Dec 072013
 

This seems to be a trend… for the second straight year, there was a consensus at the top of the list… then a free-for-all afterwards.

The two of the top three guys were each left off at least one ballot, while the number two guy was unanimously named, enabling him to garner the no. 2 spot without a single first-place vote.

A total of 24 players were named on 14 ballots, some of which had less than 10 names and/or an ineligible player. While I adjusted the points accordingly (e.g. #1 on a nine-player ballot = 9 pts vs. 10 pts. on a ten-player), it did not affect the rankings.

Without further ado, ze list:

                              1. Brian Goodwin
                              2. Matt Skole
                              3. Steve Souza
                              4. Billy Burns
                              5. Michael Taylor
                              6. Jeff Kobernus
                              7. Zach Walters
                              8. Drew Ward
                              9. Tony Renda
                              10. Adrian Nieto

Others receiving votes: Corey Brown, Eury Perez, Justin Bloxom, Randy Encarnacion, Narciso Mesa, Pedro Severino, Isaac Ballou, Brandon Miller, Cody Gunter, Rafael Bautista, Josh Johnson, Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, Bryan Mejia, Caleb Ramsey

Some observations:

• Goodwin received ten first-place votes, similar to how he was the near-consensus at #2 last year behind Anthony Rendon.

• This year’s #2 is a bit of a shock: Matt Skole was hurt all year long and struggled some in the Arizona Fall League, but moved up a spot from #3 to #2 nevertheless.

• Souza’s strong AFL campaign and addition to the 40-man roster seemed to stick out in many voter’s minds, vaulting him from an also-ran in 2012 to #3 with three first-place votes.

• Burns and Taylor nearly tied despite Taylor being left off two ballots, nearly closing the gap in points by receiving a pair of second-place votes (Burns’s highest was a third-place spot).

As it traditionally has, the list skews towards the upper minors; this year’s exception: Ward, who might have missed the cut — like Skole did in 2011 — were it not for the GCL Nationals’ championship run (likewise for his teammates that were in the “also-rans”). Still, I think a lot of this is simply the bias of familiarity, which also explains why a couple of players aged 27+ players received votes.

Next up: the pitchers, which is always contentious thanks to folks’ biases of starter vs. reliever, lefty vs. righty, fireballer vs. junkballer, floor wax or dessert topping, etc. Plus, with one less no-doubt pick (Robbie Ray), the last couple of spots ought to be closely contested.

Aug 192013
 

Jeff KobernusJeff Kobernus became the fourth Chief to win International League Batter of the Week honors, and the fifth winner overall, joining Tyler Moore, Chris Rahl, and two-time winner Zach Walters.

Kobernus went 12-for-32 during the period (August 12-18), posting a line of .375/.382/.406 with four runs scored, six RBI, and six stolen bases. For the month, the 25-y.o. California native has posted a similar line of .360/.380/.373 in the month of August and is currently riding a 14-game hit streak, three less than Rahl. He’s also 2nd in the I.L. in batting average (.323) and steals (39).

The Nats’ 2009 second-round pick was selected by Boston in the 2012 Rule 5 Draft and immediately traded to Detroit, where he attempted to make the Tigers as a utilityman, but was returned on March 23rd. The conversion has continued as he’s actually played more outfield (58 games) than infield (24 games) and committed just two errors this season (one at 2B, one at 3B).

Injuries shortened both his 2010 and 2012 seasons, but has flashed enough speed (81 steals in 164 games the past two seasons, second only to Billy Burns’s 95 in 218 games) to be a three-time watchlist player for this site.

Jul 052013
 


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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 36-51, 6th place I.L. North, 16½ games behind

Good Jeff Kobernus .375BA, Chris Marrero .333BA since return from MLB
Bad Jeff Mandel 0-4, 7.45ERA, 1.69 WHIP in last five starts
Interesting Mike Broadway four saves in last four appearances since June 26



HARRISBURG SENATORS 45-40, 1st place E.L. West, 1½ games ahead

Good Jason Martinson .333/.417/.429 in 7G since promotion
Bad Blake Treinen 110H in 97⅓IP
Interesting 50 team HBP, most in E.L.



