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Potomac/High-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2013

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Taylor Jordan's phenomenal rise from A-ball to the majors is this year's high-A story of the year.  Photo via wffn.net/hueytaxi on flikr.com

Taylor Jordan’s phenomenal rise from A-ball to the majors is this year’s high-A story of the year. Photo via wffn.net/hueytaxi on flikr.com

This is the 4th in the 2013 Pitching staff review series, here’s a review of Potomac/High-A’s pitching staff for 2013.  Other parts of the 2013 series:

For some historical perspective, here’s 2012’s version (Nathan Karns the feature pitcher) and 2011’s version (Danny Rosenbaum the feature pitcher) of this post specifically for Potomac/High-A.

All stats are courtesy of either milb.com’s Potomac 2013 Stats page or via Fangraph’s Potomac 2013 page.   Also useful here are the Big Board and the Nats Draft Tracker since so many of these lower-minors guys are recent draftees.

Note: from here on down, there’s more than a few examples of small sample sizes.  Plus, I know many readers here were frequent Potomac game attendees and may have different/better opinions than I.  Please comment if you disagree with the sentiments here.

Potomac starters.  The rotation started the season with Ray, Jordan, Cole, Turnbull and Hill.  It ended with Purke, Demny, Mooneyham, Solis and Schwartz.   There were quite a few changes along the way; I counted 9 promotions throughout the year.  Lets take a look at the High-A starters for 2013, starting with the original five and then counting down by the number of starts.  Because there were so many promotions, we’ll be referring to the AA and MLB posts frequently here for more detail.

  • Robbie Ray got the ball opening day and never looked back: he dominated high-A in the first half of the season (10.71 K/9 in 16 High-A starts) and continued the great work as one of the youngest starters in all of AA by the time the season was over.  See the AA-writeup for more. Outlook for next season: in the Detroit organization.
  • Taylor Jordan gave up just 5 earned runs in his first 6 Potomac starts of the year, quickly earning him a promotion to AA.  We all know the story from here; he blew up AA and then gave the MLB team 9 good starts before hitting his post TJ surgery innings limit.  See AA’s and the MLB post for more detail.   Outlook for next season: AAA rotation.
  • A. J. Cole made his triumphant return to the Nats organization, escaping his hellish 2012 season in the California League by coming back to Washington as bounty for Michael Morse.  Cole threw about 100 innings in High-A across 18 starts and was 6-3 with a 4.25 ERA.  His FIP was considerably better and he averaged more than a K/inning, and the team pushed him to AA as a 21 year old.  See AA’s post for more.  Outlook for next season: AA rotation to start, looking for a mid-season promotion to AAA.
  • Kylin Turnbull lasted just three high-A starts, giving up 10 runs in 17 innings and was demoted to low-A.  See low-A’s post for more.   Outlook for next season: Attempting High-A’s rotation again.
  • Taylor Hill threw 84 innings of sub 3.00 ball across 14 starts in Potomac, earning a promotion to AA mid-season.  See AA’s write-up for more.  Outlook for next season: AA rotation.
  • Blake Schwartz blitzed through 4 starts in low-A and was quickly promoted to Potomac, where he led the staff in starts, wins and innings.  He finished the year with an 11-4 record with a 2.65 ERA in 132 innings.  His ERA was a bit masked by a low BABIP, resulting in a FIP that was a point higher.  He had a nice 4/1 K/BB ratio, a relatively small WHIP, and a decent enough K/9 rate.  Another excellent small college find by the Nats scouting staff.  Outlook for next season: You have to think he’s in the AA rotation; what more does he have to prove in high-A?
  • Sammy Solis made it back from Tommy John and gave Potomac 57 innings over 13 apperances with a decent 3.43 ERA.   He did miss some time mid-season but came back pretty strong.  He was also the P-Nats’ #1 starter in the playoffs, giving them one great and one not-so-great start in the post season.   Solis was added to the 40-man ahead of the Rule-5 draft by virtue of his being eligible; now there’s talk about him possibly featuring as a lefty-matchup guy at the major league level.   I can see that eventually, but not from the start of the 2014 season.  I can see Solis going to AA to get some reps against better hitters and possibly covering for injuries/need later this year.  Outlook for next season: AA rotation for now.
  • Brian Rauh started the year in Hagerstown’s bullpen as an 8th inning guy, didn’t really pitch that well but was pushed up to Potomac anyway, where he suddenly slotted in as a starter and ended up giving the team 12 starts over 16 appearances with a 4.22 ERA (4.81 FIP) over 64 innings.  He made way in the rotation late in the season for Brett Mooneyham and worked out of the pen again for the playoffs.   Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen, perhaps a starter.  Perhaps a release candidate.
  • Matt Purke finally looked healthy after years of shoulder issues.  He over matched low-A and was pushed to Potomac in early July.  In 12 starts he was 5-3 with a 4.43 ERA, 1.39 whip, and 3.58 FIP.  He got the ball in the ghird playoff game and pitched decently enough.  What concerns me is his lack of dominance of A-ball hitters; he sported just a 6.05 K/9 rate as a starter in High-A this year.  This from a former first round pick, a dominant lefty who was undefeated as a freshman in college in a good baseball conference.   What are we to make of him at this point?  On the bright side, he’s only 22 and still has a couple of option years left, so the Nats have some time to see what they have (unlike, say with Solis, who is 25 and needs to show something like right now).  Outlook for next season: High-A starter once again, looking for a quick promotion to AA.
  • Paul Demny couldn’t make the jump to AA as a starter, and was demoted back to Potomac mid-season.  He ended the season in Potomac’s rotation but (likely out of respect for what the Potomac guys accomplished this year) did not participate in the High-A playoffs.  In 8 Potomac starts, he was 2-2 with a 3.69 ERA with about a K/inning, which he should have done considering that he’s in his 6th pro season.   See the AA post for more.  Outlook for next season: AA bullpen.
  • Brett Mooneyham pitched most of the year in Hagerstown before a late-season bump up to Potomac, where he promptly got shelled.  See the low-A post for more.   Outlook for next season: High-A rotation.
  • Other guys who got spot starts here and there:
    • Ivan Pineyro got 3 starts in High-A before he was flipped for Scott Hairston.  See the low-A post for more. (Editor’s note: corrected for the right Hairston thanks to John C comment).
    • Brian Dupra got a few spot-starts; see the reliever section.
    • Marcos Frias posted a 7.59 ERA in two starts and a few relief appearances and was released 7/24/13.   See the AA post for more.
    • Rob Gilliam made two forgettable starts in High-A before getting pushed up to AA.  See the AA post for more.
    • Hector Sylvestre got called up from the rookie league to make one spot start.  See GCL post for more.
    • Ross Detwiler and Ross Ohlendorf both made one rehab start for Potomac.  See MLB post for more.

