Jan 242012
 

As mentioned in the comments, Sickels has done his first ranking of the farm systems and the Nationals came in at #14. This sounds about right to me, given how the system thins out considerably after the top-line talent.

First base, shortstop, and LHRPs are three areas of particular concern to me. Yes, there is Moore and Marrero, but it’s a chimera to think that both will make it to DC. Rick Hughes fans will shout me down, but he’s coming off a shoulder injury and has a lost a year of development time. Josh Smoker is the best LHRP candidate and has zero AA innings. Of course, any complaints about minor-league relievers is mostly academic anyway; roles and usage should be secondary to the primary concern of developing the arms themselves.

The low-level rumblings in Western Maryland and the Shenandoah Valley are becoming louder, as details and logistics start to come to light. I’ve already admitted that my bias is towards keeping things in place, but obviously keeping the affiliate within reasonable driving distance of DC is my second choice. I can’t promise to follow this story all season long (the focus is on the players first), but I can direct folks to the blog that is dedicated to that purpose.

As others have mentioned, this is par for the course in the minors. Ownership groups routinely play one city off another in hopes of a better deal, a better facility, etc. It’s their right because the team is, after all, a business. Municipalities also have the right to say no, because it’s their duty to decide what constitutes a fair use of public monies.

My only admonition is that it’s usually a downward trend. A double-A team leaves, a single-A team might replace them. An affiliated team goes, an indy team — which doesn’t have to follow territorial rules — might move in. An indy team leaves, a collegiate wood-bat league might come to town. But with each step down, there are fewer dates the ballpark is used, fewer opportunities for the public to enjoy the facility, and less revenue generated to maintain it.

Stay tuned for a look at the latest Nats Top Prospect list, as Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus has weighed in.

Jan 202012
 

Three days after releasing his initial Top 20 list, the Nationals traded four of their Top 10 to the A’s for Gio Gonzalez. Today, Sickels has revised the list.

Thankfully, this is in print, so I don’t have to channel my bad Casey Kasem impersonation (click for a better one), but with everybody moving up four spots on the countdown, here are the four new names on his Top 20:

20) Justin Bloxom — C

19) Jeff Kobernus — C

18) Eury Perez — C

17) Tyler Moore — C

Moore, of course, has gotten some attention lately with Byron Kerr’s profile that has him being tried in the OF during Spring Training. This is, of course, being tried to give the Nats options besides DH if/when both he and Chris Marrero are in the same lineup at Syracuse.

Kobernus and Perez could easily be flip-flopped, but I, too, would rate Perez ahead of Kobernus because he can hidden on a bench as a defensive replacement/pinch-runner, not to mention he’s two years younger. Both have the same impediment for the long haul: impatience at the plate (4.0 and 4.7% BB rates, respectively).

Bloxom was one of the overlooked that I listed when Sickels put the call out to the community (first comment), but it’s still a bit of a surprise to see him get the nod when you look at the list of “Others” — folks that most likely will make the book, which is due out next weekend.
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And for today’s copyeditor’s nightmare (and non-sequitur?)… the sole signing last week by the Nationals was for Austin Bibens-Dirkx, a candidate for the Syracuse staff. He turns 27 in April and another Venezuelan League signee. One might also think, given this article, that he’s a project for the coaches to make a mechanical adjustment.

Jan 182012
 

As referenced in our previous post, the authority when it comes to minor-league facilities has weighed in.

Here’s the key graf in that story (bolding mine):

Now, we’re not talking the world’s greatest market: its population in 2009 was 26,322, its median income is lower than the rest of Virginia, and it’s the county seat of a relatively small county (Frederick County’s population is only 78,305, but it is growing). Indeed, to reach a 100,000 population within a decent driving distance of any Winchester ballpark, you need to include the entire county and all of Martinsburg, W.V., some 25 miles up I-81, as well as rural residents in the Martinsburg area.

I’ve been reading Kevin Reichard for the better part of a decade, which is not to say I’m slavish devotee. We’ve actually butted heads via e-mail, particularly when he correctly predicted the demise of my former hometown team, the North Shore Spirit. But I will say that he knows his [stuff] and have come to respect him.

I don’t think you can overestimate the value of a suitor that has a ballpark in place vs. that one does not. Kinston is the contender that folks in Hagerstown should be fearing. And look more carefully at that last line, it echoes what my friend Shawn wrote nearly a month ago (also worth another look).

He’s spot-on in the assessment that most people will blame the ownership vs. elected officials if the Suns were to leave. Indeed, when the North Shore Spirit folded its tent, there were folks praising Mayor Chip Clancy for “standing up” to the team’s mercurial owner, Nick Lopardo. My bias is obvious: I don’t care who “wins” in that battle; I just want the team to stay in place.

I’m guessing most of you feel the same way.

Jan 162012
 

It’s that dreaded dead time again.

No, not in that annoying, overrated Jerry Garcia kind of way.

