Washington Nationals

Scouting Report: The NL East is oozing with young shortstop talent

The NL East is loaded with young shortstop talent. While they have been acquired through different means, these four young prospects are sure to excite fans up and down the east coast for the next decade and a half. Sorry Marlins fans, this one isn’t for you.

  1. Trea Turner, Washington Nationals

Acquired in a 3-team deal in December of 2014:

Nationals Acquired: SS Trea Turner, RHP Joe Ross (from SD)

Padres Acquired: OF Wil Myers, RHP Gerardo Reyes, RHP Jose Castillo and C Ryan Hannigan (From TB)

Rays Acquired: C Rene Rivera, RHP Brunch Smith, 1B Jake Bauers (From SD) and OF Steven Souza and LHP Travis Ott (from WAS)

2016 Review:

Trea Turner, despite Dusty Baker’s best efforts to keep him in the Minors for all of eternity, was an absolute stud in his rookie campaign. Turner burst on to the scene to the tune of a .342 AVG., 13 HR’s, 40 RBI’s and 33 SB’s in only 73 games.

Turner finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting while playing out of position. While Turner appeared in 45 games in CF and 42 at 2B last year, he will take over at SS this season. The fact that Turner was playing a new position (CF) and still producing offensively tells me that the kid is mentally tough.

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Trea Turner by Keith Allison

In 2015, MLB Pipeline rated Turner as a 55 Arm and 50 Fielding, which equates to him being an average to above average MLB shortstop. Combine this with his unique offensive skill set, Turner is sure to be an All Star caliber player in the nation’s capital.

2017 Preview:

Turner is primed to lead the Nationals from the top of the line-up as they look to defend their NL East crown. With hitters like Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy following Turner in the line-up, he should be in the mix to lead the National League in runs scored this season. I would not be surprised to see him finish in the top-10 of the NL MVP voting this year, the kid is that good.

Comparison:

Turner’s skill set makes me think of Jose Reyes in his prime, with the potential to be a Jimmy Rollins type of game changer. (By the way, check out J-Roll’s numbers, he is a borderline HoF candidate. Seriously.)

2. Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves

Acquired via trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks:

Braves Acquired: Swanson, RHP Aaron Blair and Ender Inciarte

Diamondbacks Acquired: RHP Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier

2016 Review:

Swanson made his MLB debut last season and ended up starting 36 games. In that time, Swanson hit .302 with 3 HR’s and 20 runs scored.

In 2016, MLB Pipeline rated Swanson with:

        Hit: 60         Power: 45          Run: 60         Arm: 55         Field: 55          Overall: 65

While the pressure of being a #1  pick will always follow Swanson, he handled the pressure well last season. Swanson displays a level of grit and leadership that is rare at such a young age.

2017 Preview:

As the Braves open SunTrust Park this year, Swanson is destined to be the face of the franchise. The Braves won’t compete this year, but with their #1 ranked Minor League system, they are not that far away. Swanson will flash a stellar glove, provide some pop and keep the southern belles wanting to run their hands through his serious flow. This guy plays hard and will lead the Braves in their rebuilding process.

Comparison:

Swanson reminds me of a more talented Brandon Crawford, but not quite a Derek Jeter. I think that the fans in Atlanta (East Cobb, whatever) would love if Swanson could be Robin Yount. 

3. Amed Rosario, New York Mets

Acquired by the Mets via International Free Agency in July of 2012 (1.75 million dollar signing bonus).

2016 Review:

Rosario continued to dazzle in his fourth season of professional baseball. Rosario, as he has throughout his career, competed against players who were much older than him in A+ and AA, but he excelled. Rosario hit a combined .324 AVG with 5 HR’s and 19 SB’s.

Rosario was recently ranked by MLB Pipeline as:

Hit: 50         Power: 45          Run: 60         Arm: 65         Field: 55          Overall: 60

While he is projected to have a better arm than Swanson, he is not seen to be as good of a hitter. However, Rosario has continued to hit at a higher clip as he climbs through the Minor Leagues (.342 AVG in AA in ’16) and is making noise in Mets camp this spring.

2017 Preview:

Despite hitting well in Spring Training (currently 5-for-16) Rosario is destined to head to the Minors to start 2017. He is only 21 years old. But with the long history of injuries to nearly all of the players that Mets have penciled in for their infield, Rosario could find his way to Flushing sooner rather than later.

Comparison: Rosario reminds me a bit of a young Edgar Renteria or Starlin Castro. I think that is his basement, with the potential to be a Barry Larkin type of player.

4. J.P. Crawford, Philadephia Phillies

Acquired via the 2013 MLB Draft, 1st Round, 16th Pick.

