Dec 142012
 

The Washington Nationals announced the 2013 lineup for their affiliates’ coaching staffs today:
(changes in red.)

SYRACUSE
Manager – Tony Beasley (returning)
Pitching Coach – Greg Booker (returning)
Hitting Coach – Troy Gingrich (returning)

HARRISBURG
Manager – Matt LeCroy (returning)
Pitching Coach – Paul Menhart (returning)
Hitting Coach – Eric Fox (returning)

POTOMAC
Manager – Brian Daubach (promoted from Hagerstown)
Pitching Coach – Chris Michalak (returning)
Hitting Coach – Mark Harris (promoted from Hagerstown)

HAGERSTOWN
Manager – Tripp Keister (promoted from GCL)
Pitching Coach – Franklin Bravo (returning)
Hitting Coach – Brian Rupp (reassigned from Potomac)

AUBURN
Manager – Gary Cathcart (returning)
Pitching Coach – Sam Narron (returning)
Hitting Coach – Luis Ordaz (returning)

GCL
Manager – Patrick Anderson (new hire)
Pitching coach – Michael Tejera (returning)
Hitting coach – Amaury Garcia (promoted from DSL)

DSL
Manager – Sandy Martinez (returning)
Pitching Coach – Pablo Frias (returning)
Hitting Coach – Jorge Mejia (returning)

With the exception of Gary Thurman, who is replacing Tony Tarasco (the parent club’s new first base coach) as the Outfield/Baserunning coordinator, the rest of the minor-league staff remains intact. (Full list can be seen here). There is no word, official or unofficial, as to why Marlon Anderson has left the organization.

Aside from the shuffle between Hagerstown and Potomac, this is largely an uneventful announcement. To me, it’s a mild surprise that Eric Fox wasn’t reassigned or otherwise sanctioned in response to the Senators offensive collapse in the second half this summer. “Mild” only because as a fan, I might expect such a move but can understand otherwise that while MLB hitting coaches are fall guys, this is not the case in the minors.

I’ve not heard any whispers regarding Rupp’s reassignment, only previously that Daubauch was on his way to Woodbridge from Hagerstown. That Mark Harris has gone back and forth from the two affiliates the past two years could lead to the inference that this is not a demotion but a reassignment that avoids hiring an inexperienced/unfamiliar face. Note the italics.

Nov 222012
 

We’re about to hit a lull here, especially with (American) Thanksgiving coming as early as it can. That throws me off a little bit because I tend to look back at what I did a year ago and follow those digital size 13′s (47½ European).

With the end of the season reviews, it’s time to start building the 2013 Watchlist, which leads to the obligatory Top 10 lists, then the Rule 5 draft, and then the hot stove. Baseball America won’t be ranking the Nats until shortly before the winter solstice, and Sickels doesn’t appear to be ranking the teams in any particular order, so I can’t predict when we’ll see that. I try my best to have a rough idea of future posts, but the nature of the blogging beast is to react to news events (not to mention my schedule).

Of course, I’m still thankful for the opportunity to run this little website and pass along news, opinion, and information and still glad for everyone who visits, reads, and comments. As always, stay safe, use your trash can instead of your sink, show some plate discipline, and call your mother!

Jun 162012
 

Nothing, of course, is official but in the course of doing my sweep of the transactions, I noticed that the Nationals’ GCL roster appears to be in place.

I’m not privy to who’s been put on the DL or waivers, but it’s probably fair to deduce that any name you’re looking for that’s not here, and wasn’t drafted this past June, has probably been sent packing. Please note the qualifiers in the text above, and without further ado…

Bold = Watchlist Player Italics = DSL Graduate
PITCHERS
Joel Barrientos
Michael Boyden 31st
Kevin Dicharry 24th’
Inocencio Heredia
Leonard Hollins 29th
Will Hudgins 22nd
Anthony Marcelino
Gilberto Mendez
Adalberto Mieses
Mike Mudron 32nd
Ronald Pena 16th
Ivan Pineyro
Andy Santana
Blake Schwartz 17th
Casey Selsor 23rd
Daury Vasquez

CATCHERS
Austin Chubb 21st
Adderling Ruiz
Pedro Severino

INFIELDERS
Hunter Bailey 28th
James Brooks 20th
Wilmer Difo
Diomedes Eusebio
Matt Foat NDFA
Bryan Lippincott 19th
Mike McQuillan 33rd
Jean Carlos Valdez

OUTFIELDERS
Hayden Jennings 6th HS
Narciso Mesa
Tony Nix
Will Piwnica-Worms NDFA
Wilman Rodriguez

If you’re following my “code,” that’s just two (2) players from last year’s draft that are back — Tony Nix, who had his contract voided but re-signed in April, and Deion Williams, the only HS pick from the Nats’ 2011 draft.

