Apr 072014
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Won, 3-0;
Lost, 5-0
@ Pawtucket,
6:15 p.m.
Treinen (6-7, 3.64 @ AA in ’13) vs.
C. Hernandez (3-9, 5.72 in ’13)
Harrisburg Lost, 10-5 @ New Britain,
6:35 p.m.
Cole (4-2, 2.18 in ’13) vs.
Gilmartin (3-9, 5.72 @ AAA in ’13)
Potomac Won, 6-4 OFF DAY N/A
Hagerstown Won, 6-2 vs. Delmarva,
6:35 p.m.
Johansen (0-2, 5.79 in ’13) vs.
Urban (3-5, 3.32 @ SS-A in ’13)


Syracuse 3 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 0 — GAME ONE
• Hill (W, 1-0) 6IP, 3H, 0R, 0BB, 5K
• Mattheus (SV, 1) 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 1K
• Peterson 2-3, 2B, 2RBI
• Rhymes 2-2, 2-2B

Two Syracuse pitchers combined for a three-hit shutout while a pair of veterans combined for four hits and three doubles in a 3-0 win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the opener. Taylor Hill tossed six innings, allowing all three RailRiders hits, no walks while fanning five for his 1st “W” of ’14. Ryan Mattheus shook off an error to the leadoff batter and set down the next three in order to preserve the shutout and earn the save. Brock Peterson went 2-for-3 with a two-run double while Will “Don’t Call Me Buster” Rhymes doubled twice in as many ABs to lead the Chiefs offense.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 5 Syracuse 0 — GAME TWO
• Tatusko 3IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 2K, HBP
• Roenicke (L, 0-1) 1IP, 4H, 4R, 4ER, BB, 0K
• Walters 2-3, 2B
• Peterson 1-3

The RailRiders broke a 0-0 tie with a four-run 5th as they returned the favor by shutting out the Chiefs, 5-0 in the nightcap. Starter Ryan Tatusko put two runners on base by a walk and a hit batsman in his three innings before the bullpen was called upon. The line between rest and rust was crossed as Josh Roenicke retired just three of nine batters faced in the aforementioned inning, giving up four hits and a walk to suffer the loss. Zach Walters singled and doubled while Brock Peterson singled to account for all three (3) Syracuse hits. Roster move: 1B-OF Tyler Moore recalled to Washington.

Bowie 10 Harrisburg 5
• Purke (L, 0-1) 3IP, 9H, 7R, 6ER, BB, 2K, 2WP
• Bates 3IP, 3H, R, ER, 0BB, 1K
• Nicol 3-4, 2B
• Martinson 2-4, 2B, BB, 2RBI
• Skole 0-2, 2R, 3BB

Bowie completed its four-game sweep with a 10-5 pounding of Harrisburg. Matt Purke pitched a scoreless inning in the 3rd as the BaySox rested after pummeling the southpaw for seven runs in the first two innings of his three-inning start. He gave up nine hits and walked one while striking out two in the loss. Five Sens had multiple hits, led by Sean Nicol’s 3-for-4 effort but failed to capitalize on seven walks drawn (three by Matt Skole) as Harrisburg left 12 runners on base. The Senators defensive woes also continued as they doubled their season error total to eight with four more miscues.

Potomac 6 Carolina 4
• Encarnacion 4IP, 2H, R, ER, 4BB, 2K, HBP
• Henke (W, 1-0) 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 1K
• S. Perez 2-4, R, 2B, RBI, SB
• Severino 1-2, R, BB, RBI, SF

Potomac rallied for three in the 8th and two in the 9th and held off a late Carolina charge for a 6-4 win and a split of the four-game series. Starter Pedro Encarnacion needed 84 pitches to get through four innings, as he walked four and hit a batter but minimized the damage with just one run on two hits while striking out two. Travis Henke got the win for pitching a 1-2-3 seventh while Robert Benincasa got the save, though he gave up a one-out double that came around to score on a wild pitch and a groundout. Stephen Perez was only P-Nat with multiple hits as Potomac maximized its limited offensive opportunities by scoring six times on just five hits and three walks.

