely hateable when they are good, otherwise ok

TBR - The Next Worst! They should have to move and we should raze the Trop and actually everyone agrees with this

CLE - No real opinion. I wish they'd win once so we can move onto I guess the Tigers

CHW - I like them more than the Cubs. That's about it

MIN - Dislike Minnesota. Don't know why. Always glad Yankees always beat them

DET - I kind of like the Tigers. Snazzy uniforms

KCR - A bit annoying because they seems to hate the Yanks at a level that is disproportionate with how much they should but I harbor no ill will in return

HOU - Liked them, the Ryan/Scott/Cruz version, the Killer Bs version but now I hate them, I'll probably like them again once all these cheaters are gone in a decade

SEA - Dislike. For 95 but also there's a lot of Yankee hate from this place too and they tend to think way too much of themselves in terms of baseball (or more likely they are way over represented in baseball talking head circles)

LAA - Hate the dumb LA in the name but otws no opinion. I'd like to see them in the playoffs. 

TEX - No opinion

OAK - Like the Phillies I really disliked them for a time (that being the Bash Brothers era) but unlike the Phillies no like around them. Just meh. I like their uniforms.

ATL - No like. Maybe if you stop the chop

NYM - Now that I don't live in NY there's definitely kid brother vibes for them. Also my kid brother does like them. Like "I can't hate you. You try so hard and never succeed!" They'd probably be extremely hateable for a long time if they ran off a couple series in a row though.

PHI - Schmidt! Hayes! Juan Samuel! I liked those guys. So here we are

MIA - Eh. Still feel new and underserving to me 

WSN - Very interested in them as a well wisher

STL - I don't dislike them as much as I play along. the 80s cards were fun. good unis. but generally I'm rooting against them. 

MIL - I kind of like the Brewers. Really like the old school logo. Players don't do anything for me though. 

CHC - sort of dislike I guess? They are just another team and not lovable so when people say they are lovable that bothers me. I'm glad they won though. 

CIN - They should be better so I kind of root for that. Not sure where on the dislike-like range that falls. 

PIT - Pirates are fine. I think I should like them MORE because I like pretty much everything around them, colors, uniform, city, but it never gets there. 

LAD - Surprisingly more neutral than you'd think 

SDP - I feel an odd connection to the Padres and San Diego teams in general that I usually like to see them do well. Also my love for Tony Gwynn is real if toned down from the fun I have on line. 

SFG - Eh. 

ARI - Kind of like the Marlins. They shouldn't be good. And it feels sort of right when they are bad but a good D-back teams that doesn't win a pennant or anything is fine. 

COL - All over the place. I could get behind them or totally root against them depending on what's happening.

*best being poorly defined by which teams who were at least good, ran the gauntlet of several short series to end up the last team standing. 

**for those that don't believe - he's 9th all time in wins as a manager. Everyone through 16 is either in the HOF or will be with the exception of Gene Mauch who has a lifetime winning percentage that ranks 223rd and only 2 postseason appearances both losing the only series he managed.  He's 4th in playoff appearances, though that means less now, everyone through 9 is either in or will be. This is his 3rd pennant and out of guys with 3 or more 35 are in the HoF (though a few might be in as players) and a couple will be.

*** The 99 Yanks and 05 White Sox went 11-1,

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Off-Season Position Discussion - Second Base

2022 should have been a very simple year for this position, but it ended up being a problem that of course resolved itself exactly where it should have started. Now 2023 will be that simple year... as long as no one gets hurt

Luis Garcia had been dominant in AAA in 2021 earning his second extended call-up to the majors. Much like the first, he was able to hang despite his young age and it seemed pretty clear that he'd have a full season in 2022 to work out the kinks. But the Nats decided that Garcia should be a SS.  Well maybe they decided that. Maybe they wanted a pretext to put him back into the minors. Regardless the effect was the same. As he was not a good fielder, Garcia was sent down to learn the shortstop ropes in AAA and someone else would play 2nd. 

That someone else was the FA signing Cesar Hernandez, and average MI at a reasonable age the Nats thought they could pick up and with some luck turn around for something small.  But Cesar struggled and failed to produce a season of play anyone would want.  Meanwhile in AAA Garcia was again tearing the cover off the ball. (He'd hit like .305 / .370 / .550 over 21 and 22). Despite not looking terribly good the Nats would move him up to play SS in June, that wouldn't work in the field to no one's surprise, but they'd keep on it until mid August when they'd mercifully shift Garcia to where he should have been to start.  Garcia played the rest of the year at second.  He'd end up hitting a bit better this year than in his previous turns, getting to league average with the bat. 

Presumed Plan : Luis Garcia plays 2B.  A FA signee backs him up along with others. 