POTOMAC NATIONALS 9-3, 1st place C.L. North, 2½ games ahead (51-30 overall)

Good Greg Holt 2-0, 2.57ERA in last 10 appearances (14IP)
Bad Adrian Sanchez .143/.216/.147 in last 10 games
Interesting 22 saves, T1st in Carolina League (19 blown saves)


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 10-5, 1st place Sally North, 1 game ahead (48-34 overall)

Good Gilberto Mendez 1-0, 0.68 ERA / 0.68 WHIP in first eight appearances
Bad Pedro Severino 8BB in 52 games (.275 OBP)
Interesting 11 shutouts, 2nd best in Sally League


AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 6-10, 6th place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League

Good Jean Valdez .326/.383/.535, 2HR, 8RBI in 16 games
Bad Joel Barrientos 12BB in 11⅔ IP
Interesting James Yezzo .333/.367/.421 in 14 games


GCL NATIONALS 9-3, 1st place East Division, Gulf Coast League

Good Philips Valdez 2-0, 1.13ERA, 0.75WHIP in 8IP
Bad Osvaldo Abreu .293 OPS in 10G
Interesting 1.18 WHIP 2nd best in GCL


DSL NATIONALS 15-12, 2nd place Boca Chica South, 3 games behind

Good 20-y.o. Yermin Mercedes .318/.423/.432 in 16 games
Bad 18-y.o. Yefri Pena 1-1, 5.52 ERA, 1.98 WHIP in 14⅔ IP
Interesting 17-y.o. Israel Mota .264/.406/.340 in 19 games
May 252013
 

Moving On Up for NPP
Following the news that Danny Espinosa has bone chips and will need prolonged rest, if not a stint on the DL, the Washington Nationals have promoted IF/OF Jeff Kobernus from the Syracuse Chiefs.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Kobernus over the past six months. He was selected by Boston then traded to Detroit in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft in December and played well into the spring for the Tigers before his return in late March. The experience may have proved beneficial, as he was asked to play outfield for Detroit to make the club as a utilityman — a position he hadn’t played since his collegiate days.

Upon his return to Nationals, he was assigned to the Chiefs and continued to play outfield, mostly in left field (19 games) but occasionally in center (9 games) as well as second and third base (12 and 3 games). More noticeable was the hot start as the 24-y.o. batted .367/.408/.467 with a home run and eight stolen bases in April.

He’s cooled some in May (.298/.344/.369) but has picked up the pace on the basepaths with 13 steals this month. Speed is his calling card as the Nats’ 2009 2nd Round Pick out of California led the Carolina League with 53 steals in 2011 and the Eastern League with 42 last season despite playing only 82 games.

To make room on the 40-man roster, RHP Yunesky Maya was designated for assignment (as previously hinted in this space). Putting it as mildly as possible, Maya has been a tremendous disappointment, signed as an international free agent as a Cuban defector in 2010 for four years and $6 million. In three-plus seasons, he’s pitched 59 innings at the major-league level — all but 1/3rd in 2010 and 2011 — and 367⅔ innings in the minors, mostly at AAA.

Last season was the only one in which he had an ERA below 4.00 as the 31-year-old went 11-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 28 starts for Syracuse.

RHP Taylor Jordan was also promoted, going from Harrisburg to Syracuse, though it’s likely to be a temporary move that will be reversed once Maya’s fate is ultimately determined. Likewise for the shift of RHP Brian Rauh from Hagerstown to Harrisburg, a move to replace whichever reliever (best guess: Matt Swynenberg) replaces Jordan in the rotation when his turn comes up next.

Apr 192013
 

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.

