May 032013
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 9-17, 6th place I.L. North, 8½ games behind

Good Chris Marrero .337/.385/.614, 6HR, 20RBI
Bad Yunesky Maya 0-3, 7.45 ERA, 1.62WHIP .310 OBA
Interesting Danny Rosenbaum 1.14ERA, 5K, 45GO in 23⅔ IP

HARRISBURG SENATORS 13-14, T2nd place E.L. West, 2 games behind

Good Nathan Karns 2-0, 1.13ERA, 0.88 WHIP in last four starts
Bad Brian Goodwin 36K in 27G
Interesting Justin Bloxom .325/.341/.500 in last 10G

POTOMAC NATIONALS 13-14, T2nd place C.L. North, 2 games behind

Good Michael Taylor .270/.341/.486, 2HR, 5SB, 8RBI in last 10G
Bad Christian Meza 2.28WHIP, 9.31ERA in six appearances
Interesting Blake Schwartz 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 11K in 11IP over first two High-A starts

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 15-11, T1st place Sally North, 2½ games ahead

Good Pedro Encarnacion 1.93 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, .207 OBA
Bad Hunter Bailey .528 OPS
Interesting Wes Schill 18BB in 18G, team-best .455 OBP
Mar 242013
 

Another day, another Rule 5 pick returned.

Multiple online sources are reporting that Colorado will return Danny Rosenbaum following the signing of veteran RHP Jon Garland. Rosenbaum was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in six appearances for the Rockies this spring, the last of which came a week ago when the 25-year-old southpaw gave up a single and a walkoff home run in a 9-7 loss to the Giants.

He had been competing for the final bullpen spot — five of his six outings were in relief — in a group of relievers that included notables such as Chris Volstad and Manny Corpas.

Like Kobernus, he’s expected to be reassigned to minor-league camp, but it’s much less clear where he’ll begin the season. Last season was arguably his worst, beginning with 7-2, 1.94 in his first 13 starts, but finishing in a freefall of 1-8, 6.54 in his last 13 starts for an 8-10, 3.94 mark overall.

While often compared to former Nats farmhand Tommy Milone, a comp that seems largely based on size (both are shade taller than 6′ with a “sturdy carriage”) and dexterity and the soft-tosser perception. The reality is that Rosenbaum has always thrown harder than Milone (low-90s vs. high-80s), but with a little less control (2.5 vs. 1.5 BB/9).

Still, it’s a understandable linkage because both have shown the ability to get guys out without lot of flash while pitching deep into games (e.g. 171⅓ IP in 2011). Rosenbaum works off a heavy, sinking fastball, which has produced groundball rates of 50%-plus the past two seasons, including 56.7% last year, while mixing in a cutter as well as a changeup and a curve as his secondary pitches.

Like a lot of the AA and AAA pitchers, it’s difficult to predict where he’ll begin the season given the signings of multiple free agents. What’s probably more certain is that he’ll return to starting, given his durability and track record.

The watchlist and the LHPs page have been both been updated to reflect his return.

Mar 222013
 

Morning ReadingAs promised earlier this week, here’s a few minors-oriented news items to pass along while we wait out the last 10 days of Spring Training.

…As noted yesterday in the comments, it’s looking bright for Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus to make the Tigers’ Opening Day roster, while Adam Kilgore’s sources say the Rockies are leaning towards keeping Danny Rosenbaum, though he’s one of four relievers competing for the final spot in the Colorado ‘pen.

…It’s old news to roster geeks, but the Natmosphere’s Todd Boss can thump his chest a little (or a lot) because Baseball America has confirmed what he’s contended for months now — Ryan Perry and Yunesky Maya are among the 23 players eligible for a 4th minor league option.

…Park factors and run-scoring environment analysis is rampant in the majors, but until recently, it’s been sparse in the minors. That changes with a pair of analyses from Baseball America and MiLB.com.

…It’s the third name in 16 years in Syracuse as Alliance Bank Stadium becomes NBT Bank Stadium.

…Finally, our Hagerstown guy interviews longtime Nats farmhand Sean Nicol in the second of three parts (part one can be found here).

Mar 052013
 

Checkin In On The MLB Rule 5 PicksWith an off day yesterday, I wasn’t sure if I’d have something to write about this morning until one of the regulars asked me about Danny Rosenbaum and Jeff Kobernus.

Truth be told, it was the first time I had checked because I’m not rooting for them to falter so “we can have them back.” For both players, this is their first (and best) chance to make a major-league roster, even if it’s just briefly like Erik Komatsu’s two-team tour in 2012.

Rosenbaum has made just two appearances thus far for a total of four scoreless innings with two hits and one walk allowed and no strikeouts. Thanks to a start last Friday, his opposition quality score is 9.2 (H/T to NatsLady for pointing out this feature on already indispensable baseball-reference.com).

