Jun 012013
 

Transactions for NPP 3Score one for the local beat writers, who got the news first and got it right… As reported last night by the Patriot-News, Anthony Rendon has indeed been promoted from Harrisburg to Syracuse.

At Syracuse, Rendon will work with manager Tony Beasley and play second base, the Nationals tacitly admitting the obvious that the parent club needs him at second base this sooner rather than later.

Also promoted was LHP Matt Grace, going from Potomac to Harrisburg. Grace was a 2010 Draft pick out of UCLA and was a starter until this season, where he’s been uneven (4 blown saves) for the P-Nats but 2-0 with a pitcher’s line of 3.18/2.80/1.17 (ERA/FIP/WHIP).

Corresponding moves by Potomac and/or Hagerstown have not yet been announced.

Last, but not least, RHP Erik Davis has been recalled from Syracuse. He’ll be taking the place of OF Bryce Harper, who was placed on the DL retroactive to May 27. Davis was picked up in a trade in March 2011 and added to the Nats 40-man roster this past November.

May 132013
 

It’s a Harrisburg sweep for the Eastern League’s weekly awards as Anthony Rendon and Paul Demny were named Player and Pitcher of the Week for the period of May 6 through 12.

Anthony RendonRendon hit safely in six of seven games, going 12-for-24 with six doubles, two home runs, and eight RBI for a .500 batting average. He also drew six walks and scored five runs. Despite his 15 days spent in the majors, Rendon is leading the Eastern League in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. He was the Nationals’ 1st round pick out of Rice University in the 2011 draft, and the 6th pick overall.

Paul DemnyDemny pitched just once during the timeframe, but nobody got a hit during the eight innings he pitched last Thursday as he combined with Ian Krol for the fourth no-hitter in Harrisburg Senator history. Demny walked three and struck out five for that night, but has struggled to marks of 4.62/3.96/1.38 for ERA/FIP/WHIP for the season with a record of 2-4 in seven starts. He was the Nationals’ 6th round pick out of Blinn (TX) Community College in 2008.

Rendon and Demny are the fifth and sixth Nats farmhands to win weekly honors, following A.J. Cole, Nathan Karns, Taylor Hill, and Jason Martinson (twice).

May 102013
 


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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 13-20, 6th place I.L. North, 7½ games behind

Good Eury Perez .381/.381/.524 during 9G hit streak
Bad 214 pitching strikeouts, 14th in I.L.
Interesting Home: 3-12, Road: 10-8

HARRISBURG SENATORS 16-18, 4th place E.L. West, 5 games behind

Good Anthony Rendon .364/.500/.682 since return from DC
Bad Marcos Frias 7.50ERA, 1.58WHIP, 38.1% LOB
Interesting Three of four Harrisburg Senator no-hitters have happened in the past four seasons (2010, James/Kimball/Zinicola; 2011, Martis 7inn.; 2013, Demny/Krol)

POTOMAC NATIONALS 17-16, T2nd place C.L. North, 1½ games behind

Good Robbie Ray 3-1, 2.08ERA, 2.94FIP, 1.08WHIP
Bad Kevin Keyes .162/.197/.270, 37K in 28G
Interesting Adrian Nieto .228BA, 9 of 21 hits for extra bases

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 19-12, 1st place Sally North, ½ game ahead

Good Team pitching 3.16 R/G #1 in Sally League
Bad 12HR tied for 10th in 14-team Sally League
Interesting Travis Henke 93.8% LOB rate
Apr 212013
 

No, I Said The White PhoneFirst the straight news…

Washington Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the 15-Day DL today with a strained left hamstring, following an MRI taken this afternoon. Taking his place on the MLB is roster is Anthony Rendon, the team’s top-rated prospect and first-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Rice University.

Rendon had been hitting .292/.462/.500 with two home runs and seven RBI with AA Harrisburg. The 22-year-old Texan is expected to make his major-league debut on Sunday, playing third base and perhaps batting sixth or seventh against the New York Mets, a game that is currently not nationally televised.

Manager Davey Johnson told reporters that doctors said Zimmerman needs roughly 10 days of rest for the injury to heal, thus it’s possible that Zimmerman could be activated as early as May 3rd. GM Mike Rizzo said he expects Rendon to be sent back to the minors upon Zimmerman’s return from the DL, though cited the caveats of “keeping an open mind and letting the situation play out.”

Now, for the opinion…

Folks are excited about this. I get that. This is the team’s No. 1 guy, a talent that might not have gone #1 overall but probably should have, joining another phenom who made the same move almost a year ago.

And that’s what worries me.

People keep asking me when is Player X gonna get promoted, and I keep telling folks that it’s a new world order, that it’s a level a year until guys hit AA with the Rizzo FO.

