Aug 282014
 


With a long weekend to get the hell of out of Dodge enjoy, league offices aren’t waiting until the regular season is over to churn out the postseason accolades.

Well, two can play at that game. Here’s a look at the how the Nationals have been honored thus far this week…

SYRACUSE
Steve Souza was named the International League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year (an award that meant more prior to expansion) while necomer Billy Gardner took home Manager of the Year honors. Souza was also named to the postseason All-Star team along with teammates Emmanuel Burris and Brandon Laird.

HARRISBURG
Amid the worst season the Senators have had since the Expos became the Nationals, Michael Taylor was a bright spot until his callup to Syracuse (and briefly, Washington) as he was named the Eastern League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year as well as a postseason All-Star.

POTOMAC
The full list has not yet been announced, but should be soon as former National Michael Burgess was named to the C.L. Team and the Frederick folks have been quick to publicize the exploits of a 25-year-old in his fifth year at the High-A level.

UPDATE: Tripp Keister was named the Manager of the Year while IFs Stephen Perez, Shawn Pleffner, Tony Renda, and Oscar Tejeda were named to the Carolina League Postseason All-Star Team.

HAGERSTOWN
Lucas Giolito was named both Most Outstanding Pitcher and the Most Outstannding Prospect for the Sally League while Wilmer Difo was the third Nationals farmhand to garner an MVP title. Joining them on the All-Star team is outfielder Rafael Bautista, who leads the league with 66 steals.

The GCL, which finishes today, and the NYPL have not yet announced their postseason teams/awards.

Aug 042014
 

Ripple
With the promotion of Steve Souza from Syracuse to Washington to replace an allegedly injured Nate McLouth, also comes the promotion of CF Michael Taylor from Harrisburg to take Souza’s place on the Syracuse roster.

Now, obviously it’s possible that both moves could be reversed in two weeks when McLouth is eligible to be activated, but it seems awfully convenient coincidental that the Nats waited until after the non-waiver trade deadline to make any of these moves. Washington GM Mike Rizzo is as brilliant as he is stubborn, and we could very well be seeing both traits on display here.

It’s been a topic of debate in the comments as to where Brian Goodwin is and/or what has happened to him. Officially, he’s on the DL (and without explanation), which, to remind the newcomers here, does not necessarily mean that a player is injured. But common sense — a misnomer, as Mark Twain once said because it’s so rarely found — does suggest that Goodwin is indeed hurt. It’s one thing to stash a guy for a week, but as of today it’s been a month.

Thus, the rumor that Goodwin has suffered a separated shoulder (via the comments) doesn’t seem all that implausible. Of course, that is the function of rumor — to fill in the gaps of knowledge when there is no official information. But if it’s true — and there is precedent in the example of Matt Purke, who went missing in the summer of 2012 only to be revealed during the 2012-13 offseason that he had undergone shoulder surgery — then we may be seeing an injury allow one prospect to leapfrog another again, just as we did with Tyler Moore and Chris Marrero.

The Senators and Chiefs also announced the following moves…
• RHP Josh Roenicke released
• RHP Scott McGregor reassigned from Harrisburg to Syracuse
• IF Ricky Hague and RHP Sam Runion activated from the 7-Day DL

It’s possible that Roenicke’s release was at his request; at the time he was signed he reportedly had a June 15 opt-out clause. Though it seems more likely that he was released outright with a two in-season FAs backfilling the gaps.

As always, if there are further moves related to this story, look for this space to be updated.

Jul 042014
 


Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 51-35, 1st place I.L. North, 2½ games ahead

Good Steve Souza .333 in April, .359 in May, .353 in June; .354 overall
Bad Josh Roenicke 6.18 ERA, 1.63 WHIP over last six starts
Interesting Emmanuel Burris .459/.565/.649, 4SB over last 10G



HARRISBURG SENATORS 33-51, 5th place E.L. West, 16½ games behind

Good John Simms 2-0, 1.35 ERA, 0.90 WHIP since promotion from Potomac (2GS)
Bad Adrian Sanchez 0-for-16 in last 10G played
Interesting Team #2 in batting HR’s, BB’s, K’s



POTOMAC NATIONALS 6-6, T1st place C.L. North, 1 game ahead (44-37 overall)

Good Mike McQuillan .344/.488/.625, 2HR, 13RBI in June (16G)
Bad Kylin Turnbull 0-2, 8.44 ERA, 2.25 WHIP in seven appearances
Interesting Tied for fewest SBs allowed, 2nd in most CS, fewest PBs in C.L.


