Nov 022011
 

For some, the memory of the 2011 Harrisburg Senators will not be how the team took first place in late April and won the division, leading nearly wire-to-wire, despite losing its ace pitcher, its all-star second baseman, and its #3 hitter to promotions and a trade. Nope. It will be this and the wondering if things might have turned out differently if that hadn’t happened.

The more painful reality is that probably didn’t make that big of a difference. The Flying Squirrels won 13 of 21 regular-season meetings and just seemed to have the Senators’ number whenever they matched up. They lost eight of their last 11 games, scoring more than two runs just three times, and scored a total of three runs in three playoff games. Simply put: The Senators were cold going into a short series against a team they had trouble with even when they were playing their best baseball.

This is not to dismiss the disappointment — it’s funny to me to see proclamations each September about how winning in the minors is overrated… or underrated, though it does seem to depend on how your organization is doing at the time — but to remind folks that it was quite a journey to get to the playoffs, as one of our contributors first wrote on this site a few weeks ago.

So let’s take a look at how the 2011 Harrisburg team compared to the rest of the Eastern League, shall we?
HITTING

PITCHING

The Senators were 9th in runs scored despite leading the league in home runs. Likewise, they were 11th in on-base percentage but third in stolen bases and triples. It’s an unusual combination, though I think we’re seeing a trend across the organization when it comes to running (GCL, 5th; NYPL, 3rd; Sally, 3rd; Carolina, 1st) and getting on base (6th, 1st, 3rd, 3rd). Unfortunately, the closest player to possessing both skills is Steve Lombardozzi, so the folks reading this site looking for the answer to the problem with Ian Desmond at leadoff might be disappointed.

Pitching was this team’s strength, as they were first in strikeouts and WHIP, second in ERA, walks and HRs allowed, third in runs allowed. The defense wasn’t so bad either, finishing fifth in terms of percentage and seventh in terms of errors committed, and second in terms of stolen bases allowed. Admittedly, some of this can be chalked up to the veteran nature of the pitching staff (e.g. Erik Arnesen, Oliver Perez), but it should be noted that 24-year-olds (the league average age) accounted for 31.5% of the innings thrown and 62 of the 142 games started. Until the likes of Wirkin Estevez, A.J. Cole and Robbie Ray come to town, an older pitching staff is probably going to be the norm for the forseeable future.

Now, let’s drill down to the Top 16’s for the batters and pitchers — an expansion from the Top 12’s so as to include notables such as Bryce Harper and Erik Komatsu as well as Danny Rosenbaum and Pat Lehman. Full statistics for the team can be found here.

Now when I say that we’re hurting for age-appropriate position prospects at AA and AAA will folks believe me? Just six of the Top 16 batters were 24 or younger. This is why when I see folks elsewhere chiming that the farm has been rebuilt, intimating the job is complete, I cringe. It’s true that three of those six are likely to be in DC by Opening Day 2013, but need I remind folks that unfortunate incidents occasionally occur?

Age aside, you can see from the totals that the team compensated for its low OBP with some serious slugging (.316 ISO for Dolla?!) while nearly everybody was a decent fielder and/or had above-average speed — perfect complements to the aforementioned veteran pitching.

Lastly, in case anyone was wondering… 18-year-old Bryce Harper “struggled” to only reach the league averages for the triple-slash rate stats, hitting it on the nose for OBP and SLG, and missing BA by .003. I’m not prone to fanboy one-handed typing, but that’s pretty damn impressive.
Quite a few extremes, no? That’s part of the reason I like to drill down to the individual stats: Because the guys that were good, were really good — offsetting the guys that weren’t up to snuff, though one thing I did notice is that nearly all of the high ERA guys had significantly lower FIPs (e.g. Ryan Tatusko, 5.94 ERA, 3.97 FIP), which make sense with a team that’s in the upper half of the league in terms of defense.

Like the hitters, one gets the feeling that Washington is building the uppermost levels of the farm to be interchangeable between AA and AAA, creating an environment in which prospects bubble up to the bigs while surrounded by veterans. That’s just what jumps at me when I look at this list of guys that seemed to be either 24 or 27. Of course, that inference could be drawn into a comic like this.

