AFL Update: Oct. 21, 2016

afl-jake-johansen-10-20-16A two-out steal of third in the bottom of the 8th changed from dumb baserunning to a genius move when the Mesa catcher threw it away. That proved to be the gamewinner in a 3-2 win by Glendale that snapped a five-game losing streak.

It also made a winner out of Ryan Brinley, who pitched two perfect innings in the 7th and 8th with two strikeouts. He threw 20 pitches, 13 for strikes to maintain his 0.00 fall ERA.

Jake Johansen (pictured) also made a relief appearance, pitching a scoreless inning and 2/3rds. He stranded a runner in the 4th and worked around an error in the 5th. He walked one and struck none on 22 pitches (nine strikes).

Two Nats position players played:

• Osvaldo Abreu led off and played shortstop, but went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. He committed the aforementioned error, but also took part in two double plays
• Drew Ward played 1B and made nine putouts without an error in the field while going 1-for-4 with two strikeouts at the plate.

The Desert Dogs finish the week with a pair of afternoon road games in Peoria today and Surprise tomorrow.

AFL Update: Oct. 20, 2016

andrew-stevenson-10-19-16The Desert Dogs rallied to tie with a two-spot in the 5th but had no answer for the Rafters’ two-run rally in the 7th as they dropped their fifth straight, 4-2.

Drew Ward and Andrew Stevenson were among the starters while Nick Lee appeared in relief.

Ward batted second and played 3B and reached base twice with a walk and an RBI single while striking out once in four plate appearances. In the field, he made two assists and did not commit an error.

Stevenson batted ninth and played LF. He bunted his way on (pictured) in the 3rd and stole second, doubled in the 5th with two outs, then scored on leadoff man Ramon Laureano’s double. Defensively, he made two putouts, including a crash into LF fence in foul territory to end the 5th.

Lee was the first man out of the Glendale ‘pen and worked around an infield single for a scoreless inning of work. He threw 11 pitches, six for strikes and did not walk a batter.

The Desert Dogs stay at home for an afternoon game today against the Solar Sox.

AFL Update: Oct. 18, 2016

austin-voth-10-17-16The Desert Dogs got good pitching from the starter, the first man out of the ‘pen, and the last man out of the ‘pen.

In between? Not so much as Peoria overcame a 3-1 deficit with four runs in the final three innings to beat Glendale, 5-4.

Austin Voth (pictured) made his second start and was much more effective, giving up one run (albeit on a home run) on two hits and no walks over four innings. He struck out seven and threw 57 pitches, 39 for strikes.

Jake Johansen followed and tossed two scoreless innings with two hits allowed and no walks or whiffs. He threw 31 pitches, 19 for strikes.

Ryan Brinley was the last reliever to appear, coming on with two outs in the 9th with the bases loaded. He left ’em that way as he retired the only batter he faced with a grounder to Drew Ward, who tossed across the diamond for the third out and his fourth assist.

At the plate, Ward reached base twice with a leadoff walk in the 4th and an RBI single in the 6th. He also grounded out and struck out looking and committed an error in the top of the 9th. He was the only Nationals position player to appear in the game.

The loss drops the Desert Dogs to 2-4 on the season. The two teams will rematch and switch venues for a night game in Peoria.

AFL Update: Oct. 16, 2016

nick-lee-afl-10-15-16Scottsdale put up a four-spot in the 1st and never looked back as they defeated Glendale, 9-4 yesterday afternoon.

Drew Ward and Osvaldo Abreu both started and comprised the Desert Dogs’ left side of the infield at third and shortstop, respectively. Andrew Stevenson got the nod in right field (it’s a developmental league, kids).

Ward, who batted third, remains red-hot as he reached base three times with a double and two walks. He was busy at the hot corner, making four assists without an error.

Abreu batted eighth and went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. In the field, he had two assists and turned a double play.

Stevenson singled in a run and stole a base but struck out twice in four trips to the plate. He had one putout on defense.

Nick Lee (↑↑ if you haven’t figured out yet ↑↑) made his second appearance with an up-and-down inning: one unearned run allowed on one hit and two walks while striking out one. He threw 26 pitches, 10 for strikes.

Glendale is now 2-3 and has today off. They’ll start back up tomorrow afternoon as they host Peoria.

AFL Update: Oct. 14, 2016

osvaldo-abreu-10-12-16Osvaldo Abreu connected for a two-run double in the 9th (how novel) for 5-4 Desert Dogs walkoff win over the Scorpions.

Abreu (pictured from earlier this week) drove in three total with an RBI single in the 7th and finished the game 2-for-4. He started and batted eighth, but did make an error at shortstop on a missed catch.

To his right (on the field), Drew Ward played third base and and singled twice in four trips to the plate. He was caught stealing and fanned once, but made two assists (Abreu had three).

Two Nats relievers appeared in the game. Ryan Brinley came on with one out in the 5th and retired all five batters he faced over the next inning and 2/3rds, including two by way of the K.

