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Friday, July 18, 2008

Well Hell

Apparently, there is no One.

Chico the Writer's story today in the Washington Post should be required reading. It takes a good look at the supposed plethora of pitching in the farm system and any fan who reads it and doesn't go "uh oh" needs to take off the Curly W glasses and read it again.

The Nats paint the picture that all is well. No question all is better. But better doesn't necessarily sound like it is going to be good enough. The scouts quoted give me pause.

Sure, none of them was named. Unfortunately, that's just the way it works when it comes to scouts outside the organization. There's so much fear of tampering charges that most organizations forbid their scouts from speaking to the media. At least these scouts talked with no names attached. You should try that with NFL scouts. Of course, the NFL is the most paranoid organization in existence but that's another story.

The comments jive with what some baseball people and writers I still know tell me. The Nats have indeed stockpiled a lot of good arms, some of them very good. But there aren't one or two that everyone points to and says, "Yeah, that's them. They're top end guys, the guys who will make that team turn the corner." We hear that a lot from inside the organization. Johnny, Ray, Bob and Don will repeat it some, too. I'll feel a heck of a lot better when someone outside the organization, someone not wearing Curly W underwear, says it.

In short, there's no clear-cut One. And there has to be a One. I'm still holding out some hope for Balester and maybe Zimmermannnnnnn. Crow? Not counting him yet. Must sign first. I've seen both of Mock's starts, up close from the good seats, and I don't see it there. I saw Clippard in Seattle and was impressed but getting AAA hitters out is a long way from getting big league hitters out. Lots of people strike out Richie Sexson.

Oh well. Maybe the hitters will turn out to be so good the pitching won't matter. Maybe the Nationals' future involves winning a lot of 10-8 games?

Or maybe El Jefe needs to open up the checkbook for some serious free agentry?


Mike said...

"Or maybe El Jefe needs to open up the checkbook for some serious free agentry?"

Or draft better. And realize that the shape the farm system was in when the Lerners took over was largely devoid of impact prospects and it's going to take time to develop the kind of depth where the organization can withstand having a first round pick like Detwiler not make it.

I think they have to be very careful dipping into free agency in that a lot of the players are already at an age where they will begin to regress at the back end of contracts and they will be vastly overpaid. And then you have to hope that the few players that are worth free agent contracts are willing to come here.

The Orioles learned the hard way on this method of "building." And then you also have to ask that even if Kasten allowed Bowden to build this way if he's the right person you'd want to be making the call on which free agents are worth it.

I don't think it's time to panic yet in regards to the prospects, especially over one story in the middle of the season. The farm system has gotten better, but it likely wasn't as good as it was hyped in the offseason by BA. The Detwiler pick doesn't look particularly good right now, but the Zimmermann one does. There have been some setbacks with injuries as well, but I think most people accepted that it was going to take a few years to really be able to judge how the team has drafted.

I do think in some ways they'd be a little better off taking guys who might have lower ceilings, but are a little closer(safer) to the big leagues.

Brian said...

The problem the Nationals are going to face for the forseeable future (5-7 years) is that failure of their premium prospects are going to resonate more given the shallow pool from which they can draw them. A team like the Angels or Rays are not as impacted by a poor season from a top draft pick (like Detwiler) because they have other top prospects performing up to par.

Regardless of what the Nationals try and sell to the casual fan, the rebuilding of the system is going to take a considerable amount of effort, time and patience.

Not every prospect is going to develop as expected but that should not deter their investment. They need to continue to plow money into the draft, international signings, scouting, and player development.

I say this over and over but it's a marathon not a sprint. The impact of their draft classes are not going to pay immediate dividends. Ryan Zimmerman is an exception to the rule.

Nationals Fan said...

Brian's exactly right. This is why we should be trading Rauch now to help restock. It's why Cordero should have been turned into prospects last year. It's why we shouldn't even be *thinking* about trading prospects for a Matt Holliday. We still need to stockpile.

