Oct 122012
 

The Salt River Rafters walked off with a two-run rally in the 9th for their third straight win on Thursday night, 6-5.

Brian Goodwin led off the the final frame with a solo shot to tie it at 5-5. Two batters later, Anthony Rendon drew a walk to load the the bases and set up the game-winning single by White Sox first baseman Andy Wilkins.

Goodwin would finish the night at 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI while batting out of the #9 spot in the lineup. Rendon walked twice, scored once, and went 1-for-3 with an RBI double. He was #3 in the lineup and #5 on the defensive chart, taking a grounder to third in the 9th for his only defensive chance.

Ryan Perry got the start for the Rafters, but was touched for two runs on four hits and two walks over three innings. He threw 55 pitches, 31 for strikes and faced 14 batters with three strikeouts, three groundouts, a lineout and two flyballs.

Salt River and Scottsdale rematch tonight in the Scorpions’ home field at Scottsdale Stadium.

Oct 112012
 

Highlighted by back-to-back homers from Arizona’s Matt Davidson and Washington’s Matt Skole, a four-run first propelled the Salt River Rafters to an 11-3 win yesterday over the Mesa Solar Sox.

Three Nationals farmhands saw game action:

• Brian Goodwin led off and played centerfield, going 2-for-5 with a walk and two runs scored, including a solo shot in the 9th to cap off Salt River’s offensive onslaught.

• Skole was a triple shy of the cycle with a single and a two-RBI double in his subsequent ABs, finishing the game at 3-for-5 with a walk and a run scored and three RBI while batting fifth.

• Jason Martinson served as the DH, but went 0-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout while batting ninth.

Defensively, Goodwin had no chances while Skole made his professional debut at first base, catching three groundouts and committing no errors. As noted in the game story on the AFL site, Skole had made 37 errors in 172 games at third base over the past two seasons — a fielding percentage of just .916.

Ryan Perry is expected to take the hill tonight as the Rafters host the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Oct 102012
 


The 2012 Arizona Fall League began with a 6-5 win for the Salt River Rafters over the Mesa Solar Sox.

It was a light night in terms of the Nationals. Anthony Rendon started and played third base, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. Defensively, had a putout and assist, both coming in the third inning on a lineout and a bunt attempt. Earlier this week, Rendon was the sole Nat to make John Sickels’s preliminary Top 50 Hitting Prospects for 2013.

Paul Demny was the only other National to appear in the game. He turned in an adventuresome-but-scoreless inning of relief with two walks and two wild pitches. The 23-year-old struck out one but threw just 12 of 25 pitches for strikes.

The two teams rematch this afternoon. Ryan Perry, the sole starting pitcher among Washington’s AFL contingent, is not expected to start until tomorrow night.

Sep 282012
 

Not much in the way of news this week, but in yesterday’s transactions post from Baseball America, the Arizona Fall League assignments were made official:
• RHP Aaron Barrett
• RHP Paul Demny
• CF Brian Goodwin
• RHP Cole Kimball
• SS/3B Jason Martinson (taxi)
• RHP Ryan Perry
• 3B/SS Anthony Rendon
• 3B Matt Skole

The biggest change, of course, is the swapping of Christian Garcia and Cole Kimball, who has apparently healed enough from the injury that cut short his rehab tour in early to start throwing again. The 27-year-old is attempting to come back from rotator cuff surgery and could be potentially pitching to keep his spot on the 40-man roster.

When I last saw him, he looked like a shell of his previous self: his fastball like your weird uncle’s wardrobe (stuck in the 80s) and his command, which has never been mistaken for Jordan Zimmermann’s (subject of a prospect retro by John Sickels), even worse. Taking chances on hurt pitchers is what has netted the Nats pitchers like Garcia and Ryan Mattheus, though you could make the argument that Kimball was hurt in the first place when the Nats pushed him (and Adam Carr) in the AFL in the fall of 2010.

Most folks, of course, are curious regarding a rumored position switch of Anthony Rendon to second base. There are two other 2Bs on the roster of the Salt River Rafters (Tyler Bortnick, Diamondbacks; Carlos Sanchez, White Sox) and while one of them is a 25-year-old that appears to be a Rule 5 tryout (Bortnick), it’s only speculation at this point.

Matt Skole and Brian Goodwin will join Rendon as the position players assigned by Washington, with Jason Martinson serving as this year’s taxi squad player, eligible to play twice a week. Bryce Harper (2010) and Zach Walters (2011) served in this capacity over the past two fall campaigns.

