Oct 202010
 

The debut of Bryce Harper is expected to be tonight, which should temper the stories about the hopes and anticipation and with any luck, put the focus on the field instead of the tone-deaf proclamations about the future (hence the picture).

Meanwhile, after a night in which just one Nat played, five saw action on Tuesday night…

  • Steve Lombardozzi drew a walk and scored a run while going o-for-3 and leading off and playing second base
  • Derek Norris caught and batted cleanup, tripling in a run but striking out three times. Defensively, he allowed a stolen base and a passed ball
  • Michael Burgess batted seventh and scored two runs while going 1-for-3
  • Brad Peacock earned a hold with two hitless innings, walking one and striking out three; he also picked off a runner
  • Cole Kimball pitched the final two innings for a save, allowing one hit and setting down one on strikes. He also threw a wild pitch

Scottsdale won 5-4 to improve to 5-2 in the AFL East and hosts the Mesa Solar Sox tonight.

Oct 182010
 

Here’s a look at how the Nationals fared over the weekend in the Arizona Fall League…

FRIDAY
The Scottsdale Scorpions pounded the Phoenix Desert Dogs, 11-4

  • Michael Burgess went 1-for-4 with 3 K’s as the DH
  • Brad Peacock struck out the side while pitching the sixth but gave up a run on two hits
  • Cole Kimball pitched a 1-2-3 ninth and struck out one

SATURDAY
With a 6-4 win over the Peoria Javelinas, the Scottsdale Scorpions improved to 4-1

  • Sammy Solis got the start and allowed a run on two hits and a walk over three innings while striking out one. He also picked off a runner
  • Adam Carr pitched two scoreless innings to get the win while walking one and striking out one
  • Steve Lombardozzi played 2B and batted leadoff, going 1-for-3 with a double and a walk and scored two runs
  • Derek Norris caught and batted cleanup, going 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, a run scored, and a stolen base. He threw out the only runner to attempt a steal against him

After five games…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Lombardozzi 4 14 3 4 3 0 0 1 1 2 .286 .375 .500 0
Norris 3 9 3 4 1 0 1 3 4 3 .444 .615 .889 1
Burgess 3 10 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 4 .200 .385 .200 1

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G IP R ER HR BB SO WHIP HLD GF
Peacock 0 0 0 3.00 2 3 1 1 0 0 7 1.000 0 0
Solis 0 0 0 3.00 1 3 2 1 0 1 1 1.000 0 0
Carr 1 0 0 3.00 2 3 2 1 0 2 1 1.333 0 0
Kimball 0 0 0 0.00 2 2 0 0 0 0 4 0.000 0 2
Oct 152010
 

Four Nats saw action in yesterday’s 5-1 loss by the Scottsdale Scorpions to the Phoenix Desert Dogs…

  • Steve Lombardozzi was the DH and went 1-for-5 with a run scored
  • Derek Norris caught and went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout; he was 0-for-1 in throwing out runners
  • Michael Burgess played RF and went 1-for-3 with a walk, a strikeout, and a stolen base; he committed an error
  • Adam Carr pitched the 8th inning and allowed a run on two hits and walk and did not strike out a batter
Oct 132010
 

Here’s a peek at how the Nationals did yesterday for the Scottsdale Scorpions, who won 4-3 over the Peoria Saguaros…

  • Derek Norris 1-2, 2R, 2BB, HR, 2 RBI
  • Mike Burgess 0-3, BB
  • Brad Peacock 2IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 4K

UPDATE: MLB.com’s Bill Ladson is reporting that Bryce Harper will be assigned to the Scorpions’ taxi squad and will play roughly twice a week.

A few other odds & ends (be thankful I opted not to lead with that for the picture ;-)…

…Wilson Ramos was the lone National in the Baseball America International League Top 20, coming in at #18. The good news is that scouts like him defensively, and describe him as having “above-average raw power.” The bad news: He needs to work on game-management and pitch-calling. Before folks chime in about having Ramos and Rodriguez working together, remember that the knock on Pudge for his entire career has been in these two areas.

…The folks at Ballpark Digest named the new Metro Park in Harrisburg as the renovation of the year and I couldn’t agree more.

…Sickels weighed in on an age-old question of young pitcher development.

