Oct 222011
 

Friday was not a good day for the Nats pitchers in the AFL, as they gave up 12 runs in a 13-8 loss by Scottsdale to Surprise.

Matt Purke made his first AFL start but, as the pic suggests, was knocked around and retired just one of the eight batters he faced. The final damages: a third of inning pitched, seven runs, one walk, no strikeouts, and five hits given up, including a two-run homer.

Pat Lehman took the loss, his second of the AFL campaign, with five runs charged to him in one and a third innings. He pitched a scoreless sixth, but gave up all five hits in a stretch of six batters in the seventh, suffering one error behind him but also committing a balk.

Rafael Martin let in two of those runs charged to Lehman on a two-out double but pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning for a line of one and two-thirds innings pitched, one hit, no runs, one walk, and one strikeout.

Just one Nats bat was in the lineup, and yes, it was Bryce Harper. He wowed the scouts by pushing a bunt to second baseman and getting down the line in 3.83 seconds, according to Keith Law (times on bunts are always lower than a full swing, but consider that 4.1 seconds is considered “above average”). It was his sole hit in a 1-for-4 afternoon, in which he also walked and scored a run. Harper played left field and made three putouts.

Oct 212011
 

Another light afternoon for the Nats farmhands in Arizona Fall League as the Scottsdale Scorpions fell for the 10th time by a 4-1 count.

Bryce Harper returned to the lineup and went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout while playing left field, where he made two putouts. After 10 games, Harper is working a .211/.302/.395 line.

Zach Walters was the designated hitter but went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, lowering his triple-slash stats to .200/.250/.267.

Scottsdale finishes out the week with afternoon tilts against Surprise today and Phoenix tomorrow.

Oct 202011
 

The 2011 season was the first winning season in the five years that Washington has been affiliated with Hagerstown. The 75-64 record was a 10½ game improvement over the 2010 season. But ultimately, the curse of high expectations that surrounds all things Bryce Harper made the 2011 season a disappointment in many fans’ eyes.

It may also surprise you to learn that for all for the rehab stints (Strasburg, Zimmerman, Wang, the immortal Doug Slaten) and the presence of Bryce Harper, attendance still fell by 126 per game over 2010 (2,057 vs. 1,931). Times are hard in Washington County, no doubt, but that’s still a bit of a shock to me. So I’ll leave it to you as to whether we should blame it on the economy, the rain, or the bossa nova.

Considering that, as a team, the Suns were mostly middle of the pack in the 14-team South Atlantic League — 6th in offense, 8th in pitching, 7th in defense — to have been in contention in both halves for most of the way should be considered a success. As we’ve done the past three weeks, let’s take a look at how Hagerstown compared to the rest of the league…
HITTING

PITCHING

The most encouraging thing to take away from the 2011 Suns is that this team was not afraid to take a walk or give up a walk — second in the league on both counts. It was also a team that could run (3rd), but unlike last season, they did it without a single 30-steal player and were successful 73.5% of the time. That’s encouraging if you’re a proponent of having a team that’s capable of playing it both big and small.

The pitching was a mixed bag. The starter that gave up the most hits had the most wins (Matt Grace). There were a couple of relievers with ERAs in the 1’s (Chris Manno, Neil Holland)… and a couple of relievers with ERAs in the 6’s (Shane McCatty, Greg Holt), while the team’s two swingmen (Paul Applebee and Matt Swynenberg) gave up the second- and third-most HRs on the team, yet were among the team’s more effective pitchers. Finally, two pitchers had their season cut short by unspecified injuries (Taylor Jordan and Bobby Hansen), and a third (Chris McKenzie) spent six weeks on the DL midseason and more than two months away from the Suns total.

Now it’s time to drill down to look at the top 12’s for the hitters. The full statistics for the team can be found here. (* = 2010 Draft Pick ** = DSL Graduate)
Bryce Harper’s numbers speak for themselves, with his rate statistics close to 100 points above the league average despite being barely old enough to vote. His removal from the lineup on the 4th of July, however, was largely covered by the emergence of Kevin Keyes, who hit .281/.355/.528 after the Sally League All-Star break. As you can see, the cluster of 2010 draft picks were the heart of this team. What remains to be seen is how they’ll develop. Thankfully, one of my spies in Hagerstown wrote about the Suns batters earlier this month, and I encourage folks to click on over to see what he had to say.

Next up, the pitchers, which I’m expanding to the top 15 to include three notables…
Eleven different pitchers made at least five starts for the Suns, thanks in part to the injuries to Jordan, Hansen and McKenzie and the delayed debuts of Cole and Ray, both of whom were held back until the first full weekend in May. Injury also delayed the start of Sammy Solis’s season until Memorial Day Weekend, which kept his inning count down and is arguably the primary reason why he’s repeating the AFL as a starter.

