Monday, April 19, 2010

Look Back in Anger: The 2005 Draft

I'm going to be taking a look back at every player the Nationals have drafted since the relocation to DC. At the very least, I want to see which players are still in the organization, which have moved on to other organizations, and which are out of baseball entirely. I don't know what, if anything, I'm going to learn from this exercise, but I do expect it to make me depressed, angry, and sad.

This labor of labor would not be possible without the efforts of Nats prospect maven Brian Oliver at Nationals Farm Authority. So, if you actually read this and halfway through you begin to regret it, blame him. No one told him to keep track of these washouts.

Names of players who played for a major league club are in bold. Names of players still in the Nationals organization are in italics. Names of players who were drafted by the Nationals but did not sign are underlined.

Round 1. Ryan Zimmerman (stats): 'Nuf sed.

Round 2. Lost to the Colorado Rockies as compensation for signing free agent Vinny Castilla (became this guy).

Round 3. Lost to the Minnesota Twins as compensation for signing free agent Cristian Guzman (became this guy).

Round 4. Justin Maxwell (stats): Somehow still tagged as a prospect despite being 27. By the time Ryan Church was 27, he had already shown enough hitting prowess that . . . well, let's just say that by the time Ryan Church was 27, he had shown that he was no Justin Maxwell. Maxwell's brief stints in DC have been a case of total ineptitude at the plate punctuated with just enough memorable home runs to make you say to yourself "Justin Maxwell, he's got to be better than Willie Harris, right?" This is probably a make or break year for Maxwell. People have been saying that for a few years now, but this time it's probably true.

Round 5. Ryan DeLaughter (stats): High school pitcher/OF with "projectable plus power" and a major-league-ready arm. DeLaughter fizzled as a hitter right from the start. An attempt at converting him into a pitcher ended with similarly gruesome results. He managed to stay on with the Nationals organization through 2008, and pitched in 6 games for the Brewers' Arizona League affiliate and two games for the South Louisiana Pipeliners of the Continental Baseball League in 2009. What does it mean to be wanted at 18 and washed up at 22?

Round 6. Marco Estrada (stats): Unexciting college RHP. Unexciting minor league stats. A few too many walks, but nothing horrible. Marco saved the horrible for the twenty innings he pitched with the Nats. He was designated for assignment in January 2010 to make room for Tyler Walker. Picked up by the Brewers, Marco is now a relief pitcher with the Nashville Sounds.

Round 7. Mike Daniel (stats): College OF. After making somewhat steady progress, Daniel stalled in Harrisburg in 2008. Despite not improving at Harrisburg, he was promoted to Syracuse at the end of 2009, where he remains. Update: Released May 2010.

Round 8. Jack Spradlin (stats): College LHP. A lefty with a fastball in the mid-to-high 80s, Baseball America described Spradlin as "better than people really think." At this point he's just what people really think, which is little more than organizational filler.

Round 9. John Michael Howell (stats): College OF/1B. "Projectable power" and a promising start derailed by injuries? I couldn't find out much about what happened to Howell, but his personal story (mother died in surgery when Howell was in high school, father died of a heart attack when Howell was in college) is wrenching. Presumed to be out of baseball.

Round 10. Dee Brown (stats): Unrefined college OF. Improved enough to make it to Harrisburg in 2007, but was back in Potomac as a 25-year-old for all of 2008. Released in March 2009, he latched on with the Winnipeg Goldeneyes of the independent Northern League.

Round 11. John Lannan (stats): Setting aside the question of his true talent level and looking only at the results on the field -- Is John Lannan the biggest (and most surprising?) player development success of the Bowden years? What about Ryan Zimmerman? He was basically a finished product when they drafted him and his time in Harrisburg was as much to acclimate him to professional baseball as it was to "develop" him as a hitter or fielder. Then surely Jordan Zimmermann? Zimmermann has a higher upside than Lannan, but he has to make a successful comeback from Tommy John surgery and begin to realize some of his potential before I start to really feel good about him. Aggressively promoted (some might call it rushed), Lannan is the only starting pitcher that Nats fans don't blanch at when they see his name listed in the probable starters column.

Round 12. Craig Stammen (stats): When a player makes it to the major leagues, it's usually for one (or both) of two reasons: 1) he's good enough; or 2) the team has a need. Stammen is an example of the latter. After a few undistinguished years, Stammen hit his stride on his third go-around in Potomac in 2008 and made it to AAA Columbus by the end of that season, where he went right back to being undistinguished. Called up after 40 good innings in AAA Syracuse, he did a lousy job in DC and ended up having surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. Apparently, Stammen states a good case, because he's back in the rotation for 2010. I know I'm supposed to blame the bone chips for Stammen's subpar 2009, but the bone chips are gone now and so far 2010 Stammen has pitched even worse than 2009 Stammen.

Round 13. Andre Enriquez (stats): "Well proportioned" college RHP with low-to-mid 90s fastball. Released 2008. With hardly any innings pitched, I'm guessing he got injured. Baseball America noted that he hurt his elbow throwing a breaking ball in college. Maybe not such a great pick. Presumed to be out of baseball.

