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Hagerstown/Low-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2013

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Pedro Encarnacion was the staff leader for Hagerstown in 2013.  Photo via flickr.

Pedro Encarnacion was the staff leader for Hagerstown in 2013. Photo via flickr.

This is the 5th in the 2013 Pitching staff review series, here’s a review of Hagerstown/Low-A’s pitching staff for 2013.  Other parts of the 2013 series:

For some historical perspective, here’s 2012′s version (Aaron Barrett was the feature pitcher) and 2011′s version (Taylor Jordan the feature pitcher) of this post specifically for Hagerstown/Low-A.

All stats are courtesy of either milb.com’s Hagerstown 2013 Stats page or via Fangraph’s Hagerstown 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.

Hagerstown starters.  The rotation started the season with Anderson, Mooneyham, Pineyro, Pena and Encarnacion.  It ended with Turnbull, Encarnacion, Bacus, Voth, and Johansen (with Dickson in the rotation most of the last half of the season as well).  There were quite a few changes along the way; I counted 8 pitcher promotions throughout the year, including 6 starters.  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.

  • Dixon Anderson got the ball opening day and threw 15 decent starts for the Suns, even making the all-star team.  He started to struggle in June, hit the D/L at the end of that month and never re-appeared.  As you might imagine, its hard to find out injury news for guys in the low minors, so the extent of his injury is unknown to me at this time.  Which makes it kind of hard to predict where he’ll be next year.  He had good component ratios and was a college draftee from a good baseball school, so you’d think he’s ready to move up.  Outlook for next season: High-A rotation if he’s healthy.
  • Brett Mooneyham absolutely dominated low-A ball, posting a 1.94 ERA and going 10-3 in 93 innings before mercifully being pushed to Potomac.  And this comes as no surprise; a 3rd round pick from a Pac-12 baseball power should dominate a bunch of kids 2 years his junior.  I’m not sure what was left to prove in Hagerstown, especially when it became clear he was overpowering the league.  To be fair, he did have a 6 week D/L stint that factored in; but once he came back and dominated towards the end of June he should have been pushed up.  Outlook for next season: High-A rotation.
  • Ivan Pineyro threw 13 good starts for Hagerstown, was promoted, then got 3 starts in High-A before he was flipped for Scott Hairston.   Outlook for next season: in the Chicago Cubs organization.
  • Ronald Pena started in the rotation for Hagerstown, then was pushed to the bullpen to become the long-man by June.  He ended the season with decent enough numbers: 4-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 28 appearances (10 starts).  His component ratios weren’t that great: 55/34 K/BB in 88 innings, but he did give the Suns a great playoff stint in long relief.  Where does a guy like this go from here?  Outlook for next season: high-A bullpen in a similar long-relief/spot starter role.
  • Pedro Encarnacion was the staff leader for Hagerstown this year, leading the team in starts, wins (technically tied with Mooneyham), innings pitched and K’s.   The DSL graduate posted a 10-9 W/L record with 113/37 K/BB in 128 innings.   He had a 1.19 whip on the year, and his FIP (3.50) flattered his ERA (3.58).   Encarnacion right now represents the most accomplished DSL graduate in the entire system (when speaking of pitchers anyway), perhaps the best DSL pitching prospect we’ve had the entire time the team has been in Washington (who is more accomplished?  Atahualpa Severino?), and I see no reason for him not to keep climbing the ranks next year.    Outlook for next season: High-A rotation.
  • Nick Lee joined up with Hagerstown in mid May and gave the team 17 decent starts before hitting the D/L to make way for new acquisition Dakota Bacus in August (more on him later).   He had impressive K rates (102 strikeouts in 91 innings) and a FIP (3.54) that flattered his ERA (3.95).   He had a number of sparkling outings interspersed with a couple of failures, but for the most part was consistent this year.  Outlook for next season: High-A rotation competition, possibly dropping back to Low-A if the numbers game doesn’t work out (he’s young; he’s still 22).
  • Kylin Turnbull lasted just three high-A starts, giving up 10 runs in 17 innings and was demoted to low-A.  Repeating Hagerstown, he was again poor, putting in just 5 mediocre-to-bad starts before being sent to XST, where he toiled for a few weeks before joining up with Auburn to start the short-season.  He pitched to a 1.96 ERA in four short-A starts and earned a promotion back to Hagerstown, where he finally settled down and finished out the year.  Unfortunately he laid an egg in the playoffs, but a lot of our guys did.  On the whole in Hagerstown for the year, he performed ably; a 3.58 ERA in 16 starts.    Outlook for next season: Attempting High-A’s rotation again, but i’m wondering if he’s cut out to start.  Despite his draft pedigree (4th rounder in 2011) he may be eventually bound for the bullpen as a lefty specialist.
  • Ian Dickson was acquired in early June from the Cubs when the Nats finally DFA’d Henry Rodriguez.  I define this transaction as “getting something for nothing.”  Dickson joined the Suns bullpen, showed his big arm, then was mostly a starter for the rest of the season.  All in all for the Suns he had 16 appearances (10 starts) and posted a 4.39 ERA with more than a K/inning.  Meanwhile his K/BB ratio was fantastic for such a strikeout guy (71/17 in 65 2/3 innings for the Suns this year).  Is he a starter?  Outlook for next season: High-A swingman/spot-starter.
  • Matt Purke over-matched low-A in 6 starts (posting 41 K’s in 29 innings) and was pushed to Potomac in early July.  See the high-A writeup for more. Outlook for next season: High-A rotation.
  • Others who got just 1-2 starts for Hagerstown:
    • Austin Voth is an exciting 2013 draftee who blew through both short season teams to end up in the low-A rotation and get the opening playoff start.  See the short-A writeup for more.
    • Jake Johansen is, as we all know, the Nats top draft pick from 2013.  He (like Voth) pushed his way to low-A this season.   See the short-A writeup for more.
    • Dakota Bacus came to the team in late August in trade for Kurt Suzuki; he spent most of the year in Oakland’s low-A team and performed ably.  He posted a 3.65 ERA in 121 innings but showed a bit of a wild streak.   Outlook for next season: High-A rotation competition.
    • Blake Schwartz blitzed through 4 starts in low-A and was quickly promoted to Potomac.  See the high-A write-up for more.  Outlook for next season: AA rotation.
    • Brian Dupra earned two promotions on the season to end up in Potomac’s bullpen.  See the high-A write-up for more. Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen competition, possible release.
    • Reynaldo Lopez gave Hagerstown a spot start, getting called up from Auburn.  See Short-A write-up for more.
    • Ryan Mattheus got a rehab “start.”  See MLB write-up for more.