Reasons for Presumed Plan : Garcia played second last year and was decent. At 22/23 next year you'd still expect him to improve to some degree. If maybe not become a star, even a tick up makes him a solid major league player. 

As for the back-up, the only young player you like and that is ready for the job is Abrams. He'll likely play SS.  That leaves no one to back up.  There will probably be calls for Jake Alu to be up and he might be, but he's more of a 3B than a MI. Ildermo Vargas had a nice run for the Nats this year, but he also isn't very good and they should pass on that. So a random FA Jose Peraza? Didi Gregorious? Marwin Gonzalez?

My take : They should definitely start Garcia and play him. So we're all in agreement there. Finally. His defense is no great shakes but it improves every year and he's probably an acceptable 2B right now and given his age likely will be for some time then. So worst case you have a completely average 2B in production and D for cheap for years. Best case he gets some measure better and you have a real steal. 

As for back-up... let's hope he doesn't get injured. The likely replacement won't be someone expected to be good or even slightly below average in 2023. It'll be someone expected to be bad with a chance on not being bad. Either a FA like the ones mentioned that seem to no longer be worthy of a major league spot that surprise us OR a minor leaguer that wasn't a prospect and should be bad but who knows because they never played in the majors. 

It'd likely get very bad, very fast if Garcia can't go, so let's all wish him health.

Hmm if you stopped here the Nats wouldn't look so bad. They have a young C and young 2B that seem to be league average with hopes of being better and a trio of 1B bats that they can find the best one from and the best one should be decent. It's the foundation, with a couple stars, of a nice squad. 

Unfortunately these ARE the stars and the foundation under them is very shaky. There isn't much certainty left in the Nats positions for 2023 and that almost always means a lot of problems.  But for now let's leave it with Ruiz, Meneses/Voit/Yadi, and Garcia. Three actual solutions.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Off-Season Position Discussion - First Base

Next year will be a mess for the Nats, but there is a decent chance that first base won't be. I'm not sure that can be said of any other position where the plan B is someone shouting "OMG please don't tell me we're at Plan B!!!" as they stuff whatever they can into a go bag. So enjoy the talk of the first and last truly set position, even if "being set" might still end up as a below average position. 

This year the plan coming in was very clear. Josh Bell, who the Nats took a chance on trading for before 2021, was to be the first baseman. He had a very good 2021 and the hope was he'd do the same in 2022.  He did better. He was All-Star worthy if not an actual selection which made him excellent trade bait for a team going nowhere. Once he got traded, with Cruz unable to be off-loaded and clogging up the DH position, AAA place holder Joey Meneses and trade return Luke Voit passed off the position between each other like 75/25 to Voit. After the waiver deadline passed and the Nats realized playing Cruz served no purpose, the Nats settled into Voit at DH and Joey at 1B.  Joey, already getting attention for his hot month, continued to hit in September and became one of the precious few good things for the Nats at the major league level. He ended the season hitting .324 / .367 / .563 in 240 PA.

Presumed Plan : Joey Meneses gets a shot at first as a reward for an extremely hot finish to 2022.  If he falters, it's likely either Luke Voit and/or Yadi Hernandez (injured at the end of 2022) will get the at bats there

Reason for Presumed Plan : As noted above after Josh Bell left Joey hit. He hit for the whole two months he was playing. He hit in August. He hit in September. He hit the first week. He hit the last week. He hit lefties and righties. He hit home and away. If you are looking for a reason NOT to start him at 1B next year, he didn't give you any in the majors. His fielding wasn't good, but the alternatives wouldn't be any better.

The alternatives are probably first Yadi assuming he's healthy, and if not him, the far worse fielding Voit, but you never know. If Voit is the only one hitting and wants to play 1B, he could play there.  In general, one of these two will get the occasional start.

Why not someone UNDER 30? While 1B is generally an easy place to fill with a cheap young-ish hitter that has nowhere to go, especially if your DH is filled with an older lumbering hitter, the Nats don't have that. Behind Joey, who was doing meh in AAA before getting called up, the only 1B/DH guys hitting were a 23 year old rookie baller and a 28 year old AA player. It's brutal out there.

My Take :  The Nats don't have many good hitters left. Voit is probably the surest thing, Yadi the second, and Meneses the best chance for someone newer to the league to stand out. They all, if they are in the field, should play 1B. LOGJAM!

But not really. Yadi played some OF because Bell had to be at 1B and Voit really should DH so it works itself out. But it really doesn't because of three numbers: 31, 32, and 35. Those are the ages for Joey, Luke, and Yadi next year.  At a time the Nats should be throwing out kids to see what they got they've got three players at ages that make it pretty unlikely they'll be around for the next good Nats team. First base has a solution and the solution is time filler. 

