Oct 202010
 

The debut of Bryce Harper is expected to be tonight, which should temper the stories about the hopes and anticipation and with any luck, put the focus on the field instead of the tone-deaf proclamations about the future (hence the picture).

Meanwhile, after a night in which just one Nat played, five saw action on Tuesday night…

  • Steve Lombardozzi drew a walk and scored a run while going o-for-3 and leading off and playing second base
  • Derek Norris caught and batted cleanup, tripling in a run but striking out three times. Defensively, he allowed a stolen base and a passed ball
  • Michael Burgess batted seventh and scored two runs while going 1-for-3
  • Brad Peacock earned a hold with two hitless innings, walking one and striking out three; he also picked off a runner
  • Cole Kimball pitched the final two innings for a save, allowing one hit and setting down one on strikes. He also threw a wild pitch

Scottsdale won 5-4 to improve to 5-2 in the AFL East and hosts the Mesa Solar Sox tonight.

Oct 192010
 

At the time that I went to see them, the Vermont Lake Monsters were 7-3 and in the second game of an eight-game win streak that saw them roll up an 18-5 record before they would lose consecutive games.  After losing those two games, they ripped off three more wins to go to 21-7. They would not win two games in a row again until the final two games of the year, going 15-31 the rest of the way to finish at 36-38 and two games behind the eventual league champion Tri-City Valley Cats (coincidentally, the team I had visited the night before on my drive up).

Q: What the hell happened?
A: The pitching took a nosedive.

The top four starters had a combined ERA of 4.75, which is nearly a run higher than the league average of 3.80. The good news is that just one of those starters was a 2010 draftee; the rest of the 2010 draftees were relievers. The bad news is that two of the other three starters were from the 2009 draft.

As you might have already deduced (or guessed, Skipper), the hitting was in the top quartile of the league. As we’ve done the two reviews prior, let’s take a look at how Vermont compared to the rest of the league…

HITTING

TEAM AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA SB
Vermont 2430 365 597 34 340 591 .246 .347 .353 .244 58
Lg. Avg. 2488 334 620 36 254 571 .249 .326 .362 .237 68

Bold = League Leader

PITCHING

TEAM IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
Vermont 649.0 4.47 5.07 1.408 43 266 587 9.0 3.7 8.1 2.21
Lg. Avg. 657.2 3.80 4.49 1.329 36 254 571 8.5 3.5 7.8 2.25

As it was with the GCL, there is some hope in the strength of team’s hitting. Leading the league in walks drawn is something that should not be taken lightly, especially for college bats adjusting to the wood-bat game. Those eighty or so “extra” baserunners helped offset league-average hitting and power, enabling the Lake Monsters to score 31 more runs than the league average.

Likewise, there is also some hope in the relievers that helped offset the poor starting pitching, as four relievers posted sub-3.00 ERAs while throwing more than 20 innings. Not surprisingly, three of those four piled up Ks at a rate of 10.2/9IP or more.

As before, I’m listing the Top 12 hitters and pitchers in terms of plate appearances and innings pitched and using defensive games played for the listing of position. The full statistics for the team can be found here.

Name Age Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err PA GPA
Jason Martinson 21 SS 68 .944 17 306 .242
Ronnie Labrie 23 1B 67 .990 6 280 .276
Chad Mozingo 21 CF/LF 42/17 .975 3 278 .239
Blake Kelso 21 3B/2B/SS 30/27/3 .949 10 274 .256
David Freitas 21 C 35 .994 2 261 .296
Wade Moore 22 RF/LF 57/3 .969 4 258 .275
Hendry Jimenez* 20 2B 45 .973 6 206 .201
Russell Moldenhauer 22 DH 1 @ 1B 1.000 0 162 .295
Kevin Keyes 21 LF/RF 35/3 .895 6 160 .214
Justin Miller 21 IF/OF 17/19 .902 8 155 .248
Connor Rowe 21 CF/RF/LF 11/21/7 .955 3 140 .195
Cole Leonida 21 C 31 .988 3 120 .154

