Apr 062014
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Postponed vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre,
1:00 p.m.(DH)
Hill (1-0, 4.22 in ’13) and
Tatusko (5-8, 4.33 in ’13) vs.
Whitley (3-2, 3.06 in ’13) and
Stoneburner (4-6, 4.57 in ’13)
Harrisburg Lost, 4-3 (11 inn.) @ Bowie,
6:35 p.m.
Purke (5-3, 4.43 @ A+ in ’13) vs.
Davies (7-9, 3.69 @ A+ in ’13)
Potomac Lost, 3-1 @ Carolina,
2:00 p.m.
Encarnacion (10-9, 3.58 @ A- in ’13) vs.
Sulser (3-2, 1.83 @ SS-A)
Hagerstown Lost, 9-8 vs. Rome,
5:05 p.m.
Silvestre (7-0, 1.82 @ Rk. in ’13) vs.
Dettmann (2-4, 2.49 @ Adv. Rk. in ’13)


Scranton/Wilkes-Barre vs. Syracuse — PPD
For the second straight day, officials pulled the plug on this one before folks could come to the ballpark (how novel) as Steve Souza showed us via Twitter the wintry mix at the ballpark. They’ll try again this afternoon with a doubleheader, with another twinbill scheduled for 6 p.m. on June 26.

Bowie 4 Harrisburg 3 (11 inn.)
• Gilliam 1IP, 3H, 3R, 3ER, 3BB, 1K
• Jackson 3IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 2K
• Holland (L, 0-1) 2⅔ IP, 2H, R, ER, 2BB, 2K
• Taylor 2-4, R, BB, 2SB
• Ramsey 2-3, R, BB, CS

The Senators rallied from an early 3-0 deficit but fell to the Baysox, 4-3 in 11 innings. Starter Rob Gilliam was lifted after one inning, giving up the first three Bowie runs on three hits and three walks while throwing 38 pitches. Zack Jackson, Matt Grace, and Tyler Herron combined for seven scoreless innings. Neil Holland extended that streak to nine before giving up the gamewinner in the 11th. Michael Taylor and Caleb Ramsey both reached base three times as the Harrisburg offense notched eight hits and two walks for the contest.
For a fan’s take on the game, frequent commenter SoulDrummer takes us to “Last Night In Bowie”

Carolina 3 Potomac 1
• Mooneyham (L, 0-1) 2⅓ IP, 1H, 2R, 2ER, 6BB, 1K, 3HBP
• Bacus 4⅔ IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 7K, 3-0 IR-S
• Piwnica-Worms 1-3, BB
• Perez 1-3, BB, SB, CS

Brett Mooneyham and the strike zone remain estranged as the former Stanford southpaw walked six and hit three batters in two and a 1/3rd innings to suffer his fourth loss in four career starts at High-A. He left with a 2-0 deficit with the bases loaded and one out in the third. Dakota Bacus continued the string of sensational relief, stranding those three runners and fanning seven over four and 2/3rds innings. Derek Self whiffed two more in his lone inning of work to bring the tally to 22 K’s in 12 relief innings the past two games. Alas, the Carolina pitchers were just as good, limiting the P-Nats bats to just one run on six hits and three walks.

Rome 9 Hagerstown 8
• Giolito 3IP, 6H, 4R, 3ER, 2BB, 3K, HR
• Thomas (BS, 1; L, 0-1) 1IP, 2H, R, ER, 0BB, K, 2-2 IR-S
• Ballou 2-4, 2R, HR(GS), BB, 4RBI
• W. Rodriguez 2-4, 2R, 2B
• Bautista 2-3, 2R, RBI, BB

Youth was indeed served on Saturday night in Hagerstown… on platter as both teams skewered the other’s 19-y.o. starter for nine of the game’s 17 runs, as the R-Braves outslugged the Suns, 9-8. Lucas Giolito was spanked for four runs (three earned) on six hits, including a two-run homer in the 1st. The Nats #1 prospect walked two and struck out three in his Low-A debut. He did not suffer the loss, thanks to a grand slam by Isaac Ballou that capped off Hagerstown’s five-run 3rd and gave the Suns a brief 8-4 lead. Rome chipped away with single runs in the 5th and 7th innings before rallying for three in the top of the 9th. Ballou, Wilman Rodriguez, and Rafael Bautista each had two hits and two runs to power the Suns offense.

