Feb 142014
 

Well, nothing like a trade on the first day of Spring Training to [fudge over] this series of posts.

Anyway, to pick up where we left off yesterday (and staying in format)… the 2014 Senators just got a whole lot more interesting, but before we take a look at this year’s guess, let’s see how well I picked last year’s staff…

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
Nathan Karns Adam Olbrychowski Paul Demny
Trevor Holder Blake Treinen Marcos Frias
Brian Broderick Neil Holland
Rob Gilliam Rob Wort
Tyler Herron Cameron Selik
Matt Grace


Much like Syracuse, I was only completely wrong on one, but missed the roles on several… and was just barely right on a few more (Wort, demoted; Herron and Grace began in Potomac, but spent the lion’s share of 2013 here). I’m not arrogant enough to think that maybe I’m getting good at this, just lucky.

As aforementioned, yesterday’s trade changes things. At least I think it will. In the most optimistic scenario, Taylor Hill benefits by rounding out the Chiefs rotation instead of the Senators. In the most pessimistic, Matt Purke is held back for another few weeks in Potomac. And if you’re cynical, he’ll be put on the DL again for the month of April again (quite frankly, if that were to happen, it would raise some unsettling questions).

Thus, I’ll name six starters to reflect the trade and its uncertainty. Here’s who I think will make up the Nats’ AA pitching staff in 2014 (40-man guys in bold):

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
A.J. Cole Paul Demny Richie Mirowski
Sammy Solis Brian Rauh Tyler Herron
Blake Schwartz Robert Benincasa
Felipe Rivero Matt Grace
Taylor Hill Colin Bates
Matt Purke


I feel fairly confident in getting the starters mostly right, but aside from Mirowski and Benincasa, I don’t feel as good about how I picked the rest of the staff. Mostly because I fear that one or two of these guys will not go to either Potomac or Syracuse.

The P-Nats’ playoff meltdown not withstanding, if this collection of arms does live up to its billing and the hitters don’t start slowly, it should be another contender at City Island this summer.

Feb 132014
 

Now that we’ve taken a swag at the position players, it’s to time to project the four full-season pitching staffs. This is only the third time I’ve attempted this and I’m reminded every time I work the board why I resisted trying this in the first place: It’s really difficult.

The previous two times, I hedged by “overpicking” — naming more guys than the typical 12-man staff. This year, I decided just to go with the gut and stop at 12. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I think a guy at given level will be released (though that’s always a concern with picking the “A” teams) it just means I’m on the fence about where he fits in the organization’s plans, which I’m not privy to (and if I were, it wouldn’t be guessing!)

I also skipped anybody coming off surgery or that I believe has had surgery or was hurt. This is simply prudent: The only way we know a guy is healthy is when he pitches. Thus, by exension, I’m not designating anybody on the D.L. as I did a year ago.

With the caveats spelled out, let’s review how I picked the 2013 Syracuse pitchers…

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
Yunesky Maya Ryan Tatusko Erik Davis
Ross Ohlendorf* Fernando Abad* Pat Lehman
Tanner Roark Pat McCoy
Jeff Mandel Hassan Pena
Matt Torra* Cole Kimball
Ryan Perry
Bold = On 40-Man Italics = Non-Roster Invitee * = ’12-’13 MLFA


Missing on roles doesn’t bother me much because pitchers are moved in and out of the bullpen all the time in the minors, which is part of what the farm is for — finding a role that suits a pitcher so he can contribute when the big club calls him up.

One of the two that I got entirely wrong started at AA (Lehman) and never made it up, the other was released (Pena). All things considered, this is probably as good as it gets for an exercise like this. Still, I’m aware of some the ones I got right were just barely… McCoy and Perry, for example, were demoted in April and June respectively; Cole Kimball was in Viera until late June.

Finally, here’s my projection for the 2014 Syracuse staff, without the cushion of extra picks or the track record of spring training usage:

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
Taylor Jordan Ryan Tatusko* Aaron Barrett
Nathan Karns Matt Swynenberg Tyler Robertson*
Danny Rosenbaum Daniel Stange*
Chris Young* Zack Jackson*
Blake Treinen Neil Holland
Bold = On 40-Man Italics = Non-Roster Invitee * = ’13-’14 MLFA


Obviously, I feel the least amount of confidence in the starters… Taylor could win the #5 starter’s job in DC… Young could be released before the Ides of March… Rosenbaum could be converted to relief in an effort to buy more time for Sammy Solis to develop… not to mention any number of possibilities resulting from how the “Big Nats” pitching staff is constructed.

Next up: The 2014 Harrisburg Senators.

UPDATE: Karns was traded literally while this was being written. Given the nature of such a post (a speculative prediction), I’m leaving it as is until more details of the trade are available.

Feb 102014
 

For the third straight spring, I think we’re looking at a spring training with not much drama for the minor-leaguers.

