Apr 182014
 


It’s Good Friday. And Bad Friday. And Interesting Friday. It’s a silly little thing I started a few years back that’s become a site staple. Stolen from Named after comedian Demetri Martin’s segment from his show on Comedy Central.

Now, for the usual disclaimers… it’s early, sample sizes are small, stats in the minors aren’t as meaningful as we think, void where prohibited, your mileage may vary. And the usual reminder: the guys, their families, and their agents reading this, so keep it clean in the comments. This is just for fun.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 5-8, 5th place I.L. North, 3 games behind

Good Taylor Hill 2-0, 0.69 ERA/2.97 FIP/0.54 WHIP in 2GS
Bad Brock Peterson .191/.220/.234, 14K in 13G
Interesting Starters not named Omar Poveda – 1.95/3.33/0.86


HARRISBURG SENATORS 3-9, 6th place E.L. West, 5 games behind

Good Justin Bloxom .357/.438/.464 in 10G
Bad Matt Purke 0-2, 10.13 ERA, 2.13 WHIP in 2GS
Interesting Destin Hood 4SB in 10G (5 in 112G in ’13)


POTOMAC NATIONALS 8-6, T1st place C.L. North, 1 game ahead

Good Brian Dupra 2-0, 0.71/0.67/0.87, 17K in 12⅔ IP
Bad Adrian Sanchez .057/.171/.086 in 11G
Interesting Zero quality starts in 14G


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 10-4, 1st place Sally North, 3 games ahead

Good Wilmer Difo .317/.364/.417, 8SB in 14G
Bad David Masters .132/.233/.184 in 11G
Interesting 3HR allowed by Suns pitchers in 126⅔ IP
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 182013
 

2013-AFL-Final
One last look before we close the books, beginning with the stats…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Brian Goodwin 19 81 9 24 4 1 2 12 4 22 .296 .333 .411 3
Matt Skole 15 49 8 9 1 1 3 7 15 18 .184 .375 .457 0
Adrian Nieto 13 48 6 13 1 1 0 6 6 10 .271 .345 .393 0
Steve Souza Jr. 11 42 8 15 2 0 1 8 5 11 .357 .426 .379 10

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Sammy Solis 5 2 0 2.29 7 7 29 32 9 7 1 7 29 1.34
Matt Purke 3 1 0 3.91 6 6 23 20 11 10 0 9 17 1.26
Robert Benincasa 0 0 0 4.50 9 0 9 11 4 4 1 4 7 1.67
Richie Mirowski 0 0 1 1.29 9 0 12 8 3 3 0 2 10 0.83


Now for the thoughts…

• The trade for Denard Span a year ago always seemed like a stopgap measure to give Brian Goodwin time to develop, which he seems to be doing, albeit not as quickly as folks seem to think he should be. My inclination is to attribute the recent rumors that Span is on the block to posturing by the market for the free-agent OFs of uber-agent Scott Boras, with whom the Nats have been cozy. In any case, Goodwin seems on track for a AAA year and a possible callup in 2014.

• Let’s not forget two things about Matt Skole: (1) He’s coming off same-year surgery (2) he has very little experience at the AA level (seven PAs in 2013, 74 last AFL season). Yes, his numbers were disappointing compared to his rating as a prospect and the success he had last fall, but he still hit for power and drew walks. The strikeouts? He’s averaged nearly a K per game for nearly professional 200 games. I don’t think there’s that much call for alarm.

• With Sandy Leon’s offense seemingly gone AWOL, Adrian Nieto assumes the mantle of the catching prospect closest to the majors. Nieto’s 2013 was an offensive breakthrough season and it carried over into the AFL. The question is whether the defense can be tightened up enough to justify the bat. Let’s hope that the success he had against LHPs — who stifled him in the regular season (.608 OPS vs. .872) — continues next season.

• Perhaps nobody’s stock rose higher and faster than Steve Souza Jr. His inclusion was curious, given that he was due to be a free agent, though it wasn’t clear if (A) his suspension had disrupted things (B) this was a signal that he intended to re-sign. Now, with hindsight being 20/20, it’s clear that they just wanted to make sure he was healthy before adding what’s been missing from the Washington 40-man for quite some time: a power-hitting OF from the right side who’s not a defensive liability.

• I had missed the fact that Solis is Rule 5 eligible when the rosters were revealed, and after his AFL stint, he may have just pitched his way onto the 40-man if for no other reason that the Nats have kind of signaled that they’re hungry for LHPs, albeit in relief. He turns 26 next August, so there’s always the question as to whether they convert him to relief. Best guess: he’ll be given every chance to succeed as a starter, especially with the option of converting other LHPs elsewhere in the system.

• Matt Purke made six starts — three really good, three not so good. That they came in that order is cause for concern. We can only hope that it’s more attributable to either fatigue or perhaps being a bit overmatched than the shoulder issues that have dogged him for quite some time. The party line will be the former, but it’s really hard not to infer the latter.