Potomac Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps.  We’ll organize relievers by looking at closers first, then by innings pitched.

  • Robert Benincasa earned 17 saves in 25 apperances for Potomac to lead the team in saves.  He earned his promotion after starting the season as Hagerstown’s closer.  His numbers on the year: 34/9 K/BB in 30 innings, 3.30 ERA, 1.23 whip, 2.80 fip.  His performance earned him a placement in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 4.00 ERA in 9 innings of work.  Outlook for next season: Depending on the numbers, I could see him in the AA bullpen or beginning in High-A with a look for a quick promotion.
  • Richie Mirowski dominated to the tune of a 1.50 ERA across 48 high-A innings and earned his promotion.  See the AA post for more.  Outlook for next season: AA bullpen again, looking to force another promotion.
  • Rob Wort started the season in AA, struggled, missed 5 weeks with an injury, but then settled in as a back-of-the-bullpen guy for Potomac.  In 34 innings he posted a 3.71 ERA but more impressively had a 48/29 K/BB ratio.  Well, ok, the 29 walks in 34 innings wasn’t that impressive, but the 48 Ks was.  Unfortunately for Wort, this is the FOURTH season in a row he’s been in Potomac.   He had absolutely fantastic numbers in 2012 but couldn’t back them up.  It may be safe to say he’s hit his limit organizationally.   Outlook for next season: Another shot at AA bullpen but may end up back in High-A.
  • Greg  Holt put up solid numbers as a middle reliever for Potomac, leading the bullpen in innings while going 9-0 with a 3.71 ERA in 70+ innings.  I’m concerned with his 55/33 K/BB ratio in those 70 innings; that just seems like too many walks and not enough K’s.  He’s progressed each of his three pro seasons; will he keep moving on up to AA for 2014?  Outlook for next season: Possibly in AA’s bullpen, more likely back as high-A middle reliever.
  • Colin Bates had a really nice season for Potomac this year, posting nearly a 6-1 K/BB ratio while still striking out nearly 7 guys per 9 innings pitched.  He posted a 2.61 ERA over 62 innings pitched, his second straight season advancing a level and posting a sub 3.00 ERA in the bullpen.    Outlook for next season: AA bullpen.
  • Brian Dupra earned two promotions on the season to end up in Potomac’s bullpen, where he put up pedestrian numbers (1-7, 4.96 ERA, 1.49 whip).  A college senior draftee with very little bonus money investment, Dupra’s usefulness to the organization may be at a limit.  Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen competition, possible release.
  • David Fischer started the year in Hagerstown but was quickly bumped up to Potomac, where he served as a long-man out of the pen.  He hit the D/L in mid August and never returned.  On the year his numbers were pedestrian; 4.30 ERA in 44 innings.  He did maintain a great K/9 rate (10.84).  But Fischer’s problem is the same as his fellow low-bonus/college senior draftees currently toiling in A-ball; its move up or ship out.  Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen.
  • Matt Grace threw 28 innings of quality relief and was bumped up to AA.  See the AA write-up for more.  Outlook for next season: AA bullpen to continue as the lefty matchup guy.
  • Rafael Martin didn’t make his first appearance until July, and when he got to Potomac he was great; a 1.04 ERA in 26 innings.  As well he should; two years ago he was a closer in AA and posted a 1.77 era.  What is he doing in A-Ball?  The Mexican league free agent signing in 2009 seems like he should be back in AA, where he’s shown he can compete in the past.  Outlook for next season: AA bullpen.
  • Derek Self couldn’t make the leap to High-A, getting demoted to Hagerstown after putting up a 6 ERA in 29 innings.  See the low-A post for more.   Outlook for next season: trying the high-A bullpen again.
  • Tyler Herron quickly showed he was too good for High-A and was promoted to Harrisburg after 20 innings.  See the AA post for more.  Outlook for next season: AAA bullpen.
  • Christian Meza lasted about 5 weeks in Potomac, putting up a 6.62 ERA and greater than a 2.00 whip before getting demoted back to Hagerstown.  See the low-A post for more.  Outlook for next season: trying the high-A bullpen again, possible release candidate.
  • Travis Henke toiled most of the season in Hagerstown and got a late-season promotion.  See the low-A post for more.   Outlook for next season: high-A bullpen.
  • Cameron Selik struggled through 10 appearances and 11 innings throughout the course of the season, missing a ton of time as he struggled with injury.  He can’t go back to Potomac for the fourth straight season, can he?   Outlook for next season: AA bullpen if healthy, otherwise perhaps an unfortunate release candidate.
  • Other guys who had short stints with Potomac this year:
    • Ben Hawkins threw 8 innings and was released.
    • Justin Thomas threw just one inning in Potomac during his tour of the low-minors this year; see the Low-A post for more.