Apr 052014
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Postponed vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre,
2:00 p.m.(DH)
Hill (1-0, 4.22 in ’13) and Tatusko (5-8, 4.33 in ’13) vs.
Whitley (3-2, 3.06 in ’13) and Stoneburner (4-6, 4.57 in ’13)
Harrisburg Lost, 9-0 @ Bowie, 6:35 p.m. Gilliam (3-6, 4.40 in ’13) vs. Berry (11-7, 3.85 @ A+ in ’13)
Potomac Won, 10-5 @ Carolina, 6:00 p.m. Mooneyham (0-3, 13.50 in ’13) vs. Merritt (0-0, 5.00 in ’13)
Hagerstown Won, 2-1 vs. Rome, 5:05 p.m. Giolito (1-0, 0.64 @ SS-A in ’13) vs. Salazar (0-3, 6.92 @ Rk. in ’13)


Scranton/Wilkes-Barre vs. Syracuse — PPD
With rain in the forecast and temps in the low 40s, officials pulled the plug on the Chiefs-RailRiders game approximately 90 minutes before gametime yesterday afternoon. It will be made up today with a doubleheader, um, weather permitting.

Bowie 9 Harrisburg 0
• Rivero (L, 0-1) 3+IP, 7H, 3R, 3ER, BB, 2K
• Perry 3IP, 5H, 4R, 4ER, BB, 2K, 1-0 IR-S
• Skole 0-3, BB, 2K
• Taylor 0-4, 4K

The BaySox jumped on Felipe Rivero for three runs in the 1st and never trailed as they shut out the Sens, 9-0. The Harrisburg southpaw settled down to hold off Bowie for two innings before getting lifted with no outs in the 4th after allowing his seventh and final hit. He walked one and struck out two. Ryan Perry stranded that runner and pitched two scoreless before getting knocked for four runs in the 5th. The lack of pitching was only exceeded by the dearth of hitting as the Senators managed just four hits and struck out 10 times (led by Michael Taylor with four) and walked just once (Matt Skole).

Potomac 10 Carolina 5
• Pena 3⅔ IP, 5H, 5R, 5ER, 4BB, 0K, WP
• Dupra (W, 1-0) 2⅓ IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 6K, 2-0 IR-S, 2WP
• Lee (H, 1) 2IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 5K
• S. Perez 2-4, 2R, 2B
• Keyes 2-4, R, 2B, BB
• Renda 2-5, 2R, 2RBI, SB

Beginning with a three-run shot by backstop Pedro Severino, the P-Nats rallied from 5-0 to score ten unanswered runs and double up the Mudcats, 10-5. Potomac capitalized on seven walks issued to score ten times on just nine hits, with Stephen Perez, Kevin Keyes, and Tony Renda each having multiple hits. Mike McQuillan led the free-pass brigade with three BB’s. P-Nats starter Ronald Pena was roughed up for all five Carolina runs on five hits and four walks over three and 2/3rds innings. He fanned no one. Brian Dupra got the win in relief as the Potomac ‘pen struck out 13 (of 19 batters faced) while locking down Carolina for five and 1/3rd shutout innings.

Hagerstown 2 Rome 1
• Voth 5IP, 2H, 0R, 2BB, 7K
• Hollins (W, 1-0) 1⅔ IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 1K, 2-1 IR-S
• Bautista 2-4, 2B, 2RBI
• Difo 2-4, 2SB

Rafael Bautista’s two-out, two-run double to the right-center gap was the one moment that decided the game as the Suns walked off in the 9th with a 2-1 victory over the R-Braves. Austin Voth started and went the first five, tossing five shutout frames with just two hits and two walks allowed while striking out seven, matching Nick Pivetta’s line from the night before. L.J. Hollins got the win in relief by getting the last five outs, though he gave up the hit that plated the sole Rome run to score in the 8th. Bautista and Wilmer Difo both went 2-for-4 to lead the Hagerstown hit parade of seven, with Difo swiping two bases.

