May 172013
 

GBI for NPP 2Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 15-25, 6th place I.L. North, 9½ games behind

Good Fernando Abad 1.26 ERA/1.94 FIP/1.05 WHIP, 86.7 LOB% in 16 app.
Bad Mike Costanzo 36K in 29G
Interesting Zach Walters 9HR, 9E, 41K in 38G

HARRISBURG SENATORS 18-22, T5th place E.L. West, 7 games behind

Good Anthony Rendon (duh) .348 (2nd) / .483 (1st) / .620 (1st) in E.L.
Bad 30E by Senator IFs in 40G
Interesting Paul Demny 2-1, 1.50 ERA, 1.111 WHIP in May (3 starts)

POTOMAC NATIONALS 22-18, T1st place C.L. North, .003 W% behind

Good Billy Burns .364/.455/.455 with runners on base (51PA)
Bad Brian Dupra 0-2, 8.25/3.87/1.58 in four appearances (two starts)
Interesting Justin Miller .400/.455/.667 in May with 2HR, 8RBI, 3SB

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 19-12, 1st place Sally North, ½ game ahead

Good Shawn Pleffner .298/.412/.452 with 2HR, 14RBI in 25G
Bad Kylin Turnbull 6HR in 4GS and 18IP
Interesting Ronald Pena starting on two days’ rest (5/15) after 2IP relief (5/12)
Apr 192013
 

Allan de San Miguel’s second home run of the night put an end to nearly four hours of not-so-pretty baseball as the Frederick Keys defeated the Potomac Nationals, 9-8 in 12 innings.

The two teams combined for 27 hits and 16 men left on base and five errors — four by the Keys, which rendered four of the last five P-Nats runs scored as unearned.

Early on, this looked like it would be a laugher. A.J. Cole struck out two in the top of the first, then Billy Burns led off the Potomac half with an opposite-field single and easily scored on a Michael Taylor double to the left-center gap. Jason Martinson doubled with one out. Kevin Keyes singled with two out.

After one inning it was three runs in on five hits. Cole would set down the next six straight, though his command was shaky and five of the outs were flies to the outfield. Meanwhile, Frederick starter Zach Petersime settled down to retire nine of eleven.

As is often the case, the middle innings are where a starter should really be evaluated and on their second look at Cole the Keys broke up both the perfecto and the shutout in the space of two batters with a leadoff triple and an RBI groundout in the 4th. In the 5th, Cole got four grounders and three outs and appeared en route to emerge from an uneven start with a decent line, if not a win, after a strikeout and a popup in the 6th.

Instead, with two outs Cole issued a walk, unleashed a wild pitch, and gave up the first of de San Miguel’s circle clouts to turn a 3-1 Potomac lead into a 4-3 advantage. He was lifted for a reliever and finished with a disappointing four runs on four hits and two walks over five and 2/3rds.

After that, things got ugly. A double, a dropped infield pop for an error extended the Keys lead to 5-3. Frederick returned the favor in the 7th with an error on a sacrifice that extended the inning and enabled Martinson to smack a three-run shot that gave the P-Nats their final lead of the night at 7-5.

Frederick went back on top in the 8th when a dropped third strike was the, um, key to the three-run rally that reclaimed the lead at 8-7. Potomac tied it at 8-8 in the last of the 9th on a Burns infield single, a Taylor single to left that pushed the P-Nats leadoff man to third, and a sacrifice by Cutter Dykstra.

Taylor stole second and took third on the fourth Frederick error to set up the chance for the win in regulation. Martinson, however, couldn’t repeat his 7th inning heroics and struck out to send the game into extras.

Potomac had a second chance at a walkoff win when Norfork led off the 11th with flare to no man’s land in left center but consecutive popups on bunt attempts by Burns and Taylor killed the rally, which ended with another Martinson whiff.

Following the second de San Miguel shot in the 12th, Potomac went quietly in their half with a popup and two grounders to short as Frederick reliever Eric Beaulac tossed the third of his three scoreless frames to get the “W.”

The series continues tonight, weather permitting, with a matchup of Kylin Turnbull (0-2, 12.00) vs. Zach Davies (1-0, 3.27).

Oct 222012
 

On the field, the Hagerstown Suns improved upon a successful 2011 campaign with an 82-55 overall record. They missed the first half by three games with a 42-27 mark, but won the second with slightly worse record of 40-28, only to get swept in the playoffs with a pair of 2-run losses (3-1, 7-5). Some may blame the late promotion of Matt Skole at the very late date of August 15 — two months too late, if you ask some folks — for the quick playoff exit, the more objective take is that the pitching just wasn’t there, much like Auburn.