Oct 122010
 

By now, you’ve read that the Arizona Fall League starts up today. And some 18-year-old named Bryce Harper won’t be playing. So there’s little I can add to that, except for some thoughts on the players I’ve seen…

Adam Carr – RHRP
Carr has been here before, playing in 2007 after his first full season in the minors and looked to be on the verge of becoming a factor for the parent club in late ’08 with a 1.78ERA at Potomac and Harrisburg. Unfortunately, he hit wall the next season, and struggled mightily at both levels. In ’09, he was converted to a starting pitcher in an effort to both salvage something out of a hard-thrower as well as give him a chance to pitch more often and learn more of the finer points of pitching. In ’10 he returned to relieving, mostly as a setup guy and long-man, but was solid and consistent enough to get a callup to AAA where he racked up nine saves in 10 chances and posted a 2.08ERA.

Cole Kimball – RHRP
Kimball is a similar pitcher to Carr, but started for his first three seasons before being turned into a reliever in ’09. Kimball doesn’t throw quite as hard, but can (and does) throw more breaking pitches. Served as the closer for Potomac in ’09 and to begin ’10 with solid numbers. At Harrisburg, Kimball saw his strikeout rate jump from the one-per-inning rate that’s relatively common to a more dominant 12.3/9IP.

Brad Peacock – RHSP
The last of the draft-and-follow picks, Peacock is a perfect example of what the A+ level is — a place where a guy needs to work on one more thing before making the biggest jump in the minors. That one thing? The changeup. Early in the ’10 season, Peacock would rack up double-digit strikeouts but couldn’t get much past the fifth or sixth inning because once folks realized he couldn’t throw anything offspeed for strikes, they’d wait him out and sit on that 94-95 heat. In late June, Peacock started to figure out, resulting in a complete-game shutout in early July. By month’s end, he was in Harrisburg and was a factor in the Sens’ playoff run.

Steve Lombardozzi – 2B
Lombardozzi is often overlooked because of what he is not. He’s not big. He’s not flashy. He’s not a home run hitter. What is he? A steady, reliable fielder (though not the strongest of arms) and a consistent hitter with gap power and slightly above-average speed but terrific baserunning instincts. Arguably the most consistent P-Nat this season and was able to bat anywhere in the top third of the lineup with little change in his production.

Michael Burgess – OF
Burgess was an enigma this season. Early on, it looked like he had finally solved his weakness against lefties and began rapping the ball the other way (in ’09, an opposite-field hit for Burgess was a grounder that went just to the left of the 2nd base bag). But after the league adjusted to him, his well-known weakness re-emerged — the inability to lay off soft-and-away pitches came back. He appeared to be readjusting his approach when a death in his family kept him out for a couple of weeks. In the final analysis, Burgess is still trying to figure out how to hit to all fields without sacrificing power and keeping the strikeouts down. There were times when he did, which is why he’s been given this challenge.

Derek Norris – C
Injuries wreaked havoc on Norris’s season and it was not until late August that he began to look comfortable as a hitter. As mentioned last week, Norris does struggle some with breaking pitches but as many people have remarked, you can close your eyes and pick him out of a BP lineup — the ball has a distinctive sound coming off his bat. The most promising thing is that no matter how low his batting average got, Derek did not press and held his OBP at the .400+ level all season long. Defensively, Norris is still a project, struggling with wild pitches and passed balls, but still threw out 51% of the runners that tried to steal off him.

Sammy Solis – LHP
Solis made just two appearances in Hagerstown, so I did not see him. Here is what the estimable John Sickels wrote about him prior to the draft:

A back injury redshirted Solis in 2009, so he’s a draft-eligible sophomore this year… Sizeable at 6-5, 220, he has an 89-92 MPH fastball, and both his curveball and changeup are major league quality. His command is considered excellent, and there is nothing wrong with his statistical performance this spring: 2.94 ERA with a 52/15 K/BB in 52 innings, 51 hits allowed. He should… interest any team looking for a lefty with polish who won’t need much minor league time.

Sep 152010
 

The tables were turned on the Winston-Salem Dash as the Potomac Nationals used both the long ball and the big inning to twice overcome one-run deficits for a 5-3 victory. The win evened the Carolina League championship series at 1-1, which will resume tomorrow night in Woodbridge.

