Oct 122011
 

A much busier day than usual for the Nats prospects in yesterday’s 3-2 loss by the Scottsdale Scorpions. The highlights:

  • Bryce Harper went 0-for-3 with a walk while playing RF, where he made two putouts and had a triple go off his glove. On his walk he stole second but was caught trying to steal third with one out and the Scorpions trailing 3-1
  • Derek Norris caught and went 1-for-3 with a run scored, but committed an error while attempting to throw out a runner at second
  • Zach Walters went 2-for-3 with an RBI while playing 3B, where he had one assist
  • Rafael Martin made his first appearance, tossing a scoreless inning while issuing a walk and striking out one
  • Pat Lehman suffered through two innings, giving up two runs on four hits, including a solo HR

Scottsdale returns to .500 (3-3) with the loss. Sammy Solis is slated to start tonight’s game against the Salt River Rafters.

Oct 112011
 

The Scottsdale Scorpions picked up where they left off on Saturday and won their third straight, 4-3.

Bryce Harper drove in his first run with an RBI groundout in the 4th and snapped an 0-for-15 streak with a single in the 6th. He was intentionally walked in the 8th. Both times he reached base he stole second. On defense, he played left field and made two putouts.

Zach Walters was the designated hitter but went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

The two teams meet again this afternoon. Sammy Solis is most likely going to start tomorrow, while pitchers Rafael Martin and Matt Purke have yet to appear in a game.

Oct 102011
 

Here’s a look at how the Nationals fared over the weekend in the Arizona Fall League…

FRIDAY
Scottsdale broke into the win column with a 7-3 decision over the Phoenix Desert Dogs.

  • Derek Norris was the DH and went 1-for-4 with an RBI and 2K
  • Pat Lehman pitched the 9th and allowed a hit and a walk but struck out two

SATURDAY
The Scorpions evened their record with another win over the Desert Dogs, 5-4.

  • Zach Walters played 3B and doubled in five at-bats, making one assist
  • Bryce Harper played RF struck out twice while going 0-for-5
  • Norris caught and went 1-for-4 with a stolen base. No baserunners attempted to steal against him.

This week features home-and-home series with Mesa, Salt River, and Peoria with afternoon games on Tuesday and Saturday.

Winter leagues also start up in Mexico (tomorrow), Venezuela (Wednesday) and the Dominican Republic (Friday). Roster information is not yet available, though Syracuse pitcher Ryan Tatusko has announced via Twitter that he’ll be starting on Thursday. I’ll pass along info as I come across it, but most likely it will be on an ad-hoc basis.

Oct 072011
 


As predicted earlier this week, Brad Peacock appeared on a second list (wouldn’t want to draw up 20 unique prospects for each level – who’d want that?) issued by the folks at Baseball America — coming in at #9.

As expected/feared, Peacock was the sole National on the list.

Here’s the highlight from the scouting report:

Displaying excellent arm action, Peacock sits at 93-94 mph and touches 97 with his sinking and tailing fastball. While scouts preferred his changeup to his curveball in the Eastern League, the reverse was true in the IL, where evaluators rated his curve as a plus pitch. He tends to lose his delivery at times, which led to struggles with his command in Syracuse.

As you might expect for a late bloomer such as Peacock, the opinions vary regarding his future. As we saw earlier this week, John Manuel of BA thinks he could be the #3 starter for the Nationals. Keith Law has been adamant since last fall that he’s a reliever not a starter.
And, of course, I was able to find a scouting report that says he could be either.

Ultimately, I think the silver lining is that it’s nice to have a pitcher that looks like he’s going to contribute one way or another as opposed to the long line of guys that might be able to fulfill a narrowly defined need. As always, if I spot something in this evening’s chat, I’ll update this post.

UPDATE:
One question in the chat, but not about Peacock…

Q [Jim from Miami]: What are your thoughts on Tom Milone? He had a nice season in Syracuse then pitched fairly well in 5 starts in Washington. Do you think he can be a contributor for the Nationals, both short-term and long-term?

A [James Bailey]: Milone has exceptional control and command. He walked just 16 hitters in 148 IP for Syracuse while striking out 155. That’s outstanding at any level. His command was the best in the league, and his changeup may have been. But … his fastball runs only 88-91 mph. He doesn’t have the same margin for error that a lot of the guys who throw harder have. I think he can be a contributor as a back-of-the-rotation guy or long man.

