Season Review: 2013 Potomac Nationals

By every typical measure but one, the 2013 edition of the Potomac Nationals was the best ever in Woodbridge. They won both halves, rather handily — the first by six games, the second by nine games. They allowed the fewest runs, scored the second-most runs, had second-best defense, stole the most bases, etc.

Unlike last season, they could win away from the Pfitz (in fact, they were the only team in the Carolina League with a winning road record), where they were dominant: a 47-23 mark (.671). While perhaps coincidental, the rain that had plagued the team in 2011 and 2012 stayed away: just three rainouts at home, which helped the P-Nats set a single-season attendance record of 236,772 (3,534 per date), surpassing the previous mark of 220,145 in 1998, according to their PR folks.

And yet they didn’t win the League Championship. Intellectually, we know this shouldn’t matter. The minors aren’t about winning, they’re about development (e.g. 4/5ths of next year’s DC rotation could be homegrown — three of them pitched here on their way up). But emotionally, it does matter: you want to see the guys move up the ladder, but also want to see them win.

So 2013 won’t have the same resonance as 2008 or 2010, but let’s take a look at how they did, starting with how they compared to the rest of the Carolina League…

HITTING AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA* SB
Potomac 4580 680 1200 85 506 1017 .262 .343 .393 .253 217
Lg. Avg. 4631 635 1174 86 491 1026 .254 .332 .380 .244 138

* GPA = Gross Production Average

PITCHING IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
Potomac 1213⅔ 3.70 4.21 1.317 98 448 1057 8.5 3.3 7.8 2.36
Lg. Avg. 1216 3.98 4.54 1.369 86 491 1026 8.7 3.6 7.6 2.09


The P-Nats posted remarkably similar numbers to the Suns, but with (a LOT) more speed and more power. They only led the league in steals but were second in AVG, OBP, SLG, hits and run scored. They were only league average (or thereabouts) in walks, strikeouts, and HRs (a.k.a. the three true outcomes), which in theory should have made them less vulnerable to the offensive outage that ended the season on a sour note (i.e. they proved they could hit and score without an unusual reliance the longball, drawing walks, or avoiding the whiff).

The pitchers led the Carolina League in just about everything except strikeouts (4th) and (curiously) home runs (8th), though unlike the Suns, the usual gap between starters and relievers was evident. The lack of strikeouts may be a bit of surprise, given the presence of Robbie Ray and A.J. Cole, but as we’ll see later on that’s because the P-Nats had several high-contact, low-strikeout pitchers, too (maybe the HR thing isn’t so curious).

Let’s take a closer look at that lineup, beginning with the Top 12 batters in terms of PAs…

Name Age PA Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err GPA ISO
Michael Taylor 22 581 CF/RF 117/4 .986 5 .260 .163
Caleb Ramsey* 24 528 RF/LF/1B/CF 55/44/13/5 .981 5 .248 .095
Kevin Keyes 24 482 1B 117 .987 11 .226 .145
Adrian Sanchez** 22 463 2B/SS/3B 94 .964 18 .200 .058
Adrian Nieto 23 452 C 86 .991 7 .280 .164
Cutter Dykstra 24 446 3B/2B/SS 62/33/8 .951 14 .283 .105
Billy Burns* 23 402 LF/CF 73/18 .994 1 .288 .079
Randolph Oduber 24 355 RF/LF/CF 59/6/4 .979 3 .219 .103
Jason Martinson 24 305 SS 55 .968 7 .289 .216
Justin Miller 24 302 3B/1B/RF/LF 35/30/12/2 .968 10 .249 .148
Francisco Soriano** 26 258 3B/SS/2B/LF/1B/CF 24/23/12/6/2/1 .969 7 .241 .111
Mike Gilmartin 25 232 CF 51 .957 5 .244 .094

(* = 2011 Draft Pick, ** = DSL Graduate)

Excluding the veterans, half of these guys were repeating the level. This is not unusual — it was four last season — but it’s the most in recent memory. Some of the repeats improved significantly (M. Taylor, Martinson) and some actually regressed (Keyes, Oduber). What remains to be seen is whether this is a trend or an anomaly. The case for the former: The Nats have been signing six-year FAs to plug holes in AA and AAA, which seems to indicate an “up or out” mentality; either you’re good enough for AA after a couple of years at High-A or you get released. The case for the latter: common sense, skepticism, or mere conjecture.

