- A.J. Burnett May Miss Rest Of Season
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Lucas Giolito Rumors
The Dodgers have announced that Zach Lee has been promoted and will make his big-league debut tonight in a start against the Mets. The Dodgers will announce a corresponding move later today. The 23-year-old Lee, a first-round pick in 2010, was a top prospect list staple before a rough season with Triple-A Albuquerque in 2014. He’s bounced back nicely with the Dodgers’ new Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City this season, though, posting a 2.36 ERA, 6.6 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 68 2/3 innings. He’ll become the 14th pitcher to start for the Dodgers in a season that’s featured tons of rotation injuries. Here are a couple more notes on pitching prospects, both of them former first-rounders.
- Mariners pitcher Danny Hultzen, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, has been shut down with shoulder fatigue and is unlikely to pitch the rest of the season, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports (Twitter links). The Mariners hope he’ll be able to pitch in the Arizona Fall League or in instructs. It’s been a very rough ride for the 25-year-old Hultzen, who has missed most of the last three seasons due to shoulder troubles, including a torn rotator cuff and labrum.
- The Nationals have promoted top prospect Lucas Giolito to Double-A Harrisburg, James Wagner of the Washington Post tweets. Giolito, who turned 21 earlier this month, dominated at Class A+ Potomac, posting a 2.71 ERA, 11.1 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 69 2/3 innings there, displaying excellent velocity and a great curveball. MLB.com, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN’s Keith Law all ranked Giolito among baseball’s top ten prospects heading into the season, and he’s done nothing to diminish that status since then. Law (Insider-only) ranked Giolito the third-best prospect in baseball, behind only the Dodgers’ Corey Seager and the Phillies’ J.P. Crawford, in a recent update to his list.
The Nationals have kept a low profile this winter, per MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker. GM Mike Rizzo has yet to sign a free agent to a MLB contract preferring minor league deals for veterans like Dan Uggla, Heath Bell, and Ian Stewart while netting Joe Ross and Trea Turner for being the third team in the Wil Myers trade. Here’s the latest on the Nationals’ offseason, courtesy of MLB.com’s Bill Ladson:
- By trading Jordan Zimmermann, the Nationals would be able to replenish their farm system and add a couple of veterans.
- Ladson opines the Nationals will trade for a second baseman before the start of Spring Training (listing Ben Zobrist as a possibility) because Danny Espinosa is too inconsistent offensively, Kevin Frandsen is not seen as a starter by manager Matt Williams, and the team does not want to rush prospect Wilmer Difo.
- Tyler Moore must have a great Spring Training to make the club coming off the bench. If not, the 28-year-old (next month) first baseman becomes a trade candidate because he is out of options.
- With Denard Span scheduled to hit free agency after the 2015 season, Michael A. Taylor could be the everyday center fielder in 2016, but the Nationals will need to find a leadoff hitter and may have to settle for Jayson Werth.
- Top prospect Lucas Giolito is not a rotation candidate, if Zimmermann or Doug Fister is traded. The 16th overall selection in the 2012 draft should begin the season in Double-A and could be a September callup.
4:30pm: The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:
“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI. Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible. This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.
“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information. While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”
2:29pm: Extensive trade discussion notes, apparently logged by Astros executives about their talks with other teams, have been leaked onto the site AnonBin here and here, with Deadspin breaking the story and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan verifying the authenticity of the logs. The earliest notes are from June 2013, and the latest are from March of this year. The Astros have yet to comment on the leak, which provides unprecedented detail into how the team values players and approaches trade discussions. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Astros have been reaching out to people around baseball apologizing for the leaks, and plan to issue a statement soon.
A March feature by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle outlines Ground Control, the Astros’ confidential internal database from which the trade discussion notes were likely taken. At this time, it’s unclear whether the information reached the Internet via a rogue employee of the team, or by some kind of security vulnerability in Ground Control. The trade discussion information, mostly from last summer and offseason, is somewhat dated in the fast-moving baseball hot stove world. The larger ramification is the breach of trust experienced by the many non-Astros executives cited in the notes. It’s unlikely any team would rule out the Astros as a trading partner based on this breach, but some teams could approach talks with added caution. Additionally, I imagine the many other teams with such highly sensitive material online are doubling down on security right now.
