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Thursday, December 21, 2006


Fick rejoins the team, at least at the Minor League level; 3 Catchers?

With Harper sent done to AAA (outrighted, with the possibility someone else would claim him), the question became, who will back-up Brian Schneider? Well, Robert Fick joins the recent Rule 5 pick-up Jesus Flores as contenders for the back-up role. Jesus Flores is a rule 5 pick-up and must remain on the major league roster for the entire season (or be given back, and other odd little rules). Considering that the Nationals seemed to like playing with just one declared catcher, Schneider, in past seasons (with Fick and the like bouncing between the infielder and catcher column on the roster), the likelihood of Fick’s rejoining the team, with Flores cemented to the major league roster, would seem to be slim, no?

On the other hand, there was talk of the need for a back-up at first-base, so there is room for another utility man. Other potential back-up first-basemen appear to be less likely to join the team in that limited capacity (at least that is what I’ve read concerning Larry Broadway).

So, will the Nationals actually enter the season with three “catchers”? One that sometimes struggles at the plate (Schneider), one that struggles behind the plate (Fick), and one that was last seen in high A ball (Flores)?

Flores is now 21 and has played three seasons in the minors. He played at the Rookie level and Low A in his first season. He played a combined 48 games that season, with an batting average of .319 at the Rookie level, and .333 at the Low A level. He then spent the entire 2005 season, his second, in A ball, hitting just .216 in 82 games. In 2006, he advanced to A+, or High A level baseball. In 120 games, he hit .266 and 21 home-runs and 32 doubles. Those 21 home-runs in 2006 is both a milestone for most hit by him, and the first time he went past 7 home-runs in a season. As a fielder, he had 5 errors in the Rookie league in 2004 and 7 errors in A ball in 2005. The 2006 stats appear to be missing on Baseball Cube.

Considering Flores should probably now be exploring AA pitching instead of major league pitching, there does seem to be some need to have an extra body on the team that can fill in at catcher for small stretches.

And that’s my attempt to write a column length article about Fick getting a minor league contract and an invitation to Spring Training.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Nationals acquire two more players late last night

ok, maybe not late last night, but I first noticed it through the 8:30 pm article on Nationals.com

Two more relief pitchers added (though one is fighting to be a starting pitcher). Both signed to non-guaranteed Minor League contracts. LHP Ray King, 32, and RHP Jason Simontacchi, 33, join the fight for a roster spot on the Nationals major-league club. King could add another left-handed pitcher to the bullpen, joining Bowie, and Simontacchi wishes to be one of the Nationals starting pitchers.

King played in 67 games for the Colorado Rockies last season, picking up a ERA of 4.43 for the season. King notes that he played in mile-high Denver, and his stats should be better in Washington DC (check out The Beltway Boys for King's road/home record).

Simontacchi last played in the majors in 2004, during which he injured his arm ("tore his right labrum").

Oddly, the St. Louis Cards city paper made note of the recent signing of Simontacchi and King with the Nationals. Ah, of course. Forgot to mention that Simontacchi was playing with the Cardinals in 2004. The paper notes that Simontacchi, though currently slated to fight for a spot in the rotation, appeared in just 13 games in 2004, in relief, before injuring himself. He tried out for the Cubs in 2006 (this past season), but didn’t make the team. Mostly because he failed the physical. Apparently, what caught the Nationals attention, according to Derrick Goold of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, is Simontacchi’s current record in the Dominican league.

This winter, he's pitched in the Dominican Republic and in his first four starts went 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA over 22 innings. That caught the Nats' attention.

The signing of King is briefly mentioned in one paragraph in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story. Something about King being traded from the Cardinals club to the Rockies before the 2006 season started.

