[Ed. Note: Another guest column for frequent commenter BinM]
As we close on the halfway point for the full-season affiliates, and begin ramping up the short-season teams, here’s a review of the minor-league side of the Nationals Organization as of June 20…
Syracuse Chiefs (AAA) – 27-40
I had initially expected a much better result from this squad, given their makeup out of Spring Training; It’s been disapointing, to say the least. The offense has struggled for consistency, the pitching has been less than overpowering, and the bullpen has been sketchy, with all areas affected, given the callups to the big club so far. This is a team starved for consistent run producers. Marrero (.282/.345/.431 slash) is okay, but still prone to streaks, as is Matt Antonelli (.316/.391/.469), and Jhonatan Solano (.266/.326/.367).
The starting staff has been bounced around between the big club and Syracuse a bit, but both Maya (0-1 W-L, 6.86 ERA, 1.78 WHIP in four GS in DC), and Craig Stammen (0-1 W-L, 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP in two relief appearances) were returned. The bullpen promotions fared slightly better, with Henry Rodriguez, Cole Kimball (15-DL), and Ryan Mattheus still in D.C., while Collin Balester is in yo-yo mode.
Players I like (statistically) so far…
• Marrero (1B): Could be used as trade bait at some point this year; Trapped behind Adam LaRoche, and now Michael Morse at 1B in DC.
• Antonelli (MI): Another trade bait candidate. The big club has depth at MI, so he becomes fungible.
• Milone (LHSP): A personal favorite. The numbers can’t be ignored (4-5 W-L, 3.81 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 16.4:1 K-BB), this kid just knows how to pitch. A September (or earlier) promotion in in his grasp.
• Meyers (RHSP): Has stumbled a bit in SYR, but still may be a ‘dark-horse’ candidate for a 40-man spot; Has posted solid K:BB ratios (9.6:1) over 14 starts between AA and AAA.
• Wilkie (RHRP): Steady, if not overpowering numbers in Syracuse; Worthy of a look in a MR role with somebody at the MLB level.
Harrisburg Senators (AA) – 39-29
Currently leading their division of the Eastern League by 3½ games, the Sens are setting the stage for another playoff appearance, should they remain focused. The team has been getting steady, but not outstanding performances across the board in all aspects of the game so far this season, with no glaring weaknesses either.
Offensively, the standout hitters have been Lombardozzi (a .309/.366/.454 slash from primarily to #1 spot in the order), and 2011FA OF acquisitions Chris Rahl (.297/.350/.407) and Archie Gilbert (.287/.369/.468). The starting staff is topped by Brad Peacock, who has posted ridiculous numbers to date (8-2 W-L, 2.46 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 6.0:1 K-W), with no-one else on the staff anywhere close. The bullpen has been filled with solid performers as well, with a number of pitchers posting a WHIP of at or below 1.00 as of this post (Zech Zinicola, Hassanb Pena, Rafael Martin, and Pat Lehman [current] and Rodriguez & Mattheus [promoted]).
Players I like (statistically) so far…
• Lombardozzi (2B): A personal favorite; He’s continuing his climb toward the bigs at 2B; It’s simply a question of when (2012-13), and then maybe with which club (WSH currently has the Espinosa/Desmond combo that looks pretty solid).
• Norris (CA): While currently carrying a low BA, his OBP & SLG numbers are in-line with career norms. He’ll play out the year at Harrisburg and look for a good start at Syracuse next season.
• Rhinehart (1B-OF): It looks like ‘Dolla Bill’ is catching onto AA pitching; Probably an OG in terms of age at this point, he still might be worth a look at an AAA level next year for some team.
• Peacock (RHSP): Another personal favorite; Outstanding numbers so far this season, building on previous season results.
Potomac Nationals (High-A) – 29-40
The hoped-for long home stretch failed to yield big changes to the W-L record. The team enters the All-Star break continuing to struggle offensively, and the pitching still looks uneven. One thing that has become evident is the ability to collect errors in the field, with even the Face of The Franchise (Ryan Zimmerman) falling victim to “the curse of the Pfitz” in a three-game rehab stint.
On the mound, Danny Rosenbaum has been the only consistent starter (4-3, 2.65 ERA, 1.33WHIP), while early-May promotion Cameron Selik could be turning the corner (2-4, 3.64 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) after a horrid beginning. The bullpen has been ragged overall of late, with Hector Nelo, Joe Testa, and Josh Smoker sharing the late-game innings.
