Offseason Update: Nov. 9, 2014

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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.

AFL UPDATE
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.

WINTER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS
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.

THE SYRACUSE CHIEFS
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.

Offseason Update: Nov. 2, 2014

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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.

AFL UPDATE
• 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.

WINTER LEAGUES
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).

TRANSACTION STUFF
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.

THE HARRISBURG SENATORS
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.

Offseason Update: Oct. 26, 2014

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.

WINTER LEAGUE SIGHTINGS
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)

POTOMAC NATIONALS
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:

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
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.

Offseason Update: Oct. 19, 2014

Saturday Smorgasbord
Post number 2000 is a bit of a smorgasbord, which many of these weekly posts have been and probably will be this offseason. So let’s just jump into it…

AFL UPDATE
Without the daily coverage, and with less-than-stellar performances, the four-game win streak by the Mesa Solar Sox seems a bit anti-climactic to pass along. Felipe Rivero got the Jack Morris win in the 8-4 triumph, allowing three runs in two and 2/3rds innings, though Derek Self would have gotten it in a regular-season contest for his two and 1/3rd scoreless innings of relief. Tony Renda tripled in two while Pedro Severino hit a sac fly. Matt Grace also turned in an efficient outing of five outs on 14 pitches, nine for strikes.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
Michael Taylor was voted the #1 prospect in the Eastern League, which is actually a bit of a shock when you consider that the #2 prospect, Mookie Betts played 52 games for the Red Sox (losing rookie status doesn’t disqualify players from these lists). In the “chat,” others brought up that point, noting how much better Betts performed at AAA and in the majors. Josh Norris defended his decision thusly: “In reality, it’s not 1 and 2 for me, it’s 1 and 1a. The difference for me is Taylor has the potential for more power, is a true center fielder with game-changing range in the outfield and has a well above-average arm.”

A.J. Cole was “only” the #15 E.L. prospect but ranked as the #7 I.L. prospect, which is only dissonant to the folks who mistakenly believe AAA is the highest level for prospects, as opposed to a place for refinement and a holding ground for replacement-level players. While noting his propensity to give up the longball, the scouts project the turns-23-in-January righty as a No. 3 starter, praising improvements in his secondary pitches. Steve Souza was ranked #5 while former farmhands Robbie Ray and Alex Meyer were nos. 8 and 9 respectively.

TRANSACTION UPDATE
It’s not clear which Felix Taveras the Nats signed in the latest missive from BA, but the list of catchers that signed or re-signed is awfully familiar:

  • Jeff Howell
  • Devin Ivany
  • Sean McCauley
  • Andruth Ramirez

Before folks get too excited, recall that McCauley spent 2014 as a player-coach and appears headed towards the same role. Given that Ivany and Ramirez did not play this past season, it might be fair to guess that one or both will be serving in the same capacity.

MORE ON THE MINORS LAWSUIT
One of the ugly truths about the minors is how poorly these guys are paid. At some levels, the guys washing the uniforms make more than the guys wearing them. That’s not news per se, but earlier this summer, a class-action lawsuit was filed by former Giants prospect-turned-lawyer Garrett Broshuis on behalf of former minor-leaguers (a group that includes former Nats farmhands Tim Pahuta and Brett Newsome) has generated headlines and more interest in the subject. This week, Toronto Star reporter Brendan Kennedy filed this story that goes into detail about the economics of minor-league baseball, and makes some rather telling comparisons to minor-league hockey.

THE HAGERSTOWN SUNS
The Suns lost in the Sally League Finals for the second straight year but won 87 regular-season games and nearly took both halves. Despite fielding a winning team with exciting prospects, the locals voted with their feet and stayed away as attendance — which is routinely exaggerated anyway — fell to below 1,000 at 979 per date (also consider that the #13 team averaged 1,925). While the PDC was renewed, it’s doubtful this trend will reverse itself until the team is under new ownership and/or the facilities are renovated or replaced.

As you might expect from the second-best team in the league, the Suns leveraged strong pitching (4.11 R/G; Lg. Avg 4.58) and strong hitting (4.99 R/G) while committing the fewest errors (118 vs. 152). The old-for-the-level report: 22.2 vs. 21.5 for the bats, 21.8 vs. 21.8 for the arms. Expectations for this crew to match the 2013’s effort in the Carolina League will probably be high.

Now, for the obligatory Top 5’s…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Wilmer Difo, 2B/SS, .280 GPA, 14HR, 49SB 1. Lucas Giolito, RHP, 2.20/3.16/1.00, 10.1 K/9, .196 OBA
2. Spencer Kieboom, C, .283 GPA, .500 SLG% 2. Austin Voth, RHP, 2.45/2.68/1.05, 1HR in 69.2IP
3. Drew Ward, 3B, .257 GPA, 42BB 3. Wander Suero, RHP, 2.13/3.16/0.97, 1.38 BB/9
4. Rafael Bautista, CF, .249 GPA, 69SB 4. Justin Thomas, LHP, 2.78/3.01/1.08, 1.39 BB/9
5. James Yezzo, 1B, .239 GPA, .991FA 5. Jake Walsh, LHP, 1.45/3.33/0.87, .152 OBA


Honorable mentions go to Carlos Lopez and David Napoli, as we hit the point where all things are not equal and performance relative to age takes greater precedence. A couple of the bats were also held back for consideration for the Potomac list. As always, if you’d like to see the entire team’s stats, just click here.

Checking In On The AFL

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As some of you have noted already in the comments, the numbers haven’t been pretty thus far. According to manager Patrick Anderson (via Byron Kerr), it’s been “some pitches up to some decent hitters” (Felipe Rivero) and “balls right on the nose right at people” (Tony Renda). But it is what it is, the numbers don’t always tell you the real story, and it’s still early, right? Many of these things are true, or have a modicum of truth, but if I don’t mock the coachspeak, who will?