Apr 042014
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Lost, 4-1 vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre,
5:00 p.m.
Hill (1-0, 4.22 in ’13) vs.
Whitley (3-2, 3.06 in ’13)
Harrisburg Lost, 12-6 @ Bowie,
6:35 p.m.
Rivero (9-7, 3.40 @ A+ in ’13)
vs. Wilson (7-5, 3.83 in ’13)
Potomac Lost, 6-3 @ Carolina,
7:00 p.m.
Pena (4-3, 3.48 @ A- in ’13) vs.
Peoples (1-4, 5.27 in ’13)
Hagerstown Won, 4-0 vs. Rome,
6:35 p.m.
Voth (1-0, 3.38 in ’13) vs.
Buchanan (0-0, 3.00 @ Adv-Rk. in ’13)


Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 4 Syracuse 1
• Rosenbaum (L, 0-1) 5IP, 9H, 4R, 4ER, 0BB, 2K
• Stange 2IP, 0H, 0R, BB, K
• Solano 2-3, 2-2B,
• Walters 2-4, CS

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre scored in three of the first five innings to build a 4-0 lead over Syracuse and cruised to a 4-1 win. Danny Rosenbaum suffered the loss, giving up nine hits with four going for extra bases (three doubles, one triple) but walked one and struck out two. The Chiefs ‘pen uncoupled the RailRiders for four scoreless innings, led by newcomer Daniel Stange with two goose eggs. Jhonatan Solano doubled twice in three at-bats, while Eury Perez and Zach Walter both singled twice to lead the Syracuse offense.

Bowie 12 Harrisburg 6
• Schwartz (L, 0-1) 3⅓ IP, 8H, 8R, 6ER, 2BB, 0K, HR
• Holland 1⅔ IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, K, 2-1 IR-S
• Dykstra 3-5, R, E
• Taylor 2-4, 2R, BB, SB
• Canham 1-3, R, HR, RBI

A six-run 4th proved to be the difference as Bowie doubled up Harrisburg, 12-6. Blake Schwartz was charged with a career-worst eight runs over three and a 1/3rd inning on eight hits, including three-run bomb by Garabez Rosa, while walking two. The 24-y.o. Minnesota native struck out none. Michael Taylor and Cutter Dykstra picked up where they left off at the end of the 2013 regular season, reaching base six times and scoring three runs combined. Mitch Canham also homered as seven of the nine regulars hit safely for 11 hits as a team.

Carolina 6 Potomac 3
• Rauh 5IP, 6H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 3K
• Dickson (L, 0-1) ⅔ IP, 2H, 4R, 4ER, BB, K, 2HBP
• Henke 1⅓ IP, 1H, 0R, BB, 2K, 3-2 IR-S
• Renda 2-4, R, 3B

Carolina snapped a 2-2 tie with a four-run 6th to hand Potomac and Ian Dickson the “L” by 6-3 tally. Brian Rauh got the start and gave up two runs on six hits and two walks while fanning three. Dickson retired two of the first three batters he faced before putting on four straight baserunners, leaving the game after a second hit by pitch that gave Carolina’s Ollie Linton the Homer Simpson RBI. Travis Henke was greeted with two-run double to complete the big inning. Tony Renda went 2-for-4 as the P-Nats registered eight hits, including triples by Randolph Oduber and Kevin Keyes.

Hagerstown 4 Rome 0
• Pivetta (W, 1-0) 5IP, 2H, 0R, 2BB, 7K
• Simms (SV, 1) 4IP, 3H, 0R, 0BB, 4K
• Kieboom 3-3, 2R
• Ward 2-4, 2B, 3B, 2RBI

Nick Pivetta and John Simms combined for a five-hit shutout as Hagerstown got the sole minors win for Washington on Opening Day with a 4-0 shutout of Rome. Pivetta went the first five frames and gave up two hits and two walks and while striking out seven. Simms finished the game, allowing three singles, no walks, and set down four on strikes. Drew Ward would not settle for one, as the 19-y.o. doubled and tripled and drove in two while Spencer Kieboom scored twice and hit safely in all three ABs.

