THE NatsGM 2017-2018 Washington Nationals Offseason Manifesto, Part-2 Offense

Although Washington continued their disappointing string of postseason misfortune, the 2017 season must be considered a success, as the team won 97 games in route to winning the NL East in dominant fashion.  Unfortunately as talented as the team was, they still lost to the Chicago Cubs and failed to advance past the NLDS for the 4th time in six years.  Thus the front office must tweak the roster this winter in hopes of capturing the 2018 World Series.

Offensively Washington enters the offseason with questions behind the plate and seeking bench depth, along with the probable departure of Jayson Werth.  Last season the Nationals overcame a disappointing season from Matt Wieters, plus lengthy injuries to Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Werth to produce a .266/.332/.449 team batting line.  This compares well to the 2017 National League average (.254/.325/.423) and 2016 team line (.256/.326/.426).  Washington finished with 819 runs scored (3rd in NL), 215 home runs (7th in NL), 542 walks (7th in NL), and 1,327 strikeouts (5th in NL) in 2017, a solid improvement over the 2016 numbers (763 runs scored, 203 home runs, 536 walks, and 1,252 strikeouts).

In Part-2 of THE NatsGM 2017-2018 Washington Nationals Manifesto, I prioritized finding a complementary player to Wieters to upgrade the catching position, ideally a strong defender who hits left-handed.  Next I focused on acquiring quality, versatile veterans to fill out the bench, including one reliable right-handed and left-handed hitter.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I was resolute in my stated goal to keep payroll at $175 million total and under $92 million for the 13 hitters.  With these goals in mind, here is my master plan for Washington’s offense and capturing the 2018 World Series.

  1. Traded Brian Goodwin & Prospect Kelvin Gutierrez to Detroit for Shane Greene
  2. Traded Prospect Blake Perkins & International Bonus Dollars to Milwaukee for Stephen Vogt
  3. Re-Signed Ryan Raburn to a Minor League Contract
  4. Re-Signed Howie Kendrick for 2-years $11.5 million

Starters

Catcher –                            Matt Wieters                     $10,500,000

First Base –                        Ryan Zimmerman             $14,000,000

Second Base –                   Daniel Murphy                  $17,500,000

Shortstop –                        Trea Turner                        $550,000

Third Base –                       Anthony Rendon               $11,000,000

Left Field –                         Adam Eaton                       $6,000,000

Center Field –                    Michael A. Taylor                $2,000,000

Right Field –                       Bryce Harper                     $21,625,000

Total                                                                              $83,175,000

Matt Wieters signed late last winter with the Nationals after struggling to find a home all offseason and suffered through a difficult season, hitting only .225/.288/.344 with 10 home runs.  These numbers look even worse when we remember Wieters hit .301/.400/.534 with 4 homers in April alone.  Additionally, he struggled framing pitches all season and looked weary most of the summer.  Now almost 32-years-old, Washington needs to limit his games behind the plate to conserve his legs, as the 123 game work load from last season was far too much for him.

On the positive side, most metrics rate him as a quality defensive catcher (besides framing) and the pitching staff seemed to believe in his game calling ability.  Also, the switch-hitter was much better from the right-side last season, as he has for most of his career, posting a .687 OPS right-handed verses .619 lefty.  Perhaps if Washington can limit his games caught to less than 100 and pair him with a left-handed hitter, the duo could form a solid tag-team in 2018.

After battling injuries for several years, 2017 saw Ryan Zimmerman flourish offensively, hitting .303/.358/.573 with 36 home runs and 108 runs batted in over 144 games played.  Now 33-years-old, it is unlikely he will replicate the same health or outstanding statistical performance again in 2018.  Yet, there is also little reason to believe Zimmerman will not serve as a productive “RBI Machine” batting 5th or 6th in this potent lineup next year.