What was a pleasure to watch was seeing how this group functioned as a unit on offense. Burns set the table and wreaked havoc, Martinson supplied the requisite power and RBIs. When they were promoted, Dykstra and Taylor seemed to both assume the roles respectively. Even the guys that finished with below-average nos. had their moments (nice way of saying “streak,” no?)

Defensively, this was the best outfield yours truly saw over the last eight seasons — especially the trio/alignment of Burns-Taylor-Oduber. Adrian Sanchez didn’t improve on offense, but did improve on defense — increasing his range and showing an improved arm. Kevin Keyes won’t be mistaken for Andres Galarraga at 1B, but his conversion from the OF was a success.

On to the pitchers, the Top 12 listed by innings pitched…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR HBP WP
Blake Schwartz^ 23 23/23 11-4, 0 2.65 132⅔ 117 26 80 1.078 8 7 4
A.J. Cole 21 18/18 6-3, 0 4.25 97⅓ 96 23 102 1.223 12 4 6
Taylor Hill* 24 15/14 6-2, 0 2.99 84⅓ 73 11 54 0.996 6 4 4
Robbie Ray 21 16/16 4-3, 1 3.11 84 60 41 100 1.202 9 4 7
Greg Holt 24 42/0 9-0, 1 3.71 70⅓ 67 33 55 1.422 8 5 7
Brian Rauh^ 21 16/12 4-2, 0 4.22 64 69 18 35 1.359 3 0 7
Colin Bates 25 36/0 5-4, 1 2.61 62 58 8 48 1.065 4 6 5
Brian Dupra 24 29/3 1-7, 0 4.96 61⅔ 64 28 44 1.492 7 1 7
Matt Purke* 23 12/13 5-3, 0 4.42 61 67 18 41 1.393 3 4 9
Sammy Solis 24 13/12 2-1, 0 3.43 57⅔ 58 19 40 1.335 3 0 3
Richie Mirowski* 24 32/0 8-3, 6 1.50 48 32 11 59 0.896 6 0 5
David Fischer^ 23 21/0 4-0, 2 4.30 44 29 44 53 1.659 2 5 8

(^ = 2012 Draft Pick, * = 2011 Draft Pick)

It’s not a perfect parallel, but the 2013 starting rotation was very reminiscent of the 2008 edition, which saw just one pitcher make 20+ starts (Ross Detwiler) and a series of guys get promoted to Harrisburg (Jordan Zimmermann, Adrian Alaniz, Craig Stammen, and Jhonny Nunez). Though he didn’t begin in Potomac, Blake Schwartz was the Ross Detwiler and we can only hope that three of the four promoted — Taylor Jordan, Taylor Hill, A.J. Cole, Robbie Ray — also make it to The Show (one down, two to go).

As aforementoned, there were two noticeable weaknesses with the pitching — shaky bullpen and low K rates. Overall, the team converted just 42 of 68 save opportunities (61.7%) though the overall bullpen numbers weren’t bad: 39-24, 3.47 ERA. Just four of the the top 12 pitchers had better than league-average strikeout numbers (Cole, Mirowski, Ray, Fischer). While it certainly helped that few of the low-K guys had high-BB rates, it’s a warning flag because high-contact pitchers need something else besides good control to compensate: luck, great defense, or the tendency to generate plenty o’ groundballs.

For those wondering, Taylor Jordan missed the cut, having pitched 36⅓ innings in six starts before his promotion while Robert Benincasa threw just 30 innings in his 25 appearances (all in the second half).

OBLIGATORY TOP 4 LISTS
It’s time to start getting tougher, especially as we head towards what’s considered the true pinnacle of the minors: Double-A.

Batters
1. Michael Taylor
2. Billy Burns
3. Adrian Nieto
4. Cutter Dykstra
HM: Jason Martinson

Pitchers
1. A.J. Cole
2. Robbie Ray
3. Matt Purke
4. Blake Schwartz
HM: Sammy Solis

AFL Update: Oct. 25, 2013

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-11The Mesa Solar Sox scored in each of the first four innings as they stopped a two-game slide with a 7-4 win over the Scottsdale Scorpions

Brian Goodwin (pictured) was the sole National to appear in the game. He singled and scored in the 1st inning and drove in a run with a two-out safety in the second, snapping what was then a 2-2 tie. The 22-y.o. batted second and played centerfield, finishing the game at 2-for-5 with one putout on defense.