This, of course, is a good thing in the bigger picture of the organization. Contenders don’t come into camp raving about how their kids are going to make this season a championship run. It also feels good to use the word “contender” without a hint of snark or sarcasm.

No, we’re looking at the mundane vernal ritual of seeing if one of “our guys” can snag a spot on the bench, challenge for the #5 starter’s job, or wedge their way into the bullpen.

Where could I potentially be very wrong*? . One rather obvious “X” factor is new manager Matt Williams, who has reportedly mapped out every day of Spring Training. This implies that Williams will be more of a taskmaster than his predecessor, and would seem to make sense as teams often change manager’s style if they don’t clean out the clubhouse, so to speak.
* That’s rhetorical question; besides, I’ve been married for more than 18 years and can get that answer without asking at any time.

On paper, that might mean a better chance for the younger players, particularly (especially?) if any veterans come into camp in less than stellar form or start slow. But we’re not going to “know” for at least a couple more weeks (and even then, it’ll be filtered through the lens of the beat writers).

What can be potentially more interesting for us is what might happen if there are any position battles that might result in a trade. Danny Espinosa showing he’s healthy and in second-half 2012 form… Sandy Leon continuing to hit the way he did in the VWL… Eury Perez outplaying Nate McLouth and/or Scott Hairston for a backup outfielder’s spot.

Unfortunately, almost any pitcher scenario seems to involve guys with multiple options left (with the notable exception of Ryan Mattheus), though it’s possible for GM Mike Rizzo to do a Perry-for-Balester trade in reverse. Still, that doesn’t jibe with his obsession with preference for options and flexibility.

As in years past, I’ll post about Nationals Spring Training from the minors perspective for as long as feasible and/or reasonable — probably until mid-March — before stepping back and doing semi-daily posts for the rest of March until the minors rosters are announced and the games begin in early April.

Jan 242014
 

2014 NRIs
With the announcement today of the full list of 2014 non-roster invitees (NRIs), we now have a good sense of the minor-leaguers who will begin spring training next month with the big boys.

Suffice it to write, the vast majority of these guys won’t make the Opening Day roster. But with a new field manager*, camp is going to be a bit bigger than under his predecessor, so it’s possible that a couple more minor-leaguers will be brought up.
* [rant] Can we please not call him Matty? The man is 48, not 15. It’s only three extra characters on Twitter and can shortened to Wms. [/rant]

For us, the X factor is how many of the first two groups will wait in Syracuse… or be offered the opportunity. Folks are already drawing up the full-season affiliates’ rosters in their heads, if not on paper (don’t worry, I’ll do the same next month when I review last year’s roster/staff predictions) but absent that information, we’re all just guessing.

Without further ado, here’s how it breaks down…

MLB VETERANS
IFs Jamey Carroll, Mike Fontenot, RHPs Chris Young, Clay Hensley, Manny Delcarmen

MiLB VETERANS
IFs Josh Johnson, Will Rhymes, RHPs Daniel Stange, 1B-OF Brock Peterson

40-MAN GUYS
OFs Steven Souza, Michael Taylor, Eury Perez, LHPs Sammy Solis, Matt Purke, RHPs Nathan Karns, Aaron Barrett, SS-3B Zach Walters, UT Jeff Kobernus

TOP PROSPECTS, NOT ON 40-MAN
RHP A.J. Cole, OF Brian Goodwin, 1B-3B Matt Skole

CATCHERS
Chris Snyder, Brian Jeroloman, Sandy Leon, Jhonatan Solano

AAA LHPs
Tyler Robertson, Danny Rosenbaum

AAA RHP
Blake Treinen

THAT GUY FROM THE MEXICAN LEAGUE
RHP Gabriel Alfaro

Jan 212014
 


With snow expected to cripple the DC area (and extend kids’ three-day weekend into five), now’s as good a time as any to take a look at the broadcast schedule for the 2014 Nationals spring training. For the folks who have subscriptions to MLB.tv and MLB Radio, there will likely be some road broadcasts (personal favorite: St. Louis’s radio guy Mike Shannon, who sounds like Jeff Bridges after three or four shots of bourbon), which I’d include except they’re yet to be posted. Likewise for the MLB Network.

Sadly, there are just four FM broadcasts this year, and only two that don’t coincide with a MASN broadcast. That’s offset slightly by just two broadcasts that are only on 1580 AM, which is significant if you live outside of its Daisy air-rifle range broadcast radius, and the addition of 1500 AM as an option for four of the AM-only dates.

Happily, there is no Baltimore broadcast or game this spring. Gluttons for punishment will just have to wait until interleague play.

The dates with an asterisk will be split-squad games, which for us means a better chance of seeing “our guys” for more than inning or an at-bat or two. As I have in the previous four springs, the plan is to write up the games from that point of view for as long as it’s reasonable.

