Apr 052012
 

Filing from the remote office in Chicopee, MA… it’s the day we’ve all been waiting for: Opening Day!

Three of the four full-season affiliates start up today, with Syracuse hosting Rochester this afternoon, Harrisburg visiting Bowie, and Hagerstown hosting West Virginia.

Team Today’s Game Pitching Matchup (’11 Stats at Level)
Syracuse vs. Rochester,
2:00 p.m.
Mitch Atkins (3-7, 5.44) vs.
P.J. Walters (8-7, 5.17)
Harrisburg @ Bowie,
7:05 p.m.
Robert Gilliam (12-7, 5.04 in Cal. Lg.) vs. TBD
Hagerstown vs. West Virginia,
7:05 p.m.
Wirkin Estevez (6-3, 4.01 in NYPL) vs.
Nicholas Kingham (6-2, 2.15 in in NYPL)

A reminder from last year: The order in which the starters begin is not an indication of #1, #2, etc. but how the organization wants to align starters in the minors when it comes time for promotions. This is even more important to keep in mind with the notable names in XST. I think a look at the first starters illustrates this point.

Mitch Atkins is the listed starter for Syracuse per MiLB.com, as many of may have heard that John Lannan was supposed to start but has been shifted from today to Sunday. Robert Gilliam, a.k.a. the Other Guy We Got From Oakland, is scheduled for Harrisburg. Wirkin “For The Weekend” Estevez is slated for Hagerstown. Kyle Winters appears to be getting the assignment for Potomac tomorrow night.

None of these guys would be considered the ace of the staff in the traditional sense. But this isn’t “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain,” either. We all like results, but the goal is getting the work in and making progress. Some guys are going to be on pitch counts, for example, so keep that in mind before asking why did so-and-so only go five innings.

News & Notes starts back up tomorrow, and perhaps this afternoon we’ll find out the last of the spring releases.

Apr 042012
 

The last of the four full-season rosters is out (H/T to Ben Meyers of the Auburn Citizen for heads-up), as the Syracuse Chiefs have released the initial roster for the 2012 campaign.

Aside from the presence of John Lannan, there were a few minor surprises:

…Chris McConnell was promoted from Harrisburg after two grueling days on paper for the Sens.
…Tanner Roark, who repeated AA in both ’10 and ’11, made it to AAA for the first time.
…”OG” favorites Erik Arnesen, Hassan Pena, and Cory VanAllen not only made the cut, but got the bump.
…Some kid named B. Harper is listed as a CF

The rundown (watchlisters in bold, 40-man guys in italics):

PITCHERS
Erik Arnesen
Mitch Atkins
Austin Bibens-Dirkx
Zach Duke
John Lannan
Rafael Martin
Yunesky Maya
Hassan Pena
Ryan Perry
Tanner Roark
Atahualpa Severino
Cory VanAllen
Josh Wilkie

CATCHERS
Carlos Maldonado
Jhonatan Solano

INFIELDERS
Seth Bynum
Jarret Hoffpauir
Chris McConnell
Tyler Moore
Carlos Rivero
Mark Teahen

OUTFIELDERS
Corey Brown
Bryce Harper
Jason Michaels
Xavier Paul

Starting on the DL are Mike Schultz, Waldis Joaquin, Jeff Fulchino and Adam Carr.

For the second year in a row, there are multiple pitchers that would have been in Washington in years past. The Chiefs continue to get older, which is also consistent with how contenders use their AAA teams (e.g. Lehigh Valley for Philadelphia position players, Pawtucket for Boston pitchers). Of course, the Mets are also among the oldest in IL for those two categories, so it may not necessarily be a function of contention (*rimshot!*).

As stated from day one, I know all eyes are on the team’s 19-year-old, but I’m not going to make him the focus of the daily News & Notes unless he actually, you know, does particularly well or particularly poorly — just everyone else (except maybe in the tags, can’t hurt with the ads, right?).

This isn’t a bad-looking roster on paper and it might make for a decent summer for the folks in upstate New York after all.

Apr 042012
 

As you might expect, Anthony Rendon, headlines the 2012 Potomac Nationals roster — particularly since it’s been four years since a first rounder from the previous year started the season for the P-Nats. Joining the sixth pick on the active roster will be seven watchlist players, including the #14 Baseball America prospect, Michael Taylor.

Perhaps more notably, there are eight players on the Potomac DL — how long they stay there (and who they will replace) will be the subject of bitching and moaning debate for the next several hours, if not days or weeks (watchlist in bold): LHPs Matt Purke and Robbie Ray; Cs Sam Palace and Beau Seabury; IFs Zach Walters, Rick Hague, and Steven Souza and OF J.R. Higley.

