May 172012
 

[Ed. Note:] These are the thoughts of my friend Shawn, a.k.a. one of my “spies in Hagerstown,” on the Suns position players. And again, don’t forget to visit his blog Musings about Sports and other important items

Brian Goodwin
was very impressive offensively in his five games. I was at the game that he injured himself, grabbed the leg immediately and you knew it was trouble. Goodwin showed speed and in power in those five games. Keep in mind that we haven’t seen him struggle, just as the last memory is the best memory.

Matt Skole has done everything you can do with the bat thus far and I really like his patience. Skole is striking out a little more than I would like, but his walk total is high and I think his bat will play higher up the ladder. The real issue is the leather; I do not think Skole plays third in the long run and it might be better to move him sooner than later.

Caleb Ramsey has been better than expected, but thus far something tells me that he will not hit for power as he moves higher — just a gut feeling.

Jason Martinson has played well and has reduced his errors, but for a repeat performer has not torn the Sally League up as you would hope a true prospect would. Martinson is still striking out a lot and that is a red flag to me.

Outside of those, none of the rest show me signs of being true prospects.

I love the way Billy Burns plays, but he reminds me more of a Chris Curran type — a high-energy, slap hitter that plays the game the right way, but lacks true high-end talent.

Steven Souza is killing the ball, but he should: This after all is his fourth Hagerstown stint and he is too skilled for this level. Does this play higher? I doubt it, but he is still young enough to make a move especially considering his tools.

Cutter Dykstra is hitting for a high average as he should, but still lacks the type of pop that you would hope to see, especially when you consider the drop in level. Dykstra turns 23 next month, but he needs to make his move soon.

J.P.Ramirez seems to me to be somewhat dispirited with the demotion and it has shown in his play. I thought Ramirez would rip this league up for eight weeks and move back up, but thus far he has only hit two homers. From a player that will rise and fall with the power potential, that is a huge disappointment.

Adrian Nieto continues to show just enough potential to keep your hopes up. Nieto has some power, but still does not make the type of contact that you would like.

Bryce Ortega broke his thumb and is out of action, but in his 51 at-bats, showed no power at all — not even gap power. Ortega looks to be a organizational type to me.

Brett Newsome is exactly that: an organizational soldier.

Hendry Jimenez has murdered lefties in a small sample size, but has been pathetic against righties.

Cole Leonida looks to be viewed as a backup catcher for the second year in a row. He has not gotten a ton of at-bats, and has not taken advantage of what he has been given.

Justin Miller has hit four homers in a little over a hundred at bats, but also has 35 strikeouts, which is rather high. Considering he turns 24 in the fall, Miller’s chances of making the Potomac roster in ’13 are quite slim.

May 152012
 

[Ed. Note:] This is the first of three parts leading up to the 2012 Rule 4 Draft. Part Two is next Tuesday. Part Three, the Tuesday after that. As many of you know, the Draft is not my thing, so I’ve solicited someone that has that passion. Besides, Spike has no thumbs and can barely copyedit, much less write ;-) Sean and I worked together this past offseason and I’m sure we will again, as it’s my chance to get to know the new guys beyond the boxscores that I pore through every morning from April to September.

From 2007 to 2011, the Nationals, at $51 million, were second to only the Pittsburgh Pirates ($52 million) in amateur draft spending. Top-level talent like Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Matt Purke were all signed to major-league contracts. In 2012, the draft will be a significantly different process for every team, but the Nats will be one of the most affected due to their free-spending ways over the past five drafts.

In 2012, there will be no more major-league contracts for draftees (unless they hold a scholarship in another sport). There will be a stupid bonus pool of somewhere between $1.6 and $12.4 million that teams cannot exceed by more than 5% without losing draft picks (in addition to the 75% luxury tax on any amount over the pool).

Draft picks after the 10th round can sign for up to $100,000 without counting against the pool. The Nationals’ bonus pool for their top 10 picks is $4,436,200, which is the 8th lowest in all of baseball. While I think the idea is ridiculous in general, I will withhold full judgment until things shake out in the 2013 draft, including changes to free-agent compensation going through a full cycle.

