Nationals Arm Race

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

Potomac’s 2010 Rotation Season in review


(slight server crash yesterday took down the site for the day.  I’ll post two a days tmrw and friday to clear the books of the “season in review” posts I have queued up).

Potomac, the high-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals won the 2010 Carolina League for the 2nd time in the past three years, which is a great indication of the quality of our lower-end minor leaguers.  We put together a rather “mature” high-A team though; most scouts believe that high-A squads should be in the 20-22 age range, and 24 year olds are considered “old” for the level.  Which makes sense; a 24yr old in his 2nd or 3rd professional season pitching against high school draftees 3-4 years younger should immediately have the advantage in terms of experience and capabilities.

That being said, lets take a look at the 2010 pitching staff in Potomac:

  • 2010 Rotation end-of-season: Lehman 24, Holder 23, Frias 22, Alaniz 24, Barthaimer 26
  • (rotation order: Holder, Lehman, Frias, Alaniz, JJones)
  • bullpen: CMartinez, Dill, Phillibaum, Alaniz, McCoy, VanAllen (why?), Barthmaier, Testa
  • spot starts: Alaniz 24, Barthmaier 26, JJones 28
  • promotions: Kimball, Peacock, Alaniz (and back), Leatherman, Dials
  • up-and-back:
  • demotions: Garcia, Bronson
  • dl: Jaime, Fabian, Beno, Rosenbaum 23 (would be #4), Morris 24 (would be #1)
  • cut/retired: Atwood, Pecina, JEstrada

Brad Peacock was Potomac’s supposed “ace” and was promoted after 18 starts (I say supposed since his high-A line was 4-9, with a 4.44 era and 1.03 whip).  The starting rotation was rather decimated by injuries by the end of the season, with both AJ Morris and Danny Rosenbaum on the DL.  Bronson was demoted down to Hagerstown after putting up decent-to-mediocre numbers in high-A (4-7, 3.88 era, 1.31 whip).  Lets talk about the rest of the squad:

  • Patrick Lehman (5-4, 4.84 era, 1.32 whip, 88/28 k/bb in 87ip).  Lehman enters his third professional season with the Nats after being a 13th round draft pick in 2009 out of GW.  He has clearly exceeded expectations for a pitcher coming out of such an unheralded school and It would be great to see him continue to move up.  2011 Prediction: I had initially thought he was a good candidate to move up to AA (based on his age and performance prior to high-A) but now I’m thinking he”ll start in Potomac again and try to improve on his era and whip numbers.  His K/9 is great though but may be a side effect of being slightly “old” for high-A.
  • Trevor Holder (3-3, 4.09 era, 1.39 whip, 52/22 k/bb in 70 ip).  Holder’s selection in the 2009 draft caused howling from draft pundits; he was clearly an overdraft for the third round, was a college senior with little leverage and his draft bonus was less than half of his contemporaries.  And thus far in his pro career, he has done little to change people’s opinions on the matter.  His 2009 pro numbers were awful, and while he succeeded in Hagerstown he was clearly a man among boys.  2011 Prediction: as with Lehman, Holder is too old to “hold” on to a high-A rotation spot but probably does not merit a AA rotation spot.  I can see him being moved to the AA bullpen.  I don’t see him as anything more than an organizational guy at this point.
  • Marcos Frias (7-5, 5.69 era, 1.53 whip, 55/39 k/bb in 91 ip).  Frias is one of the few international signings the Nats have that has moved beyond DSL/GCL status lately.  He was pretty good in Hagerstown in 2009 but his success did not translate to the better High-A classification.  He’s still young (22) but is entering his 5th pro season in the system and his time may be running out.  2011 Prediction: High-A rotation but needs to show some progress asap, else he risks getting moved to the bullpen or cut outright once we draft our 2011 crop of arms.
  • Adrian Alaniz (8-4, 2.61 era, 1.11 whip, 101/26 k/bb in 107 ip).  Alaniz was an enigma pitcher in the system in 2010.  He had 24 High-A appearances but didn’t move into the starting rotation til injuries took out Morris and Rosembaum.  What’s odd about Alaniz is that he proved he could handle high-A pitching in 2008, going 9-0 with a 2.62 era before getting promoted that season.  His stuff has never really translated to AA though, and he was moved out of the rotation in 2009.  Now he’ll be 26 to begin the season and his future is murky.  He needs to show he can pitch at the AA level.  2011 Prediction: AA bullpen, where he must succeed or his time with the organization will be at an end.
  • Jimmy Barthaimer (4-1, 3.62 era, 1.33 whip in 5 spot starts towards the end of the season).  Barthaimer was a minor league waiver claim, having gotten released by Pittsburgh’s Altoona franchise mid season.  He’s got major league time, so it isn’t surprising he would compete well against high-A guys.  2011 outlook: if he’s with the organization, he’ll probably be a AAA bullpen guy.

