Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Yutes Are Our Future

Two must-read articles for the Nats fan who's ready to jump off a bridge.

First, here's a look at how Arizona's farm team has supplemented the big club. 15 of their 25 players have come up through their minor league system. Why do you care? Because Mike Rizzo, our current Ass. GM was AZ's Farm Director, and many (most?) of these players are the fruits of his labor. If he can do it there, why can't he do it here? (I can tell what you're thinking: "But, but, but Jim Bowden...")

Related to that is an excellent piece in the Hardball Times about what makes young players so valuable to a club. The answer isn't anything new, but it IS music to Uncle Teddy's ancient ears: They're cheap!

Just something to read and think about while we're waiting for the Braves to murder Matt Chico tonight...

  • I want to highlight the excellent comment Scot made to this post:
    Of the 15 players drafted by the DBacks (when I say "first season" below, I mean first season with more than 100 AB or 45 IP, to weed out September callups):

    C Chris Snyder: drafted out of college in 2002; first season 2005. (3 years after draft)

    1B Connor Jackson: drafted in first round of 2003 out of college; reached majors in 2006. (3 years after draft)

    3B Chad Tracy: drafted out of college in 2001, reached majors 2004 (3 years after draft)

    SS Stephen Drew: drafted out of college in first round in 2005, reached majors in 2006 (1 year after draft)

    UT Scott Hairston: drafted out of college in 2001, reached majors in 2004 (3 years after draft), but didn't play much in the majors in 2005 or 2006.

    C Miguel Montero: signed as international FA in 2001, reached majors in 2007? (6 years after signing)

    3B Brian Barden - drafted out of college in 2002 draft, reached majors in 2007? (5 years after draft)

    UT Robby Hammock: drafted out of college in 1998, reached majors in 2003 (5 years after draft)

    SP Brandon Webb: drafted out of college in 2000, reached majors in 2003 (3 years after draft)

    SP Edgar Gonzalez: signed as international FA in 2000, reached majors in 2004 (4 years after signing)

    SP Micah Owings: drafted out of college in 2005; reached majors in 2007? (2 years after draft)

    RP Tony Pena: signed as international FA in 2002, reached majors in 2006 (4 years after signing)

    RP Jose Valverde: signed as international FA in 1997; reached majors in 2003 (6 years after signing)

    RP Brandon Medders: drafted out of college in 2001; reached majors in 2005 (4 years after draft)

    RP Doug Slaten: drafted out of college in 2000; first year in majors 2007? (7 years after draft)

    RP Dustin Nippert: drafted out of college in 2002, reached majors in 2007? (5 years after draft)


    Not drafted/signed by the DBacks:

    CF Chris Young, drafted out of high school in 2001, reached majors in 2006 (5 years after draft)

    UI Alberto Callaspo: not drafted, signed as international FA in 2001, reached majors in 2007? (6 years after signing)

    That gives me 16 guys originally drafted/signed by the DBacks (plus 2 other young players who caught my eye) - not sure who I'm over-counting or who the report missed. I'm surprised by how many guys were taken out of college - drafting college players has gotten a bad rap in recent years. But that's 12 guys taken out of college. Looks like the good college players typically reach the majors about 3 years after being drafted; the fringy college guys look to take 5-7 years. The high school/international signings seem to take longer - call it 4-6 years.

    What does this mean for Nats fans? That we probably won't see the fruits of last year';s draft (which was HS heavy) until 2010 at the earliest, and probably more along the lines of 2011-12. And any draft picks taken this year will be 2010 or beyond as well. It's going to take a fair bit of patience on the part of Nats fans to give the system time to become productive.

    I've read much about how the farm system can be ready really quickly, which isn't quite true. This goes to show it.

    The team has been coy about this subject and the timeline, leaving the impression (or at least not knocking it down) that this can be done quicker than anyone expects. It's in their short-term interest to let this persist; it gives us hope. But they better not raise the expectations too high.

  • 17 Comments:

    • The what are our future?

      Yutes, your honor. The yutes.

      By Blogger D, at 4/10/2007 1:50 PM  

    • Of the 15 players drafted by the DBacks (when I say "first season" below, I mean first season with more than 100 AB or 45 IP, to weed out September callups):

      C Chris Snyder: drafted out of college in 2002; first season 2005. (3 years after draft)

      1B Connor Jackson: drafted in first round of 2003 out of college; reached majors in 2006. (3 years after draft)

      3B Chad Tracy: drafted out of college in 2001, reached majors 2004 (3 years after draft)

      SS Stephen Drew: drafted out of college in first round in 2005, reached majors in 2006 (1 year after draft)

      UT Scott Hairston: drafted out of college in 2001, reached majors in 2004 (3 years after draft), but didn't play much in the majors in 2005 or 2006.

