Three P-Nats Named To BA’s Carolina League Top 20

Derek Norris, Mike Burgess, and Tyler Moore make the cut

The shutout from Baseball America’s Top 20 lists is over with the naming of three P-Nats to the Carolina League Top 20 Prospects — catcher Derek Norris (#11), outfielder Mike Burgess (#14), and first-baseman Tyler Moore (#18).

This, quite frankly, is a bit of a surprise. With no disrespect to Mike Burgess, but off the top of my head I can think of two outfielders the same age that had better years and showed equal, if not more, promise: Brandon Short and Ronnie Welty. Likewise, the omission of Steve Lombardozzi is baffling to me — particularly when Kinston’s Jason Kipnis spent just 54 games in the league yet somehow made this list.

Here’s the highlights from each scouting report…

NORRIS

Norris has plus power and can drive the ball out of the park to all fields, projecting as a .260-.270 hitter with 20 or more homers annually in the big leagues. Though he does a good job of working counts and drawing walks, he needs to make adjustments against offspeed pitches and make more consistent contact. He has a solid arm and threw out 51 percent of CL basestealers who tested him, but he lacks soft hands and his receiving skills are substandard.

BURGESS

Burgess continues to chase pitches outside the zone, but he has toned down his aggressiveness and is using the opposite field more. He has well above-average raw strength, and he’s searching for a happy medium between power and patience. Though he’s a below-average runner, he plays a quality right field and opponents know not to challenge his arm.

MOORE

Moore’s game is all about strength and power. He has some holes in his swing and isn’t very selective, so he probably won’t ever hit for a high average. Offspeed stuff can still give him fits, though he improved significantly this year. Though he lacks speed and quickness, he’s a solid defender at first base, and Cathcart said Moore has enough arm strength to play the outfield.

The last quote there is a little telling, seemingly cobbled from interviews with league managers versus a true scouting report like we got on Norris and Burgess. In fact, the subscriber-only version of this list has a quote from manager for nearly every prospect, which has a certain amount of use, but not what I really want to see because managers are loathe to criticize players.

The Eastern League is scheduled for Friday, and I’ll pass along any highlights from this afternoon’s chat.

Over The Weekend In Viera

So what’s it like to see a game or two in the Florida Instructional League?

With web traffic being what it is, I’m republishing TBRfan’s comments on the games she saw in Florida so more folks can see this first-person, eyes-on-the-ground account…

FRIDAY
Hello all— got to watch the instructs game vs. Detroit today…

Oduber had an interesting fielding day in center, seemingly misjudging balls. But in his defense, the sun was wicked bad and two of the hits were tailing away. He really reminds me of Justin Maxwell.

Bryce Harper looks to me like the real deal. Didn’t have many balls hit to him, but his arm is strong and accurate. Played good backup defense to Oduber. He had a monstrous home run hit over the right field wall that probably carried 400+ feet. The right fielder just turned and watched.

J.P. Ramirez had a steady fielding game. Souza had his typical error-prone game. I just don’t know what the Nats see in him. Adrian Sanchez made some super plays at second. Catching was a platoon of Norris and… Can’t remember the name. Both catchers threw the ball well and tossed out runners at second and third.

As for batting… The team was shut down by the Detroit first round pitching prospect [Jacob Turner]. But my Lord: He was throwing smoke. None of the Nats came close to hitting that guy. He’ll be in the bigs for sure. Amazing pop of his pitches in the glove and incredible command.

The Nats “lost” 3-2 I am pretty sure. No scoreboard at all. Just the way I like it.

SATURDAY
A few comments about yesterdays game: The score was actually tied 3-3 and it was a no hitter until the 7th for the Nats. After talking to a fan at today’s game that was at Lakeland last night, he had heard that Harper’s home run was one of the longest they had seen there in years and most agreed it was 430+ feet. The pitcher for Detroit was named Jacob Turner. Be looking for him in the majors. Now for today’s game, against the Astros…

Today didn’t treat the Nats that well and they lost by 8-3 or something close to that. Catching was a platoon of Flores and Leon. Flores looks really svelte… he’s been working out a lot. Both catchers had a good game behind the plate. Lombardozzi was at second and had a super game. At third was King. The not-so-funniest play of the game came in the top of the first. Grace was pitching and getting mildly rocked. A routine fly ball was hit to center and Eury Perez. And don’t you know? He dropped it, half-assing the catch with one hand. He was immediately pulled from the game and sent to a side field where he shagged fly balls from the machine for the remainder of the game. The coaches did not allow him back on the bench. The entire game all you could hear was Eury yelling “I got it” three times before he’d catch the ball. After that, I was impressed with the Nats coaching staff for making him an example.

