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Scouting Assessments

Good morning, fellas. Today the Journal resumes regular duties, same as the Nats resume their season. The team begins an 11-day, 10-game road trip that covers Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles. But while we spend a few more hours awaiting the return of the District's alleged major league team, I figured we can first spent a bit more blogospheric space looking at the Nats' youngest players. Below, I have provided a catalog of unfiltered quotes and opinions from pro scouts and execs throughout baseball -- an extension of a dead tree story you can read here. Commentary is sorted by category. It's unattributed, but I exclusively included comments that reflected a general consensus among every person with whom I spoke. There's a little stuff on the young major leaguers, like Bergmann, Balester and Lannan, mixed in.

---

On Ross Detwiler: "Oh boy. Good arm. But ways away from the big leagues, I think. Only because I think he's more of a thrower than a pitcher, and he doesn't have a secondary pitch. He has that rolling curveball, and I think that's a very hittable pitch. I didn't see a breaking ball that I think big league hitters would swing and miss."

On Jason Bergmann: "I think Bergmann is a guy who's going to be a pretty good one, and I don't understand why they keep playing around with him. He is, for me, he would be a fourth or fifth starter in my rotation. And if you put him in that slot, he'll do well. He'll win you 10-12 games per game. He's going to give you 200+ innings a year."

On John Lannan: "I wouldn't put him above a No. 3, not yet. But he's a smart guy. He saves his pitches to get through the lineup the second time around. I'm still saying down the road, if I'm looking down the road, I'm seeing a guy that is probably gonna be my No. 3 starter. If I'm trying to win. If I'm just trying to compete, he could be in that No. 2 area. He'll be a guy who's in that 10-12 area in terms of wins."

On Cory VanAllen: "He's strong, but I don't see a guy - he's all power for me."

On Garrett Mock: "Just a solid organizational arm. Might spend some years just bouncing from MLB to Class AAA.... He throws it on a flat plane where hitters really, you know, hit the ball hard off of him. When you look at Mock, the one thing you like about him - he has four pitches that he can throw. That's the one thing helping him. But I didn't see one pitch that could project him to be a consistent starter at the ML level."

On Tyler Clippard: "If I was to write a report on Clippard, I'd say his fastball doesn't have much life on it. He'll have to work backwards in the count to be effective."

On Adrian Alaniz: "He's a back-of-the-rotation guy at best. At best."

On paying above-slot bonus money (Note, this was from an interview before the Hood signing): "I think they have a potential problem, and the problem is, over the last couple of years they've passed out a lot of money in the draft. Now they're toeing the line a little but, and that doesn't work so well -- not if you're telling that to my son, and it's real easy to look what you've done in the past. The key is, with these signings, staying consistent. At this point, they're having a problem. It's not a problem if they sign them all in August, but if you continue to go past what is recommended, you're still causing problems. Sometimes you're better off walking away from a kid to prove a point. Because probably these agents are thinking, well, Washington will cave in again."

By Chico Harlan  |  July 18, 2008; 6:47 AM ET
 
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Next: Pena Down, Estrada Up

Comments

Wow Bergmann... "He'll win you 10-12 games per game."

That would be nice...

Posted by: natsinthevalley | July 18, 2008 7:01 AM | Report abuse

Most teams tend to overvalue the players they have -- it's a built-in bias --"

And most opposing scouts tend to undervalue. If not whay don't they have them.

Posted by: just sayin | July 18, 2008 7:26 AM

from Chico's article

"I wonder why they don't have that one guy in the organization who can come in and strike fear into major league hitters."

How many teams do? to the anonymous scout "do you?"

Posted by: everyone is an expert | July 18, 2008 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Was just reading about wmp surgery - why is it that with all of the excellent doctors and medical facilities in this area we need a doctor that is with the reds organization??? The gm, a lot of has-been players and doctors, too?? Do we not have our own "people"? Just sayin - this is not some podunk rural area - some of the premiere medical folks are around here... I think we need an ortho guy following the team around and sitting in the dugout at this point.

Posted by: masnstinks | July 18, 2008 8:34 AM | Report abuse

hey chico, good article. got me excited, then tempered my enthusiasm and finished me up in the middle. doesn't make for great sex, but good model for an article.

Posted by: longterm | July 18, 2008 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the info on the minor leaguers, Chico. Will we also be seeing a mid-season piece on the Nats as was done for the O's on Thursday (and as was projected to appear on Friday per your chat earlier this week)?

----------

Silver Spring, Md.: Does the Post plan to publish an article on the Nationals first half season and a look ahead to the second half? I realize that the team's first half was pathetic and the second half will likely be bleak. But I noticed that the Baltimore Sun has a big article today about the O's second half chances and grades on the first half. A detailed look at the direction of this team seems to be in order.

Chico Harlan: Friday.

Whatever you see in the paper, it'll probably be one-third the length I want it to be. I'll funnel some other content toward the blog, though.

Posted by: natsfan1a | July 18, 2008 8:44 AM | Report abuse

"fellas"? last i checked, several women are regular readers and posters here...

Posted by: hmmmmm | July 18, 2008 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Outstanding reportage, Chico! I hope you had some well-deserved time off during the all-star break but it does not appear so from your production. When talking to a scout, my impression is that you are talking to an under-paid over-worked person who spends their time on the road and would have to work hard to curb the cynicism that comes from being poor, tired and grumpy. The assessments may be a trifle negative. I'd like to see a an article on the life of a scout. If the Post won't give you the inches, do it as an entry for Steinberg or Applebaum-it will increase their hits and educate them about baseball.

