Jul 122012
 

Steve Souza Jr. has been named the South Atlantic League’s Batter of the Week, the second straight week a Nationals farmhand has earned that honor.

Souza refused to single for the week (July 2-8), hitting four doubles and five home runs last week for a total of nine runs scored and 12 RBI and line .of .333/.455/1.037. He’s the second Sun to earn weekly honors, joining Alex Meyer, who earned Pitcher of the Week honors for June 11-17.

The 2007 third-round pick out of Cascade High School in Everett, WA is currently riding a seven-game hit streak and is batting .293/.396/.756 for the month of July.

Jun 082012
 


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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 29-32, 5th place I.L. North, 10 games behind

Good Jim Negrych .333/.429/.611 in June
Bad Tanner Roark 0-3, 10.80 ERA, 2.18 WHIP in last 3 appearances
Interesting Team SLG .384, minus Brown/Moore/Paul (.561 combined) = .331

HARRISBURG SENATORS 32-27, 2nd place E.L. West, 5½ games behind

Good Hector Nelo 0.82ERA, 5SV, 15K last 10 appearances
Bad Chris McConnell .168/.213/.218 in 38G
Interesting Team 67 steals leads E.L.

POTOMAC NATIONALS 26-32, 3rd place C.L. North Division, 4 games behind

Good Zach Walters .429/.432/.743, 3HR, 6RBI in last 10G
Bad Paul Applebee 6HR allowed in 27⅔ IP
Interesting Team Pitching: 8th in every major category but BB;
Team Fielding: 1st in E’s, 2nd SBs allowed, CS%, Fld% and PB’s

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 36-23, 2nd place Sally League North Divison, 3½ games behind

Good Steve Souza .341/.392/.651 in 35G
Bad Chris McKenzie 9.13 ERA, 2.12 WHIP, .337 OBA
Interesting Colin Bates 2-0, 1.80 ERA, 2HR, .147 OBA in first 5 appearances (10IP)
May 182012
 


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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 19-22, 5th place I.L. North, 7½ games behind

Good Corey Brown .361/.480/.656 in May
Bad John Lannan 6.63 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 4HR in last 3 starts
Interesting Xavier Paul .380/.436/.780 in May

HARRISBURG SENATORS 22-17, 2nd place E.L. West, 2 games behind

Good Eury Perez .316/.328/.386, 4SB in May
Bad Paul Demny 8.29ERA at home (2.57 on road)
Interesting Christian Garcia 5SV, 3H, 19K in last 10 appearances

POTOMAC NATIONALS 16-21, 3rd place C.L. North Division, 5½ games behind

Good Cameron Selik 3SV, 13K in last 5 appearances
Bad Shane McCatty 19H, 9BB in 9⅔IP, 13.03ERA, 2.90WHIP
Interesting Kevin Keyes 22H, 22RBI (.191/.271/.417)

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 22-15, 2nd place Sally League North Divison, 6 games behind

Good Cutter Dykstra .340/.429/.454 in 23G
Bad Brian Dupra 10.98ERA, 2.31WHIP in May (4 appearances)
Interesting Steve Souza 7HR in 13G
Oct 262011
 

There are some parallels to the 2010 season and the 2011 season for the Potomac Nationals. Both teams started slowly…VERY slowly, getting into offensive funks that saw both teams get shut out seven times. The 2010 edition finished the first half at 31-39, ten games behind Frederick; the ’11 guys were 29-40 and twelve games behind the Keys at the break.

Given that the core of the team was the 2010 Hagerstown Suns that faded fast in the second half, it was natural to think that a second-half rally was unlikely, particularly since it seemed rather unlikely that much come in the way of reinforcements. The whispers that Bryce Harper would skip the level turned out to be true, but what the team really needed at that point was pitching.

Oddly enough, both the hitting and the pitching did improve in the second half with basically just one starter (Solis) and one reliever (Holland) added to the mix. But while 2010 was largely the hitting getting much better down the stretch, the story of the 2011 second half was the stabilizing of the pitching. Essentially, it went from league worst (5.01 team ERA on June 1st) to slightly higher than league average (3.79 vs. 3.77) the rest of the way.

Coupled with an improved offense (4.00 R/G before July 1, 4.44 after), the P-Nats turned in a 39-31 second half that became good enough to win second-half Northern Division title when the Keys lost the last three regular-season games (and eight of the last ten). Thanks to league bylaws, Frederick’s 39-31 mark down the stretch still earned them the home-field advantage in the first round of the Mills Cup playoffs. That turned out to be the difference as the Keys beat the P-Nats 3-2 for the fifth game and 3-2 for the series to send Potomac packing and end any hopes of defending the 2010 title.

So let’s take a look at how the 2011 edition stacked up against the rest of Carolina League…
HITTING

PITCHING

Having watched these guys day in and day out, I was bit surprised to see that the team finished third in walks drawn — in my mind, there were only a handful of players that seemed willing to take the walk, and too many that weren’t. But those that did walk, walked a lot (Francisco Soriano and Steve Souza were 2nd and 3rd in walk rate for players with 200+ PA in the Carolina League).

