Sep 162011
 

The accolades keep coming for the Washington Nationals minor-leaguers, as six farmhands (five current and one former) were named by Baseball America in its roundup of All-Star Teams.

Brad Peacock was named to the first team of the 2011 Minor-League All-Star Team as one of the five starting pitchers, while Bryce Harper was named to the second team as one of three outfielders. Unlike the league awards, this a higher honor because the pool was all of minor-league baseball.

At the classification level (AAA, AA, Hi-A, etc.) the following Nationals were named:

AAA
Tommy Milone, SP

AA
Peacock, SP

High-A
Jeff Kobernus, 2B

Low-A
Harper, OF
Chris Manno, RP*
*Manno was traded along with Bill Rhinehart for Jonny Gomes to Cincinnati

Short-Season A
Matt Skole, 3B

Sep 152011
 

Late last week, the invitees to the Florida Instructional League were announced, broken down by pitchers and position players.

One of our commenters (markfd) broke down the ’10 invites into three categories or buckets, if you will, and for ’11 it still holds water (dear Liza, dear Liza)…
1. Very Young
2. Changing Roles/Position
3. Guys That Need To Work On Specific Skill/Pitch

All but one of the position players moved up a level from 2010 to 2011. Russell Moldenhauer was the exception. Among the pitchers, the “spent time at multiple levels” exception still holds true (Danny Rosenbaum, Trevor Holder, Rob Wort) but with the influx of DSL talent and more importantly, the organization getting younger, there were more repeats at the short-season/rookie levels (DSL, GCL, NYPL).

Overall, there were 20 repeats from 2010 to 2011 — 12 position players, eight pitchers. Like last year, nearly all of the newbies are 2011 draftees or DSL rookies. The exceptions? Nathan Karns, Jack McGeary, Chris McKenzie, Elvin Ramirez, Cameron Selik, and Matt Swynenberg. All but the last two were injured or have missed significant time due to injury.

I think folks need to be careful reading too much into who’s not on those two lists because not being invited is not necessarily an indictment. Josh Smoker, for example, probably didn’t go back because the organization has seen enough from him in 2011 and believes he’s on track for 2012. Likewise for Roberto Perez in Auburn. And of course, there’s always the explanation of injuries, for which we have little information and the organization shares very sparingly.

Unfortunately, stories out of the FIL are few and far between. Last year, we were fortunate enough to have one of our readers issue a couple of dispatches, and of course, Bryce Harper made an appearance. Stephen Strasburg has been mentioned as possibly making some appearance for a week or two, which is probably our best hope of anything, given our budget and the biases of the traditional media outlets on which I have to rely for anything I can’t see in person.

As I did last offseason, I’ll try pass along whatever information I come across, FIL or otherwise, until the Arizona Fall League starts. In the meantime, as VladiHondo said: Let’s enjoy watching “our kids” in DC this September.

Sep 142011
 

The Staten Island Yankees took a 2-1 decision from the Auburn Doubledays, sweeping the best-of-three New York-Penn League Championship Series two games to none.

Nathan Karns was the losing pitcher, giving up a solo home run to Zachary Wilson in the second inning as one of the two hits he allowed over three innings. He also walked three and struck out four.

Manager Gary Cathcart began to empty the bullpen after lifting Karns, as Manny Rodriguez, Christian Meza, and Alex Kreis each threw a scoreless inning. The offense, however, continued to sputter as they were unable to solve Staten Island’s Matt Tracy. The lefthander shut out the Doubledays over his six innings, allowing three hits and no walks while setting down four on strikes.

Aaron Barrett was the final Doubleday pitcher of the evening and retired the Yankees 1-2-3 in the seventh but two singles and a wild pitch led to the second Staten Island run in the eighth and a 2-0 lead for the Yankees.

Auburn got the run back in the top of the ninth on a Carlos Alvarez single (his second on a 2-for-4 evening), an error that sent Alvarez to third, and a sacrifice fly by Justin Miller. Matt Skole, who reached on the error, never got into scoring position as back-to-back grounders by Angel Montilla and Caleb Ramsey ended the game and the season for the Doubledays.