Posted by: flynnie | July 18, 2008 9:03 AM | Report abuse

On paying above-slot bonus money (Note, this was from an interview before the Hood signing): "I think they have a potential problem, and the problem is, over the last couple of years they've passed out a lot of money in the draft. Now they're toeing the line a little but, and that doesn't work so well -- not if you're telling that to my son, and it's real easy to look what you've done in the past. The key is, with these signings, staying consistent. At this point, they're having a problem. It's not a problem if they sign them all in August, but if you continue to go past what is recommended, you're still causing problems. Sometimes you're better off walking away from a kid to prove a point. Because probably these agents are thinking, well, Washington will cave in again."

Baseball scouts are worse than politicians. Of course they want Washington to be a slot team . . . more goodies for their organizations.

halfway to a 100 loss season is not the time to be proving a point to agents. Those guys aren't stupid, they know Washington has cash to spend and needs young players. Suck it up Mark and Teddy and pay that man his money.

Posted by: Gal Revels in Pee | July 18, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Baseball Prospectus recently reviewed the performance of our top prospects and was not, in the main, complimentary:


Not Going Well: Some interesting drafts and a commitment to rebuilding had the Nationals system looking like it was on the way up before the season began, but with the disappointing results they've been getting this year, they've hit a major bump in the road. Here's a look at how the organization's Top 11 Prospects are doing, and for the most part, the news is not good:

Chris Marrero, 1B: He's coming on strong of late, but that's only got him up to .250/.325/.453 at High-A, and scouts are concerned about his conditioning. Now out for the year after breaking his fibula on a slide.

Ross Detwiler, LHP: He's put up a massively disappointing 5.42 ERA at High-A, and there's a mystery as to why. On a stuff level, he's nowhere close to last year's showing in college.

Michael Burgess, OF: A .528 slugging percentage and 18 home runs is very impressive for a full-season debut, but 112 strikeouts in 324 at-bats is a huge red flag.

Josh Smoker, LHP: Held back in extended spring training, Smoker had an 11.50 ERA in five Sally League starts; he's been sent back to Rookie-ball to regroup.

Justin Maxwell, OF: He draws tons of walks and has great power, but poor overall hitting at Double-A has him at .233/.367/.459; he's currently out with a wrist injury.

Jake McGeary, LHP: Given $1.8 million despite the fact that he'll spend the next three springs at Stanford, he's been rusty in the Gulf Coast League, with a 5.18 ERA in five starts.

Collin Balester, RHP: His stock is neither up nor down; he still looks like a solid back-end starter, and has pitched like one in both the minors and majors.

Jordan Zimmerman, RHP: Last year's second-round pick lacked the profile of Detwiler, but he's already in Double-A (and succeeding), and has passed the first-rounder in many teams' rankings.

Josh Smolinski, OF: He's been surprisingly solid at second base, but his production at the plate in Low-A has been surprisingly unimpressive (.261/.338/.402).

Colton Willems, RHP: His excellent arm strength has delivered solid results at Low-A (3.59 ERA), but he has yet to figure out how to miss bats, with just 48 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings.

Adam Carr, RHP: This power reliever has simply failed to repeat last year's breakout by putting up a 4.71 mark across two levels; he has looked better since returning to Double-A.

Posted by: Lindemann | July 18, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Ryan "The Face" Zimmerman is now 4 for 13 in his 3 games of rehab (.308, though that is almost a meaningless average). That's 3 for 10 with two doubles for Potomac and 1 for 3 with an RBI double in his one game at Columbus. Good news. I would guess they must be telling him to swing at everything, because he has two strike outs and no walks, but four of his three hits are doubles.

The statistics suggest the shoulder is feeling pretty good. What does Zimm say, Chico?

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | July 18, 2008 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Missed by BPro ... Smolinski has been out since early June with a broken thumb. His return is likely mid-August at the earliest

Posted by: Brian | July 18, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Chico, that was one of my favorite articles of yours so far. I was wondering what took you so long after seeing Zimmermann, but that's okay now.

Also, on McGeary - He has 19 K's and 5 BB's. That's a slightly lower ratio than Zimmermann's last year. I'm not worried about McGeary at all yet.

Posted by: BF | July 18, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I have 3 questions for Chico or anyone who wants to chime in:

1. Are the "anonymous" scouts part of the Nats' organization?

2. Every pitcher is viewed as "middle of the rotation" or "back of the rotation" guy. Do we have a legit 1 or 2 starter, or is that going to come in free agency?

3. What are scouts saying about Balester?

Thanks!

Posted by: brg | July 18, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Chico - Nice article. This is the type of reporting that adds to our understanding of the big picture of the organization as it establishes itself.

As for the comments about Van Allen - his K/BB ratio is better (3:1) than Zimmermann's at the AA level and his K/9 (7) is the same. I wonder if that really is just a just a thrower? OTOH, it's less than 27 innings, so can't make too much of the stats, either.

Anyone know anything about Craig Stammen? He's the only AA pitcher with a WHIP < 1.00, a comparable K/9 to Van Allen and Zimmermann, and a lower BB/9 than JZ.

