Oct 262012
 

It was another four-run 6th, but this time the Salt River Rafters put the hurt on with a 6-3 win over the Phoenix Desert Dogs.

Brian Goodwin once again led off and played centerfield and doubled twice while going 3-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored to push his batting line to .333/.409/.667 for the fall. Defensively, he had one putout.

Matt Skole’s rough patch continued with an 0-for-5 afternoon with three whiffs, as the 2011 fifth-rounder has gone 1-for-10 this week with eight K’s. He turned in another error-free game at first base, handling all nine chances.

Anthony Rendon (pictured above) had an RBI double while going 1-for-4 and put the tag on an attempted steal of third for his lone putout.

Cole Kimball, who was featured by Byron Kerr on MASN earlier this week, turned in high-wire inning by loading the bases on three consecutive singles in the 7th, but got the goose egg with a lineout to short and double-play ball in his sole inning pitched.

With the win, the Rafters float back to .500 at 7-7, but still remain a ½ game out of first place behind the Scorpions in the AFL East.

Oct 252012
 

A dropped popup in the 6th proved to be an incredibly costly error as the AFL-best Peoria Javelinas took full advantage to score four in the frame and take a 6-5 lead en route to a 7-6 win over the Salt River Rafters.

Jason Martinson was the sole National to get the start, but broke up his hitless streak with a two-run double while going 1-for-4 from the #7 slot in the lineup. Defensively, the 24-year-old handled both defensive chances at third base, including turning a 5-4-3 double play in the 4th.

Paul Demny made an appearance in relief and gave up an unearned run on two walks and a hit while pitching the 7th inning.

Matt Skole and Brian Goodwin were both called on to pinch-hit in the 9th but neither made it to first base safely.

With the loss, Salt River drops below .500 at 6-7 and into second place in the AFL East, a ½ game behind Scottsdale. The Rafters play host to Phoenix this afternoon and Peoria tomorrow before finishing the week in Mesa.

Oct 242012
 

Brian Goodwin and Matt Skole both homered but a bases-loaded walk in the 10th — the third in a row with two outs — upended Salt River as the Rafters fell in extras, 5-4.

Three position players and Washington’s sole starting pitcher appeared in the game.

• Ryan Perry threw four perfect innings in his third fall start, striking out four. He needed just 42 pitches to retire the 12 batters he faced.

• Goodwin led off and played centerfield, going 3-for-4 with a walk, a run scored, a stolen base, and his third home run for the Rafters. He made one putout on defense.

• Skole drove in two from the three-hole and drew a walk but went 1-for-4 to lower his AFL batting average to .400. He played error-free ball at first base, with 10 putouts and an assist to the pitcher covering in the 8th.

• Anthony Rendon drew a walk but went 0-for-3 for the game batting sixth. He handled both defensive chances at third base, combing with Skole for a pair of 5-3 groundouts.

The loss drops Salt River to .500 at 6-6 but the Rafters remain atop the AFL East by a ½ game over Scottsdale. They travel to the AFL-West leading Peoria Javelinas this afternoon for the first of five straight day games on the schedule.

Oct 232012
 

After blowing a 4-1 lead in the 9th, the Salt River Rafters got a walkoff solo shot from the White Sox’s Andy Wilkins in the bottom of the 10th for a 5-4 win over the Mesa Solar Sox. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for Salt River and extended Mesa’s to seven.

The starting trio of Brian Goodwin, Matt Skole, and Anthony Rendon were in the starting lineup while relievers Cole Kimball and Aaron Barrett turned in an inning of work.

Goodwin led off and played left field, singling off the second baseman’s glove in the Rafters’ two-run third. He would draw a walk in the 9th but was gunned down trying to steal. He finished the game 1-for-4 with a run scored and a putout on defense.

Skole returned to earth with an 0-for-4 night as the Salt River DH and No. 5 batter, striking out three times.

Rendon batted eighth and went 1-for-4 with a run scored. His sole defensive chance at third base was the front end of a 5-4-3 double play that eclipsed the Solar Sox 10th inning.

Kimball was the first reliever out of the ‘pen in the 5th but was touched for a run on a leadoff double followed by a groundout, a walk, and a sac fly.

Barrett gave up a pair of two-out singles in the 7th, but struck out Matt “Can I Buy A Vowel?” Szczur to strand them both.

With the win, Salt River improves to 6-5 and reclaims first place in the AFL East by a ½ game over Scottsdale. Ryan Perry is scheduled to make his third start this evening against the Surprise Saguaros.

Oct 222012
 

On the field, the Hagerstown Suns improved upon a successful 2011 campaign with an 82-55 overall record. They missed the first half by three games with a 42-27 mark, but won the second with slightly worse record of 40-28, only to get swept in the playoffs with a pair of 2-run losses (3-1, 7-5). Some may blame the late promotion of Matt Skole at the very late date of August 15 — two months too late, if you ask some folks — for the quick playoff exit, the more objective take is that the pitching just wasn’t there, much like Auburn.

