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Syracuse/AAA Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2013

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Roark was the story of the year from Syracuse. Photo via milb.com

Roark was the story of the year from Syracuse. Photo via milb.com

2nd in a series: here’s the opener, reviewing the Major league squad.

For some historical perspective, here’s 2012’s version (featuring John Lannan) and 2011’s version (featuring Tommy Milone) of this post for AAA Syracuse.

All stats are courtesy of either milb.com’s Syracuse Stats page or via Fangraph’s Syracuse Stats page.   Also useful here are the Big Board and the Nats Draft Tracker.

Syracuse starters.  The rotation started the season with Ohlendorf, Roark, Maya, Perry and Rosenbaum.  It finished the year with Maya, Tatusko, Rosembaum, Mandel and Clay.  Here’s an overview of the starters Syracuse used, starting with the original 5.

  • Ross Ohlendorf took a minor league gig with the Nationals to try to revitalize his career and went a somewhat pedestrian looking 4-6 in 13 starts.  His FIP (3.49) was better than his ERA (4.22) and his K/9 was good as he revamped his windup.  A streak of good starts led to his June call-up, where he basically spent the rest of the season as the Nats’ long-man/spot starter.  He tired as a starter, only going past the 5th inning three times, and Davey Johnson seemed hesitant to use him because of it.  Outlook for next season: he did enough to get tendered a contract (which he quickly signed; 1yr/$1.25M), and seemingly he will slot back in as the long-man/spot-starter role for the MLB team.  He doesn’t seem to have enough to compete and win the 5th starter competition.  Will the team dump him to AAA as an inexpensive starter insurance policy?  I doubt it for now; they probably opt to keep Ohlendorf as the last guy out of the pen.
  • Tanner Roark started in the rotation, got shelled in his 2nd and (especially) his 3rd starts, and got dumped to the bullpen.  He toiled there for weeks before getting another shot in the rotation, and when he did he did very well.  By the time he got called up in August he had recovered from his 3 2/3 inning 10-run debacle in early April to post a 9-3 record with a 3.15 ERA and a 0.99 whip in AAA.  All he did upon arriving in the majors is pitch lights-out (a 252 ERA+) in 50 innings mixed with starts and relief appearances.  Outlook for next season: he’ll compete for the 5th starter job in spring but may not win it.  Its hard to imagine a guy who threw 50+ innings of 1.50 ERA ball to NOT make the team the following spring; he could end up replacing Ohlendorf as the long-man/spot starter for the MLB team.
  • Yunesky Maya made nearly a complete season worth of starts for Syracuse, going 8-8 with a 3.87 ERA.   However in his third (and last) opportunity to pitch for the major league club he got hammered, which led to a DFA in late May and an outright to Syracuse.  Maya pitched out the string, was not called up in September and was released in late November.  Outlook for next season: he has signed a minor league contract with Atlanta, closing the book on an unsatisfying tenure with the Nationals organization.
  • Ryan Perry started the year in the rotation under the National’s grand plan to make him a starter, and the experiment failed.  8 starts later, he boasted a 7.93 ERA.  He hit the D/L, then was demoted to Harrisburg.  There, he was outrighted off the 40-man roster and returned to the bullpen, where he was mediocre (4.43 ERA).  How odd; last year we were worried about Perry getting that needed 4th option; now he’s an org arm in AA.  This guy was pitching in a playoff team’s bullpen at 22, now he’s turning 27 and banished in the mid-minors.  Amazing.  Outlook for next season: he has to show he can get AA hitters out; you have to think he’s starting in the AA bullpen again, unless a numbers dearth pushes him by attrition to the AAA bullpen.
  • Danny Rosenbaum had a whirlwind spring, getting rule-5 drafted by Colorado and then subsequently returned in late March, just in time to pack his bags for upstate New York and take his spot in the back end of the Syracuse Rotation.  Rosenbaum led the 2013 rotation in starts and innings, going 7-11 with a 3.87 ERA.  He did not earn a September call-up, nor was he selected in 2013’s Rule-5 draft.  Unfortunately, Rosenbaum seems to have found his ceiling and may need a change of scenery to see if he can move forward.  Outlook for next season: one more season as Syracuse’s innings eating lefty, then a minor league free agent at the end of 2014.
  • Ryan Tatusko gave Syracuse a full season of swing-man production, starting in the pen and then ending in the rotation.  Final season stats: 5-8 with a 4.33 ERA in 28 appearances (18 starts).  Nothing special here: I just wish I knew what happened to the guy who was a lights-out starter for Texas’ AA franchise when we acquired him in 2010.  Outlook for next season: Minor League Free Agent, likely pitching in another organization.
  • Caleb Clay gave both AA and AAA 13 starts a-piece, finishing the year in Syracuse with excellent numbers (5-2, 2.49 ERA in 13 starts in AAA).   He turned out to be an excellent minor league FA signing for the organization; too bad they couldn’t keep him for 2014.  I was somewhat disappointed to see  him signing elsewhere, thinking that he could be a sneaky good pitcher for the Nats someday.  Outlook for next season: signed with San Francisco as a minor league free agent for 2014, where he stands a halfway decent chance of contributing at the MLB level, considering how bad Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum were in 2013.
  • Jeff Mandel continued to serve as the rubber arm swing man for Syracuse, a role that he’s essentially played for the Nats AAA affiliate in one way or another since 2010.  This year he got 10 starts and 100+ innings and continued to show unfortunately that his peak is as an organizational/innings eating arm.  Outlook for next season: Minor League Free Agent; he could sign on again with Washington as he did last off-season but he has to think that his path to the majors is easier with another team.
  • Chris Young was signed to a combo deal last off-season to give the team some starter insurance.  Instead he started hurt, pitched horribly in 7 starts, then went back on the D/L for essentially the rest of the season.   He gave up 50 hits in 32 AAA innings and was smoked for a 7.88 ERA.  Outlook for next season: the Nats must have seen something they liked during his rehab assignments, because they’ve already signed him to a minor league contract for 2014.  AAA rotation, hopefully healthy this time.
  • Brad Meyers was rule-5 drafted by the Yankees in 2012, got hurt for them, and was eventually returned in time for the 2013 season, but spent the entire year on the D/L.  He’s got enough time to be a MLFA but isn’t on BA’s list so I presume he’s still in the organization.  Outlook for next season: competing for a rotation spot in AAA; likely to be released if he doesn’t make the team.
  • Other guys who got spot starts here and there:
    • Matt Torra had 5 starts in June/July then got released.
    • Taylor Hill got a couple of spot starts in August and was sent back to AA; see Harrisburg’s writeup for more on him.
    • Christian Garcia got a couple of “starts” doing re-hab assignments; see the reliever section.
    • Tyler Robinson had a spot start and an extended outing; see the reliever section.
    • Paul Demny got a spot start call-up and was sent back down; see Harrisburg’s writeup for more.

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

  • Erik Davis was Syracuse’s closer in name for a bulk of the season, earning 15 saves while posting a 3.10 ERA in 52+ innings.  He was a Sept 2012 pre-rule5 40-man addition and spent a week in the MLB pen in June before getting recalled for September.  Out of his 10 MLB appearances he gave up zero runs in 9 of them and showed excellent middle-reliever stuff (12/1 K/BB ratio in 8 2/3 innings).  Outlook for next season: I don’t think he can crack the 7-man MLB bullpen so he’ll be in Syracuse again, but there’s a reason he got added to the 40-man and I think he features as MLB bullpen insurance throughout the year.
  • Michael Broadway was a MLFA signing who gave the organization excellent back-of-the-bullpen production the whole year, starting with Harrisburg and ending with Syracuse.  Outlook for next season: he has already signed a MLFA deal with Toronto for 2014, somewhat of a disappointment.  Like Clay, I would have liked to have kept this guy around if possible.
  • Michael Crotta was another organizational-filling MLFA signing in 2013 who, like Broadway, toiled well and ate innings in Syracuse.   Outlook for next season: MLFA again, likely signing elsewhere.
  • Tyler Robertson was a June 2013 waiver claim off of Minnesota, grabbed to help address the team’s lack of left-handed relievers.  Robertson pitched decently for Syracuse but was passed on the Loogy depth chart by several others.  He was outrighted in November ahead of the Rule-5 draft.  Outlook for next season: Syracuse bullpen, though if i’m not mistaken he’s got enough service time to be a MLFA.  I wonder if his outright and acceptance of assignment to Syracuse was effectively the Nats signing him to a 2014 ML contract?  This is a frequent question and I’m not enough of an expert on baseball transactions to know the answer.
  • Xavier Cedeno was an April 2013 waiver claim off of Houston (of all teams), who spent most of the season in Syracuse (save for a quick June call-up).  In September, he pitched pretty effectively, giving up just one run in 9 outings and 11+ innings for the big team.  He clearly hasn’t shown the team enough to be counted on as the go-to loogy, considering the Nats off-season trade for Jeremy Blevens and their talk of using the likes of Ross Detwiler and/or Sammy Solis as lefty reliever help in 2014.  And I know that many here think Cedeno is making the MLB roster; I just don’t see it right now.    Outlook for next season: Syracuse bullpen.
  • Mark Lowe was a mid-season MLFA pickup after getting released by the Angels.  He opted out of his contract at the end of the minor league season when he wasn’t getting added to the 40-man or called-up.   Outlook for next season: MLFA
  • Cole Kimball just never made it back from shoulder surgery and was outrighted in July.  He had an 8.06 ERA this year in 25 2/3 innings.   Outlook for next season: MLFA, likely out of baseball unfortunately.  Shoulder surgeries are just a killer.
  • Fernando Abad was a MLFA signing last off-season who pitched great for Syracuse and earned a call-up in May.   He toiled in the pen decently most of the year for the big-club but wasn’t considered valuable enough to keep.  The team DFA’d him ahead of this year’s rule-5 draft and then worked out a trade with our favorite GM Billy Beane.  Outlook for next season: in Oakland’s organization.
  • Christian Garcia got just 8 1/3 AAA innings this year (and 13 1/3 total in the minors on all rehab assignments) after getting hurt in spring training as the team tried to stretch him out as a starter.  I think the team now sees the error of its ways with Garcia, a fragile guy who has survived multiple surgeries to this point.  His stuff is so good, he’s a shoe-in for a MLB job if he’s healthy, but who can count on him to be healthy at this point?   Outlook for next season: if healthy, he’s competing for a 6th/7th inning role in the MLB bullpen.   He’s got plenty of options left though, so its likely he starts in the AAA bullpen given the crowded nature of the MLB pen right now.
  • Other Relievers who appeared in AAA of note (not including Rehabbing MLBers): Outlook for next season for all of these guys seems the same: either continued “org guy” middle reliever or minor league free agent in another organization.
    • Jeremy Accardo: signed in February, released in June after a 5.56 ERA in 22+ innings.  He did not resign anywhere and may be done.
    • Bobby Bramhall was signed in November, and released 3 weeks into the season after posting a 6.75 ERA in 16 innings to make room for Cedeno & Young on the roster.   He was picked up by Philadelphia and ended the season demoted to their AA team.
    • J.C. Romero opted out of his contract after 2 months despite 15 decent apperances; it was clear the Nats weren’t calling him up and were favoring other loogy candidate acquisitions.  He was picked up by Cleveland, threw two innings and apparently went on the D/L.
    • Pat McCoy failed to make the jump from AA to AAA and was demoted back after 7 ineffective appearances; see the Harrisburg write-up for more.
    • Brian Dupra was called up for one game oddly; he spent most of the season in low- and high-A.  See Potomac’s write-up for more.

