Reynolds’ Wraps Career In NY, Off To Washington

Late Monday, after several weeks of relative inactivity, the Washington Nationals acquired Matt Reynolds from division foe the New York Mets for cash considerations.  The Mets designated him for assignment last week in order to create a roster spot for free agent signee Todd Frazier.  Reynolds immediately finds himself on Washington’s 40-man roster, occupying the recently vacated spot by Raudy Read, who will serve an 80-game suspension for performance enhancing drug use.

The 27-year-old Reynolds was the Mets’ 2012 2nd round pick from the University of Arkansas who has split the past two seasons between AAA and the majors.  The right-handed hitting and throwing Reynolds is a career .279/.346/.396 hitter over 508 minor league games, with 26 home runs and 58 stolen bases.  In the majors he has struggled, hitting .228/.300/.351 over only 202 at-bats, along with an alarming 54.6% ground ball rate and a paltry 28.5% fly ball ratio.  He works the count, will take a walk and scouts believe there is some thump in his bat, but the predominance of ground balls limits his offensive potential.

Defensively Reynolds is extremely versatile, as he has played each defensive position besides catcher in the past two seasons.  He has decent speed and athleticism, along with a solid throwing arm and plenty of #Want, allowing him to outplay his physical tools.  He is a below-average defender at the up-the-middle positions (shortstop, second base and center field) and passable at the corner infield and outfield positions.  In this era of 12 and 13 man pitching staffs, Reynolds’ defensive flexibility make him a quality 25th man on a National League team.

Obviously it is difficult to quibble with any acquisition that costs only cash considerations, but I do find the trade slightly intriguing – Washington’s offense seems relatively spoken for and the presence of similarly versatile Wilmer Difo, Howie Kendrick and Adrian Sanchez already on the 40-man roster make Reynolds feel somewhat redundant.  Reynolds has a minor league option remaining, so the organization is likely targeting him for Triple-A and to act as insurance for the major league roster.  In addition, do not be surprised if Washington tries to sneak Reynolds through waivers prior to Opening Day to clear a roster spot while keeping him in the organization.

Overall there is a bit of potential upside with Matt Reynolds if he can learn to consistently lift the ball.  Perhaps a change of scenery and a fresh opportunity with a new team, the first of his career, will allow him to blossom offensively.  I do not expect this to happen, but understand Washington’s front office gambling that the Mets’ underestimated Reynolds’ long-term potential.  Considering the minimal cost, I like this wager for the Nationals.

NatsGM Grade ->            B

Howie Kendrick Returns To Washington

According to various media outlets, the Washington Nationals have signed Howie Kendrick to a 2-year pact worth $7 million guaranteed, along with an additional $2.25 million in incentives.  Washington acquired Kendrick last July in an inter-division trade with Philadelphia for prospect McKenzie Mills and international bonus money.

The 34-year-old Kendrick battled injuries much of last season, playing only 91 games for Philadelphia and Washington while hitting .315/.368/.475 with 9 home runs.  In particular Kendrick was invaluable for the Nationals, batting .293/.343/.494 and played four different defensive positions.  For his 12-year career, Kendrick owns a .291/.334/.421 batting line with 104 home runs and 123 stolen bases.  He has impressive barrel skills and a compact right-handed swing, allowing him to be an easy plus hitter.  Additionally, Kendrick has added some defensive versatility in his later years, seeing time at first, second and third base plus both corner outfield spots.  He is not a great defender, but his speed, athleticism and reasonable throwing arm allow him to be passable at each position.

Kendrick should provide valuable depth early this season at second base while Daniel Murphy recovers from offseason knee surgery, and act as a vital pinch-hitter off the bench.  Not to mention Kendrick will serve as a starting-quality backup behind Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman, each of whom have had injury issues in the past.

Although the Hot Stove feels rather frigid this winter, the Nationals have done a nice job securing three veterans (Kendrick, Matt Adams & Brandon Kintzler) to fill voids on the roster at reasonable prices. Overall there is very little to quibble with this signing, although Kendrick does have some risks involved in his profile.  He will turn 35 this season and just completed his best offensive season in six years, leading to the obvious conclusion some regression is coming this season offensively.  However, Kendrick is a born hitter with natural athleticism, giving plenty of hope he should continue to be productive the next two years.  And considering Washington needed additional depth and made only a $7 million total guarantee, this is a terrific signing for the Nationals to secure Kendrick through 2019.