Summary

No less than 18 guys got starts this year for Potomac, in a 142 game season.   All five of their opening day starters were moved out (four up, one down) by mid-season, and yet the team still made the playoffs.  That’s a great testament to the pitcher development going on in our low minors, and I think it is going to show on the big club very soon.  Its not hard to see potential in a whole slew of the starters who passed through Potomac this year.

On the reliever side, there’s a couple of guys here who may make an impact, but there’s also a whole slew of right handed middle relievers who were college senior graduates who may very quickly find themselves pushed out by the later crops of college senior draftees.

Nats Major & Minor League Pitching Staffs vs Predictions

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First off, this is partly a post of self-flaggelation, to show how far off my various predictions of what the 2013 minor league staffs would look like by doing 2012 season-ending analysis.  Such is the nature of minor league pitching staffs in the modern day; they’re a combination of spare parts, rising stars and hangers-on and they can change rapidly with trades and spring training performances.  Every trade and every MLFA signing trickles down and fouls up predicitons.

Here’s my End of Season 2012 post with predictions for each of the 2013 minor league pitching staffs.   We’ll use that as a basis for the Opening Day 2013 rosters of the four full-season minor league teams.  Just for fun we’ll throw in (and start with) the MLB prediction.  Note that this early in the season we don’t really know who’s shaking out as starters and relievers necessarily for these minor league teams; i’m just going on first week usage right now.  As always, Luke Erickson and nationalsprospects.com, the Nats Big Board and the tireless work by “SpringfieldFan” is much appreciated here.


MLB Nov 2012 Prediction

  • MLB Rotation: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Detwiler, FA or other acquisition
  • MLB Bullpen: Clippard, Storen, Mattheus, Stammen, Garcia, a FA left-hander (possibly Burnett), a FA long-man (possibly Gorzelanny).
  • MLB notables Out of Organization: Jackson, Burnett, Gonzalez, Lannan, Wang

MLB April 2013 Actual

  • MLB Rotation: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Detwiler, Haren
  • MLB Bullpen: Clippard, Storen, Mattheus, Stammen, Duke, Rodriguez, Soriano
  • MLB notables Out of Organization: Jackson, Burnett, Gonzalez, Lannan, Wang, Gorzelanny

MLB Discussion: It wasn’t going to be that difficult to predict the 2013 Nats pitching staff make-up by looking at our staff and their FA status heading into the off-season.  The rotation filled its one spot with Dan Haren.  The bullpen was 5/7ths predicted correctly (if you count Zach Duke as a FA left-hander acquisition).  Christian Garcia‘s injury opened the door for one more season of Henry Rodriguez, and of course nobody could have predicted the Rafael Soriano purchase.  Lastly all 5 of the predicted departures occured, in addition to Tom Gorzelanny being let go.


