Nov 112012
 

What's With The Flowers? Click to find outSalt River scored five unanswered runs in the final three innings for an 11-5 win over Phoenix that stopped a three-game skid.

Brian Goodwin and Jason Martinson sandwiched the top and the bottom of the Rafters’ batting order. Goodwin, who made two putouts in centerfield, went 1-for-4 with two walks and two runs scored. Martinson hit safely for the fifth straight game, smacking an RBI double, drawing two walks, and getting away with a two-out steal of third. He had no defensive chances.

Aaron Barrett had another 1-2-3 inning, breezing through the eighth inning on six pitches with two groundouts and a strikeout. The 24-year-old Hoosier lowered his ERA to 2.70 and has nine strikeouts in 10 innings this fall.

Salt River’s win kept pace with Scottsdale, which broke its five-game slide with a 4-3 win over Surprise. The two teams remain separated by a game and a half in the AFL East with just four games left — including a head-to-head matchup on Tuesday afternoon.

Nov 082012
 

Matt Skole’s two-run homer in the 5th broke open a 4-3 game as Salt River ultimately spoiled Surprise, 8-3.

An inning later, the 23-year-old struck again with a two-run single for a total of four RBIs while going 2-for-4 to boost his line to .300/.410/.540 for the fall campaign. Defensively, he was error-free at first, handling all seven chances.

Brian Goodwin remains hitless since the Rising Stars games, but still scored a run and hit a sacrifice fly from the leadoff spot. He manned center field and caught three flyouts.

Jason Martinson spelled Anthony Rendon third base and hit safely for the fourth straight game. The fellow Texan doubled and scored a run, but also struck out twice.

Aaron Barrett pitched the eighth and pounded the strike zone (7-of-8) while setting down the side in order, lowering his ERA to an even 3.00.

The Rafters win combined with a Scorpions loss opens up a 1½-game lead in the AFL East for Salt River with seven games to play. The two teams rematch tonight with the Rafters playing host.

Nov 042012
 

It takes a lot to steal the show from Billy Hamilton.

But with a solo home run in the 1st and an RBI double in the 5th, Brian Goodwin did just that, leading the AFL East to a 9-4 win in the 2012 Rising Stars game.

The opposing center fielders* were the, um, centerpiece of the showcase — Hamilton drawing a leadoff walk and stealing both second and third in the 1st inning, the second swipe coming on the throw back to the mound when Hamilton spotted Yankees farmhand Austin Romine taking just a tad too long.
* Yes, I know Goodwin started the game in LF — don’t let the facts get in the way of the narrative…

Hamilton scored easily on the double that followed as the AFL West took a 2-0 lead early.

Goodwin cut the lead in half in bottom of the 1st, taking a 2-1 fastball that caught too much of the plate and depositing it on the outfield berm in right field while nearly hitting an oblivious “fan.”

The two 22-year-olds were again linked when Goodwin drove the ball to the edge of the warning track in left-center in the 3rd, as Hamilton initially misread the ball then used his 80-grade speed to correct course and make a leaping grab.

Hamilton couldn’t catch Goodwin’s next hit, a blast to off the right-center wall that drove in a run as part of the AFL East’s six-run 4th that turned a 4-3 deficit into the game’s eventual 9-4 outcome.

Goodwin would finish the game 2-for-5 with two runs scored and two runs driven in, making two putouts — one apiece in left field and center field.

Aaron Barrett and Anthony Rendon would also see time in the game. Barrett would give up a hit and strike out a batter, but was charged with a run when Cubs reliever Tony Zych gave up a bunt single to (you guessed it) Hamilton that turned into a Little League triple with a throwing error. A subsequent single and double made the Barrett’s run earned, but the 24-year-old still earned a hold.

Rendon would come off the bench and play third. He flew out to left in his sole at-bat and snagged a bunt popup by you-know-who and threw out a runner atr second on a grounder during his four innings on defense.

The Salt River Rafters return to action tomorrow with a day game in Peoria as they attempt to catch the Scottsdale Scorpions over the final 10 games of the 2012 AFL season.

