Nov 212014
 

Confession: This is a reclamation of a post that I began yesterday and couldn’t finish by the time the moves were made
With the additions of A.J. Cole, Willem Dafoe, Wilmer Difo, Brian Goodwin and Matt Grace, the focus now turns to who is now exposed to next months Rule 5 Draft. Grace is an outlier; usually once a guy is exposed to the Rule 5 draft at his age, he makes it through subsequent drafts. So let’s look at the Nats draftees who appear to be eligible for the first time (H/T to SpringfieldFan for her efforts in keeping the Draft Tracker updated):

DRAFTEES ELIGIBLE FOR THE FIRST TIME

Matt Skole* Caleb Ramsey* Khayyan Norfork Shawn Pleffner* Kylin Turnbull
Brian Dupra Manny Rodriguez Nick Lee* Travis Henke Bryan Harper
Richie Mirowski*


Asterisks are for 2014 watchlist players. Notable IFAs believed to be eligible include Wirkin “For The Weekend” Estevez, Wander Suero and Kelvin Rodriguez.

Bear in mind, this is for the MLB phase. The AAA and AA phases are impossible to guage because the protected lists aren’t made public. Organizational soldiers tend to go in those phases, and if folks will recall, only one player acquired by Washington last December played in the minors last season: 23-y.o. Martires Arias, who was returned to the Mets and pitched 57 innings in short-season ball. (Theo Bowe was the other and all indications are that he retired).

I had planned on predicting that either Matt Skole or Brian Goodwin would be exposed, as it seemed likely that either the former’s struggles or the latter’s injuries would be enough to take the risk. Had I been pressed in the comments, I would have leaned towards Skole because Tyler Moore is out of options while the ascendance of both Michael Taylor and Steven Souza could cushion the “loss” of Goodwin.

Another theory/explanation is that the Nats brass believes that Souza can still function as a 1B/OF type (defensively, he’s head and shoulders above Moore anyway). Viewed through that prism, the decision not to protect Skole makes sense.

Grace is a small surprise, until you consider that he’stough on lefthanded batters (.371 OPS in ’14) and generates ground balls (3.23 G/F ratio). He’ll get an audition in spring training and if he loses the numbers game, sent back to Syracuse to await a callup, perhaps assuming the role of out-of-options Xavier Cedeno.

I believe the selection of Difo says less about him — despite an MVP season in the South Atlantic League, including 14HRs, 90 RBI and 49 SB’s — and more about the other middle-infield options available at the upper levels and the fringes of the 40-man. With no offense to Jeff Kobernus, but it would seem he’s a candidate to get cut loose when the Nats are next looking to clear room.

Finally, there’s little to be said about the protection of A.J. Cole. Even F.P. Santangelo could have predicted this; it was that obvious. Conventional wisdom has always been that hard-throwing pitchers can be hidden in a bullpen, especially for a team that’s budget-conscious or realistic about its chances of contention.

Aug 222014
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 75-55, 1st place I.L. North, 2½ games ahead

Good Matt Grace .114 OBA vs. LHBs
Bad 16-19 record in one-run games
Interesting 53 steals allowed, 2nd fewest in the I.L.



HARRISBURG SENATORS 49-81, 6th place E.L. West, 22½ games behind (eliminated)

Good Matt Skole 69BB, 2nd most in E.L.
Bad Team 21 holds, 2nd fewest in E.L.
Interesting 49 wins fewest since 2007, chance to “beat” 2004 team at 52 wins


POTOMAC NATIONALS 32-22, 1st place C.L. North Division, 5 games ahead (70-53 overall)

Good Kylin Turnbull 2-0, 0.79 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in August (5 appearances)
Bad Randolph Oduber 100K, 14BB in 112G
Interesting 17-17 road record, 1st half; 16-6 road record, 2nd half


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 38-22, 1st place Sally League North Divison, 2 games ahead (82-48 overall)

Good Reynaldo Lopez 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.52 WHIP, 16K since return to Low-A (23IP)
Bad Suns bullpen 5.81 ERA in August
Interesting 59-18 record when scoring first


AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 27-36, 5th place Pinckney Division, N.Y.-Penn League, 11 games behind

Good Luis Torres 1-1, 1.63 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in 10 appearances (27⅔ IP)
Bad Osavldo Abreu 17E in 47G
Interesting 45 Pitching HBP, 2nd in 14-team NYPL


GCL NATIONALS 25-28, 3rd Place GCL East, 5 games behind

Good Jakson Reetz .341/.436/.477 in August (14G)
Bad McKenzie Mills 2.10 WHIP in 20IP
Interesting 8SV, tied for fewest in GCL


DSL NATIONALS 42-28, 3rd Place Boca Chica South Division, 8½ games behind (eliminated)

Good 17-y.o. Yonathan Ramirez 29K in 27⅓ IP
Bad 17-y.o. Luis Perdomo .520 OPS
Interesting 17-y.o. Telmito Agustin, 40BB, 25SB, 7CS



Editor’s note: The next GBI will be published in two weeks, after the close of the regular season.