Bryce Harper had a so-so game. Nothing real spectacular of note. Was steady in the field.

Pitching was Grace, Estevez, Navarro, Jenkins, Smoker, Morris. Grace was hit relatively easily by the Astros kids. Navarro wasn’t much better. Jenkins was pulled after only ⅔ inning and don’t know why. I was sitting next to three Nats pitchers and they didn’t really express any concern when he came out. Smoker was good except for a mammoth home run to left center. Now, A.J. Morris had it working…. good pitching and good command. The man behind me agreed that his stuff is good enough to get to the Nats next year.

Baseball America Top 20 Shutout Continues

Another BA Top 20 League Prospects sans Nats is released

After three league Top 20s — GCL, NY-Penn, South Atlantic — by Baseball America for the 2010 campaign, the Nationals have yet to have a player recognized. Given its slavish devotion to youth, this is hardly a surprise. But perhaps more telling is the answer that was given in the Top 20 chat regarding J.P. Ramirez:

Bill (Raleigh): JP Ramirez, suspect or prospect?

Bill Ballew (BA): Ramirez is an interesting guy. While his defense improved this year, he continued to display solid bat speed and power at the plate. He expands the strike zone at times, but his strikeouts were relatively low for a guy who looks to put the ball in play. He received a decent bonus as a mid-round pick and simply needs to play the game at this point in order to reach his potential, whatever that might be. In my opinion, he may have been the top prospect at Hagerstown, even though he remains somewhat raw.

Perhaps this is the nature of the beast — a “live” chat — but nothing in that answer suggests that he’s actually seen Ramirez play himself and some of it has been contradicted by our eyes on the field. Something to keep in mind before getting to wrapped up in the lack of mentions.

Morning Reading

A few links to check out while we wait for 2011

Sadly, the BA shutout continues with no Nationals cracking its NY-Penn League Top 20. Next chance: tomorrow, when they release their Top 20 for the South Atlantic League…

…Reports from Viera have Jesus Flores healthy and hitting again, which would be great if baseball’s answer to crystal chandelier Chris Chandler can contribute and compete against Wilson Ramos to share time with Ivan Rodriguez.

…The PDC shuffle is nearly over, but here’s an interesting look at how it works. What’s left unsaid, of course, is that threat of losing affiliation isn’t as big as it used to be, thanks to the independents.

…Attendance is down at the MLB level (*ahem*) but the minors are doing fine.

…Fresh off signing a four-year deal, the quest for a new stadium for Potomac resumes, which naturally has the support of the local press that only mentions a strong competitor in the next county in passing.

It’s Moore & Milone for Nats’ Minors Players Of The Year

Your 2010 Batter and Pitcher of the Year

As expected, Tyler Moore and Tom Milone will be honored tonight before the Washington Nationals game as the organization’s minor-league batter and pitcher of the year.

Moore was the 2010 Carolina League MVP and led the league in HR’s, RBI and slugging percentage. After bottoming out with an 0-for-3 night in the first game of a doubleheader on a Monday night in Salem, Moore’s average stood at .191. He was given the nightcap off and with the next day a travel day, he returned to the lineup on Wednesday, July 14 and went 2-for-3 with a double. The next night, he homered and doubled to push his average over .200. Moore would hit safely in 34 of 37 games, including 14 straight, and win Player of the Week four times. He would club 21 of his 31 home runs from July 15th to the end of the season.

A 16th-round pick out of Mississippi State, Moore is expected to start 2011 in Harrisburg. He turns 24 in January, a fact that has been invariably held against him in the accounts written outside the Natmosphere. His asendance in some ways was blocked by a resurgence from Chris Marrero, who turned in a .359 June after a .235 May and finished the season at .294. At 22, Marrero is likely to begin the year at Syracuse.

