Nov 292010
 

The people have spoken, so here’s our obligatory Top 10 list of the Nationals batting prospects. Next will be the Top 10 Arms, and then a revisit to the watchlist. I don’t have the chutzpah to do letter graders or stars, so this is just my opinion on the ten hitting prospects that folks are watching and talking about. I’ll even throw in my Nigel Tufnel to answer the usual question, “Who just missed the list?”

Without further ado…

  1. Bryce Harper — Biggest question: How will he handle the adjustments that will be made to him, especially if he gets the Barry Bonds treatment.
  2. Derek Norris — Complaints about his defense are overblown because he can readily shift to another position if need be, but made significant improvements despite being hurt.
  3. Danny Espinosa — Two spring-training questions: Will the parent club tolerate his strikeouts? Will he get a chance to win the SS job?
  4. Wilson Ramos — Let’s hope he’s given the chance to win the job outright from Rodriguez, but a platoon is probably more likely.
  5. Chris Marrero — Rated this high because I think he’s viable trade bait and appears to be capable of hitting at the MLB level.
  6. Steve Lombardozzi — Steady, solid and reliable. Capable of leading off, but more likely to hit second or eighth.
  7. Michael Burgess — Will probably never hit for average, but the power potential, the OF arm, and the option to platoon him is something to consider
  8. J.P. Ramirez — Concerns about his foot speed, but both our Hagerstown contributors liked his power potential and I liked his tendency to post a good month following bad month all season long.
  9. Eury Perez — It’s no secret that I like the guys that can run and play small ball, and there are doubts about him being able to hit at the upper levels, but he’s the youngest of that prototype in full-season minors.
  10. Tyler Moore — Like Sickels, I’m concerned about what AA pitchers will do to him once they find his weaknesses, but his power is undeniable.

And, the Nigel Tufnel goes to… Rick Hague. That’s who I’d rank #11.

I’m sure folks will have lots to say in the comments…

Nov 222010
 

First, the stats…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Lombardozzi 21 82 16 24 8 2 0 4 10 8 .293 .385 .439 2
Burgess 18 65 8 16 3 3 2 20 4 20 .246 .286 .477 1
Norris 16 54 10 15 5 2 4 19 11 18 .278 .403 .667 2
Harper 9 35 6 12 3 2 1 7 4 11 .343 .410 .629 1

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G IP H R ER BB SO WHIP HLD GF
Solis 1 0 0 3.80 6 23⅔ 22 13 10 7 12 1.225 0 0
Carr 1 0 1 2.08 10 13 6 3 3 3 8 0.692 1 4
Peacock 0 0 0 4.50 9 12 10 6 6 3 17 1.083 2 1
Kimball 0 0 1 0.82 11 12 8 1 1 2 15 0.833 0 11

Now, the thoughts…

  • Bryce Harper managed to make his mark despite only playing twice a week. Now, we will wonder for the next four and a half months where Rizzo will have him start. Hagerstown is the official word, but I can’t see him starting there unless he has a terrible spring, or unless the plan is to have Harper make a tour of the full-season minors no matter what.
  • Lombardozzi did nothing to dissuade our opinion of him, but now we’ll have to wait until the prospect guides to come out whether or not he changed anyone else’s minds. I suspect not because even in our own Natmosphere his game-winning double in the AFL title game was barely mentioned.
  • Derek Norris has shown that much of his “struggles” this season were because he was hurting, finishing the AFL with the third-highest slugging pct. and the fourth-highest OPS. His defensive deficiencies were also displayed but a full season under the tutelage of Randy Knorr in Harrisburg ought to help immensely.
  • Michael Burgess also did nothing to dissuade the growing perception that his prospect days are behind him. He’ll start as the Harrisburg RF in 2011, but how long he’ll stay is the question. The signal may just be when he starts playing LF and DH more often than RF.
  • Brad Peacock showed flashes of brilliance as a reliever, leading to some speculation that he was auditioning for a midseason ’11 callup, but by the end of the AFL season it was clear that this was done to limit his innings. Possible Opening Day starter for the Senators.
  • Sammy Solis got a baptism by fire, but nothing that one couldn’t attribute to his lack of pro experience or the long layoffs between the draft and after the end of the regular season. Some question as to whether he’ll start in Hagerstown or Potomac, but given Rizzo’s track record, I’d bet on Potomac until late June, then Harrisburg through late August.
  • Cole Kimball is probably the biggest surprise of the AFL, at least relative to the success shown in twelve appearances. I’m not entirely sold that he’s for real, but hopeful that he can continue to contribute and assist the parent club in its quest to build middle relievers from within and not overpay for FA relievers. Could make the parent club with a strong spring.
  • Adam Carr has come a long way in just a year. In November ’09, he was finishing up his first season as a starting pitcher, including an August in which he posted a 7.34ERA and walked more batters than he struck out. He returned to Senator ‘pen and found his niche as the two-inning man, then had success as a closer for Syracuse. Like Kimball, he’s a dark horse to make 25-man roster by March 31, the day before his 27th birthday.
Nov 202010
 

