Nationals Spring Training Radio Broadcasts

After updating my last post with the news that MASN will televise Stephen Strasburg’s spring debut, I thought it’d be a good idea to post the radio schedule as well.

DATE OPPONENT TIME OUTLET
March 5 @Atlanta 1:05pm XM
March 6 N.Y. Mets 1:05pm XM
March 8 Florida 1:05 p.m. Radio
March 9 Detroit* 1:05 p.m. Radio, XM
March 11 Houston 1:05 p.m. Radio
March 12 N.Y. Yankees* 1:05 p.m. Radio, XM
March 14 St. Louis 1:05pm XM
March 15 Atlanta* 7:05pm XM
March 17 @Houston 1:05 p.m. XM
March 19 St. Louis 7:05 p.m. Radio
March 20 Florida 1:05 p.m. Radio, XM
March 22 NY Mets 1:05 p.m. Radio
March 26 St. Louis 1:05 p.m. Radio
March 27 @Atlanta 1:05 p.m. Radio
April 3 Boston* 4:05 p.m. Radio

* MASN telecast

The MLB Network will also be televising the Nats-Mets tilt on Saturday, March 27th, and the 2nd annual 30 Clubs in 30 Days is scheduled to air on Tuesday, March 16th. The folks at XM will broadcasting spring training interviews on Monday, March 22.

Information on the Nationals radio network can be found here. But if you work in an office building, the $19.95 for Gameday Audio might be your best bet, given the lack of an FM signal in the DC area.

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MASN Announces Spring Training Game Broadcast Plans

Surprised this slipped by me—perhaps I was distracted by all the news about Stephen Strasburg’s 37-pitch bullpen session on Saturday—but our lovely local broadcast network announced last week that it will televise eight spring-training games in 2010 and surprise, surprise not one of them is a Nationals vs. Orioles game.

Less of a surprise: Seven of the eight games are against either the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees.

All games will be on MASN1 and all will be in HD, another bonus though not a surprise because MASN had announced in the offseason that it was going full HD in 2010.

UPDATE!!!

Aided, no doubt, by the MLB Network’s decision to televise Stephen Strasburg’s debut, MASN has added one more game to its schedule.

WASHINGTON

Tuesday, March 9 at 1:00 p.m. vs. Detroit in Viera

Friday, March 12 at 1:00 p.m. vs Yankees in Viera

Monday, March 15 at 7:00 p.m. vs Braves in Viera

Wednesday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. vs Yankees in Tampa

Saturday, April 3 at 4:00 p.m. vs Red Sox at Nationals Park

BALTIMORE

Sunday, March 7 at 1:00 p.m. vs Red Sox in Sarasota

Thursday, March 25 at 1:00 p.m. vs Yankees in Sarasota

Monday, March 29 at 7:00 p.m. vs Yankees in Sarasota

Wednesday, March 31 at 1:00 p.m. vs Red Sox in Sarasota

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Chris Marrero: The Next Adrian Gonzalez?

By MM

Introduction
Nationals 1B Chris Marrero is one of Washington’s  top prospects. The 21-year-old from Miami was drafted 15th in the 2006 MLB Draft. He was ranked 6th in the Nationals farm system this past offseason according to Baseball America. To see if Marrero will become a star in the big leagues, we need to first compare him to the 1B in the big leagues to see if he compares favorably to their numbers in the minors.

Comparison #1
Here are the average minor-league numbers for the 25 qualified MLB players who played 1B this season when they were in their age-20 season:

AGE HR HR/PA% BA OBP SLG OPS ISO
Average 1B 22.3* 16.3 3.4 .296 .382 .490 .872 .195
Marrero 20** 17 3.1 .282 .358 .452 .810 .168

* Age is the average age of the debut season for these 1B
** Marrero turned 21 on July 2, 2009 after playing 71 games. He played 64 games from July 2 to September 7; AFL games were not counted in this analysis.

Marrero’s age is a plus. He will turn 22 in July. He should be able to reach the big leagues by Opening Day 2011 (Age 22) or as a September call up (Age 23) next year. More than half (52%) of the players in this sample reached the big leagues at age 22 or younger. Nearly 90 percent (88) reached by age 23 or younger. Only three of the 25 qualified 1B reached after the age of 23 (Ryan Howard, 24; Adam LaRoche, 24; Kevin Youkilis, 25). Perhaps it’s not a bad sign to reach after 23, given that these three players have combined for four All-Star appearances and six Top-6 finishes in the MVP voting.