Posted by: PTBNL | July 18, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

i, too, have been wondering why the nats send all of their orthopaedic surgery patients to cincinnati ? jinbow may be more familiar with the work of dr. kremchek, but it makes me uncomfortable that the nats' surgical patients are in the hands of another team's doctor. it's not like nats players are being sent to unaffilated surgeons like dr. andrews in birmingham. maybe it's another way for the lerners to save money.

Posted by: natsscribe | July 18, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and another Heyman article, another jab at Bowden.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/jon_heyman/07/17/friday/1.html

I'm not an all-out Bowden SUPPORTER, but a team decimated by injuries while rebuilding is susceptible to being in last place. And going after their GM is just too easy without any investigation into why they're in last place.

I like Heyman's articles about actual baseball, but when he goes out and attacks VORPies or our GM, it's just lame.

Posted by: VORPy | July 18, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I do believe that the scouts reports are slightly biased however there are still grains of truth to the opinions. look at the facts, as "Lindemann" has just posted, our top 11 draft choices have not met expectations - at the moment, especially with all of the pitchers we've stocked up on. They may bloom in time, but will the futures of the organization be ready for 2010 or 2011- who knows?

All of this clearly emphasizes the need that the organization go out and purchase an established, successful free agent pitcher this offseason- not someone who has had a mediocre career as a #4 or 5 starter (Odalis Perez/Ramon Ortiz).

These two guys are great examples. Don't get me wrong, they have both pitched fairly well in their stints being here and the organization brought both of them in almost last minute to merely fill a spot in the rotation, however the time is now to get a quality guy. We have the money and this could be a good time to do it if we plan to make a run of this thang in 2010/2011 and give him a 3-4 year contract.

C.C. Sabathia, Pedro, Livan (again), Colon, Garland??? The list is long...

Posted by: mharman | July 18, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

2. Every pitcher is viewed as "middle of the rotation" or "back of the rotation" guy. Do we have a legit 1 or 2 starter, or is that going to come in free agency?
Posted by: brg | July 18, 2008 9:43 AM
*********************************************
No, there is not a projected number 1 starter in the minors right now. Crow? Everything I've read puts him at our number 2..... maybe.
Brian can add more. And, please, if you don't make it a habit of hitting Brian's site, you're missing out.
http://www.farmauthority.dcsportsnet.com/

Posted by: Section 138 | July 18, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I went to the Clippers game last night and Zimmerman was swinging at pretty much everything. After the first three Clips reached on walks, Zimm swung at an eye-high fastball and sent a lazy fly to center. His second AB was the rbi double, which he ripped into the leftfield corner. Third AB was a chopper to 2nd on the first pitch.

He looked pretty smooth at third and made a nice diving grab on a liner.

The worst part of the night was that 75% of the fans had no idea who he was.

Columbus Clippers ring your bell...

Posted by: Jason | July 18, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

It's kind of silly to clown us for not having an ace in our system. When there's only a handful of minor league systems that do. Shoot theres only a handful of ML teams that do. Love the reports on Zimmermann, Lannan and Bergman atleast we got something to work with :-).

Detwiller that was to be expected He's struggling this year. Mock and Clippard also expected to hear that. Balester is only 21 and so is Martis I don't think you can limit either of thems potential yet! McGeary, Smoker, Demny, Dean, Willems, Nunez, etc.... are a numeber of other pitchers to watch out for in our system.

Once Crow signs we will have a high impact arm in our system and if our season continues to tank! Strasburg will be that ace in our system! What will the scouts say then.

Posted by: Marcus | July 18, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

My grammar is taking today off, apparently. Can't say I blame it.

Posted by: Section 138 | July 18, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

huh?? how can you put livan in a list with those guys? he's pretty much the kind of guy you just said you didn't want (at this point in his career). he's a #4-5 guy at best. the only reason he's still starting in minnesota is that they don't want to bring up liriano yet to avoid his arbitration clock (prompting liriano and his agent to file a grievance).

i don't think the list is as long as you think. especially if you're talking about a 3-4 year contract. sabathia is looking for 6-7 years. pedro and colon are guys that are on the downsides of their careers and are significant health risks and neither is probably more than a #3 on a decent staff (colon maybe nothing more than a 4-5).

garland would be interesting.

here's a list of who will/could be available that i think could be interesting at SP (from this full list: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2007/12/2009-mlb-free-a.html).

A.J. Burnett (32)- can opt out after '08 season
Chad Durbin (31)
Jon Garland (29)
Mark Prior (27)
C.C. Sabathia (28)
Ben Sheets (30)
Randy Wolf (32)

sabathia and sheets will be very expensive. both will want long-term (5-7 year) deals. but the guys after them could be very interesting. durbin is pitching well this year. garland will be the most expensive of that next tier (he's making $12m this year). burnett is inconsistent. wolf tends to fade in the 2nd half. would prior be worth the risk? especially considering our history with patterson and hill?

Posted by: 231 | July 18, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

My take is that Zimmermann and Crow (assuming he signs) are the only guys with ceilings as #2 starters in the organization. They have a good number of guys with a ceiling as a middle of the rotation SP. But that is a good thing.

Posted by: Brian | July 18, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

was thinking of going to the p-nats game tonight, but am running into some time issues... does anyone know how long the games usually run? at first I assumed it would be the same (7:00-10:00), but then I started thinking about the lack of commercial breaks, etc, so... can anyone shed some light on this? what time do 7:00 p-nats games routinely end?