OBLIGATORY TOP FOUR LISTS
That’s no typo. I just can’t pick a #5 for either the batters or the pitchers with a straight face. I’m already including a couple of guys that may be voting for president next year for the third time. Pat McCoy, Stephen King, Erik Komatsu, Tanner Roark are the requisite ages, but none really had that good of a season. I’m already sure that next week it’ll be a Top 5 for the entire Syracuse team (that’s what I did last year), but I felt like doing that here and now might be misconstrued. This is what I mean when I say that the rebuilding job is not complete: There simply aren’t 10 guys at the so-called marquee level of prospects that fit the bill.

Batters
1. Bryce Harper
2. Derek Norris
3. Steve Lombardozzi
4. Tyler Moore

Pitchers
1. Brad Peacock
2. Danny Rosenbaum
3. Brad Meyers
4. Pat Lehman

Oct 282011
 

Ho hum. Another day, another four RBIs for Bryce Harper.

Granted, the last three did come on a walkoff home run that turned a 7-5 deficit into an 8-7 win for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Harper went 2-for-5 overall while once again playing left field. Defensively, he was charged with his third error of the fall on an errant throw but made three putouts.

The news was not all good though as Matt Purke had yet another rough outing, giving up three runs on four hits in the 5th inning. He walked none but struck out one and also threw a wild pitch. As the old saw goes, you know things are going bad when such an outing lowers a pitcher’s ERA — from 30.86 to 29.70

                                          #                                     #                                     #

Brad Peacock was chosen the best AA starter in the 2011 MiLBYs, minor-league baseball’s desperate attempt to feed the PR beast postseason awards. It’s the second award given to a Nationals farmhand since its inception in 2005, when it was known as “This Year in Minor League Baseball Awards,” with Tyler Moore named the best Class-A Advanced hitter last season.

In transaction news, the Nationals have released Johan Rodriguez (GCL) while resigning veterans Chris McConnell and Chris Rahl. Rodriguez appeared in 66 games over two years in Viera, but posted an OPS of just .510 while committing 20 errors on defense. McConnell and Rahl were both key cogs for the Senators in 2011 and will likely be asked to be role players in either Harrisburg in Syracuse in 2012.

Aug 272011
 


The Eastern League has announced its postseason 2011 All-Star team, with RHP Brad Peacock and 1B Tyler Moore making the grade.

Just 13 players are named to the squad, with the eight defensive positions, a DH, a utility player, left- and right-handed starters and a reliever. The lineup is voted on by league managers, sportswriters, broadcasters and other media members.

Moore, who was the 2010 Carolina League MVP, currently leads the Eastern League in HRs (30), RBIs (87), and total bases (265) — clearly making him a candidate, if not a favorite, for the Eastern League MVP in 2011.

Peacock went 10-2 with a 2.01 ERA for Harrisburg prior to his promotion last month to Syracuse, where he currently sports a 4-1 record with a 3.56 ERA. Combined, he has gone 14-3 with a 2.48 ERA and 170 SOs in 141⅔ innings.

Peacock was also named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.

Aug 122011
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 49-61, 4th place I.L. North, 13½ games behind

Good Brad Meyers 1.23 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in August
Bad Seth Bynum .194/.248/.280 since All-Star Break
Interesting Garrett Mock 1.50 ERA, 0.67 WHIP in August

HARRISBURG SENATORS 66-52, 2nd place E.L. West, ½ game behind

Good Tyler Moore .333/.385/.590 since All-Star Break
Bad Adam Fox .159/.245/.318 since All-Star Break
Interesting Rafael Martin 0.95 ERA, 0.88 WHIP

POTOMAC NATIONALS 24-22, 2nd place C.L. North Division, 4 games behind (53-62 overall)

Good Sandy Leon .275/.331/.443 since C.L. All-Star Break
Bad 535 RA (4.65/G) is 36 R more than 7th place C.L. pitching staff
Interesting The chance to make the playoffs despite being 6th in hitting, 7th in fielding, 8th in pitching

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 23-22, 4th place Sally League North Divison, 4 games behind (63-52 overall)

