A review of the 2011 Potomac's first half
Suffice it to say, the first half was a monumental disappointment — even with the strong finish (7 of last 10). The 40 losses appear to be the most in the first half since the team began the Washington affiliation in 2005, the 29 wins tying the 2007 squad for the fewest. This was supposed to be the youngest and most talented team to date.
Wins and losses aren’t the most important bellwether, of course, but the nature of the wins and losses is an indicator. If a good team scores five or more runs while allowing three runs or fewer, well, Potomac hit that standard just eight times (8) in 69 games. Conversely, they scored three or fewer runs while allowing five or more 15 times. They were shut out seven times, and returned the favor four times.
The team’s offense was sixth, the team’s pitching was eighth, as was its defense. There is no mystery as to why this team finished where it did.
Revisiting the format from last months “First Impressions”…
After a decent April, Steven Souza has cooled considerably, the average dropping from .273 to .224 and has been on a homerless streak for 19 games. He’s cut down on his strikeouts recently but is also walking less. Defensively, he’s still a work in progress but as a convert from the other side of the diamond, that’s to be expected.
The results are now starting to match the intensity with which Kobernus plays. Those of you who thought Jeff would be leading the Carolina League in steals at the break raise your hands. Anyone besides Mr. & Mrs. Kobernus? The soon-to-be-23-year-old is also starting to hit for some power, collecting six of his 13 doubles in the past month or so. He’s still not taking walks (just 14 in 66G) which is arguably the next step for him to take.
Jose Lozada has inherited the position with the season-ending injury to Rick Hague, but one has to wonder how long until the 25-y.o. is moved to the bench to give more playing time to someone younger, like, say Justino Cuevas. Unfortunately, Cuevas is streaky both on offense and defense, so much that Kobernus was placed there this past homestand (and showed why he’s a second baseman). Best-case scenario: Francisco Soriano gets the job back once he regains his form/health in the GCL.
Nothing’s changed in terms of my opinion of Justin Bloxom as a third baseman: It’s not his position. But with Souza learning first base, it’s where Bloxom’s been put to keep his bat in the lineup. He’s not hitting .300+ like he was for Hagerstown, but I suspect that by season’s end, he’ll probably be close to .275 and be in the top three for the team in HRs and RBI.
Injuries have returned this slot in the lineup to its more traditional role in the minors of a way station while guys are shifted in and out defensively. Destin Hood, Bloxom, J.P. Ramirez and Cutter Dykstra have been the primary guys there. Dykstra seems to have been used there the most (there is no quick and easy way to look this up, so please bear with me) and while he’s been hitting a bit better, turning on the ball more, he appears overmatched by Carolina League pitchers and is not taking walks — a critical factor since he came to the organization with a reputation for having strong OBP skills.
J.P. Ramirez has played here the most, but unlike Bloxom, it’s because there’s nowhere else for him to play. He compensates well for his lack of footspeed (only Sandy Leon is slower) but there are just far too many balls hit his way that aren’t turned into outs. His patience at the plate has improved tremendously of late, but he’s still hitting like a backup catcher, not a corner OF.
Now the challenge is to see how the league reacts to Eury Perez now that everybody knows his game. Defensively, he’s been solid, just what you’d expect from his archetype with a decent arm, to boot. In what seems like a cut & paste, he’s not taking the walk and striking out too much. The gap power has diminished, too. Relative to the hype, a disappointment, but otherwise fine for a 21-year-old.
Easily the biggest surprise on the team. Destin Hood’s 33BBs and 5HRs in the first half matches his 2010 season totals for the two categories. Knee troubles have sidelined him lately, but it’s not been evident on the field. He’s begun to start hitting to all fields and the power is starting to flow. Ought to be playing more in LF in preparation for the inevitable shift, unless Bryce Harper plays CF exclusively for games in Woodbridge (*ahem*).
Very little change in my thinking: Sandy Leon is a defensive stalwart that’s still learning to hit, with flashes of power as a LHB.
Also not much change here: Peacock belongs in Harrisburg, but is blocked by another OG in person of Devin Ivany. With the DH slot unavailable because it’s being used to evaluate the likes of Dykstra and/or rotate in/out prospects, he’s been limited to a couple of starts a week and the occasional pinch-hitting appearance. J.R. Higley has been getting a fair amount of playing time in the wake of Hood’s injury and/or when Ramirez is put at DH, but both he and Chris Curran appear to be odd men out despite their significant defensive skills and relative youth (both are 23).
Little has changed since Opening Day in terms of the hopes of Potomac’s starters getting a callup prior to the AFL deadline. Truth be told, none has made the case consistently to get folks to pound the drum the way Brad Peacock has in Harrisburg. Some have made the case to be shifted to the ‘pen, reassigned or released.
Danny Rosenbaum — Twice the southpaw has put together back-to-back quality starts only to falter in the third start. Of course, “falter” is relative; Rosenbaum has gone at least five innings in every start. Still looking for that curve to come back, but has gone five straight starts with two or less walks and has kept the ball in the yard.
