Dec 112013
 

Like the bats, folks were overwhelmingly in agreement about the top three arms in the Washington Nationals minors. Unlike a year ago, though, the range was smaller — just 22 different pitchers versus 30 — and there were four guys that were named on every ballot.

OK, enough vamping. Let’s rock this, pitch:

                              1. Lucas Giolito
                              2. A.J. Cole
                              3. Sammy Solis
                              4. Nathan Karns
                              5. Jake Johansen
                              6. Aaron Barrett
                              7. Matt Purke
                              8. Austin Voth
                              9. Christian Garcia
                              10. Richie Mirowski

Others receiving votes: Blake Schwartz, Jefry Rodriguez, Taylor Hill, Hector Silvestre, Travis Ott, Erik Davis, Pedro Encarnacion, Brett Mooneyham, Wander Suero, Nick Lee, Neil Holland, Blake Treinen

Now the observations…

• Giolito was the top dog on 12 of the 13 ballots, with Cole getting the other first-place vote. Giolito was the #1 last year, too, despite coming off UCL-replacement surgery in August 2012.

• Cole was the Mary Ann to Ging, er… Giolito on 11 of the possible 12 second-place votes. It would have been interesting to see if that would have been true had Robbie Ray not been traded away.

• Voth and Garcia tied in raw points, but I broke the tie by the pitcher who was named on more ballots (nine vs. seven).

• Two of the top three old maids (i.e. the near misses) were righthanded control artists who don’t throw in the mid-90s. Not sure if the bias is against the lower velocity, the low K rate, or the soap-opera first name (just kidding).

The list continues to skews older (five are 25+) and upper minors (also five), which has been a consistent bias since this experiment in crowdsourcing began in 2011. But like all things hot stove, the point is to pass the time — none of this is really significant, statistically or otherwise — while winter sets its claws in and local schools overreact to snowfall that wouldn’t get a chihuahua’s belly wet.

Next up: The Rule 5 draft, which for the Nationals, has become an exercise of wondering who’s going versus who’s arriving.

Nov 062013
 

Baseball America for NPPNo sense vamping when this list has probably been tweeted dozens of times by now. (Last year’s revised ranking in parentheses.)

1. Lucas Giolio, RHP (2)
2. A.J. Cole, RHP (4)
3. Brian Goodwin, CF (3)
4. Matt Skole, 1B/3B (5)
5. Robbie Ray, LHP (–)
6. Sammy Solis, LHP (9)
7. Michael Taylor, CF (–)
8. Jake Johansen, RHP (’13 Draft Pick)
9. Nathan Karns, RHP (6)
10. Steve Souza, OF (–)

Frankly, I was initially confused as to how an injured position player and a coming-off-surgery pitcher could move up in the rankings. This, of course, is no disrespect to them, but simple logic dictates that getting hurt and/or losing a year of development is the kind of thing that drops your stock, not improves it. This was Fitt’s answer to my question about that rationale for ranking them higher in 2014 than 2013:

I think Skole is in the same No. 4* slot he was last year (and remember that Anthony Rendon graduated to the big leagues). I did not dock Skole for being hurt — it was a fluke injury, and he returned strong this fall. I still think he’s a quality power-hitting prospect, and I ranked him accordingly. As for Solis, I got very encouraging reports on him coming off that surgery, and I expect him to move very quickly next year (assuming he can stay healthy — which is a legitimate question, given his track record). At this point, I think he has a better chance to stick as a big league starter than Karns, who strikes me as more of a power reliever ultimately. So I moved Solis ahead of Karns. I can’t say I’m overly excited about any of those guys — Solis is 25 now and still has yet to reach Double-A, after all. I don’t think this is a great top 10 after the top of the list, although I do like some of the depth in the 11-30 range.
* Skole was initially ranked #4 in December 2012, then moved to #5 when BA revised the list in March 2013

I give Fitt credit answering honestly, particularly in remarking about how the talent thins out rapidly after the first few guys, which has been the case for about two years now. For those wondering, Fitt said that he wrestled with a cluster of Tony Renda, Matt Purke, Billy Burns, and Zach Walters before deciding upon Souza for the #10 spot. There are certainly arguments that can be made for any of those five against the other four and it may be bit revealing of your personal biases, too. Fitt, it appears, likes Souza’s five-tool promise over Burns’s speed, Purke’s LHSP capabilities, Renda’s bat/eye, Walter’s power, etc.