NatsGM Overall Grade ->             A- / B+

THE NatsGM 2018 Washington Nationals Top Prospect List, #21-#30

Let’s do this – The Washington Nationals #21-#30 prospects, which shows a nice cluster of players from this most recent draft, along with a few promising outfielders.

#21        Rafael Bautista OF

Bautista was signed from the Dominican Republic as an international free agent in 2012 and has steadily risen through Washington’s farm system, finally reaching the majors for 13 games in 2017.  Offensively Bautista utilizes his excellent speed and solid bat-to-ball skills to act as a leadoff hitter – he has little home run power, but there is enough potential to keep pitchers’ honest.  In the field Bautista plays a solid center field due to his speed, range and average arm.  He can play all three outfield positions, although his arm is a bit light for right field.  The almost 25-year-old possesses four average or better tools and profiles as a solid backup outfielder, perhaps in Washington this season.

#22        Jackson Tetreault RHP

Washington plucked Jackson Tetreault in the 7th round last June from the State College of Florida Manatee based on his projectable 6-5 170lbs frame and impressive three pitch arsenal.  Tetreault is blessed with a low-90s fastball with life, along with an intriguing curveball and changeup.  He has impressive arm speed and scouts believe he could add velocity in the future.  He struggles with his command and is quite raw, but the upside could be a future #4 starter or impact reliever.  Tetreault is a project for Washington’s development staff and a name to remember from the 2017 draft class.

#23        Justin Connell OF

Drafted in the 11th round last June, Washington signed Connell for $125,000 based on his projectable 6-1 185lbs frame, along with his impressive speed and athleticism.  He has a solid arm and the ability to play all three outfield positions, although he is stretched in center field.  The 18-year-old fared well last summer in the GCL, batting .323/.407/.365 with more walks than strikeouts.  There is plenty of risk in the profile, but Connell is a true sleeper in the Nats’ farm system.

#24        Kyle Johnston RHP

The Nationals’ 6th round pick last summer from the University of Texas, Johnston is an undersized 6-0 225lbs righty with a low-to- mid-90s fastball and a promising upper-80s cutter.  In addition, he throws a changeup, but it is a distant third offering and needs significant development.  Johnston should begin his career as a starting pitcher, but likely projects as a 2-pitch middle reliever down the road.

#25        Telmito Agustin OF

Originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Agustin moved to the Dominican Republic and signed with Washington for $50,000 in October 2013.  The 21-year-old Agustin struggled mightily in his first experience at High-A this year, forcing a demotion mid-season back to Low-A where he rebounded with a .277/.308/.456 batting line over 80 games played.  Listed at 5-10 160lbs, Agustin is an athletic outfielder with plus speed, good barrel skills and some sneaky pop from such an undersized hitter.  He has a fringe-average and accurate arm, which allows him to profile well in both center and left field.  The lack of power limits his ceiling, but Agustin profiles as a future potential 5th outfielder.

#26        Ricardo Mendez OF

Washington signed Mendez for $600,000 from the Dominican Republic as an international free agent in July 2016.  Mendez was known as one of the top defensive outfielders in his class, based upon his plus or better speed, excellent instincts and below-average but accurate throwing arm.  He showed well as a 17-year-old hitting .252/.319/.338 over 151 at-bats in the GCL last summer.  Listed at 6-0 160lbs, the almost 18-year-old is projectable and has a solid package of tools yet needs to add strength to become a stronger offensive threat going forward.

#27        Cole Freeman 2B/OF

Washington’s 4th round selection last June, Freeman was drafted from Louisiana State University as a senior after two strong years in Baton Rouge.  He is an undersized 5-9 175lbs with above-average speed and athleticism, along with excellent barrel skills in his righty swing.  Freeman lacks power, limiting his offensive upside and has a below-average arm, giving him a difficult defensive profile.  His ability to hit and pure speed make him intriguing, but his lack of another tool limits him to a utility profile.