Trevor Holder was the stopper for the second time in as many starts with 5⅓ innings pitched, with two runs allowed on eight hits, no walks, and five strikeouts. Zach Dials got the win in relief, allowing hits to the first two batters he faced in the sixth but then retiring the side in the seventh.

Early on, the P-Nat lumber was still in a slumber as Winston-Salem’s Dylan Axelrod faced 10 batters before Derek Norris led off the fourth with a double. After Bill Rhinehart popped put and Tyler Moore struck out, it appeared that he would be stranded until Jamar Walton launched a two-run blast to left to give Potomac its first lead at 2-1.

Dash cleanup hitter Seth Loman chased Holder with a one-out solo shot in the sixth, tying the game at 2-2, and Ozzie Lewis greeted Dials with a triple to center. Jose Martinez followed with a single to left to send in Lewis and return the lead to Winston-Salem at 3-2.

Axelrod was lifted after seven innings in favor of journeyman Brandon Kloess. Francisco Soriano walked and stole second second base. After Nick Moresi struck out, Soriano would score after Dan Lyons and Norris hit back-to-back singles, chasing Kloess. Lefthander Hector Santiago came on to face Bill Rhinehart. Santiago got the out, but the flyball was deep enough for Lyons to score the go-ahead run. Tyler Moore singled to complete the rally.

With a 5-3 lead, Patrick McCoy took the ball in the eighth and let up a leadoff single to Brandon Gilmore, giving the crowd of 4,009 hope for another rally. But the burly lefty crushed any hopes of that by retiring the next six batters to notch the save and send the two teams back to Virginia, in what now amounts to a best-of-three with Potomac as the host.

Sep 092010
 

With the 2-3 format that’s prevalent in the minors and independent baseball, winning Game One is crucial for the visiting team.

Why?

Because it instantly negates the chance of the first-half team, the home team for Games 1 and 2, either sweeping or going on the road only needing to win one game.

Harrisburg was up to the task, responding to a three-run 1st with a five-run 2nd and putting away Altoona with another five-run rally in the 8th en route to a 10-5 victory.

Potomac refused the hospitality of five walks and a two-out error that built an 8-0 lead after its half of the 1st and let the Keys back into the game with a seven-run rally. Instead, the bats napped for the next eight innings until Derek Norris went deep on an opposite-field blast to tie it in the top of the 9th at 9-9. A three-base error by Tyler Moore on a sacrifice gave the Keys the Little-League-esque win at 10-9.

Tom Milone started for Harrisburg and bore down after the first to go 5⅔ innings, with three runs allowed (two earned) on four hits and two walks. He allowed one home run, but struck out seven.

Danny Rosenbaum started for Potomac and lasted just one inning, giving up seven earned runs on four hits and two walks, the big hurt coming on a two-out grand slam by Brian Ward, his fourth professional home run.

For the rest of the highlights…

Team Pitching Star Hitting Star #1 Hitting Star #2
Harrisburg Senators
W, 10-5
Hassan Pena
2IP 0H 0R 0BB 1K
Jesus Valdez
2-5, R, 3RBI
Ofilio Castro
3-5, R
Potomac Nationals
L, 10-9
Pat Lehman
3⅓ IP 5H 2R 0ER 0BB 6K
Jamar Walton
1-4, R, HR, 4RBI
Derek Norris
2-3, 2R, 2BB, HR, RBI
Sep 072010
 

Our final 2010 look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues, with a focus on the level where the prospects shone the brightest, not counting some guy who made a tour for service-time reasons (*ahem*).