Right, some Baseball-Reference information: Jason William Simontacchi stands 6' 2" and is reported to weigh somewhere around 185 pounds. He is right handed both for pitching and batting. He has appeared in the majors in three seasons. He debut came in 2002 with the Cardinals (entire major league career with Cards), and went 11-5 with an ERA of 4.02 in 24 games started. In the 143.2 innings he pitched in 2002, he gave up 134 hits, 64 ER, 18 HR, and 54 walks to 72 strike-outs. He also hit 6 batters and threw 1 wild pitch. He ended up ranked ninth in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting. In 2003, Simontacchi went 9 and 5, with an ERA of 5.56. He started 16 games and entered 30 games in relief. In the 126.2 innings he pitched in 2003, he gave up 153 hits, 78 earned runs, 21 home-runs, and 41 walks to 74 strike-outs. Before injuring himself in 2004, Simontacchi appeared in 13 games, as mentioned, but more specifically in 15.2 innings of relief. He gave up 17 hits, 9 ER, 5 HR, and 7 walks to 3 strike-outs in those 15.2 innings to end up with an ERA of 5.28 for the season. He has a career .200 batting average.

Simontacchi did not play in 2005, and spent the 2006 season with an independent league team, the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League. Simontacchi appeared in 10 games, all in relief, and ended the year with a record of 1-0 and an ERA of 0.84 (catching on as to why I noted the Nationals picked up two relief pitchers?).

Ray King stands 6' 1" and weighs a reported 230 pounds. He has had two seasons where his ERA fell below 3, and 4 more seasons where his fell below 4. In his 365 innings pitched (all in relief), King gave up 330 hits, 133 ER, 27 HR, and 156 walks to 252 strike-outs. His 8 season career ERA currently stands at 3.28. Since 2001, King has appeared in at least 67 games a season.

Other Things Noted
- None of the three Cards blogs that I had put up for the World Series mention either Ray King or Jason Simontacchi in their most recent blog posts.

- Harper outrighted, thanks for noting that information Farid. Yes, who will be the Nationals back-up catcher, now?

Monday, December 18, 2006


Roster Moves: Unless there are Problems with the Physical, Vidro now a Mariner

Since last I blogged: Roster updates:

Jose Vidro was traded to the Seattle Mariners for OF Chris Snelling and right-hander Emiliano Fruto. The trade is on hold until Vidro’s Monday physical. Vidro had a no-trade clause in his contract, but he agreed to the trade after discussing it with the Mariner’s skipper and with his wife (Vidro’s wife, not the manager’s wife). Vidro was told that he would be their DH, and backup at 1B, 2B, and 3B. With Vidro’s trade, Lopez will move to second base (played 12 games at 2B in career), and Guzman will cover the short-stop duties.

Christopher Doyle Snelling, 25 (birthday: December 3, 1981), was signed by Seattle as a amateur free agent March 2, 1999. He made his major league debut May 25, 2002 with the Mariners against the Orioles. In three major league seasons Snelling has appeared in 59 games, and his 2006 appearance in 36 games is his most ever, to this point. He hasn’t exactly shown anything, yet, in the majors, so the reason for his acquisition by the Nationals must be due to potential. In three seasons, Snelling has hit .237, with 2 SB and 3 CS, 5 HR, 1 triple, and 8 doubles. Snelling has played 38 games in RF (265 innings, 33 GS, 1 error), 14 in LF (119 innings, 14 GS, 0 errors), and 1 in CF (1 inning, ball never hit near him). For his 59 major league games, Snelling has already made $1,244,500.

As mentioned, his acquisition is based on potential, so let’s check out his minor league stats. Snelling started in 1999 at the age of 17 in low A ball. In 8 minor league seasons, Snelling has played at the low A, high A, double A, AAA, and Rookie level (for some reason, after playing 47 games in AA, and 18 games in AAA in 2003, Snelling spent the entire 2004 season at the Rookie level, unless the website I’m using is wrong). Snelling appeared in the AAA in three seasons. In 2003, Snelling played in 18 AAA games, hitting .269, striking out 12 times to 5 walks, hit 3 home-runs, and 2 doubles, picked up 1 stolen base, and his OBP was .333. Snelling then appeared in AAA in 2005 for 65 games. In those 246 at-bats, Snelling hit .370, hitting 8 HR, 2 triples and 17 doubles, while knocking in 46 runs (RBI). He was caught stealing more often than he successfully stole a base (3 CS to 2 SB), and struck out more often than walked (43 SO vs. 36 walks). In 2006 he appeared in both the majors and AAA. In AAA, Snelling appeared in 69 games, and in those 241 at-bats, he hit .216. He had 13 doubles, 1 walk, 5 home-runs, and 39 RBI. His strike-out to walk ratio suffered (60 K to 31 BB), though he managed to get more stolen bases than get caught trying to steal (4 SB, 2 CS). In the minors, Snelling has only appeared in the outfield. He has 11 errors in the minors. Apparently he isn’t particularly speedy, and/or hasn’t mastered the base-paths yet, doesn’t have great power. He has a tendency to strike-out more often than walk, though there are several seasons when he walked more often than struck-out.

