Oct 102013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-2
The Solar Sox scored 11 times in their first four turns at bat as they cruised to a 13-3 victory over the Desert Dogs.

Sammy Solis got the start and the win, tossing three and 2/3rds scoreless innings with three hits and a walk allowed. The 25-y.o. southpaw struck out two in his first AFL start since November 2011.

Adrian Nieto got the start behind the plate and went 1-for-2 with a double and a run scored. The 23-y.o. drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and had no baserunners attempt to steal against him.

Steve Souza Jr. started in right field and went 1-for-5, grounding into a double play, but stealing two bases. He made four putouts in the field.

Robert Benincasa pitched the 9th for the Solar Sox but was greeted with a solo HR to the first batter he faced. He retired three of the next four batters he faced, issuing a one-out walk and striking out a batter.

The Solar Sox hit the road tonight as they visit the Salt River Rafters. Matt Purke is scheduled to make the start for Mesa.

Oct 092013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-1Matt Skole launched a two-run homer in Mesa’s five-run 8th as the Solar Sox and the Glendale Desert Dogs played to an 8-8 tie in 11 innings.

Skole went 2-for-4 with a walk and run scored and three RBI total as the DH, where he’s expected to remain for the time being, though MASN’s Byron Kerr noted that he’ll play more 3B than 1B when he returns to the field.

It was the first live game action for the 24-year-old since injuring his left (non-throwing) elbow on April 5th in a collision at 1B that was initially described as a microfracture of the left wrist, but required Tommy John surgery and ended his 2013 regular season after just two games.

Brian Goodwin also saw game action and went 2-for-5 with a walk while batting second and playing centerfield, where he made two putouts. Former National Alex Meyer picked off Goodwin in the 3rd, but was otherwise hammered for three runs on five hits over three innings.

Neither Robert Benincasa nor Richie Mirowski were used in relief. Sammy Solis is scheduled to make the start today while Matt Purke is tabbed for tomorrow. Steven Souza Jr. will be eligible to play today and Saturday while Adrian Nieto awaits his chance behind the plate. Former Nationals backstop David Freitas went 0-for-4 at the plate and 1-for-4 in throwing out baserunners.

Aug 272013
 

The Arizona Fall League rosters were released today, revealing which Nationals will be playing for this year’s assigned team, the Mesa Solar Sox.

None of the eight are Rule 5 eligibles for the first time, which has been the case a few times in the past few years, particularly with pitchers (e.g. Paul Demny in 2012, Cole Kimball in 2010). Four of the eight, however, have played here before, though for the two starting pitchers this is largely because surgeries and injuries have limited their playing time during the regular season. Perhaps the good news is that the organization feels confident enough to not shelve them yet again.

Without further ado, here’s Washington contingent (listed alphabetically):

  • RHP Robert Benincasa
  • OF Brian Goodwin
  • RHP Richie Mirowski
  • C Adrian Nieto
  • LHP Matt Purke
  • 1B/3B Matt Skole
  • LHP Sammy Solis
  • OF Steve Souza Jr.*

*Taxi squad, eligible to play twice per week

For folks that might be disappointed, let’s not forget that the Strasburg-Harper-Rendon sequence was the exception not the norm, which this seems to be. I’m a little curious as to the selection of Steve Souza Jr. if only because it was my understanding that he will be a free agent with this being his seventh season in the Nats organization. Perhaps this is a signal that he fully intends to re-sign? Or did his PED suspension delay his FA clock? Not exactly the kind of thing that’s easily researched, especially when so many offenders are quietly released.

Otherwise, I think we’re looking at the Nats fulfilling their obligations to help fill out the Solar Sox roster without providing any other teams a free look since the lion’s share of the aforementioned Rule 5 eligibles are position players or Dominican-born pitchers.