Then Bryce Harper gets jumped from Low-A to AA in 2011, same for Brian Goodwin in 2012. So those are two exceptions, right? No biggie.

What happens if Rendon doesn’t have success early and often? What if he’s like Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. — who I saw more of than Rendon, for what it’s worth, but was no less convinced of his potential to make it to The Show — and struggles after an initial burst?

We’re told that Rendon will be sent back to further his development, that they don’t like to bring young guys up just to make them sit. Well, which is it?

If this is just a promotion to keep the team from being short-handed, why not just call up Will Rhymes or Carlos Rivero from AAA Syracuse and let them sit the bench while Chad Tracy and Steve Lombardozzi handle third base? They can’t be added to the 40-man roster or risk being lost on waivers?

In short, this doesn’t pass the sniff test — and given how the beat writers were lied to* by unnamed Nats officials when reports of Rendon being scratched from the Senators lineup, folks ought not to take what’s being said as gospel.* Before folks feel too sorry for them, being lied to is part of the job of being a reporter. It sucks, but it happens.

It’s okay to be excited. We’re supposed to be as fans. Even if this is too much, too soon. Rendon (and JBJ) is supposed to have the makeup to be able to endure the failure. But I question taking the risk, except as a PR move.

It pains me to write this, but this is something I’d expect from the previous GM.

Mar 272013
 

Baseball America for NPPLike slideshows of cheerleaders and WAGs for Bleacher Report*, Baseball America can’t resist another chance to re-issue a list, which it did today with the 2013 Organizational Talent Rankings.
*Full disclosure: I can’t resist bulldogs or visual puns.

As a system, the Nats came in at #13 — up three spots from the #16 ranking last December — but perhaps of more interest is the “new” Top 10 list, which is as follows:

1. Anthony Rendon, 3B (AA)
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP (XST)
3. Brian Goodwin, OF (AA)
4. A.J. Cole, RHP (A+)
5. Matt Skole, 1B-3B (AA)
6. Nathan Karns, RHP (AA)
7. Christan Garcia, RHP (MLB D.L.)
8. Eury Perez, OF (AAA)
9. Sammy Solis, LHP (XST)
10. Matt Purke, LHP (XST)

In a nutshell, A.J. Cole was inserted at #4 and the “old” nos. 4-9 were moved down one spot. Zach Walters was the “bumped” #10 prospect. My projected destinations for where they’ll be for Opening Day are in parentheses.

The Washington farm was ranked #12 last year in this revision, following a brief moment on paper when the system was rated #1 prior to the Gio Gonzalez trade.

Mar 142013
 

More ST cutsThis morning the Nationals announced the second major cutdown, sending seven guys to the backfields, including top prospects Nathan Karns, Anthony Rendon, and Matt Skole. Also sent packing: Eury Perez, Sandy Leon, Pat McCoy, and Will Rhymes.

Officially, Perez was optioned to AAA Syracuse, Leon and Rendon were optioned to AA Harrisburg, while the rest were reassigned to minor-league camp.

Karns was an unsurprising cut, especially considering his recent leg injury. After an impressive two-inning stint against the Mets on February 25 struggled in his next two appearances — both versus the St. Louis Cardinals — including seven runs in 2/3rds of an inning last Friday.

While perhaps some folks may have thought Rendon’s torrid spring thus far (.375BA, 4HR, 11RBI) may have earned him more time with “the big boys,” manager Davey Johnson has been consistent in his stance that all the 22-year-old Texan needs is “some reps.”

There is, of course, nothing to prevent Washington from reassigning Rendon to Syracuse later this month. Wherever he does end up starting the season, Rendon is expected to split time playing 3B and SS and will occasionally play at 2B, Johnson told reporters this morning.

Finally, Matt Skole, who spent less than a month at a High-A Potomac after obliterating the South Atlantic League for most of 2012, is probably not going back to Woodbridge next month; not after leading the Nationals with seven walks drawn in 14 games for an impressive .406 OBP.

As predicted earlier this week, the trio of Carlos Rivero, Corey Brown, and Chris Marrero were kept in the major-league camp, which now stands at 42 players

Mar 072013
 

Rendon in ClearwaterThe Nats’ four-game win streak was snapped yesterday afternoon with a 6-3 loss to the Phillies, a game quickly spun by the fans and the media alike as another chapter of the burgeoning DC-Philly rivalry.

Unfortunately, not lost amid the kerfuffle was Anthony Rendon — playing spotless shortstop, no less — homering for the third time in Spring Training. As predicted less than a month ago, a hot start (.400/.429/1.000 in nine games) has gotten some folks bothered.