Trevor Holder — A maddening pitcher. Just when you think it’s time for tines in the spine, he comes off the ropes. A troublesome trend: walks and home runs have gone up at the same time strikeouts have gone down. Holder’s never going to be a strikeout guy, but in conjunction with those critical peripherals, it’s something to watch, and perhaps worry.
Paul Demny — Last time, I cited his differential between ERA and FIP as a sign that perhaps he’s been more lucky than good. It’s gone down by more than a run (-2.52 to -1.26) but almost all of that can be explained by the six HRs he’s given up. Or has just been the good fortune of only surrendering solo shots? Demny’s much like Holder in that he has flashes of brilliance but can also get hit very hard.
Mitchell Clegg — Too often the pitches were up and flat, and the OBA of .330 is the expected result. Recently sent to the ‘pen and gave up three hits in a two-and-1/3rd inning outing. More walks allowed than strikeouts (17 vs. 16 in 42⅔ IP). A righthander like that would have been released in April (Kyle Morrison).
Evan Bronson — The beneficiary of Clegg’s removal from the rotation, Bronson will need to prove that he’s a better starter than reliever. Most of his starts have been the result of the numerous rainouts (i.e. a long reliever asked to go four or five out of seven innings). He’s also pitched dramatically better on the road. All of these splits are fair small (20 or so innings per cell) so it’s tough to get a read on him just yet.
Cameron Selik — The first SP to be recalled from Hagerstown, Selik struggled early, making some folks wonder if his Suns success was simply a factor of age (he turns 24 in August), but he’s made an impression on us with his ability to pound RHBs inside and spot his breaking pitches, making him the most improved starter of the bunch.
The struggles of the starters have given these guys a lot of work, but it’s hard to make the case that anyone’s been abused. Back-to-back outings have been rare, even for the closers [insert snarky remark about losing record here]. Here’s a rundown on the relievers, ordered by appearances.
Josh Smoker — His velocity is up: mid-90s, but he’s nearly as likely to walk a batter as strike him out. He’s mostly come in to face lefties in the 7th and 8th innings though he’s been slightly more effective vs. RHBs.
Marcos Frias — As a reliever, he’s been effective but no less prone to walks. The regulars wonder aloud “are we going to get the good Marcos or the bad” when he comes in. Typically used for multiple-inning stints.
Adam Olbrychowski — It’s surprising that he’s not the team leader in appearances because it seems like he’s pitched a lot in Woodbridge. Began the year strong, then suffered a string of six straight appearances with at least one earned run allowed. In the past month, he’s been much more effective, but like most of the relievers this year, struggles with walks allowed.
Joe Testa — The powers that be have dropped him down to a sidearm delivery, delaying his first appearance until late April. He’s appeared enough in late games to get four decisions, but it’s clear that they want him to be a LOOGY someday, with seven of his 17 appearances lasting less than an inning.
Dean Weaver — If/when a reliever is moved up from Hagerstown, Weaver is a candidate to take his place. Simply has not been effective, as the 9.37ERA and .319OBA clearly shows.
Rob Wort — Wort caught our eye with his tendency to excel in pressure situations in his brief stint with Potomac in 2010. This year, he’s been more wild (5HBP) and hit harder (2HR) in a slightly larger body of work (though he’s still rail-thin).
Hector Nelo — All the makings of a Rizzo project: thick trunk, big (6’1″, 200) and throws HARD (95-98). Like Cole Kimball, his radar reading can often indicate balls and strikes. The higher the speed, the more likely it’s a ball.
My initial instinct was to write a wish list, but that’s just going to lead to bitching session about who’s where and why. Last year, Rosenbaum and Holder were sent up in the second half and it wasn’t hard to figure that might happen with the likes of Jesse Estrada and Adrian Alaniz in the rotation. This year, it might just be Sammy Solis or Matthew Grace, and it may not be until August in conjunction with the AFL deadline.
It would be nice to get a couple of the Suns late-inning guys, but who will replace them? Perhaps after a month or so, we’ll have an Auburn guy sawing through the NY-Penn League, but until then, I’d keep my hopes in check.
The P-Nats could use a true third baseman, but as simple as “bring up Blake Kelso, send down Cutter Dykstra” sounds, I’d put more money on Stephen King returning from Harrisburg, and that’s pretty unlikely. A level a year seems to be the new normal from High A down.
Lastly, there’s the question of Bryce Harper. He may be the exception to this “rule,” but I thought he’d be here by now and now I’m starting to think that Rizzo will treat him much the way the Atlanta Braves treated Jason Heyward, leaving him in Hagerstown for almost the entire year. That wouldn’t be the tragedy that some impatient DC fans (an redundancy, I know) may think, especially if that would also mean that we’d have a more fully seasoned 20-year-old in the Washington outfield for Opening Day 2013.