Nov 062013
 

A seven-run 3rd put the Solar Sox up the creek as they were paddled by the Rafters, 7-0 last night in Arizona.

Mesa collected just four singles while committing five errors and hitting into four double plays. Two Nationals position players and one reliever got into the game:

  • Matt Skole started at 3B and batted 5th. He singled in three trips to the plate and collected one assist and one putout (both in the 8th inning)
  • Adrian Nieto started at C and batted 8th. He also went 1-for-3 and picked off a runner at first base in the 2nd inning. He finished with two assists and seven putouts.
  • Richie Mirowski pitched the final two innings, giving up a run on two hits and a walk. He struck out one and threw 35 pitches, 22 for strikes.

With the loss, Mesa’s lead over second-place Salt River returns to 1½ games with eight to play… and no more matchups between the two teams. The Solar Sox host the Desert Dogs this afternoon, then travel to Glendale tomorrow. They return to Mesa on Friday to play against the Surprise Saguaros, which is the next scheduled start for Sammy Solis.

Nov 052013
 

Well, it’s that time of year in the minors when we find out which of the veterans have become free agents. Some of these guys will re-sign, some will retire, and some will move on. Without further ado…

(* = spent entire season on DL)
CATCHERS
AAA – Carlos Maldonado
AA – Brian Jeroloman
High-A – Beau Seabury*, Sean McCauley*

INFIELDERS
AAA – Chris Marrero, Will Rhymes, Josh Johnson
AA – Jimmy Van Ostrand, Melvin Dorta*, Carlos Rivero
High-A – Mike Gilmartin
Low-A – Carlos Alvarez

OUTFIELDERS

AAA – Jason Michaels*, Chris Rahl
AA – Jerad Head

LHPs
AA – Bill Bray, Patrick McCoy
High-A – Josh Smoker*

RHPs
AAA – Mike Broadway, Caleb Clay, Mike Crotta, Cole Kimball, Jeff Mandel, Ryan Tatusko, Chris Young
AA – Brian Broderick

Three players are known to have re-signed prior to the deadline — IF Adrian Sanchez, C Jeff Howell, UT Francisco Soriano — but we’ll have to wait until the next dispatch to find out if there were any others.

Like 2011, there were 26 free agents, though three of the five DL guys were signed as player/coaches (Dorta, McCauley, Michaels) and were never going to be activated, according Nationals Director of Player Development Doug Harris. Overall, there were 550 players that became free agents, according to Baseball America.

This year’s first-time free agents include Nats ’07 draft picks Mandel, McCoy, and Smoker, and a pair of ’06 picks who were removed from the 40-man, Kimball and Marrero. There was only one IFA this year (as opposed to two last year), but has anyone ever heard of this Carlos Alvarez guy?

Nov 052013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-15Brian Goodwin went 2-for-4 and drove in three as Mesa edged Salt River, 5-4 in a twice-delayed, rain-shortened contest last night in Arizona.

The Nats top outfield prospect, who turned 23 on Saturday, blasted a two-run shot with two outs in the 3rd to cut into an early Rafters 3-0 lead. He would plate a third run with groundout as part of the three-run 5th that saw the Solar Sox take the eventual 5-4 lead.

In the 8th, Goodwin singled and stole second (pictured) before the rains came for the final time with one out.

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-17Matt Purke got the start but was touched for the first three Salt River runs in the 2nd. He would go four innings with four hits and two walks allowed. He struck out just one with 61 pitches thrown, 37 for strikes.

The win improves Mesa to 13-8-1 for the fall and returns the lead over Salt River to 2½ games. The two teams rematch tonight in Salt River and will be televised (weather permitting) on the MLB Network.

                                        #                                     #                                     #

Purke was the subject of today’s “Scout’s View” column in Baseball America (paid sub) in which he was compared to LHP Cole Hamels by former Philadelphia area scout Therron Brockish, who saw him on October 23rd (5IP, 1H, 0R, BB, 3K). Brockish said Purke was hitting 92-93 on the gun but pointed to his changeup as his “out pitch,” not the curve, which he felt was only his third-best pitch and more of a slurve (though effective against LHBs).

