Oct 142012
 

The Rafters pitchers had few surprises as the Saguaros pounded out 20 hits en route to a 10-2 win yesterday.

Potomac and Hagerstown teammates Aaron Barrett and Jason Martinson were the only two Nationals to see game action.

Martinson batted sixth as the DH and went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.

Barrett pitched the 7th inning and was knocked for two unearned runs on three hits, tossing 23 pitches with 15 going for strikes.

With the loss, Salt River falls to 3-2 and has the day off today. This week it’s a pair of games against Phoenix, Peoria, and Scottsdale with home games on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Oct 112012
 

Highlighted by back-to-back homers from Arizona’s Matt Davidson and Washington’s Matt Skole, a four-run first propelled the Salt River Rafters to an 11-3 win yesterday over the Mesa Solar Sox.

Three Nationals farmhands saw game action:

• Brian Goodwin led off and played centerfield, going 2-for-5 with a walk and two runs scored, including a solo shot in the 9th to cap off Salt River’s offensive onslaught.

• Skole was a triple shy of the cycle with a single and a two-RBI double in his subsequent ABs, finishing the game at 3-for-5 with a walk and a run scored and three RBI while batting fifth.

• Jason Martinson served as the DH, but went 0-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout while batting ninth.

Defensively, Goodwin had no chances while Skole made his professional debut at first base, catching three groundouts and committing no errors. As noted in the game story on the AFL site, Skole had made 37 errors in 172 games at third base over the past two seasons — a fielding percentage of just .916.

Ryan Perry is expected to take the hill tonight as the Rafters host the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Sep 282012
 

Not much in the way of news this week, but in yesterday’s transactions post from Baseball America, the Arizona Fall League assignments were made official:
• RHP Aaron Barrett
• RHP Paul Demny
• CF Brian Goodwin
• RHP Cole Kimball
• SS/3B Jason Martinson (taxi)
• RHP Ryan Perry
• 3B/SS Anthony Rendon
• 3B Matt Skole

The biggest change, of course, is the swapping of Christian Garcia and Cole Kimball, who has apparently healed enough from the injury that cut short his rehab tour in early to start throwing again. The 27-year-old is attempting to come back from rotator cuff surgery and could be potentially pitching to keep his spot on the 40-man roster.

When I last saw him, he looked like a shell of his previous self: his fastball like your weird uncle’s wardrobe (stuck in the 80s) and his command, which has never been mistaken for Jordan Zimmermann’s (subject of a prospect retro by John Sickels), even worse. Taking chances on hurt pitchers is what has netted the Nats pitchers like Garcia and Ryan Mattheus, though you could make the argument that Kimball was hurt in the first place when the Nats pushed him (and Adam Carr) in the AFL in the fall of 2010.

Most folks, of course, are curious regarding a rumored position switch of Anthony Rendon to second base. There are two other 2Bs on the roster of the Salt River Rafters (Tyler Bortnick, Diamondbacks; Carlos Sanchez, White Sox) and while one of them is a 25-year-old that appears to be a Rule 5 tryout (Bortnick), it’s only speculation at this point.

Matt Skole and Brian Goodwin will join Rendon as the position players assigned by Washington, with Jason Martinson serving as this year’s taxi squad player, eligible to play twice a week. Bryce Harper (2010) and Zach Walters (2011) served in this capacity over the past two fall campaigns.

Ryan Perry presumably will continue his transition to starting from relief while it appears that Paul Demny is doing the opposite, based on his removal from the Harrisburg Senators rotation in August as well as his struggles all year long (insert obligatory reference to youth and hard-throwing here). Aaron Barrett, who is not Rule 5-eligible, will continue to refine his stuff after posting a 3-2/2.09/0.92 pitcher’s line (if it doesn’t exist, then I’m coining it) with 17 saves in 2012.

The 2012 season begins on Tuesday, October 9th with Salt River hosting the Mesa Solar Sox.

