May 172011
 

This may seem late, but I made this post last year after roughly 11 home games. It just happened to be April 27 instead of May 17. The problem, of course, is that the P-Nats have played more than twice the games on the road (25) than at home.

That matters because no matter what I write next, people will look to the overall stats. And teams play differently on the road than they do at home, so that imbalance is going to be built in. Some guys have hit or pitched much better on the road (Perez, Lehman) and some have really done noticeably better at the Pfitz (Hood, Demny)

While I look at stats as much as the next gal, these eyes, though they may be cryin’, get to have their say ’cause they see the little things the boxes don’t (bah buh bah bahhh). And here’s what I’m seeing from the P-Nats…

FIRST BASE
Steven Souza – An all-or-nothing type hitter. But when he makes contact, it’s solid. At home, he’s a slugger (.641); on the road, he’s not (.363) which makes no sense considering that the team has been to hitter-friendly parks like the Salems and Frederick. Defensively, he’s not bad considering he’s a convert to the position, but still needs to work on the smaller nuances like when to defer to the neighboring fielders and when to cover second base on an extra-base hit.

SECOND BASE
Jeff Kobernus – Plays hard, good instincts on the basepaths, but just hasn’t had the results to match his efforts. Defensively, he’s still a work in progress like Souza as he spent most of his college career at third base.

SHORTSTOP
Jose Lozada – An OG that can play anywhere in the IF, but only above-average as a 1B.
Francisco Soriano – Has improved defensively (a cannon for an arm), and will take a walk.
Rick Hague – Liked what I saw on the first homestand, but that’s just five games and more than a month ago.

THIRD BASE
Stephen King – He’s since gone up to Harrisburg, but his defensive improvement was significant compared to years past. Appeared to be turning the corner offensively just before his callup.
Justin Bloxom – Assigned to the position, but not a third baseman — that I’m confident in stating with a small sample size (i.e. just this past homestand), but offensively, I need to see more to have a more informed opinion.

DESIGNATED HITTER
Cutter Dykstra – Yes, he’s played in the field, but the majority of his appearances have been as a DH. That said, he’s been a disappointment relative to his achievements last year. Tends to hit towards right field with little-to-no-power. Speed is as advertised.

LEFT FIELD
J.P. Ramirez – Offensively, the numbers aren’t there, but I like how he uses all fields to hit and has a lot more power than you’d expect out of a short/squat body type. Defensively, he’s a work in progress but lately has been compensating for his lack of footspeed with good jumps.

CENTERFIELD
Eury Perez – In April, he was intent on bunting and playing small ball on offense, but of late, he’s been swinging away and getting gap doubles. Terrific speed, but has a bad habit of looking over his shoulder and will sometimes give up on a grounder instead running out at full speed. The two converge when he taps a grounder that’s not cleanly fielded and you’ll see him kick it up a notch. Haven’t seen the shallow CF that BA referenced, but he’s more than adequate on defense.

RIGHT FIELD
Destin Hood – Like Bloxom, this is where he’s been playing but it’s not his position. Lately, Hood has been showing difficulty picking up the ball and doesn’t take good routes consistently. Classic description of a left fielder. Offensively, he’s been showing more power, but he’s also become pull-happy with nearly every extra-base hit going to left.

CATCHER
Sandy Leon – Defensively, he’s as good as any catcher I’ve ever seen at Potomac. Offensively, he’s a switch-hitter that fits the mold of power from the left side, average on the right side. But light on both.

BENCH
Brian Peacock – Glad he got the call up to Harrisburg, but hope he’s being groomed to coach a la John Poppert because he’s unlikely to play again any time soon.
J.R. Higley, Chris Curran – Strong arm, good glove, excellent speed, but struggles to hit.
Jeremy Mayo – Seen very little of him and what I have seen has been “meh,” much like any backup catcher that’s lightly used.

STARTING PITCHERS
Danny Rosenbaum – As a known quantity, this is really a “first impression,” but more a commentary. The velocity seems to be up a notch from last August/September, but the control is also down a notch. It’s most evident with his curveball, which he needs to harness and throw more often. Once those two areas are improved, he’ll AA-ready. Unfortunately, that’s something that you can say about a LOT of High-A pitchers.

Trevor Holder – Likewise, Holder has become an enigma. Just when you think it’s time to pull the plug and put him in the ‘pen, he breaks out like he did last night in Frederick. There are three Nats starters on the farm with less than a walk per nine innings. Brad Meyers and Tom Milone are easy ones to guess; Holder is the third. Maybe it’s an aberration, but pitchers that don’t hurt themselves are always worth watching.

