Braves Double Up Nats, 2-1

After taking three straight one-run games, the Nationals have now lost two straight, falling to the Braves 2-1 this afternoon in Viera.

The offense managed just seven hits, two of which came from Tony Gwynn Jr. who was given the start after the news that CF Denard Span will require an additional abdominal surgery while Michael Taylor was given the day off.

Gio Gonzalez got the start and spun two scoreless before giving way to Tanner Roark, who was lit up for both Atlanta runs on an Eric Young Jr. homer in the 3rd and took the loss.

The Nats rallied in the 9th as Matt Skole (1-for-1) singled and scored on a two-out double by catcher Steven Lerud. Wilmer Difo (0-for-1) struck out to end the game, leaving both the tying and winning runs on base.

A rundown of how the notable minor-leaguers performed in the loss:
• Drew Vettleson subbed for Bryce Harper in RF and drew a walk
• Emmanuel Burriss took over at SS for Ian Desmond and struck out in his only AB
• Jeff Kobernus went 0-for-1 after following Tyler Moore in LF
• Matt Grace retired four of six batters faced over an inning and a 1/3rd, walking one and striking out one
• Taylor Hill pitched a scoreless inning, pitching around a one-out single while catching Kelly Johnson looking to end the 8th

The Nats head to Jupiter to take on the Marlins tomorrow, with Max Scherzer slated to make his second start for the Nats. The game can be heard locally on 1580 AM or on MLB Radio.

Yankees Stop Nats, 3-2

Washington’s luck in taking one-run games ran out as the Americans of New York stopped the Nationals of DC, 3-2 in Tampa.

The Yankees rallied with two outs and connected on three straight singles off losing pitcher Mitch Lively in the bottom of the 8th. The implosion offset the Yankees mistakes in the 7th when an error set up a an equalizing score on a groundout.

Doug Fister got the start and needed just 20 pitches to get six outs as he allowed just one hit and one walk over his two innings of work. Sammy Solis followed but was touched for two runs (one earned) on three hits over an inning and 2/3rds.

Michael Taylor led off the game with first-pitch swing for a solo HR to put the Nationals up 1-0. The organization’s top position prospect finished the afternoon with a 2-for-3 mark, first-pitch swinging again in the 3rd for a single to center and striking out in the 5th.

Wilmer Difo also got the starting nod at 2B, singling in the 7th inning and taking second on an error by Yankees’ RF Aaron Judge. Cutler Cutter Dykstra pinch-ran for him and popped up to end the game.

A look how the other notable minor-leaguers fared this afternoon:
• Emmanuel Burris subbed for SS Ian Desmond and went 0-for-1
• Jeff Kobernus subbed for LF Tyler Moore and was also 0-for-1
• Matt Skole followed Kila Ka‘ahiue at 1B but committed an error (missed catch) and went 0-for-1
• Spencer Kieboom pinch-hit for DH Mike Carp but was 0-for-1
• Sandy Leon took over for Jose Lobaton behnd the plate and went 0-for-2

The Nationals return to Viera tomorrow to play the Braves. Gio Gonzalez is expected to make his first spring training start. The game can be heard on MLB Radio.

Four-run 6th Propels Nats Past Cards, 6-5

The Nats second string — a.k.a. our guys — put together a four-run rally in the 6th to help propel the Nats to their third straight one-run win, 6-5 over the Cardinals.

Matt Skole (1-for-1, R, BB) and Wilmer Difo (2-for-2) both connected on two-out, two-run singles to erase a 4-1 deficit, as the replacements for 3B Anthony Rendon and SS Danny Espinosa.

The rally took starter Stephen Strasburg off the hook for the “L,” who also got a brief assist from A.J. Cole, who stranded three by getting the last out of the 2nd but was tagged for two runs on two hits, including a solo shot in the 3rd. The 23-y.o. righty neither walked nor struck out a batter in his two and 1/3rd innings of work.