Truly one of the best free agent signings in recent baseball history, Daniel Murphy had his second consecutive fantastic season for Washington, batting .322/.384/.543 with 23 home runs.  Murphy battled a knee injury the final few weeks of the season and looked “out of sorts” in the playoffs, forcing him to undergo offseason knee surgery.  He is expected to be healthy around opening day, but fans should expect more off-days in the first half of the season for Murphy.  This might temper his overall statistics, but nonetheless, he should continue to be a key cog in the lineup next season.

Trea Turner overcame a slow start and a lengthy injury midseason to have a solid first full season in the majors, batting .284/.338/.451 with 11 home runs and 46 stolen bases in 97 games played.  He will benefit from a full offseason to recuperate and act as a “table-setter” in the #1 or #2 spot in Washington’s lineup next year.

Without hyperbole, Anthony Rendon just completed one of the best seasons in franchise history, playing 147 games with a .301/.403/.533 batting line, 25 home runs, 100 runs driven in, while playing elite defense at third base.  While unlikely to capture the award, he was my personal pick for National League MVP this past season.  He is one of the best players in the National League and will man the hot corner in Washington next season.

Adam Eaton was rapidly becoming a fan favorite in NatsTown before a gruesome knee injury finished his season after only 24 games.  In that span, Eaton hit .297/.393/.462 while playing strong defense in center field and providing the team with infectious energy each day.  Reports say he should be fully healthy for spring training and Eaton should team with Turner atop Washington’s lineup to form a lethal combination.

Michael A. Taylor took advantage of Eaton’s unfortunate injury and capitalized on the extensive playing time, batting .271/.320/.486 with 19 home runs, 17 stolen bases and played gold-glove level defense in center field.  Quite simply, Taylor took “the leap” in 2017 and established himself as a major league quality player.  He has uber-prospect Victor Robles looking over his shoulder, but Taylor should return as Washington’s starting center fielder in 2018.

Bryce Harper was tracking to win his second National League MVP award last season before a terrible knee injury in early August all but finished his regular season.  Before the injury, Harper played 111 games while hitting .319/.413/.595 with 29 home runs and 87 runs batted in.  No question Washington has many talented hitters, but Harper is the proverbial “straw that stirs the drink” in the Nationals’ lineup.  He has one season remaining in Washington before reaching free agency next winter and Bryce is poised for a monster 2018.

Bench

Catcher –                         Stephen Vogt                        $3,000,000

Infield –                            Wilmer Difo                              $550,000

Infield–                            Howie Kendrick                      $4,000,000

Outfield –                         Rafael Bautista                         $550,000

Outfield –                         Ryan Raburn                            $700,000

Total                                                                                 $8,800,000

Offense Total                                                                   $91,975,000

Total 2018 Payroll                                                         $175,102,000

After hours of research and thought, the best platoon partner at catcher for Matt Wieters, considering his weaknesses and the team’s limited payroll, is Milwaukee’s Stephen Vogt.  Vogt is coming off a subpar 2017, batting .233/.285/.423 with 12 home runs over 99 games.  The 33-year-old is a career .251/.310/.416 hitter and the lefty does particular damage against righties with a .754 career OPS.  Vogt is a strong pitch framer and overall about average defensively.  He is arbitration eligible for the 2nd time this offseason and is under contract through 2019.  Milwaukee saw the emergence of Manny Pina and has depth at catcher, so they could be eager to clear his salary to put toward other needs.  However, as a quality hitter against righties, excellent pitch framing numbers and a salary near $3 million, Vogt is a solid fit for the 2018 Nationals.

Similarly to Michael A. Taylor, Wilmer Difo took advantage of injuries to capitalize on his increased game action, playing a fantastic defensive shortstop and batting .271/.319/.370 with 5 home runs and 10 stolen bases over 124 games played.  A year ago “baseball people” were questioning his long-term future, and again like Taylor, the 25-year-old Difo now has established himself as a major leaguer.  He should spend next season in a super utility role and see plenty of at-bats backing up Murphy, Turner and Rendon.