Summary

Despite the nature of AAA these days as being a “spare parts” storage team, Syracuse produced a couple of very pleasant surprises for this team.  Ohlendorf went from being a throw-away MLFA signing to a productive MLB long man.  Roark was one step from the dreaded “org guy/MLFA” category, and when given a chance pitched fantastically at the MLB level.  Plus, the development of loogy depth in the form of Robertson and Cedeno will serve the organization well.

 

Injuries and Idiocy lead to interesting Call-ups

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Unbelievably, Maya gets another MLB shot. Photo Al Bello/Getty Images

Hey, we’ve all been there Ryan Mattheus.

But clearly Mattheus never watched Bull Durham; Crash Davis‘ last lesson to Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh involved exactly what Mattheus just did to himself.  If you’re going to punch something … NEVER punch with your pitching hand.

And then in an even worse move, Mattheus hid the injury from his manager until it was too late to call up someone, meaning the team was short a reliever for last night’s SF game (a predictable 8-0 loss as Zach Duke even more predictably got hammered for 7 hits and 4 earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings).

We may even have an issue with Henry Rodriguez, who apparently “grimaced” as he was throwing one of his FOURTY SEVEN pitches last night, a ridiculous amount of pitches for a max-effort guy who should normally be throwing half that in an outing.  Don’t be surprised to see news of him hitting the D/L either.

So, with the bullpen shredded and now devoid of basically anyone who can throw significant long innings for the next couple of days, the team called up Yunesky Maya to provide some cover.  Maya has been awful in AAA so far this year (1-4 with a 5.07 era) but he’s the best option on the 40-man roster for what they need right now.   They’re also planning on calling up lefty Fernando Abad, one of their slew of lefty minor league free agents who has been excellent in AAA this year.   Abad will likely be a one-for-one replacement for Mattheus when he hits the D/L and has earned his way back to the majors.  Abad will require a 40-man move; he will be the 40th guy on the roster.  Maya likely switches places again with Eury Perez once the bullpen can catch its breath.

A better more interesting question may involve the fate of Duke.  He’s been awful this year, barely appears because of it, and when he is called upon to provide the one thing the team needs from him (an effective spot start) he fell on his face.  He’s not given this team anything close to what Tom Gorzelanny gave us for the past few years, and I’m beginning to wonder if the team really made the right decision keeping Duke over Gorzelanny.  Duke only makes $700k a year (versus the 2yr/$5.7M deal that Gorzelanny got from Milwaukee) but with the marginal value of a “Win” on the open market being in excess of $5M these days, have the Nats ended up being penny wise but a pound foolish?

Regardless of the “hindsight is 20/20” analysis with Duke versus Gorzelanny, I have a feeling we may be seeing another move in the near future; the DFA of Duke and the call up of either J.C. Romero or newly acquired Xavier Cedeno. Both are lefties, both are veterans, both are pitching really well in Syracuse, and both seemingly can do no worse than Duke has done.  This isn’t as exciting as seeing a prospect get called up (for example; Danny Rosenbaum or Erik Davis), but with any more injuries we may get there.

Minor League Pitching Age Appropriateness for 2013

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Yunesky Maya is “Really Old” for AAA; but does it matter? Photo unknown

A recurring statement that you often hear when talking about prospects in the minors is “Age Appropriateness” for the level in which the player is playing.  And for good reason; a seasoned minor league player who is playing against younger, weaker competition should have dominant numbers, and when analyzing that player’s performance this should be taken into account.  On the flip side, if a guy advances quickly up the minors and is a “youngster” at a high level and performs poorly, he shouldn’t immediately be written off, since he’s likely overmatched and needs time to “grow” into the level.

This topic comes up here often when talking about pitchers and their performances, and I frequently talk about a guy “being old” or “being young” for his level as a way to either discount good performances or explain away poor ones.  But what is “Too old for a level?”

I have always used a rule-of-thumb measurement advocated by John Sickels at minorleagueball.com for looking at player ages (I cannot find the original Sickels posting but have seen it attributed to him in several forums).  That rule-of-thumb is as follows:

  • AAA: Typical Age range is 23-24.  Age 25 depends.  26+ is old
  • AA: 22-23.  24 depends.  25+ is old
  • High-A: 20-22.  23 depends.  24+ is old
  • Low-A: 19-21.  22 depends.  23+ is old
  • Short-A: 19-20.  21/22 for draft year guys only.  22+ is old
  • GCL: 17-19.  20 for draft year guys only.  21+ is old

Now, the caveats to the above are as follows:

1. This is specifically worried about prospect development; clearly we know that a former major leaguer on a minor league free agent contract in AAA is going to look like he’s really “old” for the level when we need understand his presence there differently.  A rising prospect who is in AAA at the age of 26 or 27 who hasn’t made it to the majors yet is absolutely “old” and is probably closer to minor league free agency or a release than he is to making the big team.

2. Injuries matter.  If a college grad loses a year to TJ surgery and then is sitting in high-A as a 24 year old in his second pro season (think Nathan Karns) you can’t really hold that against him.  But if he’s dominant, you can sort of explain why and say that he needs to be moved up.

Luke Erickson (with Brian Oliver‘s help) came up with similar looking ranges for the various levels and have made it a link off the main page of NationalsProspects.com.  And I talked about this topic a couple of years ago in this space in advance of this same analysis, which I last performed in 2011.


Without further ado, here’s a look at the actual age ranges of the Nationals four full season minor league teams as they stood on 2013’s Opening Day (yes, i’ve had this data in the can for a month and a half and am just getting around to publishing it).  I last did this analysis two years ago and it is interesting to see how the age ranges have changed slightly over the years.  Here’s 2011’s and 2013’s ranges (click here for a Google spreadsheet of all the detail to check my work and do your own sorting; this link is also in the Links to the right):

2011 AAA AA High-A Low-A
Really Young 25.54 or younger 24.44 or  younger 22.65 or younger 21.88 or younger
Young 25.54 – 26.93 24.44 – 25.37 22.65 – 23.83 21.88 – 22.84
Old 26.93 – 28.79 25.37 – 26.65 23.83 – 24.77 22.84 – 23.65
Really Old 28.79 or older 26.65 or older 24.77 or older 23.65 or older
2013 AAA AA High-A Low-A
Really Young 25.91 or younger 24.02 or younger 23.08 or younger 21.69 or younger
Young 25.92 – 27.75 24.02 – 25.17 23.08 – 24.00 21.69 – 22.66
Old 27.75 – 30.35 25.17 – 26.84 24.00 – 24.91 22.66 – 23.39
Really Old 30.35 or older 26.84 or older 24.91 or older 23.39 or older

Data Taxonomy: I’ve taken every pitcher on every team’s roster in each of the four leagues that the Nats have farm teams in (AAA = International, AA = Eastern, High-A = Carolina, Low-A = South Atlantic), put them into a spreadsheet, calculated their ages at the end of this season (9/1/13) and then calculated the four quartile figures in terms of age.  I only used pitchers in our leagues as opposed to the entire level across all of baseball thinking that different leagues may have different needs (I’m thinking how the California League and the Pacific Coast League has so many hitters parks and thus the pitchers may linger there longer, skewing the numbers).  I also standardized the numbers to be at the end of the season as opposed to the beginning, so that people can talk about a player’s “Age 25 season” for example.

