Nationals Arm Race

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

Minor League Rotations Cycle #14: good/bad/soso

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A.J. Cole has quietly begun to dominate low-A ball. photo: AP

(Programming Note: as you may have noticed, i’m about 3 versions of this recurring post behind.  A long weekend away and then two weeks of quick deadlines at work and todo items at home have conspired against these posts.  I hate it when life interferes with blogging!  Anyway, I’ve kept up-to-date the trends, copied over some of the “news and notes” from the older posts and will just pick up with the 14th cycle).

The time has come to add in Short-A (starting 6/17) and GCL (6/20).  There’s 15 arms assigned to the Auburn Doubledays, and it will take a bit to determine who the starters are.  I’ll do a couple of quick posts with predictions versus actual rosters (though predicting the short-season squads is really difficult, since most of the guys there are 2011 draftees).  As always, Sue Dinem has a nice post highlighting where the Auburn roster guys came from (2010 assignment or 2011 draftee).  Lastly, Byron Kerr highlighted the opening day for the Auburn affiliate.

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

Good

  • Brad Meyers rebounded from a string of sub-par to bad starts to take the win on 6/16.  Line: 7IP, 7H, 2ER, BB, 4K, HR.  Meyers has (to this point) kept up his unbelievable k/bb ratio (39 to 4 in AAA, 77 to 4 on the season), but has been struggled in AAA thus far (a 4.80 era and well over a hit per inning).
  • Tanner Roark also rebounded on 6/16, putting in a quality start (2er in 6ip).   He still seems to have taken a severe step backwards this year (with a 6.00 era on the season) and may be pitching his way out of the team’s long term plans.
  • AJ Cole struck out 9 in 5 innings on 6/16, giving him 40 (against 8 walks) in 32 low-A innings thus far.  I’ll take that from a 19yr old.
  • Ryan Demmin‘s return to starting pitching on 6/17 for Auburn went well; 5IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 3BB, 4K.  He washed out of Potomac’s bullpen earlier in the year; lets see if he can stick in Auburn’s rotation.
  • Collin Bates may not have started 6/17′s Auburn game, but he went 4 innings and clearly seems in competition for the rotation (so i’ll grade him here).  Results?  Pretty dominant: 4IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 3K.    Lets see if he gets a start the next time through the rotation.
  • Brad Peacock got a bit unlucky on 6/17, turning 4 hits over 7 innings into 3 runs, but another 7Ks to pad his gaudy season numbers helped him to the victory.   Honestly, I’m not sure what he really has left to prove in AA; why do we keep Stammen in the AAA rotation if he’s being used out of the pen when he gets called up?
  • Paul Demny had his best outing of the year on 6/18, pitching 5 innings of one-hit ball before making way for his bullpen.
  • Erik Arneson put up good numbers for Harrisburg (this time) on 6/19: 3 hits and 7 Ks over 6 innings.  As i’ve said before, Arneson seems to have picked the short straw and seems to be the organization’s go-to spot starter.

