AFL Update: Oct. 18, 2016

austin-voth-10-17-16The Desert Dogs got good pitching from the starter, the first man out of the ‘pen, and the last man out of the ‘pen.

In between? Not so much as Peoria overcame a 3-1 deficit with four runs in the final three innings to beat Glendale, 5-4.

Austin Voth (pictured) made his second start and was much more effective, giving up one run (albeit on a home run) on two hits and no walks over four innings. He struck out seven and threw 57 pitches, 39 for strikes.

Jake Johansen followed and tossed two scoreless innings with two hits allowed and no walks or whiffs. He threw 31 pitches, 19 for strikes.

Ryan Brinley was the last reliever to appear, coming on with two outs in the 9th with the bases loaded. He left ’em that way as he retired the only batter he faced with a grounder to Drew Ward, who tossed across the diamond for the third out and his fourth assist.

At the plate, Ward reached base twice with a leadoff walk in the 4th and an RBI single in the 6th. He also grounded out and struck out looking and committed an error in the top of the 9th. He was the only Nationals position player to appear in the game.

The loss drops the Desert Dogs to 2-4 on the season. The two teams will rematch and switch venues for a night game in Peoria.

AFL Update: Oct. 16, 2016

nick-lee-afl-10-15-16Scottsdale put up a four-spot in the 1st and never looked back as they defeated Glendale, 9-4 yesterday afternoon.

Drew Ward and Osvaldo Abreu both started and comprised the Desert Dogs’ left side of the infield at third and shortstop, respectively. Andrew Stevenson got the nod in right field (it’s a developmental league, kids).

Ward, who batted third, remains red-hot as he reached base three times with a double and two walks. He was busy at the hot corner, making four assists without an error.

Abreu batted eighth and went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. In the field, he had two assists and turned a double play.

Stevenson singled in a run and stole a base but struck out twice in four trips to the plate. He had one putout on defense.

Nick Lee (↑↑ if you haven’t figured out yet ↑↑) made his second appearance with an up-and-down inning: one unearned run allowed on one hit and two walks while striking out one. He threw 26 pitches, 10 for strikes.

Glendale is now 2-3 and has today off. They’ll start back up tomorrow afternoon as they host Peoria.

AFL/Offseason Update: Oct. 15, 2016

andrew-stevenson-10-14-16It was a light night for the Nats in last night’s 8-7 loss by Glendale to Scottsdale.

Andrew Stevenson was the only prospect to appear, as the 22-y.o. started, batted ninth, and played left field for the Desert Dogs. At the plate, he went 0-for-4 while grounding into a double play. In the field, he had two putouts and fielded four singles.

The loss drops Glendale to .500 with a 2-2 mark. They’ll close out Week 1 with a home game this afternoon against Salt River.
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BA TOP PROSPECT LISTS

Despite having exhausted his rookie eligibility – the generally accepted, least arbitrary way to end prospect status – Baseball America continued its practice of ignoring this standard when it suits them to name Trea Turner the #1 “prospect” in the International League. A.J. Cole, who turns 25 in January, came in at #20.

TRANSACTION UPDATE
Still the slow season as folks await the World Series to end for full-fledged free agency to begin…
• Signed – OF Yadiel Hernandez (scouting report)
• Re-signed – IF Adrian Sanchez
• Released – RHP Bronson Arroyo

WINTER LEAGUE SIGHTINGS
It’s too early to list any stats, but for those desperate for something to talk about…
• Mexico – 1B-3B Matt Skole,
• Venezuela – RHPs Mitch Lively, Greg Ross, and Boone Whiting

THE HAGERSTOWN SUNS

We’re now in the full-season territory, where the sample sizes are larger and (Auburn excepted) there’s some actual local media coverage. I have a spy in Hagerstown, who has made posts about the Suns hitters and pitchers upon my request.

