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A Scout's Take on the Desert Dog Nats

You might recall that during my frustrating trip in mid-October, it was difficult to get scouts to discuss players because they hadn't had enough opportunities to see them. I called a scout this week to see if I could get some feedback.

This scout, by the way, works for an AL team and says he is very impressed with the Nats' offseason moves, particularly the promotion of Kris Kline to director of scouting and the hiring of Ron Schueler as special assistant to the GM. He knows both of them and said they are excellent.

Anyway, here's his take on the Baby Nats:

Stephen Strasburg
"I saw his first game, and he threw pretty well. First time I've ever seen him. He threw a fastball-curve-changeup; he didn't throw any sliders. He has a hard curve, 82, 83 miles an hour. I'm told his slider is a lot harder. His command wasn't the greatest, but it was pretty good. His stuff was definitely good, above average-type stuff. It looks like he's going to be pretty good pitcher."


Drew Storen
"He threw very well. He commanded his pitches; he's got two solid average-to-plus pitches. He's a two-pitch guy. He's going to be a set-up guy with a great chance of being there [in the majors] this year. He's very aggressive; he attacked the hitters: 'Here it is, here's my best, I'm coming after you. If you hit it, then you won the battle.'"

Josh Wilkie
"Not overpowering. His fastball is below average. His out pitch is his changeup. He throws it for strikes; for the most part he kept it down in the zone. Lot of swings and misses."

Jeff Mandel
"He was okay. He threw strikes; he's a fastball-slider guy, some sink on his fastball. He attacked the strike zone, I think I saw him a couple innings and he threw strikes, kept the ball down, pitched to contact. He's not going to be a strikeout guy. He's going to get a lot of ground balls. Maybe a middle-type reliever."

Danny Espinosa
"He has a chance to be an everyday starter at shortstop. He's young. I think he's a natural right-handed hitter, maybe someday he gives up hitting from the left. Like his swing better from the right. Plus arm, hands are pretty good, pretty good runner, good range, good actions at shortstop. At the worst, he's going to be a utility guy."

Chris Marrero
"He's got really good raw power. He's a dead pull type hitter, and for me needs to learn how to make adjustments on the pitch away and use the whole field. He's got what I like to call the ESPN mentality: 'I've got to hit it a long way to be on TV.' He's athletic enough where I think he's going to be average around the base, definitely got enough arm strength. He's not anywhere near a speed demon running. It just depends what happens with the bat, if he learns how to make adjustments."

By Tracee Hamilton  |  November 6, 2009; 8:57 AM ET
 
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Comments

Tracee, thanks very much for the update, particularly the inside information. It's gotten frustrating at times waiting for new news about the Nats.

Posted by: greggwiggins | November 6, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Chris Marrero
"He's got really good raw power. He's a dead pull type hitter, and for me needs to learn how to make adjustments on the pitch away and use the whole field. He's got what I like to call the ESPN mentality: 'I've got to hit it a long way to be on TV.' He's athletic enough where I think he's going to be average around the base, definitely got enough arm strength. He's not anywhere near a speed demon running. It just depends what happens with the bat, if he learns how to make adjustments."

Translation: Extend Dunn now.

Posted by: section309 | November 6, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

I second what 309 said!

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | November 6, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Yay! Tracee's back, and with an original post. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I particularly enjoyed the ESPN mentality comment. hehe.

I agree re. extending Dunn.

In other news, I see per a post on the team site that Livo and Bard have filed for free agency.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 6, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Comments on the Comments...

1. Please designate Tracee as the Nats beat reporter for 2010!

2. I third what 309 said. Sounds like Marrero is about 2+ years away from the majors.

3. Feels like Stras still needs at least 1/2 season in the minors.

4. The Nats seem to be going in the right direction re: the F/O. Hang in, it's a process.

5. Help! There is not baseball on tonight. After tomorrow night, none 'til spring. AAAAAUUUUGGGGGHHHH!

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | November 6, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

What a crock "really good raw power" equals extend Dunn. Plus "He's athletic enough where I think he's going to be average around the base", words that will never be associated with Dunn.

