May 242013
 


Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 19-27, 5th place I.L. North, 7½ games behind

Good Chris Rahl .320/.346/.440 in May
Bad Chris Young 47H, 8HR in 31IP – 7.26 ERA/6.68 FIP/1.90 WHIP
Interesting Tanner Roark 12⅔ scoreless innings in last 7 appearances



HARRISBURG SENATORS 23-24, 4th place E.L. West, 6 games behind

Good Ricky Hague .362/.403/.609 in May
Bad 42 pitching HRs surrendered, second-worst in E.L.
Interesting 36 batting HR, third-best in E.L. (14 in April, 22 in May)



POTOMAC NATIONALS 23-22, 3rd place C.L. North, 1½ games behind

Good Taylor Hill 45⅔ IP in eight GS (5⅔+ innings per start)
Bad Randolph Oduber .194/.293/.333 in May
Interesting Colin Bates 4HBP, 4BB in 20IP


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 27-16, 1st place Sally North, 2 games ahead

Good Ivan Pineyro 3-0, 2.28/2.52/1.01 in May
Bad Wes Schill .258 slugging pct.
Interesting Will Hudgins 2-0, 1SV 1.09 WHIP
Oct 292012
 

The 2012 Potomac Nationals will most likely be remembered by those that watched them closely (*ahem*) for two things: (1) the team that couldn’t win on the road (2) underachievement. You can argue against the latter to a certain extent, but it’s pretty hard to argue against the former: A 10-26 mark in the first half, a 12-21 mark in the second for a combined 22-47 mark that was third-worst in affiliated ball (Louisville, 22-51; N.W. Arkansas, 22-48).

This, of course, would be unremarkable except that in Woodbridge, the 64-win P-Nats were 42-28 — third-best in the Carolina League behind 74-win Myrtle Beach (42-26) and 87-win Winston-Salem (48-23). When I dug into it in early June, I discovered that at least some of it was attributable to the offense hitting nearly 100 points better on the road than at home, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense since the Pfitz generally comes up as neutral in ballpark effects. Other factors are surely at play here, but it’s interesting (at least to me) nevertheless.

Underachievement is a little more in the eye of the beholder. It’s often the disconnect between expected and actual performance. While as a fan (disclosure: see first sentence in “About” below), I feel like this team underachieved, as prospect follower I have to allow for the alternate, more objective interpretation that perhaps some of these guys simply hit their ceiling. There just aren’t very many guys that finished in Woodbridge in August that I don’t expect to see again next April; nearly everybody that deserved a bump up to Harrisburg got one.

So let’s take a look at the first P-Nats team to miss the Carolina League playoffs since 2009:
HITTING

PITCHING

There are two things that strike me when I look at these two comparisons: (1) How similar Potomac’s pitching totals were to Hagerstown’s (2) How much better the hitting was than I would have guessed (nearly mediocre vs. subpar). What didn’t shock me was the low OBP. Francisco Soriano, Blake Kelso and Michael Taylor shared the team lead with 40 walks drawn in 87, 106 and 109 games. David Freitas was next with 39 — in 78 games. Seemed like every time I would fill out my scorecard, I’d be filling in OBPs with numbers that looked like batting averages.

That’s a natural segue to the Top 13* batters (* for 2010 Draft Picks, ** for DSL graduates). Full team statistics can be found here. *Another “extra” to catch a notable

There are some bright spots if you look for them — Kevin Keyes and Jason Martinson’s power, for example. Ricky Hague demonstrating he can play second base (.983FA in 35G). Michael Taylor living up to the hype for his defensive skills in center. But there are also things to pick that aren’t nits — Taylor, Martinson, and Keyes whiffed a lot. The team’s left fielders gave the team’s centerfielders ample opportunity to show off their range.

As aforementioned, none of this is unusual — it’s emblematic of the level: players too good for Low-A, but not quite good enough for AA. The question is whether or not there’s a “yet” in that sentence. This is often where some players repeat… and many will stall (see: Peacock, Brian; Martinez, Carlos).

On to the pitchers…

Well, at least there wasn’t much in the way of mediocrity. The pitchers were either good or they were bad. And even some of the “bad” were pitchers had their moments of “good.” The Matts are a good example of this. Swynenberg was terrific in April, pitching one of the best games of the year on the final Sunday of the month. Grace finished the season strong, capping off his season with eight shutout innings against playoff-bound Wilmington on the final Saturday of the season, a game that Steve Souza won with an 11th-inning grand slam.