Posted by: Matt | July 18, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

The Nats did not have that kind of depth when they arrived in DC in 2005. They had a whole lot of #5/spot starters trying to be middle of the rotation guys. Ideally, the Nationals will find (or develop) a #1 SP, but it's going to take time. This rebuilding effort is a marathon and two years is only a drop in the bucket. They don't have the pieces to trade and rebuild like the Rangers and A's have, so they have rely on maximizing their returns on the draft, scour the international market, and most importantly have the player development framework in place to churn out players.

Posted by: Brian | July 18, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Prior? Why not, he'll fit in real well with the guys. Will jump right into the carpool group to the orthopedic once a week.

Posted by: Section 138 | July 18, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Brian's outlook - true #1SP's are hard to find/develop. In the interim, there are probably more than a few teams that would like the prospect of a rotation with three #2's, a 2-3 and a 4-5 grade SP.

Posted by: BIM | July 18, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Okay, okay.

So...

1) How many Projected No. 1 starters are there in the minor leagues right now? Who are they?

2) How many major league teams actually have No. 1 starters?

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | July 18, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

How many #1 starters are there in the NL East? Johan, Hudson, probably Hamels, anyone else? Smoltz is hurt, Pedro is no longer one, . . .

Posted by: PTBNL | July 18, 2008 10:53 AM | Report abuse

1) R. Porcello, C. Kershaw, and D. Price are the only 3 that come to mind.

2) Not many

Posted by: Marcus | July 18, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Off the top of my head ... #1 SPs in the minors: Clayton Kershaw (LAD), David Price (TB), and maybe Rick Porcello (DET). There are some other borderline guys.

Posted by: Brian | July 18, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

a shot at a list of "true #1s" in MLB. and some of these guys have issues (mostly injury history).

Tim Lincecum (maybe still potential instead of actual)
Jake Peavy
Roy Halladay
Dan Haren
Carlos Zambrano
Ben Sheets
Felix Hernandez (still "potential?")
Johan Santana
Cole Hamels (??)
Brandon Webb
CC Sabathia
Roy Oswalt (does this season move him off the list?)

possible i missed someone. i just looked at pitching stats on ESPN and scrolled through the list and grabbed people.

Posted by: 231 | July 18, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I can't comment on the number of #1 starters in the minors (realistically, neither can anyone else, scouts included). There are NEVER, at any time more than 10 - 12 true #1 starters in the Majors at any one time.

BTW, if you actually believe what various scouts, working for other teams, tell you, I have some land in Florida to sell you and it may actually be dry a few days a year.

Posted by: Catcher50 | July 18, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

"There's a little stuff on the young major leaguers, like Bergmann, Balester and Lannan, mixed in."

I don't see anything on Balester in this post. I guess it's in the paper? ("best pitcher by far" - no higher than #3)

Anyway, based on these scouts' quotes, it looks like we have a potential rotation (in order) in a couple years of:

1) FA/Zimmermann?/Crow?
2) Lannan/Zim/Crow
3) Balester
4) Bergmann
5) TBD (Redding? Mock? Clippard? Detwiler? Willems? someone from 1-4 who drops?)

The fact that multiple guys could fill in these slots excites me. That means there's room for a few to not pan out, and we are only really one, two at most, free agent arms away from a contending rotation (for, say, 2010).

Posted by: Scott in Shaw | July 18, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

@231: Pretty good "off the top" list. The names can change from year-to-year, but the point I was after is that they are few & far between. A lot of the blogsquack regarding "we need to go out & spend the $$$ on a top-line starter" could be diffused by seeing a solid, 5-man rotation at the ML level. I think we're close to that now.

Posted by: BIM | July 18, 2008 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Is it entirely necessary to have a projected ace in the minors? To me, the value of having a core of solid middle-of-the-rotation guys is being undervalued here.

When a middle market team like Oakland or Minnesota reaches the point where they can't hang on to a Harren or Santana, the value of the minor league system will finally allow the Nationals to be players in the trade market.

Posted by: John in Mpls | July 18, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

@JiM: Exactly!

Posted by: BIM | July 18, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

why is it that with all of the excellent doctors and medical facilities in this area we need a doctor that is with the reds organization??? The gm, a lot of has-been players and doctors, too?? Do we not have our own "people"? Just sayin - this is not some podunk rural area - some of the premiere medical folks are around here... I think we need an ortho guy following the team around and sitting in the dugout at this point.

Posted by: masnstinks | July 18, 2008 8:34 AM
------------------------------------------

What makes you think the DC area has lots of excellent doctors and hospitals? It doesn't. If you go up the road to Hopkins, you'll run into some great doctors in certain specialties that are important to the general population. But, sports medicine? Sorry. This area is a vast wasteland. Like the pizza or the bagels, or Mexican food here. You can find some that's edible, but it isn't the real experience. Maybe, some day, GU or GW will develop world-class medicine programs and top doctors will stay here, but we're not there now.

Posted by: Fisch Fry | July 18, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Chico,
Since you've done it twice ... fellas?

fella (n.Informal)-A man or boy; a fellow.

What about the gender-neutral, folks?

folks (n.)-People in general: Folks say there wasn't much rain last summer.

I'm not a throwback women's libber or anything, but I assume you don't want us to call you Chica.

Nice story today.