I'm not for shipping out Dunn no matter what, but if Marrero continues to come along, and remember he is still VERY young (If he had gone to college he would have been drafted this year and likely gotten garbage innnings at VT) to be playing in AA and AFL, then I can see the Nats shipping Dunn to an AL team (Boston is a great fit if Ortiz continues to struggle in '10, plus they have talent to give).

I think Marrero is going to be very similair to Willingham with the bat, but a bit better defense (mostly because 1B is easier than LF), and that is a very good thing!

I'm also very excited about Espinsza, he's turning it up in AFL action now, and I'm very happy to hear his defense is good enough to keep him at SS (maybe Espinoza/Desmond up the middle in '11?)

Posted by: estuartj | November 6, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Catcher50, in addition to tomorrow's AFL Rising Stars Game, MLB Network and MLB.com will televise the AFL championship game on Nov. 21. I'm hoping also that they'll pick up the Caribbean series again this year, though I've not seen any press releases about that. And it's not until February, I believe. They do rebroadcast classic games, if you don't mind baseball that isn't live. I kinda like watching the old games, myself, as well as the other programming on that network. I suspect that it will be my salvation this winter (What? Watch that pointy-ball game, you say? Meh.)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 6, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

RE: Dunn/Marrero -- why not both? The economy still sucks, so extend him now while you can get a good deal for him. Then if/when Marrero's ready, AND salaries go back up, you'll have a good player with several good DH years ahead of him available for trade at below-market value. Sounds like a great opportunity to me. Extend him. It's not like this team is hurting for cash.

Posted by: Section406 | November 6, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

mikecatcher50 "5. Help! There is not baseball on tonight. After tomorrow night, none 'til spring. AAAAAUUUUGGGGGHHHH!"
============================================
On the plus side, I can go to bed at a reasonable time now.

Posted by: gilbertbp | November 6, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

OK, too many pronouns and not enough nouns. Let me rephrase:
RE: Dunn/Marrero -- why not have both? The economy still sucks, so extend Dunn now while you can get a good deal for him. Then if/when Marrero's ready, AND salaries go back up, you'll have in Dunn a good player with several good DH years ahead of him available for trade at below-market value. Sounds like a great opportunity to me. Extend Dunn and aggressively pursue Marrero's development. It's not like this team is hurting for cash.

Now, if it were a decision between extending Dunn and putting real money into a premium free agent (like Webb or someone) who can make a huge difference to this team now *and* down the road, then go for the free agent. But guys who get on base a lot, hit the ball hard, play acceptable 1b defense, and seem to be genuinely good guys don't come around very often, especially at $5m/yr. With those numbers, he's a bargain at $8-10m.

Posted by: Section406 | November 6, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I'm reposting a Baseball Prospectus take on Marrero that fits well with what Tracee's scout said, and reemphasizes the reasons for extending Dunn:

Marrero could be my poster boy for why I hate first-base prospects. The 2006 first-round pick put up decent numbers once again this year at High-A Potomac, batting .287/.360/.464, but that's it. The numbers are just decent, and they're in line with what he always hits. Perfectly fine numbers for an up-the-middle player, but if you want to be a first baseman, you better mash, and Marrero just doesn't do that, and he's not alone. It's a position that historically has led to many overrated prospects, but if that's all you can play, and you don't project as a middle-of-the-order run producer, your future isn't bright.

Posted by: jcj5y | November 6, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

estuartj, many are advocating shipping Dunn (a dumb idea on its face) with the reasoning that "Well, we have Marrero ready to plug right in without losing a beat." Doesn't seem like we do, does it? The smart move would be to extend Dunn, and if by chance Marrero emerges, you deal with it then. As Bowden used to say all the time, that's the kind of problem you want to have.