About the players specifically, we'll talk about Yadi and Luke more at other positions but they are consistent above average bats that can't field. Meneses as much as he did this season, is more of a question mark. He should hit... probably. In the minors he generally did. Not anything so great you had to get him to the majors, but good enough to keep him moving slowly up in the minors. Hitting was never the issue, the issue was he got going at too late an age to make playing an ok hitting meh fielding corner OF / 1B make sense for a team looking to win, which is what ATL, PHI and BOS all were. But the Nats aren't that! 

Will he hit this well next year?  The fancy numbers say probably not. His BABIP (.371) is too high for a guy that doesn't run well. His HR/FB rate is higher than he ever had at any minor league stop. But before you get all sad he's not a huge whiff guy, and he did have pretty good power, and if he can keep a mild and more believable increase in LD% up and that soft hit % way down... well he could do something. Not the .320 40 homer season his numbers in 2022 suggest but 280 and 25? Sure, why not? But also a Lane Thomas .240 / 15 season is not out of the question. We just don't know.

Next year is a gamble on Joey filling the position so you don't have to think about it, with the hope that's the case for as long as possible. It will be what little excitement the Nats have to start 2023 depending who makes the OD roster from the minors and the Padres pick-ups. If he stumbles that's ok, no one is pressing him and expectations are pretty low. If he stumbles badly that's ok too because there are clear back-up plans with either Yadi or Voit filling in his role. This is the Nats best position for all that that means.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Off-Season Position Discussion : Catcher

There will be a next year.  

Whether you want it or not, this is a fact and because there will be a next year we must plan accordingly.  Or really the Nats must plan and we must ruminate on the sidelines what those plans will be. The good news is unlike the past couple of years we have real clarity on what the Nats are doing.  The bad news is it's a complete rebuild from the ground up starting from an unimpressive base. Kids will play. We know that. But will the kids be any good? Or conversely will any of the good kids play? If the Nats aren't looking hot, why bring up a Hassell and start that clock? It will likely be a very long, very bad year. Here's to the bright spots.

Catcher this year was not quite on of these but it wasn't a problem either. Keibert Ruiz did end up the starting catcher as we thought and he was fine. At 23+ (He turned 24 around the ASG) that's a decent spot to be for a catcher. Both offensively and defensively he was about average and the combination meant he was a little better than average for a catcher. It's a hard position to fill and guys with one skill tend to fail at the other. It was a combination that fell in line with expectations. 

 He was backed up by a mix of players. Riley Adams first, who is simply an emergency catcher masquerading at the position.  Given terrible defense, he had to hit to hold onto the back up catcher role and he couldn't. Tres Barrera, who lookeddecent in the minors, got the next shot and was worse than Adams at the plate. Israel Pineda was quickly brought up after a solid showing in AA for a little over a month.  And he was even worse than Barrera.

Presumed Plan : 

Ruiz with Barrera to start with Pineda on deck whenever it seems like a good idea to flip the two.

Reasoning behind Presumed Plan : 

Ruiz was a above average major league catcher in his first full season at the position. Just barely above average but still above average. There isn't a good reason not to start him as none of the guys behind him are pushing him at all.  He's got a bunch of years before FA so there's no reason to trade him either. 

Adams seems pretty well done as a catcher, as well he should. Which leaves Barrera and Pineda. They like the younger (22) Pineda better than the older Barrera (28) but Pineda also hasn't seen much playing time over A ball.  Expect him to settle in to AAA to see if they can get his bat up to major league speed.  Meanwhile that leave Barrera to fill in the back-up role. Maybe he clicks this time.

My Take :  

Ruiz is a no-brainer. He can play now so of course he starts. The Nats really want/need him to be better though. Assuming defense remains pretty stable for a while*, Ruiz best chance on becoming a good catcher is to hit better. To do that he very simply needs to hit with more power.  His .109 ISO is low suggesting topping out in homers in the 10-15 range. That's only ok if he hits well over .300 (good luck) or walks more (he's never really done that outside of AAA time in 2021). Power, which oftern develops a little with age, seems like the most likely path forward. 

Unfortunately little in his development so far makes me think that's coming. But worse case scenario is you have an average catcher for 4 years cheap and can worry about something else. We'll keep running into this at other positions, Nats being ok enough maybe, but really if you want to settle for that at a position, it's catcher. 

Back-up is a little tougher. Adams shouldn't catch so the fact they were trying to move him around is great. Everyone seems to like Barrera as a person but he hasn't done anything with major league time and he'll turn 29 late next year. He's filler. Teams do do worse but he's down there. On the plus side he's one of those solid defenders who works hard and that could help rub off on Ruiz perhaps.