Bad

  • Evan Bronson got hit very hard on 6/16 on the day he seemingly took over Mitchell Clegg‘s rotation spot, giving up 11 hits in 5 and a third.
  • An ugly outing for Craig Stammen, perhaps jet-lagged from his brief callup on 6/18.  Line: 3IP 6H, 5ER, BB, 2K, 2HR.
  • Carlos Martinez got a spot start to cover for a Harrisburg doubleheader on 6/18, and in doing so became the 12th starter used in AA.  The result?  He showed why he’s not in the rotation, getting peppered for 6 hits and 3 runs over 4 innings.
  • Wirkin Estevez had an interesting game in Auburn’s 2nd game of the season on 6/18: 3⅔ IP, 9H, 6R, 6ER, BB, 6K.   9 hits but 6 Ks in less than 4 innings?   Estevez pitched well in the DSL last year, but history has shown that it may not translate to the continental pro game.
  • Yunesky Maya returned to Syracuse from a 4-game stint in the bigs, and must have been depressed for his 6/19 start.  He gave up 10 hits over 5 innings.  Unfortunately, I think he better get used to living in upstate New York for a while.  Amazingly he was in line for the victory by virtue of his team’s offense.
  • Pedro Encarnation‘s first short-A start was not terrible, but wasn’t great; 3/ 2/3 innings, 3 runs, 4 walks. I’m surprised he’s in the short-A rotation, given that he’s not really shown us much during his first two pro seasons.
  • A bad short-A start for Kelvin Lopez, another guy who wasn’t exactly great for us in the GCL last year.  Line: 3⅓ IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 2BB, 3K.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Shane McCatty had a run of the mill spot-start on 6/16: 4ip, 5 hits, 3 runs (2 earned).  It is the 2nd time in 2 weeks that one of the lesser bullpen arms in Hagerstown has been pressed into action.  Maybe they should have kept Garrett Mock down there for the playoff push.
  • Tommy Milone had a poor start (by his standards) on 6/17, giving up 7 hits and 5 runs (4 earned) in less than 6 innings.  He continues his mastery of the strike zone though, now standing at 82ks against 5 walks on the year.  Unfortunately, his ERA has been creeping up over the past few starts, leaking runs here and there.  I still think the team could make use of him in the rotation if the need arises, this year.
  • Erik Davis obviously was around the plate on 6/17, giving up 10 hits to go against 8Ks (and 0 walks) in a 6 inning effort.
  • Robbie Ray wasn’t quite as dominant as we’ve come to expect on 6/17, but only gave up one run through 5 to take a no-decision.  He gave up quite a few hits and didn’t have nearly the dominant K rates as he has in previous games.  He’s still been amazingly dominant considering his age and his lack of pro experience.
  • Trevor Holder‘s performance on 6/18 was probably better than his box score showed: 7 hits and 3 runs over 6 and a third, but all three runs came on one big homer.  It was enough to cost him the loss.
  • Taylor Jordan had a quality start on 6/18, but nothing special.  6ip, 3 runs, a couple of Ks.  He’s continued to get wins for Hagerstown with decent numbers and not-very-dominant stuff.  But he has a sub 3.00 era and doesn’t walk a ton of guys.  I don’t know how much upside that means.
  • Sammy Solis piched out the string for a Hagerstown team that was eliminated from the first half playoffs on 6/19: 4 innings, couple of earned runs, 5 ks.  Nothing bad, but nothing special.
  • Another mediocre (for him) start for Ross Detwiler on 6/20: 6⅔ IP, 3H, 2R, 2ER, 4BB, 3K.  I continue to maintain he’s injured in some way or another and trying to pitch through it.
  • Nathan Karns had an up-and-down rehab start in GCL (season opener on 6/20).  2⅔ IP, 1H, 0R, 2BB, 2K.  Its usually difficult to tell who the “starters” are in GCL, but we’ll do our best.

