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 072013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-18The Desert Dogs scored six unanswered runs in the final two innings to turn a 4-0 deficit into a 6-4 win over the Solar Sox.

Brian Goodwin, Steve Souza, and Robert Benincasa were the three Nationals to see game action.

Goodwin batted second and played centerfield, but went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He plated a run with an RBI groundout in the 3rd. Defensively, he made two putouts.

As usual, Souza made his appearance count. The taxi-squad member was slotted 7th in the lineup and doubled in the 2nd to drive in the first Mesa run and singled in the 4th (pictured), finishing the game at 2-for-4 to raise his average to .364 for the fall. He snared three flyballs while playing right field.

Benincasa, recently featured by Byron Kerr for MASN, worked around a single and a walk to pitch a scoreless 7th inning for the Solar Sox. The appearance lowered his ERA to an even 4.00 (4R in 9IP).

The two teams rematch this afternoon in Glendale. The Salt River Rafters also lost to preserve Mesa’s 1½ game lead in the AFL East and reduce the Solar Sox magic number to clinch a spot in the AFL title game to six with seven games left.

Oct 302013
 

Cabbage night came a day early for the AFL Pitcher of the Week Matt Purke and Mesa as Salt River spoiled the evening for both with a 7-3 loss.

Purke was touched for two runs in the 1st and three in the 3rd, giving up eight hits and two walks total over his three innings of work. The former Horned Frog threw 60 pitches, just 35 for strikes while suffering his first loss of the fall season.

Robert Benincasa also pitched, but gave up back-to-back doubles with one out in the 8th and finished with one run allowed on two hits and one strikeout. It was the fourth time the 23-y.o. reliever has given up a run in seven AFL appearances.

Adrian Nieto was the sole Nationals position player to get in the game. He made 10 putouts, including a tag at the plate in the 3rd. Offensively, Nieto singled to lead off the 5th in the tripled in a run and scored on passed ball in the 8th. He finished at 2-for-4 for the game to push his average to .333 (8-for-24) for the fall.

The loss — Mesa’s third straight — cuts their lead over Salt River to just 1½ games in the AFL East. Next up: a pair of games (away, then home) against the Scorpions. For those wondering, Sammy Solis is not scheduled to pitch until next month.

The AFL also announced the rosters its eighth annual all-star game, renamed this season as the Fall Stars Game, which will be held this Saturday at Surprise Stadium, in… wait for it… Surprise, AZ. Brian Goodwin is the sole National on the AFL East roster.

Oct 272013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-13Surprise struck for three runs twice while holding Mesa to four hits in a 6-1 Solar Sox loss to close out the week.

A total of five Nationals got into the game yesterday:

• Sammy Solis started and took the loss, giving up the first three runs in the 1st and finishing with six hits allowed over three innings. He walked one and struck out two, tossing 61 pitches with 40 going for strikes.

• Robert Benincasa (pictured) also pitched, setting the side down in order in the 9th while recording a strikeout.

• Brian Goodwin batted leadoff as the DH. He singled once and struck out twice in four AB’s.

• Matt Skole took the No. 6 slot in the lineup but went just 0-for-2 with a walk. Defensively, he played 1B and took part in two DP’s, including a 3-6-3 number in the 8th.

• Steve Souza Jr. followed Skole in the lineup and went 1-for-3 but was caught stealing for the first time. He played left field and made two putouts.

Mesa (10-5-1) remains atop the AFL East by 3½ games over Scottsdale and Salt River (both 7-9) with 15 games remaining on the schedule.

Oct 242013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-10
Matt Purke tossed five scoreless innings but came away with a no-decision as the Solar Sox were stung in extras, 2-1 by the red-hot Scorpions.

Purke allowed just a one-out walk in the 1st and leadoff single in the 3rd — erasing both baserunners with double-play balls to face the minimum of 15 batters for five frames. The 23-y.o. struck out three while throwing 36 of 54 pitches for strikes. In three starts, Purke is 2-0 with pitcher’s line of 0.00/1.95/0.50 with three walks and 12K’s over 12 innings.

Steve Souza, as usual, made the most of his limited playing time with another monster game: 3-for-4 with a run scored and three (3) stolen bases, which brings his AFL-leading total to nine (9) in just five games. Defensively, the 24-y.o. played centerfield and had one putout.

Matt Skole played third base, but had no defensive chances and saw his modest on-base streak of five games snapped with an 0-for-4 game.

Robert Benincasa couldn’t hold the 1-0 lead in the 9th, giving up a leadoff triple that came in on a passed ball. A single following a strikeout made the run earned. The 23-y.o. closed out the inning with a flyout and a groundout to finish with one run on two hits.

Scottsdale won it in the bottom of the 10th against A’s farmhand Ryan Dull, who gave up two singles and two walks (one intentional) without retiring a batter.

The loss to second-place Scottsdale, which won its fifth straight game, reduced first-place Mesa’s lead to 1½ games. Since starting the season with seven wins and one tie, the Solar Sox have gone 1-4. The two teams will rematch this afternoon in Mesa.

BONUS COVERAGE
Lee Magenheim sat down with Adrian Nieto and talked about the catcher’s breakthrough 2013 season. Folks who may have difficulty with the embedded player — try clicking the image above, which will go directly to the audio file

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 182013
 

The Mesa Solar Sox refuse to lose, taking their seventh decision in eight games with a 6-1 win versus the Peoria Javelinas on Thursday night.