The win dropped Scottsdale back to 2½ games behind Mesa in the AFL East. The Solar Sox will see how they play in Peoria, visiting the Saguaros this afternoon.

BONUS AUDIO COVERAGE
Lee Magenheim caught up with Richie Mirowski, the Nats 45th Rd. pick out of Oklahoma Baptist in 2011, who’s gone from short-season A to AA in just two seasons.

Catching Up On Transactions

Catching Up On Transactions
In addition to the news that longtime Nationals farmhand Chris Marrero has been outrighted to Syracuse, the latest transaction post from Baseball America has been released, revealing the following signings:

• RHP Hector Guance

• IF Adrian Sanchez (re-signed)

As was the case with the previous (presumably Dominican) signing last week (OF Telmito Agustin), there is very little to be found on Guance. Sanchez has chosen to remain the organization he has played with since 2007 at the age of 16 (he turned 23 this past August) but is most likely a candidate to repeat Potomac.

Marrero, of course, is the Nats 2006 1st Round pick who seemed on track for the majors after reaching High-A in 2007, posting a line of .275/.338/.484 with 23 homers. Inexplicably, that turned out to be his high water mark in terms of power as his slugging percentage steadily dwindled over the next four seasons. He would still make it to AAA at 22, but a hamstring injury limited him to just 53 games in 2012, enabling Tyler Moore to pass him by on the ladder (though his lack of defensive prowess was also an impediment).

Following the World Series, Marrero will most likely become a minor-league free agent.

AFL Update: Oct. 24, 2013

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-10
Matt Purke tossed five scoreless innings but came away with a no-decision as the Solar Sox were stung in extras, 2-1 by the red-hot Scorpions.

Purke allowed just a one-out walk in the 1st and leadoff single in the 3rd — erasing both baserunners with double-play balls to face the minimum of 15 batters for five frames. The 23-y.o. struck out three while throwing 36 of 54 pitches for strikes. In three starts, Purke is 2-0 with pitcher’s line of 0.00/1.95/0.50 with three walks and 12K’s over 12 innings.

Steve Souza, as usual, made the most of his limited playing time with another monster game: 3-for-4 with a run scored and three (3) stolen bases, which brings his AFL-leading total to nine (9) in just five games. Defensively, the 24-y.o. played centerfield and had one putout.

Matt Skole played third base, but had no defensive chances and saw his modest on-base streak of five games snapped with an 0-for-4 game.

Robert Benincasa couldn’t hold the 1-0 lead in the 9th, giving up a leadoff triple that came in on a passed ball. A single following a strikeout made the run earned. The 23-y.o. closed out the inning with a flyout and a groundout to finish with one run on two hits.

Scottsdale won it in the bottom of the 10th against A’s farmhand Ryan Dull, who gave up two singles and two walks (one intentional) without retiring a batter.

The loss to second-place Scottsdale, which won its fifth straight game, reduced first-place Mesa’s lead to 1½ games. Since starting the season with seven wins and one tie, the Solar Sox have gone 1-4. The two teams will rematch this afternoon in Mesa.

BONUS COVERAGE
Lee Magenheim sat down with Adrian Nieto and talked about the catcher’s breakthrough 2013 season.Folks who may have difficulty with the embedded player — try clicking the image above, which will go directly to the audio file

AFL Update: Oct. 23, 2013

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-9Adrian Nieto scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 7th, but the Solar Sox ‘pen faltered in the bottom half as they lost to the Saguaros, 4-2.

Nieto continues to swing a hot bat as a righthanded batter, going 1-for-2 with a run scored from the left side of the batter’s box and 0-for-1 with a walk from the right side. The 23-y.o. backstop also picked off a runner off 1st with two on and two out, pairing with teammate Matt Skole to end the bottom of the 6th.

Skole went hitless for just the second time in six games, but drew a walk to keep his on-base streak alive. The 24-y.o. notched 10 putouts without an error.

Brian Goodwin shifted to left field on defense, where he caught two flyballs, and went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored from the No. 2 spot in the lineup.

Richie Mirowski (pictured) set ’em down in order in the bottom of the 8th on nine pitches, six of them going for strikes.

The loss drops Mesa to 8-3-1 for the fall campaign, 2½ games in front of Scottsdale, which won its 4th straight yesterday. The two teams square off this afternoon in Scottsdale with Matt Purke scheduled to make his third start.