2016 Review:

Crawford is listed by MLB Pipeline and a number of other scouting services to be the Phillies top prospect, but he struggled in 2016.In his age 21 season, Crawford scuffled to hit .250 between AA and AAA while socking just 7 HR’s. Because Crawford fell short of expectations, he never made it to the Majors last season as many had expected.

Crawford was recently ranked by MLB Pipeline as:

Hit: 60         Power: 40          Run: 50         Arm: 60         Field: 65          Overall: 60

If all else fails, Crawford should provide gold glove defense up the middle for the Phillies sometime this summer. Not bad.

2017 Preview:

While it was disappointing to see Crawford flatline in 2016, the Phils are hoping it was a temporary setback. Crawford is destined to be in the Majors by mid-June and should play everyday for a team that is a few years away from competing. Crawford will dazzle Phillies fans with his glove, but must advance with the stick this season. Crawford is hitting under .200 in Spring Training, but this should not delay his promotion. Crawford has more pressure on him in 2017 than any of the aforementioned shortstops. 

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J.P. Crawford by Ian D’Andrea

Comparison: This one is tough after such a letdown of a year. Best case, maybe Omar Vizquel? A common comparison could be someone like Adrelton Simmons. I see more of a Shawon Dunston or Royce Clayton type of career for Crawford.

Conclusion: 

As a fan of the NL East, I am drooling just thinking about not one, but two of these guys on the same field on a regular basis. While all have serious talent, Turner is the most proven, Swanson the best all-around, Rosario with the highest ceiling and Crawford seems (at this point) to be a step behind. It sure will be fun to watch.

Comment below if you have any thoughts or opinions to share.

**Rosario photo credit to slgckgc of Flickr **

Projected Opening Day Roster: The New York Mets are healthy, now face roster crunch

The New York Mets have a problem. All of their players are healthy.

Just kidding, well, kind of. The team is going to have a tough time telling players that they are going to be in unfamiliar roles, or heading back to AAA Las Vegas. Here is a breakdown of the Mets and what their Opening Day roster should look like under Terry Collins, who is entering his 7th season at the helm of the club.

Outfield

The Mets acquired Jay Bruce from the Reds last season, resigned Yoenis Cespedes in the offseason and still have Curtis Granderson under contract for 2017. Former first round picks Michael Conforto (who turns 24 next week) and Brandon Nimmo (who will be 24 by opening day) are of the age where it is time for them to either get regular playing time or be used in a trade.

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Michael Conforto should be on the Opening Day roster, even if he does not receive regular playing time. (Photo by slgckgc on flickr)

Oh, and there is Juan Lagares. That gold glove winning outfielder who has battled injuries, consistency at the plate and is signed through the next three seasons. Lagares is set to make $9,000,000 in 2019.

Nimmo should head back to Las Vegas at the end of camp, I’m not sure he will ever turn into a starting Major League outfielder. Conforto is the real deal, and needs to be with the Mets in Queens, even if he is only getting a couple of starts per week. The Mets need to know if he can handle regular playing time, as Bruce and Granderson will likely be wearing a different uniform in 2018.

Who should head north? Cespedes, Granderson, Bruce, Lagares and Conforto (5)

Infield

Three-quarters of the Mets infield struggled to stay healthy last season, with Asdrubal Cabrera being the only one who was able to stay healthy.

David Wright, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker all struggled with injury issues last season, allowing guys like Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes to receive regular playing time.

Former first round pick Gavin Cecchini will be entering his age 23 season, but struggled defensively at shortstop over the last few years.

Guys like Cecchini and T.J. Rivera best serve this organization as role players when there is an injury to the starters. They should begin the year in Vegas, get regular playing time and be ready to go in the event there is an injury. The versatility of Reyes and Flores is also a major plus for the organization.

Who should head north? Duda, Walker, Cabrera, Wright, Flores and Reyes (6)

Catcher

Travis d’Arnaud gave Kevin Plawecki every opportunity to take his job, and he couldn’t do it. Journeyman Rene Rivera seized catching responsibilities for the better half of 2017 and the position is certainly influx for this contender.

Prospect Tomas Nido has a big year ahead of him. If d’Arnaud continues to struggle or can’t stay healthy, the organization may look to Nido (who should get his first look at AA pitching in April) to be the catcher of the future.

Who should head north? d’Arnaud and Rivera (2)

Starting Rotation

Stud after stud, injury after injury. Noah Syndergaard was the only starter that was able to stay healthy through all (most) of 2016 and headlines a staff that claims it is ready to go.

Jacob deGrom has recovered from offseason surgery, as well as Steven Matz and Matt Harvey. Zack Wheeler, who has not pitched in a Major League game since 2014 is reported to be progressing well. Throw in Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and the Mets have plenty of options.

Who should head north? Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, Matz and Gsellman (5)

Bullpen

Much to the surprise of Mets fans, the front office opened their wallet this offseason not only to resign Cespedes but also to ensure that the bullpen remains a strength for the team. Addison Reed was retained and Jerry Blevins was resigned to bolster the back end that will likely be without closer Jeurys Familia for some portion of time to start the season.

