Jan 172011
 

Yes, it’s been slow on the prospect news front. It’s less than a month until pitchers and catchers report to Viera, but that’s little consolation to the seamheads. As the headline says, John Sickels has released his Top 50 batters and Top 50 pitchers to the folks that have pre-ordered his annual book.

Coming in at #1 is Bryce Harper — not much of a shock, with Philadelphia farmhand Domonic Brown coming in at #2. Harper is one of seven Grade A batters this year, with four others getting the A- grade. That’s 11 out of roughly 2500 hitters, so it gives you an idea as to how tough a grader he is… and what that means.

Admittedly, there’s a bit of drop to the next slot. At #25 is Derek Norris, who gets a B+ from Sickels, which is the same grade as last year. Clearly Sickels believes that the AFL Norris is the one we’ll see in ’11 and likes the progress he made on defense this year. Norris is the lowest-ranked B+ grade, behind Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis and ahead of Seattle’s Nick Franklin.

The final National is Danny Espinosa, coming in at #38 with a Grade B score, also the same grade as last year. Sickels was one of the few that believed in Espinosa coming into the 2010; most were like I was — suspicious about his power breakout in ’09. Espinosa comes in ahead of the Dodgers’ Jerry Sands and behind Minnesota’s Miguel Sano.

Suffice it to say, there were no Nationals pitchers in the Top 50. This is not a shock since it appears that Sickels prefers to wait a year before grading anybody. If I’m wrong about that, then it could also mean that Sammy Solis earned a B- grade, as all 50 pitchers were Grade B or higher (Jeremy Hellickson was #1 of six Grade A’s; there were four A- pitchers). I’ll have more to report once the book comes in.

UPDATE
In response to the first comment, here’s a breakdown of the number of Sickels’s Top 50 Batters & Pitchers by organization:

BATTERS

Zero Florida, Houston, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Arizona
One Baltimore, Boston, White Sox, Cubs, Detroit, Mets, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Texas
Two Atlanta, Cleveland, Colorado, Angels, Minnesota, Yankees, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle, Toronto
Three Dodgers, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Washington
Four Cincinnati
Five Kansas City

PITCHERS

Zero Florida, Milwaukee, Oakland, San Francisco, Washington
One Arizona, Baltimore, Boston, Cubs, White Sox, Cincinnati, Colorado, Houston, Mets, Seattle, St. Louis
Two Cleveland, Detroit, Dodgers, Minnesota, Yankees, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Texas
Three Angels, Toronto
Four Atlanta
Five Tampa Bay
Six Kansas City

I can double-crunch it, but I’ll save both myself and everyone else the time: KC has the most Top 50 picks with 11 out of 100, followed by Tampa Bay with seven and then Atlanta with six. Florida and Milwaukee have no Top-50 prospects while Arizona, Houston, San Francisco, and St. Louis have just one. Washington is one of seven organizations with three Top-50 picks, which is about what you’d expect for a club that will probably rank in the middle third on most lists.

Jan 122011
 

Originally Posted on January 5, 2010, with some, um, minor edits

One of the joys of following minor-league baseball is going to see your favorite team on the road. As a fan of the Potomac Nationals, I’ve been to the stadiums of all seven opposing teams in the Carolina League over the past five seasons (that’s Grainger Stadium in Kinston, NC above), and have visited Nationals affiliates in Hagerstown, Harrisburg, and Vermont.

With the recent snowfall in the D.C. area, I thought I’d share some of my tips for taking and making the most of a baseball road trip, to help ease the time until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

Take The Interstate
There’s nothing wrong with taking the secondary route to get there, especially if you want to see the countryside. But the Interstates are your best bet because they’re faster, there are more places to stop for food and fuel, and should you have car trouble, you’re a better position to get the help you need quickly. Also, quite a few teams are situated close to the freeway anyway (e.g. The Frederick Keys).

Consider The Dominant Travel Pattern
My favorite night to shoot for is a Saturday night. People that are going to the beach or the mountains are likely already there, so you’re not fighting them. If you must travel on a Friday, try to leave either mid-morning or mid-afternoon, i.e. after rush hour or after lunch. Likewise for Sundays, watch out for afternoon games that will have you on the road between 5 and 8pm, a.k.a. when the weekend throngs are coming back. This is why some teams have opted for a start time of 4 or 5 pm — it’s not quite as harsh on the players, and enables the opposing team to leave with some daylight.