Oct 072011
 


It was a light afternoon yesterday for the Nationals prospects in a 3-2 loss by the Scottsdale Scorpions to the Salt River Rafters.

Sammy Solis started and went three innings, allowing a run on two hits and three walks. He struck out none while throwing 53 pitches, just 30 of which were strikes.

Bryce Harper remains hitless after going 0-for-5 with a strikeout. He once again played LF, making three putouts.

Baseball America is scheduled to release its Top 20 prospects for the International League later today.

Oct 062011
 


The 2011 campaign started with a whimper as the Scottsdale Scorpions were pounded for a 10-1 loss. Four Nats saw game action…

  • Zach Walters played 3B and went 1-for-3, one of the two hits the Scorpions managed for the game
  • Bryce Harper played LF and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout
  • Derek Norris played C and went 0-for-3, but picked a runner off 1st
  • Pat Lehman got the last out of the 7th, but also threw a wild pitch


Sammy Solis gets the start today
, according to MASN’s Byron Kerr, who also had a feature on Lehman yesterday morning.

Oct 052011
 

Believe it or not, the 2011 GCL Nationals were actually younger than the 2010 edition, which wasn’t exactly a tough achievement. As frequent commenter VladiHondo pointed out, this is largely due to the infusion of players from the D.R. — four bats, three arms — with Deion Williams as the sole American-born teenager.

Despite being nearly a year older than the league average (21.1 vs. 20.4), the G-Nats pitchers were the league’s worst at 5.74 R/G and that goes a long way towards explaining the 20-33 mark. The bats weren’t as proficient as last year’s edition (which led the league), but were fifth-best and pretty close to league average in terms of age (20.0 vs. 19.9).

Breaking it down statistically vs. the rest of the league…
HITTING

PITCHING

A word about the “adjusted” totals… The G-Nats played the fewest games in the league (53) so I adjusted the numbers to the 58-game average for the league. Otherwise, I might say something like “well, they didn’t strike out as often” when in fact, they did. Unfortunately, that would also make the defense the league-worst in terms of total errors committed (actual 111, adjusted 122), which most of you probably already deduced from that huge gap between the team’s ERA and R/G allowed.

Like most losing teams, there are still bright spots to be found when looking at the team individually. The catchers, for example, threw out runners at a 34% rate, which was fifth-best in the league. As I did last year, I’m listing the Top 12 batters in terms of plate appearances, listing their position(s) in terms of games played. Players with an asterisk played in the DSL in 2010 or 2011; Players with a double asterisk are GCL repeats from 2010; Players with an octothorpe(#) are IFAs. The full statistics for the team can be found here.

Unlike last year, none of the batters below the cutoff were 2011 draft picks that were bumped up. Just one notable batter was sent north that couldn’t be considered a rehab (Carlos Alvarez) and two of the remaining 12 batters were 2010 draft picks that were essentially demoted — Rick Hughes (in-season from Auburn) and Chad Mozingo (began and ended in the GCL after playing in Vermont in 2010).

Three of the Top 12 were repeaters from 2010 — Martinez, Ramos, and Rodriguez — with another two bats graduating from the DSL to begin the season (Mesa, Valdez) and a third coming up midseason (Difo). Two IFAs were placed here (Severino and Peguero) instead of in the DR. This is consistent with 2010 usage and placement, which means you’re likely to see Martinez and Ramos in Auburn, and Severino and Peguero repeating. What the Nationals do with Mesa, Valdez and Difo is certainly up for debate. That at least one of those three will repeat the GCL in 2012 is probably not.

On to the pitchers, listing the Top 12 in terms of innings pitched…
(**- = Repeat after demotion from Auburn to start year; ^ = Non-Drafted Free Agent; *** = Third Year at GCL)

My first instinct was to skip over Chico and McGeary as “rehabs” until I decided that their usage was emblematic of the GCL season. Had I done that, another NDFA (Scott Williams) and a 38th round draft pick (Nicholas Lee) at 13⅓ and 13 IP, respectively would have made the list. Just one (1) 2011 draftee was among the Top 12 in terms of innings pitched while the four most used pitchers were all repeating the level, including two that began the year in Auburn but were subsequently dropped.

