Nov 132011
 

The streak is over for Bryce Harper as the Nationals’ 19-year-old wunderkind went 0-for-3 in a 6-4 Scottsdale loss on Saturday.

Harper also committed an error, his fifth of the fall, and made a putout while playing left field. Here’s how the rest of the Nats fared:

…Zach Walters played third base again and notched four assists, but was also hitless at 0-for-2.

…Matt Purke made his third straight scoreless appearance, tossing a 1-2-3 inning for his second hold of the fall with six of his 11 pitches registering as strikes.

…Pat Lehman’s troubles returned as the 25-year-old was torched for four runs on four hits and a walk while striking out two.

…Rafael Martin labored through a 28-pitch inning, throwing just 12 strikes, but stranded all three walks he issued.

Just four games remain on the slate for Scottsdale, as they host then visit Salt River on Monday and Tuesday, host Peoria on Wednesday, and finish up on the road at Mesa on Thursday.

Nov 122011
 

Bryce Harper extended his hit streak to 16 games as Scottsdale defeated Phoenix, 3-2 in a scheduled seven-inning contest.

Harper went 2-for-3 with an RBI double while playing left field. The two hits pushed his batting average to .321 while the RBI was #25, which is third-best in the AFL. Defensively, he had two putouts and no assists.

Derek Norris was the only other National to appear in the contest, but had a dismal 0-for-4 game with no walks or strikeouts. It was the first time he failed to reach base this fall. Defensively, it wasn’t any better: Error #6 on a throw following a wild pitch, allowing the runner on first to reach third.

Scottsdale finishes up the week this afternoon with a game against Surprise.
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Thankfully, there will be no references to either Thurman Munson or Lyman Bostick Bostock as Wilson Ramos was rescued from his kidnappers yesterday afternoon by Venezuelan authorities. Cheryl Nichols has the pics and the human-interest angle on District Sports Page.

As you might have guessed, Ryan Tatusko will remain in Venezuela despite the incident. And for the haters (e.g. Chris Needham and Kevin Reiss), Tatusko won’t be going home anytime soon on account of his pitching, either. In his fourth outing last night, the 26-year-old righthander tossed six shutout innings and struck out five while allowing just one hit and walking two.

Nov 112011
 

It was a light night for the Nationals in the Arizona Fall League last night, with Zach Walters the sole representative as the Scottsdale Scorpions edged the Surprise Saguaros, 2-1.

Walters played third base and batted eighth. He had a putout and two assists and made no errors on defense. At the plate, Walters sandwiched a fifth-inning single between a groundout in the third and a fielder’s choice in the seventh.

After four night games this week, Scottsdale visits Phoenix this afternoon and Surprise tomorrow afternoon.

Nov 102011
 

Sammy Solis wasn’t as sharp as his last outing, getting touched for three runs (and the loss) in the first as the Scottsdal Scorpions would go on to lose, 5-0.

The southpaw would finish with three innings pitched, four hits allowed, two walks surrendered, and two strikeouts while throwing just 33 of his 63 pitches for strikes. The loss evened his AFL mark at 1-1.

Pat Lehman would receive a similar greeting in the fourth, giving up two runs and finishing with four hits allowed over his two innings pitched. He walked none and struck out two.

Rafael Martin appeared in the 7th and tossed a 1-2-3 frame with a strikeout.

Nats bats Bryce Harper, Derek Norris and Zach Walters appeared in the game in left field, catcher and third base respectively…

…Harper extended his hit streak to 15 games with a second-inning double, and committed the cardinal sin of making the first out of the inning by getting thrown out at third. He struck out twice and made two putouts on defense.

…Norris reached base for the 18th time in as many games with a sixth-inning single. The Desert Dogs were successful in both steal attempts against him.

…Walters went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and had no defensive chances.
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By now, many of you have heard that Wilson Ramos was kidnapped in his native Venezuela — it was first brought to my attention by Jeff550 via the comments — and as of this writing there’s still no word as to his fate.

