3/29/17

FLASH - P Steven Matz

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Steven Matz won't be on the Mets' Opening Day roster. He went for an MRI on his elbow today. Regardless of the result, he won't be ready.
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FLASH: Jeurys Familia Suspended for 15 Games

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     The MLB Commissioner's office has announced that Mets CL Jeurys Familia has been suspended for 15 games pursuant to his violation of the league's Domestic Violence policies. Familia will also forfeit 18 days of pay or approximately $730,000.

     Familia was initially arrested on November 1st in Fort Lee, NJ for allegedly scratching his wife's chest and a bruising her right cheek. The charges against him were dropped in December, after prosecutors met and spoke with his wife who indicated that the injuries were not caused by Familia. 

     While Familia is suspended, RHP Addison Reed will handle the closing responsibilities for the club. Reed has plenty of 9th inning experience from his time as the White Sox and Diamondbacks closer from 2012-2014. During this time, Reed saved 101 games with a success rate of 85% although his 4.22 ERA was rather high for the role.


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Richard Herr - So Whaddya Think? - 18

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Playing Experience
“So whaddya think?”
“Whaddya mean? What do I think?”
“Whaddya think will be the Mets’ starting five this year?”
“Lemme see. You got Syndergaard and deGrom.”
“Yeah.”
“Then the guy who’s pitching very well so far is Gsellman.”
“Okay, that’s three.”
“Harvey got movement back on his fastball. He’ll start out a bit off for the first two or three starts, but he’ll settle in to be screaming.”
“You’re up to four. You think Lugo’ll be number five?”
“No, I think he’s going to the bullpen.”
“So who’s your number five?”
“You can’t put Wheeler there all the way through. He’s got an inning limit.”
“But it looks like Matz has a little injury.”
“That’s where I got my idea. Matz is in and out with a bunch of dingers. So number five is combination of Matz when he’s healthy and Wheeler when he’s not.”
“How do you handle that? Two guys on the same roster spot?”
“I work out the broad strokes. You’re my detail guy. You figure that out.”
“Oh, good!”
“While you’re at it, figure out where my next drink is coming from.”

Whenever Richard Herr isn’t solving all the Mets’ problems, he spends his time writing humorous science fiction novels.


You can see his books at https://www.amazon.com/Richard-Herr/e/B00J5XBKX4.
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Casey Wentworth - Moot Points for No Particular Purpose

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Just reading through Macks Mets today and had a few quick thoughts along the moot super highway.

We need to remember this 2017 season, that what a player accomplishes in Spring Training means almost nothing at all beyond making the final cut and being on the 25-man roster. What I am simply saying here, is that Spring Training is really just an opportunity, a testing ground to experiment with one's overall ability, and to try new things outs. It's a place to hopefully grow. So, just because a pitcher (or field player) who prior has demonstrated talent and professional consistency then has a stretch during Spring Training where that all seems to have somehow disappeared, does not mean that he has lost his skill set and no longer can be depended upon going forward into the real season. The reason for this obvious talent slippage of sorts tends to be simply due to his "experimentation", and that really is what Spring Training is best used for. Plus, each player may have been given a few things that management wants most to see them working on during the course of Spring Training. Cutting to the chase here, we need not be too critical of everything that goes on during Spring Training. Wait until the bell rings and the season begins, may be sound advice here.

On the incessant Tim Tebow criticism...

Baseball's bottom-line is business. Professional baseball is about winning games, and playing the best players at each position regardless of the time spent coming up through a team's system. Choosing which players to start, or play the most, is about who actually is better and most deserves that opportunity. It is not about, well, this player has been here since forever and deserves to start ahead of all the other players who have less time in here, just because he has this "seniority thing." Look at Wilmer Flores (as an example) on this current NY Mets team. I think that these NY Mets drafted him when he was like fifteen years old, or something. By this supposed rule of seniority, Wilmer Flores should then be starting with this NY Mets team at any position he would basically like to start at since only Mr. Met has been here longer on this team. In short, it's about talent, talent potential, and also what the team needs most to win ball games with their current roster.

Tim Tebow does have name recognition, but he also has what could turn out to be dramatic homerun ability once he gets used to professional pitching. This is what (I think) most of us see here with Tim. And this NY Mets minor league system does not seem to have so many of these power hitters anywhere within their minor league ranks, that I can find.
The 2017 NY Mets season will (for me) all come down to just how healthy their 25-man roster can stay all season long. If the team can somehow stay healthy, then they will be in the playoff hunt for certain. If not, maybe we will see some Mets AAA minor league players up here come September 1st. Either way, this should be a fun and interesting season for everyone!


Get ready Mets fans.
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Reese Kaplan -- No One Saw This Roster Coming

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Sometimes when you flip a coin it lands heads-up.  Sometimes it lands tails.  Occasionally (and rarely) it lands on its edge.  That seems to summarize how things have gone for the Mets this spring and what it’s going to do to the roster plans for the upcoming season. Between stellar and poor performances as well as ill health, things necessarily change. As poet Robert Burns once said, "The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew."

Infield

That David Wright is unavailable should come as a surprise to no one except perhaps Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins.  Anyone who’s been paying the slightest bit of attention for the past several years has known that you have to go into the season assuming you get nothing from Wright.  Anything he does provide is a bonus on top of what you’ve already planned for the third base position.  However, once again they seem surprised and are anointing Jose Reyes the answer despite not having been around to establish his swing, his fielding nor his baserunning ability. 

On the plus side of the ledger, both Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera seem to be completely healthy and in mid-season form.  That’s good news for the Mets but bad news for the Met wannabes like Gavin Cecchini, T.J. Rivera, Wilmer Flores and others who are relegated to Las Vegas and/or the bench. 

