Oct 032012
 

As semi-predicted yesterday, three Hagerstown Suns were named to the Baseball America Top 20 prospects for the South Atlantic League — Brian Goodwin (#8), Alex Meyer (#10) and Matt Skole (#19).

All three were promoted from the Sally League, with one leapfrogging to the Eastern League after just 58 games played, another making the jump after 18 starts, and the last getting the call so late that it managed to disappoint fans of both Hagerstown and Potomac, but only after enraging just about the rest of the frequent commenters here first.

Highlights from the scouting reports that accompanied the list…
A hamstring injury that knocked him out for five weeks was the only thing that stopped Goodwin in the SAL. His plus power potential and speed make Goodwin at least a 20-20 candidate once he reaches the majors, though he’s still learning how to read pitchers. His short stroke and disciplined approach should allow him to hit for a high average as well. Defensively, he’s a quality center fielder with solid arm strength.

Meyer battled inconsistency but also dominated at times in his pro debut, lowering his ERA in each of his three months in the SAL, the performed even better after a promotion to High-A. The 6’9″ Meyer has a lot of moving parts, which makes maintaining his mechanics a challenge. When he’s in sync and maintains a consistent release point, he works downhill with a 93-97 mph FB and a wipeout slider in the mid-80s. He also shows some feel for a changeup that could become an average third pitch.

Matt SkoleThe league MVP, Skole led the SAL in homers (27), walks (94), on-base percentage (.438) and slugging (.574). Managers tabbed him as having the best strike-zone judgment in the league after watching him use his disciplined approach to pound pitchers with consistency. While Skole was old for the league, his strength and bat speed give him legitimate power. Almost all of his value is tied up in his bat, however, as he’s a well below-average runner and subpar defender at third base.

Goodwin and Skole, of course, are among the Nats’ Arizona Fall League contigent while Meyer was shut down in late August and should start 2013 with the Harrisburg Senators, along with fellow P-Nat Nathan Karns.

The Carolina League is next up (Friday), with the Eastern League scheduled for next Tuesday (non-spoiler alert: look for Goodwin to get named to the E.L. list, too) and the International League on the 12th.

Sep 282012
 

Not much in the way of news this week, but in yesterday’s transactions post from Baseball America, the Arizona Fall League assignments were made official:
• RHP Aaron Barrett
• RHP Paul Demny
• CF Brian Goodwin
• RHP Cole Kimball
• SS/3B Jason Martinson (taxi)
• RHP Ryan Perry
• 3B/SS Anthony Rendon
• 3B Matt Skole

The biggest change, of course, is the swapping of Christian Garcia and Cole Kimball, who has apparently healed enough from the injury that cut short his rehab tour in early to start throwing again. The 27-year-old is attempting to come back from rotator cuff surgery and could be potentially pitching to keep his spot on the 40-man roster.

When I last saw him, he looked like a shell of his previous self: his fastball like your weird uncle’s wardrobe (stuck in the 80s) and his command, which has never been mistaken for Jordan Zimmermann’s (subject of a prospect retro by John Sickels), even worse. Taking chances on hurt pitchers is what has netted the Nats pitchers like Garcia and Ryan Mattheus, though you could make the argument that Kimball was hurt in the first place when the Nats pushed him (and Adam Carr) in the AFL in the fall of 2010.

Most folks, of course, are curious regarding a rumored position switch of Anthony Rendon to second base. There are two other 2Bs on the roster of the Salt River Rafters (Tyler Bortnick, Diamondbacks; Carlos Sanchez, White Sox) and while one of them is a 25-year-old that appears to be a Rule 5 tryout (Bortnick), it’s only speculation at this point.

Matt Skole and Brian Goodwin will join Rendon as the position players assigned by Washington, with Jason Martinson serving as this year’s taxi squad player, eligible to play twice a week. Bryce Harper (2010) and Zach Walters (2011) served in this capacity over the past two fall campaigns.

