Quick Links

Q&A with Nats Farm Authority

572210.png

Q&A with Nats Farm Authority

CSN: First, it's good to have you back. We - and the Nats farm system - have come a long way since the likes of Kory Casto and Mike Hinckley were known as top prospects in the organization. Cornerstone pieces Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg have helped jumpstart this club to a first place lead in the NL East and to a 26-17 record. Is it shocking to you that the Nationals have done this well considering all of the injuries they have suffered? Not to mention, this organization isn't used to having this type of success, can they keep it up?

NFA: No, it's not surprising. Drafting so early in the first round so often had paid dividends. They "picked" the best two years to be so awful. Getting Strasburg and Harper, two of the top players in any draft, along with paying the price to sign players who slid due to signability has allowed the Nationals to accelerate their ability to compete.

CSN: The December trade for Gio Gonzalez sent the Athletics four of the Nats top prospects (pitchers Tom Milone, Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole and catcher Derek Norris). Yes, we're only a couple months into the first year post move, but what are your early impressions of the deal and in the long run, who wins that deal?

NFA: Loved the deal when it happened. Love the deal today. As much as you want to draftdevelop players for the Nationals, teams also need to have the pieces to deal for missing players at the major league level. Losing guys like Cole and Norris does hurt the long view of the Nationals, but getting a guy like Gonzalez to slot between Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann was a fantastic move (especially after extending him). Cole and Norris are the two pieces I am going to watch closest. PeacockMilone are nice arms but realistically would have had a hard time cracking the starting rotation over the next 2-4 seasons.
CSN: A lot of the Nats top pitching prospects can be found in the lower levels of the minors. However, in AAHarrisburg Danny Rosenbaum continues the trend of succeeding at every level he pitches at. What is your ceiling for the Nats lefty pitching prospect?

NFA: Rosenbaum is Tommy Milone revisted, though scouts don't see the same stuff as Milone. He's a great story from where he has come from and what he has done, I can see getting a cup of coffee in 2013 but realistically he's a back of the rotation guy.

CSN: While the Nationals bats are finally starting to show some signs of life, what reinforcements are on the way either via completed rehab assignment or high minors?
NFA: The guy they miss the most is Michael Morse. They've had a conga line of left fielders and lack Morse's big bat in the middle of the lineup. The guy at the higher level of the minors who can help some is Corey Brown, a LF center fielder playing in Syracuse. He's probably a 4th OF at best but he is an intriguing left-handed option in center for the Nationals. Rick Ankiel is great defensively and has a fantastic arm, but is not a threat at the plate. Perhaps giving Brown a shot would help.

CSN: Much of Washington's current success can be attributed to the job GM Mike Rizzo has done building this team through the draft. This year, the Nationals will pick in unfamiliar territory ... not near the top. Are there any names fans should keep an eye out for or is there a specific position you would like to see the club go target?

NFA: The rumors I've heard surround college arms like Andrew Heaney, a lefty from Oklahoma State, and Chris Stratton, a right-handed starter from Mississippi State. Both are nice guys but not front of the rotation guys. I'd prefer the Nationals to target up the middle bats in this draft. If a guy like Deven Marrero, Arizona State shortstop and Chris Marrero's cousin or Gavin Cecchini, a high school shortstop whose brother plays in the Red Sox organization. If those guys are gone, the player I like is Richie Shaffer, a power hitting third baseman from Clemson; he's likely to move off of third to first base or left field.

CSN: And as always, my favorite question for you, what sleepers have impressed you down on the farm?

NFA: The guy I've enjoyed following the most is Matt Skole down in Hagerstown. He's a solid left-handed hitting third baseman who is hitting .287.437.538 for the Suns. Not a middle of the lineup threat in the majors but he could develop into a solid bench guy who may be able to sneak a few starts in at third or first.

Quick Links

Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Harper's slump, trade deadline

harper_9-28.png
USA Today Sports Images

Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Harper's slump, trade deadline

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

DOWNLOAD THE SHOW ON iTUNES

It's a busy time of the year for the Nationals as they approach the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. Will they make a deal and who are they willing to part with?

Tim and I went in-depth on that subject and more including Bryce Harper's slump and how it may affect his contract future with the Nationals. Does this change either side's thinking when it comes to a long-term contract extension?

Feel free to share your opinions with us on Twitter @ChaseHughesCSN and @1TimMurray.

You can listen to the show on ESPN 980's website or download the show on iTunes.

