Nov 022011
 

The Scottsdale Scorpions got off the schneid while AFL Rising Stars Game participants Bryce Harper and Derek Norris both extended their hit streaks in a 6-4 win over the Peoria Javelinas.

Like yesterday, Harper hit safely in his first two at-bats to extend his hit streak, which now stands at 11 games. He singled in the 1st and bashed a two-run HR in the 3rd and finished the game 2-for-4 with 2RBI, a run scored, and a strikeout. He played LF again and had one putout.

Norris was the designated hitter and went 1-for-3 to extend his hit streak to nine games, driving in a run on a 1st-inning groundout and also drawing a walk (#10 in 14 games). His OBP is now .450, sixth-best in the AFL.

Zach Walters was the third National to appear in the game, playing third base, where he had an error and an assist, and went 1-for-3 with a strikeout at the plate.
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Harper and Norris were both named to the AFL East squad for the 2011 Rising Stars game, a de facto all-star game that will be televised live on the MLB Network at 8 p.m. this Saturday night. Neither player was named last year, as former farmhand Michael Burgess and Cole Kimball were Washington’s representatives in the 2010 game, which the Western division won 3-2.

Nov 012011
 

Two trends continued on Monday — Scottsdale lost while Bryce Harper hit safely (2-for-4, 2RBI).

The Scorpions led twice in this one, as Harper extended his hit streak to ten games with a two-out RBI single in the 1st that gave the Scorpions a 2-0 lead. He tied the game with an RBI double in the 4th, an inning in which Scottsdale reclaimed the lead at 4-3. Defensively, Harper made one putout and had no assists or errors.

The Scorpions ‘pen coughed up three in the 6th to give back the lead and single runs in the 8th and 9th innings as they would go on to lose this one by a count of 9-5. After 22 games, the Scottsdale record stands at 7-15 with an elimination number of seven. The defending champions are dead last in ERA, runs allowed, runs scored, hits, and total bases.

Zach Walters was the only other National to appear in the game, flying out to CF in the bottom of the 8th and playing 3B in the top of the 9th with no defensive chances.

Oct 292011
 

Bryce Harper homered for the third straight game in a 9-5 win by Scottsdale over Salt River, just the second time this fall the Scorpions have won consecutive games in consecutive days.

Harper also drew a walk and scored two runs for his 1-for-4 game. He drove in two with home run #4 and struck out twice while playing left field (no putouts, errors, or assists). The hit extended his streak to nine games.

Derek Norris was the designated hitter and extended his hit streak to seven games with single in the 7th inning. He drew a walk but struck out three times for his 1-for-4 game.

Zach Walters played third base and snapped an 0-for-10 skid with an RBI double in the 4th. He later drove in runs a la Homer Simpson (HBP) and via sacrifice fly to finish the game 1-for-3 with 3RBI. Defensively, he had two putouts and an assist.

Sammy Solis is expected to make his fifth start tonight as the Scorpions rematch against River Rafters to close out the week.

Oct 282011
 

Ho hum. Another day, another four RBIs for Bryce Harper.

Granted, the last three did come on a walkoff home run that turned a 7-5 deficit into an 8-7 win for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Harper went 2-for-5 overall while once again playing left field. Defensively, he was charged with his third error of the fall on an errant throw but made three putouts.

The news was not all good though as Matt Purke had yet another rough outing, giving up three runs on four hits in the 5th inning. He walked none but struck out one and also threw a wild pitch. As the old saw goes, you know things are going bad when such an outing lowers a pitcher’s ERA — from 30.86 to 29.70

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Brad Peacock was chosen the best AA starter in the 2011 MiLBYs, minor-league baseball’s desperate attempt to feed the PR beast postseason awards. It’s the second award given to a Nationals farmhand since its inception in 2005, when it was known as “This Year in Minor League Baseball Awards,” with Tyler Moore named the best Class-A Advanced hitter last season.

In transaction news, the Nationals have released Johan Rodriguez (GCL) while resigning veterans Chris McConnell and Chris Rahl. Rodriguez appeared in 66 games over two years in Viera, but posted an OPS of just .510 while committing 20 errors on defense. McConnell and Rahl were both key cogs for the Senators in 2011 and will likely be asked to be role players in either Harrisburg in Syracuse in 2012.

Oct 272011
 

Bryce Harper drove in four of the five Scorpions runs, but it wasn’t enough to prevent another Scottsdale loss, this one by a 10-5 count to Mesa.

