Nationals Arm Race

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Auburn/Short-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2012

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Brett Mooneyham was probably the biggest name in Auburn this year. Photo unknown via mlbdraftcountdown.wordpress.com

Click here for the 2011 version of this post, for a look at how things were last year.

Here’s the Short-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, and Low-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.  They say not to depend on small sample sizes and I agree; we’re doing after-the-fact analysis on a small sample size of a half a pro season in most cases.  This is especially true with Short-A and the GCL, where most of the roster are 2012 draftees.   So “outlook for next season” is almost entirely a guess for these players.  A ton of them will be left in extended spring to compete for next year’s Auburn team, while a ton more will be released without much fanfare.

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.

Auburn starters.  The rotation started the season with Jordan/Medina, Baez, Monar, Encarnation, and Smith.   Lets see how the original rotation and other primary starters fared.

  • Taylor Jordan got 6 rehab-ish starts for Auburn before finishing the season in Low-A post Tommy John surgery. Outlook for next season: (from low-A post) Low-A rotation again.
  • Gregory Baez made 3 starts and was clearly hurt in his last one (giving up 5 runs and 5 hits in a 1/3 of an inning) before hitting the DL, where he’s stayed the rest of the season.  No word on the actual injury.  Outlook for next season: get healthy, try out the Short-A rotation again.
  • Blake Monar was one of two guys who stayed in the rotation from start to finish, ending the season with a 2-3 record and a 3.29 ERA.  He averaged a K/inning, but gave up too many walks (30 in 54 2/3 innings) which drove up his WHIP.  That being said, he kept the ball in the park (only one HR in those 54+ innings) and worked around his base runners effectively (his FIP was lower than his ERA).  I think Monar is a good lefty starter prospect for 2013 and beyond.  Outlook for next season: low-A rotation with a look towards promotion to Potomac.
  • Pedro Encarnation gave low-A a shot but couldn’t cut it, so he dropped to Short-A.  He improved on 2011′s short-A outing by starting the whole season and putting up a 4.20 ERA that was better than it seemed (his FIP was 3.59).  Outlook for next season: a repeat of 2012; he’s getting another shot at the low-A rotation, probably dropping to bullpen.
  • Nicholas Lee made the jump from wild bullpen lefty in 2011 to effective starter in 2012.  He was 3-1 with a 3.77 ERA in 62 mostly starting innings.  He cut down on his walk rate, he kept his stellar K/inning rate, and kept the ball on the ground (2 homers in 62 innings and a 1.48 go/ao ratio).  Per Nationalsprospects, he’s “not a hard thrower and scouts love his change-up.”  His FIP was nearly a point below his ERA, indicating that he was even more effective than we thought.  I like this guy; his only issue is being an undersized lefty, and thus having a tendency to be type-cast as a Loogy.  Outlook for next season: Low-A bullpen; I can’t see him sticking as a starter.
  • Brett Mooneyham was the 2nd biggest name out of our 2012 draft, going 3rd round out of Stanford (and after having gotten picked by the Nats twice before).  He’s a big, projectionable lefty who was effective in his first 10 pro appearances (2-2 with a 2.55 ERA).  But where’s the dominance?  Only 29 Ks in 42 innings.  I tend to agree with John Sickels‘ analysis, as stated here.  I’ll quote: “Just like in college: looks like a pitcher, good arm, but doesn’t dominate the way you think he should.”  Outlook for next season: Low-A rotation.
  • David Fischer was an 18th round 2012 draft pick who started the year in the bullpen and ended it in the rotation (probably to make up for promotions).  Numbers were soso; 4.96 ERA in total, slightly better in 8 starts.  I’m not sure he’s done enough to win a rotation spot in any 2013 team.  Outlook for next season: Repeating short-A in the bullpen.
  • Ivan Pineyro dominated the GCL, moved up to short-A and was not as effective, getting shelled his last two outings to balloon his ERA to 5.50 in 34 1/3 short-A innings.  It took him a year to solve GCL, perhaps it’ll take him 2013 to solve short-A.  Outlook for next season: Repeating short-A in the rotation.
  • Brian Rauh earned a quick promotion out of Short-A and finished the year in Hagerstown. Outlook for next season: (from the low-A post): low-A rotation.

