Nov 202014
 

For the first time since 2011, the Washington Nationals have added more than a couple players to its 40-man roster in preparation for next month’s Rule 5 draft. RHP A.J. Cole, IF Wilmer Difo, LHP Matt Grace, and OF Brian Goodwin were added this afternoon while RHP Ryan Mattheus (released) and IF Pedro Florimon (waived) were removed. Earlier this week, LHP Matt Purke was also released as was longtime backup backstop Jhonatan Solano.

Even F.P. Santangelo could have predicted the inclusion of Cole; that’s how obvious it was. A hard-throwing RHP is relatively easy to bury in an MLB bullpen, not to mention that GM Mike Rizzo traded for him in January 2013 some 13 months after dealing him away as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade. Cole figures to begin 2015 in AAA, but if history is any guide, a strong spring and/or injuries could have him making his MLB debut before Memorial Day.

Perhaps it’s more of an indictment against the other MI options than an endorsement of his future viability, though Wilmer Difo did about as much as a Low-A prospect could do in 2014, winning South Atlantic League MVP while earning the second annual Bob Boone award. The 22-y.o. posted a .315/.360/.470 line while showing both power (14HR) and speed (49SBs). Difo figures to begin next season in Potomac, though I’m sure his inclusion on the 40-man will spur speculation of a two-level promotion.

As noted in the previous post, Grace’s 2014 season earned him a place as a situational lefty and could be the next Aaron Barrett. He may not throw 95 mph but does generate a lot of ground balls (3.23 G/F ratio) and is tough on left-handed batters (just a .371 OPS). If he doesn’t make the 25-man roster, look for him to return to Syracuse in 2015 and have a carry-on bag ready to go.

Brian Goodwin was once the heir apparent to Denard Span but now has Michael Taylor breathing down his neck. Injuries limited Goodwin to just 81 games last season, but having turned just 24 less than three weeks ago, it would seem that the Nats brass seem willing to let him get healthy in 2015 while also serving as insurance should Taylor falter. It will be interesting to see how the two (Goodwin & Taylor) will be used when they appear in the same outfield, though I’d be more surprised about seeing Goodwin in LF than Taylor in RF, given the latter’s cannon right arm.

Nov 152014
 
L to R: T.D. Swinford (trainer), Felipe Rivero, Matt Grace, Patrick Anderson, Tony Renda, Spencer Kieboom, Neil Holland, Derek Self, Pedro Severino

L to R: T.D. Swinford (trainer), Felipe Rivero, Matt Grace, Patrick Anderson, Tony Renda,
Spencer Kieboom, Neil Holland, Derek Self, Pedro Severino

One last look before we close the books, beginning with the stats…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Tony Renda 22 85 12 17 3 1 0 7 3 19 .200 .233 .259 1
Pedro Severino 12 44 1 11 2 1 0 5 2 7 .250 .292 .341 0
Spencer Kieboom 10 34 3 11 2 0 1 7 5 4 .324 .390 .471 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Felipe Rivero 2 4 0 6.08 7 7 23⅔ 26 18 16 2 11 15 1.56
Derek Self 1 0 0 1.20 9 0 15 12 2 2 0 5 6 1.13
Neil Holland 1 2 0 10.80 8 0 11⅔ 20 14 14 1 8 8 2.40
Matt Grace 0 0 0 3.18 10 0 11⅓ 10 4 4 0 5 8 1.32



Now for the thoughts…

• Renda started cold, got hot, and then finished cold. What to make of it? Nothing, really. Renda is your starting second baseman at Harrisburg come hell or high water (knock on wood – ow, that’s my head!). With the big club rumored to be shopping at 2B, Renda will get a little more scrutiny and mention, and his poor showing could lead to some fun assumptions from beat writers who don’t know Tony Renda from Tony Rendon.

• Kieboom picked up where he left off at Hagerstown and did well despite limited playing time, though I suspect this was done to ease the burden on the catchers. Like Renda, he was going to move up regardless of his performance this fall.

• Severino cooled off some from his hot second half, which is hardly a surprise. He’ll still be the starting catcher at Harrisburg next spring. With longtime backups Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano out of options, there’s clearly some hope that his offense will catch up to his defense by 2016, if not sooner.

