Sep 032013
 

Michael TaylorFor the third time this season, Potomac CF Michael Taylor has been named the Carolina League Batter of the Week, earning the honors for the period of August 26 to September 2.

Taylor went 10-for-23 with five doubles, a home run, and five RBI for a line of .435/.536/.783. He scored seven runs and stole six bases to finish second in the stolen base race with 51 stolen bases. Taylor finished third in the league for RBIs with 87, the most for a P-Nat since Tyler Moore’s 111 in 2010.

As noted in the comments, Taylor has become an elite defensive CF in just three years since being converted from SS. He’s now ranked as the #4 prospect on the most recent ranking by MLB.com’s “Pipeline” and is a two-time outfielder on this site’s watchlist.

Aug 292013
 

For the second straight season, multiple leagues have begun issue the press releases for the postseason awards — rather than waiting until, say, after the regular season,

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

SALLY LEAGUE
Tony Renda was named to the Sally League Postseason All-Star team as its utility infielder, with Micah Johnson (and his Mr. Spock eyebrow) taking the honors at 2B. Renda currently leads the Sally League with 42 doubles and is fourth in walks drawn (42) and sixth in on-base percentage (.381) and seventh in batting average (.295). Hagerstown skipper Tripp Keister was also honored as the Manager of the Year.

CAROLINA LEAGUE
Three P-Nats got the nod, including two-thirds of the outfield. Billy Burns and Michael Taylor — the top two thieves on the basepaths at 54 and 45 repsectively — were named to the all-league squad. Robert Benincasa, despite only pitching in 23 games, was named the top reliever (though his 15 saves does lead the circuit).

INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE
Just one Syracuse player was named and it should shock no one that the sole midseason all-star would be the sole postseason all-star. Soon-to-be 24-y.o. Zach Walters was named the league’s best shortstop, in large part due to his corner-infielder offensive production of 29 HRs (1st), 250 total bases (1st), and 77 RBI (3rd).

No Harrisburg Senators were named to the Eastern League postseason team, which is hardly a surprise when you consider that the most likely candidates (Anthony Rendon, Taylor Jordan) were making their contributions in DC, not PA. The New York-Penn League has not yet announced its postseason team, but the odds of a Doubleday making the cut are pretty slim.

At 49-9, it’s probably safe to bet on at least a couple of G-Nats making the postseason team, which also has not yet been announced.

Jul 222013
 

Steve Souza, Jr. and Michael Taylor have been named the Player of the Week for the Eastern and Carolina Leagues, respectively, for the week of July 15-21. It’s the second time Taylor has won the award for the Carolina League and the second time a Senator position player has been named (Anthony Rendon, May 6-12).

Steve SouzaSouza went 10-for-27 for a .370 batting average and collected four doubles, a triple, and two home runs for an .815 slugging percentage. He drew three walks, scored eight runs and drove in six. For the season, the 24-year-old is posting a line of .282/.382/.560 with 14 home runs and 30 RBI in 62 games. He was a 2013 Eastern League All-Star despite having spent nearly six weeks on the DL. This is Souza’s seventh season in the Nationals organization, originally drafted in 2007 as a third-round pick out of Cascade HS in Everett, WA.

Michael Taylor Last night’s 0-fer snapped an eight-game hit streak for Taylor, but the 22-year-old still batted .500 for the week (12-for-24) with five doubles, four runs scored, nine RBI, and three stolen bases. Taylor is currently 3rd in the Carolina League with 61 RBI, and second to teammate Billy Burns with 31 steals. Overall, he’s hitting .275/.343/.434 in 92 games. Taylor was originally drafted in 2009 as a shortstop out of Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale, FL but converted to outfield in 2011, where he’s become one of the organization’s best defensive prospects.

Jun 282013
 

GBI for NPP 2Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 30-48, 6th place I.L. North, 19½ games behind

Good Ryan Tatusko 70.4 LOB%
Bad Danny Espinosa 29K in 14G
Interesting 21 HBP by Chiefs pitchers 2nd fewest in the I.L.



