Nov 052012
 

Going into the Eastern League All-Star Game, Harrisburg was 48-40 — good for second place in its division, having had an eight-game win streak broken with a 4-1 loss on July 9th.

It would be nearly a month before the Senators won back-to-back games again.

They went 16-38 in the second half, falling from second place to fifth place by the end of July for their worst finish (64-78) since the ghastly 2007 edition that went 55-86.

Injuries, as you might expect, were a factor. Twenty-nine-year-old Tim Pahuta led the team in games played with 121. Starters Destin Hood, Chris Rahl, and Jeff Kobernus — none of whom were promoted — played in 94, 92, and 82 games respectively. But as Geoff Morrow pointed out in his final of four segments on the team, the inability to hit when it mattered most is what truly killed the Senators in 2012:

The Senators’ .202 batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position wasn’t just dead last in the 12-team EL, it easily ranked last among all 30 Class AA teams (including the Southern and Texas League teams). Their .239 average with runners in scoring position was last in the EL and 28th overall.

Perhaps that might be enough said, but let’s do the dance anyway, starting with how Harrisburg’s team totals compared to the rest of the Eastern League:
HITTING

PITCHING

Not too hard to figure out what the problem was. The pitching wasn’t great, a notch below the league average. But the hitting was atrocious — 11th in runs, RBIs, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Take away the power from graybeards Pahuta and Jimmy Van Ostrand and the legs of Eury Perez and Kobernus, along with Rahl who provided both, and this team would have probably finished 11th or 12th in HRs and SBs, too (somehow, they finished dead-last in doubles).

Perhaps more disturbing is looking at the pitchers by age. As a group, the 24 and unders were 28-32 with two saves, but with a 4.92 ERA and 1.492 WHIP over 488⅓ innings. Contrast that to the 26+ group, and you get marks of 20-29 and 12, 4.13 and 1.335 over 468⅓ innings. The league average age was 24.5, so when you add in the 25-year-olds, those numbers improve to 44-49, 27 and 4.22 and 1.399 over 775 innings.

The problem is that those 25-year-olds were 16-17, 25 and 3.01 and 1.238 over 286⅔ innings. That’s pretty good, but look at who those pitchers are: Erik Davis, Ryan Perry, Hector Nelo, Trevor Holder and Brian Broderick. In other words, guys that for the most part either were or should have been in AAA. Maybe it’s just an anomaly, but it’s something I noticed that I thought was worth passing along.

Now, a look at the Top 14′s — my semi-arbitrary cutoff in order to capture the most notable — for the position players and pitchers. Full statistics for the team can be found here.
Were it not for the injuries, we might have seen a slight improvement in terms of more plate appearances going to age-appropriate players. Jeff Kobernus, for example, might have gotten the bump to Syracause that went to Zach Walters instead — he was hanging a .306/.355/.341 line in July after struggling for much of May and June. Destin Hood probably would have played the whole year for the Senators, but can we write off both the declines in power and patience to his being hurt?

As it was a year ago, the lack of walks is really striking. Without the likes of Derek Norris, Bill Rhinehart, and Josh Johnson, it’s especially noticeable. It’s a testament to Brian Goodwin that he led the above group with a 9.7% walk rate and an indictment on the several players that didn’t break 7.0%. With another wave of free swingers coming from Potomac (Matt Skole and Anthony Rendon excluded), it’s something to watch for in 2013 and beyond.
The story of 2012 for the Harrisburg pitchers was Danny Rosenbaum. His overall numbers aren’t so bad, but that’s a function of arithmetic. After eight starts, he was 5-0 with a 0.62 ERA with six walks, one home run allowed and two complete games, only one of which required more than 100 pitches (109). Halfway through the season (13 starts), he had fallen to 7-2, 1.94 with 13 walks and three HR allowed over 88 innings. After that, the wheels fell off the bus — 1-8 with a 6.54 ERA and a 1.693 WHIP in his final 13 starts.

How much of that is the league adjusting to Rosenbaum and him not adjusting back is up for debate. Pitching coach Paul Menhart offered a clue in this dispatch from Geoff Morrow’s Sunday column in early July, noting that a lot stemmed from frustration, which in turn led to pressing, which even the casual observer knows leads to grooved pitches. Morrow would continually note via Twitter during Rosenbaum’s starts about how much more hittable he’d become as the season progressed.