• As with all of these players, we’re looking at tiny sample sizes sight-unseen. Rivero was pounded in his first five starts, then terrific in his last two (combined: 10IP, 2R, 1ER, 2BB, 7K). With an injury-shortened regular season, the hope is that the October version was Rivero getting healthy and the November version is the one that will show up next April in Harrisburg.

• Self had the best fall of the three relievers, at least in terms of traditional stats of ERA and WHIP. What’s troubling is the guy who only walked 18 in 66⅔ innings this past summer gave up five BB’s in 15IP this fall. Six whiffs is also well below his usual K rate. But again, small sample size here.

• Holland was the analog to Self, with just three scoreless outings out of eight and 14 runs charged to him in the other five. He wasn’t auditioning for the 40-man roster — 2013 was his first year of Rule 5 eligibility — but didn’t help his chances to begin 2015 in AAA, where he spent three weeks in July.

• Grace is interesting case (hey, that rhymes!) as he had a terrific 2014 and could replace Xavier Cedeno as the boomerang lefty between ‘Cuse and DC. While it’s specious to say he’s competing with other lefthanded prospects for a 40-man spot, the Nats have already cut ties with one talented-but-can’t-stay-healthy southpaw, would they cut another to make room for Grace?

Nov 092014
 

OffseasonUpdate110914
Yesterday’s post took away one of our staples of the offseason update, but there’s still a few things to pass along as we wind our way through the 2014-15 offseason.

AFL UPDATE
The second-place Solar Sox have made things interesting by taking two of three games from the first-place Rafters, but the odds are still slim of them making it to the AFL title game as their tragic number is down to two with last night’s 11-4 loss to the Saguaros.

Perhaps more notable — and in the big picture, important — is that Felipe Rivero pitched well in Mesa’s 3-1 win over Salt River last Tuesday, allowing one run on one hit (not a HR) and one walk over five innings to earn his second win of the fall campaign.

Tony Renda saw his hit streak stopped at 12 with an 0-for-4 effort on Thursday, but has gotten off the interstate and raised his batting average to .216, while Spencer Kieboom and Pedro Severino both reached base twice in their two starts this week.

Matt Grace appeared just once, allowing a hit over an inning and a third for his sixth straight scoreless outing. Neil Holland was knocked around for four runs on five hits as his up-and-down fall continues. Derek Self had his six-game scoreless streak stopped in his lone appearance this week, giving up a run on three hits and a walk on Wednesday.

WINTER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS
Tyler Moore has smacked five HRs and is batting .333 with 14 walks (none intentional) in 15 games for Los Toros del Este in the DWL. He’s also driven in 13 and stolen two bases. While winter-league performance should always be taken with a pound of salt (see: Jesus Flores, Yunesky Maya), it certainly won’t hurt his chances of sticking with the club in 2015 (as Todd Boss notes, it’s being out of options, and the presence of the more versatile and athletic Souza).

Newly re-signed Paolo Espino lost last Sunday but has won two of five starts in the VWL, posting a 3.72 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 19⅔ innings (though he’s also issued eight walks).

Rafael Martin has notched four saves in four chances while stringing together 11 straight scoreless outings with no walks and eight K’s across 9⅓ innings.

THE SYRACUSE CHIEFS
After years of losing teams stocked with replacement-level players, the Chiefs finally fielded (yielded?) a playoff team, winning the I.L. North while posting the league’s best record at 81-62. While they were swept in the first round by the second-place PawSox, it was a successful season everywhere but the turnstiles as attendance fell for the fourth straight season and Syracuse finished dead last in both raw attendance and average per gate.

Syracuse tied for 2nd in team offense by runs scored (4.67 R/G) and led the I.L. in OBP with a robust .344 while finishing tied for third in pitching with (3.87 R/G). It was the summer of Steven Souza who mashed 18 taters, drove in 75, and stole 26 bases in just 96 games with a Nintendo-esque line of .350/.432/.590 despite going back and forth four times during the season.

