Dec 012010
 

This is a more difficult list to compile because, as noted in the comments recently, this system does not have much in the way of front-line starters poised for the near term. Of course, I’ve just described at least half the other organizations in MLB. That may not be much comfort, but the lament is common one. There’s a reason why you rarely see a position player traded for a starting pitcher, one for one.

What the Nationals do appear to have is a group of relievers that could make the jump in the next year or so. There’s something to be said for that. Some of you may have seen the MLB Network’s Prime 9 episode “The Most Lopsided Trades in MLB History.” Two of those nine involved relievers (oddly enough both trades involved the Red Sox) and it’s not hard to recall other past trades, particularly in late July, that involve uneven swaps of relievers for prospects.

Last year, the Nats appeared to have pulled off just such a trade (though in fairness to Minnesota, Wilson Ramos was blocked by a perennial All-Star). If just a couple of these prospects pan out, it could give Washington G.M. Mike Rizzo the chips to make another deal… or better yet make one of the team’s few strengths even stronger.

So with that in mind, I’m presenting our Top 10 List of Pitching prospects, a.k.a. “arms”…

  1. Sammy Solis — Struggled some in the AFL, but scouts are nearly in agreement that he can and will rise rapidly.
  2. A.J. Cole  — Tall (6’5″) wiry (190lbs) H.S. RHP but said to possess a plus FB (91-94, top 96) that will likely gain velocity as he gains weight and grows into his frame.
  3. Robbie Ray — A “pitchability” lefty that is projected to command three pitches for strikes (FB, CU, CH).
  4. Adam Carr — Hard-throwing RHRP that had strong finish in AAA and a good AFL and has proven he can throw multiple innings regularly.
  5. Cole Kimball — The surprise of the AFL with outstanding numbers and an improved fastball but lack of AAA track record gives Carr the higher ranking.
  6. A.J. Morris — Noticeable increase in velocity, sharpness, and effectiveness after converting from starting to relief in the last month of the season.
  7. Tom Milone — Outstanding control and plus breaking pitch, but scouts worry it won’t translate to the next level. This has been the refrain since 2008.
  8. Brad Peacock — Hard-throwing RHP that needs to have his changeup working to succeed. When it is, he’s very effective. When it’s not, he can and will get hit hard.
  9. Brad Meyers — 2010 was a lost cause, but folks much more experienced and knowledgeable than I am in prospect-rating still believe in him, so he gets the nod.
  10. Danny Rosenbaum — The sizable gap between his ERA (2.09) and FIP (3.27) is a cause for concern, but like Milone, has a good feel for pitching and can survive on the nights when his breaking ball isn’t working.

The “Nigel Tufnel” goes to Rob Wort. This is a pure “gut” pick based on what I saw down the stretch from him in Potomac: A tendency to pitch remarkably better with runners on base versus the bases empty.

Honorable Mentions go to Tanner Roark and Ryan Tatusko. If I had done Top 10s for both relievers and starters, there’s no doubt they both would have been mentioned. I decided not to include Yunesky Maya because of his advanced age, his international experience, and the small sample size of work, which was less than stellar (e.g. 21BB, 4HR in 46⅓ IP majors and minors combined). All three will be on the watchlist.

Nov 012010
 

The half system one of the best things ever conceived for minor-league baseball. It’s an acknowledgment that player movement during the season affects the standings and helps generate interest in the second half. And it’s what helped make the 2010 Potomac Nationals’ pennant run possible.

The first-half Potomac team struggled to muster a consistent offensive attack, getting shut out seven times and scoring 10 or more runs five times, stumbling along to a 31-39 record — 10 games behind Frederick. The second-half team also started slowly, losing seven of its first 12 games before they headed up to Frederick, tied for last place. And then they swept the Keys to go to 8-7. After a split in Salem, Potomac returned to Woodbridge at 9-8. Despite having a rehabbing Jordan Zimmermann on the mound, they lost 3-1 to fall back to .500.

But a funny thing happened in that game. Potomac’s first baseman doubled in the lone run, his first game back after being benched in the second game of the doubleheader in Salem. The next afternoon, he homered. The night after that, he hit a grand slam and doubled twice. You know the rest of that story, but the hitting became contagious. Bill Rhinehart hit .281 in July after a .226 June. Michael Burgess went from .183 in June to .286. Sean Rooney, as part of the ripple effect of the Matt Capps trade that reassigned catchers from A+ to AAA, dropped down from Harrisburg, where he had been struggling as a backup, and picked up where he left off in ’09 and hit .308 in July.

