Saturday Smorgasbord

A lot of this has already been discussed in the comments, but for the sake of posterity…

NATS ADD FIVE TO THE 40-MAN AHEAD OF THE RULE 5 DRAFT
• Matt Skole
• Austin Voth
• Rafael Bautista
• Raudy Read
• Jose Marmolejos
Let’s be blunt: the Rule 5 Draft is like the pickings at a singles bar at the end of the night (or so I’m told 😉 ) – it’s a function of attention relative to what else is available. It’s not difficult to break down: They’re all relatively cheap backups to the backups, as were Bostick, Lee, and Kieboom a year ago. I’m always happy to see our guys win this “lottery” because the system otherwise is stacked against them — especially the guys from the D.R.

But let’s not kid ourselves that this is anything more than procedural maneuvering. GM Mike Rizzo just raised the price on five trading chips as the Winter Meetings approach (yeah, I know they’re local this year, but I don’t think I have the guts to go *rimshot!*).

AFL THOUGHTS
Very little that’s been posted in the comments I would disagree with… Andrew Stevenson has raised his stock and scouts have noticed, which makes other folks more tradeable. It’s no secret that the ideal path for Trea Turner is Robin Yount in reverse, but Rizzo appears to be showing folks with the placements of Stevenson and Bautista that he does have CF depth and therefore Victor Robles may be had (albeit along with someone else, no doubt).

Drew Ward had the kind of fall that everybody has been waiting for while Osvaldo Abreu held his own, thought not enough to be protected from next month’s Rule 5. Nick Lee wasn’t re-added, so he’s eligible to be drafted, as is Jake Johansen, whom I suspect the Nats wouldn’t mind terribly if he were taken because it’d take away some of the disappointment that’s almost entirely due to his draft position. Ryan Brinley, who got lit like Kennedy at an open bar at AA, seems to have re-established himself.

IT’S THE BUIES CREEK ASTROS
Those of you on the Twitters have already seen this rant, but for the rest of you: Yesterday, the new, 10th team in the Carolina League was officially introduced — the Buies Creek Astros.

Ultimately, the team will be located in Fayetteville, but for two seasons the Astros affiliate will call tiny (pop. 2,942) Buies Creek, NC its home on the campus of Campbell University.

It’s a boon for the small, private college, which will see its facility upgraded by the Astros and will reportedly collect all revenue generated by the games. And it’s a HUGE MISSED MARKETING OPPORTUNITY.

Why? Well, anything with “Buies Creek” is already a collector’s item. But they could have had fun with that it’s a dry town and (mostly) a dry county and called themselves the Buies Creek Bootleggers. Instead, they chose the least imaginative name and logos.

AFL/Offseason Update: Nov. 12, 2016

The Desert Dogs got two-spots in the 5th and 7th innings to overcome a 2-1 deficit and beat the Scorpions, 5-2. Combined with a Peoria loss, Glendale returned to within 1½ games of the AFL West lead.

Osvaldo Abreu got the start at shortstop and batted ninth. He reached base three times with a single and two walks and stole his fourth base. Defensively, he committed his fourth error while collecting five putouts and two assists, including a double play.

Nick Lee made his eighth fall appearance and got four outs in relief, allowing one hit, no runs, no walks, and struck out one. In ten innings, he’s allowed four runs (two earned) on ten hits and nine walks while striking out eleven.

The two teams switch venues this afternoon to finish out the last full week of the 2016 AFL season.

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FREE AGENTS
On Tuesday, minor-league free agency began, which saw 20 guys become former Nationals farmhands, some for the first time:
RHP – Erik Davis, Justin DeFratus, Paolo Espino, Michael Brady, Mitch Lively, Sam Runion, Boone Whiting
LHP – Aaron Laffey
C – Brian Jeroloman, Devin Ivany, Andruth Ramirez, Adderling Ruiz
IF – Steve Lombardozzi, Jose Lozada, Jason Martinson
OF – Matt den Dekker, Kevin Keyes, Narciso Mesa, Drew Vettleson

It’s worth noting that Ivany and Ramirez were player-coaches, so their free agency may merely be a formality. As aforementioned, for a few of these guys it’s their chance to hook on elsewhere and get a second chance (or an easier path) to The Show.