Aug 292012
 

Despite the increased number of single-A exceptions afforded to them, the Nationals 2012 Arizona Fall League selections will still have a Rule 5/40-Man Evaluation feel to it, particularly among the pitchers.

Here’s a look at who’s been named to play for the Salt River Rafters, per multiple online sources:
• RHP Christian Garcia
• RHP Ryan Perry
• 3B/SS Jason Martinson*
• RHP Paul Demny
• 3B Anthony Rendon
• CF Brian Goodwin
*Taxi squad, eligible to play twice per week

This does not come as a shock, of course. As I wrote roughly 25 hours ago: “[W]hat remains to be seen is whether those exceptions will be used or whether teams will still game the system to send Rule 5 candidates that they haven’t made up their minds on.” There are still two slots available, one for a pitcher, the other an infielder, according to Byron Kerr of MASN.

What does seem certain is that neither Alex Meyer nor Nathan Karns will be going — Mike Rizzo said that Meyer was done for the year in today’s radio appearance on 106.7FM. It’s probably also a good bet that Matt Purke will not be sent either [insert insinuation of possible surgery here].

Given that the unfilled pitcher slot is probably going to a reliever, the most logical bets are: Rob Wort, Trevor Holder, and the Pats McCoy and Lehman (listed in order of likelihood in my opinion).

Likewise, if indeed an infielder is chosen to fill out the position-player contingent, the most likely candidates are Jeff Kobernus and Matt Skole. Kobernus had a rib fractured by a thrown pitch in late July, but could conceivably be ready to go by the October 9 start. Kobernus is also eligible for the Rule 5 draft.

Less likely candidates include Zach Walters and Carlos Rivero. Walters was sent last year, but repeats aren’t very common. Rivero seems more likely to be a September callup, but if he’s not, his odds still seem rather slim, given that few AAA players have been sent under Rizzo’s stewardship.

A month ago, Ricky Hague would have garnered a mention, but a reliable source has indicated to me that he won’t be going. Skole should certainly merit consideration, given his strong year offensively, though it’s also conceivable that he’ll be spending instrux learning a new defensive position (that’s purely speculation, unless it turns out I’m right ;-) which would make it unlikely to have him play the new position at that level so soon (unless he’s allowed to DH, which is possible).

If it’s not an infielder, the only logical choice would be Destin Hood, another Rule 5 candidate, but one who’s young and been hurt for long stretches this season. But he is also just a year remove from a breakout season and did play at AA all season long.

To play devil’s advocate, with most of the organization’s top pitching prospects unavailable due to injury, surgery, or innings limitation, the Nationals have little choice but to send older pitchers. Sending guys strictly by age or level would be a farce unless it was mandated by the rules. So like the late Spike, I’m a little uninspired by the choices, but I do understand them.

Jul 132012
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 44-48, T5th place I.L. North, 8 games behind

Good Erik Arnesen 20 scoreless IP since June 4
Bad Carlos Rivero 14BB in 81G
Interesting Jeff Mandel 1.06WHIP in 26⅓ IP

HARRISBURG SENATORS 48-42, T1st place E.L. West, .038 W% behind

Good Jimmy Van Ostrand .934OPS in 35G
Bad Marcos Frias 1.75WHIP in 33G
Interesting 681K Pitching K’s, 2nd in E.L.

