Apr 072013
 

wheelscameoffthebusFor six innings, things were looking real good for the Potomac Nationals. Taylor Jordan was dealing, retiring 10 batters in a row before Kevin Keyes made a kick save for an error in the top of the 4th. But back-to-back doubles with two out from Cutter Dykstra and Adrian Sanchez, plus a three-run rally in the next “ups” put Potomac ahead 5-0.

And then the wheels come off the bus in the 7th.

Christian Meza gave up a solo shot to the first batter he faced, ending a streak of 14 scoreless innings for Lynchburg. Then he allowed a single. And another single, then a two-run double. Four batters faced, none retired, three runs in.

Colin Bates was summoned to stop the bleeding, but the circling of the drain continued with an infield single, then an error on a sacrifice bunt to load the bases, then a walk to plate the fourth Hillcat run. Three batters faced, none retired, bases loaded.

Matt Grace became the third pitcher of the inning and for just a brief moment, looked like he was going to get the pitcher’s best friend — a double-play ball to Jason Martinson who stepped on second then fired to Keyes, but the inexperience of the newly converted 1B showed as he couldn’t keep his foot on the bag. Tie game at 5-5.

Grace struck out the next batter, but the Hillcats took advantage of the “extra” out to plate three more on a walk, an infield flare that Francisco Soriano turned an ankle getting to as it backspun in the grass between second and the mound, and a two-run single.

The fourteenth batter of the inning ended the misery with a grounder from Martinson to Blake Kelso, Soriano’s replacement at second.

Burns tripled to lead off the P-Nats response to the Lynchburg barrage, but stood there for the next three batters as the 10 m.p.h. breeze out to left gusted to 11 three times on whiffs by Michael Taylor, Martinson, and Keyes.

Seven of the 14 Potomac batting strikeouts came in the final three innings, killing a bases-loaded rally in the 8th and stranding another runner at third in the 9th, as Martinson tripled in hit-by-pitch Taylor for the sixth and final Potomac run.

It’s a Sunday matinee for the rubber match of the series as A.J. Cole takes the hill for the P-Nats against Mark Pope for the Hillcats.

Oct 202011
 

The 2011 season was the first winning season in the five years that Washington has been affiliated with Hagerstown. The 75-64 record was a 10½ game improvement over the 2010 season. But ultimately, the curse of high expectations that surrounds all things Bryce Harper made the 2011 season a disappointment in many fans’ eyes.

It may also surprise you to learn that for all for the rehab stints (Strasburg, Zimmerman, Wang, the immortal Doug Slaten) and the presence of Bryce Harper, attendance still fell by 126 per game over 2010 (2,057 vs. 1,931). Times are hard in Washington County, no doubt, but that’s still a bit of a shock to me. So I’ll leave it to you as to whether we should blame it on the economy, the rain, or the bossa nova.

Considering that, as a team, the Suns were mostly middle of the pack in the 14-team South Atlantic League — 6th in offense, 8th in pitching, 7th in defense — to have been in contention in both halves for most of the way should be considered a success. As we’ve done the past three weeks, let’s take a look at how Hagerstown compared to the rest of the league…
HITTING

PITCHING

The most encouraging thing to take away from the 2011 Suns is that this team was not afraid to take a walk or give up a walk — second in the league on both counts. It was also a team that could run (3rd), but unlike last season, they did it without a single 30-steal player and were successful 73.5% of the time. That’s encouraging if you’re a proponent of having a team that’s capable of playing it both big and small.

The pitching was a mixed bag. The starter that gave up the most hits had the most wins (Matt Grace). There were a couple of relievers with ERAs in the 1′s (Chris Manno, Neil Holland)… and a couple of relievers with ERAs in the 6′s (Shane McCatty, Greg Holt), while the team’s two swingmen (Paul Applebee and Matt Swynenberg) gave up the second- and third-most HRs on the team, yet were among the team’s more effective pitchers. Finally, two pitchers had their season cut short by unspecified injuries (Taylor Jordan and Bobby Hansen), and a third (Chris McKenzie) spent six weeks on the DL midseason and more than two months away from the Suns total.