Apr 032014
 


It’s a full slate today for minor-league Opening Day — first time since 2010 — as the Chiefs host the RailRiders, the Senators visit the BaySox, the P-Nats visit the Mudcats, and the Suns host the R-Braves.

Well, weather permitting. As of this writing, it’s 27 degrees in Central NY with a first-pitch forecast of 44 degrees. There’s a 30% chance of rain in the late afternoon in Zebulon, a 40% chance at gametime in Bowie, and a 60% chance in Hagerstown.

Team Today’s Game Pitching Matchup (’13 Stats at Level)
Syracuse vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre,
2:00 p.m.
Danny Rosenbaum (7-11, 3.87) vs.
Bruce Billings (13-8, 4.31)
Harrisburg @ Bowie,
6:35 p.m.
Blake Schwartz (11-4, 2.65 at A+) vs.
Ed Rodriguez (4-3, 4.22)
Potomac @ Carolina,
7:00 p.m.
Brian Rauh (4-2, 4.22) vs.
Shawn Morimando (8-13, 3.73)
Hagerstown vs. Rome,
6:35 p.m.
Nick Pivetta (0-1, 3.38 @ SS-A) vs.
Francois Lefreniere (7-13, 5.36)


Just the annual reminder: These pitchers are not necessarily the team’s #1 starter. They are, within a slot or two, how the Nationals would like the starters to align from Low-A to MLB in the event of promotions or injuries.

Based on what I’ve been able to gather, here’s how the rest of the starting rotations will round out:

TEAM Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Game 5
Syracuse Hill Tatusko Treinen Poveda
Harrisburg Rivero Gilliam Purke Cole
Potomac Pena Mooneyham Encarnacion Lee
Hagerstown Voth Giolito Silvestre Johansen


As semi-predicted in the P-Nats roster reveal, Pena and Rauh have indeed returned to starting, with Ian Dickson and Dakota Bacus returning to bullpen roles. It’s natural to speculate as to who “benefited” by Sammy Solis’s latest trip to the DL, but we’ll never know for sure (yes, I can be that certain; there’s no legitimate reason to ever tell anyone outside the organization that information).

As implied in the comments, these rotations are quite likely to be short-lived — if past history holds, four or five turns max before guys are shifted around, which of course, will be tracked in either separate posts like yesterday or in the daily News & Notes, which returns tomorrow

Mar 312014
 

Well, it has been a long cold lonely winter, so here come the Suns* for 2014 (watchlist players in bold, notables in italics):
* Yes, I’ve been waiting awhile for the chance to drop that one

PITCHERS INFIELDERS OUTFIELDERS CATCHERS
Dixon Anderson Wilmer Difo Isaac Ballou Spencer Kieboom
Andrew Cooper David Masters Rafael Bautista Craig Manuel
Lucas Giolito Khayyan Norfork Estarlin Martinez
L.J. Hollins Drew Ward Wilman Rodriguez
Jake Johansen James Yezzo John Wooten
Nick Pivetta
Hector Silvestre
John Simms
Matthew Spann
Wander Suero
Justin Thomas
Austin Voth
Jake Walsh


Twenty of these 25 are on this site’s 2014 Watchlist, so by definition, this is a roster that will bear, um, watching — especially the pitchers. Headlined by Lucas Giolito, who it looks like I was wrong about (and happy for it) and will begin the season on the active roster, it would appear that he’ll be joined in the rotation by Jake Johansen, Austin Voth, and Nick Pivetta. Who the #5 guy will be appears to be the biggest mystery, with Hector Silvestre, Matthew Spann, and Dixon Anderson all candidates.

Silvestre will be joined by Wander Suero and Jake Walsh from the 2013 GCL Champs, with Rafael Bautista and Drew Ward bypassing Auburn. That’s perhaps not as many as some had hoped, but it’s roughly what I thought it would be (especially for Ward).

Busy day… finally, the P-Nats.

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 062014
 


We’re a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting, and if aging veteran minor-league backup catchers are getting this much press, then it’s safe to say that folks are wee bit desperate for spring training to start.

In that spirit, it’s time for my annual humbling as I guess how the rosters (position players) for the middle minors (Low-A, High-A, AA) will shake out in about eight weeks and review how I did a year ago.

