Mar 252014
 

Scenes From Scottsdale 6
The best slider in the Nationals organization just found a home in D.C.

Along with today’s cuts (Chris Young, Jamey Carroll) and options (Tyler Moore, Ryan Mattheus, and Xavier Cedeno) the Nationals announced that RHP Aaron Barrett will make the Washington Nationals Opening Day roster. Barrett, who was added to the 40-man last November, was considered a dark horse candidate to make the ‘pen but ultimately ticketed for Syracuse.

Instead, he got a couple of breaks (Mattheus injury, for one) and he simply just kept getting guys out. In nine appearances, the 26-year-old allowed just five hits, no walks, and fanned seven in nine appearances totaling 9⅔ innings.

It’s quite the journey for the 2010 ninth-round pick, who nearly flamed out in his first professional year, as chronicled last month by WaPo’s Adam Kilgore, when he posted 0-5 record with a 9.43 ERA in 10 appearances (four starts) while walking 22 in 21 innings (and striking out 25).

After repeating the SS-A level in 2011 with better but not stellar numbers, Barrett put together a career year in 2012. He went from Low-A at the beginning of season to the AFL at the end, spending just six weeks at High-A in between. He got another bump in 2013 and finished second in the Eastern League with 26 saves while striking out 69 in 50⅓ innings.

It remains to be seen whether this is a temporary move (i.e. until Mattheus gets more innings and back into form) but that should not diminish the achievement. Since this site has a fan component, I think I’m allowed to write “Congratulations.”

Dec 112013
 

Like the bats, folks were overwhelmingly in agreement about the top three arms in the Washington Nationals minors. Unlike a year ago, though, the range was smaller — just 22 different pitchers versus 30 — and there were four guys that were named on every ballot.

OK, enough vamping. Let’s rock this, pitch:

                              1. Lucas Giolito
                              2. A.J. Cole
                              3. Sammy Solis
                              4. Nathan Karns
                              5. Jake Johansen
                              6. Aaron Barrett
                              7. Matt Purke
                              8. Austin Voth
                              9. Christian Garcia
                              10. Richie Mirowski

Others receiving votes: Blake Schwartz, Jefry Rodriguez, Taylor Hill, Hector Silvestre, Travis Ott, Erik Davis, Pedro Encarnacion, Brett Mooneyham, Wander Suero, Nick Lee, Neil Holland, Blake Treinen

Now the observations…

• Giolito was the top dog on 12 of the 13 ballots, with Cole getting the other first-place vote. Giolito was the #1 last year, too, despite coming off UCL-replacement surgery in August 2012.

• Cole was the Mary Ann to Ging, er… Giolito on 11 of the possible 12 second-place votes. It would have been interesting to see if that would have been true had Robbie Ray not been traded away.

• Voth and Garcia tied in raw points, but I broke the tie by the pitcher who was named on more ballots (nine vs. seven).

• Two of the top three old maids (i.e. the near misses) were righthanded control artists who don’t throw in the mid-90s. Not sure if the bias is against the lower velocity, the low K rate, or the soap-opera first name (just kidding).

The list continues to skews older (five are 25+) and upper minors (also five), which has been a consistent bias since this experiment in crowdsourcing began in 2011. But like all things hot stove, the point is to pass the time — none of this is really significant, statistically or otherwise — while winter sets its claws in and local schools overreact to snowfall that wouldn’t get a chihuahua’s belly wet.

Next up: The Rule 5 draft, which for the Nationals, has become an exercise of wondering who’s going versus who’s arriving.

Nov 212013
 

A couple of mild surprises this year as the Nationals dropped a pair of journeymen lefties in favor of adding RHP Aaron Barrett, LHP Sammy Solis, and OF Michael Taylor to the 40-man roster to avoid exposure to the Rule 5 draft next month.

Barrett was probably the lesser of the two surprises, given his age (almost 26) and function (reliever). As noted yesterday, Barrett seemed a possibility due to the precedent of Erik Davis a year ago, but with his merely average fastball velocity (low 90s) there was reason for doubt. His plus slider — rated as the best in the organization by Baseball America for two years’ running — was apparently deemed to valuable to risk losing.

Even without a strong AFL campaign, chances were Solis would have been protected. The question now is how much longer they’ll wait for him to develop into a starter, especially after not one but two lefthanded relievers were jettisoned. With zero AA experience, and only one year removed from Tommy John surgery, the odds are still good that he’ll pitch every fifth day in Harrisburg for at least a couple of months next season.

Taylor was a bit of a shock because there’s no question that his hitting tools are not major-league ready. It’s possible another team would have taken him, but it’s highly improbable they would have kept him. What now occurs to me — and should have previously — is that his addition gives the team leverage in any possible trade scenario involving either Denard Span or Brian Goodwin. Of course, Occam’s Razor also suggests that the team simply covets his skillset and wanted to eliminate any possible disruption to their plans for him in 2014.

