Nationals Arm Race

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

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Minor League Full Season Staff Review 2017 – Potomac

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Baez is the highest profile hurler in Potomac to start the year. photo via milb.com

Baez is the highest profile hurler in Potomac to start the year. photo via milb.com

We’re looking at the four full-season staffs, guessing the roles, and talk about the changes of the staffs from the end of last year til now.  Next up: Potomac.

See here for Syracuse 2017 review, here for Harrisburg 2017 review.

(Note: I know that there’s the most likely chance I have something wrong for Potomac since many readers here attend their games regularly; remember, i’m just a guy sitting at his desk scouting the score line so feel free to tell me where i’m wrong…)

Quick links for rosters for each full season affiliate:

And don’t forget the invaluable work of SpringfieldFan maintaining the Nats Big Board, now in its 12th season!

Note: in the below list, “missing” means that the player was on a 2016 roster, is still listed as active but is not found anywhere on a 2017 full-season roster as expected.  Most are still sitting in Extended Spring Training (abbreviated XST throughout) with the intent of getting assigned as injuries or releases occur, but some may be release candidates.   Other abbreviations I use often: MLFA == Minor League Free Agent, OOO = Out of the Organization.

((h/t as always to Mr. Erickson for the link to insidenova.com with the planned rotation, which I’ll use to correct my predictions below).


High-A/Potomac 2017

  • my predicted starters: Baez, Crownover*, Guilbeau*, Sylvestre*, LReyes, JRodriguez
  • purported rotation per insidenova.com: LReyes, Sylvestre*, JRodriguez, Baez, Estevez
  • spot starts/swingman: Guilbeau*, Bacus, Borne*, Crownover*,
  • bullpen: Orlan*, RPena, Rivera, Schepel
  • dl/restricted: Peterson, Turnbull*
  • cut/released/FAs from 2016: Whiting (FA), MSanchez (traded), Holland (FA)
  • missing from 2016: Mayberry, Thomas*, Mendez

Discussion

Rotation discussion: In Potomac we start to see the log-jam of starters from recent drafts.  I count 6 guys who could be starting and another 3 guys who have mostly started in the past.  As it turns out, a couple of the long-time lefty starters from the 2015 draft have been pushed into bullpen roles, perhaps for the longer term.  The burgeoning investment the team is making in the D.R. is evident here; all 5 rotation members are from the island, along with a huge chunk of the roster.

Of the starters listed above, i’d say that Luis Reyes and Jefry Rodriguez are probably on the thinnest of ice to stay in that role, given last year’s results.  Reyes had a 5.60 ERA in half a season in Potomac last year and Rodriguez had a 4.96 ERA in a full season starting in Low-A.   Wirkin Estevez feels like he’s been around forever; this is his 7th pro season in the system yet is only in High-A; he had a couple spot starts last year and I’m kind of surprised he made the rotation over especially Matthew Crownover and Taylor Guilbeau.   I could also see Grant Borne move into the rotation if one of the stated starters fail; Borne had a nifty 3.34 season in long relief in Low-A, pitching an average of 3 innings a stint, so perhaps he’s in line for getting stretched out.  I guess the old adage “you can never have too much pitching” holds true for Potomac; its nice to have 9 different guys who you know could give you a start.

The preponderance of guys used to going longer stints leaves just a handful of known “relievers” in the pen.  R.C. Orlan was Potomac’s effective closer last year and returns to that role, while Hagerstown’s closer Mariano Rivera Jr. rises up to form a nice 8th-9th inning lefty-righty combo.  Amazingly Ronald Pena returns for this 6th pro season, and returns to Potomac where he started half a season in 2014.  No offense to Pena, but I remain surprised that he’s lasted this long with the org.  The last non D/L name is a 2017 MLFA by the name of Kyle Schepel who I had completely forgotten about until I looked him up.  Kylin Turnbull, who has not thrown a pitch in anger since 2014, remains on the D/L in Potomac along with Tommy Peterson, who had an excellent 2016 season in relief and could be a good reliever if he is healthy.

The guys who are listed as “missing” include three guys who all finished the 2016 season in High-A and seem like they’re intended to start there again.

Who am I focusing on: I want to see what Joan Baez has; we know he can bring the heat but can he be an effective starter?  I’ve always liked the trio of lefty veteran college starters we picked in the 2015 draft early rounds; Hearn (since traded), Crownover, Borne and Guilbeau (picked in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 10th rounds respectively), so I look forward to them all moving up a level in 2017.  I want to see what the two closer-quality relievers (Orlan and Rivera) can do.

 

Your 2017 Bullpen

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Old School photo of Blanton from his time at P hilly. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Old School photo of Blanton from his time at P hilly. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

With the Joe Blanton signing, one has to think the team is done augmenting its bullpen until the trade deadline.

Instant Tangent: Blanton is actually an excellent example of why i’m pretty much A-OK with the Nats not overpaying for a closer.  Here’s Blanton’s career splits as a starter and reliever:

  • Starter: 1553 innings, 4.47 ERA, 1.354 whip, 6.2 K/9 and a 2.65 K/BB ratio.
  • Reliever: 169.2 innings, 3.24 ERA, 1.138 whip, 8.9 K/9 and 3.57 K/BB ratio.

Last year specifically as a middle relief workhorse for Los Angeles: 80 innings across 75 appearances, 2.48 ERA, exactly a 9.0 K/9 rate.

So basically Blanton was a sub-mediocre starter; his starting career was with Oakland (pitcher’s park), Philly (National league) and then stints starting for both Los Angeles clubs (again, both pitcher’s parks and/or NL teams facing pitchers and weaker lineups).  But suddenly he’s a stud when moved into relief.

This is nothing new.  Go look at Mariano Rivera‘s stats starting; in one brief season for the Yankees he got 10 starts and threw to a 5.51 ERA.  The next year he’s moved into the bullpen and he posts a 2.09 ERA and comes in 3rd in Cy Young.  After that, eleven seasons where his ERA for the year was sub 2.00.  Not to be too blunt about it, but Rivera was a failed MLB starter who turned into a Hall of Fame reliever.

There’s no reason the Nats can’t find their own Mariano Rivera.

I’m not saying Shawn Kelley is the answer.  For a while i’ve thought that Blake Treinen was the answer.  Maybe now Koda Glover will be the answer.  Or perhaps Joan Baez will rocket up the system and throw 100 mph bee-bees by September.

In any case … I’m happy with the bullpen now, moreso than I was yesterday, and I still think it’d be a mistake to trade valuable assets for a mediocre closer like David Robertson.

So, to the question at hand.  How’s our Bullpen looking?

Here’s the relievers on our 40-man roster now, in rough order of depth:  Kelley, Blanton, Treinen, Glover, Solis*, Perez*, Romero*, Adams, Gott, Martin, Cordero, Grace*

So what do I think is going to happen?

  • Closer: Kelley.  Good stuff in short bursts, veteran guy to meet the “pressure” requirement of a closer.
  • 8th inning guys: Treinen and Blanton: no arguments here; they’ll both throw in 70-80 games this year, switching off and perhaps spelling Kelley in the 9th.
  • 7th Inning guys: Glover and Solis: I like Glover’s stuff, I think his downturn in performance last year was entirely related to the unreported hip issue, and I think he could be the closer in waiting.  Solis is lefty but offers more than just a matchup; he’s not that far removed from starting and he’s not unlike Andrew Miller in that he depends on a good pitch (his two seamer) slung from a lower arm-angle to get guys out.
  • Lefty specialist: Mr. Swashbuckler Oliver Perez.  He can also pick up the slop in a pinch and give the team twisty-turny rubber armed high sock slinging mud as needed.  (Yes, I like Perez).

Ok that’s 6 guys who are practically guaranteed their slots.  Maybe Glover isn’t a guarantee to you but he is to me if he’s healthy.

