Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Panning For Lead

Last year, the Nationals hauled in a treasure trove of mediocrity through the minor league free agency process. That might sound like a bad thing, but it's not. When you can pay Mike Bacsik $400,000 to put up a 5 ERA, you're doing better than a team who's paying Ramon Ortiz $4 million to do the same. It's often a great way to find cheap talent for the back half of your roster, and it's something the Nationals excelled at.

Last year, the Nats got meaningful contributions from Tim Redding and Mike Bacsik. They got something (of arguable value, I s'pose) from Joel Hanrahan, Josh Wilson, Mike Restovich and Winston Abreu.

All-in-All, it was a nice infusion of back-of-the-roster talent on to a team that lacked anyone at the upper levels who was capable of standing on a baseball diamond for nine innings without falling.

But this year? Meh. The Nats announced the 19 guys they've offered minor league deals too and there's nobody worth getting excited about like last year. If you don't take my word for it, just note that the Nats didn't offer a 40-man roster spot to ANY of the players (which would protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft), whereas they offered a spot to four of them last season. Now in fairness, when I scanned the minor league FA list there really weren't any names that jumped out at me; it could simply be that there's less talent this year. This isn't a criticism, just the reality that the Nats are highly unlikely to get any performance of value out of this group with the majority destined for a season in Columbus or Harrisburg.

Let's take a look at 'em.

Catchers
  • Humberto Cota -- Cota's a 29-year old non-hitting catcher who hasn't slugged above .400 in the minors since 2002.

    MLB Contribution potential:
    / 5 Bacsies. If he's not good enough for the Pirates, he's not good enough for us.

  • Chad Moeller -- Look up journeyman back-up catcher in the dictionary and you'll see it's an oxymoron. Moeller has bounced around from team to team for years despite not being any good since 2003. (the latter applies to most of us) He spent last season hitting .167 for the Reds and Dodgers, though he did hit .282 as a part-timer in the minors.

    MLB Contribution potential:
    /5 Bacsies. As bereft of catching talent as the Nats are, he's probably on the short list if 1) Schneider or Flores get hurt or 2) They decide to give Flores more time in the minors. Wither Wiki?

    Infield
  • William Bergolla -- a former Reds signeee (surprise!), he's mostly a 2B, though he's played some shortstop. Not much of an eye. No power to speak of. At least he's 25.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    Bacsie. Remember how well the Josh Wilson thing worked out? Well, this guy's worse than Josh Wilson.

  • Yurdell DeCaster -- The Joe McEwing of Buffalo can do it all, though mostly as a 1B/3B the last few years, and he instantly becomes the Nats new Melvin Dorta. Looks like a decent line-drive bat, but not much speed.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    / 5 Bacsies. Limited use, but he's the kind of guy that could surprise and break camp with a hot spring as this year's Jimenez -- of course Jimenez didn't come up 'til mid-season, but the point stands!

  • Antonio Perez -- The crown jewel (well, one of 'em) in Jim Bowden's crowning achievement, Perez is one of the guys Bowden gave up to get Ken Griffey. Perez never quite lived up to his promise, but he's been a solid bat at AAA for a few years and with nearly 500 ABs in the majors. Although he came up as a shortstop, he hasn't played middle infield regularly since 2004, an indication that his defense might be a problem. Still, as a backup IF, a team could do worse. (See also: Wilson, Josh)

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    / 5 Bacsies. Unless the team re-signs defensive stiff D'Angelo Jimenez, the team's going to need another backup infielder, especially with the fragility of the guys they've got there now (and especially if they do decide to unload Lopez). If Perez can hit competently (he's a .280 .358 .487 career hitter at AAA), he's got a chance to be this year's Josh Wilson.

  • Luis Jimenez -- My Spanish is a bit rusty, but I think that translates to "Larry Broadway." A AA-slugging DH, he'll be playing for his 7th different franchise since 2001, striking fear into Eastern League pitchers.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    / 5 Bacsies. If Nick Johnson contracts gangrene and Dmitri Young's gravitational pull causes him to implode upon himself, creating a black hole that sucks all matter in the immediate area into his prodigious anti-matter belly, Josh Whitesell joins the Reserves and goes to Iraq, then he's got a chance -- as long as Larry Broadway doesn't go all Jeff Stone (nee Gillooly) on his knees.