Hagerstown relievers.  We’ll start with the closers and work backwards by IP from there.  I will say this; when considering the future of middle relievers in low-A ball, everything is a crap shoot.  Most of these guys are already “org guys” before they’ve even really started their careers and its really difficult to project where they may go.   Unfortunately, lots of these guys may end up being post spring-training releases to make way for the newer crop of draftees.

  • Robert Benincasa led the Suns in saves despite being promoted mid-season.  See the high-A write-up for more.   Outlook for next season: AA/High-A bullpen.
  • Gilberto Mendez dominated low-A this season, arriving in June, posting a 0.91 ERA and striking out 33 in 29 2/3 innings while earning 7 saves.   No reason to think the 2011 DR signing isn’t moving on up.  I like this guy; so far he’s pitched pretty well at every level he’s hit.   Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen, possibly the closer if Benincasa is in AA.
  • Derek Self couldn’t make the leap to High-A, and spent most of the season in Hagerstown.  He posted decent numbers in low-A:  a 3.41 ERA in 31 2/3 innings pitching mostly towards the back of the bullpen.   Outlook for next season: trying the high-A bullpen again, possibly falling back to the low-A bullpen.
  • Travis Henke toiled most of the season in Hagerstown and got a late-season promotion.  In Low-A he posted a 2.72 ERA in nearly 60 innings of mostly longer relief.  He’s yet another decent find out of a small college (Arkansas – Little Rock) for the Nats scouting department. Outlook for next season: high-A bullpen.
  • Bryan Harper earned his keep in low-A this year, posting a 3.97 ERA in 45 innings.  He’s got to work on his control though; 32 walks in those 45 innings completely counter balance his nice K/9 ratio.  Outlook for next season: high-A bullpen competition as the matchup-lefty.
  • Cody Davis continued to pitch extremely well for an undrafted free agent signing, succeeding in his third straight season and third straight promotion.  For Hagerstown in 2013; a 2.76 ERA in 42 innings, more than a K/inning, nearly a 4/1 K/BB ratio and an even better FIP (2.33) than his ERA.  He’s clearly earned a shot at the next level.   Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen.
  • 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.  See the high-A write-up for more.  Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen, perhaps a starter.  Perhaps a release candidate.
  • 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.  For Hagerstown he was better but still not great; a 4.00 ERA over 31 innings.  To be fair, his K rate was excellent and his FIP in such a short sample size was decent, but giving up 2 base runners an inning as a reliever is a no-no.  He’s entering his 5th pro season and has thus far been unable to succeed above low-A ball; he may face a do-or-die spring training in 2014.   He is a lefty though, and the lower parts of the system seem to lack lefty matchup guys, so this could be a saving grace.  Outlook for next season: trying the high-A bullpen again, possible release candidate.
  • 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.  See the high-A write-up for more.  Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen.
  • Will Hudgins started the year in Hagerstown’s bullpen, was demoted to Auburn, and abruptly retired in July.   Odd in my opinion; his stats didn’t look that bad.  Outlook for next season: out of baseball.
  • Other relievers who didn’t get enough innings to really pass much judgement:
    • Justin Thomas bounced around the system in his first pro year, pitching at 4 different levels.  He only threw a grand total of 22 innings on the year so its hard to pass too much judgement.  He was a college senior draftee so you’d have to think he’s better suited for full-season ball in 2014.  Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen competition.
    • Chris McKenzie threw 12 innings of 5.25 ERA ball and was released, ending a 4 year tenure in the organization.  
    • Jason Smith got lit up in 7+ innings and was released.
    • Corey Bafidis stopped in to Hagerstown for two appearances before heading to Auburn.  See the short-A write-up.
    • Leonard Hollins had one appearance in low-A, got sent back to XST and spent the season in Auburn.    See the short-A write-up.
    • Jake Walsh had 1 IP during a brief callup in August, then joined the Suns for the playoffs.  See the GCL write-up for more.

