Nov 302013
 


I’m not sure why, but in assembling this first pass I had the distinct feeling that some of these names probably ought not to be listed, but are because either (A) I’m following the guidelines I’ve set up in years past (B) listing an established guy in a given position feels less disingenuous than slotting in a recent draft pick from a short-season simply because he’s new. I still believe that performance means something — though a lot less than most of us are willing to admit — and if he didn’t do well in Auburn or the GCL last summer, I need (want?) more evidence than merely being drafted.

Part of my ambivalence is knowing that I have two “Notable” categories in which to put such conundrums, though most of these guys are position players. As I wrote last year: They’re a means of acknowledging the ones that don’t quite merit full-fledged watchlist treatment, but are often discussed or mentioned. I guess the real question is whether that’s more appropriate for the “old” guys or the “new” guys. I’m open to a discussion of that, with the reminder that we’re talking about people here and the players, their families, and their agents are reading.

Now, let’s revisit the caveats…

It’s not a depth chart… Obviously, when you arrange it the way I have — by the highest level played to date — it’s going to look like it at first glance. But when there’s a “tie,” I can either go alphabetical order or (for the most part) list the player that played more games at the position/level.

It’s (mostly) based on 2013 usage… I think folks can see that I’m playing a little fast and loose on this one this year… Jeff Kobernus actually played more outfield than infield, but second base has suddenly become a thin position in the minors, in large part because the Nats have been rotating IFs between 2B, 3B and/or SS

It’s preliminary… I like how Sickels takes feedback with his prospect lists, so part of the purpose of these posts is to listen to your comments (the other part is to keep the site fresh and visitors coming, duh).

C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Leon Bloxom Kobernus Walters Skole E. Perez
Nieto Pleffner Hague Martinson Dykstra Goodwin
P. Severino Marmolejos-Diaz Renda Difo J.C. Valdez Souza
Reistetter D. Eusebio Mejia Abreu Ward Burns
Taylor
B. Miller
W. Ramos
E. Martinez
Wooten
Ballou
Lippincott
Zebrack
Bautista
R. Encarnacion
Nov 282013
 

Apologies for the lack of posts lately, but that’s the nature of the offseason in the minors… sometimes there’s something to write about every day, and sometimes it’s like trying to find intelligent conversation on sports talk radio. (And as we saw this week with the Let’s Put A Roof On Nationals Park “story,” this kind of dead zone can be found in the majors, too).

My offline life has also been ultrabusy lately, though I’m expecting a bit of a lull for which I’ve been waiting to attack the next few projects… the 2014 Watchlist… the obligatory Top 10 lists… thoughts on the Top 10/20/25-or-6-to-4 lists of other prospect followers… and cover the Rule 5 draft (which is also a week later than last year).

Despite how much harder it’s been than in years past (see “ultrabusy” above), I still appreciate the opportunity to pass along information and commentary with the kind flair (perhaps not 37 pieces, but I digress) that I wouldn’t be allowed to do elsewhere (i.e. a mainstream newspaper or website). I’m thankful that people somehow like (or tolerate, if you ask my wife) this and appreciate the folks who visit, read, and comment.

As always, travel safe, show some plate discipline, and call your mother!

Nov 252013
 

Less than a week after being designated for assignment, LHP Fernando Abad has been traded from the Washington Nationals to the Oakland Athletics for OF John Wooten. It’s the third trade involving the two teams in 2013 (Mike Morse, Kurt Suzuki) and the fifth since 2011 (Suzuki in 2012, Gio Gonzalez in 2011).

As you might imagine for a 37th Round Draft pick, there is very little information on Wooten, aside from his bio from East Carolina University and his collegiate and minor-league statistics. He was not written up by either John Sickels or Baseball America in their 2013 prospect books.

He’s a former teammate of Dakota Bacus — acquired in the previous Washington-Oakland trade — at Beloit, where he hung a line of .257/.333/.430 with 20 HRs (4th best in the league) and 69 RBIs. With the Nats starved for power-hitting OFs (he’s 15 months younger than Brandon Miller), it seems likely that he’ll progress to Potomac and play one of the corner outfielder positions, presuming that he’s not shifted to 1B or slotted behind Estarlin Martinez or Shawn Pleffner on the organizational depth chart.

