A Virtual Conversation With DC Manager Manny Acta...
In a December 7, 2006 article by Baseball Prospectus' writer Kevin Goldstein entitled, "Future Shock: Rule 5 Draft", Mr. Goldstein remarked that the 6th overall pick of the draft, Jesus Flores, (who was selected by the Washington Nationals from the New York Mets' system), "...has some decent catch-and-throw skills. He was one of the best overall prospects available, but the Mets were convinced that no one would think he was ready." The Washington Nationals did.
Mr. Goldstein also made note of the fact that the Nationals', "new Manager Manny Acta has familiarity" with Jesus Flores, from Acta's time with the Mets as a third base coach during the Willie Randolph era. In an article by MLB.com's Bill Ladson after the '06 Rule 5 Draft entitled, "Nats tab three in Rule 5 Draft", Jesus Flores was singled out as a player who was taken in the draft:
"...under the recommendation of manager Manny Acta, Minor League manager John Stearns and Davey Johnson, who scouted for the Nationals before the trade deadline."
Flores was described by Mr. Acta in Mr. Ladson's article as a catcher with, "tremendous tools", and Mr. Ladson quoted the Former DC GM proclaiming that all three of the men who recommended selecting the catcher, "...think of Flores as an everyday catcher in the big leagues someday."
Jesus Flores was one of three players the Washington Nationals selected in the '06 Rule 5 Draft, along with pitchers Justin Jones (currently in AA Harrisburg) and Levale Speigner (w/ FLA's Triple-A affiliate), but it was Flores, with such high praise heaped upon him, who immediately caught my attention, and as I've watched him grow into an everyday catcher with Washington just as the Nationals' officials had predicted, I'd always wondered whether or not it was in fact Manny Acta who had been most directly responsible for Flores' selection, so when I read on Mr. Acta's MASN blog that he was willing to entertain questions from his readers, I figured I would post a question or two and see if Mr. Acta might actually reply...and he did.
In a post today, which must have been written, or at least posted, while the Nationals waited to see if they could finish their fun/hit/rain/error/walk-filled affair with the Houston Astros, which is entitled, "Because you asked..." DC Manager Manny Acta, on his MASN blog, kindly took a moment to answer my question(s), and confirm Mr. Ladson's original account of the '06 Rule 5 selection:
Q: Are you the one who was behind swiping Jesus Flores from the Mets? If so, thank you, thank you. If not, and if you can say, who in the Nationals' organization had him scouted? Let's Go Nats!! (ed. note - "I had an extra 'Go'!!")
Manny Acta: The Flores deal was a total team effort; I knew Flores well from my years with the NY Mets (both years he was in big league camp as an invitee). John Stearns, our double A manager, used to be with the Mets, so he was also familiar with Flo. Davey Johnson was doing some scouting for Bowden that year and recommended Flores to Jim... So when we went to the meetings, Jim asked me about Flores and I fully supported Davey and Stearns' evaluation of Flo... Jim made the decision and I'm glad he trusted the three guys working for him. Flo has a chance to be a good one.
I'd also read recently that the DC Manager Manny Acta was nostalgic for the days of the Flat-Brimmed Closer Chad Cordero and the Tallest Pitcher in MLB History, Jon Rauch, as MLB.com's Bill Ladson had written in a post on his blog entitled, "Acta: Nats miss Cordero, Rauch", where Mr. Acta was quoted as stating, "I'm finding out right now how tough life is without them," so I figured I'd ask if Mr. Acta saw any ninth-inning options in the DC system:
Q: Keeping Mr. Virdon's advice that you quote in your post in mind,** is there anyone in the system that you see developing into the kind of closer you're both referring to?
(ed. note - " ** = Manny Acta had written in a previous post entitled, "May, May come our way", that:
"Bill Virdon, a former major league manager doing some spring training consulting for the Houston Astros, told us that wherever you are going this season, from rookie ball to Triple-A, make sure you bring a closer with you.")
Manny Acta: The closer situation is not as simple; we don't have that many options in our system. And we've been waiting for the development of Adam Carr and Zinicola. Usually at least two closers are developed as starters in the minors and then converted to the role. As a minor league manager in the Houston Astros system, I had Billy Wagner and Brad Lidge both pitch for me as a starters, then they were converted to closers at the MLB level.
Adam Carr, a 2006 18th round pick, is currently 25-years-old and pitching for Double-A Harrisburg, where Carr's (0-1) with an 8.71 ERA in 10.1 IP in which he's allowed 16 hits, 10 ER, 2 HR's and 9 walks with 7 K's and a 2.42 WHIP...Zechry Zinicola, an '06 6th Round pick, was ranked as high as 6th in the Nationals' organization in 2007, when Baseball America.com writer Aaron Fitt published the '07 edition of the, "Top 10 Prospects: Washington Nationals", where Zinicola was also recognized for having the Best Slider in the DC system. In 2008, Zinicola had dropped off Mr. Fitt's list, though he was still recognized for his slider, following an '07 season which saw the then 22-year-old right-hander go (0-4) with a 5.46 ERA in 42 appearances and 52.1 IP. Now 24, Zechry Zinicola's in Double-A Harrisburg along with Carr, and currently sporting a 1.08 ERA in 8 G and 8.1 IP, over which he's given up 7 hits, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 HR and 4 walks with 7 K's, 2 saves and a 1.32 WHIP.
? For The DC Faithful...
Mr. Acta mentions Billy Wagner and Brad Lidge as examples of pitchers who began as starters and became relievers...In DC, Mike Hinckley's an admittedly less successful example of a pitcher who made the transition Mr. Acta described...MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote recently, in an article entitled, "Clippard adjusting well to bullpen move", about another starter-turned-reliever who has caught the attention of the Natosphere, Tyler Clippard, who's, "...given up just two runs in 13 1/3 innings," since he was moved to the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs' bullpen. (Rizzo points to head again.)...Is there anyone in the DC system or on the Nationals' roster who you think would be better suited to a relief role? I know some people think, Daniel Cabrera could close...I tend to disagree, but there's no baseball until 10:10 pm EST since the Nationals are out in La-La Land...So I'm willing to listen to arguments...Who's the next big thing in closing games? Mock? CHAT? If you have nothing to do, I'll log on around noon today (Tuesday 5/5) and discuss in the Comments...
• (ed. note - "Speaking of being in La-La Land, I wonder if we'll hear from you-know-who again? He's living here, right?")
• (ed. note - "I told someone the other day (in a GameThread comment I can't find) that this was my favorite of the MASN ads and as I was reading Mr. Acta's reponses to my questions, I found the embed code and such...
• (ed. note - "Taunting Smoltz = Always Funny. Especially Now That He's Out Of The NL East.")
Check Out Yesterday's Nationals/Astros GameThread To See What Was Happening When It Was Suspended...(We'll discuss Tuesday's game with the Astros later tonight in the Nationals/Dodgers GameThread, which I'll put up early in the evening...
Check Out The SBN's Los Angeles Dodgers blog:
Tonight's Starting Pitchers Are Going To Stare At You Now...
(ed. note - "Tonight's Game Starts After LOST at 10:10 pm EST LIVE FROM LA...Dodger Stadium, and if you're lucky, MLB.tv will have the LA feed and we'll all get to listen to Vin Scully all night...Well, at least that's what I'm looking forward to...that, and #24!!!")
Let's Go Nats Go!!