Nov 192012
 

First, the stats…
BATTERS

PITCHERS
Now, the thoughts

  • Goodwin’s alleged baserunning gaffe not withstanding, the youngest of the AFL entrants acquitted himself just fine overall. He showed a lot more power than anyone might have expected — hitter-friendly environment or not. I still expect him to return to Harrisburg next year to work on his defense and refine his game.
  • Rendon fulfilled the lofty expectations placed upon him by both the prospect cheerleaders gurus and the casual Nats fans, who are already converting Ryan Zimmerman to first base before he turns 30 to make room for 2011 first-round pick. My inclination is to predict Harrisburg as his 2013 starting point, but can see him in Syracuse next April with a strong spring.
  • The party line is that Skole played first base merely to accommodate Rendon in the AFL, but that seems hard to believe that he’ll go back, given how well he played there and who’s ahead of him on the first-base path to DC (just Bloxom and Marrero). If the knock on his gaudy offensive numbers was that he was playing a level too low, then making him the Senators first baseman can kill two birds with one stone.
  • Martinson started horribly and finished strong. Will it be enough for him to not repeat Potomac? The Zach Walters experience suggests that he’ll sent back but Martinson is much older and played much more High-A ball. Keeping him at Potomac means keeping someone else at Hagerstown, much the way he was made to repeat to make room for Ricky Hague and Walters.
  • Options or not, Perry did not make a strong case to account the hype that he can be the #5 starter for the parent club. He’s likely to stay on the 40-man for now, but don’t be surprised if he’s returned to the bullpen next spring.
  • Demny is a Rule 5 possibility and as much as Rizzo covets hard-throwing righties, the bet here is that he won’t be protected. Demny’s future is in the bullpen and the whispers that the velocity has slipped are other reasons to believe he’ll be exposed.
  • Kimball may still be recovering from injuries, but it’s hard not to see him getting dropped from the 40-man today or tomorrow (if he hasn’t already) in the hopes that he’ll pass through waivers. What we’ll never know is whether that was the plan all along.
  • Barrett came into the AFL with a built-in excuse of inexperience (17 innings of High-A) but instead was used in the 7th and 8th innings and had seven scoreless outings out of ten. Alas, it probably won’t be enough for him to not repeat Potomac in ’13.
  • Next up: A look at the Nationals Rule 5 eligibles.

Nov 182012
 

A little bonus coverage, courtesy of Lee Magenheim, who’s been supplying us with this year’s photos.

And then I told the bartender: Shaken, not stirred…


First pitch from Ryan Perry.


Finishing up the fifth, Matt Skole makes the second out on the second pitch Aaron Barrett threw.

Cole Kimball, winner of the
2012 Dernell Stenson Award.

Before the fateful appeal play in the 7th.


Out at the plate in the 8th.

Presumably, awaiting the protest decision.

Nov 172012
 

With a controversial appeal play in the 7th, the Salt River Rafters were unable to catch the Peoria Javelinas, losing the AFL Championship Game by a score of 4-3.

As the picture above shows, it was a very close call. Brian Goodwin was ruled to have left early on a would-be sacrifice fly. Equally unclear: Whether or not the umpires erred in the appeal play itself when it appeared that Peoria was allowed to appeal twice with the Javelinas tagging both home plate and third base. As of this writing, the game is under appeal, but chances are it will be denied.

Goodwin had tripled to lead off the inning and went 2-for-3 with a walk overall as the Rafters’ designated hitter. The next inning, Anthony Rendon also smacked a leadoff three-bagger, with speedster Billy Hamilton slamming into the outfield wall trying to track the ball down. Hamilton would leave the game with an injury but was spotted on the field during the postgame celebration, so it’s likely the injury is not as serious as it initially appeared.

Rendon’s hit was his only one in four at-bats. Defensively, the 22-year-old caught a foul pop and started a 5-4-3 DP in the 9th.

Matt Skole was third Nats position player to make it into the game, but was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts (both swinging). The 23-year-old was busy at first base with 11 putouts and two assists, including a 3-6-1 double play, but did show his inexperience on a bunt by Hamilton in which Ryan Perry pounced but had to eat it because Skole had strayed too far from the bag.

Perry got the start but was as sharp as a knife. A butter knife. The 25-year-old labored through three innings and gave up all four Peoria runs on eight hits and two walks to suffer the loss. He had zero (0) strikeouts and just 34 of 57 pitches went for strikes.

Aaron Barrett appeared for two batters and was 25 pitches short of a Bill Lee perfect game with two outs on two strikes thrown.

With the loss, Salt River finishes the 2012 AFL campaign with 17 wins 14 losses and two ties.