As noted above, other age-appropriate pitchers struggled. Paul Demny, who had made 98 starts between April 2009 and July 2012, was moved to the bullpen in August. Robert Gilliam was dropped down to Potomac after failing as both a starter and a reliever. Marcos Frias saw his usage cut in half while his ERA rose nearly two runs before and after the All-Star break — though some of the innings drop may be attributable to Ryan Tatusko, Pat McCoy and Davis, all repeating the level, excelling in middle relief and leaving Frias the odd man out.

OBLIGATORY TOP EIGHT LIST
As much as I hate combining lists, with just two pitchers to list, there’s not much else to be done.

On to the caveats… Hood still has time on his side (turns 23 in April), Kobernus doesn’t (turns 25 in June); but both are getting the benefit of the doubt due to injury… Rosenbaum is still left-handed, mechanically sound, and durable (76 starts, 6.19 IP per from ’10-’12)… There are reports that Demny has a lost a some m.p.h. off his fastball (high 80s vs. low-to-mid 90s) in the AFL, but those are likely to come back with a shift to the bullpen… Bloxom plays a position in which the organization is not deep and can switch-hit… Ryan Perry has already made 156 appearances as a major-leaguer (by definition, a prospect must also be a rookie)… and, of course, Brian Goodwin has already been picked (#1 position player for Hagerstown).

1. Eury Perez
2. Sandy Leon
3. Zach Walters
4. Destin Hood
5. Danny Rosenbuam
6. Paul Demny
7. Jeff Kobernus
8. Justin Bloxom

Nov 022012
 

Salt River’s unbeaten streak fell with a 5-2 loss to Phoenix yesterday afternoon.

Paul Demny got the start, his first of the fall, and went two scoreless innings. The 23-year-old allowed a hit, plunked a batter, walked none, and struck out two, though he struggled some with finding the plate (32 pitches, 17 for strikes).

Brian Goodwin’s hitless streak continued with another 0-for-4 game, as the Rafters’ leadoff man struck out twice and drew a walk. Playing left field, he snared a line drive in the top of the 9th for his sole putout.

Anthony Rendon batted seventh and played third. The 22-year-old went 1-for-3 with a walk, extending his hit streak to five games and his on-base streak to seven. Defensively, he had one assist.

With the loss, Salt River falls to 11-8 but remain in first place in the AFL East as the Rafters close out the week with a visit to second-place Scottsdale tonight.

Oct 282012
 

The Salt River Rafters scored in six of nine innings on Saturday to double up the Mesa Solar Sox 12-6 for their third straight win.

Highlights from the four Nats that saw game action…

…Paul Demny got right back on the horse and tossed a scoreless inning in the 7th, though he gave up a hit and a walk.

…Jason Martinson singled, walked, and scored a run while playing third base (no defensive chances).

…Matt Skole was on the other side of the diamond on defense (five putouts) and drew two walks and scored twice, going 1-for-2 before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the 8th.

…Brian Goodwin pushed his average to .349 with a pair of triples. He scored twice and drew two walks while playing centerfield, where he snagged three flyouts.

Salt River resumes play with a visit to Phoenix tomorrow afternoon. Ryan Perry is expected to get the start.

Oct 252012
 

A dropped popup in the 6th proved to be an incredibly costly error as the AFL-best Peoria Javelinas took full advantage to score four in the frame and take a 6-5 lead en route to a 7-6 win over the Salt River Rafters.

Jason Martinson was the sole National to get the start, but broke up his hitless streak with a two-run double while going 1-for-4 from the #7 slot in the lineup. Defensively, the 24-year-old handled both defensive chances at third base, including turning a 5-4-3 double play in the 4th.

Paul Demny made an appearance in relief and gave up an unearned run on two walks and a hit while pitching the 7th inning.

Matt Skole and Brian Goodwin were both called on to pinch-hit in the 9th but neither made it to first base safely.

With the loss, Salt River drops below .500 at 6-7 and into second place in the AFL East, a ½ game behind Scottsdale. The Rafters play host to Phoenix this afternoon and Peoria tomorrow before finishing the week in Mesa.

Oct 212012
 


The Scorpions stung the Rafters with a three-run 3rd and added single runs in the 5th and 7th innings en route to hand Salt River its third straight loss, 5-3.