The Astros’ trade notes from last summer and offseason range from the blockbuster to the mundane; here are some highlights.
- On November 15th, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow expressed interest with Marlins GM Dan Jennings in slugger Giancarlo Stanton. From the notes: “[Jennings] said he doesn’t think he’ll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be [George] Springer and [Carlos] Correa. [Luhnow] said that would not work. [Luhnow] posited a deal around [Jarred] Cosart and [Delino] DeShields.” It’s not a big surprise that Luhnow rejected Jennings’ proposal out of hand, as Correa and Springer were ranked #4 and #19 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list for ESPN, and are major building blocks for Houston. That Luhnow didn’t appear to offer either player suggests he was mostly gauging Stanton’s price after an off-year with three years of control remaining. UPDATE: Jennings has commented to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, saying it’s fabricated that they ever offered Stanton to the Astros or any other team, also using the word “laughable.”
- Interest in Astros catcher Jason Castro was strong last offseason, with a few surprising suitors. The Blue Jays and Rangers reached out in mid-October to gauge Castro’s price, the White Sox had “definite high interest,” and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told Luhnow in November that he was getting calls from other teams asking if he could get Castro from the Astros for those teams. Zduriencik offered Dustin Ackley and was turned down.
- Notes for the Astros’ summer trade discussions begin at June 17th, 2013. The team ultimately went on to acquire Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs in June, and also dealt veterans Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Justin Maxwell near the July deadline. The Astros did not end up acquiring any top 100-type prospects, but they sure did ask for the moon. For Norris, the Astros sought Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn from the Giants, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman from the Orioles, Marcus Stroman and more from the Blue Jays, Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox, and Tyler Glasnow plus Luis Heredia or Nick Kingham from the Pirates. The Red Sox offered Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero for Norris and were turned down. In the end, the Astros traded Norris and an international draft slot to the Orioles for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and a 2014 competitive balance pick.
- When Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called to express interest in middling Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, who had a 5.17 ERA at the time and nearly as many walks as strikeouts, “[Luhnow] told him we would still need a headliner like [Lucas] Giolito because we still value Harrell highly. Rizzo did not respond immediately.”
Harrell was designated for assignment, outrighted, and traded for a pittance nine months later, so the Astros might have overplayed their hand.
- “Untouchable” players from other teams were revealed through conversations with their executives. White Sox GM Rick Hahn wouldn’t consider trading Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, or Avisail Garcia. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos considered Brett Lawrie off-limits. Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco came up as well, in that GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t include him in any Norris deal. In December talks regarding Harrell, the Giants said they would not discuss Brandon Belt.
- More random notes: Mets executive Paul DePodesta asked Luhnow if the Astros would consider trading shortstop Jonathan Villar in a Daniel Murphy deal in December…the Marlins expressed interest in Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, and others in December.
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The demise of the Montreal Expos led to years of MLB control for the organization (2001-04), which resulted in limited budgets until the club was officially sold and became the Washington Nationals in 2005. Since that time, it's been an uphill battle to rebuild the system's depth, more or less from scratch.
One of the most difficult areas to create depth is pitching because of the large number of players needed, as well as the natural volatility and fragility of the role. It's taken years but the Nationals organization is finally starting to see the fruits of its labor, thanks to the guidance of General Manager Mike Rizzo and his front office staff, including both the scouting and player development departments.
The six talented hurlers listed below have seen their values skyrocket during the 2013 season.
A.J. Cole, RHP, Double-A
Cole is an interesting prospect. He was originally drafted by the Nationals in the fourth round of the 2010 draft and was then traded to the Athletics in late 2011. When the two clubs paired up for another swap in January 2013, Cole was returned to his original organization.