Off the field, the Suns entered the 2012 season with the spectre of the team leaving for Winchester and the rumblings of a new stadium being built in Hagerstown, culminating in a rather bold move of the team opening the kimono by giving a tour of Municipal Stadium, ostensibly to demonstrate that renovation is a not an option. The move may have prevented the team from losing its PDC through 2014, but it’s hard not to infer that threat of the team leaving is to blame for the huge drop in attendance from 2011 to 2012 (1,931 per game to 1,366 — a 29.3% decrease).

Back to the review… Let’s take a look at how the Suns compared to the rest of the South Atlantic League:
HITTING

PITCHING



Like 2011, the Suns were among the league leaders in runs and homers (2nd), hits and stolen bases (3rd), and walks (1st). I’ll go out on a limb and say this will probably be true for 2013, too. Unfortunately, some of the reason for this is that the team was among the oldest in the league, with multiple players repeating the level.

Pitching, which had been the organization’s strong suit for years, is now becoming one of its weaknesses. This the fourth of the seven affiliates, and all four levels have given up runs above the league average. This is not to say there weren’t bright spots in Hagerstown — obviously, a couple of examples stand, um, head & shoulders above the others — but it does seem like there was a Mr. Hyde for every Dr. Jekyll. When you can outslug your competition, it often goes unnoticed (well, at least until the playoffs), but this the last level where that’s the case.

Turning back to the bats, we now look at the Top 12 hitters in terms of plate appearances. As always, full statistics for the team can be found here, and the key for the asterisks is one * for the 2011 draft picks and two ** for the DSL graduates.
Like Auburn, there is really little to complain about in terms of overall offensive production. Just three of the top 12 produced below the league average, and three produced Nintendo-like numbers for both Gross Production Average and Isolated Power. The problem, of course, is that quite a few of these players were playing a level behind where they should have, as my Hagerstown guy put it in his review.

The only beacon of hope is that maybe, just maybe, one or two of the position players that were promoted from here to Potomac will be challenged with Harrisburg rather than resuming 2013 in Woodbridge. I know that sounds harsh, but perhaps an offseason “leapfrog” might serve as both an incentive to the Low-A guys and reminder to the High-A guys that moving up to the next level isn’t a foregone conclusion. The large number of six-year FA pitchers that were brought in at AA and AAA this year is an example of that line of thinking.

Speaking of pitchers…
For all the bitching and moaning discontent over the lack of promotions in the system, Hagerstown was interesting case when it came to pitchers. Four pitchers were promoted from Hagerstown to Potomac, and four pitchers were promoted to the Hub City — but two of those came not from Auburn but from the GCL. And three were 2012 picks.

It’s the skipping over that’s unusual. Ordinarily, one would expect a sequence like Blake Schwartz going from Viera to Auburn and Blake Monar going from Auburn to Hagerstown. Likewise for Leonard Hollins and, say, Travis Henke. It may be just be an anomaly, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

For the second straight year, eleven pitchers made at least five starts for the Suns. Ineffectiveness and promotions were more to blame than injuries this year, with one starter dropping down from Potomac and two moving up midseason and one very late. Five pitchers went up and back to Viera for fine-tuning (most notably, Turnbull and Estevez) and a sixth went out for the year and under the knife (Brian Dupra).

Once again, I’ll refer you to my eyes on the field for Hagerstown’s hurlers.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
Before blasting me for not listing Karns, remember that he pitched more innings for Potomac and I’m trying to avoid double-listing guys, which gets more difficult as we hit the upper levels. There isn’t a set number of spots to fill for the watchlist, after all. If it means fewer guys and shorter lists at the upper levels, so be it.

Position Players
1. Brian Goodwin
2. Matt Skole
3. Billy Burns
4. Jason Martinson
5. Steve Souza
HM: Caleb Ramsey

Pitchers
1. Alex Meyer
2. Christian Meza
3. Aaron Barrett
4. Brian Rauh
5. Blake Schwartz
HM: Ben Hawkins

Jul 132012
 

Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 44-48, T5th place I.L. North, 8 games behind

Good Erik Arnesen 20 scoreless IP since June 4
Bad Carlos Rivero 14BB in 81G
Interesting Jeff Mandel 1.06WHIP in 26⅓ IP

HARRISBURG SENATORS 48-42, T1st place E.L. West, .038 W% behind

Good Jimmy Van Ostrand .934OPS in 35G
Bad Marcos Frias 1.75WHIP in 33G
Interesting 681K Pitching K’s, 2nd in E.L.