Hagerstown 6 Rome 2
• Silvestre 5IP, 5H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 6K, BK
• Anderson (W, 1-0) 4IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 2K
• Manuel 2-3, RBI
• W. Rodriguez 2-4, R, 2B, RBI
• Ballou 2-5, R, 3B, 3K

Hagerstown took advantage of three Rome errors to score the game’s last six runs to take the game, 6-2 and the series, 3-1. The R-Braves scored twice in the first on four singles but Hector Silvestre shook it off to go five innings and only allowed one more and hit and two walks while striking out six. The win went Dixon Anderson, who pitched the final four innings in his first appearance since last June. Craig Manuel, Wilman Rodriguez, and Isaac Ballou each had two hits as the Suns scored six times despite going 1-for-12 with RISP.

Apr 062014
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Postponed vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre,
1:00 p.m.(DH)
Hill (1-0, 4.22 in ’13) and
Tatusko (5-8, 4.33 in ’13) vs.
Whitley (3-2, 3.06 in ’13) and
Stoneburner (4-6, 4.57 in ’13)
Harrisburg Lost, 4-3 (11 inn.) @ Bowie,
6:35 p.m.
Purke (5-3, 4.43 @ A+ in ’13) vs.
Davies (7-9, 3.69 @ A+ in ’13)
Potomac Lost, 3-1 @ Carolina,
2:00 p.m.
Encarnacion (10-9, 3.58 @ A- in ’13) vs.
Sulser (3-2, 1.83 @ SS-A)
Hagerstown Lost, 9-8 vs. Rome,
5:05 p.m.
Silvestre (7-0, 1.82 @ Rk. in ’13) vs.
Dettmann (2-4, 2.49 @ Adv. Rk. in ’13)


Scranton/Wilkes-Barre vs. Syracuse — PPD
For the second straight day, officials pulled the plug on this one before folks could come to the ballpark (how novel) as Steve Souza showed us via Twitter the wintry mix at the ballpark. They’ll try again this afternoon with a doubleheader, with another twinbill scheduled for 6 p.m. on June 26.

Bowie 4 Harrisburg 3 (11 inn.)
• Gilliam 1IP, 3H, 3R, 3ER, 3BB, 1K
• Jackson 3IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 2K
• Holland (L, 0-1) 2⅔ IP, 2H, R, ER, 2BB, 2K
• Taylor 2-4, R, BB, 2SB
• Ramsey 2-3, R, BB, CS

The Senators rallied from an early 3-0 deficit but fell to the Baysox, 4-3 in 11 innings. Starter Rob Gilliam was lifted after one inning, giving up the first three Bowie runs on three hits and three walks while throwing 38 pitches. Zack Jackson, Matt Grace, and Tyler Herron combined for seven scoreless innings. Neil Holland extended that streak to nine before giving up the gamewinner in the 11th. Michael Taylor and Caleb Ramsey both reached base three times as the Harrisburg offense notched eight hits and two walks for the contest.
For a fan’s take on the game, frequent commenter SoulDrummer takes us to “Last Night In Bowie”

Carolina 3 Potomac 1
• Mooneyham (L, 0-1) 2⅓ IP, 1H, 2R, 2ER, 6BB, 1K, 3HBP
• Bacus 4⅔ IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 7K, 3-0 IR-S
• Piwnica-Worms 1-3, BB
• Perez 1-3, BB, SB, CS

Brett Mooneyham and the strike zone remain estranged as the former Stanford southpaw walked six and hit three batters in two and a 1/3rd innings to suffer his fourth loss in four career starts at High-A. He left with a 2-0 deficit with the bases loaded and one out in the third. Dakota Bacus continued the string of sensational relief, stranding those three runners and fanning seven over four and 2/3rds innings. Derek Self whiffed two more in his lone inning of work to bring the tally to 22 K’s in 12 relief innings the past two games. Alas, the Carolina pitchers were just as good, limiting the P-Nats bats to just one run on six hits and three walks.