AAA Nov 2012 Prediction

  • AAA Rotation: Roark, Maya, Broderick, Meyers, Perry
  • AAA Bullpen: Tatusko (swingman), Arneson (swingman), Severino (loogy), Davis, Lehman, Nelo (closer), Martin,  Mandel

AAA Apr 2013 Actual

  • AAA Rotation: Ohlendorf, Roark, Maya,Perry, Rosenbaum ( eventually Young)
  • AAA Bullpen: Tatusko, Mandel,  Davis, McCoy, Crotta, Abad, Romero, Bramhall
  • AAA D/L: Kimball, Bray, Meyers, Torra, West, Garcia (technically XLS), Accardo
  • AAA cut/released/FA: HPena, Mann, Zinicola, Arneson, Atkins, Ballard
  • AAA Missing: none

AAA Discussion

We were 3/5s correct on the rotation, and probably would have been 4/5ths right if Brad Meyers was healthy.  Ross Ohlendorf and (eventually) Chris Young are new faces here, both being former MLB starters who are taking the Zach Duke route of signing on for full seasons as AAA starter insurance for the big club in the hopes of rebuilding value and finding a MLB job for next year.  Brian Broderick is indeed back; its just that he’s starting for AA instead of AAA.  Lastly Danny Rosenbaum was returned to the team after his spring Rule-5 adventure and was put in AAA instead of AA, where (as we’ll see in a second) I would have predicted he would start.  Once Young is ready to go, I see Tanner Roark turning into the swingman/long-man.

On the bright side (pun intended), when was the last time a professional baseball team had TWO Ivy League alumni pitching in its rotation??  Both Young and Ohlendorf went to Princeton.  I wonder if they have NYTimes crossword puzzle competitions instead of (assumedly) video game competitions on off-days in the clubhouse.

As far as bullpen predictions go, next year I’m paying more close attention to who are 6-year free agents.  Arneson, Severino and Nelo were all MLFAs and have either signed on elsewhere or are facing forced retirement.  Tatusko, Davis and Mandel are onboard.  Lehman is (surprisingly?) in AA, perhaps a victim of the numbers game of the Nats signing (and keeping) a number of minor league lefty relievers this off-season.  I would guess, looking at the names in the bullpen, that Erik Davis is the closer but who knows what the usage will be like.  Lastly Bramhall was a MLFA signing over the off-season who just got placed on the AAA roster to replace the injured Accardo.


AA Nov 2012 Prediction

  • AA Rotation: Rosenbaum, Holder, Gilliam, Karns, Grace, Demny (swingman?) or MLFA?  Solis if he’s healthy?
  • AA Bullpen: Frias, McCoy, Selik (maybe high-A again), Holland (setup),  Wort (closer), VanAllen (loogy), Demmin (maybe high-A again), an org arm or two to fill in.

AA Apr 2013 Actual

  • AA Rotation: Broderick, Treinen, Demny, Clay, Karns
  • AA Bullpen: Holder, Frias, Holland, Wort, Barrett,  Krol,  Lehman, Swynenberg
  • AA D/L: Solis, RMartin, Olbrychowski, Selik
  • AA Cut/released/FA: VanAllen
  • AA Missing: none

AA Discussion

We got, well, not much of this right.  Of my starter predictions: Rosenbaum is in AAA, Holder is here but seems to be the long-man right now, Gilliam is hurt, Solis is still on the DL, and Grace is back in High-A.  We do seem to have at least gotten Karns and Demny right.  Broderick was a surprise FA signing, his being a favorite of the Nats organziation per our Rule-5 experiment with him a couple years back.  I’m surprised he’s not in the AAA rotation though.  Treinen was a trade-throw in from the Morse deal and takes a spot in this rotation, while Clay was a 2013 MLFA signing who (surprisingly?) made the rotation over the likes of other candidates.

The bullen prediction is all over the place: We got Frias, Holland and Wort right.  McCoy is in AAA, Selik is on the AA D/L and VanAllen and Demmin were MLFAs who were left unsigned (and per the big board are still unsigned).   I thought Barrett and Swynenberg would be in high-A instead of AA, I (and most others) thought Lehman would be in AAA, and Krol arrived as the PTBNL in the Morse trade.


High-A Nov 2012 Prediction

  • High-A Rotation: Swynenberg, Ray, Meyer (maybe AA?), Schwartz (maybe low-A), Rauh(maybe low-A)
  • High-A Bullpen Competition: Barrett (maybe AA) , Testa, Smoker (loogy), Hill, Meza(perhaps a starter?), Holt, Hawkins, Bates, Mirowski
  • High-A bullpen Release candidates: Olbrychowski, McCatty, Applebee

High-A Apr 2013 Actual

  • High-A Rotation: Ray, Jordan, Cole, Turnbull, Hill
  • High-A Bullpen Competition: Herron, Mirowski, Holt, Hawkins, Meza, Bates, Self, Grace
  • High-A D/L: Smoker, Applebee, Gilliam
  • High-A Cut/FA/Released: Demmin, Consuegra, Samuel, Testa
  • High-A Missing: McCatty, Olbrychowski

High-A Discussion

The Potomac rotation guess was already light; a couple of the guys I was guessing might be in low-A are indeed there (Schwartz and Rauh).  Swynenberg is in the AA bullpen.  Meyer was traded.  Only Robbie Ray returns.  I thought Jordan was going to repeat Hagerstown.   We got Cole back in the Morse trade and bumped up Turnbull from short season (over Mooneyham, interestingly) Lastly Hill seems to have beaten out Grace for the 5th starter spot.