POTOMAC NATIONALS 10-11, T3rd place C.L. North Division, 1 game behind (41-50 overall)

Good David Freitas .813 OPS, 9.5 RAA (runs above average), #1 for Car. Lg. Cs
Bad Jason Martinson 12E in 20G
Interesting Jimmy Barthmaier 0.77 ERA, 0.77 WHIP in 10G

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 14-7, T1std place Sally League North Divison, 2 games ahead (56-34 overall)

Good Steve Souza .263/.326/.600, 7HR, 23RBI since All-Star Break (21G)
Bad Bobby Hansen Jr. 15BB in 28⅓ IP
Interesting Billy Burns 12BB in 16G since All-Star Break

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 16-7, 1st place Pinckney Division, N.Y.-Penn League, 1½ games ahead

Good Shawn Pleffner .341/.383/.500 in 21G
Bad Gregory Baez 1-1, 9.64 ERA, 2.25 WHIP in 3 starts
Interesting Craig Manuel .385/.455/.436 in 12G

GCL NATIONALS 9-13, T3rd Place GCL East, 7 games behind

Good Gilberto Mendez 0-0, 3.29ERA, 0.80WHIP in 13⅔ IP
Bad Hayden Jennings 28K in 52AB
Interesting Wilmer Difo .313/.432/.433, 8SB in 20G

DSL NATIONALS 17-18, 6th Place Boca Chica South Division, 8 games behind

Good 19 y.o. Rafael Bautista 20SB in 35G
Bad 18 y.o. Jorge Tillero .553 OPS in 15G
Interesting 19 y.o. Elisaul Gomez 2.75 ERA, 1.17WHIP, 4.81 BB/9
Jun 012012
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 25-28, 5th place I.L. North, 8 games behind

Good Zach Duke 5-1, 3.08 ERA, 1.24 WHIP in May
Bad Seth Bynum .189/.241/.297 in May
Interesting Pat Lehman 0.00ERA, 0.75WHIP in May

HARRISBURG SENATORS 28-25, 2nd place E.L. West, 5 games behind

Good Jose Lozada .313/.378/.448 in May
Bad Ryan Tatusko 7.80 ERA, 1.87 WHIP
Interesting Eury Perez 13SBs in last 14 attempts

POTOMAC NATIONALS 21-29, 3rd place C.L. North Division, 6½ games behind

Good Cameron Selik 26K in last 12 appearances (1-0, 7SV)
Bad Blake Kelso .146/.186/.146 in last 10G
Interesting Top 9 Batters by AB at Home .269BA, .419SLG
Top 9 Batters by AB on Road .172BA, .276SLG

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 31-22, 2nd place Sally League North Divison, 7½ games behind

Good Nathan Karns 61K in 44⅓ IP
Bad Hendry Jimenez .162/.238/.189 in May
Interesting Jason Martinson 52RBI (2nd in SAL), 37BB (3rd), 68K (1st)
Apr 202012
 

It’s back! Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues. For the newcomers, this is a ripoff of tribute to comedian Demetri Martin’s segment from his old show on Comedy Central.

And of course, the obligatory caveats: sample sizes are here small, it’s early in the season, minors stats aren’t as meaningful as we think, past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance, etc.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 3-11, 6th place I.L. North, 7½ games behind

Good Tyler Moore .296/.361/.611, 5HR, 14 RBI in 14G
Bad Corey VanAllen 7BB in 7⅔ IP over 5 appearances
Interesting Mitch Atkins 0.75ERA in 1st two starts despite 7BB

HARRISBURG SENATORS 10-5, 1st place E.L. West, ½ game ahead

Good Danny Rosenbaum 2-0, 1.25 ERA, 0.65WHIP in 3 starts
Bad Chris McConnell 0-for-15, 2E since reassignment from AAA
Interesting Jeff Kobernus .403 OBP (.313 in ’11)

POTOMAC NATIONALS 6-6, 2nd place C.L. North Division, 2½ games behind

Good David Freitas .333/.419/.611, 8RBI (tied for team lead)
Bad Justin Bloxom .159/.255/.205, 5E in 12G
Interesting Kyle Winters 17K in 17IP

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 7-8, 4th place Sally League North Divison, 3 games behind

Good Jason Martinson .319/.437/.534, 8SB in 15G
Bad Wirkin “For The Weekend” Estevez 1.53 WHIP, 8.16 ERA in 3 starts
Interesting Taylor Hill 2-0, 2.45 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 1.93 FIP in 3 appearances
Oct 202011
 

The 2011 season was the first winning season in the five years that Washington has been affiliated with Hagerstown. The 75-64 record was a 10½ game improvement over the 2010 season. But ultimately, the curse of high expectations that surrounds all things Bryce Harper made the 2011 season a disappointment in many fans’ eyes.