Along with the aforementioned triumvirate, the Mets have Hansel Robles, Josh Edgin, Fernando Salas, Josh Smoker, Erik Goeddel and Sean Gilmartin to try and round out the bullpen.

Who should head north? Familia, Reed, Blevins, Wheeler, Robles, Edgin and Salas (7)

The toughest news to break will be to let Wheeler know that he is going to the bullpen. The Mets need to commit to this idea and stick with it throughout the 2017 season in order to get Wheeler back into game shape and competing at the highest level. The Mets are best served with either Gsellman or Lugo at the back end of the rotation (in my opinion, Gsellman) and sending Lugo back to the Minors to stay stretched out until an injury occurs with one of the starting pitchers.

While the ever-smiling Nimmo will not be happy with his demotion, he is an injury away from being called upon to join the Mets.

This organization has depth, experience and a nasty rotation that will compete with the Nationals all year in the NL East.

Projected Starting Line-Up

  1. Granderson (CF)
  2. Cabrera (SS)
  3. Cespedes (LF)
  4. Bruce (RF)
  5. Walker (2b)
  6. Duda (1b)
  7. Wright (3b)
  8. d’Arnaud (c)

Bench

  1. Rivera (c)
  2. Reyes (2b/SS/3b)
  3. Flores (UTL)
  4. Conforto (OF)
  5. Lagares (OF)

Projected Rotation

  1. Syndergaard (RHP)
  2. deGrom (RHP)
  3. Harvey (RHP)
  4. Matz (LHP)
  5. Gsellman (RHP)

Projected Bullpen

  1. Familia (RHP)
  2. Reed (RHP)
  3. Blevins (LHP)
  4. Wheeler (RHP)
  5. Robles (RHP)
  6. Salas (RHP)
  7. Edgin (LHP)

Phillies Farm Report: Crawford and Williams have a lot to prove before making the jump

Earlier today, MLB.com announced their top-30 prospect list for the Philadelphia Phillies. Ben Harris (@Ben27Harris) of Crashburn Alley published a comprehensive review of the MLB.com’s evaluation and offered his own feelings on the prospects that were discussed. Check out the article, it is really well done.

Taking a look at a couple of the top prospects in the organization, I am less than impressed. As Harris noted, J.P. Crawford (#1) and Nick Williams (#3) seem to have flat lined in 2016.

After hitting .288 between A+ and AA in 2015, Crawford scuffled to the tune of a .250 AVG. between AA and AAA. Crawford’s OBP also fell from .380 to .349. To be fair, Crawford was only 21 years old last season and competing against players that are much older than him at both levels.

While a dip in numbers would be expected, especially for a young player at the upper levels of the minor leagues, it is a bit troubling. When comparing Crawford’s numbers to those of Mets top-prospect Amed Rosario, they are rather pedestrian. Rosario was hitting .309 before his promotion from A-ball to AA, where he then went on to hit .341 in 214 AB’s. Rosario was only 20 years old last season.

Trea Turner, another superstar shortstop prospect from the NL East (article coming on that tomorrow), also adjusted to AAA ball better than Crawford. Turner was 22 years old when he made the jump to AAA in 2015, and he continued to hit for a high AVG (.314) and hit .302 for a few months at AAA in 2016.

As for Nick Williams, his first season at AAA was pretty average. Hitting .258 with 13 HR’s and a weak .287 OBP. Williams also struck out 136 times in 497 AB’s. Throughout his career in the minors, Williams has struck out in more than 25% of his AB’s.

While Mickey Moniak, Sixto Sanchez (great baseball name) and Daniel Brito all made the list and seem to have plenty of upside and momentum, they are years away.

Crawford and Williams will need to improve in 2017 to legitimize their place at the top of the Phillies prospect rankings and ultimately earn their place on the Major League roster. This is a year of transition for the organization, and both should be playing a role in the show by the All-Star break. Spring Training and the first few months of the season will be pivotal in their overall growth.

Check back tomorrow for an analysis of the next generation of shortstops in the NL East (minus the Miami Marlins).

 

 

 

Wednesday Morning Musings: Wieters to Washington, don’t forget about Burdi with the White Sox

Matt Wieters is headed to the Washington Nationals on a two year deal (with an opt-out after one) to become the starting catcher. This move seems to sure up on the only spot in their everyday starting line-up that had a glaring hole.

Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post points out that the move is more than baseball, as the ownership groups of the Orioles and Nationals are “embroiled in a legal fight, one in which the Nationals believe the Orioles are denying them a fair share of the revenue generated by the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.”

While the legal case is yet to be determined, the message that the Wieters move sends throughout baseball is clear. The Nationals believe that their window to win is relatively short, and that Wieters is an essential piece for this club to compete over the next two years.