Pineda could be a major league catcher, but we need to see what he can do in the upper minors. Plus he does need defensive work.  In all honestly he may need 2-3 years and he may just graduate to back-up major league catcher. But be happy with that. You need those two. 

One thing to think about is if Ruiz could learn from a defense first catcher in the back-up role. There are plenty of terrible bats that were excellent defensive catchers, Christian Vasquez, Roberto Perez, Martin Maldanado, Mike Zunino. Maybe instead of going dirt cheap with Barrera, you throw 1-2 million at one of these guys to help out Ruiz behind the plate.

*People seem to think he's better than he's shown. I'll give it another year of data before saying whether he's good or just average

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Lucky or Unlucky : 2022

 The Nats were bad. 

There is no way around that fact. But even bad teams can be lucky or unlucky and a team that ends with 60 wins might be a 52 win team (as bad as teams usually can get) or they might be a 68 win team (average bad) in disguise.  

The adjusted standings suggest the Nats, a 55 win team, were probably a little unlucky with how the season went. Their record WAS in line with their runs scored and runs allowed, but they probably got a little unlucky in how the runs happened* and their schedule was probably a little tougher than the average team.  In the end they were probably more like a 60 win team.  This really does nothing for this year. Those 55 wins are what happened. But it gives us a starting point for next year. This team with no changes might end up with a few more wins next year especially if the division eases up (see the Mets and their FAs). Of course next years team won't have 4 months of Soto and Bell... 

Let's get to the pieces of the season itself. Now remember ALL teams have lucky things and unlucky things happen. The hope is the lucky outnumbers or outweights the unlucky. Worse players get hurt. The lucky surprise is a star turn. That sort of thing.  


Strasburg is hurt and basically doesn't pitch.  As I said before, you need the second part because Stras getting injured is a given. It happens pretty much every year. Even given that the hope is this year that Strasburg could give them something. A month or two of good pitching, an on-and-off season of mediocrity. Something. He gave them nothing which immediately turned a problem rotation into a disaster.

Corbin got worse Corbin had a poor 2020, then a bad 2021. There was hope he could turn things around but the reality was the Nats were just expecting something between the two performances and a 5.00 ERA guy eating up innings. Instead Corbin put up an ERA well over 6.00 and had one of the worst full seasons of all time. Combined with Strasburg the disaster rotation became one that flirted with the worst of all times.

No FA worked out to be tradeable That Hernandez, Franco, Cruz, and Cishek each failed is not surprising. That they ALL failed is. Think of it this way - there could be an 80% chance each one does poorly enough to not bring back anything in trade. But the chances that they ALL fail like that would be 0.80*0.80*0.80*0.80 or like 41%. So it's more likely that at least one would have done something. Rizzo rolled snake eyes here

Rainey got hurt  Some pen arm was going to go down.  Probably more than one. Rainey was arguably their most important one so having it be him was on the unlucky side if not necessarily unexpected


Bell was great In 2021 the up and down Bell had an up year but that really didn't tell us much about 2022 as he had up years in the past only to disappoint. Instead Bell hit like an All-Star even if he didn't make the team. This made him a much nicer trade piece and helped bring in the haul from San Diego.

Joey was great The post Soto trade story was Joey Meneses and really only Joey Meneses. But what a story it was .324 and 13 homers in 50+ games would project out to star numbers. Ok that's unlikely in a full season but imagine the limping toward the 50 win finish the season would have been without him.  You want to hear weeks of "In the past few games Abrams didn't look too bad"?

Thomas showed full-time capability  No guarantee after only a half-season of decent play in 2021, Thomas basically kept up his performance over the entire year. Not a big lucky thing but one of the few even small breaks the Nats got

Vargas had his good stretch with the Nats  This is one of those things. Some guys get hot in small stretches, some guys don't. Vargas did for an extended time well above expectations. Take it and run.

Rainey bounces back Rainey is seen as the Nats closer and had been usable in 2019 and good in 2020, but 2021 was a bust. This was a make or break type year for the young man and he was actually ok. Of course he got hurt though. See above.

Pen results better than pen pitching The Nats pen was only fair, with FIPs suggesting a bottom third performance but luck broke for a lot of them and they were decidedly average.  A lot of 4.30 ERA type pitching actually getting 3.40 ERAs.  Small victories, I know. 

Hunter Harvey might be real deal Gotta be excited about something next year and I have chosen Harvey. Pedigree is there. He barely had a chance to get into relief before this year thanks to the pandemic being during his transition from starter year. Got a new pitch (the splitter) going. In 2022 he pitched great actually. He could be the All-Star for the Nats next year.  I'll give you odds.