Posted by: dcbatgirl | July 18, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

i think you want as many potential #2-4 guys as you can have. one of them could blossom and turn into a #1 (or a poor man's version). if they slip a little, they're a #5. but plenty of teams struggle from 3-5, even good teams. and look at the hauls oakland has been pulling in off of #2-4 guys for years. yes, some have been number 1s. i put haren in that list (borderline). mulder wasn't. hudson was borderline too. blanton isn't an ace. but he's pulled in good hauls on all of them. look at what bedard got for the Os.

interesting to look through the As rotations over the past 5 years.

2002: hudson/mulder/zito/lidle/harang (i forgot about harang)
2003: hudson/mulder/zito/lilly/harden
2004: hudson/harden/mulder/zito/redman
2005: blanton/haren/zito/harden/saarloos
2006: zito/haren/blanton/saarloos/loaiza
2007: haren/blanton/gaudin/kennedy/braden
2008: duchsherer/harden/smith/eveland/blanton/(TBA)

lots of change starting in 2005. but it's interesting how well beane can shuffle off top SPs and turn them into other top SPs. the guy is just really a great GM. his fans get all pissed at first, then back off when they find out how good the guys he traded for really are. i have some friends who are As fans who've been complaining all season about all the guys getting traded, but they're still in the race after trading top guys.

Posted by: 231 | July 18, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Philadelphia Phillies - Acquired P Joe Blanton from the Oakland A's for 2B Adrian Cardenas, P Josh Outman, and OF Matt Spencer. This is a lot for a fly-ball pitcher in that tiny home park in the city of brotherly love.

Cardenas batted .309 with six triples and 16 stolen bases in 67 games for Single-A Clearwater and ranked seventh in the Florida State League in batting average. Spencer hit .249 with six home runs and 41 RBIs in 84 games with Clearwater in his first full professional season. Outman was 5-4 with a 3.20 ERA and one save in 33 games, including five starts, for Double-A Reading.

Blanton will have adjust to home games in Citizens Bank Park, an unkind place for pitchers. For his career, Blanton had a 3.79 ERA in 24 starts at Oakland's McAfee Coliseum, with its expansive foul territory, and a 4.78 ERA in 23 road starts.

Posted by: flynnie | July 18, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

For the record, here's what the scouts said about this Harlan fellow before he was called up from AAA Australia:

"Talented. The kid writes a mean gamer, and has plus snark. But he has a tendancy to get a bit food-heavy in his blogging, and I just don't see him having the ability to step back and write that big, off-day, long-view feature you'd expect from a big league beat writer.

Also, his byline leaves something to be desired; I'm not keen on the consonant-to-vowel ratio of his last name."

So, you know, the scouts aren't always right. Great story by the rookie today - by far the best of his tenure.

Posted by: John in Mpls | July 18, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

On the farm system -- the only obvious strength seems at catcher. Outfielders have some potential. If we get a first baseman and a middle infielder out of the current crop, we're going to have a pretty darn good lineup in years to come -- with only one or two holes to fill from outside.

The pitchers -- McGeary is getting his degree, so he's four years away at best anyway -- and more likely five, possibly even six years away. Willems has potential. Van Allen is being sold short by these scouts...and there's no mention of Zimmerman. If the trio of Smoker, Crow and Detwiler can produce one or two major league starters in three or four years, the Nats will be dealing from a position of considerable strength.

Now, if only we can find some major league quality relievers.

Posted by: Fisch Fry | July 18, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

To Matt who asked about time of P-Nats games: this is a very small sample, as I've been to two, but they were interminable because it took the pitchers a long time to get outs. I'd budget on a regular baseball game, about 3 hours+.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

To Matt (wanting to head to Potomac this evening):
The games tend to last a bit less than three hours. The last game I went to finished up about 9:40 or so, but it was also a weekend game with a promotional theme (which appeared to extend the time between innings).
Also, if you sit on the first base side BRING SUNGLASSES. The sun sets right over the left field wall and it is pretty brutal for the first few innings.
Hope this helps...

Posted by: TimDz | July 18, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

When Chico says fellas he's not being sexist he's just from Pittsburgh.

From the Urban Dictionary:
fellas; your friends or people that you like. People you are often with and treat as close people to you.

Feel the love! Chico will ask yinz to redd up yer rooms and go dahntahn for a sammich.

Posted by: flynnie | July 18, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Chico,

Generally, a good article, but I would suggest that you be a little more critical of the anonymous scouts . . . These are the same genuises that predicted the Nats would lose 130 games last season. Further, they have their own agenda. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle, but did it occur to you that last year at this time the Nats' farm system was 40 games under .500, but this year it is 40 games over .500 (second-best in MLB). Any scout who dismisses the progress is either an idiot or has an agenda. You should be adroit enough to seee that and call them on it.

Posted by: C'ville Nat | July 18, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Forgot to add my tip of the hat to Chico. It's a good story today, I like it.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | July 18, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

C-ville Nat - How's that 100+ loss prediction looking now? I've was given luxurious season tickets yesterday by sth's who could stand it no longer. They just don't want to go and put an extra $100 (a sandwich a few beers and you're there for 2 people) in the Lerner's pockets for a modest amount of concessions to look at what is happening on the field.

Posted by: flynnie | July 18, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

don't write of detwiler quite yet.

baseball america compares destin hood to milledge. stud athelete, wait and see. honestly dan snyder should just hire bowden. win-win.

