Oct 122014
 

SpencerKieboom101114 copy
OK, so I haven’t come up with a name for this post yet. “This Week In The Nats Minors” or “The Washington Farm Report” seem a little too been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. “Next-Gen Nats?” Um, sure, but I’ll have to change my site’s color scheme to teal, purple, and black. I’m open to suggestions… In the meantime, let’s do this weekly thing again.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
Thanks to a rainout — the first since 2011 — the Mesa Solar Sox have played just four games, losing the first three by a collective score of 30-9 before finally getting a win with a 6-3 decision last night. As you might imagine, the stats thus far aren’t pretty, so let’s hold on posting them. I am thinking another picture-gallery post midweek might be in order.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
As noted in the comments, Pedro Severino edged into BA’s Carolina League Top 20 at #18, which is actually a mild surprise given the size and talent of the league, but not undeserved. Severino’s ballyhooed defense actually fell short of the hype during last offseason, but that’s not to say he’s not a good defender. Perhaps not at the level of Sandy Leon at the same (st)age, but not far off either. Like Leon in 2011, the 21-year-old Severino’s bat came alive in 2014, particularly in the second half, and that’s what caught the attention of scouts. The hope/unknown is whether that’ll continue in 2015.

TRANSACTION STUFF
Greg Dobbs, we hardly knew ye, as the 36-y.o. who stapled a .483 OPS in 13 games with the big club and thumbtacked AAA pitchers for a .635 mark in 36 games has declared free agency.

WINTER LEAGUE
Folks are hungry to know who’s playing winter ball. The Mexican Pacific League and the Venezuelan Winter League started up this weekend, and a scan of the rosters has turned up three pitchers:

Rafael Martin (Hermosillo, MWL)
Paolo Espino (Anzoategui, VWL)
David Ramos (Aragua, VWL)

The Dominican Winter League starts on this Friday, while the Puerto Rican and Australian winter leagues both start up on the 30th.

THE AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
The Doubledays couldn’t help but improve on 2013, which won the fewest games (26) since the ’06 Lake Monsters (23) and was dead last in pitching and third-worst in hitting. The 2014 crew, which included a sizable contingent from the ’13 GCL squad, broke the 30-win mark and performed to its pythagorean projection of 34-41 with 299 runs scored (3.99/G) and 332 allowed (4.43) with the league averaging 4.15 runs per game. After years of being among the league’s oldest teams [insert college-senior drafting remark here], the Doubledays hitters were slightly older (21.2 vs. 21.0) while the pitchers were the fourth-youngest crew in the league (20.9)

And with that I’ll leave you with the Top 5’s…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Raudy Read, C, .265 GPA, .462 SLG% 1. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, 0.75/3.14/0.83, .124 OBA
2. Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, 1B, .250 GPA, .996FA 2. Robbie Dickey, RHP, 2.25/2.74/1.05, 1.35BB/9 allowed in 20IP
3. D.K. Carey, CF, .248 GPA, .353 OBP 3. Travis Ott, LHP, 3.05/3.98/1.24, 6.7 H/9
4. Cody Gunter, 3B, .239 GPA, 23BB in 54G 4. Mario Sanchez, RHP, 4.11/3.50/1.17, 2.8 BB/9
5. Austin Davidson, IF, .231 GPA, 4.89 RF/G (2B) 5. Chase McDowell, RHP, 4.50/3.16/1.54, 0.98 BB/9


Honorable mentions go to Matthew Page and Austen Williams, but like the GCL crew, it was not easy after the first two or three names — especially in a year where the Nats had several multiple-level pitchers. As always, folks who want to see the numbers for the full team, can find them here.

Oct 072014
 
FelipeRivero100714 PedroSeverinoBatting100714
TonyRendaFielding100714 SpencerKieboom100714

The weekly posting plan still remains, but with a little time to spare — and some great pics to share — I’d figure I’d do a quick post to give folks a taste of fall ball while you await the outcome of the NLDS.