Oct 312012
 


After falling behind 3-0 in the 3rd, a pair of runs in the 6th and 8th innings vaulted Salt River to its fifth straight win, 4-3 over Surprise.

It was a light night in terms of the Nationals — just one starter on offense and one reliever made into the scorebook.

Anthony Rendon batted third, played third and extended his modest hit streak to four games. The 22-year-old Texan went 2-for-4 with a run scored on offense and had a putout (foul pop) and an assist (5-2-5-1 rundown on a grounder) on defense.

Cole Kimball worked around a single and an error to turn in a scoreless frame in the 6th. He threw 11 pitches, seven for strikes while facing four batters, and had no walks or strikeouts.

Salt River remains in first place in the AFL East, but just a game in front of the Scottsdale Scorpions.

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From the PR machine in Scottsdale… Brian Goodwin was named the AFL Player of the Week. He’ll be joined by Rendon and Aaron Barrett this Saturday night for the AFL Rising Stars game, which will be televised on the MLB Network at 8:00 p.m. Our zombie copyeditor awaits the assignment…

Oct 272012
 

Three big innings carried the Rafters past the Javelinas as Salt River held off a late charge from Peoria for an 8-7 win yesterday afternoon.

Just two Nationals got into the game.

Anthony Rendon batted fifth in the lineup and played third base. He drew a walk in the and stole second, scoring a run as part of Salt River’s three-run outburst in the first. He drove in a run on a sac fly in the 5th and doubled in the 7th for a 1-for-2 afternoon. Defensively, he had busy day — six assists, including a 5-4-3 DP in the 4th and a bunt attempt in the 6th.

Aaron Barrett (pictured above) gave up a leadoff single in the 8th but had it erased with a double play on the next batter. The fortune quickly became misfortune after another single then a home run cut the three-run lead Barrett was protecting to one. He still earned the hold by getting third out on another grounder.

With the win, Salt River returns to first in the AFL East with an 8-7 mark. They close out the week with another day game this afternoon, visiting the Mesa Solar Sox.

Oct 232012
 

After blowing a 4-1 lead in the 9th, the Salt River Rafters got a walkoff solo shot from the White Sox’s Andy Wilkins in the bottom of the 10th for a 5-4 win over the Mesa Solar Sox. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for Salt River and extended Mesa’s to seven.

The starting trio of Brian Goodwin, Matt Skole, and Anthony Rendon were in the starting lineup while relievers Cole Kimball and Aaron Barrett turned in an inning of work.

Goodwin led off and played left field, singling off the second baseman’s glove in the Rafters’ two-run third. He would draw a walk in the 9th but was gunned down trying to steal. He finished the game 1-for-4 with a run scored and a putout on defense.

Skole returned to earth with an 0-for-4 night as the Salt River DH and No. 5 batter, striking out three times.

Rendon batted eighth and went 1-for-4 with a run scored. His sole defensive chance at third base was the front end of a 5-4-3 double play that eclipsed the Solar Sox 10th inning.

Kimball was the first reliever out of the ‘pen in the 5th but was touched for a run on a leadoff double followed by a groundout, a walk, and a sac fly.

Barrett gave up a pair of two-out singles in the 7th, but struck out Matt “Can I Buy A Vowel?” Szczur to strand them both.

With the win, Salt River improves to 6-5 and reclaims first place in the AFL East by a ½ game over Scottsdale. Ryan Perry is scheduled to make his third start this evening against the Surprise Saguaros.

Oct 222012
 

On the field, the Hagerstown Suns improved upon a successful 2011 campaign with an 82-55 overall record. They missed the first half by three games with a 42-27 mark, but won the second with slightly worse record of 40-28, only to get swept in the playoffs with a pair of 2-run losses (3-1, 7-5). Some may blame the late promotion of Matt Skole at the very late date of August 15 — two months too late, if you ask some folks — for the quick playoff exit, the more objective take is that the pitching just wasn’t there, much like Auburn.