So (using 2013’s AAA as an example): the 25th percentile age is 25.91, the 50th percentile or median age is 27.75, the 75th percentile age is 30.35.   For ease of labeling, anyone in the lowest quartile is “Really Young” for that level, 25th-50th is “Young,” 50th-75th is “Old” and anyone in the 75th percentile or higher is labeled “Really Old.”  I know some don’t like these labels; if someone just moves past the 50th percentile they go from being “Young” to “Old” in a hurry.  But I have to draw the lines somewhere.  The fractions are represented as fractions of an entire year of days, so .91 is 91/100ths of 365 days old.  This say, as opposed to the way that MLB service time is represented in Years.Days and you see numbers like “1.113.”

Looking at 2011 to 2013’s changes: notice how AAA is getting much older.  I think that is due to so many teams giving non-guaranteed MLFA deals to former starters and relievers and stashing them in AAA.  Look at our own team: we’ve got guys like Chris Young, Fernando Abad, and JC Romero all in their 30s, skewing the numbers northward.  Meanwhile both AA has gotten slightly  younger; its median age has dropped slightly.


Here’s a look at the Nationals’ four full season minor league pitching staffs, with the ages listed and the “age appropriate” label given. Note that I did this right at the beginning of the season so I havn’t captured all the moves made in the last month.

AAA Syracuse

Team Name DOB Age as of 9/1/13 Age Status
Syracuse (Washington) Bill Bray 6/5/1983 30.24 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Cole Kimball 8/1/1985 28.08 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Brad Meyers 9/13/1985 27.97 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Matt Torra 6/29/1984 29.17 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Sean West 6/15/1986 27.21 Young
Syracuse (Washington) Jeremy Accardo 12/8/1981 31.73 Really Old
Syracuse (Washington) Jeff Mandel 4/30/1985 28.34 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Patrick McCoy 8/3/1988 25.08 Really Young
Syracuse (Washington) J.C. Romero 6/4/1976 37.24 Really Old
Syracuse (Washington) Michael Crotta 9/25/1984 28.93 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Bobby Bramhall 7/13/1985 28.14 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Tanner Roark 10/5/1986 26.91 Young
Syracuse (Washington) Ryan Tatusko 3/27/1985 28.43 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Daniel Rosenbaum 10/10/1987 25.89 Really Young
Syracuse (Washington) Ross Ohlendorf 8/8/1982 31.07 Really Old
Syracuse (Washington) Fernando Abad 12/17/1985 27.71 Young
Syracuse (Washington) Erik Davis 10/8/1986 26.90 Young
Syracuse (Washington) Yunesky Maya 8/28/1981 32.01 Really Old
Syracuse (Washington) Ryan Perry 2/13/1987 26.55 Young
Syracuse (Washington) Chris Young 5/25/1979 34.27 Really Old

Discussion: Our “really old” guys are no surprise; they’re all basically guys on MLFA contracts.  Well, and Yunesky Maya, who is just playing out the string at this point.  I’m more interested in the “prospects” who are in AAA and their age status, and they mostly look good.   Pat McCoy and Danny Rosenbaum both rate as really young for the level.  Erik Davis and Ryan Perry both rate as young, even despite Perry’s MLB experience.  Otherwise are there even other “prospects” worth analyzing on the Syracuse roster at this point?  It seems that most everyone else on this team is a backup starter or a backup loogy.

Oldest Guy in the Int’l League: Miguel Batista with Toronto’s AAA affilliate.  Yes our own Mr. Batista from two years ago, still hanging around.  He’s yet to get called back up in 2013.  Ironically the 2nd oldest guy in AAA is also on Buffalo and is also an ex-Nat: Ramon Ortiz, who has gotten called up to help cover for Toronto’s injury-devistated staff and has a couple of apperances already.

Youngest Guy in the Intl’ League: Giovanni Soto with Cleveland’s AAA affilliate in Columbus.  He’s not considered a high-end prospect; he’s just a guy drafted out of HS who has made his way level-by-level and is now 22 in AAA.  The 2nd youngest guy in AAA is a more familiar name (Trevor Bauer, also with Cleveland’s team) and the ten youngest pitchers in the league reads like a top-50 Pitching prospects list MLB-wide.

Percentage of Int’l League pitchers on MLB 40-man rosters: 65/210 or 30.9%.   This shows just how much AAA is turning into a spare-parts holding league.


AA Harrisburg

Team Name DOB Age as of 9/1/13 Age Status
Harrisburg (Washington) Adam Olbrychowski 9/7/1986 26.98 Really Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Sammy Solis 8/10/1988 25.06 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Rafael Martin 5/16/1984 29.30 Really Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Cameron Selik 8/25/1987 26.02 Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Paul Demny 8/3/1989 24.08 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Marcos Frias 12/19/1988 24.70 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Brian Broderick 9/1/1986 27.00 Really Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Trevor Holder 1/8/1987 26.65 Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Aaron Barrett 1/2/1988 25.66 Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Caleb Clay 2/15/1988 25.54 Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Neil Holland 8/14/1988 25.05 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Rob Wort 2/7/1989 24.56 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Pat Lehman 10/18/1986 26.87 Really Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Matt Swynenberg 2/16/1989 24.54 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Ian Krol 5/9/1991 22.32 Really Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Blake Treinen 6/30/1988 25.17 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Nathan Karns 11/25/1987 25.77 Old

Borrowing from my Monthly check-in on the Minor League staffs, who are we really interested in on this roster?  The rotation is Broderick, Treinen, Demny, Clay and Karns.  Broderick is really old for the level, but we already knew that (considering he was in the majors as our Rule-5 draftee two years ago).  Karns and Clay are “old” for the level but not overly so; the median age is 25.17 and they’re 25.77 and 25.54 respectively.  So just a few months older than the median.  Not bad considering Karns basically lost two years of development time due to injuries.   When the team gets Solis back, he’ll still be young.  And most interestingly is Ian Krol who is the 4th youngest guy in the Eastern League but has dominant numbers thus far in 2013.  Most of the “really old” guys are relievers who most would agree are “Org guys” and will naturally fall of the roster when their 6-year FA period arrives.

Oldest Guy in the Eastern League: Willie Collazo on Toronto’s AA team in New Hampshire, who had four years in the PCL and likely is only on a AA roster as a procedural location since he started the season on the DL.  In fact, most of that team’s roster is among the 20 oldest guys in the league.  And as with the AAA team there are ex-Nats all over their rosters.   I think we’re seeing the effects of former Nats front-office member Dana Brown now in Toronto helping to shape their minor league roster with guys he’s familiar with.

Youngest Guy in the Eastern League: One Dylan Bundy, Baltimore farm-hand who already has MLB innings and who some thought could have broken camp with the Orioles.  Unfortunatley for Bundy, he’s been sidelined with shoulder issues all year.  But he’s clearly an up-and-coming talent.  The 2nd youngest guy in the Eastern league is also a big-time prospect: Jamison Taillon in Pittsburgh’s org.  In fact, when Taillon and his fellow uber-prospect Gerrit Cole matriculate to the majors, Pittsburgh is going to suddenly find themselves with one of the league’s elite pitching staffs.

Percentage of Eastern League pitchers on MLB 40-man rosters: 15/182 or 8.24%.  Just a handful (Nathan Karns is one, Bundy is one).


High-A Potomac

Team Name DOB Age as of 9/1/13 Age Status
Potomac (Washington) Paul Applebee 5/17/1988 25.29 Really Old
Potomac (Washington) Robert Gilliam 11/29/1987 25.76 Really Old
Potomac (Washington) Josh Smoker 11/26/1988 24.76 Old
Potomac (Washington) Matthew Grace 12/14/1988 24.71 Old
Potomac (Washington) Robbie Ray 10/1/1991 21.92 Really Young
Potomac (Washington) Colin Bates 3/10/1988 25.48 Really Old
Potomac (Washington) A.J. Cole 1/5/1992 21.66 Really Young
Potomac (Washington) Ben Hawkins 11/4/1989 23.82 Young
Potomac (Washington) Tyler Herron 8/5/1986 27.07 Really Old
Potomac (Washington) Gregory Holt 6/19/1989 24.20 Old
Potomac (Washington) Taylor Jordan 1/17/1989 24.62 Old
Potomac (Washington) Christian Meza 8/3/1990 23.08 Really Young
Potomac (Washington) Richie Mirowski 4/30/1989 24.34 Old
Potomac (Washington) Derek Self 1/14/1990 23.63 Young
Potomac (Washington) Taylor Hill 3/12/1989 24.47 Old
Potomac (Washington) Kylin Turnbull 9/12/1989 23.97 Young

Discussion: Our starters at the time of this writing in Potomac are Ray, Jordan, Schwartz, Cole and Hill.   Schwartz wasn’t on this roster when I did the cut-n-paste jobs but he’s almost the same identical age as the man he replaced Turnbull.   Ray and Cole still rate as “Really Young” (they’re the 7th and 10th youngest guys in the Carolina league) despite both guys repeating this level, a testament to just how young these guys were LAST year.  Jordan rates as “old” but with the injury caveat.  Hill is four months older than the median age so frankly he’s right on schedule.   By and large though this is an older staff, which to me is indicative of the college-heavy pitcher drafts Mike Rizzo has done the last few years.  All of our staffs are going to trend old.