Harper connected for his second AFL longball, a three-run shot in the top of the fourth that sliced the Solar Sox lead to 8-3, and singled in the sixth. He drove in Derek Norris for his fourth RBI with a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Harper once again was in left, and made three putouts.

Norris, however, was not as adept defensively yesterday with two errors and a passed ball (though he did catch a runner stealing). But like Harper, Norris has found his groove at the plate and was also 2-for-3 with a run scored. He drove in none, but walked once and struck out once.

Conversely, Zach Walters still appears to be overmatched, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout while playing third base (one assist). The 22-year-old is 1-for-17 over his last four games with six strikeouts and no walks.

Rafael Martin made his fourth appearance, tossing two scoreless innings while allowing just one hit. He walked none and struck out one, lowering his ERA for the AFL to 1.50.

Scottsdale plays host as the two teams rematch this afternoon, then Scorpions hit the road to face the Rafters tomorrow night, then return home for another matchup against Salt River to finish out the week on Saturday.

Oct 222011
 

Friday was not a good day for the Nats pitchers in the AFL, as they gave up 12 runs in a 13-8 loss by Scottsdale to Surprise.

Matt Purke made his first AFL start but, as the pic suggests, was knocked around and retired just one of the eight batters he faced. The final damages: a third of inning pitched, seven runs, one walk, no strikeouts, and five hits given up, including a two-run homer.

Pat Lehman took the loss, his second of the AFL campaign, with five runs charged to him in one and a third innings. He pitched a scoreless sixth, but gave up all five hits in a stretch of six batters in the seventh, suffering one error behind him but also committing a balk.

Rafael Martin let in two of those runs charged to Lehman on a two-out double but pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning for a line of one and two-thirds innings pitched, one hit, no runs, one walk, and one strikeout.

Just one Nats bat was in the lineup, and yes, it was Bryce Harper. He wowed the scouts by pushing a bunt to second baseman and getting down the line in 3.83 seconds, according to Keith Law (times on bunts are always lower than a full swing, but consider that 4.1 seconds is considered “above average”). It was his sole hit in a 1-for-4 afternoon, in which he also walked and scored a run. Harper played left field and made three putouts.

Oct 212011
 

Another light afternoon for the Nats farmhands in Arizona Fall League as the Scottsdale Scorpions fell for the 10th time by a 4-1 count.

Bryce Harper returned to the lineup and went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout while playing left field, where he made two putouts. After 10 games, Harper is working a .211/.302/.395 line.

Zach Walters was the designated hitter but went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, lowering his triple-slash stats to .200/.250/.267.

Scottsdale finishes out the week with afternoon tilts against Surprise today and Phoenix tomorrow.

Oct 202011
 

The 2011 season was the first winning season in the five years that Washington has been affiliated with Hagerstown. The 75-64 record was a 10½ game improvement over the 2010 season. But ultimately, the curse of high expectations that surrounds all things Bryce Harper made the 2011 season a disappointment in many fans’ eyes.

It may also surprise you to learn that for all for the rehab stints (Strasburg, Zimmerman, Wang, the immortal Doug Slaten) and the presence of Bryce Harper, attendance still fell by 126 per game over 2010 (2,057 vs. 1,931). Times are hard in Washington County, no doubt, but that’s still a bit of a shock to me. So I’ll leave it to you as to whether we should blame it on the economy, the rain, or the bossa nova.

Considering that, as a team, the Suns were mostly middle of the pack in the 14-team South Atlantic League — 6th in offense, 8th in pitching, 7th in defense — to have been in contention in both halves for most of the way should be considered a success. As we’ve done the past three weeks, let’s take a look at how Hagerstown compared to the rest of the league…
HITTING

PITCHING

The most encouraging thing to take away from the 2011 Suns is that this team was not afraid to take a walk or give up a walk — second in the league on both counts. It was also a team that could run (3rd), but unlike last season, they did it without a single 30-steal player and were successful 73.5% of the time. That’s encouraging if you’re a proponent of having a team that’s capable of playing it both big and small.

The pitching was a mixed bag. The starter that gave up the most hits had the most wins (Matt Grace). There were a couple of relievers with ERAs in the 1’s (Chris Manno, Neil Holland)… and a couple of relievers with ERAs in the 6’s (Shane McCatty, Greg Holt), while the team’s two swingmen (Paul Applebee and Matt Swynenberg) gave up the second- and third-most HRs on the team, yet were among the team’s more effective pitchers. Finally, two pitchers had their season cut short by unspecified injuries (Taylor Jordan and Bobby Hansen), and a third (Chris McKenzie) spent six weeks on the DL midseason and more than two months away from the Suns total.