Off the field, the Suns entered the 2012 season with the spectre of the team leaving for Winchester and the rumblings of a new stadium being built in Hagerstown, culminating in a rather bold move of the team opening the kimono by giving a tour of Municipal Stadium, ostensibly to demonstrate that renovation is a not an option. The move may have prevented the team from losing its PDC through 2014, but it’s hard not to infer that threat of the team leaving is to blame for the huge drop in attendance from 2011 to 2012 (1,931 per game to 1,366 — a 29.3% decrease).

Back to the review… Let’s take a look at how the Suns compared to the rest of the South Atlantic League:
HITTING

PITCHING



Like 2011, the Suns were among the league leaders in runs and homers (2nd), hits and stolen bases (3rd), and walks (1st). I’ll go out on a limb and say this will probably be true for 2013, too. Unfortunately, some of the reason for this is that the team was among the oldest in the league, with multiple players repeating the level.

Pitching, which had been the organization’s strong suit for years, is now becoming one of its weaknesses. This the fourth of the seven affiliates, and all four levels have given up runs above the league average. This is not to say there weren’t bright spots in Hagerstown — obviously, a couple of examples stand, um, head & shoulders above the others — but it does seem like there was a Mr. Hyde for every Dr. Jekyll. When you can outslug your competition, it often goes unnoticed (well, at least until the playoffs), but this the last level where that’s the case.

Turning back to the bats, we now look at the Top 12 hitters in terms of plate appearances. As always, full statistics for the team can be found here, and the key for the asterisks is one * for the 2011 draft picks and two ** for the DSL graduates.
Like Auburn, there is really little to complain about in terms of overall offensive production. Just three of the top 12 produced below the league average, and three produced Nintendo-like numbers for both Gross Production Average and Isolated Power. The problem, of course, is that quite a few of these players were playing a level behind where they should have, as my Hagerstown guy put it in his review.

The only beacon of hope is that maybe, just maybe, one or two of the position players that were promoted from here to Potomac will be challenged with Harrisburg rather than resuming 2013 in Woodbridge. I know that sounds harsh, but perhaps an offseason “leapfrog” might serve as both an incentive to the Low-A guys and reminder to the High-A guys that moving up to the next level isn’t a foregone conclusion. The large number of six-year FA pitchers that were brought in at AA and AAA this year is an example of that line of thinking.

Speaking of pitchers…
For all the bitching and moaning discontent over the lack of promotions in the system, Hagerstown was interesting case when it came to pitchers. Four pitchers were promoted from Hagerstown to Potomac, and four pitchers were promoted to the Hub City — but two of those came not from Auburn but from the GCL. And three were 2012 picks.

It’s the skipping over that’s unusual. Ordinarily, one would expect a sequence like Blake Schwartz going from Viera to Auburn and Blake Monar going from Auburn to Hagerstown. Likewise for Leonard Hollins and, say, Travis Henke. It may be just be an anomaly, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

For the second straight year, eleven pitchers made at least five starts for the Suns. Ineffectiveness and promotions were more to blame than injuries this year, with one starter dropping down from Potomac and two moving up midseason and one very late. Five pitchers went up and back to Viera for fine-tuning (most notably, Turnbull and Estevez) and a sixth went out for the year and under the knife (Brian Dupra).

Once again, I’ll refer you to my eyes on the field for Hagerstown’s hurlers.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
Before blasting me for not listing Karns, remember that he pitched more innings for Potomac and I’m trying to avoid double-listing guys, which gets more difficult as we hit the upper levels. There isn’t a set number of spots to fill for the watchlist, after all. If it means fewer guys and shorter lists at the upper levels, so be it.

Position Players
1. Brian Goodwin
2. Matt Skole
3. Billy Burns
4. Jason Martinson
5. Steve Souza
HM: Caleb Ramsey

Pitchers
1. Alex Meyer
2. Christian Meza
3. Aaron Barrett
4. Brian Rauh
5. Blake Schwartz
HM: Ben Hawkins

Oct 172012
 

The Salt River Rafters and Phoenix Desert Dogs played to a 3-3 tie over 11 innings last night.

Three Nats farmhands played in the contest:

  • Brian Goodwin was the DH and led off, but went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.
  • Matt Skole batted third, played first base, and went 1-for-3 with two walks.
  • Aaron Barrett tossed two scoreless innings, giving up two hits, but striking out three

Defensively, Skole played error-free in nine chances and even turned a 3-6-3 DP — not bad for a guy new to the position.

