Nov 142012
 

The Scorpions stung the Rafters for seven first-inning runs en route to a 13-6 win that delayed Salt River’s title hopes for another day.

Paul Demny was among the pitchers victimized by Scottsdale, giving up three runs on six hits over three innings. The 23-year-old walked none and struck out threw 31 of 53 pitches for strikes.

Brian Goodwin led off as the Rafters DH but had an afternoon to forget: 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. The whiff has been the sore spot for Goodwin this fall, as the 22-year-old has racked up 24 in 19 games.

Anthony Rendon batted cleanup and reached base three times (two singles and a walk) while scoring a run. Defensively, he had two assists and no putouts while playing third base.

With the loss, Salt River’s lead over Scottsdale in the AFL East has been cut to 1½ games with two to play. The Rafters host the AFL West-leading Peoria this afternoon while Scottsdale hosts last-place Mesa tonight.

Nov 132012
 

A pair of crooked numbers in the 5th and 6th innings broke open a 2-1 game as the Salt River Rafters doubled up the Mesa Solar Sox, 8-4.

Ryan Perry got the win with a run (solo HR) on three hits given up over four innings, along with three walks and two strikeouts. Perry struggled to find the plate with just 35 of 67 pitches going for strikes.

Matt Skole once again batted third and played first, stroking two singles, drawing two walks, driving in two (including a sac fly) and scoring twice to push his numbers to .321/.429/.554. Defensively, the Georgian racked up eight putouts without an error.

Anthony Rendon shook off Saturday’s oh-fer with a pair of doubles and a walk to improve his line to .319/.488/.686. Rendon played third but had no assists or putouts.

Cole Kimball was scorched for the second time in three outings, surrendering three runs on two hits two walks over an inning and 2/3rds. He did strikeout three, but his ERA ballooned to 4.85 and the 27-year-old has as many walks (8) as strikeouts (8) in 13 innings this fall.

The win puts Salt River in the driver’s seat for a spot in the AFL Championship game on Saturday, as the Rafters lead the AFL East by 2½ games with three to play. They can eliminate second-place Scottsdale with a win today as the two teams meet at the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick this afternoon.

Nov 122012
 

The unexpected success of the 2012 Washington Nationals — those of you who really, really thought they’d win 98 games: How’s the weather today in Colorado? — was fueled in part by the ability of the 2012 Syracuse Chiefs to supply the parent club with replacements when the injury bug bit this year. Carlos Maldonado, Jhonatan Solano, Corey Brown, John Lannan all contributed in spots when needed, while Tyler Moore became a bench player and some teenager became a starter.

The past two Syracuse reviews have alluded to the new world order of AAA — a place for replacements more than a last stop for prospects. As the Nationals cross the rubicon from also-ran to playoff contender, I expect the Chiefs to continue to get older and more experienced, resembling the likes of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pawtucket, and Lehigh Valley more than Toledo, Louisville, and Indianapolis.

I hope that we’ll also see longtime Nationals farmhands be part of that equation, but as we saw last December, that might be too much to wish for.

With that, let’s follow the format… taking a look at the team vs. the International League, then drilling down to the players. The one difference, however, is I’ll focus only on the Top 10 players who were 27 or younger (i.e. league-average age) with significant usage (~100AB, 17G). Full statistics for the team can be found here.
HITTING

PITCHING
 As a 70-74 record would suggest, Syracuse was indeed a team that was middle of the pack: pretty much 6th or 7th in virtually every offensive category, 7th in terms of fielding percentage and errors committed, and mostly 7th in all the pitching categories. The exceptions were pitching walks and strikeouts, both of which were the fewest in the league, and complete games and shutouts, which were the most in the league. With all the comings and goings — a total of 64 players donned the Chiefs uniform (including this fugly getup) in 2012 — this is about the best you can reasonably expect.

Let’s take a look at the age-appropriate batters…
For those wondering, Bryce Harper had just 84PA and rather unimpressive line of .243/.325/.365 in 21 games. It’s certainly proof that these statistics should be taken with a grain of salt, and if you believe the prospect gurus, a pound in the short-season leagues.

Like last year, and even with with the 28+ folks filtered out, you’re still looking at a collection of veteran minor-leaguers with a handful of prospects mixed in. Unfortunately, only one of those is in his first go ’round in AAA (Eury Perez). Zach Walters missed the cut with 105PA, but both he and Perez are both likely to return in 2013, perhaps with a collection of voodoo dolls to facilitate a call-up.

Don’t believe me? Just ask Corey Brown and Carlos Rivero. Brown, who turns 27 in a couple of weeks, has been stuck at Syracuse now for two seasons. Rivero, who had the kind of comeback year that nicely fits the “change of scenery” narrative, seems likely to be back, too. Joining him may be Chris Marrero, who’s probably wondering what might have been for 2012 had he not gotten hurt in winter ball. It’s a stretch (pun most definitely intended) to think that he might have had the season Tyler Moore had (given his defensive limitations), but he’d certainly be in a better position than he is now.