SYRACUSE 76-67, 2nd place IL North, 11 games back

Good Bat: Danny Espinosa .295/.349/.463 in 24G
Arm: Josh Wilkie 2.45ERA, 1.13WHIP, 2HR in 69⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Chris Duncan .191/.274/.302 in 82G
Arm: Collin Balester as a starter: 11.57ERA, .385OBA
Interesting Bat: Boomer Whiting .372OBP, 36/48 SB
Arm: Erik Arnesen 1.29WHIP, 3.95ERA in 107IP

HARRISBURG 77-65, 2nd place, 5 games back, E.L. West Division Wild Card

Good Bat: Chris Marrero .294/.350/.450 in 141G
Arm: Tom Milone 12-5, 2.85ERA ( in ’09, 12-5, 2.91ERA), 155K in 158IP
Bad Bat: Sean Rooney .165BA in 31G
Arm: Aaron Thompson 4-13, 5.80ERA, 1.59WHIP
Interesting Bat: Steve Lombardozzi .295/.373/.524 in 27G
Arm: Tanner Roark 1.22WHIP, 2.50ERA in 6 starts since acquisition

POTOMAC
39-30 in 2nd Half, 70-69 overall — 2nd-Half CrL North Division winner by 2½ games

Good Bat: Tyler Moore 31HR, 111RBI, .552SLG
Arm: Dan Leatherman 0.92WHIP, 57K in 46⅔ IP in 31G w/ 11SV
Bad Bat: Chris Curran .226/.293/.305 in 74G
Arm: Justin Phillabaum 0-6, 6.87ERA (13.17 at home), 1.77WHIP in 29 appearances
Interesting Bat: Derek Norris .300/.535/.575 with RISP; .210/.359/.347 bases empty
Arm: Brad Peacock 5.1K/9 at A+ in ’09; 10.27K/9 in ’10

HAGERSTOWN
29-41 in 2nd Half, 65-75 overall

Good Bat: J.P. Ramirez .296/.341/.470 in 132G
Arm: Danny Rosenbaum 2.32ERA, 1.22WHIP in 18G
Bad Bat: Adrian Nieto .195/.291/.253, 13E in 60G
Arm: Josh Smoker 7.38ERA, .319OBA as starter
Interesting Bat: Justin Bloxom .309/.355/.476 in ’10; .228/.346/.303 in ’09 at Vermont
Arm: Rob Wort 2.08ERA, 185OBA; 3.91ERA, .247OBA in ’09 at GCL

VERMONT
36-38, 3rd Place Stedler Division of NY-Penn League, 2 games back

Good Bat: David Freitas .307/.408/.450 in 62G
Arm: Neil Holland 1.04WHIP, 37K in 32⅔ IP in 19G
Bad Bat: Hendry Jimenez .218/.291/.279 in 51G
Arm: Chris McKenzie 1.97WHIP, 8.54ERA in 26⅓ IP over 8G (6GS)
Interesting Bat: Wade Moore .287/.394/.392, ’10 D-2 draftee
Arm: Mark Herrera 1.18WHIP, .220OBA, ’10 Juco draftee

GCL NATIONALS
24-32, 4th place GCL East Division, 13 games back

Good Bat: Randolph Oduber .366/.434/.569 in 39G
Arm: Nick Serino 1.01WHIP, 3.16ERA in 25⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Rashad Hatcher .200/.241/.218 in 32G
Arm: Mike Gallo 8.38ERA, .291OBA in 19⅓ IP
Interesting Bat: Angel Montilla .285/.350/.383 in 51G
Arm: NDFA Billy Ott 0.83WHIP, 1.17ERA in 23IP

DSL NATIONALS
36-35, 5th Place, Boca Chica East, 10 games back

Good Bat: Victor Chavez .309/.420/.412 in 46G
Arm: Wirkin Estevez 1.04WHIP, .233OBA in 82⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Yamaicol Tejeda .042BA in 48AB over 32G
Arm: Jorge De La Cruz 9.88ERA in 11G
Interesting Bat: 18-y.o. Paul Chacin .281/.355/.336 in 50G
Arm: Adalberto Mieses 1.42WHIP, 33BB, 5HR, 2.98ERA
Sep 062010
 

In another so-called meaningless game, the Potomac Nationals took their fans on a roller-coaster of emotion with a 7-6 win to close out the second half of the 2010 season.

Ahead 5-1 in the ninth, and a rested A.J. Morris on the mound, the game looked like it was in the bag. Except someone forgot to tell Kinston, who got an infield single to third and two singles to center pull within three at 5-2.

Morris would get the next five batters to hit the ball on the ground, none would leave the infield by virtue of the bat, but Kinston would emerge with the lead.