HARRISBURG SENATORS 44-35, 1st place E.L. West, 4 games ahead

Good Aaron Barrett 12.1 K/9IP, 2.59 BB/9IP, 4.67 K:BB ratio
Bad Jose Lozada .156/.235/.200 in June (18G)
Interesting Matt Grace 0.00 ERA, .094 OBA in first 7 appearances



POTOMAC NATIONALS 5-1, 1st place C.L. North Champs, 1½ games ahead (47-28 overall)

Good Adrian Nieto .389/.450/.625 in June
Bad Brian Dupra 3.91 K/9IP
Interesting Michael Taylor 28 of 31 SB (90.3% success rate)


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 5-3, T2nd place Sally North, 1 game behind (43-32 overall)

Good Brandon Miller .249 ISO Avg.
Bad Bryan Harper 1.75 WHIP
Interesting 43% defensive CS rate, best in Sally League


DSL NATIONALS 13-8, T1st Boca Chica South, 2 games ahead

Good 17-y.o. Maximo Valerio 1.90ERA, 1.06WHIP, 2.19 FIP in 5 starts
Bad 17-y.o. Darryl Florentino .161BA, 16K in 18G
Interesting 17-y.o. Aldrem Corredor 14BB in 18G
May 312013
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 23-30, 6th place I.L. North, 8½ games behind

Good Ross Ohlendorf 39K in 38⅔ IP in May
Bad Will Rhymes .135/.238/.289 in last 10G
Interesting Brian Jeroloman 14BB in 19G



HARRISBURG SENATORS 27-27, 3rd place E.L. West, 5 games behind

Good Matt Swynenberg 1.93 ERA/3.29 FIP/1.16 in 15 appearances
Bad Justin Bloxom .195/.320/.207 in May
Interesting Steve Souza, Jr .414/.485/.724 in 7 games since return from D.L.



POTOMAC NATIONALS 28-24, T2nd place C.L. North, 1½ games behind

Good Michael Taylor .368/.455/.500, 7R, 7RBI, 5SB in last 10G
Bad Bullpen 12 saves in 28 opportunities
Interesting Team 81 SBs leads Carolina League


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 30-20, 1st place Sally North, 2 games ahead

Good Khayyan Norfork .301/.352/.458 in 21G
Bad Ronald Pena 21BB, 19K in 38⅔ IP
Interesting 384 team batting SOs – 3rd fewest in Sally League
May 282013
 

Michael TaylorPotomac CF Michael Taylor has become the fourth P-Nat to win the Carolina League’s weekly honors, named as the Batter of the Week for the period of May 20-26.

Taylor went 10-for-20 with five straight two-hit games, posting a line of .500/.565/.650 with three doubles, three walks, three runs scored and two stolen bases. His 29 RBI is good for fourth-best in the Carolina League while his 14 steals is third-best.

Originally drafted as a shortstop, the Nationals’ 6th round pick in the 2009 Draft converted to the OF in 2011 and has become one of the organization’s best defensive prospects. He was ranked by Baseball America as Washington’s #11 prospect and has been an outfielder on this site’s watchlist for 2013 and 2012.

May 032013
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 9-17, 6th place I.L. North, 8½ games behind

Good Chris Marrero .337/.385/.614, 6HR, 20RBI
Bad Yunesky Maya 0-3, 7.45 ERA, 1.62WHIP .310 OBA
Interesting Danny Rosenbaum 1.14ERA, 5K, 45GO in 23⅔ IP

HARRISBURG SENATORS 13-14, T2nd place E.L. West, 2 games behind

Good Nathan Karns 2-0, 1.13ERA, 0.88 WHIP in last four starts
Bad Brian Goodwin 36K in 27G
Interesting Justin Bloxom .325/.341/.500 in last 10G

POTOMAC NATIONALS 13-14, T2nd place C.L. North, 2 games behind

Good Michael Taylor .270/.341/.486, 2HR, 5SB, 8RBI in last 10G
Bad Christian Meza 2.28WHIP, 9.31ERA in six appearances
Interesting Blake Schwartz 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 11K in 11IP over first two High-A starts

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 15-11, T1st place Sally North, 2½ games ahead

Good Pedro Encarnacion 1.93 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, .207 OBA
Bad Hunter Bailey .528 OPS
Interesting Wes Schill 18BB in 18G, team-best .455 OBP
Apr 192013
 

It’s back! Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues. For the newcomers, this is a ripoff of tribute to comedian Demetri Martin’s segment from his old show on Comedy Central.

And of course, the obligatory caveats: sample sizes are here small, it’s early in the season, minors stats aren’t as meaningful as we think, past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance, etc.