POTOMAC NATIONALS 10-11, T3rd place C.L. North Division, 1 game behind (41-50 overall)

Good David Freitas .813 OPS, 9.5 RAA (runs above average), #1 for Car. Lg. Cs
Bad Jason Martinson 12E in 20G
Interesting Jimmy Barthmaier 0.77 ERA, 0.77 WHIP in 10G

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 14-7, T1std place Sally League North Divison, 2 games ahead (56-34 overall)

Good Steve Souza .263/.326/.600, 7HR, 23RBI since All-Star Break (21G)
Bad Bobby Hansen Jr. 15BB in 28⅓ IP
Interesting Billy Burns 12BB in 16G since All-Star Break

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 16-7, 1st place Pinckney Division, N.Y.-Penn League, 1½ games ahead

Good Shawn Pleffner .341/.383/.500 in 21G
Bad Gregory Baez 1-1, 9.64 ERA, 2.25 WHIP in 3 starts
Interesting Craig Manuel .385/.455/.436 in 12G

GCL NATIONALS 9-13, T3rd Place GCL East, 7 games behind

Good Gilberto Mendez 0-0, 3.29ERA, 0.80WHIP in 13⅔ IP
Bad Hayden Jennings 28K in 52AB
Interesting Wilmer Difo .313/.432/.433, 8SB in 20G

DSL NATIONALS 17-18, 6th Place Boca Chica South Division, 8 games behind

Good 19 y.o. Rafael Bautista 20SB in 35G
Bad 18 y.o. Jorge Tillero .553 OPS in 15G
Interesting 19 y.o. Elisaul Gomez 2.75 ERA, 1.17WHIP, 4.81 BB/9
May 042012
 

Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 10-17, 6th place I.L. North, 6 games behind

Good Austin Bibens-Dirkx 1.38 FIP
Bad Jason Michaels .549 OPS
Interesting Carlos Rivero .343/.378/.514 in last 10G

HARRISBURG SENATORS 15-12, 2nd place E.L. West, 3½ games behind

Good Danny Rosenbaum 3-0, 0.76ERA, 0.70WHIP
Bad Eury Perez .130/.130/.152 last 10G
Interesting Sandy Leon .796 OPS

POTOMAC NATIONALS 10-14, 3rd place C.L. North Division, 3½ games behind

Good David Freitas .377/.457/.609
Bad Wilson Eusebio 9.31ERA, 4HBP, 8BB in 9⅔ IP
Interesting Matt Swynenberg 1ER in last 14⅓ IP

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 14-11, 3rd place Sally League North Divison, 3½ games behind

Good Cutter Dykstra .400/.464/.520, 11G hit streak
Bad Chris McKenzie 12.96ERA, 3.12WHIP in 5 appearances
Interesting Billy Burns 17G on-base streak (.469 OBP)
Oct 132011
 

After wading through the worst affiliate last week, it’s time to look at and reflect on what was — on won-loss basis anyways — the best. It’s also a yardstick of sorts for the 2011 draft*, which was decidedly tilted towards college players in general (36 of 51 drafted, 26 of 30 signed) and seniors in particular (13 of those 26). Consequently, the Auburn team was the second-oldest in the league and that does in part explain some of their success.

*I’m no draft expert and am quite honest in my distaste for discussing it, but it’s not lost on me that this emphasis on upperclassmen isn’t ideal — especially when the new normal for player advancement is one level per year. It’s great that Washington is putting more money into the D.R. and getting more players to come stateside, but that can’t be the only source of teenage talent. I can understand shying away from drafting high school pitchers (before you chime in with Peacock, Cole, or Ray, remember McGeary, Smoker, and Willems) but it just seems to me that now might be the time to start taking chances again on some high school hitters.

As we’ve done the two reviews prior, let’s take a look at how Auburn compared to the rest of the league…
HITTING
PITCHING
Too old or not, the Auburn Doubledays were the class of the New York-Penn League on offense, leading the league in runs scored, hits, doubles, RBI, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. They could also run, finishing third in the league in total steals with 95 but were caught just 16 times for an 85.5% success rate.

The pitching was pretty close to league average in nearly every stat, with the rather notable exception of HRs allowed (fewest in the league), strikeouts (11th of 14 teams), and hits allowed (4th least). Unlike last season, the pitching didn’t take a nosedive. Of course, it helped to get some rehab innings from Brad Meyers, eight starts from the MIA in ’09 and ’10 Nathan Karns, and 18 innings from a AA reclamation project in the person of Christian Garcia.