Round 14. Deryck Johnson (stats): By this point in the draft, the MLB scouting blurbs are either faint praise or thinly-veiled insults. Johnson was a "slender" high school OF with "strength for occasional HR" who "reacts to fly balls." If the best thing you can say about an outfielder is that he "reacts to fly balls," maybe it's best not to say anything at all. Looks like another injury case. Released 2007. Presumed to be out of baseball.

Round 15. Michael Wadkins (stats): High school RHP. I don't expect to find much about guys this far down in the draft. Presumed to be out of baseball.

Round 16. Josh Palm (stats): College pitcher. Had Tommy John surgery. Released 2006. Presumed to be out of baseball.

Round 17. Eduardo Pichardo (stats): High school RHP. 13 2/3 explosive relief innings for the GCL Nats in 2005-2006. Released 2007. Outfielder for the South Louisiana Pipeliners in 2009.

Round 18. Timothy Pahuta (stats): College 1B. Compared to Jason Giambi, but with "soft hands at 1B." Not the best beginning, and whatever career he might have had was derailed by missing all of 2007 with an injury. Playing at Potomac at age 27. Organizational filler.

Round 19. Bradley Clark (stats): High school RHP. "Arm works," which I guess is the absolute minimum requirement for being a pitcher. "Less refined" and "needs seasoning" are probably not what you want to hear. Started 2006 by being suspended for violating team rules. Missed the rest of 2006 with a shoulder injury. Pitched 5 1/3 innings for the GCL Nats in 2007. Released 2008. Presumed to be out of baseball.

Round 20. Richard Shefka (stats): College RHP. "Excellent command." Pitched in Vermont and Savannah. Not so commanding. Released 2007. Presumed to be out of baseball.

Round 21. Colby Mavroulis (stats): College RHP. Made it to Hagerstown by 2007. Released 2008. Played for two independent league teams in 2008. Presumed to be out of baseball.

Round 22. Antonio Evangelista (stats): Junior college RHP. Seven decent relief innings for the GCL Nats in 2005. Released 2007. Pitched terribly for two independent teams in 2007. Presumed to be out of baseball.

Round 23. Brett Jensen (stats): College RHP. Did not sign. Drafted by the Tigers in the 14th round of the 2006 draft. Possibly out of baseball.

Round 24. Jeffrey Taylor (stats): College RHP. Never made it out of Vermont. Released in 2007. Presumed to be out of baseball.

Round 25. Josue Peley (stats): High school SS. Did not sign. Drafted by Pittsburgh in the 35th round of the 2006 draft, so if it was a money thing, it worked out spectacularly for Peley. Playing shitty in the Sally League.

Round 26. Doug Thennis (stats): Junior college 3B. Did not sign. Drafted by the White Sox in the 27th round of the 2008 draft. Didn't sign with them either. Attended Texas Tech. Played independent ball in 2008 and 2009. Live the dream, Doug. Live the dream.

Round 27. Andrew Lane (stats): College 2B. Released 2006. Caught on with the Cubs organization in 2006. Two different independent teams in 2007. Presumed to be out of baseball.

Round 28. Hunter Pace (no stats): High school OF. Did not sign. Went to University of Arizona.

Round 29. Patrick Barnes (no stats): Junior college OF. Did not sign.

Round 30. Brian Pruitt (stats): High school 3B. Did not sign. [Redrafted by the Nats in the 34th round in 2008. Lousy in Vermont. Currently on the roster of the GCL Nats.]

Round 31. Clayton Conner (stats): High school 3B. Did not sign. Drafted by Arizona in the 45th round of the 2006 draft.

Round 32. Daniel Schuh (no stats): High school OF. Did not sign. College.

Round 33. Ryan Buchter (stats): High school LHP. Draft and follow, later swapped to the Cubs for Matt Avery, who was subsequently released. Meanwhile, Buchter seems to have gotten it together and is doing all right (except for scary amount of BB) for the Cubs' AA affiliate. To be fair, at the time of the trade, Buchter sucked and Avery was serviceable. But it's not my job to be fair. Good job, Bodes. Another failure for the Nats' player development process.

Round 34. Jordan Thibodeaux (no stats): Junior college LHP. Did not sign. College. Those are some big fucking ears.

Round 35. Matt Averitt (no stats): Junior college RHP. Did not sign. The Expos had drafted him in the 32nd round in 2004. Averitt must have been terrible if both Omar and Bowden wanted him. Went to college.

Round 36. Brent McMillan (stats): College 1B. Did not sign. [Redrafted by the Nats in the 14th round of the 2006 draft. Released 2008.]

Round 37. Brandon Hamilton (no stats): High school OF. Did not sign. Allegedly signed with Detroit in 2007.

Round 38. Marcus Jones (stats): High school OF. The "top high school player in the DC area," Jones was expected to difficult to sign. And I guess he was, because he didn't sign. [Redrafted by the Nats in the 11th round of the 2008 draft.]

Round 39. Jacob McCarter (stats): Junior college RHP. Did not sign. Also passed on the Yankees in 2004. Drafted by the Red Sox in the 45th round in 2005. Doesn't look to have signed with them either. Signed with the Dodgers as a nondrafted free agent in 2008.