Tom Milone was the ace of the Potomac Nationals in ’09 with a 12-5 mark and 2.91ERA. In 2010, he led the Harrisburg Senators in 2010 with… wait for it… a 12-5 mark and a 2.86ERA. Milone has gone largely unnoticed outside of Washington despite these numbers, though this accolade may wake up some folks at Baseball America. It certainly has gotten the attention of John Sickels:

One of the best pitchers in Double-A this year was Tom Milone of the Harrisburg Senators. A 10th round pick out of USC in 2008 by the Washington Nationals, he was excellent last year in the Carolina League (2.91 ERA, 106/36 K/BB in 151 innings, 144 hits, 12-5 record), but as a soft-tossing lefty who threw 85-87 MPH, many were skeptical that he could repeat this against advanced competition. Not only did he repeat his performance, he bettered it: 2.85 ERA, 155/23 K/BB in 158 innings, 161 hits, 12-5. Although he gave up a few more hits, a reduction in his walk rate and an increase in strikeouts resulted in a better overall ratio set. His FIP dropped from 3.55 in ’09 to 2.85 in ’10. Any time you see a pitcher improve his component ratios while moving up a level, you have to be impressed. Milone still doesn’t throw hard, but his changeup is excellent and he added additional bite to his breaking ball this year.

Milone has long been a favorite here at NationalsProspects.com, enough that we included him in our preseason Top 20 with full disclosure that the choice was in some parts sentimental. But the argument then remains the same now: You cannot discount a guy that has had amazing control no matter where he has pitched: 1.92, 2.21, 1.85 BB/9 in his three seasons at USC (’06-’08); 1.25, 1.45, and 2.14 at Vermont, Hagerstown and Potomac in ’08 and ’09. Never mind he’s lefthanded. As Sickels wrote, the scouts have been down on Milone because he doesn’t throw hard, but he throws strikes — more reliably than another 6’1″ lefty from California that came up in the early 1980s: Bobby Ojeda, who many forget was missing piece that the ’86 Mets added after a 98-win ’85 and led the team in wins and ERA.

Milone is likely to start 2011 in Syracuse. Like Moore, Milone turns 24 during the offseason (February) and will compete against the likes of Matt Chico, Shairon Martis, and Ross Detwiler for a chance to join the parent-club rotation or an emergency start.

Checking In…

Some news and notes on the Nats’ minors

As you imagine, things are in a lull right now as we wait for the parent club to finish out the string. A few items of interest…

…Thankfully, we’re not in a mode of worrying whether or not the #1 overall pick is ours, which was the subject of discussion last year and the year before. That battle is between Baltimore and Seattle (hey, that rhymes!). Currently, Washington is in line for the 8th overall pick, two games “behind” Cleveland in the reverse standings, three games “behind” Kansas City, and four games “ahead” of the Chicago Cubs. Most of the teams in the #3 through #6 spots face winning clubs the rest of the way (#7 is a compensatory pick for the Diamondbacks failing to sign Barret Loux), the Nats and Cubs play contenders for some, also-rans on the final weekend. Thus, the order is not likely to change all that much.

…Former scout and current AOL Fanhouse writer Frankie Piliere has good things to say about Bryce Harper but what was more interesting was his take on A.J. Morris:

Nationals right-handed pitching prospect A.J. Morris was among the more impressive arms in camp for Washington, showing off a lively 91-94 mph fastball and a feel for a sharp slider at 82-84 mph. He has the look of an effective late-inning arm for Nationals in the near future.

….Baseball America’s been churning out its Top 20 lists for each league. Thus far, they’ve done the Arizona Fall League, the Gulf Coast League, and the Appalachian League and no Nationals have appeared. The New York-Penn League is on the docket for tomorrow, the Sally League on Thursday. If/when any Nationals are named or discussed, I’ll pass along what they have to say.

…Finally, as frequent commenter Mark L noted, the Washington Nationals have yet to name its Minor-League Batter and Pitcher of the Year, but it appears that Tyler Moore will be the former. The latter may be a little less of a slam-dunk. Danny Rosenbaum makes the case with the lowest ERA in the system, but our money is on Tom Milone, the leader in wins (12) and strikeouts (155) and innings pitched (158).

Your Obligatory Bryce Harper Update

A few words on Bryce Harper’s unofficial pro debut

Lost amid the news (noise?) of Stan Kasten’s departure (as usual, Mark Zuckerman nails what it really means), some 17-year-old kid made his unofficial pro debut yesterday.

As you might expect, he was rusty, striking out twice in two plate appearances and catching two flyballs while playing right field and wearing the number 34.

MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweeted yesterday: “Bryce’s biggest pro challenge won’t be RF. It’ll be patience and learning to stay back. 2 K’s today, both way out in front on offspeed stuff.” If you have more than a few minutes, you can see this for yourself at Steven C. Smith’s SpaceCoastBaseball.com. You can read the rest of Gonzalez’s story here.

