Nationals Arm Race

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

Hagerstown’s 2010 Rotation in Review


Here’s a look at Hagerstown’s pitching staff in 2010.

End of Season Rotation: Demny 21, Hicks 20, Bronson 23, Applebee 22, Ott 22
(rotation order: Demny, Hicks, Applebee, Ott, Bronson)
bullpen: Wort, Arnold, Vasquez, Weaver, Morrison, Erb, Graham, Garcia, McCatty
spot starts: Smoker 22 (demoted for Ott)
promotions: Holder, Rosenbaum,
demotions: Gibson
dl: McGeary (TJ surgery, out for a while), Clegg
cut/retired: Willems

Hagerstown’s 2010 staff held three of our system’s biggest disappointments; Colton Willems, Jack McGeary and Josh Smoker.

One of the stories of the season was the abrupt retirement of Colton Willems, the latest reminder of the absolute train wreck our 2006 draft was (slight tangent; only 3 players from that draft have even made it onto our 40-man roster; Marrero, Carr and Kimball, and none of these are really expected to compete for 2011 mlb spots).  Willems was a supplemental #1 pick whose stuff as a starter seemed to plateau in the low-A league.  He wasn’t able to get guys out in high-A in 2009, and was converting to be a reliever for the 2010 season when he retired.  His 2010 numbers were bad, but he probably should have given it more time.

Josh Smoker’s status as a flame out prospect is nearly as bad as Willems.  He was a 2007 supplemental #1 pick has yet to show he can get guys out above the rookie league, and while he was slowed by an arm injury in 2009 his performance in 2010 (3-10 with a 6.50 era in low-A) may have buried his career in baseball.  2011 Outlook: fully converted to a reliever in Hagerstown, where he has to show he can get guys out or he will be released.

Another story of the season for the Nats franchise in general was the arm injury suffered by Jack McGeary.  McGeary was having a decent start in low-A before blowing out his elbow and getting Tommy John surgery.  McGeary was considered a drafting coup of the 2007 draft, signing for 1.8M as a 6th rounder with 1st round talent.  But through parts of four pro seasons he’s never really shown the talent to match his pedigree and even post TJ surgery I doubt he will ever pan out.  I can see the Nats hanging on to him until he recovers and giving him another shot based on prior investment and his age, but his days seem numbered.

Hagerstown’s two elder statesmen (Holder and Rosenbaum) both moved up to high-A mid season, leaving a relatively young staff.  Lets talk about each guy:

  • Mitchell Clegg: Despite not being in the rotation at the end, Clegg was clearly the best of what was left of Hagerstown’s mediocre rotation.  He was 9-3, 3.48 era, 1.26 whip before a premature end to his season.  2011 Outlook: I think he starts in Hagerstown again, with the idea of a quick jump up to high-A if the likes of Bronson or Applebee falters.
  • Paul Demny: Pitched a full season in Low-A, 27 starts, compiling mediocre numbers (6-10, 4.23 era, 1.35 whip, 106/47 k/bb in 129 ip).  He improved upon his 2009 season in Hagerstown though, but probably not enough to merit a promotion to high-A.  2011 Outlook: he may have peaked in terms of talent, but he should start in Hagerstown once again.  If he pitches well, a quick trip to Potomac.  If not, he may find himself moved to mop up duty for the rest of his days.
  • Graham Hicks: put up mediocre numbers as a 20-yr old in low-A for the first time (1-6, 5.27 era) but he’s a lefty with a live arm (58 ks in 66 ip).  2011 outlook: we traded Hicks along with Morris and Burgess for Gorzelanny this off season.  I suspect he’ll start in Chicago’s low-A franchise.
  • Evan Bronson: he put up pretty weak numbers (4-2, 5.40 era and less than 4.5 K’s/9) after faring better in high-A.  I don’t quite understand his demotion based on his performance in high-A, and perhaps that factored into his bad low-A performance.  He was pretty dominant as a bullpen guy in short-A in 2009; perhaps he returns to that role eventually.  2011 outlook: he’s a bit old for the level and seemed to be able to handle high-A last year, so I can see him starting there in 2011.
  • Paul Applebee: 6-6, 4.29 era in a mix of starting and relief appearances in 2010.  He clearly is a starter though, and a lefty to boot, so I can see him continuing to get looks.  2011 outlook: I’m predicting he takes the 5th slot in Potomac, unless someone like Lehman or Holder gets pushed down to take that spot.  If so I can see him being a long man out of the bullpen or a spot starter.

A couple other guys had spot starts in 2010: Billy Ott had two mediocre starts but may be given a rotation spot in 2011.  Sammy Solis pitched 4 shutout innings before going off to the Arizona Fall season; he almost certainly starts in Low-A with the idea of moving up quickly and finishing the year in AA.

Hopefully Hagerstown sees better pitching in 2011 than it did in 2010.  At least you’ll get to see Bryce Harper blast a few balls to right-center before he starts his inexorable march towards the majors.

Written by Todd Boss

February 17th, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Minor League Pitching

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3 Responses to 'Hagerstown’s 2010 Rotation in Review'

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  1. Solis should start 2011 with HAG, both Demny & Clegg from 2010 will likely be there as well, imho. Ott, Applebee, McCatty & Frias could also be in the mix. Clegg would be the oldest of the lot at 24, but as a LH he has additional lives.


    17 Feb 11 at 6:35 pm

  2. We’ve really seen the difference in knowing how to draft these last few years. Bowden was a bit of a train wreck, but he never had close to a full scouting & development staff either.
    I think Hagerstown will show proof of how much smarter the drafting & development has been the last few years as I think the Hagerstown pitching staff should be MUCH better this year. Here’s hoping.

    Mark L

    17 Feb 11 at 10:11 pm

  3. Hey, we’re already seeing the fruits of Rizzo’s drafts by virtue of our system rankings. A quick search of BA doesn’t produce older rankings but i know Keith Law had moved us up 3 years running (29th to 23rd to 19th now) and we seem to be recovering from the awful 2006 draft and the Aaron Crow debacle.

    Todd Boss

    18 Feb 11 at 10:44 am

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