WINTER LEAGUES

To me it seems like a smaller group than usual, but let’s a take a quick peek at how some of the non-AFL guys are doing:

DWL – Rafael Bautista, .276/.338/.293, 5SB, 6BB, 8RBI in 15G
DWL – Jose Marmolejos, .231/.268/.410, 1HR, 2BB, 8RBI in 13G
DWL – Raudy Read, 1-for-2 in 2G
DWL – Wander Suero, 1IP, 1H, 0R, 1BB, 2K in 1G
DWL – Philips Valdez, 0-0, 0SV, 0.00ERA, 1.07WHIP in 3G
MWL – Matt Skole, .237/.367/.320, 2HR, 7RBI, 24K in 27G
PWL – Neftali Soto, .442/.444/.674, HR, BB, SF, 5RBI in 10G
VWL – Aldrem Corredor, .133/.235/.133, 2SB, 2BB, in 9G
VWL – David Ramos, 1-0, 0SV, 2.45ERA, 1.23WHIP in 6G/7⅓ IP
VWL – Greg Ross, 3-1, 2.25ERA, 1.16WHIP in 7GS/32IP

AFL/Offseason Update: Nov. 5, 2016

andrew-stevenson-11-05-16The Desert Dogs got three in the 1st and cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Javelinas for their fourth straight win.

Spider-man Andrew Stevenson was the sole National to play yesterday. The 22-y.o. led off for Glendale and reached base four times with two singles and two walks, which pushed his fall line to .327/.368/.500 in 13 games. In the field, he made three putouts (all in the 6th inning).

Tonight is the Fall Star game, for which Drew Ward and Ryan Brinley have been named to the West Division roster. It will be broadcast on the MLB Network at 8 p.m. Warning: Tom Verducci, a.k.a. proof that writing and broadcasting are two very different skills, may be on the telecast.

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TRANSACTION UPDATE
Minor-League Free Agency will coincide with Election Day (or the apocalypse, depending on your political leaning or choice of cable news provider) on Tuesday, but the latest dispatch from Baseball America has some re-signs and a release:
• Re-signed – RHP Whit Mayberry, C Nick Rickles
• Released – OF Brian Pruitt

I’d love to know exactly why the Nationals chose to keep Pruitt, a 2008 34th Rd. Pick who hit .172/.293/.234 in parts of two seasons with the Vermont Lake Monsters, on the Reserve List for more than six years. Maybe it’s an early 30th birthday present? Sadly, it may be as simple as: Because they could.

HAGERSTOWN SUNS FOR SALE

In the short term, this is mostly meaningless – the franchise has a PDC with Washington through 2018 and a lease on Municipal Stadium for the same period of time. In other words, the franchise is at its maximum possible value and this is a trial balloon to guage interest.

As longtime readers know, buying the team is only part of the equation, and relatively easy. Getting a stadium is the other part, and much, much, much harder. Something to keep an eye on, of course.

THE SYRACUSE CHIEFS

Were it not for tradition, I might start with the Chiefs to cleanse the palate. In seven seasons of this site’s existence, they’ve had two (2) winning seasons. In four of the other five, they were within shouting distance of .500. In 2016, they were just plain awful.

How bad? They had the worst record in the I.L. (61-82) and the second-worst in AAA (Omaha was 58-82). Statistically, they had league-average pitching (3.96 R/G) and somehow weren’t the worst-hitting team (3.55 R/G, Buffalo was 3.47) or the worst-fielding team (12th of 14 by FA; though dead-last in CS% at 22 percent). Even more surprising, Syracuse had a winning home record (37-34).

