Feb 162014
 

The last of our predictions is finally here with the forecast of the Hagerstown pitchers.

If I’m right about the composition and wrong about the timing, this is arguably the most exciting starting five of the four full-season affiliates*, with four of the team’s Top 30 pitching prospects per Baseball America, including the #1 overall, Lucas Giolito.
* Tickets, I’ve heard, are readily available.

But before we get too far down that road, let’s look at my choices for the 2013 Suns:

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
Blake Schwartz Dixon Anderson Leonard Hollins
Brian Rauh David Fischer Cody Davis
Nick Lee Derek Self
Blake Monar Robert Benincasa
Pedro Encarnacion Michael Boyden
Brett Mooneyham


That’s more like it. After only getting one or two wrong in parts one through three, missing on four serves as a reminder that this is still a guessing game. Plus, a reminder that short-season ball is fickle and inferences suspect.

Case in point: Michael Boyden, who was bumped up from the GCL to Auburn after six scoreless appearances in 2012. Not only did he not make it to Hagerstown in 2013, he didn’t return to Auburn, repeating the GCL and was ultimately released.

So maybe I’ll be very wrong on the two swingmen below, but I still feel like somebody from the GCL is going to skip Auburn, and it seems more likely that it’d be older guys used in relief (and a lot) than teenagers like Jefry Rodriguez.

Without further ado, the final set of picks:

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
Lucas Giolito Hector Silvestre David Napoli
Jake Johansen Wander Suero L.J. Hollins
Austin Voth Cory Bafidis
Nick Pivetta Jake Joyce
R.C. Orlan Derek Self


Before you ask, “What about__________?” a reminder that I’ve purposefully excluded guys that I know or believe were hurt. Besides, information regarding players’ health and/or injuries is sparse and the Nationals kinda sorta have a history of being less than truthful when they do release such information.

Also, I don’t know precisely who’s been released yet or who’s retired. In part, because I do know the players, their friends and families, and their agents are reading, I’m not keen on predicting or speculating on those two outcomes. If someone’s not mentioned, take it face value: a guess at who the 12 pitchers will be this year at a given level.

Now, we return to the wait-and-see mode until the games begin (and the fluffing of Matt Williams stops).

Feb 152014
 

While this is third in our series, it’s the fourth staff to be set at the end of spring training, which often leads to some disappointment for the fans… and the players. At least at the outset. Thanks to the half system — and a steady stream of pitchers working their way back from injury — top picks do pass through in the second half of the season.

I personally like to think of High-A as a proving ground for prospects. Maybe I’m biased as a season-ticket holder for the level, but it sure seems like this is where wheat gets separated from the chaff.

On that somewhat dischordant note, let’s review how I picked the 2013 P-Nats pitchers:

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
A.J. Cole Christian Meza Aaron Barrett
Robbie Ray Matt Swynenberg Colin Bates
Taylor Hill Richie Mirowski
Taylor Jordan Greg Holt
Kylin Turnbull Ben Hawkins
Matt Purke


In what’s becoming a pattern, I got a lot right… but just barely. Meza and Turnbull were demoted, Hawkins was released, and Purke made six starts for Hagerstown, twelve for Potomac. This reinforces another mantra which I’m sure will be repeated again in six weeks: It’s not where a guy starts, it’s where he finishes (see: Jordan, Taylor).

Recall that yesterday I picked six starters for Harrisburg. Now one of those guys might start in Syracuse, but it’s also possible that one of them will start here, too. If I’m right about Lucas Giolito being held back like A.J. Cole and Robbie Ray, then it’s not hard to envision the odd man out in Harrisburg beginning here until he’s ready, then the board is reset — happened last year with Purke/Schwartz/Jordan (not precisely, but close enough for this anecdote) and to a lesser extent in 2012 with Purke and Nathan Karns (Cameron Selik was bumped up instead of a starter).