Rome 9 Hagerstown 8
• Giolito 3IP, 6H, 4R, 3ER, 2BB, 3K, HR
• Thomas (BS, 1; L, 0-1) 1IP, 2H, R, ER, 0BB, K, 2-2 IR-S
• Ballou 2-4, 2R, HR(GS), BB, 4RBI
• W. Rodriguez 2-4, 2R, 2B
• Bautista 2-3, 2R, RBI, BB

Youth was indeed served on Saturday night in Hagerstown… on platter as both teams skewered the other’s 19-y.o. starter for nine of the game’s 17 runs, as the R-Braves outslugged the Suns, 9-8. Lucas Giolito was spanked for four runs (three earned) on six hits, including a two-run homer in the 1st. The Nats #1 prospect walked two and struck out three in his Low-A debut. He did not suffer the loss, thanks to a grand slam by Isaac Ballou that capped off Hagerstown’s five-run 3rd and gave the Suns a brief 8-4 lead. Rome chipped away with single runs in the 5th and 7th innings before rallying for three in the top of the 9th. Ballou, Wilman Rodriguez, and Rafael Bautista each had two hits and two runs to power the Suns offense.

Apr 052014
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Postponed vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre,
2:00 p.m.(DH)
Hill (1-0, 4.22 in ’13) and Tatusko (5-8, 4.33 in ’13) vs.
Whitley (3-2, 3.06 in ’13) and Stoneburner (4-6, 4.57 in ’13)
Harrisburg Lost, 9-0 @ Bowie, 6:35 p.m. Gilliam (3-6, 4.40 in ’13) vs. Berry (11-7, 3.85 @ A+ in ’13)
Potomac Won, 10-5 @ Carolina, 6:00 p.m. Mooneyham (0-3, 13.50 in ’13) vs. Merritt (0-0, 5.00 in ’13)
Hagerstown Won, 2-1 vs. Rome, 5:05 p.m. Giolito (1-0, 0.64 @ SS-A in ’13) vs. Salazar (0-3, 6.92 @ Rk. in ’13)


Scranton/Wilkes-Barre vs. Syracuse — PPD
With rain in the forecast and temps in the low 40s, officials pulled the plug on the Chiefs-RailRiders game approximately 90 minutes before gametime yesterday afternoon. It will be made up today with a doubleheader, um, weather permitting.

Bowie 9 Harrisburg 0
• Rivero (L, 0-1) 3+IP, 7H, 3R, 3ER, BB, 2K
• Perry 3IP, 5H, 4R, 4ER, BB, 2K, 1-0 IR-S
• Skole 0-3, BB, 2K
• Taylor 0-4, 4K

The BaySox jumped on Felipe Rivero for three runs in the 1st and never trailed as they shut out the Sens, 9-0. The Harrisburg southpaw settled down to hold off Bowie for two innings before getting lifted with no outs in the 4th after allowing his seventh and final hit. He walked one and struck out two. Ryan Perry stranded that runner and pitched two scoreless before getting knocked for four runs in the 5th. The lack of pitching was only exceeded by the dearth of hitting as the Senators managed just four hits and struck out 10 times (led by Michael Taylor with four) and walked just once (Matt Skole).

Potomac 10 Carolina 5
• Pena 3⅔ IP, 5H, 5R, 5ER, 4BB, 0K, WP
• Dupra (W, 1-0) 2⅓ IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 6K, 2-0 IR-S, 2WP
• Lee (H, 1) 2IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 5K
• S. Perez 2-4, 2R, 2B
• Keyes 2-4, R, 2B, BB
• Renda 2-5, 2R, 2RBI, SB

Beginning with a three-run shot by backstop Pedro Severino, the P-Nats rallied from 5-0 to score ten unanswered runs and double up the Mudcats, 10-5. Potomac capitalized on seven walks issued to score ten times on just nine hits, with Stephen Perez, Kevin Keyes, and Tony Renda each having multiple hits. Mike McQuillan led the free-pass brigade with three BB’s. P-Nats starter Ronald Pena was roughed up for all five Carolina runs on five hits and four walks over three and 2/3rds innings. He fanned no one. Brian Dupra got the win in relief as the Potomac ‘pen struck out 13 (of 19 batters faced) while locking down Carolina for five and 1/3rd shutout innings.

Hagerstown 2 Rome 1
• Voth 5IP, 2H, 0R, 2BB, 7K
• Hollins (W, 1-0) 1⅔ IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 1K, 2-1 IR-S
• Bautista 2-4, 2B, 2RBI
• Difo 2-4, 2SB

Rafael Bautista’s two-out, two-run double to the right-center gap was the one moment that decided the game as the Suns walked off in the 9th with a 2-1 victory over the R-Braves. Austin Voth started and went the first five, tossing five shutout frames with just two hits and two walks allowed while striking out seven, matching Nick Pivetta’s line from the night before. L.J. Hollins got the win in relief by getting the last five outs, though he gave up the hit that plated the sole Rome run to score in the 8th. Bautista and Wilmer Difo both went 2-for-4 to lead the Hagerstown hit parade of seven, with Difo swiping two bases.