Thankfully, not all folks are forgetting that this happens every spring. In fact, most of what I wanted (or expected) to write was written in this blog post by Charlie Fliegel at the Nationals Review, especially this:

[P]eople believed he could hit in the majors immediately. When he was drafted, he was considered by many to be the most Major League ready prospect available. So it wouldn’t be crazy for him to be on the team right now. But they don’t NEED him right now, except in a part time role, and that would likely hinder his further development.

Back to the game yesterday…

Strasburg took the loss despite fanning six over three and 2/3rds innings and was followed by Fernando Abad, who got roughed up for the first time this spring with a pair of runs surrendered on three hits over an inning and a 1/3rd. Likewise for Cole Kimball, who gave up two runs on a walk and two hits, including a solo shot in his lone inning of work.

Joining Rendon in the starting lineup were Corey Brown, who started in RF and shifted to CF while going 1-for-4 with a run scored; Chris Marrero, who went 0-for-2 with a strikeout at 1B; Carlos Rivero, who reached base three times with a pair of singles and a walk as the LF; Matt Skole, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout at 3B; and Jhonatan Solano, who doubled and walked as the starting catcher.

Here’s how the notable minor-leaguers fared:
• RHP Yunesky Maya 1IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 2K
• RHP Erik Davis 1IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 3K
• RF Steve Souza went 0-for-2 with two K’s
• SS Zach Walters went 1-for-1 but committed his second error
• DH Carlos Maldonado went 0-for-1 with a K
• 1B Micah Owings went 1-for-2 with an RBI double and a run scored
• PR-LF Billy Burns stole a base but struck out in his lone PA
• 3B Cutter Dykstra went 1-for-1

It’s back to Kissimmee this afternoon for another 1:05 start against the Houston Astros. The game can be heard on MLB Audio (sorry folks, the Charlie & Dave drought still has another four days to go). Tomorrow is the next TV broadcast (MASN).

Mar 032013
 

Photo by Jennifer Shiffman (@jtshiffman)

Photo by Jennifer Shiffman (@jtshiffman)

Three Nationals hit home runs, including prospects Anthony Rendon and Chris Marrero, as the Washington nine tripled up the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-2 yesterday afternoon.

The big fly was the first for Marrero and Ian Desmond, both solo shots smacked into the left-to-right wind that was officially listed at 9 m.p.h., but described as gusting by Jeff Bridges after three glasses of bourbon KMOX radio man Mike Shannon and beat reporters on Twitter.

Rendon’s two-run circle clout came in the Nats four-run second that put the game away early and gave Gio Gonzalez the “win” for his three innings of work, in which he gave up two runs on five hits and a walk but struck out none.

Nathan Karns made his second appearance for an inning as the first man out of the ‘pen, but against major-leaguers (as opposed to the Mets, natch) loaded the bases on a hit and two walks but stranded them after a visit to the mound by pitching coach Steve McCatty. No word on whether McCatty reminded him about the death of Babe Ruth and the efficacy putting the ball over the plate.

More encouraging, however, was the three innings by Ryan Perry that followed against the Cardinals reserves: three innings pitched, two hits allowed, seven of nine outs on the ground. Drew Storen and Erik Davis closed out the game with scoreless inning apiece, though Storen loaded the bases on two hits and a walk while Davis set ‘em down in order.

Rendon and Marrero both went 2-for-3 with two RBI as the starting corner infielders. Notable minor-leaguers coming off the bench…

…DH Sandy Leon pinch-hit and went 0-for-1
…SS Zach Walters went 0-for-1
…LF Carlos Rivero went 0-for-1
…1B Matt Skole drew a walk
…RF Destin Hood went 0-for-1 with a K
…3B Mike “Don’t Call Me George” Costanzo pinch-ran and went 0-for-1
…CF Michael Taylor went 0-for-1

After the game, CF Eury Perez was named as a replacement for Yankees OF Melky Mesa on the Dominican Republic’s entry in the World Baseball Classic. With LF Jimmy Van Ostrand also leaving to represent Team Canada, one has to wonder if CF Brian Goodwin will make an appearance soon despite previous stories noting that the Nats are (again) having him focus on small-ball skills.

The Nats and Cards rematch this afternoon at 1 p.m. in Viera before the first of three scheduled off days tomorrow.

Mar 012013
 

Photo Credit: Luis Albisu via Twitter @ItsLuisF

The Nats posted a picket fence in the second, third, and fourth innings but couldn’t hold the 3-1 lead over the Mets last night in Viera, settling for another extra-inning tie at 4-4.

Like Gio Gonzalez on Monday, Nats starter Stephen Strasburg struggled some with the heat but was stone-cold killer with his offspeed offerings, striking out six primarily with the curve and change over three innings. The Nats ace gave up a run in the first on a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly but finished with just three hits and two walks allowed while tossing 53 pitches, 31 for strikes.