Quick Links

Nationals prospect roundup: Best pitching performances

Nationals prospect roundup: Best pitching performances

Triple-A Syracuse

Reynaldo Lopez: 9 inn, 4 H, 0 R, 7 K, 0 BB

Surprise, surprise: Lopez threw a gem last Sunday. The righty threw 96 pitches, 66 for strikes as he went the distance and shutout Rochester. He'll be back in DC, in some form or another, soon. 

Double-A Harrisburg

Phillips Valdez: 7 inn, 6 H, 2 R, 2 K, 2 BB

Slimer pickings in Harrisburg. Valdez pitched well enough to get the win against New Hampshire. A week ago, he went 7 inn, 8 H, 2 R, and 4 K in a win against Richmond, if you prefer more walks hits to less walks. Still, Harrisburg is feeling the pinch of no more Giolito/Lopez. 

High-A Potomac

Whit Mayberry: 6 inn, 5 H, 1 R, 4 K, 3 BB

Mayberry, whose 3-1 on the year with a 4.00 ERA, pitched one of the best games of his season yesterday. It was only the second time this year he's held a team under two runs, and his 4 strikeouts were one shy from his season best (7) on June 30th. 

Low-A Hagerstown

Everyone who pitched for the Suns on 7/24: 9 inn, 7 H, 2 R, 7 K, 2 BB

It was a group effort in the Suns win against Charleston last Sunday. It was also a Nats reunion, with rehabbing starter Joe Ross getting the start and Sammy Solis continuing to rehab as well. It was James Borque, however, who got the win, pitching 4 innings while allowing one run on two hits. 

Quick Links

Nats Stock Watch: When will Bryce Harper break out his funk?

Nats Stock Watch: When will Bryce Harper break out his funk?

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 2-4

Team slash: .240/.307/.410

Team ERA: 4.56

Runs per game: 4.1

 

STOCK UP

Trea Turner, 2B/CF: .320 AVG, 4 RBI, 4 XBH, 4 SB, 5 R

It’s going to be hard for Dusty Baker to keep Turner out of the lineup, isn’t it?

In a short period of time, the recently-promoted 23-year-old infield prospect has already shown he deserves to be the Nats’ leadoff man for the foreseeable future. In the last nine days alone, the speedster notched three triples (two away from tying the team lead), two doubles and five stolen bases. That’s the kind of production Washington has sorely missed atop the lineup.

When the Nats played at Progressive Field in Cleveland, an American League ballpark, they had the luxury of playing Turner in center field, putting Ben Revere in left and making Jayson Werth the designated hitter. But when they begin their upcoming series in San Francisco, they’ll lose the DH, essentially forcing Baker to choose between Turner and Revere.

Are the Nats ready to make Turner the everyday center fielder over Revere?

Wilson Ramos, C: .478 AVG, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1.346 OPS

For those who thought Ramos might come back to earth after the all-star break, think again. The 28-year-old catcher’s career year rolled on with another big week, raising his average to .336 — second-best in the NL to teammate Daniel Murphy.

Ramos now leads all big-league catchers in average, RBI, OPS and is tied for the top spot in home runs. Not too shabby.  

 

STOCK DOWN

Bryce Harper, RF: .050 AVG, 7 K, .180 OPS

At what point does an extended slump simply become a down season? Because after nearly three months of under performance, that appears to be where the Nats are with the reigning NL MVP.  

It's hard to explain why Harper hasn't quite looked like himself for so long — have pitchers found a weakness in his swing? Is he dealing with an unknown injury? Something else entirely?—but the 23-year-old phenom hasn't given any indication that he's going to get out of his funk anytime soon. He has just seven hits in his last 54 at-bats and a paltry .491 OPS over that span, which has dropped his average below .238 for the first time this year. For context, he's never finished below .270 for a season. 

So how do the Nats handle this? They've already tried moving Harper to the cleanup spot, and later bumped him up to the two-hole. Neither move has worked so far. So it looks like all they can do is keep putting him in the lineup and hope that his bat can somehow reignite during the stretch run.   

Jonathan Papelbon, RP: 4 GP, 2.2 IP, 1-2, 6 ER, BS

It seems fairly obvious that the Nats might have second thoughts about their closer. That’ll happen after someone allows the game-winning runs to score in consecutive losses, as Papelbon did earlier this week.

But even if the Nats openly admit they have an issue at the back end of the bullpen, then what?  

Well, in a weird way, Papelbon’s struggles have actually come at a fortuitous time. With the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching, the Nats still have time to acquire an additional ninth-inning option. The problem is that the top arms that are available like New York Yankees setup man Andrew Miller or Kansas City Royals closer Wade Davis will cost prospects that the Nats are unlikely willing to part with. 

In the meantime, the club still needs Papelbon to rebound down the stretch — whether that's in the closer role or not.