THE NatsGM Show #108 – Guest Rob Mains

THE NatsGM Show #108 has dropped and we are proud to welcome back a friend of the show, Baseball Prospectus’s Rob Mains!

On this episode, our conversation begins with Rob discussing his recent trip to Cooperstown for the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, both the positives and the negatives.  Then we pivot and spend the rest of the show breaking down the MLB trade deadline, which teams we thought did well and teams we thought whiffed.

Thanks to Rob for graciously joining the show and to you for downloading!

THE Joshua Kusnick Experience #15 – #LugoFilter

After an extended vacation, we are back with Episode #15 of THE Joshua Kusnick Experience!

Our conversation begins with catching up with Josh, his experience at the winter meetings last December and his take on NBA draft prospect Lonzo Ball & his father.  Then we discuss the unfortunate cancellation of the show “Pitch”, the success of his client Seth Lugo in the WBC and provides updates on several other clients.  Finally Josh gives a compelling argument for a World Wide Draft, acknowledges his least favorite part of the job and talks about Michael Brantley’s experience with a squirrel.

Thank you to Josh for clearing time during the season to chat and to you for downloading!

Wednesday’s Scouting Notes From West Palm Beach

Building off yesterday’s column, this afternoon I return with several additional scouting notes from the past two days in Florida.  Please let me know in the comment’s section if there are players or topics you wish for me to discuss.  Also, please ignore any typos or grammatical errors, I am writing these reports rapidly in order to turn them around in a timely fashion.

Although the stadium radar gun did not agree, I was extremely impressed with Joe Nathan’s performance Tuesday.  Nathan’s fastball was sitting 88-89mph on the stadium radar gun, touching 90mph.  In addition Nathan flashed a good slider and even showed a quality changeup to a left-handed batter in his one inning of work.  Even more impressively, each pitch Nathan threw showed natural movement, with nothing going straight and everything sinking and cutting toward left-handed hitters.  At 42-years-old he no longer has “closer” stuff, but if he can add another tick or two of velocity this spring, I can envision Nathan helping Washington (or another team) in middle relief this season.

Following Nathan on Tuesday for the Nationals was RHP Austin Adams, one of two players Washington received for Danny Espinosa this winter.  Adams immediately caught my attention, flashing a 93mph fastball with excellent life and a powerful 87mph slider/cutter with sharp movement.  Adams is listed at 6-2 225lbs and looks even bigger, with long limbs and some natural deception in his delivery.  He has plenty of effort in his motion and his mechanics are difficult to repeat, which explains his past difficulties allowing walks.  Nonetheless, with the potential for two above-average pitches if his command can improve, there is a chance the Nationals have found a possible asset in middle relief.

* Obviously it is only a few at-bats, but Ryan Zimmerman looks completely lost at the plate.  Zimmerman appears to be cheating and guessing fastball in order to catch up to reasonable velocity, which leaves him exposed to quality off-speed pitches.  Especially on Tuesday, Zimmerman’s leg kick seemed exaggerated and lengthy, hindering his ability to find a rhythm.  Also, his swing looked extremely long and slow, leaving him in a position unable to hit premium velocity or reasonable breaking pitches.  I acknowledge it is early in the spring and Zimmerman has only played a few games so far, but I am extremely concerned Zimmerman’s days of producing offensively are in the rearview mirror.

* Lost somewhat amongst the news on the field, Tuesday the Nationals announced that catcher Spencer Kieboom had cleared waivers and was re-assigned to Triple-A Syracuse.  Last week Washington designated Kieboom for assignment to clear room on their 40-man roster for Joe Blanton.

As mentioned in last week’s column, the 25-year-old Kieboom struggled through a difficult offensive season in 2016, batting only .230/.324/.314 in 309 at-bats.  A defensive stalwart, Kieboom’s offensive limitations, along with the development of other backstops in the organization, has found him in an organizational roster crunch.  Likely the best thing for Kieboom’s career would be a trade to another organization, but teams cannot ever have enough catching depth and Washington was lucky to sneak him through waivers.  While he does not have a high ceiling, his defensive aptitude could allow him to become a backup catcher in the majors, though his likely outcome is as a Triple-A player.  Nonetheless, it was a bit of good fortune Washington was able to keep Kieboom in their organization.

THE 2017 Washington Nationals Sleepers

Last week while analyzing the Washington Nationals’ farm system, it particularly caught my attention the depth the organization has outside their top-10 prospects.  This is quite a feat, considering they traded away four top prospects this winter and have qualified for smaller draft bonus pools the past few years due to their success at the big league level.  Washington’s front office should be commended for their collection of prospects outside the top-15, especially up-the-middle hitters.

While the term “sleeper” is rather nebulous, for the purposes of this article it will describe someone ranked outside my top-30 prospects that deserve more hype.  These are my three current favorite sleepers in Washington’s farm system.

Daniel Johnson OF

Johnson was Washington’s 5th round pick last summer, agreeing to an above-slot $325,000 bonus after hitting .382 with 12 home runs and 29 stolen bases for New Mexico State.  Johnson owns an intriguing collection of tools, possessing plus-plus speed and a strong throwing arm, allowing him to project well in center field.

Despite his impressive offensive output in college, his offensive skills lag significantly behind his defensive prowess.  Johnson is raw offensively and has not played against high-level competition, leading scouts to question if he will hit professional pitching.  He has shown some barrel skills and raw pull power from his left-handed swing, but the 21-year-old will need significant time in the minor leagues in order to refine his swing mechanics.  He should begin 2017 at Low-A Hagerstown and his package of tools could have scouts buzzing later this year.

Andrew Lee RHP

Chosen in the 11th round in 2015 from the University of Tennessee, Lee was a solid two-way player for the Volunteers before exclusively dedicating himself to pitching as a professional.  Lee is a large man, standing 6-5 225lbs, along with owning an exciting 3-pitch arsenal featuring a low-90s fastball, an above-average curveball with swing-and-miss potential and a reasonable changeup.  There is effort in his delivery, but he does repeat his mechanics fairly well and has command of the strike zone.

Unfortunately the biggest present knock on Lee is his health, as he underwent Tommy John surgery in the past and missed the second half of 2016 with an injury.  The 23-year-old only threw 84.2 innings in college and another 89.2 professional innings the past two seasons, leading to obvious durability questions going forward.  If he can successfully return to the mound, he could generate buzz as a back-end workhorse type starting pitcher.

Jose Sanchez SS

Signed last summer by the Nationals for a $950,000, Sanchez has been overshadowed by fellow international acquisitions Yasel Antuna and Luis Garcia.  But as his signing bonus indicates, Sanchez is a fascinating middle infield prospect in his own right, possessing an above-average arm, average to solid-average speed and outstanding instincts.  Scouts consistently mention his baseball instincts and IQ, as the 16-year-old shows an uncanny ability to maximize his skills on the field.

Offensively his underwhelming size (6-0 165lbs.) has him lacking the present strength to hit for power, but he has loose wrists and shows a compact swing with impressive barrel skills.  He has a good eye and approach at the plate, which helps him pepper line drives across the outfield.  Scouts expect him to hit for average in the future, but the natural question of how much strength he develops holds the key to his power output and thus, overall offensive profile.  He should spend 2017 in the Dominican Summer League and could gain prospect helium if he hits well this season.