The deadline for signing picks will be a month earlier from now on (now mid-July rather than mid-August). “Advisors” such as Scott Boras will hold out until the last minute, so this is a ploy to make sure all players get signed fast enough to make it into some sort of affiliated ball this season. The last major change in the 2012 draft is the reduction of rounds from 50 to 40.

I’m delighted by the change; no offense to Bryce Ortega, Richie Mirowski or Tony Nix, but the 40-50th round guys are the ones hardest to dig up information about as well as the hardest to motivate myself to take time and write about. Very few players drafted after the 40th round have become major leaguers at all, but especially contributors (semi-recent exceptions include Keith Hernandez, Mike Piazza, Marcus Giles, Casey Blake, Orlando Hudson and Jason Isringhausen). With the elimination of the draft-and-follow in 2007, the excitement over the later rounds has faded some as well.

One major question surrounds the 2012 draft: Will high schoolers sign? In my book, the first five rounds or so will remain largely unchanged and the same high schoolers that would have signed before will still sign. The difference lies later in the Top 10 rounds, where teams will have to make decisions regarding their draft pools and may go for signability-type picks rather than risk losing an 8th rounder (or his attached draft pool amount).

I’m also interested to see if moving up the signing deadline will have any effect on 10+ round high schoolers signing. When the deadline was in mid-August, enrolling in college classes and going to training camps were negotiating ploys. Now with the deadline in July, those ploys won’t exist, and I think we’ll see a bigger divide between the high schoolers deemed to be signable and unsignable. Since the Nats recently have not drafted a whole lot of high schoolers, I’ll probably have to observe this in another team’s situation.

Next week, a look at the folks that make the Washington National draft decisions.

Aug 092011
 


[Ed. Note: Another guest column for frequent commenter BinM]

As we cross the 3/4 mark for the full-season franchises, I offer another opinionated view of the progress of each team to date…

Syracuse Chiefs (AAA) — 50-64 W-L
This team has confounded me all season. They’ve held what looked to be solid talent all year, but have never put together a run. This has surely been a disapointment for the Syracuse faithful, and for those of us who root for them from afar as well. Everything I’ve said before is still in effect, as the offense struggles and the pitching staff suffers from the constant shifts due to callups / returns from the big club.

From the hitters’ side, Chris Marrero (.308/.380/.467) and Matt Antonelli (.297/.384/.451) have been consistent, while Jhonatan Solano (.273/.322/.393) has turned it up a notch and Steve Lombardozzi (.318/.359/.436) has been a solid addition to the team. Some of the others aren’t slouches at the plate either, but either lack the ‘prospect’ cachet, or are just plain “old.”

For the pitching staff, the roster shuttle between D.C. and New York has disrupted any consistency in who manager Randy Knorr can count on. Syracuse has seen 29 different pitchers on the mound this year. Only Tom Milone (19GP, 117IP, 10.9:1 K-W, 1.03WHIP) has been dominant for the year among the starters. Craig Stammen has been steady, but unimpressive (20GP, 117⅔ IP, 3.75:1 K-BB, 1.41WHIP), as has Yunesky Maya
(17GP, 99⅓ IP, 2.83:1 K-BB, 1.30 WHIP). The latter two have both seen callups to DC this season, primarily due to their 40-man roster status. The bullpen has been a grab bag of late, but individually look to be AAA level or worse, as no one is stepping up as a real candidate for promotion.

Harrisburg Senators (AA) — 61-49 W-L
The team has stumbled since my last summary, dropping from a 3½ game lead, into second place, and are now back to a ½ game lead over Bowie in their division. Overall, the hitting has either slumped or fallen to injury, and the starters have been spotty, as the promotion of Brad Peacock left the staff without their stopper. In the bullpen, the backend is still solid, but the bridge has collapsed.

From the hitters’ side of things, the promotion of Lombardozzi (.309/.366/.454, 40RS), the trade of Bill Rhinehart (.283/.376/.587, 59RBI) and the injury to Gilbert (.298/.377/.472, 46RS), has stymied the offense of late, with no one stepping up to fill those gaps. Both Chris Rahl (.293/.343/.420, 44RS) and Tyler Moore (.273/.311/.532, 75RBI) continue to do their parts, and Norris is chipping in as well (.212/.373/.435, 56RS), but it hasn’t been enough.