Bold = 2010 Draftee      Italics = 2009 Draftee * = DSL Graduate

Obviously, the thing that jumps out is the usage of Russell Moldenhauer, the team leader in slugging percentage. With two catchers to evaluate (Freitas and Leonida), it was clear that when one would catch, the other would DH or sit, which begs the question: Why weren’t Labrie and Moldenhauer rotating at first base? The most logical deduction is that Moldenhauer is a terrible fielder, given that Moldenahauer did not play defensively at all for University of Texas this year and only played enough to register 53 putouts in the three seasons prior to 2010.

Seven of these twelve hitters were sent to the Florida Instructional League; a good sign that they’ll be in Hagerstown in 2011 and perhaps one may even jump to Potomac (best guess: David Freitas). Folks in Hagerstown should have another decent season in terms of offense, especially as the GCL standouts are mixed in with this bunch.

On to the pitchers, and should you be reading this past 5 p.m., this might be the time to pour yourself a cold adult beverage…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HBP WP
Matt Swynenberg 21 14/12 5-2, 0 4.60 62⅔ 65 17 43 1.309 6 2
Taylor Jordan 21 13/13 2-3, 0 4.94 62 73 17 54 1.452 5 3
Bobby Hansen 20 13/12 3-2, 0 4.79 56⅓ 72 19 51 1.615 7 7
Chad Jenkins 20 15/12 2-7, 0 4.67 54 40 34 52 1.370 13 3
Colin Bates 22 15/5 3-3, 2 5.40 48⅓ 55 8 45 1.303 6 2
Wilson Eusebio* 21 16/0 2-1, 0 4.26 44⅓ 44 26 32 1.579 3 11
Neil Holland 21 19/0 3-1, 3 2.20 32⅔ 25 9 37 1.041 2 2
Ryan Demmin 22 14/1 2-1, 2 1.45 31 25 10 32 1.129 1 0
Dustin Crane 23 19/0 2-2, 2 4.60 29⅓ 23 18 20 1.398 1 10
Cameron Selik 22 15/0 1-0, 1 2.54 28⅓ 22 13 32 1.235 2 2
Christopher McKenzie 20 8/6 1-2, 0 8.54 26⅓ 40 12 22 1.975 1 2
Mark Herrera 21 14/0 2-1, 1 2.88 25 20 8 31 1.120 2 4

Digging deeper into the usage, it would appear that the m.o. was to use last year’s college guys to start, and this year’s guys to relieve. The three ’09 draftees each started last season in the GCL. Two (Jenkins and Swynenburg) were sent up to Vermont and did not respond well to the challenge and thus, they repeated. Therefore, we may have some tea leaves to read in terms of guessing who’ll be in Auburn next summer and who won’t.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
Finally, I can say I saw some of these guys (OK, maybe it was just once, but I can still say it). So here goes with the five bats and five arms to watch in 2011:

Top 5 Batters
1. David Freitas
2. Russell Moldenhauer
3. Wade Moore
4. Blake Kelso
5. Jason Martinson

Top 5 Pitchers
1. Neil Holland
2. Mark Herrera
3. Ryan Demmin
4. Taylor Jordan
5. Chad Jenkins

Oct 192010
 

Just a quick update before the wires start buzzing about the expected debut of Bryce Harper today.

Scottsdale fell 6-4 to the Surprise Rafters. Michael Burgess was the lone Nat to see game action, as Derek Norris was a late scratch (see link above for more details). Burgess went 1-for-3 with a sac-fly RBI while batting eighth and playing right field.