Oldest/Youngest Guys in Carolina League: Baltimore’s Frederick affiliate oddly has the two youngest guys (Eduardo Rodriguez, Zachary Davies) and the two oldest guys (Eunchul Choi and Rob Delaney) in the league.  I’ve never heard anything about any of these four, so I can’t really add much commentary here :-)

Percentage of Carolina pitchers on MLB 40-man rosters: Just 2/115 for 1.74%


Low-A Hagerstown

Team Name DOB Age as of 9/1/13 Age Status
Hagerstown (Washington) Blake Schwartz 10/9/1989 23.90 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Brett Mooneyham 1/24/1990 23.60 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Brian Dupra 12/15/1988 24.71 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Brian Rauh 7/23/1991 22.11 Young
Hagerstown (Washington) Bryan Harper 12/29/1989 23.67 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) David Fischer 4/10/1990 23.39 Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Dean Weaver 5/17/1988 25.29 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Dixon Anderson 7/2/1989 24.17 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Ivan Pineyro 9/29/1991 21.92 Young
Hagerstown (Washington) Matt Purke 7/17/1990 23.13 Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Pedro Encarnacion 6/26/1991 22.18 Young
Hagerstown (Washington) Robert Benincasa 9/5/1990 22.99 Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Ronald Pena 9/19/1991 21.95 Young
Hagerstown (Washington) Todd Simko 12/5/1988 24.74 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Travis Henke 7/9/1988 25.15 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Will Hudgins 2/12/1990 23.55 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Wirkin Estevez 3/15/1992 21.46 Really Young

Discussion: as with Potomac, 9 of the 17 guys on this staff are in the “Really Old” category, again a testament to the college-heavy arm drafting of late.  Even Brett Mooneyham is now on the old side of the league median age, and he’s just got one full pro season under his belt.  The one guy listed as “Really Young” is DSL grad Wirkin Estevez

Oldest Guy in the Sally League: Miami’s low-A affiliate in Greensboro has a guy who is already 28 named Miguel Fermin.  He’s in low-A because he’s converting to be a Pitcher after 6 years as a middle infielder.

Youngest Guy in the Sally League: Atlanta’s Lucas Sims, their 1st round draft pick from 2012, who hasn’t even turned 19 as of today (but will have by the end of the season).  The 2nd youngest is a lefty prep draftee in Baltimore’s system named Josh Hader who has an interesting story thus far; he was a HS draftee in the 19th round who put up great numbers in short-season last year, broke with the low-A team and has a 1.74 ERA through four starts as of the time of this writing.  Sounds like a heck of a draft find for Baltimore so far.

Percentage of Sally League pitchers on MLB 40-man rosters: 1 of 196 pitchers.  That one?  our very own Matt Purke, who at this point, I’m not afraid to say, looks like he could be a draft bust.  Not a major one though mind you; the Nats bribed him out of his college commitment with a 3rd round pick but mid first round money in 2011.   But that could end up being a lost 3rd round pick unless Purke can show us something this year.  In some ways it was a great gamble to get a guy who was 15-0 as a freshman … and “its just money” right?  If this kind of draft money allocation were to have happened in the new system, and the team blew its entire wad of money on one injury-prone guy, we’d be much more concerned.

Monthly Check-in with Minor League Pitching Staffs

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Robbie Ray is having a nice bounce-back 2013 so far. Photo: Natsnewsnetwork.blogspot.com

In 2011, I managed to do “Rotational Review” posts for both the MLB team and the minor league system for the whole summer.   That turned out to be a pretty hefty time commitment, and an endeavor that I couldn’t keep up with.  I managed to do all 33 MLB rotation reviews but gave up on the minor league systems around the all-star break. For the entirety of 2012 I never once published much of an in-season look at any of the minor league teams.  But I want to stay aware of the minor league pitchers; its basically the reason I started this blog.  I wanted to be up on the rising talent, always on the lookout for the next home grown pitching talent.

In 2013, I’ve modified my approach.  With the help of daily doses of Luke Erickson‘s NationalsProspects.com daily looks, I’m taking the time to give a quick “grade” to each Starter’s outing by looking at the stat-line and the peripherals, in order to gauge how guys are looking.  Instead of the previous “good-bad-soso” analysis, I’ve adopted somewhat of a letter grade system, from A+ to F.  It isn’t a hard and fast grading system, but generally speaking we start with a run-of-the-mill quality start being graded a C (lets face it, 3 earned runs in 6 innings for a 4.50 ERA is average) and then go from there.  6 shutout innings gets somewhere between an A+ and an A- depending on # of hits/walks/Ks, while a complete meltdown (e.g. 7 runs in 3 innings) earns an F.  You get the idea.

So, without further ado, here’s the April 2013 look at the starters by team, with grades for outings and some commentary.  We’ll do an expanded view of the MLB rotation in the next post.  The grades are through 4/30’s outings; the stats may be slightly off since I wrote the bulk of this prior to this morning.

AAA Rotation

  • Ohlendorf: A,B,D+,D,C-
  • Young: F,D
  • Maya: C,D,D,F,D-
  • Perry: D-,B+,C-,B
  • Rosenbaum: A-,A,C+,A
  • Roark: A,D,F->demoted to bullpen,A
  • Tatusko: D,A-

Discussion: Syracuse YTD Stats are here for reference

(A quick note explaining the notation; the top 5 pitchers are the current rotation, and guys who have been starters before promotions or demotions, or who have spot starts are noted below the current rotational members.  The rotation is listed in current appearance order).

So far, the AAA rotation (which i like to call the “desperately seeking to find an injury backup starter” group) has been mostly a mess this year.  Former Major league starters Ross Ohlendorf and Chris Young sport ERAs of 5.46 and 9.00 respectively.  Yunesky Maya has been even worse; a 7.45 ERA and a 1.62 whip.  Ryan Perry rebounded after a rough debut outing.  Tanner Roark was holding Young’s rotation spot and was either excellent or awful; even with two grade-A outings he’s sporting an 8.44 ERA in 21 1/3 innings.  Only Danny Rosenbaum has shown himself worthy of a potential call up; after trying out for the Colorado rotation all spring on a Rule-5 invitation, he was returned and has really thrown well in Syracuse.  (side note on Rosenbaum; is he now officially “Daniel?”  Sort of how we went from Tom Milone to Tommy?  I’ll have to update all my tags in the blog system).

In the Bullpen, Erik Davis, Fernando Abad and JC Romero each sport sub 1.00 ERAs in relief; the rest of the bullpen ranges from mediocre to awful.  As noted in a prior post comment, there’s not a lot of relief backup were one of our MLB arms to go down.  Davis is showing why the team protected him last November though.

AA Rotation

  • Broderick: C-,C+,B-,F,B-
  • Treinen: F,D,A,C,B+
  • Demny: A-,D,C,C-,F
  • Clay: D,A,A,C,B+
  • Karns: F,A,A,B+
  • Holder: C

DiscussionHarrisburg YTD Stats are here for reference

As with Syracuse, there’s a lot of up-and-down so far in Harrisburg.  Brian Broderick, who should be in AAA frankly, is barely holding on in AA.  He’s yet to have anywhere close to a dominant outing.  Blake Treinen (throw-in from the Michael Morse trade) started really slow and has clawed his way back to respectability.  Paul Demny has been up and down too.  Caleb Clay (a MLFA signing who spent 6 years in the Boston organization) has been surprisingly sucessful as an Eastern League starter; he was relatively UNsuccessful the last two years playing for Boston’s AA affiliate in the same league as a middle reliever.  We’ll see if he can keep this up.  Lastly Nathan Karns, who in my mind is the “next best Nats starter prospect” to keep an eye on (with apologies to Rosenbaum, AJ Cole and Lucas Giolito) himself rebounded from an awful 2013 debut to put in 3 dominant starts.  He now sits with a 3.80 ERA and 29 ks in 21 innings through 5 starts with nearly a 4/1 K/BB ratio.

Trevor Holder got a spot start and has been otherwise decent.  Ian Krol (the PTBNL in the Morse trade) has been lights out; one run allowed in 13+ innings so far.  Michael Broadway, who we picked up as a MLFA just a few days before the season started, has also been good in short sample sizes.   Aaron Barrett has 4 saves and 15 ks to just 3 walks in his 11 innings this month.  Most of the rest of the Harrisburg bullpen are showing great K/9 rates right now with good numbers thus far.

High-A Rotation

  • Ray: A-,B,B-,A,A
  • Jordan: A,B,B+,B-,B-
  • Cole: D,B,D,D,C+
  • Schwartz: A,A
  • Hill: C+,A-,A+,C,C-
  • Turnbull: D-,D,F->demoted

Discussion: Potomac YTD Stats are here for reference

Potomac is led by a series of guys who are all on good rolls.  Robbie Ray, Taylor Jordan and Taylor Hill each are sporting sub 2.00 ERAs at the end of the month.  Hill’s outings are a combination of excellent and mediocre; his stat line looks better than his Start grade line.  Kylin Turnbull turned out not to be ready for High-A, but his promoted replacement Blake Schwartz certainly looked like he was ready in his first start (6ip, 3hits, zero runs) and followed up that outing with another dominant outing on 4/30.   Only A.J. Cole has really struggled out of this group, a disappointing start so far for the re-captured prospect.   Is High-A going to turn out to be his tripping point?  The California league is tough on hitters, but the Carolina league isn’t; what is going on with Cole?

In the bullpen, Tyler Herron has an amazing 20 Ks in 10 1/3 innings, while Richie Mirowski has given up just 4 hits in his 10+ innings of work for the month.