On to the pitchers…
  A year ago I semi-predicted that half of the age-appropriate Chiefs pitchers would no longer be in the organization. Thanks in part to the Gio Gonzalez trade, that turned out to be true. That may very well be true next November, too, though a strong portion of that will simply be because they’ve either aged out or have been granted free agency.

As aforementioned, I expect another wave of FAs to fill out the Syracuse staff. It’s hard to envision more than a couple of the Harrisburg pitchers moving up (my guess: the Ryans Tatusko and Perry) and harder to project anyone other than Christian Garcia making the parent club out of spring training. Of course, that’s not as harsh as that reads when you stop to consider that doing so means cracking the staff that led the National League in ERA and FIP was second in runs allowed.

It’s been a leitmotif while doing the 2012 season reviews that the organization’s strength has shifted from pitchers to position players. Perhaps I’d feel differently if so many weren’t hurt or have had surgery. No. 1 below ought not to be 27 years old and coming off not one but two UCL replacement surgeries, but it’s emblematic of the state of Nationals pitching in the minors… and he certainly looks like a candidate for the 25-man roster next April.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE
Heavy emphasis on the obligatory… As you can see below, these are basically the five guys that either haven’t been ranked previously or have time on their side. Garcia has already been covered. The next three will be 25 by next July but only one of them was fully healthy all season long (Rivero). The last turned 26 last month and could potentially be picked next month in the Rule 5 draft (Lehman). This is when my policy of not naming guys to multiple levels (a.k.a. double-dipping) doesn’t look so good.

1. Christian Garcia
2. Carlos Rivero
3. Chris Marrero
4. Erik Komatsu
5. Pat Lehman
HM: Corey Brown

I struggled over whether or not to name Corey Brown yet again. Has he been stuck at Syracuse due to circumstance (i.e. he’s a younger version of Roger Bernadina)? Is he still with the organization only because Mike Rizzo admits his mistakes as readily as Karl Rove? Or is he indeed the dreaded “4A” player? He turns 27 in two weeks, and may not be on the 40-man next week, but I’ll give him the honorable mention because while he may not be a bench or platoon OF for Washington, he could be for another team.

Nov 112012
 

What's With The Flowers? Click to find outSalt River scored five unanswered runs in the final three innings for an 11-5 win over Phoenix that stopped a three-game skid.

Brian Goodwin and Jason Martinson sandwiched the top and the bottom of the Rafters’ batting order. Goodwin, who made two putouts in centerfield, went 1-for-4 with two walks and two runs scored. Martinson hit safely for the fifth straight game, smacking an RBI double, drawing two walks, and getting away with a two-out steal of third. He had no defensive chances.

Aaron Barrett had another 1-2-3 inning, breezing through the eighth inning on six pitches with two groundouts and a strikeout. The 24-year-old Hoosier lowered his ERA to 2.70 and has nine strikeouts in 10 innings this fall.

Salt River’s win kept pace with Scottsdale, which broke its five-game slide with a 4-3 win over Surprise. The two teams remain separated by a game and a half in the AFL East with just four games left — including a head-to-head matchup on Tuesday afternoon.

Nov 102012
 

The Solar Sox scorched the Rafters for two in the 7th to break a 4-4 tie and held on for a 7-5 win, sending Salt River to its third straight loss.

Four Nationals saw game action:

  • Brian Goodwin was the DH and went 1-for-5 with an RBI double, a run scored, but whiffed twice.
  • Matt Skole also had an RBI double and drew a walk while going 1-for-3. He handled all four defensive chances without an error.
  • Anthony Rendon saw his 10-game on-base streak snapped with an 0-for-4 effort and two strikeouts. Defensively, he had a putout and two assists.
  • Cole Kimball went two scoreless innings and allowed a hit and a walk while fanning one, with 17 of 27 pitches thrown for strikes.

Scottsdale lost its fifth in a row, and still trails Salt River by 1½ games with five games left to play and just one more head-to-head matchup (Tuesday). The Rafters finish the penultimate week of the 2012 AFL season with a game against Phoenix this afternoon.

Nov 092012
 

Salt River rallied for three in bottom of the ninth, but it was too little, too late as the Surprise Saguaros handed the Rafters a 4-3 loss.

Just two Nationals made it into the game…

…Anthony Rendon moved up to the No. 2 spot and went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, hitting safely in eight of nine and extending his on-base streak to 10 games. Defensively, Rendon had no official chances but got a glove on an infield single and a double to left field.

…Paul Demny was the first man out of the ‘pen but was greeted with an RBI double to let in an inherited runner in the 5th, then gave up another double to lead off the 6th; the run scoring two batters later on a sacrifice fly. The final line was one run on two hits, no walks, and two strikeouts over an inning and a third.

Despite the loss, Salt River held on to its 1½-game lead in the AFL East, thanks to Scottsdale’s fourth straight loss. The Rafters host the last-place Solar Sox this afternoon, while the Scorpions head for Phoenix to face the Desert Dogs.