Anchored by veteran southpaw Aaron Laffey, the pitching saw the emergence of Taylor Hill who rolled to a 9-2 mark with a 2.02 ERA before making a brief appearance for the big club. Upon his return, Hill stumbled badly — losing six of ten starts giving up seven HRs as his ERA rose nearly a full run to 2.81 as his propensity to give up hits returned. Also making a surprise run was Matt Grace, who split time between Harrisburg and Syracuse, but put up particularly good numbers against LHBs: .144 OBA, .371 OPS, which is leading to the natural speculation that he’ll become the next Aaron Barrett.

Naturally, in terms of prospects, the continuing ascendance of A.J. Cole bears mention as the 22-y.o. went 7-0 with a 3.43 albeit with a substandard 4.48 FIP. Like Taylor, Cole has also had a propensity to give up roughly a hit per inning over his career (9.9 per 9IP in 2014) which is something to watch for in 2015, especially as the league gets a second and third look at him.

And thus, we close out the seventh affiliate review with the final obligatory Top 5:

1. Steven Souza, OF — .342 GPA, 18HR, 75RBI, 26SB
2. Blake Treinen, RHP — 3.35/3.31/1.21
3. Jeff Kobernus, 2B/OF — .242 GPA, 15SB in 59G
4. Matt Grace, LHP — 1.30/3.31/0.98, .144 OBA vs. LHBs
5. Taylor Hill, RHP — 2.81/4.23/1.12, 81.9 LOB%

Even Stevie Wonder can see that this list is less than ideal, but consider that Zach Walters was traded away, Brian Goodwin and Taylor Jordan were injured, and Eury Perez was placed on waivers. Folks interested in seeing the full team statistics for the 2014 edition should click here.

Nov 082014
 

Hanging It Up for NPP
As noted earlier this week, Baseball America has released its list of the minor-leaguers who have become free agents. Without further ado, ze list…

(* = spent entire season on DL)
CATCHERS
AA — Mitch Canham, Brian Jeroloman
SS-A — Alex Marquez

INFIELDERS
AAA — Brandon Laird, Will Rhymes
AA — Melvin Dorta*, Oscar Tejeda

OUTFIELDERS
AAA — Destin Hood,
AA — Quincy Latimore

LHPs
AAA — Aaron Laffey, Tyler Robertson
AA — Zach Kroenke

RHPs
AAA — Mitch Lively, Omar Poveda, Daniel Stange
AA — Paul Demny, Tyler Herron

Two of the names are notable if for no other reason than they were 2008 Nationals draft picks: Destin Hood (2nd Rd.) and Paul Demny (6th). After a career year in Syracuse (.294/.344/.482), Hood will undoubtedly sign with another organization. Let’s face it: He’s third in line behind the likes of Steve Souza and Michael Taylor when it comes to the last couple of outfielder slots on the Nats 40-man roster.

Demny, who has languished at AA for three seasons, is far less of a surprise. Even with a shift to the bullpen, his velocity has dropped, and he spent significant time on the DL this year as well. At 25, he seems more likely to either retire or go to the indy route if he is to continue pitching professionally.

Believe it or not, this list of 17 is actually the smallest in the five seasons this site has been in existence. Whether that’s a good thing or not is something to debate. We’ve certainly noticed that in the Rizzo era, he has no qualms in peppering the AA and AAA rosters with free agents and much like his predecessor (sorry, but it’s true) he favors the guys he’s drafted or scouted. However, he has also released a fair amount of guys already from his first two drafts (2009, 2010) so there may not be very many (or any) eligible to re-sign this time next year (if you’re wondering, just three not on the 40-man already from 2009 — Danny Rosenbaum, Pat Lehman, and Matt Swynenberg).

Nov 022014
 

TurnBackTheClock2014
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.

AFL UPDATE
• 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.

WINTER LEAGUES
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).

TRANSACTION STUFF
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.

Oct 262014
 

BooneRendaKieboom102614The AFL passed its midpoint with yesterday’s game, which saw Mesa demolish Surprise, 14-0. Thanks to the vagaries of a three-team division and sharing it with the league’s best team, the Solar Sox won’t be playing in the title game, though it should be noted that also means Nats fans won’t have to listen to Tom Verducci or someone of his ilk parrot the press guide while calling the title game on MLB Network.