The Solar Sox were eclipsed by the Desert Dogs by a score of 9-3 this afternoon. As you can see, Felipe Rivero got the start but remained in 2014 Harrisburg form with four runs allowed on seven hits and two walks. He struck out three and gave up a solo home run.

Tony Renda and Pedro Severino both started on offense, but went 0-for-3 with a walk and 0-for-2 respectively.

Matt Grace and Derek Self both appeared in relief and both struggled, with Grace giving up two runs in one inning and Self giving up a HR in two innings of work.

See you on Sunday with a summary of the week’s happenings in the minors (and some more pics, no doubt).

Oct 052014
 

Renda-Bunting-2014I had been hoping as I plugged away at this week’s column/post during my time confetti to be able to make some reference to how the parent club is doing in the playoffs. Now, I’m just hoping this will get read between wailing and second-guessing from last night’s 2-1 loss in 18 innings.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
The “other” fall baseball starts up on Tuesday, with sponsor-contrived exhibition festivities held last night (hence, the pic). It looks like there won’t be a taxi squad guy this year, as the Nationals also officially placed the seven players named in late August onto the roster of the Mesa Solar Sox.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
The love-fest for Reynaldo Lopez continues as Baseball America named him the #2 prospect in the New York Penn League, citing what we all know now: a 96-99 FB, a killer 11-5 CV, and a devastating changeup. Also named (#13) was catcher Raudy Read, who may be more intriguing given how thin the position had gotten. The trio of Pedro Severino, Read and Reetz are all under 22 and should populate the rosters at AA, Low-A, and SS-A with a resurgent Spencer Kieboom the likely starter at High-A (though he’ll be 24).

BA loves to double-dip, which is why Lopez got the nod as the #3 prospect of the South Atlantic League, two spots behind Lucas Giolito. In a bigger market, or a true baseball town, these two would have a nickname by now (Giopez?) though I suspect they won’t be teammates again until they’re both in AA. Coming in at #14 for the Sally Top 20 was Wilmer Difo, which I suspect is a function of his age (22) as twelve of the thirteen players ranked above him were 21 or younger.

TRANSACTION STUFF
So far, it’s quiet, which is the norm. Thus far, two players have been re-signed for next year — IF Cutter Dykstra and RHP Sam Runion. As much as we’d like to read into that, Occam’s Razor suggests it’s simply that both the organization and the player are content to continue with the 2014 arrangement for 2015.

2014 AFFILIATE SHUFFLE
Thankfully, the Nats affiliates will remain the same for another two years, which is hardly a shock — even with the rumblings in Hagerstown and Fredericksburg, which continues to be more talk than walk. It does however mean that they’ll be seeing some new opponents, as the Rockies join the Eastern League and the Cubs join the Carolina League, replacing the Twins and Rangers, respectively. Jamestown will be moving to Morgantown, which will require some new scheduling for Auburn and longer bus rides for everyone.

THE GCL NATIONALS
Let’s face it: No matter what this team did in 2014, it would be a disappointment compared to 2013. It also bears repeating that folks shouldn’t get too high or too low about performance in the short-season leagues (and yes, I’ve been guilty of that “crime”). So even though the team reverted to the mean — 25-35, .417 — there’s still some kids to get excited about (ok, that sounds a little creepy).
Offensively, the team was pretty much league average (4.32 vs. 4.37) but the pitching was second-worst in the league, giving up nearly a run more per game (5.32 vs. 4.37).

