Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Minor League Rotations Cycle #6: good/bad/soso


AJ Cole may have been the "name" 2010 draftee debut, but Robbie Ray stole the show. Photo:

Lots of interesting news for the minor league rotations this time around.  The big news, (and I was as surprised by this news as Sue Dinem over at was the sudden promotion of both A.J. Cole and Robbie Ray to Hagerstown.  Cole’s promotion makes him the 3rd youngest pitcher in the Sally League (and Ray the 6th youngest) and is a fantastic indicator of the progress these guys have apparently made.  I thought at best they’d play in extended spring until the short seasons start, and then (maybe) play in short-A ball.

Here are the daily links from NationalsProspects, for reference below:


  • We’ll give Yunesky Maya a “good” for his 5/7 outing: 6⅔ IP 5H 2R 2ER 1BB 7K.  A “real” quality start with a K/inning, only one walk and a WHIP on the day < 1.0.    The third consecutive effective outing for Maya, coupled with a loss of form out of Detwiler, may be putting Maya into the pole position for “first Chief called up” if needed.
  • Potomac Ace Denny Rosenbaum put in a great 5/8 outing to salvage one win out of a four-game set against Kinston.  His outing: 7IP 6H 1R 1ER 1BB 7K.  Unfortunately he got a no-decision for his efforts.
  • How about Robbie Ray‘s 5/9 Hagerstown Debut?  No-hitter through 4, just one hit (and two batters above the minimum) through 5 complete innings.  Per Kilgore, not only did he not walk a guy, he never went 3balls on anyone either.  59 pitches, 46 strikes.  Line: 5IP 1H 0R 0BB 6K.  Yeah, that’s fantastic, especially for such a young starter.  WP Beat reporter Adam Kilgore wrote up Ray’s debut here.
  • Tom Milone had another excellent start in Syracuse on 5/10: 7⅔ IP 5H 3R 3ER 0BB 7K 1HR.  He was perfect through 3 and gave up just one hit through 6.  Oddly, after giving up a few sharp hits in the 7th he was brought back for the 8th, where he gave up a homer and a double before being taken out.  Perhaps the AAA manager was trying to stretch him out a bit, or get him to work through some adversity.
  • Craig Stammen helped the Chiefs win their 3rd straight on 5/11 with this line: 7⅓ IP 5H 2R 2ER 0BB 6K 1HR.


  • As Sue Dinem chronicled, Ryan Tatusko “labored” in his latest Harrisburg start on 5/7, giving up 9 hits (including 2 long balls) in just 3 innings pitched.
  • Brad Peacock was cruising along in his 5/8 start, having retired 12 of the first 14 batters he faced before just falling apart in the 5th inning.  A walk and then 5 straight hits knocked him out of the game, giving him his worst start of the year.  Final line: 4⅓ IP 6H 5R 5ER 2BB 6K.
  • Chris McKenzie got hammered again in Hagerstown on 5/8: 2IP 7H 7R 7ER 2BB 3K.  He probably loses his spot when Taylor Jordan comes off the 7-day DL.