Summary

The Suns were the first half champs on the backs of good (if over-aged) starting pitching.  It is what it is; the Nationals are drafting older players, focusing on college guys, and its just natural that our low-A team is going to trend older.   Based on what I see here, there’s going to be quite a competition for the High-A spots in 2014.  There’s going to be more guys than spots, both in the rotation and in the bullpen.

A lot of the names who featured for the Suns in the playoffs may very well be back to start 2014, giving the team an excellent chance of repeating as first half champs in 2014.

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

Nats 2012 Minor League Rotations: Guesses and Results

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Yunesky Maya led the Nats minor league starters for the 2nd straight summer. Photo Jim McGregor/Syracuse Chiefs via milb.com

I stumbled across this post, titled “Updated Minor League Rotation Predictions for 2012,” posted March 1st 2012, while looking for something else last week.  And I thought to myself, hey now that I’ve finished the reviews of the minor league teams, lets see how I did predicting the rotations at the beginning of the season!   I’ve also culled through the post-2011 season review posts for some preliminary guesses at the time.

(Note: I linked to NationalsProspects.com Luke Erickson‘s guesses in the above link for another perspective in the 2012 spring training).

Players are bolded the first time they’re mentioned, but not afterwards.

AAA:

  • Sept 11 Guess: Maya, Milone, Stammen, Meyers, Peacock, Martis
  • Mar 12 Guess: Stammen, Maya, Arneson, Ballard, Buschmann
  • Opening Day Rotation: Atkins, Roark, Maya, Lannan and Duke
  • 5 guys with the most starts in 2012: Maya, Roark, Duke, Lannan, Atkins

What happened?  My prediction was way, way off; only Maya was the constant, but we knew that the second he proved he couldn’t get out MLB hitters last fall.  The team traded two of its probable AAA starters (Peacock and Milone), lost a third to the Rule-5 draft (Meyers, who honestly we probably will get back once the Yankees are done screwing around with him) and a 4th to Minor League Free Agency (Martis).  Meanwhile, who knew that Lannan wasn’t going to make the MLB opening day roster?  Then, the team released Buschmann before he appeared in a game (he played 2012 in the Tampa Bay organization).  Ballard was a starter, just not in AAA.  Stammen, in a surprise to me, made the conversion from AAA starter in 2011 to MLB bullpen guy and had a great  year.  Lastly, instead of using more internal options like Roark the team signed two MLFAs in Duke and Atkins.  I suppose I could have guessed that the team would go with Roark before Arneson as a starter (given Arneson’s rubber-armed handling in 2011).  It just goes to show how much the creation of AAA teams has changed over the years.

AA:

  • Sept 11 Guess: Rosenbaum, BronsonDemny, Olbrychowski,  Solis
  • Mar 12 Guess:  Rosenbaum, Bronson, Demny, Olbrychowski, Gilliam
  • Opening Day Rotation: Gilliam, Demny, Mandel, Rosenbaum and Ballard
  • 5 guys with the most starts in 2012: Rosenbaum, Demny, Gilliam, Perry, Ballard/Pucetas

We were a bit closer here, getting 3 of the 5 guesses right.  Sammy Solis would absolutely have been in this rotation if not for his Tommy John surgery; we’ll cross our fingers for him to return in 2013.  When Solis went out, org-arm Mandel filled in.  Evan Bronson is still with the organization on Milb.com but never threw an inning in 2012 and isn’t on the Big Board.  I can’t find a single bit of google information indicating if he’s still with the team or not.  Weird.  Meanwhile I had just guessed too high for Olbrychowski; he spent most of 2012 as a starter in Potomac.  Nobody could have guessed that we’d have traded Balester for Perry, that Perry would have stunk as a reliever, and then would show up in AA remaking himself as a starter.  Ballard and Pucetas were MLFA pickups designed to fill holes in the system, though based on his prior experience I had Ballard pegged in the AAA rotation.

