Mar 302013
 

The official press release is not yet in hand, but per MASN’s Byron Kerr, here’s a look at the 2013 Hagerstown Suns (watchlist players in bold, notables in italics):

PITCHERS INFIELDERS OUTFIELDERS CATCHERS
Dixon Anderson Carlos Lopez J.R. Higley Craig Manuel
Robert Benincasa Mike McQuillan Estarlin Martinez Pedro Severino
Brian Dupra Khayyan Norfork Brandon Miller
Pedro Encarnacion Stephen Perez Wander Ramos
David Fischer Tony Renda
Bryan Harper Wes Schill
Travis Henke
Will Hudgins
Brett Mooneyham
Ronald Pena
Ivan Pineyro DISABLED LIST
Brian Rauh Wirkin Estevez Spencer Kieboom Narciso Mesa
Blake Schwartz Matt Purke Todd Simko Dean Weaver

Well, the gang’s all here. Just four of the 25 active players here didn’t play for the Auburn Doubledays last summer.

However, like Potomac, there’s a question of who’s gonna start and who’s gonna relieve. Nine of the 13 were starting pitchers for significant periods of time in Auburn, Hagerstown, and the GCL. Sight unseen, and without knowing folks’ health, it’s tough to guess… especially if the Nats do what they did last year with Nathan Karns and begin one of the guys coming off surgery (e.g. Dupra, Anderson) in the bullpen to keep the innings count down in the early going.

Health, of course, is going to probably be a theme with these guys… injuries shortened the already short seasons of Miller and Perez — how will they do over the course of a full season? Matt Purke; ’nuff said.

Of course, it bears repeating that even though this largely the same team that racked up .605 winning percentage in the New York-Penn League, it’s no guarantee that they’ll do the same in the Sally. But if the pitching improves as much as the hitting declines, it could be another playoff run for this group.

Mar 302013
 

The Potomac Nationals unveiled its 2013 Opening Day this afternoon, which as expected, will feature quite a few familiar faces. Without further ado, here’s the rundown (watchlist players in bold, notables in italics:

PITCHERS INFIELDERS OUTFIELDERS CATCHERS
Colin Bates Cutter Dykstra Billy Burns Cole Leonida
A.J. Cole Blake Kelso Randolph Oduber Adrian Nieto
Matt Grace Kevin Keyes Caleb Ramsey
Ben Hawkins Jason Martinson Michael Taylor
Tyler Herron Adrian Sanchez
Taylor Hill Francisco Soriano
Taylor Jordan
Christian Meza
Richard Mirowski
Robbie Ray
Derek Self DISABLED LIST
Kylin Turnbull Paul Applebee Rob Gilliam Josh Smoker

Perhaps not as many high-level prospects or high-profile guys as Harrisburg, but with 10 watchlist players and seven notables (which includes the M*A*S*H unit), it’s certainly an interesting roster. For better or worse, you’re going to read about these guys the most because (full disclosure) Potomac is home base for me as a season-ticket holder.

The early drama is who’s going to the ‘pen? Ray, Grace, and Hill finished the year in the P-Nat rotation but Cole, Jordan, and Turnbull were all Low-A starters last year. Unless there’s a six-man rotation, there’s an odd man out.

The outfield will be one of the fastest and most athletic in recent memory, with three CFs among the four outfielders. Taylor is still likely to the one the one that sees the most time in center, but it wouldn’t hurt to have that arm in right, either.

Keyes is expected to start at first and Martinson at short, but beyond that, I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of mixing and matching at second and third with the rest of the infielders (except Soriano) having spent time shuffling between 2B, SS, and 3B.

Finally, Nieto and Leonida will be a catching tandem and teammates for the third straight year. Neither has caught more than 70 games in a season, but the edge probably goes to Nieto as the more accomplished hitter in his limited appearances due to injury and suspension.

Mar 302013
 

As noted in the comments, the Syracuse Chiefs “revealed a preliminary roster” yesterday, beginning with a feature on the starting pitchers.