Disclosure: Shawn is not a fan of Washington teams, which is perfectly fine because only the Nielsen folks consider Western Maryland part of the DC-Baltimore market. I can relate, having grown up in Western Massachusetts, where some folks were fans of NY teams (particularly in football and hockey, thanks to Hartford and its top AHL team being in Springfield) because that’s who you could see if you didn’t have cable TV.

The Suns got back on the horse and played winning baseball from wire-to-wire, winning the first half by slimmest possible margin (½ game) and finishing second in the second half by five games to the Blue Claws, who swept them in the first round, two games to none.

Hagerstown was the #1 offense in the Sally League (4.77 R/G), buoyed by the likes of Victor Robles and Max “For Those About To” Schrock, and got league-average pitching from a mixed bag of pitchers and league-average defense (one interesting caveat: Hagerstown allowed the least number of stolen bases while throwing out 35% of those that did attempt to steal).

Now, for the obligatory Top 5’s…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Victor Robles, CF
.297 GPA, .459 SLG%
1. Jorge Pantoja, RHRP
2.63/2.67/1.15, 1.65 BB/9
2. Max Schrock, 2B
.286 GPA, 22BB, 20K in 67G
2. Tommy Peterson, RHRP
2.11/2.85/0.89, 0.70 BB/9
3. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B
.259 GPA, 19SB in 96G
3. Grant Borne, LHRP
3.34/3.35/1.20, 4.18 K:BB ratio
4. Austin Davidson, 3B/2B
.283 GPA, .473 SLG%
4. Andrew Lee, RHSP
3.71/3.15/1.24, 1HR in 51 IP
5. Ian Sagdal, 2B
.281 GPA, .303 BA, 30 doubles
5. Taylor Guilbeau, LHP
3.61/3.15/1.32, 8.3 K/9

Obviously, I’m probably giving short shrift to Rhett Wiseman again, but I also thought it’d be specious to skip over Schrock simply because he’s no longer in the organization. Had I gotten to see him in person, perhaps I might have slotted him ahead of the older, less talented players, i.e. like I did with Gutierrez.

It’s also worth noting that the tilt towards relievers on this list is an argument regarding performance vs. potential. The Nats kept giving the ball to the Dominican trio of Joan Baez, Jefry Rodriguez, and Pedro Avila—who started 72 games and went 23-25, 4.17 ERA combined—for a reason.

Again, this where we need to remind ourselves that development is the goal, and winning is nice but not necessary. As always, folks interested in seeing the full stats, are directed here.

AFL Update: Oct. 14, 2016

osvaldo-abreu-10-12-16Osvaldo Abreu connected for a two-run double in the 9th (how novel) for 5-4 Desert Dogs walkoff win over the Scorpions.

Abreu (pictured from earlier this week) drove in three total with an RBI single in the 7th and finished the game 2-for-4. He started and batted eighth, but did make an error at shortstop on a missed catch.

To his right (on the field), Drew Ward played third base and and singled twice in four trips to the plate. He was caught stealing and fanned once, but made two assists (Abreu had three).

Two Nats relievers appeared in the game. Ryan Brinley came on with one out in the 5th and retired all five batters he faced over the next inning and 2/3rds, including two by way of the K.

Jake Johansen followed Brinley in the 7th and worked around a two-out single. He was not as fortunate in the 8th, as he loaded the bases with three singles and let in the fourth Surprise run with a sacrifice fly. He finished with a line of one run allowed on four hits over two innings with no walks and two whiffs.

The two teams play again tonight, with Glendale playing host. The Desert Dogs are now 2-1 and are tied for 1st place in the AFL west, percentage points behind the unbeaten (but twice tied) Peoria Javelinas (yeah, that does sound weird).

AFL Update: Oct. 13, 2016

andrew-stevenson-10-12-16Powered by Andrew Stevenson’s five RBI, the Glendale Desert Dogs eclipsed the Mesa Solar Sox, 7-1 to take their first AFL contest of 2016.