Lucas Duda remains a work in progress.  He had started off slowly, then played, then had hip issues, then started playing again.  Much like David Wright, planning is not in the Mets’ collective DNA and their sole gesture towards coverage due to injury was a two game stint by Jay Bruce at the position.  Granted, Bruce will be playing regularly in RF, but would you rather have a James Loney should Duda hit the DL or would you rather have Michael Conforto with Bruce shifting to 1B?  Duda knows how to play 1B.  You’d think it would have been more prudent to play him at DH as much as possible and give the defensive reps to a potential replacement, but hey, that’s just how people who plan things for a living go about it.

Travis d’Arnaud has benefited greatly from his change in batting stance and the results are most definitely showing.  However, if the new bench coach was brought it specifically to help him with the defensive side of the game, early returns are not there as he’s actually been worse throwing than ever before.  The challenge will be if his bat is big enough to overcome his glove.  If not, could HE be the 1st baseman of the future if Dominic Smith doesn’t progress on the fast track schedule everyone projects for him?

Outfield

This one came with few surprises in terms of starting assignments.  Left to right it will be Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce.  That much was set in stone before spring training even started when trade partners for the expensive lefty duo were not found.  Juan Lagares was penciled in for the 4th outfielder role and the only question was who would be number 5. 

Well, the old injury bug has bitten hard already with Lagares now probably starting on the DL with an oblique injury which could be anything from 15 days to a couple of months depending on severity.  Then there’s the hamstring issue that hit Brandon Nimmo while playing in the ever-so-critical WBC.  You’d think it would be more important for him to make an impression on his employer, but to each his own. 

Many have stated that these injuries open the door to Michael Conforto starting with the big club this year, but another 55 days in the minors slows the service clock down long enough to postpone an entire year of arbitration eligibility.  I doubt the Mets will trade that financial gain for a guy to sit on the bench.  They’re surely not benching their $15 million and $13 million outfielders to let Conforto start.  As I’ve said before, salary dictates playing time.

Starting Pitching

To hear pundits tell it, the Mets were the envy of all other teams with the solid depth of their pitching rotation, such depth that it made it possible to let their IP leader, Bartolo Colon, walk away.  The big four of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob de Grom, Matt Harvey and Steve Matz were as good as any team in baseball.  The fifth starter slot was up for grabs with three viable contenders.  Seth Lugo was brilliant throughout most of the WBC and Robert Gsellman is looking like a Rookie of the Year contender.  They, of course, were behind Zack Wheeler, a guy who’s already done it on the big stage. 

Fast forward to the end of March and things have changed dramatically.  Syndergaard and de Grom are on track as expected, but Matt Harvey put together just one solid start thus far while working back from his thoracic outlet syndrome and now Steve Matz is slated to begin the season on the DL.   Zack Wheeler is still a work in progress, too, though his stellar stint on Monday has whispers of them bringing him north instead of remaining in extended spring training.  

The other surprising development is the spring performance of the all but forgotten Rafael Montero.  His numbers speak for themselves – through Monday morning he was sitting tied for the team lead in IP, with a 1.96 ERA, a .209 BAA and a respectable WHIP of 1.20 (which is especially notable as control bedeviled him over the past few years).  He’s also leading the club by a wide margin with 21 Ks in 18 IP.

Relievers

There are a few no brainers based upon past performances – Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles and recent arrival Fernando Salas.  Assuming Jeurys Familia is on at least a 30 day hiatus, that leaves perhaps 3 open slots in the bullpen.

At this point you’d think Josh Smoker is a leading contender to be the 2nd lefty out of the pen.  That leaves some questions about who might attain the other roles.  Since Seth Lugo has been starting all spring I’m guessing they will go with him filling in for Steve Matz in the rotation.  That leaves Rafael Montero with the long man role in the pen based upon his 40-man roster spot, his strong spring and his high strikeout numbers. 

I had originally thought that the final spot would be a 30 game trial for Paul Sewald using the suspension 40-man roster spot from Jeurys Familia to audition at the major league level. However, Tuesday morning he got sent to the minor league side, so it's some combination of Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero coming north to accompany the Terrific Trio plus Gsellman.  

Bench

Rene Rivera and Wilmer Flores are there for sure.  After that it’s a bit murky.  Is Nimmo healed sufficiently to bring him north?  Is a sometime outfielder like Ty Kelly worth considering (and whose 40-man roster spot would he take?)  Is T.J. Rivera going to be the second spare infielder?  With Cecchini already gone, it would certainly look that way.  If they had (and I hate to keep beating this drum) planned better, then Jose Reyes playing the outfield would enable them to use him as the spare part in that capacity given that they could cover 3B in a pinch with Flores or T.J. Rivera.  Travis Taijeron has had a whale of a spring and is right handed to boot, but he’s a corner outfielder, not on the 40-man roster and the question remains who would play CF in the absence of Juan Lagares if Granderson needs a breather?  I’m betting Brandon Nimmo gets the nod but plays sparingly to allow his hamstring more time to heal.  
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3/28/17

FLASH: Kevin Plawecki Optioned to AAA- Las Vegas, Rene Rivera wins Back-Up Catcher Job

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     The New York Mets announced that C Kevin Plawecki has been optioned to AAA- Las Vegas. Although it was going to be a long shot, Plawecki did have an outside shot to win the back-up catcher's job if he was able to display better hitting and receiving abilities this Spring. Unfortunately for him, Plawecki suffered a hyperextended knee injury early in camp that limited him to only 26 ABs this spring. In 13 games, Plawecki hit .269 AVG with 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 double, and 8 K's vs only 1 BB. 

     As a result, Rene Rivera will be the club's back-up catcher once again for the 2017 season. Although he only received 16 ABs himself this spring, Rivera posted a .375 AVG with more BBs (3) than Ks (2). The fact that he has such a good rapport with ace Noah Syndergaard, and is the club's best asset against opposing team's running game, gave Rivera a huge edge in this position battle.