It may also surprise you to learn that for all for the rehab stints (Strasburg, Zimmerman, Wang, the immortal Doug Slaten) and the presence of Bryce Harper, attendance still fell by 126 per game over 2010 (2,057 vs. 1,931). Times are hard in Washington County, no doubt, but that’s still a bit of a shock to me. So I’ll leave it to you as to whether we should blame it on the economy, the rain, or the bossa nova.

Considering that, as a team, the Suns were mostly middle of the pack in the 14-team South Atlantic League — 6th in offense, 8th in pitching, 7th in defense — to have been in contention in both halves for most of the way should be considered a success. As we’ve done the past three weeks, let’s take a look at how Hagerstown compared to the rest of the league…
HITTING

PITCHING

The most encouraging thing to take away from the 2011 Suns is that this team was not afraid to take a walk or give up a walk — second in the league on both counts. It was also a team that could run (3rd), but unlike last season, they did it without a single 30-steal player and were successful 73.5% of the time. That’s encouraging if you’re a proponent of having a team that’s capable of playing it both big and small.

The pitching was a mixed bag. The starter that gave up the most hits had the most wins (Matt Grace). There were a couple of relievers with ERAs in the 1′s (Chris Manno, Neil Holland)… and a couple of relievers with ERAs in the 6′s (Shane McCatty, Greg Holt), while the team’s two swingmen (Paul Applebee and Matt Swynenberg) gave up the second- and third-most HRs on the team, yet were among the team’s more effective pitchers. Finally, two pitchers had their season cut short by unspecified injuries (Taylor Jordan and Bobby Hansen), and a third (Chris McKenzie) spent six weeks on the DL midseason and more than two months away from the Suns total.

Now it’s time to drill down to look at the top 12′s for the hitters. The full statistics for the team can be found here. (* = 2010 Draft Pick ** = DSL Graduate)
Bryce Harper’s numbers speak for themselves, with his rate statistics close to 100 points above the league average despite being barely old enough to vote. His removal from the lineup on the 4th of July, however, was largely covered by the emergence of Kevin Keyes, who hit .281/.355/.528 after the Sally League All-Star break. As you can see, the cluster of 2010 draft picks were the heart of this team. What remains to be seen is how they’ll develop. Thankfully, one of my spies in Hagerstown wrote about the Suns batters earlier this month, and I encourage folks to click on over to see what he had to say.

Next up, the pitchers, which I’m expanding to the top 15 to include three notables…
Eleven different pitchers made at least five starts for the Suns, thanks in part to the injuries to Jordan, Hansen and McKenzie and the delayed debuts of Cole and Ray, both of whom were held back until the first full weekend in May. Injury also delayed the start of Sammy Solis’s season until Memorial Day Weekend, which kept his inning count down and is arguably the primary reason why he’s repeating the AFL as a starter.

If Auburn is a barometer for the 2011 draft, then Hagerstown might be the same for 2010 (and to a certain extent, 2009). If the expression is that there three kinds of pitchers — young, old, and hurt — well, that pretty much sums up the draft class thus far.

The ground on the “young” Cole and Ray has been pretty much covered (though again, I point folks to my friend Shawn’s take). Old, of course is a relative term, but Grace and Solis will enter the 2012 campaign as 23-year-olds and the latter was touted as being ready for prime time in ’12. The same is true for ’09ers Swynenberg and Jordan. And of course, the “hurt” applies to Jordan, Solis and McKenzie (Hansen was an ’08 pick). Solis and McKenzie have since recovered from their injuries, but the outcome for Jordan, who appeared to be headed for Potomac a la Danny Rosenbuam in 2010, won’t be known until next spring.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
We’re into crossover territory and I’m trying to avoid double-listing guys. Thus, a couple of honorable mentions to answer the question “Well, who would make it onto the list if X were rated at the next level instead of this level?”