Always a talented pitcher, Cole struggled in A-ball and spent parts of three years there. In a piece by Jonathan Raymond of MiLB.com, the young hurler admitted that he was disappointed to begin the 2013 back in A-ball. However, he stayed motivated and worked hard to get better.
"Going through [Class A Advanced] again, I was there last year, got sent down to [Class A] with the A's, and I just had to bounce back, not be let down about being sent down and then starting at [Class A Advanced] this year," he said. "Basically getting the feel for everything, learning different things and showing that I'm able to play here, pitch here and be successful. I just want that to keep going on… I basically just started pitching like I knew how I could," he said.
Cole was recently promoted to Double-A and has allowed just 11 hits and four walks with a 0.90 ERA in his first 20 innings.
Lucas Giolito, RHP, Rookie ball
Giolito was arguably the most sought after prep arm in the 2012 amateur draft, but he slipped to the Nationals with the 16th selection of the first round after he suffered a serious elbow injury in his senior year of high school. The hard-throwing pitcher — who touched triple digits with his fastball when healthy — underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2012 but officially returned to the mound last month.
Teddy Cahill of MLB.com spoke to Doug Harris, the Nationals director of player development, who said Giolito progressed well in his rehab. "It's gone extremely well. We're pleased with his progression, where he is physically and how he's performing."
Giolito took to the mound in his first official game since 2012 on July 3 and he immediately made an impression on Harris. "I was really, really pleased with [his stuff]… The fastball velocity was good, it had good life and carry and he threw it for strikes. His curveball had above-average depth and finish and he's continuing to develop his changeup."
Taylor Jordan, RHP, Majors
Jordan experienced perhaps the most significant increase in value of any of the six players mentioned in this article. A former ninth-round draft pick, the right-hander showed some potential in 2011 before suffering an elbow injury and undergoing Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow.
He returned in 2012, but his results were inconsistent at best. The 2013 season, though, has been a different story, and he dominated A-ball and Double-A before settling into the Nationals' big league rotation.
Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman commented in Florida Today (unattributed staff writer) on how important the increased pitching depth has been for the organization in 2013. "We continually have guys come up from our minor league system and help us out. I think that shows how good of a system we have and what a good job they do getting those guys ready to contribute. Taylor has kind of saved us."
Nate Karns, RHP, Double-A
Karns has experienced a lot of turmoil since turning pro in 2009. The right-hander suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder early in his career, which is one of the most catastrophic injuries to try and return from for a pitcher. It's widely considered a much more difficult surgery to recover from than Tommy John.
His personal life has also been a challenge. As James Wagner of the Washington Post detailed, Karns' biggest supporter — his mother — suffered through both cancer and a major stroke. "My mom has been through a lot and she has done a lot for me," said Karns. "It was really nice that I was able to show that all her sacrifices paid off for me and I didn't waste whatever she gave me and took full advantage of it."
Karns' mother was able to witness her son's Major League debut, and the two shared a special moment together after the game. The young pitcher has made a total of three appearances at the big league level but has since returned to Double-A where he's struck out 121 batters in 100 1/3 innings of work.
Ian Krol, LHP, Majors
Like Cole, Krol was acquired from the Athletics this past January and has rejuvenated his career in the Nationals system. After suffering through injury issues as a starter, the A's moved the lefty to the bullpen in late 2012. Returning to the 'pen in '13, Krol has thrived in his new role and has seen his average fastball velocity jump from 88-91 mph as a starter to as high as 96 mph as a reliever. As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post explained, that bump in velocity took everyone by surprise, including Krol.
"I was like, 'Whoa. Where'd that come from?'" Krol said. "I didn't even think it was possible to sniff 96. I guess something must have happened. My arm was liking the relieving a lot better than the starting role. It was pretty insane to see 96 up there on the scoreboard. I never thought I would hit 96 in my life."
Krol has since become a stabilizing force in the Nationals' bullpen with a 2.25 ERA in 21 games and is well on his way to becoming one of the top left-handed relievers in the National League.