Now it’s time to drill down to look at the top 12′s for the hitters. The full statistics for the team can be found here. (* = 2010 Draft Pick ** = DSL Graduate)
Bryce Harper’s numbers speak for themselves, with his rate statistics close to 100 points above the league average despite being barely old enough to vote. His removal from the lineup on the 4th of July, however, was largely covered by the emergence of Kevin Keyes, who hit .281/.355/.528 after the Sally League All-Star break. As you can see, the cluster of 2010 draft picks were the heart of this team. What remains to be seen is how they’ll develop. Thankfully, one of my spies in Hagerstown wrote about the Suns batters earlier this month, and I encourage folks to click on over to see what he had to say.

Next up, the pitchers, which I’m expanding to the top 15 to include three notables…
Eleven different pitchers made at least five starts for the Suns, thanks in part to the injuries to Jordan, Hansen and McKenzie and the delayed debuts of Cole and Ray, both of whom were held back until the first full weekend in May. Injury also delayed the start of Sammy Solis’s season until Memorial Day Weekend, which kept his inning count down and is arguably the primary reason why he’s repeating the AFL as a starter.

If Auburn is a barometer for the 2011 draft, then Hagerstown might be the same for 2010 (and to a certain extent, 2009). If the expression is that there three kinds of pitchers — young, old, and hurt — well, that pretty much sums up the draft class thus far.

The ground on the “young” Cole and Ray has been pretty much covered (though again, I point folks to my friend Shawn’s take). Old, of course is a relative term, but Grace and Solis will enter the 2012 campaign as 23-year-olds and the latter was touted as being ready for prime time in ’12. The same is true for ’09ers Swynenberg and Jordan. And of course, the “hurt” applies to Jordan, Solis and McKenzie (Hansen was an ’08 pick). Solis and McKenzie have since recovered from their injuries, but the outcome for Jordan, who appeared to be headed for Potomac a la Danny Rosenbuam in 2010, won’t be known until next spring.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
We’re into crossover territory and I’m trying to avoid double-listing guys. Thus, a couple of honorable mentions to answer the question “Well, who would make it onto the list if X were rated at the next level instead of this level?”

Hitters
1. Bryce Harper
2. David Freitas
3. Kevin Keyes
4. Michael Taylor
5. Adrian Sanchez
HM: Jason Martinson

Pitchers
1. A.J. Cole
2. Robbie Ray
3. Taylor Jordan
4. Sammy Solis
5. Matt Swynenberg
HM: Matt Grace

Oct 192010
 

At the time that I went to see them, the Vermont Lake Monsters were 7-3 and in the second game of an eight-game win streak that saw them roll up an 18-5 record before they would lose consecutive games.  After losing those two games, they ripped off three more wins to go to 21-7. They would not win two games in a row again until the final two games of the year, going 15-31 the rest of the way to finish at 36-38 and two games behind the eventual league champion Tri-City Valley Cats (coincidentally, the team I had visited the night before on my drive up).

Q: What the hell happened?
A: The pitching took a nosedive.

The top four starters had a combined ERA of 4.75, which is nearly a run higher than the league average of 3.80. The good news is that just one of those starters was a 2010 draftee; the rest of the 2010 draftees were relievers. The bad news is that two of the other three starters were from the 2009 draft.

As you might have already deduced (or guessed, Skipper), the hitting was in the top quartile of the league. As we’ve done the two reviews prior, let’s take a look at how Vermont compared to the rest of the league…

HITTING

TEAM AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA SB
Vermont 2430 365 597 34 340 591 .246 .347 .353 .244 58
Lg. Avg. 2488 334 620 36 254 571 .249 .326 .362 .237 68

Bold = League Leader

PITCHING

TEAM IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
Vermont 649.0 4.47 5.07 1.408 43 266 587 9.0 3.7 8.1 2.21
Lg. Avg. 657.2 3.80 4.49 1.329 36 254 571 8.5 3.5 7.8 2.25

As it was with the GCL, there is some hope in the strength of team’s hitting. Leading the league in walks drawn is something that should not be taken lightly, especially for college bats adjusting to the wood-bat game. Those eighty or so “extra” baserunners helped offset league-average hitting and power, enabling the Lake Monsters to score 31 more runs than the league average.

Likewise, there is also some hope in the relievers that helped offset the poor starting pitching, as four relievers posted sub-3.00 ERAs while throwing more than 20 innings. Not surprisingly, three of those four piled up Ks at a rate of 10.2/9IP or more.