Off the field, the Suns entered the 2012 season with the spectre of the team leaving for Winchester and the rumblings of a new stadium being built in Hagerstown, culminating in a rather bold move of the team opening the kimono by giving a tour of Municipal Stadium, ostensibly to demonstrate that renovation is a not an option. The move may have prevented the team from losing its PDC through 2014, but it’s hard not to infer that threat of the team leaving is to blame for the huge drop in attendance from 2011 to 2012 (1,931 per game to 1,366 — a 29.3% decrease).

Back to the review… Let’s take a look at how the Suns compared to the rest of the South Atlantic League:
HITTING

PITCHING



Like 2011, the Suns were among the league leaders in runs and homers (2nd), hits and stolen bases (3rd), and walks (1st). I’ll go out on a limb and say this will probably be true for 2013, too. Unfortunately, some of the reason for this is that the team was among the oldest in the league, with multiple players repeating the level.

Pitching, which had been the organization’s strong suit for years, is now becoming one of its weaknesses. This the fourth of the seven affiliates, and all four levels have given up runs above the league average. This is not to say there weren’t bright spots in Hagerstown — obviously, a couple of examples stand, um, head & shoulders above the others — but it does seem like there was a Mr. Hyde for every Dr. Jekyll. When you can outslug your competition, it often goes unnoticed (well, at least until the playoffs), but this the last level where that’s the case.

Turning back to the bats, we now look at the Top 12 hitters in terms of plate appearances. As always, full statistics for the team can be found here, and the key for the asterisks is one * for the 2011 draft picks and two ** for the DSL graduates.
Like Auburn, there is really little to complain about in terms of overall offensive production. Just three of the top 12 produced below the league average, and three produced Nintendo-like numbers for both Gross Production Average and Isolated Power. The problem, of course, is that quite a few of these players were playing a level behind where they should have, as my Hagerstown guy put it in his review.

The only beacon of hope is that maybe, just maybe, one or two of the position players that were promoted from here to Potomac will be challenged with Harrisburg rather than resuming 2013 in Woodbridge. I know that sounds harsh, but perhaps an offseason “leapfrog” might serve as both an incentive to the Low-A guys and reminder to the High-A guys that moving up to the next level isn’t a foregone conclusion. The large number of six-year FA pitchers that were brought in at AA and AAA this year is an example of that line of thinking.

Speaking of pitchers…
For all the bitching and moaning discontent over the lack of promotions in the system, Hagerstown was interesting case when it came to pitchers. Four pitchers were promoted from Hagerstown to Potomac, and four pitchers were promoted to the Hub City — but two of those came not from Auburn but from the GCL. And three were 2012 picks.

It’s the skipping over that’s unusual. Ordinarily, one would expect a sequence like Blake Schwartz going from Viera to Auburn and Blake Monar going from Auburn to Hagerstown. Likewise for Leonard Hollins and, say, Travis Henke. It may be just be an anomaly, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

For the second straight year, eleven pitchers made at least five starts for the Suns. Ineffectiveness and promotions were more to blame than injuries this year, with one starter dropping down from Potomac and two moving up midseason and one very late. Five pitchers went up and back to Viera for fine-tuning (most notably, Turnbull and Estevez) and a sixth went out for the year and under the knife (Brian Dupra).

Once again, I’ll refer you to my eyes on the field for Hagerstown’s hurlers.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
Before blasting me for not listing Karns, remember that he pitched more innings for Potomac and I’m trying to avoid double-listing guys, which gets more difficult as we hit the upper levels. There isn’t a set number of spots to fill for the watchlist, after all. If it means fewer guys and shorter lists at the upper levels, so be it.

Position Players
1. Brian Goodwin
2. Matt Skole
3. Billy Burns
4. Jason Martinson
5. Steve Souza
HM: Caleb Ramsey

Pitchers
1. Alex Meyer
2. Christian Meza
3. Aaron Barrett
4. Brian Rauh
5. Blake Schwartz
HM: Ben Hawkins

Oct 212012
 


The Scorpions stung the Rafters with a three-run 3rd and added single runs in the 5th and 7th innings en route to hand Salt River its third straight loss, 5-3.

Matt Skole singled, doubled and scored a run while batting third and playing first base, where he took part in four double plays — including an unassisted twin-killing in the 7th.

Anthony Rendon had his on-base streak stopped with an 0-for-4 effort and committed two errors (one fielding, one throwing).

Jason Martinson struck out twice in three hitless at-bats, but combined with Skole for other three DPs.

Paul Demny let in a run on two hits — a double and a single — and struck out a batter in the 7th, raising his ERA to 4.05 in four appearances.

