Feb 212013
 

accelerated-campWhile the “Big Nats” have been in spring training for more than a week, this week is the early reporting date for the minor-leaguers, a.k.a. accelerated camp.

Basically, it’s a chance for the top-tier prospects to get extra time with the coaches and make sure everyone’s going in the right direction.

All but a handful below are on the 2013 Watchlist, but inferences as to where they will be assigned this year cannot be readily drawn from this. Last year, for example, you might have thought that Jack McGeary’s presence meant a ticket to Hagerstown for 2012 after 2010 surgery and a short stint in the GCL in 2011. Instead, he was assigned to Auburn.

This year, thanks to the reporting of Lacy Lusk we get a little bit more of a clue as to who’s still rehabbing.

Without further ado, here’s the rest of the roster:

PITCHERS CATCHERS INFIELDERS OUTFIELDERS
Dixon Anderson Jeff Howell Cutter Dykstra Billy Burns
Caleb Clay Craig Manuel Ricky Hague Brian Goodwin
A.J. Cole Justin Miller Kevin Keyes Destin Hood
Paul Demny Raudy Read Jason Martinson Estarlin Martinez
Pedro Encarnacion Pedro Severino Stephen Perez Mike McQuillan
David Fischer Shawn Pleffner Brandon Miller
Taylor Hill Tony Renda Steven Souza Jr.
Taylor Jordan Adrian Sanchez Michael Taylor
Brett Mooneyham
Ronald Pena
Ivan Pineyro
Brian Rauh
Robbie Ray
Blake Schwartz
Matt Swynenberg
Ryan Tatusko
Blake Treinen
Kylin Turnbull
Sean West
Deion Williams

Full camp for the rest of the guys begins next week.

Feb 152013
 

I hope folks enjoyed this little exercise this week — picking which pitchers will begin where in 2013 — as it finishes today with Low-A Hagerstown.

The lowest full-season roster is an estimation as to who did well enough the previous summer in the New York-Penn League to get promoted and who either didn’t do well enough, won’t win the numbers game, or needs more time from last year’s Suns. Jumps from the GCL do happen, but they are rare.

Here’s how I guessed it last February:

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
Bobby Hansen Chris McKenzie Greg Holt
Wirkin Estevez Taylor Hill Blake Monar
Christian Meza Colin Bates Ben Hawkins
Nathan Karns Kylin Turnbull Aaron Barrett
Matt Purke Tyler Hanks
Luis Chirinos
Jack McGeary

Like Potomac, I was only completely wrong on a handful, getting 12 of 17 right if you’re willing to look the other way on Hawkins and Purke (in purple), who began in Hagerstown, albeit in late April and late May respectively. Where I wasn’t so good was picking who’d be starting and who’d be relieving, but such is the nature with the small sample sizes of short-season ball (e.g. Meza, who relieved in 9 of 11 appearances in 2010, but started in 10 of 13 in 2011).

So as we finish up, here’s my take on who will pitch for Hagerstown to begin this year:

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS D.L.
Blake Schwartz Dixon Anderson Leonard Hollins Wirkin Estevez
Brian Rauh David Fischer Cody Davis  
Nick Lee   Derek Self  
Blake Monar   Robert Benincasa  
Pedro Encarnacion   Michael Boyden  
Brett Mooneyham      

If you’re inclined to ask “What about________?” after seeing all four parts, remember that getting information about players’ injuries and health is very difficult. It doesn’t help that the Nats aren’t very forthcoming in this department (though hardly a shock, given how tone-deaf the PR folks can be sometimes).

I will joke about this during the season, so if you’re new here… understand I’m not being callous so much as I’m mocking the farce of being so secretive (this isn’t hockey or football) while simultaneously playing roster games (e.g. that pitcher on the DL warming up the right fielder between innings).

Now, we return to the wait-and-see mode until the Spring Training games begin.

Feb 142013
 

Since I’m going in order downward from AAA to Low-A, this is part three. In reality, this is the last roster to be finalized of the four full-season affiliates. Consequently, I’ve learned to keep my expectations in check when it comes to seeing marquee prospects in April. In the past seven seasons, it’s been two first-round picks — Ross Detwiler (2007) and Anthony Rendon (2012) and only one of those two was in uniform for the home opener.