Only one player in this sample reached the big leagues at age 20 (Miguel Cabrera), while 11 of the 17 who played pro ball at age 20 played at AA or higher. Two of them made it to AAA that season (Albert Pujols, Paul Konerko).

Comparison #2
Here is the percentile rank of where Marrero compares to this sample of 25′s minor-league numbers:

HR HR/PA% BA OBP SLG OPS ISO
70 61 50 31 24 24 20

Unlike our more recent prospect comparison, Marrero only finishes in the top half in three of seven categories and finishes in the bottom 3rd in four of the categories.

Marrero compares somewhat favorably to the others in both HR’s and HR/PA%. But, Marrero lags behind in all of the triple slash. What’s concerning is the fact that Marrero’s SLG% is 38 points behind the average. Baseball America was quoted with this on Marrero’s power: “Marrero’s best tool is his plus-plus raw power to all fields, though he’s still learning to tap into it.”

Except for a 57-game stretch in Low-A in 2007, Marrero hasn’t shown that power yet. Another concern is that his isolated power has declined in each of the past 3 seasons (.209 in 2007, .203 in 2008, and .168 in 2009).

Comparison #3
Only two players had an OPS within 30 points of Marrero’s .810. One was Prince Fielder, but Marrero compares the best with Adrian Gonzalez:

PLAYER LEVEL HR HR/PA% BA OBP SLG OPS ISO
Marrero A-AA 17 3.1 .282 .358 .452 .810 .168
Gonzalez AA 17 3.0 .266 .344 .437 .781 .171

Both players have almost same amount of HR’s and HR/PA% and have a similar ISO. Marrero edges Gonzalez in triple slash stats mostly due to better luck with balls in play and playing in A ball for half the season. Marrero had a 20.8 K%, 9.0 BB% Gonzalez had a 19.5 K%, 9.4 BB%.

After a disappointing Age-21 season (.692 OPS between 2 levels), Gonzalez had a solid Age-22 season (.821 OPS in AAA). Gonzalez went on to have a brief stint in the big leagues that season (16 games). At age 23, Gonzalez had a breakout season (.960 OPS in AAA) which led to a midseason promotion to the Texas Rangers. In 2006, Gonzalez at the age of 24, became a full-time MLB player. That season he started a streak of four straight seasons with a slugging percentage of .500 or better, culminating in a 2009 season where he finished in the Top 5 in OPS.

Gonzalez started showing his power at the age of 24. It will be interesting to see if Marrero can tap into his “Plus-Plus raw power to all fields” that Baseball America believes he has, similar to the way that Gonzalez did. If Marrero becomes an everyday 1B, it will mostly likely happen at age 23 or 24 like it did for Gonzalez.

Conclusion
It’s more likely that Marrero ends up as a journeyman 1B for most of his career. Marrero’s stats do not have any special indicators that point to him being an average 1B for the future. Marrero’s best hope is to follow the Adrian Gonzalez path of breaking out at around age 23.

Gonzalez, like Marrero, looked like a disappointment, but Gonzalez got traded from the Marlins to the Rangers. The Rangers were not patient enough with Gonzalez and he got traded to the Padres. The Padres were rewarded by watching Gonzalez become a franchise player. The Nationals have to hope that they won’t have to trade Marrero before that happens.

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Update

Haven’t posted for a while but Sue has done a great job. I have been very busy with my Orioles website so I have not been able to focus on this site, but that is going to change!

I just purchased a video camera and will be providing video of the Nationals’ prospects throughout the year. Exciting, huh?

I’m also proud to say that we’ve been added to the Nationals Buzz Tap feed.

Remember to follow NationalsProspects.com on twitter!

Which prospect would you like to see video on the most? Are there any sleepers that you’d want me to take a look at?

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A Closer Look At The Nationals’ Catcher of The Future

The roster of NationalsProspects.com writers expands with MM, a 20-year-old student at George Mason University. Without further ado…

Introduction
Catcher Derek Norris is not only one of the Nationals’ best position-player prospects; he is one of the best in all of baseball. Drafted in the 4th round of the 2007 MLB Draft out of a Kansas high school in Kansas, the 20-year-old Norris dazzled fans and scouts with a show of power that is rarely seen by catchers. His 23 HR on the season not only led all minor-league catchers. In fact, Joe Mauer was the only professional catcher to have more HR’s on the season (28 HR).