Ruiz/Gray/Garcia were all usable rookies - Garcia was ok, good once they stopped trying to force him to be a SS. Ruiz was good for a catcher. Gray wasn't good, but was healthy and available. With large variance always in play these guys didn't do anything wildly outside of what they could have

Hernandez/Franco were bad- There was a decent chance this could be the possibility with Franco never being consistent and Hernandez getting older. Don't try to say this is surprising.

Yadi was good.  The Cuban late-comer immediately hit in the minors to the point where you had to give him a try despite being older. He was good last year. He can hit well enough to be on someone's team

Robles stayed as-is  It's been long enough that this hitting should be expected from Robles. He did field better this year but that's actually more in line with expectations than last year's bad numbers.

Cruz crash Again - always a possibility going in given he was 41. And it happened just as would be expected with a loss of power but not enough to make him unplayable, just untradeable.

Soto was Soto Soto is Soto.  The average was oddly low but didn't matter

Escobar was terrible - The ONLY possibility. He didn't hit years ago and that was before being out of the game for a while. Last year's blip was a "take the money and run" situation. The Nats made it a plan. A terrible plan that ended terribly

Rookies were mostly bad - The Nats farm isn't good and rookies tend to struggles so seeing guys like Adams and Adon and Tetreault do poorly?  Yeah that's what we thought would happen

Sanchez was passable, Fedde was bad, and the rest of the rotation was worse.  This is what these guys are.

Where do we end up? The Nats, one could argue in pure numbers, were more lucky than unlucky. But all those lucky things were pretty minor except Bell's breakout and that didn't matter as much given he got dealt. Harvey is potentially a nice find but happened at the extreme back-end of the season. Meneses sort of the same with the added note that we don't even see him without losing better bats in Soto and Bell. 

But I said "outnumber or outweigh" for a reason and the bad luck with the rotation dominates the minor good breaks. Strasburg being a complete zero and Corbin not even holding on to being his bad 2021 self was something no team could overcome. The Nats needed their #1 and #2 to be #1 and #2 to even be 65+ win competitive. Instead they were effectively gone and even major luck with the bats probably doesn't keep them from being an embarrassment.  Concentrated bad luck at the top of the rotation might be the worst bad luck to have and for a team already in the 60-70 win range? Where the biggest variance between good and bad probably lies at the top of that rotation? Well you see what happens.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Monday quickie - reviewing the rest

The trade people that were in the majors are the last to be reviewed.  And with a bit more depth. 

Keibert Ruiz.  The kid is a starting catcher. He played it all year. People loved his defense though the stats would put it around average. His bat was also around average. The questions of whether or not he'd develop power was answered with "not this year" but he continues to put the ball in play regularly and singles and doubles enough to be ok. The end result - average to maybe slightly above average fielding, average to maybe slightly below average hitting, gives the Nats a plus position at the hard to fill position of catcher. Not a big plus but a plus.

He's a cornerstone then for the next half-decade. However, unless he really steps up on defense, or develops power (or patience but I'll always bet on power first) he's just something not to worry about. Which don't get me wrong is very nice to have. You need guys like this to compliment the better players, and you usually try to find them at positions like C. But the Nats don't have better players so if Ruiz could improve a little and be one of those better players, that would be a big lift for the team going forward.

Josiah Gray - it's was the ok of times, it was the worst of times.  That pretty much sums up Gray's year. He did have one "best of times" stretch - 5 games from the end of May all through June where he put up a 1.24 ERA/ A little lucky sure but it gave you the idea of what can happen for a pitcher pitching well when he gets the breaks. But his other stretches were more just ok, starts 2-5 and a few starts toward the end of August. That would have been ok if his bad times were merely bad. ERAs in the 5.00s maybe a bad luck 6 run, so he evened out for an ERA in the lower to mid 4.00s. A perfectly acceptable first full year and a perfectly usable arm.  But they weren't merely bad. He pitched to deserved ERAs in the 7s and 8s. 

He ended up leading the NL in walks, and leading the majors in home runs, and no one was really close on the latter. If he pitched a full season of 33 starts, he projects to 45 homers, which would put him at 6th all time for a season and that's in 25 to 100 innings fewer than 1st through 5th.  The point is - one of these has to change. He either needs to become very stingy with walks or stop giving up homers. If he can he has the potential to be a very good starter. If he can't he's going to man the back of the Nats rotation. But no one seems to think the Nats coaching staff are the ones to fix him and looking at his stats staying stable from last year to this, that may in fact be right.  Gray, heal thyself.

