Nov 082010
 

It’s a light update for the Nats in the AFL. Just one played in Friday’s game, obligatory SEO insert Bryce Harper, who went 1-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts and was caught stealing. John Sickels, who was presumably in Arizona to catch the AFL Rising Stars game (Burgess made the lone Nat appearance, going 0-for-2 with a strikeout), had this to say about what he saw:

I got to see Bryce Harper play last night for the first time. It is hard to believe he just turned 18. I would rate his raw power at an 80 on the traditional scale. He’s got outstanding bat speed, and while he can be fooled at this point, he did make an effort to work the count and showed the ability to make adjustments in the same at-bat. It was just one game but I saw enough to completely buy into the hype.

I’m sure more folks will weigh in next week, but as the snarky strikethrough suggests, it’s pretty clear that the comparisons to A-Rod and Griffey may in fact be justified… so the baseball world is watching with baited breath, which leads to an awful lot of one-handed typing. I’m excited, too, but the hype is something I hate — especially with a fanbase that’s both impatient and imbued with an enormous sense of entitlement. Hey, what’s this soapbox doing here?

As we’ve done the past few Mondays, here’s a look at the AFL stats through Friday (22 games):

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Lombardozzi 14 57 13 15 6 2 0 3 8 5 .263 .368 .439 1
Burgess 13 49 5 11 2 1 0 7 3 16 .224 .264 .306 1
Norris 12 36 7 9 3 1 3 15 11 13 .250 .429 .639 2
Harper 6 23 3 8 2 0 1 4 3 8 .348 .423 .565 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G IP H R ER BB SO WHIP HLD GF
Solis 0 0 0 5.17 4 15⅔ 19 12 9 6 8 1.596 0 0
Peacock 0 0 0 2.70 7 10 7 3 3 2 14 0.900 2 0
Kimball 0 0 1 1.00 8 9 6 1 1 1 11 0.889 0 8
Carr 1 0 0 3.00 7 9 5 3 3 2 6 .889 0 3
Nov 052010
 

The Scottsdale Scorpions won their second straight by a 9-5 count to remain in first place, two games ahead of the Mesa Solar Sox. Sources say that if they win today, it’ll be what’s known as winning streak.

Here’s how the Nats did:

  • Derek Norris caught, batted fifth, and went 1-for-4 with an RBI (his 15th in 12 games) but struck out three times and allowed another passed ball.
  • Michael Burgess played RF, batted seventh, and also went 1-for-4 but struck out just once and threw out a runner at 3B.
  • Adam Carr pitched a scoreless seventh and struck out one, dropping his ERA to 3.00
  • Cole Kimball struck out the side in the ninth

Bryce Harper will be eligible to play in Friday night’s game as the Scorpions visit the Phoenix Desert Dogs. Tomorrow night is the AFL Rising Stars Game, pitting the players from the Eastern Division against the Western Division. It will be televised on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com.

Nov 042010
 

A busier-than-usual day for the Nationals in the AFL, as five of the eight saw action in a 9-3 Scottsdale win over Surprise.

  • Steve Lombardozzi returned to 2B and the #2 spot in the order and had a 2-for-5 afternoon with a triple and two runs scored.
    He also helped turn two double plays.
  • Bryce Harper batted sixth and played RF, walking twice (his first two BBs), and scoring two runs in a 1-for-2.
    He also collided with the opposing team’s catcher in scoring one of the runs.
  • Sammy Solis allowed two runs on five hits and one walk over four innings. He also gave up a home run and stuck out one.
  • Brad Peacock allowed a run on one hit (triple) while striking out one in his lone inning of work
  • Cole Kimball pitched a scoreless ninth, allowing a hit and striking out one , lowering his ERA to 1.13

Adam Foster from Project Prospect was tweeting from yesterday’s game, and besides the Harper takeout play, which he described as “Nobody f’s with Bryce Harper,” he had the following tweets that are of interest:

…[Bryce Harper has a p]lus arm, good instincts, good speed, aggressive. Should be at least MLB average in RF.

…Brad Peacock’s FB last inning: 96, 94, 95, 95, 95, 95, 96, 95.

…If you like SP who command a low-90s FB with movement along with a changeup, you may like Sammy Solis. He has touched 94 today, too.

…Solis has a promising changeup, but his success with it will hinge on his ability to command it.

The only thing I can add is that Peacock’s velocity as a starter was 93-95. It’s not that hard to imagine that if he were being groomed as a setup man, he could could touch 97 or 98 after an offseason of rest and conditioning.