One new wrinkle to this year’s rankings is a list of the Top 15 players under the age of 25, which you can find in the free article along with a list of the best tools, prospects of the year and top draft picks from the past 10 years. And of course, the top bonuses paid, for which Robin Leach Fitt remains enamored of the decision of the Nationals to spend heavily just as they were hitting rock bottom.

The projections for where the 2014 Top 10 will begin (or finish) next season were as follows:
AAA – Cole, Goodwin, Karns, Souza
AA – Skole, Ray, Solis, Taylor
Low-A – Giolito
Not specified – Johansen

I personally believe Cole will probably return to Harrisburg and be moved up in May or June; likewise for Johansen with Hagerstown as his starting point — but lately the Nats have been more aggressive, so it could be Syracuse and Potomac, respectively. As mentioned in the comments, where a prospect starts is not nearly as important as where he finishes.

Oct 012013
 

Baseball America has issued its Top 20 prospects for the New York-Penn League and coming in at #13 is Jacob Johansen.

Thanks to the decision to sign a free-agent closer, which forfeited their 1st round pick, the Washington Nationals’ first pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft did not come until the 29th pick of the 2nd round, 68th overall. With it, the Nats chose Johansen out of Dallas Baptist — an under-the-radar pick who immediately begat comparisons to Nathan Karns, as both put up less-than-stellar numbers in college, pitched in high school and collegiately in Texas, and were power arms with control issues.

Obviously, the comparisons end with Johansen not suffering an injury and dominating the NYPL — holding opponents to a .147 BA, while hanging a 1.06/2.77/0.92 pitcher’s line (ERA/FIP/WHIP) over 10 starts. He finished the season in Hagerstown, where he was knocked around in his final two regular-season starts before tossing five shutout innings for the “W” in the Suns sole victory in the Sally League Finals against the league-champion Savannah Sand Gnats.

The knock on Johansen prior to the draft was on his mechanics and approach, which BA mentioned in the course of its writeup as such:

The Nationals got him to simplify his approach this summer, attacking hitters with power stuff rather than trying to trick them. Though his command and his secondary stuff remain works in progress, Johansen dominated this summer with a premium fastball that sat at 94-96 mph with heavy sink and topped out at 99.

The rest of his arsenal is described as CV, CH, and depending on whom you ask, a SL or CT. For a more detailed look at Johansen, check out Ryan Kelley’s take via District Sports Page from this past August.

Unlike Giolito, I don’t think Johansen will skip ahead to Potomac. With Giolito, repeating Auburn means waiting until June whereas Johansen can begin in Hagerstown and be moved up by mid-to-late May just like (aw, crap – sometimes comps just sneak up on you) Karns in 2012.

Next up: BA will be ranking the Top 20 Sally League prospects, then a look at the 2013 GCL Nationals.

Sep 062013
 

Our final look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues. Repeats from 2012 are in italics.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS
66-78, 6th place International League North, 14½ games back

Good Bat: Zach Walters .253/.286/.517, 29HR, 77RBI in 134G
Arm: Tanner Roark 9-3, 2SV, 3.15 ERA, 33 appearances, 11 starts, 105⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Danny Espinosa 101K in 75G, .566 OPS
Arm: Chris Young 1-2, 7.88 ERA / 7.17 FIP / 2.00 WHIP, 9HR in 32IP
Interesting Bat: Chris Rahl .293/.308/.431, 14SB in 111G
Arm: Caleb Clay 5-2, 2.49/3.37/0.99 in 14 appearances (13 starts):

HARRISBURG SENATORS
77-65, 1st place Eastern League Western Division, 1 game ahead

Good Bat: Steve Souza .300/.396/.557, 15HR, 20SB in 77G
Arm: Nathan Karns 10-6, 3.26/3.48/1.18, 155K in 132⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Jose Lozada .529 OPS, 11E in 81G
Arm: Ryan Perry 2-5, 4.43/4.86/1.21 in 22⅓ IP (18 appearances)
Interesting Bat: Billy Burns .325/.434/.360, 20SB in 30G
Arm: A.J. Cole 4-2, 2.18/2.56/0.90 in 45⅓ IP (7 starts)

POTOMAC NATIONALS
42-28 in 2nd half, 1st place Carolina League Northern Division, 9 games ahead
42-27 in 1st half, 1st place, 6 games ahead
84-55 overall