The Scottsdale Scorpions survived three errors to capture the 2010 Arizona Fall League Championship with a 3-2 win over the Peoria Javelinas.

Washington’s Sammy Solis got credit for the win, allowing both runs (one unearned) on three hits and a walk while striking out three over his four innings of work. Cole Kimball was the last of five relievers to follow, tossing a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout to earn the save.

Bryce Harper, who started and played right field, drove in the Scorpions’ second run of the ballgame in the second inning with a first-pitch, opposite-field line drive to left but struck out twice to finish 1-for-4. Harper caught three fly balls and handled both singles hit to right.

Derek Norris, who caught and batted cleanup, legged out an infield single earlier in the second and scored on a sacrifice fly one batter before Harper, and went 1-for-3 for the game. No baserunners attempted to steal against him.

Steve Lombardozzi got the nod at shortstop and drove in the gamewinner in the fourth inning with a double to right for his 1-for-4 afternoon. He handled both chances he got before being lifted for defense in the seventh.

Michael Burgess pinch-hit for the DH in the bottom of the eighth and drew walk after balling behind 1-and-2.

Quick hits…

…Solis had moments of brilliance and moments where it looked like he was about to get clobbered, leaving pitches up in the zone. It’s not hard to imagine how in the second turn through the lineup that hitters would be looking for something up and if it’s a game in which his offspeed stuff isn’t working, he’ll get hit hard as he has at times this fall. Nice, smooth delivery.

…Harper is definitely old-school a la Pete Rose in terms of his hustle and intensity. What worries me is that that will be perceived as dirty pool by some opponents, particularly on double-play balls during blowouts. He can be had with elite heat and straight changes, but I suspect very strongly that he will learn to adjust to that very quickly because this kid’s got the Motts, as it were.

…Norris and Lombardozzi turned in the effort and produced the results I’d seen all season long. The announcers prattled about Norris being “too patient” and then said nothing when he worked the count to his favor and got a leg hit. Lombardozzi got the “well, I remember his Dad in the ’87 Series” treatment that seems to be de rigeur. The fault must be mine for expecting more.

Nov 172010
 

The Phoenix Desert Dogs edged the Scottsdale Scorpions in a seven-inning contest* by a count of 2-1. Three Nats bats saw game action…

  • Steve Lombardozzi led off and played SS, turning a double play, and going 2-for-4 with a strikeout to raise his average to .308
  • Derek Norris caught and batted cleanup but went o-for-3. There were no steal attempts against him.
  • Michael Burgess was the DH and batted 7th, but was hitless in three at-bats. He did not strike out.

The loss drops the Scorpions to 19-11 and with yesterday’s win by Peoria, the Javelinas will be Scottsdale’s opponent. I have been unable to confirm whether or not Sammy Solis will indeed get the starting nod, but will update in this space if/when I can. As mentioned yesterday, Frank Piliere was present for Solis’s start on Monday and filed this story about what he saw. My only quibble: If Solis was indeed tipping his pitches with a head tilt, that’s rather significant.

* Thursday’s games will also be seven innings in an effort to reduce workloads in the final week of the AFL

Nov 162010
 

A five-run sixth inning powered the Scottsdale Scorpions past the Peoria Saguaros, as the Nats’ AFL entry improved to 19-10 with a 9-4 win. Two pitchers and two hitters saw action…

  • Steve Lombardozzi led off as the DH and went 3-for-5 with two doubles and a run scored.
  • Michael Burgess batted eighth and played RF, tripling and homering in four at-bats, scoring a run, driving in a run, striking out twice, and throwing out a runner at third.
  • Sammy Solis appeared in relief and allowed one hit and no walks over three innings to go with two strikeouts. AOL Fanhouse’s Frank Piliere tweeted him as “consistently at 93-94 and attacking hitters” but also cautioned that “he has to be fine with his stuff”
  • Brad Peacock pitched the ninth, allowing a hit but struck out a batter

The Scottsdale Scorpions clinched a spot in the playoff game, but await their opponent as the defending AFL champs (mandatory sportswriter cliché, sorry) — the Peoria Javelinas — lost yesterday but remain three games up with three to go. As luck would have it, Scottsdale and Peoria are also scheduled in the final game on Friday. And yes, Bryce Harper is eligible to play in the championship game on Saturday, which is due to be televised on MLB Network at 2:30 p.m.