Day Date Time (ET) Opponent Network
Fri. Feb. 28 1:10 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets 1500 and 1580 AM
Sun. Mar. 2 1:05 p.m. Miami MASN
Fri. Mar. 7 1:05 p.m. Houston 1500 and 1580 AM
Sat. Mar. 8 1:05 p.m. Atlanta* 1500 and 1580 AM
Sun. Mar. 9 1:05 p.m. St. Louis MASN, 106.7 FM, 1500 AM
Mon. Mar. 10 6:05 p.m. Houston 1580 AM
Tue. Mar. 11 1:05 p.m. N.Y. Yankees MASN
Sun. Mar. 16 1:05 p.m. Detroit* MASN
Wed. Mar. 19 6:05 p.m. Houston MASN
Thu. Mar. 20 1:05 p.m. Detroit 1500 and 1580 AM
Sat. Mar. 22 1:05 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets 106.7 FM, 1500 AM
Sun. Mar. 23 1:10 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets 106.7 FM, 1500 AM
Tue. Mar. 25 1:05 p.m. N.Y. Mets MASN
Wed. Mar. 26 1:05 p.m. @ St. Louis ESPN
Thu. Mar. 27 12:10 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets ESPN
Sat. Mar. 29 2:05 p.m. Detroit
@ Nationals Park
106.7 FM, 1580 AM
Mar 242013
 

We now interrupt your lazy Sunday afternoon for another transaction-oriented post.

The Washington Nationals announced late Sunday afternoon that out-of-options IF-OF Carlos Rivero passed through waivers and has been outrighted to Syracuse while RHP Christian Garcia was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a forearm tendon strain.

If there’s an underlying theme among these moves — minus Garcia — it’s that Nats GM Mike Rizzo is adamant that “surplus” players aren’t leaving without a decent return. Both Colorado and Detroit were looking to hold onto Danny Rosenbaum and Jeff Kobernus, respectively, but returned them because “the asking price was too high.”

It’s probably safe to deduce that the Nats were unable to trade Rivero for the same reason.

The Garcia move is retroactive to Friday, which would make the righthander eligible on April 6th. With zero exhibition appearances, his injury history, and the careful management of his workload last summer, estimates such as Adam Kilgore’s of Garcia missing the month of April seem rather plausible.

Mar 192013
 

Shifting-GearsWith six players optioned to Syracuse, two reassigned to minor-league camp, and a veteran given his release so he can pursue a job elsewhere, that’s my cue that it’s time to shift gears away from spring training.

As I wrote last month, I would post about spring training from the minors point of view for long as it seemed reasonable, estimating that would it be about three or four weeks. Well, just like last year, it’s about 23 days.

Unfortunately, it’s more than two weeks until the “other” Opening Day of April 4th (Harrisburg, at home; Hagerstown and Syracuse, on the road), with day after beginning the morning ritual of cherry-picking the boxscores and writing summaries for the “News & Notes.” That Friday is also the opening night for Potomac, which I’ll cover with the first of what I hope to be five dozen or so “Last Night In Woodbridge” (with a few “Sunday Afternoon” editions, too).

A couple weeks after that, I’ll begin the weekly feature of “Good, Bad, and Interesting,” where I pick out the leaders, trailers, and outliers of each affiliate in the spirit of passing along fun facts and things I’ve noticed while doing the daily notes.

Until then, sit tight as we wait out the rest of the spring. Just like the dark months of December, January, and February, I’ll do my best to refresh the site with minors-oriented news, even if the some of next few items that I expect to see may be unpleasant.

Mar 182013
 

Ross Detwiler pitched well, Ryan Perry did not, but a pair of Tyler Moore home runs plus a two innings in the outfield from Jhonatan “The Onion” Solano were the highlights of an ugly 12-10 win for the Nats over the Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

In his first start since Team USA was bounced from the WBC, Detwiler gave up just a run (albeit a home run to Torii Hunter in the bottom of the first) on three hits over four innings. The 27-year-old southpaw walked one and struck out, showing little signs of rust after the nine-day layoff.

Meanwhile, the regulars built a 7-1 lead thanks to the efforts of the Magnolia Muscle’s solo shot in the 4th and two-run blast in the 5th. Detwiler turned the ball over Perry, who pitched a 1-2-3 fifth but couldn’t retire any of the five batters he faced in the 6th — walking two and hitting a batter before giving a single to Prince Fielder and a double to Victor Martinez.

Jeremy Accardo was only a little more effective, letting in Martinez on sacrifice fly before giving up a run of his own on a single and a double. After he walked a pinch hitter, he got a strikeout and a groundout to keep the game tied at 7-7.