A midseason acquisition from Philadelphia, Howie Kendrick was outstanding for the Nationals down the stretch, batting .293/.343/.494 with 7 home runs in 52 games.  For his career, the 34-year-old is a .291/.334/.421 hitter and plays first base, second base and left field defensively, making him an ideal super-utility player.  He does not hit left-handed, but otherwise, he is a perfect candidate to backup Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy and Adam Eaton next season.  He could probably land a starting role this winter, so I hope a multiyear deal and the chance to win persuades him to stay in Washington.

Rafael Bautista’s inclusion might surprise some readers and this spot was one specific place I was forced to save some money.  I was comfortable sacrificing here because of Victor Robles likely arrival in Washington midseason, giving Washington four starting-quality outfielders, along with the presence of Andrew Stevenson and other outfield prospects in the organization.

That said the almost 25-year-old outfielder is a nice fit for this bench due to his excellent speed on the bases, defensive acumen and ability to play all three outfield positions.  He is not the hitter Kendrick is or the lefty masher Raburn is, but Bautista should find  opportunities for playing time while allowing Robles and Stevenson more minor league development.

Ryan Raburn has reportedly signed a minor league pact to return next season, after making a good first impression with the Nationals last summer, hitting .262/.304/.431 with 2 home runs in 25 games played.  Of particular value is Raburn’s ability to punish left-handed pitching, as his career .259/.338/.480 batting line shows.  The 37-year-old is a versatile veteran capable of playing first base and both corner outfield positions, which along with his skills against lefties, make him an interest weapon off the bench.

Providing further depth at the minor league level will be catchers Raudy Read and Pedro Severino, infielder Adrian Sanchez, plus outfielders Victor Robles and Andrew Stevenson.  In addition, I would expect Washington to aggressively seek minor league free agents to add additional depth, particularly in the infield.

In my quest to retool the offense for 2018, the biggest challenge was staying within the overall budget of $175 million and $92 million for the position players.  Next was the dire need to upgrade from Jose Lobaton and find a good partner for Matt Wieters.  Also, I wanted to build a quality bench, as the biggest lesson I have learned the past two seasons is the value of a talented reserve corps.  And finally, I did not want to part with any impact prospects, as our farm system is not especially robust at the present moment.  Unfortunately the budgetary limitations and Wieters accepting his player option forced me to make sacrifices at catcher and the bench.

Now I should acknowledge the weaknesses of this hypothetical offense – First I wish I felt more confident in the tandem of Wieters and Vogt at catcher.  While I think both players have strengths where the other has weaknesses, both are in their 30s and coming off subpar years.  Ideally I wanted to acquire J.T. Realmuto from Miami, with the backup plan of signing Jonathan Lucroy or Alex Avila. Regrettably I could not legitimately make those moves in the spirit of this exercise.

Furthermore, there are health concerns involving several players returning from injuries, plus the likely statistical regression for Ryan Zimmerman next season.  Finally, I wanted to acquire another left-handed power hitter to replace Adam Lind, but there was no perfect fit within our limitations.

Those concerns aside, I believe this offense projects as one of the strongest in the National League.  With a full season from Adam Eaton and some improvement at catcher, the Nationals should have eight solid hitters in the lineup each day.  The lineup should have four right-handed hitters, three left-handed hitters and a likely platoon advantage each day at catcher, along with the potent bats of Kendrick, Difo and Raburn on the bench.  There is tremendous speed at the top of the lineup with Turner and Eaton, a fearsome heart of the order of Harper, Murphy, Rendon and Zimmerman, plus some thump with Taylor and our catchers at the bottom.  Assuming reasonable health, Washington should have as much firepower as anyone in the National League.

Defensively the team will miss Lobaton and the right-side of the infield with Zimmerman and Murphy is one of the worst in baseball.  However, there is reason for optimism as Eaton should be a strong upgrade in left field over Werth and hopefully Vogt will allow Wieters to play fewer games and be “better” when he does play.  Also, the team has excellent defenders Difo and Bautista on the bench for late game substitutions.  The presence of Murphy, Wieters and Zimmerman keeps the defense from being elite, but the unit should be above-average as a whole.

