Nationals Arm Race

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

Great performances from Nats minor league teams in 2013…


Most people have heard about the historic Nats Gulf Coast Rookie league team’s performance this year, but the Nats farm teams were great up and down the system in 2013.   Here’s a recap of each level’s season, in case you havn’t already gotten the summary from Dave Huzzard or Luke Erickson:

  • AAA Syracuse: Last place, International League North.  Season record: 66-78.  Contrary to the title of this article, our AAA team was pretty bad this year.  Culprets?  A middle-of-the road offense and a relatively weak pitching staff (they were easily last in the league in strikeouts, lower ranked in other major pitching categories).
  • High-A Potomac: 1st half AND 2nd half champions, Carolina League North.   Season Record: 84-55.  Winning both halfs earned them full home field advantage in the first round of the divisional playoffs, which they used to beat Lynchburg easily enough.  However in the Carolina league final the Nats lost both games at home before getting swept by Salem in the league championship series (Salem is Boston’s high-A affiliate).
  • Low-A Hagerstown: 1st half champs of the South Atlantic League Northern.  Season Record: 80-57.  They dispatched the 2nd half champs from West Virginia in the divisional series to face Savannah in the Sally League championship.  After splitting the first two games at home, Hagerstown traveled to Savannah and lost two straight to drop the championship (Savannah is the New  York Mets’ low-A affiliate).

  • Short-A Auburn: Last place, NY-Penn Pinckney.  26-49.  Culprets include a team .230 batting average and near league bottom OPS combined with the worst team ERA and worst team WHIP in the league.  Bad hitting and the worse pitching equates with last place.

  • Rookie GCL Nats: 1st place, GCL League East with an amazing 49-9 record.  That according to press releases by the team is the highest W/L percentage in (domestic) minor league basebal history.  Wow.  They then swept the GCL Red Sox to win the GCL championship.
  • Dominican Summer League Nats: 4th Place, Boca Chica South.  Season Record: 38-31.

So that’s four playoff teams out of six US affiliates (I often ignore the DSL, fairly or otherwise, since it has such a low percentage of players even making it to the US leagues, let alone advancing into relevance).

What  makes these performances even more amazing, especially for Potomac, is that they persevered on despite losing significant numbers of pitchers through out the season to promotion.  Quick glances:

  • Harrisburg lost 3 starters (Clay, Jordan, Hill) and two relievers (Broadway and Krol) to promotions.
  • Potomac lost an entire rotation of starters (Jordan, Gilliam, Hill, Ray and Cole) in addition to four other relivers (Herron, Grace, Frias and Mirowski).
  • Hagerstown graduated at least 5 starters (Schwartz, Dupra, Rauh, Purke and Mooneyham), traded another starter (Pineyro) and matriculated a couple of relievers along the way (Benincasa and Henke).

I know this only focuses on arms on these minor league teams, and that isn’t necessarily fair to the offense, but Potomac especially was amazing in chugging along while losing its best starter month after month to promotion.

7 Responses to 'Great performances from Nats minor league teams in 2013…'

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  1. Do we have a general sense of age appropriateness among the various teams? I think that I may have asked this before and sorry if I don’t remember the answer.

    Success with age appropriate players could be a big deal. With older guys, meh.


    16 Sep 13 at 9:56 am

  2. I did the pitchers age-appropriateness at the beginning of the season: At time 10 of the 16 pitchers in high-A were above the median age and it was even older at Hagerstown. But there was so much movement of the staff of those teams I have no idea how it looked for the bulk of the season.

    But you’re absolutely right, especially when looking at the dominant gcl team. With the Nats drafting sooo many college arms lately, is the GCL full of college juniors competing against other teams full of HSers and DSL grads? I dunno. Maybe if I get some time i’ll do a quickie age analysis of the short-a and gcl teams as they ended up to answer that question. The analysis is a pain to do though…

    Todd Boss

    16 Sep 13 at 12:22 pm

  3. BTW – I checked Potomac’s franchise records on BR going all the way back to the franchise’s days in Alexandria, and as far as I can tell, this year marked the best record in team history.