The Bullpen prediction looks pretty good: 7 of the predicted guys are here (Smoker on the DL, Meza, Holt, Hawkins, Mirowski and Bates).  Barrett indeed is in AA.  Testa was released.  Of my release candidates McCatty is in XST, Applebee and Olbrychowski are on the DL.  Lastly both Samuel and Consuegra were off-season MLFA signings who didn’t pan out and have already been released.


Low-A Nov 2012 Prediction

  • Low-A Rotation: Turnbull, Jordan, Purke (if healthy), Monar, Mooneyham
  • Low-A Rotation Competitors: Hansen, Lee (loogy if not), Encarnation, McGeary (if finally healthy)
  • Low-A Bullpen Competition: Anderson, Estevez, Dupra, McKenzie, Henke, Davis, Boyden, Benincasa, Hudgins, Dicherry, Mudron

Low-A Apr 2013 Actual

  • Low-A Rotation: Anderson, Mooneyham, Pineyro, RPena, Encarnation
  • Low-A Swingmen: Rauh, Schwarz, Dupra
  • Low-A Bullpen: Fischer, Harper, Henke, Hudgins, Benincasa
  • Low-A D/L: Estevez, Purke, Simko, Mesa, Weaver
  • Low-A Cut/FA/Released: Kreis, Lucas, Upperman, Hansen, Monar
  • Low-A Missing: Hollins, Hicks

Low-A Discussion

Historically the hardest to predict, the Low-A team.  Of the guesses for the rotation last fall, we only got Mooneyham right.  Turnbull and Jordan were bumped up a level.  Purke is still hurt.  Of the “competitors” the team flat out released Monar and Hansen to my surprise.  Monar was really good in Auburn last year, and while Bobby Hansen wasn’t nearly as dominant as a starter, I thought he’d at least get a shot at being a loogy after so many years in the organization.  Jack McGeary was selected out of the org during the minor league phase of the rule-5 draft.  Lee is in XST limbo right now.

So who are these surprising Low-A rotation guys?  I thought Anderson would be relegated to the bullpen in Low-A; instead he’s the opening day starter.  I thought Pineyro would repeat short-season ball but he made the full-season team.  And lastly I thought Pena was destined for another season in short-A.

Rauh and Schwartz, after I thought they had shots in the rotation in high-A, seem to be taking the roles of “2nd starters” for now, each having gone multiple innings in relief of the starter.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see them becoming full time starters if one of the 5 guys ahead of them falter.

Most of the rest of the predicted bullpen are 2012 signees who are currently amongst a large group of extended spring training guys who will be battling it out for short-season jobs with 2013 signees.   And we seem to have a very large group of them; the big board lists in excess of 30 hurlers who are currently still in the organization, who are not on the D/L officially, but who are not assigned to one of the four full season teams.   That’s a lot of arms for just a handful of spots in short-A and the rookie league after the 2013 draft occurs.

Written by Todd Boss

April 11th, 2013 at 8:41 am

Posted in Majors Pitching,Minor League Pitching,Rule-5

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2013 Projected Pitching Staffs and Rotations; entire Nats system

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After finishing the evaluation of all 6 minor league pitching staffs, plus finally finishing (and posting yesterday) the MLB season review,  here’s an entirely too-early projection of what the staffs and rotations may look like in 2013.  This post assumes for the time being that all major and minor league FAs will opt out and we’ll be looking to fill spots.  In these cases I’ll mark FAs to be as needed, though we very well may acquire these players in trade.

Note: some of these projections are slightly different from the original reviews posted in the per-level links, to account for moves, performances and roster moves that have already happened or seem set to happen this off-season.  I’ve also made some slight adjustments in order to make the rotations and bullpens work at each level.

(notations: FA = free agent, MLFA == Minor League Free Agent)

Staff Review links: MLB is here, AAA is here, AA is here, High-A is here, Low-A is here, Short-A is here, GCL is here.