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 9-6, 4th place Sally North, 4 games behind (53-32 overall)

Good Lucas Giolito 1.84 ERA, 0.85 WHIP since return to rotation on June 3 (6GS)
Bad 213 team batting BB — 13th in 14-team Sally Lg.
Interesting Rafael Bautista 43SB in 48 attempts, 15BB, .322 OBP



AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 8-11, 4th place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 4½ games behind

Good Raudy Read .300/.435/.420, 7RBI in 15G
Bad Matt DeRosier 8.49 ERA, 1.46 WHIP in 11⅔ IP (4 appearances)
Interesting 18 pitching HBP in 19 games (2nd most in NYPL)



DSL NATIONALS 16-13, 3rd place Boca Chica South, 4 games behind

Good 19-y.o. Juan “Shorts” Bermudez 1-2, 1.46 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 24K in 24⅔ IP
Bad 17-y.o. Neivy Pilier .122/.146/.163, 4E in 11G
Interesting 20-y.o. Luis Vilorio 1BB, 6K in 50PA
Jul 022014
 

All Stars
The International League roster for the AAA All-Star Game between the I.L and the P.C.L. were announced today and four Syracuse Chiefs were among the 30 players named.

Taylor Hill, Jhonatan Solano, and Steve Souza were among the 13 elected to the game by the fans, media, and team managers while Aaron Laffey was one of the 17 selected by the league office to round out the roster.

According to MiLB.com, this is the first All-Star selection for Hill, the second for both Solano (2010, E.L.) and Laffey (2005, Sally Lg.), and the third for Souza (2010, Sally Lg.; 2013, E.L.).

Hill is currently leading the I.L. in ERA with a 1.92 mark and is second in both wins (9) and WHIP (0.99). Solano is tied for 1st among I.L. catchers for RBI and is second in HR with nine. Souza leads the I.L. in average, OBP, and slugging percentage. Laffey, despite not pitching until April 17th, leads the I.L. with 10 pitching wins.

The All-Star game will be held July 16th in Durham, NC and the winner will be the “home” team at the one-game exhibition billed as the Triple-A National Championship on September 16th in Charlotte, NC.

May 232014
 


Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 24-22, T3rd place I.L. North, 1½ games behind

Good Steve Souza .351/.439/.544 in May (15G)
Bad Aaron Laffey 2-2, 6.35 ERA, 1.90 WHIP in May (4 appearances, 3GS)
Interesting Brock Peterson 4HR, 11RBI in last 10G



HARRISBURG SENATORS 15-30, 6th place E.L. West, 14½ games behind

Good James Simmons 0.79 ERA, 0.53 WHIP in first five appearances (11⅓ IP)
Bad 63 team doubles, 11th in 12-team E.L.
Interesting Zero passed balls in 45 games



POTOMAC NATIONALS 24-21, 1st place C.L. North, 2 games ahead

Good Shawn Pleffner .303/.378/.424 in last 10G
Bad 4.52 Team ERA, 1.40 Team WHIP both 8th in the Carolina League
Interesting Stephen Perez team leader in 2B, BB, SB, and E’s



HAGERSTOWN SUNS 32-13, 1st place Sally North, 8 games ahead

Good Nick Pivetta 4-0, 2.01 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in May (4GS)
Bad Willie Medina .041 ISO%
Interesting 3rd fewest pitching BB, 4th most pitching HBP
Dec 072013
 

This seems to be a trend… for the second straight year, there was a consensus at the top of the list… then a free-for-all afterwards.

The two of the top three guys were each left off at least one ballot, while the number two guy was unanimously named, enabling him to garner the no. 2 spot without a single first-place vote.

A total of 24 players were named on 14 ballots, some of which had less than 10 names and/or an ineligible player. While I adjusted the points accordingly (e.g. #1 on a nine-player ballot = 9 pts vs. 10 pts. on a ten-player), it did not affect the rankings.

Without further ado, ze list:

                              1. Brian Goodwin
                              2. Matt Skole
                              3. Steve Souza
                              4. Billy Burns
                              5. Michael Taylor
                              6. Jeff Kobernus
                              7. Zach Walters
                              8. Drew Ward
                              9. Tony Renda
                              10. Adrian Nieto

Others receiving votes: Corey Brown, Eury Perez, Justin Bloxom, Randy Encarnacion, Narciso Mesa, Pedro Severino, Isaac Ballou, Brandon Miller, Cody Gunter, Rafael Bautista, Josh Johnson, Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, Bryan Mejia, Caleb Ramsey

Some observations:

• Goodwin received ten first-place votes, similar to how he was the near-consensus at #2 last year behind Anthony Rendon.

• This year’s #2 is a bit of a shock: Matt Skole was hurt all year long and struggled some in the Arizona Fall League, but moved up a spot from #3 to #2 nevertheless.

• Souza’s strong AFL campaign and addition to the 40-man roster seemed to stick out in many voter’s minds, vaulting him from an also-ran in 2012 to #3 with three first-place votes.

• Burns and Taylor nearly tied despite Taylor being left off two ballots, nearly closing the gap in points by receiving a pair of second-place votes (Burns’s highest was a third-place spot).