If you have a fixation for uniform numbers, you’re going to have to wait a few more days — just only handful of players have numbers listed so far. Otherwise, here’s how the active roster looks like (watchlist players in bold, notables in italics):

PITCHERS INFIELDERS OUTFIELDERS CATCHERS
Fernando Abad Mike Constanzo Corey Brown Carlos Maldonado
Jeremy Accardo Jeff Kobernus Micah Owings Jhonatan Solano
Michael Crotta Chris Marrero Eury Perez
Erik Davis Will Rhymes Jim Van Ostrand
Jeff Mandel Carlos Rivero
Yunesky Maya Zach Walters
Pat McCoy
Ross Ohlendorf
Ryan Perry
Tanner Roark DISABLED LIST
J.C. Romero Bill Bray Jerad Head Cole Kimball
Danny Rosenbaum Erik Komatsu Brad Meyers Chris Rahl
Ryan Tatusko Matt Torra Sean West

Like the AAA club of most contenders, Syracuse is laden with replacement-level veterans. Three of the five starting pitchers have significant MLB experience (Maya, Ohlendorf, Perry), as do three of the active relievers (Abad, Accardo, Romero) and fourth on the D.L. (Bray).

Both catchers have served as injury fill-ins and will probably split time, which is the best explanation for Leon starting in Harrisburg (not to mention his limited AA experience of 40 games).

For us, the eyes are on the infield: all four projected starters (Rivero-Walters-Kobernus-Marrero) are at the top of their columns on the 2013 watchlist. Unfortunately, they’re (take your pick) stuck/blocked/stranded behind their counterparts in D.C.

Never mind there’s a 22-year-old in Harrisburg that everybody and their grandmother wants to see in a Chiefs uniform yesterday, if not sooner.

Corey Brown returns for his third season and will probably play in right field, given the duo of LF-1B types in Owings and Van Ostrand and the presence of true CF Eury Perez, though it shouldn’t surprise anyone if both Brown and Perez are used in multiple OF spots in preparation for their most likely usage as a defensive replacement off the bench if/when they’re called up to Washington.

Finally, it should probably come as no surprise to see the large contingent starting on the D.L. including the law firm trio of Kimball, Komatsu, and Meyers. As we saw in the comments, some of those guys won’t leave Viera and will cool their heels in “Extended Spring Training.”

UPDATE: Per Byron Kerr, the Syracuse Opening Day roster includes Ryan Tatusko while Sam Palace has been removed from the D.L. and Jason Michaels apparently will be strictly coaching.

Mar 292013
 

It was expected to be the first, but perhaps not this soon… this afternoon the Harrisburg Senators announced its 2013 Opening Day Roster.

As was the case last year, there are more than 25 names here, which means one or more of them will be placed on the DL prior to the Sens’ home opener next Thursday (watchlist players in bold, notables in italics):

PITCHERS INFIELDERS OUTFIELDERS CATCHERS
Aaron Barrett Ricky Hague Justin Bloxom Jeff Howell
Brian Broderick Josh Johnson Brian Goodwin Sandy Leon
Caleb Clay Jose Lozada Destin Hood Kris Watts
Paul Demny Sean Nicol Steve Souza  
Marcos Frias Anthony Rendon    
Trevor Holder Matt Skole    
Neil Holland      
Nathan Karns      
Ian Krol      
Pat Lehman      
Matt Swynenberg      
Blake Treinen      
Rob Wort      

As predicted this morning, this is the roster to watch — 13 of ‘em from the 2013 edition including two notables, though it remains to be seen whether Swynenberg is fully healed. I’m sure some folks are disappointed to see Rendon here instead of Syracuse, but “conservative” has been the watchword for prospect development under Rizzo (with some notable exceptions like Goodwin and that Bryce Harper kid).

There are worse things for Rendon (or us as fans) than for him to savage Eastern League pitching for a few weeks before moving along.

A couple of guys from Syracuse that I was surprised to see: Sandy Leon and Pat Lehman. Now, both could be here only on paper until the Syracuse roster is settled, but it could also be the classic “pushdown” scenario where replacement-level guys are sent to upstate New York instead.

We’re not going to know until the Chiefs roster is unveiled, which isn’t necessarily next — though this looks promising for Danny Rosenbaum and Jeff Kobernus.

