Aug 102014
 

No, I Said The White PhoneLike his teammate Taylor Hill, his stay on the big Nats may be brief, but for today Michael Taylor will be a major-leaguer as multiple outlets are reporting that the 23-y.o. outfielder will join the big club in Atlanta.

Taylor will be replacing either Jayson Werth or Steve Souza, who was called up last week to replace outmak..er, fielder Nate McLouth, as both rightfielders are battling injuries

Taylor is in the midst of a breakout season, which began in Harrisburg where he batted .313/.396/.539 with 22HR and 34SB in 98 games, which earned him a trip to the Eastern League All-Star game and the 2014 Futures game.

He’s barely skipped a beat in Syracuse going 5-for-13 with three doubles and a triple with two RBI, albeit in four games.

Corresponding moves have obviously not yet been made, and in a season with more movement than after a bad buffet, it’s pointless to guess. As always, if/when those moves are made today, this space will be updated.

UPDATE: Steven Souza is going to the DL. Thus far, there’s just one corresponding move: UT Jose Lozada has been reassigned from Harrisburg. The P-Nats, who were rained out for the entire weekend, and the Senators both have Monday off — so it’s unlikely that any more moves will be made (or announced) until Tuesday.

Aug 042014
 

Ripple
With the promotion of Steve Souza from Syracuse to Washington to replace an allegedly injured Nate McLouth, also comes the promotion of CF Michael Taylor from Harrisburg to take Souza’s place on the Syracuse roster.

Now, obviously it’s possible that both moves could be reversed in two weeks when McLouth is eligible to be activated, but it seems awfully convenient coincidental that the Nats waited until after the non-waiver trade deadline to make any of these moves. Washington GM Mike Rizzo is as brilliant as he is stubborn, and we could very well be seeing both traits on display here.

It’s been a topic of debate in the comments as to where Brian Goodwin is and/or what has happened to him. Officially, he’s on the DL (and without explanation), which, to remind the newcomers here, does not necessarily mean that a player is injured. But common sense — a misnomer, as Mark Twain once said because it’s so rarely found — does suggest that Goodwin is indeed hurt. It’s one thing to stash a guy for a week, but as of today it’s been a month.

Thus, the rumor that Goodwin has suffered a separated shoulder (via the comments) doesn’t seem all that implausible. Of course, that is the function of rumor — to fill in the gaps of knowledge when there is no official information. But if it’s true — and there is precedent in the example of Matt Purke, who went missing in the summer of 2012 only to be revealed during the 2012-13 offseason that he had undergone shoulder surgery — then we may be seeing an injury allow one prospect to leapfrog another again, just as we did with Tyler Moore and Chris Marrero.

The Senators and Chiefs also announced the following moves…
• RHP Josh Roenicke released
• RHP Scott McGregor reassigned from Harrisburg to Syracuse
• IF Ricky Hague and RHP Sam Runion activated from the 7-Day DL

It’s possible that Roenicke’s release was at his request; at the time he was signed he reportedly had a June 15 opt-out clause. Though it seems more likely that he was released outright with a two in-season FAs backfilling the gaps.

As always, if there are further moves related to this story, look for this space to be updated.

Jul 082014
 

Yesterday, the Harrisburg Senators announced three of their players were named to the 2014 Eastern League All-Star Game.

Cutter Dykstra, Neil Holland, and Michael Taylor were selected for the Western Division squad. Holland will obviously not be playing due to his recent move to AAA to join the Syracuse Chiefs.

Dykstra is currently posting a .297/.369/.417 line for the Senators as the team’s starting second baseman, where he’s putting up a career-best 4.39 range factor. He was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 out of Westlake, CA high school.

Holland was leading the team in appearances with 29 before his promotion, and had allowed just seven of 18 inherited runners to score while not allowing any runs of his own in 17 appearances. This is his second all-star appearance, having represented the Nats NYPL affiliate in Vermont in 2010, the same year he was drafted out of the University of Louisville.