Oct 182010
 

Here’s a look at how the Nationals fared over the weekend in the Arizona Fall League…

FRIDAY
The Scottsdale Scorpions pounded the Phoenix Desert Dogs, 11-4

  • Michael Burgess went 1-for-4 with 3 K’s as the DH
  • Brad Peacock struck out the side while pitching the sixth but gave up a run on two hits
  • Cole Kimball pitched a 1-2-3 ninth and struck out one

SATURDAY
With a 6-4 win over the Peoria Javelinas, the Scottsdale Scorpions improved to 4-1

  • Sammy Solis got the start and allowed a run on two hits and a walk over three innings while striking out one. He also picked off a runner
  • Adam Carr pitched two scoreless innings to get the win while walking one and striking out one
  • Steve Lombardozzi played 2B and batted leadoff, going 1-for-3 with a double and a walk and scored two runs
  • Derek Norris caught and batted cleanup, going 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, a run scored, and a stolen base. He threw out the only runner to attempt a steal against him

After five games…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Lombardozzi 4 14 3 4 3 0 0 1 1 2 .286 .375 .500 0
Norris 3 9 3 4 1 0 1 3 4 3 .444 .615 .889 1
Burgess 3 10 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 4 .200 .385 .200 1

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G IP R ER HR BB SO WHIP HLD GF
Peacock 0 0 0 3.00 2 3 1 1 0 0 7 1.000 0 0
Solis 0 0 0 3.00 1 3 2 1 0 1 1 1.000 0 0
Carr 1 0 0 3.00 2 3 2 1 0 2 1 1.333 0 0
Kimball 0 0 0 0.00 2 2 0 0 0 0 4 0.000 0 2
Oct 152010
 

Four Nats saw action in yesterday’s 5-1 loss by the Scottsdale Scorpions to the Phoenix Desert Dogs…

  • Steve Lombardozzi was the DH and went 1-for-5 with a run scored
  • Derek Norris caught and went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout; he was 0-for-1 in throwing out runners
  • Michael Burgess played RF and went 1-for-3 with a walk, a strikeout, and a stolen base; he committed an error
  • Adam Carr pitched the 8th inning and allowed a run on two hits and walk and did not strike out a batter
Oct 142010
 

By now, you’ve heard that Bryce Harper has been assigned to the taxi squad and will play twice a week. As I put in one of the comments last night, I believe this is a move that has more to do keeping Harper under the watchful eye tutelage of one of the best baseball men in the system (Randy Knorr) than it is exposing him to high-level competition. From a PR standpoint, it’s also a nice gesture to appease the impatient DC fans (today’s submission from the department of redundancy department).

Anyway, just two Nationals saw action in yesterday’s 9-1 win by the Scottsdale Scorpions, but the results are what we love to see…

…Steve Lombardozzi doubled in his first two at-bats and went 2-for-6 overall while scoring a run. Defensively, he made just one play.

…Cole Kimball pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out the side, which included Minnesota’s Joe Benson, and San Diego farmhands Luis Martinez and Cole Figueroa (seriously, what was up with the name “Cole” in the mid-to-late 80s?).

Oct 132010
 

Here’s a peek at how the Nationals did yesterday for the Scottsdale Scorpions, who won 4-3 over the Peoria Saguaros…

  • Derek Norris 1-2, 2R, 2BB, HR, 2 RBI
  • Mike Burgess 0-3, BB
  • Brad Peacock 2IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 4K

UPDATE: MLB.com’s Bill Ladson is reporting that Bryce Harper will be assigned to the Scorpions’ taxi squad and will play roughly twice a week.

A few other odds & ends (be thankful I opted not to lead with that for the picture ;-)…

…Wilson Ramos was the lone National in the Baseball America International League Top 20, coming in at #18. The good news is that scouts like him defensively, and describe him as having “above-average raw power.” The bad news: He needs to work on game-management and pitch-calling. Before folks chime in about having Ramos and Rodriguez working together, remember that the knock on Pudge for his entire career has been in these two areas.

…The folks at Ballpark Digest named the new Metro Park in Harrisburg as the renovation of the year and I couldn’t agree more.