Brockish is bullish on Purke, predicting “[He’s] on the path to be in Double-A or Triple-A next summer and competing for a big league spot in 2015.”

Nov 042013
 

Winter Baseball Update
Time for our semi-weekly update on how the notable Nationals minor leaguers are doing in the winter leagues, beginning of course, with the Arizona Fall League. All statistics as of 11/3/2013, 11:30 p.m. EST.

BATTERS

PLAYER LG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Brian Goodwin AFL 13 56 7 17 3 0 1 6 2 16 .304 .339 .411 2
Matt Skole AFL 11 35 7 6 1 0 3 7 13 10 .171 .396 .457 0
Steve Souza Jr. AFL 8 29 5 10 1 0 0 5 5 7 .345 .441 .379 9
Adrian Nieto AFL 8 28 4 8 1 1 0 4 5 8 .286 .382 .393 0
Francisco Soriano DWL 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .— .— .— 0
Carlos Rivero VWL 18 64 6 20 4 0 1 6 8 8 .313 .392 .422 0
Zach Walters VWL 15 50 6 12 1 0 3 6 6 19 .240 .321 .440 0
Adrian Sanchez VWL 12 33 3 6 2 0 0 0 1 7 .182 .206 .242 0
Sandy Leon VWL 10 31 5 6 0 1 0 1 3 7 .194 .265 .258 1
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
Sammy Solis AFL 3 2 0 2.29 5 5 19⅔ 21 7 5 1 6 20 1.37
Matt Purke AFL 2 1 0 3.00 4 4 15 11 6 5 0 5 13 1.07
Robert Benincasa AFL 0 0 0 4.50 8 0 8 10 4 4 1 3 7 1.63
Richie Mirowski AFL 0 0 1 1.29 6 0 7 5 1 1 0 1 5 0.86
Yunesky Maya DWL 1 0 0 1.72 3 3 15⅔ 14 5 3 0 3 11 1.09
Jeff Mandel DWL 0 0 0 3.00 3 3 12 15 5 4 0 3 6 1.50
Rafael Martin MWL 1 0 0 6.23 10 0 13 13 9 9 3 3 10 1.23
Christian Garcia MWL 0 0 0 0.00 5 0 5⅔ 2 0 0 0 3 6 0.88
Danny Rosenbaum VWL 2 0 0 1.88 4 3 14⅓ 14 3 3 1 3 6 1.19


As reported previously, the winter leagues in Australia and Puerto Rico started up over the weekend, but it appears there are no current Nats down under and just two on La Isla del Encanto — Jose Lozada and Tyler Herron, neither of whom have appeared in a game yet.

Nov 032013
 

Arizona Fall League #3
Brian Goodwin started while Adrian Nieto came off the bench in the AFL’s cash cow Fall Star game last night in Surprise, Arizona as the AFL West stars pummeled the AFL East contingent, 9-2.

Former National Alex Meyer started and won the game, but gave up a one-out, first-inning single to Goodwin, who turned on 97 m.p.h. offering and pulled it into right field. Goodwin was cut down trying to get into scoring position by Padres catching prospect Austin Hedges for the inning’s second out.

The two rematched in the 3rd with Meyer whiffing his former teammate in Hagerstown as the front end of K-2-6 double play to end the inning and Meyer’s night. The Twins RHP gave up three hits and walked one over three scoreless innings to earn the exhibition win.

Goodwin finished the night at 1-for-5 with two putouts in five innings in center and no chances in four innings in left field.

Nieto, who was named to the AFL East squad as a replacement for Giants backstop Andrew Susac, caught the final three innings in relief of Yankees backstop Pete O’Brien. He went hitless in two plate appearances, getting hit by a pitch but scoring in the top of the 7th and tapping out to the pitcher in the 9th.

Nov 022013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-2Sammy Solis gave up two unearned runs in the top of the 1st and the Solar Sox were unable to catch up, losing to the Javelinas by a score of 5-4.