Including the playoffs, Auburn was 47-33 for the 2011 season, its first as a Washington Nationals affiliate and the best record for a Nats’ New York-Penn League entry since the team was relocated to DC in the 2004-05 offseason.

Sep 132011
 


The Gulf Coast League announced its postseason All-Star team today, which included perennial GBI guy Wander Ramos as one of the outfielders.

Just 11 players are named to the team — the eight positions, a designated hitter, a starting pitcher and a reliever.

Ramos was one of two ’09 DSL “graduates” to get significant playing time in ’10 in the GCL, but repeated the level for 2011. The 21-year-old saw his power rates jump dramatically (2010 SLG .308, 2011 SLG .653) while improving both his OBP (.303 to .401) and BA (.253 to .313)

Sep 132011
 

Team Pitching Star Hitting Star #1 Hitting Star #2
Potomac
L, 3-2
Trevor Holder
3⅓ IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 4K
Brian Peacock
1-4, R, HR, RBI
Zach Walters
1-4, R, 2B
Auburn
L, 9-2
Manny Rivera
1⅔ IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 2K
Billy Burns
2-4, R, 2B, SB
Wilfri Pena
1-4, 2B, RBI

The Frederick Keys got three runs in the bottom of the first and made them stand up for a 3-2 win over the Potomac Nationals in Game Five to advance to the 2011 Mills Cup Finals against the Kinston Indians.

The Potomac bullpen trio of Trevor Holder, Marcos Frias and Neil Holland tossed seven and a 1/3rd scoreless and hitless innings of relief to keep this game close, but the P-Nats bats were largely silent — just four hits and three walks total, though Brian Peacock did connect on a solo shot in the 9th to likely finish his five-season odyssey on a high note.

Meanwhile, the Auburn Doubledays dropped Game One of the best-of-three New York-Penn League Championship Series, 9-2 to the Staten Island Yankees. With the next two in New York City, they’ll have to beat the team with the best regular-season record overall and the second-best home record at 24-12 — twice.

Wirkin “For The Weekend” Estevez was not sharp, giving up two runs on three hits and a walk over five innings with several deep counts early in the game but struck out six, including four in the second thanks to a wild pitch. The bullpen imploded in the last two frames, as Richie Mirowski. Ben Hawkins and Travis Henke gave up six runs on six hits and four walks.

Sep 122011
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Harrisburg Lost, 2-1 ELIMINATED N/A
Potomac Won, 6-1 @ Frederick,
7:00 p.m.
Paul Demny or Mitchell Clegg vs.
Nick Haughian or Jacob Petit
Auburn OFF DAY vs.
Staten Island,
7:05 p.m.
Wirkin Estevez (6-3, 4.01) vs.
Taylor Morton (0-1, 5.40)

The Harrisburg Senators were swept from the Eastern League playoffs with a 2-1 loss to Richmond. While the flooding that delayed the series two days and shifted it to entirely in Richmond didn’t help, the lack of offense was more to blame. The Sens had just five hits yesterday and 18 for the series, batting a .175 overall, .143 with RISP, and 23 runners left on base. The starting pitching was sensational, with Erik Arnesen, Shairon Martis, and Tanner Roark each going seven innings and the trio striking out 29 batters combined while allowing just five runs total.

The Potomac Nationals decided to wait until the next-to-last chance they had on a Sunday Afternoon In Woodbridge to beat the Keys and force a Game Five in the Northern Division Championship Series tonight in Frederick. The winner will meet Kinston for the 2011 Mills Cup.

It’s the final home game of the 2011 season in Auburn, New York as the Doubledays play host to the Staten Island Yankees in Game One of the best-of-three New York-Penn League Championship Series. The two teams split the only two games they played during the regular season. Wirkin “For The Weekend” Estevez gets the start against 2010 9th-round pick 19-year-old Taylor Morton, who threw all but five of his 55 innings in the regular season in the GCL.

Sep 112011
 

For the second straight afternoon game, the Potomac Nationals scored six times in the bottom of the eighth. Last time, it secured the second-half title. This time, it forced a deciding Game Five in the Carolina League’s Northern Division Series.