Posted by: section309 | November 6, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

With regard to Strasburg, there's a lot of confusion about his slider/curve. If anyone saw the ESPN Pedro Gomez profile, Strasburg makes it clear that he throws 4 pitches: 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, curve and change-up. From the pitch f/x data I've seen, the 4-seamer is 97-100, the 2-seamer is 91-93, the curve is 83-85 and the change is something like 86-88 (though he doesn't seem to use it much). The curve and change are so hard that people tend to mis-identify them as sliders. At least I think that's what's going on.

Posted by: jcj5y | November 6, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

This scout on SS: "It looks like he's going to be pretty good pitcher."

Finally, some sanity. He's probably going to be a .500 big-league starter. Storen, as the guy sez, probably will be a set-up. Everybody else looks like a throw-out, especially Big Stiff Marrero, whom I've never liked. Watching Phils-Yanks just reinforced how much damage was done here, how far we really are behind the elite teams, and just what a dreamer Markie Mark is to even mention .500 or the playoffs ("PLAYOFFS? PLAYOFFS?") anytime soon. I'm downgrading from being part of a syndicate in full-season club level to just buying game-by-game $30 tix. I cannot believe I am alone in my thinking.

Thanks so much, Tracee, for the legwork on this. You are the NJ MVP, no offense to Chico. Is he back from the Bahamas yet?

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | November 6, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

MVP! MVP!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 6, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

1 problem with extending Dunn is that you can't just dictate the terms to him. Will he be willing to take a 1 year extension or will he want 2-3 or even 4 years?

Another issue is the new CBA which seems likely to implement at hard slotting system and maybe an international draft. The big part will be the very likely elimination of FA draft compensation, thus if Dunn isn't traded this year he likely won't return and draft picks later if a suitable trade partner can't be found.

The question IMO on Marrero is not if he will be a MLB regular, but when. Is he going to be ready by the trade deadline this year? ST in '11? I'm not saying he'll be an All-Star, but a Willingham-esque bat at 1B, not Howard or Texeira, but a solid piece to build around.

Posted by: estuartj | November 6, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I would extend Dunn as well,Marrero is far from a certainty. Though I hope he makes it. He needs some time. Meanwhile let the Big Donk do his thing.

Posted by: ridgely1 | November 6, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Assuming the budget for the team is going up in coming years, I still say Dunn for 2-3 years at $10-12 per year is a better value than a Willingham-esque Marrero, even without discounting for the likelihood that Marrero will turn out to be Willingham-esque (which to me, isn't high). Dunn's offensive value is extremely high, and he plays a passable first base, certainly no worse than Marrero and his multiple errors in the AFL.

Posted by: jcj5y | November 6, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Marrero should be a throw-in in a trade package, nothing more. What, exactly, do you people see in this guy? I see a slow bat, errors in the field, lots of Ks, plus injury-prone. A typical JimBo draft pick, in other words.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | November 6, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

This scout does seem to be confused. As far as I know, Strasburg only throws one breaking pitch and calls it a slider and grips it like a slider, but it looks and behaves more like a big knee-buckling curveball.

His four pitches:

Four-seam fastball: This will be upper 90s, somewhere between 95 and 100, but speed seems to vary by start. This is his most common pitch.

Two-seam fastball: This will only be a couple miles per hour slower than the four-seam fastball and will break down just a little bit below the four-seam fastball. If you look at the pitch f/x data, you'll see a cluster of fastballs. The ones that have less vertical movement and are a little slower are the two-seamers, but he has only thrown a few in his two pitch f/x starts. He generally throws this pitch when he's got runners on the bases to induce ground outs and double plays.

Change-up: This pitch registers anywhere from around 88 to 92. It has about the same horizontal movement as the fastball but it breaks downward a few inches in comparison. This is a good out pitch for Strasburg and seems to induce a lot of swinging strikes as well as some ground outs.

Slider: This has been called a curve ball, slider, or slurve. It registers between 90 and 85 mph and is Strasburg's slowest pitch with big downward movement like a curveball. In college, I believe I saw some of these that had more 12-6 movement, but so far, these all seem to have solid horizontal movement away from a right-handed batter. This is a big out pitch for Strasburg and will induce a lot of swings and misses when thrown low in the zone. In his worst outing, he hung two of these up in the zone and both were bashed out of the park.