…Sickels weighed in on an age-old question of young pitcher development.

Oct 122010
 

By now, you’ve read that the Arizona Fall League starts up today. And some 18-year-old named Bryce Harper won’t be playing. So there’s little I can add to that, except for some thoughts on the players I’ve seen…

Adam Carr – RHRP
Carr has been here before, playing in 2007 after his first full season in the minors and looked to be on the verge of becoming a factor for the parent club in late ’08 with a 1.78ERA at Potomac and Harrisburg. Unfortunately, he hit wall the next season, and struggled mightily at both levels. In ’09, he was converted to a starting pitcher in an effort to both salvage something out of a hard-thrower as well as give him a chance to pitch more often and learn more of the finer points of pitching. In ’10 he returned to relieving, mostly as a setup guy and long-man, but was solid and consistent enough to get a callup to AAA where he racked up nine saves in 10 chances and posted a 2.08ERA.

Cole Kimball – RHRP
Kimball is a similar pitcher to Carr, but started for his first three seasons before being turned into a reliever in ’09. Kimball doesn’t throw quite as hard, but can (and does) throw more breaking pitches. Served as the closer for Potomac in ’09 and to begin ’10 with solid numbers. At Harrisburg, Kimball saw his strikeout rate jump from the one-per-inning rate that’s relatively common to a more dominant 12.3/9IP.

Brad Peacock – RHSP
The last of the draft-and-follow picks, Peacock is a perfect example of what the A+ level is — a place where a guy needs to work on one more thing before making the biggest jump in the minors. That one thing? The changeup. Early in the ’10 season, Peacock would rack up double-digit strikeouts but couldn’t get much past the fifth or sixth inning because once folks realized he couldn’t throw anything offspeed for strikes, they’d wait him out and sit on that 94-95 heat. In late June, Peacock started to figure out, resulting in a complete-game shutout in early July. By month’s end, he was in Harrisburg and was a factor in the Sens’ playoff run.

Steve Lombardozzi – 2B
Lombardozzi is often overlooked because of what he is not. He’s not big. He’s not flashy. He’s not a home run hitter. What is he? A steady, reliable fielder (though not the strongest of arms) and a consistent hitter with gap power and slightly above-average speed but terrific baserunning instincts. Arguably the most consistent P-Nat this season and was able to bat anywhere in the top third of the lineup with little change in his production.

Michael Burgess – OF
Burgess was an enigma this season. Early on, it looked like he had finally solved his weakness against lefties and began rapping the ball the other way (in ’09, an opposite-field hit for Burgess was a grounder that went just to the left of the 2nd base bag). But after the league adjusted to him, his well-known weakness re-emerged — the inability to lay off soft-and-away pitches came back. He appeared to be readjusting his approach when a death in his family kept him out for a couple of weeks. In the final analysis, Burgess is still trying to figure out how to hit to all fields without sacrificing power and keeping the strikeouts down. There were times when he did, which is why he’s been given this challenge.

Derek Norris – C
Injuries wreaked havoc on Norris’s season and it was not until late August that he began to look comfortable as a hitter. As mentioned last week, Norris does struggle some with breaking pitches but as many people have remarked, you can close your eyes and pick him out of a BP lineup — the ball has a distinctive sound coming off his bat. The most promising thing is that no matter how low his batting average got, Derek did not press and held his OBP at the .400+ level all season long. Defensively, Norris is still a project, struggling with wild pitches and passed balls, but still threw out 51% of the runners that tried to steal off him.

Sammy Solis – LHP
Solis made just two appearances in Hagerstown, so I did not see him. Here is what the estimable John Sickels wrote about him prior to the draft:

A back injury redshirted Solis in 2009, so he’s a draft-eligible sophomore this year… Sizeable at 6-5, 220, he has an 89-92 MPH fastball, and both his curveball and changeup are major league quality. His command is considered excellent, and there is nothing wrong with his statistical performance this spring: 2.94 ERA with a 52/15 K/BB in 52 innings, 51 hits allowed. He should… interest any team looking for a lefty with polish who won’t need much minor league time.