Doug Pickens would be safe on an error by Tyler Moore that the scorekeeper saw otherwise (if at all) to load the bases. The next batter, Donnie Webb, would reach base by virtue of Nicol’s unsuccessful attempt to put out Pickens, the throw sailing past Francisco Soriano into foul territory for a two-base error that saw Webb take third, and three runs come in to score for a 5-5.

The next three grounders to short would result in outs, but Webb was able to score on the second to get the go-ahead run and give Kinston a 6-5 lead.

But this is a veteran Potomac team, an adjective that’s somewhat pejorative with minor-league fan(boy)s, but in this case it simply means they carried themselves like they’ve seen this before.

Derek Norris flew out to right to open the inning, but Bill Rhinhart singled to put the tying run on base, speedster Chris Curran taking his place at first base to score on a long hit that stayed in the park. Tyler Moore, who had homered to open the scoring way back in the second, struck out. Jose Lozada fell behind 0-2 but plunked a single to shallow center to push Curran to second.

Both managers went to their reserves for a better matchup, Potomac summoning Jamar Walton to bat from the left side and Kinston calling for Matt Langwell to replace a tiring Tyler Sturdevant. Like Lozada, Walton fell behind quickly, but battled back to work the count full and then draw the walk to load the bases.

Next came up 26-year-old Robbie Jacobsen, backup catcher, corner infielder, left fielder, and twice this season, bullpen-saving reliever. Again, Langwell got the drop, getting ahead 0-2, but couldn’t get the swinging strike as Jacobsen fouled off the nibbles, and wouldn’t chase the pitcher’s pitches to work the count to 2-2.

The battle ended with a two-out drive to left field that brought in Curran and Lozada, gave the P-Nats a 7-6 win, and secured a winning overall record at 70-69. But perhaps more importantly, the veteran delivered that perceptible-but-immeasurable momentum going into the Mills Cup playoffs against the Frederick Keys, beginning on Wednesday.

Sep 052010
 

For the second time in three seasons, the Potomac Nationals are playoff-bound. They clinched with a 2-0 shutout of the Kinston Indians in the opening game of a doubleheader, the second shutout in as many games.

Perhaps more satisfying is that it came against Kinston ace Joe Gardner, who had beaten the P-Nat nine that past two times they had faced him. Or maybe that Trevor Holder kept the ball down and in the yard for six scoreless innings, just the second time a zero had appeared in the run column of his pitching line all season long.

Early on, it looked like it might be a rout. Derek Norris and Bill Rhinehart drew back-to-back walks with one out to bring up Tyler Moore, who scorched a grounder that third-baseman Kyle Bellows couldn’t handle and left-fielder Donnie Webb nearly misplayed (yes, it was hit that hard) for an early 1-0 lead. Webb recovered in more than enough time to throw out Rhinehart attempting to go from first to third.

After another walk, this one to Sean Rooney, Gardner got Jerome Walton to ground out to end the threat. It would be the first of 13 batters in a row he would retire.

Indian catcher Chun Chen would smack a double to left field to lead off the second and the feeling of a rout came back, but in the opposite direction. But then a funny thing happened: Holder struck out the side, en route to retiring nine straight.

After a brief threat in the fifth, which Holder escaped with a nicely turned 5-4-3 double play, Potomac would get an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, as Francisco Soriano led off with a walk, stole second, and took third on an error before Norris drove him in with a single to left.

Holder would finish with three hits allowed and six strikeouts against no runs and no walks to give way to Pat McCoy, who retired the Indians 1-2-3 for save no. 6, clinching the second-half Carolina League North Division title for Potomac.

GAME TWO
With the playoff bid secured, Rhinehart, Norris and Moore were given the rest of night off and swingman Carlos Martinez got the nod to start. The veteran swingman would put in four innings of work, leaving with a 1-1 tie before giving way to Justin Phillabaum.

For the 15th time in 29 appearances, Phillabaum was scored upon, coughing up three runs in the fifth with a bases-clearing, two-out triple by Abner Abreu. Inexplicably, Phillabaum was asked to throw again in the sixth. Predictably, the Indians torched him for another three runs, a no-doubt-about-it blast to right by Bo Greenwell.

Down 7-1 in the sixth, the P-Nats showed some heart to rally for three runs in the sixth and one more in the seventh, but the damage had been done as the Potomac would fall in the nightcap by a count of 7-5.