Ryan Perry presumably will continue his transition to starting from relief while it appears that Paul Demny is doing the opposite, based on his removal from the Harrisburg Senators rotation in August as well as his struggles all year long (insert obligatory reference to youth and hard-throwing here). Aaron Barrett, who is not Rule 5-eligible, will continue to refine his stuff after posting a 3-2/2.09/0.92 pitcher’s line (if it doesn’t exist, then I’m coining it) with 17 saves in 2012.

The 2012 season begins on Tuesday, October 9th with Salt River hosting the Mesa Solar Sox.

Sep 162012
 

We’re in awards and accolades season now for the minors, as three Nationals farmhands were named to Baseball America’s 2012 Classification All-Stars.

Corey Brown was named as one of the AAA outfielders after posting a line of .285/.365/.523 with 25 HRs in 126 games for Syracuse. He was also named to the International League’s postseason All-Star team, and the far less prestigious “Good Bat” for Syracuse from NationalsProspects.com. Brown was acquired in a December 2010 trade with Oakland for OF Josh Willingham, along with Henry “Where’s The Strike Zone?” Rodriguez.

Matt Skole got the nod for the Low-A third baseman from the Durham, N.C.-based publication, hitting .286/.438/.574 with 27HRs in 101 games for Hagerstown and .314/.355/.486 in 18 games for Potomac. He was also the South Atlantic League MVP and 3B for its postseason All-Star team, this site’s “G” for the Suns hitters for 2012, and the Nationals Minor-League Player of the Year. Skole is a repeat customer, winning the BA accolades as the SS-A third baseman in 2011. He was the Nationals 5th Round pick in the 2011 Rule 4 draft out of Georgia Tech.

Robert Benincasa is the surprise winner as the relief pitcher of the year for short-season A with relatively modest numbers of 2-0, 3.09 with 3 saves and a WHIP of 1.29 over 23⅓ innings for the Auburn Doubledays. He’s currently in Florida for the Nationals Instructional League, and came to organization as a 7th Round Pick this past June out of Florida State.

Sep 072012
 

Our final 2012 look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues. Repeats from 2011 are in italics.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS
70-74, 5th place International League North Division, 14 games behind

Good Bat: Corey Brown .285/.365/.523, 25HR, 18SB in 126G
Arm: Zach Duke 15-5, 3.51 ERA, 26 starts, 164⅓ IP
Bad Bat: Koyie Hill .163/.226/.231 in 31G
Arm: Austin Bibens-Dirkx 0-3, 5.59ERA, 1.56WHIP in 29G, 46⅓ IP
Interesting Bat: Carlos Rivero .303/.347/.435 in 126G
Arms: Jeff Mandel 6-5, 2.58ERA, 1.12WHIP in 19G, 11GS
          Christian Garcia 1-1, 0.56ERA, 14SV in 27G

HARRISBURG SENATORS
64-78, 5th place Eastern League Western Division, 18½ games behind

Good Bat: Eury Perez .299/.325/.342, 26SB in 82G
Arm: Ryan Perry 2-4, 2.84 ERA, 1.11 WHIP
Bad Bat: Stephen King .185/.215/.218 in 47G
Arm: Chien-Ming Wang 1-5, 6.75ERA, 9HR in 9 starts, 45⅓ IP
Interesting Bat: Zach Walters .293/.326/.518 in 43G
Arm: Erik Davis 7-3, 2.52 ERA, 1.23 WHIP

POTOMAC NATIONALS
33-36 in 2nd half, 3rd place Carolina League Northern Division, 3½ games behind
31-39 in 1st half, 2nd place, 8 games behind
64-75 overall