Sammy Solis, LHP, High-A
A 2010 second-round draft pick, Solis saw a sudden increase in fastball velocity in 2011 but, not long after, he blew out his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery. The southpaw missed all of 2012 but returned in May this year. Since that time, his results have been understandably inconsistent but promising nonetheless.
As James Wagner of the Washington Post stated, Solis' command hasn't fully returned yet but he's throwing pain free for the first time since 2011, and his velocity is back in the 93-94 mph range. He's also getting more comfortable with all of his pitches. "The feel has been the biggest thing," Solis said. "Change-up and curveball, especially."
Count Chipper Jones among those who wouldn't shut Stephen Strasburg down in the midst of a pennant race. Talking to Yahoo Sports' Les Carpenter, Jones pointed to his own lone World Series title despite the Braves' many postseason appearances as an example of how difficult it is to attain a championship. "Next year what if [Jordan] Zimmermann gets hurt again?” Jones said. “What if Gio Gonzalez goes down? There is a certain set of circumstances. Sometimes things aren’t the same. As those [pitchers] get older they will lose a little bit of speed on their fastballs. They will be a little more hittable. You have to strike while the iron’s hot.”
Here's the latest from Washington…
- Dr. James Andrews support the Nationals' decision to limit Strasburg's innings in an interview with ESPN Radio's Scott Van Pelt (Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post has a partial transcript). Andrews admitted he didn't have direct knowledge of the situation since he didn't perform Strasburg's Tommy John surgery but he "would certainly take up for the decision….I don’t think you can criticize that one bit, to be honest with you."
- Lucas Giolito will undergo Tommy John surgery on August 31, reports Amanda Comak of the Washington Times. The Nats took Giolito with the 16th overall pick of the 2012 draft amidst injury concerns due to a UCL sprain that sidelined the right-hander for much of his final high school season. Giolito has thrown two innings as a professional thus far, pitching for the Nationals' rookie league team. Giolito's surgery will be performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum, who also handled Strasburg and Zimmermann's Tommy John procedures.
Four teams have at least a 98% chance of reaching the postseason this year, according to Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds Report. The Yankees, Rangers, Nationals and Reds look like playoff teams now, but they all saw what happened to the Braves and Red Sox last year, so I doubt any contending teams intend on coasting from this point on. Here are today’s links…
- The chances that Melky Cabrera will appear in a potential postseason game or re-sign with the Giants this offseason are "close to nil," according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that the team wouldn't attempt to retain Juan Cruz if he clears waivers (Twitter link). The Bucs have younger players who have passed Cruz, according to Hurdle. Cruz was designated for assignment earlier today.
- The Red Sox "weren't trying very hard" to trade Josh Beckett before the non-waiver trade deadline, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. The Rangers and Braves are believed to be among the teams that spoke to Boston's executives about Beckett, Heyman writes. One unnamed GM said "Boston's first priority has to be to trade Josh Beckett'' this August. Another executive suggested the Rangers could make sense for Beckett, who would have to be placed on waivers to be traded this month.
- The Cardinals signed 16-year-old right-hander Ronald Medrano, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. Medrano has touched 90-91 mph with his fastball and has shown good feel for his secondary pitches. He had been considered one of the top Nicaraguan prospects available, according to Badler.
- Nationals first rounder Lucas Giolito re-injured his pitching elbow and will be examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum, ESPN.com's Keith Law reports. Giolito, who was at one point a candidate to be selected first overall, signed for $2.925MM after the Nationals drafted him 16th overall in June.
The Pirates inability to sign right-hander Mark Appel is a sign of a larger problem with the new draft system, opines Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd). The previous system with no real penalties for exceeding slot would have allowed Pittsburgh to sign the Stanford standout and in turn allow them to feel more comfortable in parting with Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon in a trade. Even though the Bucs will have the ninth pick in next year's draft as compensation, Law writes that the 2013 crop appears to be weaker than this year's. Here's the latest draft news..