      C Miguel Montero: signed as international FA in 2001, reached majors in 2007? (6 years after signing)

      3B Brian Barden - drafted out of college in 2002 draft, reached majors in 2007? (5 years after draft)

      UT Robby Hammock: drafted out of college in 1998, reached majors in 2003 (5 years after draft)

      SP Brandon Webb: drafted out of college in 2000, reached majors in 2003 (3 years after draft)

      SP Edgar Gonzalez: signed as international FA in 2000, reached majors in 2004 (4 years after signing)

      SP Micah Owings: drafted out of college in 2005; reached majors in 2007? (2 years after draft)

      RP Tony Pena: signed as international FA in 2002, reached majors in 2006 (4 years after signing)

      RP Jose Valverde: signed as international FA in 1997; reached majors in 2003 (6 years after signing)

      RP Brandon Medders: drafted out of college in 2001; reached majors in 2005 (4 years after draft)

      RP Doug Slaten: drafted out of college in 2000; first year in majors 2007? (7 years after draft)

      RP Dustin Nippert: drafted out of college in 2002, reached majors in 2007? (5 years after draft)


      Not drafted/signed by the DBacks:

      CF Chris Young, drafted out of high school in 2001, reached majors in 2006 (5 years after draft)

      UI Alberto Callaspo: not drafted, signed as international FA in 2001, reached majors in 2007? (6 years after signing)

      That gives me 16 guys originally drafted/signed by the DBacks (plus 2 other young players who caught my eye) - not sure who I'm over-counting or who the report missed. I'm surprised by how many guys were taken out of college - drafting college players has gotten a bad rap in recent years. But that's 12 guys taken out of college. Looks like the good college players typically reach the majors about 3 years after being drafted; the fringy college guys look to take 5-7 years. The high school/international signings seem to take longer - call it 4-6 years.

      What does this mean for Nats fans? That we probably won't see the fruits of last year';s draft (which was HS heavy) until 2010 at the earliest, and probably more along the lines of 2011-12. And any draft picks taken this year will be 2010 or beyond as well. It's going to take a fair bit of patience on the part of Nats fans to give the system time to become productive.

      Scot.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/10/2007 1:54 PM  

    • SS Stephen Drew: drafted out of college in first round in 2005, reached majors in 2006 (1 year after draft)

      This is the interesting outlier here. And important in a sense because the D'Backs were able to draft and sign Drew only because the ownership group resolved to bite the financial bullet.

      Perhaps there will be a similar opportunity presented to the Nats in this year's draft? (I'm sure someone could find out). Wouldn't that go quite a way to easing the concerns of those who don't buy THE PLAN?

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/10/2007 2:51 PM  

    • Arizona Diamondbacks are a good model, as are the Atlanta Braves (I know, I know...). Even at their very best ('94-'98 range), they had a team with a ton of home grown talent with just enough free agents to fill the holes (Greg Maddux and Terry Pendleton being big acquisitions).

      Another good example is the 2004 Cubs (lead the NL Central all year, until choking in September). The infield had Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez -- two players they got in trade for prospects, and the outfield had Sosa (again, a trade for lower level prospects) and Corey Patterson. Even having Nomar at SS only cost a few minor leaguers (if Beltran would ever stay healthy enough we could see him in DC) and a shortstop they wanted to get rid of anyway. Their pitching staff was mostly home grown (Prior, Wood, Zambrano) with Clement being a trade pick-up (albeit, in the trade that sent Dontrelle Willis to Florida), and Greg Maddux coming back to Chicago. The only free agents on that team were Todd Walker (a back-up infielder), Moises Alou, and Michael Barrett.

      We have Zimmerman, Kearns, and Johnson locked up until 2010/2011. If we can hold onto Lopez and develop Flores and Casto, then we legitimately have 2 holes at the big league level, minus the pitching staff. If we can develop 1 or 2 big league players from our system by 2010, then it's really just 1 or 2 good free agents to be a respectable ballclub. Given the way we have collected prospects in the past 10 months, we should be able to develop a few into big league talent in the next 3 years.