Barrett was the subject of Byron Kerr’s latest missive on the minors, but I have a feeling folks might be more interested to learn that Kerr has confirmed what has long been suspected: Matt Purke has had shoulder surgery.

I’ve put in a couple of questions regarding a couple of other pitchers (Josh Smoker, Manny Rodriguez), though I suspect one or both has been released and the other, if not released, has had surgery.

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Winter leagues have begun in Venezuela, Mexico and the Domnican Republic over the last few days. The Australian Baseball League begins its preseason tomorrow, regular season in 10 days while the Puerto Rican League starts three weeks from tomorrow. I’ll begin weekly updates on the stats for all the offseason leagues starting next week. In the meantime, here’s a look at the Nats players that have been spotted thus far (excluding players that did not play in the Washington minors this past summer):

Venezuela Dominican Republic
• Carlos Rivero • Manny Mayorson
• Tanner Roark • Erik Davis
Mexico • Pat McCoy
• Zech Zinicola • Kevin Pucetas
• Hassan Pena • Atahualpa Severino
Oct 142012
 

The Rafters pitchers had few surprises as the Saguaros pounded out 20 hits en route to a 10-2 win yesterday.

Potomac and Hagerstown teammates Aaron Barrett and Jason Martinson were the only two Nationals to see game action.

Martinson batted sixth as the DH and went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.

Barrett pitched the 7th inning and was knocked for two unearned runs on three hits, tossing 23 pitches with 15 going for strikes.

With the loss, Salt River falls to 3-2 and has the day off today. This week it’s a pair of games against Phoenix, Peoria, and Scottsdale with home games on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Sep 282012
 

Not much in the way of news this week, but in yesterday’s transactions post from Baseball America, the Arizona Fall League assignments were made official:
• RHP Aaron Barrett
• RHP Paul Demny
• CF Brian Goodwin
• RHP Cole Kimball
• SS/3B Jason Martinson (taxi)
• RHP Ryan Perry
• 3B/SS Anthony Rendon
• 3B Matt Skole

The biggest change, of course, is the swapping of Christian Garcia and Cole Kimball, who has apparently healed enough from the injury that cut short his rehab tour in early to start throwing again. The 27-year-old is attempting to come back from rotator cuff surgery and could be potentially pitching to keep his spot on the 40-man roster.

When I last saw him, he looked like a shell of his previous self: his fastball like your weird uncle’s wardrobe (stuck in the 80s) and his command, which has never been mistaken for Jordan Zimmermann’s (subject of a prospect retro by John Sickels), even worse. Taking chances on hurt pitchers is what has netted the Nats pitchers like Garcia and Ryan Mattheus, though you could make the argument that Kimball was hurt in the first place when the Nats pushed him (and Adam Carr) in the AFL in the fall of 2010.

Most folks, of course, are curious regarding a rumored position switch of Anthony Rendon to second base. There are two other 2Bs on the roster of the Salt River Rafters (Tyler Bortnick, Diamondbacks; Carlos Sanchez, White Sox) and while one of them is a 25-year-old that appears to be a Rule 5 tryout (Bortnick), it’s only speculation at this point.

Matt Skole and Brian Goodwin will join Rendon as the position players assigned by Washington, with Jason Martinson serving as this year’s taxi squad player, eligible to play twice a week. Bryce Harper (2010) and Zach Walters (2011) served in this capacity over the past two fall campaigns.

Ryan Perry presumably will continue his transition to starting from relief while it appears that Paul Demny is doing the opposite, based on his removal from the Harrisburg Senators rotation in August as well as his struggles all year long (insert obligatory reference to youth and hard-throwing here). Aaron Barrett, who is not Rule 5-eligible, will continue to refine his stuff after posting a 3-2/2.09/0.92 pitcher’s line (if it doesn’t exist, then I’m coining it) with 17 saves in 2012.

The 2012 season begins on Tuesday, October 9th with Salt River hosting the Mesa Solar Sox.