May 232012
 

This used to be a much more enjoyable task, but the nature of the beast is this: In the “lower” independents, it’s been fairly brutal the past few years.

The Can-Am League is down to just five teams plus a travelling squad (and its official developmental league, the New York State League is on hiatus). The North American League — the merger of the former Northern League, United Baseball League and Golden Baseball League — is on the verge of collapse (though more likely, the United League will be reborn from its ashes).

As always, there’s talk of some new leagues, but as noted in this story about the Freedom Pro Baseball League, an upstart similar to the tiny Pecos League, indy ball has proven to be an especially hard sell in the Western U.S.

I’ll spare you the speculation as to why this is (the economy, growth in collegiate wood-bat leagues) and cut to the chase: There are fewer places for “our guys” to end up after they get released, with the Atlantic League tilting heavily towards 4A’s and the rest tilting towards the non-drafted free agents and guys released after one or two seasons of short-season ball.

Without further ado, here’s a list of the guys I was able to spot in my tour through the available rosters of the North American League, American Association, and the Can-Am League:

Kyle Morrison, Newark Bears (Can-Am)
Daryle Ward, Newark Bears (Can-Am)
Matt Chico, New Jersey Jackals (Can-Am)
Nick Serino, Worcester Tornadoes (Can-Am)
Alex Caldera, Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks (Am. Assoc.)
Mitchell Clegg, Sioux Falls Pheasants (Am. Assoc.)
Trevor Lawhorn, Sioux Falls Pheasants (Am. Assoc.)
Christian Guerrero, Sioux Falls Pheasants (Am. Assoc.)
Ben Graham, Wichita Wingnuts (Am. Assoc.)
Jack Spradlin, Amarillo Sox (Am. Assoc.)
Marcel Prado, El Paso Diablos (Am. Assoc.)
Osvaldo Rodriguez, El Paso Diablos (Am. Assoc.)
Mark Herrera, Grand Prairie Air Hogs (Am. Assoc.)
Russell Moldenhauer, Lake Erie Crushers (Frontier)
Justino Cuevas, London (Ontario) Rippers (Frontier)
Patrick Arnold, Gateway Grizzlies (Frontier)
Chad Mozingo, Schaumburg Boomers (Frontier)
Matt Rogelstad, Edmonton Capitals (No. Am.)
Lou Santangelo, Edmonton Capitals (No. Am.)

I’m sure I’ve probably missed a few (last month proved as much), but bear in mind that without a searchable database at Pointstreak, it’s too time-consuming to do much more than an eyeball test. This concludes the series.

May 082012
 

With the break afforded this week after a 10-game homestand, it’s time to take a step back and take a look at what I’m seeing from this year’s edition of the Potomac Nationals.

Like last year, there are some players that are starting to heat up along with the weather, but also seem to be benefiting from the extended time at home. This is worth noting because while some parks are hitter’s parks, the Pfitz is basically neutral: not a hitter’s park (like Winston-Salem), not a pitcher’s park (like Wilmington). In other words, what you see is what you get.

Without further ado, here’s what I’m seeing so far:

FIRST BASE
Justin Bloxom – A dreadful first month, both offensively and defensively, but one of the aforementioned players that’s been playing better on this last homestand (.286/.316/.400). The experiment with third base is over, but the return to first hasn’t been as smooth as you’d otherwise expect. Not sure if knees are bothering him, but mobility on defense seems diminished from last season.

SECOND BASE
Adrian Sanchez – Just came off the DL, but picked up right where he left off and has a seven-game hit streak with 13 hits and four doubles over that stretch. Is no longer switch-hitting, as apparently the powers that be would rather see his short, quick stroke from just the right side. Defensively, he’s a step down from the last two to come through (Lombardozzi, Kobernus), which is probably what you should expect.