Of course, I’m also the guy that roots for the lower-round guys to “figure it out” and make it higher up the ladder than anyone ever expected (e.g. Tommy Milone, Tyler Moore, Brad Peacock) so I’m not complaining. Really.

Still, as you can see from my picks last year, I did a pretty decent job of guessing who’d be in Woodbridge:

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
Robbie Ray Paul Applebee Neil Holland
Matt Grace Matt Swynenberg Rob Wort
Brian Dupra Ryan Demmin Ben Graham
Alex Meyer Trevor Holder Dean Weaver
Kyle Winters Mitchell Clegg
Cameron Selik
Robert Gilliam
Erik Davis

I picked 10 of 17 correctly, and was wrong on the usage on just one (blue). As with Harrisburg, there were two instances that would inevitably be wrong: Clegg, who was released; Weaver, who was hurt. I was perhaps too hopeful to see Meyer early, and as mentioned previously, misread Davis’s nosedive in 2011 (losing five of six starts after his demotion from AA). Dupra was simply an overreach, the kind of miss I don’t mind making.

We’ll see if I do so well next year with this collection of picks:

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS D.L.
A.J. Cole Christian Meza Aaron Barrett Paul Applebee
Robbie Ray Matt Swynenberg Colin Bates  
Taylor Hill   Richie Mirowski  
Taylor Jordan   Greg Holt  
Kylin Turnbull   Ben Hawkins  
Matt Purke      

I wavered over Purke and will probably get that wrong, but I think there are more than few folks that would like to see him start in High-A and start living up to the hype. That’s not his fault, mind you. As mentioned yesterday, Swynenberg’s up and down season is another challenge to guess, not to mention that he’s started only a little more than half of his games as a pro. Barrett is another one I’d like to be wrong about, but history suggests that he’ll have to come back and put in a little more time at Potomac.

Next up: The fourth and final installment in this exercise of looking at the pitching candidates for Hagerstown.

Feb 132013
 

Usually, what makes the Syracuse staff tough to pick is trying to divine which pitchers will miss the big club but stick on. What makes the Harrisburg staff a challenge is figuring out who’s going to get promoted from Potomac and which of the minor-league FAs will be kept and assigned here.

So how did I do picking the 2012 Harrisburg Senators?

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
Danny Rosenbaum Evan Bronson Pat Lehman
Paul Demny Jimmy Barthmaier Hassan Pena
Sammy Solis Cory VanAllen
Tanner Roark Patrick McCoy
Adam Olbrychowski Hector Nelo
Josh Smoker
Marcos Frias
Joe Testa
Christian Garcia

Another 50-50 proposition (8/16). I might have done better if Solis hadn’t gone down with an injury and Bronson hadn’t retired. Josh Smoker seemed a viable candidate, even with a high walk rate, because he was living up to his surname with 95-97 m.p.h. heaters. Conversely, I broke even with Joe Testa and Jimmy Barthmaier, both of whom spent more time in High-A than AA.

So what about this year? Well, one might think that having watched Potomac all last summer gives me an advantage. As we saw above, not necessarily and especially not when the P-Nats had the Carolina League’s worst pitching (yes, even with Alex Meyer and Nathan Karns). Then it becomes a challenge of setting aside the frustration/disappointment as a fan and donning the detachment of a prospect-follower.

We’ll see how it goes this time around. Like Syracuse, I’m picking fewer pitchers overall:

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

I’m well aware that I may have picked the wrong strong finisher named Matt (Grace vs. Swynenberg). I could be misreading Olbrychowski’s late callup (reward vs. favor). About the only thing I’m reasonably sure of are the repeats of Demny, Frias, and Selik (who is listed lower due to his lat injury) — but I was probably equally confident that Pena and VanAllen would repeat last year, too.

Like Brad Meyers, Sammy Solis is probably destined to begin the season on the D.L., though the prognosis from the scribes at Lake Wobegon* sportswriters in Viera is, of course, sunny and upbeat.
*Where the playoff chances are strong, the players are good looking, and everyone is in the best shape of their lives.

Otherwise, I will understand if folks might be less than thrilled with this collection of arms. But if I’m right about the 2013 position players, these guys won’t have to nurse a 3-2 lead as often as they’ll try to hold a 5-4 lead.