Low-A Rotation

  • Anderson: B+,B+,A,B,A
  • Turnbull: A
  • Pineyro: D,D,Inc,C-,A+
  • RPena: B,F,D,A-,B+
  • Encarnation: B+,C-,C-
  • Schwartz: B+,A,B-,A+->promoted
  • Mooneyham: B-,A,A->dl
  • Dupra: B,A,B-,D->promoted
  • Rauh: C,C,B-,D-
  • Fischer: A+
  • Hudgins: A,A-

DiscussionHagerstown YTD Stats are here for reference

Hagerstown has a “rotation,” and then they have something akin to a “tandem” pitching plan in place, where the 2nd guy in goes nearly as long as the starter.  Hence the larger number of guys who are given grades on their “starts,” when in reality guys in the lower group don’t have any starts.  If a guy goes 3-4 innings in a game, they generally have a grade here.

Dixon Anderson is leading the way with 5 excellent outings and a 2.25 era/0.87 whip.  Brett Mooneyham had three good starts as well before hitting the D/L.  Schwartz proved too dominant in his 4 outings (21 Ks in 14 innnings) and was promoted; Dupra’s line earned him a promotion as well.  Pedro Encarnation is finally putting it together outside of short-season.  Turnbull looked very dominant in his low-A return as expected.   David Fischer and Wil Hudgins longer outings may have been good, but their other outings have drug down their stat lines.  DSL grad Pineyro is somewhat holding his own in full-season ball, with up and down nights that hopefully will even out.  Lastly Ronald Pena is living up to his “sleeper” potential; the 16th round 2012 draft pick has picked up right where he left off in full-season ball.

Ask Boswell 4/29/13 edition

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Loved Zimmermann’s 1-hitter last week. Photo AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

We havn’t done an Ask Tom Boswell chat response in a while; I started one from last week’s chat but ended up deleting it.  Nothing really to add to what Boswell was responding.

Here’s the 4/29/13 edition, after an up and down week with the Nats; getting swept by St. Louis and then taking three of four from Cincinnati behind some of the best starting pitching we’ve seen in a while.

As always, I’ll write a response here before reading Boswell’s, and will edit questions for clarity.

Q: Did Strasburg learn anything from watching Gio’s and JZimm’s efficient starts against the Reds?

A: We talked a bit about Stephen Strasburg‘s issues last week in this space.  I’m not sure what he could have learned from Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann‘s consecutive 1-hit outings that he didn’t already know; get ahead of hitters, throw first-pitch strikes, use your whole arsenal.  Cincinnati is a good hitting team, but Atlanta is better.  At least we have the distinct pitching matchup advantage in game one (when the struggling Julio Teheran goes for Atlanta).  Boswell repeats both my points here; first pitch strikes and a favorable Teheran matchup.

Q: Why is blocking the plate by the Catcher now suddenly such an issue?

A: I think it starts with the horrible injury suffered by Buster Posey; a needless debilitating injury that took out an MVP candidate and cost him a year off his career.  Locally, we all remember Chase  Utley‘s cheap shot on Jesus Flores, which essentially cost him two years and a job in the majors.  And I think it is the general climate in sports today to try to avoid concussive injuries at all costs in the wake of the very scary CTE studies that are out there and may change the very fabric of Football as we know it.  Every time there’s another injury, another collision the drumbeat gets louder.  Just because catcher collisions have always been a part of the game doesn’t mean they’re right.  I’m in favor of eliminating the play, and If I was a MLB manager i’d advise my catchers to give the runner half the plate and try to avoid injury.   Boswell agrees.

Q: Why isn’t Solano catching any games?

A: Two reasons: Kurt Suzuki by virtue of the off/on schedule with Wilson Ramos for the first couple of weeks is relatively rested and can catch 6 straight days.  The other?  Jhonatan Solano just isn’t as good of an offensive option, and with the whole team struggling at the plate why put a guy in who is clearly overmatched?  The guy only has about 100ABs above AA after all.  Boswell says the last thing you should do when struggling is bench a veteran for a rookie, especially at catcher.  Ramos returns from the DL tonight so its a moot point.

Q: If you were betting on a team to win the next World Championship in DC who would be that team?

A: You have to think its the Nats right?  Redskins are lookup up with RGIII but aren’t a complete team yet and may be a couple years off (and no more salary cap penalties) from putting together a SB team.  The Wizards may not be relevant for another decade.  The Caps are hot and may go for a decent run in the NHL playoffs, but those series are such coin flips that if they couldn’t win when they were the league’s best regular season team, its hard to see why they’d win now.  Lastly DC United is just getting back to some respectability after years of decline, but winning an MLS title over some of the powerhouses in the league is a tall order.  Boswell says Nats, Caps, Skins.  Doesn’t even mention the other two franchises :-)

Q: Any chance Bud steps in ala with the Dodgers and Frank McCourt and forces Loria’s to sell the team?

A: I think there’s a chance, but something “illegal” would have to happen.  Selig was able to force McCourt to sell when the league was being embarassed and the team was clearly suffering financially because of mis-management.  Selig has allowed Loria to already do several unsavory things to fan bases in both Montreal and Miami, so its hard to see what else could happen.  However, if this supposed SEC investigation finds real evidence of fraud and the team is sued, I can see Selig stepping in and forcing Loria out.  Boswell doesn’t really answer the question.

Q: When he gets sent down next week, would you be surprised if he played second base exclusively given that Espinosa is now struggling with the bat and glove?

A: Anthony Rendon was ALREADY playing multiple positions in the minors this season, starting mostly at 3B but also getting a few games at 2B and at least one at SS.   But I don’t think Rendon would be Danny Espinosa‘s replacement; Steve Lombardozzi would be.  If Espinosa were to be sent to the DL, Lombardozzi starts and then Rendon probably gets called back up to provide some infield cover.  Boswell thinks Rendon could make the transition, but needs more minor league time.  He also talks a lot about Espinosa vs Lombardozzi and (in my opinion) overrates the defensive value of Espinosa a bit.  In the age of rising strikeouts, it isn’t as important to have Gold Glove calibre fielders everywhere.  This is just a partial answer that may need eventual expansion in a blog post of its own.

Q: Mr. Boswell, why did Davey insert Rendon instead of Lombardozzi (following Ryan’s injury) into the lineup and why did he not allow Tyler Moore to start Sunday with Cingrani on the bump?

A: Good questions, both.  I think the team likes Rendon’s defense at 3B more than Lombardozzi or Chad Tracy, so that makes sense at least against lefties.  Why didn’t Tyler Moore play against the tough lefty Tony Cingrani?  I do not know.  You could see Adam LaRoche‘s o-fer a mile away going against the second coming of Randy Johnson (Cingrani’s now has 37 Ks in 23 MLB innings).  Perhaps veteran preference/veteran blind spot on the part of Davey Johnson?  Boswell agrees at least with the LaRoche assessment.

Q: Have the Nats have over-managed Strasburg (in terms of pitch counts, innings limits and pitching to contact) since his injury and gotten into his head?

A: I don’t see Strasburg’s issues being a result of lack of confidence.  If that was the case we’d be seeing 3ip-8 run explosions, not “first inning bad then lights out for the next 6 innings” outings.  Have the Nats over-managed him?  Perhaps; we know Strasburg didn’t like the 2012 shutdown but I supported it (as did the surgeon who performed the damn operation, nobody ever remembers).  I think Strasburg also understands the value of getting hitters to hit your pitch instead of going for blow-em-away Ks every time.  Call it “pitch to contact” but I like to call it “making them hit your pitch.”  You want to try to get a great swing in after falling behind in the count?  Fine; hit my 97mph inside fastball for power, or try to drive my 94mph sinking 2-seamer on the outside corner.  I’ll tip my hat to you if you do.

But Strasburg misses his spots; his command has not been great.  97mph flat on the corner is good; in the middle of the plate is bad.  He’s been missing in the middle way too much.  Boswell defended his column, saying Strasburg needs to “keep it simple.”

Q: What does the team do with Henry Rodriguez?

A: So far this year we’re seeing nothing but “bad” Henry Rodriguez: more walks than hits, too many base-runners, and too many pitches that he just has no idea where they’re going.  He only threw FOUR of Seventeen pitches yesterday for strikes.  Luckily for him, its only a “wild pitch” if someone advances right?  Because some of those pitches were just ridiculous.  I’ll chalk it up to the wet conditions, as (likely) will management.

What can they do with him?  As often repeated in this space, he’s a human roster logjam.  The team has been forced to carry him and his Jeckyl and Hyde pitching for 3 years now because he was out of minor league options when we acquired him.  We’ve invented nebulous DL trips to stash him in extended spring training.  He’s now the lowest leverage guy on the bullpen, when he should be in the mix for 7th and 8th inning opportunities.  But the thing is, there’s not really a guy in Syracuse who is beating down the door to come up.  Maybe Erik Davis, who has pitched really well in AAA and has shown why the team put him on the 40-man.  Or perhaps the team could call up one of its veteran lefties (Fernando Abad or JC Romero) in a pinch.  But I think we’ll see at least another month of H-Rod trying to find his way before that happens.

Boswell raves about his career BAA (.211).  To that I say this: he has now for his career walked 91 batters out of 606 plate appearances.  That’s 15%.  6.1 bb/9.  I’m sorry, but how can you have a reliever with those kind of walk rates be put into any close game?  You can’t.  So in my opinion there’s better ways to use the 7th bullpen slot.

Q: What’s a good ratio for balls to strikes?

A: I’ve always used 60% strikes to pitches thrown as a benchmark for a good outing.  In Jordan Zimmermann‘s 1-hitter he threw 59 of 91 for strikes, or 64%.  In Yu Darvish‘s near perfect game in early April he threw 78 of 111 pitches for strikes for 70%.    Boswell says 65% is a good goal; honestly that’s a bit too high for me realistically.

Q: Do you think Soriano’s presence is helping or hurting Storen?

