THE NatsGM Show Short – Interview with Ring of Honor’s Donovan Dijak

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Ahead of his inaugural appearance in Northern Virginia, friend of the Podcast and Ring of Honor superstar Donovan Dijak makes a return appearance to THE NatsGM Show!

On this episode Dijak discusses his recent success in Ring of Honor, fighting World Champion Jay Lethal & the potential for a feud with the Bullet Club.  Next we shift the conversation toward his upcoming appearance for NoVa Pro Wrestling on July 1st, his match against Arik Royal and the other outstanding performers on the card.  Finally we play a quick game of “Rapid Fire” with topics including Cam Zagami, Adam Cole, Matt Sydal and I awkwardly ask if I serve as his manager at #AmericanSlang.

Special thank you to Donovan for re-joining the show and to friends at NoVa Pro Wrestling (@VAWrestling) for helping arrange this appearance.  You can buy tickets to the July 1st event here -> http://novaprowrestling.tumblr.com/

Prospect Talk with Adam McInturff from Baseball Prospectus

Nationals Park

Similarly to my recent piece “Quoting The Experts”, last week I reached out to Baseball Prospectus’s prospect team member Adam McInturff to get his general thoughts on the MLB Draft and the top Nationals selections.  During our conversations, Adam was sending me these wonderful scouting notes, which I thought were too good to keep for myself.  So with his permission, here are some of Adam’s thoughts on recent Nationals draft picks Carter Kieboom, Dane Dunning and Nick Banks.

Carter Kieboom

“The Nationals selected Kieboom with the 28th pick, the first of their back-to-back selections in 2016. A lean, tapered 6-foot-2 and 180-some pounds, there’s no doubt he will add strength to his frame as his body matures. He’s currently at shortstop, and while he has good hands defensively, he’ll probably outgrow the position–hopefully growing into more power and a true third base profile. One of the purest swings of any prep hitter in this class, Kieboom stays inside the ball well with a fluid, quick path to the ball. He shoots line drives all over the field, showing the backspin to allow projection on his home run power. If he adds strength and continues to develop offensively, Kieboom’s ceiling looks like that of a regular left-side infielder.”

Dane Dunning

“Dunning was another college arm who moved up boards with strong late-season showings, throwing well both in the SEC Tournament and the Gainesville regional the following week. The Gators have an embarrassment of riches on the mound, so much so that Dunning—a potential first-day pick—didn’t even crack their weekend rotation, stuck behind early picks A.J. Puk, Logan Shore, and Alex Faedo (2017 eligible). As such, Dunning was relegated mostly to bullpen work as a junior in 2016, where he’s been a multi-inning super reliever for Florida. His strikeout and walk rates both improved in shorter stints—where he showed his stuff is enough to overwhelm hitters working out of the bullpen—but has the tools to transition back into a starting pitcher’s development path once he signs professionally.

A wiry 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, with long arms and a tapered lower-half, Dunning shows a consistently above-average sinker and slider. His fastball is an extremely heavy pitch, with turbo sink, tunneling down in the zone to his arm-side. His slider flashes solid-average tilt in the 82-84 range. His delivery finishes fairly loosely, and on-line, and he’s able to keep both offerings around the zone. Dunning could be a sleeper in this draft class due to not pitching in the highly-scrutinized Gators rotation, with the best-case ceiling of a middle-rotation starter, possessing the sinker to be a groundball machine. If the move to the bullpen ultimately winds up fitting him better down the road, he demonstrated this season that both his fastball and slider are quality pitches.”

Nick Banks

Banks had a lot of buzz coming off the Cape, I actually had a lower role 50 and a Chris Coghlan comparison on him coming out of the summer. He dinged his wrist right before his JR year started and it really slowed up his bat to start the year. As a result, Banks wasn’t the type of guy with plus statistical performance who gets those points in draft rooms, but he did pick it up by season’s end. More of a hitter than a power guy, but I think it’s the ceiling of a heady 4th outfielder for a good team–maybe at best a starter on a corner for a bad team–and he’s going to out-perform his round.

Neither of them have light-the-world-on-fire tools, but it will be fun if we get to see Banks and Andrew Stevenson in the same outfield. Maybe at Harrisburg or Syracuse. They’re both kind of that ‘good little player’ mold the Nationals like from college (Max Schrock).”

Special thanks to Adam for generously sharing his thoughts: Please follow him on Twitter @WAdam_McInturff and read his work at Baseball Prospectus.

Armchair Evaluation – Washington Nationals 1st Round Pick Dane Dunning

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Mere days after being selected in the 1st round, 29th overall, by the Washington Nationals, University of Florida right-handed pitcher Dane Dunning found himself on the mound in a deciding game against Florida State, with the winner going to Omaha and the College World Series.  Eager to see what type of talent the Nationals added to their organization, I decided to do an Armchair Evaluation of Dunning’s recent outing on June 13th.

