Nov 162011
 

Bryce Harper continued his torrid hitting while Scorpions remain tepid, losing again by a 4-1 count.

Harper went 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and a stolen base. Defensively, he caught a foul fly but committed his sixth error on a missed catch.

Derek Norris remained ice-cold with another oh-fer, striking out twice in four at-bats and also committing an error on a throw. That was his seventh miscue of the fall.

Zach Walters wouldn’t be left out of this mistake-fest, committing his sixth error while playing third base. Offensively, he went 1-for-4 with a strikeout.

On the pitching side, Matt Purke turned in another scoreless outing, his fourth straight. He allowed a hit but struck out two, throwing 12 of his 16 pitches for strikes.

Scottsdale hosts Peoria for its final home game tonight, before finishing up the 2011 season tomorrow afternoon. Sammy Solis is not listed as a starter for either game.

Nov 152011
 

Just one National appeared in yesterday’s Scottsdale’s 6-5 win over Salt River. Yeah, you know it.

Batting fifth and playing left field, Bryce Harper went 1-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored, an RBI double, and two strikeouts. Defensively, he made four putouts and made no errors.

The two teams rematch this afternoon, with Rafters hosting the Scorpions.

Nov 142011
 

Our weekly look at the Nationals players in the Winter Leagues, with all statistics as 12:19 a.m. on November 13, 2011.
AFL HITTERS

AFL PITCHERS

DWL HITTERS

DWL PITCHERS

VWL HITTERS

VWL PITCHERS

MWL PITCHERS

PRWL PITCHERS

PRWL HITTERS

For those that are wondering, it appears that my data source for this feature has excised some of the recently declared free agents. I anticipate dropping others when it appears that they’ve been released, i.e. the stats stay the same for 2-3 weeks in a row. And obviously, once the AFL finishes, the final numbers will be reported once.

Nov 132011
 

The streak is over for Bryce Harper as the Nationals’ 19-year-old wunderkind went 0-for-3 in a 6-4 Scottsdale loss on Saturday.

Harper also committed an error, his fifth of the fall, and made a putout while playing left field. Here’s how the rest of the Nats fared:

…Zach Walters played third base again and notched four assists, but was also hitless at 0-for-2.

…Matt Purke made his third straight scoreless appearance, tossing a 1-2-3 inning for his second hold of the fall with six of his 11 pitches registering as strikes.

…Pat Lehman’s troubles returned as the 25-year-old was torched for four runs on four hits and a walk while striking out two.

…Rafael Martin labored through a 28-pitch inning, throwing just 12 strikes, but stranded all three walks he issued.

Just four games remain on the slate for Scottsdale, as they host then visit Salt River on Monday and Tuesday, host Peoria on Wednesday, and finish up on the road at Mesa on Thursday.

Nov 122011
 

Bryce Harper extended his hit streak to 16 games as Scottsdale defeated Phoenix, 3-2 in a scheduled seven-inning contest.

Harper went 2-for-3 with an RBI double while playing left field. The two hits pushed his batting average to .321 while the RBI was #25, which is third-best in the AFL. Defensively, he had two putouts and no assists.

Derek Norris was the only other National to appear in the contest, but had a dismal 0-for-4 game with no walks or strikeouts. It was the first time he failed to reach base this fall. Defensively, it wasn’t any better: Error #6 on a throw following a wild pitch, allowing the runner on first to reach third.

Scottsdale finishes up the week this afternoon with a game against Surprise.
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Thankfully, there will be no references to either Thurman Munson or Lyman Bostick Bostock as Wilson Ramos was rescued from his kidnappers yesterday afternoon by Venezuelan authorities. Cheryl Nichols has the pics and the human-interest angle on District Sports Page.

As you might have guessed, Ryan Tatusko will remain in Venezuela despite the incident. And for the haters (e.g. Chris Needham and Kevin Reiss), Tatusko won’t be going home anytime soon on account of his pitching, either. In his fourth outing last night, the 26-year-old righthander tossed six shutout innings and struck out five while allowing just one hit and walking two.

Nov 112011
 

It was a light night for the Nationals in the Arizona Fall League last night, with Zach Walters the sole representative as the Scottsdale Scorpions edged the Surprise Saguaros, 2-1.

Walters played third base and batted eighth. He had a putout and two assists and made no errors on defense. At the plate, Walters sandwiched a fifth-inning single between a groundout in the third and a fielder’s choice in the seventh.