Ryan Perry presumably will continue his transition to starting from relief while it appears that Paul Demny is doing the opposite, based on his removal from the Harrisburg Senators rotation in August as well as his struggles all year long (insert obligatory reference to youth and hard-throwing here). Aaron Barrett, who is not Rule 5-eligible, will continue to refine his stuff after posting a 3-2/2.09/0.92 pitcher’s line (if it doesn’t exist, then I’m coining it) with 17 saves in 2012.

The 2012 season begins on Tuesday, October 9th with Salt River hosting the Mesa Solar Sox.

Aug 292012
 

Despite the increased number of single-A exceptions afforded to them, the Nationals 2012 Arizona Fall League selections will still have a Rule 5/40-Man Evaluation feel to it, particularly among the pitchers.

Here’s a look at who’s been named to play for the Salt River Rafters, per multiple online sources:
• RHP Christian Garcia
• RHP Ryan Perry
• 3B/SS Jason Martinson*
• RHP Paul Demny
• 3B Anthony Rendon
• CF Brian Goodwin
*Taxi squad, eligible to play twice per week

This does not come as a shock, of course. As I wrote roughly 25 hours ago: “[W]hat remains to be seen is whether those exceptions will be used or whether teams will still game the system to send Rule 5 candidates that they haven’t made up their minds on.” There are still two slots available, one for a pitcher, the other an infielder, according to Byron Kerr of MASN.

What does seem certain is that neither Alex Meyer nor Nathan Karns will be going — Mike Rizzo said that Meyer was done for the year in today’s radio appearance on 106.7FM. It’s probably also a good bet that Matt Purke will not be sent either [insert insinuation of possible surgery here].

Given that the unfilled pitcher slot is probably going to a reliever, the most logical bets are: Rob Wort, Trevor Holder, and the Pats McCoy and Lehman (listed in order of likelihood in my opinion).

Likewise, if indeed an infielder is chosen to fill out the position-player contingent, the most likely candidates are Jeff Kobernus and Matt Skole. Kobernus had a rib fractured by a thrown pitch in late July, but could conceivably be ready to go by the October 9 start. Kobernus is also eligible for the Rule 5 draft.

Less likely candidates include Zach Walters and Carlos Rivero. Walters was sent last year, but repeats aren’t very common. Rivero seems more likely to be a September callup, but if he’s not, his odds still seem rather slim, given that few AAA players have been sent under Rizzo’s stewardship.

A month ago, Ricky Hague would have garnered a mention, but a reliable source has indicated to me that he won’t be going. Skole should certainly merit consideration, given his strong year offensively, though it’s also conceivable that he’ll be spending instrux learning a new defensive position (that’s purely speculation, unless it turns out I’m right ;-) which would make it unlikely to have him play the new position at that level so soon (unless he’s allowed to DH, which is possible).

If it’s not an infielder, the only logical choice would be Destin Hood, another Rule 5 candidate, but one who’s young and been hurt for long stretches this season. But he is also just a year remove from a breakout season and did play at AA all season long.

To play devil’s advocate, with most of the organization’s top pitching prospects unavailable due to injury, surgery, or innings limitation, the Nationals have little choice but to send older pitchers. Sending guys strictly by age or level would be a farce unless it was mandated by the rules. So like the late Spike, I’m a little uninspired by the choices, but I do understand them.

Aug 132012
 

It’s the post you’ve been nagging asking for — a look at who might get sent to the Arizona Fall League.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that as the parent club improves, this kind of information becomes pushed to the periphery by the mainstream media. In other words, there’s going to be a lot more written about who might get called up in September than who’s going to play in the greater Scottsdale area in October. It’s already happening in the comments here, a niche site devoted to the future Nats, not the present Nats, as much as some folks want to bridge that gap like Evel Knievel with the Snake River Canyon.

Like last year, there is one clear choice: Brian Goodwin. Leapfrogging him from Hagerstown to Harrisburg has to have an AFL angle to it, which is not to say the only reason why the move was made. The next choice with little doubt is Anthony Rendon, assuming he doesn’t get hurt between now and then. A little less certain is Jeff Kobernus, though there is some question as to whether he’ll be healed by then (fractured rib).