Apr 042014
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Lost, 4-1 vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre,
5:00 p.m.
Hill (1-0, 4.22 in ’13) vs.
Whitley (3-2, 3.06 in ’13)
Harrisburg Lost, 12-6 @ Bowie,
6:35 p.m.
Rivero (9-7, 3.40 @ A+ in ’13)
vs. Wilson (7-5, 3.83 in ’13)
Potomac Lost, 6-3 @ Carolina,
7:00 p.m.
Pena (4-3, 3.48 @ A- in ’13) vs.
Peoples (1-4, 5.27 in ’13)
Hagerstown Won, 4-0 vs. Rome,
6:35 p.m.
Voth (1-0, 3.38 in ’13) vs.
Buchanan (0-0, 3.00 @ Adv-Rk. in ’13)


Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 4 Syracuse 1
• Rosenbaum (L, 0-1) 5IP, 9H, 4R, 4ER, 0BB, 2K
• Stange 2IP, 0H, 0R, BB, K
• Solano 2-3, 2-2B,
• Walters 2-4, CS

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre scored in three of the first five innings to build a 4-0 lead over Syracuse and cruised to a 4-1 win. Danny Rosenbaum suffered the loss, giving up nine hits with four going for extra bases (three doubles, one triple) but walked one and struck out two. The Chiefs ‘pen uncoupled the RailRiders for four scoreless innings, led by newcomer Daniel Stange with two goose eggs. Jhonatan Solano doubled twice in three at-bats, while Eury Perez and Zach Walter both singled twice to lead the Syracuse offense.

Bowie 12 Harrisburg 6
• Schwartz (L, 0-1) 3⅓ IP, 8H, 8R, 6ER, 2BB, 0K, HR
• Holland 1⅔ IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, K, 2-1 IR-S
• Dykstra 3-5, R, E
• Taylor 2-4, 2R, BB, SB
• Canham 1-3, R, HR, RBI

A six-run 4th proved to be the difference as Bowie doubled up Harrisburg, 12-6. Blake Schwartz was charged with a career-worst eight runs over three and a 1/3rd inning on eight hits, including three-run bomb by Garabez Rosa, while walking two. The 24-y.o. Minnesota native struck out none. Michael Taylor and Cutter Dykstra picked up where they left off at the end of the 2013 regular season, reaching base six times and scoring three runs combined. Mitch Canham also homered as seven of the nine regulars hit safely for 11 hits as a team.

Carolina 6 Potomac 3
• Rauh 5IP, 6H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 3K
• Dickson (L, 0-1) ⅔ IP, 2H, 4R, 4ER, BB, K, 2HBP
• Henke 1⅓ IP, 1H, 0R, BB, 2K, 3-2 IR-S
• Renda 2-4, R, 3B

Carolina snapped a 2-2 tie with a four-run 6th to hand Potomac and Ian Dickson the “L” by 6-3 tally. Brian Rauh got the start and gave up two runs on six hits and two walks while fanning three. Dickson retired two of the first three batters he faced before putting on four straight baserunners, leaving the game after a second hit by pitch that gave Carolina’s Ollie Linton the Homer Simpson RBI. Travis Henke was greeted with two-run double to complete the big inning. Tony Renda went 2-for-4 as the P-Nats registered eight hits, including triples by Randolph Oduber and Kevin Keyes.

Hagerstown 4 Rome 0
• Pivetta (W, 1-0) 5IP, 2H, 0R, 2BB, 7K
• Simms (SV, 1) 4IP, 3H, 0R, 0BB, 4K
• Kieboom 3-3, 2R
• Ward 2-4, 2B, 3B, 2RBI

Nick Pivetta and John Simms combined for a five-hit shutout as Hagerstown got the sole minors win for Washington on Opening Day with a 4-0 shutout of Rome. Pivetta went the first five frames and gave up two hits and two walks and while striking out seven. Simms finished the game, allowing three singles, no walks, and set down four on strikes. Drew Ward would not settle for one, as the 19-y.o. doubled and tripled and drove in two while Spencer Kieboom scored twice and hit safely in all three ABs.

