THE NatsGM Show Episode #42 – Special Guest Steve Corino

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On Episode #42 of THE NatsGM Show, I am proud to be joined by professional wrestling legend and current Ring of Honor Superstar, Steve “King” Corino!

This week we begin with Steve reminiscing on his early days in Extreme Championship Wrestling “ECW“, his feud with the American Dream Dusty Rhodes and his thoughts on Paul Heyman.  Then we transition to discussing his career in Ring of Honor, his thoughts on WWE & NXT challenging ROH, his favorite up-and-coming talents in the industry and Friday’s iPPV in Baltimore, Death Before Dishonor.

Finally, being such a diehard Phillies fan, Steve and I chat about the upcoming trade deadline, whether Cole Hamels is dealt this upcoming week and the franchise’s prospects for the future.  Thanks to Steve @KingCorino for being such a terrific guest!

Introducing NEW Washington Nationals Reliever Abel De Los Santos

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Rumors began circulating late Sunday evening, but on Monday the Washington Nationals officially promoted 22-year-old right-handed relief pitcher Abel De Los Santos from Double-A Harrisburg to the active roster. In corresponding moves, Washington optioned right-handed reliever Blake Treinen to Triple-A Syracuse to make room on the 25-man roster and transferred OF Jayson Werth to the 60-Day Disabled List to create a space on the 40-man for De Los Santos.

Acquired along with 2B Christopher Bostick from the Texas Rangers in exchange for LHP Ross Detwiler last December, at the time of the trade De Los Santos was seen as the second piece of the deal and a potential useful middle reliever. Last season De Los Santos split time between Low-A and High-A, posting a 1.93 ERA and 65 strikeouts against 36 hits and 18 walks over 56 innings pitched. Signed as an international free agent by Texas in May 2010, De Los Santos has flourished since his move to the bullpen in 2013 with a 2.58 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 6.36 H/9, 2.86 BB/9 and 10.41 K/9 numbers over those two seasons.

Back in mid-December, experts Jim Callis and C.J. Wittmann Jr. provided their thoughts on De Los Santos and his future potential:

Abel de los Santos put up nice numbers this year as a reliever in Class A, but he doesn’t really have a plus pitch to hang his hat on. He throws strikes with his fastball and slider and keeps the ball down in the strike zone but I don’t see him becoming more than a middle reliever.” -> Jim Callis, MLBPipeline.com

De Los Santos is an average sized right-hander with a loose arm and he can generate mid-90s velocity. The looseness of the arm causes him to get offline and the command varies. If he straightens out the command issues then we could looking at a MLB reliever profile.” -> C.J. Wittmann Jr., Baseball Prospectus

This season De Los Santos has continued to pitch well in relief, posting a 4-4 record with a 2.65 ERA over 26 appearances and 37.1 innings pitched for Harrisburg. De Los Santos has allowed only 26 hits and 7 walks this season against 35 strikeouts, in addition to holding righties to a .169/.213/.265 batting line. According to a local scout De Los Santos has been “sitting 91-92mph this season with a 75-77mph breaking ball. He has a quick arm and a funky delivery which could play up in short stints”.

For the Nationals expect De Los Santos to slide into Treinen’s role as a lower-leverage reliever, although rather than pitching multiple innings he will likely be deployed as a right-handed specialist in the 6th or 7th inning. Both Casey Janssen and Aaron Barrett have battled injuries this season, so perhaps De Los Santos can help ease their workload the next few weeks as well.

While he does not have a major ceiling or a devastating repertoire, the Nationals’ scouting department should be commended for acquiring a major league contributor as the “second piece” in yet another trade with the Texas Rangers: remember Cristian Guzman for Ryan Tatusko AND Tanner Roark several years ago? If De Los Santos continues to pitch well, I can foresee a scenario keeping him in Washington the rest of the season as a member of their middle relief corp.

Scouting Washington Nationals Prospect Nick Pivetta

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Sunday afternoon, on what has to be the warmest day in several years in the Maryland area, I ventured up to Bowie to watch the Baysox host the Harrisburg Senators, Washington’s Double-A affiliate. In particular I wanted to seize the opportunity to watch intriguing right-handed pitching prospect Nick Pivetta, along with observing Ryan Zimmerman’s first game of his rehabilitation assignment. Zimmerman looked to be in midseason form, going 1-2 with a sharp single to right field before being lifted in the 4th inning. Conversely Pivetta wilted like a tomato plant in the summer heat, allowing 7 runs on 7 hits over 4 innings pitched, which helped send the home fans happy with a 7-2 victory over Harrisburg.

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Washington’s 4th round pick in the 2013 draft, the 22-year-old Pivetta has a prototypical, monstrous pitcher’s frame at 6-5 220lbs. He possesses a relatively clean and simple pitching motion; however Pivetta struggles to maintain his delivery as he often over-rotates his hips, causing him to fly open and lose his release point. This weakness hinders his fastball command and the overall consistency of his offspeed pitches, not to mention his ability to pitch deep into his outings.