It's also the reason that the best thing we could do this year is to get the number one pick in the draft. No team can ever "lose on purpose," and I still go to games rooting for them to win every time, but the reality is that the value of a #1 pick compared with even a 4 or a 5 is so so so much greater that we really at this point need that #1 pick to give us the Upton, Price, D. Young, Mauer-type can't miss future star that is most commonly found at the very top of the drat.

MikeHarris said...

Thanks for the discussion. Good points (most of them anyway!)

I don't have a problem with patience, even though I'm in life's fourth quarter and would like to see a winner before I die. I'll be patient. I just want to have something to be excited about, The One and all that (see my first post this month). I may be guzzling the Kool-Aid but I do believe some good offensive pieces are in place. I want the comfort of knowing there are some serious arms - not just good arms but great arms - somewhere down the pike.

Not ready to give up on Detwiler yet. Yes, I only saw him throw once. It was enough to convince me there's something there.

Mike, I agree that free agency must be explored with great care. I do not think it should be avoided. I think there are better ways to spend $5 per season than Paul LoDuca. Their claim they avoided it is flat-out wrong. There's $6.25 million worth of free agent playing tonight in LoDuca and Estrada (must fight gag reflex).

I haven't looked at pitchers available next year to know if there's anyone worth any kind of money.

Another question - what's reasonable? When do we have a right to see a winning product, even with the shape of the franchise when it came to Washington (and won 81 games despite being in bad shape)? Do we have a right to see progress every year?

Mike said...

It depends on what you consider progress. Is winning 10 more games this year really progress if it hamstrings the team 4-5 years down the road? I don't think anyone is saying to avoid free agency all together, and there are certainly bargains to be had every year. The Rangers sure look smart right now for signing Milton Bradley to a one-year deal.

But in terms of long-term deals, a lot of the players that reach free agency get deals that will likely end up with the player regressing at the back end of it. Does anyone think the Nats should have given Soriano a seven-year deal like he got from the Cubs? The five-year deal Rowand got from the Giants, or even the 2-year deal the Dodgers gave to Jones?

The injuries this year aren't the reason this team isn't very good, but I do think they are the difference between last year's team and this year's team. If this team had a healthy Johnson at first, Dukes/Milledge/Kearns for 140-150 games, Zimmerman at third, etc, this year wouldn't really feel much different than last year.

BTW, here is the list of free agent pitchers available in the offseason:

Kris Bensen BAL
A.J. Burnett TOR (may opt out)
Paul Byrd CLE
Ryan Dempster CHC
Jon Garland LAA
Tom Glavine ATL
Mike Hampton * ATL
Rich Harden * CHC
Orlando Hernandez NYM
Jason Jennings TEX
Randy Johnson ARZ
John Lackey * LAA
Esteban Loaiza CHW
Braden Looper STL
Derek Lowe LAD
Pedro Martinez NYM
Mike Mussina NYY
Jamie Moyer PHI
Mark Mulder * STL
Carl Pavano NYY
Brad Penny * LAD
Odalis Perez WAS
Oliver Perez NYM
Andy Pettitte NYY
Mark Prior SD
Horatio Ramirez KC
C.C. Sabathia MIL
Ben Sheets MIL
John Smoltz * ATL
Julian Tavarez ATL
Steve Trachsel BAL
Brett Tomko SD
Claudio Vargas MIL
Randy Wolf SD

The ones with the asterisk have 2009 options.

Source is Cot's:

Mike said...

BTW, I didn't really phrase the last part of my first comment very well. All I was trying to say is that the Nats have taken a lot of high school guys that would likely be described as toolsy. This can definitely be justified on their part, but if you go that route, it's going to take a long time to see the fruits. Guys like Burgess and Hood are not likely to shoot through the system. I think a case can be made in some instances if the Nats are faced with taking guys like that and taking more polished college players that taking the college player is a good option for them, especially when you consider the lack of guys at the upper levels that would be considered prospects.