Jan 152013
 

More ST cutsIt’s a weird world we live in when a mere tweet can be the peg for a news story.

Such was the case yesterday when Jake Skole, the younger sibling of Matt Skole, congratulated his brother on his invite to Washington Nationals spring training, prompting this story from Byron Kerr, who confirmed it independently. The younger Skole’s feelings were echoed by teammate Jason Martinson (both of which I retweeted).

Hours later, Ryan Tatusko gave out the props to his AAA teammate Zach Walters for the same honor. Neither invite has been officially confirmed as of this writing, with the Nationals PR Twitter account dark since Friday.

Like most non-roster invitees, Skole and Walters do not have a strong chance of making the parent club this spring, but the invite is significant nevertheless because it means more time spent in Viera with the major-league coaches.

The logical inference is that both will spend time working on their defense. Walters has been pegged by some as having a future as a utilityman, and if so, will need to refine his defense at the non-SS positions and learn the OF, a la Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore last year.

Skole spent time at 1B in the Arizona Fall League and it’s probably fair to deduce he’ll spend more time learning the position, given that No. 1 prospect Anthony Rendon also plays 3B (and some other guy in DC).

Finally, in keeping with the theme of news-by-Twitter, MLB.com beat reporter Bill Ladson is reporting that former Dodgers/Pirates UT Delwyn Young has been signed to minor-league deal with no invite. The 30-year-old Young, perhaps most famous in Nats lore for hitting a two-run HR in Stephen Strasburg’s MLB debut in 2010, played just 35 games in 2012 with the Camden Riversharks after failing to make the White Sox out of Spring Training.

UPDATE:
This afternoon the Nationals officially announced the spring-training invites of LHPs Fernando Abad, Bill Bray, Brandon Mann, RHP Ross Ohlendorf and IF Will Rhymes, which were previously reported here, here, there, and everywhere, along with the official announcements for Skole and Walters.

They also extended non-roster invitations to C Carlos Maldonado, LHP Pat McCoy, and RHP Tanner Roark and officially announced that pitchers and catchers are due to report on February 12, position players on February 15.

Jan 102013
 

20120
The latest transaction post from Baseball America is in and it’s the beginning of comings and goings to/from the farm. First, the additions:

  • RHP Ross Ohlendorf
  • LHP Sean West
  • C Joe Witkowski

Ohlendorf, a former stalwart in the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation, has been largely ineffective since suffering a shoulder strain in 2011. He began 2012 with the Boston Red Sox, opting out of his contract and signing with the San Diego Padres, where he was pounded for a 7.77ERA (yes, even in Petco Park) over 13 appearances last summer.

West was the 44th pick overall from the 2005 draft by the Florida Marlins and made it to the majors in 2009 but has been frequently injured, not pitching at all in 2012, and spending most of 2010 and 2011 in AAA New Orleans.

Witkowski was signed as an NDFA by the Houston Astros in 2011, playing in the GCL for 18 games and released last June, shortly after the draft.

Now, the subtractions…

  • LHP Bobby Hansen
  • 2B Hendry Jimenez
  • C Jeremy Mayo
  • 1B Brett Newsome
  • OF Tony Nix
  • LHP Joe Testa

Some familiar names here, with three of these six having spent five (or more) seasons in the system (’07 IFA Jimenez, ’08 draft pick Hansen, and ’08 NDFA Newsome), Mayo an inaugural watchlister, and Testa coming via the Matt Capps trade in July 2010.

Jan 102013
 

Big In JapanUnfortunately, he’s an American returning back to affiliated baseball for the first time in three years. Sorry.

Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com has reported that LHP Brandon Mann has signed a minor-league deal with the Washington Nationals. The deal also includes an invite to spring training.

The 28-year-old southpaw has spent the past two seasons in Japan with the Yokohama BayStars, going 1-1 with a 1.16 ERA in 12 relief appearances in 2011, but just 2-8 with a 5.32 ERA (though a decent 1.357 WHIP) in 15 starts in 2012. He was originally drafted by Tampa Bay in the 27th Rd. of the 2002 draft as a HS pick from Des Moines, WA.

Mann reached as high as AA in 2009 when he went 7-9 with a 4.44 ERA in 27 appearances (21 starts) with Montgomery. As a MLFA, he hooked on with the L.A. Dodgers in 2010 but was dropped down to High-A and released after 37 games in relief, going 3-0 but posting a 4.12 ERA and a 1.833 WHIP. He was picked up by the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs later that season and made five starts for a 1-2 record and a 5.14 ERA, 1.643 WHIP.

