Nov 192011
 

Now that the dust has settled from the Rule 5 deadline, let’s take a look at who’s eligible. One mistake I made was overlooking the Dominican League players, hence missing Eury Perez. Thus, I spent some time putting into a spreadsheet all the DSL and GCL players from 2007 forward that appear to be still active. That’s where things get tricky, of course.

Because it’s a maintenance nightmare, I’ll keep that list offline but refer to it next November. I’ve been told that even folks in the MLB front offices are befuddled by this exercise, so I feel a little less stupid. As Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus tweeted yesterday: “Who does/doesn’t get added to the 40-man says as much about the player as it does the chances of him getting hid on a roster for a year.”

So here’s my latest pass at who’s eligible for the Rule 5 draft for the first time this year:
Manuel Rivera
Carlos Alvarez
Adrian Sanchez
Angel Montilla
Hendry Jimenez
Brett Newsome
Marcos Frias
Sandy Leon
Francisco Soriano
Steve Souza
Josh Smoker
J.R. Higley
Jose Lozada
Chris Curran
Pat McCoy
Tanner Roark
Erik Komatsu

The odds are better than even that I missed someone, so my apologies in advance. Like the watchlist, it’s in order of the highest level played, which is roughly short-season A to AA. I wish I had more information about the minor-league phase of the draft, but as I mentioned in the comments, who’s protected isn’t readily available thus it’s nearly impossible to speculate on who might be taken. As you can see from last year’s results (scroll down), it’s mostly pitchers and catchers that get moved around.

Likewise, here’s a thumbnail list of who’s eligible for the first time next year. With the college tilt of the past few drafts, you can see that a couple of these names are likely to be gone by next April, never mind next November:
Nathan Karns
Bobby Hansen
Taylor Jordan
Paul Applebee
Shane McCatty
Matt Swynenberg
Chad Jenkins
Andruth Ramirez
Justino Cuevas
Jeff Kobernus
Justin Bloxom
Destin Hood
Adrian Nieto
J.P. Ramirez
Paul Demny
Trevor Holder
Dean Weaver
Mitchell Clegg
Rob Wort
Pat Lehman
Danny Rosenbaum
Sean Nicol
Evan Bronson

The folks that were dismissive of the ’08 DSL champs can have their “told you so” — Justino Cuevas is the sole rookie from that team still in the organization (Andruth Ramirez played for the “JV” DSL Nationals 2) and has yet to play at the AA level. The ’09 rookies aren’t looking much better, with none thus far having played full-season baseball. But as I’ve stated previously, the reliance on the DSL for teenage talent really shows up when you look ahead to the the ’13-’15 drafts: 13 of 31, 12 of 37, and 27 of 28 (Deion Williams is the sole 2015 American-born Rule 5 candidates.

Nov 182011
 

Bryce Harper singled and tripled in the Arizona Fall League finale, which the Scottsdale Scorpions lost, 6-2.

The 2-for-3 effort pushed the 19-year-old’s batting average to .333, thanks to a 16-game hit streak and a .424 finish (28-for-66) over his last 18 games. Of course, Harper also struck out and was picked off first and made no putouts in left field, but those are nits for the Nats bandwagon, as I’m sure we can expect the drum for Harper to be the next Heyward all winter long (pay no attention to the latter’s .227/.319/.389 sophomore slump and make no correlations, right?).

Derek Norris went 0-for-3 to lower his line to .276/.367/.382 but threw out a baserunner and stole a base himself (#4). Despite the 0-for-13 finish, Norris is still a near-lock to be added to the 40-man roster and start 2012 in Syracuse. He reached base 18 of 21 games.

Zach Walters stayed off the interstate by going 1-for-3 with an RBI double to finish with a .205 mark. Not bad for a kid that began the year as a 21-year-old in Low-A. The signs of Josh Johnson and Chris McConnell above him on the Nats ladder make Potomac his most likely starting point for 2012, not to mention his mere 30 games of High-A experience.

Scottsdale finished the 2011 season with a 14-22 mark, last in the East division of the Arizona Fall League and tied with Phoenix for the circuit’s worst record. Last year, Scottsdale won the AFL championship.