In Arizona, the Chicago White Sox and new manager Rick Renteria are enjoying the fruits of their off-season trades. Young studs like Yoan Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito are all reportedly turning heads at camp. While these are all higher profile players, Renteria reminded the news media yesterday about Zack Burdi, the club’s 2016 First Round Pick.

It is hard to believe, but a former first round pick seems to be flying under the radar. Burdi, a 21-year-old right handed reliever, went from Class A to AAA last season in dominating fashion. Throughout the year, Burdi struck out 51 in 38 innings and only allowed 3 HR’s. Expect to see Burdi in the Sox ‘pen at some point in 2017.

The White Sox are in full rebuild mode, and it seems that they had an incredible off season. I would not be surprised if Joe Quintana and David Robertson are moved before too long.

The Winter Meetings: 3 Up and 3 Down

The Winter Meetings concluded in Maryland yesterday and the Hot Stove is a burnin’. Here is my take on the three teams that improved the most and those that made some questionable moves.

3 UP:

Chicago White Sox

Having only finished above .500 twice since the 2008 season, the time had come for a full rebuild on the South Side. By dealing their ace, Chris Sale, the Sox received top-prospect Yoan Moncada (2b/3b/maybe SS) and Mark Kopech (RHP). Many know about the talents of Moncada, but Kopech is also a top-tier prospect. In 134.2 innings on a Minor League mound, Kopech has a sparkling 2.61 ERA to go along with 172 k’s and 69 bb’s. While it must have been difficult to let Sale go, haven’t we all been thinking “when is that scrawny little arm going to fall off of that tall bag of bones?” Great move Chicago.

To add to this, the White Sox also traded the diminutive Adam Eaton to the Nationals for top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito (RHP) and Reynaldo Lopez (RHP). Both are considered by Baseball America to be top-100 prospects and each saw time in the Bigs last season. Adam Eaton, who had a top-15 WAR last season at 6.2, has never appeared in an All-Star Game or hit better than .300 in a season will head to D.C. and take over center field. While he is under team control under a great contract (a little under $30 million due through 2021), he reminds me of a Jayson Werth Lite. Not as strong, not as fast, not quite as hairy, not as good.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox got their guy in Chris Sale. While they paid a high price, they acquired an ace who is under team control at a reasonable price for the next three seasons. With the emergence of Rick Porcello, the Sox now have the depth in their rotation to make a run deep into October (assuming David Price never, ever pitches in the playoffs. Just kidding, kind of…)

San Francisco Giants

I get it. The money going to closers is insane. Mark Melancon, who absolutely sucked in Boston (6.20 ERA in 2007), is now the big money closer for the Giants, but he is exactly what they need. The Giants blew a league leading 30 saves last season and still managed to win the Wild Card and advance to the NLDS. With Melancon, a strong rotation that now features a steady Matt Moore and their usual collection of pesky position players, the Giants can expect to have a strong team in 2017 who can chase down LA.

Also under consideration: Rockies and Yankees.

3 DOWN:

Washington Nationals

The Nats were outbid on Chris Sale, who would have given them one of the most devastating starting rotations in all of baseball (Scherzer-Sale-Strasburg) and a chance at some great alliteration-based marketing. Regardless, they went right back to the same team (the White Sox) who had spurned them on Sale and offered a similar package for a guy who has never made an All-Star team and is named after the most mediocre pitcher in baseball history (the other Adam Eaton). Nats fans can’t be happy, thinking that Adam Eaton could be the outfielder they see for years to come as rumors start to swirl that Harper won’t be with the Nats past 2018, if not sooner…

Los Angeles Dodgers

So the Dodgers gave a ton of money (3 years/$48mil) to Rich Hill, a 37 year old who has never in his career thrown over 200 innings. Don’t they already have an aging lefty who can’t stay healthy? Yes, his name is Scott Kazmir. The Dodgers are spinning their tires and going nowhere as the Giants and Rockies improve.

Washington Nationals

Yes, the Nationals are listed in the “3 Down” category twice. I almost went with the Orioles (who haven’t done squadink while the Red Sox and Yankees improve) but I just can’t shake this trade. Baseball Reference (the most glorious website known to man) has a section named “similarity scores” that compares a player’s statistics to those of current and former players. Mike Trout is similar through age 24 to Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey and Hank Aaron. Fair enough. You want to know who Adam Eaton is compared to? DAVID DEJESUS. The Nats just traded their top pitching prospect (who is considered to be a future front line starter) for David freakin’ DeJesus. BEST CASE, he turns into Johnny Damon. But even then, the Nats traded far too much for a player of Eaton’s caliber.

Also under consideration: Orioles

 

**Photo credit of Chris Sale to Keith Allison** Check him out on flickr.