Nevertheless, a reminder: the players, their families, and their agents are reading, so let’s not get carried away in the comments. It’s just for fun.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 6-7, 4th place I.L. North, 3½ games behind

Good Jeff Kobernus .463/.521/.659, 6SB in 12G
Bad Ryan Tatusko 7.11 ERA, 9BB, 2.84 WHIP in 6⅓ IP
Interesting Decision to not use a position player to pitch in a 27-9 smackdown, the day after a doubleheader

HARRISBURG SENATORS 8-6, T1st place E.L. West, ½ game ahead

Good Caleb Clay 2-0, 1.00WHIP, 14K in 17IP
Bad Justin Bloxom .503OPS, 23K in 14G
Interesting Trevor Holder 0.00 ERA, 0.78WHIP in 3G, 9IP

POTOMAC NATIONALS 6-7, 4th place C.L. North, 2 games behind

Good Jason Martinson 1.140 OPS, 15RBI in 13G
Bad Relievers – 5.82ERA, 1.42WHIP
Interesting Michael Taylor 10RBI, 13H, .228BA

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 8-7, T2nd place Sally North, 2 games behind

Good Dixon Anderson 0.68WHIP, 18K in 17⅔ IP
Bad Brandon Miller .172/.172/.345, 22K in 14G
Interesting Mike McQuillan 14-game on-base streak, 6SB
Oct 292012
 

The 2012 Potomac Nationals will most likely be remembered by those that watched them closely (*ahem*) for two things: (1) the team that couldn’t win on the road (2) underachievement. You can argue against the latter to a certain extent, but it’s pretty hard to argue against the former: A 10-26 mark in the first half, a 12-21 mark in the second for a combined 22-47 mark that was third-worst in affiliated ball (Louisville, 22-51; N.W. Arkansas, 22-48).

This, of course, would be unremarkable except that in Woodbridge, the 64-win P-Nats were 42-28 — third-best in the Carolina League behind 74-win Myrtle Beach (42-26) and 87-win Winston-Salem (48-23). When I dug into it in early June, I discovered that at least some of it was attributable to the offense hitting nearly 100 points better on the road than at home, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense since the Pfitz generally comes up as neutral in ballpark effects. Other factors are surely at play here, but it’s interesting (at least to me) nevertheless.

Underachievement is a little more in the eye of the beholder. It’s often the disconnect between expected and actual performance. While as a fan (disclosure: see first sentence in “About” below), I feel like this team underachieved, as prospect follower I have to allow for the alternate, more objective interpretation that perhaps some of these guys simply hit their ceiling. There just aren’t very many guys that finished in Woodbridge in August that I don’t expect to see again next April; nearly everybody that deserved a bump up to Harrisburg got one.

So let’s take a look at the first P-Nats team to miss the Carolina League playoffs since 2009:
HITTING

PITCHING

There are two things that strike me when I look at these two comparisons: (1) How similar Potomac’s pitching totals were to Hagerstown’s (2) How much better the hitting was than I would have guessed (nearly mediocre vs. subpar). What didn’t shock me was the low OBP. Francisco Soriano, Blake Kelso and Michael Taylor shared the team lead with 40 walks drawn in 87, 106 and 109 games. David Freitas was next with 39 — in 78 games. Seemed like every time I would fill out my scorecard, I’d be filling in OBPs with numbers that looked like batting averages.

That’s a natural segue to the Top 13* batters (* for 2010 Draft Picks, ** for DSL graduates). Full team statistics can be found here. *Another “extra” to catch a notable

There are some bright spots if you look for them — Kevin Keyes and Jason Martinson’s power, for example. Ricky Hague demonstrating he can play second base (.983FA in 35G). Michael Taylor living up to the hype for his defensive skills in center. But there are also things to pick that aren’t nits — Taylor, Martinson, and Keyes whiffed a lot. The team’s left fielders gave the team’s centerfielders ample opportunity to show off their range.

As aforementioned, none of this is unusual — it’s emblematic of the level: players too good for Low-A, but not quite good enough for AA. The question is whether or not there’s a “yet” in that sentence. This is often where some players repeat… and many will stall (see: Peacock, Brian; Martinez, Carlos).