Comparison #1
Derek Norris compares favorably to the minor league numbers from current catchers in the big leagues at the age of 20:

AGE HR HR/PA% BA OBP SLG OPS ISO
Average C 23* 7.6 1.9 .284 .355 .417 .773 .133
Norris 20 23 4.3 .286 .413 .513 .926 .227

* Average age of the debut season for the C’s selected; 8 of the 29 qualified C were not in professional baseball at the age of 20

Norris’s age ranks him in the middle of the pack. Only 4 out of 21 players played all season in Low- A as Norris did. Twelve of these players played at Low-A or lower during their age-20 season. Thirteen of the players played at a higher level than Low-A during their age-20 season. Only one player, Ivan Rodriguez, was in the big leagues for his full age-20 season. Dioner Navarro was the only other catcher in this sample to appear in the big leagues at age 20.

The average age of debut is 23, though it’s a little skewed because a few of these catchers barely appeared in their big league debut. Norris will turn 21 this Sunday. He should be able to appear in the big leagues at 23 at the latest and possibly as soon as he’s 22.

Comparison #2
Here is the Percentile Rank of where Norris ranks among the catchers in the sample:

HR HR/PA% BA OBP SLG OPS ISO
100 100 67 100 90 100 100

Norris has the best numbers in five of these categories and is ranked in the top third in all seven. Norris beat out 14 out of 21 catchers in batting average and 19 of the catchers in slugging pct. It’s rare to see a catcher who put up prolific numbers like Norris did even if it was at a low level.

Norris’s best skill is his power. He ranks #1 in all the power indicators (HR, HR/PA%, SLG, ISO). Where Norris lags behind is his defense. There are questions about whether Norris can stay at catcher for the long-term. Norris had 18 errors and 28 passed balls in Hagerstown. But, Norris does have a strong arm. He threw out 36% of the base runners who attempted to steal on him. Only 14 of the catchers in the sample have CS% data in the minors, but Norris beats out nine of them.

Comparison #3
There really isn’t a valid comparison for Norris in this sample. Only three of the catchers were within 50 OPS points of Norris. One of them, Bengie Molina, had a .892 OPS season with a .398 OBP. Ironically, Molina is now known for having terrible plate discipline and not taking a walk (13 in 520 PA in ’09).

One comparison I found is Carlos Santana, who hasn’t reached the big leagues yet. Here are the numbers that Santana put up last year in his age-23 season in AA, compared to Norris’s numbers:

PLAYER PA 2B HR HR/PA% BA OBP SLG OPS ISO
Norris 540 30 23 4.3 .286 .413 .513 .926 .227
Santana 535 30 23 4.3 .290 .413 .530 .943 .240

Norris and Santana had the same or almost-identical numbers in every category. Both of them had similar batting eyes as they each had 90 BB on the season. Where Santana has the advantage is that he had better plate discipline. Santana had 86 strikeouts for a 15.5 K%, while Norris had 116 strikeouts for a 21.5 K%. They even had similar batted ball profiles. Santana had 37% of his balls in play on the ground and 19% for line drives, while Norris had a 36% GB% and 20% LD%.

While Santana accomplished this two levels higher than Norris, you can’t discount the three-year age gap between the two. At age 20, Santana split time between rookie ball and Low-A with an .815 OPS. At 21, he had a disappointing .688 OPS in Low-A. Santana broke out in 2008 at the age of 22. Santana had a .999 OPS in High-A while split between the Dodgers and Indians High-A affiliates. Santana has consistently been ranked higher than Norris in all prospect publications because he is at a higher level and because he has the potential to become a good defender.

Conclusion
Norris is a good bet to become an elite offensive catcher. Very few have had success like Norris has. But, Norris will lose a lot of his value if he has to move to 1B. Norris would go from a great prospect to just a good one. His OPS would rank in the 65th percentile of age-20 minor-league seasons from qualifying big-league 1B. That would still make him a solid player, but not elite. Carlos Santana’s career will be an interesting case to watch in terms of how Norris may perform in the big leagues. At age 24, Santana should be able to reach the major leagues by the end of 2010.

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More from the MLBA… Pitching Prospects

Now that you’re familiar with the system, let’s jump right in, shall we?

Stephen Strasburg, 10C (21)
Who?