That 215 steals led the league by 63 and was the most by the team in its affiliation with Washington and the most in the league since the 2008 Wilmington Blue Rocks. They were only caught 66 times, which works out to an efficiency rate of 76.5 percent. Yes, Eury Perez and Jeff Kobernus accounted for the bulk of it (88 steals combined) but even big men such as Souza (25) and Destin Hood (21) stole 20+ bases. The thievery helped offset the team’s lack of doubles, but otherwise, this squad was mostly right around league averages. Not bad when you consider the position players were the second-youngest in the league.

As aforementioned, the pitching went from horrid early to serviceable late. They still finished last in nearly every rate or total statistic, but let’s not forget that the Carolina League tends to be a pitcher’s league despite the launching pads in Frederick and the Salems. For those that may have missed it or were wondering, the Pfitz usually comes out neutral in ballpark-effect studies.

You can argue over how much of it came from reshuffling the deck and removing failed starters from the rotation (Mitchell Clegg, Marcos Frias, Trevor Holder) or how the unsung work of swingmen (Adam Olbrychowski, Evan Bronson) filled in the gaps, or how the team’s top two starters improved over the course of the season — one steadily (Danny Rosenbaum), the other in fits (Paul Demny) — but the bottom line: it did get better.

Now, in our little dance, we take a look at the Top 12′s for the batters and pitchers in terms of PAs and IPs.
Full statistics for the team can be found here. (* 2009 Draft Pick, ** DSL Graduate).

I chose to highlight the ’09 picks and DSL grads to illustrate the counterpoint to drafting ‘em young: It takes time. In this subset, there are four ’08 picks (Hood, Higley, Lozada, and Ramirez) and fifth that was traded for (Dykstra). Only one 2010 position-player draft pick saw playing time, and that was four games before his shoulder went out (Rick Hague) — two, if you want to count Zach Walters.

What I personally like about High-A is that it’s the true litmus test for a prospect. I’ve seen varying percentages that break down once a prospect plays at level X, his chances of ever playing in MLB are now Y, but almost all of them jump from single digits to double digits when it comes to High-A vs. AA. Anecdotally, I can tell you that this where many players stall: The bridge over the Susquehannah in Harrisburg may as well be the bridge over the Rhine in Arnhem, so to speak. Seems like every April I fill in the lineups and think to myself “This guy is still here?” — and the thought occurs on both sides of the scorebook.

So while some folks have expressed great dismay over the lack of development of some guys, it bears repeating that this happens all the time. And in my mind, that disappointment is offset by guys breaking out (Hood) and/or shaking off the proverbial primates (Kobernus). Not to mention my personal favorite: seeing a pitcher start to “get it.”

How’s that for a segue?
Just to expand upon what I wrote earlier, Olbrychowski was terrible as a reliever but found his groove as a starter (5.63 vs. 3.71 ERA) and the reverse was true for Frias (1.67 vs. 5.06). Bronson was actually better as a reliever when you look at the season as a whole, but unlike Olbrychowski and Frias, kept bouncing between roles (and levels) until he was given a spot in the rotation in mid-August and turned in quality starts in two of his four starts down the stretch.

Demny, as aforementioned, improved over the course of the season but take a look at the ERAs by month:
April – 2.08, May – 6.93, June – 2.55, July – 8.42, Aug/Sep – 2.72. He’s young (22 in August), throws hard (~93-95), and durable (100+ IP the past three seasons). Clearly, he made his adjustments and the league adjusted back, but you have to like that he was able to rebound not once but twice from rough patches of pitching.

OBLIGATORY TOP 5 LISTS
The upside to rating Potomac is that I’ve seen these guys the most. The downside to rating Potomac is that I’ve seen these guys so much. Looking over last year’s season review I can see that invariably, I’m either going to overvalue some guys as a fan (e.g. Chris Curran), and undervalue others in an effort to overcompensate for being a fan (e.g. Tyler Moore last year). So bear that in mind as I fire from the hip and make the lists that folks love so much…

Batters
1. Destin Hood
2. Jeff Kobernus
3. Eury Perez
4. Steve Souza
5. Justin Bloxom
HM: Zach Walters

Pitchers
1. Danny Rosenbaum
2. Sammy Solis
3. Paul Demny
4. Josh Smoker
5. Marcos Frias

Jul 292011
 

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

SYRACUSE 46-58, 4th Place I.L. North, 15 games behind

Good Josh Wilkie 2-0, 3SV, 0ER in last 14⅔ IP (11 appearances)
Bad Craig Stammen 0-2, 6.48 since I.L. All-Star Break
Interesting Tom Milone, Randy Knorr ejected in same game last night

HARRISBURG 60-46, 1st place E.L. West Division, 1½ games ahead

Good Derek Norris .283/.431/.478 since E.L. All Star Break
Bad Erik Davis 1-4, 7.52 ERA, 1.41 WHIP in July
Interesting Six different Ps have 4 or more saves, team is T2nd for league lead with 33

