With the break afforded this week after a 10-game homestand, it’s time to take a step back and take a look at what I’m seeing from this year’s edition of the Potomac Nationals.
Like last year, there are some players that are starting to heat up along with the weather, but also seem to be benefiting from the extended time at home. This is worth noting because while some parks are hitter’s parks, the Pfitz is basically neutral: not a hitter’s park (like Winston-Salem), not a pitcher’s park (like Wilmington). In other words, what you see is what you get.
Without further ado, here’s what I’m seeing so far:
Justin Bloxom – A dreadful first month, both offensively and defensively, but one of the aforementioned players that’s been playing better on this last homestand (.286/.316/.400). The experiment with third base is over, but the return to first hasn’t been as smooth as you’d otherwise expect. Not sure if knees are bothering him, but mobility on defense seems diminished from last season.
Adrian Sanchez – Just came off the DL, but picked up right where he left off and has a seven-game hit streak with 13 hits and four doubles over that stretch. Is no longer switch-hitting, as apparently the powers that be would rather see his short, quick stroke from just the right side. Defensively, he’s a step down from the last two to come through (Lombardozzi, Kobernus), which is probably what you should expect.
Zach Walters – Has played here the most, but it’s been a spot that’s been in rotation with injuries and recent activations, Walters included. His proclivity for errors that marred his AFL stint last fall hasn’t subsided, but still possesses a cannon throwing arm. Hit .289/.317/.342 in Woodrbridge after a 1-for-18 start on the road.
Rick Hague – Recently activated and has picked up where he left off last April. He and Walters have been splitting time at SS, in part because of Hague’s shoulder injury. One has to think that Hague might be the exception to the level-a-year rule considering that he turns 24 in September and there is nobody blocking his path at AA and AAA. But that’s speculation, not prediction; he’s played seven home games against two clubs. One would also think that he’ll given a full turn through the Carolina League before the bump (please).
Blake Kelso – Has actually played three of four IF positions seamlessly and plays hard. It’s hard not to use the word “scrappy” for a guy like him, but he hustles and does the little things right. My guy in Hagerstown compares him to Jeff Keppinger, and aside from having less power, I’d say that’s a pretty good comp.
Kevin Keyes – It’s hard to believe that he’s actually hit six singles — he strikes out a lot, but when he connects… it’s always faster out than it came in, and usually light-tower high. Defensively, there have been worse left fielders at the PFitz. He’s not fleet of foot and has an fringe-average arm.
Wade Moore – He’s roughly split time between LF and DH, but this year the DH spot has been used more “rotationally” versus a veteran bat (e.g. Jose Lozada). He’s shown flashes of power (.391 SLG) and a good walk rate (10.1%) and is adequate as a fielder.
Michael Taylor – It’s not hard to see why the prospect gurus and the Nationals have been gushing about him: speed, power, arm, glove and moves like Jagger (making sure you’re paying attention). As Sickels put it, he’s in the refinement stage. The arm is powerful, for example, but not always accurate (as you’d expect from a former SS). He’s fast, but his baserunning instincts are below-average (hence, 7CS). He’s easily this year’s Destin Hood, but more advanced than Hood was at this point last season.
Randolph Oduber – The “Groovin’ Aruban” struggles with the strike zone but runs and fields well (has the range for CF, the arm for RF) and has some pop. Might be better served hitting lower in the lineup, but in a so-so offense, he’s been batting leadoff since Taylor’s been used in the 5th slot.
David Freitas – There’s not much question whether or not he can hit, but the focus this season is whether or not he’ll stick at catcher. His footwork and throwing skills are below-average, but his framing/receiving skills are good. A lot might depend on Sandy Leon – as the two were born five days apart in March 1989. If the powers that be decide Leon can hit well enough to be a backup catcher, it might be time to shift Freitas to first — especially with Marrero and Moore essentially about to “graduate.”
Francisco Soriano – Obviously, not a first impression. Soriano has become an “OG” of sorts, but a useful player off the bench that can play multiple positions and bat in the 1/2 and 8/9 slots in the lineup and will give you some speed and some gap power, too.
Beau Seabury – The current backup catcher, he’s essentially a replacement for longtime backup Brian Peacock. Has obviously played sparingly but has held his own on offense and provided the kind of defense you’d expect from a 26-y.o. collegiate player.
Adam Olbrychowski – Started the season terribly but has gone into the seventh inning the past two starts, getting both more grounders and more K’s, particularly with an offspeed pitch that has to be at least 12mph slower than his fastball.
Kyle Winters – By the luck of the draw, I’ve only seen him once — this past Saturday night, where he struck out 10, but also gave up four runs.
Matt Grace – Has pitched better each time I’ve seen him, but still gets hit hard and often, as the .330 OBA suggests and seems to have every other hit go for extra bases.
Matt Swynenberg – Have only seen twice: his complete game on April 22 and last Friday. In the former he seemed to have the batters swinging at his pitches, but in the latter, he seemed less in command and the hitters were able to get (and hit) their pitches.
Bobby Hansen Jr. – Likewise, have only seen twice and with four starts total, it’s tough to make any fair inferences, especially when those two road games have been against the league’s #1 and #2 offenses.
Robbie Ray – One start. Read about it here.
Last year I punted because I had seen so few of them more than once and a couple had already been released, but this year I’ll take a stab at giving some feedback even if that’s still largely the same situation…
Rob Wort – Made the 2011 Watchlist after a strong finish to the 2010 season, but seemed lost last season, struggling with his control and command. This year, it’s like late 2010 again. When he’s not getting K’s, he seems to be getting the IF pops that are every bit as important for relievers to get.
Cameron Selik – Has had a couple of rough outings, but his last two have been sensational: Five straight Ks last Wednesday and and a ninth-inning naildown with “only” two Ks. Seemed to run out of gas as a starter last season, but his new role of closer (and the ability to go multiple innings) suits him well so far.
Neil Holland – Another one of those luck of the draws: I’ve seen all three of his scoreless outings at home. A sidewinder that can go multiple innings and is hell on RHBs.
Trevor Holder – The same maddening inconsistency since 2010: Can get hammered just as easily as he can shut down an opponent.
Ryan Demmin – A much better pitcher than he was last year, when he was jumped from Vermont to Potomac but had to repeat SS-A and finish the season in Low-A. Like Holland, I’ve only seen him a couple of times and he’s pitched well.
Paul Applebee – He’s pitched five times in long relief — three bad outings, two good. I’ve two of the former and one of the latter. He and Demmin are the lefties in the ‘pen, and as you might guess the softer-tosser (Applebee) tends to work the longer outings.