Relievers of Note and other Thoughts

  • Mark Zuckerman reports that Chien-Ming Wang is (finally) ready to leave extended spring training and go out on a rehab assignment.  This means he’s going to supplant a starter, somewhere in the system.  I’d guess he’s going to Potomac to start, as they seem to have the least-performing collection of starters right now and he’d completely overmatch the younger hitters in low-A.  The implication of his going out on a rehab assignment is this: he only gets 30 days in the minors (probably about 6 starts) before the Nats have to make a decision on what to do with him.  He has no minor league options, so in 30 days he either joins the 25-man roster, goes back on the DL or is DFA’d.  After all we’ve invested in him (and for the sake of his career), I’m hoping he still has something left.
  • The rotation in Harrisburg has proved challenging to keep up with; they’ve now used 11 different starters and we’re only about a 1/2 of the way through the season.  At the time of this writing I can’t tell any longer who is really in the rotation.  Tatusko seems back, but Arneson has pitched well out of the bullpen (though only mediocre as a spot-starter).  I guess its a good problem to have, as they’ve rolled to 10 straight wins recently and are getting pretty dominant performances out of 3/5ths of their rotation nearly every time out.
  • Jimmy Barthmaier got slaughtered out of the pen on 6/1, which broke up a decent string of appearances for him lately.  He’s got ugly season-long numbers, is old for AA, and may be on his way out.
  • Hagerstown relievers Shane McCatty and Ben Graham both got torched in a very odd 6/1 Hagerstown game.  Its the 3rd such god-awful outing for McCatty this year, sprinkled around decent ones.  Same story for Graham.  Both guys really aren’t getting the k/9 rates they need as bullpen options in the low-minors to have any shot of moving up.
  • Christopher Manno numbers, as of June 1st: 25 1/3 innings, 0 earned runs, 8 hits, FOURTY strikeouts against eight walks.  As frequent commenter Mark L might say, “what does this guy have to do to get promoted??”  He proved later on in the month that he is human (giving up a few runs here and there towards the end of the first half), but he still has dominant numbers and merits a promotion.
  • Ryan Mattheus looks like he’s fully recovered from 2009 Tommy John surgery, with 24 Ks in 21 innings and only 10 hits allowed through AA and AAA stints on the season.  If anything his numbers have improved at AAA.  His problem is 40-man status; he passed through waivers and was retained by the club, and I’m guessing they won’t want to put him back on until completely necessary (perhaps 9/1 callup?).  Update: he got his long awaited shot at the majors, having been added to the 40-man on 6/10/10. He replaces Cole Kimball, who has “right shoulder inflammation” (as nearly every major league pitcher does) and went on the 15-day DL. Kimball has been pretty effective thus far, but is walking guys far too often and the rest may do him some good.
  • Not that Bryce Harper is involved with the pitching in Hagerstown, but I thought i’d take a quick look at how he’s faring with his latest outburst.  As of 6/3, here’s his ranks in the entire Sally League in various categories: 6th in batting average (.346), 3rd in OBP (.432), t-1st in homers, 1st in RBI, 1st in Total bases, 3rd in OPS (1.055), and he’s even t-14th in stolen bases.  Not a bad set of rankings considering he’s like the 2nd youngest guy in the league.
  • Brad Peacock is starting to get noticed by some of the ESPN scouts.  Jason Grey featured Peacock on 6/2 from an NL-only fantasy perspective, noting he’s at 95mph with a “good” curve and a developing change-up.  That’s not going to be enough to be a major league starter.  Grey’s espn colleague Keith Law took a Peacock-related question on 6/2, noting that Peacock really is a one-pitch pitcher without an above-average 2nd pitch according to most scouts he’s asked about.  Neither of these reports is really that positive about Peacock’s future unfortunately.  My guess is that he will probably be told to start really working on his change-up, which reportedly has good velocity delta but not much movement and not much command.  You would have to think Peacock needs good command of that third pitch to have any shot at being a starter.
  • Interesting Harrisburg moves last week: Oliver Perez going to the DL, with Arneson continuing his pin-ball assignments throughout the organization, coming back down from Syracuse.  He seems to be the designated spot-starter/moving man this season. Erik Davis was on the DL for a quick trip and regains his rotation spot, but it remains to be seen what the rotations look like after this shakes out.
  • What is going on with Bobby Hansen??  He hasn’t appeared in a game for Hagerstown since 6/1, but isn’t on the DL.  He seems to have given his rotation spot to Sammy Solis … but hasn’t appeared since.  He wasn’t Hagerstown’s worst starter and had pretty good numbers as a 21-yr old in low-A.  Is he hurt?  Is he in the dog house?  Has he gone and hooked up with the manager’s daughter?
  • Tom Milone is starting to get noticed by the national press.  Rob Sickels had a feature on him on 6/20, as did Rob Neyer on sbnation.com
  • The busleaguesbaseball blog featured Auburn on 6/20.
  • 9-lives pitcher Garrett Mock was placed on the 7-day DL in Harrisburg after two brutal starts there.   As of 6/21, here’s the list of pitchers on the 7-day DL in AA: Mock, Perez, Atilano and Chico.  In other words, a collection of guys who are all way too old for AA and are closer to their outright release than making it back to the big club.
  • We may soon see a whole slew of 2011 draftees taking over rotation spots in Auburn.  Some of the “starters” we have there have not exactly impressed during their pro careers, and in some cases makes you wonder how they still have jobs.