Other starters of note in Potomac for 2010:

  • AJ Morris: a leader of the staff before suffering an injury, he was 5-3, 3.88 era on the year (including a number of relief starts).  Morris was a very promising 4th round draft pick after having a fantastic senior season at Kansas State, but was moved to the bullpen when his stuff didn’t seem to be translating to success as a starter.  2011 Outlook: Morris was traded to Chicago Cubs in the Gorzelanny deal.
  • Danny Rosenbaum: another top notch starter for Potomac, going 3-2 with a 2.09 era before going down with injury.  So far Danny has more or less dominated GCL, low-A and high-A.  An injury derailed his 2010 season but so far he’s looking like a steal of a 22nd rounder.  The fact that he’s a lefty is even better.  2011 outlook: Rosenbaum is the opening day starter for Potomac but should quickly earn a promotion up to AA.  He’s a sleeper in the system.
  • Juan Jaime: he was set to be the Ace of Potomac before a major arm injury cost him all of 2010.  He was lights out in short-A and low-A in 2009, and was put on our 40-man roster in Nov of 2009 to protect him.  However, the Nats tried to sneak him off the 40-man roster, only to see him claimed by Arizona.  2011 Outlook: good luck to him as he rebuilds his career in the Diamondback’s organization.
  • Robinson Fabian: another Dominican prospect who we got in the Joe Biemel trade; he was looking decent in 8 starts before going down with injury.  2011 outlook: he’ll get another shot to show he can perform in High-A, but he’s starting to age out of prospect status (he just turned 25).

We’ll talk about Evan Bronson in the low-A post, even though he got a number of high-A starts.

Written by Todd Boss

February 17th, 2011 at 9:37 am

9 Responses to 'Potomac’s 2010 Rotation Season in review'

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  1. Hate to beat a dead horse, but age is about 1/10th the importance for pitchers than it is for hitters.
    Peacock is still a good story for the Nats so far, it seems just about every pitcher the Nats have benefits from the great teaching they get in Potomac. Peacock was a 41st round pick (!!!) and he’s still young (23); don’t sell him short.

    Mark L

    17 Feb 11 at 11:07 am

  2. Don’t know what channel you are watching …

    Rosenbaum, Holder, and Barthmaier helped fuel the the Potomac Nationals playoff run. Holder adjusted from throwing at too high velocity and his sink
    returned as well as his confidence. The guy is not afraid to challenge hitters and he won’t back down.

    As did Tatusko for Harrisburg when he increased his velocity to the mid 90’s range. Yet you didn’t notice that either.

    Not sure what pitchers you are watching but it isn’t the Nationals prospects. Perhaps you should try writing about something else?


    17 Feb 11 at 11:30 am

  3. Mark; I agree with your sentiment about age in pitchers versus hitters. And I realize that you cannot always make blanket statements about what level makes sense for a guy at a particular age.

    If a college jr is 21 at draft time, odds are he’s going to short-A. Then he’s 22 at high-A, 23 at AA and 24 in AAA if all goes well. That’s a fair progression for a normal prospect. Any injuries push this back a year or so, rather fairly.

    But at what point does a farmhand really stop becoming a prospect? If you’re in your 4th pro season and still in high-A … thats a problem. If you’re 26 and havn’t had success above AA … that’s a problem too.

    Alaniz was 26 and pitching in High-A ball. That to me says he’s essentially an organizational arm in the teams’ minds and will never be given a chance to move up. Because even if he pitches lights out in High-A, he’s a 26 yr old going against (what should be) 21-22yr olds. He’s expected to succeed just based on experience.

    But point taken.

    Todd Boss

    17 Feb 11 at 11:59 am

  4. Anonymous; my analysis and opinion is pretty much completely based on statistical analysis of these players’ performance as opposed to seeing them day in and day out. In fact, I’ve never been to Harrisburg and don’t have any way to see these guys. I’m not a full time scout; i’m just a guy who watches the nats farm system pitchers out of interest.

    So you are right; i did not know Holder made some mechanical tweaks or that Tatusko increased his velocity. I do know that Holder’s season-long stats were just mediocre (especially for his 3rd round draft expectations) and that he got hit very hard a couple times down the stretch ( He may be a confident pitcher but when you put up lines like he did on Aug 29th (4ip, 8hits, 5 earned runs and 3 homers) I ask you back; where was his sink that day? And that wasn’t a one off; 5 of his last 10 starts were “bad” starts in my opinion.

    Tatusko had great numbers for us, but in the Texas league they were just so so. I hope he has adjusted for the better, because I want to see promise in prospects that the Nats got in the trade. I hold by what I wrote though; he was a minor prospect for Texas and will continue to be a minor prospect for us. If he comes up to AAA and pitches lights out I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong.