Overall I am quite pleased with the offense I have constructed within the hypothetical and real world constraints facing the Washington Nationals this offseason.  There are injury concerns and a bit more swing-and-miss than I would prefer, but there are eight hitters capable of hitting 15+ home runs and a versatile bench packed with intriguing individuals.  IF the team stays relatively healthy, there is no reason they do not achieve a top-5 offense next season, along with reaching the playoffs for the 5th time in 7 years and contending for the World Series.

*Thank you for reading!  This is my favorite column to write each year.  If you enjoyed it, please tell a friend.  If you have comments or thoughts, please share them in the comment’s section.

THE 2017-2018 NatsGM Washington Nationals Offseason Manifesto

The 2017 Washington Nationals enjoyed another successful season, winning 97 games and capturing their 4th National League East division championship in 6 seasons.  Certainly yet another Game 5 loss in the National League Division Series to the Cubs leaves a sense of disappointment to the season, but overall, this was another strong year in Washington.

The offseason began swiftly with the surprise decision by Washington not to re-sign Dusty Baker as their manager, choosing instead to hire Chicago bench coach Dave Martinez.  Now the front office must look toward 2018 and winning the World Series.  The roster seems fairly certain entering the winter, with potentially 20 of 25 roster spots already locked up.  However, Washington needs to improve at catcher, find a 5th starter, plus secure depth for their bullpen and bench.  Furthermore, there are major questions surrounding payroll for 2018, as continued ambiguity involving the team’s television revenue combined with luxury tax concerns will cap what the franchise will spend this offseason.

Last season Washington’s pitching staff was outstanding, finishing 3rd in the National League in team ERA (3.88), 3rd in strikeouts (1,457), 3rd in walks allowed (495) and 3rd in batting average against (.239).  These numbers compare reasonably well against the 2016 staff that finished with a 3.51 ERA, 1,476 strikeouts, 468 walks allowed and a .234 batting average against.

In Part-1 of this year’s NatsGM 2018 Washington Nationals Offseason Manifesto, I have attempted to solidify Washington’s pitching staff while being extremely budget conscious.  In the rotation, I decided to keep the four “studs” Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark, while finding a dependable 5th starter with some upside to provide innings.  For the bullpen, I broker a fictitious trade for a hard-throwing reliever with closing experience to pair with Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson in the late innings.  Finally, I did not want to deplete the farm system and hoped to give top prospect Erick Fedde more time in the minors.

In conclusion, in order to make this realistic, I am assuming Washington will have a $175 million payroll in 2018, up from $164.3 million in 2017.  Therefore, I prioritized keeping the total salary for pitchers below $85 million, no small feat considering Scherzer and Strasburg make a combined $40 million themselves.  With these factors in mind, here is my master plan for the 2018 pitching staff.

A) Sign RHP Scott Feldman, 1-yr $2,250,000

B) Trade OF Brian Goodwin & 3B Kelvin Gutierrez to Detroit for RHP Shane Greene

Starting Rotation

SP1 –                    Max Scherzer                                    $22,143,000

SP2 –                    Stephen Strasburg                           $18,334,000

SP3 –                    Gio Gonzalez                                    $12,000,000

SP4 –                    Tanner Roark                                    $7,500,000

SP5 –                    (Scott Feldman)                                $2,250,000

Total:                                                                               $62,227,000

Max Scherzer was again spectacular in 2017, giving Washington 200.2 innings with a 16-6 record, a 2.51 ERA and 268 strikeouts against only 55 walks.  He is one of three finalists, along with teammate Stephen Strasburg, for the National League Cy Young Award and should front the Nationals’ rotation again in 2018.

As mentioned, Stephen Strasburg was also fantastic for the Nationals last season, providing the team with a 15-4 record, a 2.52 ERA and 204 strikeouts over 175.1 innings pitched.  He battled some injuries midseason and during the playoffs, but overcame these obstacles to pitch fantastically in the postseason, throwing 14 shutout innings.  The 29-year-old will look to build on this tremendous season in 2018.

