Aug 312012
 

For most of the Nationals’ existence, the September call-ups have represented the hope of better things to come, especially in the wake of last-place finishes in five of their first six seasons. Most years, it was an audition for making the club the next spring — John Lannan in 2007, Shairon Martis in 2008, Ian Desmond in 2009, Wilson Ramos in 2010, Steve Lombardozzi in 2011*, etc.
*Honorable mention to Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock, too, since their September showcase helped make the pickup of Gio Gonzalez possible

Well, things have changed. The better things have come. And thus, the endgame has changed.

The “five or six” guys that have been promised to play in DC this September aren’t necessarily auditioning — they’re gonna be asked to add depth to the bench, pinch hit, perhaps mop up in the ‘pen. Starting assignments, with a couple of notable exceptions, aren’t terribly likely.

Who they gonna call? Well, let’s take a look:

John Lannan — Cheap and easy, just the way we like… to make predictions. Back-to-back shutouts is just gravy. And of course getting the nod the past two times the parent club has needed a pitcher for a doubleheader makes this an easy call. He’s expected to replace Stephen Strasburg in the big-club rotation.

Sandy Leon — A third catcher is de rigeur for contenders in September. A foundering backup (Jesus Flores) may be also be served notice, particularly when this Venezuelan backstop has a 46% CS rate and can switch-hit. I’d expect him to get at least a start per week, perhaps more if the team can clinch before the final weekend.

Eury Perez — As noted in the comments, Perez was nearly a given to get a look as a defensive replacement and a pinch-runner; hitting safely in 37 of 40 games at AAA and doubling his walk rate might actually garner him some starts.

Corey Brown — Brown is still on the 40-man and can serve many of the same functions as Perez, but with a bit more pop and adds another lefthanded bat off the bench.

Carlos Rivero — Working against Rivero is the possibility that ineffective but experienced veteran Mark DeRosa will get activated instead, but like Brown, he’s on the 40-man and as we know, Rizzo makes 40-man moves less often than he goes to the barber. Remember that before mentioning Zach Walters in the comments.

Mike MacDougal — That “said,” if ever there was a guy that Rizzo would add then jettison, it’s Mike MacDougal — veteran reliever who can work in a variety of situations, but mostly he’d be asked to spell a bullpen that’s been ridden hard all season long. This is purely a gut pick.

Other Possibilities
• Chris Marrero
• Yunesky Maya
• Jhonatan Solano

All three are on the 40-man but have big strikes against them. Marrero has been battling a bum hamstring and hasn’t exactly lit it up since returning to Syracuse two weeks ago. Maya isn’t likely to start, thus his best role is long relief, which doesn’t get the kind of work it used to get in DC these days. Solano is rehabbing from an injury and isn’t going to be chosen unless Leon gets hurt.

Not Gonna Happen
• Anthony Rendon
• Christian Garcia
• Ryan Perry
• Chien-Ming Wang

When Rendon got the call to Harrisburg two weeks ago, there was breathless typing about him getting a look this September. Since then, nearly every reputable source outside of the Natmosphere has dismissed that as talk-radio blather. Christian Garcia seemed like the “mystery guy” that manager Davey Johnson alluded to in some pressers, but his surprise invite to the AFL seems to take him off the table. Likewise for Ryan Perry

And Wang? Well, my favorite J-school professor taught me that it’s always good to end a column with a joke, and the idea of a has-been that can’t get AA batters out being sent up is pretty damn laughable.

May 282012
 

No, I Said The White PhoneWith OF/PH Chad Tracy being placed on the 15-Day DL with a groin injury, the Washington Nationals have indeed made the move to recall Syracuse OF Corey Brown, as suggested in this morning’s news & notes. Yesterday, Brown was flown from upstate NY to Florida in anticipation of this development, which was also signaled by the activation of OF J.R. Higley from the Potomac DL and the placement of RHP Rafael Martin on the Temporary Inactive List.

Brown is currently riding a five-HRs-in-five-games HR streak and has been red-hot in the month of May, hanging a line of .359/.450/.772 including 9HR and 23 RBI in 24 games. He’s also stolen six bases in nine tries as the Chiefs leadoff batter and has two errors in 55 games on defense. This is his second stint with the parent club, the previous coming last September when he was hurt after just three pinch-hit appearances.

