Nov 092013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-19With five runs scored early and another solid outing from Sammy Solis, the Solar Sox snapped a three-game skid with a 6-1 win over the Saguaros.

Solis went four and 1/3rd innings, leaving with one out in the 5th after letting up two of the five singles he allowed. He would finish with one run allowed, one walk, and five strikeouts. He threw 74 pitches, 48 for strikes and earned his fourth win.

Kenny Faulk, the first man out of the Mesa ‘pen couldn’t strand both runners, walking the first two batters he faced to force in the lone Surprise run. Adrian Nieto bailed him out with a pickoff at first to squash the rally as the Tigers farmhand got the final out with a flyball to left.

Brian Goodwin and Matt Skole joined Nieto in the starting lineup.

Goodwin continues to blister the ball, going 3-for-4 with a stand-up triple and two RBIs while playing centerfield, where he played error-free and made three putouts.

Skole was the DH but whiffed three times and walked once. He now has 17K’s in 14 games and is hitting .152 (7-for-46) though he’s drawn 14 walks (tied for 3rd) to maintain a respectable .350 on-base percentage.

Nieto singled once — just his third hit against a LHP — and struck out twice in five ABs. He gave up his first passed ball of the fall but had six putouts.

The Solar Sox finish out the week with rematch against the Saguaros this afternoon in Surprise. Matt Purke (2-1, 3.79) is scheduled to make his sixth and perhaps final start, opposed by Cleveland prospect Will Roberts (0-1, 5.31).

Nov 072013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-18The Desert Dogs scored six unanswered runs in the final two innings to turn a 4-0 deficit into a 6-4 win over the Solar Sox.

Brian Goodwin, Steve Souza, and Robert Benincasa were the three Nationals to see game action.

Goodwin batted second and played centerfield, but went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He plated a run with an RBI groundout in the 3rd. Defensively, he made two putouts.

As usual, Souza made his appearance count. The taxi-squad member was slotted 7th in the lineup and doubled in the 2nd to drive in the first Mesa run and singled in the 4th (pictured), finishing the game at 2-for-4 to raise his average to .364 for the fall. He snared three flyballs while playing right field.

Benincasa, recently featured by Byron Kerr for MASN, worked around a single and a walk to pitch a scoreless 7th inning for the Solar Sox. The appearance lowered his ERA to an even 4.00 (4R in 9IP).

The two teams rematch this afternoon in Glendale. The Salt River Rafters also lost to preserve Mesa’s 1½ game lead in the AFL East and reduce the Solar Sox magic number to clinch a spot in the AFL title game to six with seven games left.

Nov 062013
 

Baseball America for NPPNo sense vamping when this list has probably been tweeted dozens of times by now. (Last year’s revised ranking in parentheses.)

1. Lucas Giolio, RHP (2)
2. A.J. Cole, RHP (4)
3. Brian Goodwin, CF (3)
4. Matt Skole, 1B/3B (5)
5. Robbie Ray, LHP (–)
6. Sammy Solis, LHP (9)
7. Michael Taylor, CF (–)
8. Jake Johansen, RHP (’13 Draft Pick)
9. Nathan Karns, RHP (6)
10. Steve Souza, OF (–)

Frankly, I was initially confused as to how an injured position player and a coming-off-surgery pitcher could move up in the rankings. This, of course, is no disrespect to them, but simple logic dictates that getting hurt and/or losing a year of development is the kind of thing that drops your stock, not improves it. This was Fitt’s answer to my question about that rationale for ranking them higher in 2014 than 2013:

I think Skole is in the same No. 4* slot he was last year (and remember that Anthony Rendon graduated to the big leagues). I did not dock Skole for being hurt — it was a fluke injury, and he returned strong this fall. I still think he’s a quality power-hitting prospect, and I ranked him accordingly. As for Solis, I got very encouraging reports on him coming off that surgery, and I expect him to move very quickly next year (assuming he can stay healthy — which is a legitimate question, given his track record). At this point, I think he has a better chance to stick as a big league starter than Karns, who strikes me as more of a power reliever ultimately. So I moved Solis ahead of Karns. I can’t say I’m overly excited about any of those guys — Solis is 25 now and still has yet to reach Double-A, after all. I don’t think this is a great top 10 after the top of the list, although I do like some of the depth in the 11-30 range.
* Skole was initially ranked #4 in December 2012, then moved to #5 when BA revised the list in March 2013

I give Fitt credit answering honestly, particularly in remarking about how the talent thins out rapidly after the first few guys, which has been the case for about two years now. For those wondering, Fitt said that he wrestled with a cluster of Tony Renda, Matt Purke, Billy Burns, and Zach Walters before deciding upon Souza for the #10 spot. There are certainly arguments that can be made for any of those five against the other four and it may be bit revealing of your personal biases, too. Fitt, it appears, likes Souza’s five-tool promise over Burns’s speed, Purke’s LHSP capabilities, Renda’s bat/eye, Walter’s power, etc.