After four night games this week, Scottsdale visits Phoenix this afternoon and Surprise tomorrow afternoon.

Nov 102011
 

Accompanying each team’s Top 10 per Baseball America is a chat for subscribers only. As such, I have to paraphrase and condense, which I’ve done per prospect, per ranking. I’ve then cherry-picked some names that came up in the chat. If it’s in brackets, those are my clarifications or amplifications. Otherwise, you’re looking at the opinions of Aaron Fitt.

1.) Bryce Harper — Has an abundance of confidence, but no different than A-Rod, Bonds, or Kobe Bryant. Harper will see the majors in 2012, but his odds of making the Opening Day roster are low.

2.) Anthony Rendon — Could be moved to 2B, but 3B is probably his best position, given his injury history [ankles, not shoulder]. Conversion unlikely to take long, so Nats can afford to wait.

3.) Brad Peacock — 2011 not a fluke, and of the pitchers discussed, the most likely to achieve his ceiling, though others have a higher ceiling.

4.) A.J. Cole — Mostly discussed in passing, but said to have second-highest ceiling among the five pitchers in the Top 10

5.) Brian Goodwin — Said to have worked on incorporating his trunk into his swing during instrux, and was likened to Garrett Anderson, though with less power [and presumably, more speed]

6.) Alex Meyer — High ceiling [well, he is 6’9″ *rimshot!*] but the least likely to realize it, given the usual concerns for power-forward-sized pitchers [Andrew Brackman comparison made].

7.) Matt Purke — Like Cole, mostly discussed in comparison to the others, but characterized his signing as a “high upside gamble.”

8.) Sammy Solis — Said to have the lowest ceiling, but second-best chance of achieving it. [Bear in mind that “ceiling” for all these guys is top-line starter.]

9.) Derek Norris — His combination of pitch recognition, power, and discipline is his greatest asset, but it now appears that his path has been blocked and a trade could be in his future.

10.) Steve Lombardozzi — Bullishly characterized as potential everyday 2B that will hit in the .280-.310 range, draw some walks, steal a few bases, get lauded a la David Eckstein.

Destin Hood — Third-best OF prospect but a left-field only guy [*ahem*]

Tyler Moore — Plus-plus power, but lacks Marrero’s ability to hit for average and draw walks.

Chris Marrero — Plus power potential, but now it’s doubtful he’ll be more than a fringy regular or right-handed platoon player.

Tommy Milone — Back-end starter that makes the most out of superior control and a plus changeup — plenty of lefties with his profile that have succeeded with that stuff in that role.

Michael Taylor — Upside of and similar to Mike Cameron or Devon White.

Matt Skole — Outside the Nats Top 20, needs to step it up defensively to stick at 3B, but has good plate discipline.

Robbie Ray — Has fallen down the ladder in terms of projection, now a #4 starter.

Matt Grace — Likely to return to the ‘pen eventually.

Danny Rosenbaum — Like Milone, knows how to work a batter, but unlike Milone lacks a plus pitch. Probably a middle relief candidate.

Manny Rodriguez — Intriguing upside with a decent fastball, strong frame, and is beginning to get a good feel for his curve and change.

Nov 102011
 

Sammy Solis wasn’t as sharp as his last outing, getting touched for three runs (and the loss) in the first as the Scottsdal Scorpions would go on to lose, 5-0.

The southpaw would finish with three innings pitched, four hits allowed, two walks surrendered, and two strikeouts while throwing just 33 of his 63 pitches for strikes. The loss evened his AFL mark at 1-1.

Pat Lehman would receive a similar greeting in the fourth, giving up two runs and finishing with four hits allowed over his two innings pitched. He walked none and struck out two.

Rafael Martin appeared in the 7th and tossed a 1-2-3 frame with a strikeout.

Nats bats Bryce Harper, Derek Norris and Zach Walters appeared in the game in left field, catcher and third base respectively…

…Harper extended his hit streak to 15 games with a second-inning double, and committed the cardinal sin of making the first out of the inning by getting thrown out at third. He struck out twice and made two putouts on defense.

…Norris reached base for the 18th time in as many games with a sixth-inning single. The Desert Dogs were successful in both steal attempts against him.

…Walters went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and had no defensive chances.
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By now, many of you have heard that Wilson Ramos was kidnapped in his native Venezuela — it was first brought to my attention by Jeff550 via the comments — and as of this writing there’s still no word as to his fate.

