Dec 112013
 

Like the bats, folks were overwhelmingly in agreement about the top three arms in the Washington Nationals minors. Unlike a year ago, though, the range was smaller — just 22 different pitchers versus 30 — and there were four guys that were named on every ballot.

OK, enough vamping. Let’s rock this, pitch:

                              1. Lucas Giolito
                              2. A.J. Cole
                              3. Sammy Solis
                              4. Nathan Karns
                              5. Jake Johansen
                              6. Aaron Barrett
                              7. Matt Purke
                              8. Austin Voth
                              9. Christian Garcia
                              10. Richie Mirowski

Others receiving votes: Blake Schwartz, Jefry Rodriguez, Taylor Hill, Hector Silvestre, Travis Ott, Erik Davis, Pedro Encarnacion, Brett Mooneyham, Wander Suero, Nick Lee, Neil Holland, Blake Treinen

Now the observations…

• Giolito was the top dog on 12 of the 13 ballots, with Cole getting the other first-place vote. Giolito was the #1 last year, too, despite coming off UCL-replacement surgery in August 2012.

• Cole was the Mary Ann to Ging, er… Giolito on 11 of the possible 12 second-place votes. It would have been interesting to see if that would have been true had Robbie Ray not been traded away.

• Voth and Garcia tied in raw points, but I broke the tie by the pitcher who was named on more ballots (nine vs. seven).

• Two of the top three old maids (i.e. the near misses) were righthanded control artists who don’t throw in the mid-90s. Not sure if the bias is against the lower velocity, the low K rate, or the soap-opera first name (just kidding).

The list continues to skews older (five are 25+) and upper minors (also five), which has been a consistent bias since this experiment in crowdsourcing began in 2011. But like all things hot stove, the point is to pass the time — none of this is really significant, statistically or otherwise — while winter sets its claws in and local schools overreact to snowfall that wouldn’t get a chihuahua’s belly wet.

Next up: The Rule 5 draft, which for the Nationals, has become an exercise of wondering who’s going versus who’s arriving.

Nov 182013
 

2013-AFL-Final
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
Brian Goodwin 19 81 9 24 4 1 2 12 4 22 .296 .333 .411 3
Matt Skole 15 49 8 9 1 1 3 7 15 18 .184 .375 .457 0
Adrian Nieto 13 48 6 13 1 1 0 6 6 10 .271 .345 .393 0
Steve Souza Jr. 11 42 8 15 2 0 1 8 5 11 .357 .426 .379 10

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Sammy Solis 5 2 0 2.29 7 7 29 32 9 7 1 7 29 1.34
Matt Purke 3 1 0 3.91 6 6 23 20 11 10 0 9 17 1.26
Robert Benincasa 0 0 0 4.50 9 0 9 11 4 4 1 4 7 1.67
Richie Mirowski 0 0 1 1.29 9 0 12 8 3 3 0 2 10 0.83


Now for the thoughts…

• The trade for Denard Span a year ago always seemed like a stopgap measure to give Brian Goodwin time to develop, which he seems to be doing, albeit not as quickly as folks seem to think he should be. My inclination is to attribute the recent rumors that Span is on the block to posturing by the market for the free-agent OFs of uber-agent Scott Boras, with whom the Nats have been cozy. In any case, Goodwin seems on track for a AAA year and a possible callup in 2014.

• Let’s not forget two things about Matt Skole: (1) He’s coming off same-year surgery (2) he has very little experience at the AA level (seven PAs in 2013, 74 last AFL season). Yes, his numbers were disappointing compared to his rating as a prospect and the success he had last fall, but he still hit for power and drew walks. The strikeouts? He’s averaged nearly a K per game for nearly professional 200 games. I don’t think there’s that much call for alarm.

• With Sandy Leon’s offense seemingly gone AWOL, Adrian Nieto assumes the mantle of the catching prospect closest to the majors. Nieto’s 2013 was an offensive breakthrough season and it carried over into the AFL. The question is whether the defense can be tightened up enough to justify the bat. Let’s hope that the success he had against LHPs — who stifled him in the regular season (.608 OPS vs. .872) — continues next season.

• Perhaps nobody’s stock rose higher and faster than Steve Souza Jr. His inclusion was curious, given that he was due to be a free agent, though it wasn’t clear if (A) his suspension had disrupted things (B) this was a signal that he intended to re-sign. Now, with hindsight being 20/20, it’s clear that they just wanted to make sure he was healthy before adding what’s been missing from the Washington 40-man for quite some time: a power-hitting OF from the right side who’s not a defensive liability.

• I had missed the fact that Solis is Rule 5 eligible when the rosters were revealed, and after his AFL stint, he may have just pitched his way onto the 40-man if for no other reason that the Nats have kind of signaled that they’re hungry for LHPs, albeit in relief. He turns 26 next August, so there’s always the question as to whether they convert him to relief. Best guess: he’ll be given every chance to succeed as a starter, especially with the option of converting other LHPs elsewhere in the system.

