Nov 092011
 


For most of you, this list is hardly new. But the blogging protocol is that I needed Baseball America to officially release its list so I could link to it before mocking discussing it. Without further ado, here’s the list from the home office in Durham, North Carolina…

1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B
3. Brad Peacock, RHP
4. A.J. Cole, RHP
5. Brian Goodwin, OF
6. Alex Meyer, RHP
7. Matt Purke, LHP
8. Sammy Solis, LHP
9. Derek Norris, C
10. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B/SS

So what’s with the picture, Sue? Glad you asked. I’ve put the prospects with zero regular-season pro experience in italics. As the old expression goes, when you’re girl watching the prettiest one is the last one to walk by. It’s a crude metaphor, but we all know there’s some commonality here with ranking prospects.

Of course, this is not to say that none of these four isn’t a prospect. It’s just my personal conviction that placing a guy with no professional track record over a guy that does doesn’t pass the sniff test — especially when two of these four have injury issues, one of which we’ve been tracking from afar in the Arizona Fall League. For example: Which Matt Purke is the real Matt Purke — the one that’s turned in two scoreless innings in his last two outings, or the one that threw in-game BP the two appearances prior?

Maybe that’s just a pet peeve, so forgive me for seizing the chance to rant… I’m not as diplomatic as others have been on the subject.

Like last year, the free article focuses a lot on how the Nationals have spent freely and heavily the past three drafts. Two of last year’s Top 10 “graduated” — Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos — while a third went down with a season-ending injury (Cole Kimball). Chris Marrero dropped off the list while Cole, Harper, Norris, Peacock and Solis are repeats from last year.

What’s perhaps more interesting is the “best in the system” lists. Harper remains the best power hitter and best outfield arm, but lost the title of “Best Athlete” to Michael Taylor, who was also named as the best defensive outfielder (disagree, but no argument over naming Steve Lombardozzi as the best defensive infielder). Anthony Rendon with his undefined pro average (zero divided by zero) is the best hitter for average and those zero walks drawn have earned him the system’s best strike-zone discipline, topping Derek Norris’s .403 career OBP in 1,815 more plate appearances (OK, so maybe I’m still ranting). Brad Peacock’s curve was named the best in the system while Alex Meyer and A.J. Cole were said to possess the best slider and heater, respectively.

Among the non-Top 10 tools, Eury Perez retains the title of fastest baserunner (Kobernus is close, but Perez has that proverbial fifth gear). Tommy Milone retains the title of best control and takes the best changeup honors away from Josh Wilkie (which might explain why he’s demoted his bender to a show-me pitch). Deion Williams has the strongest infield arm while Sandy Leon was named the best defensive catcher (agreed).

Lastly, here’s where BA thinks these guys will start the 2012 season:
MLB or AAA – Lombardozzi
AAA – Norris
AA or AAA – Harper
AA – Solis
High-A – Cole, Purke
Low-A – Goodwin, Meyer

BA took no guess at Rendon, but my rule of thumb is to take whatever level you think is about right, and drop back one: In this case, Hagerstown instead of Potomac. If he’s as good as advertised, I’ll get to see him in June or July, presuming that field conditions won’t play a factor in promotions as they allegedly didn’t this past summer.

Byron Kerr will be running a series based on his conversations with Aaron Fitt of Baseball America (author of the article linked in the first graf), beginning with Lombardozzi. I encourage you to take a look, as that’s where we learned that the Nigel Tufnel is Destin Hood.

Nov 092011
 

Make that 14 straight games for Bryce Harper, as the Nationals’ No. 1 prospect went 1-for-4 in the Scottsdale Scorpions’ 2-0 win last night.

Defensively, Harper remains a work in progress, committing his fourth error (throwing) while making no putouts in left field.

Likewise, the other Nationals position player to appear in the game, Zach Walters, notched his fifth “E” (fielding) but did have an assist while playing third base. At the plate, Walters was 1-for-3 with a walk, pushing his average to .209.

Matt Purke made another scoreless appearance, but labored through a 21-pitch inning to do it. He allowed a hit and a walk and struck out two. The according-to-BA #7 prospect was credited with a hold for his efforts.

Nov 052011
 

With solid Solis outing, the Scottsdale Scorpions won 9-2, taking back-to-back games for just the fourth time this fall.

Solis threw four shutout innings, allowing three hits and three walks. He struck out nine, hitting 94-96 m.p.h. per Mark Zuckerman, and undoubtedly had his new overhand curve working (first spotted by commenter Ernie Salazar) as Solis threw 40 of his 67 pitches for strikes. He was credited with the win.

Solis was followed in the bullpen by his fellow farmhands Pat Lehman, Matt Purke, and Rafael Martin, while Bryce Harper played left field, Derek Norris caught and Zach Walters played third base. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo was reported to be in attendance at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, which may explain why every Washington player was playing.