In general, if Strasburg is able to paint the edges of the strikezone and keep his pitches out of the middle and upper part of the strike zone, he's dominant. If he misses, he can get hit. Walks don't seem to be much of a problem, however.

Posted by: cassander | November 6, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

And for anyone who doesn't know, Strasburg will start the AFL Rising Stars game tomorrow night (11/7) at 8pm EST. The game will be televised live on MLB Network and streamed live for free on MLB.com.

He'll get two more starts after that. If the Desert Dogs are going to clearly win their division, he may skip his final start so he can start the AFL Championshipi game, which will also be televised on MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com.

Posted by: cassander | November 6, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

"1 problem with extending Dunn is that you can't just dictate the terms to him. Will he be willing to take a 1 year extension or will he want 2-3 or even 4 years?"

It's called negotiation. You do it, and voila! Dunn is extended.

Posted by: section309 | November 6, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

>>His stuff was above average-type stuff.

Above average?? Gee for $15 Mill a year, I'd hope so?????

Posted by: dovelevine | November 6, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

mikecatcher50 "Help! There is not baseball on tonight. After tomorrow night, none 'til spring. AAAAAUUUUGGGGGHHHH!"
======================================
On the plus side, I can go to bed at a reasonable time now.

Posted by: gilbertbp | November 6, 2009 9:57 AM

************************

Amen!

Posted by: NatsNut | November 6, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I have an issue with this scout saying Espinosa should give up switch hitting. From what I've read, he just started it his last year in college and other scouts say his swing is more fluid from the left side. He's only had 10 ab's in the AFL against lefties and has gone 6-10 with six singles so I can understand why this scout feels he's better from that side, but so is Chipper Jones. It's okay to have a strong side if you can be productive from both sides. Considering he's still a young player and is only in A ball, he should continue switch-hitting as long as possible. It will only add value to him long term.

This guy also only saw Strasburg's first start after having been off all summer. The sample size is way to small to really know much, besides, it seems he's getting better the more he works.

As for Marrero, power is always the last thing to come. So as long as he hits for decent avg, the big numbers will eventually come (just like FoF). But I also think we have to extend Dunn. Nobody's a lock to be a consistant 40-hr guy.

Posted by: sec307 | November 6, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

This scout on SS: "It looks like he's going to be pretty good pitcher."

Finally, some sanity. He's probably going to be a .500 big-league starter. Storen, as the guy sez, probably will be a set-up. Everybody else looks like a throw-out, especially Big Stiff Marrero, whom I've never liked. Watching Phils-Yanks just reinforced how much damage was done here, how far we really are behind the elite teams, and just what a dreamer Markie Mark is to even mention .500 or the playoffs ("PLAYOFFS? PLAYOFFS?") anytime soon. I'm downgrading from being part of a syndicate in full-season club level to just buying game-by-game $30 tix. I cannot believe I am alone in my thinking.

Thanks so much, Tracee, for the legwork on this. You are the NJ MVP, no offense to Chico. Is he back from the Bahamas yet?

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | November 6, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

=============================

All in all, I would say you're alone!! But I'm guessing you are blaming the "damage" on "JimBo" and come from that group.
Given some upgrades in SP, I don't see why .500 should be out of the question.
The Yanks and Phillies do have a huge advantage, as does every other team that wasn't faced with MLB oversight and all that came down from Montreal!!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | November 6, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

>>His stuff was above average-type stuff.

Above average?? Gee for $15 Mill a year, I'd hope so?????

Posted by: dovelevine | November 6, 2009 11:25 AM

He's getting $15M over 4 years, not $15M/year. For his last two years before free agency, he'd go to arbitration, assuming there wasn't a long term deal done by then.

Posted by: cassander | November 6, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Excellent, straightforward opinions. Thank you for sharing them with us, Tracee.