Oct 122010
 

With the decided shift towards college players in the Rule 4 draft (a.k.a. First-Year Players), it’s no surprise that the 2010 GCL Nationals were among the oldest in the league (batters, 20.4; pitchers, 21.5). Unfortunately, like the proverbial trailer park, if they weren’t putting a hurt a somebody (league-leading 5.21 R/G scored), they were getting hammered (third-worst 5.27 R/G allowed). Hence, a losing record at 24-32 that was four games under the 28-28 pythagorean projection.

Here’s a look at how they compared to the rest of the league…

HITTING

TEAM AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA SB
GCL Nats 1895 292 505 18 194 404 .266 .343 .370 .247 76
Lg. Avg. 1887 253 466 23 174 432 .247 .321 .349 .232 64

Bold = League Leader

PITCHING

TEAM IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
GCL Nats 483.0 4.29 5.27 1.346 30 167 412 9.0 3.1 7.7 2.47
Lg. Avg. 496.0 3.62 4.39 1.289 23 174 432 8.4 3.2 7.8 2.48

For an organization that’s been hurting for offense, leading the league in runs scored per game, RBI, hits, batting average, and on-base percentage is a good thing. They also drew the third-most walks and struck out at the fourth-lowest rate, and stole bases at a league-best 76% (76-for-100) success rate.

Unfortunately, the pitching wasn’t there and neither was the defense; both were third-worst on a rate basis (runs per game, fielding percentage). Even worse: Three of the bottom five in terms of runs allowed are DSL grads (Gregory Baez, Pedro Encarnacion, and Miguel Navarro).

Playing time was split much more evenly in the GCL vs. the DSL, so I’m listing the top 12 batters in terms of plate appearances, assigning positions by games appeared. The full statistics for the team can be found here.

Name Age Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err PA GPA
Angelberth Montilla 21 LF/CF/RF 20/20/11 .953 4 222 .253
Randolph Oduber 21 CF/LF 20/10 .986 1 175 .338
Mills Rogers 22 1B/3B/SS 26/13/2 .985 4 154 .249
Michael Taylor 19 SS/3B/2B 19/9/9 .882 22 149 .196
Hector Taveras 21 C 12 .978 2 145 .246
Wander Nunez 20 RF/LF 31/5 1.000 0 139 .220
Roberto Perez 19 2B/3B 31/4 .955 7 137 .223
Tyler Oliver 21 1B 25 .995 1 133 .220
Jeremy Mayo 22 C/1B 27/3 .991 2 133 .298
Adrian Sanchez 19 3B/2B/SS 14/8/7 .927 8 127 .312
Johan Rodriguez 19 SS/2B 18/11 .863 16 114 .191
Estarlin Martinez 18 3B/2B 24/1 .823 14 1 .231

Bold = 2010 Draftee (Notables not included above = Rick Hague, Rick Hughes, Rashad Hatcher)
Italics = 2010 IFA

Like the DSL, players were rotated defensively, with most positions having two or three primary starters. As VladiHondo pointed out in the DSL season review, the showing of ’09 DSL “graduates” was weak, with Martinez and Wander Ramos he only two getting significant playing time at 106 and 99 PAs respectively.

As the parenthetical indicates, there were three 2010 draftees that got playing time in the GCL but were not in the Top 12. Hague obviously impressed in his limited playing time to get the bump to Hagerstown, posting a .275/.380/.300 line in 50PA but Hughes was actually a little better with a .293/.359/.448 in 65 PA. Rashad Hatcher posted just a .200/241/.218 line in 59 PA.