• Robert Benincasa did more or less what you ought to expect out of a young (23), two-level (Low- and High-A) reliever in the AFL: some good outings, some bad. Sight unseen, it’s almost impossible to speculate what that means for his 2014 — especially when there is no precedent to refer to. He’s the first reliever assigned to the AFL that didn’t pitch in AA under the current regim, er front office.

• As a 45th-Round Draft pick (which, under the current CBA, would mean he’d be a NDFA) Richie Mirowski is always going to fly under the radar. Given that he spent most of the season at High-A, no one would have been surprised if he’d gotten knocked around — the AFL is notoriously hitter-friendly, after all. Instead, he pitched rather well, allowing no baserunners in five of nine appearances and going multiple innings three times.

Nov 052013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-15Brian Goodwin went 2-for-4 and drove in three as Mesa edged Salt River, 5-4 in a twice-delayed, rain-shortened contest last night in Arizona.

The Nats top outfield prospect, who turned 23 on Saturday, blasted a two-run shot with two outs in the 3rd to cut into an early Rafters 3-0 lead. He would plate a third run with groundout as part of the three-run 5th that saw the Solar Sox take the eventual 5-4 lead.

In the 8th, Goodwin singled and stole second (pictured) before the rains came for the final time with one out.

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-17Matt Purke got the start but was touched for the first three Salt River runs in the 2nd. He would go four innings with four hits and two walks allowed. He struck out just one with 61 pitches thrown, 37 for strikes.

The win improves Mesa to 13-8-1 for the fall and returns the lead over Salt River to 2½ games. The two teams rematch tonight in Salt River and will be televised (weather permitting) on the MLB Network.

                                        #                                     #                                     #

Purke was the subject of today’s “Scout’s View” column in Baseball America (paid sub) in which he was compared to LHP Cole Hamels by former Philadelphia area scout Therron Brockish, who saw him on October 23rd (5IP, 1H, 0R, BB, 3K). Brockish said Purke was hitting 92-93 on the gun but pointed to his changeup as his “out pitch,” not the curve, which he felt was only his third-best pitch and more of a slurve (though effective against LHBs).

Brockish is bullish on Purke, predicting “[He’s] on the path to be in Double-A or Triple-A next summer and competing for a big league spot in 2015.”

Oct 302013
 

Cabbage night came a day early for the AFL Pitcher of the Week Matt Purke and Mesa as Salt River spoiled the evening for both with a 7-3 loss.

Purke was touched for two runs in the 1st and three in the 3rd, giving up eight hits and two walks total over his three innings of work. The former Horned Frog threw 60 pitches, just 35 for strikes while suffering his first loss of the fall season.

Robert Benincasa also pitched, but gave up back-to-back doubles with one out in the 8th and finished with one run allowed on two hits and one strikeout. It was the fourth time the 23-y.o. reliever has given up a run in seven AFL appearances.

Adrian Nieto was the sole Nationals position player to get in the game. He made 10 putouts, including a tag at the plate in the 3rd. Offensively, Nieto singled to lead off the 5th in the tripled in a run and scored on passed ball in the 8th. He finished at 2-for-4 for the game to push his average to .333 (8-for-24) for the fall.

The loss — Mesa’s third straight — cuts their lead over Salt River to just 1½ games in the AFL East. Next up: a pair of games (away, then home) against the Scorpions. For those wondering, Sammy Solis is not scheduled to pitch until next month.

The AFL also announced the rosters its eighth annual all-star game, renamed this season as the Fall Stars Game, which will be held this Saturday at Surprise Stadium, in… wait for it… Surprise, AZ. Brian Goodwin is the sole National on the AFL East roster.

Oct 282013
 

With an off day on Sunday, here’s a little something extra from our intrepid photographer, Lee Magenheim. Naturally, the focus of the updates is on the game action, but the players will talk about the extra coaching they receive. Here’s a glimpse at some of what Lee saw last week in the mornings.
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-1Adrian Nieto, working with Cubs coach (and former catcher) Brian Harper.
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-2
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-3Steve Souza Jr., working out at 1B.
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-4Matt Skole getting ready to hit.
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-5Lord, please deliver me from the those convenience-store breakfast burritos I ate this morning…
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-6

Oct 242013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-10
Matt Purke tossed five scoreless innings but came away with a no-decision as the Solar Sox were stung in extras, 2-1 by the red-hot Scorpions.

Purke allowed just a one-out walk in the 1st and leadoff single in the 3rd — erasing both baserunners with double-play balls to face the minimum of 15 batters for five frames. The 23-y.o. struck out three while throwing 36 of 54 pitches for strikes. In three starts, Purke is 2-0 with pitcher’s line of 0.00/1.95/0.50 with three walks and 12K’s over 12 innings.

Steve Souza, as usual, made the most of his limited playing time with another monster game: 3-for-4 with a run scored and three (3) stolen bases, which brings his AFL-leading total to nine (9) in just five games. Defensively, the 24-y.o. played centerfield and had one putout.

Matt Skole played third base, but had no defensive chances and saw his modest on-base streak of five games snapped with an 0-for-4 game.