Nevertheless, a reminder: the players, their families, and their agents are reading, so let’s not get carried away in the comments. It’s just for fun.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 6-7, 4th place I.L. North, 3½ games behind

Good Jeff Kobernus .463/.521/.659, 6SB in 12G
Bad Ryan Tatusko 7.11 ERA, 9BB, 2.84 WHIP in 6⅓ IP
Interesting Decision to not use a position player to pitch in a 27-9 smackdown, the day after a doubleheader

HARRISBURG SENATORS 8-6, T1st place E.L. West, ½ game ahead

Good Caleb Clay 2-0, 1.00WHIP, 14K in 17IP
Bad Justin Bloxom .503OPS, 23K in 14G
Interesting Trevor Holder 0.00 ERA, 0.78WHIP in 3G, 9IP

POTOMAC NATIONALS 6-7, 4th place C.L. North, 2 games behind

Good Jason Martinson 1.140 OPS, 15RBI in 13G
Bad Relievers – 5.82ERA, 1.42WHIP
Interesting Michael Taylor 10RBI, 13H, .228BA

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 8-7, T2nd place Sally North, 2 games behind

Good Dixon Anderson 0.68WHIP, 18K in 17⅔ IP
Bad Brandon Miller .172/.172/.345, 22K in 14G
Interesting Mike McQuillan 14-game on-base streak, 6SB
Mar 232013
 

Well, it looks like yesterday’s reports were wrong: the Tigers have returned Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus to the Nationals.

Kobernus hung a line of .220/.298/.300 in 50ABs for Detroit in 21 games while attempting to make the 25-man roster as a utilityman. The 24-year-old made appearances in all three outfield positions, playing there for the first time since his collegiate days at California.

Officially, he’s been reassigned to minor-league camp but is expected to open the season in Syracuse after an injury-shortened 2012 in Harrisburg. He played in 82 games for the Senators and hit .282/.325/.333 with 42 SBs with a career-best .982 fielding average.

The watchlist and the second baseman page have been both been updated to reflect his return.

Mar 222013
 

Morning ReadingAs promised earlier this week, here’s a few minors-oriented news items to pass along while we wait out the last 10 days of Spring Training.

…As noted yesterday in the comments, it’s looking bright for Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus to make the Tigers’ Opening Day roster, while Adam Kilgore’s sources say the Rockies are leaning towards keeping Danny Rosenbaum, though he’s one of four relievers competing for the final spot in the Colorado ‘pen.

…It’s old news to roster geeks, but the Natmosphere’s Todd Boss can thump his chest a little (or a lot) because Baseball America has confirmed what he’s contended for months now — Ryan Perry and Yunesky Maya are among the 23 players eligible for a 4th minor league option.

…Park factors and run-scoring environment analysis is rampant in the majors, but until recently, it’s been sparse in the minors. That changes with a pair of analyses from Baseball America and MiLB.com.

…It’s the third name in 16 years in Syracuse as Alliance Bank Stadium becomes NBT Bank Stadium.

…Finally, our Hagerstown guy interviews longtime Nats farmhand Sean Nicol in the second of three parts (part one can be found here).

Mar 052013
 

Checkin In On The MLB Rule 5 PicksWith an off day yesterday, I wasn’t sure if I’d have something to write about this morning until one of the regulars asked me about Danny Rosenbaum and Jeff Kobernus.

Truth be told, it was the first time I had checked because I’m not rooting for them to falter so “we can have them back.” For both players, this is their first (and best) chance to make a major-league roster, even if it’s just briefly like Erik Komatsu’s two-team tour in 2012.

Rosenbaum has made just two appearances thus far for a total of four scoreless innings with two hits and one walk allowed and no strikeouts. Thanks to a start last Friday, his opposition quality score is 9.2 (H/T to NatsLady for pointing out this feature on already indispensable baseball-reference.com).

As you can see from the gamer in the Colorodoan, Danny was paying attention to Crash Davis:

“They told me they see me more as a long relief guy. I’ve always been a starter in college and my whole career and coming out of the ‘pen will be different. But it’s pitching and it’s the same game. However they think I can help, I want to do that,” he said.

He’s scheduled to pitch again today in relief as well.

As a position player, Kobernus has gotten a much longer look as noted in this feature from the Detroit Free Press. He’s batting .280/.308/.440 with a lower Opposition Quality score (8.4) because he’s been left in games against the reserves of other teams.