As before, I’m listing the Top 12 hitters and pitchers in terms of plate appearances and innings pitched and using defensive games played for the listing of position. The full statistics for the team can be found here.

Name Age Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err PA GPA
Jason Martinson 21 SS 68 .944 17 306 .242
Ronnie Labrie 23 1B 67 .990 6 280 .276
Chad Mozingo 21 CF/LF 42/17 .975 3 278 .239
Blake Kelso 21 3B/2B/SS 30/27/3 .949 10 274 .256
David Freitas 21 C 35 .994 2 261 .296
Wade Moore 22 RF/LF 57/3 .969 4 258 .275
Hendry Jimenez* 20 2B 45 .973 6 206 .201
Russell Moldenhauer 22 DH 1 @ 1B 1.000 0 162 .295
Kevin Keyes 21 LF/RF 35/3 .895 6 160 .214
Justin Miller 21 IF/OF 17/19 .902 8 155 .248
Connor Rowe 21 CF/RF/LF 11/21/7 .955 3 140 .195
Cole Leonida 21 C 31 .988 3 120 .154

Bold = 2010 Draftee      Italics = 2009 Draftee * = DSL Graduate

Obviously, the thing that jumps out is the usage of Russell Moldenhauer, the team leader in slugging percentage. With two catchers to evaluate (Freitas and Leonida), it was clear that when one would catch, the other would DH or sit, which begs the question: Why weren’t Labrie and Moldenhauer rotating at first base? The most logical deduction is that Moldenhauer is a terrible fielder, given that Moldenahauer did not play defensively at all for University of Texas this year and only played enough to register 53 putouts in the three seasons prior to 2010.

Seven of these twelve hitters were sent to the Florida Instructional League; a good sign that they’ll be in Hagerstown in 2011 and perhaps one may even jump to Potomac (best guess: David Freitas). Folks in Hagerstown should have another decent season in terms of offense, especially as the GCL standouts are mixed in with this bunch.

On to the pitchers, and should you be reading this past 5 p.m., this might be the time to pour yourself a cold adult beverage…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HBP WP
Matt Swynenberg 21 14/12 5-2, 0 4.60 62⅔ 65 17 43 1.309 6 2
Taylor Jordan 21 13/13 2-3, 0 4.94 62 73 17 54 1.452 5 3
Bobby Hansen 20 13/12 3-2, 0 4.79 56⅓ 72 19 51 1.615 7 7
Chad Jenkins 20 15/12 2-7, 0 4.67 54 40 34 52 1.370 13 3
Colin Bates 22 15/5 3-3, 2 5.40 48⅓ 55 8 45 1.303 6 2
Wilson Eusebio* 21 16/0 2-1, 0 4.26 44⅓ 44 26 32 1.579 3 11
Neil Holland 21 19/0 3-1, 3 2.20 32⅔ 25 9 37 1.041 2 2
Ryan Demmin 22 14/1 2-1, 2 1.45 31 25 10 32 1.129 1 0
Dustin Crane 23 19/0 2-2, 2 4.60 29⅓ 23 18 20 1.398 1 10
Cameron Selik 22 15/0 1-0, 1 2.54 28⅓ 22 13 32 1.235 2 2
Christopher McKenzie 20 8/6 1-2, 0 8.54 26⅓ 40 12 22 1.975 1 2
Mark Herrera 21 14/0 2-1, 1 2.88 25 20 8 31 1.120 2 4

Digging deeper into the usage, it would appear that the m.o. was to use last year’s college guys to start, and this year’s guys to relieve. The three ’09 draftees each started last season in the GCL. Two (Jenkins and Swynenburg) were sent up to Vermont and did not respond well to the challenge and thus, they repeated. Therefore, we may have some tea leaves to read in terms of guessing who’ll be in Auburn next summer and who won’t.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
Finally, I can say I saw some of these guys (OK, maybe it was just once, but I can still say it). So here goes with the five bats and five arms to watch in 2011:

Top 5 Batters
1. David Freitas
2. Russell Moldenhauer
3. Wade Moore
4. Blake Kelso
5. Jason Martinson

Top 5 Pitchers
1. Neil Holland
2. Mark Herrera
3. Ryan Demmin
4. Taylor Jordan
5. Chad Jenkins