The 25-y.o. southpaw went four full innings, allowing three hits and one walk total. He struck out four and hit a batter and threw 71 pitches, 40 for strikes.

Matt Skole batted cleanup and played first base, but went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. He had two putouts and two assists and made no errors.

Adrian Nieto caught and hit sixth but was also hitless. Two bases were stolen against him and the Mesa pitchers, who struck out 11 for all of Nieto’s putouts.

Steven Souza Jr., the newest member of the Washington 40-man roster, followed Nieto in the lineup in the seven spot and went 1-for-4 with a run scored and a strikeout. He played centerfield and snagged three flyballs.

The loss, combined with a Salt River win, narrows the gap between first and second place to just 1½ games with 10 to go for the fall campaign. The Solar Sox return to action next week as they take on the Rafters on Monday and Tuesday.

Nov 012013
 

It was predicted to be the roster to watch for this season, and for the most part, it lived up to that. Top prospect Anthony Rendon began here, as did Nathan Karns, the Nats’ 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and the single-A guys from the 2012 AFL team that lost in the playoffs. Overall, there were 13 names from the 2013 Watchlist on the Opening Day roster, which is not unusual since AA is where the best prospects play the most nowadays.

But… roughly half the team was also the one that went belly-up in the second half of 2012, so if any Sens fans were worried that history would repeat itself, they couldn’t be blamed. Indeed, the team played .500 ball until nearly mid-June before edging into contention. Fortified by several pitchers from Potomac during the season, all of whom seemingly made the transition with hardly a hiccup, Harrisburg made its run in late June and survived an August swoon to edge Erie for the E.L. West title by one game.

After taking three of four from the Seawolves to advance to the Finals, Harrisburg would be swept by the Trenton Thunder, who, much like the Salem Red Sox in the Carolina League, also got hot down the stretch and swept both division leaders for the League Championship. A disappointing finish, but far from a failure as the team produced two pitchers and an infielder who finished their seasons in D.C. — and not as September call-ups.

Let’s take a closer look at how the Senators stacked up against the Eastern League…

HITTING AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA* SB
Harrisburg 4585 602 1110 101 521 1090 .242 .324 .372 .239 89
Lg. Avg. 4689 628 1195 104 482 1068 .255 .330 .387 .245 107

* GPA = Gross Production Average

PITCHING IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
Harrisburg 1237 3.43 3.75 1.237 101 391 1168 8.3 2.8 8.5 2.99
Lg. Avg. 1230⅔ 4.01 4.44 1.363 104 482 1068 8.7 3.5 7.8 2.21


If there are two things that have been the trademark of Harrisburg teams over the fast few seasons, it’s been outstanding pitching and suboptimal hitting. This past season was no different — they gave up the fewest run and walks and were second in pitching strikeouts, producing the best ratios for K:BB and WHIP. At the plate, they were dead-last in batting average, second-from-last in slugging percentage, and third-from-last in OBP (thanks to finishing second in walks drawn) and runs scored.

Defensively, the team was middle-of-the-pack — a .976 FA that was right at the league average. They allowed the second-fewest stolen bases (with fewer opportunities to steal, thanks to the pitchers) with a slightly above-average (33% vs. 31%) rate of catching would-be basethieves, which would have been higher if Sandy Leon (38%) had caught more than 91 games (the backups were 25%).

Given the organization’s proclivity towards athleticism and defense in the draft (and obviously pitching), this trend will likely continue. As noted in 2011, the lack of power has been offset with increased speed and patience as three of the previous five affiliates were above their league averages for either steals or walks, if not both (Potomac and Hagerstown). This is not inherently bad as power is considered to be a skill that develops later (and can be acquired more cheaply), but I’m sure folks on City Island wouldn’t mind seeing more than one or two boppers in the lineup at the same time, either.

Now is when we danc…er, take a look at the Top 14’s for the hitters and pitchers — expanded from 12 to capture a couple of notables (and help pay the bills, *ahem*). Full statistics for the team can be found here.