Matt Skole singled, doubled and scored a run while batting third and playing first base, where he took part in four double plays — including an unassisted twin-killing in the 7th.

Anthony Rendon had his on-base streak stopped with an 0-for-4 effort and committed two errors (one fielding, one throwing).

Jason Martinson struck out twice in three hitless at-bats, but combined with Skole for other three DPs.

Paul Demny let in a run on two hits — a double and a single — and struck out a batter in the 7th, raising his ERA to 4.05 in four appearances.

With the loss, Salt River falls to 5-5, a ½ game behind Scottsdale in the AFL East Division.

Oct 182012
 

Salt River rallied from a 7-1 deficit, scoring 11 unanswered runs before holding off a late charge from Peoria in a 12-9 victory yesterday.

Anthony Rendon, serving as the Rafters DH in the cleanup spot, doubled in two during a four-run rally in the top of the 9th. He finished the afternoon with a mark of 2-for-5 with two runs scored and three RBI.

Jason Martinson batted eighth and played third base but remains hitless this fall after an 0-for-4 game. He drove in a run with an RBI groundout in the 5th and laid down a sacrifice in the 6th. Defensively, he had an error and two assists.

Ryan Perry got the start, but was knocked around for five runs over the first two innings on four hits and two walks, including a three-run shot in the 1st. Paul Demny was the first man out of the ‘pen but was also ineffective, giving up two runs on three hits and a walk over the next two frames. Both Perry and Demny struck out two.

The win improves Salt River to 5-2 for the season, 2½ games up in the AFL East. The two teams rematch at Talking Stick tonight.

Oct 132012
 

A pair of two-run rallies in the middle innings sunk the Salt River Rafters for a 4-0 loss on Friday.

Five Nationals minor-leaguers got into yesterday’s game:

  • Brian Goodwin led off the first with a walk, but went 0-for-3 with a strikeout for the game. He caught two flyballs in left field.
  • Matt Skole also drew a first-inning walk and singled in the 8th, going 1-for-3 overall. He committed his first error at first base, but also took part in two double plays, a traditional ’round-the-horn and a 4-3-4 where Skole helped catch the runner on second trying to sneak over to third.
  • Anthony Rendon singled in the second and a drew a walk in the 7th, finishing 1-for-3. Defensively, he was the “5″ on the 5-4-3 DP.
  • Cole Kimball retired just one of the five batters he faced, walking the bases loaded in the 5th and letting in two runs on Skole’s error. He threw 20 pitches, seven of which were strikes.
  • Paul Demny relieved Kimball and stranded the two runners he inherited, but also struggled with his control with 12 of 28 pitches missing the zone. He walked two and gave up two hits over two and two-thirds innings.

Salt River falls to 3-1 with the loss and finishes up the first week of the AFL with an afternoon game at the Surprise Saguaros.

Oct 102012
 


The 2012 Arizona Fall League began with a 6-5 win for the Salt River Rafters over the Mesa Solar Sox.

It was a light night in terms of the Nationals. Anthony Rendon started and played third base, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. Defensively, had a putout and assist, both coming in the third inning on a lineout and a bunt attempt. Earlier this week, Rendon was the sole Nat to make John Sickels’s preliminary Top 50 Hitting Prospects for 2013.

Paul Demny was the only other National to appear in the game. He turned in an adventuresome-but-scoreless inning of relief with two walks and two wild pitches. The 23-year-old struck out one but threw just 12 of 25 pitches for strikes.

The two teams rematch this afternoon. Ryan Perry, the sole starting pitcher among Washington’s AFL contingent, is not expected to start until tomorrow night.

Sep 282012
 

Not much in the way of news this week, but in yesterday’s transactions post from Baseball America, the Arizona Fall League assignments were made official:
• RHP Aaron Barrett
• RHP Paul Demny
• CF Brian Goodwin
• RHP Cole Kimball
• SS/3B Jason Martinson (taxi)
• RHP Ryan Perry
• 3B/SS Anthony Rendon
• 3B Matt Skole

The biggest change, of course, is the swapping of Christian Garcia and Cole Kimball, who has apparently healed enough from the injury that cut short his rehab tour in early to start throwing again. The 27-year-old is attempting to come back from rotator cuff surgery and could be potentially pitching to keep his spot on the 40-man roster.

