May 252012
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 23-24, 5th place I.L. North, 6½ games behind

Good Corey Brown .381/.426/.929, 6HR, 14RBI in last 10G
Bad Josh Johnson .576 OPS, 7E in 34G
Interesting Yunesky Maya 2-1, 1.35 ERA, 1.013 WHIP in May

HARRISBURG SENATORS 25-21, 2nd place E.L. West, 4 games behind

Good Erik Davis 4-1, 2.17 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 31K in 29IP
Bad Destin Hood .197/.275/.239 in May
Interesting Kevin Pucetas 1.59 ERA, 0.926 WHIP in last 10 appearances

POTOMAC NATIONALS 18-25, 3rd place C.L. North Division, 6½ games behind

Good Justin Bloxom .292/.350/.542 in May (4HR, 14RBI)
Bad Francisco Soriano .173/.276/.267
Interesting Neil Holland 2-0, 0.00 ERA in May (6 appearances)

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 26-19, 2nd place Sally League North Divison, 6 games behind

Good Caleb Ramsey .323/.387/.600, 5HR, 17RBI in May
Bad Justin Miller .175/.237/.310, 38K in 35G
Interesting Ben Hawkins 1.98 ERA, 80% LOB, .157 OBA
May 182012
 


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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 19-22, 5th place I.L. North, 7½ games behind

Good Corey Brown .361/.480/.656 in May
Bad John Lannan 6.63 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 4HR in last 3 starts
Interesting Xavier Paul .380/.436/.780 in May

HARRISBURG SENATORS 22-17, 2nd place E.L. West, 2 games behind

Good Eury Perez .316/.328/.386, 4SB in May
Bad Paul Demny 8.29ERA at home (2.57 on road)
Interesting Christian Garcia 5SV, 3H, 19K in last 10 appearances

POTOMAC NATIONALS 16-21, 3rd place C.L. North Division, 5½ games behind

Good Cameron Selik 3SV, 13K in last 5 appearances
Bad Shane McCatty 19H, 9BB in 9⅔IP, 13.03ERA, 2.90WHIP
Interesting Kevin Keyes 22H, 22RBI (.191/.271/.417)

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 22-15, 2nd place Sally League North Divison, 6 games behind

Good Cutter Dykstra .340/.429/.454 in 23G
Bad Brian Dupra 10.98ERA, 2.31WHIP in May (4 appearances)
Interesting Steve Souza 7HR in 13G
Nov 162011
 

Well, it wouldn’t be any fun if we could predict every move, right?

As the headline says, Cole Kimball was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays while Corey Brown cleared them and was outrighted to Syracuse. Kimball is an interesting risk for the Blue Jays, given that he’s unlikely to pitch until mid ’12 after undergoing surgery this past July. Brown had the beginning and end of ’11 cut short by injuries, but did get a September call-up.

The moves knock down the Nationals’ 40-man roster to 32 ahead of the Friday deadline for the Rule 5 draft. As mentioned in the comments, it’s fair to speculate that these may not be the only players dropped, given that the most recent waiver period only began a few days ago, and these two move were most likely made on Monday morning (the waiver period is 48 hours).

Nov 082011
 

Let’s get this out of the way: AAA is the highest level of the minors, but it’s not where the best prospects are found. (In a related story, there is no Santa Claus, Easter Bunny or Great Pumpkin).

Rather than repeat why this is, I’ll refer you to last year’s Syracuse review and summarize it. Triple-A is now primarily where teams keep their marginal players active and ready to fill in holes, and secondarily to finish prospects until they’re ready and/or needed.

The thing that stands out the most for me about 2011 Chiefs is how the likes of J.D. Martin, Yunesky Maya, Craig Stammen, and Garrett Mock might have been part of the DC rotation in April instead of Syracuse just a year or two ago. I know that sounds harsh, but that’s the reason why the Washington Nationals were a last-place team for three straight seasons before finishing third in 2011. You don’t win with pitchers that would be unlikely to be starting (or even in the majors) for another organization.

Of course, close behind is how four players are now on the verge of “graduating” from prospect status, even with an improved parent club. Under the previous regime, we might have seen Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone, Steve Lombardozzi, and Chris Marrero playing, if not starting, in August (or even July) instead of September. Granted, this might be an apex of sorts, but it’s certainly pleasing to see young talent making it to Washington more on merit than need.