Nov 242013
 


While perhaps stealing the thunder from the next Baseball America transactions post, its primary author Matt Eddy relayed the following signings via the twitters yesterday:

  • RHP Daniel Stange
  • IF Melvin Dorta (re-sign)
  • RHP Chris Young (re-sign)
  • C Jeyner Baez
  • RHP Gabriel Alfaro

OK, now put down your beverage because Stange was originally drafted by… wait for it… the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 7th round of the 2006 Draft. He spent 2013 in the Angels organization, making 26 appearances for AAA Salt Lake with a record of 4-1 with five saves and an ERA of 5.06. He allowed 16 runs on 31 hits over 26⅔ innings while while walking 13 and striking out 30. He made three relief appearances for the Angels in his second MLB stint (the first was in 2010), and was hit hard in his first outing, walking a pair and giving up a walkoff blast in a 14-11 loss to Texas. His second and third outings were scoreless, pitching an inning in an 8-2 win and getting the last out in the top of the 9th in a 6-5 loss (both games vs. Toronto).

Dorta, like Sean McCauley last week, was a player-coach for the Senators in 2013 and looks to be re-upping for the same duty in 2014.

Young, who was signed to a similar deal last offseason, made seven starts for Syracuse and was pounded like a drum to the tune of 31 runs on 50 hits (including nine HR) over 32 innings before going on the DL for most of the season (he made one appearance in the GCL and one in the NYPL in August and September respectively). He reportedly has had surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition in which nerves and/or blood vessels become compressed in the space between the collarbone and the first (thoracic) rib and causes pain and weakness in the shoulder.

Finally, as noted by Eddy first, the Nationals have released RHP Yunesky Maya after four less-than-stellar seasons. Signed as an IFA in July 2010 to a four-year/$6M contract, Maya made just 16 appearances in the major leagues, 15 of which came in 2010 and 2011. He made 76 of his 79 starts in the minors for Syracuse over the past four seasons and went 24-28 with an ERA of 4.13 over 453⅓ innings with 456 hits and 44 HRs allowed.

UPDATE:
The latest BA transaction post was published on Monday. Additions are in blue

…The presumption is that Baez is an IFA, given the surname and the lack of an entry on baseball-reference.com.

…WaPo Nats beat writer Adam Kilgore had the story on Alfaro last week, along with details on the Young contract.

Nov 232013
 

Monday Morning Box Scores
Time for our semi-weekly update on how the notable Nationals minor-leaguers are doing in the winter leagues. All statistics as of 11/23/2013, 1:19 a.m. EST.

BATTERS

PLAYER LG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Francisco Soriano DWL 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000 1
Jose Lozada PWL 4 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 0
Michael Taylor PWL 15 57 7 24 3 1 2 5 4 15 .421 .476 .614 2
Adrian Sanchez VWL 20 46 4 11 3 0 0 2 1 8 .239 .271 .304 0
Sandy Leon VWL 18 60 9 17 1 1 1 5 9 16 .283 .377 .383 1
Zach Walters VWL 15 50 6 12 1 0 3 6 6 19 .240 .321 .440 0
Corey Brown VWL 9 27 5 8 3 0 0 5 8 10 .296 .472 .407 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER LG W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Yunesky Maya DWL 2 3 0 3.45 6 6 31⅓ 33 15 12 2 5 25 1.21
Rafael Martin MWL 1 1 0 5.28 12 0 15⅓ 17 11 9 3 4 13 1.37
Christian Garcia MWL 0 0 0 2.16 5 0 8⅓ 4 2 2 0 6 8 1.20
Tyler Herron PWL 0 0 7 0.00 9 0 9⅓ 3 0 0 0 4 10 0.75
Danny Rosenbaum VWL 2 2 0 4.28 7 6 27⅓ 36 14 13 3 8 15 1.61
Nov 212013
 

A couple of mild surprises this year as the Nationals dropped a pair of journeymen lefties in favor of adding RHP Aaron Barrett, LHP Sammy Solis, and OF Michael Taylor to the 40-man roster to avoid exposure to the Rule 5 draft next month.

Barrett was probably the lesser of the two surprises, given his age (almost 26) and function (reliever). As noted yesterday, Barrett seemed a possibility due to the precedent of Erik Davis a year ago, but with his merely average fastball velocity (low 90s) there was reason for doubt. His plus slider — rated as the best in the organization by Baseball America for two years’ running — was apparently deemed to valuable to risk losing.

Even without a strong AFL campaign, chances were Solis would have been protected. The question now is how much longer they’ll wait for him to develop into a starter, especially after not one but two lefthanded relievers were jettisoned. With zero AA experience, and only one year removed from Tommy John surgery, the odds are still good that he’ll pitch every fifth day in Harrisburg for at least a couple of months next season.