Jun 282013
 

GBI for NPP 2Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 30-48, 6th place I.L. North, 19½ games behind

Good Ryan Tatusko 70.4 LOB%
Bad Danny Espinosa 29K in 14G
Interesting 21 HBP by Chiefs pitchers 2nd fewest in the I.L.



HARRISBURG SENATORS 44-35, 1st place E.L. West, 4 games ahead

Good Aaron Barrett 12.1 K/9IP, 2.59 BB/9IP, 4.67 K:BB ratio
Bad Jose Lozada .156/.235/.200 in June (18G)
Interesting Matt Grace 0.00 ERA, .094 OBA in first 7 appearances



POTOMAC NATIONALS 5-1, 1st place C.L. North Champs, 1½ games ahead (47-28 overall)

Good Adrian Nieto .389/.450/.625 in June
Bad Brian Dupra 3.91 K/9IP
Interesting Michael Taylor 28 of 31 SB (90.3% success rate)


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 5-3, T2nd place Sally North, 1 game behind (43-32 overall)

Good Brandon Miller .249 ISO Avg.
Bad Bryan Harper 1.75 WHIP
Interesting 43% defensive CS rate, best in Sally League


DSL NATIONALS 13-8, T1st Boca Chica South, 2 games ahead

Good 17-y.o. Maximo Valerio 1.90ERA, 1.06WHIP, 2.19 FIP in 5 starts
Bad 17-y.o. Darryl Florentino .161BA, 16K in 18G
Interesting 17-y.o. Aldrem Corredor 14BB in 18G
Jun 262013
 

Rosters for the 2013 Eastern League All-Star Game were announced today, and for the third straight year, five Harrisburg Senators made the Western Division squad:

• IF Josh Johnson

• OF Steve Souza Jr.

• RHP Aaron Barrett

• RHP Paul Demny

• RHP Taylor Jordan

This is the first All-Star team selection for Demny and the second All-Star team selection for Johnson (Midwest, 2006), Souza (Sally, 2010), Jordan (Sally, 2011) and Barrett (Sally 2012).

This year’s game will be held in New Britain, Connecticut on July 10th with a HR derby on the 9th. New Britain previously hosted the All-Star game in 2003 and 1987.

UPDATE: The accolades keep coming for Jordan as the 24-year-old was named to the 2013 All-Star Futures Game.

Dec 052012
 

The pattern of a (near-)unanimous few then the biases of the many continues with the votes for the Nationals’ Top 10 Pitchers. Thirty different pitchers received votes, but only two appeared on each of the thirteen ballots cast (Lucas Giolito and Nathan Karns) while two more were named on all but one (Sammy Solis and Matt Purke).

1. Lucas Giolito
2. Nathan Karns
3. Matt Purke
4. Sammy Solis
5. Christian Garcia
6. Erik Davis
7. Danny Rosenbaum
8. Aaron Barrett
9. Brett Mooneyham
10. Robbie Ray

Others receiving votes: Rob Wort, Rafael Martin, Neil Holland, Paul Demny, Pedro Encarnacion, Taylor Jordan, Christian Meza, Jeff Mandel, Cole Kimball, Brad Meyers, Wirkin Estevez, Pat McCoy, Ryan Tatusko, Robert Benincasa, Derek Self, Hector Nelo, Josh Smoker, Jack McGeary, Nick Lee

Perhaps more disturbing is that we don’t see a pitcher who hasn’t had shoulder or elbow surgery until the #6 hurler, Erik Davis, who instead has had knee problems, according to MASN’s Byron Kerr.

Close behind is the realization that half of this list is 25 or older. Put another way: just 10 of these 30 pitchers voted for were born after 1990.

As I wrote back in September in discussing the Nationals farm, it’s pretty clear that the organization’s strength has shifted away from developing pitchers to position players. Perhaps more evident: surgery and long periods of rehab seem to be the gamble the Nats are willing to make — regardless of a pitcher’s age or ailment — to get pitching potential. What remains to be seen is whether this approach will pay off frequently enough to warrant the shifting of innings or roles away from healthier and/or lower-ceiling guys.

I hope folks enjoyed this experiment in crowdsourcing. Next up on the minor-league calendar is the Rule 5 draft. The Nats are nearly certain not to be takers in the MLB phase (thus, no preview this year), and may even have a player or two taken, though the odds are extremely short that any player taken will be gone for good.