 

  • Other guys who got spot starts here and there (non-rehab):
    • Silvio Medina got four spot starts amongst 16 short-A appearances and was something of a “wild thing;” 9 hit batsmen and 5 wild pitches to go with 20 walks in 47 innings.  His 4.98 ERA was well-earned.  He did average a K/inning.  The DSL graduate turned 22 and finished his 3rd pro season.  Outlook for next season: I could see him trying the low-A bullpen despite his numbers; he can always drop back down if he can’t cut it there or loses out amongst stiff competition.
    • Jason Smith had one spot start and 11 other appearances; he was basically awful in all of them, to the tune of a 7.94 ERA in 22 2/3 innings before getting shut down in early August.  This 2011 undrafted free agent was good in 2011 in the rookie-league but couldn’t make the jump in 2012.  Outlook for next season: short-A bullpen, if not released.
    • Wil Hudgins pitched mostly in the GCL after getting picked in the 22nd round this year.  Outlook for next season: see GCL post.

Auburn 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.

  • Travis Henke pitched most of the year in long-ish relief for Auburn and was pretty effective: 7-1, 2.78 ERA and good ancillary numbers.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen competition.
  • Cody Davis is a fighter; non-drafted 2011 FA who is just 5’9″ and 170 (hell, that’s my size.  Well, not the weight part anyway) but puts up good numbers from the hill.  2012: 50 Ks in 42 innings and a 3.64 ERA.  He faces an uphill battle though because of his size.  He’s got nothing left to prove though in either short-season league.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen competition.
  • Derek Self was the Auburn closer and had effective numbers, but not the dominant K/9 rates you’d expect.  Stats: 3.27 ERA in 33 innings and 16 saves.  He’s got the same issue Mooneyham does; big arm (92-95mph), projectionable frame (6’3″ 205lbs), but missing dominance.  Maybe he needs another pitch, or 20lbs of muscle on his body.   Nonetheless, there’s no reason to think he won’t move up next season.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen competition, though I doubt he sticks as a closer.
  • The Nats took a flyer on local product Michael Boyden and it may be paying off; he had a 1.07 ERA in 33 2/3 innings between the two short season teams.    That ERA was slightly lucky; he had 17 walks in 25 short-A inningsOutlook for next season: low-A middle-reliever.
  • Robert Benincasa showed power stuff with impeccable control in his limited time in Short-A.  23 1/3 innings, 32 Ks and just 3 walks.  Great season.  Can’t wait to see what this 7th rounder in 2012 out of Florida State can do at the next level.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen.
  • Jack McGeary threw a total of 9 1/3 pro innings in 2012, only coming off the DL in early August.  Outlook for next season: low-A rotation competition for what may be his final season in the organization.
  • Richie Mirowski threw 7 innings in short-A before finishing the season in low-A.  See Low-A post.
  • Ronald Pena and Gilberto Mendez each started the year in the GCL and got a cup-of-coffee in Auburn.  Both seem to feature as short-A bullpen candidates in 2013.
  • Other Relievers who appeared in Short-A (not including Rehabbing MLBers).  Some of these guys threw fewer than 10 innings on the year, not nearly enough to write-up.  Outlook for next season for all of these guys seems the same: another season in the low minors, struggling to make an impact.
    • Elliott Waterman 22 walks in 25 innings.  Needs to improve.
    • Bryan Harper had big K/9 rates but not much else.  He’ll need more than a famous younger brother.
    • Andrew Wall was mediocre in a handful of relief innings after signing as a non-drafted FA this year.
    • John Peters threw a handful of innings for Auburn but ended the year in GCL.

Summary

Auburn made the playoffs behind the strength of its pitching.  All up and down the staff you see dominant performances.  This bodes well as these guys matriculate to Hagerstown and beyond in 2013.

8 Responses to 'Auburn/Short-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2012'

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  1. Thanks for the lunch-break read, Todd! Good stuff!

    Chris

    18 Sep 12 at 12:56 pm

  2. You have to figure the Nats F.O. thinks they can teach Mooneyham up, as they drafted him so much. A good project for the draft/development folks.

    Looking forward to see what McGeary can do fully recovered from TJ surgery next year.
    He’s already graduated from Stanford.