  • MLB Rotation: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Detwiler, FA or other acquisition
  • MLB Bullpen: Clippard, Storen, Mattheus, Stammen, Garcia, a FA left-hander (possibly Burnett), a FA long-man (possibly Gorzelanny).
  • MLB notables Out of Organization: Jackson, Burnett, Gonzalez, Lannan, Wang

MLB Narrative: 4/5ths of the rotation are no-brainers.  The 5th starter is the question mark for 2013.  Do we re-sign Jackson and pay him more as a 5th starter than our big 3 guys?  It doesn’t seem so after the team declined to give him a Qualifying Offer.  Do we trade from depth (RH relief, middle infield) and find a 5th starter that way?  Do we find a 5th starter from within?  Meanwhile the bullpen is now full of hard throwing righties, but we could lose all 3 of our lefties.  We may need to work the phones to retain these guys, or else we’re on the FA market.  I think (despite my discussion about converting Garcia to a 5th starter) that he’ll remain in the bullpen and may bump Henry Rodriguez out of a job.  One of our two closer-quality guys (Clippard and Storen) could be moved, cashing in on their value, which could open up a spot for a FA acquisition or a promotion from AAA.

Lots to be decided this off-season for Mike Rizzo, and this hasn’t even mentioned the dominos that will fall if/when the team makes a contract decision on Adam LaRoche.

  • AAA Rotation: Roark, Maya, Broderick, Meyers, Perry
  • AAA Bullpen: Tatusko (swingman), Arneson (swingman), Severino (loogy), Davis, Lehman, Nelo (closer), Martin,  Mandel

AAA Narrative: We have a lot of long-serving minor leaguers here; as it stands now only a few of them are even 40-man roster guys (Maya, Perry, Garcia).  The modern AAA roster construction is one of “spare parts” and prospects; do we have enough prospects to cover for injuries at the MLB level?  Which one of these AAA starters would Nats fans feel comfortable filling in were one of our starters to go down with injury?  Perhaps the Nats need to work on some starter depth via trade.  Brad Meyers was just returned from the Yankees after a season-long DL stint after being Rule-5 drafted, and seems likely to slot right back into the AAA rotation when he’s healthy.  Perry seems set to get a 4th option and should slot in here, looking to convert back to being a starter.  Broderick is a former Rule-5 pick and was claimed from St. Louis, who dumped him late last season.  I don’t think he’s anything more than a 4-A starter, but the organization seems to like him.

  • AA Rotation: Rosenbaum, Holder, Gilliam, Karns, Grace, Demny (swingman?) or MLFA?  Solis if he’s healthy?
  • AA Bullpen: Frias, McCoy, Selik (maybe high-A again), Holland (setup), Wort (closer), VanAllen (loogy), Demmin (maybe high-A again), an org arm or two to fill in.

AA narrative: We have a couple of interesting candidates in the AA rotation to start, but what may be more interesting is to see whether the likes of Gilliam and Demny hold onto their spots with the talent ready to rise up out of high-A.  Meanwhile, the bullpen has some interesting arms to keep an eye on.  I forgot to mention Solis in the AA write-up but remembered him here.  Two big questions for me in this AA rotation for 2013: 1) is Rosenbaum for real or is he going to sputter out before reaching MLB potential?   And, 2) Is Nathan Karns ready to make the leap?  I think Karns can quickly put his name in the mix to get promoted to AAA based on his performance in 2012.

  • High-A Rotation: Swynenberg, Ray, Meyer (maybe AA?), Schwartz (maybe low-A), Rauh (maybe low-A)
  • High-A Bullpen Competition: Barrett (maybe AA) , Testa, Smoker (loogy), Hill, Meza (perhaps a starter?), Holt, Hawkins, Bates, Mirowski
  • High-A bullpen Release candidates: Olbrychowski, McCatty, Applebee

High-A narrative: there’s too many arms for too few slots right now in all three of the A-levels.   There’s a ton of release candidates, and some guys who could be higher or lower.   I’d love to be a fly on the wall at the organizational meetings where all this evaluation is done.  Meyer dominated High-A last year; could he start in AA?   Barrett (by virtue of his AFL appearance) may also be AA material.

The same goes for the Low-A team below: I’ve got 5 logical rotation candidates, another 4 guys who make sense to be in the low-A rotation, and a slew of guys who seem to have earned their way to the low-A bullpen.  But there’s only 7 slots to go around.

  • Low-A Rotation: Turnbull, Jordan, Purke (if healthy), Monar, Mooneyham
  • Low-A Rotation Competitors: Hansen, Lee (loogy if not), Encarnation, McGeary (if finally healthy)
  • Low-A Bullpen Competition: Anderson, Estevez, Dupra, McKenzie, Henke, Davis, Boyden, Benincasa, Hudgins, Dicherry, Mudron

We acknowledge the folly of trying to predict short-season staffs which will mostly be populated with 2013 draftees, especially under the new CBA that shortens negotiation times, making it more likely college seniors are drafted (who sign quickly with zero leverage) and get playing.  That being said, there will definitely be guys who stay in extended spring training for a couple months and then get placed on these rosters along with new draftees.  Here’s some guesses based on 2012 performances; all blank spots filled by 2013 draftees or by some of the guys who drop down from low-A.