Enough has been “said” about how good Nathan Karns was this season. Unfortunately, that leaves us with discussing how disappointing Robbie Ray’s season was. Most of the damage was done in the second half — 1-9, 7.67 vs. 3-3, 4.89 — with the southpaw becoming particularly prone to giving up the longball (10 in his last 10 appearances). Perversely, I was almost wishing to learn that he had been hurt; easier to give him a pass, so “speak.”

Unfortunately, I don’t have the magic bullet as to the why (and if I did, I wouldn’t tell ;-) As the season progressed he struggled with his command, issuing nearly double the walks and seemingly always falling into hitter’s counts and it was usually in the early going, not the middle innings. He turned 21 four weeks ago, so it’s not the end of the world, but it’s the primary reason he still makes the…

OBLIGATORY TOP FOUR LISTS
I thought about only listing three apiece, but decided to go with four as an acknowledgement of the bias that comes with being a disappointed fan of the team. There’s more projection here than usual, as alluded in the discussion of Ray, and I’m giving some props to the guys that finished the season strong.

Batters
1. Michael Taylor
2. Kevin Keyes
3. Ricky Hague
4. Adrian Sanchez
HM: Randolph Oduber

Pitchers
1. Nathan Karns
2. Neil Holland
3. Rob Wort
4. Robbie Ray
HM: Matt Grace

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.

Aug 132012
 

It’s the post you’ve been nagging asking for — a look at who might get sent to the Arizona Fall League.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that as the parent club improves, this kind of information becomes pushed to the periphery by the mainstream media. In other words, there’s going to be a lot more written about who might get called up in September than who’s going to play in the greater Scottsdale area in October. It’s already happening in the comments here, a niche site devoted to the future Nats, not the present Nats, as much as some folks want to bridge that gap like Evel Knievel with the Snake River Canyon.

Like last year, there is one clear choice: Brian Goodwin. Leapfrogging him from Hagerstown to Harrisburg has to have an AFL angle to it, which is not to say the only reason why the move was made. The next choice with little doubt is Anthony Rendon, assuming he doesn’t get hurt between now and then. A little less certain is Jeff Kobernus, though there is some question as to whether he’ll be healed by then (fractured rib).

As discussed previously, Zach Walters seems like a candidate to go back after being added to the taxi squad last fall, but repeats in the AFL aren’t very common. Likewise for Chris Marrero, who’s the right age and could use the playing time, especially since it’s unlikely he’ll be playing winter ball this year.

Less clear is whether Destin Hood or Justin Bloxom gets the call. Hood has been beset by injuries for a good chunk of this season, leaving some doubt as to whether his struggles at AA have been a matter of health or having hit a bump in the road developmentally. That kind of uncertainty is precisely what GMs want when it comes to the Rule 5 draft, which Hood will be eligible for in December. Bloxom might not get sent simply because the other teams responsible for filling out the roster of the Salt River Rafters have more attractive candidates (e.g. Matt Davidson, Toronto) at first base.

If Rendon is indeed the Single-A exception, then it might be safe to say that Nathan Karns and Alex Meyer might be held back, especially in the name of limiting innings with both in their first full professional season. I’ve heard whispers that Ricky Hague might be this year’s Zach Walters (taxi squad player), though that was when Hague was on a hot streak and has since cooled some.

With the new CBA, there just aren’t the late-sign, high-profile pitchers that would make obvious choices (e.g. Stephen Strasburg, Matt Purke). Folks suggesting Lucas Giolito need to share what they’re ingesting (tomorrow is his first outing, and I suspect it’ll be limited to one inning or 20 pitches, whichever comes first). We were surprised last year at the selections of Rafael Martin and Pat Lehman, neither of whom was on the verge of Rule 5 eligibility, but there just aren’t any pitchers that fit that mold at AA or AAA.

Perhaps we’ll see one or two out of the trio of Trevor Holder, Pat McCoy, and Paul Demny. That’s the safest guess at this point (and to be clear, without knowing which pitchers the other five organizations are likely to send, it’s a guess). Like last year, the only thing I’m sure of is that somebody, somewhere is going to be disappointed with the selections.