And as if yesterday’s chill rains weren’t a talisman, winter has “officially” begun.

Nov 172011
 

Just two Nats relievers got into last night’s 4-3 loss by Scottsdale.

Pat Lehman got back on the horse with a scoreless inning, allowing one hit, but no walks and no strikeouts to drop his ERA to three digits at 9.82.

Rafael Martin walked one but also laid a goose egg on the scoreboard, allowing no hits and striking out none in his single inning of work.

The AFL wraps up this afternoon as the Scorpions visit the Solar Sox. Sammy Solis is not listed as the starter, so it’s most likely one more start for the position player trio of Derek Norris, Zach Walters, and, um, whatshisname, oh yeah… Bryce Harper.

Nov 162011
 

Bryce Harper continued his torrid hitting while Scorpions remain tepid, losing again by a 4-1 count.

Harper went 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and a stolen base. Defensively, he caught a foul fly but committed his sixth error on a missed catch.

Derek Norris remained ice-cold with another oh-fer, striking out twice in four at-bats and also committing an error on a throw. That was his seventh miscue of the fall.

Zach Walters wouldn’t be left out of this mistake-fest, committing his sixth error while playing third base. Offensively, he went 1-for-4 with a strikeout.

On the pitching side, Matt Purke turned in another scoreless outing, his fourth straight. He allowed a hit but struck out two, throwing 12 of his 16 pitches for strikes.

Scottsdale hosts Peoria for its final home game tonight, before finishing up the 2011 season tomorrow afternoon. Sammy Solis is not listed as a starter for either game.

Nov 152011
 

Just one National appeared in yesterday’s Scottsdale’s 6-5 win over Salt River. Yeah, you know it.

Batting fifth and playing left field, Bryce Harper went 1-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored, an RBI double, and two strikeouts. Defensively, he made four putouts and made no errors.

The two teams rematch this afternoon, with Rafters hosting the Scorpions.

Nov 142011
 

Our weekly look at the Nationals players in the Winter Leagues, with all statistics as 12:19 a.m. on November 13, 2011.
AFL HITTERS

AFL PITCHERS

DWL HITTERS

DWL PITCHERS

VWL HITTERS

VWL PITCHERS

MWL PITCHERS

PRWL PITCHERS

PRWL HITTERS

For those that are wondering, it appears that my data source for this feature has excised some of the recently declared free agents. I anticipate dropping others when it appears that they’ve been released, i.e. the stats stay the same for 2-3 weeks in a row. And obviously, once the AFL finishes, the final numbers will be reported once.

Nov 132011
 

The streak is over for Bryce Harper as the Nationals’ 19-year-old wunderkind went 0-for-3 in a 6-4 Scottsdale loss on Saturday.

Harper also committed an error, his fifth of the fall, and made a putout while playing left field. Here’s how the rest of the Nats fared:

…Zach Walters played third base again and notched four assists, but was also hitless at 0-for-2.

…Matt Purke made his third straight scoreless appearance, tossing a 1-2-3 inning for his second hold of the fall with six of his 11 pitches registering as strikes.

…Pat Lehman’s troubles returned as the 25-year-old was torched for four runs on four hits and a walk while striking out two.

…Rafael Martin labored through a 28-pitch inning, throwing just 12 strikes, but stranded all three walks he issued.

Just four games remain on the slate for Scottsdale, as they host then visit Salt River on Monday and Tuesday, host Peoria on Wednesday, and finish up on the road at Mesa on Thursday.

Nov 122011
 

Bryce Harper extended his hit streak to 16 games as Scottsdale defeated Phoenix, 3-2 in a scheduled seven-inning contest.

Harper went 2-for-3 with an RBI double while playing left field. The two hits pushed his batting average to .321 while the RBI was #25, which is third-best in the AFL. Defensively, he had two putouts and no assists.

Derek Norris was the only other National to appear in the contest, but had a dismal 0-for-4 game with no walks or strikeouts. It was the first time he failed to reach base this fall. Defensively, it wasn’t any better: Error #6 on a throw following a wild pitch, allowing the runner on first to reach third.