Trends

Top 3 deserving promotion: Peacock, Ray, Milone
Top 3 whose jobs are in jeopardy: Mock, Holder, Grace

8 Responses to 'Minor League Rotations Cycle #14: good/bad/soso'

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  1. The story you’re missing on Taylor Jordan is the groundball rate. That 6/18 start produced 17 balls on the ground v. only 7 in the air. I don’t know of a site that calculates true GB/FB rate for the minors, but his GO/AO on the year is close to 2. And he’s put up great numbers with, frankly, a mediocre defensive infield that lets some balls through. He doesn’t look like he’s going to be a strikeout guy, but you could see him getting to Tim Hudson/Derek Lowe territory, particularly if he fills out a bit more. Strikes me as a Mike Rizzo sleeper guy.

    NG

    22 Jun 11 at 2:35 pm

  2. Fair enough. Honestly I usually just assume that low-minors pitchers aren’t prospects if they don’t at least have about a strikeout per inning rate and a whip below 1.20 or so. Not really a fair way to assess pitchers but so be it.

    I did a quick post a while back questioning how the GO/AO ratios were calculated, because I happened to look at it for someone and it was completely out of whack.

    Still, right now Jordan is the 4th best starter out of 5 in Hagerstown, probably more due to the quality of Solis, Cole and Ray than Jordan’s lack of talent. He’ll have to overcome and overtake guys like this to advance in the system.

    Todd Boss

    22 Jun 11 at 2:59 pm

  3. I hear Bobby Hansen is hurt and out for awhile.

    JoeB

    22 Jun 11 at 3:24 pm

  4. You have to think so … but then why not put him on the 7-day DL and get someone onto the roster from extended spring or short-A who can help? Maybe they knew they had extra starters to finish out the first half and didn’t want to bother? I mean, the upper levels were putting guys on the 7-day DL for 5 days, retroactive to a couple days prior just to carry an extra reliever between starts.

    Todd Boss

    22 Jun 11 at 4:09 pm

  5. I really don’t know. Word is Hansen is going to be out for the rest of the season.

    JoeB

    22 Jun 11 at 5:02 pm

  6. The minors arms is your most important work, Todd. If you’re running behind skip the other stuff but not this.
    You’ve been married how long and you’re already behind in your honey-do list? Not a good omen.
    Robbie Ray isn’t blow away dominant for one week and you’ve already relegated him to mediocre? No! No! No!!!!
    I’m afraid you’re right about Detwiler.
    Aren’t 75% of Nathan Karns starts seem to be rehab starts.

    Mark L

    22 Jun 11 at 5:06 pm

  7. I tell you, its tough to keep up. I am working on the “Age appropriate” stuff for the two short-season teams. Auburn’s staff already looks interesting.

    Married now 7 weeks. The hard part time-wise for me isn’t the honey-do list, its a change in work locations that has more than doubled my evening commute.

    I still have Ray as one of the 3 most deserving starters of a promotion in the system! I havnt’ lost faith. He just had a so-so start, not a fantastic one.

    Karns; drafted in 2009, late sign, then injured all of 2010 so his appearance this week was (as far as I can tell) his FIRST professional appearance. Man.

    Todd Boss

    22 Jun 11 at 5:13 pm

  8. As long as you understand tha ‘age appropriate’ status is much more important to batters than pitchers.

    A supportive spouse is so important for blogs such as yours. Lack of one is what killed the NFA.

    Mark L

    23 Jun 11 at 9:03 am

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