POTOMAC 20-13, 2nd place C.L. North Division, 2 games behind (49-53 overall)

Good Marcos Frias 1-0, 2.12 ERA, 1.06 WHIP since C.L. All-Star Break
Bad Rob Wort 1.60 WHIP, 5.81 FIP
Interesting Steve Souza .427 OBP since C.L. All-Star Break

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 16-16, 4th place Sally North Division, 4½ games behind (56-46 overall)

Good David Freitas 59BB, 58K
Bad Shane McCatty 8.10ERA in July
Interesting Jason Martinson 12HR, 44RBI, 46BB, 106K, 24E

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 22-18, T1st place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 1 game ahead

Good Brian Dupra 1.93 ERA, 0.99 WHIP in July
Bad Connor Rowe .578 OPS, 38K in 29G
Interesting Team SB success rate of 78.33% (47/60), best in NYPL

GCL NATIONALS 12-20, 4th place GCL East, 11 games behind

Good Wander Ramos 1.092 OPS in 24G
Bad Andy Santana 2.65 WHIP, 12.71 ERA
Interesting Silvio Medina 26K in 18⅓ IP (12.76/9IP)

DSL NATIONALS 25-25, 5th place, Boca Chica South Division, 5 games behind

Good Ivan Pineyro 2.22 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 54K in 48⅔ IP
Bad Raudy Read .147/.200/.255, 7E in 30G
Interesting Yermin Mercedes .318/.361/.409, 1E in 32G
Jun 242011
 

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

SYRACUSE 29-42, T4th place I.L. North, 13 games behind

Good Chris Marrero .310/.389/.464 in June
Bad Hassan Pena 0-4, 19.29ERA, 2.86WHIP
Interesting Jhonatan Solano .284/.344/.386 in 29G

HARRISBURG 40-31, 1st place E.L. West Division, 3½ games ahead

Good Pat Lehman & Rafael Martin, combined: 13.1IP, 5H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 8K, 1 win, 2 SVs, 3 holds
Bad Jonathan Tucker .200/.297/.236 in June
Interesting Josh Johnson .291/.360/.468 in June

POTOMAC 1-0, T1st place C.L. North Division, 1 game ahead (29-40, 1st half)

Good Jeff Kobernus .296/.306/.437 in June
Bad Trevor Holder .304 OBA, .449 OSLG
Interesting Steve Souza 16SB: 2 at home, 14 on road

HAGERSTOWN 1-0, T1st place Sally League Northern Division, 1 game ahead (40-30 in 1st half)

Good Wilson Eusebio 7 holds in 20 appearance
Bad Shane McCatty 1.79WHIP, .314 OBA
Interesting Neil Holland 1BB in 23IP

DSL NATIONALS 8-12, 6th place, Boca Chica South Division of Dominican Summer League, 6½ games behind

Good Dionicio Rosario (Age 17) .328/.431/.426 in 19G
Bad Emmanuel De La Cruz (Age 19) 8BB, 8H, 6ER in 7&⅔ IP over 7G
Interesting Wilmer Difo 19BB in 19G
Apr 222011
 

It’s back! Our weekly look at the leaders (good), trailers (bad), and outliers (interesting) in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE 6-8, T4th place IL North, 3 games back

Good Tom Milone 0.85WHIP, 0BB in 13 innings
Bad Garrett Mock 17BB, 2.29WHIP in 11⅓ IP
Interesting Brian Bixler .326/.483/.370 in 14G

HARRISBURG 6-7, T3rd place E.L. West, 1 game back

Good Brad Meyers 2-1, 3.07 in 3GS
Bad Jonathan Tucker .140/.178/.209 in 12G
Interesting Hassan Pena 9K, 0.90WHIP in 4 appearances

POTOMAC 5-7, 3rd place, Carolina League North, 3½ games back

Good Steve Souza 5HR, 1.079OPS in 12G
Bad Alex Caldera 14.40ERA, 2.60WHIP, 3HR in 2 appearances
Interesting Destin Hood 10BB, .467OBP in 12G

HAGERSTOWN 9-6, 3rd Place Sally League Northern, 2 games back

Good Cameron Selik 20K in 15IP, 0.00ERA, 3GS
Bad Michael Taylor .143/.205/.229 in 13G
Interesting Blake Kelso .333/.380/.422, 1E in 14G

Before folks chime in about who did or didn’t get named, bear in mind that:
(a) This ain’t Little League
(b) I try to keep the bats and arms balanced
(c) Outliers aren’t necessarily organizational soldiers; mostly it’s the unexpected in either extreme. For example, Bryce Harper might have been an “Interesting” because he’s not tearing up the Sally League, but Blake Kelso (who is a watchlist player) is both hitting and fielding better than expected.
(d) I also try to highlight (or lowlight) different folks every week unless someone’s on a run like Tyler Moore or Stephen Strasburg, in which case, I owe it to both you, the reader, and them to give them their due.

Now, comment away!