Hitters
1. Bryce Harper
2. David Freitas
3. Kevin Keyes
4. Michael Taylor
5. Adrian Sanchez
HM: Jason Martinson

Pitchers
1. A.J. Cole
2. Robbie Ray
3. Taylor Jordan
4. Sammy Solis
5. Matt Swynenberg
HM: Matt Grace

Jul 292011
 

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

SYRACUSE 46-58, 4th Place I.L. North, 15 games behind

Good Josh Wilkie 2-0, 3SV, 0ER in last 14⅔ IP (11 appearances)
Bad Craig Stammen 0-2, 6.48 since I.L. All-Star Break
Interesting Tom Milone, Randy Knorr ejected in same game last night

HARRISBURG 60-46, 1st place E.L. West Division, 1½ games ahead

Good Derek Norris .283/.431/.478 since E.L. All Star Break
Bad Erik Davis 1-4, 7.52 ERA, 1.41 WHIP in July
Interesting Six different Ps have 4 or more saves, team is T2nd for league lead with 33

POTOMAC 20-13, 2nd place C.L. North Division, 2 games behind (49-53 overall)

Good Marcos Frias 1-0, 2.12 ERA, 1.06 WHIP since C.L. All-Star Break
Bad Rob Wort 1.60 WHIP, 5.81 FIP
Interesting Steve Souza .427 OBP since C.L. All-Star Break

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 16-16, 4th place Sally North Division, 4½ games behind (56-46 overall)

Good David Freitas 59BB, 58K
Bad Shane McCatty 8.10ERA in July
Interesting Jason Martinson 12HR, 44RBI, 46BB, 106K, 24E

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 22-18, T1st place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 1 game ahead

Good Brian Dupra 1.93 ERA, 0.99 WHIP in July
Bad Connor Rowe .578 OPS, 38K in 29G
Interesting Team SB success rate of 78.33% (47/60), best in NYPL

GCL NATIONALS 12-20, 4th place GCL East, 11 games behind

Good Wander Ramos 1.092 OPS in 24G
Bad Andy Santana 2.65 WHIP, 12.71 ERA
Interesting Silvio Medina 26K in 18⅓ IP (12.76/9IP)

DSL NATIONALS 25-25, 5th place, Boca Chica South Division, 5 games behind

Good Ivan Pineyro 2.22 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 54K in 48⅔ IP
Bad Raudy Read .147/.200/.255, 7E in 30G
Interesting Yermin Mercedes .318/.361/.409, 1E in 32G
May 202011
 

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 Craig Stammen 1.03 WHIP
Bad Collin Balester .318 Opp. BA in May
Interesting Michael Aubrey .364/.464/.879 in May

HARRISBURG 18-19, 2nd place E.L. West Division, ½ game behind

Good Derek Norris .300/.429/.550 in May
Bad Tim Pahuta .173BA, 9E
Interesting Hassan Pena 0.87WHIP, 23K in 20⅔ IP

POTOMAC 16-23, 4th place C.L. North Division, 6½ games behind

Good Eury Perez .485 last 10G, .341BA overall
Bad Cameron Selik 8.71ERA, 1.84WHIP in first two Hi-A starts
Interesting Trevor Holder 4BB in 42IP

HAGERSTOWN 27-13, 1st place Sally League Northern Division, 3 games ahead

Good Robbie Ray 0.00ERA, 13K in two starts over 11 IP
Bad Jason Martinson 40K, 13E in 39G
Interesting Bobby Hansen 1.88ERA, 1.13WHIP in last four starts