Now, for the numbers…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Tony Renda 7 23 1 2 2 0 0 0 1 6 .087 .125 .174 1
Spencer Kieboom 3 10 1 5 1 0 1 3 2 1 .500 .583 .900 0
Pedro Severino 3 9 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 2 .111 .200 .111 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Felipe Rivero 0 2 0 6.23 2 2 8⅔ 10 6 6 1 3 5 1.50
Derek Self 0 0 0 1.80 3 0 5 3 1 1 1 3 3 1.20
Neil Holland 0 1 0 14.73 3 0 3⅔ 7 6 6 1 3 2 2.73
Matt Grace 0 0 0 8.10 3 0 3⅓ 4 3 3 0 3 5 2.10


And now some more pics from Lee (don’t worry this isn’t in lieu of tomorrow’s scheduled post, it’s to get these pics in!)

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Happy Columbus Day Eve

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OK, so I haven’t come up with a name for this post yet. “This Week In The Nats Minors” or “The Washington Farm Report” seem a little too been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. “Next-Gen Nats?” Um, sure, but I’ll have to change my site’s color scheme to teal, purple, and black. I’m open to suggestions… In the meantime, let’s do this weekly thing again.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
Thanks to a rainout — the first since 2011 — the Mesa Solar Sox have played just four games, losing the first three by a collective score of 30-9 before finally getting a win with a 6-3 decision last night. As you might imagine, the stats thus far aren’t pretty, so let’s hold on posting them. I am thinking another picture-gallery post midweek might be in order.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
As noted in the comments, Pedro Severino edged into BA’s Carolina League Top 20 at #18, which is actually a mild surprise given the size and talent of the league, but not undeserved. Severino’s ballyhooed defense actually fell short of the hype during last offseason, but that’s not to say he’s not a good defender. Perhaps not at the level of Sandy Leon at the same (st)age, but not far off either. Like Leon in 2011, the 21-year-old Severino’s bat came alive in 2014, particularly in the second half, and that’s what caught the attention of scouts. The hope/unknown is whether that’ll continue in 2015.

TRANSACTION STUFF
Greg Dobbs, we hardly knew ye, as the 36-y.o. who stapled a .483 OPS in 13 games with the big club and thumbtacked AAA pitchers for a .635 mark in 36 games has declared free agency.

WINTER LEAGUE
Folks are hungry to know who’s playing winter ball. The Mexican Pacific League and the Venezuelan Winter League started up this weekend, and a scan of the rosters has turned up three pitchers:

Rafael Martin (Hermosillo, MWL)
Paolo Espino (Anzoategui, VWL)
David Ramos (Aragua, VWL)

The Dominican Winter League starts on this Friday, while the Puerto Rican and Australian winter leagues both start up on the 30th.

THE AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
The Doubledays couldn’t help but improve on 2013, which won the fewest games (26) since the ’06 Lake Monsters (23) and was dead last in pitching and third-worst in hitting. The 2014 crew, which included a sizable contingent from the ’13 GCL squad, broke the 30-win mark and performed to its pythagorean projection of 34-41 with 299 runs scored (3.99/G) and 332 allowed (4.43) with the league averaging 4.15 runs per game. After years of being among the league’s oldest teams [insert college-senior drafting remark here], the Doubledays hitters were slightly older (21.2 vs. 21.0) while the pitchers were the fourth-youngest crew in the league (20.9)

And with that I’ll leave you with the Top 5’s…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Raudy Read, C, .265 GPA, .462 SLG% 1. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, 0.75/3.14/0.83, .124 OBA
2. Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, 1B, .250 GPA, .996FA 2. Robbie Dickey, RHP, 2.25/2.74/1.05, 1.35BB/9 allowed in 20IP
3. D.K. Carey, CF, .248 GPA, .353 OBP 3. Travis Ott, LHP, 3.05/3.98/1.24, 6.7 H/9
4. Cody Gunter, 3B, .239 GPA, 23BB in 54G 4. Mario Sanchez, RHP, 4.11/3.50/1.17, 2.8 BB/9
5. Austin Davidson, IF, .231 GPA, 4.89 RF/G (2B) 5. Chase McDowell, RHP, 4.50/3.16/1.54, 0.98 BB/9


Honorable mentions go to Matthew Page and Austen Williams, but like the GCL crew, it was not easy after the first two or three names — especially in a year where the Nats had several multiple-level pitchers. As always, folks who want to see the numbers for the full team, can find them here.

AFL Begins Play

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The weekly posting plan still remains, but with a little time to spare — and some great pics to share — I’d figure I’d do a quick post to give folks a taste of fall ball while you await the outcome of the NLDS.

The Solar Sox were eclipsed by the Desert Dogs by a score of 9-3 this afternoon. As you can see, Felipe Rivero got the start but remained in 2014 Harrisburg form with four runs allowed on seven hits and two walks. He struck out three and gave up a solo home run.

Tony Renda and Pedro Severino both started on offense, but went 0-for-3 with a walk and 0-for-2 respectively.

Matt Grace and Derek Self both appeared in relief and both struggled, with Grace giving up two runs in one inning and Self giving up a HR in two innings of work.

See you on Sunday with a summary of the week’s happenings in the minors (and some more pics, no doubt).

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.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
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.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
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.

TRANSACTION STUFF
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.

2014 AFFILIATE SHUFFLE
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.

THE GCL NATIONALS
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…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
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

2013-AFL-Final
One last look before we close the books, beginning with the stats…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
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

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
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.