Good Bats: Michael Taylor .263/.340/.426, 51SB, 87RBI, .986FA, 21 assists in 133G
Adrian Nieto .285/.373/.449, 11HR, 53 RBI in 110G
Arm: Robbie Ray 6-3, 3.11/3.82/1.20, 100K in 84IP (16 starts)
Bad Bat: Adrian Sanchez .278OBP (17BB in 120G)
Arm: Derek Self 4-2, 4SV, 6.29/4.52/1.66, 4BS in 23 appearances
Interesting Bats: Cutter Dykstra .308/.459/.456, 50BB in 55G
Arm: Blake Schwartz 11-4, 2.65/3.52/1.08

HAGERSTOWN SUNS
42-28 in 2nd half, 2nd place South Atlantic League Northern Division, 3 games behind
38-29 in 1st half, 1st place, ½ game ahead
80-57 overall

Good Bats: Tony Renda .294/.380/.405, 43 doubles, 30SBs in 135G
Brandon Miller .243/.308/.456, 18HR, 72RBI in 103G
Arm: Brett Mooneyham 10-3, 1.94/3.65/0.98 in 93IP (17 starts)
Bad Bat: Pedro Severino .608 OPS in 84G
Arm: Will Hudgins 2-1, 4.79/5.96/1.60 in 20⅔ IP (16 appearances)
Interesting Bat: Shawn Pleffner .288/.386/.399 in 101G
Arm: Gilberto Mendez 3-2, 7SV 0.91/2.53/0.94 in 29⅔ IP (24 appearances)

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
26-49, 6th Place Pinckney Division of New York-Penn League, 22 games behind

Good Bat: Isaac Ballou .294/.405/.398, 20RBI in 59G
Arm: Jake Johansen 1-1, 1.06/2.77/0.92 in 42⅓ IP (10 starts)
Bad Bat: David Masters .183/.254/.242 in 45G
Arm: Deion Williams 0-6, 9.42/4.35/1.99 in 28⅔ IP (8 starts)
Interesting Bat: Jean-Carlos Valdez .374 SLG as a 20-y.o. in 48G
Arm: Austin Voth 2-0, 1.47/0.95/0.82 in 30⅔ IP (7 starts)

GCL NATIONALS
49-9, 1st place Gulf Coast League East Dvision, 24½ games ahead

Good Bat: Randy Encarnacion .349/.437/.523 in 34G
Arm: Wander Suero 8-1, 1.65/2.77/0.82 in 49IP (13 appearances, 3 starts)
Bad Bat: 17-y.o. Luis Guzman .222/.278/.265 in 36G
Arm: 23-y.o. Michael Boyden 0-0, 4.61/5.25/2.27 in 13⅔ IP (13 appearances)
Interesting Bat: Drew Ward .292/.402/.387, 28RBI in 49G (turns 19 in Nov.)
Arm: Nick Pivetta 1-0, 2.13/2.41/1.03 in 3GS (promoted to Auburn)

DSL NATIONALS
38-32, 3rd place, Boca Chica South Division of Dominican Summer League, 11 games behind

Good Bat: 19-y.o. Kelvin Gutierrez .255/.333/.337 in 60G
Arm: 18-y.o. Deibi Yrizarri 5-3, 1.99/2.66/1.10 in 68IP (14 appearances, 13 starts)
Bad Bat: 18-y.o. Miguel Atencio .183/.246/.183 in 23G
Arm: 22-y.o. Adrian Green 0-2, 5.40ERA, 2.00 WHIP in 10IP (12 appearances)
Interesting Bat: 17-y.o. Oliver Ortiz .307/.402/.386 in 26G
Arm: 18-y.o. Luis Reyes 5-3, 2.82/2.76/1.07 in 54⅓ IP (promoted to GCL)
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.