Good Bat*: Justin Bloxom .259/.331/.478 in 65G
Arm: Nathan Karns 8-4, 2.26ERA, 1.02WHIP, 87K in 13 starts
*David Freitas was on track for this honor prior to his trade to Oakland
Bad Bat: Jeff Howell .225/.276/.282 in 20G after dropping down from AAA
Arm: Robbie Ray 6-12, 6.56 ERA, 1.62 WHIP in 105⅔ IP
Interesting Bat: Francisco Soriano .338/.430/.452 in 2nd half
Arm: Rob Wort 95K in 56⅔ IP (15.08/9IP)

HAGERSTOWN SUNS
40-28 in 2nd half, 1st place South Atlantic League Northern Division, 3 games ahead
42-27 in 1st half, 2nd place, 3½ games behind
84-55 overall

Good Bat: Matt Skole .286/.438/.574, 27HR in 101G
Arm: Alex Meyer 7-4, 3.10ERA, 1.13WHIP in 18 starts
Bad Bat: Hendry Jimenez .205/.259/.321 in 65G
Arm: Chris McKenzie 2-3, 8.64ERA, 2.05WHIP in 50IP
Interesting Bat: Steve Souza Jr. .290/.346/.576, 17HR in 70G
Arm: Christian Meza 8-1, 2.97ERA, 1.16WHIP in 88IP

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
46-30, 1st Place Pinckney Division of New York-Penn League, 2 games ahead

Good Bats: Estarlin Martinez .319/.385/.455 in 66G
         Shawn Pleffner .329/.394/.458 in 55G
Arm: Brett Mooneyham 2-2, 2.55ERA, 1.23WHIP in 10G/9GS
Bad Bat: Jordan Poole .196/.256/.299, 47K in 31G
Arm: Ivan Pineyro 3-2, 5.50ERA, 1.66WHIP in 8GS
Interesting Bat: Wander Ramos .275/.377/.449 in 67G
Arm: Nick Lee 3-1, 3.77ERA, 1.35ERA in 13G/11GS

GCL NATIONALS
27-33, 4th place Gulf Coast League East Dvision, 8 games behind

Good Bat: Matt Foat .333/.404/.401 in 43G
Arm: Will Hudgins 4-3, 2.21 ERA, 1.04WHIP in 36⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Hayden Jennings .192/.254/.231, 70K in 47G
Arm: Adalberto Mieses 1-5, 5.05ERA, 1.61WHIP in 41IP
Interesting Bat: Mike McQuillan .375/.478/.429 in 19G (promoted to Auburn)
Arm: Joel Barrientos 4-1, 3.00ERA, 42K in 45IP (turned 19 in Aug.)

DSL NATIONALS
38-32, 3rd place, Boca Chica South Division of Dominican Summer League, 11 games behind

Good Bat: 19-y.o. Rafael Bautista .329/.419/.395, 47SB in 67G
Arm: 19-y.o. Hector Silvestre 5-3, 3.20 ERA, 1.20 WHIP in 76IP
Bad Bat: 17-y.o. Wester Suarez .130/.322/.152 in 24G
Arm: 20-y.o. Philips Valdez 2-2, 5.40 ERA, 1.97 WHIP in 48⅓ IP
Interesting Bat: 19-y.o. Jose “Orange” Marmolejos-Diaz .298/.362/.490 in 69G
Arm: 17-y.o. Maximo Valerio 3-5, 3.55 ERA, 1.25 WHIP in 63⅓ IP
Sep 032012
 

Not sure how much earlier the PR machine can push out the news (September 28th in 2010, September 10th last year), but today it was announced that the Washington Nationals Player and Pitcher of the Year honors will go to 3B Matt Skole and RHP Nathan Karns.

Photo Credit: Potomac Nationals

Both players split time between Hagerstown and Potomac, with a considerable contingent upset that the promotion of Skole came only slightly faster than Mississippi’s ratification of the 13th Amendment.

Skole was named the Sally League’s MVP late last week and 3B for the Postseason All-Star team. He led the Sally League with 27 HRs and a slugging percentage of .574 and has a combined line of .292/.427/.562 and 104 RBI entering play today. Skole was a 2011 fifth-round pick out of Georgia Tech and led the New York Penn League in RBI with 48 in 72 games last summer.

