Nov 012013
 

This morning, the Nationals officially confirmed what Steve Souza Jr. wrote to his followers on Twitter last night: The longtime Nationals farmhand has been added to the 40-man roster.

Of course, the move was more than a little telegraphed by his inclusion on the Mesa Solar Sox roster for the Arizona Fall League, but what was not known was whether he’d be added to the big club or if he’d made an agreement to re-sign as a minor-leaguer. Souza was due to become a six-year free agent on Monday. The move also protects the 24-y.o. from next month’s Rule 5 draft.

For those just joining us in progress, Souza has had a tumultuous ride through the minors, beginning as a 3rd-Rd. high-school pick out of Everett, WA in 2007 and seemingly hitting the wall in 2010 his third season at Low-A Hagerstown when he was suspended for PED use. As detailed in this long piece from the Seattle Times, Souza would actually fall further in 2011 before shedding the labels of (among others) draft bust over the past two seasons.

While for many there was a huge disconnect between the praise heaped upon Souza — by Nationals farm director Doug Harris in particular — it was evident, even in 2011, to folks who saw him play everyday that the five-tool tag was legitimate. Indeed, Souza has been a member of this site’s watchlist at three different positions: 3B in 2011, 1B in 2012, and in the outfield for 2013.
(Spoiler: He’ll prolly make it 2014, too)

Souza is currently posting a line of .360/.467/.400 with five RBI and nine SBs in seven AFL games. This past season, despite playing in just 77 of 142 games, he led the Harrisburg Senators in both SBs (20) and HRs (15) and was fourth in runs, walks and RBI.

Oct 312013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2014-15
Three Nationals farmhands combined for four hits and three RBI as Mesa stopped a three-game slide with a 7-0 shutout of Scottsdale.

Brian Goodwin, the #1 Washington prospect according to MLB.com, led off and played centerfield. Offensively, He went 2-for-5 with a run scored, a double and an RBI single. Defensively, he had no putouts or assists.

Matt Skole ended an 0-for-13 sequence with a second-inning bomb that scored teammate Steve Souza Jr. ahead of him. He finished at 1-for-4 for the game and had 14 putouts at first base, but committed his first error on a missed catch.

Souza, who has hit safely in six of seven games this fall, singled once in five trips to the plate and struck out twice. He caught four flyballs while patrolling left field.

Richie Mirowski was the first man out of the Solar Sox ‘pen and worked around three singles in his two scoreless innings pitched, striking out two.

The two teams switch venues and rematch in Mesa this afternoon. A loss by the second-place Salt River returned the margin between the Rafters and the Solar Sox to 2½ games with 12 games left to play.

Oct 282013
 

With an off day on Sunday, here’s a little something extra from our intrepid photographer, Lee Magenheim. Naturally, the focus of the updates is on the game action, but the players will talk about the extra coaching they receive. Here’s a glimpse at some of what Lee saw last week in the mornings.
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-1Adrian Nieto, working with Cubs coach (and former catcher) Brian Harper.
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-2
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-3Steve Souza Jr., working out at 1B.
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-4Matt Skole getting ready to hit.
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-5Lord, please deliver me from the those convenience-store breakfast burritos I ate this morning…
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-6

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 242013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-10
Matt Purke tossed five scoreless innings but came away with a no-decision as the Solar Sox were stung in extras, 2-1 by the red-hot Scorpions.

Purke allowed just a one-out walk in the 1st and leadoff single in the 3rd — erasing both baserunners with double-play balls to face the minimum of 15 batters for five frames. The 23-y.o. struck out three while throwing 36 of 54 pitches for strikes. In three starts, Purke is 2-0 with pitcher’s line of 0.00/1.95/0.50 with three walks and 12K’s over 12 innings.

Steve Souza, as usual, made the most of his limited playing time with another monster game: 3-for-4 with a run scored and three (3) stolen bases, which brings his AFL-leading total to nine (9) in just five games. Defensively, the 24-y.o. played centerfield and had one putout.

Matt Skole played third base, but had no defensive chances and saw his modest on-base streak of five games snapped with an 0-for-4 game.

Robert Benincasa couldn’t hold the 1-0 lead in the 9th, giving up a leadoff triple that came in on a passed ball. A single following a strikeout made the run earned. The 23-y.o. closed out the inning with a flyout and a groundout to finish with one run on two hits.