(Nothing to see here folks....Plawecki would've needed to hit .400 with 5 HR or some crazy stat line in order to unseat Rivera. Although, at that point....he could've just as likely unseated d'Arnaud too.)
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Christopher Soto - Scouting the Enemy | Miami Marlins

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2016 Recap

     The Miami Marlins finished 2016 3rd in the National League East with a 78-83 record. The Marlins were one of the best teams in the MLB making contact as they finished 4th in batting average. However, due to injuries to Giancarlo Stanton and a lack of power from the infield, they struggled to drive those guys in ranking 27th in the MLB in terms of runs scored and 25th in OPS.

    Miami's pitching was a tale of 2 parts. Part A) Jose Fernandez, one of the best young arms in the entire MLB capable of shutting down an offense every time he was out there....and Part B) Everyone else NOT named Jose Fernandez, a collection of arms that combined for a 26-34 record with a 4.61 ERA and a 7.2 K/9. Stats that would have placed them among the bottom 10 of the MLB in those categories. Sadly for Miami, and quite frankly all of baseball, the tragedy that occurred with Jose is reality and leaves Miami in a very vulnerable state in the rotation.

Off-season Review

     Despite a clear need to improve the rotation, the Marlins were not in a position to make any significant free agent signings due to the fact that the owner of the team, Jeffrey Loria, is actively looking to sell the team in order to move into the world of politics. The club does deserve credit though for filling every hole that was opened by the departure of Andrew Cashner, Mike Dunn, Jeff Francoeur, Chris Johnson, Jeff Mathis, and Fernando Rodney.

     To fill the void left by Fernandez, the Marlins traded 3 prospects to Cincinnati for RHP Dan Straily. After dealing with injuries for the prior 2 years, Straily finally was healthy and performed very well with a 14-8 record with a 3.76 ERA although that did come with a 4.88 FIP due to a league high 31! HRs allowed. Moving from Great American to Marlins Park will mitigate that problem though.

     The team also signed RHP Edinson Volquez to a 2 year/$22M contract free agent contract to be their innings eating mid rotation arm. The 33 year old has been quite durable as he has made 30+ starts each of the last 5 seasons. His 2016 season with the Kansas City Royals was not his best performance though as he led the MLB in ERs allowed leading to a 10-11 record with a 5.37 ERA.

2017 Offense



     The Marlins will trot out the same exact line-up in 2017 as they did in 2016. hoping for some better results from the group. Getting a full season of work from Dee Gordon will provide a substantial boost over last year as he missed 80 games due to a PED suspension. A full healthy season of Giancarlo Stanton should also go a long way in improving the team's ranking. Stanton was on pace for his 4th career 35+ HR season before he suffered a groin muscle tear that cause him to miss the last 6 weeks of the season.

     The club also has high hopes in a pair of young players taking the next step in their development. First, Marcell Ozuna coming off his first All-Star caliber season will be looking to solidify his status as a strong HR hitting middle of the line-up bat to protect Stanton from getting pitched around. Second, budding catching star J.T. Realmuto will look to build on his break-out 2016 season that saw him post a +3.5 WAR which was 2nd best on the team behind Christian Yelich. In fact, Realmuto's 2016 performance was only bested by All-Star catchers Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy.

     I fully expect the Marlins to have one of the better offenses in the MLB this season capable of finishing in the top half of the league. Personally I think Realmuto has more value in the 2 hole than Martin Prado does....but that speaks to the strong balance throughout the entire of their line-up.

2017 Rotation


     Well....it's not pretty....but this is rotation that the Marlins will rely on in order to get through the 2017 season. For what it's worth though...the club does have significant depth behind this front 5. The Marlins will pretty much have a 2nd MLB rotation ready in AAA with Jeff Locke, Justin Nicolino, Odrisamer Despaigne, Jose Urena, and Jake Esch.

     Even with the depth though....this is a group that is forecasted to finish near the bottom of the league in ERA. After Wei-Yin Chen's forecast of 3.83....the remaining 4 arms are all forecasted to finish with ERAs above 4.10 according to a combination of STEAMER and ZiPs projections.

2017 Bullpen




     As poorly as the rotation projects...the Marlins bullpen still looks as strong as it was in 2016. The "for some odd reason" always under pressure A.J. Ramos returns as the closer for his 3rd season; a role he has excelled in with a 2.55 ERA and 72 saves over the past 2 seasons. The pressure probably comes from the fact that his set-up guy, and both 7th inning guys, have all been strong in their own rights. Barraclough and Ziegler both posted strong 2016 numbers with sub 2.90 ERAs and Junichi Tazawa, even though his ERA was 4.17, has closer type stuff as well.

     The one weakness the club's bullpen does have though is a lack of a premium Lefty One Out GuY (LOOGY). With so many strong lefties in the division, they LOOGY role is of heavy importance if the Marlins wish to close games out without any drama in the late inning. They will turn to the MLB sophomore Hunter Cervenka to try and fill this void. In 2016, Cervenka faced 99 left handed batters allowing only a .200 batting average against him and K'ing 20% of those batters. Those K's also came with BBs to 12% of the batters. Cervenka's performance in 2017 will be just as important as the late innings guys

     Quite frankly, the Marlins may very well have the best bullpen in the NL East based on it's prior performance and it's projected output. As long as the rotation can provide enough quality innings to not "overwork" the bullpen guys. We should see this group finish within the top 10 of the MLB.