Nov 172012
 

You might be surprised to learn that my mother hardly ever made these…

While we await this afternoon’s AFL Championship game — sorry, not likely to live-tweet; I’m in charge of the animals today, plus the dogs — let’s take a look some Nats-related stuff as we ease into that ugly time where everyday news is not a guarantee…

ANOTHER SIX-YEAR FREE AGENT SIGNING
The Rocket broke it: The Nationals have signed Caleb Clay, a 24-year-old six-year free agent from the Boston organization. Clay has already undergone Tommy John surgery (2007) but has stalled at AA for the past two years as a reliever after starting his first four seasons. SoxProspects pegs him thusly: “Over-the-top, fluid delivery. Lanky frame, still has some projection. Fastball sits between 88-90 mph with good sinking movement. Can induce a lot of groundballs, but he can also give up a lot of hard contact.”

His hallmark has been control, with a career rate of 2.9BB/9IP and season-best of 1.8 per in 2010, and since switching to relief he’s been able to get strikeouts — 8.2K/9IP the past two seasons with Portland. I was unable to confirm if he is still rocking this Balester-esque ‘stache. Best guess at this point: relief inventory for Harrisburg.

SPRING TRAINING SLATE UNVEILED
Mark Zuckerman is back on the beat and characterizes the Nationals 2013 spring schedule as a case for the Nationals to leave Viera, perhaps going to Ft. Myers. Negotiations have been ongoing for most of 2012, with the Nationals reportedly asking for millions of dollars’ worth of upgrades and Lee County trying to whittle down the price tag.

OPTIONS AND SERVICE TIME
Todd Boss over at NationalsArmRace.com has done the hard work on trying to break down the options and service time of the current Nationals roster. With the Nationals ascendancy, this has become less of an issue than it was a few seasons ago, but as we saw with the likes of Ryan Perry (today’s starter in the AFL championship game), it hasn’t gone away. You might want to bookmark this one as I anticipate we’ll be revisiting this issue in the next couple of weeks as we may see some moves that can be explained with this information.

Nov 162012
 

Jason Martinson came off the bench to belt a two-run home run in place of Anthony Rendon as Salt River closed out the regular season with a 7-3 win over Surprise.

Rendon was not hurt, just manager Matt Williams emptying the bench. The 22-year-old singled, walked twice and scored two runs. Defensively, he had two assists while Martinson snared a liner in the 8th for his lone defensive chance; both played third base.

Brian Goodwin also played and went 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored as the Salt River DH.

Cole Kimball was the sole Nats pitcher to appear and had another subpar outing, allowing a run on four hits and a walk over two innings. The 2006 draft pick saw his AFL ERA inflate to 4.80 and his opponent BA rise to .290 with 18 hits allowed in 15 fall innings.

The Rafters will play against the Javelinas in the AFL Championship Game tomorrow, which will be televised on the MLB Network.

Nov 152012
 

With a pair of three-run rallies in the 4th and 5th innings, Salt River cruised past Peoria 6-4 to clinch a spot in the Arizona Fall League Championship Game on Saturday.

Three Nationals saw game action:

  • Matt Skole batted third but went 0-for-3 with a walk. He handled all five defensive chances at first base without an error.
  • Jason Martinson finished the AFL season with a six-game hit streak, as the taxi-squad third baseman notched an assist and was 1-for-3 with a walk.
  • Aaron Barrett gave up a run on two hits and a walk but was credited with a hold while pitching the 8th inning.

Salt River’s opponent for the title game remains to be seen, as second-place Surprise lost to second-place Scottsdale yesterday to keep Peoria in first place by a ½ game. The Rafters visit the Sagauros this afternoon and can eliminate Peoria with a win while the Javelinas host the Desert Dogs and can earn a rematch against Salt River with a win or a Surprise loss.

Nov 142012
 

The Scorpions stung the Rafters for seven first-inning runs en route to a 13-6 win that delayed Salt River’s title hopes for another day.

Paul Demny was among the pitchers victimized by Scottsdale, giving up three runs on six hits over three innings. The 23-year-old walked none and struck out threw 31 of 53 pitches for strikes.

Brian Goodwin led off as the Rafters DH but had an afternoon to forget: 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. The whiff has been the sore spot for Goodwin this fall, as the 22-year-old has racked up 24 in 19 games.

Anthony Rendon batted cleanup and reached base three times (two singles and a walk) while scoring a run. Defensively, he had two assists and no putouts while playing third base.

With the loss, Salt River’s lead over Scottsdale in the AFL East has been cut to 1½ games with two to play. The Rafters host the AFL West-leading Peoria this afternoon while Scottsdale hosts last-place Mesa tonight.