THE NatsGM Show Episode #65, Sponsored by the No Halftime App, has dropped and we are proud to welcome writer for FiveThirtyEight, Rob Arthur.
On this episode, Rob and I discuss in-depth his recent work at FiveThirtyEight – First he describes his column “Statheads are the best free agent bargains in baseball“, the future of hiring additional front office personnel and his thoughts on bolstering the number of females in these positions. Next we talk hitting, specifically his article about the “New Science of Hitting“, the value of Statcasts’s new information of exit velocity and launch angle, plus the future benefits of this data. Finally Rob talks about the Chicago Cubs, their early on-field dominance and the Jake Arrieta No-Hitter.
Thanks to Rob for joining me on the show and to you for downloading! Please Rate, Review and Subscribe to the show on iTunes, and Follow us on Twitter @Nats_GM.
As previously mentioned in Tuesday’s column, last Saturday night I travelled to Bowie to watch the Baysox host the Harrisburg Senators, the Double-A team for the Washington Nationals. While I am always eager to watch a minor league game with postgame fireworks, I was particularly excited to see Nationals’ prospect Austen Williams face the experience Baysox lineup. Below are my notes on Williams, plus two future Washington Nationals.
Austen Williams RHP Harrisburg Senators
Drafted by the Nationals in the 6th round in 2014 from Texas State, the 23-year-old Williams is a well-built 6-3 220lbs with broad shoulders and a frame built to throw 200+ innings per year. Mechanically Williams throws from a semi-windup and a three-quarters release point. He has above-average arm speed, with a compact, short arm swing and a slight arm stab. Williams possesses a fairly compact but effort-filled delivery and throws across his body. Williams also has a noticeable head whack at foot strike, which hinders his command and control of the strike zone. In fairness, these flaws have improved since last season, but they still exist and damper his overall ability on the mound.
In this start Williams featured a 3-pitch arsenal, consisting of a fastball, curveball and changeup. His fastball sat 88-90mph, touching 91 three times, with some natural sinking action. He showed an ability to work inside to both righties and lefties, although his mediocre command left the pitch occasionally in the middle of the plate elevated above the belt. Williams also had a 78-80mph curveball with 11-5 shape and good depth when thrown well – unfortunately he did not throw many breaking pitches on the evening and was inconsistent on the offerings. Finally Williams threw a few 78-81mph changeups with good arm speed and some sinking action, although some more resembled batting practice fastballs. Overall I would put a “45/50” grade on his fastball, a “45” on his curveball and a “40” on his changeup, with below-average to fringe-average command.
In conclusion Austen Williams is an impressive but flawed prospect. He has a strong, powerful frame and three pitches, but the flaws in his delivery and a lack of an above-average offering make him difficult to profile. His best path toward the major leagues is likely to scrap his changeup and move to the bullpen, where he could potentially add velocity and minimize the impact of his below-average command. If he can continue to refine his delivery and improve his offspeed pitches, Williams still has a ceiling of a workhorse #5 starter. However, his future is likely working in long-relief, leveraging his ability to pitch multiple innings.
Surprisingly Nationals top prospect and Harrisburg starting shortstop SS Wilmer Difo was removed during the 5th inning, with the chatter being he was replaced due to lack of hustle. While this is mere speculation, if true, this would be the second time this season Difo has replaced mid-game, leading to possible makeup questions if this becomes a trend. It’s worth noting that Difo started Sunday’s game, likely eliminating injury as the reason for his departure from the game.
Finally on a positive note, CF Rafael Bautista is showing an improved eye at the plate and a real commitment to working deep into counts. In his five at-bats, Bautista collected two walks and saw 23 total pitches, including an impressive eight pitch walk in the 3rd inning. Bautista now has 13 walks and a .448 on-base percentage through 51 at-bats this season: including his 9 stolen bases so far, Bautista is obviously embracing his role as a leadoff hitter and offensive igniter in 2016.
* Thanks to Matt Wilson and the Bowie Baysox for their gracious hospitality. *
THE NatsGM Show Episode #64, Sponsored by No Halftime, is now available and we are proud to welcome writer at Baseball Prospectus, RotoWire and RotoGrinders and the Co-Author of the book Arm Action Arm Path & The Perfect Pitch, Doug Thorburn!
