Jun 032014
 

Ripple
As is often the case, the effect of activating someone on the parent club ripples throughout the minors…

WASHINGTON
• Removed 3B Ryan Zimmerman from Potomac roster, activated from 15-Day DL
• Released LHP Niko Spezial*
• Released RHP Andy Santana*
• Released OF Hayden Jennings*
* Per latest BA Transaction post.

SYRACUSE
• 1B-OF Tyler Moore optioned from Washington

HARRISBURG
• LHP Sammy Solis placed on the 7-Day DL

POTOMAC
• UT Mike McQuillan activated from the 7-Day DL

HAGERSTOWN
• OF Narciso Mesa reassigned from Potomac
• RHP Nick Pivetta activated from the 7-Day DL
• RHP Cody Davis activated from the 7-Day DL

AUBURN
• OF Greg Zebrack reassigned from Hagerstown
• RHP Reynaldo Lopez reassigned from Hagerstown
• LHP R.C. Orlan reassigned from Hagerstown

A corresponding move to make room for Moore has not yet been announced; Syracuse is at 25-man limit while Harrisburg is at 24 and could absorb a player reassigned if Washington so chooses.

It’s obviously concerning that Solis, who was hit hard on Memorial Day but did not appear to have diminished velocity, is back on the DL after just three starts total. As perverted as this may sound, we can only hope that it’s just his back (on which he has had surgery and was the reason cited for his previous trip to the DL) and not his left arm that’s bothering him because a bad back can be more readily treated versus a bad shoulder or elbow.

For the folks champing at the bit for promotions, the Nationals will sometimes realign the Low-A and High-A rosters after their All-Star Break (June 16-18) and in between when the Auburn and GCL rosters are set. (Auburn begins play June 13; the GCL on June 21).

As always, if/when further moves related to these become known, this space will be updated.

UPDATE:

Multiple online sources are now reporting that it is indeed elbow soreness that’s sent Sammy Solis to the DL. This, of course, is about as bad as it gets for a pitcher who’s already had one TJ surgery (2012).

May 272014
 

Sammy Solis’s AA debut was one to forget.

The 25-y.o. southpaw, originally drafted in 2010, made quick work of the first three Bowie batters in the 1st — a flyout to right, a three-pitch strikeout, and weak tapper to 1st. The velocity was as advertised: low-90s, touching 94 depending on which radar gun you choose to believe.

After an infield single and a flyout, Solis seemed ready to dispatch the Baysox again in the 2nd. But then an inside-out single to right put runners on 1st and 3rd, then a sacrifice fly erased a brief 1-0 lead that had come off the bat of Cutter Dykstra with a solo shot to the [sorry, no free advertising] cheap seats in left.

A two-out double from Garabez Rosa gave Bowie the 2-1 lead and Solis rolled a grounder to end the 2nd. He mowed down the first three BaySox in the 3rd. After Adrian Sanchez hit another solo shot to left to tie things up, all Solis needed to do was respond with another goose egg.

Instead, the BaySox connected for six hits in the space of eight batters — nothing cheap, nothing weak, nothing lucky. Solis was lifted with one out in the 4th. His replacement, James Simmons was renamed Richard with a three-run blast off the roof of the Senators team well beyond the left field fence.

The final line for Solis — nine runs, eight earned, one walk, one strikeout over three and 1/3rd innings. He faced 20 batters and threw fifty-six pitches, forty-two for strikes and only went to a three-ball count on the one batter he walked (former Nats farmhand David Freitas).

As Patriot-Times beat writer Geoff Morrow tweeted, perhaps some credit goes to the Bowie offense, which leads the Eastern League in several offensive categories (H, 2B, K’s, BA, SLG%).

The Senators would not answer the BaySox eight-run 4th until the 7th, when they mounted a similar, slow-motion rally for five runs, punctuated by Matt Skole’s two-out, two-run single with the bases loaded to pull Harrisburg within four at 11-7.

Alas, Bowie answered with a pair of two-run innings in 8th and 9th and homers in both frames to make it a 15-7 final.

With the loss, Harrisburg’s quest for three wins in a row in 2014 remains unfulfilled as they fell to a 17-32 mark, second-worst in the Eastern League.

May 222014
 

Sammy Solis continued his latest rehab tour with another win, as the P-Nats edged the Hillcats 3-2 in the opener of a true doubleheader on Wednesday.

Solis, who went on the DL with back problems after just two spring-training appearances, consistently hit the low 90s on the gun while showing both his change and curve with mixed success. He didn’t pile up the Ks but induced weak contact — two of his first three singles allowed were of the ‘tweener flyball variety, falling short of outfielders that others may have caught.

He walked one in the first and worked around those two singles with a popup to short, a groundout, and the first of four strikeouts. Lynchburg scored the lone run off him in third when Lynchburg shortstop Daniel Castro singled to left followed by a Josh Elander double — a truly hard-hit shot down the left field line.