Of course I want to wrong about Giolito… I’d rather see him pitch two months from now instead of four or six (or not all), but the Nats track record says otherwise.

With that, I give you my guess for the 2014 Potomac pitchers…

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
Brett Mooneyham Ian Dickson Matt Spann
Pedro Encarnacion Ronald Pena Gilberto Mendez
Kylin Turnbull Cody Davis
Dakota Bacus David Fischer
Nick Lee Greg Holt


Next up: The 2014 Hagerstown Suns

Aug 212013
 

RippleAfter three summers of people complaining about Nationals being too slow to promote… this summer, those people can shut the trunk up.

As noted earlier this season, the increased movement has made it harder to call true promotions versus need-based fill-ins. Thus, you’re seeing verbs “assign” or “reassign,” which are a bit more benign, but also enables me to avoid using word “demoted” for when a player is returned (e.g. Taylor Hill).

My personal guideline has been to avoid calling any movement between the short-season leagues a promotion, but Lucas Giolito is an obvious exception. Likewise for Austin Voth and Jake Johansen, as all three are top draft picks and their transfers from the GCL to Auburn and Auburn to Hagerstown are difficult to characterize as anything but.

The roster moves for Giolito and Voth have been officially announced, with Giolito scheduled to make his New York-Penn League debut (on the road, natch) tonight. Auburn Citizen beat reporter Jeremy Houghtaling (@CitizenHough for those of you on “the Twitters”) says he’ll make the trip to Batavia, so we’ll have at least one independent account.

Voth appears to be slated to start tomorrow, weather permitting, as will Brett Mooneyham for Potomac, with the younger Pac-12 pitcher taking the place of the elder, who’s reportedly on his way to Potomac according to MASN’s Byron Kerr.

The moves for Johansen and Mooneyham have not been officially announced, but the speculation here is that Paul Demny will be placed on the Potomac DL to make room for Mooneyham (and take his place in the rotation) and similar move will be made for Hagerstown (more likely a reliever with Ian Dickson going to the ‘pen).

UPDATE: Auburn has officially announced the promotion of Johansen to Hagerstown. The Suns, in turn, have announced the promotion of Mooneyham to Potomac while LHP Jake Walsh has been reassigned to the GCL to accommodate the transfers of both Johansen and Voth. A corresponding move for Potomac has not yet been announced.

Jun 212013
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Lost, 5-3 @ Gwinnett,
7:05 p.m.
Maya (2-4, 4.81) vs. TBA
Harrisburg Lost, 5-3 vs. New Hampshire,
7:00 p.m.
Gilliam (2-2, 4.94) vs.
Stroman (3-1, 4.15)
Potomac OFF DAY vs. Carolina,
7:05 p.m
TBD vs. TBD
Hagerstown Won, 14-1 @ Greenville,
7:05 p.m.
Lee (1-2, 5.32) vs.
Montas (1-5, 5.82)
Auburn Lost, 7-5 vs. State College,
7:05 p.m.
R. Lopez (0-0, 6.75 @ A-) vs.
Petree (Pro Debut)
GCL Nationals N/A vs. GCL Mets,
12:00 p.m.
TBD vs. TBD
DSL Nationals Won, 1-0 @ DSL Tigers,
10:30 a.m.
Yrizarri (1-0, 0.00) vs.
Soto (1-0, 0.64)



Charlotte 5 Syracuse 3
• Mandel (L, 1-4) 5⅓ IP, 6H, 5R, 5ER, 5BB, 3K
• Broadway ⅔ IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 0K, WP, 3-2 IR-S
• Walters 3-4, 2R, 2B, HR, RBI
• Rivero 2-3, RBI

After matching the Knights twice, the Chiefs had no answer for Charlotte’s two-run rally in the 6th, losing the game 5-3 and the series 3-1. Starter Jeff Mandel suffered his fourth loss, charged with all five runs on six hits and five walks. He left with one out in the sixth as the go-ahead run came in on a groundout and the insurance run scored on a wild pitch. Zach Walters was a triple shy of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored as he hit his career-high and team-best 16th home run.