Taylor has been a force all season long, displaying both power (18 HR) speed (26 steals) while putting up an OPS of .956. Originally a shortstop when he was drafted in the 6th Rd. out of Westminster Academy (Ft. Lauderdale, FL), he was converted to outfield in 2010 and has quickly evolved on defense to an elite level, most notably for his throwing arm where he racked up 23 assists last season and has nine so far this season.

The E.L. ASG will be held on July 16 in Altoona. Full rosters and further details can be found here.

Jun 242014
 

Outfielder Michael Taylor and pitcher Lucas Giolito were among those named to the US team for the 2014 Futures Game, which will be held on the Sunday prior to the MLB All-Star game on July 15 in Minneapolis.

Taylor has been having a monster season for the Harrisburg Senators, prompting chatter about his becoming the heir apparent to CF Denard Spa. This is despite the presence of Syracuse Chief Brian Goodwin, who was more highly rated during this past offseason and famously leapfrogged Taylor two years ago on the organizational ladder. Or more accurately, perhaps it’s because while Taylor has flourished at AA (.333/.413/.584, 17HR, 52RBI, 19SB) Goodwin has floundered at AAA (.219/.351/.339, 4HR, 30RBI, 6SB).

As the game’s name suggests, Giolito’s selection is more about his potential than his production, though his line of 2.59/4.14/1.09 with a 2-2 record and 52 strikeouts in 48⅔ innings for the Hagerstown Suns isn’t so bad, especially for teenager in his first full professional season who’s two years removed from Tommy John surgery. Giolito has also been very carefully managed in terms of workload with just one start that lasted six innings — perhaps not coincidentally, the last one before he was skipped for several turns from mid-May 11 to early June — and five starts that have lasted less than five innings.

May 302014
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 29-24, 1st place I.L. North, ½ game ahead

Good Taylor Hill 7-1, 1SV 1.57/3.38/0.90, 2CG in 11 appearances, 10GS
Bad 31 team HR, 11th in 14-team I.L.
Interesting Destin Hood .410/.452/.744, 3HR in last 10G



HARRISBURG SENATORS 18-34, 6th place E.L. West, 14½ games behind

Good Michael Taylor .370/.442/.730 in May (27G)
Bad Omar Poveda 5.82/4.21/0.94, 5HR in 3GS at AA
Interesting 23 pitchers, 12 starters, 2 position players have pitched in 52 games



POTOMAC NATIONALS 26-26, 3rd place C.L. North, 1½ games behind

Good Derek Self 2-0, 2SV 0.42/2.11/0.51 in 14 appearances (21⅔ IP)
Bad Mike McQuillan .111/.273/.111 in last 10G
Interesting 41% CS rate by catchers is No. 1 in eight-team Carolina Lg.



HAGERSTOWN SUNS 36-16, 1st place Sally North, 5½ games ahead

Good Wilmer Difo .317BA in May, .313 in April, .310 in last 10G
Bad R.C. Orlan 0-2, 6.35/4.24/1.68 in five appearances
Interesting Brendan Middleton .406/.500/.406 in last 10G
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 212013
 

A couple of mild surprises this year as the Nationals dropped a pair of journeymen lefties in favor of adding RHP Aaron Barrett, LHP Sammy Solis, and OF Michael Taylor to the 40-man roster to avoid exposure to the Rule 5 draft next month.

Barrett was probably the lesser of the two surprises, given his age (almost 26) and function (reliever). As noted yesterday, Barrett seemed a possibility due to the precedent of Erik Davis a year ago, but with his merely average fastball velocity (low 90s) there was reason for doubt. His plus slider — rated as the best in the organization by Baseball America for two years’ running — was apparently deemed to valuable to risk losing.