The save was credited to Scott McGregor, who gave up back-to-back-to-back singles with two outs before striking out Ty Kelly to escape the 9th.

A rundown of how the other notable minor-leaguers did, including a twin separated at birth:
• Michael Taylor pinch-ran for DH Dan Uggla and singled in the four-run 6th to finish 1-for-2 with two runs scored
• Cutter Dykstra tripled in Taylor in the 7th to go 1-for-2 with an RBI
• Rafael Bautista followed Tony Gwynn Jr. in CF and 1-for-2 with a run scored
• Jeff Kobernus started in LF and was 0-for-1 with a sacrifice fly
• Felipe Rivero retired the side in order in the 7th, striking out one

The Nats head east to Tampa to take on the Yankees this afternoon. The 1 p.m. game will be broadcast on the radio on 106.7 and rebroadcast on the MLB Network at a 8 p.m.

Nats Edge Braves, 9-8

Matt Skole’s leadoff double in the 7th set up the winning rally as the Nats edged the Braves, 9-8 yesterday afternoon.

Following a walk by Cutter Dykstra (1-1, 2R, BB), the two teammates at Harrisburg last summer moved up a base on sacrifice by Isaac Ballou (0-1). A wild pitch plated Skole (1-2, 2R, K and pushed Dykstra to third to set up what proved to be the game-winner: a sacrifice fly by Kila Ka’aihue (0-1, RBI).

The win went to Taylor Hill, who got the last out of the 5th and pitched a scoreless 6th, giving up a hit while striking out two. Manny Delcarmen retired the side in order in the 9th to earn the save.

Jordan Zimmermann started and went two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk.

Here’s the rundown of how the notable minor-leaguers fared…
• Jeff Kobernus started in CF and batted leadoff, going 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored
• Emmanuel Burriss subbed for Ian Desomond at SS and was 1-for-2 with a run scored
• Pedro Severino caught the 4th inning but had no defensive chances
• Spencer Kieboom caught the 9th and threw out Mallex Smith on a bunt attempt
• Sandy Leon was the DH and went 0-for-4 with a strikeout
• Matt Grace gave up leadoff single to start the 7th but stranded him at third for a scoreless inning of relief.

The Nats return to Viera this afternoon to host the Cardinals. The 1 p.m. game will be televised live on MASN while the radio broadcast will be on 1580AM. The MLB Network will rebroadcast it at 8 p.m.

Nats Take Grapefruit Opener, 5-4

Kila Ka’aiue’s two-run homer in the 7th capped complete a comeback from a 4-0 deficit as the Nationals edged the Mets, 5-4 in the 2015 Grapefruit League opener.

Max Scherzer made his Washington debut with two innings pitched, with one run allowed on a solo shot in the 2nd and two hits total while fanning two. The win went to Xavier “Carry On” Cedeno, as the optionless southpaw turned in a scoreless 7th. Northpaw Blake Treinen got the save with 1-2-3 ninth.

Here’s a rundown on how the minor-leaguers fared…
• Derrick Robinson took over for CF Denard Span and went 1-for-3 and an RBI
• Matt Skole subsituted for Anthony Rendon at 3B but was 0-for-2 with 2K
• Clint Robinson followed Bryce Harper in RF and singled twice in three ABs
• Ka’aiue also walked to finish 1-for-2 while manning 1B in place Ryan Zimmerman
• Dan Butler took over behind the plate for Wilson Ramos but was 0-for-2 and a whiff
• Pedro Severino caught the 9th but had no defensive chances
• Emmanuel Burriss subbed for SS Ian Desmond and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout
• Mike Carp and his beard were the DH and reached base twice with a single and a HBP
• Ian Stewart walked as a pinch-hitter for Carp and later singled as the DH
• Jeff Kobernus pinch-ran for LF Tyler Moore, who doubled twice, and finished 1-for-2 and a K
• Wilmer Difo pinch-ran for 2B Kevin Frandsen and reached base twice with a single and a walk
• Rafael Martin retired all three batters he faced in the 4th, catching Matt ven Dekker looking to finish the frame
• Heath Bell did his best imitation of Nuke LaLoosh with two walks and three strikeouts in a scoreless 5th

Washington hits the road today to take on Atlanta at the House of Mouse Spring Training Facility in Orlando. Jordan Zimmermann is expected to make the start. The game can be heard on MLB Radio.