For those wondering why the more experienced Harrisburg OFs Jesus Valdez and Chris Rahl were bypassed, consider that two key Senators starters — Jeff Kobernus and Destin Hood — have been day-to-day with nagging injuries. It’s possible, if not probable, that one of those two will swap places with Higley once Hood is able to return to action, or perhaps even as soon as Martin is eligible to reactivated from the Temporary Inactive List on Wednesday.

Brown, who was acquired along with Rolaids dispenser RHP Henry Rodriguez in the December 2010 trade with Oakland for OF Josh Willingham, is expected to come off the bench. How long his stay in DC will depend on the parent club’s decisions to be made once OF-1B Michael Morse is deemed healthy enough to return to action for Washington. Morse is expected to play with Potomac this week on a rehab assignment and could be activated as soon as Friday, according to Nats Insider Mark Zuckerman.

UPDATE: The Harrisburg Senators have announced that OF Destin Hood has been placed on the 7-Day DL, retroactive to Friday, May 25, with no corresponding move. Both the Syracuse and Harrisburg rosters stand at 24, one short of the full 25. Stay tuned to this space if an additional move is made this afternoon.

UPDATE #2: Multiple online sources are reporting that Jhonatan Solano will be called up with 1B-LF Tyler Moore returning to Syracuse. As noted on Twitter last night, the presence of Solano on the 40-man and three catchers already on the Chiefs roster made this an unsurprising turn of events, not to mention the popular opinion that Moore was gathering dust on the bench as he was given more than two plate appearances just twice in 12 games and 19 overall in four weeks.

Mar 182012
 

Tyler Moore homered and doubled and drove in two runs to highlight an otherwise ugly 11-7 loss by the Nats to Detroit on Sunday afternoon. The 25-year-old, who has hit 62 home runs the past two seasons for Potomac and Harrisburg, respectively, is expected to play everyday for the Syracuse Chiefs, but remains in camp thanks in part to the injuries to Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche. Despite talk of him playing in the outfield during the offseason, he has appeared exclusively at 1B and DH, just as he has for the past four seasons in the minors.

Moore’s double came in the bottom of the ninth after Bryce Harper shook off four straight strikeouts for a two-out double. Harper split time on defense between right field and centerfield, but had no defensive chances. Harper’s whiffs came both looking and swinging, with starter Doug Fister (RHP) getting him twice, and relievers Duane Below (LHP) and Jose Ortega (RHP) getting him once apiece. As the parentheticals hint, it’s not just southpaws that are giving the 19-year-old problems; righthanders are figuring out how to work the offspeed stuff against him, too.

Steve Lombardozzi was the only other notable prospect to see time, going 1-for-2 while filling in at shortstop.

With an off day tomorrow, the Nationals are expected to* announced that Harper, Moore, and Jhonatan Solano have been optioned to AAA Syracuse. Joining them in the minor-league camp will be non-roster invitee Mark Teahen. Earlier today, the Nats signed veteran OF-1B Xavier Nady to a minor-league contract, a move no doubt predicated by the decision to hold Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse from game action for the next week. Outfielder Rick Ankiel, who has been nursing a sore hamstring, is expected to return to game action on Tuesday.*Yes, I was checking my Twitter feed while editing/writing

None of these moves are particularly surprising, including Harper. As noted last month, most of the competition for the Opening Day roster is for the bench, the ‘pen, and the No. 5 starter. It’s encouraging to see how well Lombardozzi is playing, but in my tendency towards pessimism (disclosure: I grew up in New England during the ’70s and ’80s), I still lean towards him going back to Syracuse so he can play everyday (and maintain his trade value).

