Hello, October

Renda-Bunting-2014I had been hoping as I plugged away at this week’s column/post during my time confetti to be able to make some reference to how the parent club is doing in the playoffs. Now, I’m just hoping this will get read between wailing and second-guessing from last night’s 2-1 loss in 18 innings.

The “other” fall baseball starts up on Tuesday, with sponsor-contrived exhibition festivities held last night (hence, the pic). It looks like there won’t be a taxi squad guy this year, as the Nationals also officially placed the seven players named in late August onto the roster of the Mesa Solar Sox.

The love-fest for Reynaldo Lopez continues as Baseball America named him the #2 prospect in the New York Penn League, citing what we all know now: a 96-99 FB, a killer 11-5 CV, and a devastating changeup. Also named (#13) was catcher Raudy Read, who may be more intriguing given how thin the position had gotten. The trio of Pedro Severino, Read and Reetz are all under 22 and should populate the rosters at AA, Low-A, and SS-A with a resurgent Spencer Kieboom the likely starter at High-A (though he’ll be 24).

BA loves to double-dip, which is why Lopez got the nod as the #3 prospect of the South Atlantic League, two spots behind Lucas Giolito. In a bigger market, or a true baseball town, these two would have a nickname by now (Giopez?) though I suspect they won’t be teammates again until they’re both in AA. Coming in at #14 for the Sally Top 20 was Wilmer Difo, which I suspect is a function of his age (22) as twelve of the thirteen players ranked above him were 21 or younger.

So far, it’s quiet, which is the norm. Thus far, two players have been re-signed for next year — IF Cutter Dykstra and RHP Sam Runion. As much as we’d like to read into that, Occam’s Razor suggests it’s simply that both the organization and the player are content to continue with the 2014 arrangement for 2015.

Thankfully, the Nats affiliates will remain the same for another two years, which is hardly a shock — even with the rumblings in Hagerstown and Fredericksburg, which continues to be more talk than walk. It does however mean that they’ll be seeing some new opponents, as the Rockies join the Eastern League and the Cubs join the Carolina League, replacing the Twins and Rangers, respectively. Jamestown will be moving to Morgantown, which will require some new scheduling for Auburn and longer bus rides for everyone.

Let’s face it: No matter what this team did in 2014, it would be a disappointment compared to 2013. It also bears repeating that folks shouldn’t get too high or too low about performance in the short-season leagues (and yes, I’ve been guilty of that “crime”). So even though the team reverted to the mean — 25-35, .417 — there’s still some kids to get excited about (ok, that sounds a little creepy).
Offensively, the team was pretty much league average (4.32 vs. 4.37) but the pitching was second-worst in the league, giving up nearly a run more per game (5.32 vs. 4.37).

Without further ado…

1. Jakson Reetz, C, .285 GPA, 26BB in 43G 1. Jean Ramirez, RHP, 3.41/3.60/1.45, 0HR allowed in 36⅔ IP
2. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B, .250 GPA, .934FA 2. Luis Reyes, RHP, 4.42/3.86/1.42, 2.95 BB/9
3. Aldrem Corredor, LF, .256 GPA, .411 OBP 3. Yorlin Reynoso, LHP, 3.38/3.97/1.75, 73.8 LOB%
4. Thomas Alvarez, 2B, .253 GPA, 4.65 RF/G 4. Maximo Valerio, RHP, 5.23/4.28/1.45, 7.3 K/9
5. “Fred” Aguero, IF, .249 GPA, .400 SLG 5. Jose Morales, RHP, 4.68/4.58/1.68, 3.03 BB/9

I’d give an honorable mention to Edwin Lora who batted .293 and stole 13 bases, but worry about the lack of doubles (just eight out of 53 hits). It was a stretch to name five pitchers, as it seemed like the best you could say for most of these guys is that they were still teenagers. Folks who are interested in seeing the entire team’s stats, should click here.

Nats Name AFL Roster

While it seems later than in years past, the Arizona Fall League rosters were revealed today, the final Tuesday in August as they were last year. The following Nats farmhands will be headed southwest to help fill out the Mesa Solar Sox roster:

• LHP Matt Grace

• RHP Neil Holland

• C Spencer Kieboom

• 2B Tony Renda

• LHP Felipe Rivero

• RHP Derek Self

• C Pedro Severino

Like last year’s contingent, none of the pitchers are Rule 5 eligible for the first time this December, which seemed to be de rigeur until the past couple of AFL seasons. But more encouraging — no returnees.

The catching tandem of Kieboom and Severino should also prove to be interesting, particularly as both backstops have made strides on offense this season (Severino may be one of the most improved hitters on the Potomac team) and will get some extra time with the coaches to fine-tune their defense.