2017 Team Forecast

     All together, I am projecting the Marlins to finish 4th in the NL East with a 77-85 record. The team will only go as far as the offense will take them but, as the old saying goes, "good pitching beats good hitting".....and unfortunately for them....they have to face 2 of the Top 5 rotations in baseball 38 times this season. Even if they do manage to be one of the top offenses in baseball....the poor quality of the rotation is just going to be far too much for the bullpen to cover up. The lack of quality SP innings will also overwork the bullpen which will bring down their performance as well. If Loria can find a buyer for the team....a fire sale is not outside of the realm of possibility.
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FLASH: Paul Sewald Re-assigned, Rafael Montero Wins Bullpen Spot

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(Photo Courtesy of MLB.com)
     The New York Mets announced this morning that RHP Paul Sewald has been re-assigned to minor league camp. Sewald pitched extremely well this spring in an effort to win a spot in the MLB bullpen. In 14.1 IP, Sewald posted a 2.51 ERA with a paltry .143 AVG against and a 7.5 K/ rate. Despite the strong performance, his inclusion would have required a spot to be opened on the 40 man roster. With David Wright already swinging again in camp, and everyone else seemingly in good health, there were no options to be placed on the 60 day DL to free up that spot.

     As a result of this move, RHP Rafael Montero seemingly will win the middle reliever job. Montero has also been pitching well this spring with a 1.96 ERA across 18.1 IP. His high strikeout totals (10.3 K/9) and ability to pitch multiple innings provides the Mets significant flexibility for the early part of the season when they are trying to keep SP inning totals down.


(This is just me reading the tea leaves......but I wonder if Montero winning this job is a pre-cursor to the Mets also bringing Zack Wheeler up north with them. The club already had a guy with the ability to provide length out of the bullpen in Seth Lugo...for them to carry another guy of that nature makes me wonder if they plan on going with a "piggyback" system between Wheeler and Lugo? Having the 2 of them combine for 7 IP and letting Montero be the official long man in the pen would effectively keep Wheeler's inning count down enough to get him to at least September without crossing that 120-125 IP limit that the team has initially set.)
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Tom Brennan - STRANGE SPRING THINGS

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Through Friday's game on March 24, spanning 29 games, there has been a lot of good things happening with the Mets squad.  

Some strange things, too.  

It often takes a strange person to point out strange things, and I qualify, strangely enough.  

So what are some of those things?

John Mora showing David Wright how it's done: Mr. Mora, a low-visibility, scrappy outfielder, who everyone is asking questions about (like "Who's he?") is 5 for 9 with a double and triple, a walk, and just a single K.  The Captain? 1 single in 4 at bats before another injury impinged on his ability to show us all if he is done or not.  Maybe we need more o' Mora and less of Wrighta.

Infielders who played and infielders who didn't: Super duper young Andres Giminez gets 6 at bats in 5 games.  After a mostly injured 2016, almost as young 19 year old SS Luis Carpio goes 3 for 7 this spring.  Blake Tiberi, who hit just .235 with the Cyclones in his debut last year, goes 1 for 3.  Luis Guillorme snagged a flying bat and got in NINETEEN games for El Metsos, making Lou Gehrig nervous and hitting .281.  David Thompson made his limited appearances count, going 3-4.  BUT...where for art thou, Eudor Garcia?  You were nowhere to be found this spring.  Nor did we see Jeff McNeil.  

Flunking the spring exam:  two IF guys vying for visibility, Matt Reynolds (3-32) and LJ Mazzilli (4-22), made us wish Bartolo Colon was still here to take their at bats.

Power Transfusion?  Travis Taijeron has had a nice hitting spring, at .297, but the Mets' most prolific minor extra base hitter managed not a single homer through March 24.  Luis Guillorme, up until now their LEAST prolific minor league extra base knock guy, manages to produce a triple and a homer, when he'd only produced 2 triples and a homer in over 1,400 minor league plate appearances.  They both, however, co-lead the team with 19 games played, along with slugging Michael Conforto.

C'mon, Jay, this hitting stuff is SO EASY: Kyle Johnson, Kevin Kaczmarski, the aforementioned John Mora, Jayce Boyd, and Desmond Lindsay are struggling collectively, hitting just .560  (14 for 25).  Jay Bruce, who hit .219 after he became a Met last year, was a robust 7-35 this spring (.200).  He makes more dough for one game than the other 5 make for a full year.  Just sayin'.  And Kaczmarski leads the team in cars entombed by Saran Wrap this spring - some of you' have been paying attention and know what I'm babbling about.

Throwing out the garbage: Some fans will scream out at the game, "strike this guy out - he's GARBAGE".  Well, so far this spring, the 3 Mets' prime catchers (d'Arnaud, Rivera, and Plawecki) have thrown a would-be baserunner out - problem is, the other 20 who tied made it safely.  So I threw out their first names.  The other masked guys, Tomas Nido and Jorge Carillo?  Gunned down 3 of 5, thank you for asking.  Maybe it's because both of their names end in the letter O?  

The Errors of His Ways: Phil Evans, who had error problems last year, leads the Mets in errors this spring.  Bad?  Nah - he leads with just 3 errors, so don't panic, people, especially when he is hitting .333.

Eight is Enough: Nice TV show, but for the Mets, 6 steals in 29 games?  NOT enough.

That's enough Strange Spring Things for now.  

Strangely, I bet you, dear reader, would agree.




   



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3/27/17

Christopher Soto - Scouting the Enemy | Washington Nationals

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2016 Recap  

     The Washington Nationals finished 2016 as the National League East championship with a 95-67 record. Despite some excellent offensive season from the likes of 2B Daniel Murphy and C Wilson Ramos, the team's offense, as a whole, was basically MLB average as it ranked 17th in batting average and 12th in the MLB in terms of OPS. The key to the Nationals season was their pitching.....both in the rotation AND in the bullpen. Led by ace SP Max Scherzer, the Nats starting rotation was 2nd best in baseball with a 3.60 ERA and the bullpen was also 2nd best with a 3.37 ERA. So what does 2017 look like for them?