With that, let’s follow the format I’ve been using for the previous season reviews, taking a look at the team vs. the International League, then drilling down to the players. The one difference, however, is I’ll focus only on the players who are league-average age or younger (~27) and in the upper half or so in usage (~150PA or ~30IP).
HITTING

PITCHING

To no one’s surprise, the Chiefs were 13th in runs scored and 14th in hits collected, despite finishing 6th in on-base percentage. As you can deduce from the sub-but-not-far-off-from-.500 record, Syracuse allowed the fifth fewest runs and the least walks in the I.L., which was further aided by having the league’s second-best defense both in terms of errors committed and fielding percentage.

Still, the initial reaction I had was that the numbers were better than expected. Instead, as you can see, most were right around the league norms. I think in some ways, this is what doing these season reviews is for: Checking the final numbers to see how the teams really stacked up. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that the team was younger than average for both the bats and the arms, even with 28- and 29-year-olds in the starting lineup and rotation (the aforementioned foursome on the verge was the offset).

With that, let’s examine the 27-and-unders that were in the top half in terms of usage for Syracuse. Full statistics for the team can be found here.

The Matt Antonelli fans may be permitted to crow — offensively, he was well above average with a triple-slash of .297/.393/.460. The problem is that those 19 games at shortstop were the first 19 he played as a pro, and he was definitely substandard there. The majority of his career has been as a second baseman, so one has to wonder if he can remake himself as a third baseman. But I also don’t think we should deduce that the Nats didn’t (or don’t) want him back; it might be more fair to presume that he feels like he’s blocked, and certainly it’s his right as a MLFA to go elsewhere on his quest to make it back to the show.

Marrero and Lombardozzi aside (and to a lesser extent, Jesus Valdez and Jhonatan Solano), you’re mostly looking at a collection of minor-league veterans much like Harrisburg. I know Corey Brown has some supporters here, too, but one has to wonder if he’s merely a younger version of Roger Bernadina in the eyes of the front office. As of this writing, there are six open spots on the 40-man roster and not a lot of tough decisions on who to protect (Norris and Moore seem likely to get added, but for all the others a case can be made for exposing them to next month’s Rule 5 Draft). Given Rizzo’s proclivity to protect the guys he’s acquired via trade (*cough, cough* Mock, Chico) coupled with his unwillingness to make a roster move until forced, Brown will likely be “safe” for the immediate future.

There are a lot of names that people might recognize in this group. That’s because nine of this eleven are homegrown. Three of them were in the Nationals rotation in September and will battle for a spot in April. A couple more have bounced back and forth between AAA and MLB, initially as starters, subsequently as relievers. A couple more are probably wondering what they have to do to get that chance.

This time next year, it wouldn’t surprise me if less than half these guys are still with the organization, majors or minors. I’m not even counting Adam Carr or Cole Kimball, both of whom were in the AFL this time last year, pitching their way onto the 40-man after years in the system. Now, they’re both recovering from surgery, perhaps even wondering if they’ve had their Moonlight Graham moment… even if in all likelihood, they’ll be back in Viera next Spring one way or the other.

THE OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE
Like last year, I have to do a singular list because they’re just simply aren’t that many candidates. Four of them are pretty damn obvious. The fifth may as well be a coin toss, so I’ll let you know who was the “tails” with an honorable mention, then we can discuss in the comments. Without further ado…

1. Brad Peacock
2. Chris Marrero
3. Steve Lombardozzi
4. Tommy Milone
5. Corey Brown
HM: Brad Meyers

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
Jun 102011
 

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

SYRACUSE 25-33, 5th place I.L. North, 12 games behind

Good Matt Antonelli .421/.463/.543 in last 10G
Bad J.D. Martin 9HR in 42IP
Interesting Corey Brown 25BB in 53G

HARRISBURG 30-21, 1st place E.L. West Division, 3 games ahead

Good Brad Peacock 0.84WHIP, 91K in 67IP
Bad Jonathan Tucker .148 in last 10G
Interesting Bill Rhinehart .368 OBP, career-best since 2007 (.377 for Vermont)

POTOMAC 23-37, 5th place C.L. North Division, 14 games behind

Good Justin Bloxom .385/.381/.641 in last 10G
Bad Dean Weaver .305 OBA, 4HR, 5BB, 18H in 14IP
Interesting 6-16 at home, 17-21 on the road