Good Michael Taylor .324/.373/.610 since All-Star Break
Bad Dean Weaver 6.62 ERA, 1.53 WHIP
Interesting Adrian Nieto .522 SLG in first 6G

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 32-22, T1st place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 1½ games ahead

Good Brian Dupra 2.96 ERA, 1.23 WHIP as a starter
Bad Angel Montilla .184/.304/.289 in August
Interesting Justin Miller .467 SLG, 1E in 44G

GCL NATIONALS 14-27, 4th place GCL East, 17 games behind (Eliminated)

Good 19-y.o. Estarlin Martinez .311/.406/.517
Bad J.C. Valdez, Wes Schill 12E in 29, 32G
Interesting Jack McGeary 1.13 ERA, 1.25 WHIP in first 3G (8IP)

DSL NATIONALS 29-32, 7th place, Boca Chica South Division, 10 games behind

Good Gilberto Mendez 5-0, 2.35 ERA, 1.16 WHIP
Bad Bienvenido Valdez .111/.304/.111 in last 10G
Interesting Wilman Rodriguez .333/.389/.515 since DSL All-Star Break
Jun 032011
 

For the newer Twitter followers, this is an homage to Demetri Martin’s segments of the same name

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

SYRACUSE 22-29, 5th place I.L. North, 10 games behind

Good Tom Milone 2-1, 2.55ERA, 0.74WHIP, 42K last 5 GS
Bad Gregor Blanco .560 OPS
Interesting Matt Antonelli .359/.432/.538 in 11G since callup

HARRISBURG 30-21, 1st place E.L. West Division, 3 games ahead

Good Tyler Moore .312, 11-2B, 3B, 6HR since May 1
Bad Matt Chico 23H, 7BB, in 12IP since demotion
Interesting Team FA .981, 3rd best in E.L.

POTOMAC 19-34, 4th place C.L. North Division, 12 games behind

Good Jeff Kobernus .351/.400/.432 in last 10G
Bad Paul Demny 6HR allowed in last 6GS
Interesting 41% CS by C’s, 2nd best in Carolina League

HAGERSTOWN 33-21, 1st place Sally League Northern Division, 2½ games ahead

Good Blake Kelso .348/.417/.446
Bad Matt Grace 1.60 WHIP
Interesting 82SBs, 1st in Sally League
May 312011
 

The streak of “Player of The Week” awards for the Nationals farmhands extends to four with the naming of Tyler Moore as the Eastern League Player of the Week for the period of May 23 to May 29.

Moore batted .448 (13-for-29) during the week, including three HRs and seven RBI, while scoring seven runs and also clubbing four doubles. The 24-year-old is now tied for first in the Eastern League with 25 extra-base hits and is second in slugging (.538) and total bases (99). For the month of May, the 2010 Carolina League MVP has hit .320/.365/.629 and six of his nine HRs.

Apr 292011
 

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

SYRACUSE 7-14, 6th Place IL North, 7 games back

Good Carlos Maldonado .333/.429/.458 in 9G
Bad Boomer Whiting 2-for-7 in SB attempts, .483OPS
Interesting Josh Wilkie 13K in 10.1IP

HARRISBURG 10-9, 1st place E.L. West, 1/2 game ahead

Good Tyler Moore .326BA, .674SLG last 10G
Bad Derek Norris .154/.303/.192 in 9G
Interesting Ryan Mattheus 1.08ERA, 2SV in 8G

POTOMAC 8-11, 3rd Place C.L. North, 4 games back

Good Jeff Kobernus 9SB, 0CS, 10R in 19G
Bad J.R. Higley .136/.269/.227 in 7G
Interesting Pat Lehman 5SV, 0.58WHIP in 7G

HAGERSTOWN 12-9, T3rd Sally League North, 2½ games back

Good Bryce Harper .323/.425/.645, 5HR in 19G
Bad Chris McKenzie 12.46ERA, 17BB in 13IP
Interesting Chris Manno 0.68WHIP, 17K in 10⅓ IP
Nov 292010
 

The people have spoken, so here’s our obligatory Top 10 list of the Nationals batting prospects. Next will be the Top 10 Arms, and then a revisit to the watchlist. I don’t have the chutzpah to do letter graders or stars, so this is just my opinion on the ten hitting prospects that folks are watching and talking about. I’ll even throw in my Nigel Tufnel to answer the usual question, “Who just missed the list?”