As you can see from the gamer in the Colorodoan, Danny was paying attention to Crash Davis:

“They told me they see me more as a long relief guy. I’ve always been a starter in college and my whole career and coming out of the ‘pen will be different. But it’s pitching and it’s the same game. However they think I can help, I want to do that,” he said.

He’s scheduled to pitch again today in relief as well.

As a position player, Kobernus has gotten a much longer look as noted in this feature from the Detroit Free Press. He’s batting .280/.308/.440 with a lower Opposition Quality score (8.4) because he’s been left in games against the reserves of other teams.

While Rosenbaum can be “hidden” in the ‘pen as a long reliever or a backup LOOGY, Kobernus has no such luxury as a bench player. That’s why the Tigers are trying him in the outfield, where he hasn’t played since his college days at Cal. Kobernus is competing against a pair of 21-year-old prospects — Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia — who, of course, can be returned to the minors for more seasoning, even if they are the #1 and #2 prospects per Baseball America.

Dec 062012
 

For the second straight year, two Nationals were selected during the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft — LHP Danny Rosenbaum and 2B Jeff Kobernus.

Rosenbaum was selected third by the Colorado Rockies. Colorado Rockies blog Purple Row describes the selection:

Rosenbaum will compete for a bullpen job vacated by Matt Reynolds. Josh Outman had been penciled in as the second lefty in the bullpen, joining Rex Brothers, but this move allows Outman to start, or for Colorado to have three lefties in their pen.

Kobernus was taken seventh by the Boston Red Sox, then subsequently traded to the Detroit Tigers for 28-year-old AAA utilityman Justin Henry. Not coincidentally, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski was quoted via MLB.com’s Justin Beck:

We not only like his ability to play second, but we think that perhaps — and he hasn’t really done much of it — he could have some versatility where we might be able to move him to the outfield and get some playing time there

In the 1st round of the AAA phase, the Red Sox “struck” again by taking Boston native Jack McGeary, while Hector Nelo was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round. Unlike the MLB phase, these players do not have to be offered back to the original club.

McGeary had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and has only pitched 25⅓ innings in 2011 and 2012 — all but 7⅔ innings in the GCL. He was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2007 draft.

Nelo was signed as a minor-league free agent in April 2011 after being released by the Texas Rangers. While capable of throwing in the triple digits, the 26-year-old Miami-born Floridian had a radar-gun strike zone, meaning the higher the number the more likely it was a ball if the batter did not swing.

As expected, the Nationals did not make any picks in the MLB phase. A slight surprise: They also passed in the AAA and AA phases as well.

The 2012 Watchlist
has been updated to reflect the selections.

Dec 052012
 

The pattern of a (near-)unanimous few then the biases of the many continues with the votes for the Nationals’ Top 10 Pitchers. Thirty different pitchers received votes, but only two appeared on each of the thirteen ballots cast (Lucas Giolito and Nathan Karns) while two more were named on all but one (Sammy Solis and Matt Purke).

1. Lucas Giolito
2. Nathan Karns
3. Matt Purke
4. Sammy Solis
5. Christian Garcia
6. Erik Davis
7. Danny Rosenbaum
8. Aaron Barrett
9. Brett Mooneyham
10. Robbie Ray

Others receiving votes: Rob Wort, Rafael Martin, Neil Holland, Paul Demny, Pedro Encarnacion, Taylor Jordan, Christian Meza, Jeff Mandel, Cole Kimball, Brad Meyers, Wirkin Estevez, Pat McCoy, Ryan Tatusko, Robert Benincasa, Derek Self, Hector Nelo, Josh Smoker, Jack McGeary, Nick Lee

Perhaps more disturbing is that we don’t see a pitcher who hasn’t had shoulder or elbow surgery until the #6 hurler, Erik Davis, who instead has had knee problems, according to MASN’s Byron Kerr.

Close behind is the realization that half of this list is 25 or older. Put another way: just 10 of these 30 pitchers voted for were born after 1990.

As I wrote back in September in discussing the Nationals farm, it’s pretty clear that the organization’s strength has shifted away from developing pitchers to position players. Perhaps more evident: surgery and long periods of rehab seem to be the gamble the Nats are willing to make — regardless of a pitcher’s age or ailment — to get pitching potential. What remains to be seen is whether this approach will pay off frequently enough to warrant the shifting of innings or roles away from healthier and/or lower-ceiling guys.

I hope folks enjoyed this experiment in crowdsourcing. Next up on the minor-league calendar is the Rule 5 draft. The Nats are nearly certain not to be takers in the MLB phase (thus, no preview this year), and may even have a player or two taken, though the odds are extremely short that any player taken will be gone for good.

Nov 052012
 

Going into the Eastern League All-Star Game, Harrisburg was 48-40 — good for second place in its division, having had an eight-game win streak broken with a 4-1 loss on July 9th.