The pitching is showing signs of wear as well, with Davis being demoted to Potomac after a series of bad outings; Only Arnesen (92⅔ IP, 2.53ERA, 1.09WHIP, 4.37:1 K-BB), and Shairon Martis (102⅓ IP, 3.17ERA, 1.27WHIP, 3.55:1 K-BB) have shown any stability for the starting five. Perhaps the recently promoted Danny Rosenbaum (132IP, 2.59ERA, 1.17WHIP, 2.25:1 K-BB in Potomac) will give them a boost.

From the bullpen, the combination of Cory VanAllen / Rafael Martin / Pat Lehman / Hassan Pena have been both stable and effective all year, but the bridge combo of Carlos Martinez / Jimmy Barthmaier / Pat McCoy has been high-risk, low-reward for most of the year.

Potomac Nationals (A+) — 23-20 [2nd half], 52-60 W-L overall
While the P-Nats are challenging for a playoff spot, I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that this years’ team is just a bad mix of real prospects and probable OG’s. The backend of the bullpen has been the only thing that is close to consistent all year, staffed by a couple of old-for-level arms; The starting arms (with a couple of exceptions) have been yo-yos, and the lineup (again, with exceptions) is cluttered with 2-3 tool players who will likely struggle at higher levels.

Starting with the hitters, Destin Hood (.285/.371/.467, 67RBI) and Jeff Kobernus (.281/.313/.386, 49RS, 39SB) have been getting it done all season. Sandy Leon could be a decent defensive catcher in the making. The rest of the roster, as much as I like them, is flawed. Justin Bloxom can hit, but has no glove skill; Souza plays a reasonably sound 1B, has shown both some power and patience at the plate, but has a very long swing; Perez is proving to be a one-tool player (speed), and J.P. Ramirez may have topped out at this level. The rest of the lineup and bench looks to be a collection of utility players and OG’s to me.

The starting staff will suffer from the loss of staff ace Rosenbaum (20GA, 132.0IP, 2.59ERA, 1.17WHIP, 2.25:1K-W), but still holds the lefty Sammy Solis and Cameron Selik, who both still hold promise. The bullpen has been a BB-prone minefield all season, save for the steadying influences of middle relievers Marcos Frias (22yo RH) and Joe Testa (25yo LH), setup man Josh Smoker (22yo LH), and closer Hector Nelo (24 yo RH).

Hagerstown Suns (A) — 22-21 [2nd half], 62-51 W-L overall
Slightly off the pace for a postseason appearance, the Suns are still in the hunt. They’ve maintained their offense, despite the loss of Harper (via transfer to Harrisburg) and Randolph Oduber (to injury). The starting staff remains solid as well, but the bullpen has taken a hit with some recent moves.

Offensively, they are mid-pack in most team categories, but are getting great seasons from David Freitas (.288/.416/.464, 53RS, 63RBI) and Blake Kelso (.292/.361/.357, 62RS, 43RBI), and good production out of Adrian Sanchez, Jason Martinson, Micahel Taylor, as well as Kevin Keyes, and OGs Sean Nicol and Brett Newsome.

The starting staff has been this teams’ cornerstone all season, with solid performances from 2010 draft picks Matt Grace (LH, 10-game winner to date), Robbie Ray (LH, 16GS, 2.29ERA, 1.18WHIP, 2.46:1 K-BB), and A.J. Cole (RH, 13GS, 3.82ERA, 1.24WHIP, 4.29:1 K-BB), as well as the injured Bobby Hansen, Taylor Jordan, and the since transferred Sammy Solis. On the other hand, the bullpen that looked so good through the 1st half of the season has fallen on hard times. The long relief corps of Paul Applebee and Matt Swynenberg have held steady, but the backend has fallen apart — Neil Holland (16GA, 1.13ERA, 0.92WHIP, 3.6:1K-W) was promoted to Potomac, Ben Graham (29GA, 2.95ERA, 1.21WHIP, 6Sv) just came off the DL, and Chris Manno (33GA, 0.85ERA, 0.80WHIP, 3.2:1K-W, 12Sv) was traded. No one has truly stepped in to fill that gap, but some help might be available in Auburn, depending on their late-season playoff chances.