Lane Thomas - in a rare nice surprise for the Nats Lane Thomas was fine. He doesn't hit for average, but his average isn't bad. He doesn't walk, but it's not like he has NO walks, he doesn't hit for power but it's not like he hits for NO power. His defense isn't great but he can certainly man a corner and can play CF in a pinch. He's an ideal 4th OF for a good team, a stretch 3rd OF for a not good team, and the best OF for the worst team in the majors.*

If this is who he is, and it probably is, then the Nats would be wise to deal him if he ever gets hot. He's likely peaking now and some team is probably going to want a cheap 3rd OF for a playoff stretch in 2023 or 2024 and you can maybe see him bringing back a better lottery ticket than he was in that case. But more likely he keeps playing as is, doesn't present great values in return and stays playing for the Nats until up for FA. And like Ruiz that's fine. Those two could be the bottom of the order for a playoff team. You want to plug holes with these types. The problem is right now all the Nats are doing it plugging holes.

Mason Thompson - a Padre guy got for Daniel Hudson, he looked pretty good this year. He probably didn't pitch as well as his 2.92 ERA would indicate but he was also injured so a fully healthy Mason would be expected to do better. I'm not sure there's a closer or even a set-up man here - he's a GB guy who let's them hit it. But there's a useful bullpen arm here and another piece to what I think could be a fairly decent pen over the next few years. For all the good it will do keeping losses from being big ones. Stay healthy and let's see who Mason is over an extended time but for now. He's something and that's more than can be said of most of the returns from sell-offs before 2022.

Riley Adams - He's a catcher, but really an emergency third catcher, the kind of guy that plays it if necessary or if he hits so well you can't not play him and you have a DH and 1B already.  Riley does not hit that well. He does have some power. If he played all year he might lead this Nats team in homers if Voit had an off year. But he'd also hit under .200 and strike out close to 200 times and by lead the Nats I mean hit like 20 homers not 40. They tried to put him in the minors and teach him first, in part because that's where the space is on the Nats with Ruiz behind the plate, in part because not catching sometimes helps the bat wake up.  It did not. The simple truth is Adams swings and misses too much. Right now he's borderline a major leaguer. He is what he is - maybe the worst player on the bench of the worst team.  I have to think he'll start the year as org filler with Meneses starting at 1st, and Yadi or Voit or whoever else they want to get at bats there when Joey sits.  If he can get red hot or things break in the majors we could see him again, but it's just as likely he sits in Rochester.  A miss. But hey it was for Brad Hand so what did you expect?

Luke Voit - Still not a free agent until after 2024 (he played 100 games before his age 28 season) Voit can serve a very important purpose for the Nats by hitting next year like he did in 2020 and get traded away for something good.  Luke is what a guy like Adams wants to be.  Sure he'll strike out close to 200 times but give him 150 games and he'll probably slug 30+ homers and that is useful. If he gets hot though he can get that average up and challenge 40 homers and that's more than useful that's good. As long as he's here you can expect Luke to probably not hit over .250 but to probably hit some homers inbetween strikeouts from the DH spot. He's unlikely to just Nelson Cruz given he's only 32 but it could happen. That's how it works with guys that strike out this much.

CJ Abrams - finally another real prospect! You probably heard good things about Abrams at the end of the year.  Unfortunately they were mostly cherry picked as he did not play overall well for the Nats. BUT he did have nearly a month where he hit .333.  Did he homer?  No. Did he walk? No.  Seriously ZERO walks - he did get HBP once. So it wasn't a great stretch but it suggests great stretches are possible. Hit .333 with a little patience and a little power as opposed to none and none and you have something very good. 

He also seems like he is an actual shortstop. Garcia, he made errors... when he got to the ball. He can't play short stop. I REPEAT : LUIS GARCIA CANNOT PLAY SHORTSTOP.  Abrams, he'll get to the ball, maybe better than 90% of the other SS in baseball. But he had a lot of errors.  If he can cut those down he'll be a good, maybe great, shortstop.

This makes Abrams a sneaky key for the Nats. He almost certainly in my mind, become the SS of the future, playing the position at a level that is worthwhile. And as it's another tough position to fill if he can hit a little better than puts him with Ruiz and Thomas as perfectly acceptable players. Meaning they have two of the hardest positions SS and C filled. That's great. But also... that's it. The Nats can't have anymore "just ok" players. They need 6 good ones - really like 3 good ones, 2 great ones and a superstar. Thomas is likely who he is. Ruiz seems to be settling. Abrams is the great unknown and as that he is the one that gets the most burden on being much better with the bat in the future. If he is, you can start to see the Nats path back. Garcia being good, Hassell being good. Someone ok at 1B... the offense pieces together.  If he's not better, then the Nats have no leeway. They need everything to work out hitting wise and that usually doesn't happen.

