Nov 212014
 

Confession: This is a reclamation of a post that I began yesterday and couldn’t finish by the time the moves were made
With the additions of A.J. Cole, Willem Dafoe, Wilmer Difo, Brian Goodwin and Matt Grace, the focus now turns to who is now exposed to next months Rule 5 Draft. Grace is an outlier; usually once a guy is exposed to the Rule 5 draft at his age, he makes it through subsequent drafts. So let’s look at the Nats draftees who appear to be eligible for the first time (H/T to SpringfieldFan for her efforts in keeping the Draft Tracker updated):

DRAFTEES ELIGIBLE FOR THE FIRST TIME

Matt Skole* Caleb Ramsey* Khayyan Norfork Shawn Pleffner* Kylin Turnbull
Brian Dupra Manny Rodriguez Nick Lee* Travis Henke Bryan Harper
Richie Mirowski*


Asterisks are for 2014 watchlist players. Notable IFAs believed to be eligible include Wirkin “For The Weekend” Estevez, Wander Suero and Kelvin Rodriguez.

Bear in mind, this is for the MLB phase. The AAA and AA phases are impossible to guage because the protected lists aren’t made public. Organizational soldiers tend to go in those phases, and if folks will recall, only one player acquired by Washington last December played in the minors last season: 23-y.o. Martires Arias, who was returned to the Mets and pitched 57 innings in short-season ball. (Theo Bowe was the other and all indications are that he retired).

I had planned on predicting that either Matt Skole or Brian Goodwin would be exposed, as it seemed likely that either the former’s struggles or the latter’s injuries would be enough to take the risk. Had I been pressed in the comments, I would have leaned towards Skole because Tyler Moore is out of options while the ascendance of both Michael Taylor and Steven Souza could cushion the “loss” of Goodwin.

Another theory/explanation is that the Nats brass believes that Souza can still function as a 1B/OF type (defensively, he’s head and shoulders above Moore anyway). Viewed through that prism, the decision not to protect Skole makes sense.

Grace is a small surprise, until you consider that he’stough on lefthanded batters (.371 OPS in ’14) and generates ground balls (3.23 G/F ratio). He’ll get an audition in spring training and if he loses the numbers game, sent back to Syracuse to await a callup, perhaps assuming the role of out-of-options Xavier Cedeno.

I believe the selection of Difo says less about him — despite an MVP season in the South Atlantic League, including 14HRs, 90 RBI and 49 SB’s — and more about the other middle-infield options available at the upper levels and the fringes of the 40-man. With no offense to Jeff Kobernus, but it would seem he’s a candidate to get cut loose when the Nats are next looking to clear room.

Finally, there’s little to be said about the protection of A.J. Cole. Even F.P. Santangelo could have predicted this; it was that obvious. Conventional wisdom has always been that hard-throwing pitchers can be hidden in a bullpen, especially for a team that’s budget-conscious or realistic about its chances of contention.

Nov 202014
 

For the first time since 2011, the Washington Nationals have added more than a couple players to its 40-man roster in preparation for next month’s Rule 5 draft. RHP A.J. Cole, IF Wilmer Difo, LHP Matt Grace, and OF Brian Goodwin were added this afternoon while RHP Ryan Mattheus (released) and IF Pedro Florimon (waived) were removed. Earlier this week, LHP Matt Purke was also released as was longtime backup backstop Jhonatan Solano.

Even F.P. Santangelo could have predicted the inclusion of Cole; that’s how obvious it was. A hard-throwing RHP is relatively easy to bury in an MLB bullpen, not to mention that GM Mike Rizzo traded for him in January 2013 some 13 months after dealing him away as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade. Cole figures to begin 2015 in AAA, but if history is any guide, a strong spring and/or injuries could have him making his MLB debut before Memorial Day.