Nov 152010
 

Here’s a look at how the Nats fared over the weekend in the AFL…

FRIDAY
A five-run fourth carried the Scottsdale Scorpions to their third straight win by a 6-4 count

  • Michael Burgess, batting seventh and playing RF, went 0-for-1 with a walk and a strikeout
  • Adam Carr earned the save with a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out the final batter

SATURDAY
The Surprise Rafters edged the Scorpions 4-3

  • Steve Lombardozzi led off and played 2B and went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. He was also caught stealing
  • Bryce Harper batted fifth and played RF, walking once, scoring a run, and was caught stealing. He also committed an error (fielding)./li>

Statistics through 28 games…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Lombardozzi 18 69 15 19 6 2 0 4 10 5 .275 .386 .420 2
Burgess 16 58 7 14 3 2 1 11 4 18 .241 .286 .414 1
Norris 14 47 9 13 5 1 4 19 11 17 .277 .417 .649 2
Harper 8 31 6 10 2 2 1 6 4 10 .323 .400 .613 1

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G IP H R ER BB SO WHIP HLD GF
Solis 1 0 0 4.35 5 20⅔ 21 13 10 7 10 1.355 0 0
Carr 1 0 1 2.25 9 12 5 3 3 3 7 0.667 0 4
Peacock 0 0 0 4.91 8 11 9 6 6 3 16 1.091 2 0
Kimball 0 0 1 0.82 10 11 8 1 1 2 14 0.909 0 10
Nov 122010
 

The Scottsdale Scorpions took their second straight with a 5-1 decision over the Phoenix Desert Dogs. Highlights from the Nats included…

  • Steve Lombardozzi led off, played 2B, and went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a stolen base
  • Michael Burgess tripled and drove in two for is 1-for-4, playing RF and batting seventh
  • Cole Kimball closed out the game with a scoreless inning, allowing a hit, a walk, but striking out one

The win combined with a loss by the Mesa Solar Sox extends the Scottsdale lead to four games with six to play. They host the Peoria Saguaros tonight, then visit the Surprise Rafters tomorrow. Check back on Monday to see how they did, plus our weekly review of the AFL stats. Plus, the last of the affiliate season reviews is on tap for Tuesday.

Nov 102010
 

A better game for the Nats, but the Scottsdale Scorpions fell 7-4 to Phoenix Desert Dogs to snap their four-game win streak. Highlights included:

  • Michael Burgess smacked a two-run HR (his 1st in the AFL), doubled, and scored two runs while going 2-for-4 and playing RF
  • Steve Lombardozzi went 0-for-1 off the bench and played 2B
  • Adam Carr tossed two scoreless innings, allowing no hits and just one walk
  • Cole Kimball gave up a hit but struck out two while keeping the Desert Dogs off the scoreboard in the bottom of the 8th

The Mesa Solar Sox also lost, thus the Scottsdale lead remains at two games with eight to play. Sammy Solis (0-0, 5.17)  is slated to take the hill this afternoon against former National farmhand Daryl Thompson as the Scorpions visit the Peoria Saguaros this afternoon. Bryce Harper is also expected to play.

Nov 092010
 

In the upper minors, there is no half system, which makes the 2010 Harrisburg Senators playoff run even more impressive. At the halfway mark, their record stood at 34-37, more than a dozen games back and in fourth place. Down the stretch, they would go 43-28 and shave that lead to five games to earn the Eastern League’s Western Division wild card, beating out Bowie and Akron by a game and two games respectively.

The Senators would lose to the eventual Eastern League champions, the Altoona Curve — a team that featured several players with playoff experience in winning the 2009 Carolina League championship with the Lynchburg Hillcats. Like Potomac, this team gelled at just the right time, and got some significant help with the addition of two starters — Ryan Tatusko and Tanner — that would become known as “The Guz Two” because they were acquired from Texas in the Christian Guzman trade.

