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
Nov 292011
 

Last year, I wrote “The people have spoken,” referring to the poll for next steps regarding rankings and watchlists. This year, the sentiment’s the same but this time, it’s a little more literal.

That’s because this year’s list is based on the opinions of those that wrote in to my query for submissions, not just my own. Is it scientific? Hell, no — it’s subjective. But the theory is that a bunch of like-minded seamheads are going to produce a better list than this one did last year.

The methodology is pretty simple: I took the submissions, put ‘em in a spreadsheet and then added up the points in reverse (#1 vote = 10 points, #10 vote = 1 point). Top vote getter is #1, second-most is #2, etc. A couple of ballots mixed in pitchers and I tried to count them anyways but that actually produced a couple of ties, so I tossed ‘em and that worked to break the ties.

The sample size isn’t terribly big (19) but it was about what I was hoping for (20). So here are the results, in reverse order with points in parentheses. A perfect score was 190 and I’m sure you’ll be *shocked* to learn that it was achieved.

10. Eury Perez (28)
9. Michael Taylor (33)
8. Tyler Moore (56)
7. Chris Marrero (74)
6. Destin Hood (87)
5. Steve Lombardozzi (95)
4. Brian Goodwin (103)
3. Derek Norris (150)
2. Anthony Rendon (152)
1. Bryce Harper (190)

Others receiving votes: Zach Walters, Jeff Kobernus, Rick Hague, Kevin Keyes, Jason Martinson, Jhonatan Solano, Matt Skole, Chris Curran, David Freitas, Corey Brown, Erik Komatsu, Blake Kelso

That’s 22 players receiving votes. You’ll note that I used “position players” instead of “bats” this year in the headline. Some folks took that to mean strictly hitting prowess, even though I tend to use it as a synonym like “arms” for pitchers. But I stuck with bats because I like the picture, opting against a visual pun (this time; I’ve been saving that one since last winter).

I think you can see from this variety of names that some folks are factoring in defense (e.g. Curran) some give props to knocking on the MLB door (Solano) and some give props to raw tools (Keyes). Three players appeared on all ballots: Harper, Rendon, and Norris. Goodwin was left off one; Moore, two; Lombardozzi, Hood, and Marrero: three; Perez, eight; Taylor, ten. The others receiving votes are in order of points, but it wasn’t close: Walters received 15 points.

The two names that missed that kind of surprised me were David Freitas and Rick Hague. Say what you will about his defense, but an .858 OPS over two years might have gotten a little more respect. Conversely, a season-ending shoulder injury didn’t dissuade folks from voting for Hague, even though as the votes for Martinson and Walters attest, he’s no longer the shortstop in waiting that he was this time last year.

Ultimately, like all things hot stove, this is an exercise that mainly serves to pass the time and the winter. But that’s going to stop me from soliciting votes for the pitchers as my next project ;-)

Editor’s Note: This was largely written prior to the news that Chris Marrero had torn his hamstring. Clearly this is a blow to both the prospect and the organization. It may also open the door for Tyler Moore. But one has to also wonder if this makes Lombardozzi the trade chip in lieu of Marrero, given the interest in Mark DeRosa.

Oct 262011
 

There are some parallels to the 2010 season and the 2011 season for the Potomac Nationals. Both teams started slowly…VERY slowly, getting into offensive funks that saw both teams get shut out seven times. The 2010 edition finished the first half at 31-39, ten games behind Frederick; the ’11 guys were 29-40 and twelve games behind the Keys at the break.

Given that the core of the team was the 2010 Hagerstown Suns that faded fast in the second half, it was natural to think that a second-half rally was unlikely, particularly since it seemed rather unlikely that much come in the way of reinforcements. The whispers that Bryce Harper would skip the level turned out to be true, but what the team really needed at that point was pitching.

Oddly enough, both the hitting and the pitching did improve in the second half with basically just one starter (Solis) and one reliever (Holland) added to the mix. But while 2010 was largely the hitting getting much better down the stretch, the story of the 2011 second half was the stabilizing of the pitching. Essentially, it went from league worst (5.01 team ERA on June 1st) to slightly higher than league average (3.79 vs. 3.77) the rest of the way.