Jul 062012
 

Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 44-43, 4th place I.L. North, 7 games behind

Good Jim Negrych .514/.575/.657 in last 10G
Bad Atahualpa Severino 5.9BB/9IP (22 in 33⅓ IP)
Interesting Pat Lehman 1-0, 2.03ERA in last 10 appearances

HARRISBURG SENATORS 45-40, 2nd place E.L. West, 4½ games behind

Good Hector Nelo 5SV, 1.54ERA in last 10 appearances
Bad Tim Pahuta .205/.295/.282 last 10G
Interesting Erik Davis 2-0, 1.77ERA since June 1 (20⅓ IP)

POTOMAC NATIONALS 7-8, T2nd place C.L. North Division, 2 games behind (38-47, overall)

Good Ricky Hague .415/.467/.707 in last 10G
Bad Rob Wort 0-2, 2BS, 14.72ERA, 3.00WHIP in last 3 appearances
Interesting Nathan Karns 39K in last 4 starts (12.84 K/9 over 27⅓ IP)

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 9-6, T2nd place Sally League North Divison, 2 games behind (51-33 overall)

Good Matt Skole 20HR, 71RBI, 75BB — Sally League leader in each category
Bad Bobby Lucas 6.53ERA, 1.69WHIP
Interesting Christian Meza 4-1, 2.95ERA, 1.14WHIP in 22 appearances (2 starts)

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 12-5, 1st place Pinckney Division, N.Y.-Penn League, 2½ games ahead

Good Pedro Encarnacion 2-0, 0.55ERA, 0.98WHIP
Bad Wes Schill .192/.267/.269 in 11G
Interesting Stephen Perez .482SLG, 6E in 15G

GCL NATIONALS 5-11, 4th Place GCL East, 7 games behind

Good Tony Nix .313/.313/.469 in 10G
Bad Adalberto Mieses 0-2, 6.79ERA, 1.79WHIP
Interesting Daury Vasquez 1.23WHIP, 15K, 8BB, 2HBP in 13IP (three starts)

DSL NATIONALS 15-14, T5th Place Boca Chica South Division, 5 games behind

Good 20-y.o. Wander Suero 4-1, 3.09ERA, 1.19WHIP
Bad 18-y.o. Miguel Acevedo 6.75ERA, 1.90WHIP
Interesting 17 y.o. Thomas Alvarez .273/.500/.636 in 7G
Jul 032012
 

Ricky Hague becomes the latest Washington Nationals farmhand to win weekly honors as the Carolina League Batter of the Week for June 25th to July 1st.

Hague becomes the second Potomac National to win a weekly award — Nathan Karns was Carolina League Pitcher of the Week three weeks ago — for hanging a line of .464/.516/.750 on opposing pitchers last week. He racked up 13 hits in 28 at-bats, including five doubles and a home run, with eight runs scored, and six driven in. The 23-year-old also swiped five bags without getting caught.

The 2010 third-round pick out of Rice University is currently riding an eight-game hit streak and has posted a .349/.429/.581 mark in the 11 games since the Carolina League All-Star break.

May 052012
 

On a night where hits were plenty but runs weren’t, Ricky Hague’s fourth single of the evening in the bottom of the 9th was the difference in a 5-4 Potomac win.

The two teams combined for 26 hits, but 23 of them were singles. Potomac turned four double plays, Wilmington one, but the difference was two-out hitting. The P-Nats got seven of their 14 hits and three of their five runs with two down; the Blue Rocks had just two-out hits and no runs.

This was Matt Swynenberg’s first start since his Sunday masterpiece, a three-hit, one-run complete game, but he was under the gun of the “GBI curse” — a little-known affliction that seems to affect players once they get recognition here in the weekly edition of “Good, Bad, and Interesting.”

With 11 hits given up over six innings, Swynenberg was not as sharp, but his penchant for the grounder saved him — twice he got the DP to end the inning, another to squelch a rally. Alas, the fourth DP came just one batter too late.

Wilmington opened the 6th with a single, double, and another single and had runners on second and third. The Potomac ‘pen got up, and appeared to be ready after Swynenberg issued a walk to load the bases.

But manager Brian Rupp was either slow on the trigger or was gambling that Swynenberg could get the batter, Jake Kuebler, to ground into another DP — just as he had done the inning before. Swynenberg got the DP, but one batter too late as Kuebler steered one to the 3/4 hole to drive in two and give the Blue Rocks a 4-3 lead.

Potomac would tie it in the 7th after threatening in the 6th as — you guessed it — Hague ripped a single to left to drive in Francisco Soriano.

Like the day before, stellar relief made the comeback possible Neil Holland needed just four pitches to get through his first inning and allowed just one hit over the final three frames. He also struck out three.

Soriano swung from his heels to open the 9th, but Randolph Oduber, who had homered to lead off the 3rd, used his eyes (walk on a 3-2 count) and his legs (stolen base) to get into scoring position for the Hague gamewinner.

The win was Potomac’s 11th of the season, but thanks to the league’s power clubs being clustered in the Southern Division, that 11-14 mark is just 2½ games behind the first-place Lynchburg Hillcats. Kyle Winters (1-3, 5.74) takes the hill tonight to try for the team’s fourth straight “W” with Greg Billo (1-3, 5.32) as his counterpart for Wilmington.