SHORTSTOP
Zach Walters – Has played here the most, but it’s been a spot that’s been in rotation with injuries and recent activations, Walters included. His proclivity for errors that marred his AFL stint last fall hasn’t subsided, but still possesses a cannon throwing arm. Hit .289/.317/.342 in Woodrbridge after a 1-for-18 start on the road.

Rick Hague – Recently activated and has picked up where he left off last April. He and Walters have been splitting time at SS, in part because of Hague’s shoulder injury. One has to think that Hague might be the exception to the level-a-year rule considering that he turns 24 in September and there is nobody blocking his path at AA and AAA. But that’s speculation, not prediction; he’s played seven home games against two clubs. One would also think that he’ll given a full turn through the Carolina League before the bump (please).

THIRD BASE
Blake Kelso – Has actually played three of four IF positions seamlessly and plays hard. It’s hard not to use the word “scrappy” for a guy like him, but he hustles and does the little things right. My guy in Hagerstown compares him to Jeff Keppinger, and aside from having less power, I’d say that’s a pretty good comp.

LEFT FIELD
Kevin Keyes – It’s hard to believe that he’s actually hit six singles — he strikes out a lot, but when he connects… it’s always faster out than it came in, and usually light-tower high. Defensively, there have been worse left fielders at the PFitz. He’s not fleet of foot and has an fringe-average arm.

Wade Moore – He’s roughly split time between LF and DH, but this year the DH spot has been used more “rotationally” versus a veteran bat (e.g. Jose Lozada). He’s shown flashes of power (.391 SLG) and a good walk rate (10.1%) and is adequate as a fielder.

CENTERFIELD
Michael Taylor – It’s not hard to see why the prospect gurus and the Nationals have been gushing about him: speed, power, arm, glove and moves like Jagger (making sure you’re paying attention). As Sickels put it, he’s in the refinement stage. The arm is powerful, for example, but not always accurate (as you’d expect from a former SS). He’s fast, but his baserunning instincts are below-average (hence, 7CS). He’s easily this year’s Destin Hood, but more advanced than Hood was at this point last season.

RIGHT FIELD
Randolph Oduber – The “Groovin’ Aruban” struggles with the strike zone but runs and fields well (has the range for CF, the arm for RF) and has some pop. Might be better served hitting lower in the lineup, but in a so-so offense, he’s been batting leadoff since Taylor’s been used in the 5th slot.

CATCHER
David Freitas – There’s not much question whether or not he can hit, but the focus this season is whether or not he’ll stick at catcher. His footwork and throwing skills are below-average, but his framing/receiving skills are good. A lot might depend on Sandy Leon – as the two were born five days apart in March 1989. If the powers that be decide Leon can hit well enough to be a backup catcher, it might be time to shift Freitas to first — especially with Marrero and Moore essentially about to “graduate.”

BENCH
Francisco Soriano – Obviously, not a first impression. Soriano has become an “OG” of sorts, but a useful player off the bench that can play multiple positions and bat in the 1/2 and 8/9 slots in the lineup and will give you some speed and some gap power, too.

Beau Seabury – The current backup catcher, he’s essentially a replacement for longtime backup Brian Peacock. Has obviously played sparingly but has held his own on offense and provided the kind of defense you’d expect from a 26-y.o. collegiate player.

STARTING PITCHERS
Adam Olbrychowski – Started the season terribly but has gone into the seventh inning the past two starts, getting both more grounders and more K’s, particularly with an offspeed pitch that has to be at least 12mph slower than his fastball.

Kyle Winters – By the luck of the draw, I’ve only seen him once — this past Saturday night, where he struck out 10, but also gave up four runs.

Matt Grace – Has pitched better each time I’ve seen him, but still gets hit hard and often, as the .330 OBA suggests and seems to have every other hit go for extra bases.

Matt Swynenberg – Have only seen twice: his complete game on April 22 and last Friday. In the former he seemed to have the batters swinging at his pitches, but in the latter, he seemed less in command and the hitters were able to get (and hit) their pitches.

Bobby Hansen Jr. – Likewise, have only seen twice and with four starts total, it’s tough to make any fair inferences, especially when those two road games have been against the league’s #1 and #2 offenses.

