AFL Update: Oct. 24, 2017

The Nationals’ top prospect returned to action with a bang last night, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored, two strikeouts, a walk, and a stolen base in a 5-2 Mesa win over Scottsdale.

Robles, the only National to appear in the game, was not hit by a pitch. Defensively, he made two putouts and fielded a double and a triple in center field.

The Solar Sox return home to rematch against the Scorpions this afternoon. Kyle McGowin is expected to start.

AFL/Offseason Update: Oct. 21, 2017

Daniel Johnson’s third hit in as many at-bats started the Solar Sox’s four-run rally to erase a 6-2 deficit to and walk off with a 7-6 win over the Saguaros.

Johnson also doubled in the 6th and singled in the 7th to finish 3-for-5 and raise expectations and scored twice. Defensively, he made just a single putout in left field.

Austen Williams was the only other National to appear in the game. He was the first man out of the Mesa ‘pen but after a scoreless 5th, he was dinged for a 430’ shot to left-center in the 6th and another solo shot in the 7th before he was lifted with two outs.

Williams gave up three hits total but struck out four over his two and 2/3rds innings of work.

Mesa returns to action with a Monday night game against Scottsdale.

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While this may not concern us for much longer, it is interesting to note what the Mets have offered for the Syracuse Chiefs: $18 million, which works out to about $1,400 per share. Not bad for some of the folks who bought them at $10 per. The upshot is that it’s difficult to believe that the Potomac Nationals, who do not have a lease for an NAPBL-compliant facility, are worth $20 million as was claimed during the latest windmill tilt this past summer.

Most of the drama was off the field—for those wondering, the resolution is yet another waiver—as the P-Nats on the field were, to be blunt, a disappointment.

Even with Victor Robles and Daniel Johnson atop the lineup, the team had difficulty scoring (4.07 R/G) because there were lots of hot streaks but few of them were concurrent. Taylor Gushue, Kelvin Gutierrez, and Edwin Lora were all scorching the ball in April but then cooled considerably by mid-May, with Lora the most extreme flash-freeze as he went from a .362/.451/.551 April to .186/.226/.237 August. Only Gutierrez ever showed any signs of breaking out of his funk, but his roll was slowed by an ankle injury that took him out of the lineup from June 9 to August 21.

On the mound, the team boasted of an all-Dominican rotation that purported to boast of the team’s post-Smiley success but quickly turned into an MBA-like exercise of trying to squeeze some ROI out of a sunk cost. There were flashes of brilliance from Joan Baez and Jefry Rodriguez, which turned out to be chemically aided in the latter, and Wirkin Estevez did make the jump to AA (as he should have at the age of 25), but watching Luis Reyes and Hector Silvestre pitch was like watching Sisyphus and the boulder.

Perhaps more maddening was the organization’s insistence on signing washed-up pitchers to plug the holes caused by injuries. It’s one thing to go for a free agent to avoid having to make a social promotion from Hagerstown, but quite another to get a pitcher who is out of work after mid-May (read: not even good enough for the independent leagues). It’s what detectives might call a clue.

Thanks in large part to semi-decent relief pitching and older southpaws (Matt Crownover, Grant Borne) the team actually had slightly better than league-average pitching (4.21 vs. 4.26 R/G).

Like Auburn, it’s just a single, unranked list of players instead of a Top 5 list…

Joan Baez, RHSP 3-1, 1.88 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in August
Grant Borne, LHSP 2.50/3.01/1.10 in 14G, 10GS
Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B .288/.347/.414, 2HR, 3SB in 58G
Jakson Reetz, C .236/.327/.371, .986 FA, 39%CS rate
Victor Robles, CF .289/.377/.495, 17HBP, 16SB in 77G

…but I’m reasonably certain there’s no debate as to who would be #1.

As always, folks who would like to see the full team stats can find them here.

AFL Update: Oct. 20, 2017

Taylor Gushue broke his 0-for-20 skid with a 10th-inning RBI single that broke a 4-4 tie as the Solar Sox took this one, 6-4.

Gushue finished 1-for-5 with two whiffs but also committed his second error of the fall campaign.

Daniel Johnson continues to rake with a 3-for-5 effort, scoring a run and stealing his fourth base. Through six games, the 22-y.o. is 9-for-26 (.346) with a triple, two walks, and three RBIs.

Jimmy Cordero picked up with win with two scoreless innings pitched, one hit allowed, and one strikeout out. He threw 20 pitches, 14 for strikes.

