AFL/Offseason Update: Nov. 4, 2017

The Solar Sox were eclipsed on a one-hit shutout yesterday, 3-0 to end the week.

And because we can’t have one day without (contrived) Victor Robles drama, the Nats top prospect played just one inning yesterday and exited without official explanation. He popped up to short in the top half of the inning and caught the final out in the bottom half.

Daniel Johnson replaced Robles in center field but went hitless again (0-3, 2K), as did Taylor Gushue (ditto). Kelvin Gutierrez pinch-walked and played third base for the final two innings.

Austen Williams was the first man out of the Mesa ‘pen and gave up a run on four hits over two innings. He threw 31 pitches, 24 for strikes.

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TRANSACTION UPDATE
Minor-League Free Agency begins at 5 p.m. on Monday. Not coincidentally, Wander Suero was added to the 40-man roster yesterday rather than re-sign as he did last November 3rd. In other news, Erik Davis declared free agency while Esmil Rogers was released.

THE BA TOP 10
Baseball America’s fall SEO campaign 2018 prospect rankings began last week with the Braves, Marlins, and Mets and continued this week with the Phillies and the Nationals (paid sub to read all).

As noted in the comments, the list is skewed towards major IFAs who have yet to play a full season and the top two pitchers taken last June. Just three of the top 10 have played more than one full season, and given the current state of the big club, it’s not outlandish to consider that perhaps two of those players will be on the 25-man roster by the middle of next summer.

THE SYRACUSE CHIEFS
They were bad. Very, very bad.

There’s really not much more to say. The team was old, slow, and had no power on offense and the pitchers were hit-prone (both bats and bodies) and couldn’t miss bats. About the only thing they weren’t in the bottom third was defense, but that may be in part because the players were kept in good shape with all the balls they had to chase.

Somehow, there were enough home-grown, replacement-level players available to the big club when needed, including roughly half-a-dozen homegrown guys. But it would be foolish to infer that had there been fewer injuries in DC, the team would have been significantly better, and specious to even attempt to name/rank these players.

The best thing that could happen for all of them is for them to not be needed so they can indeed play every day and perhaps play well enough to get traded — or be more prepared for their next trip to the Show.

As always, if you’re so inclined to see the full team’s stats, you can find them here.

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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SYRACUSE CHIEFS SALE PRICE REVEALED
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.

THE POTOMAC NATIONALS
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/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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BA TOP PROSPECT LISTS
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.

TRANSACTION UPDATE
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 LEAGUE SIGHTINGS
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.

THE HAGERSTOWN SUNS
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)….

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
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.

Offseason Update: Oct. 7, 2017

They only got two hits. Neither was a home run. You tend to lose those games when that happens, no matter how well your pitcher pitched.

Back to our weekly minors update…

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
With the addition of Victor Robles to Washington’s NLDS roster, his replacement on the Mesa Solar Sox roster has not yet been named. Should Rizzo’s sports bar continue its anti-DUI practice–you’re done after one round–it’s still possible that he could play in the opening game on Tuesday.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
As usual, the Nats had no top 20 prospects in the New York Penn League Top 20. There was just one question in the NYPL Top 20 chat:

Sammy (DC): Where would you have placed Seth Romero on this list? Any word on whether or not his makeup had improved?

J.J. Cooper: The reviews were less complimentary than expected. The stuff was solid as he showed three average or better pitches, but the slider wasn’t as devastating as evaluators expected. Fellow 2017 Nats draftee Nick Raquet looks just as good or better with a plus fastball, some funk to his delivery and a quality breaking ball. Romero may have been rusty after a long layoff, but next season is a big one for him as he needs to show consistency both on the mound and being a professional off of it.

TRANSACTION STUFF
Just two re-signings: RHPs Wirkin Estevez and Greg Ross.

THE AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
It’s been five straight seasons without a winner at Falcon Park (the home team, natch), which may lead some folks to wonder about the water in the region. Alas, it would appear to be more attributable to either drafting lower or better prospects skipping past the level.

Unlike a year ago, hitting was not the problem. The Doubledays were fourth in runs scored (4.33 R/G), which you’d expect from the oldest team in the league. Almost 60% of the PAs were made players older than 21 and almost 16% by players 23 or older excluding rehabs.

It was the pitching: 13th in the 14-team NYPL at 4.89 R/G (Lg. Avg. 4.05), surpassed only by the team they tied for last place in the Pinckney Division, Batavia, at 4.93. The relief pitching in particular was bad, with several relievers sporting ERAs of 5.00 or higher and FIPs above 4.00 (i.e. nearly a run higher than lg. avg).

As I typically do with cellar-dwelling teams, I’m combining the list into one. Like the GCL and DSL, I’m excluding age-inappropriate players. But this year, I’m not ranking them because it’ll just create pointless arguments in the comments. The sample sizes here are so small and there are some rather noticeable red flags in the stats, as “meaningless” as they may be.