Despite being decidedly closer to the scene, farmhand Ryan Tatusko said via Twitter that he found out about it via the Washington Post. Fortunately, the young man had the presence of mind to write something about it on his blog, giving us some perspective on what it’s like as a jugador de béisbol americano.

Nov 092011
 

Make that 14 straight games for Bryce Harper, as the Nationals’ No. 1 prospect went 1-for-4 in the Scottsdale Scorpions’ 2-0 win last night.

Defensively, Harper remains a work in progress, committing his fourth error (throwing) while making no putouts in left field.

Likewise, the other Nationals position player to appear in the game, Zach Walters, notched his fifth “E” (fielding) but did have an assist while playing third base. At the plate, Walters was 1-for-3 with a walk, pushing his average to .209.

Matt Purke made another scoreless appearance, but labored through a 21-pitch inning to do it. He allowed a hit and a walk and struck out two. The according-to-BA #7 prospect was credited with a hold for his efforts.

Nov 082011
 

After the entire Nats contingent was trotted out last Friday, just two made into Monday’s night contest, which the Scottsdale Scorpions lost, 9-4.

Derek Norris caught and kept his on-base streak perfect at 17 with a 1-for-5 night. No baserunners attempted to steal against him, and he had no errors or passed balls, assisting on a infield roller and registering six putouts on strikeouts.

Zach Walters played third base and went 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, and an RBI double. Defensively, he had no putouts or errors and assisted on four groundouts.

In an upset of near miniscule proportions, Bryce Harper was not named the AFL Player of the Week last week despite hitting .500 with 2HR and 8RBI. Instead, the honor went to Texas’s Mike Olt, who bested Harper by batting .571 with the same HR and RBI totals. Sammy Solis’s 9K over 4IP outing on Friday did, however, garner him the AFL Pitcher of the Week award.

Nov 062011
 

In the made-for-TV showcase AFL Rising Stars game, the West Division beat the East Divison, 11-2, you know, in case anyone truly cares about the score.

Bryce Harper (DH) and Derek Norris both started (C) and played most of the game, which was over early as the Western squad put up 10 of its 11 runs over the first three innings. Naturally, the MLB.com angle is the great hitting, but I’m inclined to believe what John Sickels wrote hours before the game:

The main thing I have noticed here is the poor quality of pitching compared to hitting. In fact, the pitching… I’ve seen has been so bad that [it’s] hard to properly analyze some of the hitters.

Full disclosure: I taped the game and just watched the Harper and Norris at-bats this morning. Those five first-inning runs meant no stealing against Norris, so not much to look for in controlling the running game (though he looked steady in fast-forward ;-). Can’t say that I regret choosing to spend the evening in with the ball-and-chain spouse.

Both Harper and Norris were hitless (0-for-2), but both walked once and I think I saw what Sickels meant. Both walks weren’t from pitching around (remember the West was up big), but from missing with the breaking pitches in the dirt. Both hitters’ highlights came from flyballs, with Harper looping an opposite-field flyball to left for sacrifice fly and Norris driving a 396-footer to dead center, missing a solo HR by about three or four feet.

Harper did strike out twice, but that’s hardly news. It was actually kind of amusing to listen to Dave Valle fake his way through some of questions about the length of Harper’s swing (both Sickels and Law have noted it’s been shortened a bit, with Sickels noting he’s not lost any power in the process), gushing instead about his youth and power. Almost made me wish for Tim McCarver to have been there. Almost.

Scottsdale resumes play tomorrow with evening games from Monday to Thursday and afternoon games on Friday and Saturday. Barring rain or a change in the rotation, Sammy Solis’s next outing is most likely to come in one of those day games.

Nov 052011
 

With solid Solis outing, the Scottsdale Scorpions won 9-2, taking back-to-back games for just the fourth time this fall.

Solis threw four shutout innings, allowing three hits and three walks. He struck out nine, hitting 94-96 m.p.h. per Mark Zuckerman, and undoubtedly had his new overhand curve working (first spotted by commenter Ernie Salazar) as Solis threw 40 of his 67 pitches for strikes. He was credited with the win.

