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

Aug 172012
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 62-65, 5th place I.L. North, 9 games behind

Good Zach Duke 1WP in 151⅔ IP (OK, 14 wins, I.L. pitcher of the week, yada yada yada)
Bad Mark Teahen .186/.259/.255 since All-Star break (28G)
Interesting Christian Garcia 20⅓ scoreless innings (3 of 5 IR-S)

HARRISBURG SENATORS 56-68, 5th place E.L. West, 17½ games behind

Good Ryan Tatusko 0-1, 0.84ERA in August (4 appearances, 10⅔ IP)
Bad Tim Pahuta .177/.235/.367 since All Star game
Interesting Jonny Tucker .162/.279/.162 in 14G

POTOMAC NATIONALS 23-30, 4th place C.L. North Division, 4½ games behind (54-69 overall)

Good Francisco Soriano .370/.458/.510 since C.L. All-Star break (35G)
Bad Rob Gilliam 0-1, 5.75ERA, 1.57WHIP in first four C.L. starts
Interesting Since Freitas trade: 23-y.o. Erick Fernandez, 4G; 29-y.o. Jeff Howell, 8G

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 29-23, 1st place Sally League North Divison, ½ game ahead (71-50 overall)

Good Greg Holt 1-0, 2.00 ERA in August (4 appearances)
Bad Angel Montilla .167/.167/.222 in August (10G)
Interesting Brian Rauh 1.13WHIP, 4.56ERA

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 32-24, 1st place Pinckney Division, N.Y.-Penn League, 3 games ahead

Good Blake Monar 2.68ERA, 1.35WHIP, 42K in 43⅔IP (9 GS)
Bad Carlos Lopez 9E, 39K in 34G
Interesting Shawn Pleffner .472SLG, 14 doubles in 36G

GCL NATIONALS 24-28, 3rd Place GCL East, 7½ games behind

Good Matt Foat .336/.413/.393 in 37G
Bad Andy Santana 1-4, 6.46ERA, 1.56WHIP
Interesting Gilberto Mendez 1.05WHIP, 9.5K/9IP

DSL NATIONALS 36-27, T2nd Place Boca Chica South Division, 7½ games behind

Good 20-y.o. Wander Suero 3.00 BB/9IP
Bad 17-y.o. Wester Suarez .523OPS
Interesting 18 y.o. Osvaldo Abreu 27BB, 22SB in 52G