As aforementioned, the pitching was ineffective. Whether you want to write that off to spring-training usage or spring-training mentality is one thing, but one thing’s for sure, it makes no sense to have separate…

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
…for the bats and arms of the GCL. Instead, a simple Top 5 with some honorable mentions should suffice.

1. Wander Ramos
2. Estarlin Martinez
3. Narciso Mesa
4. Wilmer Difo
5. Gregory Baez

Honorable Mentions: Arialdi Peguero, Jean Carlos Valdez

Oct 042011
 

If you think that’s a contrived headline that does a disservice to Brad Peacock and Derek Norris while attempting to leverage a certain prospect’s “juice” to get more attention… you got me!

But it’s been done before, you know.

Harper, of course, was ranked as the #1 Prospect in the Eastern League by virtue of the .256/.329/.395 line he put up in 147 plate appearances with the Harrisburg Senators. As aforementioned, Brad Peacock (#4) and Derek Norris (#12) were the other two Sens to make the list. Will, however, Peacock be another two-fer with the International League’s Top 20? We’ll find out on Friday (unless BA flip-flops its schedule for a third time).

Harper, Norris, and Peacock were all teammates on the 2010 Scottsdale Scorpions, who begin their title defense tonight against Surprise. No, really: They’re playing the Saguaros.

Norris and Harper are back, along with 2010 teammate Sammy Solis, 2011 draftees Matt Purke and Anthony Rendon, and fellow Senators Rafael Martin and Pat Lehman. Zach Walters is listed on the roster without a number, a strong indicator that he is — as commenter Ernie Salazar first noted (H/T) — on the taxi squad.

As before, some highlights from the BA scouting reports…
Harper has excellent strength and bat speed and near-legendary power. He refined his two-strike mindset and learned to spread out and let balls travel deeper, an approach that culminated with a game-winning, 450-foot homer over the batter’s eye in center field against Trenton on Aug. 12. He does have some excessive movement in his swing that gives scouts and managers pause while grading his hit tool, though his fearsome presence ensures that he’ll draw plenty of walks.

Using a fastball that sat at 91-94 mph and touched 97, Peacock was leading the league in strikeouts when he departed for Triple-A in mid-July. He commanded the pitch much better this year than he had in a seven-game EL trial in 2010, thanks in part to working with Harrisburg pitching coach Randy Tomlin on keeping his front shoulder closed longer. The adjustment also added to his deception.


Though scouts still consider Norris an offensive catcher, he has improved defensively, so much so that his bat doesn’t completely have to carry the load. His receiving still needs polish, as evidenced by his 15 passed balls, but he doesn’t box nearly as many pitches as he used to. He’s refined his throwing technique and used his average arm strength to throw out a league-best 40 percent of basestealers.


Harper, of course, skipped Potomac so I have nothing to add or detract to the BA report. Methinks there are few other folks that might have an opinion that’s been written elsewhere.

Having watched Peacock last summer and in his September callups, I still maintain that his success as a starter will hinge upon his breaking pitches, particularly the changeup. Next spring should be fun as he, Tommy Milone and Ross Detwiler will be battling for a spot in the rotation.

As we’ve seen in the comments here and on Nats Insider, Norris inspires strong opinions on his future as a catcher, with his supporters pointing to his OBP and SLG and his detractors pointing to his PB and BA. I personally suspect that most of the Norris naysayers have never seen him for more than a game or two (if at all), but would also argue that most of his fans (disclosure: myself included) have seen him a lot and simply like his cut of his jib, as it were. He’ll be 23 in mid-February so time is still on his side, but the “should he shift to first base” question will be with us all winter long, I suspect.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, Purke has replaced Rendon on the AFL roster per Adam Kilgore’s post this morning in Nationals Journal.

UPDATE #2: A couple of tidbits from the BA chat, which speak to some of the comments thus far:

Q: [JC (VT)] How much of Derek Norris’s contact issues can be traced to lingering effects of his wrist injury?
A: [John Manuel] Not sure we can blame that anymore, we have a two-year sample size of Norris not hitting for average, and the scouts and managers I talked too attributed it more to not knowing when to be aggressive and when to be selective. I ranked him as high as I did because they all like his swing, athletic ability and improved defensive ability behind the plate. He went from being an American League player to a legit option at C, though his defense is still such that he’s going to have to be an offensive catcher. He’ll never be a plus defender, it seems.