• Matt Purke made six starts — three really good, three not so good. That they came in that order is cause for concern. We can only hope that it’s more attributable to either fatigue or perhaps being a bit overmatched than the shoulder issues that have dogged him for quite some time. The party line will be the former, but it’s really hard not to infer the latter.

• Robert Benincasa did more or less what you ought to expect out of a young (23), two-level (Low- and High-A) reliever in the AFL: some good outings, some bad. Sight unseen, it’s almost impossible to speculate what that means for his 2014 — especially when there is no precedent to refer to. He’s the first reliever assigned to the AFL that didn’t pitch in AA under the current regim, er front office.

• As a 45th-Round Draft pick (which, under the current CBA, would mean he’d be a NDFA) Richie Mirowski is always going to fly under the radar. Given that he spent most of the season at High-A, no one would have been surprised if he’d gotten knocked around — the AFL is notoriously hitter-friendly, after all. Instead, he pitched rather well, allowing no baserunners in five of nine appearances and going multiple innings three times.

Nov 142013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-21Arizona-Fall-League-2013-22Arizona-Fall-League-2013-23
Steven Souza Jr. homers off Alex Meyer in the 2nd inning to give Mesa the early 2-0 lead (Photo Credit: Lee Magenheim)

The race for the Arizona Fall League East Divison title will come down to the final day of the season, as Mesa edged Glendale, 3-2 and Salt River paddled Scottsdale, 8-5.

Steve Souza’s two-run blast was the catalyst for the victory and came off former teammate Alex Meyer in their first matchup as opponents, as the two never faced each other this season in the Eastern League. It was the sole hit for the 24-y.o. who finished the game at 1-for-4 with a strikeout and extended his hit streak to seven games.

Matt Skole also appeared in the game, playing third base where he had a putout and two assists. He would score what would prove to be the decisive run a fourth-inning triple that the Desert Dogs misplayed into a Little League HR with an error. Skole also singled in the 2nd inning to go 2-for-3 for the game with a walk and a strikeout.

Richie Mirowski gave up the first Glendale run in the 5th on a double, wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly but struck out two of the final three batters he faced. It was just the third run he’s allowed in nine appearances this fall.

The win, which was Mesa’s fifth straight, improved the Solar Sox to 18-11-1 but just a 1/2 game better than the 18-12 Rafters. In head-to-head play, Salt River has defeated Mesa four times in six games. An 11-inning-tie between the Solar Sox and the Desert Dogs on Opening Day is what separates the top two teams in the AFL East.

As speculated earlier this week, Sammy Solis will be given the start today as Mesa visits Glendale for the season finale. A Solar Sox win or a Rafters loss will clinch a spot in the AFL Championship game, which will be held Saturday in Scottsdale against the AFL West-winning Surprise Sagauros.

Nov 062013
 

A seven-run 3rd put the Solar Sox up the creek as they were paddled by the Rafters, 7-0 last night in Arizona.

Mesa collected just four singles while committing five errors and hitting into four double plays. Two Nationals position players and one reliever got into the game:

  • Matt Skole started at 3B and batted 5th. He singled in three trips to the plate and collected one assist and one putout (both in the 8th inning)
  • Adrian Nieto started at C and batted 8th. He also went 1-for-3 and picked off a runner at first base in the 2nd inning. He finished with two assists and seven putouts.
  • Richie Mirowski pitched the final two innings, giving up a run on two hits and a walk. He struck out one and threw 35 pitches, 22 for strikes.

With the loss, Mesa’s lead over second-place Salt River returns to 1½ games with eight to play… and no more matchups between the two teams. The Solar Sox host the Desert Dogs this afternoon, then travel to Glendale tomorrow. They return to Mesa on Friday to play against the Surprise Saguaros, which is the next scheduled start for Sammy Solis.

Oct 312013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2014-15
Three Nationals farmhands combined for four hits and three RBI as Mesa stopped a three-game slide with a 7-0 shutout of Scottsdale.

Brian Goodwin, the #1 Washington prospect according to MLB.com, led off and played centerfield. Offensively, He went 2-for-5 with a run scored, a double and an RBI single. Defensively, he had no putouts or assists.

Matt Skole ended an 0-for-13 sequence with a second-inning bomb that scored teammate Steve Souza Jr. ahead of him. He finished at 1-for-4 for the game and had 14 putouts at first base, but committed his first error on a missed catch.

Souza, who has hit safely in six of seven games this fall, singled once in five trips to the plate and struck out twice. He caught four flyballs while patrolling left field.

Richie Mirowski was the first man out of the Solar Sox ‘pen and worked around three singles in his two scoreless innings pitched, striking out two.

The two teams switch venues and rematch in Mesa this afternoon. A loss by the second-place Salt River returned the margin between the Rafters and the Solar Sox to 2½ games with 12 games left to play.