Perhaps it’s more of an indictment against the other MI options than an endorsement of his future viability, though Wilmer Difo did about as much as a Low-A prospect could do in 2014, winning South Atlantic League MVP while earning the second annual Bob Boone award. The 22-y.o. posted a .315/.360/.470 line while showing both power (14HR) and speed (49SBs). Difo figures to begin next season in Potomac, though I’m sure his inclusion on the 40-man will spur speculation of a two-level promotion.

As noted in the previous post, Grace’s 2014 season earned him a place as a situational lefty and could be the next Aaron Barrett. He may not throw 95 mph but does generate a lot of ground balls (3.23 G/F ratio) and is tough on left-handed batters (just a .371 OPS). If he doesn’t make the 25-man roster, look for him to return to Syracuse in 2015 and have a carry-on bag ready to go.

Brian Goodwin was once the heir apparent to Denard Span but now has Michael Taylor breathing down his neck. Injuries limited Goodwin to just 81 games last season, but having turned just 24 less than three weeks ago, it would seem that the Nats brass seem willing to let him get healthy in 2015 while also serving as insurance should Taylor falter. It will be interesting to see how the two (Goodwin & Taylor) will be used when they appear in the same outfield, though I’d be more surprised about seeing Goodwin in LF than Taylor in RF, given the latter’s cannon right arm.

Aug 152014
 


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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 71-53, 1st place I.L. North, 1 game ahead

Good Brandon Laird .372/.386/.744, 3HR, 14RBI last 10G
Bad 787 pitching K fewest in I.L.
Interesting Six weeks without any news on the health or status on Brian Goodwin



HARRISBURG SENATORS 49-74, 6th place E.L. West, 20½ games behind

Good Tyler Herron 0-0, 2SV, 0.73 WHIP last 10G
Bad 60 of 123 games started by Washington-drafted pitchers
Interesting Bullpen ERA is 2.89 since July 1 (H/T Sens PR staff)



POTOMAC NATIONALS 26-22, 1st place C.L. North, .004 W% ahead (64-53 overall)

Good Randolph Oduber .350/.366/.600, 2HR, 11RBI in last 10G
Bad Travis Henke 7HR allowed in 52⅓ IP
Interesting Tied with Lynchburg for fewest CGs, SHOs (0)



HAGERSTOWN SUNS 35-19, 1st place Sally North, 1 game ahead (79-45 overall)

Good Wander Suero 0-0, 2SV, 1.52 ERA, 0.74 over last 10 appearances for the Suns
Bad David Masters .188 BA last 10G
Interesting 212 Team SBs = Most since becoming Nationals affiliate in 2007



AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 26-32, 5th place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 8 games behind

Good Bryan Mejia .367/.406/.533 in last 10G
Bad James Bourque 1.75WHIP, 5HBP in 28IP
Interesting 384 pitching K = 13th in 14-team NYPL



GCL NATIONALS 25-24, T2nd GCL East, 4 games behind

Good Jean Ramirez 3-0, 1.95 ERA, 1.30 WHIP in 11 appearances
Bad Conor Keniry .035 ISO
Interesting 19-y.o. Thomas Alvarez .407 SLG%



DSL NATIONALS 37-27, 4th place Boca Chica South, 8½ games behind

Good 18-y.o. Israel Mota 8HR (T1st, DSL), 47RBI (4th)
Bad 17-y.o. Malvin Pena 5.84 ERA, 1.66 WHIP in 12 appearances (24⅔ IP)
Interesting Avg. Pitcher Age = 18.4; League Avg. = 18.9
Jun 272014
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 49-31, 1st place I.L. North, 6 games ahead

Good Aaron Laffey 4-0, 1.95ERA, 1.18WHIP in June (5GS)
Bad Brian Goodwin .147/.237/.235 in last 10G
Interesting Six-game division lead the largest since August 12, 1998
(H/T Kevin Brown, Syracuse Dir. of Media & P.R.)