Apr 032014
 


It’s a full slate today for minor-league Opening Day — first time since 2010 — as the Chiefs host the RailRiders, the Senators visit the BaySox, the P-Nats visit the Mudcats, and the Suns host the R-Braves.

Well, weather permitting. As of this writing, it’s 27 degrees in Central NY with a first-pitch forecast of 44 degrees. There’s a 30% chance of rain in the late afternoon in Zebulon, a 40% chance at gametime in Bowie, and a 60% chance in Hagerstown.

Team Today’s Game Pitching Matchup (’13 Stats at Level)
Syracuse vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre,
2:00 p.m.
Danny Rosenbaum (7-11, 3.87) vs.
Bruce Billings (13-8, 4.31)
Harrisburg @ Bowie,
6:35 p.m.
Blake Schwartz (11-4, 2.65 at A+) vs.
Ed Rodriguez (4-3, 4.22)
Potomac @ Carolina,
7:00 p.m.
Brian Rauh (4-2, 4.22) vs.
Shawn Morimando (8-13, 3.73)
Hagerstown vs. Rome,
6:35 p.m.
Nick Pivetta (0-1, 3.38 @ SS-A) vs.
Francois Lefreniere (7-13, 5.36)


Just the annual reminder: These pitchers are not necessarily the team’s #1 starter. They are, within a slot or two, how the Nationals would like the starters to align from Low-A to MLB in the event of promotions or injuries.

Based on what I’ve been able to gather, here’s how the rest of the starting rotations will round out:

TEAM Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Game 5
Syracuse Hill Tatusko Treinen Poveda
Harrisburg Rivero Gilliam Purke Cole
Potomac Pena Mooneyham Encarnacion Lee
Hagerstown Voth Giolito Silvestre Johansen


As semi-predicted in the P-Nats roster reveal, Pena and Rauh have indeed returned to starting, with Ian Dickson and Dakota Bacus returning to bullpen roles. It’s natural to speculate as to who “benefited” by Sammy Solis’s latest trip to the DL, but we’ll never know for sure (yes, I can be that certain; there’s no legitimate reason to ever tell anyone outside the organization that information).

As implied in the comments, these rotations are quite likely to be short-lived — if past history holds, four or five turns max before guys are shifted around, which of course, will be tracked in either separate posts like yesterday or in the daily News & Notes, which returns tomorrow

Mar 312014
 

The Potomac Nationals unveiled its 2014 Opening Day this afternoon, which as per usual, will return quite a few familiar names. Without further ado, here’s the rundown (watchlist players in bold, notables in italics):

PITCHERS INFIELDERS OUTFIELDERS CATCHERS
Dakota Bacus Kevin Keyes Brandon Miller Cole Leonida
Robert Benincasa
Mike McQuillan Justin Miller Pedro Severino
Ian Dickson Stephen Perez
Randolph Oduber
Brian Dupra Tony Renda
Piwnica-Worms
Pedro Encarnacion Adrian Sanchez
Bryan Harper Oscar Tejeda
Travis Henke
Nick Lee
Gilberto Mendez
Brett Mooneyham
Ronald Pena
Brian Rauh
Derek Self


This more in line with past Potomac rosters, where there are some prospects, but not many high-profile ones (two Top 20 guys per BA in Renda and Severino) and a sizable chunk of guys repeating or returning — nine by my quick count here, with three (Keyes, Oduber, and Sanchez) coming back for their third season.

Eyeballing it, we’re looking at a (alphabetically) rotation of Bacus-Dickson-Encarnacion-Lee-Mooneyham unless Rauh and Pena are returned to a starting role, which is entirely possible since Bacus and Dickson have switched between starting and relieving.

As is always the case, if the Hagerstown core can pick up where they left off last season, the High-A veterans should offset any hiccups and make for a contender. If they can win the first half — a big IF, as it’s only happened twice in the last six seasons — a wave of callups from Western Maryland (especially the pitchers) could make for another fun summer and perhaps another title run.

Feb 152014
 

While this is third in our series, it’s the fourth staff to be set at the end of spring training, which often leads to some disappointment for the fans… and the players. At least at the outset. Thanks to the half system — and a steady stream of pitchers working their way back from injury — top picks do pass through in the second half of the season.