Karns spent too much time in the Sally League to garner either an All-Star nod or postseason honors from the Carolina League, but led the Potomac starters in ERA (2.26), WHIP (1.02), and strikeouts (87). Combined, Karns went 11-4 with a 2.17 ERA, 2.09 FIP, 1.01 WHIP with 47BB (3.65/9) and 148K’s (11.48/9). Karns was 12th-round pick out of Texas Tech but underwent shoulder surgery in 2010 and did not pitch for the Nationals until last summer, when he went 3-2 in 13 starts in the GCL and Auburn.

At 23 (in late July) and 24 (turning 25 in November), Skole and Karns will have high expectations from fans next year to produce similar results at subsequent levels, particularly for Skole, who appears to be playing second fiddle to Anthony Rendon in the 3B depth chart… unless he is converted to another position. Karns, who was shut down after hitting an unspecified innings limit, will represent a more difficult decision for the front office of deciding whether to continue developing him as a starter or, as speculated last offseason, whether he’ll be converted to relief to accelerate his ascent to AAA and/or D.C.

The two are slated to be honored on Friday night in Nationals Park prior to the Nationals game with the Miami Marlins.

Aug 302012
 

Rather than wait until, say, after the regular season, multiple leagues have begun issue the press releases for the postseason awards, perhaps because Labor Day is so early this year.

Here’s a rundown of how the Nationals farmhands have been honored thus far…

GCL
Matt Foat was named to the GCL’s All-Star team at second base, the lone G-Nat to make the squad. The 22-year-old NDFA posted a line of .333/.404/.401 in 43 games. He signed on June 11, after a breakout season at USC in which he hit .323 with 3HR and 27RBI in 54 games.

SALLY LEAGUE
To no one’s surprise, Matt Skole was named the League’s MVP and starting 3B for his .286/.438/.574 marks over 101 games, which included 27HRs and will likely be good enough to earn him the HR title as well. He’s also the focus of John Sickels’s prospect report today.

INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE
As noted a couple of days ago, Corey Brown and Carlos Rivero were named to the International League’s All-Star team at outfield and and third base, respectively. Both are acquisitions under Rizzo, with Brown coming in the December 2010 Washington-Oakland trade and Rivero getting claimed in December 2011 on waivers from Philadelphia.

The Carolina and Eastern Leagues have issued their postseason awards, but no Nationals were honored. The New York-Penn League has not yet announced its awards.

Aug 292012
 

Despite the increased number of single-A exceptions afforded to them, the Nationals 2012 Arizona Fall League selections will still have a Rule 5/40-Man Evaluation feel to it, particularly among the pitchers.

Here’s a look at who’s been named to play for the Salt River Rafters, per multiple online sources:
• RHP Christian Garcia
• RHP Ryan Perry
• 3B/SS Jason Martinson*
• RHP Paul Demny
• 3B Anthony Rendon
• CF Brian Goodwin
*Taxi squad, eligible to play twice per week

This does not come as a shock, of course. As I wrote roughly 25 hours ago: “[W]hat remains to be seen is whether those exceptions will be used or whether teams will still game the system to send Rule 5 candidates that they haven’t made up their minds on.” There are still two slots available, one for a pitcher, the other an infielder, according to Byron Kerr of MASN.

What does seem certain is that neither Alex Meyer nor Nathan Karns will be going — Mike Rizzo said that Meyer was done for the year in today’s radio appearance on 106.7FM. It’s probably also a good bet that Matt Purke will not be sent either [insert insinuation of possible surgery here].

Given that the unfilled pitcher slot is probably going to a reliever, the most logical bets are: Rob Wort, Trevor Holder, and the Pats McCoy and Lehman (listed in order of likelihood in my opinion).