Without further ado…

  1. Bryce Harper — Biggest question: How will he handle the adjustments that will be made to him, especially if he gets the Barry Bonds treatment.
  2. Derek Norris — Complaints about his defense are overblown because he can readily shift to another position if need be, but made significant improvements despite being hurt.
  3. Danny Espinosa — Two spring-training questions: Will the parent club tolerate his strikeouts? Will he get a chance to win the SS job?
  4. Wilson Ramos — Let’s hope he’s given the chance to win the job outright from Rodriguez, but a platoon is probably more likely.
  5. Chris Marrero — Rated this high because I think he’s viable trade bait and appears to be capable of hitting at the MLB level.
  6. Steve Lombardozzi — Steady, solid and reliable. Capable of leading off, but more likely to hit second or eighth.
  7. Michael Burgess — Will probably never hit for average, but the power potential, the OF arm, and the option to platoon him is something to consider
  8. J.P. Ramirez — Concerns about his foot speed, but both our Hagerstown contributors liked his power potential and I liked his tendency to post a good month following bad month all season long.
  9. Eury Perez — It’s no secret that I like the guys that can run and play small ball, and there are doubts about him being able to hit at the upper levels, but he’s the youngest of that prototype in full-season minors.
  10. Tyler Moore — Like Sickels, I’m concerned about what AA pitchers will do to him once they find his weaknesses, but his power is undeniable.

And, the Nigel Tufnel goes to… Rick Hague. That’s who I’d rank #11.

I’m sure folks will have lots to say in the comments…

Nov 012010
 

The half system one of the best things ever conceived for minor-league baseball. It’s an acknowledgment that player movement during the season affects the standings and helps generate interest in the second half. And it’s what helped make the 2010 Potomac Nationals’ pennant run possible.

The first-half Potomac team struggled to muster a consistent offensive attack, getting shut out seven times and scoring 10 or more runs five times, stumbling along to a 31-39 record — 10 games behind Frederick. The second-half team also started slowly, losing seven of its first 12 games before they headed up to Frederick, tied for last place. And then they swept the Keys to go to 8-7. After a split in Salem, Potomac returned to Woodbridge at 9-8. Despite having a rehabbing Jordan Zimmermann on the mound, they lost 3-1 to fall back to .500.

But a funny thing happened in that game. Potomac’s first baseman doubled in the lone run, his first game back after being benched in the second game of the doubleheader in Salem. The next afternoon, he homered. The night after that, he hit a grand slam and doubled twice. You know the rest of that story, but the hitting became contagious. Bill Rhinehart hit .281 in July after a .226 June. Michael Burgess went from .183 in June to .286. Sean Rooney, as part of the ripple effect of the Matt Capps trade that reassigned catchers from A+ to AAA, dropped down from Harrisburg, where he had been struggling as a backup, and picked up where he left off in ’09 and hit .308 in July.

Appropriately, this is a good time to take a look at how the Potomac bats compared to the rest of the Carolina League…

HITTING

TEAM AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA SB
Potomac 4641 665 1166 109 539 1081 .251 .334 .402 .251 96
Lg. Avg. 4664 629 1212 90 435 1038 .260 .330 .388 .246 105

Bold = League Leader

PITCHING

TEAM IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
Potomac 1227.0 3.98 4.62 1.354 101 393 1082 9.3 2.9 7.9 2.75
Lg. Avg. 1221.1 3.92 4.53 1.349 90 435 1038 8.9 3.2 7.7 2.39

The batting numbers are what you might expect from a team that went 70-69 overall: slightly above or slightly below the league averages. Unfortunately, while it’s easy to find splits on individual players, it’s a little harder for teams, thus I can’t easily demonstrate just how much better the team was on offense in the second half versus the first. Also skewing the results are the Winston-Salem Dash, who were sensational on offense, hitting .288 as a team and averaging nearly a full run per game above the league average (5.31 vs. 4.53). Potomac would finish second to them in HRs and total bases.