#28        Drew Ward 3B

Washington’s 3rd round pick in 2013, the 23-year-old Ward is a large 6-3 215lbs left-handed hitting third baseman with easy plus batting practice power.  He struggles recognizing spin and has a long swing, inducing far too many strikeouts and hindering his offensive profile.  Defensively he has a strong arm and good reactions at third base, but his mediocre speed and athleticism limit his range.  He projects as a backup corner infielder or Quad-A hitter, with a ceiling of a below-average starter at the hot corner if he can improve his contact issues.

In-Person Scouting Report ->

#29        Joan Baez RHP

Washington acquired Baez as an international free agent in April 2014 based on his projectable 6-3 190lbs body and mid-90s velocity.  Presently his 3-pitch arsenal features a 91-93mph fastball that touches 95mph, a mid-80s change and upper-70s curveball.  Unfortunately his secondary pitches lag behind his powerful fastball, and his command is below-average at present.  If he can develop one of his off-speed pitches to compliment his heater, he projects as a potential 7th inning reliever.

In-Person Scouting Report ->

#30        Armond Upshaw OF
Chosen in the 11th round in 2016 from Pensacola State junior college, Washington gave Upshaw a noteworthy $400,000 bonus to sign.  A switch-hitter, Upshaw has legitimate “70” or better speed and drew 41 walks in 60 games last summer, showing a good knowledge of the strike zone.  Unfortunately he also struck out 62 times in only 195 at-bats, an unacceptable number for a table-setter.  Defensively he has a fringy arm and utilizes his outstanding athleticism to cover plenty of ground.  He projects as a strong defensive center fielder, but Upshaw must limit the strikeouts in order to reach his potential.

Next Five ->   Aldrem Corredor, Anderson Franco, Gabe Klobosits, Jakson Reetz, Jackson Stoeckinger

THE NatsGM 2018 Washington Nationals Top Prospect List #20-#11

Let’s not waste time – Building off Monday’s article listing the Washington Nationals Top-10 prospects, here are numbers 11-20!

#11        Kelvin Gutierrez 3B

Signed as a 2013 international free agent for $30,000, the 23-year-old Gutierrez is an intriguing athlete with fringe-average speed and a projectable 6-3 185lbs frame.  Gutierrez is quite impressive at third base, flashing soft hands, good quickness and a plus arm, which allows him to profile as a future above-average defender.  Offensively the right-handed hitter has a lengthy swing and flashes raw power in batting practice that has yet to translate in game action.  His power is likely to be light for the position, but Gutierrez could develop into a below-average starter at the hot corner.

In-Person Scouting Report ->

#12        Andrew Stevenson OF

Stevenson was Washington’s top pick in 2015, 58th overall, based on an impressive package of tools including plus or better speed, outstanding defense in center field and natural barrel skills.  In the field Stevenson utilizes his excellent quickness and speed to flash outstanding defensive range.  His arm strength is mediocre, but he profiles as an above-average defender in center field and a plus in left field.  Offensively Stevenson understands his role as a table-setter, working counts, getting on-base and utilizing his speed to disrupt the opposition.  Stevenson is a high-floor, medium ceiling outfield prospect with the potential for three average or better tools and has a ceiling as a 2nd division starter, with his likely outcome being a valuable reserve.

In-Person Scouting Report ->

#13        Blake Perkins OF

Drafted in the 2nd round, 69th overall in 2015, Washington chose Perkins from an Arizona high school based on his impressive athleticism, plus speed, and potential to be a switch-hitting center fielder.  On defense Perkins appears born to play center field, as his speed, lengthy strides and impressive instincts give him outstanding range and plus potential.  Perkins is a natural right-handed hitter who committed to switch-hitting as a professional, and while he is raw, the results have been solid so far.  He has the potential for three above-average tools and if his offensive skills continue to improve, he has a ceiling as a 2nd division defensive-first center fielder.