Felipe Rivero, who left his previous start with a turned ankle per our Arizona correspondent, continues to struggle as he was strafed for five runs on Friday in a 9-4 loss to raise his pitcher’s line to 9.00/5.53/1.85.

Tony Renda, who was hitless in his first five games, has quietly put together a six-game hit streak to raise his batting average to something resembling a starter instead of a pitcher.

Catchers Spencer Kieboom and Pedro Severino, who are splitting time with Toronto’s Sean Ochinko, are both hitting (.273 and .375 respectively) despite their limited game action.

Relievers Derek Self, Matt Grace, and Neil Holland aren’t being used terribly often, but they’ve combined for six scoreless innings over four appearances this past week.

WINTER LEAGUE SIGHTINGS
As noted a couple of weeks ago, the Dominican Winter League has started up and with it have come the following sightings of Nats players and farmhands:

Emmanuel Burriss, Oscar Tejeda (Cibao)
Jhonatan Solano, Manny Delcarmen (Licey)
Pedro Florimon (Escogido)
Tyler Moore (Este)

And the following players have also surfaced in the Venezuelan Winter League:

Mitch Lively (Magallanes)
Sandy Leon, Adrian Sanchez (Zulia)

POTOMAC NATIONALS
Season-ticket holders in Woodbridge (*ahem*) have been treated to quite a run over the past eight seasons: five playoff appearances (2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014), four trips to the Mills Cup Finals (2008, 2010, 2013, 2014), and three championships (2008, 2010, 2014). Only once in that span did they have a losing season (2012) while the 2009 club won 42 games in the second half while falling four games short to the Blue Rocks in a furious finish.

Unfortunately, those three titles remain the only ones won by a Nationals full-season affiliate. Hagerstown has come oh-so-close the past two seasons while Harrisburg has fallen in the first round three times (2010, 2011, 2013). The narrative hope with any league championship is that the spirit of winning is instilled and will carry on as the baby Nats grow up into big Nats, which will be badly needed as some of the 2014 Potomac guys head to Harrisburg in 2015.

The 78-win P-Nats were not statistical monsters: 3rd in the league offensively, 5th in pitching, 3rd defensively. Their hallmark was the walkoff win, which they did 14 times, and they were phenomenal in one-run games (32-13). But most importantly, once they got the lead, they held onto it: 50-1 when leading after eight innings, 55-2 when they were ahead after the seventh. That combination of (p)luck enabled them to outperform their Pythagorean projection (69-67) by an astounding nine games and carried over into the playoffs where they took three of four from a team that had beaten them five out of the previous six meetings and 11 of 19 overall.

And now I present to you the obligatory Top 5’s:

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Tony Renda, 2B, .266 GPA, .980 FA 1. Ian Dickson, RHP, 4.37/4.20/1.32, 2.64 ERA in 2nd half
2. Stephen Perez, SS, .249 GPA, 27SB 2. Gilberto Mendez, RHP, 3.14/3.21/0.89, 8.54 K/9, 1.57 BB/9
3. Pedro Severino, C, .237 GPA, 36 CS% 3. John Simms, RHP, 4.36/3.13/1.23, 2HR in 49⅔ IP
4. John Wooten, 3B/1B/OF, .263 GPA, .473 SLG% 4. Matt Spann, LHP, 3.81/4.09/1.38, 70.1 LOB%
5. Isaac Ballou, CF, .256 GPA, .991FA 5. Bryan Harper, LHP, 2.66/3.52/1.14, .198 OBA


Honorable mentions go to Shawn Pleffner and Kylin Turnbull, a pair of 24-year-olds who turned 25 in August and September respectively. As mentioned last week, we have a hit a point where we can no longer gloss over the advanced age of some of these players, which is necessarily their fault as the Nats do have a tendency to both draft collegiate ballplayers while conservatively moving them up the ladder (though 2014 did see a handful of three-level players). Folks interested in viewing the exploits of all 63 players (including 10 rehab assignments) can see them here.