  • Ed Rodgers -- What I love most about this former Oriole Wunderkind is the name. It conjures up an image of some accountant mowing his lawn on a Saturday in Lansing, Michigan while his wife readies a ham sandwich on Wonder Bread. Yet, he's a Domincan shortstop. Go figure. He's become a career AAA-er, neither getting on base nor hitting for much power while playing all over the IF, but mostly at SS.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    / 5 Bacsies. Do you really want an Orioles castoff with a sub-.300 minor league on-base percentage?

    Outfielders

  • Jason Dubois -- Remember last year when we thought that Mike Restovich was an intriguing right-handed power bat? Well, this is this year's intriguing right-handed power bat. Let's hope it works out better than the last one. He's hit 71 homers at AAA over the last 4 years with a detour to hit 10 more in the majors. He's your typical minor league low-average, low-contact, high-power-but-only-on-so-so-fastballs slugger.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    / 5 Bacsies. I don't think he'll make meaningful contributions, but the Nats aren't especially deep at this position and they always seem to need something from one of these guys (be it Resto or Vento) at some point during the year.

  • Tommy Murphy -- Nook Logan better be looking over his shoulder as the Nats have added another slap-hitting centerfielder, though this one can actually get on base (even if that's discounted by playing at nearly a mile high). He doesn't have Logan's speed and probably not his defense, but Columbus doesn't care.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    / 5 Bacsies. When Brandon Watson signed with the Phillies, the Nats needed another no-power CFer, and they got him. He's got little chance of getting the call, but ya never know!

  • Jorge Padilla -- 28 years old and on his fourth franchise, such is the life of a minor leaguer. No power. Terrible plate discipline. Just a 70% career steal rate. Meh. I weep for the good people of Harrisburg.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    / 5 Bacsies. Nope.

    Righties

  • Steven Shell -- semi-intriguing swingman who had success missing bats, especially in the lower minors. He didn't take too well to the altitude of the PCL, but which pitcher does? He started most of his minor league career til the Angels shifted him to the pen this past year, where he pitched decently. I imagine the Nats view him as a SP and at 25, there's still time to develop. Looks like he's got decent control, too.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    / 5 Bacsies. The Nats always need quality starting pitching (and even non-quality innings-eaters). Given the injury history of some of these guys, he's a guy who could sneak on the roster mid-season for a start or three.

  • Dennis Tankersley -- If this name rings a bell, I bet you own a copy of Baseball Prospectus 2000. A former top prospect, he never panned out, and has spent the last few years being the best #2 pitcher in the history of the PCL. He seems to have lost his K pitch. And his control's nothing to write home about. But he keeps plugging away, putting up ERAs in the low 4s.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    / 5 Bacsies. Other than know-it-all-basebal-nerd name recognition, he doesn't really offer much.

  • Robert Brownlie -- a somewhat intriguing arm, tempered by the realization that he's never pitched much beyond AA. Not much to see, really, although last year's 3.17 AA ERA is somewhat impressive, even if it's not eye-popping.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    / 5 Bacsies. Yaneverknow.

  • Tristan Crawford -- He's mostly a reliever now, and he's only pitched 2 innings above AA, but he's struck out 160+ in about 180 minor-league innings -- not a terrible result and his K/BB is over 2. Definitely a darkhorse, but he's going to need to take a big step forward to emerge from the faceless hordes at AA.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    /5 Bacsies. Unless he's got the juice to start, he looks like a reliever candidate. And the Nats have a bazillion and one reliever candidates.

  • Jim Ed Warden -- I'm assuming that the Nats signed him for the name and not the career 7.33 AAA ERA. Good K/BB numbers at AAA make me think that's mostly a fluke, especially with the success he had at AA. Doesn't his name sound like he'd be a giant mountain of a man, rolling in from the pen? Well, he's 6'7. Who says you can't judge a book? S'pose he wears overalls instead of a uniform?

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    /5 Bacsies. Sure, he's another reliever just like the last guy, but if you're Jim Bowden and you're trying to figure out which reliever to call up, who are you gonna take? Someone named Jim Ed or someone named Tristan?

    Lefties

  • Mike Hinckley -- If that names seems familiar, it's because it is. He's been with the Nats since the beginning of the time and stagnating ever since. Maybe this'll be the year he conquers AA?