  • Short-A Rotation: Baez, Pineyro
  • Short-A Bullpen: Smith (if not released), Fischer, Medina, Pena, Mendez

GCL blank spots filled by younger 2013 draftees (HS, Juco and college juniors/seniors from smaller schools) and by rising DSL grads.

  • GCL Rotation: Mieses (if not released), Barrientos, Vasquez
  • GCL Bullpen: Heredes

Hagerstown/Low-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2012

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Closer Aaron Barrett was one of the best stories of the year for Hagerstown’s pitching staff. Photo unknown via thephilosophersstone2011.blogspot.com

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.

Summary

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.

Good Lord we’ve drafted a lot of Arms …

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Alex Meyer leads a very very large pack of college arms in the Nats draft class. Photo via Lex18.com

I wrote this post in three parts, after each of the draft’s three days.  Hence the groupings.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the top 10 rounds.

- Anthony Rendon 2b/3b 1/6 Rice Jr.  Boras client, slipped b/c of shoulder injury #1 BA ranked
- Alex Meyer rhp 1/23 UKentucky Jr. big starter, 97mph
- Brian Goodwin of S1/34 Miami Dade Juco (was unc).  lefty leadoff/cf type.
- Matt Purke lhp 3/96 TCU Soph. Fantastic pick, was a top10 talent, shoulder bursitis issue.
- Kylin Turnbull lhp 4/127 Santa Barbara Juco.  6-4, 93mph
- Matt Skole 3b 5/157 Georgia Tech Jr.  Big bat.  47homers in 3yr college career.  wow.
- David Hill rhp 6/187 Vanderbuilt Sr.
- Brian Dupra rhp 7/217 Notre Dame Sr.
- Gregory Holt rhp 8/247 UNC Sr.
- Dixon Anderson rhp 9/277 California Sr.
- Manny Rodriguez rhp 10/307 Barry University Sr.

First day observations: Wow, that’s a lot of pitching.  8 of our first 11 picks are college arms.  Not ONE high school guy.

Looking at the next 20 rounds (where there’s less of a chance the guy pans out):

- Caleb Ramsey OF   11 Houston Sr.
- Blake Monar LHP  12 Indiana Jr.
- Blake Kalenkosky 1B   13 Texas State Jr.
- Cody Stubbs OF   14 Walters State JuCo J2
- Zach Houchins SS   15 Louisburg JuCo J1
- Deion Williams SS   16 Redan (Ga.) HS (Committed to Georgia State)
- Esteban Guzman RHP  17 San Jose State Jr.
- Nicholas Lee LHP  18 Weatherford College JuCo J2
- Hawtin Buchannan RHP  19 Biloxi (Miss.) HS (Committed to Ole Mis/Mississippi)
- Josh Laxer RHP  20 Madison (Miss.) Central HS (Committed to Ole Mis/Mississippi)
- Todd Simko LHP  21 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Jr.
- Travis Henke RHP  22 Arkansas-Little Rock Sr.
- Khayyan Norfork 2B   23 Tennessee Sr.
- Kyle Ottoson LHP  24 Arizona State Jr.
- Erick Fernandez C    25 Georgetown Sr.
- Shawn Pleffner OF   26 Univ. of Tampa Jr.
- Bobby Lucas LHP  27 George Washington Sr.
- Kenneth Ferrer RHP  28 Elon University Sr.
- Sean Cotton C    29 Tusculum College Sr.
- Bryan Harper LHP  30 South Carolina Jr.

In rounds 11-30, here’s some highlights:

  • A grand total of 3 high schoolers.  And I’d be shocked if any of them sign based on college commitments and their relatively low draft rankings.  I could be wrong though, especially with Williams.  We’d pretty much destroy Ole Miss’ recruiting class if we took both guys who committed there.
  • 11 more pitchers, making 19 out of the first 31 players we’ve drafted in 2011 arms.

Day 3: here’s rounds 31-50

Josh Tobias SS 31 Southeast Guilford HS (NC) (Florida committment)
Billy Burns OF 32 Mercer Univ. (GA) Jr.
Trey Karlen 2B 33 Univ. of Tennessee-Martin Sr.
Calvin Drummond RHP 34 Univ. of San Diego (CA) Jr.
Alex Kreis RHP 35 Jamestown College (ND) Sr.
Ben Hawkins LHP 36 Univ. of West Florida Jr.
Derrick Bleeker RHP 37 Howard College (TX) Juco J2
Brett Mooneyham LHP 38 Stanford Univ. (CA) Jr.
Peter Verdin OF 39 Univ. of Georgia Jr.
Stephen Collum OF 40 Cartersville HS (GA) (? commit)
Bryce Ortega 3B 41 Univ. of Arizona Sr.
David Kerian SS 42 Bishop Heelan HS (IA) (? commit)
Mitchell Morales SS 43 Wellington Community HS (? commit)
Matt Snyder 1B 44 Univ. of Mississippi Jr.
Richie Mirowski RHP 45 Oklahoma Baptist Univ. Sr.
Tyler Thompson OF 46 Univ. of Florida Jr.
Timothy Montgomery LHP 47 Rockmart HS (GA) (? commit)
Michael Bisenius OF 48 Wayne State College (NE) Jr.
Hunter Cole OF 49 Dorman HS (SC) (? commit)
Anthony Nix OF 50 Univ. of California-Riverside Sr.

