Oct 222015

Nick Lee failed to retire a batter in the 9th, giving up the lone run in a 1-0 walkoff by Glendale over Salt River.

A single, walk, and another single was the game-winning sequence as just three of Lee’s eight pitches went for strikes.

Three — yes, three — other Nationals saw game action.

Christopher Bostick led off and played 2B but went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Defensively, he took part in a double play, had three putouts and two assists and committed an error.

Spencer Kieboom was the DH and reached base twice with a single and a walk for an 1-for-3 game that got him off the interstate with a .200BA (2-for-10) in four games thus far.

Finally, Wirkin “For The Weekend” Estevez made his AFL debut with an inning of relief, though he walked two.

The loss drops Salt River to .500 at 3-3. The two teams switch venues and rematch tonight.

Oct 212015

Arizona Fall League #5
A three-run 3rd stood up for the Saguaros in a 3-1 win over Salt River.

As usual this fall, just two Nationals got into the game.

Drew Ward was the DH and batted eighth. He doubled in the 5th and walked in the 7th while going 1-for-2 overall.

Dakota Bacus was the first man out of the ‘pen and issued a walk to the first batter with the bases loaded, sending in the third Surprise run of the 3rd. He got the last out of the inning to end the threat and went two innings total, giving up no runs on two hits and striking out one.

Salt River remains on the road for an matchup tonight against Glendale.

Oct 162015

Arizona Fall League #5
Christopher Bostick homered twice and drove in four as the Salt River Rafters outslugged the Peoria Javelinas, 9-7.

Bostick also singled to go 3-for-4 on the afternoon with two runs scored. He batted ninth and played second base, taking part in two double plays.

The outburst helped make a winnier out of John Simms, who let in a run on three hits and a walk over three innings. Simms struck out two and threw 45 pitches, 25 for strikes.

The two teams rematch tonight in Salt River, which will also host a glorified HR derby the Bowman Hitting Challenge tomorrow night.

Oct 152015

Arizona Fall League #6
Scottdale scored six runs in each of the first two innings en route to a 13-3 demolition of Salt River last night.

Drew Ward and Spencer Kieboom both made their first starts — at 3B and C, natch — but were both hitless. Ward drew two walks, struck out once, and hit into a double play in an 0-for-2 night. Kieboom walked once and was picked off second while going 0-for-3.

Defensively, Ward had two assists and made no errors while Kieboom recorded 10 putouts (all K’s).

Nick Lee appeared in relief and went two innings, but put on four baserunners with a hit and three walks. He struck out two with 21 of his 40 pitches going for strikes.

Salt River remains on the road — like it really matters — for an afternoon tilt in Peoria. As noted in the comments, Byron Kerr is reporting that John Simms is scheduled to pitch three innings in relief.

Oct 142015

Arizona Fall League #1
The 2015 AFL season began for the Salt River Rafters with a 5-3 win over the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Just two Nationals saw game action: Christopher Bostick and Dakota Bacus.

Bostick got the start at 2B and batted ninth. He went 0-for-4, but scored a run in the 5th as he beat out a double-play ball to get on base, stole second and third base, then came in on an two-out single. Defensively, he had two assists and no errors.

Bacus pitched the top of the 8th and set the side down in order on two strikeouts and a groundout. He threw 18 pitches, nine for strikes and earned the hold.

The two teams rematch tonight in Scottsdale.

# # #

John Simms is the lone starting pitcher for the Nationals on this year’s AFL squad but is not listed among the next two probables for Salt River. Abel De Los Santos and Nick Lee round out the moundsmen for Washington while Spencer Kieboom and Drew Ward are the other two position players. Just a fair warning that many of the updates could be short and sweet. Lee Magenheim has been in touch with me and will be sending in pictures as he has the past few seasons.