So who is 7th reliever?  Maybe its easier to talk about who I do NOT think it will be:

  • Grace: I think he’s not long for the org, clearly now 4th in line for lefty relievers for a team that only needs two.  DFA candidate if it comes to it.
  • Martin: He doesn’t seem to have the same magic he had when he first got called up; he’s also fallen down on the depth chart, now behind the above named guys plus recent acqusitions.
  • Adams, Gott, Cordero: all are new(er), all have things to prove, make perfect sense to start in AAA
  • Romero: option-less, could be on the opening day roster just to avoid a waiver wire exposure … but we paid little for him so there’s little lost cutting him.  Maybe he starts on the roster in lieu of a 5th starter for the first few days (we don’t need a fifth starter until like the 6th or 7th game of the season, assuming everyone is healthy and making the roster).

So who is 7th guy?  Someone who’s not even on the 40-man; Vance Worley.  He sots into 7th man, long guy, spot starter, insurance guy.

That’s what i’m going with for now.  But good or bad spring performances could scuttle this by the time we hit April 1.

Top 10 Arms; Starters and Relievers separately ranked

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Fedde probably #1 arm in the system ... and its tough after that. Photo via minorleagueball.com

Fedde probably #1 arm in the system … and its tough after that. Photo via minorleagueball.com

Every year, Luke Erickson over at NationalsProspects.com does a crowd-sourced ranking of the Top 10 “bats” and “arms” in the Nats farm system (link to the “Arms” post)

This year, I had such a hard time deciding upon my top 10 arms for Luke’s survey that I thought it would be worth doing my own post on the subject, temporarily stealing Luke’s idea.  I think its an interesting time for our farm system arm development; we’ve spent the off-season trading away a significant amount of arm depth, and what we have left made it kind of tough for me to even find 10 “arms” that were worth ranking.  Furthermore, how do you really compare starters and relievers?  Isn’t a mediocre starter prospect who has reached AAA better than a high-end reliever prospect in the lower minors?   Is our best reliever prospect (Koda Glover) a “better” or “worse” prospect than a really good-looking starter who is in A-Ball (like a Tyler Watson?)  How do you compare a good starter prospect in A ball with what looks like an org-arm in AAA?  Its potential versus reality, ceiling versus floor.  In the end, you have to make kind of a rolling judgement call to put PlayerA above PlayerB … leading to excellent arguments in the comments section.

So, taking these thoughts into account, here’s my top 10 ranked Arms, splitting guys into starters and relievers.  My rules: a “starter” is someone who was “predominantly” a starter this year.  A reliever is someone who, well, was a reliever and wasn’t getting starts unless there was some weird situation going on.  And since the lowest levels generally were doing tandem starting, if you were clearly a “pitch every 5th day” guy even if you weren’t starting, then i’m calling you a starter for these purposes.  This only comes into play with a couple of guys who were in and out of rotations this year; i’ve put them into the Relievers section.

My Nats top 10 Starters:

1. Erick Fedde: He’s clearly come back from TJ, dominated for most of 2016, and probably debuts in the later half of 2017.
(1a. A.J. Cole, if you still think he’s got prospect status.  He exhausted his rookie status by service time in 2016 … but has yet to reach 50 IP in the majors, so Baseball America qualifies him as a prospect still.  I don’t view him as a prospect anymore; to me he’s a 6th starter/long-man candidate for 2017).
2. Austin Voth: he’s more than earned it, has nothing to prove in AAA, and frankly should have gotten a 40-man addition last September and gotten innings instead of Mat Latos.
3. Tyler Watson: had a great season competing against guys well older than him; could be looking at a jump to high-A in 2017 and he’s yet to turn 20.  I like his potential.
4. Weston Davis: I’m going with Davis over the more highly regarded (on prospect lists) Baez because of a slightly cleaner stat line.  Davis had a nice 2.67 ERA in Short-A as a 20-yr old.
5. Joan Baez: Full year starting in Low-A as a 21-yr old, good K/9 numbers, some wildness.  A step-up to High-A will clear the waters on him.
6. Matthew Crownover: great in Low-A, struggled in High-A.   Should be in the Potomac rotation for 2017, may turn into a useful lefty reliever if he can’t maintain stats as a starter.
7. Jesus Luzardo: entirely based on pre-draft reputation; hopefully he comes back strong, but he’s several years away from even doing what Watson is doing.
8. Tyler Mapes: the fact that a 30th round draft pick is on this list is, well, the obvious evidence of the current thin-ness of our pitching depth.  I love what Mapes has done, don’t get me wrong, but does anyone really expect him to  become an impact player in the majors?
9. McKenzie Mills: I could see Mills a bit higher here, but honestly anyone in the 6-10 rank here could be argued to be higher or lower.
10. Andrew Lee: solid for Hagerstown before hitting the D/L.  His spot here is assuming he didn’t blow out his rotator cuff or something that affects him longer term.

Honorable Mentions: Kyle McGowin, Yonathan Ramirez, Carlos AcevedoJaron LongAusten Williams, Jefry Rodriguez.  I could probably see arguments for Ramirez above perhaps Lee or Mills, but barely.  I don’t really bother looking at GCL or DSL guys, so if you want to argue that someone who got 40 innings of complex ball is better than someone who put up stats in an A-ball league … well i’m going to argue with you :-).

So, clearly there’s a huge gap between the AAA-calibre guys at the top and Watson, both in terms of service time and in career minor league achievement.  Our trades have resulted in this gap.  There also seems to be a pretty significant potential gap right after Baez; you go from prospect to lottery tickets and org-guys pretty quickly it seems.  Prior to these trades, I would likely have had Giolito 1, Lopez 2, Dunning right after Voth and perhaps Avila in discussions for being at the #10 spot.  Still, that’s half of your best starter prospects gone in a couple of weeks.

Nats top 10 Relievers; these are going to be more heavily aligned towards guys who are near the top of the system, for obvious reasons.  If you’re in A-ball and already a reliever … you’re in trouble unless you’re striking guys out at 12 K/9 clip … and we seem to have a habit of trading those guys (Hearn, Sanchez).
1. Koda Glover: for obvious reasons.  Despite how much we’ve talked about him this year, he’s only got 19 MLB innings and still has rookie status by service time.  We were mostly mystified by his drop-off of talent, until learning that he tore his hip labrum.  I, like many others, like him for a future closer.  Grow ’em, don’t buy ’em.
2. Austin Adams: our return bounty for Danny Espinosa: he had 61 Ks in 41 AA innings in 2016.  That’s 13.3 K/9.  That’s crazy.
3. Bryan Harper: he was clearly moving himself ahead of other lefty options in AAA before getting hurt; lets hope he recovers from TJ and puts himself back on the map.
4. Jimmy Cordero: pretty solid AA numbers for two seasons running; i’d like to see him in AAA to see if he’s a bullpen option in the mold of an Aaron Barrett/Craig Stammen role.
5. Matt Grace: may be on the downslope of his Nats career, given that he wasn’t depended upon in 2016 and the Nats felt the need to flip a future Hall of Fame prospect to acquire a 5-week loogy rental.  But he’s still an effective AAA reliever, which the rest of the guys below him cannot say.
6. Trevor Gott: our return bounty for Yunel Escobar was relatively effective for AAA this year, had good MLB numbers, but is anyone counting on him competing for the 2017 MLB bullpen?  He and Grace are my “first two guys to go” off the 40-man if we need room right now.
7. Andrew Robinson: this MLFA signing put up great AA numbers and seems to be sticking around; I think he competes for the AAA bullpen.
8. Wander Suero: Another guy who put up nice AA numbers for the team this year as a RH middle reliever.  He’s a bit old (25) and has been around the system forever (IFA signing in 2010), but should feature in AA or AAA this year.
9. Ryan Brinley: others have him higher based on his High-A dominance; he’s another Tyler Mapes-esque draft success story, a 2015 27th rounder who has rocketed up the system.   I’d like to see what he can do in AA in 2017.
10. John Simms: another one of the Nats great 11th round picks, he really may be a starter, but for now he’s here.  If he was being counted as a starter he’d probably be around the same ranking in the above list.
Honorable Mentions: Nick Lee, Mariano Rivera Jr., Grant Borne, Taylor Guilbeau, Steven Fuentes, Tommy Peterson, Jorge Pantoja: all guys who put up decent numbers for A or AA teams.
What do you guys think?  Did I miss anyone egregiously?