It would be nearly a month before the Senators won back-to-back games again.

They went 16-38 in the second half, falling from second place to fifth place by the end of July for their worst finish (64-78) since the ghastly 2007 edition that went 55-86.

Injuries, as you might expect, were a factor. Twenty-nine-year-old Tim Pahuta led the team in games played with 121. Starters Destin Hood, Chris Rahl, and Jeff Kobernus — none of whom were promoted — played in 94, 92, and 82 games respectively. But as Geoff Morrow pointed out in his final of four segments on the team, the inability to hit when it mattered most is what truly killed the Senators in 2012:

The Senators’ .202 batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position wasn’t just dead last in the 12-team EL, it easily ranked last among all 30 Class AA teams (including the Southern and Texas League teams). Their .239 average with runners in scoring position was last in the EL and 28th overall.

Perhaps that might be enough said, but let’s do the dance anyway, starting with how Harrisburg’s team totals compared to the rest of the Eastern League:
HITTING

PITCHING

Not too hard to figure out what the problem was. The pitching wasn’t great, a notch below the league average. But the hitting was atrocious — 11th in runs, RBIs, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Take away the power from graybeards Pahuta and Jimmy Van Ostrand and the legs of Eury Perez and Kobernus, along with Rahl who provided both, and this team would have probably finished 11th or 12th in HRs and SBs, too (somehow, they finished dead-last in doubles).

Perhaps more disturbing is looking at the pitchers by age. As a group, the 24 and unders were 28-32 with two saves, but with a 4.92 ERA and 1.492 WHIP over 488⅓ innings. Contrast that to the 26+ group, and you get marks of 20-29 and 12, 4.13 and 1.335 over 468⅓ innings. The league average age was 24.5, so when you add in the 25-year-olds, those numbers improve to 44-49, 27 and 4.22 and 1.399 over 775 innings.

The problem is that those 25-year-olds were 16-17, 25 and 3.01 and 1.238 over 286⅔ innings. That’s pretty good, but look at who those pitchers are: Erik Davis, Ryan Perry, Hector Nelo, Trevor Holder and Brian Broderick. In other words, guys that for the most part either were or should have been in AAA. Maybe it’s just an anomaly, but it’s something I noticed that I thought was worth passing along.

Now, a look at the Top 14′s — my semi-arbitrary cutoff in order to capture the most notable — for the position players and pitchers. Full statistics for the team can be found here.
Were it not for the injuries, we might have seen a slight improvement in terms of more plate appearances going to age-appropriate players. Jeff Kobernus, for example, might have gotten the bump to Syracause that went to Zach Walters instead — he was hanging a .306/.355/.341 line in July after struggling for much of May and June. Destin Hood probably would have played the whole year for the Senators, but can we write off both the declines in power and patience to his being hurt?

As it was a year ago, the lack of walks is really striking. Without the likes of Derek Norris, Bill Rhinehart, and Josh Johnson, it’s especially noticeable. It’s a testament to Brian Goodwin that he led the above group with a 9.7% walk rate and an indictment on the several players that didn’t break 7.0%. With another wave of free swingers coming from Potomac (Matt Skole and Anthony Rendon excluded), it’s something to watch for in 2013 and beyond.
The story of 2012 for the Harrisburg pitchers was Danny Rosenbaum. His overall numbers aren’t so bad, but that’s a function of arithmetic. After eight starts, he was 5-0 with a 0.62 ERA with six walks, one home run allowed and two complete games, only one of which required more than 100 pitches (109). Halfway through the season (13 starts), he had fallen to 7-2, 1.94 with 13 walks and three HR allowed over 88 innings. After that, the wheels fell off the bus — 1-8 with a 6.54 ERA and a 1.693 WHIP in his final 13 starts.

How much of that is the league adjusting to Rosenbaum and him not adjusting back is up for debate. Pitching coach Paul Menhart offered a clue in this dispatch from Geoff Morrow’s Sunday column in early July, noting that a lot stemmed from frustration, which in turn led to pressing, which even the casual observer knows leads to grooved pitches. Morrow would continually note via Twitter during Rosenbaum’s starts about how much more hittable he’d become as the season progressed.

As noted above, other age-appropriate pitchers struggled. Paul Demny, who had made 98 starts between April 2009 and July 2012, was moved to the bullpen in August. Robert Gilliam was dropped down to Potomac after failing as both a starter and a reliever. Marcos Frias saw his usage cut in half while his ERA rose nearly two runs before and after the All-Star break — though some of the innings drop may be attributable to Ryan Tatusko, Pat McCoy and Davis, all repeating the level, excelling in middle relief and leaving Frias the odd man out.

OBLIGATORY TOP EIGHT LIST
As much as I hate combining lists, with just two pitchers to list, there’s not much else to be done.