Here’s the rundown on the active roster:

PITCHERS
Paul Applebee
Ryan Demmin
Wilson Eusebio
Matt Grace
Bobby Hansen
Trevor Holder
Neil Holland
Adam Olbrychowski
Cameron Selik
Josh Smoker
Matt Swyenberg
Rob Wort
Kyle Winters

CATCHERS
David Freitas
James Skelton

INFIELDERS
Justin Bloxom
Blake Kelso
Sean Nicol
Anthony Rendon
Adrian Sanchez
Francisco Soriano

OUTFIELDERS
Chris Curran
Kevin Keyes
Wade Moore
Randolph Oduber
Michael Taylor

An interesting blend of last year’s P-Nats and Suns. On paper there should be enough offense to erase any doubts about the pitching, which will also be a curious case of who starts and for how long, as there are just two “pure starters” (Grace, Winters) and four “pure relievers” (Smoker, Eusebio, Wort, and Holland) and a whole bunch of guys that have done both.

As the estimable Brian Oliver noted on Twitter, the duo of Michael Taylor and Anthony Rendon should be an especially exciting combo, if in fact, they bat leadoff and second (as they ought to, with Bloxom batting third and Keyes hitting cleanup).

The P-Nats begin the season on Friday with three games in Lynchburg, an off day on Monday, then three games in Myrtle Beach before the home opener next Friday, the 13th.

Apr 032012
 

Okay, so it’s not Bryce Harper, but the second of the four full-season rosters to be announced ain’t too shabby. In terms of the watchlist, that’s 15 of the remaining 65 players. In terms of the draft, it’s nine 2011 picks.

Naturally, expectations will be high for this group, as they’re the bulk of the 2011 Auburn Doubledays — winners of the N.Y.-Penn League’s Pinckney Division and runners-up for the championship.

As noted earlier today, the “pushdown” continues with OF J.P. Ramirez and IF Cutter Dykstra dropping down from Potomac and five others repeating from last season.

Without further ado…

PITCHERS
Aaron Barrett
Brian Dupra
Wirkin Estevez
Taylor Hill
Greg Holt
Nathan Karns
Alex Kreis
Bobby Lucas
Christopher McKenzie
Alex Meyer
Christian Meza
Todd Simko
Kylin Turnbull

CATCHERS
Cole Leonida
Adrian Nieto

INFIELDERS
Cutter Dykstra
Jason Martinson
Justin Miller
Brett Newsome
Bryce Ortega
Matt Skole

OUTFIELDERS
Brian Goodwin
Angelbirth Montilla
Caleb Ramsey
J.P. Ramirez

According to the press release on the team site, the starting five will be Meyer, McKenzie, Estevez, Dupra, and Turnbull, which, if true, could signal the predicted conversion of Karns to closer.

The presence of 1Bs Miller and Newsome is most likely a sign that Skole will remain at third base, with Martinson and Ortega likely to fill the middle infield.

Caleb Ramsey, Brian Goodwin and Angel Montilla are most likely to man the OF from LF to CF to RF, respectively, but it will be interesting to see how the Ramirez and Dykstra are used defensively, if at all; both were often used at DH in Potomac.

Finally, the catching tandem of Nieto and Leonida are both back, and both likely to return to their last-season roles of starting and backup catcher.

Hagerstown opens at home with a four-game set against the West Virginia, followed by a three-game series against the Lexington Legends.

Apr 032012
 

It’s another trip to New England to visit family, but a short one — leaving today, back on Friday.

The plan is to update the site in the evenings, cheap motel WiFi willing. I know this is horrible timing in terms of the “roster rollout,” but I think last night’s missive is a clue that folks will need to adjust their expectations.

It appears that lot of players are going to start ’12 where they left off in ’11, and it would not surprise me if the “Auburn” roster (a.k.a. Extended Spring Training) is going to be nearly full. We’ll know more when the next batch of released players hits the streets.

Enjoy this afternoon’s tuneup against the Red Sox. “News & Notes” returns on Thursday.

Apr 022012
 

The official release is not yet in hand, but with some help (H/T Geoff Morrow of the Patriot News), we’ve cobbled together a preliminary list of the 2012 Harrisburg Senators, which will feature quite a few of our 2012 Watchlist.

There are more than 25 names here, so a couple of them will be on the roster but on the DL, which we’ll learn in the coming days (watchlist players in bold).

PITCHERS
Michael Ballard
Erik Davis
Paul Demny
Marcos Frias
Christian Garcia
Robert Gilliam
Danny Rosenbaum
Pat Lehman
Jeff Mandel
Pat McCoy
Hector Nelo
Kevin Pucetas
Joe Testa

CATCHERS
Jeff Howell
Devin Ivany
Sandy Leon

INFIELDERS
Josh Johnson
Stephen King
Jeff Kobernus
Jose Lozada
Manny Mayorson
Chris McConnell
Tim Pahuta

OUTFIELDERS
Destin Hood
Eury Perez
Chris Rahl
Jesus Valdez

A lot of familiar names, no? By my count, 12 of these 27 played for Harrisburg at some point last season. This roster very much reminds me of the Potomac rosters of a few years ago, where there’s very little in-between — either a prospect or a veteran. But with eight watchlist players, this is going to be one of the most interesting teams to watch this season.