Nats Winter Meetings Preview

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Winter Meetings 2016

Winter Meetings 2016 … here in DC!

As requested from Dr. Cane in the comments, lets chat about what we may see transpire at the upcoming Winter Meetings.  This year’s Winter meetings are a week from now, running from Sunday 12/4/16 to 12/8/16 at the Gaylord Hotel in the National Harbor.  I’m halfway curious to drive over there to witness the “scene” in the lobby/hotel bar, having read about/listened to multiple podcasts over the years describing how these meetings work.  On the other hand, I’m sure I wouldn’t appreciate it if some nerd was hanging around my office while I was trying to get work done, so maybe not :-)

In this space we’ve talked about a couple of items related to what we may see transpire in DC in the next week:

We still have some significant issues to address on the roster.  How many will we see resolved at these meetings?  Here’s some of the rumors (two good links: mlbtraderumors.com FA predictions and BleacherReports predictions)  I’ve been hearing about as they relate to the obvious holes we have to fill; apparently the Nats and Mike Rizzo are expected to be “aggressive” this winter.  I’ll take them position by position:

Center Field/Outfield

  • One rumor has the Nats moving Bryce Harper to center and buying one of the big corner OF bats on the market.  Jose Bautista or Brandon Moss.  Josh Reddick was an early name but he got snapped up quickly.  Carlos Gomez could be an interesting name.
  • I’ve read that the team will splash out cash for Yoenis Cespedes and really “go for it” during the Harper window.
  • Mark Zuckerman recently reported that Ben Revere basically played with a bum shoulder the whole season and the team may very well tender him and go into 2017 with him as the starter.
  • I’ve heard the Nats associated with Andrew McCutchen, who may actually not be a good CF any longer, but any trade for him may be tough to do since he struggled so badly in 2016.
  • Also heard that the team could be involved in trade for someone like J.D. Martinez if the Tigers attempt to re-tool their roster.
  • My Take: i’m on the “move Bryce to CF” and acquire a corner bat.  I’d be happy with any of these names as a way to bolster the offense.

Shortstop

  • All of these CF moves assume Trea Turner returns to Short and Danny Espinosa either becomes a trade candidate or assumes the Stephen Drew utility infielder role.
  • I fully support Turner back to SS; i just don’t understand those that want to keep him in Center when he’s a natural short stop and, frankly, its a heck of a lot easier to find a CF than a SS.
  • My Take: I’m on the “we should trade Espinosa” boat if he’s not the starter, if only for the rumors we read about him as a clubhouse presence when he’s not playing.

Closer

  • There’s three major closers on the market and more than three teams chasing them.  Nats not expected to be a massive overpay … but you never know.  One rumor has them on Aroldis Chapman, banking on him retaining his velocity.
  • Another rumor has the Nats being more sensible and rolling the dice on a former closer like Greg Holland and then buying up a middle reliever (someone like a Brad Ziegler) to supplement the loss of several arms from this year’s bullpen.
  • But there’s all sorts of middle relief arms out there.  Joe Blanton may get 8 figures.  Who knew.
  • My Take: I like the Holland + Ziegler/Blanton route to add to our existing Kelley/Treinen/Glover trio, then add in the two lefties Solis/Perez and you have your bullpen.  Kelley could be the closer if Holland can’t do it and that’d still give the team three really good 8th/9th inning arms.  Replace Glover with a long-man if you want, or consider that both Perez and Blanton are former starters who could suck up innings, or be original and forgoe the darn long-man and just depend on call ups if you get a ton of innings thrown by the bullpen over a short period of time.

Catcher

  • Matt Weiters to the Nats makes a lot of sense; Scott Boras client, no draft pick compensation this year.
  • The team has already missed out on a couple of catchers who have gone off the board early.
  • They may be looking a some trade targets.
  • Clearly they’re not going to go into 2017 with just Jose Lobaton and Severino.
  • Wilson Ramos seems more and more likely to be gone, perhaps a remnant of the insulting pre-injury offer they gave him, perhaps just a reality of the market for his services coming off a 2nd major knee injury.  We love the Buffalo, but he may be better suited for an AL team that can DH him every once in a while, and one that can survive until July when he’s ready to go.
  • My Take: I have no idea what they’ll do.  But they have to do something.

I don’t really think the team needs or seeks any upgrades elsewhere, but yet we still hear weird rumors every once in a while.

  • Chris Sale acquisition via trade; don’t really understand the need; yes that’d give the team three “Aces” at the top but at what cost if it requires them to gut the farm system?
  • Moves to replace Werth or Zimmerman just seem silly to consider, given the payroll implications of having those two clubhouse leader/10-and-5 guys suddenly be bench bats.  I don’t see this team, this manager or this executive group knee capping franchise defining players like that, especially when they’re still relatively serviceable.   Werth was a 1.1 win player last year with a WRC+ figure north of 100.  Zimmerman was worth negative fWAR of course, but he was hurt most of the season, so its kind of hard to gauge what he’ll do in 2017.  He’s only 32 after all, and is under contract for a while longer.

Its impossible to predict trades that come out of the blue, but it is worth noting that the Nats have some surpluses of talent that they can trade from:

  • I count nine starters on the 40-man roster, which means that several could be trade bait.  We’ve heard rumors about Giolito, Lopez, Voth, Cole, Fedde and Gonzalez all getting packed up to move out.  And that leaves out some lesser-renounded but still promising arms lower down in the system (Dunning of course, but also the likes of Avila, Baez, Watson, etc).
  • There’s now TEN (10) infielders on the 40-man; I see a couple of DFAs/trades (Espinosa of course, and the loser of Skole/Robinson perhaps), and its hard to see a pathway for others (where does Marmolejos play for example?), but that’s a lot of infielders for 4 starting spots and and at most six 25-man jobs.
  • We have more than a few rising quality outfielders, headed by Robles and new 40-man member Bautista, but also including the likes of Stevenson, Agustin, Wiseman, Perkins and Banks.

What do you guys see happening?

 

GCL/Rookie Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2015

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Watson was a big over-slot draftee in 2015 and did not disappoint in his brief GCL debut. Photo bia mychandlerschools.org (his HS)

Watson was a big over-slot draftee in 2015 and did not disappoint in his brief GCL debut. Photo bia mychandlerschools.org (his HS)

This is the 7th and last in the 2015 Pitching staff review series, here’s a review of GCL/Rookie league pitching staff for 2015.  I generally don’t follow the Dominican Summer League teams, simply because there seems to be so little correlation of success there to success domestically.  Other parts of the 2015 series:

For some historical perspective, here’s 2013’s version (featuring Lucas Giolito again),  2012’s version (Lucas Giolito was the feature pitcher) and 2011’s version (Jack McGeary the feature pitcher) of this post specifically for the GCL/Rookie league.  Had I done this post for 2014, I would have struggled to find a worthy player to feature but would have settled on Anderson Martinez.

All stats are courtesy of either milb.com’s GCL’s 2015 Stats page or via Fangraph’s GCL 2015 page.  Also useful here are the Big Board and the Nats Draft Tracker since so many of these lower-minors guys are recent draftees.

A caveat before starting this post: this is short-season ball, so nobody’s got more than a few dozen innings.  The staff leader had 42 innings.  So yes this is absolutely going to be some “Small Sample Size” analysis.  Which in some cases is unfair to the player (to the good or to the bad).  It is what it is.  The Nats GCL team basically gets two kinds of players; over-aged college draftees (since we basically only draft college arms) and DSL graduates who may or may not be ready for prime time.  So each type of guy may have his own caveats when looking at numbers.

