Barrett, Solis & Taylor Added To 40-Man Roster

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.

Rule 5 Thoughts

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.

Minor-League Signings


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.

Final AFL Stats & Thoughts

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.

Mesa Loses AFL Chamionship Game, 2-0

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.

Solis Pitches Mesa To AFL Title Game

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-27Mesa’s 2013 Arizona Fall League season began and ended in Glendale, and Sammy Solis was on the hill for both the 1st and title-clinching 19th wins as the Solar Sox scorched the Desert Dogs, 9-3 to earn a berth in the AFL Championship game.

The 25-y.o. southpaw allowed one run on six hits over five innings to notch his league-leading fifth win. He walked none and struck out four, throwing 68 pitches, 49 for strikes. His 29 K’s also led the circuit.

Brian Goodwin and Adrian Nieto were also in the starting lineup for Mesa.

Goodwin was the DH and went 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored, as the 23-y.o. North Carolina native came in from second base on an infield single that the shortstop knocked down just past the infield grass. He also walked and struck out twice.

Nieto caught and batted seventh. He went 1-for-5 with an RBI single and made seven putouts and one assist on a dropped third strike.

Mesa finishes the season at 19-11-1, winning their last six games consecutively to edge Salt River, which fell a half-game short at 19-12 and were winners of seven straight. Surprise was the AFL West title winner with a mark of 18-12-1.

The Solar Sox will face off against the Saguaros, who will send Baltimore prospect Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound in tomorrow’s AFL Championship game. Matt Purke, who has not pitched since last Saturday, is among the possibilities for Mesa, which has not yet announced its starting pitcher.

AFL Update: Nov. 14, 2013

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-21Arizona-Fall-League-2013-22Arizona-Fall-League-2013-23
Steven Souza Jr. homers off Alex Meyer in the 2nd inning to give Mesa the early 2-0 lead (Photo Credit: Lee Magenheim)

The race for the Arizona Fall League East Divison title will come down to the final day of the season, as Mesa edged Glendale, 3-2 and Salt River paddled Scottsdale, 8-5.

Steve Souza’s two-run blast was the catalyst for the victory and came off former teammate Alex Meyer in their first matchup as opponents, as the two never faced each other this season in the Eastern League. It was the sole hit for the 24-y.o. who finished the game at 1-for-4 with a strikeout and extended his hit streak to seven games.

Matt Skole also appeared in the game, playing third base where he had a putout and two assists. He would score what would prove to be the decisive run a fourth-inning triple that the Desert Dogs misplayed into a Little League HR with an error. Skole also singled in the 2nd inning to go 2-for-3 for the game with a walk and a strikeout.

Richie Mirowski gave up the first Glendale run in the 5th on a double, wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly but struck out two of the final three batters he faced. It was just the third run he’s allowed in nine appearances this fall.

The win, which was Mesa’s fifth straight, improved the Solar Sox to 18-11-1 but just a 1/2 game better than the 18-12 Rafters. In head-to-head play, Salt River has defeated Mesa four times in six games. An 11-inning-tie between the Solar Sox and the Desert Dogs on Opening Day is what separates the top two teams in the AFL East.

As speculated earlier this week, Sammy Solis will be given the start today as Mesa visits Glendale for the season finale. A Solar Sox win or a Rafters loss will clinch a spot in the AFL Championship game, which will be held Saturday in Scottsdale against the AFL West-winning Surprise Sagauros.

AFL Update: Nov. 13, 2013

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-10The Solar Sox scored early and often, scorching the Javelinas by an 8-1 count for their fourth straight win.

Mesa’s victory was only enough to keep pace with Salt River, which took a 7-2 decision from Glendale for their fifth straight trimuph to remain just a ½ game back in the AFL East.

Adrian Nieto was the sole National to appear in the game. The 23-y.o. catcher batted eighth and went 1-for-3 with a walk, an RBI, and two runs scored to improve his line to .279/.360/.349 in 12 games played.

Defensively, Nieto let up his second passed ball (which accounted for Peoria’s lone run) and recorded nine putouts, including the tag on a 6-3-2 double play in the 8th inning as Delino DeShields Jr. tried to score from second on the grounder with no outs.

It’s the final home game this afternoon for the Solar Sox, as they send the tireless “TBD” to pitch against the Desert Dogs and former Nats farmhand Alex Meyer. Salt River travels to last-place Scottsdale in the evening.

AFL Update: Nov. 12, 2013

Arizona Fall League #5
The Solar Sox took one step closer to a bid for the AFL Championship with a 4-0 shutout of the Javelinas.

Just two Nats appeared in yesterday’s game…

  • Batting from the #2 spot in the lineup, Brian Goodwin went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts and played centerfield, making a single putout.
  • Adrian Nieto caught and batted eighth, going 1-for-4. Defensively, he he made six putouts, including a play at the plate in the 4th on a wild pitch.

The win improves Mesa to 16-11-1 for the fall, but Salt River also kept pace, winning its fourth straight to keep the margin between the two teams at just a 1/2 game. Surprise finally clinched its berth in the title contest with a win over Scottsdale.

The Solar Sox play in Mesa for two of their three remaining games, rematching against the Javelinas this afternoon, then hosting the Desert Dogs tomorrow. Their final AFL-season game is Thursday in Glendale.

AFL Update: Nov. 10, 2013

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-20Mesa scored three times in each of the first two innings and cruised to a 9-4 win over Surprise.

Matt Purke got the start and survived a rocky first inning in which southpaw issued a walk then back-to-back singles with two outs before righting the ship with a strikeout. Purke put on a runner in each of his four innings to finish with two runs allowed on five hits and two walks. He struck out three while throwing 71 pitches, 42 for strikes to earn his third “W” of the fall.

Brian Goodwin once again batted second and played centerfield but went just 1-for-5 at the plate. Defensively, he snagged two flyballs.

Steve Souza Jr. made his second allotted appearance of the week. He singled twice, scored twice, and stole his tenth base to push his line to .368/.442/.421. He has hit safely in nine contests and reached base in all ten games he’s played in.

Richie Mirowski also appeared in the game, retiring all six batters he faced in the 7th and 8th innings with two strikeouts. In eight appearances, he’s thrown 11 innings with two runs (both earned) and nine baserunners allowed (7H, 2BB) for a 1.64 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP.

The win keeps pace with second-place Salt River, which remains just a ½ game behind in the AFL East with its third consecutive victory. Surprise still leads the AFL West by 2½ games over second-place Glendale, which has four won straight to stave off elimination from a berth in the AFL Championship game on the 16th.

The Solar Sox have not announced any starters for the final four games, thus leaving open the possibility for Sammy Solis or Purke to start the AFL Championship game should Mesa make it (or either to pitch on Thursday in a do-or-die situation).