A: Good question.  Drew Storen‘s struggles so far are really baffling; how do you go from a career 1.099 whip in your first 3 seasons to a 1.7 whip in 2013?  And it isn’t on walks; he’s giving up a ton of hits.  Perhaps it is mental; when Rafael Soriano himself has been a non-closer, his numbers have never been as good than when he’s getting the Saves.  Perhaps Storen is struggling to adapt to this mindset so far.  It also could just be small sample size syndrome too; its only April 29th after all.  Boswell basically says that Storen isn’t a kid anymore and that he should “man up.”

Q: What are Harper’s MVP chances looking like right now?

A: Pretty good.  MVP voting usually starts with “the best players on the best teams” and then whittles down from there.  Bryce Harper is clearly the best hitter on what should be a playoff team, and has been making a game-wide name for himself so far with his performance.  If Washington wins the division and Bryce keeps playing like this, he’s a shoe-in.  However, some guy named Justin Upton has been just as strong; if Atlanta wins the division Upton may be the name people vote for.


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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Syracuse/AAA Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2011

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Tom Milone was your AAA pitching star of 2011. Photo Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images via Milb.com

(editors note before we begin; I’m sure my faithful readers noted that I abandoned the Minor League Rotation Review posts right after the 4th of July.  That was right around the same date I put in notice and began the process of switching consulting engagements.  Free time and post-work free time suddenly evaporated and something had to give.  Paying gigs before volunteer ones unfortunately.)

That being said, I did maintain the good/soso/bad all the way through the season, and did my best to keep up with the various reliever movements (my interest is mostly with the starters in the system).  Now that the regular seasons are over, I’ll do a team-by-team review of the pitchers, the moves and where guys may/should start in 2012.  Ideally this set of reviews should start with the MLB roster, but since the minor leagues are done, I’ll hit them up first.

Syracuse’s rotation started the year with two guys who some thought could have made the MLB roster, two guys who were closer to the “organizational guy” title than a spot on the 25-man, and a relatively young up and comer who had been cruising up the organization under the radar.  By the end of the year it held three of our better starting pitcher prospects to go with two guys who are not long for the organization.

Here’s the status of the Syracuse pitching staff at the end of the season (ages are as of 9/30/11)

  • Rotation: Maya 30, Stammen 27, Meyers 26, Peacock 23, JD Martin 28
  • Bullpen: Mandel 26, Wilkie 27, Severino(L) 26, Zinicola 26, CGarcia 26, Hyde (L) 26
  • Spot starter: Tatusko 26
  • Promotions: Kimball 26, Mattheus 27, Detwiler 25,  Milone(L) 24, Balester 25
  • 9/1 promotions: Maya, Stammen, Peacock, Severino
  • up-and-back: Stammen, Maya, Severino
  • demotions: Martis (from last year), Chico, Mock, Arneson, Bronson (spot start), CMartinez
  • cut/released from 2010 or this year: Meredith, Kown, Bergmann, Bisenius, Romero (L) (opted out), Carr 27, Mock 28
  • missing: Villone 41

Syracuse starters.  The rotation started the season with Maya, Detwiler, Mock, Milone and Stammen, with JD Martin as the season-long spot starter.

  • Yuniesky Maya: failed to make the team out of spring training, was the opening day starter in Syracuse, but struggled for long parts of the season.  Got a call-up and did not impress in Washington and sulked up on his return.  Finished the year 4-9, 5.00 era, 1.24 whip and 98/28 k/bb ratio in 129 2/3 innings.  Outlook for next season: He probably can’t make the MLB rotation again, and probably returns to AAA for 2012.  His fastball was never as good as advertised and he isn’t as good as countryman Livan Hernandez at getting guys out with control and guile.  At this point, this signing looks like a failure.
  • Ross Detwiler: Promoted mid-season just before the-all star break and has pitched considerably better in the majors than he did in AAA.  In fact, there was some debate at the time of his promotion whether he was the deserving pitcher to come up.  Final AAA numbers: 6-6, 4.53 era 1.49 whip, 63/32 k/bb in 87 1/3 innings.  Outlook for next season: He’s officially out of options and can’t be assigned to AAA without passing through waivers.  He WILL make the 2012 MLB team, likely as a #5 starter with an eye towards moving to the bullpen if he falters.
  • Garrett Mock: started strong, then had two incredibly bad outings and went on the DL.  His rehab travels around the low minors became some what of a joke, but when he returned he failed to impress, and was DFA’d in early September to make way for 9/1 callups to the majors.  Final AAA line: 0-3, 6.28 era, 1.67 whip, 32/24 k/bb in 28 innings.  His stats at all levels are worse.  Outlook for next season: there are plenty of people who openly questioned why Mock occupied a 40-man spot for so long.  I’m guessing he picks up with another team and tries to start fresh with a new organization for 2012.
  • Tom Milone: posted his third straight 12-win season in successive levels and earned a pre-9/1 call up.  He’s young, he’s lefty, and he’s got impeccable control.  Final AAA numbers: 12-6, 3.22 era, 1.03 whip and 155/16 k/bb in 148 1/3 innings.  Another great season for the Nats 2010 minor league pitcher of the year, an award he is in the running for again in 2011.  Outlook for next season: He has 3-4 more September starts to audition for next year’s rotation.  The big question with Milone is whether his 89-90mph fastball and control will be enough in the majors.  I’m predicting he falls victim to a numbers/options status game and starts next year in AAA.
  • Craig Stammen: all around nice guy never once featured in the team’s plans this year, officially crossing over from starter potential to organizational guy in 2011.  He put together a decent season, tailing off in the end to sully his overall numbers, but was never threatening to get a call-up or another shot in the Nats rotation.  AAA stats: 10-7, 4.75 era, 1.43 whip, and 127/40 k/bb in 142 innings.  Outlook for next season: He becomes 2012’s version of JD Martin, the AAA-bound starter and innings eater.  I think he’ll stay on the 40-man because he does have value, and has one option left, but after 2012 he’s a DFA candidate.  Too bad, because he’s a good-guy and deserves better.
  • Brad Meyers: earned one of the first promotions of the season after recovering from injury and dominating in his first few AA starts.   He struggled upon first arriving at AAA, hit the DL briefly, but finished strong.  Final AAA numbers: 6-5, 3.48 era, 1.31 whip and 74/15 k/bb in 95 ip.  Outlook for next season: I think Meyers gets added to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule-5 draft for protection, but he is at least 7th in the starter pecking order (Strasburg, Zimmermann, Lannan, Detwiler, Peacock, and Milone) right now, so he starts in AAA.
  • Brad Peacock: Peacock absolutely dominated AA, to the point where it was long past the time to promote him when he finally was moved to AAA.  He had two rough starts but more than a few great ones, and finished AAA with a 5-1, 3.19 era, 1.25 whip and 48/24 k/bb in 48 innings.  On the season his minor league numbers were fantastic and earned him the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year; 15-3, 2.39 era, 177/47 k/bb in 146 2/3 total innings.  Outlook for next season: He’s very young (only 23) and certainly could use another year of seasoning in AAA.  He may end up competing for the #5 rotation spot with Milone, unless a new starters comes in via trade or FA.  On the other hand, if he doesn’t master his secondary pitches he’ll be destined for the bullpen, and Rizzo loves hard-throwers in the pen, so I could see him featuring as a righty out of the bullpen next season.  We’ll see.
  • JD Martin: Outrighted before the season and then signed a minor-league deal, Martin was AAA’s long man/spot starter.  He ended up with 14 starts and pedestrian numbers on the season: 3-7, 3.93 era in 30 appearances.  His fate was sealed in January when he was outrighted and nobody else sniffed; he’s a soft-throwing righty who is a good AAA pitcher until his spot is needed.   Outlook for next season: he could be back in the same role he was in this year, unless a numbers game forces his release.
  • Other guys who got spot starts here and there (non-rehab): Erik Arneson (started in AAA then was dumped to AA despite 3 decent starts.  See the AA post) and Ryan Tatusko (pitched mostly in relief with 2 AAA spot starts after a mid-season promotion).  See the AA post for thoughts on Arneson and below for Tatusko.

Syracuse Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season.

  • Relievers Cole Kimball, Ryan Mattheus and Collin Balester were each promoted up at various points during the season and each performed pretty well at the MLB level.  Outlook for next season: Kimball may start 2012 on the DL post surgery.  Mattheus should earn a bullpen spot after pitching well.  Balester’s spot is more tenuous; he’ll be out of options and has not really impressed at either level in 2011.  I’m guessing he’ll lose out in a long man competition to someone like Tom Gorzelanny and get a DFA at the end of spring training 2012.
  • Local Favorite Josh Wilkie served as the AAA closer and put up good numbers; 3.13 era, 1.36 whip, 57/21 k/bb in 60 1/3 innings pitched.  Outlook for next season: He’ll get a spring training invite but seems destined to return to AAA to wait for injuries or an opportunity.
  • Athualpa Severino got a 9/1 call up and finally featured in a MLB game, showcasing a big fastball for a little guy.  Outlook for next season: He’s a little old for a prospect (27) but could feature as a LOOGY in 2012, especially since the team is so thin on that particular speciality.
  • Everyone else (Mandel 26, Zinicola 26, CGarcia 26, Hyde (L) 26, Tatusko 26) in the AAA bullpen seems destined to be organizational guys, unfortunately.  Jeff Mandel passed through waivers and toiled decently this year.  Zech Zinicola was a rule-5 draftee who got returned and put up great numbers, but seems to be a AAA ceiling guy.  Christian Garcia didn’t have great numbers in the Yankees organization but the team took a flyer on him.  Lee Hyde has already passed through waivers successfully and was more or less awful in 2011.  Lastly Ryan Tatusko regressed badly in 2011 after a stellar 2010.  He was demoted to the bullpen and pitched mostly in relief for AAA this year, getting a couple of spot starts that he was just “soso” in.  Outlook for next season: All these guys will be back in AAA or with another organization, trying to keep the dream alive.