Scottsdale won it in the bottom of the 10th against A’s farmhand Ryan Dull, who gave up two singles and two walks (one intentional) without retiring a batter.

The loss to second-place Scottsdale, which won its fifth straight game, reduced first-place Mesa’s lead to 1½ games. Since starting the season with seven wins and one tie, the Solar Sox have gone 1-4. The two teams will rematch this afternoon in Mesa.

BONUS COVERAGE
Lee Magenheim sat down with Adrian Nieto and talked about the catcher’s breakthrough 2013 season. Folks who may have difficulty with the embedded player — try clicking the image above, which will go directly to the audio file

Oct 202013
 

The Salt River Rafters scored seven times in the 9th as they handed the Mesa Solar Sox their second straight loss, 8-2.

Four Nats played in the contest…

…Brian Goodwin led off and played CF, going 1-for-4 with a stolen base and making two putouts on defense.

…Steve Souza drew a pair of walks, stole a base and scored a run, but also struck out twice to go 0-for-2. Defensively, he was in LF and caught two flyballs.

…Richie Mirowski gave up a run on two hits and struck out one in the top of the 7th, and was in line for the win thanks to the Solar Sox scoring twice in the bottom half of the inning.

…Robert Benincasa gave up a hit and struck out in one in the 8th, earning his first AFL hold.

With the loss, Mesa falls to 7-2-1 but still leads the AFL East by 3½ games.

Oct 172013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-4a
The Mesa Solar Sox smoked the Peoria Javelinas, 3-1 for their sixth straight win yesterday afternoon.

Steven Souza Jr. (pictured above) connected for a two-run single to erase a 1-0 deficit, highlighting Mesa’a three-run 6th. Souza also walked and played right field, where he made two putouts. Limited to two games a week as a taxi squad player, the 1-for-3 effort pushed his average to .364 (4-for-11) and a walk maintained his .500 on-base pct. Our Arizona correspondent/photographer Lee Magenheim caught up with the 24-y.o. outfielder after the game:

Brian Goodwin and Adrian Nieto also saw game action, with the centerfielder going 1-for-4 with a stolen base from the leadoff spot and the catcher going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts out of the No. 8 slot in the lineup. Goodwin made one putout, while Nieto had an assist and nine putouts.

Richie Mirowski made his second appearance, retiring the side in order in the 7th on ten pitches and finishing off the frame with a strikeout for his second hold.

The win improves Mesa to 6-0-1 and opens up a 4½ game lead in the AFL East. Matt Purke is set to take the hill tonight at home against Peoria.

Oct 122013
 

Arizona Fall League #6
The Solar Sox remain unbeaten, taking their third straight with a 7-3 decision over the Sagauros in Surprise.

Just two Nationals saw game action: outfielder Steve Souza Jr. and reliever Richie Mirowski.

With no Saturday game this week, taxi-squad player Souza made the most of his playing time on Friday night. He reached base four times (single, double, two walks), scored once, drove in three, and stole three (that’s five in two games). The 24-y.o. batted sixth and played centerfield, but had no defensive chances.

Mirowski made his first AFL appearance in the seventh. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the 7th for the hold and struck out one, throwing 13 pitches (seven for strikes).

Mesa (3-0-1) returns to action on Monday night with a visit to Scottsdale (1-3).

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.

Sep 062013
 

Our final look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues. Repeats from 2012 are in italics.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS
66-78, 6th place International League North, 14½ games back

Good Bat: Zach Walters .253/.286/.517, 29HR, 77RBI in 134G
Arm: Tanner Roark 9-3, 2SV, 3.15 ERA, 33 appearances, 11 starts, 105⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Danny Espinosa 101K in 75G, .566 OPS
Arm: Chris Young 1-2, 7.88 ERA / 7.17 FIP / 2.00 WHIP, 9HR in 32IP
Interesting Bat: Chris Rahl .293/.308/.431, 14SB in 111G
Arm: Caleb Clay 5-2, 2.49/3.37/0.99 in 14 appearances (13 starts):

HARRISBURG SENATORS
77-65, 1st place Eastern League Western Division, 1 game ahead