Nov 032010
 

The Scottsdale Scorpions lost again, falling to the Peoria Javelinas by a 7-4 count. Here’s a look at how the Nats fared:

  • Steve Lombardozzi led off and played SS. He went 3-for-4 with a triple, but was caught stealing for the second time.
  • Derek Norris batted sixth and drew two walks but went o-for-2 otherwise.
  • Michael Burgess batted eighth and extended his hitless streak to 15AB with another 0-for-4 game.
    He did, however, throw out a runner at the plate.
  • Adam Carr pitched a scoreless ninth and struck out one.

Sammy Solis, to clarify, is scheduled to start today as will (presumably) Bryce Harper. Yesterday, the AFL announced rosters for the 5th Annual Rising Stars Game and Burgess and Cole Kimball were named to the Eastern Division squad.

[Editorial]The selection of Burgess is mystifying as is the exclusion of Norris. At first glance, it would appear that catcher Tony Sanchez would have bumped Norris (the old “every team must have a representative” canard), until you notice that Pirate OF Andrew Lambo, who also plays RF, is batting .304/.351/.522. As noted yesterday in the comments, it would almost appear as if the managers got together, determined whose turn it was to play, and cobbled the rosters accordingly [/Editorial]

Nov 022010
 

Though much less heralded, it’s free agency for minor leaguers today with the close of the World Series last night. The official list will be made public later this month, but here’s a rundown of the unofficial/potential MLFAs in the Nats system:

Catchers
Devin Ivany
Brian Peacock
Jamie Burke
Carlos Maldonado

Infielders
Brian Bixler
Seth Bynum
Chris Duncan
Chase Lambin
Pedro Lopez
Michael Martinez
Luis Ordaz
Pete Orr
Ofilio Castro
Adam Fox

Outfielders
Marvin Lowrance
Leonard Davis
Jason Botts
Jerry Owens
Edgardo Baez
Jesus Valdez
Brad Coon
Jamar Walton

Starting Pitchers
Andrew Kown
Jason Jones
Robinson Fabian

Relievers
Chuck James
Rafael Martin
Yunior Novoa
Zach Dials
Carlos Martinez
Jimmy Barthmaier
Luis Garcia
Glenn Gibson

Now it’s certainly possible that some of these folks have already agreed to a successor contract, i.e. an agreement to to re-sign with the organization prior to the deadline for filing for MLFA, but that information isn’t exactly public. We’ll know more in a couple weeks, particularly as the Rule 5 draft comes onto the radar.

UPDATE: Seems I forgot to list the pitchers (cue Red Foreman) and missed an OF, but thanks to frequent reader BinM, here they are.

Nov 022010
 

Three Nats bats saw time in yesterday’s game, which saw the Scottsdale Scorpions’ winning streak snapped with a 7-4 loss to the Peoria Javelinas:

  • Derek Norris caught and batted sixth, going 1-for-4 with a double, two RBI, and two strikeouts. He also committed two throwing errors and allowed a stolen base
  • Michael Burgess played RF and batted eighth and went 0-for-4 with a strikeout
  • Steve Lombardozzi played SS and batted ninth, and also went o-for-4 with a strikeout. He committed an error as well

Sammy Solis is scheduled to make his fourth start tomorrow. Solis was one of several pitchers recently featured in The Hardball Times which contains some video but it’s from the spring, not this fall.

Also on our radar is the 2010 AFL Rising Stars game, which will be broadcast on Saturday night on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com. Rosters have not yet been released, but one would strongly suspect that they will find a way to make Bryce Harper available.

Nov 012010
 

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

FRIDAY
The Scorpions stung the Solar Sox by a 9-1 count.

  • Steve Lombardozzi played shortstop and batted from the two-hole, walking twice, scoring two runs while doubling once in three at-bats.
  • Michael Burgess played RF and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
  • Brad Peacock allowed a run on two hits over two innings, but walked none and struck out one.

SATURDAY
A five-run bottom of the eighth gave the Scorpions their third straight win with a 13-9 decision

  • Steve Lombardozzi led off but still played shortstop and went 2-for-5 with a double, a RBI, and two runs scored. He also committed a throwing error.
  • Bryce Harper homered in his first at-bat (pictured above), singled in his second at-bat, and doubled in his third at-bat but struck out in at-bats nos. four and five to post a 3-for-5 afternoon with 2RBI
  • Cole Kimball pitched a scoreless ninth, but gave up two hits while striking out one.

