THE NatsGM Show Episode 32 – Guest Grant Paulsen

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Episode #32 of THE NatsGM Show finds me fortunate enough to interview Washington DC media icon and 106.7 The Fan midday host Grant Paulsen.

Grant discussed how he got his start working in sports journalism and his legendary appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman. Furthermore, we chatted about the 2015 Washington Nationals and played a Tabasco Sauce hot game of “Rapid Fire”.

Thanks to Grant for joining me on the show – Download and Enjoy sports fans!

Scouting the Potomac Nationals

This past Saturday afternoon I drove to Woodbridge to scout the doubleheader between the Lynchburg Hillcats, Cleveland’s High-A affiliate, and the Potomac Nationals. In addition to observing Jayson Werth in a rehabilitation assignment, I was able to get my first up-close look this season at several of the most talented prospects in the Nationals farm system.  These are my notes from Saturday’s games, which the Nationals won 1-0 in Game 1 and lost 2-1 in Game 2.

Wilmer Difo Shortstop

Difo had a day to forget on Saturday, going 0-3 with a strikeout in game 1 and 0-3 with a run scored in game 2, along with a throwing error on a routine ground ball.

From a scouting perspective it was a positive day (for me), as Difo flashed some impressive arm strength both during pregame warmups and during game action that I had not seen previously. He has a quick release and an above-average arm, which when coupled with his above-average speed and solid athleticism, gives him the tools to develop into a major league quality shortstop

Offensively he appeared out of sync and to be pressing, swinging at most anything near the plate and selling out on each swing.  He is an  aggressive hitter, but like most hitters early in the season, he seemed to be trying to find his comfort zone at the plate.  That said, he still shows quick wrists, healthy bat speed and the ability to make contact and this viewing did nothing to change my long-term opinion of him as a hitter.  Difo still needs refinement but he is my choice for the top prospect currently on the Potomac Nationals roster.

Drew Ward 3B

Drew Ward

I am officially #TeamDrewWard in the scouting community. Ward is still raw offensively, as his left-handed swing is still rather long and his balance at the plate could certainly improve, yet he is making a noticeable effort to have better quality at-bats. He is doing a much better job of avoiding offspeed pitches away and concentrating on hunting and hitting fastballs. He shows some home run power in batting practice and could develop average or better pop when he matures physically. I like the adjustments I have seen him make since entering professional baseball and think he will continue to hit in the future.

My biggest question concerning Ward is his eventual defensive position, as a scout friend recently reminded me “the defensive position is everything, because the move affects the entire profile of the player’s bat”. I am concerned Ward will eventually move off of third base, not because of a lack of talent or aptitude, but because the 20-year-old is every bit of his listed 6-4 210lbs frame, and has plenty of physical projection remaining. His bat does not profile well at first base and I am not sure his athleticism translates to a corner outfield spot if he gets any larger physically. Nonetheless, Ward is holding his own against players 2+ years his elder and I am excited to see his progress throughout the season.

Spencer Kieboom Catcher

Kieboom is an absolute joy to watch defensively, as he is quieter than a baseball stadium in December behind the dish and has the feet of a ballet dancer; in fact, Michael Flatley is jealous of Kieboom’s footwork. Furthermore, I had Kieboom with a 1.94 second pop time in throwing out speedy Indians prospect Clint Frazier on a steal attempt in game 1. Kieboom has the makings of an above-average to plus major league defensive catcher.

Nick Lee LHP

Nick Lee

Lee entered the game in the top of the 7th in relief and immediately had the scouting section buzzing, as the lefty was sitting 93-94mph with his fastball, touching 96mph, along with a hard 79-82mph slider. The fastball had impressive late life and he seemed to locate it well to the armside.  Furthermore, Lee used his slider as a swing-and-miss chase pitch in the dirt to tempt eager opposing batters. Now 24-years-old Lee needs to start moving up the organizational ladder, but any lefty with mid-90s velocity and a clue of the eventual location is a name to remember.

 

* Special Tip of the Fedora to Bryan Holland and the Potomac Nationals staff for their hospitality Saturday afternoon… Thanks! *

Eyewitness Account – Scouting Jayson Werth with the Potomac Nationals

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On a truly glorious spring afternoon, Saturday I was fortunate enough to watch a minor league doubleheader between the Lynchburg Hillcats, the High-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, and the Potomac Nationals. In addition to the many talented prospects on both teams, Washington Nationals OF Jayson Werth was continuing his minor league rehabilitation assignment as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.