Oct 182014
 

neilholland101713
As some of you have noted already in the comments, the numbers haven’t been pretty thus far. According to manager Patrick Anderson (via Byron Kerr), it’s been “some pitches up to some decent hitters” (Felipe Rivero) and “balls right on the nose right at people” (Tony Renda). But it is what it is, the numbers don’t always tell you the real story, and it’s still early, right? Many of these things are true, or have a modicum of truth, but if I don’t mock the coachspeak, who will?

Now, for the numbers…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Tony Renda 7 23 1 2 2 0 0 0 1 6 .087 .125 .174 1
Spencer Kieboom 3 10 1 5 1 0 1 3 2 1 .500 .583 .900 0
Pedro Severino 3 9 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 2 .111 .200 .111 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Felipe Rivero 0 2 0 6.23 2 2 8⅔ 10 6 6 1 3 5 1.50
Derek Self 0 0 0 1.80 3 0 5 3 1 1 1 3 3 1.20
Neil Holland 0 1 0 14.73 3 0 3⅔ 7 6 6 1 3 2 2.73
Matt Grace 0 0 0 8.10 3 0 3⅓ 4 3 3 0 3 5 2.10


And now some more pics from Lee (don’t worry this isn’t in lieu of tomorrow’s scheduled post, it’s to get these pics in!)

pedroseverinothrowing101714 spencerkieboomcatching10171
MattGracePitching101714 DerekSelfPitching101714
Oct 122014
 

SpencerKieboom101114 copy
OK, so I haven’t come up with a name for this post yet. “This Week In The Nats Minors” or “The Washington Farm Report” seem a little too been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. “Next-Gen Nats?” Um, sure, but I’ll have to change my site’s color scheme to teal, purple, and black. I’m open to suggestions… In the meantime, let’s do this weekly thing again.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
Thanks to a rainout — the first since 2011 — the Mesa Solar Sox have played just four games, losing the first three by a collective score of 30-9 before finally getting a win with a 6-3 decision last night. As you might imagine, the stats thus far aren’t pretty, so let’s hold on posting them. I am thinking another picture-gallery post midweek might be in order.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
As noted in the comments, Pedro Severino edged into BA’s Carolina League Top 20 at #18, which is actually a mild surprise given the size and talent of the league, but not undeserved. Severino’s ballyhooed defense actually fell short of the hype during last offseason, but that’s not to say he’s not a good defender. Perhaps not at the level of Sandy Leon at the same (st)age, but not far off either. Like Leon in 2011, the 21-year-old Severino’s bat came alive in 2014, particularly in the second half, and that’s what caught the attention of scouts. The hope/unknown is whether that’ll continue in 2015.

TRANSACTION STUFF
Greg Dobbs, we hardly knew ye, as the 36-y.o. who stapled a .483 OPS in 13 games with the big club and thumbtacked AAA pitchers for a .635 mark in 36 games has declared free agency.

WINTER LEAGUE
Folks are hungry to know who’s playing winter ball. The Mexican Pacific League and the Venezuelan Winter League started up this weekend, and a scan of the rosters has turned up three pitchers:

Rafael Martin (Hermosillo, MWL)
Paolo Espino (Anzoategui, VWL)
David Ramos (Aragua, VWL)

The Dominican Winter League starts on this Friday, while the Puerto Rican and Australian winter leagues both start up on the 30th.

THE AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
The Doubledays couldn’t help but improve on 2013, which won the fewest games (26) since the ’06 Lake Monsters (23) and was dead last in pitching and third-worst in hitting. The 2014 crew, which included a sizable contingent from the ’13 GCL squad, broke the 30-win mark and performed to its pythagorean projection of 34-41 with 299 runs scored (3.99/G) and 332 allowed (4.43) with the league averaging 4.15 runs per game. After years of being among the league’s oldest teams [insert college-senior drafting remark here], the Doubledays hitters were slightly older (21.2 vs. 21.0) while the pitchers were the fourth-youngest crew in the league (20.9)