Jul 192013
 


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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 42-55, 6th place I.L. North, 11½ games behind

Good Chris Rahl .389/.397/.593 in July
Bad Tyler Robertson 0-1, 7.45ERA, 2.28 WHIP in 11 appearances
Interesting Tanner Roark 3-0, 3.24 ERA, 0.72 WHIP since return to rotation (4 starts)



HARRISBURG SENATORS 55-44, 1st place E.L. West, 4 games ahead

Good Justin Bloxom .313/.463/.500, 9BB in last 10 games
Bad Team BA .247, worst in E.L. (pay no attention to offense 6th overall)
Interesting Jimmy Van Ostrand .393/.452/1.000, 5HR since AA All-Star Break (seven games)



POTOMAC NATIONALS 14-10, 1st place C.L. North, 1 game ahead (56-37 overall)

Good Richie Mirowski 3-0, 2SV since Hi-A All-Star Break (9 appearances)
Bad Mike Gilmartin .162/.244/.297 in last 10 games
Interesting 152 doubles, 7th in Carolina League (offense overall, 2nd)/td>



HAGERSTOWN SUNS 16-11, 2nd place Sally North, ½ games behind (54-40 overall)

Good Pedro Encarnacion 7-5, 3.23 ERA/ 3.97 FIP / 1.13 WHIP
Bad Stephen Perez 16E in 88G
Interesting Team offense #2 (5.22 R/G) in Sally League (Municipal Field 1.04 park factor for runs)
#1 Asheville (5.38 R/G, McCormick Field 1.359 park factor for runs)



AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 10-19, 5th place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 7½ games behind

Good Brenton Allen .290/.405/.484 in 10 games since callup from GCL
Bad Team ERA 5.13, 14th in NYPL (No. 13 – Batavia, 4.20)
Interesting Jake Johansen 2BB, .000 OBA vs. RHBs (35PA); 10BB, .200 OBA vs. LHBs (35PA)



GCL NATIONALS 17-5, 1st place East Division, Gulf Coast League, 5½ games ahead

Good Jefry Rodriguez 3-0, 2.18 ERA / 2.18 FIP/ 1.16 WHIP in 5 starts
Bad Luis Guzman .173/.204/.212 in 16 games
Interesting Team 3rd in runs scored, 2nd in OBP and BA in the GCL



DSL NATIONALS 21-17, 4th place Boca Chica South, 5&fra12; games behind

Good 20-y.o. “Fred” Aguero .447/.462/.500 in last 10G
Bad 18-y.o. Jean Ramirez 7.94 ERA, 2.12 WHIP in 11⅓ IP
Interesting 18-y.o. American-born Thomas Alvarez 22BB in 36G
Jul 122013
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 39-55, 6th place I.L. North, 13 games behind

Good Caleb Clay 3-2, 1.62/3.29/0.99 in five appearances
Bad Mike Costanzo .185/.241/.333 in final 10 games before release
Interesting Danny Espinosa .417/.475/.750 over last 10 games



HARRISBURG SENATORS 51-41, 1st place E.L. West, 3frac12; games ahead

Good Robbie Ray (duh) 2-0, 0.64/1.34/1.00 after first two starts in AA
Bad Sandy Leon .172/.226/.172 over last 10 games
Interesting #1 E.L. pitching team in ERA (3.43), fewest runs allowed (3.79), CGs (11) and shutouts (7)



POTOMAC NATIONALS 11-7, T1st place C.L. North, .011 W% ahead (53-34 overall)

Good Billy Burns .375/.419/.450, 6RBI, 6SB in July
Bad 15 relievers used thus far in less than 90 games
Interesting Cole Leonida active team leader with nine HR in 36 games


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 13-8, 2nd place Sally North, ½ game behind (51-37 overall)

Good Shawn Pleffner .343/.415/.514 since All-Star break (currently on DL)
Bad Brett Mooneyham 32BB in 46⅔ IP
Interesting Brett Mooneyham 2.31 ERA, 4.49 FIP, 5.2 H/9IP


AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 8-15, 5th place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 7½games behind

Good Jake Johansen 0.71 ERA, 0.95 WHIP in 1st four starts (12⅔ IP)
Bad David Masters .179/.220/.232 in 14 games
Interesting 151 batting strikeouts 3rd fewest in NYPL


GCL NATIONALS 14-4, 1st place East Division, Gulf Coast League, 4½ games ahead

Good Bryan Mejia .385/.396/.596 in 15G
Bad David Ramos 7.56 ERA, 1.44 WHIP in 4 appearances
Interesting Drew Ward 12BB in 17G


DSL NATIONALS 17-15, 4th place Boca Chica South, 5 games behind

Good 18-y.o. Deibi Yrizarri 2-1, 1.99/3.07/1.26 in seven appearances (six starts)
Bad 19-y.o. Brayan Serrata .194/.254/.194 in 22 games
Interesting Luis Reyes 2-1, 2.28ERA, 18H, 8HBP, 12BB in 27⅔ IP