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 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 222013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-7Sammy Solis won his third straight start as Mesa snapped a two-game skid with a
9-6 win over Surprise.

Solis allowed one run on six hits over five innings, giving up a walk and striking out four. He threw 73 pitches, 47 for strikes.

Brian Goodwin also appeared in the game, but went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. He batted second and played center field but had no putouts or assists.

With the win, the Solar Sox improve to 8-2-1 in the AFL East and lead the second-place Scorpions by 3½ games. They rematch against the Saguaros in Peoria 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.

Oct 102013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-2
The Solar Sox scored 11 times in their first four turns at bat as they cruised to a 13-3 victory over the Desert Dogs.

Sammy Solis got the start and the win, tossing three and 2/3rds scoreless innings with three hits and a walk allowed. The 25-y.o. southpaw struck out two in his first AFL start since November 2011.

Adrian Nieto got the start behind the plate and went 1-for-2 with a double and a run scored. The 23-y.o. drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and had no baserunners attempt to steal against him.

Steve Souza Jr. started in right field and went 1-for-5, grounding into a double play, but stealing two bases. He made four putouts in the field.

Robert Benincasa pitched the 9th for the Solar Sox but was greeted with a solo HR to the first batter he faced. He retired three of the next four batters he faced, issuing a one-out walk and striking out a batter.

The Solar Sox hit the road tonight as they visit the Salt River Rafters. Matt Purke is scheduled to make the start for Mesa.

Jul 082013
 

Late last night, news came that the Nats had traded for Scott Hairston for a minor-leaguer. Early this morning, it was reported that it would be a “Class A pitcher” (a CYA, BTW since that could mean Auburn, Hagerstown, or Potomac).

Now, it’s been revealed that Ivan Pineyro is “the guy the Cubs got,” as well as the two teams swapping players to be named later.

The 21-year-old Dominican entered the Nats system in 2011, leading that DSL squad in starts, innings, and strikeouts and second to former Suns teammate Gilberto Mendez in ERA and WHIP. Last summer, he started five games in the GCL and posted a 2.38ERA over 22⅔ innings (no record), before finishing with a less impressive 3-2 mark with a 5.50/3.26/1.660 line in eight starts with Auburn (note the FIP).

That was, however, good enough to earn Pineyro a trip to full-season ball in 2013, in addition to making this site’s 2013 Watchlist for the second straight year as one of the “Notable Arms” (which, along with $2, gets you a cup of coffee).

In Hagerstown, Pineyro went 5-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 13 starts and represented the Suns in the All-Star game. Following the break, Pineyro was moved up to Potomac, a move that at the time, appeared to be more of an injury replacement for Sammy Solis than a true promotion.

Pineyro made three starts for Potomac, all at home, with mixed results. In his debut, he was left out there a little too long and couldn’t go the requisite five innings against Carolina for the win. His second outing was in a suspended-by-rain start versus Myrtle Beach, in which he gave up a run on three hits over three innings, but was hit hard in the second inning.

His final start, however, was impressive as he threw seven scoreless on the 4th of July in a 3-1 win over Wilmington.

Pineyro was a good but not great pitcher in the limited time I was able to see him. Decent fastball, good change, but quite hittable when he missed his spots and left pitches up. There’s sure to be some overreaction to dealing one of the very few age-appropriate-to-the-level arms in the system, particularly one developed in the post-SmileyAlvarez era of the team’s efforts in the Dominican Republic.

A corresponding move in terms of “backfilling” Pineyro’s spot in the rotation has not yet been announced. Two possibilities (and this is pure speculation) are (A) Solis returning from the GCL (B) Dixon Anderson coming off the DL in Hagerstown.

Solis last pitched on July 5 in the GCL, which is prototypical for a rehabbing pitcher to appear in a game or two before returning north. Anderson was placed on the DL justbefore his scheduled start on July 4th as opposed to after his previous start on June 29, which could also indicate that he may have been one of the players under consideration (and still may be).