Robbie Ray – One start. Read about it here.

RELIEVERS
Last year I punted because I had seen so few of them more than once and a couple had already been released, but this year I’ll take a stab at giving some feedback even if that’s still largely the same situation…

Rob Wort – Made the 2011 Watchlist after a strong finish to the 2010 season, but seemed lost last season, struggling with his control and command. This year, it’s like late 2010 again. When he’s not getting K’s, he seems to be getting the IF pops that are every bit as important for relievers to get.

Cameron Selik – Has had a couple of rough outings, but his last two have been sensational: Five straight Ks last Wednesday and and a ninth-inning naildown with “only” two Ks. Seemed to run out of gas as a starter last season, but his new role of closer (and the ability to go multiple innings) suits him well so far.

Neil Holland – Another one of those luck of the draws: I’ve seen all three of his scoreless outings at home. A sidewinder that can go multiple innings and is hell on RHBs.

Trevor Holder – The same maddening inconsistency since 2010: Can get hammered just as easily as he can shut down an opponent.

Ryan Demmin – A much better pitcher than he was last year, when he was jumped from Vermont to Potomac but had to repeat SS-A and finish the season in Low-A. Like Holland, I’ve only seen him a couple of times and he’s pitched well.

Paul Applebee – He’s pitched five times in long relief — three bad outings, two good. I’ve two of the former and one of the latter. He and Demmin are the lefties in the ‘pen, and as you might guess the softer-tosser (Applebee) tends to work the longer outings.

Apr 232012
 

Danny RosenbaumOn the strength of his four-hit complete game on last Wednesday, Danny Rosenbaum was named the Eastern League’s Pitcher of the Week for the period of April 16 to 22.

Rosenbaum walked none and struck out nine for the game, throwing just 95 pitches — 71 for strikes — to earn his second win in three starts for the Harrisburg Senators. The 22nd-round pick of the 2009 draft leads the Eastern League with a 0.65 WHIP and is fourth in ERA with a mark of 1.25.

The complete game was Rosenbaum’s second nine-inning effort in less than a calendar year, as the 24-year-old tossed a shutout last June against the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a three-hit, one-walk effort.

Mar 142012
 

First off, the latest transaction post from Baseball America has just one previously unreported item. Justino Cuevas has been released by the Nationals. The 23-year-old batted .281/.304/.432 last season as a reserve for the Hagerstown Suns and Potomac Nationals. No further details are available, but in my opinion, this move may be to his benefit and give him a chance to hook on with another organization while Spring Training is in full swing.

Secondly, the City Council of Winchester bowed to public pressure and unanimously voted down a measure to transfer land to a redevelopment agency, effectively killing the plan to lure the Hagerstown Suns.

This is good news for the folks hoping the Suns will remain in Hagerstown, but as written when this story first surfaced in the dead of winter, 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.

In essence, the situation has returned to where it was before Winchester made its pitch. The question is whether the three players in the game (Hagerstown, the Suns’ owners, and the Nationals) are willing to work towards extending the PDC sooner vs. later, as one of this site’s contributors hopes.

Sep 302011
 


BA flip-flopping its schedule (again) made for a busy day yesterday… and messed up my plan for having a daily post today. So I’ll pass along some stories that separately wouldn’t warrant a post separately.

…It’s no secret that the Nationals are unhappy with the arrangement in Viera, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the gall to ask for $700K in improvements to Space Coast Stadium. I think most of us don’t much care so long as they stay in Florida for spring training. My personal guess is that they’ll go in with the Mets or Astros on a new or upgraded facility.

…Steve Lombardozzi was the winner of the revived Rawlings Fielding Awards for minor leaguers for his time as the Harrisburg second baseman (though I’m sure his performance at Syracuse didn’t hurt).

…The Arizona Fall League is coming up on us quick. As in next week. MASN’s Byron Kerr files this story as a preview of the action to come. Yours truly will provide AFL updates just like last fall. Still no word on who the taxi squad players for the Nats, if any, will be.

Sep 232011
 

I’m still here, waiting for the parent club to finish out a fine September. With any luck, the rains will hold off tomorrow afternoon so I can catch just one more baseball game this year.