Paul Demny – Unfortunately, I have only seen Demny pitch once, and it was on a game that I arrived late because of a rain-created doubleheader. In the course of researching Holder, I did happen to notice that Demny is the polar opposite in terms of ERA-FIP. Holder is +2.74, which is considered extremely unlucky (i.e. his ERA is much higher than it “ought” to be). Demny is -2.52, with an ERA of 2.94 and an FIP of 5.46. Could just be nothing, but with a walk rate that’s barely less his K rate (4.28 vs. 4.81), it’s not a good sign

Mitchell Clegg – I’ve seen him pitch twice — the Tuesday, May 2 blowout and last Sunday. In both starts, his pitches were up, but the second start his fastball had a bit more life on it.

Marcos Frias – Opening weekend, Frias looked like the guy that won the 2010 Carolina League championship. But while Potomac was on the road, something came undone and he was banished to the bullpen. Sunday, he looked better, but that’s all I’ve seen of him: one start (excellent) one relief appearance.

RELIEVERS
I’m punting here for the most part because this is what I have to go on…

Kyle Morrison, Alex Caldera (released)
Carlos Martinez (promoted)
Ryan Demmin (sent back to XST)
Pat Lehman, Dean Weaver, Joe Testa – two appearances each
Evan Bronson – one long relief appearance

Rob Wort – Doesn’t look as sharp as I remember last fall. His control and command are both off and he can’t seem to not issue a walk each time out, which is deadly for a reliever.

Adam Olbrychowski – Looked decent the first time out on Opening Weekend, but since then has been awful.

Josh Smoker – Not too often you see a lefty throwing in the 90s out of a High-A ‘pen, but he’s just as likely to walk a guy as strike him out.

  17 Responses to “First Impressions”

  1. Nice thumbnails, and pretty much nailed it; Here’s my additional two-cents worth as a 1/2 STH.
    Hitters / Fielders:
    Behind the plate, Leon has handled the step up decently; Still has his moments behind the plate, and has struggled offensively imo. Peacock & Mayo have played well in limited usage.
    An infield of Souza at 1B, Kobernus at 2B, Soriano at SS & Lozada at 3B is probably their best current composite alignment. Bloxom & Dykstra are both ‘black-holes’ at 3B since King got promoted. Hague looked sweet at SS before his injury.
    The OF – Hood looks uncertain on most balls in RF, Ramirez just doesn’t seem to have the L-R range for a LF (he’s built like a catcher), and Perez is getting bounced between LF & CF. HIgley & Curran both have range defensively, but no pop at the plate. They are what they are until the ‘Golden Child’ gets promoted.

    For the pitching corps (SP section), Rosenbaum & Demny both need to work on lowering their BB/pitch counts to make the next step. Holder looked horrid in the only time I’ve seen him, but his numbers say he’s been pitching with bad luck. Both Clegg & Selik have looked a little overmatched at this level, but I hope they’ll both settle down. The release of Caldera didn’t hurt any of the fans’ feelings.
    The pitching corps (RP section), Frias has fallen back to a ‘tweener (LR-Spot starter) who could step up later in the season. I think Bronson might be better off stretched out as a starter, but he’s in the BP for now. Both Olbrychowski & Wort have struggled this year, as did Martinez before his promotion; Wort will hopefully come around, but Olbrychowski – I’m not so sure. Testa – meh (I’ve only seen him once); Weaver is still an unknown to me, but Smoker & Lehman have looked like a nice back-end to the bullpen so far.

  2. They are what they are until the ‘Golden Child’ gets promoted.

    What happens if Blake Kelso comes with him? That guy has the earmarks of the Nats future second baseman … perhaps more than Hague or Kobernus but who knows? If he is less “fragile” perhaps he moves ahead and quickly?

  3. Sue, thank for seeing Holder the way I’ve always seen him. Definitely not a wasted pick in that slot. He may end up another JD Martin but I liked him at Georgia and like his “makeup”. But, that I suppose makes him very much like JD Martin.

  4. Looks like Keith Law has come out with his mock draft. Have to be an Insider. He has the Nats with Alex Meyer and then Brian Goodwin. I still think they are going to go pitching for at least the first 3 or 4?

    http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/draft/2011/insider/columns/story?page=LawMockDraft1.0

  5. What an outstanding thread. That’s about all for me. Just more incentives for me to step up my game and make it out to Frederick for a road series. I may come down to meet you guys at the Pfitz at some point, but I’d rather give Fredrick my money than the P-Nats at this point. Now the field is as bad as the stadium?