Having been hurt for most of 2014, it’ll also be interesting to see how Felipe Rivero will fare in the (usually) pitcher-unfriendly league, especially after having made two decent starts to distract from the death spiral that has been the Senators since the All-Star Break.

It’s also possible that one more National may be named as a “Taxi Squad” member — eligible to play twice a week — which has included players such as Steve Souza, Jason Martinson, Zach Walters, and Bryce Whatshisname.

Final AFL Stats & Thoughts

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


Brian Goodwin 19 81 9 24 4 1 2 12 4 22 .296 .333 .411 3
Matt Skole 15 49 8 9 1 1 3 7 15 18 .184 .375 .457 0
Adrian Nieto 13 48 6 13 1 1 0 6 6 10 .271 .345 .393 0
Steve Souza Jr. 11 42 8 15 2 0 1 8 5 11 .357 .426 .379 10


Sammy Solis 5 2 0 2.29 7 7 29 32 9 7 1 7 29 1.34
Matt Purke 3 1 0 3.91 6 6 23 20 11 10 0 9 17 1.26
Robert Benincasa 0 0 0 4.50 9 0 9 11 4 4 1 4 7 1.67
Richie Mirowski 0 0 1 1.29 9 0 12 8 3 3 0 2 10 0.83

Now for the thoughts…

• The trade for Denard Span a year ago always seemed like a stopgap measure to give Brian Goodwin time to develop, which he seems to be doing, albeit not as quickly as folks seem to think he should be. My inclination is to attribute the recent rumors that Span is on the block to posturing by the market for the free-agent OFs of uber-agent Scott Boras, with whom the Nats have been cozy. In any case, Goodwin seems on track for a AAA year and a possible callup in 2014.

• Let’s not forget two things about Matt Skole: (1) He’s coming off same-year surgery (2) he has very little experience at the AA level (seven PAs in 2013, 74 last AFL season). Yes, his numbers were disappointing compared to his rating as a prospect and the success he had last fall, but he still hit for power and drew walks. The strikeouts? He’s averaged nearly a K per game for nearly professional 200 games. I don’t think there’s that much call for alarm.

• With Sandy Leon’s offense seemingly gone AWOL, Adrian Nieto assumes the mantle of the catching prospect closest to the majors. Nieto’s 2013 was an offensive breakthrough season and it carried over into the AFL. The question is whether the defense can be tightened up enough to justify the bat. Let’s hope that the success he had against LHPs — who stifled him in the regular season (.608 OPS vs. .872) — continues next season.

• Perhaps nobody’s stock rose higher and faster than Steve Souza Jr. His inclusion was curious, given that he was due to be a free agent, though it wasn’t clear if (A) his suspension had disrupted things (B) this was a signal that he intended to re-sign. Now, with hindsight being 20/20, it’s clear that they just wanted to make sure he was healthy before adding what’s been missing from the Washington 40-man for quite some time: a power-hitting OF from the right side who’s not a defensive liability.

• I had missed the fact that Solis is Rule 5 eligible when the rosters were revealed, and after his AFL stint, he may have just pitched his way onto the 40-man if for no other reason that the Nats have kind of signaled that they’re hungry for LHPs, albeit in relief. He turns 26 next August, so there’s always the question as to whether they convert him to relief. Best guess: he’ll be given every chance to succeed as a starter, especially with the option of converting other LHPs elsewhere in the system.

• Matt Purke made six starts — three really good, three not so good. That they came in that order is cause for concern. We can only hope that it’s more attributable to either fatigue or perhaps being a bit overmatched than the shoulder issues that have dogged him for quite some time. The party line will be the former, but it’s really hard not to infer the latter.

• Robert Benincasa did more or less what you ought to expect out of a young (23), two-level (Low- and High-A) reliever in the AFL: some good outings, some bad. Sight unseen, it’s almost impossible to speculate what that means for his 2014 — especially when there is no precedent to refer to. He’s the first reliever assigned to the AFL that didn’t pitch in AA under the current regim, er front office.

• As a 45th-Round Draft pick (which, under the current CBA, would mean he’d be a NDFA) Richie Mirowski is always going to fly under the radar. Given that he spent most of the season at High-A, no one would have been surprised if he’d gotten knocked around — the AFL is notoriously hitter-friendly, after all. Instead, he pitched rather well, allowing no baserunners in five of nine appearances and going multiple innings three times.

Mesa Loses AFL Chamionship Game, 2-0

After leading the Eastern Division of the Arizona Fall League for all but one day, the Mesa Solar Sox saw their bid for the 2013 AFL Championship denied with a 2-0 defeat to the Surprise Saguaros.

