Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Looking back on unsigned 2011 picks

The Nats did a great job signing the top picks in their 2011 draft class. All of the picks from the top 12 rounds signed with the team as well as 15 of their top 21 picks and 30 of their 51 picks overall. Here's a look at what the 21 guys that went unsigned are up to:

13th round C/1B Casey Kalenkosky (Texas State)
In his senior year at Texas State, "Ory" has hit .262/.353/.487 with 9 HR, 33 R and 35 RBI. Texas State is the #3 seed in the Southland Conference tournament and will face off against Stephen F. Austin tomorrow afternoon to try and gain an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

14th round 1B/OF Cody Stubbs (University of North Carolina)
After transferring from Walters State CC to UNC this season, the junior hasn't found his power, hitting .266/.354/.425 with 5 HR, 6 SB, 36 R and 33 RBI through 55 games. UNC plays Wake Forest tomorrow night in the ACC tournament, but are a lock for an NCAA tournament bid.

15th round SS Zach Houchins (Louisburg JC)
Everyone's favorite unsigned pick from 2011 starred for the highly ranked (as high as #1 in the NJCAA this year) Louisburg College Hurricanes, hitting .400/.476/.726 with 14 HR, 32 XBH, 62 R and 52 RBI in 54 games. The #2 seeded Hurricanes were eliminated by USC Sumter on May 8th in the NJCAA DI Region 10 tournament, which was eventually won by Spartanburg Methodist College. Houchins has 2 years of college eligibility left, but will likely be drafted again this season due to his excellent 2012 campaign.

17th round RHP Esteban Guzman (San Jose State)
The senior struggled to a 1-3 record and 4.71 ERA in 13 appearances (8 starts) for San Jose State. In 42 innings, he walked 25 and struck out 26 while allowing 50 H, 12 XBH and 23 runs. The Spartans did not qualify for the WAC baseball tournament after a 9 game conference losing streak to end the season.

19th round RHP Hawtin Buchanan20th round RHP Josh Laxer and 44th round 1B Matt Snyder  (University of Mississippi)
Buchanan pitched out of the pen in 14 games as a true freshman in 2012, with a solid 3.79 ERA and staggering 30 strikeouts in 19 innings.

Laxer didn't have quite the awesome freshman year, but went 4-0 in 5 starts (11 total appearances) with a 5.33 ERA. His 10:15 BB:K ratio left plenty to be desired, though.

Snyder had a breakout year, hitting .340/.406/.581, leading the team in total bases (125) and RBI (57) to go with his 12 homers and .998 fielding percentage.

Ole Miss lost their first SEC tournament game to #11 Kentucky today (despite a 4-4 day by Matt Snyder) and need to beat Arkansas tomorrow morning to stay alive in the SEC tournament.

24th round LHP Kyle Ottoson (Oklahoma State)
In his senior season, Ottoson went 4-7 with a 3.86 in 11 starts (12 appearances). His 29:41 BB:K ratio in 63 innings isn't impressive and he was arrested for DUI earlier in the year. He'll get drafted for the fifth time this year, though. Ottoson and the Cowboys saddle up against their rivals the Oklahoma Sooners tomorrow morning in the Big 12 tournament.

29th round C Sean Cotten (Tusculum College)
Cotten, who was thought to have signed with the Nationals by both his college and Baseball America, but ended up not signing for whatever reason. I can't seem to find what he's doing.

31st round OF Josh Tobias and 46th round OF Tyler Thompson (Florida)
Tobias hit .250/.333/.310 in 34 starts for Florida this season. While his power didn't show up (only 2 XBH and 6 RBI), he held his own for a true freshman in SEC play. He'll need to pack some pop in 2013 and beyond if he wants to rebuild his draft stock, though.

Plagued by injuries in the past, Thompson started his senior season at an impressive tune of a .319/.365/.447 triple slash in 14 starts, but tore his ACL in March while making it all the way to 2nd base on a dropped third strike.

Florida beat Auburn in their first SEC tournament game today and will play the winner of tomorrow's South Carolina - Vanderbilt game on Thursday.

34th round LHP Calvin Drummond (San Diego)
Drummond was once again solid for San Diego this season, going 8-5 with a 3.29 ERA in 79 and 1/3 innings. His 28:67 BB:K ratio was solid as well. Drummond and the Toreros (sounds like a good name for a band?) will face off against Pepperdine University this weekend for the WCC championship.

37th round LHP Derrick Bleeker (Arkansas)
Bleeker was drafted as an LHP but only threw 1 inning this season for the Razorbacks (albeit with 3 K and 0 runs allowed). He hit .267/.333/.467 with 3 HR, 11 R and 15 RBI in 23 starts, but his pro baseball future still likely lies in the bullpen as a power lefty arm. Arkansas lost to Mississippi State in their first round SEC tournament game today and will face Ole Miss tomorrow in an elimination matchup.