Taylor was a bit of a shock because there’s no question that his hitting tools are not major-league ready. It’s possible another team would have taken him, but it’s highly improbable they would have kept him. What now occurs to me — and should have previously — is that his addition gives the team leverage in any possible trade scenario involving either Denard Span or Brian Goodwin. Of course, Occam’s Razor also suggests that the team simply covets his skillset and wanted to eliminate any possible disruption to their plans for him in 2014.

Nov 202013
 

The deadline for teams to file their reserve lists, a.k.a. the day the 40-man rosters have to be set for the Rule 5 draft, is today. This, of course, means it’s time for the annual gnashing our metaphorical teeth over the infinitesmal chance of a “losing” someone significant to another organization (never mind that may actually be better for the player).

Quotes, of course, because nearly every player the Nationals have had selected in the MLB phase since the rules changed in 2007  has been returned and vice-versa. For example, last year Danny Rosenbaum and Jeff Kobernus were selected and both were eventually returned. Two years ago, it was Erik Komatsu and Brad Meyers who were taken and ultimately returned, though both had surgery, which usually happens before the draft.

The rules are pretty simple: Players that signed at age 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years or players that signed at 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years — if they’re not on the 40-man by tonight, they’re eligible. This basically boils down to 2010 college picks and 2009 high-schoolers and IFAs, though as noted in the comments, the age 19 thing is as of June 5th of the player’s draft year, so there are some exceptions (e.g. HS pick who was an “academic redshirt”).

ELIGIBLE FOR THE FIRST TIME

Aaron Barrett* Colin Bates Matt Grace* Ricky Hague* Neil Holland
Kevin Keyes* Cole Leonida Jason Martinson Estarlin Martinez Silvio Medina
Christian Meza Randolph Oduber Wander Ramos Adderling Ruiz Cameron Selik
Sammy Solis* Michael Taylor*


The asterisks are 2013 watchlist players, the italics for the pitcher who was hurt. I focus on the first-timers because subsequently eligible players are rarely taken. In fact nearly a quarter of last year’s first-timers are no longer with the organization.

Folks perhaps more obsessed with the Draft than I am may look at this group of players as something of an indictment of the Class of 2010, given that so few of these players have touched AA, never mind AAA. There is still hope for this class to produce more than just one major-leaguer (Harper) with A.J. Cole, Robbie Ray and Solis still in striking distance.

Indeed, it would seem that Solis may be the only player here placed on the 40-man to be protected. You could make the case for Aaron Barrett, too, citing the example of Erik Davis a year ago. What will be more interesting is who will eventually be moved off, though I’ll defer to the folks more versed in roster manuevering to speculate about that.

Nov 192013
 


It’s been largely quiet on the transaction front thus far in the offseason, but there were a couple of signings released in yesterday’s dispatch from Baseball America to pass along:

  • RHP Carlos Acevedo
  • IF Josh Johnson (re-signed)
  • CA Sean McCauley (re-signed)

It’s not entirely clear if it’s this Carlos Acevedo that was signed or another RHP with the same name. If it is the former Cleveland farmhand (who has not pitched since 2011), it’s likely the Nats are repeating what they did with Raul Ruiz, who pitched in the DSL in 2012, one year removed from three seasons in the VSL (2008-2010) with Pittsburgh. Ruiz pitched well (1.77 ERA/3.30 FIP/1.13 WHIP), but was 21 years old. and was released last December. Acevedo turns 21 in January and is also from Venezuela.

McCauley was a player-coach for Potomac last season and appears to be headed towards the same assignment in 2014. He was never activated and has not played professionally since 2009.

Johnson, who was originally drafted by Kansas City in 2004, has been a Washington minor-leaguer since the 2010 season. He spent 2013 splitting time between Harrisburg and Syracuse, batting .267/.350/.453 in 53 games for the Senators and .341/.458/.466 in 35 games for the Chiefs.

Nov 182013
 

2013-AFL-Final
One last look before we close the books, beginning with the stats…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Brian Goodwin 19 81 9 24 4 1 2 12 4 22 .296 .333 .411 3
Matt Skole 15 49 8 9 1 1 3 7 15 18 .184 .375 .457 0
Adrian Nieto 13 48 6 13 1 1 0 6 6 10 .271 .345 .393 0
Steve Souza Jr. 11 42 8 15 2 0 1 8 5 11 .357 .426 .379 10

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Sammy Solis 5 2 0 2.29 7 7 29 32 9 7 1 7 29 1.34
Matt Purke 3 1 0 3.91 6 6 23 20 11 10 0 9 17 1.26
Robert Benincasa 0 0 0 4.50 9 0 9 11 4 4 1 4 7 1.67
Richie Mirowski 0 0 1 1.29 9 0 12 8 3 3 0 2 10 0.83


Now for the thoughts…

• The trade for Denard Span a year ago always seemed like a stopgap measure to give Brian Goodwin time to develop, which he seems to be doing, albeit not as quickly as folks seem to think he should be. My inclination is to attribute the recent rumors that Span is on the block to posturing by the market for the free-agent OFs of uber-agent Scott Boras, with whom the Nats have been cozy. In any case, Goodwin seems on track for a AAA year and a possible callup in 2014.