Following a subpar 2016, Gio Gonzalez rebounded with a brilliant season in 2017, giving Washington a 15-9 record with a 2.96 ERA, 1.179 WHIP and 188 strikeouts over 201 innings pitched.  Unfortunately his difficulties during the NLDS will tarnish his season as a whole, but fans should not ignore the outstanding regular season Gonzalez completed.  He is under contract for one last season in Washington, and 2018 should see him return to anchor the middle of the team’s rotation.

Tanner Roark battled through a difficult 2017, posting an unusually high 4.67 ERA and 1.335 WHIP, with 166 strikeouts against 64 walks in 181.1 innings.  Roark was selected but seldom used in the WBC last spring, which seemed to cause him to struggle early in the season and never fully find his rhythm.  In addition, he was chosen for the Nationals’ postseason roster, but did not make an appearance during the NLDS.  Hopefully the difficulties of 2017 help Roark rebound to his normal self in 2018.

For the 5th starter spot, I prioritized (in order) salary demands, durability, experience and reason to hope for improved performance – with this in mind, I would seek to sign free agent righty Scott Feldman to a 1-year contract worth $2.25 million plus incentives.

Feldman struggled through a difficult campaign in 2017 with Cincinnati, providing the Reds with a 4.77 ERA, 1.356 WHIP and 93 strikeouts verses 35 walks in 21 starts and 111.1 innings pitched.  In addition, his season ended prematurely due to a knee injury.  However, a closer look at the numbers shows Feldman had a 3.98 ERA through 18 starts and 102.2 innings pitched before his last three starts destroyed his ERA (8 home runs allowed in 8.2 innings, 14.54 ERA total) – perhaps this was directly due to the oncoming knee injury?  Also, his velocity dropped more than 2mph from April to August, giving further credence to the injury affecting his performance.

For his career, Feldman has a 78-84 record, with a 4.43 ERA over nearly 1,400 major league innings, while pitching both as a starter and reliever.  He owns a career ERA+ of 97, with 100 being major league average.  He is, almost by definition, a league average major league starting pitcher and his subpar numbers last season could allow him to be overlooked this winter.  Feldman is not a star, but he should provide Washington with nearly league average numbers on a modest salary.  And if one of Washington’s young starters emerges during the season, Feldman can easily be placed in the bullpen.

Starting pitching depth should be provided by A.J. Cole and top prospect Erick Fedde, both of whom had impressive moments in the majors last season.  Additionally, Joe Ross should return sometime late in 2018 to perhaps bolster the pitching staff down the stretch.  Finally, I anticipate Washington aggressively hunting non-roster invitees all offseason.

Bullpen

Closer –                              Sean Doolittle                               $4,380,000

Stopper –                            Ryan Madson                               $7,667,000

7th inning –                         Shane Greene                               $1,700,000

Middle Relief –                  Shawn Kelley                                 $5,500,000

LHP –                                   Enny Romero                                 $550,000

LHP –                                   Matt Grace / Sammy Solis             $550,000

Long –                                 A.J. Cole                                          $550,000

Total:                                                                                                             $20,900,000

Pitching Total:                                                                                              $83,127,000

Acquired via midseason trade with Oakland, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson solidified the back of Washington’s bullpen upon arrival.  Doolittle provided Washington with a 2.40 ERA and 31 strikeouts over 30 innings pitched, along with 21 saves.  Madson was arguably even better, posting a 1.37 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 19.2 innings.  The 37-year-old Madson’s age is a concern, as is the fact that both pitchers have had injuries in the past, but the duo should again be a lethal combination in the 8th and 9th innings next season.

My major acquisition for the bullpen this winter involves trading for Detroit’s Shane Greene, a 29-year-old right-handed pitcher blessed with a mid-90s sinker and a nasty slider.  Greene spent many years in the Yankee organization before a trade to Detroit, and a shift to the bullpen, revitalized his career.  He has accumulated 2.1 WAR over 211.2 innings the past three years, along with 11 saves.  Greene’s experience as a closer, solid results as a reliever and likely availability due to Detroit’s current rebuild, make him a tremendous potential addition to Washington’s bullpen.