Jake Johansen followed Brinley in the 7th and worked around a two-out single. He was not as fortunate in the 8th, as he loaded the bases with three singles and let in the fourth Surprise run with a sacrifice fly. He finished with a line of one run allowed on four hits over two innings with no walks and two whiffs.

The two teams play again tonight, with Glendale playing host. The Desert Dogs are now 2-1 and are tied for 1st place in the AFL west, percentage points behind the unbeaten (but twice tied) Peoria Javelinas (yeah, that does sound weird).

AFL Update: Oct. 12, 2016

drew-ward-10-11-16The 2016 AFL campaign begun on down note as the Scottsdale Scorpions scored in each of the first three innings against Austin Voth en route to a 9-6 win over the Glendale Desert Dogs.

Voth was stung for five runs on five hits and two walks over two and 2/3rds innings. He threw 58 pitches, 33 for strikes and struck out two.

Drew Ward (pictured) was the sole National position player to see game action. He started at 3B and batted seventh and went 1-for-3 with a strikeout. He was lifted in the top of the 8th but made no errors on defense and had two assists.

In obligatory SEO news, ESPN mancrush Tim Tebow went 0-for-3 for Scottsdale and did not hit the ball out of the infield.

Glendale visits Mesa this afternoon before returning home for a night game on Thursday.

Good, Bad, Interesting – Vol. 1

In keeping with my motto of doing what I can when I can, I’ve decided to cut back the GBI to something more manageable this year — every three weeks. This will still give us eight editions, and to compensate for the lower frequency, I will double up each section. My apologies in advance to for the disappointment, but the alternative was to scrap it altogether.

For the newcomers…. this a silly little thing I began a few years ago on a lark. It’s somehow become one of the site’s staples. Stolen from Named after comedian Demetri Martin’s segment of the same name from his too-brief (2009-2010) run on Comedy Central, it’s my way of taking a look at who’s doing well, poorly, or pointing out something unexpected.

Invariably, it seems that whenever a player makes this list — good or bad — his fortune turns. Of course, that’s merely coincidence, but as much as we embrace science and statistics, superstition will always be a part of baseball. Thus, the effect known as “the curse of the GBI.”

Now, for the usual disclaimers… it’s early in the season, small sample sizes, stats in the minors are misleading, void where prohibited, valid only at participating locations, employees must wash hands after using the bathroom, etc.

And the usual reminder: The guys, their friends, families, and agents reading this, so keep it clean in the comments. This is just for fun.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 7-8, 4th place I.L. North, 2½ games behind

Good Trea Turner .357/.446/.500, 6SB in 15G
Sammy Solis 1.00/1.08/0.89, 14K in 9IP
Bad Matt Skole .122/.214/.184, 12K in 14G
Taylor Hill 8BB in 15⅔ IP
Interesting Caleb Ramsey .932 OPS, .390 BA in 13G
Austin Voth 0BB in 12IP

HARRISBURG SENATORS 6-8, 4th place E.L. West, 3½ games behind

Good Rafael Bautista 8SB, 11BB, .443 OBP in 14G
Tyler Mapes 3-0, 3.18/3.85/0.94 in 3GS
Bad Zach Collier .405 OPS in 12G
Reynaldo Lopez 4HR in 16IP
Interesting Stephen Perez .320/.414/.360 in 11G
John Simms 14K in 16IP

POTOMAC NATIONALS 9-7, 2nd place C.L. North, 4 games behind

Good Jose “The Orange” Marmolejos .298/.437/.561 in 16G
Mario Sanchez 1.59 ERA, 80.9 LOB% in 11⅓ IP
Bad 11CS in 30SB attempts
Starters 5.60/4.30/1.47 in 16G
Interesting Drew Ward .333/.412/.550, 11RBI in 16G
R.C. Orlan 1.93 ERA, 1.18WHIP, 8BB, 9K in 9#8531; IP

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 11-5, T2nd place Sally North, 2 games behind

Good Victor Robles .327/.465/.582, 7SB, 2HR in 16G
Andrew Lee 1-0, 1.80/3.50/1.27 in 3GS
Bad Ryan Ripken .496OPS in 14G
Joan Baez 0-2, 6.75 ERA, 1.67 WHIP in 3GS
Interesting Max Schrock .344/.403/.4, 6SB in 15G
Jefry Rodriguez 2.70/2.07/1.20 in 3GS

Good, Bad, Interesting — Vol. 8

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 19-43, 6th place I.L. North, 19½ games behind

Good Paolo Espino 1-0, 1.63 ERA. 0.76 WHIP in 4GS
Bad 3.44 R/G, 14th in 14-team International League
Interesting Oldest batters (29), second-oldest pitchers in I.L. (28.4)

HARRISBURG SENATORS 25-35, 5th place E.L. West, 10½ games behind

Good Matt Skole 3HR, 12RBI, .289BA in last 10 games
Bad 8-21 road record
Interesting 2nd fewest doubles, fewest triples in Eastern League