Name Age PA Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err GPA ISO
Justin Bloxom 25 544 1B/3B/LF 105/18/3 .981 17 .247 .104
Brian Goodwin 22 533 CF 116 .982 5 .262 .155
Ricky Hague 24 479 2B/SS 117/7 .970 16 .226 .117
Destin Hood 23 429 RF/LF 61/44 .979 4 .207 .103
Jerad Head 30 426 LF/1B/RF/CF 50/14/8/4 .981 4 .242 .153
Sandy Leon 24 361 C 93 .993 6 .194 .075
Sean Nicol 26 324 3B/SS/LF/2B/1B 42/17/17/13/2 .960 10 .237 .079
Steve Souza 24 323 RF/CF 72/5 .979 3 .317 .257
Jimmy Van Ostrand 28 283 LF/1B 23/6 .990 2 .259 .193
Jose Lozada 27 230 SS/3B/2B/LF/1B/RF/CF 29/17/10/5/4/3/2 .955 11 .188 .050
Carlos Rivero 25 199 3B 49 .961 5 .225 .129
Jason Martinson 24 196 SS 53 .944 12 .199 .121
Josh Johnson 27 196 SS/2B 42/3 .932 13 .271 .186
Anthony Rendon 23 152 3B/2B/SS 24/5/1 .958 4 .358 .284


Looking at the column for isolated power, you can see what I mean by the lack of big boppers. Just five of these 14 were above the league average of .132 and you can see from the distribution of the playing time that there rarely more than one or two in the lineup at the same time. Steve Souza, who’s ripping up the AFL in limited playing time as of this writing recently added to the Nationals 40-man roster, was a force… when he was healthy. It would have been nice to see what he could have done had he played 50 more games, especially coupled with Rendon for another month.

Perhaps more disappointing was the regression of Destin Hood and Sandy Leon. Hood played 18 more games than he did last season, and posted worse numbers in just about every category. Leon fell off a cliff offensively, falling so far, so fast that it makes you wonder if his 2012 season ought to be disregarded as a fluke. Both players had breakthrough seasons in 2011, but that’s a long time ago in the minors when you’re closer to 25 than 20.

It’ll be interesting to see who moves up to AAA among this group, because it may only be two or three guys, max. The Nationals have had no problem plugging in six-year FAs to plug holes or shuffle between Harrisburg and Syracuse (e.g. Johnson, Rivero, Head, Van Ostrand) which is likely to occur again with Potomac having only 2-3 position players destined to move up.

Now for some better news, the pitchers…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR HBP WP
Nathan Karns 25 23/23 10-6, 0 3.26 132⅔ 109 48 155 1.183 14 7 13
Blake Treinen 25 21/20 6-7, 0 3.64 118⅔ 125 33 86 1.331 9 4 8
Rob Gilliam 25 19/18 3-6, 0 4.40 90 83 38 77 1.344 9 10 4
Paul Demny 23 18/15 5-6, 0 4.95 83⅔ 81 35 86 1.386 10 6 3
Caleb Clay 25 13/13 6-3, 0 3.46 75⅓ 64 17 59 1.075 6 7 3
Matt Swynenberg 24 36/4 4-0, 0 3.16 74 66 30 58 1.297 6 3 5
Taylor Hill 24 11/11 2-7, 0 2.71 69⅔ 67 16 41 1.191 7 1 1
Robbie Ray 21 11/11 5-2, 0 3.72 58 56 21 60 1.328 4 6 1
Taylor Jordan 24 9/8 7-0, 0 0.83 54 37 9 43 0.852 0 5 0
Neil Holland 24 41/0 1-4, 1 2.84 50⅔ 48 11 63 1.164 3 5 1
Aaron Barrett 25 51/0 1-1, 26 2.15 50⅓ 40 15 69 1.093 6 0 5
Tyler Herron 26 33/1 6-2, 5 3.11 46⅓ 45 21 58 1.424 2 1 2
A.J. Cole 21 7/7 4-2, 0 2.18 45⅓ 31 10 49 0.904 3 0 1
Pat McCoy 24 39/0 2-1, 0 4.32 41⅔ 48 12 36 1.440 5 3 2


Much like Hagerstown, the consistency of the league’s top pitching staff was amazing — just two of these starters were above the league average for ERA, two relievers above the circuit norm for WHIP. As aforementioned, it was almost unnatural how well the seven callups from Potomac did. Three of the four starters posted better numbers at AA than at High-A while the three relievers who didn’t do better were still decent if not very good.

