AFL/Offseason Update: Oct. 24, 2015

Yes, I know Santos pitched Thursday, but folks like Lee's pics!
Yes, I know Santos pitched Thursday, but folks like Lee’s pics!

Four strong innings from John Simms and a pair of two-run rallies early helped the Rafters eclipse the Solar Sox, 5-1 and stop a three-game slide.

Simms allowed the lone Mesa run on a solo shot in the 3rd and three hits total. He walked one and struck out four and threw 57 pitches during the outing, his second for Salt River.

Christopher Bostick returned the lineup and played second base. He batted ninth and reached base twice with a single in the 6th and drew a walk in the 8th to go 1-for-3 overall. Defenisvely he had a putout and four assists.

Salt River wraps up the week with a day game today at home vs. Mesa.

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It’s a two-fer today, so let’s jump into the usual weekly post…

The following players have appeared in Mexican Pacific League and the Dominican Winter League:

Rafael Bautista, Bruce Billings (Escogido, DWL)
Pedro Severino (Cibao, DWL)
Richard Bleier (Oriente, DWL)
Paul Demny (Culiacan, LMP)

Like the Hagerstown Suns, Potomac went from contender to pretender to post a losing season for the first time since 2012. It’s tempting to compare this team to that team, but there are two key differences: (1) this team did no better on the road than it did at home (2) this team didn’t feel like it had underachieved. Obviously, #1 is objective — to paraphrase the grossly overrated Bill Parcells, your record is your record. And #2 is subjective — part of underachieving is a disconnect between expectation and actual performance, perceived or actual.

Lucas Giolito and Wilmer Difo were “as advertised”; Reynaldo Lopez was not. Drew Ward was a mixed bag. Rafael Bautista was hurt. This can be argued (and probably will be in the comments), but most of the other names either weren’t as highly regarded outside our bubble or there were reservations already about their prospect status.

The 2015 crew felt to me very much like the first couple of seasons I watched this team (2006, 2007): A couple of true prospects and a handful of maybes mixed in with “OGs” (organizational guys). This may be “old world order” returning, and with the parent club now drafting in the lower third, it might not be all that surprising.

And with that, I present the obligatory Top 5’s:

1. Christopher Bostick, 2B, .253 GPA, .344 OBP 1. Lucas Giolito, RHP, 2.71/1.96/1.22, 11.11 K/9IP
2. Spencer Kieboom, C, .241 GPA, .346 SLG% 2. Tyler Mapes, RHP, 2.38/2.78/1.22, 8.54 K/9, 4.18 K:BB
3. Drew Ward, 3B, .237 GPA, 29E in 95G 3. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, 4.09/2.95/1.22, 5HR in 99 IP
4. Estarlin Martinez, OF, .238 GPA, .711 OPS in 2nd half 4. Austen Williams, RHP, 2.59/3.22/1.09, .215 OBA
5. Rafael Bautista, CF, .224 GPA, 23SB in 52G 5. Phillips Valdez, RHP, 3.77/3.26/1.44, 58.1 LOB%

No honorable mentions as we’re now well past the point of ignoring a player’s age or having repeated the level. Folks interested in seeing the entire team’s stats, can find them here.

AFL Update: Oct. 23, 2015

Arizona Fall League #6
Salt River suffered its third straight loss, dropping a 7-5 decision to Glendale on Thursday night.

Drew Ward was the sole Nationals position player to appear. He batted eighth and was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts and a GIDP. Defensively, he committed two errors and had one assist.

Abel De Lost Santos pitched the 8th but was rocked for three runs on three hits. He walked one and struck out two and was charged with a wild pitch, a blown save, and the loss.

The Rafters head back out on the road for a short ride to Mesa tonight. John Simms is scheduled to make his first AFL start.

AFL Update: Oct. 22, 2015

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.

AFL Update: Oct. 21, 2015

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.

AFL Update: Oct. 16, 2015

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.

AFL Update: Oct. 15, 2015

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.

AFL Update: Oct. 14, 2015

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.

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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.

Final AFL Stats & Thoughts

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?

Offseason Update: Nov. 9, 2014

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.