It’s the post-holiday malaise where it’s the waiting game. Last year, that empty space was filled with a trade (Gorzelanny). Well, we’ve already had that trade (G. Gonzalez) and the next one might simply be the unloading of spare parts, should a free-agent signing occur.

The takeaway I have from the GG extension is that the Nationals have locked down their Big Three in the DC rotation, so any excess is bound to be trade bait. That could be Lannan or Detwiler now, or Solis or Ray later (it does not escape me that those are all lefties).

Meanwhile, the low-level rumblings from the lower full-season affiliates are registering like last August’s earthquake.

A blog has been established to watch the goings-on from Winchester, a rumored relocation spot for Hagerstown. Kevin Reichard at ballparkdigest.com has yet to weigh in, but my take is that if privately funded efforts in more affluent counties (i.e. The Loudoun Hounds) are having trouble getting off the ground, how will a publicly funded effort possible do better (and faster)? Not to mention, the most likely destination (Bridgeforth Field) would need a massive renovation. I’ve seen it done before, but only at the indy level (Lynn, Nashua, Worcester), where the 1991 NAPBL stadium standards don’t apply.

Meanwhile, in Woodbridge the quest for a new stadium for the Potomac Nationals remains a windmill in the distance continues. The latest dispatch has a county official citing a nonspecific setback over a parking garage of undetermined size is delaying a future announcement for the building of a facility located somewhere along the I-95 or I-66 corridor. Apparently, I’m not the only writer desperate for a news peg.

Of course, now that I’ve done a post-to-keep-the-site-fresh, something else minors-oriented might happen today…

Jan 092012
 

I’ll spare you guys a NKOTB pun for a pic and pass along the following Top 15 list from Bullpen Banter:

Jeff Reese Al Skorupa
1. Bryce Harper, OF 1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B 2. Anthony Rendon, 3B
3. Brian Goodwin, CF 3. Brian Goodwin, CF
4. Alex Meyer, RHP 4. Alex Meyer, RHP
5. Sammy Solis, LHP 5. Matt Purke, LHP
6. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B/SS 6. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B/SS
7. Matt Purke, LHP 7. Sammy Solis, LHP
8. Destin Hood, COF 8. Destin Hood, COF
9. Michael Taylor, CF 9. Matt Skole, 3B
10. Chris Marrero, 1B 10. Michael Taylor, CF
11. Tyler Moore, 1B 11. Robbie Ray, LHP
12. Robbie Ray, LHP 12. Eury Perez, CF
13. Matt Skole, 3B/1B 13. Cole Kimball, RHR
14. Eury Perez, CF 14. Dan Rosenbaum, LHP
15. Kylin Turnbull, LHP 15. Tyler Moore, 1B

I’m not gonna say much more except to go and take a look at their commentary. I think you’ll find their comments on Steve Lombardozzi particularly interesting, as well as their thoughts on Rendon, Ray, and Solis. As frequent commenter SoulDrummer is fond of remarking: “It’s important to pay attention to how folks outside our little bubble are viewing the guys.”

Jan 092012
 

As mentioned in the comments, I’ve been plugging away at the Player Reports for the 2012 Watchlist and am now done with the first pass. Once I receive the books from Baseball America and John Sickels, I’ll complete the “Report Not Yet Written” and amend/rewrite the others as needed.

I’ve also created pages on Facebook and Google+ to give folks more avenues to here, expanding from just an RSS feed and Twitter. I also want to remind folks that you can subscribe to comments to get alerts. Essentially, I’m trying to give folks an array of tools to keep tabs on the site with as little effort for both you and me alike.

Finally, I’ve also updated my “About” page to include the site’s email address (warning: I only check it about once a day; a DM on twitter, or a shout-out in the comments gets to me faster). Suggestions, comments, offline conversations, offers to volunteer with daily “News & Notes” during Potomac homestands, etc. can be sent there. I’d love to expand my network of spies to Pennsylvania, Florida, and New York, and of course, anyone with a hankering to write about the Draft is welcome (just not my thing; too knee-deep in providing day-to-day coverage).

Otherwise, enjoy this unusually warm weather while it lasts. If nothing else, it’s certainly helping with the new field at the Pfitz.

Jan 052012
 

With the close of the Venzuelan League’s regular season, we can now take a look at the final numbers of the Nationals players in the 2011-12 winter leagues.
DWL HITTERS

DWL PITCHERS

VWL HITTERS

VWL PITCHERS

MWL PITCHERS

PRWL PITCHERS

PRWL HITTER

Now if some of these names look unfamiliar, remember that they include some of the minor-league FA signings from last month. As mentioned in the comments, I’m expecting a post from BA shortly that will include the Dan Cortes signing, which some of you have noted along with some familiar names hooking on elsewhere, but I’m more interested to see who got let go. That’s because it gives us a little hint as to how the rosters will be set in late March by virtue of eliminating certain possibilities. As always, I hope to see the departed names when I do my sweep of the indy-league rosters in May and June.