Nov 152014
L to R: T.D. Swinford (trainer), Felipe Rivero, Matt Grace, Patrick Anderson, Tony Renda, Spencer Kieboom, Neil Holland, Derek Self, Pedro Severino

L to R: T.D. Swinford (trainer), Felipe Rivero, Matt Grace, Patrick Anderson, Tony Renda,
Spencer Kieboom, Neil Holland, Derek Self, Pedro Severino

One last look before we close the books, beginning with the stats…


Tony Renda 22 85 12 17 3 1 0 7 3 19 .200 .233 .259 1
Pedro Severino 12 44 1 11 2 1 0 5 2 7 .250 .292 .341 0
Spencer Kieboom 10 34 3 11 2 0 1 7 5 4 .324 .390 .471 0


Felipe Rivero 2 4 0 6.08 7 7 23⅔ 26 18 16 2 11 15 1.56
Derek Self 1 0 0 1.20 9 0 15 12 2 2 0 5 6 1.13
Neil Holland 1 2 0 10.80 8 0 11⅔ 20 14 14 1 8 8 2.40
Matt Grace 0 0 0 3.18 10 0 11⅓ 10 4 4 0 5 8 1.32

Now for the thoughts…

• Renda started cold, got hot, and then finished cold. What to make of it? Nothing, really. Renda is your starting second baseman at Harrisburg come hell or high water (knock on wood – ow, that’s my head!). With the big club rumored to be shopping at 2B, Renda will get a little more scrutiny and mention, and his poor showing could lead to some fun assumptions from beat writers who don’t know Tony Renda from Tony Rendon.

• Kieboom picked up where he left off at Hagerstown and did well despite limited playing time, though I suspect this was done to ease the burden on the catchers. Like Renda, he was going to move up regardless of his performance this fall.

• Severino cooled off some from his hot second half, which is hardly a surprise. He’ll still be the starting catcher at Harrisburg next spring. With longtime backups Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano out of options, there’s clearly some hope that his offense will catch up to his defense by 2016, if not sooner.

• As with all of these players, we’re looking at tiny sample sizes sight-unseen. Rivero was pounded in his first five starts, then terrific in his last two (combined: 10IP, 2R, 1ER, 2BB, 7K). With an injury-shortened regular season, the hope is that the October version was Rivero getting healthy and the November version is the one that will show up next April in Harrisburg.

• Self had the best fall of the three relievers, at least in terms of traditional stats of ERA and WHIP. What’s troubling is the guy who only walked 18 in 66⅔ innings this past summer gave up five BB’s in 15IP this fall. Six whiffs is also well below his usual K rate. But again, small sample size here.

• Holland was the analog to Self, with just three scoreless outings out of eight and 14 runs charged to him in the other five. He wasn’t auditioning for the 40-man roster — 2013 was his first year of Rule 5 eligibility — but didn’t help his chances to begin 2015 in AAA, where he spent three weeks in July.

• Grace is interesting case (hey, that rhymes!) as he had a terrific 2014 and could replace Xavier Cedeno as the boomerang lefty between ‘Cuse and DC. While it’s specious to say he’s competing with other lefthanded prospects for a 40-man spot, the Nats have already cut ties with one talented-but-can’t-stay-healthy southpaw, would they cut another to make room for Grace?

Nov 092014

Yesterday’s post took away one of our staples of the offseason update, but there’s still a few things to pass along as we wind our way through the 2014-15 offseason.

The second-place Solar Sox have made things interesting by taking two of three games from the first-place Rafters, but the odds are still slim of them making it to the AFL title game as their tragic number is down to two with last night’s 11-4 loss to the Saguaros.

Perhaps more notable — and in the big picture, important — is that Felipe Rivero pitched well in Mesa’s 3-1 win over Salt River last Tuesday, allowing one run on one hit (not a HR) and one walk over five innings to earn his second win of the fall campaign.

Tony Renda saw his hit streak stopped at 12 with an 0-for-4 effort on Thursday, but has gotten off the interstate and raised his batting average to .216, while Spencer Kieboom and Pedro Severino both reached base twice in their two starts this week.

