Oct 202012

With no Nationals playing for the Salt River Rafters last night, let’s take a look at how the boys are doing in the various winter leagues, beginning of course with the AFL:







Just a reminder folks: none of these batters or pitchers will get enough repetitions for any of these numbers to be truly meaningful. But I know you folks can’t help but look (and I need something to keep the site going).

Oct 192012

It was a pitcher’s duel in the desert with the Salt River Rafters falling to the Peoria Javelinas, 3-1.

Four Nationals saw game action:

  • Brian Goodwin led off and played left field, but went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He had two putouts in the field.
  • Matt Skole batted third and played first base, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. He handled all eight defensive chances without an error.
  • Anthony Rendon had his hit streak stopped at five with an 0-for-3 game, batting from the #7 spot while playing 3B. He snagged three foul pops and threw out a runner at first.
  • Cole Kimball threw a scoreless inning and allowed his first hit of the fall. He issued no walks and struck out none.

The Rafters finish out the week with another pair of games at and versus the Scottsdale Scorpions tonight and tomorrow evening.

Oct 182012

Salt River rallied from a 7-1 deficit, scoring 11 unanswered runs before holding off a late charge from Peoria in a 12-9 victory yesterday.

Anthony Rendon, serving as the Rafters DH in the cleanup spot, doubled in two during a four-run rally in the top of the 9th. He finished the afternoon with a mark of 2-for-5 with two runs scored and three RBI.

Jason Martinson batted eighth and played third base but remains hitless this fall after an 0-for-4 game. He drove in a run with an RBI groundout in the 5th and laid down a sacrifice in the 6th. Defensively, he had an error and two assists.

Ryan Perry got the start, but was knocked around for five runs over the first two innings on four hits and two walks, including a three-run shot in the 1st. Paul Demny was the first man out of the ‘pen but was also ineffective, giving up two runs on three hits and a walk over the next two frames. Both Perry and Demny struck out two.

The win improves Salt River to 5-2 for the season, 2½ games up in the AFL East. The two teams rematch at Talking Stick tonight.

Oct 172012

The Salt River Rafters and Phoenix Desert Dogs played to a 3-3 tie over 11 innings last night.

Three Nats farmhands played in the contest:

  • Brian Goodwin was the DH and led off, but went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.
  • Matt Skole batted third, played first base, and went 1-for-3 with two walks.
  • Aaron Barrett tossed two scoreless innings, giving up two hits, but striking out three

Defensively, Skole played error-free in nine chances and even turned a 3-6-3 DP — not bad for a guy new to the position.

Barrett was the subject of Byron Kerr’s latest missive on the minors, but I have a feeling folks might be more interested to learn that Kerr has confirmed what has long been suspected: Matt Purke has had shoulder surgery.

I’ve put in a couple of questions regarding a couple of other pitchers (Josh Smoker, Manny Rodriguez), though I suspect one or both has been released and the other, if not released, has had surgery.

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Winter leagues have begun in Venezuela, Mexico and the Domnican Republic over the last few days. The Australian Baseball League begins its preseason tomorrow, regular season in 10 days while the Puerto Rican League starts three weeks from tomorrow. I’ll begin weekly updates on the stats for all the offseason leagues starting next week. In the meantime, here’s a look at the Nats players that have been spotted thus far (excluding players that did not play in the Washington minors this past summer):

Venezuela Dominican Republic
• Carlos Rivero • Manny Mayorson
• Tanner Roark • Erik Davis
Mexico • Pat McCoy
• Zech Zinicola • Kevin Pucetas
• Hassan Pena • Atahualpa Severino
Oct 162012

Lost in the big club’s playoff run late last week was the announcement from Baseball America for its International League Top 20 prospects. Coming in at #20 was the formerly enigmatic Christian Garcia.

Garcia was first spotted here last August, a line item if were he not a former New York Yankee farmhand (hence the post, natch). After a stellar two-level 2012 (combined 2-1, 0.86 with 21 saves), Garcia was first named to the Arizona Fall League, then pitched well enough as a September call-up to earn a postseason roster spot.

From the BA Scouting Report:

Garcia brings frontline-starter stuff to the back of the bullpen… starting with a 92-95 mph fastball that touches 97 regularly. His curveball was better earlier in his career but still has late break and some power in the low 80s. His changeup has late sink and has become his best secondary pitch. He throws all three pitches from the same arm slot and with similar arm speed.