After many consecutive seasons of quality pitching, Shawn Kelley endured a nightmarish season in 2017, posting a 7.27 ERA and allowing 12 home runs in only 26 innings pitched.  In his defense, he looked injured all season and made several trips to the disabled list.  He had a stem cell injection early in the offseason and hopes to be healthy for spring training.  The 33-year-old’s salary nearly guarantees him a place in the bullpen next season and a healthy Kelley would provide a major boost to the relief corps.  He is a true “X-Factor” for the 2018 pitching staff.

Returning for his second season in Washington will be flame-throwing LHP Enny Romero, who was acquired in a minor deal last winter and pitched well for the Nationals.  Romero provided Washington with a 3.56 ERA and 65 strikeouts against 25 walks over 55.2 innings pitched.  Surprisingly, he was better against righties than lefties (.295 wOBA v .354), so expect manager Dave Martinez to utilize him as a weapon in the middle innings against hitters who struggle against premium velocity.

In a competition for the final lefty in the bullpen, I will let holdovers Matt Grace and Sammy Solis fight for the spot during spring training.  Grace pitched well last season for the Nationals, with a 4.32 ERA and 61.1% ground ball ratio over 50 innings.  He was particularly good against lefties, allowing only a .232/.315/.235 batting line last season.  On the other hand, Solis failed to repeat his strong 2016 campaign with a 5.88 ERA and 4.35 xFIP in 2017.  I tend to prefer Grace due to his outstanding numbers against lefties and ability to pitch multiple innings, although I believe Solis to have superior stuff.  This should be a competitive battle, with the loser likely traded late during spring training.

Rounding out the bullpen will be A.J. Cole, Washington’s 4th round pick in 2010.  Cole showed promise in 2017, posting a 3.81 ERA over 52 innings pitched.  Particularly impressively, Cole dominated right-handed hitters, allowing an .188/.286/.315 batting line last season.  His ability to neutralize righties, combined with his extensive past as a starting pitcher, make him a solid fit as a long reliever.

Providing bullpen depth for Washington in 2018 will be Austin Adams and Koda Glover, who saw big league time last year, along with minor leaguers Wander Suero and Phillips Valdez.  In addition, Washington has done well with non-roster invitees in recent years and I would expect them to be aggressive in signing a few this winter – high on my list would be Neftali Feliz, Chad Qualls and Tom Wilhelmsen.

****

First, I must acknowledge the assumptions I am making, as I am hypothetically trading for Shane Greene and signing free agent Scott Feldman.  I believe both moves are plausible and have checked with others I respect to confirm this belief, but I am still playing fantasy GM at the highest (or worst) level.

With that said, next I should point out the weaknesses of this pitching staff – Each of the starters has battled nagging injuries the past two seasons and the depth behind these five is young and unproven.  The bullpen looks solid on paper, with several throwing mid-to-upper 90s velocity, yet Doolittle, Madson and Greene have injury concerns and Shawn Kelley is a major wild card entering spring training.

Nevertheless, the starting rotation has two elite options in Scherzer and Strasburg, along with two solid mid-rotation arms in Gonzalez and Roark.  If Feldman can bounce back and provide a boost as the 5th starter, this rotation could again be one of the best in the National League.  The bullpen has three closing options, three lefties for matchup possibilities and a collective group with differing styles.  Health questions aside, this hypothetical pitching staff has a nice blend of veterans and youngsters.

In conclusion, I believe this 2018 starting rotation should be comparable to last year’s, with the hope Erick Fedde blossoms into an impact pitcher during the season.  The bullpen is far more established than last season, and has several interesting arms to pitch in the middle innings.  Finally I did not part with any top prospects and limited the pitching staff payroll to $83.1 million.  Assuming a reasonable amount of health and overall luck, there is no reason Washington does not have a top-5 pitching staff in the National League next season.

Thanks for reading… Please return Wednesday for Part-2, as we retool the Nationals’ offense. 