So looking up these guys for the most part worked out, as you would expect since they were in the majors. But there isn't a star among them yet which means everyone else would have to work out that way. That's a tough roll of the dice to bet on. No, the Nats need something to click here. It won't be from Adams - who isn't good, or Voit who is too old and better served as trade bait. Thompson's role is too limited to really matter. It has to be from someone else. Ideally more than just one but one at an absolute minimum from Thomas, Ruiz, Gray, and Abrams has to step up in a big way.  The Nats got value back, they got major leaguers they could pay cheap the next 5 years. That's good and necessary but it isn't winning. Winning requires more.

*If you are wondering why the Cardinals let him go - they have three younger OF who all are as good as Thomas now and might be better. They have two older OFs who probably are better. There's no place for him.

Friday, October 07, 2022

Playoffs and the Nats

 You guys know my rooting status - Yankees Yankees Yankees and twice on Sunday if it's a double header. 

But you guys aren't me and with the Nats out it may be hard to find a reason to root for a team.  So here are Nats on current playoff teams. 

Atlanta - Who can forgive you if you get behind long time Nat Ehire Adrianza? 

Mets - MAX! 

Phillies - Bryce is still there and they finally expanded the playoffs enough to get him back in. But you also like Kyle Schwarber and his couple months of amazing power.

Cardinals - No Nats and good because you don't want to root for the Cardinals

Dodgers - Trea is still there - that's part of why they got him for the extra year. Along with Daniel Hudson and Blake Treinen but both are hurt and won't be in the playoffs. 

Padres - Possibly the final survivor of the 2009 Nats Craig Stammen* and.... I think that's it. Oh wait. How silly of me.  Austin Adams though he's hurt. 



Yankees - As much as Wandy Peralta and Albert Abreu sound like random Nats relievers they aren't. No Nats.  Good. Get your 50 win stink away from my team

Blue Jays - No Nats went north of the border.  THEY ARE AMERICA'S TEAM.

Tampa - No Nats. Obviously the AL East was a bit too competitive for them

Guardians - 21 very important early season PAs for Sandy Leon

Astros - DUSTY! 

Mariners - former Nats prospect Robbie Ray is the big name but the Mariners tie for the overall win with likely the last major league at bats for Steven Souza came this year for Seattle as well as likely the last innings pitched for Tommy Milone and bringing back ring-getter Roenis Elias.

*Both Detwiler and Clippard pitched in 2022 so we'll see. They could all be gone next year and Stammen would win by virtue of making the playoffs.

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Merciful Ending

The Nats season ended with a non competitive loss, the last in a string of beatdowns only mercifully stopped by there being no more games tomorrow. They lost their last 5 games by scores of 8-2, 8-1, 4-2, 8-0 and 9-2.  That feeling of the past week in general and the last game specifically, that the Nats were never in it, best conveys the feeling of the season. It was a season that began with Alcides Escobar starting at SS, had Joan Adon starting Game 3, and ended with 4/9 of the offense manned by guys 27 or older that hadn't been good enough to start the season with a team. 

The season was never going to be a good one. The only question was how bad would it be? If Strasburg could be healthy, if Corbin could be ok, if Bell was for real, if Cruz had one more year in him, if more guys stepped up than stepped back ... it could have been passably bad.  High 60s in wins with most of the attention toward watching Gray, Garcia, and Ruiz and the young pitching hopefully develop and how that would effect re-signing Soto in the offseason. But very few of those things worked out and the season collapsed on itself. They were 6-15 before the end of April, 18-33 on Memorial Day. A looming unexpected sale put a tighter timeline on the Soto decision and with no clear path forward with the limited youngsters on hand, Soto went out the door to bring in a truck load more. The season and the next few, were officially given up on. 

The Nats were this bad. There was no real unluckiness to be found. The numbers pegged them at 56-106. They were blown-out regularly while their wins tended to be squeakers.  They couldn't hit - their best full season hitter was Lance Thomas, a decidely average bat who hit .240 with 17 homers. They couldn't pitch - their best full season starter was Josiah Gray who succumbed to fatigue and fell back into his pattern of giving up multiple homers every game, ending the year with an ERA over 5.  They couldn't field - 2nd in errors, 2nd to last in defensive runs saved. They couldn't run - in the lower third in SB and SB%, #3 in getting picked off, 3rd worst in extra bases taken, tied for 4th most times thrown out at home. They did nothing well. 

This includes being managed as Davey spent the year, his 4th in 5 leading a team to well under the pre-season expectation of wins, shifting blame away from himself and ending it explicitly saying that it's not the always the coaches fault.  And it includes building a roster, as guys brought in by Rizzo to be possible late season trade pieces all performed poorly leaving the Nats with nothing anyone wanted. 