If/when such an announcement is made within the next few fours, this space will be updated.

Mar 272013
 

Baseball America for NPPLike slideshows of cheerleaders and WAGs for Bleacher Report*, Baseball America can’t resist another chance to re-issue a list, which it did today with the 2013 Organizational Talent Rankings.
*Full disclosure: I can’t resist bulldogs or visual puns.

As a system, the Nats came in at #13 — up three spots from the #16 ranking last December — but perhaps of more interest is the “new” Top 10 list, which is as follows:

1. Anthony Rendon, 3B (AA)
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP (XST)
3. Brian Goodwin, OF (AA)
4. A.J. Cole, RHP (A+)
5. Matt Skole, 1B-3B (AA)
6. Nathan Karns, RHP (AA)
7. Christan Garcia, RHP (MLB D.L.)
8. Eury Perez, OF (AAA)
9. Sammy Solis, LHP (XST)
10. Matt Purke, LHP (XST)

In a nutshell, A.J. Cole was inserted at #4 and the “old” nos. 4-9 were moved down one spot. Zach Walters was the “bumped” #10 prospect. My projected destinations for where they’ll be for Opening Day are in parentheses.

The Washington farm was ranked #12 last year in this revision, following a brief moment on paper when the system was rated #1 prior to the Gio Gonzalez trade.

Dec 192012
 

Only a couple of surprises here, but let’s cut to the chase before we discuss…

1. Anthony Rendon, 3b
2. Lucas Giolito, rhp
3. Brian Goodwin, of
4. Matt Skole, 3b
5. Nathan Karns, rhp
6. Christian Garcia, rhp
7. Eury Perez, of
8. Sammy Solis, lhp
9. Matt Purke, lhp
10. Zach Walters, ss

For me, the surprises are Christian Garcia, Nathan Karns, Matt Skole and Matt Purke. My bad on overlooking Garcia — in my head, he’s already “graduated” and will be a bullpen fixture; clearly I’m getting ahead of myself — which, along with Skole and Karns, is a bit of a departure from the slavish devotion to youth. Of course, that Skole and Karns have been getting so much virtual ink may also have something to do with it.

Purke surprises me for the same reason I was sure that Solis would make the list: His surgery wouldn’t be held against him. Indeed, BA did not deviate from its norms of hyperbole when selecting Lucas Giolito as having the organization’s “Best Fastball” and “Best Curveball” despite his UCL replacement (yes, TJ surgery has a high success rate, but it’s not 100%). Still, it’s a little odd that Purke fell beneath Solis in the rankings despite having a less invasive procedure done.

The free article focuses on the parent club and how the system produced the talent that fueled the unexpected (for the honest, at least) playoff run in 2012. And of course, BA is effusive in its praise for the selections of Strasburg and Harper in ’09 and ’10 as well as Rendon in ’11 and Giolito in ’12 (as for the rest of the 2012 draft, BA was like the lawyers responding to Billy Ray Valentine’s plea for help in the men’s club in “Trading Places”).

The projections for where the 2013 Top 10 will start the year were as follows:
MLB — Garcia
AAA — Perez, Walters
AA — Rendon, Goodwin, Skole, Karns
Lo-A — Purke
XST/Rehab — Giolito, Solis

Again, no big shocks — though the verb for Skole was “reach,” not “start” and they also qualified his placement with “his hands are sure enough to play at either corner,” which I can’t fault them for since everybody outside the organization sees him as a 1B but the Nationals have yet to fully commit to the position switch. Likewise, they projected Solis to start in XST and then head north on a rehab tour. My guess would be that he goes to Hagerstown for the three-inning stints and then moves up to Potomac for when he’s given the five-inning limit, then moved to Harrisburg if/when the coaches like what they see (that’s my CYA if/when he gets the bump despite poor nos.)

Dec 052012
 

The pattern of a (near-)unanimous few then the biases of the many continues with the votes for the Nationals’ Top 10 Pitchers. Thirty different pitchers received votes, but only two appeared on each of the thirteen ballots cast (Lucas Giolito and Nathan Karns) while two more were named on all but one (Sammy Solis and Matt Purke).