Without further ado…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Jakson Reetz, C, .285 GPA, 26BB in 43G 1. Jean Ramirez, RHP, 3.41/3.60/1.45, 0HR allowed in 36⅔ IP
2. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B, .250 GPA, .934FA 2. Luis Reyes, RHP, 4.42/3.86/1.42, 2.95 BB/9
3. Aldrem Corredor, LF, .256 GPA, .411 OBP 3. Yorlin Reynoso, LHP, 3.38/3.97/1.75, 73.8 LOB%
4. Thomas Alvarez, 2B, .253 GPA, 4.65 RF/G 4. Maximo Valerio, RHP, 5.23/4.28/1.45, 7.3 K/9
5. “Fred” Aguero, IF, .249 GPA, .400 SLG 5. Jose Morales, RHP, 4.68/4.58/1.68, 3.03 BB/9


I’d give an honorable mention to Edwin Lora who batted .293 and stole 13 bases, but worry about the lack of doubles (just eight out of 53 hits). It was a stretch to name five pitchers, as it seemed like the best you could say for most of these guys is that they were still teenagers. Folks who are interested in seeing the entire team’s stats, should click here.

Sep 282014
 

Letstrythisweeklything
Bear with me — without the structure of the regular season and the divergence from what I’ve done in past offseasons, the first couple of posts might be a bit of a dog’s breakfast.

The most obvious thing to me is to touch upon what I would have written about in shorter form until the AFL starts up (good news — our man out there says he’ll continue to take pics and share with us). Then, the weekly posts will be AFL-centric with some news and notes thrown in.

THE STATE OF THE FARM
It’s been rebuilt and it’s churning out talent, though the run of uber-prospects (Strasburg-Harper-Rendon) may be over once Lucas Giolito makes his way to Washington. That’s okay because that’s how it supposed to work with World Series contending organizations. I’m still concerned that the organization runs old and that it relies very heavily on the Dominican Republic for its teenage talent, but it’s hard to argue against the results even when some of the injury gambles don’t pan out (see Solis, Sammy; Purke, Matthew).

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
In years past, the first couple of weeks of BA issuing its Top 20 lists could be summed up in a picture or two for Washington fans. For the second straight year, the Nats have a GCLer on the list, as Jakson Reetz was named the #14 guy. A third-round pick in June, Reetz posted a line of .276/.431/.376 line as an 18-y.o. catcher, which of course, has drawn comps to 2007 4th Rd. pick Derek Norris. Defensively, he’s considered ahead of the A’s backstop at this stage in his career.

THE 2014 WATCHLIST
After clinching all that can be clinched in the day game on Friday — sounds a little dirty, no? — the Nats trotted out what some Twitterati geniusly called “your 2014 Syracuse Chiefs” on Friday night; an observation sharp enough to slice warm butter. Thankfully, there are those who understand how things work better than that. That said, it pains me a little to know two things: (1) A lot of the names are going to change in the 2015 edition (2) that edition is going to have to be smaller and less comprehensive. The alternative, of course, is to scrap it altogether, which, as you can see, I’m trying to avoid.

THE DSL NATIONALS
The trend of getting younger and better has continued — the average bat was 17.7 years old, the average arm was 18.4 years old; a half-year younger than the league averages for both. Despite their youth, the D-Nats were among the more potent offenses, tied for 4th at 6.19 R/G (lg. avg. 4.98) and leading the circuit in HRs. The flip side is that the pitching (5.36 R/G) and the defense — with the exception of the stolen-base prevention (2nd in CS%, 48; lg. avg. 34) — were both below average (.942FA, .951 lg avg.).

Cutting to the chase…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Davinson Pimentel, C/1B, .337 GPA, 6HR 1. Joan Baez, RHP, 1.15/2.96/0.91, 2.8 BB/9
2. Telmito Agustin, LF/CF, .310 GPA, 25SB, 10 3B 2. Steven Fuentes, RHP, 2.30/2.90/1.23, 10.2 K/9
3. Victor Robles, CF, .305 GPA, 22SB 3. Angher Cespedes, RHP, 3.94/2.52/1.16, 11.0 K/9
4. Israel Mota, RF, .281 GPA, 8HR, 47RBI 4. Yonathan Ramirez, LHP, 2.63/2.60/0.91, 2.0 BB/9
5. Andres Martinez, SS, .280 GPA, .908FA 5. Juan Bermudez, RHP, 2.08/3.55/1.05, 2.97 BB:K


Honorable mentions go to Jeyner Baez, an 18-y.o. catcher with a 50% CS rate and a .256 GPA, and Wilber Pena, an 18-y.o. RHP who led the team in IP and tied with Bermudez with 14 games started. Folks can see all the team stats here.