Coupled with an improved offense (4.00 R/G before July 1, 4.44 after), the P-Nats turned in a 39-31 second half that became good enough to win second-half Northern Division title when the Keys lost the last three regular-season games (and eight of the last ten). Thanks to league bylaws, Frederick’s 39-31 mark down the stretch still earned them the home-field advantage in the first round of the Mills Cup playoffs. That turned out to be the difference as the Keys beat the P-Nats 3-2 for the fifth game and 3-2 for the series to send Potomac packing and end any hopes of defending the 2010 title.

So let’s take a look at how the 2011 edition stacked up against the rest of Carolina League…
HITTING

PITCHING

Having watched these guys day in and day out, I was bit surprised to see that the team finished third in walks drawn — in my mind, there were only a handful of players that seemed willing to take the walk, and too many that weren’t. But those that did walk, walked a lot (Francisco Soriano and Steve Souza were 2nd and 3rd in walk rate for players with 200+ PA in the Carolina League).

That 215 steals led the league by 63 and was the most by the team in its affiliation with Washington and the most in the league since the 2008 Wilmington Blue Rocks. They were only caught 66 times, which works out to an efficiency rate of 76.5 percent. Yes, Eury Perez and Jeff Kobernus accounted for the bulk of it (88 steals combined) but even big men such as Souza (25) and Destin Hood (21) stole 20+ bases. The thievery helped offset the team’s lack of doubles, but otherwise, this squad was mostly right around league averages. Not bad when you consider the position players were the second-youngest in the league.

As aforementioned, the pitching went from horrid early to serviceable late. They still finished last in nearly every rate or total statistic, but let’s not forget that the Carolina League tends to be a pitcher’s league despite the launching pads in Frederick and the Salems. For those that may have missed it or were wondering, the Pfitz usually comes out neutral in ballpark-effect studies.

You can argue over how much of it came from reshuffling the deck and removing failed starters from the rotation (Mitchell Clegg, Marcos Frias, Trevor Holder) or how the unsung work of swingmen (Adam Olbrychowski, Evan Bronson) filled in the gaps, or how the team’s top two starters improved over the course of the season — one steadily (Danny Rosenbaum), the other in fits (Paul Demny) — but the bottom line: it did get better.

Now, in our little dance, we take a look at the Top 12’s for the batters and pitchers in terms of PAs and IPs.
Full statistics for the team can be found here. (* 2009 Draft Pick, ** DSL Graduate).

I chose to highlight the ’09 picks and DSL grads to illustrate the counterpoint to drafting ‘em young: It takes time. In this subset, there are four ’08 picks (Hood, Higley, Lozada, and Ramirez) and fifth that was traded for (Dykstra). Only one 2010 position-player draft pick saw playing time, and that was four games before his shoulder went out (Rick Hague) — two, if you want to count Zach Walters.

What I personally like about High-A is that it’s the true litmus test for a prospect. I’ve seen varying percentages that break down once a prospect plays at level X, his chances of ever playing in MLB are now Y, but almost all of them jump from single digits to double digits when it comes to High-A vs. AA. Anecdotally, I can tell you that this where many players stall: The bridge over the Susquehannah in Harrisburg may as well be the bridge over the Rhine in Arnhem, so to speak. Seems like every April I fill in the lineups and think to myself “This guy is still here?” — and the thought occurs on both sides of the scorebook.

So while some folks have expressed great dismay over the lack of development of some guys, it bears repeating that this happens all the time. And in my mind, that disappointment is offset by guys breaking out (Hood) and/or shaking off the proverbial primates (Kobernus). Not to mention my personal favorite: seeing a pitcher start to “get it.”

How’s that for a segue?
Just to expand upon what I wrote earlier, Olbrychowski was terrible as a reliever but found his groove as a starter (5.63 vs. 3.71 ERA) and the reverse was true for Frias (1.67 vs. 5.06). Bronson was actually better as a reliever when you look at the season as a whole, but unlike Olbrychowski and Frias, kept bouncing between roles (and levels) until he was given a spot in the rotation in mid-August and turned in quality starts in two of his four starts down the stretch.

Demny, as aforementioned, improved over the course of the season but take a look at the ERAs by month:
April – 2.08, May – 6.93, June – 2.55, July – 8.42, Aug/Sep – 2.72. He’s young (22 in August), throws hard (~93-95), and durable (100+ IP the past three seasons). Clearly, he made his adjustments and the league adjusted back, but you have to like that he was able to rebound not once but twice from rough patches of pitching.