I typically make it out to Nationals Park just once or twice a season. Sounds funny, I know, but I’m a bit busy from early April to mid-September. Even before this website was born, that was true. The rhythms and rituals of a major-league game are just different, and as a minors guy, sometimes a bit dissonant.

Today is the first day of Fall on the calendar, but a baseball fan has a different kind of calendar… spring begins when pitchers and catchers report, summer starts on Opening Day, fall is when the rosters expand, and Winter starts the day after World Series ends.

But sometimes it feels like Winter comes a lot faster as I get older. To your right is a poster I bought about 20 years ago in Cooperstown with a quote from A. Bartlett Giamatti’s inimitable essay “The Greenfields of the Mind” that I end up re-reading this time of year that captures that feeling perfectly.

As mentioned in the comments, the Florida Instructional League starts up today. Believe me, I wish I were down there rather than being reminded what it’s like to live in the Pacific Northwest (a hint: weather like this month, but cooler, longer, and a lot less daylight).

Baseball America has been running its Top 20 lists for each minor league, and the hope is that today’s Monday’s entry on the New York-Penn League will include one or two of the Auburn Doubledays (and thus, giving me a news peg for another post!). If not, please make sure you read Mark Zuckerman’s post on the recent sweep of the Phillies and what it might mean in “the big picture.”

As always, feel free to pass along news, rumors, and opinions in the comments so we don’t have to face the Fall alone.

Sep 202011
 

It’s raining right now as I begin to write this; how apropos for looking back on anything related to 2011…

As mentioned in the comments, I’ve frozen the 2011 watchlist and cleaned up the mess associated with the new design that I was forced to choose when my previous theme was no longer compatible with the WordPress software that this site runs on. The new, 2012 watchlist will be built in the course of doing the season reviews, which will begin in the next couple of weeks. I do plan on trying to follow my own footsteps from last offseason, which puts the 2012 edition out in late November/early December.

For the most part, I’m satisfied with what I built last year. Four of the 89 names were released prior to Spring Training. Four were traded away, three in one pop to pick up Tom Gorzelanny. One guy was sent back to his original organization. Two guys spent the majority of the season on the DL, a third (Adam Carr) got hurt and got released — though I expect him to get re-signed to at least get a look-see in Spring Training, unless I’m spot-on about Rizzo’s hard…um, affinity for Matt Chico and Garrett Mock (sorry, haters he’s still in the org) in which case Carr will have to make the choice between retirement or working his way back via the indys.

If I had to categorize my mistakes, I’d say they’d fall into three categories:

• Undervaluing Age (Alaniz, Chacin)
• Overvaluing GCL Gambles (Ott, Serino)
• Overvaluing Rule 5 status (Allen, Ramirez)

Looking over the scouting reports, I was also fairly consistent in being too aggressive with projecting where starting pitchers would begin the year. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to solve that problem because so much of it is dependent on the “inventory” approach that was prevalent this year — recall that Yunesky Maya, Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiler, Mock, and J.D. Martin all made stats for Syracuse in April — as well as injuries and/or shelving to guys like Tanner Roark, Shairon Martis, Luis Atilano, Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole and Robbie Ray.

Of course, that’s a separate issue.

Graduating from the list are Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos by making the 2011 club. Yunesky Maya is off because he no longer has rookie status (130PA, 50IP, 45 days on 25-Man Roster), which in most folks’ opinion, the minimum standard for being considered a prospect. Chris Marrero could come perilously close to the batter’s limit, but I suspect he’ll sit just enough over the next 10 games to stay under the limit.

Other “graduates” will be of the more subjective nature — guys that appear to have hit their ceiling, too old for the level, appear to have missed their window, etc. Doesn’t mean that they can’t play their way back onto a 2013 watchlist, but the odds are against them.

Of course, not being on the watchlist doesn’t mean they’re not useful or valuable — organizational guys (or soldiers, which may be a better metaphor in this context) is a term we bandy about around here, but were Erik Arnesen and Bill Rhinehart not key contributors to the Harrisburg team this season?

Thus, I don’t think serves much useful purpose to name who’s probably going to come off the list. I’d like to think most are fairly obvious, even if I suspect I’ll get more grief for the ones I include than exclude this time. But look back at that list o’ mistakes; I’m probably going to be a lot less sentimental this year, a little harder on the recent draft picks, and much more skeptical about who gets picked in the Rule 5 draft.