Likewise, if indeed an infielder is chosen to fill out the position-player contingent, the most likely candidates are Jeff Kobernus and Matt Skole. Kobernus had a rib fractured by a thrown pitch in late July, but could conceivably be ready to go by the October 9 start. Kobernus is also eligible for the Rule 5 draft.

Less likely candidates include Zach Walters and Carlos Rivero. Walters was sent last year, but repeats aren’t very common. Rivero seems more likely to be a September callup, but if he’s not, his odds still seem rather slim, given that few AAA players have been sent under Rizzo’s stewardship.

A month ago, Ricky Hague would have garnered a mention, but a reliable source has indicated to me that he won’t be going. Skole should certainly merit consideration, given his strong year offensively, though it’s also conceivable that he’ll be spending instrux learning a new defensive position (that’s purely speculation, unless it turns out I’m right ;-) which would make it unlikely to have him play the new position at that level so soon (unless he’s allowed to DH, which is possible).

If it’s not an infielder, the only logical choice would be Destin Hood, another Rule 5 candidate, but one who’s young and been hurt for long stretches this season. But he is also just a year remove from a breakout season and did play at AA all season long.

To play devil’s advocate, with most of the organization’s top pitching prospects unavailable due to injury, surgery, or innings limitation, the Nationals have little choice but to send older pitchers. Sending guys strictly by age or level would be a farce unless it was mandated by the rules. So like the late Spike, I’m a little uninspired by the choices, but I do understand them.

Aug 142012
 

It was first whispered on Twitter, then mentioned here in the comments, and now it’s been confirmed by the likes of MASN’s Byron Kerr — Anthony Rendon has been promoted from Potomac to Harrisburg.

One has to wonder if there is a timeline for Rendon that’s divorced from the usual developmental path. In other words, he was only going to be in Potomac for the month of April anyway and may have even been a three-level guy this year. The promotions of Bryce Harper and Brian Goodwin also lend credence to the theory that the usual rule of a level per year below AA doesn’t apply to certain guys.

No sense in me parroting Rendon’s bona fides or brief prospect history; Kerr does a fine job here. I liked what I saw over the four (4) games I got to see him, both offensively and defensively. And clearly the folks that know better (or have the power other than this virtual press) appear to agree.

Meanwhile, the champing at the bit for Matt Skole to join the P-Nats resumes. Perhaps today will be a good day all around for prospect watchers if indeed the Hagerstown third baseman is promoted to take Rendon’s place on the Potomac roster. The corresponding move to make room for Rendon in Harrisburg has not yet been announced. When it is, look for this space to be updated.

UPDATE #1
We still don’t know the corresponding move for Harrisburg yet, but as SpringfieldFan notes, the Senators have been carrying three catchers and it’s been the pattern to plug & play the backstops all season long. We do, however, know that 3B Matt Skole has been freed from Hagerstown and will replace Rendon on the Potomac roster. Replacing Skole for the Suns will be IF Khayyan Norfork from Auburn.

UPDATE #2
Longtime Nationals farmhand Devin Ivany was released to make room for Rendon on the Harrisburg Senators 25-man roster.

Aug 102012
 


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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 58-61, 5th place I.L. North, 8 games behind

Good Carlos Rivero .371/.451/.649 since All-Star break (27G)
Bad 713 pitching K’s last in I.L. (next-worst, 824)
Interesting Mitch Atkins 0.87ERA, 0.39WHIP in last six relief appearances

HARRISBURG SENATORS 53-59, 5th place E.L. West, 13½ games behind

Good Justin Bloxom .281/.324/.344 last 10G
Bad Team OBP of .315 dead last in Eastern League
Interesting Team streaky — 3+ Wins, eight times; 3+ Losses, eight times

POTOMAC NATIONALS 21-25, T3rd place C.L. North Division, 1½ games behind (52-64 overall)