Parking
It’s an overlooked detail, so do your homework — especially with clubs in older ballparks or teams that are very popular. If you’re able to walk, think about the money you’ll save if you park a few blocks away or more importantly, the time you’ll save as you walk past the folks jockeying to get out. I like to look for libraries and schools for this strategy. One notable exception is…

Promotions
…Fireworks night. They’re great for packing them in, and most people stay. Translation: While the masses ooh and ahh, you can make a break for your car and get out ahead of them. You can use the promotions calendar two ways: To get the freebies you want, or avoid the folks that care more about the giveaway than the game (e.g. bobbleheads).

Midweek Day Games
These are big moneymakers for minor-league clubs. They’re often dominated by schools and/or daycares, but they almost always sit in the cheap seats. Despite the crowds, it seems that most venues are shorthanded, relying on the groups’ chaperones for crowd control. This also makes it harder to get concessions and nearly guarantees long lines. But if you don’t mind eating before or after the game, you can generally get great seats up close.

Don’t Forget To Wear Sunscreen…
…and drink plenty of fluids, by which I mean water and soda. One of the unfortunate things I’ve noticed is that minor-league stadiums with a roof aren’t being built anymore. To me, that’s penny-wise and pound-foolish because a roof provides cover from both the sun and the rain. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I love the WPA-era parks (see above) so much, but I can’t help but notice that in the places where there is a roof, people tend to stick around when the elements aren’t favorable. For everywhere else, it’s a good idea to notice where the shadows fall and try to get those seats when the weather will be a factor.

Jan 102011
 

As mentioned last week, I’ve been building some pages to give more detail on our Watchlist players.

If you’ll look to your right, you’ll see a link for Watchlist and Player Reports under “Resources” (here’s the link if you’re viewing this on a mobile device). I decided on “player reports” so as not to oversell what I’ve done here. If there’s a recent scouting report available, I’ve condensed it and added my opinions. If there isn’t, I’ve written a summary about the player and how he made it onto our “radar.”

I’ve built the pitcher pages, but an holding back on them until the 2011 books come out. There are 49 pitchers on our list and I can probably “scout” about 10 of them from this past season. My hope is to put the best (and latest) info available, since pitchers are often the most volatile players and the most anticipated as well.

Sorry for the slowdown, but it’s mother[loving] January.

Jan 052011
 

Here’s a final look at how the Nats prospects did in the in the 2010-11 Winter Leagues.

BATTERS

PLAYER LG AB R H HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA SB
Chris Marrero PWL 85 11 26 2 16 7 25 .306 .351 .424 .264 2
Wilberto Ortiz PWL 143 24 47 1 16 10 18 .329 .377 .455 .283 2
Eury Perez DWL 116 16 40 0 5 5 21 .345 .397 .388 .276 21
Wilson Ramos VWL 180 34 58 9 36 20 31 .322 .390 .567 .317 1
Jesus Valdez DWL 44 5 12 1 4 0 9 .273 .297 .386 .216 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER LG W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Erik Arnesen PWL 3 3 0 2.47 8 8 43⅔ 44 17 12 3 8 18 1.19
Jeff Mandel PWL 1 1 0 2.19 19 0 20⅔ 20 5 5 1 8 16 1.35
Yunesky Maya DWL 4 2 0 1.32 8 8 41 27 8 6 1 9 42 0.88
Pat McCoy PWL 1 0 0 3.70 22 0 24⅓ 22 10 10 0 9 8 1.27
Hassan Pena PWL 1 0 0 1.05 23 0 34⅓ 17 4 4 0 10 28 0.79
Elvin Ramirez DWL 1 2 0 1.85 20 0 24⅓ 19 7 5 0 5 28 0.99
Henry Rodriguez VWL 0 1 5 1.69 18 0 21⅓ 11 4 4 0 9 28 0.94
Jack Spradlin VWL 0 0 0 2.31 17 0 11⅔ 12 5 3 0 5 9 1.46
Cory VanAllen PWL 0 0 0 5.06 10 0 10⅔ 11 7 6 1 5 2 1.50
Josh Wilkie VWL 2 2 0 3.20 14 0 19⅔ 16 7 7 3 3 7 0.97

PWL = Puerto Rican Winter League
DWL = Dominican Winter League
VWL = Venezuela Winter League

I know it’s been quiet, but there hasn’t been a heck of a lot of minor-league Nats news, which is our niche (damn, that almost rhymes). I’m in the process of building a library of notes/reports for our watchlist players, adding the Willingham Two and the Rule 5ers, but it’s a bit of a slow go since I’m trying to get the text to align along with pictures. And to make matters worse, I know that several of the text blocks will have to change in a few weeks when the BA, Sickels, and McKamey books hit the street.

Hope 2011 is treating everyone else well. Looking forward to see how the HoF vote goes, even if it means revisiting some ugly anti-Expo sentiment in the Natmosphere.