Sep 172014
 


I don’t want to say this is the end of the road, but there’s a good chance that it is.

When I took over this site four years ago, I was stay-at-home parent to two elementary-school-aged sons with special needs. Like many things in life, this wasn’t something I had planned (the stay-at-home part, not the parent part), but it was something I had to deal with. It was also what I really needed to distract from the day-to-day drudgery; an opportunity to employ my passion via my lost profession.

Even though I tried to keep the scope of the site manageable in the event that I would return to work — the pseudonym that I used (Sue Dinem) from January 2010 until January 2012, was largely motivated by that concern — it grew too large. I may have succeeded in building something good, something to be proud of, but I failed to keep it modest enough to withstand the changes in my offline life.

This isn’t a knee-jerk decision. It’s been in the back of my mind for most of the summer, as it became harder and harder to publish as I had less and less time (and energy) to do it, despite having significant help from Jason Crocker and Julie Goldberg. I’ve been working part-time for quite some time now, but it’s been steadily ramping towards full-time.

I wish I could say that I’m excited about that (the work part), but I’m not. It’s a matter of doing what’s best for my family financially in the short-term while I continue to look for something more rewarding in the longer term. The kids getting older (they’re now in high school and middle school) actually makes this possible (and necessary).

I’m not looking to elicit sympathy — unless it’s a job with Fred Flintstone hours and/or Phillip Drummond pay — after all, I’m not shutting down the site just yet. If it continues, it’s going to be different, and less intensive. I just don’t know yet; I’m going to take a few months to figure that out.

But if this it, it’s been quite a ride. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, too.

Sep 142014
 

The Tourists scored in the 1st, built a 4-0 lead after four innings, and cruised to a 4-1 win to take the 2014 South Atlantic League Championship, three games to two. It was the second title in three years for Asheville, and back-to-back Finals losses for Hagerstown.

Nick Pivetta was more effective than he was in Game One, making it through five frames, but allowed all four Tourist runs (three earned, though the error was his) on six hits and two walks while striking out five. His counterpart, Konner Wade, was just as brilliant as before — tossing seven scoreless innings to run his total to 12 for the series.

The Suns were limited to six hits — all singles — and one walk. The lone, unearned run came in the bottom of the 8th as Rafael Bautista reached on an error, took third on a Wilmer Difo safety, and scored on a groundout by Narciso Mesa. Drew Ward was the sole Hagerstown batter to reach base twice, singling in the 7th and drawing a leadoff walk in the 9th.

Hagerstown finished the 2014 season with 87 wins in the regular season and 91 wins overall, both the most since the Suns joined the South Atlantic League in 1993. They’ll start the 2015 campaign on the road in Hickory, NC on April 9th and open at home against Lakewood on April 16th.

Sep 132014
 

Asheville built a 3-0 lead on a pair of home runs to send 19-y.o. starter Travis Ott to the showers after just two and 1/3rd innings. With no tomorrow, Hagerstown manager Patrick Anderson turned to former starter Jake Johansen — who was removed from the rotation in late July, and quite frankly, wasn’t any less ineffective as a reliever — to eat innings and hope for the bats to come alive.

The comeback came three innings later with some “help” from the Tourists defense, as Jimmy Yezzo connected for a two-out, two-run triple, then tied it up on error by third baseman Ryan McMahon. Cody Dent, who had homered once in his professional career prior to last night, got his second to give the Suns an improbable 5-3 lead. I’ve heard there’s a family history of this.

But perhaps more unexpected was the performance that Johansen turned in. During the regular season, he was scored upon in all 18 starts and either gave up an inherited runner or one of his own in 10 of 11 relief outings. That one other scoreless outing, however, was against last-place Lakewood.