Other pitchers who appeared in AAA of note (not including Rehabbing MLBers): Hassan Pena pitched 7 horrible innings and was demoted.  Matt Chico was similarly bad and was DL’d/demoted before getting released.  Philly castoff JC Romero had 16 appearances and pitched well before opting out of his contract because the team hadn’t promoted him (a surprise, given our loogy struggles this year).  A year after Adam Carr was put on the 40-man to protect him, he was flat-out released after an injury riddled season (lets hope the team re-signs him and he gets another shot).  Both Evan Bronson and Carlos Martinez put in brief AAA outings before returning to their normal teams.  Lastly I put in Ron Villone as “missing” because he was in our Spring Training camp but never made it onto any roster.  We didn’t necessarily hear any announcement, but I suspect he retired after not making the team out of camp.

After reviewing all the staffs at each level, I’ll cull the above predictions into a summarized 2012 projected staff throughout the system.

Nats Rotation Cycle #20: good/bad/soso

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Is Livan Hernandez pitching his way out of the Nats rotation? Photo: AP

The All-star break comes in-between rotation cycles 19 and 20 for the squad.   At this halfway point, only two of our starters have made all 19 starts (Livan and Lannan).  Zimmermann missed a start when the Pittsburgh “rainout” in May and Marquis missed a start to serve out his suspension for the beanball series in Arizona.  Gorzelanny missed the first rotation through, then missed another 4 starts to injury (those being taken by Maya).  Lastly the rescheduling of Zimmermann’s missed start into a 4th of July doubleheader called for a spot start from Detwiler.  That’s 19+19+18+18+13+4+1 = all 92 starts so far this year.  You have to think that the consistency out of the rotation is one of the big reasons this team is doing so well.

The all-star break also gives the squad a chance to slightly re-order its rotation, since most of the guys will be on major rest.  You can’t take your #1 starter and have him become the #5 though b/c of days rest.  But the team does seem to be slightly modifying its order.  We’ll go out in the 2nd half with Livan, then Lannan, then Gorzelanny, then Marquis and with Zimmermann 5th.  The move of Zimmermann to 5th seems like yet another attempt to preserve his arm, despite what Johnson is telling the press.  He seems set to hit his 160 innings limit in mid-August now, by which point we should start seeing alternatives in the rotation.

Good

  • John Lannan evened both his W/L record and the team’s season record to .500 with a 5 2/3 inning, 2 run outing against the Braves on Saturday 7/16.   It wasn’t the cleanest outing for Lannan (5 hits and 4 walks in less than 6 innings) but he worked around the baserunners and kept the potent Atlanta offense off the board for the most part.
  • Jason Marquis gave his team exactly what it needed on 7/18 (box/gamer): lots of quality innings to rest a bullpen that was shredded by Gorzelanny’s injury and (in my opinion) mismanagement by Davey Johnson (see bullet points below).  Marquis went 8 strong innings, giving up only 6 hits and striking out 9.

Bad

  • Livan Hernandez kicked off the 2nd half with an awful performance in Atlanta on 7/15 (box/gamer).  He only lasted 4 innings, giving up 8 hits and 6 runs (3 earned).  The Braves hitters were tattooing his pitches, which he regularly was floating over the plate.  As the TV announcers said, Hernandez is a guy who depends on working the corners and keeping his pitches under control.  Friday he was routinely hanging curveballs over the plate and missing his spots and it showed.   I wonder at what point the team gives up on the Hernandez experiment; his inconsistency on the mound has to be baffling and he’s now thrown enough lemons to make him the worst of our starters statistically.  I can see Livan getting moved for a low-end prospect and one of our promising starters from AAA getting plucked to finish out the season.
  • Jordan Zimmermann had an uncharacteristically bad outing on 7/19, getting touched for 6 runs in 5 innings against the lowly Astros to take the loss (box/gamer).  These are not the kind of innings we want out of Zimmermann before he gets shut down in August.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Tom Gorzelanny only lasted 2 innings in his 7/17 start (box/gamer) against the Braves before twisting his ankle on a play at the plate, putting the bullpen into all-hands-on-deck mode.  For the most part, the bullpen was ineffective, with Henry Rodriguez giving up the lead, Sean Burnett looking horrible, and Tyler Clippard striking out 4 in 2 innings but giving up a game-tying homer in the 8th.  It remains to be seen if Gorzelanny is going on the DL, but the injury didn’t seem that bad.

Starter Trends

Lhernandez    great,bad,good,bad,(break),bad
Lannan    good,good,bad,incomplete,(break),good
Gorzelanny    bad->dl,bad,good,good,(break),incomplete
Marquis    bad,great,bad,soso,(break),good
Zimmermann     good,great,good,good,(break),bad

Relievers of Note and other News

  • The JC Romero experiment didn’t last very long; he was released on 7/13 after putting up good numbers in AAA.  Goessling guesses that perhaps he had an out clause in his contract calling for his release unless he was promoted.  I’m surprised he wasn’t kept around a bit longer, given Doug Slaten‘s continued DL stint and Sean Burnett‘s troubles.
  • Ben Goessling reports on one of Chien-Ming Wang‘s latest rehab starts on 7/14, 6 shutout innings with zero walks and where he hit 94mph in Harrisburg.  I’m beginning to think that Wang’s actually healthy again and that the team may start looking to move Jason Marquis or Livan Hernandez sooner than later to make room for him.
  • Ross Detwiler looked nearly as bad in relief as Livan did during his start on 7/15, requiring 47 pitches to get through 2 innings.  This was a perfect opportunity to shut down an offense that perhaps wasn’t in need of scoring any more runs on the night (especially behind Tim Hudson) but he continued to allow the game to get out of control.  If Detwiler doesn’t put something together this season, the team is going to have a very difficult decision on its hands.  He’s out of options (Gee, thanks for the 2007 callup Jimmy Bowden!) and clearly would be given a flyer by another team (as a first rounder lefty starter who reaches 94mph).
  • Speaking of Detwiler, why exactly do we have him as the “long man” in the bullpen if he’s not available as that long man because the team wants to keep him on some sort of “every 4 days” starting-esque schedule?  The Long man needs to be available for exactly the kind of situation we faced on 7/17, when Gorzelanny came out after 2 innings.  Instead its all-hands on deck since Detwiler had pitched two days prior.  In this situation i’d far far rather still have Miguel Batista, who ably fit this role in 2010 and wouldn’t have cost a ton of money for 2011.
  • Chien-Ming Wang‘s next start will be in AAA, per Bill Ladson‘s published report on Sunday.  This should be the best test yet for Wang’s recovery.  He’s looking like a good bet to join the rotation when he’s done with rehab.

Minor League Rotations Cycle #18: good/bad/soso

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Is Nathan Karns ready to make his mark on the organization? Photo perfectgame.org

Here are the daily links from NationalsProspects, for reference below:

Good

  • Tough loss for JD Martin on 7/6: He gave up 2 hits over 6 innings but both were solo homers in a 2-0 loss.
  • Shairon Martis again dominated a AA team on 7/6 (on day 2 of Harper-mania); 7IP, 4H, ER, 2B, 6K.  Byron Kerr featured this start on masnsports.com
  • Another excellent start for Robbie Ray on 7/6: 6IP, 4H, 0R, 2BB, 7K.
  • Nathan Karns put in his latest statement game in the GCL on 7/6: 4IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 6K.  Its time to promote him.
  • Fantastic Start for Tommy Milone on 7/7: 7IP, 2H, 0R, 2BB, 6K
  • Another great re-hab start for Chien Ming Wang on 7/7: 5IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 2K.
  • AJ Cole continues to impress as a youngster in low-A.  7/7 line: 6IP, 3H, 0R, 0BB, 7K.
  • Erik Davis got 10 ks in 5 innings on 7/8 but still managed to lose: 5IP, 6H, 3R, 3ER, 0BB, 10K, HR.
  • Taylor Jordan won the nightcap on 7/9 for Hagerstown with an excellent outing: 7IP, 4H, 0R, 0BB, 2K.
  • Wirkin Estevez put in an excellent outing for Auburn on  7/9: 6IP, 4H, 0R, BB, 7K.
  • Silvio Medina (who I thought had been promoted out of the GCL) was dominant on 7/9: 4IP, 3H, 2R, 0ER, 0BB, 7K.
  • An excellent 2nd Potomac start for Sammy Solis on 7/10: 7IP, 4H, 0ER, 2BB, 5K.  This is the pitcher we’ve been waiting for.