Dec 292012
 

minor leagues signs 2The estimable Bill “The Rocket” Ladson has passed along news that the Nationals have signed two more minor-league free agents.

Both are of the veteran variety, likely to fill out the Syracuse roster.

Mike “Don’t Call Me George” Constanzo is a corner infielder who was originally drafted by the Phillies in the second round of the 2005 draft. He has also spent time in the Baltimore and Cincinnati organizations, making his MLB debut last May with the Reds but was an abysmal 1-for-18 in 17 games. For his career, the 29-year-old has a .258/.349/.430 line and has played 682 of his 848 minor-league games at 3B, compiling a .928 fielding percentage.

Matt Torra is a RHSP who was originally taken by Arizona (*shock!*) in the supplemental round of the ’05 draft out of UMass, where he posted a 1.14 ERA in his senior season (albeit in the A-10). Shoulder woes (*another shock!*) delayed his full-season debut until 2007, where he struggled to a 6.01 ERA albeit in the Nintendo California League. Torra split time between AA and AAA from ’08 to ’10 before the Diamondbacks released him after 15 starts in 2011. He was picked up by the Rays and finished the ’11 season and pitched all of 2012 with Durham, going 16-9 with a 3.97 ERA in 34 starts.

The 28-year-old Torra features a high-80s sinker (previously low-90s, touching 95), an 11-5 curveball and a changeup but fits the moniker of “pitching to contact” with career marks of 10.3 H/9, 1.8 BB/9 and 5.6 K/9. While he’s improved since this article was written, the conclusion is still apt.

Dec 162012
 

RestockingThe latest transactions have been released from Baseball America, and as predicted following the Rule 5 draft, the Washington Nationals have signed three minor-league pitchers:

• LHP Francis Castro

• RHP Tyler Herron

• RHP Paterson Segura

Given the likelihood that 29-year-old Francisco Castro has come out of retirement, the logical deduction is that Castro is an IFA.

Herron, however, appears to have done just that after skipping the 2011 season and pitching 2012 for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the independent American Association, where he compiled a 12-3 record in 23 games (17 starts) with a 3.29 ERA and a WHIP of 1.163.

The 26-year-old was a sandwich pick (46th overall) for St. Louis in the 2005 draft but was released midway through the 2009 season with the Cardinals citing performance issues despite the then-22-year-old’s 2-4, 4.34, 1.533 marks at AA Springfield. He was picked up by the Pittsburgh organization and released following the season. He spent 2010 with the Kalamazoo Kings of the Frontier League, where he was 1-3 with 3 saves in 14 appearances.

I was unable to find any mention of surgery for Herron, only speculation from websites such as Future Redbirds that the specificity of on-field performance was code for off-the-field issues.

The 16-year-old Segura (turns 17 on January 1) was signed last weekend by the Nationals from the Dominican Prospect League. He’s said to feature a FB-CV-CH arsenal with a 88-91 velocity and a high 3/4 arm slot with an unorthodox “pie throwing motion.”

Best guesses: Castro and Segura will be assigned to the DSL while Herron goes to Woodbridge (the AAPBL is roughly equivalent to Low-A).

Dec 142012
 

International SignWith a H/T to Marcus for bringing this to my attention, the Nationals have signed a 16-year-old third baseman Neivy Pilier for $225,000 — the second-largest spend since the infamous 2006 signing of 16-year-old Esmailyn Gonzalez 20-year-old Carlos Alvarez.
(Centerfielder Luis Guzman was signed this past July for $385K).

Baseball America broke the news first, describing him as:

At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Pilier has a quick bat with lift and occasional power in his righthanded swing, though he’s at his best when he stays with a line-drive approach and uses the middle of the field. He has a strong arm that fits well at third base, though with his youth and size he’s still trying to improve his footwork.

Pilier reportedly turned 16 on August 1st, and according to Adam Kilgore’s post, must still undergo MLB’s vetting for age and indentity.

In other news, the Nationals continue to stockpile minor-league veterans with the signing of 27-year-old Brian Bocock, who is most likely going to see time in Syracuse next summer.

Dec 072012
 

Of course, the big news this week in transactions were the signing of Dan Haren, pending a physical (best guess: announcement made tonight during the five o’clock hour for the benefit of talk-radio chatter) and the selection of four Nationals in yesterday’s Rule 5 draft.

A couple of, well, minor signs have also been made in the past couple weeks, which I’ve neglected to report in the hopes that this week’s transactions post from Baseball America would have more (it did not).