HARRISBURG SENATORS 30-47, 5th place E.L. West, 16 games ahead

Good Matt Skole .299/.409/.571, 5HR, 24RBI in June (22G)
Bad Neil Holland 1-1, 6.60 ERA, 1.53 WHIP in last 10 appearances
Interesting Tyler Herron 1-0, 2SV, 1.88 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in last 10 appearances



POTOMAC NATIONALS 5-2, T1st place C.L. North, 1½ games ahead (43-33 overall)

Good Gilberto Mendez 3-1, 3SV, 1.80 ERA, 0.60 WHIP in last 10 appearances
Bad Estarlin Martinez .157/.228/.196 vs. RHPs (.261/.292/.391 vs. LHPs)
Interesting Will Piwnica-Worms .324/.366/.432, 1HR, 16RBI in June (21G)


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 6-2, T1st place Sally North, 1 game ahead (50-28 overall)

Good Isaac Ballou .310/.365/.448, 2HR, 15RBI, 6SB in June (24G)
Bad Hector Silvestre 2-3, 6.49 ERA, 6HR allowed in June (5GS)
Interesting Rafael Bautista 33SB since May 1 (54G)


DSL NATIONALS 13-10, 3rd place Boca Chica South, 2 games behind

Good 17-y.o. Davinson Pimentel .362/.448/.517 in 17G
Bad 18-y.o. Jose Nunez 7.71 ERA, 2.49 WHIP, 11BB in 11⅔ IP
Interesting 17-y.o. Victor Robles 13SB in 18G
Jun 242014
 

Outfielder Michael Taylor and pitcher Lucas Giolito were among those named to the US team for the 2014 Futures Game, which will be held on the Sunday prior to the MLB All-Star game on July 15 in Minneapolis.

Taylor has been having a monster season for the Harrisburg Senators, prompting chatter about his becoming the heir apparent to CF Denard Spa. This is despite the presence of Syracuse Chief Brian Goodwin, who was more highly rated during this past offseason and famously leapfrogged Taylor two years ago on the organizational ladder. Or more accurately, perhaps it’s because while Taylor has flourished at AA (.333/.413/.584, 17HR, 52RBI, 19SB) Goodwin has floundered at AAA (.219/.351/.339, 4HR, 30RBI, 6SB).

As the game’s name suggests, Giolito’s selection is more about his potential than his production, though his line of 2.59/4.14/1.09 with a 2-2 record and 52 strikeouts in 48⅔ innings for the Hagerstown Suns isn’t so bad, especially for teenager in his first full professional season who’s two years removed from Tommy John surgery. Giolito has also been very carefully managed in terms of workload with just one start that lasted six innings — perhaps not coincidentally, the last one before he was skipped for several turns from mid-May 11 to early June — and five starts that have lasted less than five innings.

May 162014
 

GBI for NPP 2

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 20-20, 4th place I.L. North, 1 game behind

Good Taylor Jordan 0.82 ERA, 0.82 WHIP in first 2GS since demotion
Bad Will Rhymes .164/.230/.274 in May (13G)
Interesting Brian Goodwin 45K, 31BB in 40G



HARRISBURG SENATORS 11-26, 6th place E.L. West, 14 games behind

Good Quincy Latimore .371/.425/.514 in 18G
Bad Blake Schwartz 0-7, 7.04/5.47/1.83 in 8GS
Interesting 7-8 at home, 4-18 on the road



POTOMAC NATIONALS 20-16, 1st place C.L. North, 3½ games ahead

Good Bryan Harper 1.72/2.36/1.09 in 9 appearances, 14K in 15⅔ IP
Bad Narciso Mesa .342 OPS in 9 games
Interesting 58 team doubles, 8th in 8-team Carolina League



HAGERSTOWN SUNS 30-8, 1st place Sally North, 9 games ahead

Good John Wooten .396/.411/.698, 3HR, 9RBI in May
Bad 600 per game attendance, 14th in Sally Lg.
Interesting Sally Lg. 13th place team = 1,585 per game.
Apr 252014
 