Feb 122013
 

After taking a guess at which position players will end up where, last year I tried it for the pitchers for the first time and now it’s time to see how I did.

Of course, with the roles of “Big Nats” largely set going into camp, this was not exactly courageous of me. But the goal is not about being right so much as keeping the conversation going (though being right is nice!).

So, let’s take a look at who I picked last February:

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS
Yunesky Maya Craig Stammen Ryan Perry
Erik Arnesen Austin Bibens-Dirkx* Ryan Mattheus
Matt Buschmann* Ryan Tatusko Atahualpa Severino
Mitch Atkins* Rafael Martin
Gaby Hernandez* Waldis Joaquin*
Mike Ballard* Josh Wilkie
Jeff Mandel
Lee Hyde
Bold = On 40 Man Roster Italics = Non-Roster Invitee * = ’11-’12 Minor-League FA Signing

Granted, no matter what I was going to be wrong on at least five because I “overpicked,” selecting 17 names for roughly 12 slots. I did this at every level because that’s the nature of the beast; pitchers and catchers report first because there are always a lot more of ‘em than spots available.

I got nine wrong — two made the big club (Stammen, Mattheus), two started the season at AA instead (Mandel, Ballard), a third joined the Senators a couple weeks later (Tatusko), and the rest never played for the Nationals in 2012. The most obvious thing as I apply that 20/20 hindsight is that it appears I put too much stock in the FAs (though I might have gotten Zach Duke right had he been signed in the offseason). Otherwise, I pretty much feel like Blinkin.

We’ll see next year if I do any better with this set of picks:

STARTERS SWINGMEN RELIEVERS D.L.
Yunesky Maya Ryan Tatusko Erik Davis Brad Meyers
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

This time around, I’m hedging my bets a lot less. I added a “DL” column as a nod to the M*A*S*H unit on this year’s Watchlist. And I’m leaning back towards the “OGs” and away from the FAs — especially the retread relievers such as Jeremy Accardo and Will Ohman, who I think are longshots (Bill Bray is probably the NRI with the best chance).

“Swingmen” isn’t a literal or old-school definition — basically, it pitchers that can (or have) start(ed) or relieve(d), or I feel may be changing roles — especially in the lower minors. A kind of neither-here-nor-there category, if you will.

The top-to-bottom order is intentional — which does mean that I was on the fence about Ryan Perry beginning at Syracuse or Harrisburg, but with Cole Kimball it’s more a gut feeling that he may not be fully healthy yet. Shoulders, as the old saw goes, are harder to fix than elbows.

Finally, a shout-out to Ben Meyers at the Auburn Citizen, who also took a stab at the candidates for the Syracuse Chiefs’ pitchers and position players.

Feb 112013
 

I hadn’t necessarily planned on revisiting this, but it came up in the comments yesterday, so I figured it might be worth an update and a revisit.

During the “dark times” that preceded this site, I remember this would come up on Brian Oliver’s Nationals Farm Authority. Often (usually) in the context of when it came time to make the final cuts, there would angst over why they would be opting for the veterans instead of “playing the kids” (Justin Maxwell, we hardly knew ye). Now, I think most of us understand that (A) the kids weren’t as good as advertised (B) the system’s depth was Kardashian-shallow.

Of course, with a contender and a less barren farm, the Washington Nationals don’t have to consider choosing between youth, 4As, and fringe major-leaguers.

Let’s get to it… once a player is added to the 40-man roster during the 25-man period (a.k.a. Opening Day to August 31), he can be sent up and back to the minors for three seasons (and sometimes four) until the player accrues five years of major-league service, at which point the player can refuse (and become a free agent). Naturally, there are exceptions… a player can be sent down for up to 20 consecutive days without an option being “burned” and rehab assignments are excluded (thus, for example, Cole Kimball did not use an option at all in 2012, but did accrue MLB service time).

Before I go any further, let me give credit to the research of Todd Boss as well our volunteer who runs the Big Board, SpringfieldFan, for making this post easier, if not possible.