You know the drill: Let’s look at how the Senators compared to the Eastern League…

HITTING

TEAM AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA SB
Harrisburg 4726 598 1188 121 398 948 .251 .314 .390 .239 86
Lg. Avg. 4755 656 1232 113 470 1008 .259 .332 .397 .249 97

Italics = League Trailer

PITCHING

TEAM IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
Harrisburg 1252.0 3.51 3.94 1.255 102 400 1108 8.4 2.9 8.0 2.77
Lg. Avg. 1244.0 4.21 4.63 1.370 113 470 1008 8.9 3.4 7.3 2.14

Bold = League Leader

As we just saw from our most recent World Champions, great pitching can carry mediocre-to-poor hitting and the Senators were no different. Offensively, the Sens were in the bottom third of the league for runs scored, hits, doubles, RBI, SBs, walks, OBP, and SLG percentage. They were middle of the pack for HRs and triples, and surprisingly for a team that was dead-last in BBs, they stuck out the third-fewest.

What this team could do well, however, was pitch. They managed to lead the league in ERA despite their #2 pitcher (in terms of IP, of course) sporting a 5.80 ERA. Seven of the Top 16 pitchers had ERAs below 3.00. As you can see from the bolded categories, they led the league in some of the most important ones: runs allowed, earned runs allowed, and ratio, and were second in baserunners allowed (WHIP) and walks, and third in strikeouts. In fact, we almost had a microcosm of Harrisburg vs. the Eastern League on the same staff, with Jeff Mandel as the former and Jason Jones as the latter.

In terms of batters, the stalwarts of the 2009 Potomac Nationals — Chris Marrero, Danny Espinosa and Jesus Valdez — were the top three batters in terms of plate appearances, runs, and RBIs. But beyond that it was the usual mix of formers, might-haves, were-it-nots (whatever euphemism you’d prefer for the “other guys” on the team) that were complementary parts, of which the best can be said is that they played league-average defense, with the exception of the catchers, who led the league in baserunners caught and worked with the pitchers to tie for the fewest stolen bases allowed.

As in previous season reviews, let’s look at the Top 16 (in terms of Plate Appearances or Innings Pitched) which puts the cutoff at 100PA and 32⅓ IP. The full team statistics can be found here.

Name Age Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err PA GPA
Chris Marrero 21 1B 129 .984 18 577 .270
Jesus Valdez 25 RF/LF 67/58 .990 2 569 .242
Danny Espinosa 23 SS 98 .964 15 434 .266
Brad Coon 27 CF 107 .996 1 413 .232
Michael Martinez 27 2B/OF/SS 83/17/3 .969 14 387 .234
Marvin Lowrance 25 LF 61 .978 2 357 .283
Jhontan Solano 24 C 89 .993 5 345 .225
Tim Pahuta 27 3B/1B 50/12 .956 9 303 .208
Edgardo Baez 24 RF/CF/LF 52/22/7 .983 3 300 .235
Josh Johnson 24 SS/2B/3B 35/19/17 .977 6 258 .280
Ofilio Castro 26 3B/2B 57/10 .981 3 225 .197
Adam Fox 28 3B/2B/LF 36/5/1 .875 13 171 .175
Leonard Davis 26 OF/IF 27/8 .952 4 123 .243
Steve Lombardozzi 21 2B 27 .971 3 118 .299
Sean Rooney 24 C 30 .982 14 109 .165
Devin Ivany 27 C/1B 24/1 .988 3 100 .297

Believe it or not, the average age of the batters (24.7) wasn’t that far off from the league average (24.3) nor were they the oldest in the league. With three 22-year-olds (Norris, Lombardozzi, and Burgess) expected to begin the season in 2011, that number may trend downward unless more than one of them gets the bump to Syracuse. Just six of these sixteen were above the league-average for GPA, as you’d expect for team as a whole being in the bottom third of the league. But the good news was the pitching…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HBP WP
Tom Milone 23 27/27 12-5 2.85 158 161 23 155 1.165 4 7
Aaron Thompson 23 26/26 4-13, 0 5.80 136⅔ 164 53 95 1.588 5 5
Andrew Kown 27 15/15 6-4, 0 3.83 84⅔ 83 19 47 1.205 3 1
Hassan Pena 25 48/0 2-2, 1 4.29 71⅓ 73 30 64 1.444 6 8
Rafael Martin 26 21/14 5-4, 0 3.61 67⅓ 55 26 58 1.203 1 6
Cole Kimball 24 38/10 5-1, 12 2.33 54 33 31 75 1.185 5 13
Jack Spradlin 25 39/1 1-1, 1 4.09 50⅔ 51 18 49 1.362 4 2
Adam Carr 26 36/0 6-1, 5 3.04 50⅓ 43 14 48 1.132 1 3
Chuck James 28 21/2 8-0, 2 1.59 45⅓ 28 7 50 0.772 6 3
Erik Arnesen 26 13/5 2-2, 2 2.81 41⅔ 36 7 35 1.032 1 1
John Lannan 25 7/7 1-4, 0 4.20 40⅔ 49 10 28 1.451 4 0
Jeff Mandel 25 7/7 1-4, 0 3.82 40 37 13 27 1.250 2 1
Brad Peacock 22 7/7 2-2, 0 4.66 38⅔ 33 22 30 1.422 0 0
Ryan Tatusko 25 6/6 3-1, 0 1.72 36⅔ 30 13 36 1.173 1 1
Tanner Roark 23 6/6 1-1, 0 2.50 36 35 9 33 1.222 0 0
Ross Detwiler 24 7/7 2-2, 0 2.48 32⅔ 38 7 31 1.378 2 1