On to the pitchers, listing the top 12 in terms of innings pitched…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HBP WP
Kelvin Lopez 20 11/8 4-4, 0 4.44 46⅔ 54 12 26 1.414 3 6
Gregory Baez 18 11/6 1-2, 0 2.61 38 44 23 40 1.763 4 5
Tyler Hanks 20 10/4 4-1, 1 3.51 33⅓ 37 6 25 1.290 3 4
Nick Serino 21 14/1 2-2, 0 3.16 25⅔ 21 5 25 1.013 1 3
Pedro Encarnacion 19 8/6 0-3, 0 6.48 25 28 12 15 1.600 2 3
Christian Meza 19 9/2 1-2, 0 1.52 23⅔ 16 10 23 1.099 2 5
Billy Ott 22 7/0 1-0, 1 1.17 23 16 3 19 0.826 4 0
Manuel Rivera 22 13/0 2-2, 0 2.61 20⅔ 15 12 21 1.306 5 2
Tim Dupuis 21 16/0 3-1, 3 4.79 20⅔ 23 5 21 1.355 0 1
Miguel Navarro 17 14/1 1-1, 0 8.10 20 19 21 11 2.000 10 6
Mike Gallo 23 12/0 0-2, 0 8.38 19⅓ 25 11 11 1.862 1 1
Matt Grace 21 8/5 1-1, 0 4.32 18⅔ 23 3 14 1.393 1 1

The spring-training usage of pitchers in the GCL makes it impossible to draw any meaningful conclusions. This particular year saw a lot of rehab activity (seven full-season minor-leaguers, four major-leaguers) as thirty pitchers threw at least one inning, and as you can see the cutoff for the Top 12 was 18 innings (Chris Manno was #13)

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
The same caveat applies to the GCL as it does the DSL (sight unseen) and with the pitchers, it’s even more shaky, but folks love lists so here goes, along with some honorable mentions to account for the guesswork smaller sample sizes here.

Top 5 Batters
1. Randolph Oduber
2. Adrian Sanchez
3. Rick Hague
4. Mills Rogers
5. Michael Taylor

Honorable mentions: Estarlin Martinez, Angelberth Montilla

Top 5 Pitchers
1. Tyler Hanks
2. Nick Serino
3. Christian Meza
4. Matthew Grace
5. Christopher Manno

Honorable mentions: Billy Ott, Manuel Rivera

Oct 082010
 

Not surprisingly, just one Nationals farmhand made the cut for Baseball America’s Top 20 Prospects of the Eastern League: Danny Espinosa.

What did surprise me was this characterization of Espinosa’s defense in the scouting report:

Though Espinosa played exclusively shortstop at Double-A, scouts and managers agree he fits better at second base, where he mostly played in the majors. His infield actions aren’t quite good enough for a big league [sic] shortstop, but he has a chance to be a plus defender with a strong arm at second.

Whether this is kowtowing to the Nats’ decision to play the superior shortstop out of position or not is subject to debate. What’s more pleasing to read is that while the scouts still believe he’s a candidate to strike out frequently, they’re liking the power that first came on the scene in ’09, surprising nearly everyone.

Going into 2010, Espinosa’s task was to prove his power surge at Potomac was not a fluke, and clearly he’s succeeded. Now the scouts are predicting that he’s capable of hitting .260 to .270 with 15-20 HRs. Fun fact: Espinosa was one of three 20/20 players in the minors this past season.

As always, I’ll pass along any Nats-related comments I spot in the BA chat.

UPDATE: Here’s the lone Nat question in the BA chat…

    Ben (Leland Grove): Did Chris Marrero and Michael Burgess make your short list? Your thoughts on both at this point?

John Manuel: I asked one scout who’s better defensively at 1B, Adam Dunn or Marrero, and he answered Marrero, but he had to think about it. That tells you what you need to know on Marrero’s defense. As my son would say, he’s a 5 for strat-o-matic purposes. Burgess didn’t qualify, but I’d be leery of his big hack-no contact approach anyway.