As it traditionally has, the list skews towards the upper minors; this year’s exception: Ward, who might have missed the cut — like Skole did in 2011 — were it not for the GCL Nationals’ championship run (likewise for his teammates that were in the “also-rans”). Still, I think a lot of this is simply the bias of familiarity, which also explains why a couple of players aged 27+ players received votes.

Next up: the pitchers, which is always contentious thanks to folks’ biases of starter vs. reliever, lefty vs. righty, fireballer vs. junkballer, floor wax or dessert topping, etc. Plus, with one less no-doubt pick (Robbie Ray), the last couple of spots ought to be closely contested.

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 172013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-30
After leading the Eastern Division of the Arizona Fall League for all but one day, the Mesa Solar Sox saw their bid for the 2013 AFL Championship denied with a 2-0 defeat to the Surprise Saguaros.

Steven Souza Jr. was the only National in the starting lineup. The 24-year-old, who was recently added to the Washington 40-man roster, batted fifth and played centerfield. He singled to lead off the 2nd inning but was caught stealing by Ranger backstop Jorge Alfaro, who gunned him down with a reported pop time of 1.78 seconds.

Souza would line out sharply in his second at-bat, but strike out in his final two plate appearances to finish the game at 1-for-4. Defensively, the Nats 2007 3rd-Rd. pick played centerfield, where he had two putouts and an assist, as Alfaro struck again with an RBI single but was gunned down on the 8-2-6 relay.

Brian Goodwin and Adrian also appeared in the game, with Goodwin grounding out to second in the top of the 8th and Nieto catching the bottom half of the inning, but had no putouts or assists.

Mesa finishes 2013 with a record of 19-12 with a Opening Day tie.

                                                                    #                                     #                                     #

Sad-SpicklesWith the completion of the AFL schedule, the 2013 minor-league season — the fourth this site has covered, if you can believe that — now really comes to a close. A shoutout to Lee Magenheim, our photographer in Arizona, who’s provided the AFL pictures for the past two seasons and has plans to do it again in 2014.

Nov 142013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-21Arizona-Fall-League-2013-22Arizona-Fall-League-2013-23
Steven Souza Jr. homers off Alex Meyer in the 2nd inning to give Mesa the early 2-0 lead (Photo Credit: Lee Magenheim)

The race for the Arizona Fall League East Divison title will come down to the final day of the season, as Mesa edged Glendale, 3-2 and Salt River paddled Scottsdale, 8-5.

Steve Souza’s two-run blast was the catalyst for the victory and came off former teammate Alex Meyer in their first matchup as opponents, as the two never faced each other this season in the Eastern League. It was the sole hit for the 24-y.o. who finished the game at 1-for-4 with a strikeout and extended his hit streak to seven games.

Matt Skole also appeared in the game, playing third base where he had a putout and two assists. He would score what would prove to be the decisive run a fourth-inning triple that the Desert Dogs misplayed into a Little League HR with an error. Skole also singled in the 2nd inning to go 2-for-3 for the game with a walk and a strikeout.

Richie Mirowski gave up the first Glendale run in the 5th on a double, wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly but struck out two of the final three batters he faced. It was just the third run he’s allowed in nine appearances this fall.

The win, which was Mesa’s fifth straight, improved the Solar Sox to 18-11-1 but just a 1/2 game better than the 18-12 Rafters. In head-to-head play, Salt River has defeated Mesa four times in six games. An 11-inning-tie between the Solar Sox and the Desert Dogs on Opening Day is what separates the top two teams in the AFL East.

As speculated earlier this week, Sammy Solis will be given the start today as Mesa visits Glendale for the season finale. A Solar Sox win or a Rafters loss will clinch a spot in the AFL Championship game, which will be held Saturday in Scottsdale against the AFL West-winning Surprise Sagauros.

Nov 072013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-18The Desert Dogs scored six unanswered runs in the final two innings to turn a 4-0 deficit into a 6-4 win over the Solar Sox.

Brian Goodwin, Steve Souza, and Robert Benincasa were the three Nationals to see game action.

Goodwin batted second and played centerfield, but went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He plated a run with an RBI groundout in the 3rd. Defensively, he made two putouts.

As usual, Souza made his appearance count. The taxi-squad member was slotted 7th in the lineup and doubled in the 2nd to drive in the first Mesa run and singled in the 4th (pictured), finishing the game at 2-for-4 to raise his average to .364 for the fall. He snared three flyballs while playing right field.

Benincasa, recently featured by Byron Kerr for MASN, worked around a single and a walk to pitch a scoreless 7th inning for the Solar Sox. The appearance lowered his ERA to an even 4.00 (4R in 9IP).

The two teams rematch this afternoon in Glendale. The Salt River Rafters also lost to preserve Mesa’s 1½ game lead in the AFL East and reduce the Solar Sox magic number to clinch a spot in the AFL title game to six with seven games left.