Good Bat: Steve Souza .300/.396/.557, 15HR, 20SB in 77G
Arm: Nathan Karns 10-6, 3.26/3.48/1.18, 155K in 132⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Jose Lozada .529 OPS, 11E in 81G
Arm: Ryan Perry 2-5, 4.43/4.86/1.21 in 22⅓ IP (18 appearances)
Interesting Bat: Billy Burns .325/.434/.360, 20SB in 30G
Arm: A.J. Cole 4-2, 2.18/2.56/0.90 in 45⅓ IP (7 starts)

POTOMAC NATIONALS
42-28 in 2nd half, 1st place Carolina League Northern Division, 9 games ahead
42-27 in 1st half, 1st place, 6 games ahead
84-55 overall

Good Bats: Michael Taylor .263/.340/.426, 51SB, 87RBI, .986FA, 21 assists in 133G
Adrian Nieto .285/.373/.449, 11HR, 53 RBI in 110G
Arm: Robbie Ray 6-3, 3.11/3.82/1.20, 100K in 84IP (16 starts)
Bad Bat: Adrian Sanchez .278OBP (17BB in 120G)
Arm: Derek Self 4-2, 4SV, 6.29/4.52/1.66, 4BS in 23 appearances
Interesting Bats: Cutter Dykstra .308/.459/.456, 50BB in 55G
Arm: Blake Schwartz 11-4, 2.65/3.52/1.08

HAGERSTOWN SUNS
42-28 in 2nd half, 2nd place South Atlantic League Northern Division, 3 games behind
38-29 in 1st half, 1st place, ½ game ahead
80-57 overall

Good Bats: Tony Renda .294/.380/.405, 43 doubles, 30SBs in 135G
Brandon Miller .243/.308/.456, 18HR, 72RBI in 103G
Arm: Brett Mooneyham 10-3, 1.94/3.65/0.98 in 93IP (17 starts)
Bad Bat: Pedro Severino .608 OPS in 84G
Arm: Will Hudgins 2-1, 4.79/5.96/1.60 in 20⅔ IP (16 appearances)
Interesting Bat: Shawn Pleffner .288/.386/.399 in 101G
Arm: Gilberto Mendez 3-2, 7SV 0.91/2.53/0.94 in 29⅔ IP (24 appearances)

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
26-49, 6th Place Pinckney Division of New York-Penn League, 22 games behind

Good Bat: Isaac Ballou .294/.405/.398, 20RBI in 59G
Arm: Jake Johansen 1-1, 1.06/2.77/0.92 in 42⅓ IP (10 starts)
Bad Bat: David Masters .183/.254/.242 in 45G
Arm: Deion Williams 0-6, 9.42/4.35/1.99 in 28⅔ IP (8 starts)
Interesting Bat: Jean-Carlos Valdez .374 SLG as a 20-y.o. in 48G
Arm: Austin Voth 2-0, 1.47/0.95/0.82 in 30⅔ IP (7 starts)

GCL NATIONALS
49-9, 1st place Gulf Coast League East Dvision, 24½ games ahead

Good Bat: Randy Encarnacion .349/.437/.523 in 34G
Arm: Wander Suero 8-1, 1.65/2.77/0.82 in 49IP (13 appearances, 3 starts)
Bad Bat: 17-y.o. Luis Guzman .222/.278/.265 in 36G
Arm: 23-y.o. Michael Boyden 0-0, 4.61/5.25/2.27 in 13⅔ IP (13 appearances)
Interesting Bat: Drew Ward .292/.402/.387, 28RBI in 49G (turns 19 in Nov.)
Arm: Nick Pivetta 1-0, 2.13/2.41/1.03 in 3GS (promoted to Auburn)

DSL NATIONALS
38-32, 3rd place, Boca Chica South Division of Dominican Summer League, 11 games behind

Good Bat: 19-y.o. Kelvin Gutierrez .255/.333/.337 in 60G
Arm: 18-y.o. Deibi Yrizarri 5-3, 1.99/2.66/1.10 in 68IP (14 appearances, 13 starts)
Bad Bat: 18-y.o. Miguel Atencio .183/.246/.183 in 23G
Arm: 22-y.o. Adrian Green 0-2, 5.40ERA, 2.00 WHIP in 10IP (12 appearances)
Interesting Bat: 17-y.o. Oliver Ortiz .307/.402/.386 in 26G
Arm: 18-y.o. Luis Reyes 5-3, 2.82/2.76/1.07 in 54⅓ IP (promoted to GCL)