Bowie 5 Harrisburg 3
• Karns (L, 4-3) 4IP, 5H, 2R, ER, 2BB, 5K
• McCoy 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 1K
• Souza 3-4, 2R, 2B, HR, BB, RBI, SB(10)
• Goodwin 2-5

Nathan Karns hadn’t faced any live* batters in 11 days and it showed as he took the “L” in a 5-3 Harrisburg loss to Bowie. Karns threw 28 of 78 total pitches during his fourth and final inning, giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks while striking out five. Bowie extended the lead from 2-1 to 5-1 with a pair against Matt Swynenberg in the 5th and one against Ryan Perry in the 6th. Steve Souza Jr. led the Senators attack with 3-for-4 night with a home run, walk, two runs scored, and his 10th stolen base.
* No word in whether he pitched to any dead ones. *rimshot!*

Potomac Nationals — OFF DAY
The second half finally begins with a seven-game homestand against the Carolina Mudcats and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

Hagerstown 14 Greenville 1
• Mooneyham (W, 3-1) 5IP, 3H, R, ER, 3BB, 4K, HR
• Dickson (H, 1) 3IP, 2H, 0R, 2BB, 5K
• Foat 3-4, 2R, 2-2B, BB, 2RBI
• Pleffner 2-5, R, BB, 2RBI, SB
• Mesa 2-5, 2R, 2B, 2RBI

Hagerstown scored 14 unanswered runs in the second-half opener for a 14-1 win over Greenville. Starter Brett Mooneyham gave up a solo shot in the 1st but went the requisite five innings to get the win, giving up three hits total while walking three and striking out four. All nine starters got a hit as the Suns pounded out 13 total. Matt Foat led the way with a single, walk, a pair of doubles, two runs scored and two runs driven in for 3-for-4 night, followed by Shawn Pleffner and recently promoted Narciso Mesa, both of whom went 2-for-5 with 2RBI.

State College 7 Auburn 5
• D. Williams (L, 0-1) 4⅓ IP, 2H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 5K
• Medina 2⅓ IP, 1H, 0R, 1BB, 3K
• Difo 2-4, 2R, HR, BB, RBI
• Valdez 2-5, 2B, RBI

The Spikes rallied twice for three runs in the 5th and 6th innings to break open a 1-1 game and held off the Doubledays for 7-5 win. Deion Williams, converted to pitcher last summer in the GCL, took the loss with two runs allowed on two hits and two walks while fanning five over four and a 1/3rd innings. Dominicans Wilmer Difo and Jean Valdez led the Auburn attack, as the second baseman (Difo) went 2-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored, and an RBI and the corner infielder (Valdez) went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI.

GCL Nationals — OPENING DAY
Like the diet of a fussy toddler, the GCL schedule is limited — 20 games apiece against the Mets, Marlins, and Cardinals for the next 10 weeks. Seven of the ten DSL guys from the 2013 Watchlist are on the roster, which also includes 2012 first-round pick Lucas Giolito, 2013 third-rounder Drew Ward.

DSL Nationals 1 DSL Tigers 0
• Reyes 4IP, 4H, 0R, 2BB, 6K
• Feliz (W, 3-0) 3IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 3K
• Salazar (SV, 3) 2IP, 0H, 0R, BB, K
• Mercedes 1-3, R, HR, RBI, BB

Yermin Mercedes’s solo HR in the bottom of the 4th was the difference in a 1-0 D-Nats win over the D-Tigers. Of course, three pitchers combining on a four-hit shutout also helped. Luis Reyes went the first four and gave up all four hits. John Feliz got his third relief win pitching the next three, while Melvi Salazar notched his third save with two goose eggs in the 8th and 9th innings. Meredes, Aldrem Corredor, and Israel Mota each went 1-for-3 with a walk ad the D-Nats were held to just five hits and four walks.