I personally like to think of High-A as a proving ground for prospects. Maybe I’m biased as a season-ticket holder for the level, but it sure seems like this is where wheat gets separated from the chaff.

On that somewhat dischordant note, let’s review how I picked the 2013 P-Nats pitchers:

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
A.J. Cole Christian Meza Aaron Barrett
Robbie Ray Matt Swynenberg Colin Bates
Taylor Hill Richie Mirowski
Taylor Jordan Greg Holt
Kylin Turnbull Ben Hawkins
Matt Purke


In what’s becoming a pattern, I got a lot right… but just barely. Meza and Turnbull were demoted, Hawkins was released, and Purke made six starts for Hagerstown, twelve for Potomac. This reinforces another mantra which I’m sure will be repeated again in six weeks: It’s not where a guy starts, it’s where he finishes (see: Jordan, Taylor).

Recall that yesterday I picked six starters for Harrisburg. Now one of those guys might start in Syracuse, but it’s also possible that one of them will start here, too. If I’m right about Lucas Giolito being held back like A.J. Cole and Robbie Ray, then it’s not hard to envision the odd man out in Harrisburg beginning here until he’s ready, then the board is reset — happened last year with Purke/Schwartz/Jordan (not precisely, but close enough for this anecdote) and to a lesser extent in 2012 with Purke and Nathan Karns (Cameron Selik was bumped up instead of a starter).

Of course I want to wrong about Giolito… I’d rather see him pitch two months from now instead of four or six (or not all), but the Nats track record says otherwise.

With that, I give you my guess for the 2014 Potomac pitchers…

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
Brett Mooneyham Ian Dickson Matt Spann
Pedro Encarnacion Ronald Pena Gilberto Mendez
Kylin Turnbull Cody Davis
Dakota Bacus David Fischer
Nick Lee Greg Holt


Next up: The 2014 Hagerstown Suns

Feb 072014
 


Picking Low-A is a matter of guessing who will move along from Auburn and who might be held back. The former is fairly common, but the latter isn’t. With High-A, it’s not so much who might be held back but who will be kept down by the FAs in AA and AAA (this is less of a factor than in the the dark times of ’07-’10, when 70+ players would be in the big camp and nearly 15 of them were major-leaguers).

With that in mind, here’s what I thought the 2013 P-Nats would be (mistakes in red, wrong roles in blue):

CA – Nieto
1B – Keyes
2B – Dykstra
SS – Ortega
3B – Sanchez
OF – Burns
OF – Taylor
OF – Souza
DH – Ramsey
BCA – Leonida
BIF – J. Miller
BIF – Kelso
BOF – Oduber

Like Hagerstown, I was much more accurate with my prediction than in the two previous years, getting 10 of 13 players right and seven of 13 roles correct. I don’t feel so bad about getting the roles wrong because both Sanchez and Dykstra have been shifting around the infield for the past couple of seasons. Missing on Souza was also a happy mistake because it meant that he finally got the bump to AA.

Despite my success thus far, I have no illusions that I’ll be as accurate with this set of predictions, either. But that’s not the point — giving us fodder for discussion (and maintaining site traffic, natch) is!

CA – Severino
1B – Pleffner
2B – Renda
SS – S. Perez
3B – McQuillan
OF – Wooten
OF – Mesa
OF – B. Miller
DH – Ramos
BCA – Manuel
BIF – Norfork
BIF – Soriano
BOF – Piwnica-Worms

Jan 152014
 

The Harrisburg Senators and Washington Nationals have announced a four-year extension of their player development contract through the 2018 season. This is the second affiliate to extend during this offseason, both months in advance of the September deadline to renew before open negotiations (typically the last two weeks of September).

The Senators have been a Nationals affiliate the longest of the five teams located north of Florida, having been an Expos affiliate since 1991, and should effectively quash any idle talk of the Nationals switching to the Richmond Squirrels, which is usually an indication that such folks have never been to both places for a game.

The PDCs of the Nationals’ “A” teams — Auburn (SS), Hagerstown (Low-A), and Potomac (High-A) — expire after the 2014 season. Two years ago, the Nationals extended three* affiliates during spring training, and renewed with Hagerstown in October 2012.
* or four; there’s conflicting information regarding whether the 2010 extension for Potomac was for two or four years

As passed along yesterday, there is turmoil in Hagerstown (plans to relocate to Fredericksburg) and Auburn (five GMs since 2010) which makes their PDC renewals less-than-certain. Potomac, which has been planning to build a new ballpark for more than since last decade, seems a little safer given its proximity to DC and strong attendance despite playing in one of the worst facilities in affiliated baseball.