    I hope the RiZzO doesn’t keep Harper down much longer at Hagerstown. Doesn’t seem to me that he should be playing long at Potomac if he hits there, though. He’s likely to mash again and who knows what perils will lie for him at the Pfitz.

    • The field is fine, it’s been fixed. What I find amusing is that the field in Hagerstown was in worse condition before this offseason but there was next-to-no mention of it last year whatsoever. Bear in mind that most of the criticism of the field at the Pfitz has been bitching about team ownership, and almost none of it attributed the blame to the party responsible (Prince William County). But if it’s one-off, I understand wanting to go to the better facility with better food and free parking.

      • Yes, the field in Hagerstown was in bad shape last year and they repaired and were able to play on it. Potomac installed drainage on right side of the field to complete the job that was stopped due to the snow of last year and the contractor did the same crappy job as he did in left field. but since you now have Rizzo running the show he would not allow his players to risk injury by playing on a field the had 2 foot gaps filled in with sand. Stevie Wonder could have seen that the field was unplayable.

        • Thank you both for the helpful comments! Baseball for me right now is fantasy baseball (my first season ever!), following the blogs, and saving my powder to attend more minors games late in the summer. Minors games really birthed my uber-fandom and that’s why I value this community and Sue Dinem’s leadership so much.

      • Once I get the work stuff stabilized (mid-June early July maybe?), I hope to do one offs in both the Pfitz and Frederick. All I’m really saying is that Frederick is a wonderful baseball experience in a city that I genuinely enjoy visiting. Potomac is a godawful stadium in Northern Virginia, an area that I find difficult to navigate due to enormous traffic volume.

  6. Thanks for the write up, Sue, and thanks for the conversation Gents. Love getting the run-down on our boys in High-A.

  7. I’m not getting the Nats plan for Justin Bloxom. Justin had a good year in 2010 at the plate (.309/.355/.648) and the Nats seem loaded with weak hitters in the minors, and yet it seems that Justin was jerked around this year. His hitting this year may be a reflection of not knowing what’s expected or where he fits in. Any thoughts on Bloxom or the heck the Nats might be planning for him?

    • Considering he began the year on the DL, recovering from a knee injury suffered at the end of last year, it’s hard to say he has been “jerked around” — that would be someone like Higley or Curran. They do, however, seem hell-bent on not playing certain players anywhere but one position (Souza, 1B; Hood, RF; Ramirez, LF; Kobernus, 2B) making it impossible to solve this solution by splitting time, which is how they did it before, albeit back in the day when they were more OGs than prospects, or at least age-appropriate-for-the-level.

      On the other hand, it’s certainly nice to have this problem to solve…

  8. Im not sure where Sue Dinem’s opinion comes from or wat playing experience she has but it surely not in baseball because for her to go off of a couple of games that Bloxom has played is pretty biest because I have seen this kid play several postions and he has a glove and a rocket of a arm so please dont deem this kid yet and yes he has been jerked around all last season from 1st base to 3rd base to Left and Right field and still the kid comes thru hitting .309 so Sue Dinem you seem to be “hell bent” on hammering several ballplayers I havent yet seen one Major league player go errorless so give it a rest….

    • Well, Nick, my opinion comes from having watched more than 500 minor-league games as a fan and having spent several years as a sportswriter. It’s written there in the footer beneath this article, entitled “About The Author.” The original comment was about this season, not last. Since Bloxom was activated, he has been playing nearly regularly. This does not constitute “jerked around,” which would be more like a player that get taken on and off the roster and in and out of the lineup. Given your grasp of spelling, grammar and punctuation, it’s hardly a surprise that you have badly misread me.

  9. Shocked to hear the criticism of Hood. I’ve been hearing he’s been playing solid out in RF and his bat is really catching on fire again. How come they don’t have him playing some LF, if you think he’s been poor? Again, I’ve heard good things.

    As for Kobernus, he’s staying put @ 2B.

    • You heard wrong. That’s the value in seeing for yourself on a nightly basis vs. boxscores or listening on the radio (though some guys are less homerish than others). It’s also the difference between reporting and PR.

      The reason they have Hood in RF is that J.P. Ramirez can’t play anywhere else but LF — doesn’t have the arm or the range, too short for 1B. Both need work in the OF, so they both get put out there.

      This is far from an unusual situation, it’s just more noticeable now that the P-Nats have more than a couple of position-player prospects and the DH spot is now being used to keep a bat in the lineup that the organization wants to see (Ramirez, Dykstra) whereas in the past, it was used to maximize offense with an OG.

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