GCL Pitching Staff movement throughout the year (* == lefty)

  • Opening Day Rotation: Acevedo, Fuentes, Bermudez, Valerio, WPena
  • End-of-Season Rotation: Fuentes/Baez, DeRosier, Watson/Mills*,  Avila, Reynoso*, WPena
  • End-of-Season spot starts/swingman:  Serrata, Harmening, Acevedo
  • End-of-Season bullpen:  De La Cruz, Cespedes, Pantoja,  Copping,   CPena, Gunter
  • Mid-Season promotions: Peterson, Boghosian, Hearn*, Guilbeau*,Pirro,  Brinley, Howell, Valerio, Van Vossen
  • Post-season end promotions: Baez, DeRosier (Feliz, Dickey?)
  • up-and-back: Feliz
  • down-and-back:
  • demotions:  Bermudez (to DSL)
  • dl: WDavis, Simmons
  • cut/released/FAs: Mancini, Yrizarri
  • GCL/Lower cuts pre-season: Salazar, Jauss, DVasquez, Morel, EGomez, Charlis, JRamirez, Costa, Uribarri

GCL startersHere’s an overview of the starters used in 2015, starting with the original starters, going all the way to the rehab spot starts.

  • Carlos Acevedo got the opening day start and was used as a long-man the rest of the way, getting 29.2 IP across 10 appearances.  3.64 ERA, 1.11 whip, 3.61 fip, 20/9 K/BB.  Acevedo is an older DR signee, already 21 but only in his 2nd pro season.  These were decent enough numbers though and I can see him getting bumped up to Short-A; can’t quite see him making the Low-A bullpen though.  Outlook for Next Season: short-A bullpen.
  • Steven Fuentes went 3-4 with a 5.22 ERA in 39.2 IP in his first season domestically after excelling as a 17yr old in the DSL last  year.  33/15 K/BB ratio but his peripherals were iffy: 1.54 whip, 4.14 fip.   His K/9 rate seems promising and he’s young enough that there’s no reason to push him along: I think he repeats the GCL in 2016.  Outlook for Next Season: GCL rotation.
  • Juan Bermudez struggled with the GCL squad, posting a 6.91 ERA in 14.1 IP and got demoted back to the DSL.  There he also struggled and the squad released him in August.  Outlook for Next Season: out of the organization.
  • Maximo Valero excelled in the GCL, going 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA across 36.2 IP.  32/7 K/BB and a sub 1.00 whip.  He earned a promotion to Short-A by mid August and finished the season there, posting a 2.63 ERA in Short-A with a 15/3 K/BB ratio.  He has not yet turned 21 and looks like he could be an excellent IFA signing.  I think he makes sense at this point to compete for the Low-A rotation; problem is that there’s just way too many arms already competing for that rotation.  I think he could end up as a long-man in Hagerstown and then get pushed to the Short-A rotation in mid June.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A rotation.
  • Wilber Pena had an ok first domestic season, going 1-6 with a 3.92 ERA, 1.51 whip and 36/12 K/BB in 39 IP.  Not great, but not horrible.  He won’t turn 21 until after next season, so I can see  him repeating the GCL to work on his WHIP.  Outlook for Next Season: GCL rotation.
  • Joan Baez was tried out in Low-A and Short-A briefly before settling back into the GCL for the majority of the season; there he exceled, posting a 2.13 ERA in 9starts/42IP.  42/19 K/BB.  This was his 2nd go-around in the GCL and he improved across the board.  He’s a bit of an older IFA signing (he just turned 21 in December, so 2016 will still be his age 21 season), so he makes sense to try out again in Hagerstown in 2016.  I’m not sure he’s going to make that rotation though; he may be destined for the bullpen.  That being said, the team clearly wants him to stick as a starter.   Outlook for Next Season: Low-A long-man/spot starter.
  • Yorlin Reynoso got one quick start in Auburn before getting demoted back to the GCL to repeat the level; he ended up going 1-3 with a 5.66 ERA, 1.51 whip, 26/14 K/BB ratio in 35 GCL innings as a 19yr old.  These are improvements over 2014’s GCL stint, and he’s still young, so I can see the team sticking with him.  But he can’t play in Viera forever.  2016 needs to see some improvement; he needs to stick in the Short-A rotation.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A rotation competition/release candidate.
  • McKenzie Mills went 0-5, 7.27 ERA  with 24/28 K/BB in 34.2 ip across two levels.  He posted a 4.46 fip, .405 babip  while in Short-A then got dropped back to the Rookie league, where he threw 23 IP at a 7.04 ERA clip.   Rough season for Mills, who couldn’t make the jump to short-A, then struggled when back in rookie ball.  Just way too many walks to be effective, but likely hangs around a bit longer since he can just hang out in XST and try to pick back up on next year’s short season squads again.  2016 may be a make-it or break-it year though.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A rotation competition/release candidate.
  • Matt DeRosier went 0-2, 3.58 ERA with 30/7 K/BB in 27IP (7 starts) mostly in the GCL, having gotten dumped out of Auburn after a couple of poor starts.   2.02 fip, .435 babip in Auburn, so perhaps it was a short-sample-size that was unflattering.  He needs to put together a nice string of healthy starts somewhere outside of complex ball though.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A rotation competition/release candidate.
  • Tyler Watson went 1-1, 0.00 ERA  and 16/4 k/bb in 13ip, 1.81 fip, .226 babip in the GCL.  The Nats 2015 34th round over-slot signee did not disappoint.  He’s young but he looked dominant in his first pro innings.  I’ll bet he stays in XST and debuts next year on the short-A squad.  He’s young though; so don’t be surprised if he repeats the GCL entirely to build up innings.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A rotation.
  • Mick VanVossen went 0-2, 4.83 ERA  across 2 levels.  23/13 K/BB in 31.2 ip, 4.09 fip, .260 babip in GCL (where he spent most of the year).  Nothing too special here; struggled when he got to Auburn but only had 6ip there.  Needs to show a better K/BB ratio to compete next  year.   And a college senior in the GCL isn’t going to cut it; he needs to make next year’s short-A bullpen and succeed or he’ll be axed.   Outlook for Next Season: Short-A bullpen competition/release candidate.
  • Rehab Guys:
    • Ian Dickson had two rehab starts for the GCL: see High-A write-up for more.
    • Brian Rauh had one rehab start and a couple other appearances for the GCL: see AA write-up for more.
  • Short Timer Guys waiting to get assigned to the proper level:
    • Taylor Guilbeau featured briefly (2 appearances, 1 start) in GCL before rightfully joining the Short-A rotation where he belonged.  See Short-A write-up for more.
    • Taylor Hearn also featured briefly (2 appearances, 1 start) in GCL before rightfully joining the Short-A rotation where he belonged.  See Short-A write-up for more.

GCL Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps.  We’ll organize relievers by going by IP from most to least.  Anyone with than 10 IP or who was solely doing rehab will get cursory analysis at the end.