The two teams rematch this afternoon in Mesa, the final game this week before tomorrow’s Hitting Challenge at Sloan Park.

AFL Update: Oct. 19, 2017

The Solar Sox took an early 2-0 lead and scored three in the 8th, but in between it was all the Rafters, who paddled them for a 6-5 loss.

Just two Nationals got into yesterday’s game:

• Taylor Gushue (pictured above) got the start as the designated hitter but went 0-for-4 without a strikeout.

• Dakota Bacus gave up two runs on three hits in his lone inning of work and was charged with the loss.

Mesa visits Surprise today and then hosts the Saguaros tomorrow to finish out the week. Saturday is the annual Hitting Challenge, which will be held in Mesa this year.

AFL Update: Oct. 18, 2017

The Solar Sox snapped a two-game slide with an 8-5 win over the Rafters.

Kyle McGowin got the start and the “W” with four scoreless innings, allowing four hits, no walks, and striking out five. He threw 62 pitches, 41 for strikes, not counting the hit batsman.

Daniel Johnson slid over to center field for this one, but still led off. He broke a two-game oh-fer streak with a walk, a pair of singles, and a stolen base. Defensively, he had one putout and no errors.

Taylor Gushue (pictured above) started for third time but went hitless again, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. Down 8-0 at one point, Salt River did not attempt to steal, thus Gushue had no assists and all nine putouts came by way of the K.

The two teams rematch this afternoon in Mesa. The Solar Sox play day games tomorrow and Friday as well.

AFL Update: Oct. 17, 2017

Mesa was held to just three hits in a 2-0 shutout by Glendale.

Daniel Johnson was the sole National to start, leading off and playing right field but was held hitless again with an 0-for-4 night and one whiff. He had no putouts on defense.

Taylor Gushue came off the bench to pinch-hit in bottom of the 8th and struck out.

Austen Williams and Jimmy Cordero (pictured above) both pitched a scoreless inning in relief.

Mesa hits the road for Salt River tonight.

INJURY UPDATE: From Lee Magenheim – Kelvin Gutierrez has two fingers in a splint and estimates he’ll be back as soon as next week.

AFL/Offseason Update: Oct. 14, 2017

The Solar Sox got three in the first and never looked back as they held on for a 4-2 win over the Javelinas.

Daniel Johnson got the start in right field and led off again but was 0-for-4 at the plate with two strikeouts. Defensively, he had just one putout.

Taylor Gushue started at catcher but was also 0-for-4 but with only one whiff. He threw out two of three runners trying to steal against him.

Dakota Bacus made his second appearance, a scoreless 8th inning with one hit allowed and one K on 12 pitches.

Mesa remains on the road to close out the week, visiting Glendale this afternoon.
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Baseball America completed its fall SEO campaign swing through the League Top 20s this week and, as mentioned in the comments, Luis Garcia and Yasel Antuna came in at nos. 4 and 5 respectively. Garcia is obviously more advanced defensively, but Antuna is proving the inference that there must be a reason why they’re tolerating 26 errors in 36 games, and that reason is that he can hit (.301/.382/.399). With more than $5M “invested”* between them, the 2017-2018 offseason question is whether one or both start next spring in Hagerstown.
* Quotes because the signing bonus is reflection of the IFA system, not the players. About the only thing that makes it better than the NCAA is that nobody’s pretending that it’s not about the money.

Just some releases from the DSL:
• RHPs Christian Flores, Hector Ramirez, Francisco Constanzo, Rafael Melendez
• LHP Yelmery Sisnero
• 1B Luis Santana
• LF David Escobar

Winter Leagues have already begun in Venezuela, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Rosters are incomplete, but there is a sizable contingent on Los Tigres de Licey in the DWL.

Finally, we’ve reached the full-season teams – where we have some semblance of non-team coverage – but we’re also hitting the divide between prospects and minor-leaguers. This is the apex, after this week it’s going to be Victor Robles and a whole lot of “well, maybe if…”

We’re also at the first of two levels where we have some eyes on the field. My “Hagerstown Guy,” who has a love-hate relationship with both the Suns and the Nationals (i.e. he loves to hate on them 🙃), has his thoughts on the hitters as well as the throw…er, pitchers.

The Suns were one of two (2) affiliates with a winning record in 2017. However, unlike the G-Nats, they did not make the playoffs as the first-half champion Intimidators swept them by a combined score of 28-7 in a pair of doubleheaders in the final week before the All-Star break and they missed the mark by 1½ games. A tailspin on 13 losses in 17 games in mid-to-late August sealed their fate in the second half, as four straight wins to finish out sliced the margin to 2½ games.