Even without a strong AFL campaign, chances were Solis would have been protected. The question now is how much longer they’ll wait for him to develop into a starter, especially after not one but two lefthanded relievers were jettisoned. With zero AA experience, and only one year removed from Tommy John surgery, the odds are still good that he’ll pitch every fifth day in Harrisburg for at least a couple of months next season.

Taylor was a bit of a shock because there’s no question that his hitting tools are not major-league ready. It’s possible another team would have taken him, but it’s highly improbable they would have kept him. What now occurs to me — and should have previously — is that his addition gives the team leverage in any possible trade scenario involving either Denard Span or Brian Goodwin. Of course, Occam’s Razor also suggests that the team simply covets his skillset and wanted to eliminate any possible disruption to their plans for him in 2014.

Nov 062013
 

Baseball America for NPPNo sense vamping when this list has probably been tweeted dozens of times by now. (Last year’s revised ranking in parentheses.)

1. Lucas Giolio, RHP (2)
2. A.J. Cole, RHP (4)
3. Brian Goodwin, CF (3)
4. Matt Skole, 1B/3B (5)
5. Robbie Ray, LHP (–)
6. Sammy Solis, LHP (9)
7. Michael Taylor, CF (–)
8. Jake Johansen, RHP (’13 Draft Pick)
9. Nathan Karns, RHP (6)
10. Steve Souza, OF (–)

Frankly, I was initially confused as to how an injured position player and a coming-off-surgery pitcher could move up in the rankings. This, of course, is no disrespect to them, but simple logic dictates that getting hurt and/or losing a year of development is the kind of thing that drops your stock, not improves it. This was Fitt’s answer to my question about that rationale for ranking them higher in 2014 than 2013:

I think Skole is in the same No. 4* slot he was last year (and remember that Anthony Rendon graduated to the big leagues). I did not dock Skole for being hurt — it was a fluke injury, and he returned strong this fall. I still think he’s a quality power-hitting prospect, and I ranked him accordingly. As for Solis, I got very encouraging reports on him coming off that surgery, and I expect him to move very quickly next year (assuming he can stay healthy — which is a legitimate question, given his track record). At this point, I think he has a better chance to stick as a big league starter than Karns, who strikes me as more of a power reliever ultimately. So I moved Solis ahead of Karns. I can’t say I’m overly excited about any of those guys — Solis is 25 now and still has yet to reach Double-A, after all. I don’t think this is a great top 10 after the top of the list, although I do like some of the depth in the 11-30 range.
* Skole was initially ranked #4 in December 2012, then moved to #5 when BA revised the list in March 2013

I give Fitt credit answering honestly, particularly in remarking about how the talent thins out rapidly after the first few guys, which has been the case for about two years now. For those wondering, Fitt said that he wrestled with a cluster of Tony Renda, Matt Purke, Billy Burns, and Zach Walters before deciding upon Souza for the #10 spot. There are certainly arguments that can be made for any of those five against the other four and it may be bit revealing of your personal biases, too. Fitt, it appears, likes Souza’s five-tool promise over Burns’s speed, Purke’s LHSP capabilities, Renda’s bat/eye, Walter’s power, etc.

One new wrinkle to this year’s rankings is a list of the Top 15 players under the age of 25, which you can find in the free article along with a list of the best tools, prospects of the year and top draft picks from the past 10 years. And of course, the top bonuses paid, for which Robin Leach Fitt remains enamored of the decision of the Nationals to spend heavily just as they were hitting rock bottom.

The projections for where the 2014 Top 10 will begin (or finish) next season were as follows:
AAA – Cole, Goodwin, Karns, Souza
AA – Skole, Ray, Solis, Taylor
Low-A – Giolito
Not specified – Johansen

I personally believe Cole will probably return to Harrisburg and be moved up in May or June; likewise for Johansen with Hagerstown as his starting point — but lately the Nats have been more aggressive, so it could be Syracuse and Potomac, respectively. As mentioned in the comments, where a prospect starts is not nearly as important as where he finishes.