OBLIGATORY TOP 5 LISTS
The upside to rating Potomac is that I’ve seen these guys the most. The downside to rating Potomac is that I’ve seen these guys so much. Looking over last year’s season review I can see that invariably, I’m either going to overvalue some guys as a fan (e.g. Chris Curran), and undervalue others in an effort to overcompensate for being a fan (e.g. Tyler Moore last year). So bear that in mind as I fire from the hip and make the lists that folks love so much…

Batters
1. Destin Hood
2. Jeff Kobernus
3. Eury Perez
4. Steve Souza
5. Justin Bloxom
HM: Zach Walters

Pitchers
1. Danny Rosenbaum
2. Sammy Solis
3. Paul Demny
4. Josh Smoker
5. Marcos Frias

Sep 292011
 

Well, the announcement came a bit sooner than previously reported, but the news is good: Destin Hood (#12) and Sammy Solis (#13) joined the ranks of the players anointed by Baseball America in the year-end prospect rankings by league.

Like last year, this is a bit of a surprise. That’s because I felt like Solis would be passed over because he only made 10 starts and turned 23 during the season, not to mention the high HR rate. Something to keep in mind before complaining about, say, Jeff Kobernus’s omission even if the Potomac 2B had a substandard rates for both OBP and SLG.

As before, the highlights from the scouting reports…

Hood’s bat has come a long ways since he was drafted, but he still has to prove he can catch up to hard fastballs and quality breaking balls. His raw strength should translate into average power, especially now that he has improved his plate discipline. His plus speed plays well on the bases and in right field, where he shows a solid arm.

If, by “solid” BA means accurate, then yes. If, by “solid” BA means strong, then no. I like Destin Hood, but he’s a left fielder playing right field. Regular readers know that I’ve said that all season long.


As a lefty who mixes a 90-93 mph fastball with an average slider and changeup, Solis has the stuff to stick in a big league[sic] rotation. His stuff plays up because he has good feel for pitching. He throws strikes, works both sides of the plate and gets plenty of groundouts thanks to good sink on his fastball.


Solis had his moments where he could get lit when he left his pitches up, which is something he needs to work on. I saw at both Low-A and High-A and AA hitters will make him pay even worse than he did this season. Like Kobernus, the injury history is going to dog him until he puts in a full season as a professional. Otherwise, this report is a decent assessment of the southpaw.

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
 

For the second straight year, Potomac’s right fielder will be going to the in the Carolina/California League All-Star game. And for the second straight year, that man will be the sole P-Nat player on the roster.

Destin Hood gets the honor/obligation of making the trip to Modesto, CA for the 2011 exhibition. His manager, Matthew LeCroy, and Potomac trainer Allan Wood will be joining him.

Hood is currently batting .269/.373/.453 in 58 games, his 19 doubles good for 2nd place in the Carolina League and 32 BB’s is third-best.

May 272011
 

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

SYRACUSE 16-22, 5th place I.L. North, 7 games behind

Good Chris Marrero .294/.362/.365 in May
Bad Ross Detwiler 1-4, 9.38 ERA, 2.17 WHIP in May
Interesting Josh Wilkie 1.75 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 10.89 K/9

HARRISBURG 23-20, 1st place E.L. West Division, 1 game ahead

Good Brad Peacock 7-1, 2.13 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 75K in 55IP
Bad Jimmy Barthmaier 1.90 WHIP, 4HR in 23⅔ IP
Interesting Bill Rhinehart 8HR, 17RBI

POTOMAC 18-27, 3rd place C.L. North Division, 10 games behind

Good Destin Hood .287/.333/.532 in May
Bad Joe Testa 2.04WHIP
Interesting Hector Nelo, spotted throwing 98mph

HAGERSTOWN 28-18, 1st place Sally League Northern Division, 1 game ahead

Good David Freitas .289/.392/.458
Bad Michael Taylor .280 OBP, 39K in 42G
Interesting Christopher Manno 6SV, 0.54WHIP, 33K in 17G
May 232011
 

For the third straight week, a Nationals farmhand has taken home a weekly award, with Destin Hood nabbing the Carolina League Batter of the Week award for the period of May 16-22.

