Top draft prospect Bryce Harper went 1-3 while playing third base in his college debut last night in the opening round against Arizona Western of the 4th Annual Coyote Border Battle.
While Harper wasn't available to comment, the Las Vegas Review-Journal said that there were about 40 scouts in attendance including the Nationals assistant GM's Bob Boone and Ron Clark, as well as Nats scouting director Kris Kline.
"The 6-foot-3-inch left-handed hitter walked and scored in the first inning, hit an RBI single and stole second base in the second, flied to center in the fourth and struck out swinging in the sixth.
Harper capped his night by hitting a sacrifice fly to left field in the eighth inning during an attempted intentional walk. He reached out and poked the opposite-field drive for his second RBI."
"I thought he did great," he said. "He was patient, which was good. He wasn't jumping at the ball. It was good to get that first hit out of the way."
Harper (and of course the Coyotes) will play again today at noon (Las Vegas time), Harper is expected to catch. Harper had a throwing error at third last night, but it does not appear that is the reason for the position switch.
Having been around a good amount of amateur talent during my playing days, I know a lot of the top guys will play many different positions throughout the year before they get drafted. First, because they can, they're all great athletes with great range. Second, to improve their draft status. If they are more versatile they are a better draft pick. Personally I believe Harper is better off playing a corner outfield position or first base, not because he can't catch, but because his bat is more valuable than the defense he may be able to provide at catcher. Catching shortens careers after-all.
ED Note: Bryce's brother, Bryan, pitched last night.
Bill Ladson tweeted this afternoon that the Nationals are currently in talks with 30-year-old first baseman Adam Dunn about a contract extension.
"1B Adam Dunn and the #Nats are taking about a contract extension."
Ben Goessling also tweeted, however, that the Nationals are at "stage zero," in their discussions.
Analysis: Well this is the opposite of what we said they should do. As we explained earlier this week, Dunn, at the age of 30, is entering his decline period and with that his value will go down from where it is now. Furthermore, Dunn is a terrible fielder and the immediate value of his batt is almost completely taken away by the negative impact of his glove.
A look at the numbers (according to FanGraphs)
2009 Batting Value: 35.5
2009 Fielding Value: -36.3
2009 WAR: 1.2
Compare that to 2004 before Dunn was a horrendous fielder (still not a good one though):
2004 Batting Value: 40.4
2004 Fielding Value: -2.4
2004 WAR: 5.2
So our choices with Dunn are these; we can marginalize his value by sticking him in the field, or we can capitalize on his value by sending him to the American League. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Dunn, I rather like him, I'm just looking out for the team's best interest.
One possibility is that the Nationals are signing Dunn to an extension as it may make him more marketable, because the team he would be going to would have control of him for several more years. This is rather unlikely knowing the Nationals history, they are more likely thinking of keeping him to appease the fan base.
So if the Nationals aren't trading him, let's talk about contract length. At the age of 30 Dunn will likely start to decline slowly over the next three years, and than rather rapidly after he hits 33. Players of Dunn's body type usually just don't have long careers. A look at David Ortiz, Mo Vaughn, and even Willie Stargel McCovey shows that bigger sluggers tend to fade fast (unless of course they have outside help...cough Bonds...cough Palmeiro). However, is Dunn likely to only sign a three year deal? I'd doubt it, as that would place the first-baseman as a free agent at the age of 33, an undesirable situation for most.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
-Should the Nationals be looking to trade or extend Adam Dunn?
-What numbers would you like to see in a Dunn extension if it is completed?
PECOTA is a projection system derived by Nate Silver with Baseball Prospectus. It is arguably the most accurate projection system, and works based on a combination of similarity scores and multiple projected career paths. You can read more about it here. Regardless, for those of you who have had enough prospects talk (don't worry though! there's plenty more coming), or enough of projections that seem to only cater to career means, PECOTA is for you. Now on to it.
The big news here is that PECOTA projects the Nationals to have a winning season in 2010 with an 82-80 record. Yes, ladies and gentleman, that puts us in the back-end of the wild card race. PECOTA also projects the Nationals to be the most improved team in baseball by a large amount. What I find most interesting about their projections, however, is that even with them projecting Nyjer Morgan to have a full season, they don't project their offense to improve at all. The .252 batting average and .330 OBP numbers are actually lower than their .258 and .337.