Off-season Review

     The Nationals have some serious payroll constrictions due to their continuing battle for TV rights in the state of Maryland. This pretty much limited the team to only offering deferred money contracts like they did with Max Scherzer.

     At catcher, an significant knee injury killed any chance that Wilson Ramos, along with his .307 AVG and 22 HR, had at signing a new contract with the team. Instead he ended up settling for an incentives laden contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. To replace him the Nationals traded a minor leaguer to the San Diego Padres for Derek Norris. At least.....that was the plan.....until Matt Wieters found himself still on the free agent market as spring training camps opened. The team decided that Wieters was a better option than Norris, released Derek, and signed Matt to a 2 year contract worth $21M, deferring half of contract to be paid in future undisclosed years.

     The team also made a large trade with the Chicago White Sox sending top prospects SP Lucas Giolito and SP Reynaldo Lopez to them in exchange for RF Adam Eaton. Eaton is a solid lead-off contributor who is good for a .280+ batting average, 10-15 HR, and 15-20 SB. However, with Harper already in RF, the Nationals plan to use Eaton as their CF, as position he was recently moved AWAY from due to poor defensive metrics in 2015 and 2016. As a result of this move, Danny Espinosa was shipped out of town to the Los Angeles Angels allowing rising star Trea Turner to return to his natural position at SS.

2017 Offense



     Besides the moves above, the rest of the offense is pretty much the same. Going from Ramos to Wieters is going to be a significant decline but this is offset by the improvement from swapping Espinosa with Adam Eaton. Overall, this is an offense that is going to hinge on 2 things.

     A) Can Daniel Murphy continue being a middle of the line-up offensive force? If he regresses back towards his normal career numbers, the Nationals don't really have any other options for the 3 hole as Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman have both declined to replacement level players.

     B) Which Bryce Harper is the real one? Is he the MVP Caliber .330 AVG with 40+ HR power that he displayed in 2015? Or is he the guy who hit .270 AVG with 20-25 HR and a 21% K rate in the other 4 of his 5 seasons thus far?

     If the answer to both of these is Yes....than expect the Nationals to have one of the better offenses in the MLB this season capable of finishing Top 10. If not....then another mid level finish is probably safe to assume.

2017 Rotation



     The same exact rotation that finished 2nd in the MLB in ERA is what the Nationals will trot out there in 2017. There is a significant difference though in regards to the depth behind the front 5. History tells us that SPs can AND WILL break. Teams generally need at least 7-8 SPs to get through an entire season. In 2016, those guys were A.J. Cole, Reynaldo Lopez, and Lucas Giolito. 

     Oh...whoops...Giolito and Lopez are gone.....and A.J. Cole could be hurt significantly as he was recently shut down from throwing due to tricep tendinitis (a pre-cursor to a possible elbow injury). Should an injury occur....there are NO remaining SPs on the 40 man roster. The Nationals do have Jeremy Guthrie and Vance Worley in camp as non-roster invitees....but both are clearly inferior options to the 5 guys above. 

     Lastly, a major concern out of camp continues to be the condition of Max Scherzer's fractured middle finger from July of last year. Thus far, Scherzer has only been able to participate in 1 Grapefruit league game due to the fact that he cannot use his normal fastball grip. Scherzer has been throwing bullpen sessions and playing in minor league games using a modified 3 figured grip but one has to wonder how much longer Scherzer can continue pushing through this discomfort.

     If the Nationals stay healthy....they are a easily Top 5 rotation again in 2017. However, the rotation could unravel very quickly should an injury occur to any of the front 5 or if Scherzer suffers any lose of "stuff" from his fractured fingered 

2017 Bullpen




     Wait....that's a lot more than 7 guys!?!? 

     Yes....indeed it is. The Nationals lost Jonathan Papelbon, Mark Melancon, Felipe Rivero, Yusmiero Petit,  Marc Rzepczynski, and Matt Belisle from last year's stellar bullpen. That's 234 IP lost, aka almost 50% of the bullpen work from 2016. What's left over is a hodge podge of young arms with potential upside + a few aging veterans that the club is hoping can pull together and be effective.

     To date the club has still not decided on who will be controlling the 9th inning but manager Dusty Baker has stated that it will most certainly not be a "by committee" approach. Reportedly they are leaning towards Koda Glover which would put Kelley into the 8th inning set-up role and Joe Blanton/Blake Trienen in the short inning relief roles with Oliver Perez as the LOOGY. While this gives the club a lot of K potential....there is also a lot of BBs there. We could very well see some games unravel quickly if teams are able to work counts and push the National starter out of games early.

     There is no way that the bullpen is going to repeat it's 2016 performance. At best, I would think that the Nationals are just hoping for this group to not "hurt" them and finish around middle of pact in the MLB.

2017 Team Forecast

     All together, I am projecting the Nationals to finish 2nd in the NL East with a 90-72 record. The offense will certainly be better with a full season of Trea Turner and the addition of Adam Eaton, but the absurd lack of SP depth as well as the lack experience in the bullpen is most certainly going to rear its ugly head. While Scherzer seems capable of pitching through this finger issue.....the Nationals still have other injury concerns in the rotation. Joe Ross has yet to pitch a full season, Stephen Strasburg is coming off of 2 injury plagued years, and Gio Gonzalez's performance has been slowly declining since his banner year in 2012.
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Mack – Monday Morning Report

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Good morning.

The ‘morning report’ was something that most readers liked and I had to give it up because writing 1000 words a day for seven days a week was just too much for me at this point in my life. Since then, the site has grown with some amazing new writers and Reese Kaplan, Thomas Brennan, and I could concentrate on bringing back a plan for the 8am slot on the site.