• Let’s not forget two things about Matt Skole: (1) He’s coming off same-year surgery (2) he has very little experience at the AA level (seven PAs in 2013, 74 last AFL season). Yes, his numbers were disappointing compared to his rating as a prospect and the success he had last fall, but he still hit for power and drew walks. The strikeouts? He’s averaged nearly a K per game for nearly professional 200 games. I don’t think there’s that much call for alarm.

• With Sandy Leon’s offense seemingly gone AWOL, Adrian Nieto assumes the mantle of the catching prospect closest to the majors. Nieto’s 2013 was an offensive breakthrough season and it carried over into the AFL. The question is whether the defense can be tightened up enough to justify the bat. Let’s hope that the success he had against LHPs — who stifled him in the regular season (.608 OPS vs. .872) — continues next season.

• Perhaps nobody’s stock rose higher and faster than Steve Souza Jr. His inclusion was curious, given that he was due to be a free agent, though it wasn’t clear if (A) his suspension had disrupted things (B) this was a signal that he intended to re-sign. Now, with hindsight being 20/20, it’s clear that they just wanted to make sure he was healthy before adding what’s been missing from the Washington 40-man for quite some time: a power-hitting OF from the right side who’s not a defensive liability.

• I had missed the fact that Solis is Rule 5 eligible when the rosters were revealed, and after his AFL stint, he may have just pitched his way onto the 40-man if for no other reason that the Nats have kind of signaled that they’re hungry for LHPs, albeit in relief. He turns 26 next August, so there’s always the question as to whether they convert him to relief. Best guess: he’ll be given every chance to succeed as a starter, especially with the option of converting other LHPs elsewhere in the system.

• Matt Purke made six starts — three really good, three not so good. That they came in that order is cause for concern. We can only hope that it’s more attributable to either fatigue or perhaps being a bit overmatched than the shoulder issues that have dogged him for quite some time. The party line will be the former, but it’s really hard not to infer the latter.

• Robert Benincasa did more or less what you ought to expect out of a young (23), two-level (Low- and High-A) reliever in the AFL: some good outings, some bad. Sight unseen, it’s almost impossible to speculate what that means for his 2014 — especially when there is no precedent to refer to. He’s the first reliever assigned to the AFL that didn’t pitch in AA under the current regim, er front office.

• As a 45th-Round Draft pick (which, under the current CBA, would mean he’d be a NDFA) Richie Mirowski is always going to fly under the radar. Given that he spent most of the season at High-A, no one would have been surprised if he’d gotten knocked around — the AFL is notoriously hitter-friendly, after all. Instead, he pitched rather well, allowing no baserunners in five of nine appearances and going multiple innings three times.

Nov 172013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-30
After leading the Eastern Division of the Arizona Fall League for all but one day, the Mesa Solar Sox saw their bid for the 2013 AFL Championship denied with a 2-0 defeat to the Surprise Saguaros.

Steven Souza Jr. was the only National in the starting lineup. The 24-year-old, who was recently added to the Washington 40-man roster, batted fifth and played centerfield. He singled to lead off the 2nd inning but was caught stealing by Ranger backstop Jorge Alfaro, who gunned him down with a reported pop time of 1.78 seconds.

Souza would line out sharply in his second at-bat, but strike out in his final two plate appearances to finish the game at 1-for-4. Defensively, the Nats 2007 3rd-Rd. pick played centerfield, where he had two putouts and an assist, as Alfaro struck again with an RBI single but was gunned down on the 8-2-6 relay.

Brian Goodwin and Adrian also appeared in the game, with Goodwin grounding out to second in the top of the 8th and Nieto catching the bottom half of the inning, but had no putouts or assists.

Mesa finishes 2013 with a record of 19-12 with a Opening Day tie.

                                                                    #                                     #                                     #

Sad-SpicklesWith the completion of the AFL schedule, the 2013 minor-league season — the fourth this site has covered, if you can believe that — now really comes to a close. A shoutout to Lee Magenheim, our photographer in Arizona, who’s provided the AFL pictures for the past two seasons and has plans to do it again in 2014.