The 22-y.o. Louisiana native homered in the 1st (pictured), hit a sac fly in the 3rd, and drove in two with a single in the 9th as he went 2-for-4 in his AFL debut. He batted second and played in LF, where he had no defensive chances.

Nick Lee was the only other National to appear. The longtime lefty (both for the Nationals and, presumably, since birth) allowed a leadoff double and walked two over two scoreless innings.

As noted in the comments, Osvaldo Abreu did play on Tuesday, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Our copyeditor has been informed.

The Desert Dogs host the Saguaros tonight in Game Three of 32.

AFL Update: Oct. 12, 2016

drew-ward-10-11-16The 2016 AFL campaign begun on down note as the Scottsdale Scorpions scored in each of the first three innings against Austin Voth en route to a 9-6 win over the Glendale Desert Dogs.

Voth was stung for five runs on five hits and two walks over two and 2/3rds innings. He threw 58 pitches, 33 for strikes and struck out two.

Drew Ward (pictured) was the sole National position player to see game action. He started at 3B and batted seventh and went 1-for-3 with a strikeout. He was lifted in the top of the 8th but made no errors on defense and had two assists.

In obligatory SEO news, ESPN mancrush Tim Tebow went 0-for-3 for Scottsdale and did not hit the ball out of the infield.

Glendale visits Mesa this afternoon before returning home for a night game on Thursday.

AFL Begins Play

10-8-16-drew-wardThe minors beat picks back up with the start of the Arizona Fall League, which begins today for the Washington contingent as the Glendale Desert Dogs host the Scottsdale Scorpions.

The AFL site is not listing any probables, so we don’t know when the lone starter (Austin Voth) is going to pitch. For the non-diehards: we can probably expect one or two Nats to start each day and for one of the relievers to appear every other day.

I know there’s not as many of you stopping by each day, but for a little we can have a semblance of the morning routine back for a few weeks.
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For those who are fans of the most local Nats affiliate (*ahem*), we’re starting to get some idea as to how the new world order will shake out, thanks to the Frederick Keys’ press release yesterday.

While we still don’t know the name of the team that will play in Kinston—though we do know we might be looking at one of the worst names since the New Hampshire Primaries—and where the Fayetteville-area team will play in 2017, it would appear the Carolina League is finally going to have an unbalanced schedule.

Granted, this may be a one-year exception due to the Fayetteville entry perhaps functioning as a traveling team for 2017 – the bevy of games between Frederick, Potomac, and Wilmington is not unlike Hagerstown, Delmarva, and Lakewood in the Sally League. It would appear that there will be a similar cluster with Winston-Salem, Fayetteville, and (*ugh*) Down East

One of my pet peeves about the balanced schedule (relatively, it’s been a little unbalanced lately, but for years it was ten home and ten away each half) and two four-team divisions is that it has not always produced the four best playoff teams. There have been third-place teams with better records than the wildcard entry (e.g. Potomac in 2009) and in some instances, the division winner (e.g. Myrtle Beach in 2006). We can only hope that when it all shakes out, it’ll be 20 games vs. each divisional opponent (80 games) and 12 against the opposite division’s teams (60).

Offseason Update: Oct. 8, 2016

We interrupt your wallowing in the Nats’ “missed chances” last night while downplaying (or ignoring) Max Scherzer’s continued generosity with the longball to catch up on what’s going on with the Washington minor-leaguers…

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
It seems like forever and a day since we learned which Nats prospects and Rule 5 candidates will be on the 2016 Glendale Desert Dogs, which (very quietly) added RHP Jake Johansen to the taxi squad (presumably), according to the current roster. Tonight is the [no free advertising] Hitting Challenge at Salt River, while games begin on Tuesday.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
Like discovering a Hollywood blonde was born a brunette, Baseball America shocked no one by naming Victor Robles to the Carolina League Top 20 at #3, where he was joined by Erick Fedde at #9 and ex-Nat Max Schrock at #20 (and another double-dip). Lucas Giolito came in at #5 for the Eastern League while Reynaldo Lopez was ranked #10.