Otherwise, it’s a familiar group of names, with roughly half of these guys spending some time in Harrisburg last season. Both Aaron Barrett and Matt Skole are moving up from Potomac despite limited time in Woodbridge, which is appropriate given their age and developmental path (otherwise, why bother sending them to the AFL).

Mar 292013
 

Transactions for NPPLate yesterday afternoon, the Nationals announced the reassignment of 1B/LF Micah Owings and UT Carlos Rivero to minor-league camp. Both will presumably begin the season in Syracuse.

MLB.com beat writer Bill “No, I did not play Stevie’s Dad on Malcolm In The Middle” Ladson also had the news of another set of releases:

  • RHP Alex Kreis (Hagerstown)
  • OF Ray Kruml (offseason pickup)
  • LHP Brandon Mann (offseason pickup)
  • RHP Hassan Pena (Syracuse)

With less than a week to go before the minor-league season starts, it’s now a waiting game to see how the rosters shake out. Unfortunately, if there are any more releases, we’re back to relying on MiLB.com and Baseball America (warning: if you haven’t been to the site in a couple of days, it’s been redesigned) as the beat writers have (quite happily) left Viera for this afternoon’s cash cow vs. the New York Yankees.

I’m expecting rosters to be released on Tuesday and Wednesday (e.g. the 3rd is Media Day for Potomac). The past two seasons, the first roster to hit the streets, er, inboxes has been Harrisburg, which is quite apt this year since it’s the most anticipated roster of them all… Matt Skole, Brian Goodwin, Nathan Karns, and newly acquired Ian Krol, for example. Wait: Am I missing anybody?

As in years past, I’ll have a separate post for each roster with some analysis.

Mar 272013
 

Baseball America for NPPLike slideshows of cheerleaders and WAGs for Bleacher Report*, Baseball America can’t resist another chance to re-issue a list, which it did today with the 2013 Organizational Talent Rankings.
*Full disclosure: I can’t resist bulldogs or visual puns.

As a system, the Nats came in at #13 — up three spots from the #16 ranking last December — but perhaps of more interest is the “new” Top 10 list, which is as follows:

1. Anthony Rendon, 3B (AA)
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP (XST)
3. Brian Goodwin, OF (AA)
4. A.J. Cole, RHP (A+)
5. Matt Skole, 1B-3B (AA)
6. Nathan Karns, RHP (AA)
7. Christan Garcia, RHP (MLB D.L.)
8. Eury Perez, OF (AAA)
9. Sammy Solis, LHP (XST)
10. Matt Purke, LHP (XST)

In a nutshell, A.J. Cole was inserted at #4 and the “old” nos. 4-9 were moved down one spot. Zach Walters was the “bumped” #10 prospect. My projected destinations for where they’ll be for Opening Day are in parentheses.

The Washington farm was ranked #12 last year in this revision, following a brief moment on paper when the system was rated #1 prior to the Gio Gonzalez trade.

Mar 262013
 

After a busy weekend of transaction news, here’s a few tidbits to tide folks over in case things really do slow down on the minors front.

• Adam Kilgore gives us updates on Sammy Solis, Nathan Karns, and a whole lot of info on Steve Souza. To be fair, Souza has long been a favorite of Nats management, which explains in part why he’s stuck around despite suspensions for PEDs and off-field incidents. The other part, of course, is that he’s also a five-tool talent, which is why yours truly has put him on the site’s watchlist all three times.

Chris Young has opted out of his contract but still might wind up in Syracuse. According to Ken Rosenthal, some eight teams were watching last night’s start. For most Nats fans, this means little, but for the minor-leaguers, this might mean the difference between starting and relieving, Harrisburg or Syracuse, or going north next week at all.

• Finally, part three of the Sean Nicol interview has been published by our friend Shawn in Hagerstown. Part one can be found here, and part two can be found here.

Mar 242013
 

We now interrupt your lazy Sunday afternoon for another transaction-oriented post.

The Washington Nationals announced late Sunday afternoon that out-of-options IF-OF Carlos Rivero passed through waivers and has been outrighted to Syracuse while RHP Christian Garcia was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a forearm tendon strain.