Matt Grace appeared just once, allowing a hit over an inning and a third for his sixth straight scoreless outing. Neil Holland was knocked around for four runs on five hits as his up-and-down fall continues. Derek Self had his six-game scoreless streak stopped in his lone appearance this week, giving up a run on three hits and a walk on Wednesday.

Tyler Moore has smacked five HRs and is batting .333 with 14 walks (none intentional) in 15 games for Los Toros del Este in the DWL. He’s also driven in 13 and stolen two bases. While winter-league performance should always be taken with a pound of salt (see: Jesus Flores, Yunesky Maya), it certainly won’t hurt his chances of sticking with the club in 2015 (as Todd Boss notes, it’s being out of options, and the presence of the more versatile and athletic Souza).

Newly re-signed Paolo Espino lost last Sunday but has won two of five starts in the VWL, posting a 3.72 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 19⅔ innings (though he’s also issued eight walks).

Rafael Martin has notched four saves in four chances while stringing together 11 straight scoreless outings with no walks and eight K’s across 9⅓ innings.

After years of losing teams stocked with replacement-level players, the Chiefs finally fielded (yielded?) a playoff team, winning the I.L. North while posting the league’s best record at 81-62. While they were swept in the first round by the second-place PawSox, it was a successful season everywhere but the turnstiles as attendance fell for the fourth straight season and Syracuse finished dead last in both raw attendance and average per gate.

Syracuse tied for 2nd in team offense by runs scored (4.67 R/G) and led the I.L. in OBP with a robust .344 while finishing tied for third in pitching with (3.87 R/G). It was the summer of Steven Souza who mashed 18 taters, drove in 75, and stole 26 bases in just 96 games with a Nintendo-esque line of .350/.432/.590 despite going back and forth four times during the season.

Anchored by veteran southpaw Aaron Laffey, the pitching saw the emergence of Taylor Hill who rolled to a 9-2 mark with a 2.02 ERA before making a brief appearance for the big club. Upon his return, Hill stumbled badly — losing six of ten starts giving up seven HRs as his ERA rose nearly a full run to 2.81 as his propensity to give up hits returned. Also making a surprise run was Matt Grace, who split time between Harrisburg and Syracuse, but put up particularly good numbers against LHBs: .144 OBA, .371 OPS, which is leading to the natural speculation that he’ll become the next Aaron Barrett.

Naturally, in terms of prospects, the continuing ascendance of A.J. Cole bears mention as the 22-y.o. went 7-0 with a 3.43 albeit with a substandard 4.48 FIP. Like Taylor, Cole has also had a propensity to give up roughly a hit per inning over his career (9.9 per 9IP in 2014) which is something to watch for in 2015, especially as the league gets a second and third look at him.

And thus, we close out the seventh affiliate review with the final obligatory Top 5:

1. Steven Souza, OF — .342 GPA, 18HR, 75RBI, 26SB
2. Blake Treinen, RHP — 3.35/3.31/1.21
3. Jeff Kobernus, 2B/OF — .242 GPA, 15SB in 59G
4. Matt Grace, LHP — 1.30/3.31/0.98, .144 OBA vs. LHBs
5. Taylor Hill, RHP — 2.81/4.23/1.12, 81.9 LOB%

Even Stevie Wonder can see that this list is less than ideal, but consider that Zach Walters was traded away, Brian Goodwin and Taylor Jordan were injured, and Eury Perez was placed on waivers. Folks interested in seeing the full team statistics for the 2014 edition should click here.

Nov 022014

With the clocks turned back and the World Series in the books (no, they should have not have sent Gordon), baseball winter is upon us. But it’s Sunday — my day to publish — so let’s take a spin through the Nats minors news and notes in the new weekly format.

