With the clocks turned back and the World Series in the books (no, they should have not have sent Gordon), baseball winter is upon us. But it’s Sunday — my day to publish — so let’s take a spin through the Nats minors news and notes in the new weekly format.
• Tony Renda was the sole National to appear in the AFL “Fall Stars” showcase last night, going 1-for-2 with a strikeout at the plate while making a putout and an assist during his four innings on defense. He’s currently riding a 10-game hit streak, over which he’s posted a .341/.349/.463 line with 14 runs scored and seven RBI.
• Matt Grace and Derek Self both turned in scoreless outings, while Neil Holland was scorched for three runs last Monday in a 3-3 tie between 1st-place Salt River and 2nd-place Mesa.
• Felipe Rivero continues to struggle, giving up two runs on two hits over ⅔ an inning on Thursday. He was lifted after throwing 31 pitches, just 16 for strikes.
• Spencer Kieboom and Pedro Severino both collected two hits and two RBI in their two starts during the week.
The final two winter leagues began play on Friday, though I’m sure someone will note that it’s spring in Australia. My kids were toddlers when the Wiggles
came to power became popular, so I’m well aware of it, having endured a holiday DVD set on the beach. As expected, there are no 40-man guys playing down under while the list for the Puerto Rican Winter League contingent is merely two — Xavier Cedeno (Santurce) and Tyler Herron (Mayaguez).
Later this week, we’ll get the official list from Baseball America of this year’s crop of minor-league free agents, which includes the 2008 draft that has produced two players on the 40-man: Danny Espinosa and Tyler Moore. Just three other draftees remain: Paul Demny, Destin Hood, and Jose Lozada, who, along with IFA Adrian Sanchez, re-signed in October. Perhaps we’ll learn who else may have elected to stay before that list is released, though I’d put more stock in guys who’ve had a chance to look elsewhere re-upping than Hood or Demny turning down their first chance as free agents. Update: In its Nov. 3 dispatch, BA is reporting that Washington has (despite the info below) re-signed RHPs Paolo Espino, Scott McGregor, James Simmons along with UT Josh Johnson.
THE HARRISBURG SENATORS
Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your pets, and put down anything sharp or heavy. Hopes were high when the roster was revealed in late March, as it was loaded with high-profile prospects (six BA Top 20s, 17 of this site’s watchlist) and salted with several of the 2013 Potomac Nationals that won 84 games (42 in each half). It took more than three weeks for a starter other than A.J. Cole to win, nearly ten weeks before they won three games in a row. Only a win on the final day of the season prevented them from tying the 2004 edition for the worst-ever won-loss mark.
Injuries were a major factor: Sammy Solis, Matt Purke, Felipe Rivero made 19 starts combined, with Solis making just one. This led to in-season free-agent pickups starting 54 of 142 games and the team finishing dead last in pitching. Take away Paolo Espino, who was league-average, the foursome of James Simmons, Zach Kroenke, Scott McGregor combined for an ERA of 5.81 and a WHIP of 1.59 (gee, why were these guys available?) — and that ain’t gonna get it done. That’s especially true when the offense was, as is often the case with last-place teams, was also near the bottom of the pack, averaging 4.08 runs per game despite finishing second in walks drawn and third in stolen bases.
This leaves us, for the third straight year, with a combined list of pitchers and position players. But it’s still an obligatory Top 5 List:
1. Michael Taylor, CF — .313 GPA, 22HR, 34SB, 130K in 98G
2. A.J. Cole, RHP — 2.92/2.58/1.32, 1.9 BB/9
3. Matt Skole, 1B — .258 GPA, 78BB in 132G
4. Cutter Dykstra, IF — .255 GPA, 12E in 87G at 2B
5. Kevin Keyes, 1B-OF — .247 GPA, 20HR, 64RBI
It’s a sad state of affairs when I can only list one pitcher and two position players who are under 24. Quincy Latimore (.267 GPA) outperformed everyone not named Michael Taylor, but he turns 26 in February and may already be a free agent. An honorable mention goes to Drew Vettleson, who finished an injury-plagued season with a .274/.300/.453 mark in August (27G). If you’ve got the stomach, you can see the full team statistics here.