38th round LHP Brett Mooneyham (Stanford)
The 38th round was nowhere near Mooneyham's true talent level, but he was injured and seen as unsignable in 2011. He returned to form in 2012, with a 7-4 record and 3.30 ERA in 12 starts. Mooneyham struck out an excellent 87 batters in 76 and 1/3 innings while walking 34. Mooneyham will certainly go much higher in the 2012 draft than in the 2011 one. Stanford plays California this weekend, but cannot win the Pac 12 baseball title. They'll certainly make the NCAA tournament, though.

39th round OF Peter Verdin and 49th round OF Hunter Cole (Georgia)
Verdin hit .300/.395/.359 in his senior season at Georgia with 20 R in 48 starts and 13 SB in 15 attempts.

Cole was excellent in his freshman year, hitting .281/.377/.459 in 48 starts with 7 HR, 26 R and 23 RBI.

Georgia lost its first SEC tournament game and will face Auburn tomorrow for a chance to fight on.

40th round OF Stephen (Cory) Collum (Snead State CC)
Can't find any stats for Snead State CC. Something tells me I'll live.

42nd round SS David Kerian (Illinois)
Hit .192/.323/.192 in 26 at bats for Illinois in his freshman year this year. 5 BB ain't bad, though. Illinois lost a tie break to Ohio State and failed to make the Big Ten tourney this year, all but ending their season.

43rd round SS Mitch Morales (Florida Atlantic)
In his freshman season, Morales hit .264/.338/.312 in 40 starts. The power is still far from being there, but he swiped 5 bags and played solid defense this season. FAU is the #1 seed in the Sun Belt tournament and play Western Kentucky to kick it off tomorrow.

47th round LHP TJ Montgomery
Can't seem to find anything on Montgomery or where he ended up going to school.

48th round OF Mike Bisenius (Wayne State College)
The senior won his conference's gold glove award while hitting .314/.422/.605 in 50 starts. Bisenius lead his team with 10 HR, 44 RBI and 45 R and even stole 7 bases. Wayne State lost to Winona State and Minnesota State (finally, a state State) and is no longer alive in the NSC tourney.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What to expect from Ian Desmond

If you've read my blog and/or followed me on twitter for any amount of time, you know that Ian Desmond is not my favorite National. His potential intrigued me in 2007 when he hit .264/.357/.432 (10.6% BB%!!!!) in high A, and again when he raked in AA and AAA in 2009. Since reaching the majors, Desmond has stopped progressing. His semi-promising 2010 season (.269/.308/.392) downgraded into a .253/.298/.358 2011 season. At 26 (almost 27) years old, players generally don't develop into completely different players, so at this point Desmond is probably going to be this type of player. But what can we expect from him going forward?

Desmond's .272/.294/.451 triple slash this season, good for a 104 wRC+ (league average is 100). His previous full season wRC+'s have been 88 in 2010 and 80 in 2011. That's quite an improvement, and even though the OBP is still awful, he's hitting with enough power to make up for it. Desmond's BB% at 3.3% is worse than at any level in his career (previous worst was 3.8% in 133 PA at AA in 2007, and his career MLB average is 5% even), but he's dropped his K% 2% since last year under 20%, which is not too bad. While Desmond is really, REALLY hacking (swinging at 36.3% of pitches outside the zone and 54.2% overall with career averages of 32% and 47.7% respectively), I can't imagine him go forth from here seeing 3.3 pitches per plate appearance with a 3.3% BB%. He'll improve at least a little.

Desmond's batting average has to stay pretty high to keep his overall batting approach around league average. At .272 right now (career .263), it's solid enough (of course, with 6 BB on the season, it still leads to a terrible OBP). I don't expect Desmond's batting average to dip anytime soon; his BABIP is actually below career average (.308 as opposed to .314, and with Desmond's speed, I wouldn't be surprised to see it get up around .320). He's hitting more line drives than his career averages (18.2% over 16.6%). The only real outlier in Desmond's batted ball stats is his 12.2% HR/FB (career average of 8.3%). His 6.0 HR/FB in 2011 was much lower than projected, so the regression would likely end up somewhere in the 9-10% range, which would still leave him with plenty of homers.

ZiPS' updated 2012 projections peg Desmond to finish the season with a .263/.301/.408 triple slash, 15 HR and 18 SB. I'd take the over on batting average and slugging, and the under on OBP. This is more or less what Ian Desmond is going to be in the near future. He's still a terrible option in the leadoff spot (don't even get me started with the .294 OBP and 3.3 pitches seen per plate appearance in the 1 spot), but he's a solid enough option to keep starting.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Flores for Callaspo? Yes.