• Tony Renda was the sole National to appear in the AFL “Fall Stars” showcase last night, going 1-for-2 with a strikeout at the plate while making a putout and an assist during his four innings on defense. He’s currently riding a 10-game hit streak, over which he’s posted a .341/.349/.463 line with 14 runs scored and seven RBI.
• Matt Grace and Derek Self both turned in scoreless outings, while Neil Holland was scorched for three runs last Monday in a 3-3 tie between 1st-place Salt River and 2nd-place Mesa.
• Felipe Rivero continues to struggle, giving up two runs on two hits over ⅔ an inning on Thursday. He was lifted after throwing 31 pitches, just 16 for strikes.
• Spencer Kieboom and Pedro Severino both collected two hits and two RBI in their two starts during the week.

The final two winter leagues began play on Friday, though I’m sure someone will note that it’s spring in Australia. My kids were toddlers when the Wiggles came to power became popular, so I’m well aware of it, having endured a holiday DVD set on the beach. As expected, there are no 40-man guys playing down under while the list for the Puerto Rican Winter League contingent is merely two — Xavier Cedeno (Santurce) and Tyler Herron (Mayaguez).

Later this week, we’ll get the official list from Baseball America of this year’s crop of minor-league free agents, which includes the 2008 draft that has produced two players on the 40-man: Danny Espinosa and Tyler Moore. Just three other draftees remain: Paul Demny, Destin Hood, and Jose Lozada, who, along with IFA Adrian Sanchez, re-signed in October. Perhaps we’ll learn who else may have elected to stay before that list is released, though I’d put more stock in guys who’ve had a chance to look elsewhere re-upping than Hood or Demny turning down their first chance as free agents. Update: In its Nov. 3 dispatch, BA is reporting that Washington has (despite the info below) re-signed RHPs Paolo Espino, Scott McGregor, James Simmons along with UT Josh Johnson.

Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your pets, and put down anything sharp or heavy. Hopes were high when the roster was revealed in late March, as it was loaded with high-profile prospects (six BA Top 20s, 17 of this site’s watchlist) and salted with several of the 2013 Potomac Nationals that won 84 games (42 in each half). It took more than three weeks for a starter other than A.J. Cole to win, nearly ten weeks before they won three games in a row. Only a win on the final day of the season prevented them from tying the 2004 edition for the worst-ever won-loss mark.

Injuries were a major factor: Sammy Solis, Matt Purke, Felipe Rivero made 19 starts combined, with Solis making just one. This led to in-season free-agent pickups starting 54 of 142 games and the team finishing dead last in pitching. Take away Paolo Espino, who was league-average, the foursome of James Simmons, Zach Kroenke, Scott McGregor combined for an ERA of 5.81 and a WHIP of 1.59 (gee, why were these guys available?) — and that ain’t gonna get it done. That’s especially true when the offense was, as is often the case with last-place teams, was also near the bottom of the pack, averaging 4.08 runs per game despite finishing second in walks drawn and third in stolen bases.

This leaves us, for the third straight year, with a combined list of pitchers and position players. But it’s still an obligatory Top 5 List:

1. Michael Taylor, CF — .313 GPA, 22HR, 34SB, 130K in 98G
2. A.J. Cole, RHP — 2.92/2.58/1.32, 1.9 BB/9
3. Matt Skole, 1B — .258 GPA, 78BB in 132G
4. Cutter Dykstra, IF — .255 GPA, 12E in 87G at 2B
5. Kevin Keyes, 1B-OF — .247 GPA, 20HR, 64RBI

It’s a sad state of affairs when I can only list one pitcher and two position players who are under 24. Quincy Latimore (.267 GPA) outperformed everyone not named Michael Taylor, but he turns 26 in February and may already be a free agent. An honorable mention goes to Drew Vettleson, who finished an injury-plagued season with a .274/.300/.453 mark in August (27G). If you’ve got the stomach, you can see the full team statistics here.

Oct 262014

BooneRendaKieboom102614The AFL passed its midpoint with yesterday’s game, which saw Mesa demolish Surprise, 14-0. Thanks to the vagaries of a three-team division and sharing it with the league’s best team, the Solar Sox won’t be playing in the title game, though it should be noted that also means Nats fans won’t have to listen to Tom Verducci or someone of his ilk parrot the press guide while calling the title game on MLB Network.