Without further ado, my predictions for the 2013 Hagerstown Suns:

CA – Kieboom
1B – Pleffner
2B – Renda
SS – S. Perez
3B – C. Lopez
OF – E. Martinez
OF – Ramos
OF – Mesa
DH – B. Miller
BCA – Manuel
BIF – Norfork
UT – McQuillan
BOF – Ramirez

Before folks accuse me of being falsely modest, I was wrong on five of 13 names being on the Suns roster in 2011 and 2012 and was incorrect on predicting the usage four times and once, respectively. Since DH is used in the minors differently than in the majors, it’s hard to be “right,” but Miller played 102 of 103 games in the field so I can’t let that slide. I will take credit for getting Pleffner right because it’s doubtful that even a healthy Carlos Lopez (presuming he was actually hurt, which is never a given with the DL) would have prevented him playing there.

So what’s the forecast for 2014? Well, this was not easy. Some folks may be disappointed that I didn’t project more GCLers leapfrogging a lackluster Auburn squad, but I’m (mostly) staying conservative (but taking a couple of chances):

CA – Spencer Kieboom
1B – James Yezzo
2B – Cody Dent
SS – David Masters
3B – Drew Ward
OF – Rafael Bautista
OF – Isaac Ballou
OF – Bryan Lippincott
DH – Estarlin Martinez
BCA – Matt Reistetter
BIF – Wilmer Difo
BIF – Khayyan Norfork
BOF – Greg Zebrack

Jan 292014
 

Morning Reading 2As I get older, I’m convinced that Januaries are like watching your preferred gender walk on by… but in reverse. Each one seems uglier than the last.

Now that we’ve dispensed with the obligatory comment on the weather, here are a few items to pass along as we wait out this [expletive deleted].

Keith Law has ranked the Nationals farm system 18th this year, moving up from 21st last year despite the graduations of Anthony Rendon and Taylor Jordan and the trading away of Robbie Ray (hey, that rhymes!). As others have noted, the improved health of Lucas Giolito along with the rebound of A.J. Cole and the 2013 Draft class has boosted the system’s perceived depth. Giolito, Law revealed, was among his Top 50 due out today.

Baseball Prospectus ranked three Nationals in its Top 101, placing Giolito 13th, Cole 53rd, and Brian Goodwin 86th (Ray did not make this list). Jason Parks, who took over as the chief prospect guy when Kevin Goldstein was hired away by the Houston Astros (the #1 system according to Law), had ranked Giolito 70th and Goodwin 74th last year (Rendon was #35).

Finally, the Hagerstown Suns have announced the game times for this season with all 10 Sunday games scheduled for 5:05 p.m. and weekday games beginning at 6:35 p.m. in April, then moving back to 7:05 p.m. for Thursday and Friday games beginning in May. Clearly, the latter is a concession to the common complaint about the cold while the former addresses the problem with the heat in the summer, if not the traffic on the major highways that many teams choose to avoid with the twilight start time.

Jan 152014
 

The Harrisburg Senators and Washington Nationals have announced a four-year extension of their player development contract through the 2018 season. This is the second affiliate to extend during this offseason, both months in advance of the September deadline to renew before open negotiations (typically the last two weeks of September).

The Senators have been a Nationals affiliate the longest of the five teams located north of Florida, having been an Expos affiliate since 1991, and should effectively quash any idle talk of the Nationals switching to the Richmond Squirrels, which is usually an indication that such folks have never been to both places for a game.

The PDCs of the Nationals’ “A” teams — Auburn (SS), Hagerstown (Low-A), and Potomac (High-A) — expire after the 2014 season. Two years ago, the Nationals extended three* affiliates during spring training, and renewed with Hagerstown in October 2012.
* or four; there’s conflicting information regarding whether the 2010 extension for Potomac was for two or four years

As passed along yesterday, there is turmoil in Hagerstown (plans to relocate to Fredericksburg) and Auburn (five GMs since 2010) which makes their PDC renewals less-than-certain. Potomac, which has been planning to build a new ballpark for more than since last decade, seems a little safer given its proximity to DC and strong attendance despite playing in one of the worst facilities in affiliated baseball.