Here’s a rundown on how they did…

  • Lehman pitched a scoreless inning, allowing a hit, but walked none and struck out two.
  • Purke threw a 1-2-3 inning with no hits, walks, or strikeouts.
  • Martin also put up a goose egg, giving up a hit, but no walks, and whiffed one.
  • Harper went 1-for-5 (the streak is now 13 games) with a run scored and an RBI, gunning down a runner at the plate and making a putout.
  • Norris’s safety skein was snapped after 10 games with an 0-for-3 game, but drew two walks to keep his on-base streak a perfect 16-for-16 this fall. He threw out a baserunner and had no errors or passed balls.
  • Walters went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts but had two assists.

Harper and Norris are expected to play in tonight’s AFL Rising Stars game, which will be televised tonight at 8 p.m. on the MLB Network.

Oct 282011
 

Ho hum. Another day, another four RBIs for Bryce Harper.

Granted, the last three did come on a walkoff home run that turned a 7-5 deficit into an 8-7 win for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Harper went 2-for-5 overall while once again playing left field. Defensively, he was charged with his third error of the fall on an errant throw but made three putouts.

The news was not all good though as Matt Purke had yet another rough outing, giving up three runs on four hits in the 5th inning. He walked none but struck out one and also threw a wild pitch. As the old saw goes, you know things are going bad when such an outing lowers a pitcher’s ERA — from 30.86 to 29.70

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Brad Peacock was chosen the best AA starter in the 2011 MiLBYs, minor-league baseball’s desperate attempt to feed the PR beast postseason awards. It’s the second award given to a Nationals farmhand since its inception in 2005, when it was known as “This Year in Minor League Baseball Awards,” with Tyler Moore named the best Class-A Advanced hitter last season.

In transaction news, the Nationals have released Johan Rodriguez (GCL) while resigning veterans Chris McConnell and Chris Rahl. Rodriguez appeared in 66 games over two years in Viera, but posted an OPS of just .510 while committing 20 errors on defense. McConnell and Rahl were both key cogs for the Senators in 2011 and will likely be asked to be role players in either Harrisburg in Syracuse in 2012.

Oct 222011
 

Friday was not a good day for the Nats pitchers in the AFL, as they gave up 12 runs in a 13-8 loss by Scottsdale to Surprise.

Matt Purke made his first AFL start but, as the pic suggests, was knocked around and retired just one of the eight batters he faced. The final damages: a third of inning pitched, seven runs, one walk, no strikeouts, and five hits given up, including a two-run homer.

Pat Lehman took the loss, his second of the AFL campaign, with five runs charged to him in one and a third innings. He pitched a scoreless sixth, but gave up all five hits in a stretch of six batters in the seventh, suffering one error behind him but also committing a balk.

Rafael Martin let in two of those runs charged to Lehman on a two-out double but pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning for a line of one and two-thirds innings pitched, one hit, no runs, one walk, and one strikeout.

Just one Nats bat was in the lineup, and yes, it was Bryce Harper. He wowed the scouts by pushing a bunt to second baseman and getting down the line in 3.83 seconds, according to Keith Law (times on bunts are always lower than a full swing, but consider that 4.1 seconds is considered “above average”). It was his sole hit in a 1-for-4 afternoon, in which he also walked and scored a run. Harper played left field and made three putouts.

Oct 172011
 

As was brought up in the comments from yesterday’s post, the early numbers from the Arizona Fall League aren’t pretty. But they’re not quite 9-of-22 with 4 INT, either. So we lift the coffee mug of small sample size and take a look…

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The Domninican Winter League started up on Friday and a handful of Nats players have been spotted in the box scores:

  • Eury Perez – Escogido
  • Wilman Rodriguez – Escogido
  • Jhonatan Solano – Licey
  • Atahualpa Severino – Licey

A couple of other notes…

…Chris Marrero is supposedly on the Licey Tigres as well, but is not listed on the roster and/or has not appeared in a game.

…Wilman Rodriguez played outfield for the D-Nats this past summer, but has appeared as a pitcher thus far. Considering that this was in a game that was 1-1 at the time, and that he is no longer a teenager, the deduction is that a conversion to the mound may be in the process.

Oct 162011
 

Make that five straight losses for Scottsdale, as Pat Lehman surrendered a two-run homer in the bottom of the 8th that snapped a 6-6 tie. Derek Norris hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 9th but the Scorpions rally fell short for the eventual 8-7 score.

Running down the individual performances…

  • Norris went 1-for-4 with a double and two RBI, but also grounded into two double plays
  • Zach Walters went 1-for-5 with with double but struck out three times and committed an error
  • Matt Purke threw two innings and gave up an earned run on a hit and walk and had one strikeout
  • Lehman pitched the final two innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk while striking out two

Bryce Harper did not play. Today is his 19th birthday.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the AFL stats to date. The Scorpions host Phoenix on Monday, visit the Desert Dogs on Tuesday, host the Solar Sox on Wednesday, then finish out the week with visits to Mesa, Surprise, and Phoenix on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday respectively. It’s afternoon games on every day this week but Tuesday.