  • Russell Harmening went 1-0, 2.86 ERA in the GCL with 16/4 K/BB in 22ip, 3.26 fip, .303 babip.  He was a college junior draftee but a young one; he didn’t turn 21 until after the season was over.  I’d say he makes sense to slot into the short-A bullpen in 2016.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A bullpen.
  • Brayan Serrata fared well in his first professional innings after a significant layoff since signing in 2012.  He had no innings in 2012, 2013 or 2014 (at last as far as milb.com knows).  This year in his turning-21 age season he posted a 1.80 ERA in 20 GCL innings (14/8 K/BB).  I’m guessing he’s been hurt for a while; now he’s healthy and needs to move up.  I’m guessing he does another season in XST and slots into the short-A bullpen.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A bullpen.
  • Calvin Copping was 1-2, 4.76 ERA in the GCL 14/5 K/BB in 17ip, 4.01 fip, .305 babip.  So-So numbers for a college guy in the rookie league.  As with his fellow middle-of-the-road senior sign pitchers, he needs to show more dominance if he wants a job out of spring 2016.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A bullpen competition/release candidate.
  • Angher Cespedes posted a 5.14 ERA in 14IP in his first domestic season after being a relatively old DR signing.  He’ll turn 22 next year and doesn’t seem likely to do much outside of complex ball; i’ll say he repeats the GCL if the team retains him.  Outlook for Next Season: GCL bullpen/release candidate.
  • Jorge Pantoja was 1-1, 5.84 ERA in the GCL, 11/3 K/BB in 12ip, 2.74fip, .395 babip.  Looks like some potential there with a K/inning and a FIP that flatters  his ERA.  Probably needs more time.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A bullpen competition/release candidate.
  • Carlos Pena signed as an NDFA and posted a 9.82 ERA in 7 GCL innings.  He got hit hard but he did strike out a guy an inning, so perhaps he hangs around the complex for antoher shot.  Outlook for Next Season: GCL bullpen
  • Pedro Avila is a youngster who was an 2014 IFA signing and who *destroyed* the DSL in 2015; 87/17 K/BB in 59.2 innings and was summoned to Viera in Mid August.  He threw just one 4-inning outing before the season ended but he looks quite promising.  He’s profiling as a starter and seems like a good bet to be the GCL’s opening day starter in 2016.  Outlook for Next Season: GCL rotation.
  • Kida De La Cruz had three short outings in June and then didn’t appear afterwards, presumably getting hurt but not going on the D/L.  A lost season for the 2014 IFA signee, who will turn 22 next year and seems to be far too old for the GCL.  Outlook for Next Season: GCL bullpen/release candidate.
  • Deibi Yrizarri had just one 2015 GCL appearance, did not retire a batter, and was released.  He posted a 9.08 ERA last year in the GCL and I guess the team had seen enough.  Seems like a quick hook though for a guy who they kept hanging around the complex for months.  Outlook for Next Season: out of baseball.
  • The following guys threw a handful of rehab innings and are mentioned only to complete the analysis of everyone who appeared in the GCL this year:
    • Johansen, RPena, DRamos
  • The following guys threw a handful of innings before getting quickly promoted to the proper level and are mentioned only to complete the analysis of everyone who appeared in the GCL this year:
    • Feliz, Howell, Pirro, Brinley, Boghosian, ALee, Peterson

Summary

Not too many pure relievers in the GCL; mostly they’re tandem starters each pitching 3-4 innings per rotation turn.  And the Nats treatment of the GCL these days seems to basically be finishing school for their DSL stars since they rarely sign anyone from high school.  Nonetheless, I project a ton of guys getting bounced from the Short-A bullpen competition so perhaps that’s who will reside in the GCL next  year.

Auburn/Short-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2015

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Fedde was probably the "pitcher of the year" for Auburn in 2015. Photo via chicagonow.com

Fedde was probably the “pitcher of the year” for Auburn in 2015. Photo via chicagonow.com

This is the 6th in the 2015 Pitching staff review series, here’s a review of Auburn/Short-A’s pitching staff for 2015.  Other parts of the 2015 series:

For some historical perspective, here’s 2013’s version (featuring Jake Johanssen),  2012’s version (Brett Mooneyham was the feature pitcher) and 2011’s version (Nathan Karns the feature pitcher) of this post specifically for Auburn/Short-A.  Had we done this series in 2014, we likely would have featured Reynaldo Lopez, who had a 0.75 ERA in 7 starts and 36 innings.

All stats are courtesy of either milb.com’s Auburn’s 2015 Stats page or via Fangraph’s Auburn 2015 page.  Also useful here are the Big Board and the Nats Draft Tracker since so many of these lower-minors guys are recent draftees.

A caveat before starting this post (and we’ll say this same thing in the GCL post): this is short-season ball, so nobody’s got more than a few dozen innings.  So yes this is absolutely going to be some “Small Sample Size” analysis.  Which in some cases is unfair to the player (to the good or to the bad).  It is what it is.

Auburn Pitching Staff movement throughout the year (* == lefty)

  • Opening Day Rotation: Dickey/LTorres, JRodriguez, Fedde, Crownover*, Baez, Mills
  • End-of-Season Rotation: Gilbeau*, Borne*, Baez, DeRosier, Hearn*, Crownover*
  • End-of-Season spot starts/swingman: Valerio
  • End-of-Season bullpen: Mooney, Pirro, Overton, Boghosian,  MRivera, Johns, LTorres, Van Vossen
  • Mid-Season promotions: LReyes,  Bach*, KPerez, DWilliams, Glover, JMorales, Lee, Brinley,Fedde, Peterson, JRodriguez
  • up-and-back: Johns, LTorres
  • down-and-back: Feliz, Dickey
  • demotions: Reynoso*, Mills*, Baez, Gunter
  • dl/restricted: Bourque, AMartinez, McDowell, Sylvestri
  • cut/released/FAs: Ullman, Webb*, Plouck*

Auburn starters.  The rotation started the season with several “tandem” starter pairs, not quite going to a full A/B starter set but getting relatively close.  Here’s an overview of the 12 starters used in 2015, starting with the original starters, going all the way to the rehab spot starts.

  • Robbie Dickey had two bad starts in Hagerstown before getting dumped back to Auburn in time to get the ball on opening day.  From there the jury is kind of out: for the entire year: 6.65 ERA, 16/17 k/bb in 23ip (6 starts).  He was incredibly wild and then didn’t pitch after 7/25/15, accumulating just 23 IP on the year.  Was he hurt?  There was no record of a D/L trip, just an assignment back to XST after a while.  All in all, a pretty disappointing season for our 2014 4th round pick.  Where does he go from here?  Is the team just being too impatient with him, yanking him from Hagerstown after just a few innings?  Outlook for Next Season: attempting the Low-A rotation again.
  • Jefry Rodriguez bounced between Short-A and Low-A again this season, starting in Hagerstown but pitching most of the year in Auburn.  At the end of the season, he led Auburn in both IP and starts.  All told; 4-10 with a 5.42 ERA between the two levels.  While he maintained a 2-1 K/BB ratio in Short-A, he was nearly 1/1 in Low-A (27/25 K/BB in 42.2 low-A innings).  The team likes him as a starter … but this is the 2nd year in a row he’s posted a 6+ ERA in low-A.  He’s still young though (he turned 22 mid-season) so I can see him repeating his 2015 season; in the Low-A rotation.  If he struggles again though, I think it may be time to move him to the bullpen and look at converting him to a late-innings reliever.  He can definitely strike guys out (67 Ks in 68 Short-A innings against college competition), so perhaps there’s a new stage in his career if he can’t figure out starting.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation.
  • Erick Fedde threw 8 effective starts in Auburn, going 4-1, 2.57 ERA in Short-A Auburn with 36/8 in 35ip (8 starts), 2.60 fip, .346 babip.  He then got bumped up to Hagerstown where he finished out the season.  See Low-A write-up for more.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation to start.
  • Matt Crownover went 1-4, 3.81 ERA in Short-A with 34/9 K/BB in 49.2 ip (13 app, 10 starts), 3.40 fip, .301 babip.  His whip was decent on the year (1.17), mostly due to his great K/BB ratio (4/1).  Nothing bad but nothing mind blowing out of Crownover’s numbers in Short-A.  Not a bad return for an under-slot ACC lefty starter.  I see him competing for the Low-A rotation; there’s no reason not to keep him moving up as a college draftee from the ACC.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation competition, likely in the pen.
  • Joan Baez bounced around the system a bit in 2015, getting 5 starts in Auburn to the tune of a 7.13 ERA.  See GCL write-up for more.
  • McKenzie Mills got hit hard in 4 appearances in Auburn before spending the rest of the season int the GCL.  See GCL write-up for more.
  • Taylor Guilbeau went 3-3, 3.54 mostly in Short-A after starting briefly in the GCL with 31/9 K/BB in 51 ip (11/10 starts) .2.89 fip, .356 babip.  His FIP looks solid based on his competition but he may get bumped to the bullpen to focus on being a lefty reliever thanks to the large number of arms in the system.  I put him behind his fellow 2015 draftees Crownover and  Hearn in this regard thanks to his senior sign status and low club investment (fairly or otherwise; it is what it is).  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation competition, likely in the pen.
  • Taylor Hearn went 1-5, 3.56 in Short-A with a 38/13 K/BB in 43ip (10/10 starts), 3.40 fip, .346 babip.  Hearn joined his fellow lefty first 10 round starters in the Auburn rotation a couple of weeks into the short season and was completely effective, averaging nearly a K/inning with decent control.  He’s done nothing to jeopardize his advancement for 2016 and should compete for a low-A rotation gig.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation competition.
  • Grant Borne went 1-4, 3.59 in Short-A with 32/7 K/BB in 47.2 ip (15 apps, 5 starts), 2.99 fip, .321 babip.  Its amazing how similar Hearn, Crownover, Guilbeau and Borne’s numbers were, each profiling as a command/control lefty starter in Short-A.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation competition with the rest of his fellow lefty 2015 draftees.
  • Mariano Rivera Jr. got 3 starts before it was clear he needed to be pushed to relief; see the reliever’s section.
  • Matthew DeRosier had two bad starts in Auburn before getting dumped back to the GCL; see the Rookie league write-up for more.
  • Maximo Valero had 4 appearances and one start in Auburn after a late season promotion: see the GCL write-up for more.