Jun 272014
 

GBI for NPP 2Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 49-31, 1st place I.L. North, 6 games ahead

Good Aaron Laffey 4-0, 1.95ERA, 1.18WHIP in June (5GS)
Bad Brian Goodwin .147/.237/.235 in last 10G
Interesting Six-game division lead the largest since August 12, 1998
(H/T Kevin Brown, Syracuse Dir. of Media & P.R.)



HARRISBURG SENATORS 30-47, 5th place E.L. West, 16 games ahead

Good Matt Skole .299/.409/.571, 5HR, 24RBI in June (22G)
Bad Neil Holland 1-1, 6.60 ERA, 1.53 WHIP in last 10 appearances
Interesting Tyler Herron 1-0, 2SV, 1.88 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in last 10 appearances



POTOMAC NATIONALS 5-2, T1st place C.L. North, 1½ games ahead (43-33 overall)

Good Gilberto Mendez 3-1, 3SV, 1.80 ERA, 0.60 WHIP in last 10 appearances
Bad Estarlin Martinez .157/.228/.196 vs. RHPs (.261/.292/.391 vs. LHPs)
Interesting Will Piwnica-Worms .324/.366/.432, 1HR, 16RBI in June (21G)


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 6-2, T1st place Sally North, 1 game ahead (50-28 overall)

Good Isaac Ballou .310/.365/.448, 2HR, 15RBI, 6SB in June (24G)
Bad Hector Silvestre 2-3, 6.49 ERA, 6HR allowed in June (5GS)
Interesting Rafael Bautista 33SB since May 1 (54G)


DSL NATIONALS 13-10, 3rd place Boca Chica South, 2 games behind

Good 17-y.o. Davinson Pimentel .362/.448/.517 in 17G
Bad 18-y.o. Jose Nunez 7.71 ERA, 2.49 WHIP, 11BB in 11⅔ IP
Interesting 17-y.o. Victor Robles 13SB in 18G
May 022014
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 12-14, T5th place I.L. North, 3 games behind

Good Ryan Tatusko 2.36/3.88/0.82 in 5G
Bad Erik Komatsu .121/.318/.152 in 14G
Interesting Jhonatan Solano .957OPS, 3HR & 12 RBI (active team leader all categories)


HARRISBURG SENATORS 7-17, 6th place E.L. West, 7½ games behind

Good Michael Taylor .467 SLG%, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 6 SB
Bad Gabriel Alfaro 11.91 ERA, 2.65 WHIP in 8 appearances
Interesting Matt Skole 7BB, 32K in 23G


POTOMAC NATIONALS 14-9, 1st place C.L. North, 4½ games ahead

Good Dakota Bacus 1-1, 2.08 ERA, 0.69 WHIP in 6 relief outings
Bad Brandon Miller .165BA, 27K
Interesting Brandon Miller 16 walks, 6 singles, 0 doubles, 0 triples, 7 home runs


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 19-6, 1st place Sally North, 5½ games ahead

Good Drew Ward .354/.440/.585, 3HR, 22RBI (T2nd in Sally Lg.)
Bad Dixon Anderson 6.33/4.98/1.36 4HB in 5 appearances
Interesting .981 FA, 44% CS, 19E — Best in the Sally Lg.
Mar 312014
 

As it has been historically, the Harrisburg Senators were the first of the four full-season affiliates to release their 2014 Opening Day Roster (2014 watchlist players in bold, 2014 notables in italics):

PITCHERS INFIELDERS OUTFIELDERS CATCHERS
Gabriel Alfaro Justin Bloxom Destin Hood Mitch Canham
Colin Bates Cutter Dykstra Caleb Ramsey Sandy Leon
A.J. Cole Ricky Hague Michael Taylor
Rob Gilliam Jason Martinson Drew Vettleson
Matt Grace Sean Nicol
Tyler Herron Matt Skole
Neil Holland
Zach Jackson
Richie Mirowksi
Ryan Perry
Matt Purke
Felipe Rivero
Blake Schwartz


As it should be, this is a roster laden with the organization’s top talent — 17 of the 25 are on this site’s 2014 Watchlist along three of the Baseball America Top 10 prospects (Cole, Skole, & Taylor) and three more that were ranked in the Top 20 for the Nationals (Purke) and Tampa Bay (Rivero & Vettleson).