There’s not much that I haven’t said already about the top dog on the pitching staff, Tom Milone. I’ll be looking forward to seeing how Sickels, BA, and the scouts at MLBA rate him this time around, now that he’s put up the numbers at the level that commands attention outside the prospect universe. Aaron Thompson was his counterweight in terms of affecting the team’s numbers as a group, and is likely to repeat this level in ’11, along with Brad Peacock and Tanner Roark.

Ryan Tatusko is the best candidate to join Milone at Syracuse next season, but beyond that is guessing game. Given the modern usage of AAA as a taxi squad, much will depend on the FAs that get signed between now and this spring. As mentioned in the comments, we’re still not at the point where the AA team has more prospects than organizational guys. While that will improve next year with the influx from Potomac, I expect to look over the ’11 Opening Day Roster and see a fair number of ’84s and ’85s in the DOB column.

Obviously, there’s some overlap with Potomac and some AFL bias in these lists. And like last week, naming a fifth bat is perfunctory. Johnson gets the nod because he’s versatile and handles the bat well. It’s no secret that next week will be even more of a, um, crapshoot when it comes to this part of the review.

OBLIGATORY TOP 5 LISTS

Batters
1. Danny Espinosa
2. Chris Marrero
3. Steve Lombardozzi
4. Michael Burgess
5. Josh Johnson

Pitchers
1. Tom Milone
2. Cole Kimball
3. Brad Peacock
4. Adam Carr
5. Tanner Roark

Nov 082010
 

It’s a light update for the Nats in the AFL. Just one played in Friday’s game, obligatory SEO insert Bryce Harper, who went 1-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts and was caught stealing. John Sickels, who was presumably in Arizona to catch the AFL Rising Stars game (Burgess made the lone Nat appearance, going 0-for-2 with a strikeout), had this to say about what he saw:

I got to see Bryce Harper play last night for the first time. It is hard to believe he just turned 18. I would rate his raw power at an 80 on the traditional scale. He’s got outstanding bat speed, and while he can be fooled at this point, he did make an effort to work the count and showed the ability to make adjustments in the same at-bat. It was just one game but I saw enough to completely buy into the hype.

I’m sure more folks will weigh in next week, but as the snarky strikethrough suggests, it’s pretty clear that the comparisons to A-Rod and Griffey may in fact be justified… so the baseball world is watching with baited breath, which leads to an awful lot of one-handed typing. I’m excited, too, but the hype is something I hate — especially with a fanbase that’s both impatient and imbued with an enormous sense of entitlement. Hey, what’s this soapbox doing here?

As we’ve done the past few Mondays, here’s a look at the AFL stats through Friday (22 games):

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Lombardozzi 14 57 13 15 6 2 0 3 8 5 .263 .368 .439 1
Burgess 13 49 5 11 2 1 0 7 3 16 .224 .264 .306 1
Norris 12 36 7 9 3 1 3 15 11 13 .250 .429 .639 2
Harper 6 23 3 8 2 0 1 4 3 8 .348 .423 .565 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G IP H R ER BB SO WHIP HLD GF
Solis 0 0 0 5.17 4 15⅔ 19 12 9 6 8 1.596 0 0
Peacock 0 0 0 2.70 7 10 7 3 3 2 14 0.900 2 0
Kimball 0 0 1 1.00 8 9 6 1 1 1 11 0.889 0 8
Carr 1 0 0 3.00 7 9 5 3 3 2 6 .889 0 3