And with that I’ll leave you with the Top 5’s…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Raudy Read, C, .265 GPA, .462 SLG% 1. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, 0.75/3.14/0.83, .124 OBA
2. Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, 1B, .250 GPA, .996FA 2. Robbie Dickey, RHP, 2.25/2.74/1.05, 1.35BB/9 allowed in 20IP
3. D.K. Carey, CF, .248 GPA, .353 OBP 3. Travis Ott, LHP, 3.05/3.98/1.24, 6.7 H/9
4. Cody Gunter, 3B, .239 GPA, 23BB in 54G 4. Mario Sanchez, RHP, 4.11/3.50/1.17, 2.8 BB/9
5. Austin Davidson, IF, .231 GPA, 4.89 RF/G (2B) 5. Chase McDowell, RHP, 4.50/3.16/1.54, 0.98 BB/9


Honorable mentions go to Matthew Page and Austen Williams, but like the GCL crew, it was not easy after the first two or three names — especially in a year where the Nats had several multiple-level pitchers. As always, folks who want to see the numbers for the full team, can find them here.

Oct 052014
 

Renda-Bunting-2014I had been hoping as I plugged away at this week’s column/post during my time confetti to be able to make some reference to how the parent club is doing in the playoffs. Now, I’m just hoping this will get read between wailing and second-guessing from last night’s 2-1 loss in 18 innings.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
The “other” fall baseball starts up on Tuesday, with sponsor-contrived exhibition festivities held last night (hence, the pic). It looks like there won’t be a taxi squad guy this year, as the Nationals also officially placed the seven players named in late August onto the roster of the Mesa Solar Sox.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
The love-fest for Reynaldo Lopez continues as Baseball America named him the #2 prospect in the New York Penn League, citing what we all know now: a 96-99 FB, a killer 11-5 CV, and a devastating changeup. Also named (#13) was catcher Raudy Read, who may be more intriguing given how thin the position had gotten. The trio of Pedro Severino, Read and Reetz are all under 22 and should populate the rosters at AA, Low-A, and SS-A with a resurgent Spencer Kieboom the likely starter at High-A (though he’ll be 24).

BA loves to double-dip, which is why Lopez got the nod as the #3 prospect of the South Atlantic League, two spots behind Lucas Giolito. In a bigger market, or a true baseball town, these two would have a nickname by now (Giopez?) though I suspect they won’t be teammates again until they’re both in AA. Coming in at #14 for the Sally Top 20 was Wilmer Difo, which I suspect is a function of his age (22) as twelve of the thirteen players ranked above him were 21 or younger.

TRANSACTION STUFF
So far, it’s quiet, which is the norm. Thus far, two players have been re-signed for next year — IF Cutter Dykstra and RHP Sam Runion. As much as we’d like to read into that, Occam’s Razor suggests it’s simply that both the organization and the player are content to continue with the 2014 arrangement for 2015.

2014 AFFILIATE SHUFFLE
Thankfully, the Nats affiliates will remain the same for another two years, which is hardly a shock — even with the rumblings in Hagerstown and Fredericksburg, which continues to be more talk than walk. It does however mean that they’ll be seeing some new opponents, as the Rockies join the Eastern League and the Cubs join the Carolina League, replacing the Twins and Rangers, respectively. Jamestown will be moving to Morgantown, which will require some new scheduling for Auburn and longer bus rides for everyone.

THE GCL NATIONALS
Let’s face it: No matter what this team did in 2014, it would be a disappointment compared to 2013. It also bears repeating that folks shouldn’t get too high or too low about performance in the short-season leagues (and yes, I’ve been guilty of that “crime”). So even though the team reverted to the mean — 25-35, .417 — there’s still some kids to get excited about (ok, that sounds a little creepy).
Offensively, the team was pretty much league average (4.32 vs. 4.37) but the pitching was second-worst in the league, giving up nearly a run more per game (5.32 vs. 4.37).