There was just one question about a player in the Top 20 Chat, and an answer that would make Crash Davis proud:

James Arnott (Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, Canada): Gut feeling on Reynaldo Lopez please. Does he continue as a starter or is he a closer candidate? What’s his ceiling as a starter? Thanks[.]

Josh Norris: They’re going to keep him a starter until he proves he can’t. If his command and control become more consistent he can be a No. 2-type of starter. If not, he has closer potential.

TRANSACTION STUFF
As it usually is this time of year, things are slow: RHP Greg Ross was re-signed while a bunch of guys were activated from the DL, some of whom may have been actually injured at some point during the year.

THE AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
The Doubledays won 12 of their first 20 before they played the eventual league-champion State College Spikes, who swept them and sent them into a 16-39 tailspin the rest of the way, including the last six in a row. As noted last year, the ascension of the Dominicans from the DSL and GCL has pushed the team from one of the oldest to near the league average for the bats (21.2 vs. 21.1) while the pitchers were the youngest (20.6 vs. 21.4).

Of course, it’s one thing to be young; it’s another to be good. Auburn’s pitchers were below average 4.25 R/G (vs. 4.02) while the hitters were the league’s worst at 3.13 runs per game. The defense was slightly better than the norm (.970FA vs. .969) while the CS% for the pitchers and catchers was second-worst at just 26 percent.

As I’ve done in the past with poorly performing teams (reminder/caveat: all sight unseen), I’m combining the list into one for what ought to be rather obvious reasons and presenting the Top 6…

1. Tyler Watson, LHSP 1-2, 0SV, 9GS 1.88/2.05/0.91; 10.05 K/9
2. Dane Dunning, RHSP 3-2, 0SV, 7GS 2.14/2.57/0.98; 1.87 BB/9
3. Weston Davis, RHSP 3-6, 0SV, 11GS, 2.67/3.07/0.93, 1HR in 54IP
4. Tres Barrera, C .244/.337/.366, 11.6% K rate (Lg. Avg. 20.2%)
5. Steven Fuentes, RHRP 2-1, 3SV, 17G, 1GS, 49⅓IP, 4.70 K:BB ratio
6. Dan Johnson, OF .265/.312/.347, 13SB

Just missing the cut is watchlister Rocky Harmening, who was just a shade better than league average in FIP (3.06 vs. 3.20) but only pitched 28 innings, all in relief. For the bats, that distinction goes to Nick Banks, who was a notch below league average on offense (.213 GPA vs. .215). Folks interested in seeing the stats for the full team can find them here.

Hello, October

We’re on the final weekend of the MLB season, but a week away from the start of the AFL season. The big boys are stumbling towards home-field advantage against the Dodgers in the NLDS, hoping to survive a series of late-season injuries at catcher, second base, and the outfield.

But this is a minors site, so let’s delve into what we can for today…

ORGANIZATIONAL AWARDS
It’s a bit of mystery why the team waited so long to announce its 2016 Organizational Awards, but then again, I wouldn’t put much money on the front office PR folks knowing the difference between Ed Bernays and Ed Walsh, never mind who they were.

Once Max Schrock was traded, the odds of Jose “Orange” Marmolejos repeating as Player of the Year went up tremendously, but I think he would have won anyway due to his performance at AA. Reynaldo Lopez winning Pitcher of the Year is also a, um, minor upset if you consider that the odds of a reliever getting named are very slim if he doesn’t rack up a garbage statistic. The fourth annual Bob Boone Award went to Rafael Bautista.

BA TOP PROSPECT LISTS
Nats 2016 1st Rd. pick Dane Dunning made Baseball America’s NYPL Top 20 at #6 while Victor Robles was tagged as the #1 prospect of the Sally League. Neither prospect was mentioned in the chats. For what it’s worth, former farmhand Schrock was #16 on the latter list. Given BA’s history of double-dipping, I’m expecting Robles to make the Carolina League list as well.