At the plate, Destin Hood has been consistent all year (.276/.373/.453 slash), earning an All-Star nomination only to lose it to a knee injury. As his replacement, Jeff Kobernus leads the Carolina League in stolen bases (29) while hitting for an improved .266/.308/.369 line. Eury Perez is proving to be a slap-hitter with speed, when he chooses to use it. Justin Bloxom (.255/.321/.455) has played the majority of his games at 3B, where he is woefully out of
position, and a liability defensively (19 errors in 40 games).
The team currently lacks a player to ‘carry the load’ offensively, and will continue to muddle about until they find one. Maybe they’ll catch some promotions from Hagerstown for the 2nd half; We’ll see if that helps.
Players I like so far…
• Peacock (CA): An 26-y.o. OG, but plays with energy and catches a pretty decent game. Deserves another shot at AA.
• Hood (OF): Only 21, could be a possible for the AFL in 2012 if his knees stay healthy.
• Kobernus (2B): Back in my good graces after two injury-plagued years; Has shown unexpected speed and a consistent glove at 2B.
• Rosenbaum (LHSP): Steady & nearly unshakable on the mound; Needs slightly better control to play at higher levels.
• Nelo (RHRP): An age thing (24yo) as much as anything else – He’s pitching well at high-A, but should be playing to age at AA.
• Smoker (LHRP): Decent numbers, but not quite ready for in-season promotion.
Hagerstown Suns (Low-A) – 40-30
The Suns slumped late, falling out of the 1st half pennant chase in the final week; The good news is they are four games ahead of last years’ pace. There’s a lot to like about this team, both at the plate & on the mound; Having five players named to the All-Star team (Bryce Harper, Blake Kelso, David Freitas, Taylor Jordan, & Chris Manno) speaks to that. Their failings have come mostly in the field or in the bridge innings between the starters and the back end of the bullpen.
The hitters have been the big story, with Harper (.330/.429/.586), Kelso (330/.396/.404), and Freitas (.317/.422/.502) all raking the ball, and others (Randolph Oduber, Brett Newsome) chipping in as well. The starting staff covered the early loss of Selik to Potomac with the additions of Sammy Solis (1-0, 3.62, 1.17), and Robbie Ray (2-0, 1.13, 0.90). The bullpen has been a bit of a roller coaster of late, with both Manno and Ben Graham having
some rough outings in late-inning situations, while most of the middle relievers continue struggle to achieve mediocrity. This is still a team that could be
a force to be reckoned with in the 2nd half of the 2011 season.
Players I like (statistically) so far…
• Harper (OF): He’s ready for the next challenge; It’s just a question of where (Potomac or Harrisburg).
• Kelso (IF): He might need a full year at low-A, as his defense is less than stellar at this point.
• Freitas (CA): Still needs some polish behind the plate, but the pitching hasn’t suffered greatly from his game-calling, imo.
• Oduber (OF): A personal favorite, the ‘Groovin’ Aruban’ could push his way into a higher level with a good 2nd half.
• Jordan (RSP): Almost ready to make the jump to high-A, keeps the ball in the park (1HR in 69.3IP).
• Manno (LRP): Outstanding 1st half; Could be moved up at the All-Star break.
• Holland (RRP): Another personal fave; Outstanding as a set-up man, could move up later this season.
The 2011 Draft
You’ve seen the list, probably read a few evaluation pieces. All I’ll offer here for now is a summary by position.
As of 06/20/11
LHP – 10 drafted, 4 signed [B. Monar (12th), T. Simko (21st), R. Lucas (27th), B. Hawkins (36th)].
RHP – 16 drafted, 6 signed [B. Dupra (7th), M. Rodriguez (10th), T. Henke (22nd), K. Ferrer (28th), A. Kreis (35th), R. Mirowski (45th)].
CA – 2 drafted, 2 signed [E. Fernandez (25th), S. Cotton (29th)].
CI – 5 drafted, 2 signed [M. Skole (5th), B. Ortega (41st)].
MI – 7 drafted, 3 signed [D. Williams (16th), K. Norfolk (23rd), T. Karlen (33rd)].
OF – 11 drafted, 2 signed [C. Ramsey (11th), A. Nix (50th)].