None of these were guys could be described as unfairly held back, which would help explain such a phenomenon. In fact, the two youngest success stories — Robbie Ray and A.J. Cole — were coming off terrible 2012 seasons and weren’t exactly dominating the Carolina League when they were promoted (lots of K’s, but also lots of HRs). This, for better or worse, is why the folks who make the sausage will tell you that stats don’t matter as much we the fans might think they do.

Which brings us to Taylor Jordan and Ian Krol. I was fortunate enough to see Jordan in Woodbridge, but naturally missed Krol, who was acquired during the past offseason and seemed like a throw-in, which we’ve come to learn, is where Rizzo, et al seem to really do best at: identifying talent from other organizations and having them do far better than anyone expected.

OBLIGATORY TOP EIGHT LIST
Since I use these to help build the 2014 watchlist, I can’t name Jordan and Rendon — both have exceeded the IP and PA limits for rookie status (50, 130 respectively) that most folks use as a cutoff. I also had to break my rule about not double-dipping by repeating two names because, well, they’re kind of obvious. Likewise, for the second straight year, I’m going to have to combine the bats and arms to form a single list because there’s an uneven distribution (again).

1. A.J. Cole
2. Brian Goodwin
3. Robbie Ray
4. Nathan Karns
5. Steve Souza
6. Aaron Barrett
7. Neil Holland
8. Justin Bloxom

Nov 012013
 

This morning, the Nationals officially confirmed what Steve Souza Jr. wrote to his followers on Twitter last night: The longtime Nationals farmhand has been added to the 40-man roster.

Of course, the move was more than a little telegraphed by his inclusion on the Mesa Solar Sox roster for the Arizona Fall League, but what was not known was whether he’d be added to the big club or if he’d made an agreement to re-sign as a minor-leaguer. Souza was due to become a six-year free agent on Monday. The move also protects the 24-y.o. from next month’s Rule 5 draft.

For those just joining us in progress, Souza has had a tumultuous ride through the minors, beginning as a 3rd-Rd. high-school pick out of Everett, WA in 2007 and seemingly hitting the wall in 2010 his third season at Low-A Hagerstown when he was suspended for PED use. As detailed in this long piece from the Seattle Times, Souza would actually fall further in 2011 before shedding the labels of (among others) draft bust over the past two seasons.

While for many there was a huge disconnect between the praise heaped upon Souza — by Nationals farm director Doug Harris in particular — it was evident, even in 2011, to folks who saw him play everyday that the five-tool tag was legitimate. Indeed, Souza has been a member of this site’s watchlist at three different positions: 3B in 2011, 1B in 2012, and in the outfield for 2013.
(Spoiler: He’ll prolly make it 2014, too)

Souza is currently posting a line of .360/.467/.400 with five RBI and nine SBs in seven AFL games. This past season, despite playing in just 77 of 142 games, he led the Harrisburg Senators in both SBs (20) and HRs (15) and was fourth in runs, walks and RBI.

Nov 012013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-7Brian Goodwin was the sole National to play in Mesa’s 7-3 win over Scottsdale yesterday afternoon.

Goodwin, who once again led off and played CF, smacked a two-run homer — his first of the fall season — to erase a 1-0 Scorpions lead in the bottom of the 6th. Former National David Freitas, who had walked to lead off the inning, scored ahead of him.

The #3 prospect Nats prospect per Baseball America had two putouts in the field and finished the game at 1-for-5 with three strikeouts. Goodwin is the sole National on the AFL East roster for tomorrow’s Fall Star Game (yes, really – that’s the new name).

The win improves Mesa to 12-7-1 and maintains the 2½ game edge over Salt River. Sammy Solis is scheduled to pitch this afternoon as the Solar Sox host the Javelinas.