The Nats were a bad team that played worse, whose most important moment of the season was dealing away a likely future Hall of Famer. 

This wasn't a forgettable season. This was a season you don't want to remember.

Monday, October 03, 2022

Monday not Quickie - everyone else in the minors

A couple weeks ago I posted some updates on players from last year's deals who's minor league seasons had ended (this year's deals fell into teams still playing at the time). The news was fairly grim.  In short

Aldo Ramirez - Hurt

Richard Guasch - Bad finish

Drew Millas - Meh

Seth Shuman - Hurt

Jordy Barley - Bad

The AAA season just ended this weekend (Go Bulls! Champs!) It's time to go over the rest of the non-major leaguers. 

Last Year Guys 

Gerardo Carillo 24 - I keep going back and forth whether he or Aldo is more interesting. Carillo is better but at 24 Aldo is much younger than the 21 year old Aldo. Cariilo started poorly then got hurt and missed May and June. He seemed fairly well in control in A+ throwing to a 3.60 ERA (.627 OPS) so he got moved up to AA.  It was a different breed of hitter there so while he was able to dial up the Ks (11 in 5.1 IP) they crushed him to the tune of .292 / .414 / .542 and a 10.13 ERA. He did not pitch in the playoffs from what I can tell. Next year he'll have to do something in AA or he starts to get passed by

Donovan Casey 26 - Good old K-see spent the year in Rochester and put up a .216 / .279 / .623 line, closing down his year when AA prospects came up to finish the season. His issue is his strike outs and he struck out 97 times in 317 PA for a rate of 31%.  That'd be death in the majors and you'd only try him if he showed immense power. While he might have in the past he hit 7 homers this year. Wouldn't be surprised if he was released, but as it's his first AAA year maybe he gets an "acclimation" pass and is back at least for the start of next year.

This Year Guys

Trey Harris 26 - From the BIG deal at the deadline when Ehire Adrianza went back to the Braves and I guess his spirit pushed them to an NL East crown? Double A all year Harris hit .245 / . 294 / .336.  Unless he's an A+ fielder I'd expect him to be released. If you talk about guys that got screwed by the pandemic it'd be someone like Trey who in a normal world might have used a good 2019 to springboard into 2020 and get a terrible cup of coffee in the majors. Still though it's making the majors.  I'm not saying he would have but it's this type of guy. 

Mackenzie Gore 23 - Never got out of rehab.  Just looked tired early in his starts and was getting rocked by what little competition they put out there. Closed down for the year and hopefully he'll be ready in the Spring

James Wood 20 - Wowed fans with a 4-6 night with a homer in his first game as a Nats minor leaguer, but would only hit one more homer the rest of the way. Was sitting at .338 / .403 / 544 in late August before a dreadful .046 finish left him with a .293/ .366 / .463 line and a K-rate for the Nats of 28%.  That's too high and took a little shine off the initial excitement. Still expect to see him in all the Top 100 lists and in High A Wilmington next year.

Jarlin Susana 18 - Wilder than with the Padres but impossible to square up for the Nats, Susana was quickly moved up to A ball. He looked as he should - a tinge worse (gave up a run in each of his short starts) but just a tinge (gave up A run in each of his short starts). At this age I don't see the reason to rush him so he starts in Fredericksburg but don't expect him to stay there. No one can say where his level is but it's higher than A. 

Robert Hassell 21 - played a few games in High A then moved up to AA because... well probably because that's where they want him next year and figure he could get used to things. He looked a little overmatched putting up a .222 / .312 / .296 line but was definitely better in September than August.  The Ks are a high 27%  so we'll watch that but it's to be expected with the move up to AA. The lower rate in High A was fine. That's what you see... a jump.

This batch is much better... well at least the Padres set.  Hassell looks on target, neither blowing up expectations or crashing out of them. He'd be 2024 guy likely right now.  After getting some fans overly excited Wood came back to Earth and that K rate in a low league he was in all year is questionable. That's kind of what kept him from being high on lists going into 2022. But he has time to get it right and has shown he can hit around it. I'd just be worried with a move up it'll go up well over 30% and into places he can't hit past. Jarlin Susana, everything looks great. No flags yet. He could be a very fast riser. 

Expect Hassell in the Top 20ish. Wood who broke into every mid season Top 100, will stay there but with pretty wild variation, maybe a 15 in one place and a 65 in another. Depends how much you deal in hype trying to nail the next superstar (which Wood could be if he controls those Ks), or you deal with the facts in front of you (which say watch out for a kid swinging and missing this much).  Susana... low level pitchers get a little shafted, maybe someone will have the guts to put him in a Top 100 but trust me their eyes will be on him.