One new wrinkle to this year’s rankings is a list of the Top 15 players under the age of 25, which you can find in the free article along with a list of the best tools, prospects of the year and top draft picks from the past 10 years. And of course, the top bonuses paid, for which Robin Leach Fitt remains enamored of the decision of the Nationals to spend heavily just as they were hitting rock bottom.

The projections for where the 2014 Top 10 will begin (or finish) next season were as follows:
AAA – Cole, Goodwin, Karns, Souza
AA – Skole, Ray, Solis, Taylor
Low-A – Giolito
Not specified – Johansen

I personally believe Cole will probably return to Harrisburg and be moved up in May or June; likewise for Johansen with Hagerstown as his starting point — but lately the Nats have been more aggressive, so it could be Syracuse and Potomac, respectively. As mentioned in the comments, where a prospect starts is not nearly as important as where he finishes.

Nov 052013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-15Brian Goodwin went 2-for-4 and drove in three as Mesa edged Salt River, 5-4 in a twice-delayed, rain-shortened contest last night in Arizona.

The Nats top outfield prospect, who turned 23 on Saturday, blasted a two-run shot with two outs in the 3rd to cut into an early Rafters 3-0 lead. He would plate a third run with groundout as part of the three-run 5th that saw the Solar Sox take the eventual 5-4 lead.

In the 8th, Goodwin singled and stole second (pictured) before the rains came for the final time with one out.

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-17Matt Purke got the start but was touched for the first three Salt River runs in the 2nd. He would go four innings with four hits and two walks allowed. He struck out just one with 61 pitches thrown, 37 for strikes.

The win improves Mesa to 13-8-1 for the fall and returns the lead over Salt River to 2½ games. The two teams rematch tonight in Salt River and will be televised (weather permitting) on the MLB Network.

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Purke was the subject of today’s “Scout’s View” column in Baseball America (paid sub) in which he was compared to LHP Cole Hamels by former Philadelphia area scout Therron Brockish, who saw him on October 23rd (5IP, 1H, 0R, BB, 3K). Brockish said Purke was hitting 92-93 on the gun but pointed to his changeup as his “out pitch,” not the curve, which he felt was only his third-best pitch and more of a slurve (though effective against LHBs).

Brockish is bullish on Purke, predicting “[He's] on the path to be in Double-A or Triple-A next summer and competing for a big league spot in 2015.”

Nov 032013
 

Arizona Fall League #3
Brian Goodwin started while Adrian Nieto came off the bench in the AFL’s cash cow Fall Star game last night in Surprise, Arizona as the AFL West stars pummeled the AFL East contingent, 9-2.

Former National Alex Meyer started and won the game, but gave up a one-out, first-inning single to Goodwin, who turned on 97 m.p.h. offering and pulled it into right field. Goodwin was cut down trying to get into scoring position by Padres catching prospect Austin Hedges for the inning’s second out.

The two rematched in the 3rd with Meyer whiffing his former teammate in Hagerstown as the front end of K-2-6 double play to end the inning and Meyer’s night. The Twins RHP gave up three hits and walked one over three scoreless innings to earn the exhibition win.

Goodwin finished the night at 1-for-5 with two putouts in five innings in center and no chances in four innings in left field.

Nieto, who was named to the AFL East squad as a replacement for Giants backstop Andrew Susac, caught the final three innings in relief of Yankees backstop Pete O’Brien. He went hitless in two plate appearances, getting hit by a pitch but scoring in the top of the 7th and tapping out to the pitcher in the 9th.

Nov 012013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-7Brian Goodwin was the sole National to play in Mesa’s 7-3 win over Scottsdale yesterday afternoon.