If there’s an underlying theme among these moves — minus Garcia — it’s that Nats GM Mike Rizzo is adamant that “surplus” players aren’t leaving without a decent return. Both Colorado and Detroit were looking to hold onto Danny Rosenbaum and Jeff Kobernus, respectively, but returned them because “the asking price was too high.”

It’s probably safe to deduce that the Nats were unable to trade Rivero for the same reason.

The Garcia move is retroactive to Friday, which would make the righthander eligible on April 6th. With zero exhibition appearances, his injury history, and the careful management of his workload last summer, estimates such as Adam Kilgore’s of Garcia missing the month of April seem rather plausible.

Mar 242013
 

Another day, another Rule 5 pick returned.

Multiple online sources are reporting that Colorado will return Danny Rosenbaum following the signing of veteran RHP Jon Garland. Rosenbaum was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in six appearances for the Rockies this spring, the last of which came a week ago when the 25-year-old southpaw gave up a single and a walkoff home run in a 9-7 loss to the Giants.

He had been competing for the final bullpen spot — five of his six outings were in relief — in a group of relievers that included notables such as Chris Volstad and Manny Corpas.

Like Kobernus, he’s expected to be reassigned to minor-league camp, but it’s much less clear where he’ll begin the season. Last season was arguably his worst, beginning with 7-2, 1.94 in his first 13 starts, but finishing in a freefall of 1-8, 6.54 in his last 13 starts for an 8-10, 3.94 mark overall.

While often compared to former Nats farmhand Tommy Milone, a comp that seems largely based on size (both are shade taller than 6′ with a “sturdy carriage”) and dexterity and the soft-tosser perception. The reality is that Rosenbaum has always thrown harder than Milone (low-90s vs. high-80s), but with a little less control (2.5 vs. 1.5 BB/9).

Still, it’s a understandable linkage because both have shown the ability to get guys out without lot of flash while pitching deep into games (e.g. 171⅓ IP in 2011). Rosenbaum works off a heavy, sinking fastball, which has produced groundball rates of 50%-plus the past two seasons, including 56.7% last year, while mixing in a cutter as well as a changeup and a curve as his secondary pitches.

Like a lot of the AA and AAA pitchers, it’s difficult to predict where he’ll begin the season given the signings of multiple free agents. What’s probably more certain is that he’ll return to starting, given his durability and track record.

The watchlist and the LHPs page have been both been updated to reflect his return.

Mar 232013
 

So LongAs reported earlier today, we heard the Nationals had made some releases, just not who. Now, we know. Per Bill Ladson and MLB Trade Rumors, it’s the following minor-leaguers:

  • LHP Ryan Demmin (Potomac)
  • RHP Inocencio Heredia (GCL)
  • IF Stephen King (Harrisburg, Potomac)
  • LHP Bobby Lucas (Hagerstown)
  • LHP Blake Monar (Auburn)
  • OF Wade Moore (Potomac)
  • RHP Casey Upperman (offseason pickup)
  • LHP Andrew Wall (Auburn)
  • OF J.P. Ramirez (Hagerstown, Potomac)
  • UT Delwyn Young (offseason pickup)

I don’t think there are any real surprises here. Maybe Inocencio Heredia, who just turned 21 in December, but had spent parts of two seasons in the GCL (and of course, mea culpa, I overrated him enough to put him on the “Notable Arms”). Wade Moore had retired last summer and was contemplating a return to playing football, but saw his change of mind go unrewarded. Without going down the line, there were hints for the others.

Nevertheless, I’ll rephrase I wrote last year… before you comment, just remember that for some of these young men, it’s the end of the road. Some will try to hook on with another organization. A few will try to play their way back via the indys. But all of them will have to figure out what’s the next chapter in the lives, baseball or otherwise.

UPDATE: Last night, Baseball America made its weekly transaction post for the period of March 14-20 (the releases above are believe to have occurred on Thursday). The following two players were among the previously unreported cuts:

  • RHP Randy Consuegra (offseason pickup)
  • RHP Francisco Samuel (offseason pickup)

Both pitchers were reclamation projects that were signed last November.