Oct 252013
 

By every typical measure but one, the 2013 edition of the Potomac Nationals was the best ever in Woodbridge. They won both halves, rather handily — the first by six games, the second by nine games. They allowed the fewest runs, scored the second-most runs, had second-best defense, stole the most bases, etc.

Unlike last season, they could win away from the Pfitz (in fact, they were the only team in the Carolina League with a winning road record), where they were dominant: a 47-23 mark (.671). While perhaps coincidental, the rain that had plagued the team in 2011 and 2012 stayed away: just three rainouts at home, which helped the P-Nats set a single-season attendance record of 236,772 (3,534 per date), surpassing the previous mark of 220,145 in 1998, according to their PR folks.

And yet they didn’t win the League Championship. Intellectually, we know this shouldn’t matter. The minors aren’t about winning, they’re about development (e.g. 4/5ths of next year’s DC rotation could be homegrown — three of them pitched here on their way up). But emotionally, it does matter: you want to see the guys move up the ladder, but also want to see them win.

So 2013 won’t have the same resonance as 2008 or 2010, but let’s take a look at how they did, starting with how they compared to the rest of the Carolina League…

HITTING AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA* SB
Potomac 4580 680 1200 85 506 1017 .262 .343 .393 .253 217
Lg. Avg. 4631 635 1174 86 491 1026 .254 .332 .380 .244 138

* GPA = Gross Production Average

PITCHING IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
Potomac 1213⅔ 3.70 4.21 1.317 98 448 1057 8.5 3.3 7.8 2.36
Lg. Avg. 1216 3.98 4.54 1.369 86 491 1026 8.7 3.6 7.6 2.09


The P-Nats posted remarkably similar numbers to the Suns, but with (a LOT) more speed and more power. They only led the league in steals but were second in AVG, OBP, SLG, hits and run scored. They were only league average (or thereabouts) in walks, strikeouts, and HRs (a.k.a. the three true outcomes), which in theory should have made them less vulnerable to the offensive outage that ended the season on a sour note (i.e. they proved they could hit and score without an unusual reliance the longball, drawing walks, or avoiding the whiff).

The pitchers led the Carolina League in just about everything except strikeouts (4th) and (curiously) home runs (8th), though unlike the Suns, the usual gap between starters and relievers was evident. The lack of strikeouts may be a bit of surprise, given the presence of Robbie Ray and A.J. Cole, but as we’ll see later on that’s because the P-Nats had several high-contact, low-strikeout pitchers, too (maybe the HR thing isn’t so curious).

Let’s take a closer look at that lineup, beginning with the Top 12 batters in terms of PAs…

Name Age PA Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err GPA ISO
Michael Taylor 22 581 CF/RF 117/4 .986 5 .260 .163
Caleb Ramsey* 24 528 RF/LF/1B/CF 55/44/13/5 .981 5 .248 .095
Kevin Keyes 24 482 1B 117 .987 11 .226 .145
Adrian Sanchez** 22 463 2B/SS/3B 94 .964 18 .200 .058
Adrian Nieto 23 452 C 86 .991 7 .280 .164
Cutter Dykstra 24 446 3B/2B/SS 62/33/8 .951 14 .283 .105
Billy Burns* 23 402 LF/CF 73/18 .994 1 .288 .079
Randolph Oduber 24 355 RF/LF/CF 59/6/4 .979 3 .219 .103
Jason Martinson 24 305 SS 55 .968 7 .289 .216
Justin Miller 24 302 3B/1B/RF/LF 35/30/12/2 .968 10 .249 .148
Francisco Soriano** 26 258 3B/SS/2B/LF/1B/CF 24/23/12/6/2/1 .969 7 .241 .111
Mike Gilmartin 25 232 CF 51 .957 5 .244 .094

(* = 2011 Draft Pick, ** = DSL Graduate)

Excluding the veterans, half of these guys were repeating the level. This is not unusual — it was four last season — but it’s the most in recent memory. Some of the repeats improved significantly (M. Taylor, Martinson) and some actually regressed (Keyes, Oduber). What remains to be seen is whether this is a trend or an anomaly. The case for the former: The Nats have been signing six-year FAs to plug holes in AA and AAA, which seems to indicate an “up or out” mentality; either you’re good enough for AA after a couple of years at High-A or you get released. The case for the latter: common sense, skepticism, or mere conjecture.