HAGERSTOWN 36-24, 1st place Sally League Northern Division, 1½ games ahead

Good Robbie Ray 0.67 WHIP, 0.30 ERA in 30IP
Bad Left-side IFs: 38Es
Interesting Neil Holland 18K, 0BB, 2HR in 18⅔ IP

DSL NATIONALS 6-4, Tied for 3rd, Boca Chica South Division of Dominican Summer League

Good Wilmer Difo (Age 19) .355/.556/.516, 8SB in 10G
Bad Daury Vasquez (Age 18) 2.20 WHIP in 3G
Interesting Ivan Pineyro (Age 19) 19K in 13IP
Mar 172011
 

Four more Nationals were sent packing as Corey Brown, Cole Kimball, Chris Marrero, and Derek Norris were reassigned to minor-league camp today.

Unlike years past, none of these cuts were particularly surprising. Brown, even if he hadn’t been hurt, was unlikely to break camp with the big boys without the benefit of a trade or an injury. Syracuse is his most likely destination unless either the injury lingers or Rizzo opts for a more veteran OF in Syracuse and sends Brown to Harrisburg to play every day.

Kimball received a lot of favorable coverage from the beat writers, but the lack of AAA experience (i.e. none), command issues, and similar relievers without options (e.g. Henry Rodriguez) make this a smart move. Now the focus will be on whether he will supplant Adam Carr (possible) as the Chiefs’ closer or if the powers that be will decide to use both in both roles and let the production (or Knorr) dictate the usage.

Marrero is arguably the most pleasant spring surprise, and perhaps not even on offense. That’s a lot to say for someone that put up a .381/.435/.476 line, but it says more about how much he appears to have improved on defense. He’ll be the everyday first baseman at Syracuse.

Last but not least, Derek Norris was reassigned to Harrisburg, a move that whittles the number of players in the major-league camp to 38. Norris appeared in 11 games and batted .200 but also drew four walks for an impressive OBP of .368 and acquitted himself defensively. Norris could very well follow the development path that Espinosa had in 2010 and be in a position next Spring Training to be battling for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Mar 012011
 

The beauty (and agony) of baseball is that every day is a new chance to forget yesterday. After striking out twice yesterday, Bryce Harper buried his inglorious two-K debut and served up an opposite-field single in his first at-bat today as the Nationals escaped a shaky 9th to beat the New York Mets, 5-3. Harper went 1-for-2 overall and fielded two doubles, the second of which was not fielded cleanly according to NatsNQ (via Twitter).

Danny Espinosa started again at second base, with Chris Marrero at first base, filling in for DH Adam LaRoche (shoulder soreness). Espinosa knocked in two with a two-run HR in the bottom of the Nats’ four-run fourth inning and laid down the tag on a strike-em-out-throw-em-out DP in the previous half-inning. Marrero singled twice in two at-bats out of the #9 hole and did not make an error.

Other notable prospects…

  • Corey Brown once again spelled Nyjer Morgan in CF, rapping an RBI single in the bottom of the 7th, but left the game after a collision at home plate while trying to score on an grounder to 1B by Harper.
  • Derek Norris replaced Ivan Rodriguez and went 1-for-2, popping to short in his first at-bat and singling to 3B in his second AB
  • Cole Kimball pitched a scoreless sixth inning, walking one and striking out one. The stadium’s radar gun was inoperative so no word on how hard he was throwing.

The Nationals remain in Viera tomorrow for an afternoon tilt against the Florida Marlins.

Feb 282011
 

The Nationals #1 draft pick Bryce Harper made his 2011 Spring Training debut and as the pic and the headline says, twice the phenom went down on strikes — swinging at a breaking pitch in the dirt the first time on an 0-2 count and missing a 1-2 fastball in his second AB. He had come into the game as a pinch-runner for DH Matt Stairs.

The Washington Nationals won the game 9-3, highlighted by a pair of two-run home runs by Michael Morse in the 7th and 9th innings, both of which preceded Harper’s strikeouts.

Wilson Ramos got the start behind the plate and went 2-for-2 with a double and two runs scored, while Danny Espinosa went 1-for-2 with HBP while playing 2B. No baserunners tried to steal against Ramos while Espinosa started a 4-6-3 double play in the second inning.

Other notable prospects…

  • Corey Brown replaced Nyjer Morgan in CF and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.
  • Brian Broderick pitched the 6th inning and allowed one hit while striking out one.
  • Adam Carr finished the game with a 1-2-3 ninth inning and also struck out one.

The two teams play each other tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. in Viera.