As discussed previously, Zach Walters seems like a candidate to go back after being added to the taxi squad last fall, but repeats in the AFL aren’t very common. Likewise for Chris Marrero, who’s the right age and could use the playing time, especially since it’s unlikely he’ll be playing winter ball this year.

Less clear is whether Destin Hood or Justin Bloxom gets the call. Hood has been beset by injuries for a good chunk of this season, leaving some doubt as to whether his struggles at AA have been a matter of health or having hit a bump in the road developmentally. That kind of uncertainty is precisely what GMs want when it comes to the Rule 5 draft, which Hood will be eligible for in December. Bloxom might not get sent simply because the other teams responsible for filling out the roster of the Salt River Rafters have more attractive candidates (e.g. Matt Davidson, Toronto) at first base.

If Rendon is indeed the Single-A exception, then it might be safe to say that Nathan Karns and Alex Meyer might be held back, especially in the name of limiting innings with both in their first full professional season. I’ve heard whispers that Ricky Hague might be this year’s Zach Walters (taxi squad player), though that was when Hague was on a hot streak and has since cooled some.

With the new CBA, there just aren’t the late-sign, high-profile pitchers that would make obvious choices (e.g. Stephen Strasburg, Matt Purke). Folks suggesting Lucas Giolito need to share what they’re ingesting (tomorrow is his first outing, and I suspect it’ll be limited to one inning or 20 pitches, whichever comes first). We were surprised last year at the selections of Rafael Martin and Pat Lehman, neither of whom was on the verge of Rule 5 eligibility, but there just aren’t any pitchers that fit that mold at AA or AAA.

Perhaps we’ll see one or two out of the trio of Trevor Holder, Pat McCoy, and Paul Demny. That’s the safest guess at this point (and to be clear, without knowing which pitchers the other five organizations are likely to send, it’s a guess). Like last year, the only thing I’m sure of is that somebody, somewhere is going to be disappointed with the selections.

Nov 202011
 

[Ed. Note: Another guest column from frequent commenter BinM]

Here’s an alternative rating to how well (or poorly) the Washington Nationals prospects performed with Scottsdale in the AFL this year, using simple stock market terminology. Did they either gain, lose, or maintain value in your eyes, based on their AFL results (Buy, Sell, or Hold)?

These are solely my opinions, and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and/or its employee

Bryce Harper, OF — 2010 Draft Pick (#1 overall, 19yo)
Coming off an injury out of AA Hagerstown, he delivered as expected in a repeat role for Scottsdale, producing an offensive line of 25GP, .333BA/.400OBP/.634SLG/.338BPA, 14EBH, 4SB with a 16-game hitting streak to boot. His OF errors still show he has room for overall improvement in the field.
Opinion: He’s only 19; still an unquestionable ‘Buy’ player for 2012.

Pat Lehman, RHP —2009 Draft Pick (13th round, 25yo)
Coming off a solid season divided between High-A and AA, this , 25yo) stumbled when presented with a chance to move up in the Nationals RP rankings. His final line of 12GP, 14⅔IP, 1.98WHIP, .382OBA, 4.3:1K-W, 2BS, 0-4 W-L left more than a bit to be desired for a prospect.
Opinion: Sell. This is basically the same kind of results seen from Jeff Mandel and Josh Wilkie in 2009, who also had chances to move up but posted uninspiring AFL results and slid into OG status.

Rafael Martin, RHP — 2010 Int’l Free Agent (27yo)
Signing with Washington just weeks shy of age 26, he entered the 2011 AFL season as a bit of a wildcard, with no real expectations. His season in Scottsdale yielded an overall line of 10GP, 12IP, 1.17WHIP, .200 OBA, 1.3:1K-W, showing both a cut fastball and a sinker.
Opinion: Hedging toward a ‘Buy’ status, but may still cap off at the AAA level.

Derek Norris, C — 2007 draft pick (4th round, 22yo)
Coming off a decent season at Harrisburg, Norris compiled a very good results in his second pass at the AFL, with a 21GP, 90PA, .276BA/.367OBP/.382SLG/.261BPA, 22RP, 4SB offensive line, as well as a 17-game on-base streak. The bat is there for this converted catcher, but the defense still needs work.
Opinion: Buy. His eye at the plate is rock-solid, he’s quicker than you think on the bases, and that bat should play somewhere in the field in the next year or two.

