- Click here for the 2011 version of this post, for a look at how things were last year.
Here’s the Low-A version of the 2012 season pitching staff review. I’m going down the line from top to bottom; AAA is here, AA is here, High-A is here. As with the other reviews, we’ll look at the main rotation, the substitute and spot starters, then focus on key relievers. Rehab appearances are generally not mentioned. The lower you get in the minors, the harder it is to really pass judgement on a player’s real capabilities or career outlook, so take some of these evaluations with a grain of salt.
The rotations in the lower minor leagues are also not nearly as clean as in the upper-levels. Lots of times the “starter” is slated to go as many innings as the “reliever,” a way to get two starter candidates longer stretches of innings. We’ll try to take that into consideration as we move forward.
Hagerstown starters. The rotation started the season with Estevez, Dupra/Karns, Meyer, Turnbull/Hill, and McKenzie. No less than 18 different guys started a game for Hagerstown this year (two of them on rehab assignments). Lets see how the original rotation and other primary starters fared.
- Wirkin Estevez was 5-2 with a 5.76 ERA in 12 low-A starts in the early and later parts of the season; he missed two full months with an unspecified injury. He was no better after returning than before. He was frequently victimized by the long ball, giving up 6 in 60 innings. Outlook for next season: he’s young (turned 20 in March, if you trust D.R. birthdays) and he was effective last year in short-A. He returns to low-A, but is dumped to the bullpen in the face of a glut of competition for rotation spots.
- Brian Dupra got absolutely lit up in 11 appearances (8 starts) in April and May before suffering a season-ending injury 5/31. Line on the season: 3-4 with a 7.17 era in 37 2/3 innings. Outlook for next season: bullpen arm in Low-A.
- Nathan Karns threw 44 outstanding innings in low-A before he was deservedly promoted to Potomac. We discussed him at length there. Outlook for next season: (from high-A post): AA rotation.
- Alex Meyer was 7-4 in 18 starts for Hagerstown before getting promoted to Potomac. We discussed him at length there. Outlook for next season: (from High-A post): High-A rotation again with an eye towards quick promotion to AA.
- Kylin Turnbull got his first pro innings in 2012, being a relatively high draft pick (4th rounder) in 2011. The 21-yr old lefty gave Hagerstown 89 mediocre innings, going 4-5 with a 5.16 ERA. Not bad for a first full season. He gave up a lot of hits though, and his whip was 1.51. That’s lots of base-runners turning into lots of runs. He was sent down mid-season to the rookie league to work on “mechanics,” returning the last day of the season (for some reason) to put in one relief appearance. Outlook for next season: Repeating low-A (in the rotation) looking for improvement.
- Taylor Hill was the Hagerstown workhorse, leading the staff in innings pitched with 124. He went 10-6 with a 4.92 era on the year. Outlook for next season: I worry for the 2011 6th round college senior; unless he can be a bit more dominant on the mound, he’s not long for pro baseball. He is relatively young for a college grad; he’ll be entering his 3rd pro season and turning 24 in March. I’d guess he’ll get moved to the high-A bullpen in 2013 as a nod to his age/experience.
- Chris McKenzie had his third straight rough year in the starting rotation, failing to improve on last year’s low-a showing. Final stats: 2-3 with an ugly 8.64 ERA in 26 appearances and 8 starts. Outlook for next season: the organization can’t give him a rotation spot again can they? Low-A bullpen.
- Bobby Hanson fared little better in low-A than he did in high-A, getting demoted mid-season. After 11 starts and a 4.55 ERA he hit the DL, where he’s stayed the rest of the season. Outlook for next season: As pointed out in the High-A post, he’s young but he’s entering his 6th pro season and has yet to really master low-A. He’s a big lefty though (6’6″, 235lbs) so the team probably salivates at his potential. He’s just not as dominant as he needs to be. I’d guess he’s getting another shot at the low-A rotation in 2013. But it may be his last shot.
- Taylor Jordan was a favorite of mine after his stellar 2011 season in low-A. Unfortunately he had to get Tommy John Surgery (done in mid September 2011), so 2012 is a come-back/rehab year. He seemed to be back really, really early though; he got his first 2012 start 9 months after surgery. On the year: 3-7 with a 5.13 ERA in 15 starts and 54 1/3 innings. You can’t beat that for a rehab year. Outlook for next season: leading the low-A rotation with an eye towards a quick high-A promotion in 2013.
- Brian Rauh, the first 2012 draft pick mentioned in this series (and as it turned out one of only two 2012 draft picks to make it as high as low-A). Rauh got 8 starts with Hagerstown in August after getting a quick bump up from short-A. Results were ok: he was 3-3 with a 4.89 ERA in 8 games as a starter. He only really had one bad start (his last) and would have had better season stats otherwise. His K/9 rates were good and he may be an excellent find in the draft (he was an amazing 30-1 during his college career at Division III Chapman; check out his mini bio at milb.com). Outlook for next season: low-A rotation.