Appropriately, this is a good time to take a look at how the Potomac bats compared to the rest of the Carolina League…

HITTING

TEAM AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA SB
Potomac 4641 665 1166 109 539 1081 .251 .334 .402 .251 96
Lg. Avg. 4664 629 1212 90 435 1038 .260 .330 .388 .246 105

Bold = League Leader

PITCHING

TEAM IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
Potomac 1227.0 3.98 4.62 1.354 101 393 1082 9.3 2.9 7.9 2.75
Lg. Avg. 1221.1 3.92 4.53 1.349 90 435 1038 8.9 3.2 7.7 2.39

The batting numbers are what you might expect from a team that went 70-69 overall: slightly above or slightly below the league averages. Unfortunately, while it’s easy to find splits on individual players, it’s a little harder for teams, thus I can’t easily demonstrate just how much better the team was on offense in the second half versus the first. Also skewing the results are the Winston-Salem Dash, who were sensational on offense, hitting .288 as a team and averaging nearly a full run per game above the league average (5.31 vs. 4.53). Potomac would finish second to them in HRs and total bases.

In terms of pitching, Potomac’s only true calling card was avoiding the free pass, finishing second behind the Salem Red Sox for fewest walks allowed. Unfortunately, that was offset by allowing the third-most HRs and hitting the most batters. In prototypical fashion, the starters were young, the relievers were not, but unlike the bats, they were not the oldest group in the league (Frederick).

In keeping with the format we’ve established, here’s a look at the Top 16 batters in terms of plate appearances, followed by the Top 16 pitchers in terms of innings. Full statistics for the team can be found here.

Name Age Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err PA GPA
Tyler Moore 23 1B 116 .990 11 553 .282
Steve Lombardozzi 21 2B 107 .989 6 507 .269
Michael Burgess 21 RF/LF 99/1 .981 3 491 .265
Derek Norris 21 C 69 .988 7 399 .293
Jose Lozada 24 SS/1B/2B/LF 95/3/1/1 .938 27 385 .236
Robby Jacobsen 25 LF/3B/C/1B/P 59/26/10/2/2 .964 8 375 .221
Bill Rhinehart 25 LF/RF/1B 30/26/17 .978 5 346 .264
Nick Moresi 25 CF/RF/LF/P 49/15/14/1 .978 3 325 .213
Chris Curran 22 CF 70 .981 3 275 .209
Dan Lyons 25 3B/2B/SS 53/5/1 .959 7 274 .235
Brian Peacock 25 C/3B/LF 41/4/2 .994 2 235 .241
Wilberto Ortiz 25 3B/SS/2B 25/19/1 .931 12 187 .223
Sean Rooney 24 C 19 1.000 0 170 .244
Tim Pahuta 26 3B/1B 22/4 .931 8 155 .296
Francisco Soriano 22 2B/SS 21/7 .932 10 117 .219
Josh Johnson 24 3B/SS/2B 12/12/1 .966 3 113 .297

The naysayers like to point out the number of 25-year-olds that were on the team, either not noticing (slightly possible) or not knowing (quite probable) that 44% of the plate appearances were made by players 23 or younger. Add in the 24-year-olds (a not uncommon age for the league) and that number swells to 57%. With the exceptions of Bill Rhinehart and Tim Pahuta, none the “old men” on the team were above league average. Thus, it’s ignorant to write off this team’s offense as being too old for the level. That accusation can, however, be applied to the pitching…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HBP WP
Adrian Alaniz 26 24/12 8-4, 1 2.61 107 93 26 101 1.112 6 10
Brad Peacock 22 19/18 4-9, 0 4.44 103⅓ 109 25 118 1.297 4 10
Evan Bronson 23 21/16 2-5, 0 3.88 95 107 17 59 1.527 3 5
Marcos Frias 21 20/17 7-5, 0 5.69 91⅔ 105 35 59 1.527 5 3
Pat Lehman 23 21/14 5-4, 0 4.84 87⅓ 87 28 88 1.317 9 4
A.J. Morris 23 23/12 5-3, 2 3.88 72 67 27 61 1.306 6 3
Trevor Holder 23 15/14 3-3, 0 4.09 70⅓ 76 22 52 1.393 4 4
Jesse Estrada 26 22/4 3-2, 1 5.11 56⅓ 73 20 39 1.651 8 1
Clayton Dill 24 40/0 6-7, 1 4.41 51 50 33 48 1.627 1 11
Dan Leatherman 24 31/0 3-2, 11 2.12 46⅔ 31 12 57 0.921 2 2
Pat McCoy 21 30/0 2-1, 6 2.93 46 52 12 44 1.391 1 0
Daniel Rosenbaum 22 8/7 3-2, 0 2.09 43 35 13 31 1.116 0 3
Cory VanAllen 25 36/0 2-3, 1 4.28 41⅓ 49 8 48 1.379 1 3
Justin Phillabaum 24 29/0 0-6, 3 6.87 36⅔ 50 15 28 1.773 6 4
Carlos Martinez 26 18/1 0-0, 1 2.57 35 35 6 14 1.171 1 3
Jimmy Barthmaier 26 9/5 4-1, 0 3.62 32⅓ 36 7 26 1.330 3 3

The bullpen (with one rather obvious exception that should be easy to spot in the list above) was a strong spot for P-Nats all season long, and it should have been because it was almost entirely pitchers that were 24 or older — several with AA experience. Injuries forced Adrian Alaniz and Jesse Estrada into the rotation, but when callups from Hagerstown came, only Estrada was sent back. Alaniz and Barthmaier were considerable factors during the second half, which is not to diminish what Rosenbaum and Holder also meant down the stretch.