Goodwin, who once again led off and played CF, smacked a two-run homer — his first of the fall season — to erase a 1-0 Scorpions lead in the bottom of the 6th. Former National David Freitas, who had walked to lead off the inning, scored ahead of him.

The #3 prospect Nats prospect per Baseball America had two putouts in the field and finished the game at 1-for-5 with three strikeouts. Goodwin is the sole National on the AFL East roster for tomorrow’s Fall Star Game (yes, really – that’s the new name).

The win improves Mesa to 12-7-1 and maintains the 2½ game edge over Salt River. Sammy Solis is scheduled to pitch this afternoon as the Solar Sox host the Javelinas.

Oct 312013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2014-15
Three Nationals farmhands combined for four hits and three RBI as Mesa stopped a three-game slide with a 7-0 shutout of Scottsdale.

Brian Goodwin, the #1 Washington prospect according to MLB.com, led off and played centerfield. Offensively, He went 2-for-5 with a run scored, a double and an RBI single. Defensively, he had no putouts or assists.

Matt Skole ended an 0-for-13 sequence with a second-inning bomb that scored teammate Steve Souza Jr. ahead of him. He finished at 1-for-4 for the game and had 14 putouts at first base, but committed his first error on a missed catch.

Souza, who has hit safely in six of seven games this fall, singled once in five trips to the plate and struck out twice. He caught four flyballs while patrolling left field.

Richie Mirowski was the first man out of the Solar Sox ‘pen and worked around three singles in his two scoreless innings pitched, striking out two.

The two teams switch venues and rematch in Mesa this afternoon. A loss by the second-place Salt River returned the margin between the Rafters and the Solar Sox to 2½ games with 12 games left to play.

Oct 292013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-5Mesa rallied for two in the bottom of the 8th cut a three-run deficit to one, but could get no closer in a 3-2 loss to Salt River.

Just two Nationals got into the game yesterday — Brian Goodwin and Matt Skole.

Goodwin returned to his usual spots in the lineup (No. 2) and the field (CF) and went 1-for-3 — one of just five hits the Solar Sox managed against the Rafters — but was caught stealing. Defensively, the Nats top outfield prospect had three putouts and no assists.

Skole’s tailspin continued with an 0-for-3 game, though he did draw a walk while batting 8th. The 24-y.o. corner IF is hitless (0-for-12) in his last four games. He played third base and had one putout (foul popup to end the 4th) and one assist (groundout to end the 5th).

The loss shaves Mesa’s lead over second-place Salt River to 2½ games with the two teams rematching tonight in Salt River. Matt Purke is scheduled to make his fourth start of the fall season.

Oct 272013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-13Surprise struck for three runs twice while holding Mesa to four hits in a 6-1 Solar Sox loss to close out the week.

A total of five Nationals got into the game yesterday:

• Sammy Solis started and took the loss, giving up the first three runs in the 1st and finishing with six hits allowed over three innings. He walked one and struck out two, tossing 61 pitches with 40 going for strikes.

• Robert Benincasa (pictured) also pitched, setting the side down in order in the 9th while recording a strikeout.

• Brian Goodwin batted leadoff as the DH. He singled once and struck out twice in four AB’s.

• Matt Skole took the No. 6 slot in the lineup but went just 0-for-2 with a walk. Defensively, he played 1B and took part in two DP’s, including a 3-6-3 number in the 8th.

• Steve Souza Jr. followed Skole in the lineup and went 1-for-3 but was caught stealing for the first time. He played left field and made two putouts.

Mesa (10-5-1) remains atop the AFL East by 3½ games over Scottsdale and Salt River (both 7-9) with 15 games remaining on the schedule.

Oct 252013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-11The Mesa Solar Sox scored in each of the first four innings as they stopped a two-game slide with a 7-4 win over the Scottsdale Scorpions

Brian Goodwin (pictured) was the sole National to appear in the game. He singled and scored in the 1st inning and drove in a run with a two-out safety in the second, snapping what was then a 2-2 tie. The 22-y.o. batted second and played centerfield, finishing the game at 2-for-5 with one putout on defense.

The win dropped Scottsdale back to 2½ games behind Mesa in the AFL East. The Solar Sox will see how they play in Peoria, visiting the Saguaros this afternoon.

BONUS AUDIO COVERAGE
Lee Magenheim caught up with Richie Mirowski, the Nats 45th Rd. pick out of Oklahoma Baptist in 2011, who’s gone from short-season A to AA in just two seasons.