Oct 182013
 

Thankfully, the focus of these season reviews is on the players, as a team, on the field. Because otherwise the Hagerstown Suns have become — in today’s parlance — a hot mess.

Between the prolonged stadium debate and the threats to move the team to Winchester and Fredericksburg, it’s hard not to interpret that the people of Hagerstown are expressing their dismay by staying away. Attendance fell to a reported 1,058* per opening in 2013, a 23 percent drop from 2012 and less than half of what was being claimed as recently as 2009, which was 2,138 per date. * Figures per Ballparkdigest.com

Now that the elephant in the room has been addressed, let’s get down to business…

With the help of some rainouts, Hagerstown won the first half by a ½ game with a 38-29 mark and nearly won the second with a 42-28 run in the second, losing out to West Virginia by 2½ games. Overall, the Suns went 80-57, third best in the league behind the Power (82-58) and the GreenJackets (82-55).

Buoyed with the top two pitchers from Auburn, Hagerstown took two of three from West Virginia in the semifinals and won the opener of the Sally League Finals before losing the next three straight to the Savannah Sand Gnats.

Taking a look at how the Suns compared to the rest of the Sally League, there’s one rather noticeable outlier, which fans of the GBI have probably already guessed…

HITTING AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA* SB
Hagerstown 4468 692 1152 56 530 988 .258 .341 .366 .245 153
Lg. Avg. 4511 593 1118 78 439 1098 .248 .322 .364 .236 140

* GPA = Gross Production Average

PITCHING IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
Hagerstown 1175 3.44 3.84 1.244 84 419 1098 8.0 3.2 8.4 2.62
Lg. Avg. 1187⅓ 3.77 4.31 1.311 78 439 1098 8.5 3.3 8.3 2.50



Hagerstown led the Sally League in offense despite hitting just 56 home runs (12th-best in the league) and having close-to-league-average power. The secret? No, not Calgon. Getting on base (#1 in OBP, #2 in walks drawn) and not striking out (#3). The math-inclined folks have already deduced that the lack of HRs was made up by more doubles and triples, at which the Suns were third-best in the league in both categories. Another quirk was finishing second in sacrifice flies, though that could very well be a factor of volume, not efficiency.

Thanks to injuries and promotions, there was a lot of flux with the Suns, such that just one pitcher (Pedro Encarnacion) exceeded 100 innings pitched. Nine pitchers made six or more starts, 15 different pitchers made at least one start (excluding rehabs). Seven of those guys were better than league average in ERA.

Really not much to complain about at the macro level, which is why like to drill down further, beginning with the Top 12 batters…

Name Age PA Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err GPA ISO
Tony Renda* 22 606 2B 119 .973 15 .272 .111
Stephen Perez* 22 486 SS 125 .969 17 .218 .100
Brandon Miller* 23 442 RF/LF 101/2 .989 2 .253 .213
Shawn Pleffner 23 428 1B 94 .986 12 .273 .111
Estrarlin Martinez** 21 410 LF/1B/RF 48/34/6 .983 6 .234 .099
Will Piwnica-Worms 23 372 CF/LF/RF 54/20/20 .994 1 .261 .093
Khayyan Norfork 24 360 3B/2B/SS/LF/RF 49/17/1/1/1 .961 8 .239 .090
Mike McQuillan 23 314 3B/LF 52/2 .885 16 .259 .090
Wander Ramos** 23 303 LF/RF/CF 27/16/4 .945 4 .264 .166
Wes Schill 23 302 LF/3B/CF/SS 44/21/17/8 .932 11 .220 .064
Pedro Severino** 19 302 C 82 .980 14 .207 .092
Narciso Mesa** 21 232 CF 51 .957 5 .254 .063

(* = 2012 Draft Pick, ** = DSL Graduate)
What stands out the most to me is how “set” the positions were for this crew — basically, the top four guys in terms of PA were day-in, day-out at their position. Five of the Top 12 only played one position all year long — that kind of consistency is unusual, especially in light of the organization’s favor towards athleticism and versatility. Not to mention, part of the point of the minors is finding out where guys best fit in terms of their skills… or what the parent club needs.