Without further ado…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Jakson Reetz, C, .285 GPA, 26BB in 43G 1. Jean Ramirez, RHP, 3.41/3.60/1.45, 0HR allowed in 36⅔ IP
2. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B, .250 GPA, .934FA 2. Luis Reyes, RHP, 4.42/3.86/1.42, 2.95 BB/9
3. Aldrem Corredor, LF, .256 GPA, .411 OBP 3. Yorlin Reynoso, LHP, 3.38/3.97/1.75, 73.8 LOB%
4. Thomas Alvarez, 2B, .253 GPA, 4.65 RF/G 4. Maximo Valerio, RHP, 5.23/4.28/1.45, 7.3 K/9
5. “Fred” Aguero, IF, .249 GPA, .400 SLG 5. Jose Morales, RHP, 4.68/4.58/1.68, 3.03 BB/9


I’d give an honorable mention to Edwin Lora who batted .293 and stole 13 bases, but worry about the lack of doubles (just eight out of 53 hits). It was a stretch to name five pitchers, as it seemed like the best you could say for most of these guys is that they were still teenagers. Folks who are interested in seeing the entire team’s stats, should click here.

Sep 282014
 

Letstrythisweeklything
Bear with me — without the structure of the regular season and the divergence from what I’ve done in past offseasons, the first couple of posts might be a bit of a dog’s breakfast.

The most obvious thing to me is to touch upon what I would have written about in shorter form until the AFL starts up (good news — our man out there says he’ll continue to take pics and share with us). Then, the weekly posts will be AFL-centric with some news and notes thrown in.

THE STATE OF THE FARM
It’s been rebuilt and it’s churning out talent, though the run of uber-prospects (Strasburg-Harper-Rendon) may be over once Lucas Giolito makes his way to Washington. That’s okay because that’s how it supposed to work with World Series contending organizations. I’m still concerned that the organization runs old and that it relies very heavily on the Dominican Republic for its teenage talent, but it’s hard to argue against the results even when some of the injury gambles don’t pan out (see Solis, Sammy; Purke, Matthew).

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
In years past, the first couple of weeks of BA issuing its Top 20 lists could be summed up in a picture or two for Washington fans. For the second straight year, the Nats have a GCLer on the list, as Jakson Reetz was named the #14 guy. A third-round pick in June, Reetz posted a line of .276/.431/.376 line as an 18-y.o. catcher, which of course, has drawn comps to 2007 4th Rd. pick Derek Norris. Defensively, he’s considered ahead of the A’s backstop at this stage in his career.

THE 2014 WATCHLIST
After clinching all that can be clinched in the day game on Friday — sounds a little dirty, no? — the Nats trotted out what some Twitterati geniusly called “your 2014 Syracuse Chiefs” on Friday night; an observation sharp enough to slice warm butter. Thankfully, there are those who understand how things work better than that. That said, it pains me a little to know two things: (1) A lot of the names are going to change in the 2015 edition (2) that edition is going to have to be smaller and less comprehensive. The alternative, of course, is to scrap it altogether, which, as you can see, I’m trying to avoid.

THE DSL NATIONALS
The trend of getting younger and better has continued — the average bat was 17.7 years old, the average arm was 18.4 years old; a half-year younger than the league averages for both. Despite their youth, the D-Nats were among the more potent offenses, tied for 4th at 6.19 R/G (lg. avg. 4.98) and leading the circuit in HRs. The flip side is that the pitching (5.36 R/G) and the defense — with the exception of the stolen-base prevention (2nd in CS%, 48; lg. avg. 34) — were both below average (.942FA, .951 lg avg.).

Cutting to the chase…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Davinson Pimentel, C/1B, .337 GPA, 6HR 1. Joan Baez, RHP, 1.15/2.96/0.91, 2.8 BB/9
2. Telmito Agustin, LF/CF, .310 GPA, 25SB, 10 3B 2. Steven Fuentes, RHP, 2.30/2.90/1.23, 10.2 K/9
3. Victor Robles, CF, .305 GPA, 22SB 3. Angher Cespedes, RHP, 3.94/2.52/1.16, 11.0 K/9
4. Israel Mota, RF, .281 GPA, 8HR, 47RBI 4. Yonathan Ramirez, LHP, 2.63/2.60/0.91, 2.0 BB/9
5. Andres Martinez, SS, .280 GPA, .908FA 5. Juan Bermudez, RHP, 2.08/3.55/1.05, 2.97 BB:K


Honorable mentions go to Jeyner Baez, an 18-y.o. catcher with a 50% CS rate and a .256 GPA, and Wilber Pena, an 18-y.o. RHP who led the team in IP and tied with Bermudez with 14 games started. Folks can see all the team stats here.