Auburn Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps.  We’ll organize relievers by going by IP from most to least.  Anyone with less than 10 IP will get cursory analysis at the end.

  • Luis Torres was Dickey’s “tandem” starter for a while, getting zero “starts” but pitching mostly longer stints usually on the same schedule as Dickey.  We saw this with several others and will treat them as “relievers” for the purposes of this post.  Season stats: 5-1, 5.66 ERA, 4.54 fip, 1.37 whip, 22/17 K/BB in 35 innings.  Torres got bumped up at season’s end to provide a bit of cover in Low-A but didn’t merit the promotion based on his production.  In his age 21 season he showed he still has some work to do and regressed badly from his 2014 production in Short-A.  Where does he go from here?  I think he’s destined to miss out on the Hagerstown bullpen, spend more time in XST and try Short-A again in 2016.  Outlook for Next Season: short-A bullpen.
  • Mariano Rivera Jr, went 1-2, 5.45 ERA in Short-A with 26/3 K/BB in 33IP (19 app, 3 starts).  2.70 FIP, .388 babip.  Rivera was tried as a starter and quickly failed, getting moved to the pen, where he was much better.  Starter ERA: 13.00.  Reliever ERA: 2.63.  His seasonal ERA isn’t nearly as bad as it looks thanks to some bad luck; his FIP is good and his K/BB rate looks good as well.  He profiles like his father; slight, live arm, good stuff as a reliever.  I can see him moving up the ladder as a back-of-the-bullpen reliever.   Perhaps a disappointment that a 4th round pick was relegated to the bullpen after just three starts … but could be a quick moving arm on a team that clearly needs them.  Outlook for Next Season: low-A bullpen/closer.
  • Adam Boghosian went 3-0, 4.28 era across 2 levels with 16/18 k/bb in 27ip, 5.59 fip, .162 babip in short-A.  Anytime you have more walks than strike-outs, its a bad thing.  And he posted a mediocre ERA despite an unbelievably low babip; his numbers are likely even worse with a longer sample size.  Another senior sign that may get the axe once full-season rosters get set next spring.  Outlook for Next Season: low-A bullpen/release candidate.
  • Cody Gunter went 1-0 4.15 ERA, 23/8 K/BB in 21.2 IP for Short-A Auburn, 3.84 fip, .259 babip.  Gunter was drafted as a 3B and after two non-descript seasons in Auburn converted to the mound.  So far, results look promising; he maintained a K/inning ratio with good control and could be better based on the ERA-FIP delta.   I see him getting pushed to the Low-A bullpen in 2016.  Outlook for Next Season: low-A bullpen.
  • Kevin Mooney, was 1-0, 5.40 ERA in Short-A with a 15/13 K/bb in 21.2 innings, 4.95 fip, .333 babip.  Not a great debut for the local kid Mooney, who was last seen blowing both super-regional games that enabled UVA to surprisingly make its way to the CWS (where even more surprisingly they ended up winning).  Far, far too many walks given how many punch-outs he had, his FIP was still way up there even given a BABIP not really that out of line.  Needs to step it up if he wants a full-season job.  Outlook for Next Season: low-A bullpen competition/release candidate.
  • Tommy Peterson was 0-0, 2.66 in Auburn with 13/4 K/BB in 20 relief innings, 2.83 fip, .318 babip as part time closer.   Not too many innings to judge on here; looks like a good option for the Hagerstown 2016 bullpen.  He was one of the few Auburn hurlers from the 2015 class to get the bump up to low-A in 2015.  Outlook for Next Season: low-A bullpen competition.
  • Connor Overton went 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA (13/5 K/BB in 19.1 IP) after getting cut loose from Miami’s short-A squad and quickly getting snapped up last July.  He’s an oddity; a 22-yr old MLFA already making the rounds of the lower minors.  He briefly got called up to AAA at season’s end but is currently un-attached.  With Washington’s glut of arms, i’m not sure he did enough to make the team think he was worth keeping on for a full-season spot and I think the Richmond product goes elsewhere (Atlee HS in Mechanicsburg and then ODU in Norfolk).  Outlook for Next Season: in another organization.
  • Sam Johns blitzed short-A (1.42 ERA in 19 innings) after struggling in Hagerstown.  See Low-A write-up for more.
  • Matt Pirro was 0-0 3.71 ERA  across two levels, ending in Short-A.  14/11 k/bb in 17ip, 4.52 fip, .372 babip in short-A.  Not great numbers; too many walks, but his ERA/FIP likely the result of a bit of unlucky babip.  In a battle to stay employed though going into next year by virtue of his senior sign status.   Outlook for Next Season: low-A bullpen/release candidate.
  • John Feliz didn’t get a ton of innings in 2015: throwing just 17.1 across both short-season squads.  In Auburn he had a 4.38 ERA in 12 innings and didn’t pitch after July 28th (but didn’t go on the D/L).  He may have been hurt and just not officially gone on a D/L.  More or less a lost season for Feliz, who just turned 22, was an old IFA and has yet to perform outside of complex ball.  He may not get too many more chances; I see him getting one more shot at Short-A before getting cut loose.  Outlook for Next Season: short-A bullpen/release candidate.
  • Ryan Brinley was unhittable in 10 innings in the NY Penn league and was bumped up; see the Low-A write-up for more.
  • Other Relievers who had less than 10 IP in 2015
    • Jose Morales got blasted in two Low-A starts after three quick relief appearances (8ip total) in Auburn, then spent the rest of the year on the D/L.  See Low-A write-up for more.
    • Andrew Lee struck out 12 guys in 8 innings in the NY Penn and was bumped up.  See Low-A write-up for more.
    • Koda Glover struck out 11 guys in 6 innings in the NY Penn and was bumped up.  See Low-A write-up for more.
    • Mick VanVossen spent most of the season in the GCL; see rookie league write-up for more.
    • Cole Plouck got sent to Auburn, had two appearances in 10 days, gave up just 2 hits and one run in 5 innings … and then was released.  He had decent 2014 numbers in the GCL; this one is curious to me.  I guess the team saw all they needed to see in XST.  Outlook for Next Season: out of baseball.
    • Joey Webb was released 6/25/15, losing out in the numbers game when the 2015 short-season college draftees started flowing in.  He, like Plouck, clearly were not impressive enough during XST to merit any further consideration after run-of-the-mill 2014 seasons.  Outlook for Next Season: out of baseball.
    • Yorlin Reynoso pitched one game in the first week of the season, walked 6 guys and got demoted to the GCL.  See Rookie write-up for more.
    • Ryan Ullmann got stuck in XST to start the season, hooked up with Hagerstown 5 weeks into the season, got hit hard, was dumped to Auburn, had one appearance and then was summarily released.  Quite a quick downturn of events for Ullmann, who was always going to be a long shot (30th rounder out of a small school).  Outlook for Next season: out of baseball.
    • David Ramos threw 2.1 innings of rehab ball for Auburn before returning to Hagerstown: see low-A write-up for more.
    • Two guys (James Bourque, Anderson Martinez) both spent the whole season on the D/L; both are starters who should compete for spots in 2016 after the lost season.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A rotation competition.
    • Another two guys (Chase McDowell, Michael Sylvestri) were put on the “restricted list” at some point in 2015, usually indicating voluntary retirement.  Outlook for Next season: out of baseball.

