Because of the importance of developing starting pitching in the modern baseball game, I’ve always tried to focus on the minor league rotations, looking for the next John Lannan (meaning, a lower round draft pick never expected to become a regular MLB starter) to rise through and force his way into the discussion for 2011 and beyond. With 4 full-season teams all starting at the same time (and 2 more short-season teams starting up mid-June), i’ll try to do a quick review of the progress, start by start, of our minor league affiliates. I will focus mostly on Starters but mention relievers of note.
For this analysis I depend heavily on the excellent reviews at NationalsProspects.com, as well as a series of level-by-level links that you can find at my personal “cheat sheet” of websites (scroll to the bottom for the affiliate-specific links for rosters, stats, schedules, and local paper links). If it were not for “Sue Dinem” and April Whitzman at that site carrying on the flame for Brian Oliver and natsfarmauthority.com, it would be far more difficult to follow the minor leagues for all of us. Thank you, again, for all that you do.
Here are the daily links from NationalsProspects, for reference below:
- Thursday 4/7 game reviews (opening day for most minor league affiliates)
- Friday 4/8 game reviews
- Saturday 4/9 game reviews
- Sunday 4/10 game reviews
- Monday 4/11 game reviews
- Brad Meyers picks up right where he left off last season: 5IP 4H 0R 0BB 9K in his opening day start. The staff had 15 k’s on the day against a very strong Bowie team (11 of the Orioles’ top 30 prospects are at Bowie).
- Cameron Selik’s professional starting debut went very well in Hagerstown: 5IP 4H 0R 0BB 4K. Not as overpowering as Meyers but 5 shutout innings with no walks is a good sign.
- Ross Detwiler’s AAA debut was quite dominant; 6IP 4H 1ER 1BB 8K. Remember, he’s not in AAA because he didn’t pitch his way off the major league roster. I still believe he’s the first to be called up when needed.
- Lefty Matt Grace pitched well in his debut in Hagerstown: 6IP 4H 0R 0BB 4K. I like the sleeper capabilities of Grace, an 8th round pick in 2010 out of UCLA.
- Garrett Mock’s Nationals career continues on; he went 5 2/3s, 3 hits, 3bbs 1 run (on a homer) and 6 Ks in a ND against the Philadelphia AAA team from Lehigh Valley.
- Chris McKenzie’s initial start was very good: 5IP 1H 1R 1ER 3BB 3K. He’s young too; he doesn’t turn 22 til after the season. A far cry from his numbers up in Vermont last season.
- Tom Milone’s 4/10 start was clean and efficient: 7.0IP 5H 0ER 0BB 4K. You can’t quibble with 7 shutout innings and no walks in AAA. All he’s done the last two seasons is produce, level by level.
- Craig Stammen’s return to the rotation (after seemingly being considered for the MLB club as a middle reliever during spring training) went well: 5IP 3H 1ER 1BB 3K. He’s in a tough spot; his FIP/xFIP numbers last year indicated he was pitching around MLB average for all starters (his numbers were 3.95/3.97, MLB median for qualified starters in 2010 was 3.85/4.09). But his “regular” numbers were bad; era of 5.06 and whip of 1.46. In some ways he’s kinda like JD Martin; he doesn’t really dazzle you with his stuff, but he gets it done.
- Marcos Frias took a loss in his opening start for Potomac but pitched well; 6IP 4H 1R 1ER 1BB 2K. Lets hope his 2nd year in high-A goes better than his first (a 5.69 era in 2010).
- Yunesky Maya’s opening day start was horrible. 4.2IP 8H 5ER 2BB 2K 1HR. I’m a big Maya fan and want to see him succeed, but lines like this will make his signing seem like a mistake.
- Ryan Tatusko’s first start was cut short after just 4 innings (not sure why; he was only at 73 pitches). 4 hits, 4 walks, 5 Ks and 2 earned runs for a mediocre start. Harrisburg’s offense couldn’t score any runs on the day so he wasn’t getting the Win regardless.
- Denny Rosenbaum’s loss on 4/9 wasn’t that bad really; 5IP 2H 3R 2ER 3BB 4K. Sue Dinem reported that two walks and an error led to a bases-clearing double. Rosenbaum struck out 4 of the first 7 batters he faced, then retired the last 8 hitters after the double. So I like the capability of dominance.
- Luis Atilano’s line in his AA start (5.0IP 4H 2ER 2BB 2K) may seem ok, but I’d expect more from a guy who was pitching in the majors last year. He is coming back from elbow surgery, so perhaps this is just rust. Either way, i’m slightly surprised at this point to see him in any of our minor league rotations, given his removal from the 40-man and thus his lowered prospect status.
- Trevor Holder had a so-so start in high-A; 6IP 6H 3R 3ER 2BB 3K. Potomac blogger Sue Dinem notes that (paraphrasing) Holder doesn’t have blow-it-by-you stuff and has to keep his pitches down to succeed (something he didn’t do much of yesterday). I agree with commenters on the above link; Holder was an overdraft to begin with and was just OK last year in Potomac. He may be bound for the bullpen.
- Bobby Hansen’s first Hagerstown start was decent: 5IP 7H 2R 2ER BB 5K. Too many baserunners but I like the K/inning rate. He’s a youngster (doesn’t turn 22 til after the season) and a lefty, so I won’t be too critical.
- The Hagerstown Rotation has been fun to predict and now see unfold for those of us who track these things. My offseason prediction was Solis, Clegg, Demny, Jenkins, and Grace. Then when the roster was announced (and as it turned out Clegg/Demny were in high-A and Solis on the DL) I predicted Grace, Hansen, Jenkins, Jordan and McKenzie. One turn through the rotation now seems to be Selik, Grace, McKenzie, Hansen and Jordan, with Applebee as a spot-starter. Solis probably is still in the picture; he had a muscle injury and is extended spring training right now.
- JD Martin, whose retainment I have questioned in this forum based on his lack of upside, his age and his here-to-fore demonstrated performance in the majors, seems (at least so far) to be the long-man out of Syracuse’s bullpen and NOT in the rotation. He pitched 4 innings of relief on 4/8, and while he pitched well (4IP 1H 0R 1BB 3K) I still don’t see him in the majors for us again (he successfully was outrighted to AAA and his 40-man slot may never appear again).
- As a possible consequence of the Martin decision, Craig Stammen is (at least for now) featuring as a AAA starter. I find this somewhat encouraging for him right now; I think he can still produce as a starter. But he may get moved to long-man as our AA prospects force promotions.
- Matt Chico seems to be now relegated to a LOOGY role in AAA, which may not be a bad thing for the team. Slaten has struggled in the role and Chico could make his way back to the majors in a lefty specialist role. I like this option, since Chico clearly can be stretched out and give the team spot starter/long relief as needed (especially since the team basically can’t use Broderick for anything but mop up duty right now).
- Commenter favorite Christopher Manno indeed seems to be the closer in Hagerstown, getting the save in friday’s game.
- Newly acquired Alex Caldera is off to a rocky start; he got absolutely shelled on 4/11.
- Late spring training acquisition Lee Hyde has been up and down so far for Syracuse.
All in all, a bunch of really encouraging starts up and down the system during the season’s first week. Great news. Only one really “bad” start in the whole system. A bunch of rain outs over the last couple days prevented us from seeing several starters during the first “turn” through the rotation, but double headers for Potomac and Hagerstown will get everyone started.