Undoubtedly, there will be more stories on this Harper and I’ll do my best to collect the best ones and pass them along.

Morning Reading

A few links to check out while we wait for 2011

As we transition from the the day-to-day rhythm and routine of the regular season towards the less-structured offseason, I figure I’d pass along some links of some tangentially related stories and tidbits that I’ve spotted while I was waiting for news about Vermont and Hagerstown in the past day or so.

  • In the wake of yesterday’s news, which yours truly felt coming but didn’t want to publish in the late afternoon and get missed, we see that Vermont will end up with Oakland as its parent club

Thanks for stopping by…

Affiliation Merry Go Round [Update: Nats switch from Vermont to Auburn]

[Update: Nats sign two-year deal with Auburn] A look at the relative calm of the biennial affiliate dance

Thankfully, the Washington Nationals farm system appears to staying mostly the same this offseason, signing two-year extensions for Syracuse and Harrisburg and another four-year extension for Potomac. Hagerstown is widely expected to renew for another two years, particularly after the Nationals reportedly helped broker a deal for a local ownership group to purchase the Suns.

There is, however, one notable exception: The Vermont Lake Monsters.

Earlier this week, the Blue Jays officially pulled the plug on its relationship with the Auburn Doubledays, a move that had been telegraphed when it was announced that manager Dennis Holmberg would be managing Toronto’s re-entry into the Appalachian League in Bluefield, a team that had severed the longest-standing affiliation (53 years) in baseball when the Orioles cut ties in late August.

How does that relate to Vermont? Quite simply, with the Washington Nationals unhappy with the well-known problems with Centennial Field it’s quite possible that a move to Auburn, which is three hours closer to DC and less than 30 miles from Syracuse, could be on tap. It would certainly fit the tendency for consolidation along the I-81 corridor.

Details to come, as this is a story we’re watching…

UPDATE: This story was in the can waiting to be published before this tweet came across the Twitterverse.

Instructional League Roster – Final Thoughts

Some final thoughts on the 2010 Florida Instructional League

Last week, we reported on the invitees and broke them down by pitchers and position players. One of our regular commenters (markfd) broke it down into three categories, which I agree with:

1. Very young

2. Changing roles or position

3. Guys that need to work on a specific skill (pitch)

Here are a few other observations I have in looking over the players invited.

… Almost everyone invited in 2009 moved up a level in 2010 if they didn’t spend time at multiple levels.

… The exception appears to be Potomac, which makes sense because it’s the “staging area” for the system

… Repeats? Eleven batters, ten pitchers. (Almost) half of those (four pitchers, six batters) are guys 20 or younger

… Most of the this-year-but-not-last-year are 2010 draftees or IFAs. The outliers? Holder, Wort and Andruth Ramirez

Undoubtedly, there will be some speculation as to who didn’t get invited and why, though I suspect it will be buried amidst the breathless stories about Bryce Harper. Washington has a much larger-than-average camp to begin with and not every organization sends their top guys to “instrux.” Box scores aren’t released to the public, and attendance is very sparse: Mostly family, friends, and SO’s besides the scouts, who aren’t thrilled to be there.

“[S]couts don’t like having to cover instrux, because they don’t believe they can write a good report based on what they see there. It’s a place where coaches are tinkering with and tweaking their players, so you don’t always see the real stuff,” says former scout Anip Sunha on BucsProspects.com, citing an example of a player from 10 years ago that threw only fastballs and changeups, the two pitches he was working on to complement his plus-plus curveball. (Bobby Bradley’s the player, the article from which a lot of this post is based on can be found here.)

What the “intruxs” is, from what I’ve researched, is simply a chance to get the players together to work with more of the organization’s coaches in close proximity for an extra month and work on what the evaluators have spotted over the course of the year. Pitchers are said to benefit the most because they get the chance to work multiple coaches, many of whom are specialists in a particular pitch. Paul Menhart, for example, seems to be the go-to guy for refining the changeup while Randy Tomlin is the guy that John Lannan credits with both making the jump from A+ to the majors in ’07 and fixing him this summer. Like in spring training, it’s workouts and drills in the morning, games in the afternoon.

If I spot something in my travels, I’ll pass it along, but I suspect there won’t be much more to report aside from injuries and Bryce Harper.