Let The Games Begin

The impending snowstorm — which will undoubtedly cancel school tomorrow as well as today — begs to differ, but the 2015 campaign begins tonight as the Nationals host the Mets in Viera.

We’re done with the eyewash that is the first two weeks after pitchers and catchers report. In many ways, social media has made what we do easier, if not possible. It can enhance the experience of being a fan.

But it comes along with stuff like this and this. However, it also enables folks to mock Washington’s current manager (pic to the right), so I guess it’s not all bad 😉

As I wrote last month, spring training coverage this year will be focused on determining what can be done in the time I now have available. If we’re honest and objective, we already know that the odds of a minor-leaguer breaking camp is extremely low, if the slew of non-roster invites wasn’t already a clue.

In the meantime, as the headline says… Let The Games Begin.

Watchlist Player Reports Are Finished

With the news that John Sickels’s 2015 Baseball Prospect book may be further delayed, I decided to finish the remaining player reports rather than wait any longer — just as I did last year.

We’re still in a dead period of sorts while we await the beginning of spring training games. For the second straight week, the Baseball America transaction report has seen nothing — no comings or goings — for Washington.

No news or not, it’s always a big deal when we close the books on February. It means baseball will be played next week, not next month, and April doesn’t seem quite so far away.

Well, at least until the next time it snows or sleets…

Nationals Unveil “Accelerated Camp” Roster

For the minors fans, the news is sparse this time of year, but thanks to MASN’s Byron Kerr, we can at least discuss the annual list of minor-leaguers who’ve been asked to come to camp early, a.k.a. “accelerated camp.”

This is the analog to the Fall Instrux, as prospects are given extra time for instruction and rehabbing players can be monitored. And, of course, it’s a chance for the coaches to make sure everyone’s moving in the right direction.

As much as you might want to draw inferences from who’s been selected and who hasn’t, you really can’t, beyond what’s usually true: almost all of these guys are on the latest watchlist…

Dakota Bacus Cole Leonida Osvaldo Abreu Isaac Ballou
Joan Baez Raudy Read Chris Bostick Rafael Bautista
James Bourque Jakson Reetz Austin Davidson D.K. Carey
Abel de los Santos Jorge Tillero Anderson Franco Jeff Gardner
Robbie Dickey Cody Gunter Derrick Robinson
Ian Dickson Kelvin Gutierrez Victor Robles
Paolo Espino Mario Lisson Drew Vettleson
Erick Fedde Edwin Lora
Lucas Giolito Jose Marmolejos-Diaz
Jake Johansen David Masters
Nick Lee Stephen Perez
Reynaldo Lopez Shawn Pleffner
Anderson Martinez Tony Renda
Ronald Pena Drew Ward
Nick Pivetta
Brian Rauh
Luis Reyes
Jefry Rodriguez
Joe Ross
Hector Silvestre
John Simms
Matthew Spann
Wander Suero
Kylin Turnbull
Austin Voth
Austen Williams

Unlike past years, there aren’t really any unfamiliar names for regulars of this site. Maybe Mario Lisson or Derrick Robinson if you missed when the Nats signed them in December and January respectively.

The presence of some veteran names removes some doubt as to who will be back in 2015, though looking over previous rosters you can always spot one or two names that haven’t been seen much since.

Until the next time — or the games begin…

Lucas Giolito Headlines Half-Dozen Nats On BA Top 100

Spring training has only just begun but the prospect-ranking season, which never seems to end, culminated last night as Baseball America unveiled its 2015 Top 100 List.

