Jun 102013

It’s that time of year again, as I hit the road for some minor-league baseball while experiencing the sights, sounds, and small towns… on a low budget!

North Carolina is the destination this year, with stops in Zebulon (vs. the P-Nats, weather permitting), Winston-Salem, Kannapolis, Hickory, Greensboro, and Durham over the next six days.

I’ll also be researching the great debate of Eastern-style (vinegar-based) vs. Western-style (tomato-based) Carolina barbecue along with visits to museums and other tourist traps.

The goal, as always, is to keep the site running as best as I can from the free WiFi of cheap inexpensive motels, but there’s always the chance that the News & Notes might be abbreviated, and responses to queries and comments a bit more sporadic.

For folks interested in seeing some of the places I’ve been before, the “Road Trips” page has been rebuilt.

May 142013

About the only thing colder than the weather were the P-Nats bats, held to just six hits in a 7-0 shutout by the Dash.

Coming into the game, Potomac was riding a five-game win streak and attempting its first four-game sweep at the Pfitz since 2007. With a matching of a low-2’s ERA prospect versus a high-6’s ERA journeyman, the odds seemed stacked in Potomac’s favor.

After Robbie Ray struck out the side — all three times looking — in the first, and two more in the second, the odds looked even better. Unfortunately, these were not nine-pitch innings so all those K’s came at a cost.

Indeed, the bill came due in third when Winston-Salem sent seven men to the plate, beginning with a walk and ending with, yes, another strikeout. In between, however, was a double, a strikeout, another walk, and a single. While Ray was able to minimize the damage to just two runs, the inning took its toll as Christian Meza was spotted warming up before Ray registered the third and final out.

With long counts on every man, Ray easily cracked 30 pitches and may have hit the 40-pitches-in-one-inning limit that famously shortened several Ross Detwiler outings in 2008. (Sorry, tracking pitches is the line between fun and work when it comes to keeping score). Thus, he was done after just three innings with two runs allowed on two hits and two walks with nine strikeouts.

Meza was no more effective than Ray, giving up three over the next three on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Colin Bates followed with two scoreless innings while Derek Self coughed up a two-out, two-run homer in the 9th to erase any doubt of the eventual outcome.

Of course, as aforementioned the offense was frigid and flat. Except for a leadoff double by Adrian Nieto in the 2nd, there was hardly a hard-hit ball on the night. Billy Burns’s one-out bunt single followed by Michael Taylor’s slap through the 3/4 hole in the 3rd were the only consecutive base knocks, which gave fleeting hopes of tying the game when it was only 2-0.

The chance to answer the Dash was, um, dashed with a 5-C-3 double play off the bat of Cutter Dykstra, who reached based three times with a walk and two singles. It was the first of two double plays turned by Winston Salem, as Dykstra’s leadoff walk was erased in the 6th with a 6-4-3 DP.

Kevin Keyes was the last leadoff man to reach, as the big man drew his sixth walk of the series (and ninth for the year) in the 7th as the next three batters went down in order with a pair of grounders and a popup to end Dash starter Bryan Blough’s winning night with seven strong innings that lowered his ERA from 6.94 to 5.82.

The loss drops Potomac into second place, one game behind Lynchburg in the Carolina League North. Rob Gilliam is scheduled to make his 2013 season debut tonight against Wilmington’s Aaron Brooks (0-3, 4.99) as the last-place Blue Rocks come to Woodbridge for a three-game series.

Apr 252013

Transactions for NPP 3It took a couple of days, but another series of moves necessitated by the activations of RHP Chris Young and OFs Eury Perez and J.R. Higley along with the waiver claim of Xavier Cedeno were revealed this afternoon:


  • LHP Pat McCoy assigned from Syracuse


  • OF Estarlin Martinez placed on the 7-Day DL
  • OF Will Piwinica-Worms assigned from XST

This leaves the Harrisburg roster one over the limit. With an off day today, it’s quite possible that the player removed from the Senators won’t be announced until tomorrow. For folks wondering about the Suns move, there is no indication that Martinez was hurt in Tuesday’s game. Given that Piwinica-Worms has been moved around four times in 11 days, it’s likely that Martinez is a procedural move, too.

Dec 142012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Austin Chubb 21st
Adderling Ruiz
Pedro Severino

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

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:

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.