On to the pitchers…

Well, at least there wasn’t much in the way of mediocrity. The pitchers were either good or they were bad. And even some of the “bad” were pitchers had their moments of “good.” The Matts are a good example of this. Swynenberg was terrific in April, pitching one of the best games of the year on the final Sunday of the month. Grace finished the season strong, capping off his season with eight shutout innings against playoff-bound Wilmington on the final Saturday of the season, a game that Steve Souza won with an 11th-inning grand slam.

Enough has been “said” about how good Nathan Karns was this season. Unfortunately, that leaves us with discussing how disappointing Robbie Ray’s season was. Most of the damage was done in the second half — 1-9, 7.67 vs. 3-3, 4.89 — with the southpaw becoming particularly prone to giving up the longball (10 in his last 10 appearances). Perversely, I was almost wishing to learn that he had been hurt; easier to give him a pass, so “speak.”

Unfortunately, I don’t have the magic bullet as to the why (and if I did, I wouldn’t tell ;-) As the season progressed he struggled with his command, issuing nearly double the walks and seemingly always falling into hitter’s counts and it was usually in the early going, not the middle innings. He turned 21 four weeks ago, so it’s not the end of the world, but it’s the primary reason he still makes the…

OBLIGATORY TOP FOUR LISTS
I thought about only listing three apiece, but decided to go with four as an acknowledgement of the bias that comes with being a disappointed fan of the team. There’s more projection here than usual, as alluded in the discussion of Ray, and I’m giving some props to the guys that finished the season strong.

Batters
1. Michael Taylor
2. Kevin Keyes
3. Ricky Hague
4. Adrian Sanchez
HM: Randolph Oduber

Pitchers
1. Nathan Karns
2. Neil Holland
3. Rob Wort
4. Robbie Ray
HM: Matt Grace

Jul 272012
 

A reminder: This is just for fun, a pithy look at who’s hot and who’s not. I do make an effort to not name folks in consecutive editions unless they’re on a run like Tyler Moore in 2010. The “Curse of the GBI,” is more attributable to a hot streak ending (or beginning) than anything else, though I may attribute any twinges of pain in my back to voodoo instead of scar tissue from a microdiskectomy ;-)

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 49-56, 6th place I.L. North, 9½ games behind

Good Pat Lehman 0.71ERA, 0.95WHIP in last 10 appearances
Bad Seth Bynum .194/.268/.306 in July
Interesting Atahualpa Severino .288 OBA by LHBs, .147 OBA by RHBs

HARRISBURG SENATORS 51-53, 5th place E.L. West, 12 games behind

Good Zach Walters .892 OPS in 35G (6HR, 17RBI)
Bad Robert Gilliam 9.10ERA, 1.81WHIP in last 10 appearances
Interesting Ryan Perry 2.14ERA, 1.04WHIP in first 7 starts

POTOMAC NATIONALS 17-17, T2nd place C.L. North Division, ½ game behind (48-56 overall)

Good Michael Taylor .302/.362/.500 in July
Bad Robbie Ray 0-4, 5.70ERA, 1.73WHIP in 2nd half (7 appearances)
Interesting Adrian Sanchez .340/.364/.434 in July

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 20-14, T1st place Sally League North Divison, 2 games ahead (62-41 overall)

Good Caleb Ramsey .351/.351/.486 in last 10 games
Bad Bobby Lucas 14.54ERA, 2.92WHIp in last 10 appearances
Interesting Christian Meza 2-0, 0.60ERA, 0.87WHIP as a starter

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 23-14, 1st place Pinckney Division, N.Y.-Penn League, 2 games ahead

Good Wander Ramos .474SLG (4HR, 1-3B, 9-2B of 31H)
Bad Elliot Waterman 10BB in 13IP, 1.77WHIP
Interesting #1 in NYPL runs scored, #11 in runs allowed

GCL NATIONALS 13-21, 4th Place GCL East, 10 games behind

Good Mike Mudron 2.20ERA, 0.86WHIP in 16⅓ IP
Bad Diomedes Eusebio 10E in 29G
Interesting Jean-Carlos Valdez nine doubles in 29G

DSL NATIONALS 23-23, 6th Place Boca Chica South Division, 10½ games behind

Good 18-y.o. Raudy Read 1E in 29G at catcher (43% CS)
Bad 18-y.o. Miguel Acevedo 1.69WHIP, 7HB in 28⅓ IP
Interesting 18-y.o. Juan De Los Santos 24BB in 36G