Micah Owings (1-for-4, BB) broke the tie with an RBI groundout in the 7th but left the game with a sore quadriceps after reaching on an error as the Nats overcame a 9-8 deficit (thanks to Ryan Mattheus giving up a two-run shot to Matt Tuiasosopa in the bottom of the 7th) with a four-run top of the 8th.

With a 12-9 lead and a short bench (read: Carlos Maldonado) thanks to the slew of mid-game defensive changes (a.k.a. our guys), manager Davey Johnson opted to put Solano (2-2, R, RBI) into the outfield in place of Owing and have Maldonado (0-1, BB, K), who had pinch hit for DH Chad Tracy, take Solano’s place behind the plate.

One of the truisms of the sport is that the ball finds the weakest defenders, and the out-of-position Solano was put to the test with a flyout in the 8th and four straight balls hit his way in the 9th — double, RBI single (by Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus), then two fly balls (both caught). Erik Davis, who had begun the inning, got the last out on a grounder.

Chris Marrero joined Owings in the starting lineup at 1B and went 3-for-5 with three RBI. As aforementioned, most of the reserves hit the game during the 5th. Here’s a rundown on they did:

  • 3B-SS Zach Walters 1-3
  • CF Corey Brown 1-2, R, BB, SB
  • RF Carlos Rivero 0-3, 2K
  • PR-3B Josh Johnson 0-0, 2R, BB

It’s a rematch today in Viera at 1:05 p.m. with Jordan Zimmermann expected to start against Detroit’s Max Scherzer. The game can be heard on MLB Audio with the Tigers radio feed.

Mar 172013
 

Stephen Strasburg looks ready for April, but Drew Storen seems stuck in October.

Strasburg threw more than 90 pitches in his fifth spring start (93, 64 for strikes to be exact), surrendering a solo HR to former teammate Rick Ankiel to account for the lone run he gave up over five and a 1/3rd innings. He allowed five hits total, walked one and struck out eight.

Storen, on the other hand, continues to struggle this spring. He was touched for three runs on four hits and a walk in the 8th, blowing his second save and taking his first loss. In seven appearances, he’s has just one clean inning and only two where he hasn’t given up a hit.

Perhaps it’s reminiscent of March 2011 (2.294 WHIP in 11&⅓ IP vs. 1.857 in 7), but it’ll be something to watch over the next two weeks. Given manager Davey Johnson’s proclamation that it’s time for the relievers to start working every other day, that leaves Storen roughly five more appearances until Opening Day.

Meanwhile, as I feel like the high school kids playing the 4:30 p.m. game before the 7 p.m. main event, we’re approaching the end of our spring training coverage as the MLB starters and reserves begin to play deeper into the games in favor of the minor-leaguers. Just four notables made it into yesterday’s contest:

  • CF Corey Brown, 0-1
  • RF Carlos Rivero, 0-0, E(1)
  • PR-SS Zach Walters, 0-1, K
  • 1B Chris Marrero, 0-1

For the second straight Sunday, the Nats take a trip to Lakeland to visit the Tigers. Ross Detwiler is expected to pitch in place of Gio Gonzalez this afternoon. The game can be heard on MLB Audio with the Detroit radio feed.

Mar 152013
 

Steve Lombardozzi grounds out to 3B in the 6th for the sole National run

Lombardozzi grounds out to 3B in the 6th for the sole Nat run

St. Louis had its way with starter Dan Haren, roughing up the veteran for four runs on two home runs in the first and five runs overall to hand Washington a 5-1 defeat this afternoon.

Haren gave up six hits and two walks overall across the five innings he threw in his fourth spring appearance. Yunesky Maya was the first man out of the ‘pen, leading a trio of relievers who each turned in a scoreless inning and limited the Cardinals to just two hits (both given up by Ryan Mattheus in the 7th).

Chris Marrero (1-for-4), Carlos Rivero (0-for-4, 2K), Corey Brown (1-for-3), Micah Owings (2-for-2), and Zach Walters (1-for-3) were the nos. 5-9 batters in the lineup and accounted for all five hits the Nats would register for the game.

Pinch-runner Steve Souza scored the lone run as a pinch-runner for Owings, as Walters pushed him to third with one out and leadoff man Steve Lombardozzi plated him with a groundball to third and reached first safely when Ryan Jackson’s throw was too askew for second baseman Ronny Cedeno to attempt a throw to first.

Ricky Hague (PR-2B), Jhonatan Solano (C), Caleb Ramsey (LF), and Carlos Maldonado (PH-DH) also came off the bench but none got a hit. Ramsey reached on an error with one out in the 9th, followed by Maldonado drawing a pinch walk to set up a first-and-second situation for Marrero, but the rally was quashed with a groundout from the first baseman and popup by Rivero to end the game.

With the loss, the Nationals fall back to .500 at 9-9-2 in the Grapefruit League thus far this spring. It’s an evening tilt tomorrow night at 6:05 p.m. against the Astros in Viera. MASN alone has the broadcast.