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More Martin on Monday morning

There are two sides to Rafael Martin's story and how he arrived in the Nationals spring training accellerated camp, the incredible career path and the business. Martin has become a potential big leaguer after Hollywood twists -- he worked for a contractor for four years, pitched in the Mexican League for three, and finally signed in early February, by which point he had spoken with 10 MLB teams. Martin became specifically a member of the Nationals, he said, because, "It just came down to the money."

The Nationals came to be comfortable with Martin because they sent Bill Singer down to Mazaltan, Mexico to meet him. Singer had played with Sid Monge, Martin's Mexican League pitching coach, on the Angels in the mid-70s. He also knew Martin's manager, Lorenzo Bundy, from working with him in 1998 for the Florida Marlins organization.

When it came to broker a deal with Martin's Mexican League team, new international scouting director Johnny DiPuglia handled it. He knew the Ley family well from his time as a Latin American coordinator with the Red Sox. He did the whole negotiation. The Nationals got Martin in large part because of two long-time baseball men Mike Rizzo put in charge.

Elsewhere, the Nats Blog takes a look at the Top 11 Nationals prospects as judged by Baseball Prospectus. Nyjer Morgan surfs on a custon-made board built by Colin Balester's father. It's March 1 and never too early to start gauging the possible starting rotation. If Opening Day isn't far enough away for you, here is an incredibly detailed look at a pitcher the Nationals might choose if they don't take Bryce Harper. Drew Storen chatted with Baseball Prospectus.

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 1, 2010; 8:45 AM ET
 
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Next: Figuring out the last spots in the Nationals bullpen

Comments

Whether getting Martin was any kind of feat at all remains to be seen. The guy is a long shot, so no one should be feeling so great about having beat out 9 other clubs and for having the Ley family home on speed dial or anyting quite yet.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 1, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Gotta love a story of scouting, spending, and execution. Next up the validation that comes with the player making it to the big leagues and having success. Becuase of his age (25) Martin will likely never make it onto anyone's top prospect lists - particularly if he makes it to the bigs before the end of 2010. But if successful, he will nevertheless be a product of the farm system. If Capps and Bruney are also successful the Nats will have plenty of assets to use or trade.

Posted by: natbiscuits | March 1, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I remember the Nats being very proud for having beat out several clubs last year for the services of a guy named Daniel Cabrera. They did their homework, the scouts all saw him throw, they spent what it took, etc. Let's wait and see how this kid makes out in his first year of American professional baseball and judge the value of the move a little later on.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 1, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Martin may be unproven but comparing him to Daniel Cabrera is just unfair give the kid a chance.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | March 1, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Obviously we know near nothing about Rafael Martin. But pitching tight situations in the CWS is as close to MLB quality as you can get. Some years, the Dominican and Venezuelan teams are loaded with MLB players, including top flight MLB All-Stars.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 1, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Looking at the Top 11 prospects list, it really makes one wonder where all that great young starting pitching is that StanK bragged about (and he was bragging about them well before Strasburg came into the fold). We've really got to hope that Detwiler and Zimmermann come back from their injuries and turn out to be quality starters, because otherwise there isn't much there at all.

Adam, I hope that in time this Spring you'll cover the progress (or lack thereof) of the minor league starting pitchers, especially including Smoker, McGeary and Willems. What do the scouts and coaches have to say about these guys? Do any of them have a real shot to become top prospects and make it down the road?

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | March 1, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

FLop is a Cardinal again. $1M plus another $1M in incentives. Can't say I feel sorry for the way he must have sweated in the last few weeks.

Posted by: nattydread1 | March 1, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

"Looking at the Top 11 prospects list, it really makes one wonder where all that great young starting pitching is that StanK bragged about (and he was bragging about them well before Strasburg came into the fold). We've really got to hope that Detwiler and Zimmermann come back from their injuries and turn out to be quality starters, because otherwise there isn't much there at all."

I was curious about that as well, noting the absence of Ballestar, Stammen, Martis, and JD Martin, as well as the two you mention.

For those who know more about BP: is that because they're no longer "prospects" now that they've seen major league time? Or are they "has beens" already?

Posted by: Section506 | March 1, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Adam....., I'm reading on other non DC media related sites that there is an undercurrent in camp that is thinking about the possibility of bringing SS north with the "big club" in April. Is that just wishfull thinking by the four letter network or is there something to it?

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 1, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

"Looking at the Top 11 prospects list, it really makes one wonder where all that great young starting pitching is that StanK bragged about (and he was bragging about them well before Strasburg came into the fold). We've really got to hope that Detwiler and Zimmermann come back from their injuries and turn out to be quality starters, because otherwise there isn't much there at all."

If you're talking about when Kasten held up that piece of paper at the NatsFest in 2009 and talked about "waves of pitchers if the rotation we have in place now doesn't pan out", remember what the presumed rotation was at that time: Hill, Lannan, Olsen, Cabrera and one other guy would have been it. Let's say that other guy was Martis, because that's who it ended up being. The next wave would have been guys like Zimmermann, Detwiler, Stammen, Balester, J.D. Martin. Those guys ended up in the bigs last year. So now we're down into what would have been Kasten's third wave and we're finally getting to guys that are listed in the BP top 11 or who didn't make it, like Smoker, McGeary and Willems. And on top of that Rizzo has added Wang and Marquis, making it even less relevant whether or not those guys pan out. In case you hadn't noticed, the large majority of draftees and prospects don't end up making the big leagues. Not just with the Nats. Everywhere.