BONUS COVERAGE:
Our intrepid AFL correspondent and photographer caught up with Sammy Solis after yesterday’s 9-6 win that improved him to 3-0:

AFL Update: Oct. 22, 2013

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-7Sammy Solis won his third straight start as Mesa snapped a two-game skid with a
9-6 win over Surprise.

Solis allowed one run on six hits over five innings, giving up a walk and striking out four. He threw 73 pitches, 47 for strikes.

Brian Goodwin also appeared in the game, but went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. He batted second and played center field but had no putouts or assists.

With the win, the Solar Sox improve to 8-2-1 in the AFL East and lead the second-place Scorpions by 3½ games. They rematch against the Saguaros in Peoria this afternoon.

Winter League Update

Monday Morning Box Scores
With three of the five winter leagues now playing — the Australian and Puerto Rican Leagues and start up next Thursday and Friday respectively — it’s time for our semi-weekly peek at how the notable minor-leaguers are doing, starting of course with the boys in the AFL:

BATTERS

PLAYER LG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Brian Goodwin AFL 6 26 3 9 2 0 0 2 1 7 .346 .393 .423 2
Matt Skole AFL 5 16 6 5 1 0 2 5 8 3 .313 .542 .750 0
Steve Souza Jr. AFL 3 13 2 4 1 0 0 5 5 3 .308 .500 .385 6
Adrian Nieto AFL 3 13 2 4 1 0 0 2 4 3 .308 .444 .385 0
Adrian Sanchez VWL 9 32 3 6 2 0 0 0 1 7 .188 .212 .250 0
Carlos Rivero VWL 8 30 3 7 3 0 1 4 3 6 .233 .303 .433 0
Zach Walters VWL 6 19 1 3 1 0 0 0 2 7 .158 .238 .211 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER LG W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Sammy Solis AFL 2 0 0 1.17 2 2 7⅔ 6 1 1 1 3 10 1.17
Matt Purke AFL 2 0 0 0.00 2 2 7 2 1 0 0 2 9 0.57
Robert Benincasa AFL 0 0 0 4.50 4 0 4 5 2 2 1 2 3 1.75
Richie Mirowski AFL 0 0 0 3.00 3 0 3 2 1 1 0 0 3 0.67
Yunesky Maya DWL 0 0 0 0.00 1 1 5⅔ 1 1 0 0 2 5 0.53
Rafael Martin MWL 1 0 0 6.75 4 0 5⅓ 6 4 4 2 0 3 1.13
Christian Garcia MWL 0 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 1.00
Danny Rosenbaum VWL 0 0 0 8.10 2 1 3⅓ 5 3 3 1 2 2 2.10


As in years past, a disclaimer: the sample sizes here are small and unreliable, which of course won’t stop folks from checking (or me from posting 😉

AFL Update: Oct. 20, 2013

The Salt River Rafters scored seven times in the 9th as they handed the Mesa Solar Sox their second straight loss, 8-2.

Four Nats played in the contest…

…Brian Goodwin led off and played CF, going 1-for-4 with a stolen base and making two putouts on defense.

…Steve Souza drew a pair of walks, stole a base and scored a run, but also struck out twice to go 0-for-2. Defensively, he was in LF and caught two flyballs.

…Richie Mirowski gave up a run on two hits and struck out one in the top of the 7th, and was in line for the win thanks to the Solar Sox scoring twice in the bottom half of the inning.

…Robert Benincasa gave up a hit and struck out in one in the 8th, earning his first AFL hold.

With the loss, Mesa falls to 7-2-1 but still leads the AFL East by 3½ games.

AFL Update: Oct. 19, 2013

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-6After battling back from deficits of 3-0 and 9-5, the Solar Sox were finally eclipsed with two runs in the 9th for an 11-9 loss to the Sagauros.

Matt Skole took a day off from the field but saw plenty of first base as the 24-year-old singled once and walked three times while batting from the no. 5 spot in the lineup. The Mesa DH came around to score twice but only had one RBI, in part because cleanup man Kris Bryant swatted two home runs in front of him.

Adrian Nieto caught for the third time this week but had three bases stolen against him, including a pair by fellow Carolina Leaguers Tyler Naquin and Jorge Alfaro*. Batting righthanded, Nieto singled in Skole in the 2nd and drew a walk in the 3rd. As a lefty, he went 0-for-2 with a walk to finish the game 1-for-3 with 2BB.
* Coincidentally, Naquin gunned down Nieto at the plate and Alfaro caught him stealing.