POTOMAC NATIONALS 28-33, 4th place C.L. North, 6 games behind

Good Lucas Giolito 1.43 FIP (Car. Lg. Avg. = 3.39)
Bad Drew Ward 12 errors, 60 strikeouts in 57 games
Interesting John Wooten .404/.429/.723 in June (11 games)

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 30-30, 4th place Sally North, 8 games behind

Good Alec Keller .294/.351/.500 in June (9G)
Bad Robbie Dickey 0-2, 9.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP in four appearances
Interesting Anything hit to the left side of the IF — 32 of 53 team errors committed by 3B or SS

DSL NATIONALS 4-8, 9th place Boca Chica South, 4½ games behind

Good 18-y.o. Pedro Avila 0-1, 2.89 ERA, 0.54 WHIP, 15K in 9⅓ IP (2GS)
Bad 17-y.o. Jesus Morales .136/.208/.136 in 8 games
Interesting 17-y.o. Omar Meregildo .350/.435/.750, 2HR, eight 2B, one 3B, three E in 11G

Baseball America Ranks The Top 10 Nats Prospects

Baseball America for NPP
Having confirmed the new list via Twitter, here’s the new-and-improved Washington Nationals Top 10 list from Baseball America (Last year’s ranking in parentheses):

1. Lucas Giolito, RHP (1)
2. Michael Taylor, OF (7)
3. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP (–)
4. Erick Fedde, RHP (’14 Draft Pick)
5. A.J. Cole, RHP (2)
6. Wilmer Difo, 2B/SS (–)
7. Drew Ward, 3B (17)
8. Brian Goodwin, OF (3)
9. Nick Pivetta, RHP (22)
10. Austin Voth, RHP (15)

If you’re a TCU an A.J. Cole fan, you’re probably wondering what he did to drop three slots, but I think the better way to look at it is that the three guys ahead of him simply have either more upside (Fedde) or were in stratosphere this past summer (Taylor, Lopez).

Steve Souza was originally the #5 prospect on this list, though I think most most folks already knew this as the top 10 list was leaked (tweeted) earlier this week.

I’m a bit curious as to why Brian Goodwin remains ranked so high, given this tidbit (italics added):

They pushed him to Double-A Harrisburg by the second half of 2012, but he followed a lackluster 2013 with a horrific 2014 campaign at Triple-A Syracuse that ended on July 1 when he tore the labrum in his left shoulder sliding into second base.

Granted, Goodwin throws righthanded, but injury experts have long held that the torn labrum is baseball’s most fearsome injury, not to mention the conventional wisdom that shoulder injuries in general are what ends or alters baseball careers.

Unfortunately, BA did not weigh in on Difo’s defensive prowess so the SS vs. 2B debate will have to wait until the book is released or perhaps John Sickels’s book is released. They did, however, note that Drew Ward may outgrow 3B, pointing to his size-16 cleats and describing his footwork as merely adequate while noting his arm was strong and accurate.

BA’s projections for 2015 were as follows:

AAA –Taylor, Cole, Goodwin
High-A — Giolito, Lopez, Difo, Ward, Pivetta
Not specified — Fedde, Voth

I still believe Giolito will be jumped to AA (and would love to be wrong) because the Nats have not been keen on letting high-profile prospects play at Potomac (see: Strasburg, Harper, Goodwin). Voth is a near-lock to return to Harrisburg, while I’d expect Fedde to follow the track of Giolito and start out at the GCL and perhaps make an appearance with Auburn late in the year.

The Top 10 Position Players

While the participation wasn’t what I hoped it would be, it was enough to assemble a semi-decent Top 10 list.

One interesting trend is that youth seems to be getting served by virtue of Jakson Reetz as well as Dominican imports Wilmer Difo and Rafael Bautista, both of whom had breakout seasons with Hagerstown, with the former being added to the Nats 40-man roster.

Of course, some of that is attributable to three of last year’s Top 10 bats being traded away (Billy Burns, Zach Walters) or taken in the Rule 5 Draft (Adrian Nieto). And some of that is attributable to the “girl-watching” nature of prospect following (the prettiest one is the one that just walked by).

Anyway, a total of 15 players were named on the eight ballots received or submitted, which does include mine. I don’t find the 15 number all that disturbing since, as some put it, the bottom part of the list isn’t as clear-cut as the top, which was a near tie (77 points to 75 points) with Steve Souza the top pick on five.

And with that “said,” I present the list:

                              1. Steve Souza
                              2. Michael Taylor
                              3. Wilmer Difo
                              4. Drew Ward
                              5. Jakson Reetz
                              6. Brian Goodwin
                              7. Matt Skole
                              8. Spencer Kieboom
                              9. Rafael Bautista
                              10. Pedro Severino

Others receiving votes: Tony Renda, Drew Vettleson, John Wooten, Stephen Perez, Raudy Read

I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that half of these names won’t be on this list next year, given proximity to the majors, age, or “trade baitiness.” It’s tempting to conclude that that means we’re about to swing Broadway backward, but if past is prologue, those that move on will be replaced with players who had breakout seasons.

Next up: The pitchers, which always leads to much more discussion (dissension?)…