    Todd Boss

    17 Feb 11 at 12:09 pm

  5. Dear Todd Boss, it might behoove you to ready Sue Dinem (with guest slots for Brian Oliver’s) National Prospects?

    To whit: Holder gambled on himself by turning down Florida after after his junior year at Georgia in ’08, but was hit hard in his first pro season in ’09 as
    fatigue set in from trying to pitch at the 91-94 range after throwing 88-92
    the year before. Scouts noted the uptick in velocity was at the expense
    of movement. In 2010, Holder reset the pitch and regained both its sink
    and his confidence. Lacking a plus pitch, he’s projected as a long
    reliever but will likely start 2011 in the Harrisburg rotation.

    Your analyses might look a tad silly by comparison? These guys actually do watch these players and talk to scouts?


    17 Feb 11 at 3:45 pm

  6. Sue Dinem and Nationals Prospects on Ryan Tatusko (also on the watch list):

    Picked up at the trade deadline from Texas, Tatusko and his “trademate”
    Tanner Roark helped pitch the Sens into the E.L. playoffs, elevating his
    fastball from the 93-94 range to as high as 97 m.p.h. His secondary
    pitches aren’t as advanced (though scouts believe his slider could
    improve) which could mean a trip to the bullpen, but he’s likely to begin
    2011 in the Syracuse rotation.

    Please try harder to get your facts straight when it comes to Nats prospects. Thank you.


    17 Feb 11 at 3:46 pm

  7. Actually, I subscribe to Sue’s feed and love her work. And, I used to guest write for Brian’s NFA site myself.

    Look; my analysis is my opinion. Sue is a season ticket holder at Potomac so she really knows those players. I have no such luxury. Ironically, I predicted Holder would be in the AA bullpen and Sue said he’s “projected as a long reliever but will likely start 2011 in the Harrisburg Rotation.” And, I predicted that Tatusko would be in the Syracuse rotation, and sue said he’s “likely to begin 2011 in the Syracuse rotation.” They actually sound almost identical in terms of predictions for these two players.

    Holder was clearly an overdraft at the time of his selection and has done nothing to convince pundits otherwise in terms of his performance thus far. In your opinion, has he performed as well as a top-of-the-3rd round pick should have? As for Tatusko, the “facts” are that he had a very good season and the reason i said “he does not have lights out stuff” is his relatively low K/9 rates. 86 ks in 120 innings in 2009, and 94 in 136 combined AA innings this year. Its great that he can throw 97 but if its straight as an arrow guys are going to hit it. I know its generalizing, but pitchers who move up and who eventually succeed at the major league level are more dominant in the lower minor leagues than these guys are showing me. Plus, he turns 26 in a few weeks, is in his 5th professional season and is closer to being a minor league free agent than to cracking the 40-man roster.

    I’m not sure what “facts” i’m getting wrong here. But I stand by what I’ve said. I’m not “rooting” for either guy to fail. I’m just stating my opinion. I’d love to see Tatusko start the AAA season 8-0 with a sub 2.00 era, because it would mean that we’ve suddenly “found” another starter who may give us better innings in the future. I hope that Holder’s stuff translates at higher levels because it would mean that we didn’t waste the draft pick.

    Todd Boss

    17 Feb 11 at 4:52 pm

  8. Potomac’s roster is usually the last one set coming out of Spring Training, as players are bumped up or down based on circumstance or whim. Rosenbaum, Bronson, Holder, Lehman, & Fabian are all probable re-loads at the Phiz for 2011. Alaniz could bump back down, while someone like Applebee or McCatty could bump up to the rotation; Solis may (hopefully) come up in May.

    The POT bullpen looks like Martinez, Olbrychowski, Dill, McCoy, Testa, Wort & one of the possible SP’s as a long-man.

    p.s. – The anonymous comments (based on observed post style alone – he has a ‘tell’ involving question marks) could possibly be coming from a frequent commenter on other blogs; You might recognize him as “periculum”, “peric”, “aeoliano”, or some other avatar from NJ, NatsInsider, NationalsProspects, MASN, etc. He seems harmless, but can come across as, shall we say prickly from time to time.


    17 Feb 11 at 7:18 pm

  9. Such a rotation to start the season in High-A would be great for the fans; familiar names with experience on the level should translate to a fast start and perhaps a leg up on a first half championship for the team.

    I wonder what we’re doing with Alaniz. (coincidentally if anyone has an email for Sue Dinem Adrian Alaniz’s name is misspelled on her draft tracker xls). Was he coming back from injury? He seems to merit another shot in AA, having completely dominated high-A two years ago. I wonder if I should have considered him for the AA rotation mix.

    Todd Boss

    18 Feb 11 at 9:41 am

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