The loss was Mesa’s first of the season, lowering their record to 7-1-1 and cutting their lead to 4½ games over both Salt River and Scottsdale. Tonight, they host Surprise to finish out the week.

Season Review: 2013 Hagerstown Suns

Thankfully, the focus of these season reviews is on the players, as a team, on the field. Because otherwise the Hagerstown Suns have become — in today’s parlance — a hot mess.

Between the prolonged stadium debate and the threats to move the team to Winchester and Fredericksburg, it’s hard not to interpret that the people of Hagerstown are expressing their dismay by staying away. Attendance fell to a reported 1,058* per opening in 2013, a 23 percent drop from 2012 and less than half of what was being claimed as recently as 2009, which was 2,138 per date. * Figures per Ballparkdigest.com

Now that the elephant in the room has been addressed, let’s get down to business…

With the help of some rainouts, Hagerstown won the first half by a ½ game with a 38-29 mark and nearly won the second with a 42-28 run in the second, losing out to West Virginia by 2½ games. Overall, the Suns went 80-57, third best in the league behind the Power (82-58) and the GreenJackets (82-55).

Buoyed with the top two pitchers from Auburn, Hagerstown took two of three from West Virginia in the semifinals and won the opener of the Sally League Finals before losing the next three straight to the Savannah Sand Gnats.

Taking a look at how the Suns compared to the rest of the Sally League, there’s one rather noticeable outlier, which fans of the GBI have probably already guessed…

HITTING AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA* SB
Hagerstown 4468 692 1152 56 530 988 .258 .341 .366 .245 153
Lg. Avg. 4511 593 1118 78 439 1098 .248 .322 .364 .236 140

* GPA = Gross Production Average

PITCHING IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
Hagerstown 1175 3.44 3.84 1.244 84 419 1098 8.0 3.2 8.4 2.62
Lg. Avg. 1187⅓ 3.77 4.31 1.311 78 439 1098 8.5 3.3 8.3 2.50



Hagerstown led the Sally League in offense despite hitting just 56 home runs (12th-best in the league) and having close-to-league-average power. The secret? No, not Calgon. Getting on base (#1 in OBP, #2 in walks drawn) and not striking out (#3). The math-inclined folks have already deduced that the lack of HRs was made up by more doubles and triples, at which the Suns were third-best in the league in both categories. Another quirk was finishing second in sacrifice flies, though that could very well be a factor of volume, not efficiency.

Thanks to injuries and promotions, there was a lot of flux with the Suns, such that just one pitcher (Pedro Encarnacion) exceeded 100 innings pitched. Nine pitchers made six or more starts, 15 different pitchers made at least one start (excluding rehabs). Seven of those guys were better than league average in ERA.

Really not much to complain about at the macro level, which is why like to drill down further, beginning with the Top 12 batters…

Name Age PA Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err GPA ISO
Tony Renda* 22 606 2B 119 .973 15 .272 .111
Stephen Perez* 22 486 SS 125 .969 17 .218 .100
Brandon Miller* 23 442 RF/LF 101/2 .989 2 .253 .213
Shawn Pleffner 23 428 1B 94 .986 12 .273 .111
Estrarlin Martinez** 21 410 LF/1B/RF 48/34/6 .983 6 .234 .099
Will Piwnica-Worms 23 372 CF/LF/RF 54/20/20 .994 1 .261 .093
Khayyan Norfork 24 360 3B/2B/SS/LF/RF 49/17/1/1/1 .961 8 .239 .090
Mike McQuillan 23 314 3B/LF 52/2 .885 16 .259 .090
Wander Ramos** 23 303 LF/RF/CF 27/16/4 .945 4 .264 .166
Wes Schill 23 302 LF/3B/CF/SS 44/21/17/8 .932 11 .220 .064
Pedro Severino** 19 302 C 82 .980 14 .207 .092
Narciso Mesa** 21 232 CF 51 .957 5 .254 .063

(* = 2012 Draft Pick, ** = DSL Graduate)
What stands out the most to me is how “set” the positions were for this crew — basically, the top four guys in terms of PA were day-in, day-out at their position. Five of the Top 12 only played one position all year long — that kind of consistency is unusual, especially in light of the organization’s favor towards athleticism and versatility. Not to mention, part of the point of the minors is finding out where guys best fit in terms of their skills… or what the parent club needs.