Oct 262013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-12Mesa put up two runs in the 9th and Richie Mirowski, the fan’s choice for reliever of the year, shut the door in the 9th for a 7-5 win over Peoria.

Mirowski was the only Solar Sox pitcher to not give up a run, surrendering just a walk in the 9th and weathering a two-out error by Tigers prospect Dixon Machado to earn his first AFL save. He threw sixteen pitches, nine for strikes while lowering his ERA to 1.80.

Adrian Nieto got the start behind the plate and batted seventh. Offensively, he went 1-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. The two-out single in the 6th was just his second hit batting lefthanded thus far this fall, 2-for-12 overall (vs. 4-for-8 against LHPs). Defensively, he threw out two of seven baserunners.

The win improves Mesa to 10-4-1 an widens the gap between 1st and 2nd place to 2½ games. The Solar Sox finish out the week with a Surprise visit (ok, fine it’s the Saguaros) this afternoon.

Oct 252013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-11The Mesa Solar Sox scored in each of the first four innings as they stopped a two-game slide with a 7-4 win over the Scottsdale Scorpions

Brian Goodwin (pictured) was the sole National to appear in the game. He singled and scored in the 1st inning and drove in a run with a two-out safety in the second, snapping what was then a 2-2 tie. The 22-y.o. batted second and played centerfield, finishing the game at 2-for-5 with one putout on defense.

The win dropped Scottsdale back to 2½ games behind Mesa in the AFL East. The Solar Sox will see how they play in Peoria, visiting the Saguaros this afternoon.

BONUS AUDIO COVERAGE
Lee Magenheim caught up with Richie Mirowski, the Nats 45th Rd. pick out of Oklahoma Baptist in 2011, who’s gone from short-season A to AA in just two seasons.

Oct 232013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-9Adrian Nieto scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 7th, but the Solar Sox ‘pen faltered in the bottom half as they lost to the Saguaros, 4-2.

Nieto continues to swing a hot bat as a righthanded batter, going 1-for-2 with a run scored from the left side of the batter’s box and 0-for-1 with a walk from the right side. The 23-y.o. backstop also picked off a runner off 1st with two on and two out, pairing with teammate Matt Skole to end the bottom of the 6th.

Skole went hitless for just the second time in six games, but drew a walk to keep his on-base streak alive. The 24-y.o. notched 10 putouts without an error.

Brian Goodwin shifted to left field on defense, where he caught two flyballs, and went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored from the No. 2 spot in the lineup.

Richie Mirowski (pictured) set ‘em down in order in the bottom of the 8th on nine pitches, six of them going for strikes.

The loss drops Mesa to 8-3-1 for the fall campaign, 2½ games in front of Scottsdale, which won its 4th straight yesterday. The two teams square off this afternoon in Scottsdale with Matt Purke scheduled to make his third start.

BONUS COVERAGE:
Our intrepid AFL correspondent and photographer caught up with Sammy Solis after yesterday’s 9-6 win that improved him to 3-0:

Oct 202013
 

The Salt River Rafters scored seven times in the 9th as they handed the Mesa Solar Sox their second straight loss, 8-2.

Four Nats played in the contest…

…Brian Goodwin led off and played CF, going 1-for-4 with a stolen base and making two putouts on defense.

…Steve Souza drew a pair of walks, stole a base and scored a run, but also struck out twice to go 0-for-2. Defensively, he was in LF and caught two flyballs.

…Richie Mirowski gave up a run on two hits and struck out one in the top of the 7th, and was in line for the win thanks to the Solar Sox scoring twice in the bottom half of the inning.

…Robert Benincasa gave up a hit and struck out in one in the 8th, earning his first AFL hold.

With the loss, Mesa falls to 7-2-1 but still leads the AFL East by 3½ games.

Oct 172013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-4a
The Mesa Solar Sox smoked the Peoria Javelinas, 3-1 for their sixth straight win yesterday afternoon.

Steven Souza Jr. (pictured above) connected for a two-run single to erase a 1-0 deficit, highlighting Mesa’a three-run 6th. Souza also walked and played right field, where he made two putouts. Limited to two games a week as a taxi squad player, the 1-for-3 effort pushed his average to .364 (4-for-11) and a walk maintained his .500 on-base pct. Our Arizona correspondent/photographer Lee Magenheim caught up with the 24-y.o. outfielder after the game:

Brian Goodwin and Adrian Nieto also saw game action, with the centerfielder going 1-for-4 with a stolen base from the leadoff spot and the catcher going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts out of the No. 8 slot in the lineup. Goodwin made one putout, while Nieto had an assist and nine putouts.

Richie Mirowski made his second appearance, retiring the side in order in the 7th on ten pitches and finishing off the frame with a strikeout for his second hold.

The win improves Mesa to 6-0-1 and opens up a 4½ game lead in the AFL East. Matt Purke is set to take the hill tonight at home against Peoria.