Despite being decidedly closer to the scene, farmhand Ryan Tatusko said via Twitter that he found out about it via the Washington Post. Fortunately, the young man had the presence of mind to write something about it on his blog, giving us some perspective on what it’s like as a jugador de béisbol americano.

Nov 092011
 


For most of you, this list is hardly new. But the blogging protocol is that I needed Baseball America to officially release its list so I could link to it before mocking discussing it. Without further ado, here’s the list from the home office in Durham, North Carolina…

1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B
3. Brad Peacock, RHP
4. A.J. Cole, RHP
5. Brian Goodwin, OF
6. Alex Meyer, RHP
7. Matt Purke, LHP
8. Sammy Solis, LHP
9. Derek Norris, C
10. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B/SS

So what’s with the picture, Sue? Glad you asked. I’ve put the prospects with zero regular-season pro experience in italics. As the old expression goes, when you’re girl watching the prettiest one is the last one to walk by. It’s a crude metaphor, but we all know there’s some commonality here with ranking prospects.

Of course, this is not to say that none of these four isn’t a prospect. It’s just my personal conviction that placing a guy with no professional track record over a guy that does doesn’t pass the sniff test — especially when two of these four have injury issues, one of which we’ve been tracking from afar in the Arizona Fall League. For example: Which Matt Purke is the real Matt Purke — the one that’s turned in two scoreless innings in his last two outings, or the one that threw in-game BP the two appearances prior?

Maybe that’s just a pet peeve, so forgive me for seizing the chance to rant… I’m not as diplomatic as others have been on the subject.

Like last year, the free article focuses a lot on how the Nationals have spent freely and heavily the past three drafts. Two of last year’s Top 10 “graduated” — Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos — while a third went down with a season-ending injury (Cole Kimball). Chris Marrero dropped off the list while Cole, Harper, Norris, Peacock and Solis are repeats from last year.

What’s perhaps more interesting is the “best in the system” lists. Harper remains the best power hitter and best outfield arm, but lost the title of “Best Athlete” to Michael Taylor, who was also named as the best defensive outfielder (disagree, but no argument over naming Steve Lombardozzi as the best defensive infielder). Anthony Rendon with his undefined pro average (zero divided by zero) is the best hitter for average and those zero walks drawn have earned him the system’s best strike-zone discipline, topping Derek Norris’s .403 career OBP in 1,815 more plate appearances (OK, so maybe I’m still ranting). Brad Peacock’s curve was named the best in the system while Alex Meyer and A.J. Cole were said to possess the best slider and heater, respectively.

Among the non-Top 10 tools, Eury Perez retains the title of fastest baserunner (Kobernus is close, but Perez has that proverbial fifth gear). Tommy Milone retains the title of best control and takes the best changeup honors away from Josh Wilkie (which might explain why he’s demoted his bender to a show-me pitch). Deion Williams has the strongest infield arm while Sandy Leon was named the best defensive catcher (agreed).

Lastly, here’s where BA thinks these guys will start the 2012 season:
MLB or AAA – Lombardozzi
AAA – Norris
AA or AAA – Harper
AA – Solis
High-A – Cole, Purke
Low-A – Goodwin, Meyer

BA took no guess at Rendon, but my rule of thumb is to take whatever level you think is about right, and drop back one: In this case, Hagerstown instead of Potomac. If he’s as good as advertised, I’ll get to see him in June or July, presuming that field conditions won’t play a factor in promotions as they allegedly didn’t this past summer.

Byron Kerr will be running a series based on his conversations with Aaron Fitt of Baseball America (author of the article linked in the first graf), beginning with Lombardozzi. I encourage you to take a look, as that’s where we learned that the Nigel Tufnel is Destin Hood.

Nov 092011
 

Make that 14 straight games for Bryce Harper, as the Nationals’ No. 1 prospect went 1-for-4 in the Scottsdale Scorpions’ 2-0 win last night.

Defensively, Harper remains a work in progress, committing his fourth error (throwing) while making no putouts in left field.

Likewise, the other Nationals position player to appear in the game, Zach Walters, notched his fifth “E” (fielding) but did have an assist while playing third base. At the plate, Walters was 1-for-3 with a walk, pushing his average to .209.

Matt Purke made another scoreless appearance, but labored through a 21-pitch inning to do it. He allowed a hit and a walk and struck out two. The according-to-BA #7 prospect was credited with a hold for his efforts.