A reasonable expectation: one or two runs over three or four innings. Instead, Johansen shut down the league’s most potent offense for three and 2/3rds innings with just one hit allowed, no walks, and two strikeouts.

Hagerstown would get an insurance run in the 7th, again with the help of some defensive incompetence. A dropped third strike following back-to-back two-out singles loaded the bases for Yezzo, who delivered another RBI knock with a single to plate the sixth and final Suns run. Yezzo would finish the night at 3-for-4 with a run scored and three RBI to lead Hagerstown’s 12-hit attack.

The run wouldn’t be needed as Justin Thomas, who took over for Johansen in the 7th, faced the mininum of nine over three innings with three strikeouts to earn the save.

Nick Pivetta (13-8, 4.22) and Konner Wade (8-8, 3.61) will rematch in Game Five, and will likely be a lower score than the 16-7 result in Game One.

Sep 122014
 

The 20-y.o. righthander was brilliant, pitching into the 9th with just five hits allowed. Unfortunately, his name was Zach Jemioloa, not Reynaldo Lopez, as the Asheville Tourists took Game Three of the South Atlantic League Championship Series, 4-1.

Lopez, who has become the hottest Nationals prospect not named Lucas Giolito, was instead human last night. After turning in two scoreless inning to begin the game, he gave up back-to-back-to-back singles to open up a 1-0 deficit in the 3rd, then fell behind 3-1 on a two-run home run after issuing a leadoff walk in the 4th.

The Dominican righty wobbled through the 5th a pair of walks and was saved from further damage when Corelle “Optimus” Prime’s single struck David Dahl between second and third to for the third out and quash a possible fourth run allowed. Manager Patrick Anderson pulled the plug after two outs in the 6th and inserted Nick Lee.

Lopez’s final was 5⅔ IP, 8H, 3R, 3ER, 3BB, 4K, HR, WP, 2PO (both at 1B).

The Tourists got their fourth and final run in the 7th on a two-out triple by Dahl off Lee, who finished the game for Hagerstown with the one run allowed on four hits, no walks, and six strikeouts.

Offensively, the Suns were held to just six hits, though four of them were doubles. The lone run came in the bottom of the 3rd as David Masters doubled to lead off the inning, took third on grounder to third, and scored on Rafael Bautista’s single (literally) off Jemiola.

The Suns threatened in the 9th as Wilmer Difo led off with a double and Austin Chubb walked with one out to bring the tying run to the plate in the person of Drew Ward, who popped up to short for the second out. Carlos Lopez, who had doubled twice earlier in the game, grounded out to the mound to end it.

The Suns will give the ball to a well-rested (last pitched on August 28) Travis Ott (0-2, 7.59) in Game Four, opposed by Antonio Senzatela (15-2, 3.11) who last pitched on August 30th.

Sep 112014
 

2014-Mills-Cup-Championship
After a wire-to-wire run in the regular season, the 2014 Potomac Nationals got it done in the postseason with a 5-1 victory over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to capture the Mills Cup Championship Series, three games to one.

Unlike four years ago
, the eventual outcome was apparent early. The first inning to be exact. Tony Renda got the rally started with a one-out walk, which looked like it might go for naught when Shawn Pleffner weakly flied out to left on a first-pitch swing.

Then Mills Cup MVP John Wooten singled to right, sending Renda to third to bring up veteran outfielder Randolph Oduber. Luis Parra couldn’t groove his fastball past the Aruban, but was able to drop a couple of lollipop curves to work the count to 2-2. The third time was not the charm, as Oduber was waiting on that sucker and smashed it over the left field fence for a 3-0 lead.

Hector Silvestre, the lone Potomac pitcher to win twice in the playoffs, faltered in the 2nd, giving up a double to start the frame. The Sea Rats did him a favor and unwisely tried to advance to third on a smash back to the Dominican southpaw, who threw over to get the runner and the first out. He would give it back with a walk to the next batter. After a popup to the no. 8 batter, the Pelicans’ 17-y.o. shortstop Michael De Leon delivered again with an RBI single to cut the lead to 3-1.