Wil Crowe, RHSP 0-0, 0SV, 7GS, 2.61/4.45/1.02, 3HR in 20⅔ IP
Kameron Esthay, OF .273/.320/.411, 5HR, 30RBI in 52G
Gabe Klobosits, RHRP 0-0, 5SV, 15G, 1.66/2.74/1.15, promoted twice in 1st yr.
Nick Raquet, LHSP 3-2, 0SV, 11GS 2.45/3.55/1.23; 3.9 K/9
Seth Romero, LHSP 0-1, 0SV, 6GS 5.40/1.13/1.25; 14.4 K/9
Chance Shepard, 1B/DH .249/.372/.459, 7HR in 54G
Jackson Tetrault, RHSP 2-2, 0SV, 11G, 6GS, 2.58/3.15/1.25, 38⅓ IP

For those wondering about Oliver Ortiz and Andres Martinez, who are age-appropriate and had decent production: both were repeating the level and/or had been dropped down from Hagerstown. Full stats for the team can be found here.

Offseason Update: Sept. 30, 2017

We’re down to the final weekend, wondering not who the big club will play in the NLDS, but when. Is it okay to root for an odd start time in hopes of snagging a ticket on the resale market? Asking for a friend.

Alas, plenty o’ places to discuss that, but we’re just little ol’ minors site…

BA TOP 20 LISTS
As expected, Victor Robles also made the Carolina League Top 20, albeit as only the #2, and was joined by Daniel Johnson at #18. Double-dipping is what BA does, and thus Johnson also made the Sally Lg. top 20 at #13. Carter Kieboom’s incumbency and an impressive showing in an abbreviated season (210 of 255PA at Hagerstown) made him the #8 pick. For those who obsess over the departed, Sheldon “Come On Feel The” Neuse was the #20 pick but McKenzie Mills was not ranked.

A couple of tidbits from yesterday’s chat:

Noel (Portland): Is Kieboom likely a 2b in the bug leagues?
J.J. Cooper: More likely a 2b or 3B than SS, but he has enough feel to maybe make SS work for a while.

Nats Fan (DC): When comparing Victor Robles to Juan Soto, it’s obvious that Robles is the far superior defender. However, when comparing them offensively, is it fair to say that Robles profiles as a #2 spot hitting CF who will hit .280 with 12-15 HRs a year while Juan Soto is your prototypical #3/#4 who in his prime should be hitting .300+ with 25-30 HRs?
J.J. Cooper: I’d say that’s fair. A lot of projection involved here, but Robles’ value comes more from speed/defense. Soto is a bat-first prospect.

Soto did not have enough at-bats to qualify for the list.

TRANSACTIONS
It’s a Yukon Cornelius week.

THE 2017 GCL NATIONALS
Thanks to the suggestion to stop covering the Chiefs, the G-Nats were watched the most closely since 2014. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was another playoff run, as they made it to the GCL Finals but lost the best-of-three series 2-1 to the G-Yankees East. Pitching carried this team, as they were the fifth-best team at 3.95 R/G and had just a slightly-better-than-league-average offense (4.57 vs. 4.51 R/G) while the defense was below-average.

What’s perhaps most encouraging is that the four most-used players on offense were 17 or younger and were in their first professional season. Two of them were even better than the league average, which is impressive for any first-year player, never mind one too young to vote in this country (if he was a U.S. citizen, natch). And while Yasel Antuna may have been a running joke for his 20 errors in 21 games at SS, methinks they’ll find position for his .301/.382/.399 bat stay in the lineup.

Now, for the reminder that the sample sizes here are small, as are the odds of many of these guys to rise above Low-A.

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Justin Connell, LF
.274 GPA, .407 OBP
1. Tomas Alastre, RHSP
2.55/3.38/1.02, 6.2 H/9IP
2. Yasel Antuna, SS
.272 GPA, 23BB
2. Angel Guillen, RHRP
3.42/3.00/1.18, 1.9 BB/9
3. Luis Garcia, 2B
.245 GPA, .387 SLG%
3. Jackson Stoeckinger, LHSP
4.73/2.49/1.31, 10.46 K/9IP
4. Jamori Blash, 1B
.237 GPA, .985 FA
4. Darly Infante, LHRP
4.43/3.69/1.39, 10.48 K/9IP
5. Juan Evangelista, RF
.235 GPA, 3HR
5. Jose Jimenez, LHRP
1.35/3.87/1.13, 1.9 BB/9

The hype went to the IFAs but the most production came from 18-y.o. Justin Connell, an 11th Rd. pick from Pembroke Pines, FL. Honorable mentions go to 35th-Rd. pick Jackson Cramer, who turns 23 in December, and 22nd-Rd. pick 19-y.o. Nelson Galindez at 1B and RHSP respectively. The full team’s statistics can be viewed here.

Offseason Update: Sept. 23, 2017

Fall arrived yesterday afternoon but we’ve yet to see the chill rains come. The big Nats are lurching towards the postseason, the drama reduced to who will make the postseason roster (a.k.a. who’s healthy enough to play) and how he’ll be used.

100 wins? Home-field advantage? Both possible but not probable. Even Stevie Wonder can see that Dusty Baker has been managing the club to minimize fatigue, which has prompted the knee-jerk comparisons to spring training.