Steven Souza Jr. was the only National in the starting lineup. The 24-year-old, who was recently added to the Washington 40-man roster, batted fifth and played centerfield. He singled to lead off the 2nd inning but was caught stealing by Ranger backstop Jorge Alfaro, who gunned him down with a reported pop time of 1.78 seconds.

Souza would line out sharply in his second at-bat, but strike out in his final two plate appearances to finish the game at 1-for-4. Defensively, the Nats 2007 3rd-Rd. pick played centerfield, where he had two putouts and an assist, as Alfaro struck again with an RBI single but was gunned down on the 8-2-6 relay.

Brian Goodwin and Adrian also appeared in the game, with Goodwin grounding out to second in the top of the 8th and Nieto catching the bottom half of the inning, but had no putouts or assists.

Mesa finishes 2013 with a record of 19-12 with a Opening Day tie.

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Sad-SpicklesWith the completion of the AFL schedule, the 2013 minor-league season — the fourth this site has covered, if you can believe that — now really comes to a close. A shoutout to Lee Magenheim, our photographer in Arizona, who’s provided the AFL pictures for the past two seasons and has plans to do it again in 2014.

Solis Pitches Mesa To AFL Title Game

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-27Mesa’s 2013 Arizona Fall League season began and ended in Glendale, and Sammy Solis was on the hill for both the 1st and title-clinching 19th wins as the Solar Sox scorched the Desert Dogs, 9-3 to earn a berth in the AFL Championship game.

The 25-y.o. southpaw allowed one run on six hits over five innings to notch his league-leading fifth win. He walked none and struck out four, throwing 68 pitches, 49 for strikes. His 29 K’s also led the circuit.

Brian Goodwin and Adrian Nieto were also in the starting lineup for Mesa.

Goodwin was the DH and went 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored, as the 23-y.o. North Carolina native came in from second base on an infield single that the shortstop knocked down just past the infield grass. He also walked and struck out twice.

Nieto caught and batted seventh. He went 1-for-5 with an RBI single and made seven putouts and one assist on a dropped third strike.

Mesa finishes the season at 19-11-1, winning their last six games consecutively to edge Salt River, which fell a half-game short at 19-12 and were winners of seven straight. Surprise was the AFL West title winner with a mark of 18-12-1.

The Solar Sox will face off against the Saguaros, who will send Baltimore prospect Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound in tomorrow’s AFL Championship game. Matt Purke, who has not pitched since last Saturday, is among the possibilities for Mesa, which has not yet announced its starting pitcher.

AFL Update: Nov. 14, 2013

Steven Souza Jr. homers off Alex Meyer in the 2nd inning to give Mesa the early 2-0 lead (Photo Credit: Lee Magenheim)

The race for the Arizona Fall League East Divison title will come down to the final day of the season, as Mesa edged Glendale, 3-2 and Salt River paddled Scottsdale, 8-5.

Steve Souza’s two-run blast was the catalyst for the victory and came off former teammate Alex Meyer in their first matchup as opponents, as the two never faced each other this season in the Eastern League. It was the sole hit for the 24-y.o. who finished the game at 1-for-4 with a strikeout and extended his hit streak to seven games.

Matt Skole also appeared in the game, playing third base where he had a putout and two assists. He would score what would prove to be the decisive run a fourth-inning triple that the Desert Dogs misplayed into a Little League HR with an error. Skole also singled in the 2nd inning to go 2-for-3 for the game with a walk and a strikeout.

Richie Mirowski gave up the first Glendale run in the 5th on a double, wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly but struck out two of the final three batters he faced. It was just the third run he’s allowed in nine appearances this fall.

The win, which was Mesa’s fifth straight, improved the Solar Sox to 18-11-1 but just a 1/2 game better than the 18-12 Rafters. In head-to-head play, Salt River has defeated Mesa four times in six games. An 11-inning-tie between the Solar Sox and the Desert Dogs on Opening Day is what separates the top two teams in the AFL East.

As speculated earlier this week, Sammy Solis will be given the start today as Mesa visits Glendale for the season finale. A Solar Sox win or a Rafters loss will clinch a spot in the AFL Championship game, which will be held Saturday in Scottsdale against the AFL West-winning Surprise Sagauros.

AFL Update: Nov. 13, 2013

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-10The Solar Sox scored early and often, scorching the Javelinas by an 8-1 count for their fourth straight win.

Mesa’s victory was only enough to keep pace with Salt River, which took a 7-2 decision from Glendale for their fifth straight trimuph to remain just a ½ game back in the AFL East.