    Mark L

    18 Sep 12 at 6:33 pm

  3. Lets hope for a Nathan Karns-esque recovery for McGeary. Because he’s certainly another guy who has not lived up to his draft billing. I think between McGeary, Smoker and Willems the team has been completely scared off of drafting HS guys. Well, except for Giolito of course.

    Mooneyham; dunno what to think so far. Yeah the Nats really, really like this guy. Drafted him over and over again. Hopefully you’re right and he can become something more than a lefty specialist.

    Todd Boss

    19 Sep 12 at 11:40 am

  4. These are the best post-season pitching writeups I’ve seen. Here is a quick starter summary for those like me trying to see all the options summarized (in your opinion):

    AAA
    Yunesky Maya
    Brian Broderick
    Tanner Roark
    Jeff Mandel
    Erik Arneson

    AA
    Nathan Karns
    Matt Grace
    Trevor Holder
    Robert Gilliam
    Danny Rosenbaum

    High A
    Alex Meyer
    Matt Swynenberg
    Blake Schwartz
    Robbie Ray

    Low A
    Taylor Jordan
    Blake Monar
    Brett Mooneyham
    Brian Rauh
    Pedro Encarnation
    Kylin Turnbull
    Bobby Hanson
    Matt Purke
    Jack McGeary

    I think given the numbers between Low A and High A and thinking that Meyer could get a quick promo, Purke may start directly in High A if healthy. Otherwise, I think Jordan, Monar, Mooneyham, or Rauh (or 2 of these guys) gets the bump to the High A rotation at the beginning of the season.

    Rob

    4 Nov 12 at 5:19 pm

  5. Rob, I was waiting for the big club to finish before posting the summary post … so you’ll see this same data in a few days once I get around to summarizing the MLB roster.

    We just got back Brad Meyers from the Yankees, so you can presume he will replace probably Erik Arneson in the AAA rotation. Also, as you say there’s too many arms in low-A and we may see some cascading effects upwards. Lastly, the team still needs to find a place for Ryan Perry the starter, and needs to decide if Christain Garcia is a starter. Perry may be options-tied but could find himself in AAA. And, Garcia has options so could find his way into the AAA rotation to get his innings up. I agree with you that Alex Meyer could/should find his way to AA quickly. Perhaps at the expense of someone like Grace or Gillingham. Mooneyham and Turnbull need to be higher in 2013. Spring Training should be interesting.

    Todd Boss

    5 Nov 12 at 9:31 am

  6. Sorry I jumped the gun. You can tell I’m not much of a football/basketball fan…I’m ready for Spring Training already! I like that we got Brad Meyers and would like to see Garcia as a starter as well. As for the lower levels, I’m not sure Turnbull proved enough to me to go to High A yet. Mooneyham is solid, but the lack of Ks is a concern so I don’t want him to be pushed too early too fast because he certainly has the potential. I think Jordan, Monar, or Rauh may be more likely to make the early jump assuming Purke and/or McGeary aren’t healty.

    Rob

    5 Nov 12 at 3:29 pm

  7. No worries! You spurred me into finishing (and posting) the MLB review earlier today. So now I can post the summary. Random thoughts:
    - Meyers: I think he was returned b/c he may not really ever be anything more than a 4-a starter. But, he’s always pitched well for us, so perhaps I’m wrong. I thought the same thing about Tommy Milone too, and look what he did in 2012.
    - Garcia: i’m of the official opinion that he’s better served as a reliever, because of his injury history. Would love to see his stuff correlate to starting, but not if it means he’s never healthy.
    - Really hopefull that Jordan makes the full recovery; his 2011 season was very promising.
    - Purke: very concerned. Read scouting reports that are not very promising. McGeary may be a complete lost cause, another shame.

    Todd Boss

    5 Nov 12 at 3:41 pm

  8. -Meyers – Every team needs at least 5 starters, so I’m completely fine with him being a solid #4 guy or good trade bait.
    -Garcia – I just always lean towards seeing guys with more potential start, but I definitely want to get the most out of him and he did have MLB reliever success in limited action.
    -Jordan – a sub 2.50 in 17 starts at low A is VERY promising. I hope a winter off returns him to that form and not the pitcher that had a BAA of .314 this year.
    -Purke hand McGeary. I hope these guys can each come back from injury, but the odds aren’t always favorable. At their best, those are two very good LH starting pitchers.

    Rob

    5 Nov 12 at 8:04 pm

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