Posted by: longterm | July 18, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

don't "write off" detwiler. still too early.

Posted by: longterm | July 18, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

A MAJOR IMPROVEMENT AVAILABLE NOW! The Nats could have Bob Sheppard of Yankee Stadium fame announce their lineups - forever! A major improvement on Principal Skinner!

Will New York Yankees Use Announcer Bob Sheppard Forever?
Posted By:Darren Rovell
CNBC
Due to the state of text-to-speech technology, Sheppard's voice could be the voice of the starting lineups for the next 50 years, if the Yankees choose to go that route.

Patrick Dexter, director of business development for Cepstral a leader in text-to-speech technology, told CNBC that it would be possible for the company to create a program that would enable the Yankees to have every player - the Yankees and their opponents - be announced by Sheppard's voice forever.

"Doing names and numbers is easier than creating what they call a full domain voice, which is voicing full sentences," Dexter said. "But if we had some time and money - and the Yankees certainly might have that bankroll--we could do this."

...If there's a rookie who comes up for the Yankees in 2017 and the Sheppard program doesn't immediately pronounce it right, Dexter said a technician could do a couple things to make sure the Sheppard voice program recognizes it correctly. One solution is to write everything phonetically. So if Jorge comes out George, it could be typed in as Horhay.

Posted by: flynnie | July 18, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Flynnie,

The 130 loss prediction is not looking good. My point stands.

Posted by: C'ville Nat | July 18, 2008 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Flynnie, that is pretty funny about using Sheppard forever. You know, he has not been able to work as the Yankee Stadium PA announcer so far this season, but he has said that he wants and intends to return if his health permits. His fill-in, Jim Hall, sounds almost exactly like him, but it is not the same thing.

In one respect, the Yankees are already there in using Sheppard forever. Derek Jeter has requested that a recording of Sheppard introducing him be used for the rest of Jeter's career as a Yankee. That's what they are using to introduce Jeter this season, instead of having Hall make a live announcement.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | July 18, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Now, if only we can find some major league quality relievers.

Posted by: Fisch Fry | July 18, 2008 11:29 AM

TINSAAPP -- learn it, live it know it.

There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect

I wonder if one of those scouts would let us take a peek at his write up of Johan Santana . . . the one that led to Santana being left off the 40 man roster and picked up via the Rule 5 draft.

It's not the top tier quality but quantity. The most likely outcome for all of these pitching prospects is THEY NEVER HAVE ANY NOTABLE MAJOR LEAGUE SUCCESS. So what do you tell your bosses?

Ahhhh this guy is a #3/#4 starter at best. This way if he bombs, you look smart by not overselling and if he succeeds then well you said he'd be a major league pitcher. And you get to keep your job. Classic CYA.

And to answer the question posted above . . . you get relievers from all the failed starters.

Posted by: Gal Revels in Pee | July 18, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

More truth from Chico, the beat reporter. Why doesn't the so-called columnist (Boswell) write this type of stuff?

Congrats to Chico for telling it like it is.

Posted by: ohplease | July 18, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

"7/18/08 Placed OF Wily Mo Pena on the 15-day disabled list; Reinstated C Johnny Estrada from the 15-day disabled list."

Gotta love a roster that has four catchers and three outfielders.

Posted by: joebleux | July 18, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure I understand what the scouts, and the folks (fellas) here, mean by a #1 starter, versus a #2, etc. From the comments here, it sounds like people are using the term #1 starter to mean a superstar, someone who is so good that there are fewer #1's than teams. Yet I remember early in spring training, there were questions about whether Patterson or Hill would be our #1 pitcher. Clearly they weren't superstars, even when healthy.

So when these scouts say that someone is only a #2 starter at best do they mean he's never going to be a superstar, an all star, an ace, or even a reliable stopper? Or do they mean that no team would be satisfied if this pitcher were to end up at the top of the rotation.

Put another way, has 1-5 just become a rating system for how good a major league pitcher is (and 1 is reserved only for the best of the best) or does it reflect the realities of major league pitching quality in which not every team is going to have Brandon Webb or Dan Heren at the top of the rotation (and some will have two, that's another wrinkle ...).

Clearly, not every team is going to have an all star pitcher (unless after this year's game they decide to massively expand the pitching rosters just in case...) But should that really be the test for whether someone has the potential to be a #1 starter? Maybe this is just semantics and everyone knows what the answer is. If so, I'm sure you'll tell me.

Posted by: Section 222 | July 18, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Actually, you summed it up pretty well 222.

Scouts use "No. 1 Starter" etc. as the starter on a hypothetical championship team.

GMs, on the other hand, have to make a decision at spring training of who is going to fill the first slot and so on down the line. It's important because the top of your rotation will have more opportunities to pitch than the bottom of the rotation (by, like, an incremental amount).

Thus, every team has a number one starter, but not every team has a number one starter.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | July 18, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

222,

There is a HUGE difference between "a" number 1 (Webb/Sheets, and "our" number 1 (Patterson/Hill).

When people say he projects as a number 1, they're talking about the top of the line, cream of the crop starters, which are far and few between.

Posted by: Section 138 | July 18, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

A "True" #1 starter (in my mind) is an ace - 25-30 starts with 20 quality starts, 220+ip, a WHIP of less than 1.30, ERA of less than 3.20. A #2 SP would have 25-30 starts, 15-20 quality starts, 200+ip, a WHIP of less than 1.5 & an ERA of less than 3.50...
Meanwhile, every team fields a five-man starting staff, but your best pitcher (staff #1) might only grade out as a #2-#3 in quality scale.