Somehow, there’s a list of four players to highlight that can be extracted from this morass, five if you’re disregarding stats, six if you’re feeling generous (and looking the other way on age):

1. Koda Glover, RHRP — 1-1, 2SV; 2.25/2.92/0.79
2. Pedro Severino, C — .995FA, .226 GPA
3. Brian Goodwin, OF — .267 GPA, .438 SLG%, 14HR, 15SB in 119G
4. Austin Voth, RHSP — 7-9, 3.15/3.53/1.24 in 157IP
5. A.J. Cole, RHSP — 8-8, 4.26/3.96/1.33 in 22GS
6. Matt Skole, 1B/3B — .261 GPA, 24HR, 66BB in 140G

Folks interested in seeing the full stats can find them here.

AFL/Offseason Update: Oct. 29, 2016

austin-voth-10-29-16The Desert Dogs avoided the shutout with a second-inning run but not the loss, as they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Rafters yesterday afternoon.

Austin Voth (pictured) made his fourth start this fall for Glendale. He gave up four runs on just two hits, but both were home runs – a two-run shot in the 1st, then another in the 4th. Both longballs were preceded by a hit batsman.

Voth threw 74 pitches, 41 for strikes, over five innings. He walked two and struck out two while suffering his second loss, but actually lowered his ERA to 10.43 for the AFL campaign.

The two teams switch venues for this afternoon’s game to finish out the third week of the 2016 AFL season.

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TRANSACTION UPDATES
• Fans of “The Onion” need not shed any tears, as the Nationals have re-signed C Jhonatan Solano.
• RHP Aaron Barrett was outrighted to Syracuse on Tuesday and he elected to become a free agent
• OF Yadiel Hernandez was placed on the Hagerstown Suns roster, which means… well, nothing since this is the offseason
• Likewise for P Thony Amoroso, though it’s nice to think that the recently signed IFA from Venezuela may bypass the DSL in 2017

AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS FOR SALE
While this isn’t news per se — minor-league teams are bought and sold all the time — what is unusual is that both the Doubledays and their facility are city-owned. And like many businesses in upstate New York, they’re losing money. Thus, Auburn is looking to sell.

This is the fiscally right thing to do, as the local media notes in an Op-Ed that urges the city government to be transparent as it does so — unlike their counterparts in Northern Virginia.

THE HARRISBURG SENATORS
A lot of folks obsess over how a farm system is ranked relative to the other 29 teams in MLB, but where it really matters can be boiled down to two questions: (1) Does it produce players that can play? (2) Is there enough depth to sustain injuries?

Obviously, we know the answer to both of those questions. But what’s less obvious is the effect that has on the minor-league teams, especially in the upper minors where there’s not a half system. The 2016 Harrisburg Senators were an example of the roster churn that ensues as 50 players suited up (not counting MLB rehabs) and a dozen pitchers made five or more starts.

Indeed, it was that pitching that carried the team as the E.L.’s third-best staff (4.16 R/G vs. 4.34 Lg. Avg.) was able to withstand the E.L.’s second-worst offense (4.01 R/G) and nearly made the playoffs anyway. Though it should be noted that the Eastern League was similar to the Carolina League in that just six of the 12 teams had winning records and two teams were over the .600 mark.

For the fifth straight season, however, the Senators list is combined into a single Top 5:

1. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP – 3.18/3.03/1.23, 100K in 76⅓ IP
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP – 3.17/3.30/1.42, 72K in 71IP
3. Christopher Bostick, IF – .290/.356/.462 in 71G
4. John Simms, RHP – 3.30/3.84/1.08 in 29 appearances, 11GS
5. Rafael Bautista, OF – .282/.344/.341, 56SB

OK, before you rip into me about Tyler Mapes, who’d probably #6 if I were to go further, take a look at his K rate (4.53). That’s more than two full whiffs per 9IP than the league average. Coupled with nearly a hit per IP for his career… that’s just too much contact to succeed long-term at AAA or higher. And I’ve seen it before.

To be honest, after Lopez and Giolito, it’s pretty dicey. Bostick didn’t exactly light it up at AAA and is no longer a National. Simms, like Mapes, will be entering 2017 at age 25 (though he’s six months younger). Bautista, despite all that speed, had just 20 extra-base hits and just 12 doubles.