Jan 042012
 

While we await the news on Prince Fielder, I thought I’d dust off this classic for an “encore presentation.” Unlike last year, you can now visit the “Road Trips” tab to see some pics from the past two summer sojourns. This piece was actually the first one I filed for the site back on January 5, 2010 and reruns with some, um, minor edits.

One of the joys of following minor-league baseball is going to see your favorite team on the road. As a fan of the Potomac Nationals, I’ve been to the stadiums of all seven opposing teams in the Carolina League, and have visited the Nationals’ affiliates in Auburn, Hagerstown, Harrisburg, and Syracuse (pictured above). With the move of the Kinston franchise to Zebulon (Carolina Mudcats), I have to make another trip to North Carolina this summer to maintain the claim. Oh, the horror!

With the recent cold snap in the D.C. area, I thought I’d share some of my tips for taking and making the most of a baseball road trip, to help ease the time until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

Take The Interstate
There’s nothing wrong with taking the secondary route to get there, especially if you want to see the countryside. But the Interstates are your best bet because they’re faster, there are more places to stop for food and fuel, and should you have car trouble, you’re a better position to get the help you need quickly. Also, quite a few teams are situated close to the freeway anyway (e.g. The Frederick Keys).

Consider The Dominant Travel Pattern
My favorite night to shoot for is a Saturday night. People that are going to the beach or the mountains are likely already there, so you’re not fighting them. If you must travel on a Friday, try to leave either mid-morning or mid-afternoon, i.e. after rush hour or after lunch. Likewise for Sundays, watch out for afternoon games that will have you on the road between 5 and 8pm, a.k.a. when the weekend throngs are coming back. This is why some teams have opted for a start time of 4 or 5 pm — it’s not quite as harsh on the players, and enables the opposing team to leave with some daylight.

Parking
It’s an overlooked detail, so do your homework — especially with clubs in older ballparks or teams that are very popular. If you’re able to walk, think about the money you’ll save if you park a few blocks away or more importantly, the time you’ll save as you walk past the folks jockeying to get out. I like to look for libraries and schools for this strategy. One notable exception is…

Promotions
…Fireworks night. They’re great for packing them in, and most people stay. Translation: While the masses ooh and ahh, you can make a break for your car and get out ahead of them. You can use the promotions calendar two ways: To get the freebies you want, or avoid the folks that care more about the giveaway than the game (e.g. bobbleheads).

Midweek Day Games
These are big moneymakers for minor-league clubs. They’re often dominated by schools and/or summer camps, but they almost always sit in the cheap seats. Despite the crowds, it seems that most venues are shorthanded, relying on the groups’ chaperones for crowd control. This also makes it harder to get concessions and nearly guarantees long lines. But if you don’t mind eating before or after the game, you can generally get great seats up close.

Don’t Forget To Wear Sunscreen…
…and drink plenty of fluids, by which I mean water and soda. One of the unfortunate things I’ve noticed is that minor-league stadiums with a roof aren’t being built anymore. To me, that’s penny-wise and pound-foolish because a roof provides cover from both the sun and the rain. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I love the WPA-era parks so much, but I can’t help but notice that in the places where there is a roof, people tend to stick around when the elements aren’t favorable. For everywhere else, it’s a good idea to notice where the shadows fall and try to get those seats when the weather will be a factor.

Jan 012012
 

For the past couple of years, I’ve been posting online under a pseudonym. That’s not news, but this is:
I’m dropping the ruse. That funny-looking name you see next to the byline is indeed my own.

While this site is still largely a personal hobby, it’s proven to be something that I now feel like I need to utilize professionally. So if I’m gonna “take ownership,” I have to put my name on it.

Are things going to change now that I’m unmasked? No, not really. I’m still gonna go for the visual pun (see above) when I feel the urge, pepper the prose with one-liners, and exploit my bulldog for branding and marketing purposes.

In short, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. Happy New Year!

Dec 292011
 

I’ve updated the 2012 Watchlist since the Gio Gonzalez trade, and upon learning that Taylor Jordan has undergone TJ surgery, paring the list down to 65 players. As mentioned previously, and in the comments, I didn’t add on players. That makes sense for a Top 50 list, but there’s not a set number here we’re shooting for.

I also decided to treat the traded away players just as I did last offseason: a slash-through line. I like to think of the watchlist as a snapshot in time — here are the guys that are on our radar, if you will.

I didn’t add any of the Rule 5ers or the throw-in from the Gonzalez trade, as all three I believe to be inventory more than end-cap. To placate the Purke Posse©, I’ve moved him into the starter column and moved Joel Barrientos in the to LH reliever column.

Otherwise, I’ll be updating the player reports as best as I can until the books come in from BA and Sickels (technically, an e-mail), commenting on the players I’ve seen, creating an amalgam from external sources whenever I can, or simply some notes on the ones that fall into neither category (typically the DSLers).

My apologies in advance for any “Report Not Yet Written,” which is a placeholder for any player that I haven’t seen extensively and will need the aforementioned books to write a decent summary.