Robert Benincasa couldn’t hold the 1-0 lead in the 9th, giving up a leadoff triple that came in on a passed ball. A single following a strikeout made the run earned. The 23-y.o. closed out the inning with a flyout and a groundout to finish with one run on two hits.

Scottsdale won it in the bottom of the 10th against A’s farmhand Ryan Dull, who gave up two singles and two walks (one intentional) without retiring a batter.

The loss to second-place Scottsdale, which won its fifth straight game, reduced first-place Mesa’s lead to 1½ games. Since starting the season with seven wins and one tie, the Solar Sox have gone 1-4. The two teams will rematch this afternoon in Mesa.

BONUS COVERAGE
Lee Magenheim sat down with Adrian Nieto and talked about the catcher’s breakthrough 2013 season. Folks who may have difficulty with the embedded player — try clicking the image above, which will go directly to the audio file

Oct 182013
 

The Mesa Solar Sox refuse to lose, taking their seventh decision in eight games with a 6-1 win versus the Peoria Javelinas on Thursday night.

Four Nationals farmhands saw game action, starting with the man on the mound…

Matt Purke struck out the side in the 1st, walked a batter and hit a batter in the 2nd, struck out the side in the 3rd, got K no. 7 with the first batter of the fourth, then democratic with a pair of groundballs. He threw 54 pitches, 36 for strikes in his four no-hit innings for his second win in as many starts.

Brian Goodwin went 2-for-4 with a run scored to improve his BA to .364. The 22-y.o. from North Carolina played LF and made one putout.

Matt Skole started again at 3B and tossed across the diamond twice in the 6th for his two defensive chances. At the plate, he homered for the second time, walked for the fifth time and struck out for the third time to push his triple slash figures to .285/.474/.786.

Robert Benincasa is still in search of his first three-up, three-down inning but laid his first goose egg with a scoreless 9th as he allowed one hit and struck out one to close out the game.

The Solar Sox remain at home as they host the Saguaros this afternoon.

Oct 112013
 

The Solar Sox scored five in the 9th on Thursday night to float away from the Rafters for an 8-1 victory.

Matt Purke allowed an unearned run on two hits and a walk while striking out two. He threw 46 pitches (30 for strikes) and was awarded the win after his teammates scored twice in the top of the 4th to take a 2-1 lead.

Matt Skole made his first appearance on defense as he played first base, handling all 12 chances without an error. At the plate, he batted eighth and went 0-for-4 with a walk and a run scored.

Brian Goodwin drove in two on fielder’s choice in the 5th and an RBI single in the 9th, finishing at 1-for-5 with a run scored. He made two putouts as the Mesa centerfielder.

The Solar Sox visit the Saguaros tonight in Surprise to finish their first week of AFL action, as the league will hold the Inaugural Bowman Hitting Challenge on Saturday night in Salt River. Steve Souza is scheduled to take part in the “zany home run derby,” details for which can be found here.

Jul 262013
 


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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 45-59, 6th place I.L. North, 11½ games behind

Good Mike Crotta 0HR in 43⅓ IP
Bad Kelly Shoppach .179/.324/.179 in first nine games
Interesting 271 batting BB dead last in I.L.



HARRISBURG SENATORS 58-48, 1st place E.L. West, 3 games ahead

Good Matt Swynenberg 1-0, 0.87 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in July (5 appearances)
Bad Jason Martinson .176BA, 16K in last 10 games
Interesting Taylor Hill 1.82/3.40/1.16 in six AA starts



POTOMAC NATIONALS 18-14, 1st place C.L. North, 4 games ahead (60-40 overall)

Good Billy Burns .364/.440/.489, 13SB in July
Bad Matt Purke 0-3, 8.34/4.70/1.99 in first five A+ starts
Interesting David Fischer 2-0, 2.08 ERA, 0.923 WHIP in July (6 appearances)



HAGERSTOWN SUNS 20-13, T1st place Sally North, .007 W% behind (58-42 overall)

Good Narciso Mesa .309/.397/.364 in 29G
Bad Ian Dickson 6HR in 28⅔ IP (9 appearances)
Interesting 37% CS rate by Suns catchers 2nd best in Sally League



AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 12-25, 6th place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 11½ games behind

Good L.J. Hollins 1.35/3.20/1.20 in 13 appearances
Bad Cody Gunter 11E in 30G
Interesting Back-to-back wins thus far: 0



GCL NATIONALS 24-5, 1st place East Division, Gulf Coast League, 9 games ahead

Good Drew Ward .330/.435/.440 in 27G
Bad Travis Ott 8.31/6.20/1.85 in four appearances
Interesting Team Pitching No. 1 in GCL for ERA, Runs Allowed, and WHIP



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

Good 18-y.o. Maximo Valerio 3-2, 1.39/2.78/0.93 in nine starts
Bad 19-y.o. Dionicio Rosario .146/.212/.188 in July
Interesting 18-y.o. Luis Reyes 8HBP in 36⅔ IP, 3.19 BB/9, 10.8 K/9