In terms of pitching, Potomac’s only true calling card was avoiding the free pass, finishing second behind the Salem Red Sox for fewest walks allowed. Unfortunately, that was offset by allowing the third-most HRs and hitting the most batters. In prototypical fashion, the starters were young, the relievers were not, but unlike the bats, they were not the oldest group in the league (Frederick).

In keeping with the format we’ve established, here’s a look at the Top 16 batters in terms of plate appearances, followed by the Top 16 pitchers in terms of innings. Full statistics for the team can be found here.

Name Age Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err PA GPA
Tyler Moore 23 1B 116 .990 11 553 .282
Steve Lombardozzi 21 2B 107 .989 6 507 .269
Michael Burgess 21 RF/LF 99/1 .981 3 491 .265
Derek Norris 21 C 69 .988 7 399 .293
Jose Lozada 24 SS/1B/2B/LF 95/3/1/1 .938 27 385 .236
Robby Jacobsen 25 LF/3B/C/1B/P 59/26/10/2/2 .964 8 375 .221
Bill Rhinehart 25 LF/RF/1B 30/26/17 .978 5 346 .264
Nick Moresi 25 CF/RF/LF/P 49/15/14/1 .978 3 325 .213
Chris Curran 22 CF 70 .981 3 275 .209
Dan Lyons 25 3B/2B/SS 53/5/1 .959 7 274 .235
Brian Peacock 25 C/3B/LF 41/4/2 .994 2 235 .241
Wilberto Ortiz 25 3B/SS/2B 25/19/1 .931 12 187 .223
Sean Rooney 24 C 19 1.000 0 170 .244
Tim Pahuta 26 3B/1B 22/4 .931 8 155 .296
Francisco Soriano 22 2B/SS 21/7 .932 10 117 .219
Josh Johnson 24 3B/SS/2B 12/12/1 .966 3 113 .297

The naysayers like to point out the number of 25-year-olds that were on the team, either not noticing (slightly possible) or not knowing (quite probable) that 44% of the plate appearances were made by players 23 or younger. Add in the 24-year-olds (a not uncommon age for the league) and that number swells to 57%. With the exceptions of Bill Rhinehart and Tim Pahuta, none the “old men” on the team were above league average. Thus, it’s ignorant to write off this team’s offense as being too old for the level. That accusation can, however, be applied to the pitching…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HBP WP
Adrian Alaniz 26 24/12 8-4, 1 2.61 107 93 26 101 1.112 6 10
Brad Peacock 22 19/18 4-9, 0 4.44 103⅓ 109 25 118 1.297 4 10
Evan Bronson 23 21/16 2-5, 0 3.88 95 107 17 59 1.527 3 5
Marcos Frias 21 20/17 7-5, 0 5.69 91⅔ 105 35 59 1.527 5 3
Pat Lehman 23 21/14 5-4, 0 4.84 87⅓ 87 28 88 1.317 9 4
A.J. Morris 23 23/12 5-3, 2 3.88 72 67 27 61 1.306 6 3
Trevor Holder 23 15/14 3-3, 0 4.09 70⅓ 76 22 52 1.393 4 4
Jesse Estrada 26 22/4 3-2, 1 5.11 56⅓ 73 20 39 1.651 8 1
Clayton Dill 24 40/0 6-7, 1 4.41 51 50 33 48 1.627 1 11
Dan Leatherman 24 31/0 3-2, 11 2.12 46⅔ 31 12 57 0.921 2 2
Pat McCoy 21 30/0 2-1, 6 2.93 46 52 12 44 1.391 1 0
Daniel Rosenbaum 22 8/7 3-2, 0 2.09 43 35 13 31 1.116 0 3
Cory VanAllen 25 36/0 2-3, 1 4.28 41⅓ 49 8 48 1.379 1 3
Justin Phillabaum 24 29/0 0-6, 3 6.87 36⅔ 50 15 28 1.773 6 4
Carlos Martinez 26 18/1 0-0, 1 2.57 35 35 6 14 1.171 1 3
Jimmy Barthmaier 26 9/5 4-1, 0 3.62 32⅓ 36 7 26 1.330 3 3

The bullpen (with one rather obvious exception that should be easy to spot in the list above) was a strong spot for P-Nats all season long, and it should have been because it was almost entirely pitchers that were 24 or older — several with AA experience. Injuries forced Adrian Alaniz and Jesse Estrada into the rotation, but when callups from Hagerstown came, only Estrada was sent back. Alaniz and Barthmaier were considerable factors during the second half, which is not to diminish what Rosenbaum and Holder also meant down the stretch.