Matt Purke, LHP — 2011 Draft Pick (3rd round, 21yo)
Purke was a slightly suprising addition to the Scottsdale roster who seems to have settled down after a horrid start. His final line of 7GP, 7⅓ IP, 2.05WHIP, 1.2:1K-W, .353BAA shows some additional work is needed.
Opinion: Hold. I’m not yet convinced that he’s completely healthy, and might spend at least a partial season in a minor-league bullpen before returning to a starters’ role. As a result, he could still be a year or two out.

Sammy Solis, LHP — 2010 Draft Pick (2nd round, 23yo)
An up-and-down fall season for the southpaw, following a regular season shortened by minor injuries. His final line of 7GS, 26IP, 4.50ERA, 1.73WHIP, 1.4:1K-W, while still possessing a high-end FB, and the ongoing development of a solid overhand curve bodes well for his future with the organization.
Opinion: Buy, but don’t overcommit. He’s a LH with a likely #3SP role in the majors as his top end, but could still be two years away.

Zach Walters, IF — 2010 Draft Pick by Arizona (9th round, 22yo)
Coming from the Diamondbacks in a July trade for Jason Marquis, Walters was a steady player at SS in Potomac late in 2011. Shifted to 3B by other prospects in Scottsdale, he compiled a less-than-impressive 24GP, 89PA, .205BA/.253OPB/.301SLG/.189BPA, 6EBH, 14RP, 5.3:1 K:W overall line, with a high number of errors (albeit out of position).
Opinion: Hold. He was clearly ‘in over his head’ this fall season, but that doesn’t preclude some growth as a player going forward. A player to watch in 2012.

Nov 182011
 

Bryce Harper singled and tripled in the Arizona Fall League finale, which the Scottsdale Scorpions lost, 6-2.

The 2-for-3 effort pushed the 19-year-old’s batting average to .333, thanks to a 16-game hit streak and a .424 finish (28-for-66) over his last 18 games. Of course, Harper also struck out and was picked off first and made no putouts in left field, but those are nits for the Nats bandwagon, as I’m sure we can expect the drum for Harper to be the next Heyward all winter long (pay no attention to the latter’s .227/.319/.389 sophomore slump and make no correlations, right?).

Derek Norris went 0-for-3 to lower his line to .276/.367/.382 but threw out a baserunner and stole a base himself (#4). Despite the 0-for-13 finish, Norris is still a near-lock to be added to the 40-man roster and start 2012 in Syracuse. He reached base 18 of 21 games.

Zach Walters stayed off the interstate by going 1-for-3 with an RBI double to finish with a .205 mark. Not bad for a kid that began the year as a 21-year-old in Low-A. The signs of Josh Johnson and Chris McConnell above him on the Nats ladder make Potomac his most likely starting point for 2012, not to mention his mere 30 games of High-A experience.

Scottsdale finished the 2011 season with a 14-22 mark, last in the East division of the Arizona Fall League and tied with Phoenix for the circuit’s worst record. Last year, Scottsdale won the AFL championship.

And as if yesterday’s chill rains weren’t a talisman, winter has “officially” begun.

Nov 172011
 

Just two Nats relievers got into last night’s 4-3 loss by Scottsdale.

Pat Lehman got back on the horse with a scoreless inning, allowing one hit, but no walks and no strikeouts to drop his ERA to three digits at 9.82.

Rafael Martin walked one but also laid a goose egg on the scoreboard, allowing no hits and striking out none in his single inning of work.

The AFL wraps up this afternoon as the Scorpions visit the Solar Sox. Sammy Solis is not listed as the starter, so it’s most likely one more start for the position player trio of Derek Norris, Zach Walters, and, um, whatshisname, oh yeah… Bryce Harper.

Nov 162011
 

Bryce Harper continued his torrid hitting while Scorpions remain tepid, losing again by a 4-1 count.

Harper went 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and a stolen base. Defensively, he caught a foul fly but committed his sixth error on a missed catch.

Derek Norris remained ice-cold with another oh-fer, striking out twice in four at-bats and also committing an error on a throw. That was his seventh miscue of the fall.

Zach Walters wouldn’t be left out of this mistake-fest, committing his sixth error while playing third base. Offensively, he went 1-for-4 with a strikeout.

On the pitching side, Matt Purke turned in another scoreless outing, his fourth straight. He allowed a hit but struck out two, throwing 12 of his 16 pitches for strikes.

Scottsdale hosts Peoria for its final home game tonight, before finishing up the 2011 season tomorrow afternoon. Sammy Solis is not listed as a starter for either game.