Sep 262011
 

As mentioned last week, Baseball America has been running its Top 20 Prospect Lists and after getting shut out from the GCL, Matt Skole becomes the first Nationals farmhand to get recognition as the #13 New York-Penn League prospect.

Skole was the Nationals’ 5th-round pick out of Georgia Tech and led the NYPL in doubles and RBIs while posting a .290/.382/.438 line. He was the starting desginated hitter for the N.L. affiliates in the league’s All-Star game last month.

I was fortunate enough to see Skole twice on my midsummer jaunt to upstate New York and couldn’t agree more with Sean Hogan’s one-sentence analysis of Skole having “the bat to be an average major league 3B [and] the glove to be an average major league 1B.” He’ll be 22 entering the 2012 season, just four months younger than Hagerstown’s 3B-SS Blake Kelso, but the best guess is that he’ll start at Hagerstown while Kelso moves up to Potomac.

Sep 232011
 

I’m still here, waiting for the parent club to finish out a fine September. With any luck, the rains will hold off tomorrow afternoon so I can catch just one more baseball game this year.

I typically make it out to Nationals Park just once or twice a season. Sounds funny, I know, but I’m a bit busy from early April to mid-September. Even before this website was born, that was true. The rhythms and rituals of a major-league game are just different, and as a minors guy, sometimes a bit dissonant.

Today is the first day of Fall on the calendar, but a baseball fan has a different kind of calendar… spring begins when pitchers and catchers report, summer starts on Opening Day, fall is when the rosters expand, and Winter starts the day after World Series ends.

But sometimes it feels like Winter comes a lot faster as I get older. To your right is a poster I bought about 20 years ago in Cooperstown with a quote from A. Bartlett Giamatti’s inimitable essay “The Greenfields of the Mind” that I end up re-reading this time of year that captures that feeling perfectly.

As mentioned in the comments, the Florida Instructional League starts up today. Believe me, I wish I were down there rather than being reminded what it’s like to live in the Pacific Northwest (a hint: weather like this month, but cooler, longer, and a lot less daylight).

Baseball America has been running its Top 20 lists for each minor league, and the hope is that today’s Monday’s entry on the New York-Penn League will include one or two of the Auburn Doubledays (and thus, giving me a news peg for another post!). If not, please make sure you read Mark Zuckerman’s post on the recent sweep of the Phillies and what it might mean in “the big picture.”

As always, feel free to pass along news, rumors, and opinions in the comments so we don’t have to face the Fall alone.

Sep 202011
 

It’s raining right now as I begin to write this; how apropos for looking back on anything related to 2011…

As mentioned in the comments, I’ve frozen the 2011 watchlist and cleaned up the mess associated with the new design that I was forced to choose when my previous theme was no longer compatible with the WordPress software that this site runs on. The new, 2012 watchlist will be built in the course of doing the season reviews, which will begin in the next couple of weeks. I do plan on trying to follow my own footsteps from last offseason, which puts the 2012 edition out in late November/early December.

For the most part, I’m satisfied with what I built last year. Four of the 89 names were released prior to Spring Training. Four were traded away, three in one pop to pick up Tom Gorzelanny. One guy was sent back to his original organization. Two guys spent the majority of the season on the DL, a third (Adam Carr) got hurt and got released — though I expect him to get re-signed to at least get a look-see in Spring Training, unless I’m spot-on about Rizzo’s hard…um, affinity for Matt Chico and Garrett Mock (sorry, haters he’s still in the org) in which case Carr will have to make the choice between retirement or working his way back via the indys.

If I had to categorize my mistakes, I’d say they’d fall into three categories:

• Undervaluing Age (Alaniz, Chacin)
• Overvaluing GCL Gambles (Ott, Serino)
• Overvaluing Rule 5 status (Allen, Ramirez)

Looking over the scouting reports, I was also fairly consistent in being too aggressive with projecting where starting pitchers would begin the year. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to solve that problem because so much of it is dependent on the “inventory” approach that was prevalent this year — recall that Yunesky Maya, Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiler, Mock, and J.D. Martin all made stats for Syracuse in April — as well as injuries and/or shelving to guys like Tanner Roark, Shairon Martis, Luis Atilano, Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole and Robbie Ray.

Of course, that’s a separate issue.

Graduating from the list are Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos by making the 2011 club. Yunesky Maya is off because he no longer has rookie status (130PA, 50IP, 45 days on 25-Man Roster), which in most folks’ opinion, the minimum standard for being considered a prospect. Chris Marrero could come perilously close to the batter’s limit, but I suspect he’ll sit just enough over the next 10 games to stay under the limit.

Other “graduates” will be of the more subjective nature — guys that appear to have hit their ceiling, too old for the level, appear to have missed their window, etc. Doesn’t mean that they can’t play their way back onto a 2013 watchlist, but the odds are against them.

Of course, not being on the watchlist doesn’t mean they’re not useful or valuable — organizational guys (or soldiers, which may be a better metaphor in this context) is a term we bandy about around here, but were Erik Arnesen and Bill Rhinehart not key contributors to the Harrisburg team this season?

Thus, I don’t think serves much useful purpose to name who’s probably going to come off the list. I’d like to think most are fairly obvious, even if I suspect I’ll get more grief for the ones I include than exclude this time. But look back at that list o’ mistakes; I’m probably going to be a lot less sentimental this year, a little harder on the recent draft picks, and much more skeptical about who gets picked in the Rule 5 draft.

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.