Apr 142012
 

With four walks and five runs in the first inning, Potomac took advantage of Lynchburg’s wildness to score five runs and built a 7-0 lead as the P-Nats cruised to an 11-4 win in the home opener.

The worry, of course, is that when a pitcher struggles like Ronan Pacheco did at the start is that a lucky break will enable him to survive. Walks to Michael Taylor, Blake Kelso, and Justin Bloxom loaded the bases with one out for Kevin Keyes. One sharp ground ball could end the threat.

Instead, a 10-foot swinging bunt that Pacheco couldn’t field cleanly, as the catcher had to leave home plate and throw out Keyes for the second out and the first Potomac run. But there were still two out and the big inning could be stopped.

No such luck for Pacheco on this Friday the 13th.

The “Groovin’ Aruban” (Randolph Oduber) followed with a single up the middle to score two more. SS Nick Ahmed got to it but couldn’t knock it down. After another walk to doorstop catcher James Skelton, Adrian Sanchez doubled in Oduber and Skelton to extend the lead to 5-0. Francisco Soriano grounded out to end the inning: nine batters up, four walks, two hits, one left on.

Meanwhile, P-Nats starter Bobby Hansen worked around his miscues in the early going. A one-out double in the first. A hit batsmen and a walk with two out in the second.

Veteran catcher Evan Gattis worked a walk from Hansen in the first but hammered him for a solo shot in the third. Evan Salcedo blasted a double over Michael Taylor’s head. On another night, one that wasn’t in the low-to-mid-50s after sundown, it might have went out. If there’s one troubling aspect to this start, it’s that five of the eight hits he gave up were for extra bases.

Still, after getting knocked from the box after two in his first outing by these Hillcats, Hansen lasted six innings and gave up three runs on the eight hits and three walks and struck out three for his first win of the season. The defense came up big in his final inning with Skelton scampering up the line to swipe a tag on throw from Taylor for the second out of the inning and Soriano ranging deep in the hole to gun down a runner at second to end the inning.

Until the seventh inning, Lynchburg was still outhitting Potomac. The lead was still comfortable, but Kevin Keyes made the outcome all but certain with a three-run shot off the top tier of billboards in right-centerfield. An impressive shot on its own, never mind on a cold night.

Wilson Eusebio pitched the seventh and eighth innings, retiring six batters but walking three. Josh Smoker worked the ninth, but fell victim to his own wildness, uncorking a wild pitch on a strikeout to the leadoff batter then hitting a batter after erasing that mistake with double play ball. Salcedo struck for another double for the fourth and final Hillcat run.

The three-game series continues tonight with Adam Olbrychowski slated to pitch for Potomac against Lynchburg’s J.R. Graham.

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

Aug 262011
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 60-69, 4th place I.L. North, 12½ games behind (eliminated)

Good Tom Milone 11-6, 3.33 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
Bad Jeff Frazier .221/.285/.359
Interesting Garrett Mock 0.87 ERA, 0.48 WHIP in August

HARRISBURG SENATORS 74-57, 1st place E.L. West, 2 games ahead

Good Archie Gilbert .386/.413/.523 in August
Bad Leonard Davis .150/.227/.250 in last 10G
Interesting Shairon Martis 134K in 121IP

POTOMAC NATIONALS 32-27, 2nd place C.L. North Division, 4½ games behind (61-67 overall)

Good Francisco Soriano .303/.418/.421 in August
Bad Rob Wort 5.40 ERA, 1.75 WHIP since All-Star Game
Interesting Sandy Leon .492 SLG in August

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 31-28, 2nd place Sally League North Divison, 4 games behind (71-58 overall)

Good Adrian Nieto .333/.382/.587 in 17G
Bad Sam Brown 1-4, 6.23 ERA since All-Star Game
Interesting Kevin Keyes .298/.372/.546 since All-Star Game

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 40-25, 1st place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 3½ games ahead

Good Taylor Hill 2.57 ERA, 0.86 WHIP as a starter
Bad Matt Skole 11E in 56G at 3B
Interesting Caleb Ramsey 28BB in 55G (.376 OBP)

GCL Nationals 20-32, 4th place GCL East, 17½ games behind (Eliminated)

Good Wander Ramos .315/.405/.643
Bad Inocencio Heredia 0-2, 7.08 ERA, 1.92 WHIP
Interesting 19 y.o. Gregory Baez 1-2, 3.65 ERA in 12G, 10GS
Jul 152011
 