Summary

Auburn was not a good team this year; they were 35-58.  And a lot of that was due to the “brain drain” of the pitching staff; inside of a short season 11 guys got bumped up and beyond.  Some of them quickly dominated Short-A and earned their promotion, others trickled up as the season moved on.  In the end, the staff was anchored by a quartet of college lefty 2015 draftees with strikingly similar numbers, and it should be interesting to see how this group performs moving forward.

Hagerstown/Low-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2015

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Austen Williams went 8-1 for the Suns in the first half. Photo milb.com

Austen Williams went 8-1 for the Suns in the first half. Photo milb.com

This is the 5th in the 2015 Pitching staff review series, here’s a review of Hagerstown/Low-A’s pitching staff for 2015.  Other parts of the 2015 series:

For some historical perspective, here’s 2013’s version (featuring Pedro Encarnaction),  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.  Had I done this post in 2014 I would have “featured” Lucas Giolito, who dominated in 2014 for the suns (10-2, 2.20 ERA).

All stats are courtesy of either milb.com’s Hagerstown 2015 Stats page or via Fangraph’s Hagerstown 2015 page.   Also useful here are the Big Board and the Nats Draft Tracker since so many of these lower-minors guys are recent draftees.

Note; while its relatively easy to do reviews for the upper levels of the system, once we get lower we’re usually talking about a lot of short sample sizes.  I’ll depend on text from my “draft class” write-ups where appropriate.

Hagerstown Pitching Staff movement throughout the year (* == lefty)

  • Opening Day Starters: AWilliams, Bach*, LReyes, Van Orden, Valdez
  • End of Season starters:  Amlung, Bach*, Lee, Fedde, JRodriguez, LReyes
  • End of Season spot starts/swingman:  MSanchez
  • End of Season bullpen:  Napoli*, Cooper, DWilliams,  Glover, Brinley, KPerez, Peterson
  • Mid-Season promotions: Mapes, Valdez,  Thomas*, Purke*, AWilliams, Orlan*, Walsh*, Rauh, Howell
  • up-and-back: Amlung, AWilliams, Amlung
  • down-and-back: Van Orden, LReyes, Bach*
  • Mid-Season demotions:  Webb*, Ullman, JRodriguez, Dickey, Baez, Johns, LTorres, DeRosier
  • End of Season DL: Estevez, DRamos, JMorales, Van Orden
  • Mid-Season cut/released/FAs: Mooneyham*

Hagerstown starters.  The rotation started the season with AWilliams, Bach*, LReyes, Van Orden, Valdez.  18 guys got starts in 2015.  Here’s an overview of the starters used, starting with the original five starters, going all the way to the rehab spot starts.

  • Austen Williams blitzed the Sally league (8-1 with a 2.10 ERA) and forced a promotion to Potomac mid-season, where he continued pitching well.  See High-A write-up for more.  Outlook for Next season: High-A rotation to start with an eye on quick promotion.
  • Connor Bach: Posted a 6-4, 3.85 ERA with 106/69 K/BB in 110 ip (20 starts) in Low A as a member of the rotation for much of the season.  4.08 fip, .311 babip.  Not too shabby for a 21st round senior sign from a relatively unknown baseball school (VMI).  Perhaps too many walks, but nearly a K/inning in full-season ball portends well for his future.  At the very least he could move up as a lefty specialist.   Outlook for Next season: High-A rotation.
  • Luis Reyes went 6-7 with a 4.82 ERA in 24 starts and 117.2 IP, both leading the Hagerstown squad.  1.42 whip, 4.87 fip.  Reyes signed relatively late for a Dominican player (at age 18) but has steadily progressed out of the DSL and through the short-season leagues.  This was his first stint in full-season ball and at age 20 could be excused for getting hit somewhat hard.  A 72/50 K/BB ratio isn’t promising; he maintained much better K/9 rates in the lower levels.  I figure he’ll repeat Low-A looking to improve his numbers and see if he can regain some of his swing and miss stuff.  Outlook for Next season: repeating Low-A rotation.
  • Drew Van Orden went 5-5, 3.61 ERA for Hagerstown with 47/34 K/BB in 92ip (15 starts), 4.33 fip, .254 babip.  Not a bad season for the under-slot 2014 5th round senior sign, who’s clearly sticking around.  He was mostly a spot starter for Hagerstown this year, getting a bunch of starts during the turmoil of the rotation.  He ended the season on the DL after giving the team 92 decent innings.  His FIP is a bit weak thanks to overall lucky BABIP contact but he has given no reason not to put himself into the discussion for that same role in Potomac next year.  Outlook for Next season: High-A rotation competition.
  • Philips Valdez dominated the Sally league, going 5-2 with a 1.47 ERA and quickly earned a promotion to Potomac.   See High-A write-up for more.   Outlook for Next season: High-A rotation
  • Jefry Rodriguez bounced between Short-A and Low-A again this season, starting in Hagerstown, pitching most of the year in Auburn and ending in Hagerstown.  See the Short-A write-up for more.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation.
  • Mario Sanchez was Hagerstown’s long-man/spot starter all year, getting 8 starts in 29 appearances and posting a 4.86 ERA along the way.  70/18 K/BB ratio in 90.2 innings, 1.28 whip, 4.18 whip, .301 babip.  Sanchez is even  younger than the other DSL grads on this team (he didn’t turn 21 until after the season was over, so 2016 will be his age-21 season).  Good control (nearly 4 strikeouts per walk) but was a bit homer prone (11 homers in 90 innings).  He’s undersized (6’1″) and I wonder if he’s not destined to continue to be this rubber-armed innings eater for the organization.  Its the same way he’s been used all along; few starts but lots of IP per appearance.  I also think he needs to improve his numbers before moving up, and he’s  young enough to repeat a level without really stalling his progress.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A swingman again.
  • Justin Amlung is a bit of an oddity; he’s was a 24-yr old MLFA after getting cut from the Cubs’ high-A affiliate in May of 2015.  The Nats signed him and had him repeating Low-A for his third straight year.  He (like Sanchez) served as a swing-man, getting 19 appearances and 8 starts for Hagerstown, posting a 4.22 ERA along the way.  He had a great 42/7 K/BB ratio in 64 low-A innings, 1.14 whip, 3.70 fip.  He was promoted towards the end of the season and had a nice stretch for Potomac before the seasons’ end.  He was immediately declared a MLFA but has re-signed for 2016.  Outlook for Next season: high-A bullpen/swingman.
  • Matt Purke had 8 starts and 32 IP for Hagerstown during his tour of the Nats farm system in 2015: see AA write-up for more.
  • Erick Fedde evenly split his season between Short-A and Hagerstown.  He was 4-1, 2.57 ERA in Short-A Auburn with 36/8 in 35ip (8 starts), 2.60 fip, .346 babip.  He then got bumped up to Hagerstown where he threw another 29 innings across 6 starts with lesser stats (1-2, 4.34 ERA).  A good  post-Tommy  John debut season for  our 2014 1st rounder Fedde, despite the rather restrictive innings limits put on him; he was limited to just 5ip per start for a total of 64ip on the season between two levels.  Given his mediocre stats in Hagerstown and the Nats historical promotion schedule, he could start 2016 in the Hagerstown rotation with a quick move up to the Potomac rotation.  I could be wrong though; looking at the state of my projected High-A rotation I could also easily see him starting the year in Potomac.  There’s just so many arms competing for the Low-A rotation he may be forced up.  Outlook for Next season: High-A rotation.
  • Andrew Lee posted a 5-1, 1.63 ERA across 3 levels, ending up in Hagerstown where he spent most of his first pro season.  47/10 K/BB in 38.2 innings (16/5 starts), 2.19 fip, .250 babip specifically in lowA where he spent most of his time.  An intriguing arm for sure and more than held his own in 5 Low-A starts.  He’s the fastest riser so far of the 2015 draft class and he’s easily in the mix for the Hagerstown 2016 rotation.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation to start; could be a fast riser.
  • Jose Morales got blasted in two Low-A starts after three quick relief appearances in Auburn, then spent the rest of the year on the D/L.  Not much to glean from his year; is he a starter or a reliever?  He only threw 30-some odd relief innings in 2014; I think he’s being used as a long-man/spot starter arm for now.  I would guess he’ll start 2016 in XST with an eye of hooking on with Short-A again.  Outlook for Next season: Short-A bullpen.
  • Ryan Ullmann got stuck in XST to start the season, hooked up with Hagerstown 5 weeks into the season, got hit hard, was dumped to Auburn, had one appearance and then was summarily released.  Quite a quick downturn of events for Ullmann, who was always going to be a long shot (30th rounder out of a small school).  Outlook for Next season: out of baseball.
  • Other Guys who got starts for Hagerstown:
    • Joan Baez got 3 starts for Hagerstown in June, got hammered, and spent the rest of the year in short-season ball.  See GCL write-up for more.
    • Jeff Howell had two starts for Hagerstown before getting a few more in Potomac as he converted to the mound.  See High-A write-up for more.
    • Brian Rauh had two “rehab” starts for Hagerstown and spent most of the year in Harrisburg.  See AA write-up for more.
    • Robbie Dickey had two starts in Hagerstown before getting dumped back to Auburn.  See Short-A write-up for more.
    • Robert Orlan had one spot-start for Hagerstown; see the reliever section.
    • Wirkin Estevez spent the entire season on the D/L: he’ll compete for a Low-A rotation spot in 2016.