      By Blogger Natsfan74, at 4/10/2007 3:04 PM  

    • Stephen Drew was their Ryan Zimmerman or Chad Cordero. Find a college player who is big league ready and pay them what it takes to sign them right away. The problem with Drew was his agent and the Drew family history with signing.

      Zimmerman and Cordero were both the 2nd player from their respective draft classes to reach the big leagues.

      By Blogger Natsfan74, at 4/10/2007 3:06 PM  

    • Chris...

      "But they better not raise the expectations too high"

      Too high?

      If this past week and the all that high quality fan experience is any indication, I don't think we have to worry about Stan and Co. setting expectations too high. ;)

      By Blogger Jim, at 4/10/2007 4:26 PM  

    • The Diamondbacks have not won anything with these farm developed players, at least not yet. I am not sure the current team is much good. They just looked good over the weekend against a very weak opponent.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/10/2007 4:34 PM  

    • Also, people need to remember that once we have a bunch of prospects in the system, we don't have to wait x amount of years for all to make the majors. We can instead trade some of our prospects for quality MLers. Think the opposite of what we're doing now.

      By Blogger Christopher, at 4/10/2007 4:59 PM  

    • Jim -- the expectations for the minor leagues ARE high. All we hear is about Kasten single-handedly turning the Braves into the powerhouse they've been for the last 15 years.

      Anon. -- Sure, the jury is out on the DBacks, but Jackson, Snyder, Tracy, Drew and Webb are an elite core. Many people smarter than me have made them one of the favorites in that division.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/10/2007 5:06 PM  

    • Don't forget Carlos Quentin (drafted 2003, debuted 2006), currently on the DL, as part of that elite young core.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/10/2007 6:03 PM  

    • the nats have not led entering a single plate appearance (i think out of 557) this season. does anyone know if that is a record? thanks.

      By Blogger david, at 4/11/2007 8:44 AM  

    • Two comments:

      1. I see that Zimmerman and Co. (the "core") will be free agents just about the time "the plan" will be introducing rookie prospects. Ya think Zimm will stick around for a couple more horrendous/learning years surrounded by unproven minor league talent?

      2. The Diamondbacks have been in business quite a while. Arizona fans long ago had a chance to decide whether the D's are their team--or not. Here, we are introducing a new (major league?) baseball team in an area that's not had a team for decades and where most potential fans have no memory of the Nats/Senators of yore. In other words, Lerner, Kasten & Co. could have put a decent team on the field in 2007 to let the average semi-interested fan witness real ML baseball--and perhaps snag him/her as a fan.

      As it is, no fan interest (other than baseball diehards) will be sparked by the current crew.

      Bottom line: implementation of "the plan" guaranteed that the best opportunity for snagging potential customers as baseball fans is lost. The Lerners were asleep when they OK'd this idea. I hope they like small crowds.

      Of course, watching Belliard trying to catch a popup may attract some folks from Comedy Central.

      By Anonymous JohnR (VA), at 4/11/2007 8:56 AM  

    • I agree with the poster who commented that the DBacks haven't won anything yet. I think the DBacks have a good shot to be one of the best teams in the NL in 2007, and look great for 2008 and beyond, but they haven't won anything yet. I didn't want to point that out in my initial post - didn't want to appear too negative. In reality, I'll be surprised if the Nats manage to break .500 before 2011, if all goes well.

      Also a good point about Carlos Quentin not being listed - he does look to be a key part of that core going forward.

      to John R: Zimmerman isn't FA eligible until after the 2011 season, so he could still be around when the farm starts to get productive. But most of the rest of the current core (Johnson, Kearns, Cordero, Lopez, Schneider) is going to be FA eligible and/or past their prime by the time the farm system gets productive.

      also to John R: the Nats had absolutely no chance of putting a decent team on the field in 2007. Zero. They could have thrown the gates to the vault wide open and signed Soriano, Matsuzaka and Schmidt or Zito, and they'd still have to get a few lucky breaks to be a .500 team. The plan isn't "hey, let's completely ignore the major league team and put out a sucky product so we can focus on the minor leagues", the plan is "damn, no matter what we do we're going to have a sucky major league team, so we should focus on the minor leagues so that we can field a decent major league team as soon as possible". Translate "as soon as possible" as "at least 3-4 years from now".

      Scot.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/11/2007 9:28 AM  

    • OK, I admit. We suck! First team ever to be behind 4-0 in 8 straight games. Haven't had the lead for a single pitch all season. It's pretty embarassing, borderline pathetic.