On to the caveats… Hood still has time on his side (turns 23 in April), Kobernus doesn’t (turns 25 in June); but both are getting the benefit of the doubt due to injury… Rosenbaum is still left-handed, mechanically sound, and durable (76 starts, 6.19 IP per from ’10-’12)… There are reports that Demny has a lost a some m.p.h. off his fastball (high 80s vs. low-to-mid 90s) in the AFL, but those are likely to come back with a shift to the bullpen… Bloxom plays a position in which the organization is not deep and can switch-hit… Ryan Perry has already made 156 appearances as a major-leaguer (by definition, a prospect must also be a rookie)… and, of course, Brian Goodwin has already been picked (#1 position player for Hagerstown).

1. Eury Perez
2. Sandy Leon
3. Zach Walters
4. Destin Hood
5. Danny Rosenbuam
6. Paul Demny
7. Jeff Kobernus
8. Justin Bloxom

Jun 282012
 

Rosters for the 2012 Eastern League All-Star Game were announced today, and for the second straight year, five Harrisburg Senators made the squad:
• LHP Danny Rosenbaum

• RHP Kevin Pucetas

• 2B Jeff Kobernus

• OF Eury Perez

• OF Chris Rahl

The 2012 game, officially known as the Baseballtown All-Star Classic, will be played at the Reading Phillies home stadium on Wednesday, July 11th.

For the 28-year-old Rahl, this is his third All-Star game nomination, having represented Mobile in the 2009 Southern League All-Star game and Lancaster in the 2006 California-Carolina League All-Star game while a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.

This the second staight All-Star nod for Kobernus, who was named as an alternate to Destin Hood for the 2011 California-Carolina League All-Star game. Rosenbaum is also making his second trip to a midseason exhibition, having represented Hagerstown in the 2010 South Atlantic League All-Star game. Likewise, this appears to be the second All-Star nod for Pucetas, who represented San Jose in the 2008 California-Carolina League All-Star game as a member of the San Francisco Giants organization.

Finally, this is the first All-Star honors for Eury Perez since coming to the United States in 2009 (note: the GCL has no All-Star Game).

Jun 222012
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 36-37, 5th place I.L. North, 8½ games behind

Good Carlos Rivero .323/.375/.446 in June
Bad Mitch Atkins 6.65ERA, 1.62WHIP in June
Interesting 433 Team Pitching Ks = 14th in I.L., 215 BB’s, 4th

HARRISBURG SENATORS 36-35, 2nd place E.L. West, 8½ games behind

Good Kevin Pucetas 3-1, 2.42ERA, 0.89WHIP in first four starts
Bad Danny Rosenbaum 2-2, 5.94ERA, 1.77WHIP in last six starts
Interesting 34HRs is 8th in 10-team E.L.

POTOMAC NATIONALS 1-0, T1st place C.L. North Division, ½ game ahead (31-39, 1st half)

Good Randolph Oduber .298/.328/.404 in June
Bad Matt Swynenberg 1.95WHIP since CG on April 29
(65H, 13BB, 5HR in 40IP)
Interesting 108 doubles is 7th in 8-team C.L. (leader is 153)

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 0-1, T5th place Sally League North Divison, 1 games behind (42-27, 1st half)

Good Brian Goodwin .345/.441/.483, 7SB in June
Bad Kylin Turnbull 0-1, 5.48ERA in June
Interesting 64HRs T1st in Sally League

DSL NATIONALS 12-5, T1st Place Boca Chica South Division, 2 games ahead

Good 19 y.o. Elisaul Gomez 3.38ERA, .224OBA in six appearances
Bad 20 y.o. Philips Valdez 6.75ERA, .324OBA in four appearances
Interesting 17 y.o. Armando Echinique .353/.389/.412 in 7G
May 042012
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 10-17, 6th place I.L. North, 6 games behind

Good Austin Bibens-Dirkx 1.38 FIP
Bad Jason Michaels .549 OPS
Interesting Carlos Rivero .343/.378/.514 in last 10G

HARRISBURG SENATORS 15-12, 2nd place E.L. West, 3½ games behind

Good Danny Rosenbaum 3-0, 0.76ERA, 0.70WHIP
Bad Eury Perez .130/.130/.152 last 10G
Interesting Sandy Leon .796 OPS

POTOMAC NATIONALS 10-14, 3rd place C.L. North Division, 3½ games behind

Good David Freitas .377/.457/.609
Bad Wilson Eusebio 9.31ERA, 4HBP, 8BB in 9⅔ IP
Interesting Matt Swynenberg 1ER in last 14⅓ IP

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 14-11, 3rd place Sally League North Divison, 3½ games behind

Good Cutter Dykstra .400/.464/.520, 11G hit streak
Bad Chris McKenzie 12.96ERA, 3.12WHIP in 5 appearances
Interesting Billy Burns 17G on-base streak (.469 OBP)