I’ve been told that the Potomac roster is the last one to be decided coming out of spring training, with the implication being that at least some of the “old men” are guys that might have otherwise been at Harrisburg, but were the odd man out because player X is at Syracuse and they’d prefer player Y to play every day so he’s going to AA instead of sitting the bench at AAA. The aforementioned trade for Wilson Ramos demonstrated that in practice as Devin Ivany was sent down to Harrisburg and Sean Rooney, in turn, came to Potomac.

I don’t believe, however, that the age of the Potomac roster is entirely explained by that. The tendency to draft college-age players is a factor. The lack of timely development of the high-school-aged prospects is a factor. But I think the days of the team being this old are numbered. Next year’s team will have a lot of the 20- and 21-year-olds from Hagerstown, and should become the youngest roster I’ve personally seen in Woodbridge.

But an older roster shouldn’t diminish what this team accomplished. They still had to beat out a loaded Wilmington team to win the half. They still had to beat the Frederick Keys, which also had a lot of older pitchers and was in the Top 3 in most offensive categories. And they faced one of the most powerful lineups in organized baseball and kept them from scoring their customary 5+ runs a game for the entire series, one that yours truly even thought may have been just too much to contain.

OBLIGATORY TOP 5 LISTS
Most of the “repeats” are pitchers, and before folks start chirping, I’ll explain #5. Marcos Frias was one two pitchers that went to the GCL and came back a changed pitcher. His overall numbers were horrid, but he finished the regular season strong and it carried over to the playoffs. That performance basically bumped Pat McCoy off the list, but I mention him here because the line is that close. Tyler Moore’s place is simply indicative of the fact that his weaknesses haven’t been put to the test at AA. Chris Curran gets the nod over Francisco Soriano due to his speed and defense, though Soriano has the better bat and a stronger arm.

Batters
1. Derek Norris
2. Steve Lombardozzi
3. Michael Burgess
4. Tyler Moore
5. Chris Curran

Pitchers
1. Brad Peacock
2. Daniel Rosenbaum
3. A.J. Morris
4. Trevor Holder
5. Marcos Frias

Oct 212010
 

The hits keep coming for Tyler Moore.

Yesterday, the 23-year-old added another award to the 2010 shelf with the fan-voted MiLB.com Class A Advanced Hitter of the Year, just weeks after winning the Carolina League MVP with a torrid streak from July 14 on that saw him raise his batting average from .191 to .271 and hit 21 of his 31 HRs and drive in 64 of his 111 RBIs. During the streak, Moore was named Carolina League Batter of the Week four times in six weeks.

Moore’s season was a perfect case of how one minor adjustment can make all the difference. Simply put, Moore stopped from always falling behind 0-2 and 1-2 and started consistently getting ahead 2-0 and 2-1. His strikeout rates and walk rates were actually fairly consistent month-to-month all season long, but that small change made all the difference.

Going into 2011, Moore will have a bit of a target on his back. The Natmosphere has been awakened to his presence and the expectations have been raised — he placed second on the 2010 DC-Internet Baseball Writers Association’s “Minor League Player of the Year” award (full disclosure: he did not receive my vote because I took the descriptor of “Minor league player most destined for big league success” (italics added) literally and seriously; I voted for him in the MiLB.com poll) as well as the organization’s minor-league batter of the year award.

Moore will likely start the 2011 season as the Harrisburg Senators’ starting first baseman. As the 2010 season came to a close, pitchers were beginning to pitch him soft-and-inside to negate his power but one has to wonder if the AA pitchers will pitch him straight up until such an adjustment proves necessary (i.e. they will decide that they can get him out just as they can any other batter). I believe he’ll pound such an approach and what remains to be seen is how he’ll adjust to when they change their gameplan.

But congratulations to Tyler nevertheless. It was a hell of a season to watch.