I’ve been told that the Potomac roster is the last one to be decided coming out of spring training, with the implication being that at least some of the “old men” are guys that might have otherwise been at Harrisburg, but were the odd man out because player X is at Syracuse and they’d prefer player Y to play every day so he’s going to AA instead of sitting the bench at AAA. The aforementioned trade for Wilson Ramos demonstrated that in practice as Devin Ivany was sent down to Harrisburg and Sean Rooney, in turn, came to Potomac.

I don’t believe, however, that the age of the Potomac roster is entirely explained by that. The tendency to draft college-age players is a factor. The lack of timely development of the high-school-aged prospects is a factor. But I think the days of the team being this old are numbered. Next year’s team will have a lot of the 20- and 21-year-olds from Hagerstown, and should become the youngest roster I’ve personally seen in Woodbridge.

But an older roster shouldn’t diminish what this team accomplished. They still had to beat out a loaded Wilmington team to win the half. They still had to beat the Frederick Keys, which also had a lot of older pitchers and was in the Top 3 in most offensive categories. And they faced one of the most powerful lineups in organized baseball and kept them from scoring their customary 5+ runs a game for the entire series, one that yours truly even thought may have been just too much to contain.

OBLIGATORY TOP 5 LISTS
Most of the “repeats” are pitchers, and before folks start chirping, I’ll explain #5. Marcos Frias was one two pitchers that went to the GCL and came back a changed pitcher. His overall numbers were horrid, but he finished the regular season strong and it carried over to the playoffs. That performance basically bumped Pat McCoy off the list, but I mention him here because the line is that close. Tyler Moore’s place is simply indicative of the fact that his weaknesses haven’t been put to the test at AA. Chris Curran gets the nod over Francisco Soriano due to his speed and defense, though Soriano has the better bat and a stronger arm.

Batters
1. Derek Norris
2. Steve Lombardozzi
3. Michael Burgess
4. Tyler Moore
5. Chris Curran

Pitchers
1. Brad Peacock
2. Daniel Rosenbaum
3. A.J. Morris
4. Trevor Holder
5. Marcos Frias

Sep 132010
 

Winston-Salem’s Stephen Sauer pitched masterfully for eight innings to lead the Dash to a 4-0 victory over the Potomac Nationals in Game One of the Mills Cup Finals.

Sauer was perfect through five innings, keeping the ball down and in the infield with four strikeouts, a lineout, a popup, and nine grounders. The 24-year-old would eventually give up five hits and no walks before turning the ball over to closer Tyson Corley for a 1-2-3 ninth and a combined shutout.

Danny Rosenbaum got his second Game One series start and almost immediately got into trouble with the first of two errors by Robby Jacobsen and a walk before rolling a double-play ball and striking out Winston-Salem’s cleanup hitter Seth Loman. After a scoreless second, and two-hit third, Winston-Salem got on the board first with an Ozzie Lewis solo HR to take a 1-0 in the fourth.

Rosenbaum would last for 4⅓ innings before leaving with runners on 1st and 3rd in the fifth, an unusually quick hook by manager Gary Cathcart who called upon A.J. Morris to clean up the mess, which he did with by returning a tapper back to the mound to Derek Norris and inducing a liner to short.

The sixth inning was not as kind to Morris as shaky defense combined with timely hitting loaded the bases and the Dash grinded (grounded?) out two runs in the process to take a 3-0 lead. Joe Testa took the hill in the seventh and gave up the fourth and final Dash run with a leadoff double by Kenny Williams Jr. and an RBI single by Loman.

Jose Lozada collected the first Potomac hit with a leadoff single in the sixth and took second on a Nick Moresi swinging bunt and third on Chris Curran single to right. Sean Nicol, however, grounded out to end the threat. Tyler Moore became the second runner stranded after he narrowly missed an opposite-field home run in the seventh. And in the eighth, back-to-back singles by pinch-hitter Sean Rooney and Curran went for naught as pinch-hitting Francisco Soriano couldn’t get the clutch hit.

Trevor Holder will be asked to split the series as the Game Two starter against Winston-Salem’s Dylan Axlerod takes the hill with hopes of giving the P-Nats the poison pill and a trip to Woodbridge with 2-0 lead.