Scottsdale finishes up the week this afternoon with a game against Surprise.
                                          #                                     #                                     #
Thankfully, there will be no references to either Thurman Munson or Lyman Bostick Bostock as Wilson Ramos was rescued from his kidnappers yesterday afternoon by Venezuelan authorities. Cheryl Nichols has the pics and the human-interest angle on District Sports Page.

As you might have guessed, Ryan Tatusko will remain in Venezuela despite the incident. And for the haters (e.g. Chris Needham and Kevin Reiss), Tatusko won’t be going home anytime soon on account of his pitching, either. In his fourth outing last night, the 26-year-old righthander tossed six shutout innings and struck out five while allowing just one hit and walking two.

Nov 112011
 

It was a light night for the Nationals in the Arizona Fall League last night, with Zach Walters the sole representative as the Scottsdale Scorpions edged the Surprise Saguaros, 2-1.

Walters played third base and batted eighth. He had a putout and two assists and made no errors on defense. At the plate, Walters sandwiched a fifth-inning single between a groundout in the third and a fielder’s choice in the seventh.

After four night games this week, Scottsdale visits Phoenix this afternoon and Surprise tomorrow afternoon.

Nov 102011
 

Accompanying each team’s Top 10 per Baseball America is a chat for subscribers only. As such, I have to paraphrase and condense, which I’ve done per prospect, per ranking. I’ve then cherry-picked some names that came up in the chat. If it’s in brackets, those are my clarifications or amplifications. Otherwise, you’re looking at the opinions of Aaron Fitt.

1.) Bryce Harper — Has an abundance of confidence, but no different than A-Rod, Bonds, or Kobe Bryant. Harper will see the majors in 2012, but his odds of making the Opening Day roster are low.

2.) Anthony Rendon — Could be moved to 2B, but 3B is probably his best position, given his injury history [ankles, not shoulder]. Conversion unlikely to take long, so Nats can afford to wait.

3.) Brad Peacock — 2011 not a fluke, and of the pitchers discussed, the most likely to achieve his ceiling, though others have a higher ceiling.

4.) A.J. Cole — Mostly discussed in passing, but said to have second-highest ceiling among the five pitchers in the Top 10

5.) Brian Goodwin — Said to have worked on incorporating his trunk into his swing during instrux, and was likened to Garrett Anderson, though with less power [and presumably, more speed]

6.) Alex Meyer — High ceiling [well, he is 6'9" *rimshot!*] but the least likely to realize it, given the usual concerns for power-forward-sized pitchers [Andrew Brackman comparison made].

7.) Matt Purke — Like Cole, mostly discussed in comparison to the others, but characterized his signing as a “high upside gamble.”

8.) Sammy Solis — Said to have the lowest ceiling, but second-best chance of achieving it. [Bear in mind that "ceiling" for all these guys is top-line starter.]

9.) Derek Norris — His combination of pitch recognition, power, and discipline is his greatest asset, but it now appears that his path has been blocked and a trade could be in his future.

10.) Steve Lombardozzi — Bullishly characterized as potential everyday 2B that will hit in the .280-.310 range, draw some walks, steal a few bases, get lauded a la David Eckstein.

Destin Hood — Third-best OF prospect but a left-field only guy [*ahem*]

Tyler Moore — Plus-plus power, but lacks Marrero’s ability to hit for average and draw walks.

Chris Marrero — Plus power potential, but now it’s doubtful he’ll be more than a fringy regular or right-handed platoon player.

Tommy Milone — Back-end starter that makes the most out of superior control and a plus changeup — plenty of lefties with his profile that have succeeded with that stuff in that role.

Michael Taylor — Upside of and similar to Mike Cameron or Devon White.

Matt Skole — Outside the Nats Top 20, needs to step it up defensively to stick at 3B, but has good plate discipline.

Robbie Ray — Has fallen down the ladder in terms of projection, now a #4 starter.

Matt Grace — Likely to return to the ‘pen eventually.

Danny Rosenbaum — Like Milone, knows how to work a batter, but unlike Milone lacks a plus pitch. Probably a middle relief candidate.

Manny Rodriguez — Intriguing upside with a decent fastball, strong frame, and is beginning to get a good feel for his curve and change.