So… Reese will continue his Wednesday and Saturday 8am post. Thomas is going to write a Tuesday and Friday post. And I am going to return to my ‘Morning Report’ format on Mondays and Thursdays. Sunday is still open.


International Bust

Baseball America printed out the top 50 international bonuses paid out in 2016 and guess what? No one of the top 50 were signed by the Mets. I’m hoping that the Mets participate at a higher level this year than they did in 2016. The Mets did sign one million dollar baby in 2014-15 (SS Kenny Hernandez: $1mil) and they followed this up in 2015-2016 with two more (SS Gregory Guerrero $1.5mil and SS Andres Gimenez $1.2mil). Last year was amost a total bust with only four players getting a $100K or more bonus (OF Jean Carlos Soto $150K, 2B Luis Santana $200K, OF Ezeguiel Pena $200K, and SS Sebastian Espino $300K).

Right now, it looks like the money spent on Guerrero and Giminez bodes well. Can't say the same for Hernandez.


To Tebow or Not

I probably need to say something serious about Tim Tebow at this point. Tom Brennan and I have been playing verbal tennis about this football player who has successfully worked his way on the Columbia roster.

By my count, both Desmond Lindsay and Ricardo Cespedes will open up in Columbia and are safe here. This leaves two openings for Jacob Zanon, Arnaldo Berrios, Jay Jabs, and Gene Cone to fight for.

Zanon played baseball through both high school and college and had 157 at-bats with Brooklyn last year.

Berrios played high school in Florida, was drafted by the Mets, and has played for three years in the Mets organization.

Jabs played high school ball in Pennsylvania, played three years of college ball, was drafted by the Mets, and had 175 at bats for Brooklyn last year.

And Cone played both high school and college in South Carolina and had 229 at bats last year for Brooklyn.

Tebow hasn’t played organizational baseball since middle school and has 20 at bats this year in spring training.

None of the four guys I mentioned here has hit the snot off the ball since turning pro, but none deserve to lose their job to a middle school baseball player.

            Hudson Belinsky‏ - @hudsonbelinsky -  Seems like a good boy, but can we move on already and talk about actual prospects?


Top 10 Status –

Alex Chamberlain over at Rotographs had this as one of his ‘Top 10 Predictions for 2017” –

5) Michael Conforto is a top-40 outfielder. - This prediction relies almost exclusively on an injury to any of Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. If both are healthy, either of the latter two could be traded at the All-Star break, ultimately affording Conforto half a season of plate appearances. All of this already makes this prediction a longshot. With that said: draft skills. Conforto has legitimate hard-hit skills that suggest his rate of home runs to fly balls (HR/FB) dramatically trails those of his peers. Also, I don’t care how much you think you or the Mets’ negative hype machine know about Conforto’s ability to hit left-handed pitching. Would you ever make a concrete judgment on 68 plate appearances plagued by a .178 batting average on balls in play (BABIP)? Conforto already has more hits against lefties in spring training than he does in his Major League career. If you gave up on Conforto, don’t. This is probably your last opportunity to buy him cheap for dynasty purposes. He’s OF77 right now.

It’s hard for me to keep saying that Conforto has to start the 2017 season in Las Vegas. I think he will be in Queens by the all-star break, either because of his elevated AAA batting, an injury in the Queens outfield, or a mid-season trade. Conforto is, by far, one of the key future players in this organization and the quicker this team gets itself out from under other contractual obligations, will get this kid up and playing every day. 

Until then, in my opinion, he needs to play every day in Las Vegas.


Things To Read –

 Ken Rosenthal wrote a great story on the Baltimore Orioles and Brady Anderson for Fox Sports.

Jared Wyllys of Cubs Den wrote a nice story on Cubs OF Jason Heyward.

Spark Sports has a great story on how the viewership of baseball games are down and how to ‘fix it’.



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3/26/17

Mack – Top 10 LHP in 2017 MLB Draft

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Good morning.

This list will change before June, but, as of this week, here is the consensus top 10 list of left hand starters in the upcoming draft –

1.     DL Hall                            Houston County HS (GA)

Perfect Game: - Up to 95 at PG National and Has shown hammer CB to go with it. 96 at PG All American Classic



2.     Brandan McKay           Louisville

Fueled By Sports: - Throughout his first two years at Louisville, McKay has proven to be a solid, top-end starter with potential to carry an entire rotation. With a combined 21-7 record to go along with an impressive 2.05 ERA, he has done nothing but continue to boost his draft stock. McKay knows how to navigate through opposing lineups and keep runs off the board. In addition, he batted a whopping .320 through 435 at-bats through his first two years. Despite the fact that he will be drafted as a pitcher, look for a National League team to take a chance on both he and his hitting ability from the nine-hole.



3.     Nick Pratto                    Huntington Beach HS (CA)

Road To Wrigley: - Defensively, Pratto is a sure-handed first baseman with fluid actions and a great feel around the bag. He also possesses enough athleticism to play either corner outfield spot when called upon. In addition, Pratto can jump on the mound and the LHP will show a good feel to pitch with his upper 80s fastball, breaking ball and change. In fact, last summer he haunted Japan again by earning the victory on the mound in the gold medal victory over the host team in the WBSC 18U Baseball World Cup.



4.     Trevor Rogers               Carlsbad HS (NM)

Scout.com: - Rogers has all the looks of a pitcher. Tall stature at six-foot-six, broad shoulders, and a giant wingspan. That size, added with his athleticism, allows him to deliver the ball with ease, and maintain his velocity into outings. With a high leg kick, and long stride to the plate while keeping the behind his large frame, and a low 3/4 arm angle, he gives added deception. Rogers works in the low to mid 90's with his fastball, tapping out at 96, all with late life. The fastball is his biggest, and most used, weapon, as he's shown good command of the pitch, working east-to-west in the bottom of the zone, and elevate it when wanted. Rogers has flashed an above-average late breaking slider that he's been able to throw for strikes, and has shown some feel for a changeup but like most prep arms, rarely uses it. All-in-all, Rogers is a big projection arm, with a low floor due to his high velocity and simple mechanics.