- The Pirates offered Appel $3.8MM, the most they could give without losing a first-round pick, a source tells Jim Callis of Baseball America (via Twitter).
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said that the club was "dangerously close" to the 4pm CDT deadline before signing Lucas Giolito. The 16th overall pick received a $2.925MM bonus from Washington.
- Andre Martinez signed with the Twins for $80K after originally agreeing to a $260K, bonus, tweets Callis. A physical exam raised questions about the left-hander's shoulder, leading to a renegotiation.
The Nationals have agreed to sign first round selection Lucas Giolito, ESPN.com's Keith Law reports (on Twitter). MLB recommends a $2.1MM bonus for the 16th overall selection, but Giolito obtained a $2.925MM bonus, according to Law.
The high school right-hander entered the year as one of the most talented draft eligible players, but suffered an elbow injury in March. “I’m confident that this issue is behind me,” he said the day after the Nationals selected him.“I’m looking forward to getting on the mound soon.” Giolito's fastball can reach 99 mph and he sits at 94-96 mph, according to Baseball America. He also throw s a plus-plus curveball and a plus change-up.
We're less than a day away from the draft signing deadline, as teams have until 4 PM CST on Friday to sign their picks. Here's the latest on the status of some high-round picks who have yet to agree to terms, plus some signings…
- The Indians have signed fourth-round pick D'vone McClure, reports Jim Callis of Baseball America (via Twitter). McClure signed for a $750K bonus, more than double the recommended slot price of $314.7K.
- The Nationals can pay Lucas Giolito just under $2.813MM without going over the draft spending cap, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, citing calculations from Baseball America. MLB's recommended slot price for the 16th overall pick is $2.125MM. Kilgore outlines the situation surrounding Giolito, who the Nats say they will not sign to a contract that puts them over the spending cap and causes the team to incur a fine.
- "We are making progress. We’re waiting to hear their next proposal," Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich tells Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link) about the club's negotiations with first-rounder Kevin Gausman. The fourth overall pick has a slot price of $4.2MM, which Gausman and his representatives are looking to "slightly" exceed, tweets Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com.
- The Mets are at a "standstill" with second-round pick Teddy Stankiewicz, reports Jim Callis of Baseball America (via Twitter). Callis hears that Stankiewicz is willing to sign for the recommended slot price for the 75th overall pick ($680.4K) but the Mets haven't offered that large of a bonus.
- The Giants have signed third-rounder Mac Williamson, tweets Baseball America's Nathan Robe. Williamson will receive a $390K bonus, which is under the $412.3K recommended price for the 115th overall pick.
- MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo outlines the rules of the newly-instituted Competitive Balance Lottery, which takes place on July 18 and will distribute six total bonus picks among low-revenue and small-market teams for the 2013 amateur draft.
The Marlins ended their franchise record offensive draught of scoring five runs or less for 25 consecutive games in their 9-0 win over the Blue Jays. And, for good measure, the nine runs were a season-high for the Marlins, who ended their six-game losing streak. Here's the latest news from around baseball.
- The Braves could make starting pitching a priority at the trade deadline because of the growing pains of Mike Minor and Randall Delgado and the uncertainty surrounding Jair Jurrjens, tweets Mark Bowman of MLB.com.
- The Pirates need to create an opening in their starting rotation when Jeff Karstens returns from the disabled list this week and Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review thinks a trade could create that opening (via Sulia). Biertempfel reported yesterday the Pirates are shopping Kevin Correia.
- With the Pirates looking for offensive help, the Denver Post's Troy Renck notes the Rockies have players available, including Marco Scutaro. In the same piece, Renck offers his suggestions on who the Rockies should play the rest of the way in 2012, so as to best prepare for 2013.
- The Nationals are not willing to pay a fine in order to exceed their draft bonus pool, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. This is a corection to a story Kilgore wrote yesterday. Kilgore writes this stance will lower the amount the Nationals will be able to offer their first round draft pick Lucas Giolito.
- Condolences to the friends of family of Padres' bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer today. He was 50.