Solis was followed in the bullpen by his fellow farmhands Pat Lehman, Matt Purke, and Rafael Martin, while Bryce Harper played left field, Derek Norris caught and Zach Walters played third base. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo was reported to be in attendance at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, which may explain why every Washington player was playing.

Here’s a rundown on how they did…

  • Lehman pitched a scoreless inning, allowing a hit, but walked none and struck out two.
  • Purke threw a 1-2-3 inning with no hits, walks, or strikeouts.
  • Martin also put up a goose egg, giving up a hit, but no walks, and whiffed one.
  • Harper went 1-for-5 (the streak is now 13 games) with a run scored and an RBI, gunning down a runner at the plate and making a putout.
  • Norris’s safety skein was snapped after 10 games with an 0-for-3 game, but drew two walks to keep his on-base streak a perfect 16-for-16 this fall. He threw out a baserunner and had no errors or passed balls.
  • Walters went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts but had two assists.

Harper and Norris are expected to play in tonight’s AFL Rising Stars game, which will be televised tonight at 8 p.m. on the MLB Network.

Nov 042011
 

Is it possible that the hype about Bryce Harper may actually be understated? After yesterday’s 3-for-3 outing with two walks, a run scored, a home run, and three RBI, the recycling of the 2008-era Matt Wieters facts is certainly a possibility. Oh, wait – too late.

Now the question turns to whether or not Bryce Harper can make the 2012 Opening Day rosterfor Washington, not Syracuse. Well, it’s not really a question so much as sportswriters doing what they’re paid to do: write about what’s on their minds while simultaneously catering to their readers.

Bloggers do the same, even if they’re not paid, and so I’ll repeat what I usually write when folks get too excited about a prospect. Wait until the league gets a second crack at him. In this environment, that’s probably not going to happen. There are less a dozen games left on the slate and Harper will sit for some of them. So we’re looking at a winter of heightened expectations.

The more intelligent question: If this kind of performance isn’t unexpected, why should plans change? Those, if you’ll recall, were for Harper to master every level (well, except maybe for High-A, but I digress) before he makes it to The Show. For all his offensive prowess, folks also need to be reminded that Harper has only played outfield full-time for one (1) season.

I do think there are some tea leaves that can be read from his continuing appearances in left field (all 37 games in Harrisburg, for example). Could Harper spend the first two months of the 2012 season delaying his Super Two eligibility honing his defensive skills? Absolutely.

Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned about GM Mike Rizzo, it’s that whenever there is a scenario in which something can be plausibly denied, it will be. It has mystified me, by the way, why Rizzo gets the pass from the fans even if he shares that trait with the departed Stan Kasten.

P.S. Zach Walters also appeared in yesterday’s game, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored while playing first base in relief of injured Phillies prospect Darin Ruf, who was removed from the game after trying to beat out a groundout to short. Walters made an error but also made eight putouts. Scottsdale won the game, 10-6. Sorry to bury it so deep, but therein lies my ambivalence with young Mr. Harper.

Nov 032011
 

Derek Norris gave ammunition for both his fans and his haters in a 5-4 Scottsdale loss last night.

The 22-year-old went 2-for-5 at the plate with a run scored and two RBI, extending his hit streak to 10 games. Behind the dish, he allowed a passed ball in the 5th, committed an error while attempting to throw out a runner in the 7th, then gunned down a runner in 9th. The “stuck at .210″ catcher is now batting .358 but is down with OBP (yeah, you know me) at .446 clip.

Zach Walters played third base again and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts but drove in a run via the sacrifice fly. He had no defensive chances.

Pat Lehman turned in another scoreless inning, allowing a hit but striking out two and walking none. MASN’s Byron Kerr has the story on the adjustment that pitching coach Paul Menhart helped Lehman make.

Rafael “La Ligua Cerveza” Martin turned in an identical line to Lehman’s, lowering his ERA to 2.25 in his sixth appearance this fall.

The Scorpions rematch against the Saguaros this afternoon in Peoria.