As was the case a year ago, this was an older group of guys — second oldest in the Sally, actually — so the lack of power is cause for concern. Just two of these 12 had isolated averages that exceeded the league average of .116. Defensively, the team finished third in terms of fielding percentage, which is an admittedly flawed measuring stick, but until the likes of baseball-reference and fangraphs make advanced defensive stats less cumbersome (e.g. if I want to see how good a player’s range factor is vs. his peers, I have to go to each and every team page and extract that data), it’s the best we’ve got for an exercise such as this.

Speaking of defense, one name that’s been mentioned to me as one to watch is Pedro Severino, despite the 14 errors and 16 passed balls. “The best arm the Suns have had in years,” as my Hagerstown guy put in his recent review of the Hagerstown hitters. The Nationals aren’t as deep at catcher as people think they are (and haven’t been for nearly two years); Severino was one of just two (2) catchers younger than the league average in the entire system (Raudy Read was the other).

On to the pitchers, the Top 12 listed by innings pitched…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR HBP WP
Pedro Encarnacion** 22 25/24 10-9, 0 3.58 128⅓ 116 37 113 1.192 10 8 16
Brett Mooneyham* 23 17/17 10-3, 0 1.94 93 50 41 79 0.978 5 4 8
Nick Lee 22 19/17 6-4, 0 3.96 91 83 43 102 1.385 7 5 11
Ronald Pena* 21 28/10 4-3, 1 3.48 88 89 34 55 1.398 4 1 7
Kylin Turnbull 23 16/16 6-5, 0 3.58 83 97 16 67 1.361 10 1 3
Dixon Anderson 23 15/15 5-5, 0 3.20 78⅔ 62 30 72 1.169 3 0 7
Ivan Pineyro** 21 13/13 5-3, 0 3.14 66 57 17 65 1.121 4 3 10
Ian Dickson 22 16/10 5-3, 2 4.39 65⅔ 65 17 71 1.249 8 1 2
Travis Henke 24 30/0 3-1, 2 2.72 59⅔ 49 17 41 1.106 3 4 3
Bryan Harper 23 34/0 5-1, 1 3.97 45⅓ 32 32 43 1.412 2 8 5
Cody Davis 22 35/0 2-3, 1 2.76 42⅔ 40 14 46 1.276 1 0 6
Brian Rauh 21 14/0 3-2, 2 5.21 38 37 15 31 1.714 3 2 5


As you might imagine with a team that finished 4th in a 14-team league in pitching, the quality of pitching was amazingly consistent. The two starters that were above the league average had an ERA around 4.00 (Lee, 3.91; Dickson, 4.01). Only one reliever with a 1.5+ WHIP threw more than 20 innings (Will Hudgins), likewise only one pitcher with more than 20IP had a 5+ ERA (Rauh)… and he was promoted to Potomac, where he started 12 games and went 4-1 with 4.01 ERA.

As aforementioned, injuries influenced the large number of starters: Dixon Anderson saw his season shortened (again) by shoulder woes while Brett Mooneyham missed seven weeks with the Belichek-esque “arm discomfort,” which led to Ronald Pena and Ian Dickson shifting from the ‘pen. Promotions, of course, were also a factor with Matt Purke, Brian Rauh, and Ivan Pineyro “movin’ on up.”

The question, of course, is which of these guys will be the next Taylor Hill or Blake Schwartz — to name two pitchers that really exceeded expectations and who will hit the wall and have to return, which happened this season to Derek Self, Christian Meza, and Kylin Turnbull. For the opinions of my “Hagerstown guy,” I’ll refer you to his take on the 2013 Suns pitchers.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
Once again there was a temptation to reduce the list from five to four when I took a step back and consider what other folks (i.e. non-Nats fans) may think of these guys. Especially with the position players, I keep coming back to: “His numbers were good, but not great, and he was old for the level.” Keep that in mind before you make your case in the comments for the guy that I didn’t list below.

1. Tony Renda
2. Brandon Miller
3. Wander Ramos
4. Estarlin Martinez
5. Pedro Severino

1. Pedro Encarnacion
2. Nick Lee
3. Brett Mooneyham
4. Cody Davis
5. Ian Dickson