Harrisburg opens up the 2012 campaign on the road in Bowie this Thursday for a four-game set, with night games on Thursday and Friday and day games on Saturday and Sunday.

Apr 022012
 

Word about who’s going where is seeping out slowly.

MASN’s Byron Kerr had an incredible tease interesting post yesterday about some of them.

So far, some of my roster guesses are taking some hits. It appears that neither Potomac CI (Justin Bloxom or Steven Souza) are headed to Harrisburg, which is a bit of a shock, though Souza said via Twitter that his knee is ailing. If indeed Cutter Dykstra and J.P. Ramirez are going backwards, that’s a little odd, too, though both players struggled for long stretches in Woodbridge last season. Especially when you consider the talent from Auburn that they will have to compete for playing time against.

Injuries are always the X factor when projecting rosters. In addition to Souza, and Rick Hague (shoulder), Kerr also reports that Zach Walters (hand) is on the shelf, too. Matt Purke is being held out to build up his shoulder, while Ryan Tatusko is staying back to work on some mechanical issues, which may be the case for Robbie Ray, too (not specified, though it could be simply to limit his IP). Without a doubt, there will be others.

I’ve got the alerts set and am watching the wires. Hoping something breaks before tonight, as tomorrow is a travel day to New England to see my family.

Mar 312012
 

All signs are pointing to Steve Lombardozzi making the big club. So we (continue to) wait.

Despite his release, multiple online sources are indicating that OF Jason Michaels will re-sign and start the season at Syracuse. If so, we’re probably looking at a Chiefs outfield of Brown-Harper-Michaels. As noted in the penultimate post, Andres Blanco has indeed signed a minor-league deal with Philadelphia, where injuries to Chase Utley and former Nat farmhand Michael Martinez have left them in need of infielders.

Rule 5 pick Erik Komatsu has made the St. Louis Cardinals Opening Day roster, but news regarding Brad Meyers remains cryptic. Despite another Yankee pitcher (Michael Pineda) going on the DL today, the odds are that today’s starter for New York (Adam Warren) will get the long-relief role that Rule 5 picks are often used for.

Rosters appear to be set, but haven’t been officially released yet. Byron Kerr is reporting that Matt Purke, Rick Hague, and Robbie Ray will be held back, while Alex Meyer will be starting the season at Hagerstown. I’ve heard some other names, but like player releases, prefer to announce them when the press releases are issued. Unfortunately, I’m out of town for the local media days (Tuesday in Hagerstown, Wednesday in Potomac) but will pass along what I can, when I can.

Mar 292012
 

The news that was hinted at last Thursday has become official with the latest Baseball America transaction update (March 20-26). Before folks pile on in the comments, just remember that for some of these young men, it’s the end of the road. Others will hope to hook on with another organization in the minors. A few will try to make a go of it in the indys. And all will be trying to figure out what’s the next chapter in the lives, baseball or otherwise.

  • LHP Mitchell Clegg (Potomac)
  • RHP Tyler Hanks (Hagerstown)
  • RHP Gaby Hernandez (offseason pickup)
  • LHP Lee Hyde (Syracuse)
  • RHP Marcel Prado (offseason pickup)
  • RHP Ben Graham (Hagerstown)

I don’t believe is the extent of the cuts, at least based on last year’s post at this time. More likely than not, there will be another set in the next 2-3 days as they camps break. If I learn of any more via media outlets, I’ll append accordingly. Otherwise, I expect we’ll learn the rest next week.

Mar 292012
 

The Nationals have reassigned non-roster invitees OF Jason Michaels and IF Andres Blanco to minor-league camp, a strong indication that IF prospect Steve Lombardozzi will make the 25-man roster.

As noted in the comments, the conventional wisdom is that the last IF bench spot was a battle between Lombardozzi and Blanco, and the latter did himself no favors by committing more errors (3) than hits (2). Blanco does have an opt-out in his contract, but there is speculation that both the Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies may have interest in trading for his services, even with the retention bonus that’s due tomorrow.

Obviously, injuries are also playing a huge part in these developments. It should be noted that while Lombardozzi may make the Opening Day roster, when the likes of Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche are fully healthy, it’s certainly possible to see him optioned back to Syracuse to get regular playing time. Doubtful, perhaps, but possible.

As the headline suggests, Atahulapa Severino has been optioned for the third straight spring, a setback for him personally, but not an unexpected move. The 27-year-old Dominican has spent that past two seasons at Syracuse, posting a 7-5 record with two saves and a 1.500 WHIP over 99⅓ IP.

UPDATE: Following this afternoon’s split-squad game, the Nationals announced that Jason Michaels had been released while Ryan Perry was optioned to AAA Syracuse. Multiple online sources are reporting that former Pirates prospect Zach Duke had been signed to a minor-league deal following his release from Houston earlier this week. Yesterday, the Nationals announced the signing of journeyman AAA starter Kevin Pucetas.

The takeaway? Most likely it means that one or more of the offseason FA starters signed (e.g. Atkins, Ballard, Barthmaier, Bibens-Dirkx) has suffered an injury or has been released.