When I last saw him, he looked like a shell of his previous self: his fastball like your weird uncle’s wardrobe (stuck in the 80s) and his command, which has never been mistaken for Jordan Zimmermann’s (subject of a prospect retro by John Sickels), even worse. Taking chances on hurt pitchers is what has netted the Nats pitchers like Garcia and Ryan Mattheus, though you could make the argument that Kimball was hurt in the first place when the Nats pushed him (and Adam Carr) in the AFL in the fall of 2010.

Most folks, of course, are curious regarding a rumored position switch of Anthony Rendon to second base. There are two other 2Bs on the roster of the Salt River Rafters (Tyler Bortnick, Diamondbacks; Carlos Sanchez, White Sox) and while one of them is a 25-year-old that appears to be a Rule 5 tryout (Bortnick), it’s only speculation at this point.

Matt Skole and Brian Goodwin will join Rendon as the position players assigned by Washington, with Jason Martinson serving as this year’s taxi squad player, eligible to play twice a week. Bryce Harper (2010) and Zach Walters (2011) served in this capacity over the past two fall campaigns.

Ryan Perry presumably will continue his transition to starting from relief while it appears that Paul Demny is doing the opposite, based on his removal from the Harrisburg Senators rotation in August as well as his struggles all year long (insert obligatory reference to youth and hard-throwing here). Aaron Barrett, who is not Rule 5-eligible, will continue to refine his stuff after posting a 3-2/2.09/0.92 pitcher’s line (if it doesn’t exist, then I’m coining it) with 17 saves in 2012.

The 2012 season begins on Tuesday, October 9th with Salt River hosting the Mesa Solar Sox.

Aug 292012
 

Despite the increased number of single-A exceptions afforded to them, the Nationals 2012 Arizona Fall League selections will still have a Rule 5/40-Man Evaluation feel to it, particularly among the pitchers.

Here’s a look at who’s been named to play for the Salt River Rafters, per multiple online sources:
• RHP Christian Garcia
• RHP Ryan Perry
• 3B/SS Jason Martinson*
• RHP Paul Demny
• 3B Anthony Rendon
• CF Brian Goodwin
*Taxi squad, eligible to play twice per week

This does not come as a shock, of course. As I wrote roughly 25 hours ago: “[W]hat remains to be seen is whether those exceptions will be used or whether teams will still game the system to send Rule 5 candidates that they haven’t made up their minds on.” There are still two slots available, one for a pitcher, the other an infielder, according to Byron Kerr of MASN.

What does seem certain is that neither Alex Meyer nor Nathan Karns will be going — Mike Rizzo said that Meyer was done for the year in today’s radio appearance on 106.7FM. It’s probably also a good bet that Matt Purke will not be sent either [insert insinuation of possible surgery here].

Given that the unfilled pitcher slot is probably going to a reliever, the most logical bets are: Rob Wort, Trevor Holder, and the Pats McCoy and Lehman (listed in order of likelihood in my opinion).

Likewise, if indeed an infielder is chosen to fill out the position-player contingent, the most likely candidates are Jeff Kobernus and Matt Skole. Kobernus had a rib fractured by a thrown pitch in late July, but could conceivably be ready to go by the October 9 start. Kobernus is also eligible for the Rule 5 draft.

Less likely candidates include Zach Walters and Carlos Rivero. Walters was sent last year, but repeats aren’t very common. Rivero seems more likely to be a September callup, but if he’s not, his odds still seem rather slim, given that few AAA players have been sent under Rizzo’s stewardship.

A month ago, Ricky Hague would have garnered a mention, but a reliable source has indicated to me that he won’t be going. Skole should certainly merit consideration, given his strong year offensively, though it’s also conceivable that he’ll be spending instrux learning a new defensive position (that’s purely speculation, unless it turns out I’m right ;-) which would make it unlikely to have him play the new position at that level so soon (unless he’s allowed to DH, which is possible).

If it’s not an infielder, the only logical choice would be Destin Hood, another Rule 5 candidate, but one who’s young and been hurt for long stretches this season. But he is also just a year remove from a breakout season and did play at AA all season long.

To play devil’s advocate, with most of the organization’s top pitching prospects unavailable due to injury, surgery, or innings limitation, the Nationals have little choice but to send older pitchers. Sending guys strictly by age or level would be a farce unless it was mandated by the rules. So like the late Spike, I’m a little uninspired by the choices, but I do understand them.