Lucas Giolito, the undisputed* #1 Washington Prospect, came in at #7 this year. Joining him on the list are Michael Taylor (#32), Reynaldo Lopez (#49), Erick Fedde (#90), A.J. Cole (#91), and Joe Ross (#96).* Not counting parents, significant others, and agents, natch

The six prospects on the list is indeed the most ever for the franchise since it relocated from Montreal prior to the 2005 season. The previous high was four in 2011 when Bryce Harper (#1), Danny Espinosa (#66), Derek Norris (#72), and Wilson Ramos (#96) were all ranked. Four times the Nationals had just one prospect ranked in the annual preseason ranking (2005-2007, 2009).

Giolito is marking his third year on the list, having been ranked #21 last year and #67 in 2013, which are the bookends for the Tommy John surgery he underwent in August 2012 shortly after making his pro debut. In 2014, his first full season, he won 10 of 20 starts and turned in 98 innings, with a three-start layoff in May. He struck out 110 while walking just 28 for a robust pitcher’s line of 2.20/3.16/1.00, though he did give up seven HR’s (hence the just slightly better than league-average FIP).

The $64,000 question for 2015 is whether or not Giolito will progress to High-A Potomac after winning 10 of 20 starts made for Low-A Hagerstown in 2014. It lingers because the Nats do have a history of skipping top prospects from Low-A to AA, most recently with Brian Goodwin (2012) and previously with Bryce Harper (2011) and to lesser extent, Stephen Strasburg (2010) as it’s not as unusual for a collegiate “1-1” prospect to debut at that level.

The hope here is that the Nats handle Giolito much like Jordan Zimmermann (2008) or Taylor Jordan (2013) and give him 5-6 starts before sending him on his way to Harrisburg. Potomac opens at home this season, but a case of Hellenic flu could delay his debut for a week and allow for him to start on the road on normal rest four times, should the Nationals decide to split the difference while keeping him away from the DC area, as they’ve also done with high-profile pitchers (Matt Purke, 2012-2013).

On that note, here are the expected assignments for the rest of the Nats Top 100 guys:

  • Taylor — AAA Syracuse
  • Lopez — A+ Potomac
  • Fedde — GCL Nationals
  • Cole — AAA Syracuse
  • Ross — AA Harrisburg

Feel free to discuss in the comments (and stay warm).

2015 Spring Training Thoughts

Pitchers and catchers report next week, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re like Tampa Bay pitcher’s Kirby Yates’s bulldog* — ready to go, but not all that excited.
* Well, maybe not; the guy lives in Lihue, Hawaii.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m talking about the prospect perspective. Fans of the big club have every reason to be thrilled because the Nationals are World Series contenders.

Sure, there are worries about things like health (Jayson Werth), adjusting to a new position (Ryan Zimmerman), fears of regression (Tanner Roark), an uninspiring bench (Kevin Frandsen), etc., but we’ve seen time and time again that the current GM and manager will give preference to the veteran over the younger player.

Of course, I’d love to be wrong. It would be exciting to see Michael Taylor in right field to cover for Werth if he’s not ready by Opening Day or Matt Grace becoming the third lefty out of the ‘pen. But it’s more realistic to expect Nate McLouth or Frandsen in the case of the former and Xavier “Carry On” Cedeno in the case of the latter.

In fact, there’s arguably more drama about where next year’s spring training will be or perhaps how that will affect the GCL in the future (lots of angles there; not surprised no one has written that story yet, given that’s it not a done deal yet).

The lack of a prospect angle does, however, dovetail nicely with my change in direction for the site. For the last three springs, I’ve been writing less and stopping coverage sooner than the year before. That’s obviously going to continue.

I’ll still use it to get back into the rhythm and flow of writing more often than I have been, but the new focus will learning what I can do in the time I now have available, then figuring out how to approach the regular season.