As was the case a year ago, this was an older group of guys — second oldest in the Sally, actually — so the lack of power is cause for concern. Just two of these 12 had isolated averages that exceeded the league average of .116. Defensively, the team finished third in terms of fielding percentage, which is an admittedly flawed measuring stick, but until the likes of baseball-reference and fangraphs make advanced defensive stats less cumbersome (e.g. if I want to see how good a player’s range factor is vs. his peers, I have to go to each and every team page and extract that data), it’s the best we’ve got for an exercise such as this.

Speaking of defense, one name that’s been mentioned to me as one to watch is Pedro Severino, despite the 14 errors and 16 passed balls. “The best arm the Suns have had in years,” as my Hagerstown guy put in his recent review of the Hagerstown hitters. The Nationals aren’t as deep at catcher as people think they are (and haven’t been for nearly two years); Severino was one of just two (2) catchers younger than the league average in the entire system (Raudy Read was the other).

On to the pitchers, the Top 12 listed by innings pitched…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR HBP WP
Pedro Encarnacion** 22 25/24 10-9, 0 3.58 128⅓ 116 37 113 1.192 10 8 16
Brett Mooneyham* 23 17/17 10-3, 0 1.94 93 50 41 79 0.978 5 4 8
Nick Lee 22 19/17 6-4, 0 3.96 91 83 43 102 1.385 7 5 11
Ronald Pena* 21 28/10 4-3, 1 3.48 88 89 34 55 1.398 4 1 7
Kylin Turnbull 23 16/16 6-5, 0 3.58 83 97 16 67 1.361 10 1 3
Dixon Anderson 23 15/15 5-5, 0 3.20 78⅔ 62 30 72 1.169 3 0 7
Ivan Pineyro** 21 13/13 5-3, 0 3.14 66 57 17 65 1.121 4 3 10
Ian Dickson 22 16/10 5-3, 2 4.39 65⅔ 65 17 71 1.249 8 1 2
Travis Henke 24 30/0 3-1, 2 2.72 59⅔ 49 17 41 1.106 3 4 3
Bryan Harper 23 34/0 5-1, 1 3.97 45⅓ 32 32 43 1.412 2 8 5
Cody Davis 22 35/0 2-3, 1 2.76 42⅔ 40 14 46 1.276 1 0 6
Brian Rauh 21 14/0 3-2, 2 5.21 38 37 15 31 1.714 3 2 5


As you might imagine with a team that finished 4th in a 14-team league in pitching, the quality of pitching was amazingly consistent. The two starters that were above the league average had an ERA around 4.00 (Lee, 3.91; Dickson, 4.01). Only one reliever with a 1.5+ WHIP threw more than 20 innings (Will Hudgins), likewise only one pitcher with more than 20IP had a 5+ ERA (Rauh)… and he was promoted to Potomac, where he started 12 games and went 4-1 with 4.01 ERA.

As aforementioned, injuries influenced the large number of starters: Dixon Anderson saw his season shortened (again) by shoulder woes while Brett Mooneyham missed seven weeks with the Belichek-esque “arm discomfort,” which led to Ronald Pena and Ian Dickson shifting from the ‘pen. Promotions, of course, were also a factor with Matt Purke, Brian Rauh, and Ivan Pineyro “movin’ on up.”

The question, of course, is which of these guys will be the next Taylor Hill or Blake Schwartz — to name two pitchers that really exceeded expectations and who will hit the wall and have to return, which happened this season to Derek Self, Christian Meza, and Kylin Turnbull. For the opinions of my “Hagerstown guy,” I’ll refer you to his take on the 2013 Suns pitchers.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
Once again there was a temptation to reduce the list from five to four when I took a step back and consider what other folks (i.e. non-Nats fans) may think of these guys. Especially with the position players, I keep coming back to: “His numbers were good, but not great, and he was old for the level.” Keep that in mind before you make your case in the comments for the guy that I didn’t list below.

1. Tony Renda
2. Brandon Miller
3. Wander Ramos
4. Estarlin Martinez
5. Pedro Severino

1. Pedro Encarnacion
2. Nick Lee
3. Brett Mooneyham
4. Cody Davis
5. Ian Dickson