Felipe Rivero, who left his previous start with a turned ankle per our Arizona correspondent, continues to struggle as he was strafed for five runs on Friday in a 9-4 loss to raise his pitcher’s line to 9.00/5.53/1.85.

Tony Renda, who was hitless in his first five games, has quietly put together a six-game hit streak to raise his batting average to something resembling a starter instead of a pitcher.

Catchers Spencer Kieboom and Pedro Severino, who are splitting time with Toronto’s Sean Ochinko, are both hitting (.273 and .375 respectively) despite their limited game action.

Relievers Derek Self, Matt Grace, and Neil Holland aren’t being used terribly often, but they’ve combined for six scoreless innings over four appearances this past week.

As noted a couple of weeks ago, the Dominican Winter League has started up and with it have come the following sightings of Nats players and farmhands:

Emmanuel Burriss, Oscar Tejeda (Cibao)
Jhonatan Solano, Manny Delcarmen (Licey)
Pedro Florimon (Escogido)
Tyler Moore (Este)

And the following players have also surfaced in the Venezuelan Winter League:

Mitch Lively (Magallanes)
Sandy Leon, Adrian Sanchez (Zulia)

Season-ticket holders in Woodbridge (*ahem*) have been treated to quite a run over the past eight seasons: five playoff appearances (2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014), four trips to the Mills Cup Finals (2008, 2010, 2013, 2014), and three championships (2008, 2010, 2014). Only once in that span did they have a losing season (2012) while the 2009 club won 42 games in the second half while falling four games short to the Blue Rocks in a furious finish.

Unfortunately, those three titles remain the only ones won by a Nationals full-season affiliate. Hagerstown has come oh-so-close the past two seasons while Harrisburg has fallen in the first round three times (2010, 2011, 2013). The narrative hope with any league championship is that the spirit of winning is instilled and will carry on as the baby Nats grow up into big Nats, which will be badly needed as some of the 2014 Potomac guys head to Harrisburg in 2015.

The 78-win P-Nats were not statistical monsters: 3rd in the league offensively, 5th in pitching, 3rd defensively. Their hallmark was the walkoff win, which they did 14 times, and they were phenomenal in one-run games (32-13). But most importantly, once they got the lead, they held onto it: 50-1 when leading after eight innings, 55-2 when they were ahead after the seventh. That combination of (p)luck enabled them to outperform their Pythagorean projection (69-67) by an astounding nine games and carried over into the playoffs where they took three of four from a team that had beaten them five out of the previous six meetings and 11 of 19 overall.

And now I present to you the obligatory Top 5’s:

1. Tony Renda, 2B, .266 GPA, .980 FA 1. Ian Dickson, RHP, 4.37/4.20/1.32, 2.64 ERA in 2nd half
2. Stephen Perez, SS, .249 GPA, 27SB 2. Gilberto Mendez, RHP, 3.14/3.21/0.89, 8.54 K/9, 1.57 BB/9
3. Pedro Severino, C, .237 GPA, 36 CS% 3. John Simms, RHP, 4.36/3.13/1.23, 2HR in 49⅔ IP
4. John Wooten, 3B/1B/OF, .263 GPA, .473 SLG% 4. Matt Spann, LHP, 3.81/4.09/1.38, 70.1 LOB%
5. Isaac Ballou, CF, .256 GPA, .991FA 5. Bryan Harper, LHP, 2.66/3.52/1.14, .198 OBA

Honorable mentions go to Shawn Pleffner and Kylin Turnbull, a pair of 24-year-olds who turned 25 in August and September respectively. As mentioned last week, we have a hit a point where we can no longer gloss over the advanced age of some of these players, which is necessarily their fault as the Nats do have a tendency to both draft collegiate ballplayers while conservatively moving them up the ladder (though 2014 did see a handful of three-level players). Folks interested in viewing the exploits of all 63 players (including 10 rehab assignments) can see them here.