      But I still like where we are, vice where the D-backs were at the same point a few years ago. The D-Backs were an expansion team with no minor league system to draw talent from. Our previous GM, knowing we were about to be contracted, traded away all of our prospects for a chance to win. So, we have roughly the same starting point.

      But the D-Backs put themselves $270M in debt to buy a winner. After winning 1 WS, they had a slower, more methodical fire sale than the Marlins -- but not much slower. They went from being world champs to being a last place team with no fans, a high payroll, and a ton of debt in a very short period of time. Even now, 6 years after their world title, they are $180M in debt just from long term contract deferments. It's hard to pay guys who played in 2001 and still have money to pay guys in 2007.

      The Nats have a current payroll of $36M or so. Add in $18M for Soriano, $8M for Livan Hernandez, and $7M for Jose Vidro and tell me this team would be better than it is right now for double the payroll? Or, say we went after pitching... add $11M for Gil Meche (who plays 1 day out of 5), $10M for Ted Lilly, and and $7M for Jason Marquis. Now, we've doubled our payroll by picking up 3 pitchers off the 2nd tier of free agency (totally ignoring Barry Zito, Jason Schmidt, and Andy Pettitte). Given that we've scored 2 runs in 4 games (and 1 of those was a foul ball), would we be better off with twice the payroll?

      Instead, let's stockpile the system, develop some home grown talent, and then use some of that talent to make trades for proven players (the Cubs spent 4 minor leaguers to pick up Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, and Derrek Lee). Then, come 2010, when we have 2 years of new stadium revenue, 3 years to develop an organization, and a team full of good players -- we can use targeted free agency to fill a need, instead of buying a team. So, in 3 years, when we have Chico and Fruto locked up for 2 or 3 more years each, tell me you wish we still had Vidro and Livan instead.

      Next year, when the stadium is brand new and the amenities are awesome, people will come to games. The Nats aren't losing fan base because they're losing.... but it's hard to go to see a losing team in 20 degree weather when RFK sucks.

      Sorry for the long post. Final note though -- I've been a full season ticket holder all 3 years and have been to over 120 games so far. Yes, the games were a lot more fun 2 years ago when we were winning. Yes, I liked watching Soriano play last year and the excitement he brought to the team. But I'd rather take a few bad seasons to build a perennial power than spend too much money now to bring fans to a crappy stadium and wipe out our options for the future. When we start winning, I don't want to stop. I won't settle for a Marlins or D-Backs WS title followed by fire sale. I want a Braves greatness (with a few more titles).

      By Blogger Natsfan74, at 4/11/2007 9:30 AM  

    • NatsFan, et al:

      This is a highly sophisticated market, with lots of very intelligent people who may have a passing familiarity with baseball. It isn't Atlanta, with a much lower demographic mix and not much else to do. Also, Atlantans have never supported baseball the way a baseball town would. Kasten's plan may have worked pretty well in Atlanta, but asking for patience won't cut it in D.C. Too many other things to do in the spring and summer for anyone but a diehard baseball fan to go to see a miserable team.

      The Marlins have been dismantled and reassembled in very short order, so it's not impossible to field a competitive team sooner rather than later. But when fans see no effort being made to make the current or future Nats competitive until, maybe, 2012, it's sayonara to the fan base. order

      I doubt if a new stadium alone is enough of a draw--look at Tampa Bay. With reduced income from low attendance, and concomitant low viewership on MASN, I suspect the Lerners will be unwilling to spend any of their own money to make up the revenue required for good baseball. Our future looks like KC and Pittsburgh, if you ask me.

      By Anonymous JohnR (VA), at 4/11/2007 2:54 PM  

    • I wouldn't say the intelligent fan base would hurt DC. I would say the transient one does.

      First, a lot of people in this area were, and will be Orioles fans. Even DC suburbanites on the MD side will probably favor the O's (the MD connection and such). As long as neither team wins, fans might go to the better stadium, whichever one that is, but they will go see a winner.

      More importantly, people generally aren't from DC. My office has 60 people in it, and 1 person who grew up here.

      I am first and foremost a Cubs fan. I grew up in IL and lived and died with the Cubs for my whole life. I have embraced the Nats, but only because I go to so many games. And I only go to so many games because I love baseball. A lot of people in this area are like me -- they didn't grow up here, they have a favorite childhood team, but they will embrace what is here for the love of the game.

      By Blogger Natsfan74, at 4/11/2007 3:19 PM  

    • By Blogger wwwwww, at 10/26/2009 8:55 PM  

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