With 17 games in the books, the Scottsdale Scorpions lead their division by two games with five games scheduled for this week. Cumulative stats for the… wait for it… Nats:

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Lombardozzi 11 44 11 10 6 0 0 3 8 3 .227 .364 .364 1
Burgess 10 37 4 10 2 1 0 7 3 13 .270 .317 .370 1
Norris 9 26 7 8 2 1 3 6 9 7 .308 .486 .808 2
Harper 4 17 1 6 2 0 1 4 0 5 .353 .353 .647 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G IP H R ER BB SO WHIP HLD GF
Solis 0 0 0 5.40 3 11⅔ 14 10 7 5 7 1.629 0 0
Peacock 0 0 0 2.00 6 9 6 2 2 2 13 0.889 2 0
Kimball 0 0 1 1.29 6 7 5 1 1 1 7 0.857 0 6
Carr 1 0 0 3.86 5 7 5 3 3 2 4 1.000 0 2
Nov 012010
 

The half system one of the best things ever conceived for minor-league baseball. It’s an acknowledgment that player movement during the season affects the standings and helps generate interest in the second half. And it’s what helped make the 2010 Potomac Nationals’ pennant run possible.

The first-half Potomac team struggled to muster a consistent offensive attack, getting shut out seven times and scoring 10 or more runs five times, stumbling along to a 31-39 record — 10 games behind Frederick. The second-half team also started slowly, losing seven of its first 12 games before they headed up to Frederick, tied for last place. And then they swept the Keys to go to 8-7. After a split in Salem, Potomac returned to Woodbridge at 9-8. Despite having a rehabbing Jordan Zimmermann on the mound, they lost 3-1 to fall back to .500.

But a funny thing happened in that game. Potomac’s first baseman doubled in the lone run, his first game back after being benched in the second game of the doubleheader in Salem. The next afternoon, he homered. The night after that, he hit a grand slam and doubled twice. You know the rest of that story, but the hitting became contagious. Bill Rhinehart hit .281 in July after a .226 June. Michael Burgess went from .183 in June to .286. Sean Rooney, as part of the ripple effect of the Matt Capps trade that reassigned catchers from A+ to AAA, dropped down from Harrisburg, where he had been struggling as a backup, and picked up where he left off in ’09 and hit .308 in July.

Appropriately, this is a good time to take a look at how the Potomac bats compared to the rest of the Carolina League…

HITTING

TEAM AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA SB
Potomac 4641 665 1166 109 539 1081 .251 .334 .402 .251 96
Lg. Avg. 4664 629 1212 90 435 1038 .260 .330 .388 .246 105

Bold = League Leader

PITCHING

TEAM IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
Potomac 1227.0 3.98 4.62 1.354 101 393 1082 9.3 2.9 7.9 2.75
Lg. Avg. 1221.1 3.92 4.53 1.349 90 435 1038 8.9 3.2 7.7 2.39

The batting numbers are what you might expect from a team that went 70-69 overall: slightly above or slightly below the league averages. Unfortunately, while it’s easy to find splits on individual players, it’s a little harder for teams, thus I can’t easily demonstrate just how much better the team was on offense in the second half versus the first. Also skewing the results are the Winston-Salem Dash, who were sensational on offense, hitting .288 as a team and averaging nearly a full run per game above the league average (5.31 vs. 4.53). Potomac would finish second to them in HRs and total bases.

In terms of pitching, Potomac’s only true calling card was avoiding the free pass, finishing second behind the Salem Red Sox for fewest walks allowed. Unfortunately, that was offset by allowing the third-most HRs and hitting the most batters. In prototypical fashion, the starters were young, the relievers were not, but unlike the bats, they were not the oldest group in the league (Frederick).

In keeping with the format we’ve established, here’s a look at the Top 16 batters in terms of plate appearances, followed by the Top 16 pitchers in terms of innings. Full statistics for the team can be found here.

Name Age Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err PA GPA
Tyler Moore 23 1B 116 .990 11 553 .282
Steve Lombardozzi 21 2B 107 .989 6 507 .269
Michael Burgess 21 RF/LF 99/1 .981 3 491 .265
Derek Norris 21 C 69 .988 7 399 .293
Jose Lozada 24 SS/1B/2B/LF 95/3/1/1 .938 27 385 .236
Robby Jacobsen 25 LF/3B/C/1B/P 59/26/10/2/2 .964 8 375 .221
Bill Rhinehart 25 LF/RF/1B 30/26/17 .978 5 346 .264
Nick Moresi 25 CF/RF/LF/P 49/15/14/1 .978 3 325 .213
Chris Curran 22 CF 70 .981 3 275 .209
Dan Lyons 25 3B/2B/SS 53/5/1 .959 7 274 .235
Brian Peacock 25 C/3B/LF 41/4/2 .994 2 235 .241
Wilberto Ortiz 25 3B/SS/2B 25/19/1 .931 12 187 .223
Sean Rooney 24 C 19 1.000 0 170 .244
Tim Pahuta 26 3B/1B 22/4 .931 8 155 .296
Francisco Soriano 22 2B/SS 21/7 .932 10 117 .219
Josh Johnson 24 3B/SS/2B 12/12/1 .966 3 113 .297