Posted by: BIM | July 18, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Flynnie - If it hasn't been said before, Outman is a much better name for a pitcher than Balfour.

Posted by: PTBNL | July 18, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

BIM: i believe NL League average WHIP for full-time starters is around 1.350, so if your #1 is around 1.30 and your #2 is hovering at 1.50 you've got trouble, unless you have a line-up like the Phillies.

Posted by: Dave at Bottomfeeder Baseball | July 18, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

BIM summed it up correctly, as I understand it. That is why I always use the term "True #1".

BTW, my criteria is that, if a pitcher can reach his max level of effectiveness and maintain it for 5 - 10 years he will either be elected to the HOF or have a cadre of people continually urging his election (i.e. Burt Blyleven), then he is a true #1.

Posted by: Catcher50 | July 18, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, my criteria are:

Posted by: Catcher50 | July 18, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

DaBB: You're probably right - I was just firing numbers off the top of my head.

Posted by: BIM | July 18, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to out my various responses all in here:

1. Joe Blanton is not a flyball pitcher. For his career, he has a 1.3:1 GB/FB ratio.

2. No one is writing off Detwiler for the long term. Perhaps, those that thought he'd contribute this season need to revisit those expectations. I still think he'll be part of the Nats future, but he'll do it on a more traditional path through the minors.

3. TINSTAAPP - Learn it. Live it.

4. Livan? I would sign Livan to a 3 week contract - let alone a 3 year contract. I understand the desire to get a top of the rotation, innings eater. That was Livan 4-5 years ago. Now, he's got a 5.44 ERA, and has allowed 173 hits in 120.666 innings. And, he's allowing only 6 innings per start. So, he no longer eats innings. And he's probably not 33.

5. I think CC would be the pitcher we're looking for. But his price tag going to be north of 5 years and $100M. Which is way too much for the Lerners to stomach. Plus, why would he come here to be 10-17, with a 3.05 ERA and absolutely no run support?

Posted by: Sec 114, Row E | July 18, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

additional comment about livo... he was decent early (april/may), but his june/july ERAs are 6something and 7something, respectively. this is a bad trend. he's also been significantly better in the "baggie-dome" than on the road.

Posted by: 231 | July 18, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Look, Detwiler was clearly overrated and he apparently overwhelmed inferior competition in college. I'll go ahead and hold out hope with the rest of you, but let's be clear: he's a college arm getting his jewels kicked in at A+ ball.

I don't care what an unnamed scout's agenda may be, but when he's throwing around things like he's "broken" and that his stuff isn't what it once was, I get concerned. Just have to hope that "good arm" finds itself again, one way or another.

Posted by: Carl Williams | July 18, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

i think if we wanted a player at sabathia's level in DC as our first big FA signing, we should go for a position player for that kind of money. the long-term risk on position players is *much* lower than on pitchers. and since we'll probably have to pull a detroit and overpay, let's overpay for a slightly lower risk than a 6 yr contract on an SP north of 30.

Posted by: 231 | July 18, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't the so-called columnist (Boswell) write this type of stuff?

Congrats to Chico for telling it like it is.

Posted by: ohplease | July 18, 2008 12:29 PM
---------------------------------------------

He's too busy trumpeting amazing, penetrating insights like the one positing that the teams which have the greatest run differentials also have the best won-loss records...

Posted by: ........................ | July 18, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

additional comment about livo... he was decent early (april/may), but his june/july ERAs are 6something and 7something, respectively. this is a bad trend. he's also been significantly better in the "baggie-dome" than on the road.

Posted by: 231 | July 18, 2008 1:46 PM
---------------------------------------------

True, but he humiliated our "hitters" when we visited the Dome.

Posted by: Livo lives | July 18, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse


additional comment about livo... he was decent early (april/may), but his june/july ERAs are 6something and 7something, respectively. this is a bad trend. he's also been significantly better in the "baggie-dome" than on the road.

Posted by: 231 | July 18, 2008 1:46 PM
---------------------------------------------

True, but he humiliated our "hitters" when we visited the Dome.

Posted by: Livo lives | July 18, 2008 1:51 PM

---------------------------------------------

If we brought in every pitcher who has snuffed our hitters we'd have 30+ arms...

Posted by: ...i'm just sayin' | July 18, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

oh so true, "i'm just sayin'". shutting down the nats today is not exactly the best barometer for top pitching.

Posted by: 231 | July 18, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Carl Williams speaks the truth about Detwiler ;-)

Hey Chico, was there anyone from the Nats at President Bush's baseball dinner Wednesday night? According to the NY Post there were 250 people there.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | July 18, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

C'ville Nat said: "...did it occur to you that last year at this time the Nats' farm system was 40 games under .500, but this year it is 40 games over .500 (second-best in MLB). Any scout who dismisses the progress is either an idiot or has an agenda. You should be adroit enough to see that and call them on it."
__________________________________________

Winning percentage is an awful way to evaluate a farm system. These aren't judgments of how well these players are doing now, these are judgments and projections on the success these players will have at the major league level. If a player has the tools of a major leaguer you actually want him to struggle to an extent, you want to see how he reacts to an opposing team adjusting to him. And if he's doing too well, he needs to be promoted to see if that success will translate to the next tier.