1. Lucas Giolito
2. Nathan Karns
3. Matt Purke
4. Sammy Solis
5. Christian Garcia
6. Erik Davis
7. Danny Rosenbaum
8. Aaron Barrett
9. Brett Mooneyham
10. Robbie Ray

Others receiving votes: Rob Wort, Rafael Martin, Neil Holland, Paul Demny, Pedro Encarnacion, Taylor Jordan, Christian Meza, Jeff Mandel, Cole Kimball, Brad Meyers, Wirkin Estevez, Pat McCoy, Ryan Tatusko, Robert Benincasa, Derek Self, Hector Nelo, Josh Smoker, Jack McGeary, Nick Lee

Perhaps more disturbing is that we don’t see a pitcher who hasn’t had shoulder or elbow surgery until the #6 hurler, Erik Davis, who instead has had knee problems, according to MASN’s Byron Kerr.

Close behind is the realization that half of this list is 25 or older. Put another way: just 10 of these 30 pitchers voted for were born after 1990.

As I wrote back in September in discussing the Nationals farm, it’s pretty clear that the organization’s strength has shifted away from developing pitchers to position players. Perhaps more evident: surgery and long periods of rehab seem to be the gamble the Nats are willing to make — regardless of a pitcher’s age or ailment — to get pitching potential. What remains to be seen is whether this approach will pay off frequently enough to warrant the shifting of innings or roles away from healthier and/or lower-ceiling guys.

I hope folks enjoyed this experiment in crowdsourcing. Next up on the minor-league calendar is the Rule 5 draft. The Nats are nearly certain not to be takers in the MLB phase (thus, no preview this year), and may even have a player or two taken, though the odds are extremely short that any player taken will be gone for good.

Feb 282012
 

As predicted, MLB Network has picked up some of Nationals games in its broadcast schedule. Most, however, are rebroadcasts of the MASN feed, some live, some tape delayed. Three road games have been added, with one live (at Atlanta on March 14) and two tape-delayed (at St. Louis on March 22, at Mets on March 28), increasing the total to 13 games on cable TV this spring and nine games on local radio.

Here’s the updated schedule with the live and/or unique games:

Day Date Time (ET) Opponent Network
Sat. Mar. 3 1:05 p.m. Houston 106.7 FM
Sun. Mar. 4 1:05 p.m. Houston MASN
Mon. Mar. 5 6:10 p.m. NY Mets MASN
Tue. Mar. 13 6:05 p.m. Detroit MASN*
Wed. Mar. 14 6:05 p.m. Atlanta MLB Network#
Thu. Mar. 15 1:05 p.m. NY Yankees MASN**
Fri. Mar. 16 1:05 p.m. NY Yankees MLB Network
Sat. Mar. 17 1:05 p.m. Miami 106.7 FM
Sun. Mar. 18 1:05 p.m. Detroit 106.7 FM
Wed. Mar. 21 1:05 p.m. Atlanta MASN*
Thu. Mar. 22 10:00 p.m.+ St. Louis MLB Network
Sat. Mar. 24 1:05 p.m. Baltimore MASN***
Sun. Mar. 25 1:05 p.m. NY Mets 106.7 FM
Wed. Mar. 28 4:00 p.m.+ NY Mets MLB Network
Fri. Mar. 30 6:05 p.m. Miami MASN*
Tue. Apr. 3 3:05 p.m. Boston MASN

* = Not simulcast on 106.7FM  ** = Simulcast on 1580AM instead of 106.7FM  *** = Orioles MASN broadcasters
+ = Tape delay  # = Also on 106.7FM

And in case you’ve been living under a rock, Sammy Solis appears to be the latest National to undergo TJ surgery, while Anthony Rendon has become the ST flavor of the week. Here’s a take from outside the Natmosphere from national baseball writer Rob Neyer.