    Near as I can tell much of this success was in fact based on the pitching. Lots of promotions, yes, but good pitchers were going from one good team to another and for the most part kept doing well.

    Unfortunately, the offensive players were generally only good enough to support those pitchers (until those league championship series), and the lack of true standout position player prospects is glaring. In fact, I attended game one of the Carolina League championship down in Woodbridge and Potomac’s supposed best non-pitcher prospect, Michael Taylor, single handedly lost the game by K-ing three times with RISP, including once with the based loaded and once with two on during a 9th inning rally that fell just short. Worse yet, they were weak, flailing strikeouts from a guy who despite being “age appropriate” has played in the CL for two full seasons.


    16 Sep 13 at 1:20 pm

  4. Don’t speak ill of Michael Taylor; there’s readers lurking here who think he’s one of our best prospects and that he should be protected in the upcoming rule-5 draft. I view him more closely to your observations; fast, speedy, but punchless while repeating a level.

    Todd Boss

    16 Sep 13 at 1:48 pm

  5. Todd, this years GCL team was a full year+ younger than last year’s team.

    Mark L

    16 Sep 13 at 2:58 pm

  6. Syracuse’ season rose and fell on it’s lack of pitching. While Kobernus(2nd) ,Perez(6th) , and Rahl(10th) were in the top 10 in the league in batting and they and 3 others were in the top 10 in 6 other categories; the pitching staff was woeful. Rosenbaum was 5th in innings pitched and 6th in walks allowed. Tatusko was 2nd in walks allowed. Maya was tied for 7th in whip with 1.28 and 9th in innings pitched. Davis was 8th in saves with 15 and Roark was tied for 9th in wins with 9.
    As a staff the Chiefs were 11th in ERA and saves. They were tied for 8th in WHIP. Their most positive stat was the 2nd lowest number of walks allowed 444. They did however allow the 2nd highest number of hits with 1297. They were 11th in strikeouts. They allowed the 2nd most runs and were tied for 3rd in Earned Runs.
    Contrast that with a team that was 3rd in average, 3rd in total bases, 4th in SLG, 5th in hits, 5th in stolen bases, and 8th in runs. They did much poorer in BB tied for 11th in the league, 12th in OBP and 6th in strikeouts. Some of that may be attributed to always being behind in games by sizable amounts and the batters trying to catch up at the expense of being patient at the plate. With even a little better pitching this team’s record would have been very different.

    One note , batting Espinosa 3rd for his entire stay in Syracuse hurt the team batting greatly. His lack of production or even productive outs was a huge drag. At least 4 full time players all hit for 20 or more points higher with runners in scoring position. Likewise batting the League Home Run Champ sixth or seventh every game limited his chances to impact games.


    16 Sep 13 at 6:36 pm

  7. Well, they say that AAA is becoming less about development and more about storage … and especially your final comment confirms it.

    There’s defintely going to be some AAA starter turnover.
    Start of season: Ohlendorf, Roark, Maya, Perry, Rosenbaum
    End of season: Maya, Tatusko, Rosenbaum, Mandel, Clay
    On D/L entire season: Meyers, Young

    I’m spoiling some thought that’s going to go into a prediction piece for next year’s rotations, but looking at this list of names you have to think a lot of them are gone. FAs include Maya, Tatusko, Mandel, and Young. Meyers may be one too. Perry’s closer to a release than a rotation spot in AAA. Ohlendorf/Roark in the bigs. Coming up from AA likely include at least Karns and Hill. And there may very well be a fall-back from next year’s rotation battles, which seem to include Detwiler, Roark, Ohlendorf, Jordan and Karns. 2 for 5 spots with the losers perhaps coming to AAA for a bit (options allowing of course).

    Can’t wait to write that piece.

    Todd Boss

    17 Sep 13 at 8:00 am

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