For the second straight summer, Syracuse admirably achieved its primary mission of providing the Washington Nationals with replacements for injured or underperforming players. They also fulfilled a secondary function of providing a place for the latter to either get back on track (Tyler Moore) or get reps to try to work through their
injuries issues (Danny Espinosa).
From that point of view, the 2013 Chiefs were successful. Like it or not, that’s the role for AAA nowadays — a place to play for “inventory” to stay active and a “finishing school” of sorts for certain prospects (typically, but not exclusively position players). That the Nationals have fielded also-rans for three straight seasons is irrelevant in this philosophy.
With that “said,” we embark on the final 2013 season review with the usual comparison against the league, then a focus on the Top 10 who were 27-and-under (i.e. league-average age) and had significant playing time, which this year works out to 17 or more innings pitched for pitchers, 111 or more plate appearances.
* GPA = Gross Production Average
At first glance, it looks like this team should have done better than a last-place finish, albeit in a strong division. The Chiefs were better than the league in average, HRs, slugging on offense, walks issued, HRs surrendered. Sure, the ERA was a notch below, but… oh wait: 143 errors in 144 games (tied with Indianapolis)? The worst fielding percentage in the I.L. (.974)? The most unearned runs (86)? Never mind.
Obviously, poor defense aside, the two most glaring exceptions to the around-the-league-average theme are batting walks (tied for 12th fewest) and pitching strikeouts (tied for 11th fewest). Not taking walks is always going to help out the opposing pitchers. Likewise, not getting K’s increases the odds of contact, which was a double handicap because the team was not adept at converting batted balls into outs.
If there is something I’m glad to be wrong about, it’s that the Nationals haven’t gotten older at this level as I thought they might a year ago. Even with the likes of 32-y.o. Yunesky Maya (who pitched the second-most innings), the team’s pitchers were only slightly older than the league average (27.6 vs. 27.3) and the hitters were actually younger (26.6 vs. 26.9), thanks to a pair of 23-year-olds (Zach Walters, Eury Perez) playing nearly every day.
Which brings us to those age-appropriate bats… (Full statistics for the team can be found here.)
|Name||Age||PA||Position(s)||G @ Pos||Fld%||Err||GPA||ISO|
The good news is that seven of these ten are home-grown. The bad news is that just two of them aren’t repeating the level. Those two, of course, are Jeff Kobernus and Zach Walters, who will be competing in 2014 to achieve what Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi did in 2012: establish themselves as MLB bench/role players.
Unfortunately, that path seems blocked for Corey Brown (who’s now out of options) while Eury Perez has languished at AAA and has but one option left and would seem destined to follow in Brown’s footsteps. Time ran out for Chris Marrero, who was removed from the 40-man last month, and became a free agent earlier this week. Likewise for Carlos Rivero, who went from nearly making the club out of spring training to getting demoted to AA after his production dropped dramatically (.783 OPS in ’12 to .588)
On to the pitchers…
|Danny Rosenbaum||25||28/28||7-11, 0||3.87||158⅓||167||67||102||1.478||10||8||8|
|Tanner Roark||26||33/11||9-3, 2||3.15||105⅔||85||20||84||0.994||6||3||2|
|Caleb Clay||25||14/13||5-2, 0||2.49||83||68||14||51||0.988||5||3||3|
|Erik Davis||25||45/0||3-7, 15||3.10||52⅓||55||20||54||1.433||4||0||2|
|Ryan Perry||26||12/8||1-4, 0||7.93||42||54||23||27||1.833||9||1||3|
|Xavier Cedeno||26||39/0||2-0, 4||1.31||34⅓||23||16||45||1.136||2||1||5|
|Tyler Robertson||25||26/1||2-7, 0||3.04||26⅔||33||8||24||1.538||2||0||2|
|Cole Kimball||27||23/0||0-0, 1||8.06||25⅔||31||14||25||1.753||4||0||6|
|Michael Broadway||26||18/0||1-1, 6||2.28||23⅔||16||7||26||0.972||2||0||1|
|Fernando Abad||27||17/0||1-0, 0||1.06||17||17||2||12||1.118||0||0||0|
Here is where you see how AAA has become the place to “house inventory” — even with an age-28 cutoff, a significant number of innings went to guys that were acquired, signed, or claimed since last November. And it’s not hard to see what the parent club was looking for in reserve: left-handed relievers.
Danny Rosenbaum, who was taken then returned by Colorado in the Rule 5 draft, was the only lefthanded starter all season long and one has to wonder: If he sticks around next year, is there any chance he’ll be converted to relief to increase his chances of pitching in DC? Or will he be given the Corey Brown treatment and continue to start, with neither the hamburger or the pay on Tuesday?
Methinks the latter will be the case and the example of Tanner Roark will be the justification, as he too was asked to eat innings in 2012 (147⅔ in 26 starts) started 2013 in the Chiefs ‘pen, then shifted back to starting and did both for the parent club, winning seven of his first eight decisions and logging 53⅔ innings for a team that was chasing a playoff spot.
As I did a year ago, I expect the Nationals to promote a handful of the Harrisburg pitchers and use FAs to plug the gaps at both AA and AAA until the prospects are ready. It’s WAY too early to say much more than that, esepcially in light of the trades that have been made over the past couple of offseasons.
OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE
That four of these five are already on the 40-man makes this easy. Justifying the two pitchers is a little harder, given that they turned 26 and 27 last month. But this is what I have to pick from, and the guy not on the 40-man could very well be added to somebody’s 40-man next month (again). Plus, as the old saw goes, he is lefthanded and throws strikes, so…
1. Zach Walters
2. Jeff Kobernus
3. Eury Perez
4. Danny Rosenbaum
5. Erik Davis