Posted by: TBCTBC | March 1, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

506, I think those guys have gone beyond "prospect" status as far as BP is concerned. But in any case, it's pretty clear that among that group, we're talking about fringe 5th starters at best.

Eventually, the Nats are going to need to come up with guys to match up with--or eclipse--Halladay/Hamels/Happ(?); Hanson/Jurrjens; Lincecum/Cain/Bumgarner(?); etc. Strasburg can't do it on his own.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | March 1, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

506, I don't know about BP's ranking but I think that guys like you mentioned have pitched enough in the bigs to no longer be listed as prospects. They're not exactly has beens, either. They're just guys trying to find a spot on the roster.

What struck me about the BP listings is that it shows that Stan Kasten's original blueprint for building the organization generally failed. Remember he emphasized high school players in the draft because they have bigger "upsides." Well, looking at guys like Marrero, Burgess, Smoker and some of the others on that list, it's a lot easier to go wrong in picking high school guys, too.

Look at the 2006 draft (where Marrero was the #1 pick). None of those guys has played in the majors yet for Washington. The Yankees, drafting 13 picks later, got Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain, both college guys. The Red Sox got Daniel Bard and Justin Masterson, also college guys.

It's easy to second guess but when your organization has very little talent in it, it seems to make more sense to take guys with a little more of a track record and who are likely to help you more quickly. Like two college pitchers, like Strasburg and Storen.

Posted by: baltova1 | March 1, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

No, TBCTBC, I'm talking about Kasten throughout 2009 talking about phone calls from Bobby Cox, talking at the National Press Club about how everyone wants to trade for his young pitchers, the list goes on.

And yes, I am well aware that the large majority of draftees and prospects don't end up making the big leagues, or they don't end up making a big impact even if they do make it. Do you think the Lerners are aware of this? They certainly haven't gone about building their team as if they are.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | March 1, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I actually did some more research on Baseball-Reference.com and came up with an interesting (I think so, anyway) stat.

Since coming to DC in 2005, the Nats have come up with 7 players through the draft who have played in a major league game as of the end of 2009: Ross Detwiler, J. Zimmermann, R. Zimmerman, Justin Maxwell, Marco Estrada, John Lannan and Craig Stammen. They were all drafted out of college.

Only seven big league players from the last five drafts so far? And all college players.

Posted by: baltova1 | March 1, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

BTW, The White Sox are the latest team to be very proud of signing Daniel Cabrera. Clearly teams should only sign successful players and never take a risk. Hmmm, date much?

Posted by: natbiscuits | March 1, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

"No, TBCTBC, I'm talking about Kasten throughout 2009 talking about phone calls from Bobby Cox, talking at the National Press Club about how everyone wants to trade for his young pitchers, the list goes on."

You mean young pitchers like the ones I mentioned - Martis, Stammen, Martin, Zimmermann, Detwiler, Balester, even Lannan? That's a lot of young pitchers. You think no one wants to trade for any of them?

"And yes, I am well aware that the large majority of draftees and prospects don't end up making the big leagues, or they don't end up making a big impact even if they do make it. Do you think the Lerners are aware of this? They certainly haven't gone about building their team as if they are."

I don't understand what you're getting at here. They have drafted and have signed a large number of prospects, with Crow being probably the only notable non-signee. They are acquiring players outside the draft like crazy, particularly pitchers. Of course they know that the large majority won't make it. Why else would they be bringing so many young players into camp every year? There's no way you could be insinuating that the Lerners are deficient just because they can't predict who's going to make it and who's not.

Posted by: TBCTBC | March 1, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Ha, if this were dating, the Nats would be out on the town with every guy with a glove.

The comparison to DCab was not to the player but to the vibe of pride the club seems to feel after getting a guy they wanted and seeing big upside in him, somewhat ignoring the long odds that the guy can be a very valuable piece.

I hope that Martin turns out to be a great find, but at this point there is literally no reason to expect that to happen.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 1, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

TBCTBC, the point is that most of those guys you mentioned are back-end starters at best. To put it bluntly, they aren't prospects, they're scrubs. You really think the Nats could get anyone significant for Martin, Martis, Stammen or Balester? Please.

Look at the front end of other clubs' rotations I highlighted, or many others throughout the majors. The Nats need to be optimizing their chances at finding front-end guys, not 5th starters. Going back to my initial post, the only guys that even have a legitimate shot at being true stud front-end starters along with Strasburg are Zimmermann and Detwiler, as I mentioned. And, as you pointed out, not everyone pans out. So where does that leave you?

I am not insinuating that the Lerners are "deficient just because they can't predict who's going to make it and who's not." I am suggesting that the Lerners are deficient because they have not maximized the chances that they will develop the true front-end guys that will enable the Nats to compete against the big boys. You mention adding "a large number of prospects," but they're not adding studs. They're signing guys under slot, adding chunks of coal and hoping that they get lucky and one of them turns into a diamond.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | March 1, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Obviously injuries can't be predicted and aren't an excuse, but if you had told me at the start of last year that this year's rotation would include Lannan, Strasburg, Zimmerman, Olsen, and either Detweiler, Marquis, or Wang, i would have been pretty happy.

That seems like pretty solid work by the franchise (4 of those count as developed by the team, yes?).

Posted by: stantonpark | March 1, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

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