The naysayers like to point out the number of 25-year-olds that were on the team, either not noticing (slightly possible) or not knowing (quite probable) that 44% of the plate appearances were made by players 23 or younger. Add in the 24-year-olds (a not uncommon age for the league) and that number swells to 57%. With the exceptions of Bill Rhinehart and Tim Pahuta, none the “old men” on the team were above league average. Thus, it’s ignorant to write off this team’s offense as being too old for the level. That accusation can, however, be applied to the pitching…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HBP WP
Adrian Alaniz 26 24/12 8-4, 1 2.61 107 93 26 101 1.112 6 10
Brad Peacock 22 19/18 4-9, 0 4.44 103⅓ 109 25 118 1.297 4 10
Evan Bronson 23 21/16 2-5, 0 3.88 95 107 17 59 1.527 3 5
Marcos Frias 21 20/17 7-5, 0 5.69 91⅔ 105 35 59 1.527 5 3
Pat Lehman 23 21/14 5-4, 0 4.84 87⅓ 87 28 88 1.317 9 4
A.J. Morris 23 23/12 5-3, 2 3.88 72 67 27 61 1.306 6 3
Trevor Holder 23 15/14 3-3, 0 4.09 70⅓ 76 22 52 1.393 4 4
Jesse Estrada 26 22/4 3-2, 1 5.11 56⅓ 73 20 39 1.651 8 1
Clayton Dill 24 40/0 6-7, 1 4.41 51 50 33 48 1.627 1 11
Dan Leatherman 24 31/0 3-2, 11 2.12 46⅔ 31 12 57 0.921 2 2
Pat McCoy 21 30/0 2-1, 6 2.93 46 52 12 44 1.391 1 0
Daniel Rosenbaum 22 8/7 3-2, 0 2.09 43 35 13 31 1.116 0 3
Cory VanAllen 25 36/0 2-3, 1 4.28 41⅓ 49 8 48 1.379 1 3
Justin Phillabaum 24 29/0 0-6, 3 6.87 36⅔ 50 15 28 1.773 6 4
Carlos Martinez 26 18/1 0-0, 1 2.57 35 35 6 14 1.171 1 3
Jimmy Barthmaier 26 9/5 4-1, 0 3.62 32⅓ 36 7 26 1.330 3 3

The bullpen (with one rather obvious exception that should be easy to spot in the list above) was a strong spot for P-Nats all season long, and it should have been because it was almost entirely pitchers that were 24 or older — several with AA experience. Injuries forced Adrian Alaniz and Jesse Estrada into the rotation, but when callups from Hagerstown came, only Estrada was sent back. Alaniz and Barthmaier were considerable factors during the second half, which is not to diminish what Rosenbaum and Holder also meant down the stretch.

I’ve been told that the Potomac roster is the last one to be decided coming out of spring training, with the implication being that at least some of the “old men” are guys that might have otherwise been at Harrisburg, but were the odd man out because player X is at Syracuse and they’d prefer player Y to play every day so he’s going to AA instead of sitting the bench at AAA. The aforementioned trade for Wilson Ramos demonstrated that in practice as Devin Ivany was sent down to Harrisburg and Sean Rooney, in turn, came to Potomac.

I don’t believe, however, that the age of the Potomac roster is entirely explained by that. The tendency to draft college-age players is a factor. The lack of timely development of the high-school-aged prospects is a factor. But I think the days of the team being this old are numbered. Next year’s team will have a lot of the 20- and 21-year-olds from Hagerstown, and should become the youngest roster I’ve personally seen in Woodbridge.

But an older roster shouldn’t diminish what this team accomplished. They still had to beat out a loaded Wilmington team to win the half. They still had to beat the Frederick Keys, which also had a lot of older pitchers and was in the Top 3 in most offensive categories. And they faced one of the most powerful lineups in organized baseball and kept them from scoring their customary 5+ runs a game for the entire series, one that yours truly even thought may have been just too much to contain.

OBLIGATORY TOP 5 LISTS
Most of the “repeats” are pitchers, and before folks start chirping, I’ll explain #5. Marcos Frias was one two pitchers that went to the GCL and came back a changed pitcher. His overall numbers were horrid, but he finished the regular season strong and it carried over to the playoffs. That performance basically bumped Pat McCoy off the list, but I mention him here because the line is that close. Tyler Moore’s place is simply indicative of the fact that his weaknesses haven’t been put to the test at AA. Chris Curran gets the nod over Francisco Soriano due to his speed and defense, though Soriano has the better bat and a stronger arm.

Batters
1. Derek Norris
2. Steve Lombardozzi
3. Michael Burgess
4. Tyler Moore
5. Chris Curran

Pitchers
1. Brad Peacock
2. Daniel Rosenbaum
3. A.J. Morris
4. Trevor Holder
5. Marcos Frias