As the headline teases, Anthony Rendon continues to impress this spring. The 22-year-old doubled to right with two outs to tie the game in the second, then tapped into a 6-4 putout with one out in the 4th to bring in the run that put the Nats up 3-1 in the 4th. In five games, Rendon is now 5-for-12 with a HR, two doubles, and five RBI and living up to hype that comes with being the team’s #1 prospect.

Zach Duke followed Strasburg on the mound and let in an unearned run in his two innings to “earn” a blown save while Yunesky Maya coughed up two earned runs in his two for his “BS.” Both gave up three hits. Pat McCoy rebounded from his previous outing to turn in a 1-2-3 frame. Ryan Mattheus closed out the game with two goose eggs. Nats pitchers combined for 14 K’s over the 10 innings.

Here’s a rundown of how the notable minor-league subs did:
• Eury Perez beat out an IF hit while going 1-for-3 in RF
• Corey Brown singled up the middle in a 1-for-3 effort as the CF
• Chris Marrero walked, doubled, struck out, and scored a run for his 1-for-2 at 1B
• Zach Walters singled and struck out twice while going 1-for-3 at SS
• Carlos Rivero pinch-ran and went 0-for-2 with a K while playing LF
• Matt Skole drew a bases-loaded walk for an RBI and struck out in an 0-for-2 effort at 3B

It’s a week off from local TV & radio for the Nats, who head back to the House of Mouse Orlando to take on the Atlanta Braves tonight at 6:05 p.m.

Feb 102013
 

Like a year ago, I’m anticipating a spring training that’s going to have very little drama in terms of the minor leaguers.

As for (melo)drama overall? Well, the heightened expectations coming off a 98-win season, Davey Johnson’s “World Series or Bust” proclamation, the revelation of Danny Espinosa playing with a torn rotator cuff, and of course, the whole cloud of suspicion hanging over Gio Gonzalez

Yeah, there might be a few instances in which the game played that day will be an afterthought.

So what does this mean for us?

Unlike last year, there’s no Bryce Harper madness. Oh, I’m sure if Anthony Rendon has a hot start there will be a drumbeat for him, perhaps even the suggestion of him replacing Espinosa as the incumbent second baseman, but I think the best that his fans can hope for is a ticket to Syracuse instead of Harrisburg. That is possible, of course, especially if Carlos Rivero is traded away (likely) or makes the 25-man roster as a reserve (less likely) because he is out of options.

There will be some interest, of course, in how and where Christian Garcia will pitch this year. Inside the Natmosphere, there’s been blather talk of him becoming a starter; outside of it, most folks seem to be aware that the track record for multiple-TJers is much more favorable towards relievers. In either case, someone might want to have a chat with him:

I have no idea. Wherever they want to put me to play I am okay with it. Whatever I can help the team, any spot they need help with I would love to help in any way I can. So if it is starting, relieving, whatever it is.

Unfortunately for Garcia, he has options left (three) which could lead to something perverse like being him sent down in favor of Henry “What’s That White Thing In Front of the Catcher?” Rodriguez. Likewise for Erik Davis (three), Cole Kimball (two) and as we discovered last November, Ryan Perry still has one option left. Obviously, much of the excitement for 2013 stems from how strong and deep the Nationals pitching staff looks like on paper, never mind the whole Stephen whatshisname thing.

Corey Brown and Eury Perez are going to have a tough time beating out Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore for an OF spot, unless Chad Tracy gets hurt or shows sign of decline. Given his support from Johnson, his status as a Rizzo draftee, and his contract, it’s probably safe to bet Tracy won’t get cut in March. Still, with his multiple sports hernias, Brown and Perez do have youth and health on their side.

The signing of Chris Snyder as an insurance policy for Wilson Ramos does not bode well for Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano. While Snyder reportedly has an “out” clause if he doesn’t make the 25-man roster, he’s also an Article XX-B free agent — essentially, he has enough MLB service time to qualify for a $100,000 roster bonus if he begins the season with Syracuse and can still opt out June 1st.

Translation: If Ramos needs more time, the Nats are not going to start 2013 with a rookie as the backup.

Finally, whither Chris Marrero? There’s been chatter that he’ll be traded in Spring Training. With Tyler Moore ahead of him, and Marrero’s defensive limitations, it’s certainly possible that an American League club might be interested. There are contingencies at AAA if Marrero leaves (Mike Costanzo). But what kind of return he’d net for the Nats seems negligible at this point. Seems more likely that Marrero will start in Syracuse in the hopes of proving his health and productivity.

As always, my spring training focus is to post from the minors point of view for as long as it seems reasonable. Your mileage may vary ;-)