It should be noted that while there’s chatter about Garcia returning to the rotation, the Nationals carefully monitored his workload in 2012, working him on back-to-back nights just twice. Much will obviously depend on how things turn out in the offseason, though the guess here and now is that Garcia will stick in the ‘pen where he can contribute in 2013 in DC versus going to back to starting where he’d have to be stretched out in Syracuse over several weeks (i.e. how Ryan Perry was dropped down a level when the decision was made to make him a starter this past summer).

Oct 162012

Matt Skole’s two-out, two-run single in the 10th snapped a 2-2 tie and ended a… wait for it… two-game losing streak as Salt River triumphed 4-2 over Phoenix yesterday afternoon.

The hit was Skole’s third of the game as the 23-year-old went 3-for-4 with a walk, a double, and two RBI as the Rafters’ DH, batting fifth in the Salt River lineup.

Scoring on the Skole’s game-winning safety was Brian Goodwin, who led off the 10th with a double, his second of the game, as the North Carolina native went 2-for-5 five with two runs scored while playing left field, where he made two putouts.

Anthony Rendon singled and stole a base, extending his hit streak to a modest four games, though he also struck out three times while going 1-for-5 batting behind Skole. Washington’s 2011 first-round pick had a busy game at third base, snagging a liner and assisting four times on groundouts to first.

Cole Kimball’s second outing of the fall was a much better effort as the 27-year-old stranded a runner in the 4th and struck out two in the fifth, retiring all four batters he faced, with 10 of his 13 pitches thrown for strikes.

The two teams rematch tonight, switching venues from Phoenix Municipal Stadium to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Oct 152012

For the second straight season, the Auburn Doubledays won the Pinckney Division and racked up a .600+ winning percentage. Alas, for the second straight season they fell short of the league championship, losing in the Divisional round this year instead of the Finals last year, two games to one.

As the year prior, the lion’s share of the Doubledays roster was 2012 draftees — seven of the top 12 batters in terms of PAs, five of the top 12 pitchers in terms of IPs. This, of course, is a product of the Washington focus on drafting collegiate players (26 of 40) in general and seniors in particular (16 of 24 signees). Not to, um, beat a dead horse, but my stance from last year that the Nats should consider drafting more HS players in light of the large number of 22-24-y.o.’s in the system remains the same.

That the parent club is now in a window of opportunity that has come sooner than most reasonable people would have expected (most of the “Natmosphere” pegged them winning about 85-87 games) solidifies that opinion. In other words, the organizatiom can afford to spend more time developing a hidden gem rather than playing it safe and hoping that a collegiate player can be pushed from a serviceable backup to an everyday player.

Continuing with our format, let’s examine how Auburn compared to the rest of the N.Y. Penn League…


Like last season, the 2012 Auburn Doubledays could hit, leading the league in runs scored, hits, and batting average and were second in on-base percentage and slugging. They weren’t quite as proficient in stealing bases in terms of quantity, but were successful nearly 79% of the time, a slight dip from last year’s insane rate of 85.5 percent.

On the flip side, however, the pitching needed all that offense because it wasn’t up to snuff: 10th in runs allowed and hit batsman, 13th in ERA and home runs allowed, 14th in hits allowed. There are a couple of caveats worth noting. Just two starting pitchers were below league-average in terms of ERA, though it should be noted that a couple pitchers had huge ERA-FIP differentials, which is not uncommon in short-season ball, and roughly a half-dozen pitchers had better than a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

I’m listing the Top 13* hitters and pitchers in terms of plate appearances and innings pitched and using defensive games played for the listing of position. The full statistics for the team can be found here.
(# = 2011 Draft Pick   ** = DSL Graduate)   *One extra because the #13 guy on both lists is worth noting

There is really little to complain about when it came to the offense — 10 of these 13 were above league average in GPA (link for those unfamiliar) and seven had isolated power rates (likewise) above the norm. Yes, you can write off some of this in the aggregate to age, but this was true last year and that carried over to Hagerstown this year (as predicted).

Defensively, the team was middle-of-the pack with one rather notable exception: catchers. Kieboom and Manuel (along with third-stringer Andruth Ramirez) combined to throw out 45% of the runners that attempted to steal against them and allowed a league-low 38 in 76 games, which is phenomenal when you consider how many opportunities teams had to run against them. Plus, the trio committed just six errors (four by Ramirez) for an aggregate fielding percentage of .991.