Round 40. Anthony Williams (no stats): High school OF. Did not sign.

Round 41. Tyler Moore (stats): High school 1B. Did not sign. [Redrafted by the Nats in the 16th round of the 2008 draft. Currently in Potomac.]

Round 42. Paul Treadaway (no stats): Junior college RHP. Did not sign. Attended Southeastern Louisiana University.

Round 43. Scott Barnes (stats): High school LHP. Did not sign. Drafted by San Francisco in the 8th round of the 2008 draft.

Round 44. Steven Hensley (stats): High school RHP. Did not sign. Drafted by Seattle in the 4th round of the 2008 draft.

Round 45. Anthony Shawler (stats): High school RHP. Did not sign. Drafted by Detroit in the 9th round of the 2008 draft.

Round 46. Ibrahim Lopez (no stats): Junior college OF. Did not sign. Attended Shorter College.

Round 47. Luis Feliz (no stats): High school OF. Did not sign. Attended Rutgers University.

Round 48. William Cherry (no stats): High school OF. Did not sign. Attended Florida Southern College.

Round 49. Terrence Brown (no stats): High school RHP. Did not sign. Went to the University of North Carolina for football.

Round 50. Jake Leonhardt (stats): Junior college RHP. The 2005 MLB scouting blurb described Leonhardt as having a "very tall, high waisted body," "long arms," and "good size." I'm not sure what I'm picturing in my head would be able to walk upright. Did not sign. Drafted by the Astros in the 37th round of the 2007 draft, by 2009 was the best starting pitcher for the Bay Area Toros of the Continental Baseball League.

2005 totals: 48 players drafted. 23 players signed (9 position players, 14 pitchers). 7 players still with the organization. 5 players with major league service time. 1 All-Star position player (Zimmerman). 1 starting rotation regular (Lannan). 1 starting rotation suck (Stammen). 1 4th/5th OF [until he shows me more] (Maxwell).

Were there more unsigned players in 2005 than in the 2006-2008 drafts? Yes. Did Bowden take plenty of late-round flyers on talented players he knew would go in higher rounds in subsequent drafts? Absolutely. Did both of these things happen as a result of MLB group ownership? Maybe. Did MLB group ownership hamper or limit Bowden's ability to draft based purely on talent? Probably, but what GMs besides Cashman and Epstein get to draft based purely on talent? Even if some of the players Bowden drafted in the first few rounds were toolsy Bowden specials, it doesn't seem like any of them were blatant signability picks. Did MLB group ownership make a difference in the draft? Doesn't look like it. Is there a lesson to be learned from the fact that MLB group ownership ended up producing a better draft than any of the Lerners' drafts to date? Not unless you're able to separate luck from skill.

The biggest impediment to the success of the 2005 draft wasn't MLB group ownership or Bowden's predilection for toolsy outfielders and high school pitchers with high ceilings. The biggest impediment to the success of the 2005 draft was losing the Nats' second and third round picks to sign mediocre free agents Vinny Castilla and Cristian Guzman in an attempt to create buzz coming into the inaugural season in DC.

In hindsight, the 2005 draft looks pretty damn good. Despite getting high marks at the time, knowing what we know now about Marrero, Detwiler, Smoker, McGeary, Zinicola, etc., the 2006 and 2007 drafts have to be considered qualified successes or modified failures or some other half-assed hedging phrase that means "Not as good as we thought they were." And we all remember what a clusterfuck the 2008 draft became. 2005 might turn out to be the best non-Strasburg draft so far.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Club Groucho

The Nationals have decided to make media credentials available to a select list of blogs.

What am I expecting? A proliferation of redundant game and daily news wraps peppered with the same player and manager quotes I already mostly skip over due to their overwhelming lack of newsworthiness. More interview transcripts. More pictures of SBF and TAQ in sycophantic and preening poses with Our Washington Nationals. More terrible writing from Federal Baseball. More bloggers with an inflated sense of self-worth.

What do I want? Smart opinion and analysis. Longer features. Accountability blogging. A willingness to call bullshit on everything the front office says. A desire to challenge instead of being a mouthpiece. Media criticism.

I have little interest in reading four junior beat writers (the invite to Nats Farm Authority is unnecessary for his blog). By defining it as a "trial program" and limiting participation to so-called "news-gathering outlets," (read: aggregators that don't offer much in the way of pushback) it's clear that the team wants the benefits of being seen as open to social media without any of the downsides of really engaging with their critics. Ask a few too many hard questions -- hey, it was just a trial program anyway.

The local media is pretty soft on the team, and I'm sure the team likes that. But other teams have shown a willingness to make themselves available to challenges from bloggers. And I'm sure everything wasn't sweetness and harmony when Loverro was showing up at games, but those days are gone.

I would rather one or two of those credentials were made available to those opinion bloggers who I think would be less likely to regurgitate what they're told and less willing to be used as a PR mouthpiece. (And, no, I don't mean me.)

So, good for you that you get to go to the press conferences and see games for free, but what's in it for the readers?