The offense, which was held to an infield hit by Tony Renda in the 1st and an opposite-field safety by Pedro Severino in the 3rd, gave Solis the lead with two in the 4th.

Oscar Tejeda led off with a double and took third on a single by red-hot Shawn Pleffner (.314BA in last 10G). Randolph Oduber was hit by pitch to load the bases, setting up Khayyan Norfork, who ripped a double to right to plate Tejeda and Pleffner. Estarlin Martinez whiffed and Oduber got caught in a rundown to kill the rally.

More importantly, Solis responded to the two runs with his first (and only) three-up and three-down frame in the 5th. After striking out the first batter in the 6th, he would give up back-to-back singles and be lifted for Robert Benincasa.

The Potomac closer stranded both runners with tapper to the mound and a popup to second after a long struggle with pinch-hitter Eric Garcia, who worked the count full and fouled off several pitches.

Renda and Tejeda would team up for an insurance run with a single and double respectively, and it would prove necessary as Benincasa, who has had just one outing with zero baserunners in 14 appearances, was touched for a run in the top of the 7th on two hits. He would get a key strikeout of Hillcat cleanup man Kevin Ahrens and after an intentional walk to lefty Levi Hyams, then retire DH David Nick on a liner to short for the inning’s third out and notch his 8th save.

The P-Nats would lose the second game, 3-2, which coupled with another Wilmington win (four in a row), reduces Potomac’s lead in the Carolina League North to two games over the second-place Blue Rocks. Lynchburg and Potomac conclude the five-game series tonight with a matchup of Sim(m)s as John (0-1, 3.68) takes the hill for the home team against Lucas (4-3, 4.07) for the visitors.

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 212013
 

A couple of mild surprises this year as the Nationals dropped a pair of journeymen lefties in favor of adding RHP Aaron Barrett, LHP Sammy Solis, and OF Michael Taylor to the 40-man roster to avoid exposure to the Rule 5 draft next month.

Barrett was probably the lesser of the two surprises, given his age (almost 26) and function (reliever). As noted yesterday, Barrett seemed a possibility due to the precedent of Erik Davis a year ago, but with his merely average fastball velocity (low 90s) there was reason for doubt. His plus slider — rated as the best in the organization by Baseball America for two years’ running — was apparently deemed to valuable to risk losing.

Even without a strong AFL campaign, chances were Solis would have been protected. The question now is how much longer they’ll wait for him to develop into a starter, especially after not one but two lefthanded relievers were jettisoned. With zero AA experience, and only one year removed from Tommy John surgery, the odds are still good that he’ll pitch every fifth day in Harrisburg for at least a couple of months next season.

Taylor was a bit of a shock because there’s no question that his hitting tools are not major-league ready. It’s possible another team would have taken him, but it’s highly improbable they would have kept him. What now occurs to me — and should have previously — is that his addition gives the team leverage in any possible trade scenario involving either Denard Span or Brian Goodwin. Of course, Occam’s Razor also suggests that the team simply covets his skillset and wanted to eliminate any possible disruption to their plans for him in 2014.

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 152013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-27Mesa’s 2013 Arizona Fall League season began and ended in Glendale, and Sammy Solis was on the hill for both the 1st and title-clinching 19th wins as the Solar Sox scorched the Desert Dogs, 9-3 to earn a berth in the AFL Championship game.

The 25-y.o. southpaw allowed one run on six hits over five innings to notch his league-leading fifth win. He walked none and struck out four, throwing 68 pitches, 49 for strikes. His 29 K’s also led the circuit.

Brian Goodwin and Adrian Nieto were also in the starting lineup for Mesa.

Goodwin was the DH and went 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored, as the 23-y.o. North Carolina native came in from second base on an infield single that the shortstop knocked down just past the infield grass. He also walked and struck out twice.

Nieto caught and batted seventh. He went 1-for-5 with an RBI single and made seven putouts and one assist on a dropped third strike.

Mesa finishes the season at 19-11-1, winning their last six games consecutively to edge Salt River, which fell a half-game short at 19-12 and were winners of seven straight. Surprise was the AFL West title winner with a mark of 18-12-1.

The Solar Sox will face off against the Saguaros, who will send Baltimore prospect Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound in tomorrow’s AFL Championship game. Matt Purke, who has not pitched since last Saturday, is among the possibilities for Mesa, which has not yet announced its starting pitcher.

Nov 092013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-19With five runs scored early and another solid outing from Sammy Solis, the Solar Sox snapped a three-game skid with a 6-1 win over the Saguaros.

Solis went four and 1/3rd innings, leaving with one out in the 5th after letting up two of the five singles he allowed. He would finish with one run allowed, one walk, and five strikeouts. He threw 74 pitches, 48 for strikes and earned his fourth win.

Kenny Faulk, the first man out of the Mesa ‘pen couldn’t strand both runners, walking the first two batters he faced to force in the lone Surprise run. Adrian Nieto bailed him out with a pickoff at first to squash the rally as the Tigers farmhand got the final out with a flyball to left.

Brian Goodwin and Matt Skole joined Nieto in the starting lineup.

