Oct 162011
 

Make that five straight losses for Scottsdale, as Pat Lehman surrendered a two-run homer in the bottom of the 8th that snapped a 6-6 tie. Derek Norris hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 9th but the Scorpions rally fell short for the eventual 8-7 score.

Running down the individual performances…

  • Norris went 1-for-4 with a double and two RBI, but also grounded into two double plays
  • Zach Walters went 1-for-5 with with double but struck out three times and committed an error
  • Matt Purke threw two innings and gave up an earned run on a hit and walk and had one strikeout
  • Lehman pitched the final two innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk while striking out two

Bryce Harper did not play. Today is his 19th birthday.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the AFL stats to date. The Scorpions host Phoenix on Monday, visit the Desert Dogs on Tuesday, host the Solar Sox on Wednesday, then finish out the week with visits to Mesa, Surprise, and Phoenix on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday respectively. It’s afternoon games on every day this week but Tuesday.

Oct 152011
 

The Scottsdale spiral continues with a fourth straight loss, this time by a 14-5 count. Three Nats saw game action…

  • Bryce Harper drove in two with a 7th-inning triple and went 1-for-4 overall while playing left field
  • Zach Walters went 0-for-4 while playing third base, where he made two putouts and had an assist
  • Rafael Martin was touched for a home run and a double over his 1⅓ innings of work, but walked none and struck out two

The Scorpions and Javelinas rematch this afternoon to finish out the second week of AFL play.

Oct 142011
 

Scottsdale lost its third straight last night by a 3-1 tally to the Salt River Rafters to drop the Scorpions’ record to 3-5.

Bryce Harper was the sole National to appear in the game. He went 1-for-4 and made two putouts while playing left field.

The Scorpions finish the week with a home-and-home against Peoria tonight and tomorrow afternoon.

In other winter-league action…(why yes, I am stretching here to fill out the post)

  • Gregory Blanco went 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI for La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League (VWL)
  • Jesus Flores went 3-for-5 with a double, homer, two runs scored, and three RBI for Magallanes (VWL)
  • Seth Bynum went 0-for-3 with a walk for Zulia (VWL)
  • Carlos Maldonado went 0-for-2 with a walk for Zulia (VWL)
  • Ryan Tatusko got knocked from the box early with a run given up on a hit and three walks over 2/3rds of an inning in his first start for Margarita (VWL)
Oct 132011
 

After wading through the worst affiliate last week, it’s time to look at and reflect on what was — on won-loss basis anyways — the best. It’s also a yardstick of sorts for the 2011 draft*, which was decidedly tilted towards college players in general (36 of 51 drafted, 26 of 30 signed) and seniors in particular (13 of those 26). Consequently, the Auburn team was the second-oldest in the league and that does in part explain some of their success.

*I’m no draft expert and am quite honest in my distaste for discussing it, but it’s not lost on me that this emphasis on upperclassmen isn’t ideal — especially when the new normal for player advancement is one level per year. It’s great that Washington is putting more money into the D.R. and getting more players to come stateside, but that can’t be the only source of teenage talent. I can understand shying away from drafting high school pitchers (before you chime in with Peacock, Cole, or Ray, remember McGeary, Smoker, and Willems) but it just seems to me that now might be the time to start taking chances again on some high school hitters.

As we’ve done the two reviews prior, let’s take a look at how Auburn compared to the rest of the league…
HITTING
PITCHING
Too old or not, the Auburn Doubledays were the class of the New York-Penn League on offense, leading the league in runs scored, hits, doubles, RBI, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. They could also run, finishing third in the league in total steals with 95 but were caught just 16 times for an 85.5% success rate.

The pitching was pretty close to league average in nearly every stat, with the rather notable exception of HRs allowed (fewest in the league), strikeouts (11th of 14 teams), and hits allowed (4th least). Unlike last season, the pitching didn’t take a nosedive. Of course, it helped to get some rehab innings from Brad Meyers, eight starts from the MIA in ’09 and ’10 Nathan Karns, and 18 innings from a AA reclamation project in the person of Christian Garcia.

As before, I’m listing the Top 12 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.
(* = 2010 Draft Pick   ** = DSL Graduate   Italics = 2009 or earlier Draft Pick)

Defensively this looks like a poor bunch, but the Doubledays were actually second in the league in terms of fielding percentage, fourth in terms of fewest errors committed. Unfortunately, the catchers were abysmal at throwing out runners, with a team rate of 23% and Nieto showing serious rust (14%) before returning to form in Hagerstown (36%).

Five of these twelve hitters were assigned to the FIL (Skole, Burns, Ramsey, Ortega, Nieto). Last year, I was fooled into thinking that at least one of them might skip over Hagerstown, and even though three of them will turn 23 this fall, I will make no such assertion for 2012. But I will repeat the guess that the Suns offense should be decent again.

On to the pitchers…
This year’s draft picks made 26 of 75 starts, a marked increase from the 11 of 74 the year before (hey that rhymes!). Unfortunately, much of this can be attributed to the aforementioned upperclassmen taken. None of the starters were lights-out — Brian Dupra had the lowest ERA and WHIP of 3.46 and 1.207 respectively among the Top Five — and a fair amount of relief innings (134) came from guys with ERAs above 4.00. Ultimately, when you have a team that can mash, the pitching need only be mediocre for the team to be a winner and that’s pretty much what it was.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
For the second straight year, I was able to make it to the NYPL, so it’s not completely sight unseen as it is with the GCL and DSL. Without further ado…

Top 5 Batters
1. Bryce Ortega
2. Matt Skole
3. Hendry Jimenez
4. Adrian Nieto
5. Billy Burns

Top 5 Pitchers
1. Wirkin Estevez
2. Taylor Hill
3. Brian Dupra
4. Manny Rodriguez
5. Christian Meza*

* This is a tough choice because I’m disinclined to choose an older player simply for the sake of have five players ranked. Digging deeper into his numbers, what jumped at me was the differential between his ERA (5.68) and FIP (3.31). Considering his age (turned 21 in August) and low HR and BB rates, I’m giving him the edge over older players (e.g. Colin Bates) or players that weren’t among the Top 12 in usage (e.g. Richie Mirowski).

Oct 132011
 

Scottsdale was doubled up 10-5 for its second straight loss.

Sammy Solis was knocked around for four runs on six hits and a walk over his four innings of work, giving up a pair of runs in the first and third innings. He threw 63 pitches, 42 for strikes while getting six outs on the ground and three flyouts.

Derek Norris was the designated hitter and went 0-for-2 with a run scored. He walked twice and struck out once.
                                          #                                     #                                     #

As mentioned earlier this week, winter leagues in Mexico, Venezuela, and the Dominican are starting up this week. The editorial plan is to feature the AFL on a daily basis, but check in on the other Nats on a weekly basis. As expected, just one Nat farmhand is playing in the Mexican League (Pat McCoy) while roughly a dozen or so are in the Venezuelan League.

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.