Round 31-50 stats:

  • 6 high schoolers, most with very little chance of signing (why sign in the mid 30s for a pittance when you can go to college, get an education and improve your draft status and bonus money?)
  • 13 of the last 20 picks non-pitchers
  • A number of these 30-50th round guys are college juniors, meaning they’re likely to go back to school.
  • 7 more pitchers, bringing the total in the draft to 27 pitchers overall.  Only ONE high school arm.

Coincidentally, “Sue Dinem” has already updated the Draft Tracker xls (one of my favorite Nats resources online: thanks Sue!).

In terms of the first few drat picks: i’m presuming that all Scott Boras clients will NOT sign til 10 minutes before the August 15th deadline, so that means Rendon, Meyer and Goodwin we’ll see you in Viera next spring.  Purke; he’s going to be an interesting negotiation, since he turned down top10 money 2 years ago and presumably can threaten to go back to school.  His negotiations probably go down to the wire as well.  Most likely he pitches in the Cape Cod league, and if he shows he’s got any sort of velocity coming back, we’ll offer him first round money.  Otherwise he’ll return for his third year and the Nats will get a 3rd round compensation pick in 2012.  Not the best solution for us but workable if he’s completely damaged goods.

From Turnbull on down to about the 20th round, i’m guessing everyone signs, and signs fast.   We’ve got a ton of college seniors with no place else to go, and little room for bonus money negotiation.  These guys are going to sign quickly and go directly to Auburn.

I’m a bit surprised at the pitcher focus frankly.  I perceive that we’re rather thin on positional players in our low-minors right now.   Looking at Baseball America’s top 30 for the organization at the end of 2010, the breakdown was as follows:

  • Outfielders (5): Harper, Perez, Hood, Burgess, Ramirez
  • Catchers (2): Norris, Ramos
  • Infielders (8): Espinosa, Marrero, Lombardozzi, Hague, Sanchez, Kobernus, Martinson, Moore
  • Right Handed Starters (7): Cole, Peacock, Maya, Morris, Tatusko, Meyers, Holder
  • Right Handed Relievers (4): Kimball, Ramirez, Carr, Pena
  • Left Handed Starters(4): Solis, Ray, Milone, Rosenbaum
  • Left Handed Relievers (0)

Of these 30 players, 2 have since been traded away (Morris, Burgess) while several more are now on the 25-man roster (Ramos, Espinosa, Maya for the time being and Kimball).  That leaves a breakdown of 12 positional players and 12 pitchers in the minors at the top level of BA’s analysis.  But its hard to look at most of positional players left in the minors and really say “those guys are a sure thing.”

Now we have 26 more arms to fit in, and not a bunch more hitters frankly.  The short-A and GCL are going to be stocked with arms and probably making due with what’s left in extended spring.  There’s approximately 24-26 pitcher slots to fill in short-A and GCL … but we still have a number of arms in extended spring that will be competing.  I wonder how many guys are about to get pink slips.

Get ready for an interesting summer.

Josh Tobias SS 31 Southeast Guilford HS (NC) (Florida committment)
Billy Burns OF 32 Mercer Univ. (GA) Jr.
Trey Karlen 2B 33 Univ. of Tennessee-Martin Sr.
Calvin Drummond RHP 34 Univ. of San Diego (CA) Jr.
Alex Kreis RHP 35 Jamestown College (ND) Sr.
Ben Hawkins LHP 36 Univ. of West Florida Jr.
Derrick Bleeker RHP 37 Howard College (TX) Juco J2
Brett Mooneyham LHP 38 Stanford Univ. (CA) Jr.
Peter Verdin OF 39 Univ. of Georgia Jr.
Stephen Collum OF 40 Cartersville HS (GA) (? commit)
Bryce Ortega 3B 41 Univ. of Arizona Sr.
David Kerian SS 42 Bishop Heelan HS (IA) (? commit)
Mitchell Morales SS 43 Wellington Community HS (? commit)
Matt Snyder 1B 44 Univ. of Mississippi Jr.
Ritchie Mirowski RHP 45 Oklahoma Baptist Univ. Sr.
Tyler Thompson OF 46 Univ. of Florida Jr.
Timothy Montgomery LHP 47 Rockmart HS (GA) (? commit)
Michael Bisenius OF 48 Wayne State College (NE) Jr.
Hunter Cole OF 49 Dorman HS (SC) (? commit)
Anthony Nix OF 50 Univ. of California-Riverside Sr.