While Rosenbaum can be “hidden” in the ‘pen as a long reliever or a backup LOOGY, Kobernus has no such luxury as a bench player. That’s why the Tigers are trying him in the outfield, where he hasn’t played since his college days at Cal. Kobernus is competing against a pair of 21-year-old prospects — Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia — who, of course, can be returned to the minors for more seasoning, even if they are the #1 and #2 prospects per Baseball America.

Dec 062012
 

For the second straight year, two Nationals were selected during the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft — LHP Danny Rosenbaum and 2B Jeff Kobernus.

Rosenbaum was selected third by the Colorado Rockies. Colorado Rockies blog Purple Row describes the selection:

Rosenbaum will compete for a bullpen job vacated by Matt Reynolds. Josh Outman had been penciled in as the second lefty in the bullpen, joining Rex Brothers, but this move allows Outman to start, or for Colorado to have three lefties in their pen.

Kobernus was taken seventh by the Boston Red Sox, then subsequently traded to the Detroit Tigers for 28-year-old AAA utilityman Justin Henry. Not coincidentally, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski was quoted via MLB.com’s Justin Beck:

We not only like his ability to play second, but we think that perhaps — and he hasn’t really done much of it — he could have some versatility where we might be able to move him to the outfield and get some playing time there

In the 1st round of the AAA phase, the Red Sox “struck” again by taking Boston native Jack McGeary, while Hector Nelo was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round. Unlike the MLB phase, these players do not have to be offered back to the original club.

McGeary had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and has only pitched 25⅓ innings in 2011 and 2012 — all but 7⅔ innings in the GCL. He was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2007 draft.

Nelo was signed as a minor-league free agent in April 2011 after being released by the Texas Rangers. While capable of throwing in the triple digits, the 26-year-old Miami-born Floridian had a radar-gun strike zone, meaning the higher the number the more likely it was a ball if the batter did not swing.

As expected, the Nationals did not make any picks in the MLB phase. A slight surprise: They also passed in the AAA and AA phases as well.

The 2012 Watchlist
has been updated to reflect the selections.

Nov 052012
 

Going into the Eastern League All-Star Game, Harrisburg was 48-40 — good for second place in its division, having had an eight-game win streak broken with a 4-1 loss on July 9th.

It would be nearly a month before the Senators won back-to-back games again.

They went 16-38 in the second half, falling from second place to fifth place by the end of July for their worst finish (64-78) since the ghastly 2007 edition that went 55-86.

Injuries, as you might expect, were a factor. Twenty-nine-year-old Tim Pahuta led the team in games played with 121. Starters Destin Hood, Chris Rahl, and Jeff Kobernus — none of whom were promoted — played in 94, 92, and 82 games respectively. But as Geoff Morrow pointed out in his final of four segments on the team, the inability to hit when it mattered most is what truly killed the Senators in 2012:

The Senators’ .202 batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position wasn’t just dead last in the 12-team EL, it easily ranked last among all 30 Class AA teams (including the Southern and Texas League teams). Their .239 average with runners in scoring position was last in the EL and 28th overall.

Perhaps that might be enough said, but let’s do the dance anyway, starting with how Harrisburg’s team totals compared to the rest of the Eastern League:
HITTING

PITCHING

Not too hard to figure out what the problem was. The pitching wasn’t great, a notch below the league average. But the hitting was atrocious — 11th in runs, RBIs, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Take away the power from graybeards Pahuta and Jimmy Van Ostrand and the legs of Eury Perez and Kobernus, along with Rahl who provided both, and this team would have probably finished 11th or 12th in HRs and SBs, too (somehow, they finished dead-last in doubles).

Perhaps more disturbing is looking at the pitchers by age. As a group, the 24 and unders were 28-32 with two saves, but with a 4.92 ERA and 1.492 WHIP over 488⅓ innings. Contrast that to the 26+ group, and you get marks of 20-29 and 12, 4.13 and 1.335 over 468⅓ innings. The league average age was 24.5, so when you add in the 25-year-olds, those numbers improve to 44-49, 27 and 4.22 and 1.399 over 775 innings.