It’s not all sunny though, as we move along to the pitchers…

To be sure, there are some bright spots to be found here. Robert Benincasa’s outstanding walk and strikeout rates (1.2 BB/9and 12.3 K/9 for a ratio of 10.67 to 1) Derek Self’s 2.50 FIP, Nick Lee and Blake Monar’s HR rates (0.29 and 0.16 respectively). But you can also see a some high walk totals and as aforementioned, the team gave up the second-most HRs in the league. There are also quite a few innings there thrown by middle-relief/swingmen that had ERAs close to 5.00 (121⅓ between Medina, Waterman and Fischer, which sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?).
For the third straight year, I was able to make it to an Auburn contest, albeit a single game in Aberdeen. Still, this mostly sight-unseen, like the GCL and DSL and prone to the same problems that lead to the same misjudgments in rankings. For example, I put Bryce Ortega ahead of Matt Skole last year and didn’t rank Nathan Karns as a Top 5 for Auburn (though in my defense, Karns had a WHIP of 1.473 over eight starts after blowing through the GCL). So I expect to be wrong on a couple of these, too (hence the honorable mentions, natch).

Top 5 Batters
1. Estarlin Martinez
2. Wander Ramos
3. Brandon Miller
4. Shawn Pleffner
5. Mike McQuillan
HMs: Spencer Kieboom, Narciso Mesa

Top 5 Pitchers
1. Nick Lee
2. Robert Benincasa
3. Derek Self
4. Brett Mooneyham
5. Pedro Encarnacion
HMs: Ivan Pineyro, Cody Davis

Oct 142012

The Rafters pitchers had few surprises as the Saguaros pounded out 20 hits en route to a 10-2 win yesterday.

Potomac and Hagerstown teammates Aaron Barrett and Jason Martinson were the only two Nationals to see game action.

Martinson batted sixth as the DH and went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.

Barrett pitched the 7th inning and was knocked for two unearned runs on three hits, tossing 23 pitches with 15 going for strikes.

With the loss, Salt River falls to 3-2 and has the day off today. This week it’s a pair of games against Phoenix, Peoria, and Scottsdale with home games on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Oct 132012

A pair of two-run rallies in the middle innings sunk the Salt River Rafters for a 4-0 loss on Friday.

Five Nationals minor-leaguers got into yesterday’s game:

  • Brian Goodwin led off the first with a walk, but went 0-for-3 with a strikeout for the game. He caught two flyballs in left field.
  • Matt Skole also drew a first-inning walk and singled in the 8th, going 1-for-3 overall. He committed his first error at first base, but also took part in two double plays, a traditional ’round-the-horn and a 4-3-4 where Skole helped catch the runner on second trying to sneak over to third.
  • Anthony Rendon singled in the second and a drew a walk in the 7th, finishing 1-for-3. Defensively, he was the “5” on the 5-4-3 DP.
  • Cole Kimball retired just one of the five batters he faced, walking the bases loaded in the 5th and letting in two runs on Skole’s error. He threw 20 pitches, seven of which were strikes.
  • Paul Demny relieved Kimball and stranded the two runners he inherited, but also struggled with his control with 12 of 28 pitches missing the zone. He walked two and gave up two hits over two and two-thirds innings.

Salt River falls to 3-1 with the loss and finishes up the first week of the AFL with an afternoon game at the Surprise Saguaros.

Oct 122012

The Salt River Rafters walked off with a two-run rally in the 9th for their third straight win on Thursday night, 6-5.

Brian Goodwin led off the the final frame with a solo shot to tie it at 5-5. Two batters later, Anthony Rendon drew a walk to load the the bases and set up the game-winning single by White Sox first baseman Andy Wilkins.

Goodwin would finish the night at 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI while batting out of the #9 spot in the lineup. Rendon walked twice, scored once, and went 1-for-3 with an RBI double. He was #3 in the lineup and #5 on the defensive chart, taking a grounder to third in the 9th for his only defensive chance.

Ryan Perry got the start for the Rafters, but was touched for two runs on four hits and two walks over three innings. He threw 55 pitches, 31 for strikes and faced 14 batters with three strikeouts, three groundouts, a lineout and two flyballs.

Salt River and Scottsdale rematch tonight in the Scorpions’ home field at Scottsdale Stadium.