After 16 innings of offensive futility — four baserunners last night, five through the first seven innings today — the rally started as one might expect: with a whimper, not a bang. Eury Perez chopped an infield single to the 5/6 hole and beat it out. After unsuccessfully trying to sacrifice, Francisco Soriano worked a walk to push Perez to second. Kobernus likewise “failed” to lay one down, but paid the price with a hit-by-pitch to his wrist to load the bases with nobody out. He was replaced by Sean Nicol.

Do I need to tell you who was up next?

With the infield drawn in, the Potomac right fielder bounced one up the middle to give Potomac the 2-1 lead. Justin Bloxom followed with the third sacrifice attempt, and this time, the cleanup hitter got the job done, moving up Nicol and Destin Hood. Brian Peacock got the intentional pass to reload the bases.

After Sandy Leon, who had the audacity to throw out three of the four runners to try to steal against him, struck out for the second out of the inning, Frederick still looked like they might recover and have a chance to tie, down just 2-1.

Instead, Jose Lozada took out a two-run policy with a single to center and Zach Walters attached a similar rider with a triple over Keys right-fielder for a total of four insurance runs and a 6-1 lead.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without some stellar pitching prior to the eighth. Adam Olbrychowski let in the one Frederick run on six hits, but walked just one and struck out five in his five and a 1/3rd innings of work. Neil Holland was the first man out of the ‘pen and while he did hit a batter, he got a critical strikeout and some help from Keys manager Orlando Gomez, who hasn’t quite grasped the concept that running on Leon is not a good idea, as he sent Miguel Abreu on a steal of third with two outs to end the threat.

Joe Testa took the hill in the 7th and got two quick outs before giving up an infield hit by Dale Mollenhauer, the leadoff lefty that was his raison d’être. Unlike Gomez, manager Matt Lecroy wasn’t about to play with fire and let Testa face Jonathan Schoop, calling instead upon Cameron Selik.

“Win or go home today” Selik tweeted and he backed it up by inducing Schoop to fly out to end the 7th and working around a hit and an error in the 8th. As the pitcher of record for the 8th-inning rally, he got the win for today’s game.

Hector Nelo got three ground outs in the 9th, but, as usual, made it less than automatic by giving up a one-out double and balking the runner over to third.

The series resumes tomorrow night in Frederick. MiLB.com is listing Mitchell Clegg and Nick Haughian as the probables, but the smart money is on a rematch of the Game One starters Sammy Solis Paul Demny and Jacob Petit.

Sep 112011
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Harrisburg Lost, 4-2 @ Richmond,
1:05 p.m.
Tanner Roark (9-9, 4.69) vs.
Justin Fitzgerald (9-9, 3.51)
Potomac Lost, 5-1 vs. Frederick,
1:05 p.m.
Adam Olbrychowski (5-7, 4.16) vs.
Ryohei Tanaka (9-5, 3.33)
Auburn OFF DAY OFF DAY N/A

Two losses on Saturday night have pushed both Harrisburg and Potomac to the brink of elimination in the best-of-five format, with the Senators trailing Richmond in its series 2-0 and the P-Nats down 2-1 to Frederick. Both teams could be finished by late this afternoon.

Harrisburg fell 4-2 to Richmond in 11 innings, blowing a 2-0 lead in the 8th. Like the night before, clutch hitting was not to be found as the Senators went 0-for-6 with RISP and stranded seven runners. Derek Norris accounted for the first Harrisburg run and lone RBI while Tyler Moore scored on a wild pitch.

Shairon Martis walked four batters but allowed just one hit and no runs over seven innings while setting down nine on strikes. Rafael Martin let in the tying runs (both unearned) on two hits. Pat Lehman took the loss in the 11th by loading the bases with nobody out after pitching a scoreless 10th. Cory VanAllen couldn’t strand them and the Sens couldn’t get them back in their half of the 11th.

Potomac was held to just three hits total while Frederick’s two true prospects were both outstanding Last Night In Woodbridge. It needs to be mentioned somewhere that despite the deluge of rain on Thursday, the field was restored to playable condition on Friday and Saturday and was not a factor in the game.

Finally, the Staten Island Yankees defeated the Brooklyn Cyclones by the slimmest of margins, 1-0. They will play the Doubledays in Auburn for Game One of the New York-Penn League Championship, then return to New York City on Tuesday for Games Two and Three (if necessary).

