Season Review: 2012 Potomac Nationals

The 2012 Potomac Nationals will most likely be remembered by those that watched them closely (*ahem*) for two things: (1) the team that couldn’t win on the road (2) underachievement. You can argue against the latter to a certain extent, but it’s pretty hard to argue against the former: A 10-26 mark in the first half, a 12-21 mark in the second for a combined 22-47 mark that was third-worst in affiliated ball (Louisville, 22-51; N.W. Arkansas, 22-48).

This, of course, would be unremarkable except that in Woodbridge, the 64-win P-Nats were 42-28 — third-best in the Carolina League behind 74-win Myrtle Beach (42-26) and 87-win Winston-Salem (48-23). When I dug into it in early June, I discovered that at least some of it was attributable to the offense hitting nearly 100 points better on the road than at home, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense since the Pfitz generally comes up as neutral in ballpark effects. Other factors are surely at play here, but it’s interesting (at least to me) nevertheless.

Underachievement is a little more in the eye of the beholder. It’s often the disconnect between expected and actual performance. While as a fan (disclosure: see first sentence in “About” below), I feel like this team underachieved, as prospect follower I have to allow for the alternate, more objective interpretation that perhaps some of these guys simply hit their ceiling. There just aren’t very many guys that finished in Woodbridge in August that I don’t expect to see again next April; nearly everybody that deserved a bump up to Harrisburg got one.

So let’s take a look at the first P-Nats team to miss the Carolina League playoffs since 2009:


There are two things that strike me when I look at these two comparisons: (1) How similar Potomac’s pitching totals were to Hagerstown’s (2) How much better the hitting was than I would have guessed (nearly mediocre vs. subpar). What didn’t shock me was the low OBP. Francisco Soriano, Blake Kelso and Michael Taylor shared the team lead with 40 walks drawn in 87, 106 and 109 games. David Freitas was next with 39 — in 78 games. Seemed like every time I would fill out my scorecard, I’d be filling in OBPs with numbers that looked like batting averages.

That’s a natural segue to the Top 13* batters (* for 2010 Draft Picks, ** for DSL graduates). Full team statistics can be found here. *Another “extra” to catch a notable

There are some bright spots if you look for them — Kevin Keyes and Jason Martinson’s power, for example. Ricky Hague demonstrating he can play second base (.983FA in 35G). Michael Taylor living up to the hype for his defensive skills in center. But there are also things to pick that aren’t nits — Taylor, Martinson, and Keyes whiffed a lot. The team’s left fielders gave the team’s centerfielders ample opportunity to show off their range.

As aforementioned, none of this is unusual — it’s emblematic of the level: players too good for Low-A, but not quite good enough for AA. The question is whether or not there’s a “yet” in that sentence. This is often where some players repeat… and many will stall (see: Peacock, Brian; Martinez, Carlos).

On to the pitchers…

Well, at least there wasn’t much in the way of mediocrity. The pitchers were either good or they were bad. And even some of the “bad” were pitchers had their moments of “good.” The Matts are a good example of this. Swynenberg was terrific in April, pitching one of the best games of the year on the final Sunday of the month. Grace finished the season strong, capping off his season with eight shutout innings against playoff-bound Wilmington on the final Saturday of the season, a game that Steve Souza won with an 11th-inning grand slam.

Enough has been “said” about how good Nathan Karns was this season. Unfortunately, that leaves us with discussing how disappointing Robbie Ray’s season was. Most of the damage was done in the second half — 1-9, 7.67 vs. 3-3, 4.89 — with the southpaw becoming particularly prone to giving up the longball (10 in his last 10 appearances). Perversely, I was almost wishing to learn that he had been hurt; easier to give him a pass, so “speak.”

Unfortunately, I don’t have the magic bullet as to the why (and if I did, I wouldn’t tell 😉 As the season progressed he struggled with his command, issuing nearly double the walks and seemingly always falling into hitter’s counts and it was usually in the early going, not the middle innings. He turned 21 four weeks ago, so it’s not the end of the world, but it’s the primary reason he still makes the…

I thought about only listing three apiece, but decided to go with four as an acknowledgement of the bias that comes with being a disappointed fan of the team. There’s more projection here than usual, as alluded in the discussion of Ray, and I’m giving some props to the guys that finished the season strong.

1. Michael Taylor
2. Kevin Keyes
3. Ricky Hague
4. Adrian Sanchez
HM: Randolph Oduber

1. Nathan Karns
2. Neil Holland
3. Rob Wort
4. Robbie Ray
HM: Matt Grace

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

19 thoughts on “Season Review: 2012 Potomac Nationals”

  1. Comparing Hagerstowns pitching totals to potomacs is not even a close comparison. The Sally league is a joke compared to the Carolina league. Also what is projectability anymore? I was looking at Swynenbergs monthly totals. Literally the kid had one bad month and didn’t pitch much at all so I’m guessing he was injured or something. Other than that he was solid for the pnats had a winning record even with the terrible offense. It’s not just him there were a few pitchers that should’ve been on the top 4 other than ray and grace

    1. Noting the similarity in totals is not a comparison. Swynenberg was indeed hurt but was nowhere near as good after the month of April. Those of us who saw him each month can attest to that. As for a “few pitchers that should’ve been on the top 4,” it was a stretch to name four good pitchers, period.

  2. Just an opinion though maybe I’m biased towards Swynenberg, most of his performances at the Pfitz made me a believer in the kid.

  3. Well at home he was 3-0 with a 3.61 with two complete games. That’s the best on the team besides a few of the guys that weren’t there all year. And speaking of finishing strong he ended the season 3-0 with a 2.3 era. And the second half of the season he was 3-1 with a 3.75… Again better than a few on the list. Idk what games people were watching haha seems pretty damn good to me.

  4. Either way if you look at it the pitching was pretty bad, almost embarrassing. Maybe a new pitching coach is in order…? 🙂

    1. Next year’s rotation in my opinion:
      1. Meyer
      2. Karns
      3. Ray
      4-5. OPEN (The Matt duo will compete for these starts, but both gave up too many hits last year leaving room for someone else to take these spots. I’d like to see another starter or two come from Low A or Auburn.)

      1. I think the rotation will look more like

        1. Ray
        2-5 OPEN

        I think Meyer and Karns will be at AA to start next year

  5. Yesterday was the first I’ve ever heard about the organization naming a minor league player of the month (one pitcher and one hitter) each month. Does anyone know who received these honors this past season?

        1. Would you happen to know (wink, wink) if these are purely for recognition or do the players get a small bonus as well?

  6. Hey, just a reminder folks… I don’t want to have to write a nanny post on comments, but when I start seeing multiple names being used with the same IP address w/ fake or invalid e-mail addresses, I tend to get annoyed, if not suspicious. The site is set up to automatically moderate comments by virtue of having made a previously approved one. I really don’t want to have to require registrations for the 99% of people that understand this to prevent the shenanigans of the other 1%, so please pick a name, a valid e-mail, and stick to it. Thanks.

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