TRANSACTION STUFF
Nothing new here, thanks to my going “off cycle” with the previous post.

THE 2016 GCL NATIONALS
The team finished second with a 30-23 mark – the first winning season since 2013 when the team ran the table and won the GCL Championship. Thanks in part to 17-y.o. phenom Juan Soto, the team was nearly a full run above the league average (5.06 R/G vs. 4.12) on offense, which enabled them to overcome slightly subpar pitching (4.17) and defense (.962FA vs. .965). Thanks to the influx from the DSL, the team’s hitters were close to the league average. Thanks to the practice of using the GCL to rehab, the team’s pitchers were the oldest in the league, though the cohort of 21 and younger (13 total) weren’t bad: 11-11, 8SV, 3.18/3.28/1.31 in 217⅔ IP over 80 appearances.

After the obligatory reminder that short-season = small sample size (and that very, very few of these guys will rise above Low-A)…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Juan Soto, RF
.322 GPA, .550 SLG%
1. Francys Peguero, RHSP
2.20/2.59/1.10, 6.80 K:BB ratio
2. Connor Simonetti, 1B
.261 GPA, 6HR
2. Jeremy McDonald, LHRP
3.24/1.85/1.22, 9.23 K/9
3. Carter Kieboom, SS
.258 GPA, .452 SLG%
3. Sterling Sharp, RHSP
3.24/2.85/1.27, 1.3 BB/9
4. Joey Harris, C
.269 GPA, .414 OBP
4. Carlos Pena, RHSP
2.95/3.50/1.29, 0HR in 39⅔ IP
5. Darryl Florentino, CF
.267 GPA, .340 BA
5. Ben Braymer, LHRP
4.12/3.02/1.32, 10.98 K/9

After the first three pitchers, I may as well have taken a dartboard to pick the last two. Honorable mentions go to Aldrem Corredor and Michael Rishwain for batter and pitcher, respectively. Folks interested in seeing the full team stats, can see them here.

Offseason Update: Sept. 27, 2016

Fallball2014A few news items to pass along “out of cycle”…

NATS TRADE BOSTICK
To the chagrin of some, the Nats did indeed trade Christopher Bostick, but to the Pirates, not the A’s. As the scouting report in the linked story indicates, the selection of a light-hitting, defensively challenged catcher seems rather odd, given the glut of the latter in the system right now.

TWO NATS MAKE THE BA TOP 20 PROSPECTS FOR THE GCL
As expected, Juan Soto – GCL MVP – made the list at #3 as did Carter Kieboom, the Nats’ 2016 1st Rd. pick, at #14. A tidbit from the BA chat:

Dan (Western MD): Might Juan Soto begin next year in Hagerstown? How does his development compare to Robles at the same stage?

Ben Badler: Yes, he almost certainly will start in the South Atlantic League next year. He’s a completely different player than Robles though. Soto is a more polished hitter than Robles was at the same age, both in terms of his swing and his approach, but he’s just an ordinary athlete at best on a corner, while Robles is one of the best athletes in the game with premium tools outside of the batter’s box.

MATT SKOLE NAMED MiLB GOLD GLOVER
The folks at Rawlings did little to diminish the perception that defensive awards are offensive awards in disguise [insert Rafael Palmeiro reference here] as Matt Skole was among the nine named for 2016. He joins Steve Lombardozzi and Taylor Hill as previous honorees. (In fairness, it’s possible he’s developed more range and quicker footspeed, but I can’t recall anyone else who has at that age/size/weight in 11 seasons I’ve been following the Nats minor-leaguers).

TRANSACTION STUFF
• Released – RHP John Feliz, SS Luis Rengel
• Re-signed – RHP Mark Blackmar, Jaron Long, and RHP Andrew Robinson

No surprises here: three veterans re-upping, two DSL guys who’ve been MIA since 2015 and 2014 (respectively).