To repeat for the folks that haven’t been reading all along… Norris moves extremely well for his size and IMO, a switch to 1B would not take nearly as long as it did for Marrero.

Q: [Matt (West Chester, PA)]: I was surprised to see Peacock get grouped together with Turner and Banuelos, let alone rank ahead of both. Considering Peacock’s year and development, has his ceiling jumped from #3 to #2?
A: I really like Peacock a lot, and gave him the edge because of my single-minded (probably to a fault) emphasis of guys pitching off their fastball. Peacock went through lineups three times using mostly his heater. I like his fastball command…[it's] electric… and he’s a good athlete. I like him as a future No. 3 starter, which is convenient as he slots in behind Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman[sic].

Manuel goes on to say that Peacock has “average” fastball command, but I believe he meant it in terms of MLB average, not AA prospect.

Last but not least…

Q: [@Jaypers413 (IL)] If you’re Nats management, do you start Harper back at Harrisburg come April, or bump him to Syracuse?
A: I’m not sure why you wouldn’t include Washington as an option there. He’s probably the best CF in the organization, and I bet they are tempted to put him there. More likely they get a CF this offseason (they made a run at Denard Span in July), keep Harper on the corners and start him back at Harrisburg.

Just when I was starting to have my love/hate disdain with BA dissipate, that first sentence in Manuel’s answer reminds me that I can both respect them and mock them as I see fit ;-)

Sep 302011
 


BA flip-flopping its schedule (again) made for a busy day yesterday… and messed up my plan for having a daily post today. So I’ll pass along some stories that separately wouldn’t warrant a post separately.

…It’s no secret that the Nationals are unhappy with the arrangement in Viera, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the gall to ask for $700K in improvements to Space Coast Stadium. I think most of us don’t much care so long as they stay in Florida for spring training. My personal guess is that they’ll go in with the Mets or Astros on a new or upgraded facility.

…Steve Lombardozzi was the winner of the revived Rawlings Fielding Awards for minor leaguers for his time as the Harrisburg second baseman (though I’m sure his performance at Syracuse didn’t hurt).

…The Arizona Fall League is coming up on us quick. As in next week. MASN’s Byron Kerr files this story as a preview of the action to come. Yours truly will provide AFL updates just like last fall. Still no word on who the taxi squad players for the Nats, if any, will be.

Sep 292011
 

Well, the announcement came a bit sooner than previously reported, but the news is good: Destin Hood (#12) and Sammy Solis (#13) joined the ranks of the players anointed by Baseball America in the year-end prospect rankings by league.

Like last year, this is a bit of a surprise. That’s because I felt like Solis would be passed over because he only made 10 starts and turned 23 during the season, not to mention the high HR rate. Something to keep in mind before complaining about, say, Jeff Kobernus’s omission even if the Potomac 2B had a substandard rates for both OBP and SLG.

As before, the highlights from the scouting reports…

Hood’s bat has come a long ways since he was drafted, but he still has to prove he can catch up to hard fastballs and quality breaking balls. His raw strength should translate into average power, especially now that he has improved his plate discipline. His plus speed plays well on the bases and in right field, where he shows a solid arm.

If, by “solid” BA means accurate, then yes. If, by “solid” BA means strong, then no. I like Destin Hood, but he’s a left fielder playing right field. Regular readers know that I’ve said that all season long.


As a lefty who mixes a 90-93 mph fastball with an average slider and changeup, Solis has the stuff to stick in a big league[sic] rotation. His stuff plays up because he has good feel for pitching. He throws strikes, works both sides of the plate and gets plenty of groundouts thanks to good sink on his fastball.


Solis had his moments where he could get lit when he left his pitches up, which is something he needs to work on. I saw at both Low-A and High-A and AA hitters will make him pay even worse than he did this season. Like Kobernus, the injury history is going to dog him until he puts in a full season as a professional. Otherwise, this report is a decent assessment of the southpaw.