Due to the depth of the Florida pitching staff, the 21-year-old Dunning has spent most of his 3 years in Gainesville starting for the Gators during the midweek and pitching in relief on the weekend.  However, he would serve as the Friday starter for approximately 90% of college teams and would pitch in the weekend rotation for every other team besides the loaded Florida Gators.  Prior to this season he struggled with his command and control of the strike zone, but made major strides as a junior, posting 85 strikeouts against only 12 walks in 75 innings pitched this season.

Against a stout Florida State lineup, Dunning entered the game in the 4th inning in relief of A.J. Puk and pitched 4.1 innings, allowing 0 runs on 4 hits and 0 walks against 5 strikeouts.  Dunning needed 67 pitches to get these 13 outs (47 strikes & 20 balls), getting 5 fly outs and 3 ground outs.

The 6-3 205lbs Dunning has an ideal pitcher’s frame with some projection remaining, especially in his lower half.  He features a semi-windup with a high leg kick, giving him excellent momentum and extension toward home plate.  Dunning throws from a three-quarters release point and has noticeable arm speed.  He has a relatively clean, simple motion with excellent balance and repeats the delivery well.

In this appearance Dunning showed an impressive 3-pitch arsenal, featuring a 91-95mph fastball (according to the television radar gun) with extreme movement to his arm-side.  In fact, several times I misidentified his fastball as a changeup because of the extreme movement and sinking action.  Additionally, Dunning showed an impressive 78-84mph slider with 12-6 movement, which induced several swings-and-misses.  Finally he threw two mid-80s changeups with some sinking movement resembling his fastball, and shows promise due to the 10+mph separation.  Dunning shows average or better command and control of the strike zone, along with an aggressive attitude toward attacking hitters.  Overall, I would put a “60” or better on the fastball, particularly due to the movement, a “50/55” on the slider and an “Incomplete/45” on the changeup.

After watching this appearance by Dane Dunning, I find myself rather fired up that the Nationals were able to select someone of his talent at pick #29.  He pitches extremely well off his fastball, an easy plus offering, and his slider was more impressive in this outing than it was by reputation pre-draft.  He will need to refine both his off-speed pitches if he wants to be a starter, but the potential exists for Dunning to have a plus fastball and two average to above-average off-speed pitches.

Assuming he stays healthy and can strengthen his arm for the rigors of pitching 180+ innings per season, Dunning projects as a strong #3/#4 starter, with the floor of a late-inning reliever.  Considering his high floor and reasonably high ceiling, Dunning was an astute pick by the Nationals at the end of Round 1.

Quoting The Experts – Washington Nationals 1st Round Pick Carter Kieboom

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Last week with their first of two 1st round selections, the Washington Nationals picked Georgia high school hitter Carter Kieboom, who according to reports quickly agreed to terms on a contract.  After the pick was announced, I reached out to several smart baseball guys to ask their opinion on Kieboom and what type of prospect the Nationals have added to their organization.  Fortunately a few were willing to share their thoughts on Carter Kieboom.

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“I thought Carter Kieboom was the most impressive hitter I saw at the Under Armour Game last summer and one of the best high school bats available in the draft. I think he’ll grow into some more power too, and even if he doesn’t stick at shortstop I think he’ll profile nicely at third base.”Jim Callis, MLB.com & MLBPipeline.com

“The Nationals picking Carter Kieboom is more than just a nice PR move with his brother already in the organization. Carter can really swing it. He caught my eye a year ago at PG national and has kept on raking. He has extremely good actions with his upper half with a Rendon-esque bat tip as he strides. Beyond the good actions everything flows well and he avoids the step by step swing tempo that plagues too many amateur hitters. He even shows the ability to adjust his swing on the fly and get his barrel where it needs to be. As he matures physically and makes swing improvements I’m curious to see how the power develops. Carter barrels line drives all over the field and it wouldn’t surprise me if there is a healthy dose of game power still waiting to be unleashed.” – Ryan Parker, Coach at Collin County Baseball Academy, @RA_Parker 

Swing GIF – http://gifimgs.com/img/0616/576167fed77c3448596866/

Kieboom is a solid bat speed and approach guy. He has quality hand eye coordination which helps him barrel quality stuff regularly.  Kieboom has a quiet setup but an explosive swing and added strength should help him project for some power.  His actions and reactions defensively are solid and his range should keep him in the infield at third base.  One of the better prep bats for me in this class.” – C.J. Wittmann Jr., 2080Baseball.com

Special thank you to Jim, Ryan and C.J. for their terrific contributions to this piece!