Posted by: Kev29 | November 6, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

mikecatcher50,
Natsfan1a1 already mentioned the AFL Rising Stars game on MLB tomorrow, and Strasburg is starting that game, from what I've gathered.


Posted by: dabagley | November 6, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

More information on Espinosa. This from Baseball Prospectus' Minor League Update under the backandedly complimentary heading "Better than you might think":

Espinosa remains an unheralded talent. A true shortstop with a high baseball IQ, Espinosa does have a tendency to strike out, but he hits for a decent average and has outstanding secondary skills for the position, with a bit of power and a very patient approach. He's behind Ian Desmond on the depth chart for now, and we'll know much more about his prospect status after he begins 2010 in Double-A.

Posted by: jcj5y | November 6, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I should add this: The scout also emphasized Marrero's youth. He by no means thinks he's got no future. He does think he needs to use the whole field. And I think his remarks about the organization in general, from Rizzo on down, indicate to me that he believes they have put together a good front office. He was a curmudgeonly sort, as I believe a lot of scouts are, but he was very optimistic about this team's future.

Posted by: traceeh | November 6, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeons of the world unite! Who's with me? :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 6, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

And Tracee has another new post. You're going to spoil us. But we love it!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 6, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

More! More!

Posted by: inthestreetindustry | November 6, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Hate to say it but I don't think we can just count on Dunn signing for 10 or 12 M. He took that two year / 10M each year deal without a lot of leverage (running out on negotiation time, etc.) in a really bad economic year, and in a year where people were wondering whether he really had value to an NL team and when people thought maybe all those homers were due to being in Cincinnati's little ballpark. Well, he proved he can hit (almost) 40 homers elsewhere, he proved he can play first base adequately enough to stay in the NL, and basically proved he's worth a lot more than 10M per year in baseball terms. And considering his age, he & his agent have this one last chance - either an extension with us this year, or wait until the end of 2010 when he would become a free agent again - to get a longer term deal that covers four or five years, the holy grail of free agency. If they extend him, it'll have to be for another 3 years or more tacked on to 2010, and the average price is going up to 15M.

Posted by: jonb5 | November 6, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Typo/Correction: The slider clocks in at 80-85, not 85-90. All the 90 mph pitches he's thrown so far have been change-ups.

Posted by: cassander | November 6, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the 4-1-1.

I'm not going to read too much into any of these evaluations. The guy admitted that he'd only seen these guys for a couple of innings. It's, at best, a snapshot. Plus it's always a crap shoot to project how anyone is going to do in the Majors.

I'd be curious to see some evaluations of guys like Greg Maddox when he was in the low minors. It probably went something like, "...below average fastball. Good fielder. Probably will end up a situational reliever in middle innings. Not likely to be able to consistently get Major League hitters to chase his junk."

I personally saw Hensley Meulens play most of a season for the Prince Williams Yankees (now the Potomac Nationals) when he won Single-A player-of-the-year. I would have sworn this guy was going to be a SUPER star. He was awesome. But he only got a cup of coffee in the Majors. So you never know.

Kevin Olson
Manassas, VA

Posted by: noslok | November 6, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

jonb5:
Dunn wanted to sign a longer deal with the Nats when he signed that 2 year deal, the Nats are the ones who wanted to go shorter. Despite the 103 losses, he claims to love it here and sees the talent developing so they might be able to extend him without too much trouble, especially if . Also, from what I understand, his current deal wasn't split evenly at $10 mil per year, it was more like $8m the first year and then $12m.

Posted by: dabagley | November 6, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I meant to add in the middle of my post about Dunn wanting to re-sign with the Nats: Especially if they acquire enough quality pitching this off-season to convince him the owners are serious about turning things around sooner rather than later

Posted by: dabagley | November 6, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Excellent Tracee! Thank you. Can't wait til these guys get to the Chiefs ... LOL

Posted by: periculum | November 6, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

BTW, I wonder if you'll see Espinosa starting at short with Ian Desmond at second coming out of spring training? Desmond showed some power ... makes one wonder if there is a better version of Utley there?

Posted by: periculum | November 6, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

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