Drew Storen, 9B (22)
Roundly criticized last June as a “signability” pick, Storen may have been the shrewdest pick of the draft – providing desperately what the parent club needs: a young, MLB-ready reliever with a live arm

Josh Smoker, 8D (21)

Jack McGeary, 8D (21)

A.J. Morris, 8D (23)

Colton Willems, 8E (21)
Injuries are said to be the cause of his struggles in ’09. Was rocked hard the two times I saw him start.

Pat Lehman, 7B (23)

Aaron Thompson, 7C (23)

Brad Meyers, 7C (24)
A dark horse that throws a sinking fastball and plus slider. Not overpowering.

Trevor Holder, 7D (23)
A three-level pitcher (A-, A, A+) that was also hit very hard at Potomac and may have been an overdraft

Luis Atilano, 7D (25)
Works fast, throws strikes, and is gaining velocity but time may be running out him

Victor Garate, 7D (25)

Zechry Zinicola, 7D (25)
Appears to have hit a wall at AAA

Adrian Alaniz, 6B (26)
Classic case of a pitcher that could get by on marginal stuff at the lower levels by compensating with above-average command, but hasn’t been able to solve AA batters and likely won’t

Marco Estrada, 6B (27)
Book went to press before his recent DFA

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For better or worse, most of the pitchers here I’ve only seen briefly, which is a function of the past two seasons where guys were rushed up to the bigs to help out with the bullpen. From my perspective, I believe we could use more depth in the system. Only five of these guys are 22 or younger, and only two of those guys seem certain to make it above AAA. Everybody else is a maybe.

In fact, I’d refer to Brian’s Top 20 list again because I respect his opinion on the guys I haven’t seen, and I think you’ll see that there’s not as much overlap here as there was for batters. Like I’ve posted before, I really don’t like to comment about guys I haven’t watched at the ballpark.

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More from the MLBA… Batting Prospects

First, a little explanation about the system they use for grading prospects. It’s two parts, a number grade and then a letter grade. The number grade is the ceiling, the letter grade is the potential for reaching that ceiling.

10 = Hall of Famer A = 90% Probability
9 = Elite Player B = 70% Probability
8 = Solid Regular C = 50% Probability
7= Average Regular D = 30% Probability
6= Platoon Player E = 10% Probability

As you might imagine, that leads to some “fuzziness” — Michael Burgess has a higher ceiling, but Danny Espinosa has a better chance of maximizing his talent, so who’s the better prospect? Personally, I think that depends on the organization. For Washington, there needs to be more A’s and B’s because the depth at many positions is quite shallow (e.g. 3B, 1B, C).

Without further ado, here’s the grade. In itals, my impressions, if I’ve seen them

Derek Norris, 9D (21) – C/1B
Solid hitter, but I’m not sold on his defense, though I’ve only seen him a couple of time in Hagerstown

Chris Marrero, 9D (21) – 1B/DH
Will the power come back? A butcher on defense.

Michael Burgess, 9E (21) – OF
Monster power, but strikeouts have to come down for him to move up. Very good RF arm

Ian Desmond, 8C (24) – MI
He’s learned to hit since I saw him in ’06-’07, but still has a penchant for making routine plays difficult

Danny Espinosa, 8B (23) – SS
MLB-ready defense. Terrific batter’s eye. Power breakout in ’09, if legit, could get him to Washington by year’s end

Eury Perez, 8C (20) – OF

Justin Maxwell, 8C (26) – OF
As stated previously, Maxwell is a 4th OF in my opinion

Jeff Kobernus, 8D (21) – 2B

Destin Hood, 8D (20) – OF

Adrian Nieto, 8E (20) – C

J.P. Ramirez, 7D (20) – OF

Greg Veloz, 7D (22) – 2B/3B
Unimpressive in 19 games last Aug./Sep. after pickup from Mets

Bill Rhinehart, 7E (25) – 1B/DH
Late bloomer, fan favorite, but the power shown in Hagerstown in ’08 has been spotty at Harrisburg

Mike Daniel, 6B (25) – OF
Average power, above-average speed & defense, will draw the walk but not hit for average

Leonard Davis, 6B (26) – UT
Mistake hitter that can be neutralized by LHPs. Best positions are 3B and RF but can play LF and 2B

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About the only notable hitting prospects that I’ve seen that I would have liked to have seen graded are Stephen King and Sean Rooney, perhaps even Edgardo Baez. King and Baez may never play again for Washington; I’m presuming Washington is not allowed to release players until after their suspension. Rooney, though, I would have thought merited some inclusion by virtue of his presence in the Arizona Fall League.

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