Hood batted .448 (13-for-29) during the week, which includes two hitless games on May 16 and 17, and hit seven doubles, a triple, and a home run while collecting 10 RBI. His 16 doubles for the season is now tied for the Carolina League lead and is the best in the system, three ahead of some kid named Harper, and is now hitting .287/.387/.490 overall.

Apr 222011
 

It’s back! Our weekly look at the leaders (good), trailers (bad), and outliers (interesting) in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE 6-8, T4th place IL North, 3 games back

Good Tom Milone 0.85WHIP, 0BB in 13 innings
Bad Garrett Mock 17BB, 2.29WHIP in 11⅓ IP
Interesting Brian Bixler .326/.483/.370 in 14G

HARRISBURG 6-7, T3rd place E.L. West, 1 game back

Good Brad Meyers 2-1, 3.07 in 3GS
Bad Jonathan Tucker .140/.178/.209 in 12G
Interesting Hassan Pena 9K, 0.90WHIP in 4 appearances

POTOMAC 5-7, 3rd place, Carolina League North, 3½ games back

Good Steve Souza 5HR, 1.079OPS in 12G
Bad Alex Caldera 14.40ERA, 2.60WHIP, 3HR in 2 appearances
Interesting Destin Hood 10BB, .467OBP in 12G

HAGERSTOWN 9-6, 3rd Place Sally League Northern, 2 games back

Good Cameron Selik 20K in 15IP, 0.00ERA, 3GS
Bad Michael Taylor .143/.205/.229 in 13G
Interesting Blake Kelso .333/.380/.422, 1E in 14G

Before folks chime in about who did or didn’t get named, bear in mind that:
(a) This ain’t Little League
(b) I try to keep the bats and arms balanced
(c) Outliers aren’t necessarily organizational soldiers; mostly it’s the unexpected in either extreme. For example, Bryce Harper might have been an “Interesting” because he’s not tearing up the Sally League, but Blake Kelso (who is a watchlist player) is both hitting and fielding better than expected.
(d) I also try to highlight (or lowlight) different folks every week unless someone’s on a run like Tyler Moore or Stephen Strasburg, in which case, I owe it to both you, the reader, and them to give them their due.

Now, comment away!

Mar 162011
 

With four injuries in less than five hours, it appears we’ve crossed the line from discussing who’s in shape to who’s hurt.

Prior to the game, Ryan Zimmerman (groin), Ivan Rodriguez (calf), Michael Morse (upset stomach), were pulled from the lineup in what would seem like quick succession thanks to the latest forms of communication. Morse is expected to play today while Zimmerman and Rodriguez are expected to be out longer.

During the game, Danny Espinosa went down after fouling a ball off the top of his right foot, setting the Natmosphere, um, atwitter with tweets about Espinosa being carried to the locker room “unable to put weight on his right leg.” Perhaps that pic above isn’t so inappropriate because first reports are often wrong, as this morning we now know that the injury is the more mundane “bad bruise that will require a precautionary X-ray.”

Prior to the injury, Espinosa had been 1-for-3 with a strikeout.

For the game itself, the Nationals lost to the Mets 5-2, the highlight being fifth-starter candidate Tom Gorzelanny’s four innings pitched, one run allowed on two hits and three walks and four strikeouts to make his case beyond “he’s out of options.”

Unfortunately, the same cannot be written about Craig Stammen and Henry Rodriguez.

Stammen was torched touched for three runs in his 1⅔ innings of work, allowing three hits and a walk with no strikeouts. Henry Rodriguez managed not to walk anybody but allowed a run on two hits in his one inning pitched.

Competing relievers Collin Balester and Brian Broderick made their cases, with Balester stranding two inherited runners while getting the final out of the sixth and Broderick allowing just a walk while pitching a scoreless eighth.

Other notable prospects…

  • Chris Marrero had an RBI single in his lone at-bat, but continues to impress with his improved defense.
  • Destin Hood went hitless in his lone at-bat as a pinch-hitter in the ninth for Broderick.
  • Derek Norris was 0-for-1 with a walk, catching the final two innings.

The Nationals play again this afternoon in Kissimmee against the Houston Astros, with Ross Detwiler expected to start.