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

SYRACUSE 39-51, 4th place I.L. North, 14 games behind

Good Atahualpa Severino 1-0, 2.70 ERA in last 10G
Bad Ryan Tatusko 2.28WHIP
Interesting Michael Aubrey .429/.455/.905 in July

HARRISBURG 54-36, 1st place E.L. West Division, 5½ games ahead

Good Archie Gilbert .305/.387/.474
Bad Tanner Roark 6.45 ERA, 1.58 WHIP
Interesting Pat Lehman 0.37WHIP, 4SV in 12G

POTOMAC 11-8, 1st place C.L. North Division, 1½ games ahead (40-48 overall)

Good Hector Nelo 10SV, 22K in 23⅓ IP
Bad Sandy Leon .179/.294/.357 in July
Interesting Justin Bloxom .320/.388/.547, 18RBI in 19G since All-Star Break

HAGERSTOWN 12-7, 2nd place Sally League Northern Division, 1 game behind (52-37 overall)

Good David Freitas .300/.414/.473
Bad Dean Weaver 10.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP (9.37, 1.78 @ Potomac)
Interesting Kevin Keyes .504 SLG (leads team)

AUBURN 15-12, 3rd place, Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 1 game behind

Good Colin Bates 2-1, 1.93 ERA, 1.11 WHIP
Bad Hendry Jimenez, 8E in 22G
Interesting Richie Mirowski 1.32 ERA, 13K in 13⅔ IP

GCL NATIONALS 8-13, 4th place, GCL East, 6 games back

Good Estarlin Martinez .324/.420/.606 in 21G
Bad Inocencio Heredia 10.29 ERA, 2.86 WHIP
Interesting Wes Schill 6SB in 17G

DSL NATIONALS 18-21, 5th place, Boca Chica South Division of Dominican Summer League, 6 games behind

Good Gilberto Mendez 3-0, 2.32 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
Bad Diomedes Eusbio 12E in 32G
Interesting Dionicio Rosario 5A, 3E, 2DP in 34G as an OF
Jul 012011
 

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

SYRACUSE 33-45, 5th place I.L. North, 12 games behind

Good Ross Detwiler 3-1, 2.45 ERA, 1.06WHIP in June
Bad Jeff Frazier .182/.248/.311 in 68G
Interesting Jesus Valdez .286/.333/.441 in 43G

HARRISBURG 45-32, 1st place E.L. West Division, 4 games ahead

Good Bill Rhinehart .294 GPA, .894OPS
Bad Erik Davis 30BB in 62⅔ IP
Interesting Shairon Martis 5-3, 2.37ERA in last 10 starts

POTOMAC 4-4, T1st place C.L. North Division, 1 game ahead (33-44, overall)

Good Danny Rosenbaum 2-0, 1.63 ERA, 1.08WHIP in June
Bad Eury Perez .243/.254/.288 in June; .333/.337/.409 in May
Interesting Sandy Leon .307/.350/.387 in June; .165/.214/.203 in May

HAGERSTOWN 5-3, T1st place Sally League Northern Division, 1 game ahead (45-33 overall)

Good Kevin Keyes .306, 7HR, 16RBI in June
Bad Ben Graham 2-2, 5.54ERA, 1.69WHIP in June
Interesting Cole Leonida .385OBP in 27G as backup C

AUBURN 8-6, T2nd place, Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 2 games behind

Good Ryan Demmin 3-0, 1.69ERA, 0.94WHIP in three starts
Bad Rick Hughes .154/.195/.231 in 9G
Interesting Hendry Jimenez, Russell Moldenhauer, Matt Skole – each with an 11G hit streak

GCL NATIONALS 5-4, T2nd place, GCL East, ½ game back

Good Nathan Karns 3G – 9┼ IP, 2H, 0R, 3BB, 14K
Bad Pedro Severino .087/.125/.130 in 23AB
Interesting Wander Ramos .314/.415/.714 in 35AB

DSL NATIONALS 12-16, 6th place, Boca Chica South Division of Dominican Summer League, 6½ games behind

Good Gilberto Mendez (Age 18) 2-0, 1.88ERA, 1.25WHIP, 24K in 24IP
Bad Wilman Rodriguez (Age 19) .132/.277/.170 in 53AB
Interesting Ivan Pineyro (Age 19) 38K in 27⅔ IP