Good Current starters named Meyers or Karns: 1.73ERA, 0.93WHIP
Bad Current starters not named Meyers or Karns: 5.98ERA, 1.67WHIP
Interesting Steve Souza Jr. .875OPS in 12G

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 25-22, T3rd place Sally League North Divison, 1 game behind (67-49 overall)

Good Matt Skole 1.019OPS (Best in Low-A)
Bad Wilson Eusebio 7.71ERA, 1.88WHIP
Interesting Billy Burns .323BA, 3rd in Sally Lg. (.328 vs. RHBs, .315 vs. LHBs)
First full year of switch-hitting

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 30-20, 1st place Pinckney Division, N.Y.-Penn League, 4 games ahead

Good Mike McQuillan .300/.371/.488 in 23G
Bad Jason Smith 7.94ERA, 1.85WHIP in 22⅔ IP
Interesting Nick Lee 43K in 42IP

GCL NATIONALS 20-25, 4th Place GCL East, 8½ games behind

Good Joel Barrientos 3-0, 2.48ERA, 1.29WHIP
Bad Michael Albaladejo .483OPS
Interesting Hayden Jennings .281BA, 9SB in last 10G

DSL NATIONALS 31-26, 3rd Place Boca Chica South Division, 9½ games behind

Good 19-y.o. Younaifred Aguero .294/.397/.394 in 40G
Bad 20-y.o. Philips Valdez 5.80ERA, 2.01WHIP in 40⅓ IP
Interesting 19-y.o. LHP Hector Silvestre 2-1, 1.71ERA in last four appearances
Jul 062012
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 44-43, 4th place I.L. North, 7 games behind

Good Jim Negrych .514/.575/.657 in last 10G
Bad Atahualpa Severino 5.9BB/9IP (22 in 33⅓ IP)
Interesting Pat Lehman 1-0, 2.03ERA in last 10 appearances

HARRISBURG SENATORS 45-40, 2nd place E.L. West, 4½ games behind

Good Hector Nelo 5SV, 1.54ERA in last 10 appearances
Bad Tim Pahuta .205/.295/.282 last 10G
Interesting Erik Davis 2-0, 1.77ERA since June 1 (20⅓ IP)

POTOMAC NATIONALS 7-8, T2nd place C.L. North Division, 2 games behind (38-47, overall)

Good Ricky Hague .415/.467/.707 in last 10G
Bad Rob Wort 0-2, 2BS, 14.72ERA, 3.00WHIP in last 3 appearances
Interesting Nathan Karns 39K in last 4 starts (12.84 K/9 over 27⅓ IP)

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 9-6, T2nd place Sally League North Divison, 2 games behind (51-33 overall)

Good Matt Skole 20HR, 71RBI, 75BB — Sally League leader in each category
Bad Bobby Lucas 6.53ERA, 1.69WHIP
Interesting Christian Meza 4-1, 2.95ERA, 1.14WHIP in 22 appearances (2 starts)

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 12-5, 1st place Pinckney Division, N.Y.-Penn League, 2½ games ahead

Good Pedro Encarnacion 2-0, 0.55ERA, 0.98WHIP
Bad Wes Schill .192/.267/.269 in 11G
Interesting Stephen Perez .482SLG, 6E in 15G

GCL NATIONALS 5-11, 4th Place GCL East, 7 games behind

Good Tony Nix .313/.313/.469 in 10G
Bad Adalberto Mieses 0-2, 6.79ERA, 1.79WHIP
Interesting Daury Vasquez 1.23WHIP, 15K, 8BB, 2HBP in 13IP (three starts)

DSL NATIONALS 15-14, T5th Place Boca Chica South Division, 5 games behind

Good 20-y.o. Wander Suero 4-1, 3.09ERA, 1.19WHIP
Bad 18-y.o. Miguel Acevedo 6.75ERA, 1.90WHIP
Interesting 17 y.o. Thomas Alvarez .273/.500/.636 in 7G