As always, folks who wish to see the full team stats can find ’em here.

AFL/Offseason Update: Oct. 22, 2016

andrew-stevenson-10-21-16Glendale reverted to its losing ways as they didn’t play well in Peoria and lost 8-2 for its sixth loss in the last seven games.

Andrew Stevenson (pictured) was the sole National to appear in the game. He led off and played centerfield but was 0-for-4. Defensively, he made three putouts and fielded five balls total.

Austin Voth is slated to start the final game of the week for the Desert Dogs, an afternoon road game in Surprise.

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TRANSACTION UPDATE
A couple of more re-signs:
• C Jake Lowery
• OF Zach Collier

THE POTOMAC NATIONALS

If you’re a fan of “narrative” and superstition, then Potomac’s “even year” streak ended with a first-round exit to Lynchburg, a team they had taken out in the first round twice previously since the playoff format changed from best-of-five to best-of-three in 2013. However, as a P-Nat season-ticket holder (disclosure ☑), this year’s team seemed to be short of the mark of previous championship teams.

Of course, it didn’t help that the 2016 Carolina League felt like a second-tier collegiate football conference. The gap between the playoff teams and the non-playoff teams was huge, thanks to three of the eight teams winning 80+ games. The four playoff teams were the four teams with a winning record.

Which is not to say it wasn’t a team worth watching: Erick Fedde shook off a rough start and went on a tear. Drew Ward repeated the level and started very strong, slipped a little, then played well enough to get the bump. Andrew Stevenson came as advertised and was replaced by another hot prospect who also lived up to the hype. Jose Marmolejos was the steady Eddie he’s been for his entire career.

About the only complaint might be that there wasn’t enough age-appropriate pitching, but that’s nitpicking. It’s happened before and to a (much) greater degree.

And with that, I turn to the Top 5’s…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Jose Marmolejos, 1B
.295 GPA, .495 SLG%
1. Erick Fedde, RHSP
2.85/3.22/1.13, 9.33 K/9
2. Drew Ward, 3B
.292 GPA, 11HR in 64G
2. Ryan Brinley, RHRP
1.37/2.68/0.89, 1.60 BB/9
3. Andrew Stevenson, CF
.266 GPA, 27SB in 68G
3. Philips Valdez, RHSP
3.74/3.42/1.15, 6+ IP in 7 of 11GS
4. Raudy Read, C
.250 GPA, 30 doubles in 101G
4. Mario Sanchez, RHRP
3.46/3.87/1.31, 23 of 32G for 2+ IP
5. Osvaldo Abreu, SS
.234 GPA, .824 OPS in Aug.
5. Gilberto Mendez, RHRP
2.01/2.82/1.16, 0HR in 49⅓ IP

Avoiding repeats was the challenge here since three of the Suns’ Top 5 might have been named here, too. While I’m still not a fan of Wilson Ramos’s Raudy Read’s defense, I can understand that if he can improve to passable, that bat could develop into something that every team wants: a catcher that can hit. Abreu did finish the season strong (.311/.366/.447 in last 33G) and does have the tools to be a good shortstop. Add that to an AFL nod, and that’s enough for me to put him onto this list.

The bevy of relievers, including one repeating the level, should hardly come as a surprise given the number of innings thrown by guys who no longer have to register for Selective Service (270⅔ excluding rehabs and position players).

Folks interested in seeing the full team’s statistics can find them here.

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.

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).

Offseason Update: Sept. 24, 2016

Well, it’s been a week. I know some of you are still smarting from another late-inning collapse by the big club, complete with the requisite angst of “the guy we traded away did better than the guy we traded for,” as well as another managerial blunder (pro tip: when you have a true CF available in the late innings, you might want to use him on defense), but this is a site devoted to the minor leagues, so let’s follow my digital 13’s from last year and see what’s what…


THE STATE OF THE FARM

Two of the seven affiliates made the playoffs (Hagerstown, Potomac) and two narrowly missed (Harrisburg, GCL). Unfortunately, the other three were not believers in corporal punishment (that’s no hitting, kids) and had league-average pitching (Syracuse, DSL) or worse (Auburn), which resulted in finishes at or near the bottom of the standings.