Goodwin continues to blister the ball, going 3-for-4 with a stand-up triple and two RBIs while playing centerfield, where he played error-free and made three putouts.

Skole was the DH but whiffed three times and walked once. He now has 17K’s in 14 games and is hitting .152 (7-for-46) though he’s drawn 14 walks (tied for 3rd) to maintain a respectable .350 on-base percentage.

Nieto singled once — just his third hit against a LHP — and struck out twice in five ABs. He gave up his first passed ball of the fall but had six putouts.

The Solar Sox finish out the week with rematch against the Saguaros this afternoon in Surprise. Matt Purke (2-1, 3.79) is scheduled to make his sixth and perhaps final start, opposed by Cleveland prospect Will Roberts (0-1, 5.31).

Nov 062013
 

Baseball America for NPPNo sense vamping when this list has probably been tweeted dozens of times by now. (Last year’s revised ranking in parentheses.)

1. Lucas Giolio, RHP (2)
2. A.J. Cole, RHP (4)
3. Brian Goodwin, CF (3)
4. Matt Skole, 1B/3B (5)
5. Robbie Ray, LHP (–)
6. Sammy Solis, LHP (9)
7. Michael Taylor, CF (–)
8. Jake Johansen, RHP (’13 Draft Pick)
9. Nathan Karns, RHP (6)
10. Steve Souza, OF (–)

Frankly, I was initially confused as to how an injured position player and a coming-off-surgery pitcher could move up in the rankings. This, of course, is no disrespect to them, but simple logic dictates that getting hurt and/or losing a year of development is the kind of thing that drops your stock, not improves it. This was Fitt’s answer to my question about that rationale for ranking them higher in 2014 than 2013:

I think Skole is in the same No. 4* slot he was last year (and remember that Anthony Rendon graduated to the big leagues). I did not dock Skole for being hurt — it was a fluke injury, and he returned strong this fall. I still think he’s a quality power-hitting prospect, and I ranked him accordingly. As for Solis, I got very encouraging reports on him coming off that surgery, and I expect him to move very quickly next year (assuming he can stay healthy — which is a legitimate question, given his track record). At this point, I think he has a better chance to stick as a big league starter than Karns, who strikes me as more of a power reliever ultimately. So I moved Solis ahead of Karns. I can’t say I’m overly excited about any of those guys — Solis is 25 now and still has yet to reach Double-A, after all. I don’t think this is a great top 10 after the top of the list, although I do like some of the depth in the 11-30 range.
* Skole was initially ranked #4 in December 2012, then moved to #5 when BA revised the list in March 2013

I give Fitt credit answering honestly, particularly in remarking about how the talent thins out rapidly after the first few guys, which has been the case for about two years now. For those wondering, Fitt said that he wrestled with a cluster of Tony Renda, Matt Purke, Billy Burns, and Zach Walters before deciding upon Souza for the #10 spot. There are certainly arguments that can be made for any of those five against the other four and it may be bit revealing of your personal biases, too. Fitt, it appears, likes Souza’s five-tool promise over Burns’s speed, Purke’s LHSP capabilities, Renda’s bat/eye, Walter’s power, etc.

One new wrinkle to this year’s rankings is a list of the Top 15 players under the age of 25, which you can find in the free article along with a list of the best tools, prospects of the year and top draft picks from the past 10 years. And of course, the top bonuses paid, for which Robin Leach Fitt remains enamored of the decision of the Nationals to spend heavily just as they were hitting rock bottom.

The projections for where the 2014 Top 10 will begin (or finish) next season were as follows:
AAA – Cole, Goodwin, Karns, Souza
AA – Skole, Ray, Solis, Taylor
Low-A – Giolito
Not specified – Johansen

I personally believe Cole will probably return to Harrisburg and be moved up in May or June; likewise for Johansen with Hagerstown as his starting point — but lately the Nats have been more aggressive, so it could be Syracuse and Potomac, respectively. As mentioned in the comments, where a prospect starts is not nearly as important as where he finishes.

Nov 022013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-2Sammy Solis gave up two unearned runs in the top of the 1st and the Solar Sox were unable to catch up, losing to the Javelinas by a score of 5-4.

The 25-y.o. southpaw went four full innings, allowing three hits and one walk total. He struck out four and hit a batter and threw 71 pitches, 40 for strikes.

Matt Skole batted cleanup and played first base, but went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. He had two putouts and two assists and made no errors.

Adrian Nieto caught and hit sixth but was also hitless. Two bases were stolen against him and the Mesa pitchers, who struck out 11 for all of Nieto’s putouts.

Steven Souza Jr., the newest member of the Washington 40-man roster, followed Nieto in the lineup in the seven spot and went 1-for-4 with a run scored and a strikeout. He played centerfield and snagged three flyballs.

The loss, combined with a Salt River win, narrows the gap between first and second place to just 1½ games with 10 to go for the fall campaign. The Solar Sox return to action next week as they take on the Rafters on Monday and Tuesday.