Four Nationals farmhands saw game action, starting with the man on the mound…

Matt Purke struck out the side in the 1st, walked a batter and hit a batter in the 2nd, struck out the side in the 3rd, got K no. 7 with the first batter of the fourth, then democratic with a pair of groundballs. He threw 54 pitches, 36 for strikes in his four no-hit innings for his second win in as many starts.

Brian Goodwin went 2-for-4 with a run scored to improve his BA to .364. The 22-y.o. from North Carolina played LF and made one putout.

Matt Skole started again at 3B and tossed across the diamond twice in the 6th for his two defensive chances. At the plate, he homered for the second time, walked for the fifth time and struck out for the third time to push his triple slash figures to .285/.474/.786.

Robert Benincasa is still in search of his first three-up, three-down inning but laid his first goose egg with a scoreless 9th as he allowed one hit and struck out one to close out the game.

The Solar Sox remain at home as they host the Saguaros this afternoon.

Oct 162013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-3Sammy Solis won his second start while the Mesa Solar Sox won their fifth straight, taking a 7-4 matinee from the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Solis struck out eight of 15 batters faced while giving up a run on three hits and two walks over four innings. The lone run was a solo shot by Mets farmhand Cory Vaughn (son of Greg, not Mo). The 25-y.o. southpaw threw 68 pitches, 43 for strikes.

Matt Skole got the start at third base, where he fielded a popup in the 2nd and started an inning-ending 5-4-3 DP in the 7th. At the plate, the former Yellow Jacket batted cleanup and went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored a run while taking a pair of walks.

Robert Benincasa (pictured) pitched the 7th inning and gave up a run on a leadoff walk and two singles before getting the aforementioned twin-killing groundball.

The win improves Mesa to 5-0-1 as the Solar Sox travel to Surprise this afternoon to take on Peoria. Matt Purke, who followed Solis in the Mesa rotation last week, is scheduled to start tomorrow night at home versus the Javelinas.

Aug 292013
 

For the second straight season, multiple leagues have begun issue the press releases for the postseason awards — rather than waiting until, say, after the regular season,

Here’s a rundown of how the Nationals farmhands have been honored thus far…

SALLY LEAGUE
Tony Renda was named to the Sally League Postseason All-Star team as its utility infielder, with Micah Johnson (and his Mr. Spock eyebrow) taking the honors at 2B. Renda currently leads the Sally League with 42 doubles and is fourth in walks drawn (42) and sixth in on-base percentage (.381) and seventh in batting average (.295). Hagerstown skipper Tripp Keister was also honored as the Manager of the Year.

CAROLINA LEAGUE
Three P-Nats got the nod, including two-thirds of the outfield. Billy Burns and Michael Taylor — the top two thieves on the basepaths at 54 and 45 repsectively — were named to the all-league squad. Robert Benincasa, despite only pitching in 23 games, was named the top reliever (though his 15 saves does lead the circuit).

INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE
Just one Syracuse player was named and it should shock no one that the sole midseason all-star would be the sole postseason all-star. Soon-to-be 24-y.o. Zach Walters was named the league’s best shortstop, in large part due to his corner-infielder offensive production of 29 HRs (1st), 250 total bases (1st), and 77 RBI (3rd).

No Harrisburg Senators were named to the Eastern League postseason team, which is hardly a surprise when you consider that the most likely candidates (Anthony Rendon, Taylor Jordan) were making their contributions in DC, not PA. The New York-Penn League has not yet announced its postseason team, but the odds of a Doubleday making the cut are pretty slim.

At 49-9, it’s probably safe to bet on at least a couple of G-Nats making the postseason team, which also has not yet been announced.

Jun 212013
 


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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 28-43, 6th place I.L. North, 15½ games behind

Good Zach Walters .382/.417/.836, 6HR in June
Bad Mike Crotta 0-4, 4.87 ERA, 2.00 WHIP since May 1 (17 appearances)
Interesting .973 Fielding Pct. – dead last in I.L.



HARRISBURG SENATORS 39-33, T1st place E.L. West, 1 game ahead

Good Steve Souza Jr .570 SLG%
Bad Rob Gilliam 5.27 ERA / 5.47 WHIP in last three starts
Interesting Senators pitching in June – 1.75ERA (28ER, 144IP)



POTOMAC NATIONALS 42-27, 1st place C.L. North Champs, 6 games ahead

Good Taylor Hill 1-0, 0.42 in last three starts
Bad Randolph Oduber 8BB in 47G (9 in 52 overall)
Interesting 11 wins trailing or tied after 7 innings


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 1-0, T1st place Sally North, 1 game ahead (39-29 overall)

Good Robert Benincasa 0.82 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 16K in last 10 appearances (hence the promotion)
Bad Derek Self 7.14 ERA, 2.12 WHIP, 6K in last 10 appearances (hence the demotion)
Interesting Estarlin Martinez HR last night 1st since 9/3/12 = 144AB (per Hagerstown Suns Fan Club)


DSL NATIONALS 12-5, 1st Boca Chica South, 2½ games ahead

Good 19-y.o. Dionicio Rosario .280/.410/.400 in 15G
Bad 18-y.o. Yefri Pena 9.39 ERA, 2.74 WHIP in four appearances
Interesting 17-y.o. Yorlin Reynoso 1.08 ERA, .172 OBA in four appearances