Busy day today, so I’m off to write up the next roster release…

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.

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 142013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-21Arizona-Fall-League-2013-22Arizona-Fall-League-2013-23
Steven Souza Jr. homers off Alex Meyer in the 2nd inning to give Mesa the early 2-0 lead (Photo Credit: Lee Magenheim)

The race for the Arizona Fall League East Divison title will come down to the final day of the season, as Mesa edged Glendale, 3-2 and Salt River paddled Scottsdale, 8-5.

Steve Souza’s two-run blast was the catalyst for the victory and came off former teammate Alex Meyer in their first matchup as opponents, as the two never faced each other this season in the Eastern League. It was the sole hit for the 24-y.o. who finished the game at 1-for-4 with a strikeout and extended his hit streak to seven games.

Matt Skole also appeared in the game, playing third base where he had a putout and two assists. He would score what would prove to be the decisive run a fourth-inning triple that the Desert Dogs misplayed into a Little League HR with an error. Skole also singled in the 2nd inning to go 2-for-3 for the game with a walk and a strikeout.

Richie Mirowski gave up the first Glendale run in the 5th on a double, wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly but struck out two of the final three batters he faced. It was just the third run he’s allowed in nine appearances this fall.

The win, which was Mesa’s fifth straight, improved the Solar Sox to 18-11-1 but just a 1/2 game better than the 18-12 Rafters. In head-to-head play, Salt River has defeated Mesa four times in six games. An 11-inning-tie between the Solar Sox and the Desert Dogs on Opening Day is what separates the top two teams in the AFL East.

As speculated earlier this week, Sammy Solis will be given the start today as Mesa visits Glendale for the season finale. A Solar Sox win or a Rafters loss will clinch a spot in the AFL Championship game, which will be held Saturday in Scottsdale against the AFL West-winning Surprise Sagauros.

Nov 092013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-19With five runs scored early and another solid outing from Sammy Solis, the Solar Sox snapped a three-game skid with a 6-1 win over the Saguaros.

Solis went four and 1/3rd innings, leaving with one out in the 5th after letting up two of the five singles he allowed. He would finish with one run allowed, one walk, and five strikeouts. He threw 74 pitches, 48 for strikes and earned his fourth win.

Kenny Faulk, the first man out of the Mesa ‘pen couldn’t strand both runners, walking the first two batters he faced to force in the lone Surprise run. Adrian Nieto bailed him out with a pickoff at first to squash the rally as the Tigers farmhand got the final out with a flyball to left.

Brian Goodwin and Matt Skole joined Nieto in the starting lineup.

Goodwin continues to blister the ball, going 3-for-4 with a stand-up triple and two RBIs while playing centerfield, where he played error-free and made three putouts.

Skole was the DH but whiffed three times and walked once. He now has 17K’s in 14 games and is hitting .152 (7-for-46) though he’s drawn 14 walks (tied for 3rd) to maintain a respectable .350 on-base percentage.

Nieto singled once — just his third hit against a LHP — and struck out twice in five ABs. He gave up his first passed ball of the fall but had six putouts.

The Solar Sox finish out the week with rematch against the Saguaros this afternoon in Surprise. Matt Purke (2-1, 3.79) is scheduled to make his sixth and perhaps final start, opposed by Cleveland prospect Will Roberts (0-1, 5.31).

Nov 082013
 

Arizona Fall League 19Just one Nationals farmhand got into yesterday’s game in the Arizona Fall League, in which the Solar Sox dropped a third straight game, losing 5-4 in 11 innings to Glendale.

Matt Skole batted fourth but went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts to drop his AFL average to .125 (4-for-32) in 13 games. He played first base and handled all ten chances, making nine putouts and one assist.

The loss drops Mesa to 13-11-1, just a ½ game ahead of second-place Salt River. Sammy Solis is scheduled to start this afternoon as the Solar Sox host the Saguaros, who have the AFL’s best record at 16-8 and lead the AFL West by 4½ games with six games left on the slate.