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In this outing Pivetta featured a 92-94mph fastball, touching 95mph three times, with impressive sinking action from a high 3/4s arm slot. He struggled to command his fastball, especially in the 3rd and 4th inning, as many of the pitches sailed up out of the zone.  Once Pivetta fell behind in the count, he left several fastballs up in the zone that the Baysox punished. In addition Pivetta flashed a 77-80mph curveball with more sweeping action than traditional 12-6 movement – he struggled most of the day to find a feel for the pitch, often overthrowing it and burying it low and away. Finally he showed a solid 84-86mph changeup, though while inconsistent, was impressive at times with arm-side and sinking movement.

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Despite the poor results I left Sunday’s contest with a relatively favorable impression of Mr. Pivetta. Although his outing was cut short, he still managed to show an above-average to plus fastball and the potential for two average future off-speed pitches. Furthermore he owns a durable, projectable body with room to add some additional muscle.

Without question Pivetta still has obvious weaknesses, as he needs to improve the consistency of his mechanics, which when coupled with additional experience on the mound, should improve his fastball command and offspeed offerings. He is still raw but with three potential average or better pitches and a starter’s body, Pivetta projects as a #4/5 starter down the road. Pivetta is a nice arm for the Nationals to continue to develop and likely a coveted name in trade discussions this month.

* Thanks to Matt Wilson and the Bowie Baysox for their continued hospitality. *

Predicting a Potential Aroldis Chapman to Washington Trade

photo(83)As the last of the confetti is cleaned up fromthe 2015 All-Star Game, the focus of the baseball world is the rapidly approaching July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. Last year saw a busy July filled with intriguing swaps, with the headliner being the Chicago Cubs sending Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for top prospect Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily. This year appears to be a “seller’s market” as there are few teams effectively out of the playoff race and many teams within striking distance of the wild card. One of the best players potentially on the trade block this month is from the slumping Cincinnati Reds, their closer Aroldis Chapman.

The 27-year-old lefty is a 4-time All-Star and the best closer currently in major league baseball, or certainly co-number 1 with San Diego’s Craig Kimbrel. Chapman has a 1.69 ERA and 18 saves thus far in 2015, with 65 strikeouts against 20 walks and 24 hits allowed over 37.1 innings pitched. For his career Chapman has a 2.23 ERA and 131 saves, with 495 strikeouts in his 290 innings pitched – he is nothing short of dominant in shutting down opponents in the late innings. Chapman is making $8.050 million dollars in 2015 and is under salary arbitration through 2016, making him a free agent in 2017.

So what would it take to bring the best reliever in baseball, under contract for another year and a half, to Washington?

The only two comparable trades I could find involved the Andrew Miller to Baltimore deal last summer and Craig Kimbrel to San Diego just prior to Opening Day. Miller was the best reliever available at last year’s trade deadline, but was a free agent at the end of the season – he returned a #3/4 starter LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, who was slumping ahead of the swap but has blossomed since the trade to Boston and a few mechanical adjustments by their development staff.

As mentioned earlier, Craig Kimbrel was traded the day before Opening Day, along with the expensive contract of Melvin (B.J.) Upton, to the Padres for their top prospect RHP Matt Wisler, toolsy OF Jordan Paroubeck, the #41 pick in the past June’s Draft, plus veteran OFs Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin. It must be noted that Kimbrel signed a lengthy extension in February of 2014 and is under contract through 2018, making him slightly more valuable to Chapman in this regard.

That said these trades give us a reasonable framework for a deal, as it will take much more than the one solid prospect in the Miller swap and closer to the two prospects and draft slot it took for Kimbrel. It appears that an offer will require a top pitching prospect close to big league ready, like Rodriguez or Wisler, along with another promising prospect a bit further from the majors, perhaps a 3rd prospect, plus taking on all future contractual obligations.

Therefore it appears the offer would begin with a headliner like A.J. Cole, Reynaldo Lopez, Tanner Roark or Joe Ross, along with another prospect like Erick Fedde, Nick Pivetta, Jakson Reetz or Austin Voth, in addition to a 3rd prospect. Cincinnati’s biggest organizational need appears to be major league ready pitching, as several of their top arms are set for free agency this winter. An offer headlined by Joe Ross might be too much for Cincinnati to pass on in their attempt to quickly rebuild for 2016 and 2017.

While it would be difficult for Washington to trade away so much quality pitching, it would still leave the organization with its top two pitching prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, along with Tanner Roark and A.J. Cole to fill possible open rotation spots next year. It would also resolve the biggest need for the team, besides getting healthy, in adding the most intimidating and dominant reliever in baseball to their bullpen. Pairing Chapman with Drew Storen would give the Nationals the best 1-2 relief combination in the National League and allows veterans David Carpenter, Casey Janssen and Matt Thornton to capably manage the 6th and 7th innings. This deal would make Washington extremely formidable in a short playoff series.

My first offer to Cincinnati would be RHP Joe Ross, RHP Nick Pivetta and Catcher Pedro Severino for LHP Aroldis Chapman, which I think would be ultimately declined. Therefore, my final and best offer is Joe Ross and RHP Erick Fedde for Aroldis Chapman, which I believe is close to a “Yes” from Cincinnati.