5.     Jacob Heatherly           Cullman HS (ALA)

Minor League Ball: - One of the few things that scouts agree on about Heatherly is also his strongest point: his command. He is able to locate all of his pitches with accuracy, earning a plus grade from MLB.com. FanGraphs’ evaluators also cite a “minimalist delivery,” which a very useful skill. A repeatable delivery is key in maintaining good command, and a simpler delivery is easier to repeat, so a simple delivery is a command pitcher’s friend.

The other thing that is a known about the young lefty is that he has a good fastball. His velocity dips as low as 89 miles per hour at times, but it has also been clocked as high as 95 mph. Several reports also cite the fact that he is able to get his fastball to play above its velocity because he is both willing and able to work inside with it. Heatherly also claims that his fastball is his best pitch. 



6.     Seth Romero                 Houston

When The Giants Come To Town: - Seth Romero is a portly left-hander who put up some interesting numbers last year for Univ. of Houston.  His repertoire includes a FB that goes 92-95 MPH, a slider that has the makings of a plus pitch and a changeup that he needs to develop and use more.  He's off to a great start in in his draft season which may raise his stock considerably if he can maintain it.  Concerns about the body will likely hold his stock down some.  He was suspended at the beginning of his sophomore season for poor conditioning but has looked to be in much better shape to begin his junior season.



7.     Brendon Little              State College of Florida

Cubs Insider: - “He has tools you can’t teach, like a fastball that touches 97 from the left side,” one former AL scout told me about Brendon Little. “He also still has a lot of projection left, which you don’t find often at his age . He could gain a tick in his FB with a more downward plane on his delivery. That would help his command, too.”
As with any college pitcher, Little is far from perfect. However, his floor is supported by a nice 97 mph fastball. His ceiling, on the other hand, could be much higher with improved mechanics and a repeatable delivery, both of which would elevate his secondaries to the realm of average to plus pitches.



8.     MacKenzie Gore          Whiteville HS (NC)

Fangraphs: - Gore stands out because of his glorious leg kick, but the stuff is interesting as well. He was a deceptive 88-92 in San Diego, flashed a plus changeup and 45 curveball. He has an extreme drop-and-drive delivery — and I’m skeptical about his ability to harness it and have even average control down the road — but it’s unique and requires more evaluation rather than knee-jerk xenophobia.



9.     Mitchell Stone              Deer Creek HS (OK)

Perfect Game: - Big projectable LHP who can already reach the low 90s with good breaking ball at PG National. Very good at PG All American Classic



10. David Peterson           Oregon

Scout.com: - Command will be the key to Peterson's success at the next level, but in college, he's been beating hitters with his low to mid 90's fastball with plus sink and arm-side run, helping him work away from right-handed hitters. The southpaw likes to work inside on lefties with his fastball, allowing the run and sink to break back into the zone, jamming hitters or making them stare at strikes on the inner half. Working from a low 3/4 arm slot, Peterson has shown good movement on all his pitches, with his fastball being the best of his trio. His best off-speed offering is his above-average low 80's changeup that he works against both righties and lefties. He works in a big-breaking curveball with a dipping break that he's shown a feel for, but still needs to be refined.


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2017 MLB Draft – Top 10 Catchers

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    1.     JJ Schwartz              Florida

 LWOS - Anyone who closely follows the Braves franchise should already know of the two weakest links in its farm system: catching and power. With the recent focus on both, there is no better time to make the argument that J.J. Schwarz needs to be the first guy off their board in the 2017 first year player draft. This kid can be an answer to both. The top catchers in the system right now, Lucas Herbert, Brett Cumberland, and possibly Alex Jackson, either haven’t shown proficient skill in the batter’s box, or lack defensive ability behind it. Herbert is a great glove and battery-mate to Kolby Allard and the Single-A crew, but his hitting is largely judged on what he did in high school. Cumberland completed his sophomore season at Cal showing he can hit for average (.344) and get on base (.480), but power was and is not a tool of his, and his future at catcher is widely doubted.

           



    2.     Evan Skoug              TCU

 Frogowar - Skoug has improved at the plate each season he has played, becoming a complete player in the process. A career .293 hitter, he has played in 130 of 131 possible games over the course of his first two seasons in Fort Worth, proving to be a durable and reliable leader at one of the most important positions on the diamond. He has managed a veteran pitching staff with aplomb, possessing a preternatural calm behind the dish, framing pitches with precision, and helping build one of the best staffs in the nation. Meanwhile, he hit 21 doubles, a triple, and nine home runs in his sophomore season, improving in each category. He also has 97 runs batted in over the course of the last two year. The Frogs have won a Big 12 Championship, a Big 12 Tournament Championship, hosted two Regionals, a Super Regional, and made the College World Series twice in his career.

