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.

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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.

Oct 112012
 

Highlighted by back-to-back homers from Arizona’s Matt Davidson and Washington’s Matt Skole, a four-run first propelled the Salt River Rafters to an 11-3 win yesterday over the Mesa Solar Sox.

Three Nationals farmhands saw game action:

• Brian Goodwin led off and played centerfield, going 2-for-5 with a walk and two runs scored, including a solo shot in the 9th to cap off Salt River’s offensive onslaught.

• Skole was a triple shy of the cycle with a single and a two-RBI double in his subsequent ABs, finishing the game at 3-for-5 with a walk and a run scored and three RBI while batting fifth.

• Jason Martinson served as the DH, but went 0-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout while batting ninth.

Defensively, Goodwin had no chances while Skole made his professional debut at first base, catching three groundouts and committing no errors. As noted in the game story on the AFL site, Skole had made 37 errors in 172 games at third base over the past two seasons — a fielding percentage of just .916.

Ryan Perry is expected to take the hill tonight as the Rafters host the Scottsdale Scorpions.

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