Aug 062010
 

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

SYRACUSE 57-55, 3rd place IL North, 8 games back

Good Boomer Whiting, .403OBP
Bad Dan Leatherman 12H 6R in 1st 6 apperances [Ed. Note: Written before demotion]
Interesting Josh Wilkie 1HR allowed in 53⅓ innings

HARRISBURG 59-53, 3rd place, 6½ games back, EL

Good Tom Milone, 9QS in 22 starts; 1.52BB/9
Bad Edgardo Baez .134BA in July/Aug.
Interesting Chuck James 0.00ERA as a reliever at AA

POTOMAC
21-16 in 2nd Half, 1st place by 1½ games in CrL North

Good Tyler Moore 11HR, 40RBI since ASB (34G)
Bad Marcos Frias, 8.46ERA since return from GCL rehab
Interesting Dan Lyons .300/.475/.467 in last 10G

HAGERSTOWN
15-25 in 2nd Half, last place in SAL North, 9½ games back

Good Eury Perez .304BA, .441SLG, 17SB in July/Aug
Bad Josh Smoker, 7.38ERA in 19 starts; scoreless outings: 1
Interesting NDFA Billy Ott, 5IP 1H 0R 0BB 3K in SAL debut

VERMONT
25-21, 2nd Place Stedler Division of NY-Penn League, ½ game back

Good Ronnie Labrie .281/.384/.452 in 40G
Bad Taylor Jordan 23R, 32H, 3HR allowed in last 5 starts
Interesting Neil Holland, 1.77ERA in 12G as reliever

GCL NATIONALS
14-23, 5th place GCL East Division, 9½ games back

Good Nick Serino 0.98WHIP, 2.93ERA in 10 appearances
Bad Michael Taylor 12E in 23G
Interesting Adrian Sanchez, Billy Ott earning promotions to Hagerstown

DSL NATIONALS
27-29, 5th place B.C. South Division, 11½ games back

Good “Fred” Ortega 25SB in 50G
Bad Yamaicol Tejeda .050BA in 26G
Interesting Bienvenido Valdez 24BB, 37K in 50G
Jul 232010
 

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

SYRACUSE 54-45, 2nd place IL North, 3 games back

Good Justin Maxwell .342/.432/.605 in July
Bad Jason Jones 20H, 14R, 7HR in last three starts (yes, we can fickle)
Interesting Boomer Whiting .264BA as a LHB (began switching hitting this year)

HARRISBURG 49-50, 4th place, 9 games behind

Good Jesus Valdez .315BA, 18RBI in July
Bad 13E each for starting 1B, 2B, and SS
Interesting Chuck James as a reliever: 3-0, 0.00ERA in 15G

POTOMAC
14-11 2nd Half; 45-50 Overall

Good Tyler Moore 18-for-30, 8-2B, 6HR, 19RBI in last 8G
Bad Nick Moresi .186BA in July
Interesting Justin Phillabaum, four runs allowed over last eight appearances
(vs. 11 runs allowed in first eight appearances)

HAGERSTOWN
10-17 2nd Half; 46-51 Overall

Good Eury Perez .328BA, 13SB in July
Bad Dean Weaver 0-2, five blown saves since return from DL on Jun. 16
Interesting Ben Graham 8K, 5H, 0BB in first four appearances (6⅔ IP) since promotion

VERMONT
22-11, 1st Place Stedler Division of NY-Penn League

Good David Freitas .443BA during 18-game hit streak
Bad Taylor Jordan 0-1, 7.94ERA in July
Interesting Neil Holland 0.66ERA, 1.02WHIP, 14K in 9 appearances (13⅔ IP)

GCL NATIONALS
11-15, 4th place GCL East Division, 7 games back

Good Adrian Sanchez .375/.390/.600 in 19G
Bad Estarlin Martinez .150/.209/.275 in 14G
Interesting Billy Ott 1-0, SV, 0.60ERA, 0.87WHIP in 5G

DSL NATIONALS
23-19, 5th place B.C. South Division, 4 games back

Good 18-y.o. Wirkin Estevez 5-3, 2.44ERA, 61K in 51⅔ IP
Bad Jorge De La Cruz, 9.28ERA, 2.25WHIP, 6HB in 7G
Interesting Nelalexfred Ortega 15/16 in stolen-base attempts