Naturally, this is not the best bellwether. The system generated another starter for the big club (Trea Turner) and was able to call on a trio of upper-level starters (A.J. Cole, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito) to fill in 16 times (as of this writing) for Joe Ross and Stephen Strasburg with subpar-but-not-bad-considering results (4-6, 5.11/5.04/1.51) as well as a hard-throwing reliever (Koda Glover). Even F.P. Santangelo can tell you that most of these guys were probably rushed a little, but it’s in line with the shift league-wide towards going younger.

As written in this space a year ago, the hopes for an influx of positional talent from the D.R. was fulfilled with the strong seasons from Juan Soto, Kelvin Gutierrez, and Jose “Orange” Marmolejos, with half-a-dozen or more guys behind them, though defense is a big “yeah, but” with the latter (e.g. Raudy Read, Osvaldo Abreu). And that’s not to overlook the ascendance of the age-appropriate Americans like Andrew Stevenson and Drew Ward.

In short, the system is still developing talent on both sides of the ball that can be used for both short-term and long-term needs.

BA TOP 20 LISTS
These are just starting up, so it looks like it’ll be another few days before we see our first Nationals, though I think most of us can probably guess it’ll be only a handful total and usually one or two (tops), for any given league. In other words, SSDY.

THE WATCHLIST AND THE GBI
A year ago, I was worried that this may have to be scrapped. I’m less worried about that than I am in keeping the GBI. I scaled it back this year and it still felt like a struggle to produce. I know it’s a popular feature, but if it stays, I think it’ll be monthly in 2017. My apologies in advance.

A SHOUTOUT TO DISTRICT ON DECK
My season reviews are much, much shorter than they used to be (like below). But one of the writers at District on Deck has taken on that task, and I’m passing along links to his work on the Potomac Nationals and, with my sympathies (for him, not you), the Syracuse Chiefs.

THE DSL NATIONALS
In a word, disappointing. While I don’t follow this level as closely as I used to, it just seems to me that a team with a lot of guys repeating the level should have done better. After being the youngest set of batters in the DSL in 2015, the pendulum swung back to just slight older than the league average (18.4 vs. 18.2) while the pitching staff was still younger (18.7 vs. 19.1).

As alluded to above, the offense was horrible: 35th in the 42-team league and more than a half-a-run worse than the league average (3.80 vs. 4.46). The pitching improved from near-the-worst (33rd out of 38) to middle-of-the pack (4.43 R/G vs. 4.46). The defense was, like 2015, slightly below average (.953FA vs. .957FA — remember, all we have to go on are the stats).

Without further comment, here are the obligatory Top 5’s, excluding the old-for-the-level players…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Jose Cabello, C/1B
.259 GPA, 28 BB
1. Yelmery Sisneros, LHSP
0.43/2.39/0.91, 4.56 K:BB ratio
2. Santo Falcon, CF
.234 GPA, 12 SB
2. Angel Guillen, RHSP
1.67/2.61/0.94, 4.17 K:BB ratio
3. Brailin Mesa, RF/LF
.225 GPA, 16 2B
3. Gilbert Chu, LHSP
3.18/2.68/0.96, 1.6 BB/9
4. Jesus Morales, 2B/3B
.215 GPA, 10E
4. Warner Duran, RHRP
1.65/2.59/1.22, 6BB in 32⅔ IP
5. Juan Pascal, SS
.209 GPA, 55 of 56G at SS
5. Jairon Peguero, LHRP
4.91/2.91/1.46, 0HR in 33IP

As you might imagine, there are no honorable mentions this year, especially since there were just two (2) batters above the league average and under the age of 20. Folks interested in seeing the entire team’s stats can find them here.