Injuries (Juan Soto, Carter Kieboom) and trades (Tyler Watson, Sheldon Neuse) ate into the Hagerstown’s production, which was third in the 14-team Sally Lg., while the pitching was 11th. The team outperformed its Pythagorean projection of .500 as it scored 643 runs and allowed 643 runs. Oddly, the Suns allowed the fewest stolen bases and threw out the fewest baserunners.

Now, for the Obligatory Top 5’s (of the players who remain)….

1. Carter Kieboom, SS
.304 GPA, .497 SLG%
1. Sterling Sharp, RHSP
3.69/3.81/1.23, 1.36 BB/9
2. Daniel Johnson, OF
.295 GPA, 17HR in 88G
2. Hayden Howard, LHRP
2.95/3.63/1.31, 3.22 K:BB ratio
3. Juan Soto, OF
.323 GPA, .523 SLG%
3. Ben Braymer, LHSP
5.26/3.47/1.43, 8.84 K/9
4. Tres Barrera, C
.275 GPA, 3PB, .995 FA
4. A.J. Bogucki, RHSP
3.56/3.78/1.24, 3HR in 55⅔ IP
5. Blake Perkins, OF
.254 GPA, 31SB, 7E, 8 Assists
5. Matt DeRosier, RHSP
3.60/3.45/1.18, 8.5 K/9

Picking the hitters was easy. I’m sure someone will argue for Jake Noll over Perkins or Barrera; I saw him in Potomac in August and he didn’t impress me. Maybe I’m being unfair to Aldrem Corredor, but he’s just 22 and with a shortage of 1B in the system, he’ll more than likely make the 2018 watchlist.

Picking the pitchers was not easy. Trades took away the no-doubt guys, and no one (even the traded pitchers) had a league-average FIP.

As always, folks interested in seeing the full stats can find them here.

AFL Update: Oct. 13, 2017

Mesa rallied for five in the bottom of the 8th but still fell one run short (how novel) for a 9-8 loss to Peoria.

Daniel Johnson (pictured above) led off and played right field. He reached base three times with a walk in the 1st, a single in the 2nd, an a single in the 8th. He scored twice, stole two bases, and drove in two. Defensively, he made three putouts and threw out a runner trying to advance to second on a two-out RBI single.

Kelvin Gutierrez started at third base but was removed when his hand was stepped on in a play at third base in the top of the first inning.

The two teams rematch and switch venues with Mesa visiting Peoria.

AFL Update: Oct. 12, 2017

Scottsdale built a 4-1 lead midway through yesterday’s tilt against Mesa but a four-spot in the 6th and a grand slam by former National farmhand Sheldon Neuse in the 7th powered the Solar Sox to a 9-8 win.

Kyle McGowin got the start, but was knocked around for three runs (two earned) on six hits over four innings. He walked none and struck out six.

Austen Williams was the first man out of the Mesa ‘pen, but wasn’t much more effective as he allowed one run on two hits and a walk over two innings. He was the pitcher of record when the Solar Sox rallied and got credit for the win.

Jimmy Cordero also made his first appearance, working around two hits in a scoreless 8th inning while striking out one.

Daniel Johnson (pictured above; he was safe) got the start in centerfield and went 2-for-4 with a triple and scored twice. Defensively, he made one putout.

Taylor Gushue was behind the dish and threw out two of four runners trying to steal, though he committed an error and racked up 10 putouts. To the left of the plate, he went 1-for-4.

Mesa plays Peoria over the next two afternoons with a home game today and in Peoria tomorrow.

AFL Update: Oct. 11, 2017

The Nats’ 2017 entry in the Arizona Fall League—the Mesa Solar Sox—hit the ground face-first as the Scottsdale Scorpions dropped a four-spot in the 3rd and a deuce in the 4th en route to a 7-4 win.

Just two Nationals appeared in the game. Dakota Bacus (above) came on to put out the fire with two outs in the 4th. He stranded one runner, then pitched a 1-2-3 fifth to finished with one and 1/3 scoreless innings pitched with one strikeout.

Kelvin Gutierrez (below) got the start at third base but went 0-for-4 at the plate and made an assist on a groundout in the 5th.

The two teams switch venues and play day game this afternoon. Mesa plays day games the rest of the week before an off day on Sunday.

As noted in the comments, Daniel Johnson has replaced Victor Robles on the Mesa roster. There has been speculation that Robles will join the team if/when the Nationals are eliminated from the playoffs, but nothing official has been released.