In-Person Scouting Report ->

#14        Jose Sanchez  SS

Washington signed Sanchez for $950,000 in July 2016 as an international free agent, yet he has been slightly overshadowed by fellow international acquisitions Yasel Antuna and Luis Garcia.  But as his bonus indicates, Sanchez is an interesting prospect in his own right, possessing a strong arm, excellent speed and the ability to stay in the middle infield defensively.  The 17-year-old struggled offensively in the GCL last summer, hitting only .209/.280/.247 over 48 games played.  However, scouts like his compact swing, approach at the plate and feel for the barrel, giving them hope he will develop as a hitter.  He should return to the GCL to begin 2018 and could gain significant prospect helium if his offense blossoms.

#15        Taylor Gushue Catcher

Acquired in September 2016 from Pittsburgh for Chris Bostick, the 24-year-old Gushue has an ideal catcher’s frame, solid athleticism and below-average (but good for a catcher) speed.  Behind the dish he has a solid-average throwing arm, blocks and frames pitches well, which allows him to outproduce his natural skills and profile as a fringe-average major league defender.  Offensively the switch-hitter possesses average bat speed and utilizes his lower half to generate average home run power.  He struggles with strikeouts and lacks an above-average tool, which limits his ceiling, but he profiles as a solid backup.

In-Person Scouting Report ->

#16        Austin Adams RHP

Acquired as part of the Danny Espinosa trade to Anaheim in December 2016, the 26-year-old Adams is a pure right-handed relief prospect, possessing a 93-97mph fastball and an easy plus slider.  This allowed him to overwhelm Triple-A hitters last season, posting a 2.14 ERA with 91 strikeouts against 37 walks over 59 innings pitched.  He has well-below average command, which limits his ceiling, but he profiles nicely as a whiff-inducing 7th inning reliever.

#17        Nick Raquet LHP

Washington’s 3rd round pick, 103rd overall, this past June from the College of William & Mary, the diminutive lefty has a fastball that sits 92-94mph and can reach 97mph, an intriguing changeup and occasionally will flash a decent slider.  His command in college was woeful, yet he only allowed 7 walks over 51 innings in pro ball last summer.  Washington will develop Raquet as a starter in hopes his breaking ball improves and he develops into a back-end starter, with the most likely outcome being a future shift to the bullpen.

#18        Jefry Rodriguez RHP

Originally signed from the Dominican Republic in 2011, Washington added Rodriguez to the 40-man roster this offseason in spite of missing 80 games last season due to PED suspension.  When on the mound, Rodriguez utilizes a 93-95mph fastball, a power curveball and a mediocre changeup to post a 3.32 ERA with 51 strikeouts against 19 walks over 57 innings pitched in 2017.  The 24-year-old has struggled with various injuries and wayward command since signing, but the potential still exists for him to develop into a quality 7th inning reliever.

#19        Pedro Severino Catcher

Washington signed Severino from the Dominican Republic in 2010 and he has diligently climbed the organizational ladder ever since, playing at Triple-A the past two seasons and reaching the majors the past three.  Still only 24-years-old Severino is a tremendous defensive catcher, with excellent arm strength, solid accuracy and good athleticism for blocking pitches.  Offensively Severino shows some bat speed from the right side and will work the count, but unfortunately he has failed to produce in game action, as his career .244/.294/.339 batting line indicates.  Some scouts still believe he will develop offensively, but unless this happens, Severino projects as a defensive-first backup catcher.

#20        Jose Marmolejos 1B / LF

Marmolejos signed with Washington for $55,000 in June 2011 as an international free agent.  The 24-year-old is a stocky 6-1 185lbs with fringy tools across the board, except a keen ability to hit.  A left-handed hitter, Marmolejos has solid bat speed, good awareness of the strike zone and a knack for spraying line drives all over the field.  He shows some power during batting practice, but projects as a “55 hit / 40 power” hitter.

Defensively Marmolejos has split time between first base and left field, in an effort to be more valuable.  He has a fringe arm and below-average speed, and in spite of his effort, he profiles as a fringe defender in left field.  He is an interesting prospect because he can flat out hit, but the lack of another average tool limits him to a future backup role.