The problem is that those 25-year-olds were 16-17, 25 and 3.01 and 1.238 over 286⅔ innings. That’s pretty good, but look at who those pitchers are: Erik Davis, Ryan Perry, Hector Nelo, Trevor Holder and Brian Broderick. In other words, guys that for the most part either were or should have been in AAA. Maybe it’s just an anomaly, but it’s something I noticed that I thought was worth passing along.

Now, a look at the Top 14’s — my semi-arbitrary cutoff in order to capture the most notable — for the position players and pitchers. Full statistics for the team can be found here.
Were it not for the injuries, we might have seen a slight improvement in terms of more plate appearances going to age-appropriate players. Jeff Kobernus, for example, might have gotten the bump to Syracause that went to Zach Walters instead — he was hanging a .306/.355/.341 line in July after struggling for much of May and June. Destin Hood probably would have played the whole year for the Senators, but can we write off both the declines in power and patience to his being hurt?

As it was a year ago, the lack of walks is really striking. Without the likes of Derek Norris, Bill Rhinehart, and Josh Johnson, it’s especially noticeable. It’s a testament to Brian Goodwin that he led the above group with a 9.7% walk rate and an indictment on the several players that didn’t break 7.0%. With another wave of free swingers coming from Potomac (Matt Skole and Anthony Rendon excluded), it’s something to watch for in 2013 and beyond.
The story of 2012 for the Harrisburg pitchers was Danny Rosenbaum. His overall numbers aren’t so bad, but that’s a function of arithmetic. After eight starts, he was 5-0 with a 0.62 ERA with six walks, one home run allowed and two complete games, only one of which required more than 100 pitches (109). Halfway through the season (13 starts), he had fallen to 7-2, 1.94 with 13 walks and three HR allowed over 88 innings. After that, the wheels fell off the bus — 1-8 with a 6.54 ERA and a 1.693 WHIP in his final 13 starts.

How much of that is the league adjusting to Rosenbaum and him not adjusting back is up for debate. Pitching coach Paul Menhart offered a clue in this dispatch from Geoff Morrow’s Sunday column in early July, noting that a lot stemmed from frustration, which in turn led to pressing, which even the casual observer knows leads to grooved pitches. Morrow would continually note via Twitter during Rosenbaum’s starts about how much more hittable he’d become as the season progressed.

As noted above, other age-appropriate pitchers struggled. Paul Demny, who had made 98 starts between April 2009 and July 2012, was moved to the bullpen in August. Robert Gilliam was dropped down to Potomac after failing as both a starter and a reliever. Marcos Frias saw his usage cut in half while his ERA rose nearly two runs before and after the All-Star break — though some of the innings drop may be attributable to Ryan Tatusko, Pat McCoy and Davis, all repeating the level, excelling in middle relief and leaving Frias the odd man out.

OBLIGATORY TOP EIGHT LIST
As much as I hate combining lists, with just two pitchers to list, there’s not much else to be done.

On to the caveats… Hood still has time on his side (turns 23 in April), Kobernus doesn’t (turns 25 in June); but both are getting the benefit of the doubt due to injury… Rosenbaum is still left-handed, mechanically sound, and durable (76 starts, 6.19 IP per from ’10-’12)… There are reports that Demny has a lost a some m.p.h. off his fastball (high 80s vs. low-to-mid 90s) in the AFL, but those are likely to come back with a shift to the bullpen… Bloxom plays a position in which the organization is not deep and can switch-hit… Ryan Perry has already made 156 appearances as a major-leaguer (by definition, a prospect must also be a rookie)… and, of course, Brian Goodwin has already been picked (#1 position player for Hagerstown).

1. Eury Perez
2. Sandy Leon
3. Zach Walters
4. Destin Hood
5. Danny Rosenbuam
6. Paul Demny
7. Jeff Kobernus
8. Justin Bloxom