The list of players on the 40-man roster who are excluded from this exercise (5+ yrs MLB service) is short:

Zach Duke Dan Haren Adam LaRoche
Rafael Soriano Kurt Suzuki Chad Tracy
Jayson Werth Ryan Zimmerman  

Not much danger here, most are established veterans and the most vulnerable (Duke) is lefthanded on a team without many southpaws.

The more important list is this one — players with less than five years’ service, without options:

Roger Bernadina Tyler Clippard Ross Detwiler
Carlos Rivero Henry Rodriguez  

The scenario suggested in the comments that sees Espinosa put on the DL, Lombardozzi sliding into the lineup as the 2B, and Rivero manning the bench certainly seems possible. Unfortunately, the lack of options could keep H-Rod around, too.

Finally, there’s this list — guys with just one option left:

Corey Brown Chris Marrero Ryan Mattheus
Yunesky Maya Ryan Perry Wilson Ramos
Craig Stammen    

Maya and Perry are interesting cases in that they were added to the 40-man so soon after their acquisition that they appear to be eligible for a fourth option, which is typically granted for players with less than five years’ pro service. Technically, Bryce Harper has one left, too, but with just nine more regular-season games (139) in the majors than the minors (130) from 2011 to 2012, I’m presuming he’d get a fourth option year if it were ever needed.

I think most people would be focused on those first two names in the first row as possible trade bait, as both appear to be blocked — perhaps even by multiple players. Expectations, however, should be severely tempered — Nationals G.M. Mike Rizzo covets “contingencies” and Chris Marrero has yet to prove he’s reverted to pre-injury form.

Next up: A look at the possible pitchers for the full-season affiliates.

Feb 102013
 

Like a year ago, I’m anticipating a spring training that’s going to have very little drama in terms of the minor leaguers.

As for (melo)drama overall? Well, the heightened expectations coming off a 98-win season, Davey Johnson’s “World Series or Bust” proclamation, the revelation of Danny Espinosa playing with a torn rotator cuff, and of course, the whole cloud of suspicion hanging over Gio Gonzalez

Yeah, there might be a few instances in which the game played that day will be an afterthought.

So what does this mean for us?

Unlike last year, there’s no Bryce Harper madness. Oh, I’m sure if Anthony Rendon has a hot start there will be a drumbeat for him, perhaps even the suggestion of him replacing Espinosa as the incumbent second baseman, but I think the best that his fans can hope for is a ticket to Syracuse instead of Harrisburg. That is possible, of course, especially if Carlos Rivero is traded away (likely) or makes the 25-man roster as a reserve (less likely) because he is out of options.

There will be some interest, of course, in how and where Christian Garcia will pitch this year. Inside the Natmosphere, there’s been blather talk of him becoming a starter; outside of it, most folks seem to be aware that the track record for multiple-TJers is much more favorable towards relievers. In either case, someone might want to have a chat with him:

I have no idea. Wherever they want to put me to play I am okay with it. Whatever I can help the team, any spot they need help with I would love to help in any way I can. So if it is starting, relieving, whatever it is.

Unfortunately for Garcia, he has options left (three) which could lead to something perverse like being him sent down in favor of Henry “What’s That White Thing In Front of the Catcher?” Rodriguez. Likewise for Erik Davis (three), Cole Kimball (two) and as we discovered last November, Ryan Perry still has one option left. Obviously, much of the excitement for 2013 stems from how strong and deep the Nationals pitching staff looks like on paper, never mind the whole Stephen whatshisname thing.

Corey Brown and Eury Perez are going to have a tough time beating out Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore for an OF spot, unless Chad Tracy gets hurt or shows sign of decline. Given his support from Johnson, his status as a Rizzo draftee, and his contract, it’s probably safe to bet Tracy won’t get cut in March. Still, with his multiple sports hernias, Brown and Perez do have youth and health on their side.

The signing of Chris Snyder as an insurance policy for Wilson Ramos does not bode well for Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano. While Snyder reportedly has an “out” clause if he doesn’t make the 25-man roster, he’s also an Article XX-B free agent — essentially, he has enough MLB service time to qualify for a $100,000 roster bonus if he begins the season with Syracuse and can still opt out June 1st.

Translation: If Ramos needs more time, the Nats are not going to start 2013 with a rookie as the backup.