I admittedly arrived late to the party on the "Angels and Nationals should consider a smaller trade" piece written by Matthew Pouliot of NBC Sports Hardball Talk. Pouliot doesn't go far into depth, but suggests that rather than worry about a Peter Bourjos to the Nats deal, the teams should consider a Jesus Flores for Alberto Callaspo swap. Now, I'm not one to say whether it's fair from the Angels' perspective; with Chris Iannetta down for 6 weeks, they need catching help. I do think it would be a solid move for the Nats. Here are 4 reasons why:

1. The deal would allow the Nats to send Danny Espinosa to AAA to find his swing. 
Currently, the Nats have three guys on the 40 man roster who can play 2B and/or SS: Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi. That's already pretty risky. When Mark DeRosa is healthy, you have 3 and 1/2, but that's about as good as you'll get. Espinosa needs a trip to Syracuse to concentrate on his swing against lower competition where the pressure is off and results matter less, but the Nats can't send him there unless they add another middle infielder. Benching him in favor of Lombardozzi is fine in theory, but Espinosa's swing isn't going to get better sitting on the bench, either. Acquiring a solid utility guy in Callaspo would allow the Nats to send down Espinosa without stretching the bench too thin.

2. It would improve the team in the short term without hurting it in the long term.
Acquiring Callaspo and sending Espinosa to AAA would likely thrust Lombardozzi into a better playing time situation where his .295/.377/.344 triple slash could thrive out of the leadoff spot. Callaspo isn't a slouch either, hitting a Desmondian .250/.301/.309 to start the year but with a solid .280/.335/.386 triple slash over his 617 game MLB career, a track record that suggests improvement. Danny Espinosa (.193/.279/.278) and Mark DeRosa (.081/.227/.081) have been outright terrible, so a situation where Lombardozzi and Callaspo absorbed their playing time would prod the Nats' mediocre offense in the right direction.

3. Jesus Flores is fairly easy to replace.
Yeah, the Nats dealt away Derek Norris and Wilson Ramos' glove has been a little shaky so far this season. But Jesus Flores isn't the answer anymore. He's either injured or a backup (averaging less than 53 games total played over the past 6 seasons) and is looking like your run-of-the-mill backup catcher (career .253/.303/.356 and .208/.256/.292 since missing the 2010 season) who is nearing his 3rd year of arbitration (where he'll creep into the $1 million range). Jhonatan Solano isn't going to develop into more than an ML backup, but his defensive game is already there and he hit .275/.325/.388 for Syracuse last season. Plug him into an ML role once he gets off the 7 day DL in Syracuse and he can't fare much worse than Flores. Carlos Maldonado has 3 cups of coffee in the majors and can hold his own if needed. Switch-hitting defensive stud Sandy Leon is developing into a nice piece for the future in Harrisburg. James Skelton, whose Beyond the Box Score favorite status has faded since 2008, but has a weird ability to get on base a ton despite hitting for a very low average (career .221/.369/.305 hitter in AA).
Mainly the point is: Flores isn't that good in the first place, so whatever warm body Syracuse deems ready will turn out just fine.

4. Versatility, versatility, versatility.
Yeah, the Nats will eventually get the likes of Morse, Werth and DeRosa (I hope not) back and could get help from guys like Anthony Rendon by the end of the season, but the Nats could easily find a place to stash both Callaspo and Lombardozzi, who can both play pretty much any position besides pitcher or catcher (and I'm sure both would do either if you asked them). And omg, both can switch hit. Having 2 guys on the bench that can hit from both sides, get on base, play any position in the field...is this only a fantastic idea to me? Ideally, the Nats could carry this roster towards the end of the year:

C - Ramos
IF - LaRoche, Espinosa, Desmond and Zimmerman
OF - Morse, Harper and Werth
Bench - Solano, Callaspo, Lombardozzi, Tracy and Ankiel.

That's 1 R, 2 S and 2 L off the bench and with decent defense, speed and power abilities. (I took off the following for the following reasons: Nady and DeRosa can't hit and can't make up for it with the glove. Davey won't play Tyler Moore so might as well send him back to the Cuse and get him normal playing time. Bernadina just isn't that good, but I would be happy cutting Ankiel too).

The Flores for Callaspo thing isn't even a rumor, just a suggestion by a national blog, but I'd be very happy with such a move.

Now that Ramos is likely done for the year, the Nats shouldn't make the move. Jesus Flores is still easily replaceable, but adding 2 new C to a team can't be good for continuity's sake.