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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 10-10, T3rd place I.L. North, 1 game behind

Good Brian Goodwin 13BB in 20G, .388 OBP
Bad Josh Roenicke 0-2, 9.00 ERA, 1.75 WHIP
Interesting Syracuse pitchers, I.L.-best 42BB in 20G


HARRISBURG SENATORS 4-14, 6th place E.L. West, 6½ games behind

Good Relievers 3.44 ERA / 2.00 FIP / 1.26 WHIP
Bad Starters 2-11, 6.93 ERA / 4.63 FIP / 1.83 WHIP
Interesting 25 errors leads the Eastern League


POTOMAC NATIONALS 12-8, 1st place C.L. North, 3 games ahead

Good Khayyan Norfork .295/.367/.477, 4 triples (T1st C.L.) in 11G
Bad Travis Henke 9.35 ERA, 2.42 WHIP in 8⅔ IP
Interesting 99 runs scored, 99 runs allowed


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 15-5, 1st place Sally North, 4 games ahead

Good John Simms 0.98 ERA / 1.67 FIP / 0.82 WHIP, 3 saves
Bad Drew Ward 4E in 11G (yes, I’m reaching)
Interesting Six of eight saves, which leads the Sally League, have been 3 or more innings
Dec 072013
 

This seems to be a trend… for the second straight year, there was a consensus at the top of the list… then a free-for-all afterwards.

The two of the top three guys were each left off at least one ballot, while the number two guy was unanimously named, enabling him to garner the no. 2 spot without a single first-place vote.

A total of 24 players were named on 14 ballots, some of which had less than 10 names and/or an ineligible player. While I adjusted the points accordingly (e.g. #1 on a nine-player ballot = 9 pts vs. 10 pts. on a ten-player), it did not affect the rankings.

Without further ado, ze list:

                              1. Brian Goodwin
                              2. Matt Skole
                              3. Steve Souza
                              4. Billy Burns
                              5. Michael Taylor
                              6. Jeff Kobernus
                              7. Zach Walters
                              8. Drew Ward
                              9. Tony Renda
                              10. Adrian Nieto

Others receiving votes: Corey Brown, Eury Perez, Justin Bloxom, Randy Encarnacion, Narciso Mesa, Pedro Severino, Isaac Ballou, Brandon Miller, Cody Gunter, Rafael Bautista, Josh Johnson, Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, Bryan Mejia, Caleb Ramsey

Some observations:

• Goodwin received ten first-place votes, similar to how he was the near-consensus at #2 last year behind Anthony Rendon.

• This year’s #2 is a bit of a shock: Matt Skole was hurt all year long and struggled some in the Arizona Fall League, but moved up a spot from #3 to #2 nevertheless.

• Souza’s strong AFL campaign and addition to the 40-man roster seemed to stick out in many voter’s minds, vaulting him from an also-ran in 2012 to #3 with three first-place votes.

• Burns and Taylor nearly tied despite Taylor being left off two ballots, nearly closing the gap in points by receiving a pair of second-place votes (Burns’s highest was a third-place spot).

As it traditionally has, the list skews towards the upper minors; this year’s exception: Ward, who might have missed the cut — like Skole did in 2011 — were it not for the GCL Nationals’ championship run (likewise for his teammates that were in the “also-rans”). Still, I think a lot of this is simply the bias of familiarity, which also explains why a couple of players aged 27+ players received votes.

Next up: the pitchers, which is always contentious thanks to folks’ biases of starter vs. reliever, lefty vs. righty, fireballer vs. junkballer, floor wax or dessert topping, etc. Plus, with one less no-doubt pick (Robbie Ray), the last couple of spots ought to be closely contested.

Nov 182013
 

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.

Nov 172013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-30
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.

                                                                    #                                     #                                     #

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.