This Podcast has a pitching theme, as Doug begins by discussing the epidemic of Tommy John surgeries to pitchers and what can be done to protect young arms. Doug also gives his thoughts on Jeff Passan’s recent book “The Arm” and why shoulder injuries seemingly have decreased in the past decades. Next he talks about the infamous “Inverted W” position in the delivery and what he looks for when he evaluates a pitcher. Finally Doug shares his opinion on several young pitchers in the National League East, particularly Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez and Stephen Strasburg.
Thanks to Doug for joining the show and to our Sponsor No Halftime. Please Rate, Review and Subscribe to the show on iTunes and Follow the show on Twitter @Nats_GM. Thanks for listening!
Saturday evening I ventured to Prince George’s Stadium to watch the Bowie Baysox host the Washington Nationals Double-A affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators. In addition to a beautiful spring evening and a strong postgame fireworks display, I was treated to a quality pitching matchup, pitting Orioles prospect LHP Chris Lee against a solid Senators’ lineup. Below are my scouting notes on several Baysox players and potential future Orioles.
Chris Lee LHP Bowie Baysox
Acquired by Baltimore from Houston in exchange for two 2014-2015 international bonus slots, Lee was drafted by the Astros in the 4th round of the 2011 draft. The 23-year-old is listed at 6-3 180lbs with lean legs and a high waist, giving him the potential to add positive weight as he develops physically. Lee is a good athlete who fields his position well and shows particularly strong athleticism for a pitcher.
Lee pitches from a semi-windup and utilizes a three-quarters release point from his lightning-fast left-handed arm. He has a long arm action during his delivery and reaches the infamous “Inverse W” position at foot strike. There is some crossfire in his motion, which causes deception especially for lefties but also hinders his command of the strike zone. Lee repeats his delivery well but could see improvements with some slight tweaks to his motion.
Saturday Lee was featuring a 3-pitch arsenal consisting of a 4-seam fastball, slider and a changeup. His fastball sat 92-94mph most of the evening, touching 96mph several times, with some natural armside movement. Additionally Lee showed a hard-biting 83-86mph slider with strong 1-7 breaking movement inside to righties: at times the pitch more resembled a cutter with the late-breaking movement into righties. Finally Lee threw a handful of firm 82-84mph changeups with decent arm speed but inconsistent results. His command and control are still below-average, although he shows a willingness to work both sides of the plate and likes pitching inside. Overall I feel comfortable putting a “6” on the fastball, a “50/55” on the slider and a “40” on the changeup, along with “45/45” command and control of the strike zone.
I left the stadium Saturday evening particularly impressed with what I saw from Chris Lee. Considering he throws in the mid-90s with a powerful slider from the left-side, there is an obvious floor for him as a future late-inning lefty reliever. But if he can continue to make progress with his command and the changeup, I see Lee profiling as a quality #4 starter in a big league rotation.
The Orioles were roundly criticized at the time of the deal, but Chris Lee is going to make Baltimore’s front office look quite savvy in the near future. Lee should spend most of 2016 at Double-A Bowie, with the potential to reach the majors late this season or in 2017. There is a legitimate debate between Hunter Harvey, Michal Givens and Chris Lee for Baltimore’s top pitching prospect, but there is no question he is a top-5 prospect in the Orioles’ farm system.
During the 8th inning when the scouting section often begins checking their phones, right-handed reliever Stefan Crichton entered for Bowie and immediately woke up the scouts, flashing a 92-94mph fastball, touching 96mph, with a low-80s slider. He kept the fastball down in the zone with some natural sink and peppered the zone with strikes. Further, there was some deception in his delivery that made it difficult especially for righties to see the baseball. Drafted in the 23rd round back in 2013 from Texas Christian, Crichton has a chance to develop into a righty specialist. Baltimore has done a nice job in recent years of “creating” relievers and Crichton could be a name to remember down the road.
Former THE NatsGM Show guest and Bowie second baseman Jeff Kemp is struggling to get comfortable at the plate, but impressed with his outstanding defense at second base. He showed a solid arm in turning the double play and made several plays ranging far to his left. The 26-year-old does not have an above-average tool, but his grinder mentality and defensively versatility could allow him to reach the majors in the future.
* Thanks to Matt Wilson and the Bowie Baysox for their gracious hospitality. *