Jun 242011
 

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

SYRACUSE 29-42, T4th place I.L. North, 13 games behind

Good Chris Marrero .310/.389/.464 in June
Bad Hassan Pena 0-4, 19.29ERA, 2.86WHIP
Interesting Jhonatan Solano .284/.344/.386 in 29G

HARRISBURG 40-31, 1st place E.L. West Division, 3½ games ahead

Good Pat Lehman & Rafael Martin, combined: 13.1IP, 5H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 8K, 1 win, 2 SVs, 3 holds
Bad Jonathan Tucker .200/.297/.236 in June
Interesting Josh Johnson .291/.360/.468 in June

POTOMAC 1-0, T1st place C.L. North Division, 1 game ahead (29-40, 1st half)

Good Jeff Kobernus .296/.306/.437 in June
Bad Trevor Holder .304 OBA, .449 OSLG
Interesting Steve Souza 16SB: 2 at home, 14 on road

HAGERSTOWN 1-0, T1st place Sally League Northern Division, 1 game ahead (40-30 in 1st half)

Good Wilson Eusebio 7 holds in 20 appearance
Bad Shane McCatty 1.79WHIP, .314 OBA
Interesting Neil Holland 1BB in 23IP

DSL NATIONALS 8-12, 6th place, Boca Chica South Division of Dominican Summer League, 6½ games behind

Good Dionicio Rosario (Age 17) .328/.431/.426 in 19G
Bad Emmanuel De La Cruz (Age 19) 8BB, 8H, 6ER in 7&⅔ IP over 7G
Interesting Wilmer Difo 19BB in 19G
Mar 032011
 

OK, so maybe I’m a day late on the Dr. Seuss peg, but the Nationals were most definitely a dollar short on Thursday, falling to the St. Louis Cardinals 7-5 for their first Spring Training loss in 2011.

Derek Norris’s solo HR in the top of the 8th was the highlight on the prospect front, taking a bit of the sting off an ugly fourth inning that saw Garrett Mock serve give up five runs in two-thirds of an inning on two hits and three walks.

Danny Espinosa’s error helped prolong the five-run fourth, as he started again at 2B and went 1-for-3 with a stolen base. Wilson Ramos was the DH and went 2-for-3 with a runs scored and an RBI.

Other notable prospects…

  • Bryce Harper went 0-for-2, lowering his batting average to .143
  • Jhonatan Solano went 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter for Ramos.

With the loss, the Nats drop to 3-1 for the spring. They return to Viera for a split-squad game against the Braves tomorrow. Over the weekend, the Nats travel to Tampa to visit the Yankees and then rematch against the Braves on Sunday, which will also be the first MASN telecast. The first round of cuts is expected after Saturday’s game, setting up the possibility for Harper to be sent to minor-league camp.

Speaking of which, minor-league pitchers and catchers are due to report tomorrow while position players are scheduled to report on Tuesday.

Sep 122010
 

A four-run 3rd by the Altoona Curve broke open a 3-2 lead and sent the Senators to a 10-5 loss to end their 2010 season. But the beat goes on in Potomac with a 10-3 win over the Frederick Keys, as the P-Nats advance to the Mills Cup finals for the second time in three seasons.

Tanner Roark was taken deep three times in less than three innings, accounting for all seven runs he surrendered, as the 23-year-old also struggled with his command in walking three over 2⅓ innings. Five relievers followed but only Rafael Martin and Cole Kimball would go scoreless as the Curve put 12 hits on the board.

Chris Marrero (2-for-5) and Jhonatan Solano (3-for-4) were the heart of the Harrisburg offense, each homering while combining for five of the seven Senator hits and four of the five runs driven in. Micahel Burgess contributed the other RBI and threw out a runner at third, but went an abysmal 0-for-13 with three walks and five strikeouts during the series. Josh Johnson only reached base twice but was the offensive MVP for the Sens in the series, batting .417 with seven walks and four runs scored.

For the bullet-point folks…

Team Pitching Star Hitting Star #1 Hitting Star #2
Harrisburg Senators
L, 10-5
(Eliminated 3-1)
Rafael Martin
1IP 0H 0R 0BB 1K
Jhonatan Solano
3-4, R, HR, 3RBI
Chris Marrero
2-5, 2R, HR, RBI
Potomac Nationals
W, 10-3
(Advances 3-1)
Rob Wort
1IP 1H 0R 1BB 0K
Chris Curran
3-4, 2R, 3B, 2RBI
Bill Rhinehart
2-4, R, 2B, 3RBI