In what seems like a bull-rush, several outlets have released their top 50/100 prospects lists. In most years this is an event lost on Nationals fans as our farm system has been rather depleted, however with the big draft in 2009, and our younger talent finally maturing, things have changed. Let's take a look at how we rank nationally.
ESPN.com's Keith Law ranked Stephen Strasburg their number two prospect in the country. While there obviously was great hype for Strasburg before he was drafted, he has hardly pitched at the professional level, where the number one prospect, Jason Heyward, has been a monster at all levels.
"Strasburg is the best starting pitcher in the Washington organization right now, and if he's not their No. 1 starter on Opening Day 2010 (for developmental or financial reasons), he almost certainly will be that guy by midyear. Strasburg will pitch at 94-98 mph as a starter -- maybe a tick less once he's working every fifth day and making 30-34 starts a year -- and has touched 100 repeatedly in the past, usually on a full week of rest. He has good life on the fastball to his glove side, and his curveball is as hard as a typical slider, with sharp late tilt that he uses to bury the pitch down and in to left-handed batters. He has a hard changeup with a screwball-ish fading action, but he rarely had to use it as an amateur because -- let's face it -- not many college hitters were going to square up a 98 mph fastball with life. What sets Strasburg apart from most pitchers who can throw 100 mph, even those who do it in relief, is how easily he does it, with tremendous arm speed and a delivery that he repeats well, featuring a long stride to the plate that has helped him pick up velocity since high school."
ESPN.com had slugging catcher Derek Norris ranked at the 31 spot.
"Norris is an offensive catcher whose defense is the subject of major debate among pro scouts. He does have arm strength, but his receiving and footwork are considered shaky; he's a good height (6-0) and hasn't outgrown the position yet, but he's thickly built. Adding much more weight could cost him his ability to stay behind the plate. If he does remain a catcher, he has superstar potential and could end up in the top 15-20 prospects next fall because he has an advanced approach at the plate (finishing 15th in walks in the minors last year) and already hits for power -- his 2009 was more impressive than it seems at first glance: He wore down in his first full pro season and hit just .174/.405/.233 after July. Norris missed the Arizona Fall League after breaking his hamate bone, an injury that lacks long-term consequences but usually saps a hitter's power for up to a year after the surgery, so it's not a crisis if his power dips in 2010."
MLB.com agreed with ESPN on putting Strasburg at number two.
"Scouting report: Fastball that reached triple digits in college and sits easily in the upper-90s. His power breaking ball -- some call it a curve, others a slider -- is also a plus pitch that is virtually unhittable. He didn't show a changeup much in college, but when he got to the Arizona Fall League, he threw it regularly, and scouts said it has the chance to be a plus pitch, as well. He's big, strong and durable with relatively clean mechanics and good command.
Upside potential: An ace at the top of a rotation who annually competes for Cy Young Awards and other similar hardware."
MLB.com ranked the Nationals 10th overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Drew Stroen, the 40th best prospect in baseball. This is the highest anyone has ranked him nationally, and one of the first times he's been considered a better prospect than the Nationals own Derek Norris (who was not ranked).
"Scouting report: Storen has what you want in a short reliever: outstanding stuff and a bulldog mentality. He goes right after hitters with a fastball he can push into the mid-to-upper-90s at times, plus some nasty hard breaking stuff. He's shown some feel for a changeup, as well. Storen matches his stuff with a great work ethic and a mean competitive streak.
Upside potential: A big league closer in the very near future."
FANHOUSE had four Nationals players ranked in their top 100 prospects list, including Stephen Strasburg as their number one overall talent:
"The Skinny: Who else could it be? Despite some early struggles in the Arizona Fall League, Strasburg looked as advertised this fall. He'll bring his 100-mph fastball into big-league camp next month, and looks like a favorite to nab a spot in Washington's rotation. We'll see if he forces the organization's hand or if he needs some seasoning in Triple-A."
FANHOUSE, unlike MLB.com, ranked catcher Derek Norris well above Drew Storen, and labeled him as the 35th best prospect in the nation. Fanhouse also added Chris Marrero as their 63rd prospect, and Drew Storen as their 79th.