Nov 192012
 

First, the stats…
BATTERS

PITCHERS
Now, the thoughts

  • Goodwin’s alleged baserunning gaffe not withstanding, the youngest of the AFL entrants acquitted himself just fine overall. He showed a lot more power than anyone might have expected — hitter-friendly environment or not. I still expect him to return to Harrisburg next year to work on his defense and refine his game.
  • Rendon fulfilled the lofty expectations placed upon him by both the prospect cheerleaders gurus and the casual Nats fans, who are already converting Ryan Zimmerman to first base before he turns 30 to make room for 2011 first-round pick. My inclination is to predict Harrisburg as his 2013 starting point, but can see him in Syracuse next April with a strong spring.
  • The party line is that Skole played first base merely to accommodate Rendon in the AFL, but that seems hard to believe that he’ll go back, given how well he played there and who’s ahead of him on the first-base path to DC (just Bloxom and Marrero). If the knock on his gaudy offensive numbers was that he was playing a level too low, then making him the Senators first baseman can kill two birds with one stone.
  • Martinson started horribly and finished strong. Will it be enough for him to not repeat Potomac? The Zach Walters experience suggests that he’ll sent back but Martinson is much older and played much more High-A ball. Keeping him at Potomac means keeping someone else at Hagerstown, much the way he was made to repeat to make room for Ricky Hague and Walters.
  • Options or not, Perry did not make a strong case to account the hype that he can be the #5 starter for the parent club. He’s likely to stay on the 40-man for now, but don’t be surprised if he’s returned to the bullpen next spring.
  • Demny is a Rule 5 possibility and as much as Rizzo covets hard-throwing righties, the bet here is that he won’t be protected. Demny’s future is in the bullpen and the whispers that the velocity has slipped are other reasons to believe he’ll be exposed.
  • Kimball may still be recovering from injuries, but it’s hard not to see him getting dropped from the 40-man today or tomorrow (if he hasn’t already) in the hopes that he’ll pass through waivers. What we’ll never know is whether that was the plan all along.
  • Barrett came into the AFL with a built-in excuse of inexperience (17 innings of High-A) but instead was used in the 7th and 8th innings and had seven scoreless outings out of ten. Alas, it probably won’t be enough for him to not repeat Potomac in ’13.
  • Next up: A look at the Nationals Rule 5 eligibles.

Nov 182012
 

A little bonus coverage, courtesy of Lee Magenheim, who’s been supplying us with this year’s photos.

And then I told the bartender: Shaken, not stirred…


First pitch from Ryan Perry.


Finishing up the fifth, Matt Skole makes the second out on the second pitch Aaron Barrett threw.

Cole Kimball, winner of the
2012 Dernell Stenson Award.

Before the fateful appeal play in the 7th.


Out at the plate in the 8th.

Presumably, awaiting the protest decision.

Nov 172012
 

With a controversial appeal play in the 7th, the Salt River Rafters were unable to catch the Peoria Javelinas, losing the AFL Championship Game by a score of 4-3.

As the picture above shows, it was a very close call. Brian Goodwin was ruled to have left early on a would-be sacrifice fly. Equally unclear: Whether or not the umpires erred in the appeal play itself when it appeared that Peoria was allowed to appeal twice with the Javelinas tagging both home plate and third base. As of this writing, the game is under appeal, but chances are it will be denied.

Goodwin had tripled to lead off the inning and went 2-for-3 with a walk overall as the Rafters’ designated hitter. The next inning, Anthony Rendon also smacked a leadoff three-bagger, with speedster Billy Hamilton slamming into the outfield wall trying to track the ball down. Hamilton would leave the game with an injury but was spotted on the field during the postgame celebration, so it’s likely the injury is not as serious as it initially appeared.

Rendon’s hit was his only one in four at-bats. Defensively, the 22-year-old caught a foul pop and started a 5-4-3 DP in the 9th.

Matt Skole was third Nats position player to make it into the game, but was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts (both swinging). The 23-year-old was busy at first base with 11 putouts and two assists, including a 3-6-1 double play, but did show his inexperience on a bunt by Hamilton in which Ryan Perry pounced but had to eat it because Skole had strayed too far from the bag.

Perry got the start but was as sharp as a knife. A butter knife. The 25-year-old labored through three innings and gave up all four Peoria runs on eight hits and two walks to suffer the loss. He had zero (0) strikeouts and just 34 of 57 pitches went for strikes.

Aaron Barrett appeared for two batters and was 25 pitches short of a Bill Lee perfect game with two outs on two strikes thrown.

With the loss, Salt River finishes the 2012 AFL campaign with 17 wins 14 losses and two ties.

Nov 152012
 

With a pair of three-run rallies in the 4th and 5th innings, Salt River cruised past Peoria 6-4 to clinch a spot in the Arizona Fall League Championship Game on Saturday.

Three Nationals saw game action:

  • Matt Skole batted third but went 0-for-3 with a walk. He handled all five defensive chances at first base without an error.
  • Jason Martinson finished the AFL season with a six-game hit streak, as the taxi-squad third baseman notched an assist and was 1-for-3 with a walk.
  • Aaron Barrett gave up a run on two hits and a walk but was credited with a hold while pitching the 8th inning.

Salt River’s opponent for the title game remains to be seen, as second-place Surprise lost to second-place Scottsdale yesterday to keep Peoria in first place by a ½ game. The Rafters visit the Sagauros this afternoon and can eliminate Peoria with a win while the Javelinas host the Desert Dogs and can earn a rematch against Salt River with a win or a Surprise loss.