  • Cameron Selik‘s Potomac debut on 5/7 went ok; 6IP 4H 3R 2ER 4BB 3K 2HR.  He must have been amped up for his appearance; 8 of his 10 outs were recorded by fly balls, indicating that his ball was up.  He also issued 4 walks.  Its hard to kill a guy on his debut after a well earned promotion, especially if his only two earned runs were both on homers.
  • Spot Starter (presumably) Evan Bronson was the unlucky loser on 5/7, giving up just 1 earned run in 4 2/3 but taking the loss in the bottom half of the double-header.  Line: 4⅔ IP 5H 1R 1ER 2BB 0K.   We’ll have to see if Bronson takes Mitchell Clegg‘s rotation spot after a couple of serviceable outings.
  • A.J. Cole‘s debut start in Hagerstown on 5/7 went ok.  His line: 3⅔ IP 5H 2R 2ER 2BB 3K 1HR.  He seemed to scatter the hits and walks well, and may have gotten a rather quick hook in the 4th (he had two outs and had just given up a single, it wasn’t as if he was getting clocked that inning).  He’s got plenty more starts to show us what he has.
  • Another mediocre start from supposed ready-for-the-majors starter Ross Detwiler in Syracuse on 5/8.  6IP 6H 4R 4ER 3BB 6K.  He needs to do better; he should be dominating these weaker AAA hitters, not getting bounced around.
  • Brad Meyers gets a mediocre for his first AAA start on 5/9; 5IP 5H 4R 4ER 1BB 5K.  He gave up two quick hits and a run to open the game, then retired 10 straight before leaking a 2nd run in the 4th.  In the 5th a leadoff walk came back to burn him, scoring on an infield grounder before a triple scored the 4th and last run he surrendered.  All in all, his ERA will look bad (7.20 on the night) but he only gave up 6 baserunners in 5 innings.
  • Erik Arneson had a decent first AA start on 5/9, going for 5⅓ IP 5H 2R 2ER 1BB 6K.  I’m putting it mediocre on account that Arneson is 27 and should be in AAA, not putting up quality starts in AA.
  • Michell Clegg‘s 5/9 start was certainly better than his last: 5IP 6H 2R 2ER 1BB 3K.  He’s still  yet to really put in a dominating start in Potomac.
  • I can’t quite give Shairon Martis a “good” outing for his quality start on 5/10: 6IP 6H 2R 2ER 1BB 3K 1HR.  Perhaps its because i’m holding him to a higher standard, perhaps its because he’s not really dominating AA hitters like he should.  To me, a guy that pitched a half a season in a big-league rotation should be shutting out AA hitting.
  • On the fact of it, Trevor Holder‘s 5/10 line in Potomac was pretty bad: 6⅓ IP 8H 5R 4ER 0BB 2K.  However, reading the game log you get a different story.  After giving up 2 runs in a rough 2nd inning, Holder pitched 4 relatively clean innings.  He fell apart int he 7th though, giving up 4 straight hits and 3 runs.  Still, not enough Ks for me.  Holder has yet to put in a “good” line this season and it should be just a matter of time before Frias or Bronson replaces him in the Potomac rotation.
  • Bobby Hansen had a ho-hum quality start on 5/10: 6IP 7H 3R 2ER 3BB 4K.  Too many base-runners for me, despite his getting the win.
  • Erik Davis‘s 5/11 start was cut short after 2 innings with a knee injury.
  • Taylor Jordan‘s return from the DL in Hagerstown on 5/11 was ok: 6IP 7H 5R 2ER 0BB 0K.  I like the 6ip with no walks, but did not like his 3rd inning; he gave up 6 straight hits to give up 5 runs, though only 2 were earned because of a couple errors thrown in.  All in all, a good return back for Hagerstown’s new “Ace.”
  • Paul Demny‘s 5/11 start in Potomac was just on this side of bad: 6ip 4hits, 4runs, 2 walks and 6ks.  He gave up two bombs but still hung on to get the victory.

Relievers of Note and other Thoughts

  • MASN’s Byron Kerr featured Potomac’s GWU graduate Pat Lehman in this piece.  He’s definitely pitching lights out as the P-Nats closer, having only given up one run in 11 innings so far this year.
  • Jimmy Barthaimer let Saturday’s 5/7 Harrisburg game get completely out of control, giving up 5 earned runs in just an inning.  It sounds as if some shaky defense and a missed call caused him to lose his focus.  It happens (especially in the minors, where neither umpires or your defense is as good as you need it to be on the mound), but you have to work around it.  To make matters worse, he followed this performance up on 5/11 by giving up 5 runs in 3 relief innings (albeit with 5 Ks).
  • Matt Chico‘s attempts to convert to being a reliever continue to go badly, getting shelled on 5/11 to the tune of 2IP 5H 5R 4ER 0BB 1K 1HR.
  • Selik seems to have taken Marcos Frias’ rotation spot for the time being, though the rain-out/double headers in Potomac make it somewhat difficult to tell for sure.  Someone definitely has to make way though; I can’t see the team going to a 6 man rotation.
  • Jeff Mandel continues to look sharp in the Syracuse pen, holding a 0.57 whip through 7 innings.
  • Cole Kimball looks nearly as good in the Syracuse pen, having yet to give up a run through 11 2/3 innings and the first week of march in the closer role.  He’s got a bit too many walks but lots of Ks and not a lot of hits.
  • There must have been something in the water in Harrisburg on Sunday; after Peacock fell apart both Matt Chico and Carlos Martinez both got hammered as well, contributing to a 15-6 loss.
  • Josh Smoker may be finally putting it together in Potomac; he has 1 ER in 11 2/3 innings through 5/8.  A bit too many walks, but he’s also getting lots of Ks.  He worked out of a jam quite nicely on 5/10.
  • Christopher Manno keeps on cruising; 2 scoreless innings and another 2Ks on 5/8 give him a fairly ridiculous line on the season right now.  22ks versus 2bbs in 14 1/3 innings as of 5/8.  There are guys in the Potomac bullpen holding on by a thread (Wort and Olbrychowski in particular) that could make way, soon.
  • Ryan Mattheus, a AA reclamation project at this point in his career, is pitching pretty well post-surgery.  One run allowed in 12 innings on the season so far.  He’s a former 40-man member and is probably a bit too experienced for AA, but it is a good sign that he’s pitching well.
  • Matt Grace seems to have lost his rotation spot with Jordan’s return from the DL and the promotions of Cole and Ray.