Columbian Emiliano Fruto made his major league debut last season on May 14, 2006. The right-handed reliever stands 6' 3", and is reported to weigh anywhere between 170 (Baseball Cube) and 235 (Baseball Reference) pounds. In his first season in the majors (at the age of 22), Fruto pitched in 36 innings in 23 relief appearances. He ended up with a record of 2-2 and an ERA of 5.50. In those 36 innings, Fruto gave up 34 hits, 22 earned runs, 4 home-runs, 24 walks, hit 2 batters, and threw 4 wild pitches. He also struck out 34 batters. He has played 6 seasons in the minors. Like Snelling, Fruto started when he was 17. Unlike Snelling, Fruto started in the Rookie leagues. He entered the Seattle system as a starting pitcher, but was quickly transformed into a relief pitcher (starting pitcher complete first season, 13 GS in second season with 20 relief appearances). He has appeared in AAA in three seasons (2003 - 1 game, 4 inning pitched, 0.00 ERA, 1 win 2 K 2 BB; 2005 - 9 games, 11 IP, 1 win, 2 losses, 13.09 ERA, 12 K, 11 BB; and in 2006 - 28 games, 45.1 IP, 1 win, 3 losses, 3.18 ERA, 55 K, 21 walks).

Both look like the could use a little more seasoning in the minors, though both might get a chance this season. Fruto appears closer to making the transition to the majors (maybe more because the Nationals need pitching, and Fruto appears poised to make the transition).

Other roster news:
11/8/06 Signed RHP Jesus Colome to a Minor League contract and invited him to Spring Training.
11/14/06 Purchased the contract of RHP Jermaine Van Buren from Triple-A Columbus.
12/07/2006 catcher Jesus Flores and right-handed pitcher Levale Speigner selected in Rule 5 draft.
12/14/06 Signed RHPs Chris Schroder and Chris Booker, LHP Mike Hinckley, OF Kory Casto and C Brandon Harper to one-year contracts.

28 year-old right-handed-relief-pitcher Jesus (De la Cruz) Colome made his major league debut in 2001 and has appeared in 186 games in the majors. 6' 2", 170 pound Colome has a record of 11-22, with an ERA of 4.73. In 251 innings pitched, Colome has given up 244 hits, 141 walks, and 34 home-runs, while striking out 201 batters. He has three errors, and has never gotten a major league hit.

6' 1", 220 Jermaine Russell Van Buren made his major league debut in 2005. The 25 year-old has a major league record of 1-2, 9.00 ERA in 16 games (19 IP). In those 19 innings pitched, Van Buren has given up 16 hits, 19 ER, 1 home-run, and fifteen walks, while striking out just 8 batters.

2007 season
Currently, the Nationals list three starting pitchers on their depth chart:
1. Patterson
2. O’Connor
3. Hill

I’m worried.

Catcher seems covered with Schneider & Harper. 1B has Johnson, who we all hope remains healthy. 2B now has Lopez, who has only played 12 games at the position in his major league career. Castro is Lopez’s back-up on the on-line depth chart. Oddly enough, the depth chart has Guzman last, with three players ahead of him for the SS role. It is likely that Guzman will be the SS, with Castro, Zimmerman, and Lopez his back-up. Zimmerman covers 3B with Castro his back-up. Casto and Church are penciled in for LF, though there is talk that Snelling might get the chance to play LF. Logan, Church and Escobar will fight for center field. Kearns is in right with Church penciled in as his back-up.

I would not want to start the season today with three starting pitchers. When and how are we going to get the starting pitchers we need?

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