Silvestre gave up two more hits in the 3rd but got help from 3B Khayyan Norfork who called his own number for the unassisted putout at third base to end the inning. The 21-y.o. southpaw then retired the next nine batters in a row, finishing with a flourish as he struck out the side in the 6th.

His final line: 6IP, 5H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 6K

Meanwhile, Potomac responded to the lone Myrtle Beach run in the bottom of the 2nd with a leadoff double by Stephen Perez and an RBI double by Pedro Severino to reclaim the three-run advantage. They put on single runners in the 3rd and 4th innings, two in the 5th, and another in the 6th but could not score.

Just as he started the P-Nats’ scoring in the 1st, Renda finished it in the 7th. The All-Star second baseman tripled to lead off the inning, then trotted in as fellow All-Star Pleffner singled to short center to push the P-Nats lead to the eventual outcome of 5-1. The big fella would steal second and take third on Oduber’s second hit of the night, a single to right. Norfork, however, would get doubled up to end the inning and Potomac went in order in the 8th.

Manny “Doble Nacionales Codo” Rodriguez took over for Silvestre in the 7th and spun two perfect innings. Though not a save situation, ace reliever Gilberto Mendez was called upon in the 9th close things out and completed the string of 18 straight Pelicans retired with a popup sandwiched between two strikeouts, the last one on a check swing to create just the slightest anticlimax.

The win was the third league championship (2008, 2010) since the team became an affiliate of the Washington Nationals in 2005 and the fifth in franchise history (1982, 1989). The three titles are also the only ones won by a Nationals affiliate north of Florida, a distinction that Hagerstown can take away by winning the South Atlantic League. Game Three of that best-of-five series resumes tonight at the Muni, with hot prospect Reynaldo Lopez scheduled to pitch for the Suns.

Sep 102014
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Potomac Won, 12-7 vs. Myrtle Beach,
7:05 p.m.
Silvestre (1-0, 1.29) vs.
Parra (1-0, 1.59)
Hagerstown Won, 4-3 (10 inn.) OFF DAY N/A



Potomac 12 Myrtle Beach 7
• Spann 2⅔ IP, 8H, 5R, 5ER, BB, 3K, HR(GS)
• Turnbull (W, 1-0) 5⅓ IP, 3H, 2R, 2ER, BB, 8K, HR
• Pleffner 3-5, 2R, RBI
• Oduber 3-5, R, 2B, RBI
• Wooten 2-5, 2R, 2HR, 4RBI
• McQuillan 2-5, R, 2B, HR, 2RBI

Ten unanswered runs began with just a little bit of hustle Last Night In Woodbridge

Hagerstown 4 Asheville 3 (10 inn.)
• Suero 5⅔ IP, 4H, 3R, 3ER, 2BB, 5K
• Thomas (BS, 1) 2IP, 1H, 0R, IBB, 0K, 2-2 IR-S
• Napoli (W, 2-0) 1⅓ IP, 0H, 0R, BB, K
• Difo 3-5, 2R, 2B, 2HR, 2RBI
• Ward 2-4, 2R, 2-2B
• Mesa 2-5

Wilmer Difo lived up to his title as the Sally League’s MVP, homering with two down in the 10th inning to push Hagerstown past Asheville, 4-3 and even the Sally League Finals at 1-1. It was Difo’s second solo shot of the night, as the 22-y.o. racked 10 total bases while going 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored. The Mr. Hyde version of the Suns ‘pen appeared briefly, as Justin Thomas let up a two-run single to tie the game at 3-3 in the 6th to hang a no-decision on starter Wander Suero, who was ultimately charged with all three Tourist runs on four hits and two walks over five and 2/3rds innings. The Dr. Jekyll version appeared thereafter, as Thomas, Jake Johansen, and winning pitcher David Napoli shut out Asheville for four innings from the 7th to the 10th with one hit (Johansen) and one walk (Napoli) allowed.