Sep 102011
 

With just three balls hit out of the infield, the Potomac Nationals were manhandled by the Keys pitchers and outclassed by their two teenage prospects tonight in Woodbridge.

It’s been fashionable to complain about the veteran-laden Frederick lineup, but 19-year-olds Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado were simply awesome… and nearly beat the P-Nats all by themselves. In 10 plate appearances, P-Nats pitchers were able to get them out just twice — a grounder to short (Schoop) in the first inning, a foul popup to catcher (Machado) in the eighth inning. In between, they scored four runs, singled twice, walked twice, doubled three times, and drove in two runs.

Oh, it gets worse. The two also combined on defense for 10 assists, two putouts, and turned a nifty 6-4-3 DP in the bottom of the seventh to erase the fourth and final Potomac baserunner. I can only imagine that this must have been what it was like for fans of the 1977 Montgomery Rebels, watching Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker become of one of the all-time great middle infield combos.

Getting back to Potomac, if you’re thinking three balls out of the infield means three hits, well, yes… but not exactly. That’s two flyouts and a Destin Hood home run to lead off the fourth, the only ball Potomac hit solidly all night long. There were indeed three hits collected, but the other two were a one-out tapper to third base that Steve Souza beat out in the second inning and bunt to the shortstop Machado with two outs in the third inning. Souza would be hit by a pitch in the seventh and be erase, as aforementioned.

Evan Bronson took the loss with three runs given up over four and 2/3rds innings on seven hits and two walks. He was followed Marcos Frias, who went an inning and a 1/3rd, giving up the last two (unearned runs), Trevor Holder, who tossed a two scoreless innings, and Josh Smoker, who worked around a leadoff walk to keep the Keys off the board in the ninth.

Frederick’s Scott Copeland got the win with just the three hits allowed, no walks, and five strikeouts. Ryan Berry retired all six batters he faced to finish out the game.

With a 2-1 lead, the Keys have a chance to take the Divisional Series tomorrow, sending Ryohei Tanaka to the hill while the P-Nats’ Adam Olbrychowski gets the task of forcing a Game Five, which would be held in Frederick on Monday night.

Sep 102011
 

Instead of waiting until the final weekend of the year, the Washington Nationals have named Steve Lombardozzi and Brad Peacock as their Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year. Both players will be honored prior to the game tonight.

Both players began the year with Double-A Harrisburg, both having been called up last year from Potomac — key cogs in the machine that would win the 2010 Carolina League Championship. Both were also a part of the Arizona Fall League Championship team.

Lombardozzi has had the double-edged sword of being the son of a former major-leaguer: the sneer of “legacy pick” as well as the expectations of living up to the name. The 22-year-old (turns 23 in two weeks) was drafted in the 19th round of the 2008 Draft out of St. Petersburg (FL) Junior College and has steadily moved up the ladder, hitting for average at each stop, and developing some gap power along the way.

A shortstop in college, both Baseball America and John Sickels praise the move to second, citing a fringy arm, which is most apparent on balls to his right. That said, Lombardozzi has above-average hands and further compensates for his average range by positioning himself well on defense. Consequently, he’s made just 27 errors in 442 minor-league games for a .987 fielding percentage.

Peacock has had a longer road to The Show, drafted in 2006 as “draft and follow” out of Palm Beach (FL) Community College. A shortstop in high school, Peacock has learned the craft along the way. The 2011 season was actually his first minor-league season in which he (A) had more wins than losses, a.k.a. “a winning record” (B) more than 10 wins. It’s actually just his second season with a sub-4.00 ERA.

As Sickels put it in his 2011 book:

I know… won-loss record is irrelevant to prospect status but you have to admit it looks weird to see a guy who is actually a good prospect have a 19-35, .352 record in his career… His FIPs are consistently much better than the ERAs [but] he’s got the stuff to succeed and I think he’s a sleeper.

Indeed. Peacock caught my eye last summer and became a favorite subject, especially as he figured out that striking out in double-digits wasn’t as important as going seven innings, which culminated in a five-hit shutout shortly before his callup to Hagerstown.

Unlike last year, both men figure to be “in the conversation” for the 2012 ballclub. What remains to be seen is in what capacity: starter or reliever, everyday player or off the bench.