Bad

  • Cameron Selik just can’t make the adjustment to high-A, taking another loss on 7/7: 5IP, 6H, 4R, 4ER, 3BB, 2K.
  • Ryan Demmin took another bad loss for Auburn on 7/7: 5⅓ IP, 5H, 4H, 4ER, 0BB, 2K, 2HR.
  • Brian Dupra got a spot start (?) for Auburn on 7/8 and got knocked around a bit: 4⅔ IP, 7H, 4R, 3ER, 0BB, 5K.
  • Gregory Baez didn’t finish the third inning for the GCL on 7/8: 2⅔ IP, 4H, 4R, 4ER, 3BB, 4K, HR.   But it wasn’t his fault the team lost; his bullpen gave up another 13 runs.
  • Yunesky Maya threw another egg on 7/9: 5IP, 9H, 4R, 4ER, 0BB, 0K.
  • Tanner Roark got battered around on 7/9 after returning from the inactive list: 3⅔ IP, 7H, 4R, 4ER, 3BB, 4K.  Its his third such bad outing in a row but unless someone comes off the DL, it doesn’t seem like there’s a natural replacement for him.
  • Adam Olbrychowski got scorched in Potomac on 7/9: 4⅔ IP, 11H, 7R, 6ER, 2BB, 2K
  • Matt Grace didn’t have the best outing on 7/9 either: 1ip, 5H, 4R, 4ER, 0BB, 0K, 0HR.  Yanked after the first, Steve McCatty came in and pitched long relief to get the win.
  • Pedro Encarnation, who can’t seem to catch a break, got battered for the GCL Nats on 7/9: 3IP, 6H, 6R, 6ER, BB, 2K, 2HR.
  • Not the best rehab start for Chad Gaudin on 7/10: 4IP, 7H, 4ER, 6K, 0BB.  Seven hits and 6 Ks.  At least he didn’t walk anyone.
  • Christian Meza added more runs to his ERA on 7/10 in Auburn: 4⅓ IP, 8H, 6R, 5ER, 2BB, 3K.
  • Christopher McKenzie seemed to get of the schnide for the GCL on 7/10: 5IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 7K.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • A bit of an unlucky 7/6 start for Paul Demny: 7IP, 6H, 4R, 4ER, BB, 3K, HR.
  • Colin Bates proved to be an escape artist on 7/6: 5IP, 8H, 1R, 0ER, 2BB, K.  That’s 10 baserunners in 5 innings but only gave up one unearned run.
  • Craig Stammen had a soso start on 7/8: 6IP, 5H, 3R, 2ER, 2BB, 4K, HR.   A quality start for sure, but nothing dominant.
  • Danny Rosenbaum didn’t pitch that badly on 7/8, but took the loss nonetheless.  5IP, 6H, 4R, 1ER, 3BB, 4K, HR
  • Erik Arneson was pretty good for Harrisburg on 7/10: 6IP 7H, 3ER, 2BB, 8K.  I’m a tough grader for guys who have pitched above the level they’re currently playing.
  • Paul Applebee pitched a decent start for Hagerstown on 7/10: 5IP, 4H, 2ER, 0BB, 3K.  He seems to have earned his way back into the Hagerstown rotation.  At least until we figure out what happened to Bobby Hansen.

Relievers of Note and other Thoughts

  • Its really hard to tell who is in the “rotation” in the GCL.  As you’ll see, Baez “started” a game wednesday and then again saturday.  King, Mieses and Karns all were skipped this time around.
  • So far so good with the JC Romero experiment.  He’s had several outings that have all gone pretty well.
  • Tommy Milone got a well-earned International League all-star spot this week.  See you in September!
  • Brad Peacock‘s performance this year has vaulted him into the Baseball America mid-season top 50Bryce Harper, now the youngest player in AA, is the new #1, overtaking Angels OF prospect Mike Trout.   Peacock is still listed as having a #3/#4 starter ceiling; this coincides with concerns i’ve read over his 3rd and (lack of a) 4th pitch.
  • Potomac, after being disappointed by the missing of Harper, may be making alternate plans to build a new facility.  According to this Baseball America link, the owner Art Silber is announcing later this month a new site and new plans.

Trends

Top 3 starters deserving promotion: Karns, Ray, Milone
Top 3 starters whose jobs are in jeopardy: Roark, Selik, Meza

Nats Rotation Cycle #18: good/bad/soso

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Is Marquis hurting his trade value? Photo Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

The 18th Rotation cycle will be interesting; a day-night doubleheader, then two straight day games for a team that plays most of its games at night, may prove challenging for the Nats, especially considering that the Cubs are completely used to playing day games.  This review will include 6 games, since we’ll need an extra pitcher by virtue of the saturday double-header.

Good

  • Livan Hernandez pitched a typically crafty game in the 7/2 day-game (box/gamer), allowing 2 runs on 6 hits in 7 complete innings with a couple of walks and 6 strikeouts.  He left with a ND.
  • John Lannan pitched pretty well in the 7/2 night-cap (box/gamer), going 7 innings, giving up 3 runs on 6 hits.  He walked no-one but only struck out one batter.  He sat at 80 pitches upon his removal in a Loss situation.
  • Ross Detwiler‘s first MLB start since last September went pretty well on 7/5 (box/gamer).  5 1/3, 4 hits, 2 runs (both on a 2-run homer in his final inning), 0 walks and 1 strikeout (he also hit a batter).   He was only at 78 pitchers mid-way through the 6th when Johnson went to his bullpen immediately after the 2-run homer.  The 3-2 lead held on for the win however.  For me a very good appearance for Detwiler (in contrast to Maya’s 4 starts up here).

Bad

  • Jason Marquis was shelled for 7 runs (6 earned) on 8 hits while only retiring four batters on 7/3 (box/gamer) and game more reminiscent of his performances in the beginning of last year pre-surgery.   After a fantastic May and early June, Marquis has now gotten more or less pounded in 3 of his last 5 starts and his trade value has to be plummeting by the week.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Jordan Zimmermann certainly wasn’t helped by some “questionable” defense, including a routine fly ball that fell to earth and scored two runs instead of ending an inning, in 7/4’s scorching win over Chicago (box/gamer).  The play in question is yet another piece of evidence why ERAs are misleading; instead of getting a quality start, Zimmerman’s line on the day goes 6ip, 8hits, 4runs, 1 walk and 5 Ks.   If that line reads 6ip, 7hits, 2 runs, 1 walk and 5Ks it looks a lot better right?
  • Tom Gorzelanny fell victim (again) to the long ball against the cubs on 7/6 (box/gamer), giving up 4 runs in 6 innings on two bombs given up to Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez.  Both were no-doubters on bad mistakes over the plate.    Luckily the cardiac kids pulled out a victory later on in the game.  Gorzelanny has now given up FOURTEEN homers in 77 innings over 13 starts.  One every 5.5 innings, or just about one per start.  The league average (per b-r.com anyway) is 18 per 180 innings or one every 10 innings.

Starter Trends

Relievers of Note and other News

  • Chien-Ming Wang threw his 2nd rehab start on 7/2, this time in high-A for Potomac.  As Adam Kilgore reports, he pitched 4 scoreless inning, allowing 1 hit and 2 walks.  He reportedly hit 91mph, which is great news.  I pulled the Pitch f/x data from Wang’s 2007 season prior to his injury to try to get a feel for what he was capable of back then.  Here’s the data from June 6th, 2007, one of Wang’s best games that season.  Average fastball of 94, peaks of 97, with great separation between his fastball and his change-up.  I didn’t realize he threw that hard (if you believe the Pitch f/x data; it is spotty that early in the system’s history).  If the goal is to get his speed back to 94-97, he’s got a long way to go.
  • After seemingly turning the page on his struggles this season, Sean Burnett has failed in his last two outings, including blowing 7/2’s game with a poor 8th inning.  The team is in desperate need of lefty relievers through-out the system, so its doubtful that Burnett’s job is in immediate jeopardy.  However the acquisition of JC Romero last week plus the possible conversion of former MLB starter Matt Chico to a reliever (he’s currently rehabbing in the GCL and has been alternating between starting and relief appearances) seem to indicate the team is exploring its loogy options.
  • Tyler Clippard is the Nationals lone 2011 all-star (Pending Michael Morse‘s runoff vote), a validation of his dominance over the past couple years in a non-closer role.  Some may have an issue with Clippard’s selection, but in a league that mandates at least one representative from each team he’s as good as picking Morse, Storen or Espinosa in my book.
  • Not that he’s a National, but Kerry Wood certainly looked out of sorts on 7/4.  1ip, 3 walks, 3 Ks, a hit batsman, a wild pitch and a blown save.  Ironically, most of this was done without anyone warming up in the bullpen, and only after Wood walked in the tying run in the 8th did the cubs manager scramble to get someone up.  Awful managing on the day, frankly.  The first batter Woods airmailed 4 pitches to should have been enough evidence.
  • The day after his good spot start, Johnson announced that Detwiler would be staying on the MLB roster and replaces Collin Balester for the time being.  This is in line with Johnson’s previously stated desire to have a 6th starter/long man in the bullpen.  But the usage of Detwiler remains to be seen.  Per Zuckerman’s article, Johnson will try to use Detwiler only every 4th-5th day (as a starter would do) and perhaps use him in a single inning situation during his “throw” days in between starts.
  • Craig Heist of WTOP tweeted (h/t to Craig Calcaterra here) that the Yankees are interested in Sean Burnett.  This gives me an “a-ha” moment, since I was at the 7/4 game and ran into a Yankees scout who was trying to be incognito.   At the time, I couldn’t figure out who on either team the Yankees may have been looking at; the starters that day were Zimmermann (untouchable) and Coleman (replaceable). Our biggest trade chips are Marquis and a bunch of under-performing vets.  The Cubs are filled with overpaid, under-performing guys on large contracts. The Nats have almost nothing in the way of lefty relievers in the organization right now; we’d be hard pressed to move Burnett despite his struggles this year.  Would we be selling low on Burnett based on his struggles in 2011?
http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2011_07_02_pitmlb_wasmlb_1&mode=recap&c_id=was&partnerId=rss_was