Finally, whither Chris Marrero? There’s been chatter that he’ll be traded in Spring Training. With Tyler Moore ahead of him, and Marrero’s defensive limitations, it’s certainly possible that an American League club might be interested. There are contingencies at AAA if Marrero leaves (Mike Costanzo). But what kind of return he’d net for the Nats seems negligible at this point. Seems more likely that Marrero will start in Syracuse in the hopes of proving his health and productivity.

As always, my spring training focus is to post from the minors point of view for as long as it seems reasonable. Your mileage may vary ;-)

Jan 232013
 

I had seen the MASN press release from a couple of weeks ago but passed on a post since I prefer to let folks know both the radio and TV schedules. Lo and behold*, today I discovered that the concatenation already exists on the MLB.com site. *Why can’t it just be “Lo?”

I’m reproducing it below as a service (and to have a framework if/when ESPN or the MLB Network picks up a game not listed below). Unless it has an asterisk, the games on MASN are also broadcast on 106.7 FM:

Day Date Time (ET) Opponent Network
Sun. Feb. 24 1:05 p.m. Miami 106.7 FM
Tue. Feb. 26 1:05 p.m. @ Atlanta 1580 AM
Wed. Feb. 27 1:05 p.m. Miami 1580 AM
Thu. Feb. 28 6:05 p.m. N.Y. Mets MASN
Fri. Mar. 8 1:05 p.m. St. Louis MASN*
Mon. Mar. 11 1:05 p.m. Atlanta 1580 AM
Wed. Mar. 13 1:05 p.m. N.Y. Mets 1580 AM
Thu. Mar. 14 1:05 p.m. Houston 1580 AM
Sat. Mar. 16 6:05 p.m. Houston MASN*
Fri. Mar. 22 1:05 p.m. Detroit MASN*
Sat. Mar. 23 1:10 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets 106.7 FM
Sun. Mar. 24 1:05 p.m. Atlanta MASN
Fri. Mar. 29 2:05 p.m. N.Y. Yankees
@ At Nationals Park
MASN
Mar 292012
 

The Nationals have reassigned non-roster invitees OF Jason Michaels and IF Andres Blanco to minor-league camp, a strong indication that IF prospect Steve Lombardozzi will make the 25-man roster.

As noted in the comments, the conventional wisdom is that the last IF bench spot was a battle between Lombardozzi and Blanco, and the latter did himself no favors by committing more errors (3) than hits (2). Blanco does have an opt-out in his contract, but there is speculation that both the Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies may have interest in trading for his services, even with the retention bonus that’s due tomorrow.

Obviously, injuries are also playing a huge part in these developments. It should be noted that while Lombardozzi may make the Opening Day roster, when the likes of Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche are fully healthy, it’s certainly possible to see him optioned back to Syracuse to get regular playing time. Doubtful, perhaps, but possible.

As the headline suggests, Atahulapa Severino has been optioned for the third straight spring, a setback for him personally, but not an unexpected move. The 27-year-old Dominican has spent that past two seasons at Syracuse, posting a 7-5 record with two saves and a 1.500 WHIP over 99⅓ IP.

UPDATE: Following this afternoon’s split-squad game, the Nationals announced that Jason Michaels had been released while Ryan Perry was optioned to AAA Syracuse. Multiple online sources are reporting that former Pirates prospect Zach Duke had been signed to a minor-league deal following his release from Houston earlier this week. Yesterday, the Nationals announced the signing of journeyman AAA starter Kevin Pucetas.

The takeaway? Most likely it means that one or more of the offseason FA starters signed (e.g. Atkins, Ballard, Barthmaier, Bibens-Dirkx) has suffered an injury or has been released.

Mar 252012
 

With the regulars in, the Nats put up crooked number in each of the first three innings en route to a 12-0 win over the Mets this afternoon.

Stephen Strasburg scattered five hits over five shutout innings for the win. He struck out five and walked one, throwing 84 pitches; 47 for strikes.

Offensively, the Nats pounded out 17 hits, including HRs by Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, and the batter of the game Roger Bernadina (3-3, R, BB, 4RBI).

Steve Lombardozzi was the sole prospect to appear in the game, making another start in LF and went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. He had no putouts, assists or errors over his five innings in the field.

It was the first win for the Nationals since March 12. Tomorrow afternoon, they host the Astros with John Lannan getting the start.