Adrian Nieto was the sole National to appear in the game. The 23-y.o. catcher batted eighth and went 1-for-3 with a walk, an RBI, and two runs scored to improve his line to .279/.360/.349 in 12 games played.

Defensively, Nieto let up his second passed ball (which accounted for Peoria’s lone run) and recorded nine putouts, including the tag on a 6-3-2 double play in the 8th inning as Delino DeShields Jr. tried to score from second on the grounder with no outs.

It’s the final home game this afternoon for the Solar Sox, as they send the tireless “TBD” to pitch against the Desert Dogs and former Nats farmhand Alex Meyer. Salt River travels to last-place Scottsdale in the evening.

AFL Update: Nov. 12, 2013

Arizona Fall League #5
The Solar Sox took one step closer to a bid for the AFL Championship with a 4-0 shutout of the Javelinas.

Just two Nats appeared in yesterday’s game…

  • Batting from the #2 spot in the lineup, Brian Goodwin went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts and played centerfield, making a single putout.
  • Adrian Nieto caught and batted eighth, going 1-for-4. Defensively, he he made six putouts, including a play at the plate in the 4th on a wild pitch.

The win improves Mesa to 16-11-1 for the fall, but Salt River also kept pace, winning its fourth straight to keep the margin between the two teams at just a 1/2 game. Surprise finally clinched its berth in the title contest with a win over Scottsdale.

The Solar Sox play in Mesa for two of their three remaining games, rematching against the Javelinas this afternoon, then hosting the Desert Dogs tomorrow. Their final AFL-season game is Thursday in Glendale.

AFL Update: Nov. 10, 2013

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-20Mesa scored three times in each of the first two innings and cruised to a 9-4 win over Surprise.

Matt Purke got the start and survived a rocky first inning in which southpaw issued a walk then back-to-back singles with two outs before righting the ship with a strikeout. Purke put on a runner in each of his four innings to finish with two runs allowed on five hits and two walks. He struck out three while throwing 71 pitches, 42 for strikes to earn his third “W” of the fall.

Brian Goodwin once again batted second and played centerfield but went just 1-for-5 at the plate. Defensively, he snagged two flyballs.

Steve Souza Jr. made his second allotted appearance of the week. He singled twice, scored twice, and stole his tenth base to push his line to .368/.442/.421. He has hit safely in nine contests and reached base in all ten games he’s played in.

Richie Mirowski also appeared in the game, retiring all six batters he faced in the 7th and 8th innings with two strikeouts. In eight appearances, he’s thrown 11 innings with two runs (both earned) and nine baserunners allowed (7H, 2BB) for a 1.64 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP.

The win keeps pace with second-place Salt River, which remains just a ½ game behind in the AFL East with its third consecutive victory. Surprise still leads the AFL West by 2½ games over second-place Glendale, which has four won straight to stave off elimination from a berth in the AFL Championship game on the 16th.

The Solar Sox have not announced any starters for the final four games, thus leaving open the possibility for Sammy Solis or Purke to start the AFL Championship game should Mesa make it (or either to pitch on Thursday in a do-or-die situation).

AFL Update: Nov. 9, 2013

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-19With five runs scored early and another solid outing from Sammy Solis, the Solar Sox snapped a three-game skid with a 6-1 win over the Saguaros.

Solis went four and 1/3rd innings, leaving with one out in the 5th after letting up two of the five singles he allowed. He would finish with one run allowed, one walk, and five strikeouts. He threw 74 pitches, 48 for strikes and earned his fourth win.

Kenny Faulk, the first man out of the Mesa ‘pen couldn’t strand both runners, walking the first two batters he faced to force in the lone Surprise run. Adrian Nieto bailed him out with a pickoff at first to squash the rally as the Tigers farmhand got the final out with a flyball to left.

Brian Goodwin and Matt Skole joined Nieto in the starting lineup.

Goodwin continues to blister the ball, going 3-for-4 with a stand-up triple and two RBIs while playing centerfield, where he played error-free and made three putouts.

Skole was the DH but whiffed three times and walked once. He now has 17K’s in 14 games and is hitting .152 (7-for-46) though he’s drawn 14 walks (tied for 3rd) to maintain a respectable .350 on-base percentage.

Nieto singled once — just his third hit against a LHP — and struck out twice in five ABs. He gave up his first passed ball of the fall but had six putouts.

The Solar Sox finish out the week with rematch against the Saguaros this afternoon in Surprise. Matt Purke (2-1, 3.79) is scheduled to make his sixth and perhaps final start, opposed by Cleveland prospect Will Roberts (0-1, 5.31).