• LHP Bobby Bramhall — A former Miami Marlin (2012) and Milwaukee Brewers farmhand (2007-2010), who, of course, has had Tommy John surgery, which is why he did not pitch in 2011. According to this scouting report, he’s a soft tosser that’s best suited to becoming a LOOGY.

• LHP Bill Bray was brought back into the organization after he elected free agency in early November, refusing to report to the minors after injuries (groin, back) limited him to 14 appearances for the Cincinnati Reds in 2012. Bray was a first-round pick in the 2004 draft for Montreal and was traded away in July 2006 as part of an eight-player deal that brought journeyman Austin Kearns and the immortal Felipe Lopez to Washington.

As mentioned in the comments, the Nationals are very likely to sign more MLFA pitchers over the next few weeks, in part to replace those “lost” yesterday as well as what appears to be the modus operandi of the Nats this time of year.

Nov 232012
 

The Nats’ stockpiling of free-agent pitchers continues with the latest transactions post from Baseball America:

  • RHP Randy Consuegra
  • RHP Deibi Yrizarri
  • LHP Fernando Abad

Consuegra is another former Boston farmhand, signed after pitching for the Colombian WBC team. He’s been out of professional baseball for the past two seasons. The logical inference is that Yrizarri is also an international free agent; the only clear reference to him that comes up in web searches is in the BA post.

Abad is the sole pitcher among this group with major-league experience, albeit with the Astros. He’s appeared in 88 games the past three seasons with Houston with career marks of 1-11, 5.10 ERA and a 1.559 WHIP. Scouting site 60ft6in.com describes him as “a junk-balling left-hander with a high major league walk rate. He throws tons of soft changeups to RHs and sweeping curves to LHs. The Dominican would rather walk a batter than give in with his 90 mph BP fastball.”

Thus far, two Nationals farmhands have signed elsewhere — Jim Negrych with Toronto and Atahualpa Severino with Kansas City. Severino was one of the last remaining players left from the Expos era still with the organization, a list believed to be now down to two: Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina.

Nov 212012
 

Waiting deep into the night to make the announcement, the Washington Nationals added RHPs Nathan Karns and Erik Davis to the 40-man roster in preparation for next month’s Rule 5 draft.

Karns, of course, was the expected selection — the Nationals Minor-League Pitcher of the Year, leader in minor-league wins, strikeouts, WHIP, and opponent batting average, not to mention the mustache. Injuries delayed the 2009 12th-Rd. pick’s ascent, with shoulder surgery sidelining him for 2010 and limiting him to 13 appearances in 2011, in which he went 3-2 with a 2.28 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and 59K in 55⅓ innings. This past season he went 11-4 between Hagerstown and Potomac with a 2.17 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and 148K in 116 innings. The Texan native turns 25 on Sunday.

Davis was the wildcard pick. Even with the benefit of hindsight (i.e. Rizzo’s habit of favoring guys that he acquired), this is still a mild shock. As many of the beat writers pointed out, Davis’s strong showing in the Dominican Winter League — 3-0, 0.56ERA, 16K in 16IP — was likely a predicating factor for the move. After finishing 2011 with a demotion from Harrisburg to Potomac (and even worse numbers in High-A than AA), Davis turned it around in 2012 with a 8-3, 2.71, 1.247 pitching line overall, with 40 appearances for Harrisburg and eight in Syracuse. The Stanford grad/native turned 26 last month.

Nov 142012
 

Now that we’re a couple of weeks into the offseason, free agents are starting to change teams. But first a couple of re-signs:

• C Kris Watts
• OF-1B Jimmy Van Ostrand

Both were veterans with the Harrisburg Senators that were signed during the summer and both are 28-year-olds that could ostensibly play at either AA or AAA next summer.

On to the signings, from Baseball America’s latest dispatch:

• RHP Yefri Pena
• IF Will Rhymes
• SS Leudys Baez
• OF Ray Kruml

There is no listing for either Pena or Baez on baseball-reference.com or milb.com, which leads me to believe that both are IFAs.

Rhymes is a former Detroit farmhand that spent 2012 in the Tampa Bay system and has bounced between AAA and the majors for the past three seasons, hitting .228/.299/.285 in 47 games for the Rays and .256/.326/.390 in 46 games for Durham in the I.L.

Kruml was drafted but did not sign with the Diamondbacks in 2005, and but did sign with the Yankees in 2008. He was released in early August by New York after a disappointing showing in AAA (.225/.267/.310) and signed with St. Louis to finish out the year, where he was even worse at AA (.161/.229/.194).