Now it’s time to drill down to look at the top 12’s for the hitters. The full statistics for the team can be found here. (* = 2010 Draft Pick ** = DSL Graduate)
Bryce Harper’s numbers speak for themselves, with his rate statistics close to 100 points above the league average despite being barely old enough to vote. His removal from the lineup on the 4th of July, however, was largely covered by the emergence of Kevin Keyes, who hit .281/.355/.528 after the Sally League All-Star break. As you can see, the cluster of 2010 draft picks were the heart of this team. What remains to be seen is how they’ll develop. Thankfully, one of my spies in Hagerstown wrote about the Suns batters earlier this month, and I encourage folks to click on over to see what he had to say.

Next up, the pitchers, which I’m expanding to the top 15 to include three notables…
Eleven different pitchers made at least five starts for the Suns, thanks in part to the injuries to Jordan, Hansen and McKenzie and the delayed debuts of Cole and Ray, both of whom were held back until the first full weekend in May. Injury also delayed the start of Sammy Solis’s season until Memorial Day Weekend, which kept his inning count down and is arguably the primary reason why he’s repeating the AFL as a starter.

If Auburn is a barometer for the 2011 draft, then Hagerstown might be the same for 2010 (and to a certain extent, 2009). If the expression is that there three kinds of pitchers — young, old, and hurt — well, that pretty much sums up the draft class thus far.

The ground on the “young” Cole and Ray has been pretty much covered (though again, I point folks to my friend Shawn’s take). Old, of course is a relative term, but Grace and Solis will enter the 2012 campaign as 23-year-olds and the latter was touted as being ready for prime time in ’12. The same is true for ’09ers Swynenberg and Jordan. And of course, the “hurt” applies to Jordan, Solis and McKenzie (Hansen was an ’08 pick). Solis and McKenzie have since recovered from their injuries, but the outcome for Jordan, who appeared to be headed for Potomac a la Danny Rosenbuam in 2010, won’t be known until next spring.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
We’re into crossover territory and I’m trying to avoid double-listing guys. Thus, a couple of honorable mentions to answer the question “Well, who would make it onto the list if X were rated at the next level instead of this level?”

Hitters
1. Bryce Harper
2. David Freitas
3. Kevin Keyes
4. Michael Taylor
5. Adrian Sanchez
HM: Jason Martinson

Pitchers
1. A.J. Cole
2. Robbie Ray
3. Taylor Jordan
4. Sammy Solis
5. Matt Swynenberg
HM: Matt Grace

Oct 192011
 

Scottsdale’s skid ends at five with an 11-10 win in 10 innings that featured a breakout performance by Bryce Harper.

Playing left field, Harper was a triple shy of the cycle while going 3-for-4 with a single, double, homer, two walks, two runs scored, and three RBI. Defensively, Harper had no putouts and made a throwing error, his second of the AFL season.

Derek Norris started off slow, striking out twice and flying out to center before drawing two walks and singling in the game-tying run in the top of the ninth. He was the Scorpions’ designated hitter.

Sammy Solis continues to struggle, allowing four runs on five hits (including a home run) and four walks while striking out four over three innings. After three starts, opponents are batting .325 against him and he’s walked eight in 10 innings.

Lastly, in a non-AFL note, the Nationals returned Rule 5 pick Elvin Ramirez to the Mets after spending the season on the D.L. after shoulder surgery.

Oct 172011
 

As was brought up in the comments from yesterday’s post, the early numbers from the Arizona Fall League aren’t pretty. But they’re not quite 9-of-22 with 4 INT, either. So we lift the coffee mug of small sample size and take a look…

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The Domninican Winter League started up on Friday and a handful of Nats players have been spotted in the box scores:

  • Eury Perez – Escogido
  • Wilman Rodriguez – Escogido
  • Jhonatan Solano – Licey
  • Atahualpa Severino – Licey

A couple of other notes…

…Chris Marrero is supposedly on the Licey Tigres as well, but is not listed on the roster and/or has not appeared in a game.

…Wilman Rodriguez played outfield for the D-Nats this past summer, but has appeared as a pitcher thus far. Considering that this was in a game that was 1-1 at the time, and that he is no longer a teenager, the deduction is that a conversion to the mound may be in the process.