These "biased" scouts basically agree with what the BP people say who were actually pretty excited by the possibilities in the lower minors last year and the beginning of this year. Almost across the board (sans Zimmermann) the upper tier talent in the Nationals organization has actually regressed from last year. Injuries are to blame to an extent, but these players were struggling before the injuries sidelined them.

The biggest concern I think the Nationals have is in their medical/training staff. I've never seen so many injuries misdiagnosed or completely missed throughout the entire organization.

Posted by: NOVA Giants Fan | July 18, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Just wanted to point something out to everyone out there in the Natosphere.

The espn standings (according to coolstandings.com) has listed The Nationals chances of...

"% chance of winning the Division, % chance of winning the Wild Card, and % chance of making the Playoffs"

as 0.1%, 0%, 0.1% respectively

So, for the second half of the season we now know there is ZERO chance of a wild card spot, but a chance to win the division :) ?

"...So you're telling me there's a chance?"

Posted by: NYC Nats Fan | July 18, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

What's with the "fellas" greeting? Makes me feel very unwelcome... maybe not such a good idea to make this assumption about your (for the moment) loyal readers.

Posted by: Female reader | July 18, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

0.1% = 0.001 which is pretty damn close to ZERO.

Posted by: 756* | July 18, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Answer to Wild Card question:
For the Nats to win the division they would need to jump ahead of the Phillies, Marlins, Mets, and Braves. Very Unlikely.

For them to win the Wild Card the Nationals would need to jump ahead of Dodgers, Giants, Rockies, Padres, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Astros, Pirates, Braves, Phillies, and Marlins. Impossible.

Posted by: NOVA Giants Fan | July 18, 2008 2:52 PM | Report abuse

if most our minor leaguers are so-so then i'm not surprised that the experts picked the wrong top 10. a lot of our guys are playing better than expected. they just weren't in the first page of the rankings.

it's gonna happen every year where someone falls off the table. we improved depth first and foremost and that is what is reflected in the records of the farm system. it'll settle itself out eventually. major league careers are on the way!

Posted by: longterm | July 18, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I know the math behind it, I was just laying it out there as something light-hearted on this friday afternoon.

Posted by: NYC Nats Fan | July 18, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

True, but he humiliated our "hitters" when we visited the Dome.

Posted by: Livo lives | July 18, 2008 1:51 PM

Can we bury the Livan! love once and for all . . . from Aaron Gleeman.com: (caution NSFW)

Livan Hernandez: 5.44 ERA with 45 strikeouts and 23 walks in 120.2 innings

Livan Hernandez was signed in large part because the Twins were worried about going with a rotation consisting entirely of young arms, but he's been one of the league's worst pitchers while 26-and-under starters Baker, Blackburn, Slowey, and Perkins have each found plenty of success. Prior to joining the Twins his ERA, WHIP, OPS against, and strikeout rate had all gotten worse in four straight seasons, so it should come as no surprise that Hernandez's steady decline is now in its fifth straight year.

Receiving the sixth-best run support in the AL has enabled Hernandez to hide his awful pitching behind a 9-6 record, but among the league's 46 starters who qualify for the ERA title he ranks either dead last or second-to-last in ERA, opponent's AVG, opponent's OBP, opponent's SLG, and opponent's OPS. He also has by far the worst Win Probability Added among AL pitchers at -1.72 and has been especially putrid recently, with a 6.86 ERA and .373 opponent's AVG over his last 11 starts.

Opponents have hit a laughable .342/.368/.506 in 540 plate appearances overall against Hernandez. To put that in some context, consider that Justin Morneau is hitting .323/.391/.512. In other words, he's more or less turned every hitter who's stepped to the plate against him into Morneau. And not only has Hernandez been absolutely awful, he's now keeping an annoyed Liriano from rejoining the rotation despite going 8-0 with a 2.53 ERA and 68-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 10 starts at Triple-A.

Posted by: I come to bury Livan! not to praise him | July 18, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Friends, Romans, irrationally-obsessed Livan fans...

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | July 18, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Great article today, Chico. It's nice to hear some outside assessments of our system.

Posted by: John | July 18, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I wasn't praising Livo. I was burying the Nats' batting order...

Posted by: Livo lives | July 18, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I wasn't praising Livo. I was burying the Nats' batting order...

Posted by: Livo lives | July 18, 2008 3:35 PM

Strictly speaking is it really necessary?

Posted by: Beating a Dead horse | July 18, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

This is why I love the technology age:

http://tinyurl.com/5jfj4a

This is truly the summit of human achievement. Think of all the technology that went into making that.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | July 18, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Like Estrada...I'm up!

Posted by: New Post | July 18, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

On paying above-slot bonus money:

Until the team achieves 'star' status (i.e., a glamour franchise every free agent wants to play for), Nats management MUST continue to pay above-slot money! These signings are the only way the Nats assemble the talent that becomes an elite franchise.

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | July 18, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Rotoworld is reporting that the Nats have reinstated Estrada from the DL. We now have four catchers on the roster.

Posted by: Count Demoney | July 18, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

t Een plaatje zegt alles, toch ? c Het volledige rapport is hier te vinden. Lees natuurlijk l de blogposting. b q
ламинат и паркет 1v

Posted by: ламинат | August 12, 2008 4:48 AM | Report abuse

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