- Blake Schwartz, The 2nd, and last 2012 draftee pitcher to make it to Low-A this year was pretty good upon promotion to Hagerstown, going 1-1 with a 3.05 ERA in 7 late season starts. The Nats have had some great luck with small-college pitchers (see Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler) and hope to continue with the likes of Rauh and Schwartz (from Oklahoma City University, an NAIA school). Outlook for next season: high-A rotation, based on his status as a college senior grad.
- Matthew Purke, as most Nats fans know, had three wild appearances in May before getting shut down on the season with continuing shoulder issues. Outlook for next season: get healthy, try low-A rotation again.
- Dixon Anderson, coming back from an injury that cost him all of 2011, looked good in a too-small-of-a-sample size of innings (26 between GCL and low-A). He’s a big right-hander with good k/9 rates who was a little wild in low-A. I wonder if he features more as an eventual reliever. Outlook for next season: competing for low-A rotation, dropping to bullpen.
- Other guys who got spot starts here and there (non-rehab):
- Christian Meza had 36 appearances, 3 spot starts and a good 2.97 era in 88 low-A innings on the year. A tall lefty with excellent K/9 rates, he excelled in 3 spot starts but remained mostly a middle-to-late innings reliever. Outlook for next season: I’d try to feature him as a starter honestly, but i’d guess he ends up in the high-A bullpen.
- Pedro Encarnation got a few innings in low-A after moving up from Short-A. Outlook for next season: see short-A write-up.
- Jason Smith got a call-up/spot start mid-season and got shelled. Outlook for next season: see short-A write-up.
Hagerstown Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season. These are done in order by IP for any reliever who didn’t get at least one start.
- Gregory Holt gave the Suns 78 workman-like innings in 41 games, finishing the year with an era of 4.12. Unfortunately it seems that result was rather lucky; his FIP was 5.18, a full point higher. He’ll have to improve to stay in the organization. Outlook for next season: high-A bullpen.
- Ben Hawkins continues to be a late-round steal (he was a 36th round draft pick in 2011 out of baseball juggernaut West Florida) for the team, putting up a 3.55 ERA in 58 1/3 innings over 30 appearances, giving the team nearly a k/inning as a lefty. He continues on a great 2011 as well. He’s more than just a loogy, routinely putting in 2-3 innings per outing. Outlook for next season: high-A bullpen.
- Colin Bates closed a few games, was effective for most of the season (2.79 era in 51 2/3 relief innings) and has given the organization no reason not to move him up the chain. He’s a little under-sized (6’1″, 175lb) and that may have him flying under the radar as a prospect. Outlook for next season: high-A bullpen.
- Aaron Barrett got promoted to high-A after tearing through Low-A with 52 Ks in 34 innings. See the high-A write-up for more. Outlook for next season: (as copied from high-A writeup) AA bullpen.
- Richie Mirowski is another feather in the southwestern Nats draft staff’s hats; a 45th round pick in 2011 out of Oklahoma Baptist University was neat and effective upon reaching low-A this year. He had a 2.00 era in 27 relief innings. He had a few more walks than you’d like to see, but had over a K/inning to go with it. 45th round picks are usually throw-away picks on high schoolers who you don’t expect to sign; they’re not generally guys who put in sub 3.00 eras in successive seasons. Outlook for next season: move him up; high-A bullpen
- Other Relievers who appeared in Low-A (not including Rehabbing MLBers): Outlook for next season for all of these guys seems the same: another season in the low minors, struggling to make an impact.
- Wilson Eusebio was inexplicably promoted after putting up a 6.78 ERA in 28 innings.
- Bobby Lucas, GWU product and local kid, wasn’t good this year; a 7.67 ERA in 29 innings. He was also incredibly wild; 36/31 k/bb in those 29 innings.
- Alex Kreis had a 5.88 era in 26 innings for Hagerstown. Nearly a 2.00 whip; he needs to improve.
- Todd Simko, 2011 21st rounder, got 19 mostly wild innings in before going down with a season-ending injury in May.
- Leonard Hollinshad a mostly nondescript 2012 season; he was a 29th rounder out of Juco in his first pro season. He needs to show more swing-and-miss (only 8 Ks in 18 innings) capability to move up in this organization.
- Travis Henke got lit up in 3 low-A innings and got dumped back to short-A.
Hagerstown had a mixed bag of starters early (some good, some bad), but got help down the stretch from 2012′s draft class. It wasn’t enough for them in the end; losing out in the playoffs.