High-A:

  • Sept 11 Guess: Selik, Grace, Purke, Meyer, Hill, Karns
  • Mar 12 Guess:  Selik, Grace, Purke, Meyer, Hill
  • Opening Day Rotation: Winters, Hansen, Olbrychowski, Grace and Swynenberg
  • 5 guys with the most starts in 2012: Grace, Ray, Swynenberg, Olbrychowski, Karns

I was far off here as well; Purke got hurt, Meyer, Hill and Karns started lower than I would have guessed  and Selik was converted to a reliever.  I was right only on Grace (thought technically I thought Olbrychowski would be a starter, just not back in Potomac).  Winters was a MLFA (the fifth such MLFA who has appeared as a primary starter in our top three levels; is this a statement of some sort?).  As we’ll see in a moment, I was right about Hansen, just wrong about the level.  Lastly Swynenberg came out of nowhere; he was effective in middle-relief in low-A; who knew he’d win a spot in the high-A rotation?  I thought Ray would have done a few turns in low-A; instead he debuted in Potomac and struggled to make the jump.  I lost faith in Karns between September 2011 and March 2012; as it turned out he was one of the 5 top starters (in terms of appearances) for the year while putting in a career season.

Low-A:

  • Sept 11 Guess: Hansen, Jordan, Cole, Ray, Estevez, McGeary
  • Mar 12 Guess:  Turnbull, Hansen, Ray, McGeary, Karns
  • Opening Day Rotation: Estevez, Dupra/Karns, Meyer, Turnbull/Hill, McKenzie
  • 5 guys with the most starts in 2012: Hill, Meyer, Turnbull, Estevez, Hansen

What happened?  The team traded Cole.  Jordan was injured more than we were led to believe in late 2011 (he had Tommy John surgery after the season was over).   I predicted Hansen, Ray, Hill, Estevez, Meyers and Dupra would be starters, just got the levels wrong.   My Mar 12 guesses were somewhat accurate in that we got Turnbull and Karns right.  McGeary struggled through yet another injury filled season and may be nearing the end of his baseball career.  I thought Estevez was getting squeezed out with all these high-profile starters rising up.  I figured McKenzie had lost his starting shot; clearly his performance in 2012 should end his chances at getting another 2013 starting shot.  I guess the lesson here is that it can be awful difficult to determine the difference between a High-, Low- and Short-A guy.

Short-A:

  • Sept 11 Guess: Manny Rodriguez, Dupra, Baez and two draft picks.
  • Mar 12 Guess:  Manny Rodriguez, Dupra, Baez and two draft picks
  • Opening Day Rotation:  Jordan/Medina, Baez, Monar, Encarnation, and Smith
  • 5 guys with the most starts in 2012: Encarnation, Monar, Lee, Mooneyham, Fischer/Pineyro

My guess of 3 returners and 2 draft picks wasn’t entirely accurate; there wasn’t a single 2012 draft pick in the 2012 opening day rotation.  We got Baez pegged correctly but the rest of the predictions were off.  Manny Rodriguez, a converted infielder, spent the whole year on the 60-day DL.  Dupra was in high-A.  Meanwhile, a couple of guys dropping down from Low-A (Jordan, Encarnation) comprised the rotation at the beginning of the season.  Monar was a repeater from 2011 who didn’t get a ton of innings last  year.  Eventually some 2012 draftees (Mooneyham, Fischer and others) got starts as expected, and helped drive Auburn to the playoffs.

GCL:

  • Sept 11 Guess: Mieses, King, Encarnation, Medina, Marcelino
  • Mar 12 Guess:  Mieses repeating plus 4 guys from DSL and the 2012 draft.
  • Opening Day Rotation:  Mieses, Barrientos, Pineyro, Vasquez, and Schwarz
  • 5 guys with the most starts in 2012: Vasquez, Mieses, Hudgins, Selsor, Pineyro/Schwartz

Finally we got one right (well, right from Mar 12 guess anyway).  The GCL rotation was Mieses, 3 DSL graduates and one 2012 draftee.  Eventually more 2012 draftees (Hudgins, Selsor and others) consumed most of the rest of the starts.  King disappeared from the rosters; he’s still in the organization but was never assigned this season.  Injured?  Disciplinary issues?   There seems to be so much inconsistency in the DSL graduates that it almost isn’t worth tracking them until they appear in a higher level.  Honestly, this is why I don’t really follow the Dominican Summer League teams either.

Phew; that’s a lot of Nats minor league starters.  As it showed, its really, really difficult to predict this stuff from a computer in Northern Virginia, scouting the stat lines.  But its really fun, so we’ll continue to do it :-) .

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.

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.