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    Negative /5 Bacsies. (Barring a bird flu pandemic, that is)

  • Arnie Munoz -- If that name sounds familiar, it's because it is. And it's probably still emotionally scarring you. Left to be the LOOGY once Ray King waddled to Bratville, Munoz proceeded to let left-handed batters walk all over him: .286 .583 .714. No, that's not a misprint.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    / 5 Bacsies. He's left-handed. And as the saying goes, he's got a job so long as he's not found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy. Unless the Nats decide to dip into the FA market for another left-hander, they might press their luck with this guy. Again. No whammies, no whammies, no whammies, STOP!

  • Jason Stanford -- A veteran lefty with tons of AAA experience and solid control numbers, he's got as good a chance as any to be this year's 'big' minor league FA pitcher. He does have some MLB experience, with a 3.61 ERA in 80+ innings and 12 career starts. He looks like the kind of pitcher who succeeds by keeping the ball on the ground, not walking anyone, and hoping that they hit 'em where the fielders are.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    /5 Bacsies. Doesn't he sound pretty much like Bacsik's clone -- tho hopefully for Mr. Stanford, a clone that's not nearly as goofy looking.

  • Mike Bacsik -- We know what we get with him. Lots of liners. Lots of homers. A few walks. And the occasional 6-inning, 2-run outing when everything breaks right. He was versatile, shifting too and from the pen without complaining and seemed appreciate of the opportunity he had, perhaps because he realized how farkin' lucky he was to be living the MLB life when there are so many other pitchers with his skill set who never get the chance.

    MLB Contribution Potential:
    / 5 Bacsies. Well, the scale's named for him. What else did you expect?

  • 8 Comments:

    • Fantastic post, although I hope some of these guys manage to exceed your expectations. Honestly that was perhaps the most entertaining Nats blather since these last several weeks of doldrums began. Thanks, Chris.

      By Blogger Skedeebs, at 11/28/2007 12:02 PM  

    • hysterical and informative post! jason stanford was somebody the tribe had moderate interest in a few years back before blowing out his elbow/shoulder/whatever?

      so i've heard of him. OTOH, the same could be said for ex-tribe farmhands/pseduo MLBers ryan drese and billy traber. proceed with caution!

      By Blogger Bill, at 11/28/2007 12:40 PM  

    • As I said the other day, pseudo-statistics are the gift that keeps on giving. Now you have gone and created another one, the Bacsie. Presumably the value of a Bacsie is pegged to the value of Mike Bacsik, yet Mike Bacsik himself is worth five Bacsies. Shouldn't it be one? What kind of crazy math are you preaching here anyway? Next thing we know, you'll be agreeing that a Dugout Box season ticket in Nationals Park is actually worth $13,500. From there, it's just a slippery slope toward saying that Nook and FLop are actually worth something.

      But while you're at it, how about rating the current 25-man or 40-man roster on the Bacsie scale? That should kill a couple of posts, eh?

      By Anonymous Eggplant Parmigiana Guy, at 11/28/2007 2:00 PM  

    • Bacsik is worth one Bacsik; five Bacsies is worth one Bacsik.

      It's more elegant than saying Humberto Cota is worth 0.2 Bacsiks.

      By Anonymous Basil, at 11/28/2007 2:06 PM  

    • Chris,

      A question: Maybe we need to wait closer to spring training for the Nats to pick up min wage guys of real interest?

      That's when the guys who hoped for good FA contracts realize that no one is calling, and then will sign for a price that the Nats will spring for.

      Last year Belliard and Dmitri signed for very little. Maybe guys like that will join the Nats a little down the road?

      Note: I realize this is different from competing for real talent in the open market.

      By Anonymous EdDC, at 11/28/2007 2:33 PM  

    • That's definitely likely to happen. I was just looking at apples to apples at this point, comparing the pure minor league FAs to one another.

      The catch is, I'm not sure there are any impact players available in places where the Nats have holes that can be filled, especially from players who'll be floating around in February.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/28/2007 2:34 PM  

    • Hey Chris,

      How many Bascies does it take to get the free toaster?

      Suz

      By Blogger Suz, at 11/28/2007 3:03 PM  

    • I resemble that remark.

      By Anonymous Ed Rogers, at 11/28/2007 8:55 PM  

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