What was a pleasure to watch was seeing how this group functioned as a unit on offense. Burns set the table and wreaked havoc, Martinson supplied the requisite power and RBIs. When they were promoted, Dykstra and Taylor seemed to both assume the roles respectively. Even the guys that finished with below-average nos. had their moments (nice way of saying “streak,” no?)

Defensively, this was the best outfield yours truly saw over the last eight seasons — especially the trio/alignment of Burns-Taylor-Oduber. Adrian Sanchez didn’t improve on offense, but did improve on defense — increasing his range and showing an improved arm. Kevin Keyes won’t be mistaken for Andres Galarraga at 1B, but his conversion from the OF was a success.

On to the pitchers, the Top 12 listed by innings pitched…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR HBP WP
Blake Schwartz^ 23 23/23 11-4, 0 2.65 132⅔ 117 26 80 1.078 8 7 4
A.J. Cole 21 18/18 6-3, 0 4.25 97⅓ 96 23 102 1.223 12 4 6
Taylor Hill* 24 15/14 6-2, 0 2.99 84⅓ 73 11 54 0.996 6 4 4
Robbie Ray 21 16/16 4-3, 1 3.11 84 60 41 100 1.202 9 4 7
Greg Holt 24 42/0 9-0, 1 3.71 70⅓ 67 33 55 1.422 8 5 7
Brian Rauh^ 21 16/12 4-2, 0 4.22 64 69 18 35 1.359 3 0 7
Colin Bates 25 36/0 5-4, 1 2.61 62 58 8 48 1.065 4 6 5
Brian Dupra 24 29/3 1-7, 0 4.96 61⅔ 64 28 44 1.492 7 1 7
Matt Purke* 23 12/13 5-3, 0 4.42 61 67 18 41 1.393 3 4 9
Sammy Solis 24 13/12 2-1, 0 3.43 57⅔ 58 19 40 1.335 3 0 3
Richie Mirowski* 24 32/0 8-3, 6 1.50 48 32 11 59 0.896 6 0 5
David Fischer^ 23 21/0 4-0, 2 4.30 44 29 44 53 1.659 2 5 8

(^ = 2012 Draft Pick, * = 2011 Draft Pick)

It’s not a perfect parallel, but the 2013 starting rotation was very reminiscent of the 2008 edition, which saw just one pitcher make 20+ starts (Ross Detwiler) and a series of guys get promoted to Harrisburg (Jordan Zimmermann, Adrian Alaniz, Craig Stammen, and Jhonny Nunez). Though he didn’t begin in Potomac, Blake Schwartz was the Ross Detwiler and we can only hope that three of the four promoted — Taylor Jordan, Taylor Hill, A.J. Cole, Robbie Ray — also make it to The Show (one down, two to go).

As aforementoned, there were two noticeable weaknesses with the pitching — shaky bullpen and low K rates. Overall, the team converted just 42 of 68 save opportunities (61.7%) though the overall bullpen numbers weren’t bad: 39-24, 3.47 ERA. Just four of the the top 12 pitchers had better than league-average strikeout numbers (Cole, Mirowski, Ray, Fischer). While it certainly helped that few of the low-K guys had high-BB rates, it’s a warning flag because high-contact pitchers need something else besides good control to compensate: luck, great defense, or the tendency to generate plenty o’ groundballs.

For those wondering, Taylor Jordan missed the cut, having pitched 36⅓ innings in six starts before his promotion while Robert Benincasa threw just 30 innings in his 25 appearances (all in the second half).

OBLIGATORY TOP 4 LISTS
It’s time to start getting tougher, especially as we head towards what’s considered the true pinnacle of the minors: Double-A.

Batters
1. Michael Taylor
2. Billy Burns
3. Adrian Nieto
4. Cutter Dykstra
HM: Jason Martinson

Pitchers
1. A.J. Cole
2. Robbie Ray
3. Matt Purke
4. Blake Schwartz
HM: Sammy Solis