           



    3.     M.J. Melendez        Westminster Christian School (CA)

Fangraphs This is the best prep catcher I saw this summer but it’s hard to glean anything from a statement like that because depth at premium positions (especially among high schoolers) is very volatile, draft to draft.. Melendez has special defensive traits. He is lithe, loose and twitchy with uncommon athleticism and movement skills for a catcher, as well as an average receiver with plus raw arm strength. I had pop times as low as 1.94 to second base and 1.5 flat to third. Melendez also has some potential with the bat (which I’ll get into later) but he’s very raw offensively and is going to be drafted primarily because of his defensive ability. So where are catching prospects like this typically selected? Here’s a brief rundown of early-round high-school catchers from recent years:

           



    4.     KJ Harrison              Oregon State

 Fangraphs   His unimpressive summer line wouldn’t suggest it, but Harrison may have the best future hit tool on this list. He got off to a nice start for Team USA, but faded down the stretch and really struggled in the Cuba series, going 1-for-17 over those five games. His performance in the spring (.309/.401/.527) and natural hitting tools, however, paint a more complete picture of his offensive potential. Harrison has an easy, fluid swing with an all-fields approach that — before his cold spell — at one point produced three opposite-field hits over a 14-inning stretch. Employing a wide setup deep in the box, he reduces wasted movement with a minimal hand load and hip coil. Those features have the unintended consequence of sapping some of the juice from his bat, although he still flashes above-average raw power in batting practice. Defensively, there’s still a lot of work to do if he’s going to stay behind the plate. He has at least above-average arm strength, but the actions and hands are just OK and he’ll probably never be anything better than average defensively. If catching doesn’t work out, the bat may be enough to play at first or left field where his below-average foot speed could be hidden from exposure.

           



    5.     Mike Rivera             Florida

Florida Gators - AS A SOPHOMORE (2016): Appeared in 67 games for the Gators, starting 66, mainly at catcher and DH…Hit .245 (56-229) with 47 RBI and 33 runs scored…20 of his 56 hits went for extra bases, including 9 home runs, 2 triples, and 9 doubles, good for a slugging percentage of .419…Walked 28 times to go along with 26 strikeouts, giving him an OBP of .347…Tied with Buddy Reed for the team lead in sacrifice bunts with 5…Ranked second on the team with 9 HBP…Hit .263 (26-99) in SEC play while starting all 29 SEC games…Slugged .434 against SEC competition, which ranked third on the team…Knocked in the Gators first two runs of the season with a sac fly and solo home run against Florida Gulf Coast…In the three game series against Tennessee, went 5-12 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI…Only committed 3 errors on the year, contributing to a fielding percentage of .994…Threw out 15 of 30 runners attempting to steal against him…Hit .389 (7-18) on the Gators’ run to the SEC Tournament championship game…Had the second most games with multiple RBI on the team with 16…Named to the All-SEC Second Team…Earned All-SEC Defensive Team honors for his work behind the plate.

           


    6.     Riley Adams            San Diego

USD - SOPHOMORE (2016): Played and started in 56 games as a catcher... Played as designated hitter in 6 games.... Hit .327 with six homeruns, 18 doubles, and a triple and a total of 43 runs....Went 4-for-7 in the first two games of the Vanderbilt series (2/19-20), hitting over .500 in both games and three RBI... went 5-for-10 against San Diego State throughout the season with two RBI... Went 3-for-7 against Oregon State with three RBI and a homerun... went 5-for-11 with six runs and an RBI against William & Mary (3/6-8).... Went 2-for-3 against BYU (4/9) with four runs, 2 RBI and a homerun.... Went 2-for-4 at San Francisco (4/23) with 1 run, two RBI, and a homerun... went 5-for-9 in the last two games against Gonzaga (5/20-21) to close the season with two doubles, a run, and an RBI.

           



    7.     Matt Whatley        Oral Roberts

 ORU - 2016 - Was named a First Team All-Summit League member behind the plate ... Earned Second Team ABCA/Rawlings All-Midwest Region as well as Academic All-League honors ... Started 52 games on the year ... Finished second on the team with a .363 average ... Led the team with 39 walks and finished with a team-high .469 on-base percentage ... Tied with the team lead with eight home runs ... Collected 21 extra-base hits on the season ... Had 10 doubles, three triples and eight home runs on the year ... Drove in 41 runs and scored 42 times ... Was third on the team with 73 base hits ... Had a team-high .562 slugging percentage ... Was a perfect 5-for-5 on stolen bases ... Went 4-for-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and four RBI against Little Rock on March 4.

           



    8.     Steven Williams     Deerfield Windsor School

PG - PG - PG Grade: 10 - Steven Williams is a 2017 C/OF with a 6-3 215 lb. frame from Albany, GA who attends Deerfield-Windsor HS. Extremely strong and well proportioned athletic build. Plays both outfield and catcher. 6.89 runner, has right field tools on defense with a very strong arm with carry. Highest ceiling defensively behind the plate, has nice footwork and plenty of athleticism, big arm strength, just needs more repetitions receiving the ball and blocking. Left handed hitter, swing has noticeably improved in its path and extension of the last year, has lots of raw bat speed with lift and extension through contact, swing is a bit timing intensive and there is some swing/miss but the ball explodes off the barrel when squared. Looks to hit the ball hard. Verbal commitment to Auburn. Selected for the Perfect Game All-American Classic.

           



    9.     Deon Stafford         St. Joseph’s

 Penn Live - Stafford, who will be a junior at St. Joe's next season, is going to draw plenty of attention from major league teams if he continues to develop. The 2017 draft is on Stafford's radar. How good is the 5-10, 202-pounder? Well, this is what his sophomore season at St. Joe's looked like ... A-10 Player of the Year. Big 5 Player of the Year.

           



    10. Calvin Greenfield  Jensen Beach HS (FL)

 Fangraphs -  Greenfield is a stocky 6’1, 195, but is more angular and monolithic than the curvaceous Campusano-Bracero, who has similar measurables. I don’t think Greenfield can catch. He falls short with his arm, ground game and receiving as far say I’m concerned, and I don’t think there’s better than average athleticism here so I’m not banking on much improvement in any of those facets, let alone all of them. What he can do is hit. Several times during Area Codes he punished plus velocity into the gaps of Blair Field. Greenfield is quick into the zone, strong, and I think he has good timing. I just don’t know where he plays defensively.

           





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