"The Skinny: The Nationals' farm system has made tremendous progress in the last year or so and Norris is one of the best examples of that. Norris showed plus power and the ability to handle his catching duties. If he can stick at catcher he's going to be a very valuable commodity, but his bat should be able to play at any position."
To get Washington fans ready for the coming baseball season, all spring (err...and Winter) I will be interviewing a blogger from each team in the league. To continue our journey I talked with Mercurial Outfielder from Another Cubs Blog, one of the top Cubs blogs on the net. The Cubs are constantly looking towards next year, so lets take a look at what Another Cubs Blog says about this coming season:
The Nats Blog: Can the Cubs compete for that elusive World Series Title in 2010? Why?
Mercurial Outfielder: In a word, no. I mean, there's always some minuscule statistical chance that they could contend, but there's no reason to expect them to do so. The reason, simply put, is that the talent just isn't there. At the start of the 2009 season, by our WAR calculations, the Cubs were a 92-95 win team on paper, depending on if we used Rally's WAR or Fangraphs WAR. OF course, that didn't pan out, and I think the 2010 offseason has seen a classic case of over-general managing. The Cubs let 4-6 wins walk out the door when they refused to re-sign Harden and traded Bradley, and they haven't really replaced them. Marlon Byrd is the biggest acquisition so far, and even the most optimistic projections have him ~2 WAR. Moving Fukudome to RF helps defensively, as Fukudome is an excellent defensive RF, but having his bat in the lineup every day doesn't do much for me. Soriano is...well, who knows? He was having a typical Soriano season until mid-May when he smashed into a wall and banged up his knee, but I think there's a lot of uncertainty there. If we can chalk up his struggles to the injury, then there's some reason to be optimistic about a return to form--but I'm not sure we can really do that. There's a very good chance that Soriano will never again be the offensive force he was when the Cubs acquired him. Having a healthy Ramirez back helps, and Lee looks resurgent, but Baker is, IMO, a big question mark at 2B. A lot is riding on him continuing to hit. As for the rotation, Zambrano, outside of the completely useless W-L stat, had a pretty typical season in 2009. Dempster should continue to be steady. Lilly's coming off a shoulder injury, so trying to project him, is, IMHO, an exercise in futility.
And here's where the real problems with this team start.
There have been numerous reports recently that the Nationals may be looking to move Josh Willingham within the next several weeks. While Willingham likely can bring in a player of solid value, he is under the Nationals control for the next two seasons and is relatively cheap for his level of output.
However, Adam Dunn, 30, is in the final year of his contract, and is likely at the peak of his career. While Dunn has been an incredibly productive player for the Nationals, he likely wont be able to sustain his success much further into the future, and it will cost them a pretty penny to extend his contract (if they even can). Dunn can help the Nationals franchise the most by being traded for quality parts to be used for building the team of tomorrow.
Adam Dunn is a conundrum in many ways, while his bat may be his most valuable asset, going into the future the biggest variable in his overall value may be his horrific lack of defense. Fangraphs rated his offensive value as 35.5 Runs Above Average last season, where his defensive value was 36.3 Runs BELOW Average. This resulted in the slugger only being worth 1.2 Wins last season. However, if you remove his defensive liabilities he is clearly more valuable. This is why the Nationals need to trade him to the American League.
A look around the American League at the starting DH's shows its pretty slim pickings and that if he were traded he would almost instantly be the best DH in baseball.
Name / OPS
Baltimore: Luke Scott .828
Toronto: Randy Ruiz .682
Tampa Bay: Pat Burrell .682
Boston: David Ortiz .794
New York: Nick Johnson .831
Minnesota: Jason Kubel .907
Detroit: Jeff Larish .730
Chicago: Andruw Jones .782
Kansas City: Alex Gordon .703
Cleveland: Travis Hafner .826
LA Angels: Hideki Matsui .876
Texas: Vladimir Guerrero .794
Seattle: Ken Griffey Jr./Milton Bradley .735/.775
Oakland: Jack Cust .773
Adam Dunn .928
What do you think? Should the Nationals trade him before the season or at all?