If Auburn is a barometer for the 2011 draft, then Hagerstown might be the same for 2010 (and to a certain extent, 2009). If the expression is that there three kinds of pitchers — young, old, and hurt — well, that pretty much sums up the draft class thus far.

The ground on the “young” Cole and Ray has been pretty much covered (though again, I point folks to my friend Shawn’s take). Old, of course is a relative term, but Grace and Solis will enter the 2012 campaign as 23-year-olds and the latter was touted as being ready for prime time in ’12. The same is true for ’09ers Swynenberg and Jordan. And of course, the “hurt” applies to Jordan, Solis and McKenzie (Hansen was an ’08 pick). Solis and McKenzie have since recovered from their injuries, but the outcome for Jordan, who appeared to be headed for Potomac a la Danny Rosenbuam in 2010, won’t be known until next spring.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
We’re into crossover territory and I’m trying to avoid double-listing guys. Thus, a couple of honorable mentions to answer the question “Well, who would make it onto the list if X were rated at the next level instead of this level?”

Hitters
1. Bryce Harper
2. David Freitas
3. Kevin Keyes
4. Michael Taylor
5. Adrian Sanchez
HM: Jason Martinson

Pitchers
1. A.J. Cole
2. Robbie Ray
3. Taylor Jordan
4. Sammy Solis
5. Matt Swynenberg
HM: Matt Grace

Oct 202011
 

Yesterday was Derek Norris’s day to silence the haters doubters. The 22-year-old catcher went 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBI and even stole a base.

Meanwhile, the Scottsdale Scorpions lost 6-5 on two runs given up in the 9th to stop their one-game win streak and fall to 4-9 for the season. Zach Walters also appeared in the game and went 1-for-2 with two walks while playing third base (one assist).

Norris also threw out two runners, which prompted lightning-rod Keith Law of ESPN to remark/answer:

Q: How has Norris’ receiving looked? Can he catch in the majors?
A: Fine. Yes.

Law also remarked that the HR came on a 96mph fastball that Norris lined over the left-field fence in the 8th inning. The three hits raised Norris’s oft-criticized batting average to .286, his on-base percentage to .364 while the six total bases improved his slugging percentage to .429.

Oct 192011
 

Scottsdale’s skid ends at five with an 11-10 win in 10 innings that featured a breakout performance by Bryce Harper.

Playing left field, Harper was a triple shy of the cycle while going 3-for-4 with a single, double, homer, two walks, two runs scored, and three RBI. Defensively, Harper had no putouts and made a throwing error, his second of the AFL season.

Derek Norris started off slow, striking out twice and flying out to center before drawing two walks and singling in the game-tying run in the top of the ninth. He was the Scorpions’ designated hitter.

Sammy Solis continues to struggle, allowing four runs on five hits (including a home run) and four walks while striking out four over three innings. After three starts, opponents are batting .325 against him and he’s walked eight in 10 innings.

Lastly, in a non-AFL note, the Nationals returned Rule 5 pick Elvin Ramirez to the Mets after spending the season on the D.L. after shoulder surgery.

Oct 182011
 

It’s starting to feel like the GCL in the AFL, as the Scottsdale Scorpions were stung for their fifth straight loss by a 7-4 count.

Just one National farmhand saw game action, as Bryce Harper doubled to lead off the 4th inning in the course of going 1-for-4. He was later thrown out at the plate trying to score on a two-out single.

Harper made two putouts while playing right field. Some folks have contacted me regarding Harper’s defense and let me quote the following replies I got from Dave Gershman via Twitter. Gershman writes for MarlinsDaily and covers the New York-Penn League:

Harper made a few lackluster plays, including one where he rushed a throw and missed the plate…needs to take better routes but the bat is way more important than the glove.

My personal takeaway from this is that this is Harper’s first full year in the outfield and he’s still learning to translate his raw tools into skills. I’d like to see him get more time in center next season, even if it’s merely to serve the purpose of giving him a day where he doesn’t have to worry about angles so much. My only fear is that he’ll take out a teammate trying to make a play that he should defer to the more experienced outfielder.

Oct 172011
 

As was brought up in the comments from yesterday’s post, the early numbers from the Arizona Fall League aren’t pretty. But they’re not quite 9-of-22 with 4 INT, either. So we lift the coffee mug of small sample size and take a look…

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The Domninican Winter League started up on Friday and a handful of Nats players have been spotted in the box scores:

  • Eury Perez – Escogido
  • Wilman Rodriguez – Escogido
  • Jhonatan Solano – Licey
  • Atahualpa Severino – Licey

A couple of other notes…

…Chris Marrero is supposedly on the Licey Tigres as well, but is not listed on the roster and/or has not appeared in a game.

…Wilman Rodriguez played outfield for the D-Nats this past summer, but has appeared as a pitcher thus far. Considering that this was in a game that was 1-1 at the time, and that he is no longer a teenager, the deduction is that a conversion to the mound may be in the process.

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)