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.

Nov 152011
 

Just one National appeared in yesterday’s Scottsdale’s 6-5 win over Salt River. Yeah, you know it.

Batting fifth and playing left field, Bryce Harper went 1-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored, an RBI double, and two strikeouts. Defensively, he made four putouts and made no errors.

The two teams rematch this afternoon, with Rafters hosting the Scorpions.

Nov 132011
 

The streak is over for Bryce Harper as the Nationals’ 19-year-old wunderkind went 0-for-3 in a 6-4 Scottsdale loss on Saturday.

Harper also committed an error, his fifth of the fall, and made a putout while playing left field. Here’s how the rest of the Nats fared:

…Zach Walters played third base again and notched four assists, but was also hitless at 0-for-2.

…Matt Purke made his third straight scoreless appearance, tossing a 1-2-3 inning for his second hold of the fall with six of his 11 pitches registering as strikes.

…Pat Lehman’s troubles returned as the 25-year-old was torched for four runs on four hits and a walk while striking out two.

…Rafael Martin labored through a 28-pitch inning, throwing just 12 strikes, but stranded all three walks he issued.

Just four games remain on the slate for Scottsdale, as they host then visit Salt River on Monday and Tuesday, host Peoria on Wednesday, and finish up on the road at Mesa on Thursday.

Nov 122011
 

Bryce Harper extended his hit streak to 16 games as Scottsdale defeated Phoenix, 3-2 in a scheduled seven-inning contest.

Harper went 2-for-3 with an RBI double while playing left field. The two hits pushed his batting average to .321 while the RBI was #25, which is third-best in the AFL. Defensively, he had two putouts and no assists.

Derek Norris was the only other National to appear in the contest, but had a dismal 0-for-4 game with no walks or strikeouts. It was the first time he failed to reach base this fall. Defensively, it wasn’t any better: Error #6 on a throw following a wild pitch, allowing the runner on first to reach third.

Scottsdale finishes up the week this afternoon with a game against Surprise.
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Thankfully, there will be no references to either Thurman Munson or Lyman Bostick Bostock as Wilson Ramos was rescued from his kidnappers yesterday afternoon by Venezuelan authorities. Cheryl Nichols has the pics and the human-interest angle on District Sports Page.

As you might have guessed, Ryan Tatusko will remain in Venezuela despite the incident. And for the haters (e.g. Chris Needham and Kevin Reiss), Tatusko won’t be going home anytime soon on account of his pitching, either. In his fourth outing last night, the 26-year-old righthander tossed six shutout innings and struck out five while allowing just one hit and walking two.

Nov 112011
 

It was a light night for the Nationals in the Arizona Fall League last night, with Zach Walters the sole representative as the Scottsdale Scorpions edged the Surprise Saguaros, 2-1.

Walters played third base and batted eighth. He had a putout and two assists and made no errors on defense. At the plate, Walters sandwiched a fifth-inning single between a groundout in the third and a fielder’s choice in the seventh.

After four night games this week, Scottsdale visits Phoenix this afternoon and Surprise tomorrow afternoon.

Nov 102011
 

Sammy Solis wasn’t as sharp as his last outing, getting touched for three runs (and the loss) in the first as the Scottsdal Scorpions would go on to lose, 5-0.

The southpaw would finish with three innings pitched, four hits allowed, two walks surrendered, and two strikeouts while throwing just 33 of his 63 pitches for strikes. The loss evened his AFL mark at 1-1.

Pat Lehman would receive a similar greeting in the fourth, giving up two runs and finishing with four hits allowed over his two innings pitched. He walked none and struck out two.

Rafael Martin appeared in the 7th and tossed a 1-2-3 frame with a strikeout.

Nats bats Bryce Harper, Derek Norris and Zach Walters appeared in the game in left field, catcher and third base respectively…

…Harper extended his hit streak to 15 games with a second-inning double, and committed the cardinal sin of making the first out of the inning by getting thrown out at third. He struck out twice and made two putouts on defense.

…Norris reached base for the 18th time in as many games with a sixth-inning single. The Desert Dogs were successful in both steal attempts against him.

…Walters went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and had no defensive chances.
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By now, many of you have heard that Wilson Ramos was kidnapped in his native Venezuela — it was first brought to my attention by Jeff550 via the comments — and as of this writing there’s still no word as to his fate.

Despite being decidedly closer to the scene, farmhand Ryan Tatusko said via Twitter that he found out about it via the Washington Post. Fortunately, the young man had the presence of mind to write something about it on his blog, giving us some perspective on what it’s like as a jugador de béisbol americano.