As before, I’m listing the Top 12 hitters and pitchers in terms of plate appearances and innings pitched and using defensive games played for the listing of position. The full statistics for the team can be found here.
(* = 2010 Draft Pick   ** = DSL Graduate   Italics = 2009 or earlier Draft Pick)

Defensively this looks like a poor bunch, but the Doubledays were actually second in the league in terms of fielding percentage, fourth in terms of fewest errors committed. Unfortunately, the catchers were abysmal at throwing out runners, with a team rate of 23% and Nieto showing serious rust (14%) before returning to form in Hagerstown (36%).

Five of these twelve hitters were assigned to the FIL (Skole, Burns, Ramsey, Ortega, Nieto). Last year, I was fooled into thinking that at least one of them might skip over Hagerstown, and even though three of them will turn 23 this fall, I will make no such assertion for 2012. But I will repeat the guess that the Suns offense should be decent again.

On to the pitchers…
This year’s draft picks made 26 of 75 starts, a marked increase from the 11 of 74 the year before (hey that rhymes!). Unfortunately, much of this can be attributed to the aforementioned upperclassmen taken. None of the starters were lights-out — Brian Dupra had the lowest ERA and WHIP of 3.46 and 1.207 respectively among the Top Five — and a fair amount of relief innings (134) came from guys with ERAs above 4.00. Ultimately, when you have a team that can mash, the pitching need only be mediocre for the team to be a winner and that’s pretty much what it was.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
For the second straight year, I was able to make it to the NYPL, so it’s not completely sight unseen as it is with the GCL and DSL. Without further ado…

Top 5 Batters
1. Bryce Ortega
2. Matt Skole
3. Hendry Jimenez
4. Adrian Nieto
5. Billy Burns

Top 5 Pitchers
1. Wirkin Estevez
2. Taylor Hill
3. Brian Dupra
4. Manny Rodriguez
5. Christian Meza*

* This is a tough choice because I’m disinclined to choose an older player simply for the sake of have five players ranked. Digging deeper into his numbers, what jumped at me was the differential between his ERA (5.68) and FIP (3.31). Considering his age (turned 21 in August) and low HR and BB rates, I’m giving him the edge over older players (e.g. Colin Bates) or players that weren’t among the Top 12 in usage (e.g. Richie Mirowski).

Aug 052011
 

Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 49-61, 4th place I.L. North, 13½ games behind

Good Chris Marrero .325/.398/.494 since All-Star Break
Bad Yunesky Maya 0-2, 11.30 ERA, 5HR in last 3 starts
Interesting Just three current Chiefs have played more than 50% of the games at their primary defensive position: Marrero, Jesus Valdez, and Corey Brown

HARRISBURG SENATORS 62-50, 1st place E.L. West, ½ game ahead

Good Jimmy Barthmaier 3-0, 1.59 ERA last 10 appearances
Bad Team OBP .326, third-worst in E.L.
Interesting 77 opponents’ SB second fewest in the E.L.

POTOMAC NATIONALS 21-18, 2nd place C.L. North Division, 4 games behind (50-58 overall)

Good Destin Hood .340/.400/.520 in July
Bad Paul Demny 8.70 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 8HR in last 6G
Interesting 147 SB leads Carolina League, on pace for 191 (affiliation record 186 in ’09)

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 20-19, 4th place Sally League North Divison, 3½ games behind (60-49 overall)

Good Paul Applebee as a reliever: 5-1, 3.29 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
Bad 2.19 WHIP by Ps promoted from Auburn/GCL
Interesting 7PB by “hitters at catcher” fewest in Sally League

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 28-19, T1st place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 2 games ahead

Good Bryce Ortega .370/.473/.457, 13SB in 30G
Bad Alex Kreis 8.35 ERA, 2.13 WHIP
Interesting Billy Burns .406/.513/.563 in 10G

GCL NATIONALS 12-26, 5th place GCL East, 16½ games behind

Good Jason Smith 1.14 WHIP in 21IP
Bad Johan Rodriguez .496 OPS in 27G
Interesting Brandon King 1.02 WHIP, 5.93 ERA, 11 HBP

DSL NATIONALS 28-27, 4th place, Boca Chica South Division, 5½ games behind

Good Junior Geraldo (18 y.o.) 1.000 OPS in first 6G
Bad Wander Suero (19 y.o.) 9.95 ERA, 2.13 WHIP in last 7 appearances
Interesting J.J. Hernandez 1.45 ERA, 1.18 WHIP in 14G