Scouting Report – Edwin Lora

Edwin Lora         SS           Potomac Nationals

DOB:  9/14/95     Height:  6-1     Weight:  150lbs     Bats:  Right     Throws:  Right

Future Grades:     Hit (35)     Power (30)     Arm (55)     Defense (50)     Speed (55)

Lora was signed by Washington as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in August 2012.  The 22-year-old Lora is a skinny, wiry right-handed hitting and throwing shortstop prospect.  Listed at 6-1 150lbs. he looks closer to 170lbs. with projection remaining in his frame, particularly his lower half.  An obvious athlete, Lora has quality first-step quickness and easy above-average speed, posting 4.22-4.25 second times home to first.

Defensively Lora utilizes his above-average speed and impressive athleticism to flash plenty of range at shortstop.  Lora flashes a solid-average to above-average arm for the position, with soft hands and quality actions for the position.  He does struggle occasionally with his throwing accuracy and can get sloppy with his footwork, leading to healthy error totals.  Lora has the raw tools to be a solid-average major league defender, but needs repetitions and game action to reach this potential.

A right-handed hitter, Lora owns loose wrists and impressive bat speed, allowing him to whip the barrel through the strike zone.  He has some feel for the barrel but excess length in his swing causes him to struggles with whiffs.  His lack of physical strength limits his power to center and right field, although he does show pull power in batting practice and occasionally during games.  Lora needs to add strength and make more consistent contact if he wishes to advance to the major leagues.  Unfortunately, these concerns leave me to project Lora as a future “35” hitter with “30” power.

Edwin Lora is an intriguing prospect who possesses three average or better tools and the ability to stay defensively at shortstop long-term.  Sadly, his lack of physical strength and attraction to strikeouts limits his potential as a hitter and as an overall prospect.  Unless he gains strength and make refinements to his swing, his ceiling is limited to a major league utility player, with the likely outcome being a long-term Triple-A infielder.

Scouting Report – Jakson Reetz

Jakson Reetz      Catcher                Potomac Nationals

DOB:  1/3/96     Height:  6-1     Weight:  195lbs     Bats:  Right     Throws:  Right

Future Grades:     Hit (30)     Power (30)     Arm (50)     Defense (50)     Speed (35)

Reetz was drafted by Washington in the 3rd round, 93rd overall, in 2014 from a Nebraska high school and signed quickly for $800,000.  He is listed at 6-1 195lbs, with a well-built upper body, thick legs and little projection remaining.  Reetz is a quality athlete for the position, with good agility and foot speed, consistently running 4.43-4.47 seconds home to first.  Reetz is a gritty competitor who plays with passion and fire.

Defensively Reetz possesses quality arm strength, with a quick release and reasonable accuracy, giving him the profile as a future solid-average arm.  Reetz is a solid athlete and has the frame to catch 100+ games per year.  He has good agility and feet, helping him block errant pitches well.  He has decent hands and actively attempts to frame pitches., although he will on occasion stab at pitches.  He lacks elite defensive tools but his athleticism and sheer desire should make him a future average major league defender.

Reetz has a lengthy right-handed swing with mediocre bat speed.  He has a flat, linear swing, which generates line drives but hinders his ability to backspin the ball.  In addition, his mechanics put his right arm in a unique mid-swing position, further limiting his bat speed.  He has strong hands and powerful forearms, which help him generate pull side power in batting practice, but this fails to translate during game action.  At his best, he shows a mature approach at the plate and utilizes the middle of the diamond.  Unfortunately his swing flaws cause him to struggle against velocity, forcing me to project him as a future “30” hit and power hitter.

The almost 22-year-old prospect is intriguing due to his raw athleticism, quality throwing arm and the ability to stay behind the plate defensively.  Unfortunately, his swing and lack of bat speed limits his overall prospect profile.  Overall, the parts feel greater than the whole with Reetz.  Due to his draft pedigree and physical tools, Reetz will be given the opportunity to climb Washington’s organizational ladder, but I am skeptical of his ability to consistently hit upper minors pitching.  Reetz’s defensive skills give him a ceiling as a backup catcher, with his likely outcome being a Double-A or Triple-A contributing player.