But we’re here to talk/read about the minor-leaguers….

STATE OF THE FARM
As noted in the comments, the Nats were near the bottom of the collective standings with a .456 winning percentage, tied with the Mets. While it’s tempting to put that all on the Syracuse Chiefs, the worst team in AAA at 54-87, the Harrisburg Senators (60-80), Auburn Doubledays (30-45), and DSL Nationals (28-43) also “contributed.”

Unlike a year ago, we can’t point to the breakthrough of a new starter or position player or even a key reliever. It was supplying the “next man up” (my apologies, but DC is still a football town) for the bevy of injuries that have dogged this team/organization like they were wearing Milk-Bone underwear even more than last season, which was a lot.

There’s still some guys to be excited about, but the vast majority of them are in the lower minors, which means a lot of the buzz is based on things that are constant variables like their age or their draft position. And if we’re honest, there are roughly half a dozen guys that wouldn’t make a Top 30 list in most other organizations.

I can’t say that the organization isn’t still meeting the bare minimum requirements of developing talent that can be useful to the big club, albeit mostly in depth and trading chips. But I can say it’s not doing much else.

BA TOP 20 LISTS
I’m sure you’ve gotten over the shock of not a single Chief making the International League Top 20 for Baseball America, but you may be a little surprised that two Nationals farmhands made BA’s Eastern League Top 20 – Victor Robles and Erick Fedde.

About the only argument you can make against Robles is that he didn’t play enough, though BA – as it usually does – sets the bar very low: just one PA or ⅓ IP per team game for position players and starting pitchers (20 appearances for relievers). Personally, I’d set it at about twice those marks, except for the relievers; that does seem about right.

Fedde, on the other hand, wasn’t exactly dominant at any level this season. Yes, I know it’s not all about stats but I do believe the two are not mutually exclusive. I’d also have to question his placement since he split time between starting and relieving for Harrisburg. But incumbency is also a BA hallmark…

I’d expect Robles to make the Carolina League Top 20, and FWIW, Carter Kieboom does have the necessary number of PAs for the Sally Lg. so stay tuned this week.

THE WATCHLIST AND THE GBI
As noted a year ago, these have become more difficult to do. The system isn’t as deep as it used to be (or seemed to be) and all the losing tends not to produce the kind of numbers or streaks that are “G-worthy.” I had forgotten about my “note to self” to drop the GBI from every three weeks to monthly. That seems about right these days, and that’ll be the goal in 2018.

As for the watchlist, it may get shorter, but it’s a core part of the offseason ritual, and it’s how I get caught up on the short-season guys, so I don’t see it going away.

TRANSACTION UPDATE
We’re now in the re-signing season, where would-be FAs opt to stick around rather than try their luck elsewhere:
• RHP Brady Dragmire
• LHP Hector Silvestre
• IF-OF Khayyan Norfork

No huge surprises here. Dragmire was (finally) starting to pitch well at the end of the season. Silvestre turns 25 in December and has yet to pitch above High-A, but between Washington’s pitching-starved upper minors, and it’s “sunk-cost” approach to Dominican prospects, he might get that chance in 2018. Norfork has made a career thus far on his versatility, and let’s face it: He could be the next Adrian Sanchez.

THE DSL NATIONALS
Despite having a handful of players in their third DSL season, the team actually had a fairly normal blend of players in terms of age. Like a year ago, the batters were a shade older than league average (18.2 vs. 18.1) while the pitchers were slightly younger (18.4 vs. 18.7).

The offense was right around league average (4.65 R/G vs. 4.60) but the pitching was 35th in the 40-team DSL and nearly a run worse (5.49) per game. The defense was also right around league average (.955 FA vs. .956). All of this is sight-unseen, strictly numbers-based observation, so take it with a fistful of salt.

Without further comment, here are the obligatory Top 5’s, excluding “three-timers” and players who were old for the level…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Wilmer Perez, C/1B/DH
.288 GPA, 17-2B, 4-3B, 3HR
1. Alfonso Hernandez, LHSP
2.10/2.53/1.17, 9.86 K/9IP
2. Adrian Liriano, SS/2B
.242 GPA, 15BB
2. Rafael Gomez, RHSP
4.09/2.88/1.27, 1HR in 55IP
3. Landerson Pena, RF/LF
.244 GPA, 13SB
3. Joan Adon, RHRP
3.54/3.12/0.96, 9.96 K/9IP
4. Luis Aquino, SS/LF
.240 GPA, 19SB
4. Niomar Gomez, RHSP
4.07/3.17/1.27, 2.52 K:BB ratio
5. Caldioli Sanfler, CF
.237 GPA, 58 of 60G at CF, .984 FA
5. Pedro Gonzalez, RHSP
5.30/3.51/1.63, 12GS, 52⅔ IP, turned 17 in July

An honorable mention goes to Geraldi Diaz, the analog to Pedro Gonzalez. He also turned 17 in July and appeared in 41 games behind the plate with a .989 fielding percentage while hitting .001 below the .232 league-average GPA. Folks interested in seeing the entire team’s stats can find them here.

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.