Werth played in both games Saturday, batting third in the order and playing left field in game 1 and acting as the designated hitter in game 2. For the day he received six at-bats, going 1-4 with a home run and two walks and easily converted his two plays defensively in the outfield.

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In Werth’s first at-bat of the day he specifically went to the plate with the purpose of seeing pitches, as he let the first two pitches go with little interest in swinging.  Then when he had fallen behind in the count (on a questionable strike call on 0-1), Werth swung on 1-2 and grounded out relatively sharply to the second baseman.

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In the 4th inning Werth came up and again worked the count, looking almost disinterested in the first two offering from Hillcats starter Adam Plutko.  Werth worked himself into a hitter’s count, and pulled an 86mph grooved fastball over the left field wall for a home run.  Although this was nearly a BP fastball, it was good to see the bat speed and strength to hit a home run into a stiff breeze.

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In his final at-bat of Game 1, Werth had a particularly impressive AB, continuing the trend of watching the first few offerings.  Werth fouled off a tough outside fastball and a decent slider before walking on 9-pitches.  In many ways, this was exactly what Werth wanted in a minor league rehab stint and was easily his best AB of the day.

In the bottom of the 1st inning in Game 2, Werth came up with the bases empty and had an at-bat that reminded me why he was on a rehabilitation assignment.  Continuing his trend he watched the first two pitches go by and got himself behind in the count.  After fighting back, Werth was badly fooled by a slider in the dirt and struck out swinging on six pitches.  Frankly, it was a poor AB from a hitter who should outclass his counterpart in this matchup, the pitcher.

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On his 5th at-bat again Werth watched the first two pitches, though they were both balls.  Then on a 2-1 count, Werth ripped a pretty solid line drive fly out to the center fielder.  The defender was shading him perfectly and the relatively strong wind gave the ball no chance to fly over his head.  The swing was quick, short, and he swung at a good hitter’s pitch and made solid contact – this was a MUCH better AB than the previous one, and gave me confidence he is rounding into form.

In his final at-bat of the afternoon in the 6th inning, the Lynchburg relief pitcher was struggling with a bad case of “can’t throw strikes” disease and walked Werth on four pitches, none of which were particularly close to the strike zone.  Werth walked to first base and was immediately lifted for a pinch runner, swiftly ending his day.

There are several positives and negatives to take away from Werth’s outing on Saturday.  As expected, physically Werth looks fit and he is running and throwing well, so defensively and on the bases, he appears ready to return.  Offensively his keen batting eye remains and he has the strength to turn on a baseball and hit it with authority, even home run power to the pull side.  Unfortunately he still looks rusty seeing pitches and was not facing top quality velocity or offspeed stuff, so he is still in for an adjustment period when he returns to the majors.

Werth will likely struggle for the first 40-60 at-bats back in Washington, as it should take him another 10+ games to get himself comfortable at the plate. I would expect him to perform well once this time frame elapses, though I doubt he will hit for his much power until the 2nd half of the season.

In an ideal world, the Nationals would let Werth spend the next 7-10 days in the minors to allow him to round into form.  However, because of the woeful and often times inept performance of the lineup thus far in 2015, the Nationals are expected to recall Werth early this week, perhaps even Monday.  Look for him to struggle initially, but his ability to get on-base and see pitches will be a welcome boost to the offense even upon his return.

 

* Special Tip of the Fedora to Bryan Holland and the Potomac Nationals staff for their hospitality Saturday afternoon… Thanks! *

THE NatsGM Show Episode 31 – Guest Jonah Keri

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On Episode #31 I am fortunate to interview Grantland.com columnist and New York Times Best Selling author Jonah Keri.

Jonah was kind enough to discuss his most recent book, “Up Up and Away”, a history of stories and anecdotes on the Montreal Expos. Later in the interview he shares a few stories about legendary players such as Gary Carter, Tim Raines, and Vladimir Guerrero. Finally, he pulls back the curtain on his experience with the Tampa Bay Rays when writing, “The Extra 2%”.

For more information on Jonah’s book signing in Washington D.C. on April 15th, use this link ->  http://www.politics-prose.com/event/book/grantland-panel-jonah-keri

To buy Jonah’s books, use our sponsor’s link, Amazon.com, on the right side of this page.