AAA trends (in rotation order)
Maya        bad,soso,soso,good,great,good
Detwiler    good,good,soso,soso,bad,soso
Meyers    soso
Milone    good,soso,soso,bad,great,good
Stammen    good,soso,great,bad,soso,good

AA Trends:
Martis     bad,bad,soso,soso
EDavis    good,soso,good,bad,soso,incomplete (knee injury)
Tatusko    soso,bad,bad,soso,good,bad
Peacock    soso,good,great,good,very good,bad
Arneson    soso

High-A Trends:
Rosenbaum    soso,good,good,soso,good,good
Clegg        soso,soso,soso,unbelievably bad,soso
Holder    soso,bad,bad,soso,soso,soso
Demny        good,bad,good,good,soso
Selik        soso

Low-A Trends:
Jordan    good,soso,good,good->dl,soso
Cole        soso
McKenzie    good,bad,bad,bad,good
Ray        great
Hansen    soso,good,very bad,very good,soso,soso

Top 5 deserving promotion: Manno, Rosenbaum, Lehman, Kimball, Mattheus
Top 5 whose jobs are in jeopardy: McKenzie, Wort, Olbrychowski, Barthmaier, Tatusko

Written by Todd Boss

May 12th, 2011 at 5:37 pm

3 Responses to 'Minor League Rotations Cycle #6: good/bad/soso'

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  1. Great stuff, Todd. You have to stop double posting your articles, it’s bad for business as some of your posts get lost in the mix.

    That being said, we now have 2 ‘lights out’ closers down on the farm. Both Manno & Lehman have been virtually unhittable all season so far.
    Last week Lehman came in the 8th with the game on the line with bases loaded with nobody out and proceeded to blow away 6 straight hitters. It doesn’t get anny more exciting than that, and a local product to boot.

    I’m officiall also on the Manno bandwagon, a Duke product signed for $1.75 and thrown to the wolves and just gets everybody out. They should both move up together and my, doesn’t the future look bright.

    Mark L

    13 May 11 at 4:28 pm

  2. I’ve learned about 2 posts in a day for sure. What i’m also learning is that I like seeing “opinion” pieces out there from blogs, instead of re-caps/re-hashes. It seems like the Natmosphere is full of lots of blogs that want to be mini-cub reporters versus providing analysis and editorials.

    These rotational recap pieces may be more about “reporting” and less about “opinion,” but its so hard to keep track of so many arms that i’ve been doing this myself for a while regardless.

    One of my new favorite links is the franchise depth charts at they have a “closer” section that lets you compare and contrast. Manno’s numbers are indeed ridiculous but Lehman is just as clean. Unfortunately neither really has anywhere to go, since Mattheus holds the AA role and (despite yesterday’s blow up) is probably goign to be given every shot to keep it.

    Todd Boss

    13 May 11 at 4:46 pm

  3. There’s some excess arms in the system; I still think a 3 for 1, 4 for 1 trade would do the Nats well and maybe pick up something special.

    I know Mattheus less than you, but Lehman & Manno will soon be going stale where they are.

    Mark L

    14 May 11 at 4:06 pm

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