With the loss, Salt River falls to 5-5, a ½ game behind Scottsdale in the AFL East Division.

Oct 192012
 

It was a pitcher’s duel in the desert with the Salt River Rafters falling to the Peoria Javelinas, 3-1.

Four Nationals saw game action:

  • Brian Goodwin led off and played left field, but went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He had two putouts in the field.
  • Matt Skole batted third and played first base, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. He handled all eight defensive chances without an error.
  • Anthony Rendon had his hit streak stopped at five with an 0-for-3 game, batting from the #7 spot while playing 3B. He snagged three foul pops and threw out a runner at first.
  • Cole Kimball threw a scoreless inning and allowed his first hit of the fall. He issued no walks and struck out none.

The Rafters finish out the week with another pair of games at and versus the Scottsdale Scorpions tonight and tomorrow evening.

Oct 172012
 

The Salt River Rafters and Phoenix Desert Dogs played to a 3-3 tie over 11 innings last night.

Three Nats farmhands played in the contest:

  • Brian Goodwin was the DH and led off, but went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.
  • Matt Skole batted third, played first base, and went 1-for-3 with two walks.
  • Aaron Barrett tossed two scoreless innings, giving up two hits, but striking out three

Defensively, Skole played error-free in nine chances and even turned a 3-6-3 DP — not bad for a guy new to the position.

Barrett was the subject of Byron Kerr’s latest missive on the minors, but I have a feeling folks might be more interested to learn that Kerr has confirmed what has long been suspected: Matt Purke has had shoulder surgery.

I’ve put in a couple of questions regarding a couple of other pitchers (Josh Smoker, Manny Rodriguez), though I suspect one or both has been released and the other, if not released, has had surgery.

                                          #                                     #                                     #
Winter leagues have begun in Venezuela, Mexico and the Domnican Republic over the last few days. The Australian Baseball League begins its preseason tomorrow, regular season in 10 days while the Puerto Rican League starts three weeks from tomorrow. I’ll begin weekly updates on the stats for all the offseason leagues starting next week. In the meantime, here’s a look at the Nats players that have been spotted thus far (excluding players that did not play in the Washington minors this past summer):

Venezuela Dominican Republic
• Carlos Rivero • Manny Mayorson
• Tanner Roark • Erik Davis
Mexico • Pat McCoy
• Zech Zinicola • Kevin Pucetas
• Hassan Pena • Atahualpa Severino
Oct 162012
 

Matt Skole’s two-out, two-run single in the 10th snapped a 2-2 tie and ended a… wait for it… two-game losing streak as Salt River triumphed 4-2 over Phoenix yesterday afternoon.

The hit was Skole’s third of the game as the 23-year-old went 3-for-4 with a walk, a double, and two RBI as the Rafters’ DH, batting fifth in the Salt River lineup.

Scoring on the Skole’s game-winning safety was Brian Goodwin, who led off the 10th with a double, his second of the game, as the North Carolina native went 2-for-5 five with two runs scored while playing left field, where he made two putouts.

Anthony Rendon singled and stole a base, extending his hit streak to a modest four games, though he also struck out three times while going 1-for-5 batting behind Skole. Washington’s 2011 first-round pick had a busy game at third base, snagging a liner and assisting four times on groundouts to first.

Cole Kimball’s second outing of the fall was a much better effort as the 27-year-old stranded a runner in the 4th and struck out two in the fifth, retiring all four batters he faced, with 10 of his 13 pitches thrown for strikes.

The two teams rematch tonight, switching venues from Phoenix Municipal Stadium to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Oct 132012
 

A pair of two-run rallies in the middle innings sunk the Salt River Rafters for a 4-0 loss on Friday.

Five Nationals minor-leaguers got into yesterday’s game:

  • Brian Goodwin led off the first with a walk, but went 0-for-3 with a strikeout for the game. He caught two flyballs in left field.
  • Matt Skole also drew a first-inning walk and singled in the 8th, going 1-for-3 overall. He committed his first error at first base, but also took part in two double plays, a traditional ’round-the-horn and a 4-3-4 where Skole helped catch the runner on second trying to sneak over to third.
  • Anthony Rendon singled in the second and a drew a walk in the 7th, finishing 1-for-3. Defensively, he was the “5″ on the 5-4-3 DP.
  • Cole Kimball retired just one of the five batters he faced, walking the bases loaded in the 5th and letting in two runs on Skole’s error. He threw 20 pitches, seven of which were strikes.
  • Paul Demny relieved Kimball and stranded the two runners he inherited, but also struggled with his control with 12 of 28 pitches missing the zone. He walked two and gave up two hits over two and two-thirds innings.

Salt River falls to 3-1 with the loss and finishes up the first week of the AFL with an afternoon game at the Surprise Saguaros.