Nov 082012
 

Matt Skole’s two-run homer in the 5th broke open a 4-3 game as Salt River ultimately spoiled Surprise, 8-3.

An inning later, the 23-year-old struck again with a two-run single for a total of four RBIs while going 2-for-4 to boost his line to .300/.410/.540 for the fall campaign. Defensively, he was error-free at first, handling all seven chances.

Brian Goodwin remains hitless since the Rising Stars games, but still scored a run and hit a sacrifice fly from the leadoff spot. He manned center field and caught three flyouts.

Jason Martinson spelled Anthony Rendon third base and hit safely for the fourth straight game. The fellow Texan doubled and scored a run, but also struck out twice.

Aaron Barrett pitched the eighth and pounded the strike zone (7-of-8) while setting down the side in order, lowering his ERA to an even 3.00.

The Rafters win combined with a Scorpions loss opens up a 1½-game lead in the AFL East for Salt River with seven games to play. The two teams rematch tonight with the Rafters playing host.

Nov 072012
 

Powered by Anthony Rendon’s 3-for-3 evening, the Salt River Rafters reclaimed first place in the AFL East with a 14-12 win over the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Rendon singled, doubled twice, scored twice, stole a base, drew a walk, delivered a baby between innings and drove in four while batting seventh and playing third base. The outburst improved the 2011 first-rounder’s line to .317/.411/.467. Defensively, the 22-year-old snagged another foul pop for his only putout.

The other Nats were not so fortunate…
• Brian Goodwin led off and was the Rafters DH, but went 0-for-3 with a walk and was hit by a pitch.
• Ryan Perry got the start and was stung for four runs on five hits and a walk over three and 2/3rds innings, giving up two home runs.
• Cole Kimball gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits and no walks, and struck out one over two innings. He was charged with a blown save.

Salt River and Scottsdale rematch next Tuesday, still separated by a ½ game in the AFL East with eight games left in the season.

Nov 062012
 

Well, it’s that time of year in the minors when we find out which of the veterans have become free agents. Some of these guys will re-sign, some will retire, ans some will move on. Without further ado…

CATCHERS
AAA – James Skelton

INFIELDERS
AAA – Mark Teahen, Jarrett Hoffpauir, Manny Mayorson, Jim Negrych
AA – Tim Pahuta, Seth Bynum
High-A – Brent Greer

OUTFIELDERS

AAA – Jason Michaels, Jesus Valdez
Low-A – Angelberth Montilla

LHPs
AAA – Atahualpa Severino
AA – Michael Ballard, Cory VanAllen

RHPs
AAA – Erik Arnesen, Mitch Atkins, Jeff Fulchino, Waldis Joaquin, Mike MacDougal
AA – Jimmy Barthmaier, Kevin Pucetas, Zech Zinicola
High-A – Adam Carr
Low-A – Wilson Eusebio

That’s 24 this year, down slightly from last year’s 26. Overall, some 549 players became FAs, up from 537 last year and 534 in 2010. This year’s first-time free agents include Nats 2006 draft picks Arnesen, VanAllen, Zinicola, ’06 IFAs Montilla and Eusebio (originally signed by Pittsburgh), and a 2004 NDFA (Severino).

Earlier this offseason, the Nats resigned veteran backstops Carlos Maldonado and Jeff Howell. It’s possible that one or two others have been signed, as the last transactions post from Baseball America covered the period of Oct. 16-23, and the granting of free agency took place on November 3rd.

UPDATE
As predicted, there were a couple of organizational soldiers re-enlisting in the latest transaction post from Baseball America:
• OF Chris Rahl
• IF Josh R. Johnson

Also in that dispatch, the signing of RHRP Francisco Samuel, a turning-26-in-December former prospect from the St. Louis organization who was released this past March after posting a 12.21 ERA in an injury-shortened 2011. If you haven’t guessed it by now, when healthy the Dominican throws in the mid-90s (touching 98), piles up the K’s (11.4/9IP) but has had control problems (career 8.6 BB/9IP) and an array of injuries (hip, lat).

Nov 062012
 

A seven-run 4th proved to be too much for Salt River to overcome as the Rafters dropped a 10-7 decision to the Javelinas. It was Salt River’s third straight loss, and AFL West-leading Peoria’s third straight win.

Three Nationals saw game action:

• Matt Skole batted third and played first base, going 0-for-4 with a walk while making seven putouts and two assists on defense.
• Anthony Rendon hit sixth and manned third base. He drew two walks and scored a run, but went hitless in two ABs to halt his hit streak of six games. He caught a foul pop in the 4th for his sole defensive chance.
• Paul Demny pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning, needing just 11 pitches to retire three batters.

The loss drops the Rafters to 11-10, but with a loss by Scottsdale they remain a ½ game behind the Desert Dogs in the AFL East with nine games left to play.