Hagerstown Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps.  We’ll organize relievers by going by IP from most to least.  Anyone with less than 10 IP will get cursory analysis at the end.

  • Andrew Cooper: 2-2, 3.53 ERA with 35/16 K/BB in 63.2 relief IP for Low-A Hagerstown, 3.63 fip, .283 babip.  Improved his numbers across the board while repeating Low-A.  Still isn’t getting the K/9 we’d like to see though.  He’ll be 24 in High-A next year in what probably is a make or break season.  Outlook for Next season: High-A bullpen.
  • David Napoli went 7-5, 4.01 ERA with 62/36 K/BB in 60 relief IP mostly for LowA Hagerstown.  3.57 fip, .289 babip.  He started with Potomac but spent most of the year in Hagerstown, despite turning 25 during the season.  If anything,  his numbers took a step back from his 2014 Hagerstown campaign, and given his age and the glut of arms in the system, time may be running out.  Or maybe not: i mean, he signed for $15k and basically cost the team nothing and eats innings; that kind of guy is useful to have around.  Outlook for Next season: High-A bullpen.
  • Robert Orlan went 3-1, 3.00 ERA with 85/28 K/BB ratio in 72 relief IP between LowA and HighA.  Orlan bounced between Potomac and Hagerstown all season, ending up in HighA with pretty good numbers in a “more than a loogy” role.  Especially impressive is 85 Ks in just 72 ip.  He’s older for these levels, inarguably, but could put himself in a good position by continuing to succeed in 2016.  I see him in the Potomac bullpen again with an eye towards a June promotion to AA when the short-season promotions come due.   Outlook for Next season: High-A bullpen.
  • Samuel Johns went 3-4, 4.31 ERA between LowA and ShortA with 39/17 k/bb in 62.2 relief innings, 4.63 fip, .290 babip in lowA.  He struggled in LowA, but then dropped back to ShortA and was dominant.  Not great, but certainly not bad for a 31st round 5th year senior as compared to what has happened to other 5th year senior signs on this list.  Maybe not the best stuff, but has been effective.  My guess is that he either makes the Hagerstown team next spring or is cut loose, but the fact that he hung around this long gives him some more room to work with.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A bullpen.
  • Kevin Perez threw 36 relatively effective innings for Hagerstown after throwing 18 relatively ineffective innings for Potomac to start the year.  The team signed him as a MLFA early in 2015 after he was dumped out of the Low-A Royals affiliate but I doubt he showed the team enough to stick with him given the number of arms rising out of the short-season rosters.  Outlook for Next season: out of the organization.
  • Deion Williams, went 1-2, 5.46 ERA with 22/18 K/BB in 29.2 relief innings with Hagerstown.  Williams was drafted as a SS but converted to the mound after a year or so.  Since then, he’s struggled, somehow making it onto the full-season Hagerstown roster in June after sitting in XST for two months.  There, he continued not to impress; his career ERA is now 6.12 across 103IP and the three lower levels of the minors.  I could see 2016 being a “make it or break it” year for him; he either makes the full season bullpen or he’s cut.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A bullpen competition.
  • Koda Glover went 1-1, 1.80 ERA across 2 levels, getting promoted to Low-A after just 6 IP in Short-A.  Of course, in those 6ip he gave up just one hit and struck out 11, so it was pretty clear he was over-qualified for the league.  For the season: 38/2 K/BB in 30 ip (19app), 2.44 fip, .288 babips in LowA where he spent most of the year.  38 to 2 (!!)  K/BB ratio in 30 innings.  No wonder he was an over-slot deal; the 2015 draftee is one of the highest rising guys in the class so far.  Glover profiled very well and should be in the mix for a High-A bullpen slot in 2016 already.  Outlook for Next season: High-A bullpen.
  • Brett Mooneyham was 0-2 with a 6.41 ERA in 19 ineffective innings for Low-A Hagerstown before the Nats finally cut the cord and released him on 6/3/15.  Mooneyham was in Low-A for the third successive season, having failed to make the cut in Potomac in each of 2013 and 2014.  You’d have to say that he’s one of the more higher-profile drafting failures of the Mike Rizzo era.  Or maybe not; the team had to go over-slot to sign Giolito and may have skimped for the rest of the draft.  Outlook for Next season: out of the organization.
  • Ryan Brinley went 1-4 1.44 ERA  across 3 levels this year with a 16/1 K/BB in 31.1 ip, 3.85 fip, .292 babip in low-A (where he ended up).  Great 27th round find so far in Brinley, who may not have a ton of swing and miss but certainly seems to have some command (1 BB in 31 innings??).  Could be a nice little middle relief option going forward, someone who can keep his team in games.  I could see him in the High-A bullpen next year based on his command of Low-A.   Outlook for Next season: High-A bullpen.
  • Jake Walsh threw 17 scoreless innings in Hagerstown before getting bumped up to High-A.  See High-A write-up for more.
  • David Ramos threw 13 innings of middle relief for Hagerstown before getting hurt; he spent most of the summer going “rehab” assignments all throughout short-season ball before being “activated” once the full-season was done.  Not much to glean from his season; his ERAs were not pretty anywhere he went.  He’s now 24, in his fourth pro season outside of the DSL and has yet to post an ERA below 6.46 in any of his multiple stops.  Honestly, I’m surprised he made the full-season bullpen in 2015.  I’d guess he’ll take another shot at Hagerstown’s bullpen in 2016 and if he doesn’t make it, he could be facing an April 1 release.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A bullpen competition.
  • Other Relievers who got less than 10 IP for Hagerstown this year:
    • Tommy Peterson: threw 6ip in the last week of the season: see Short-A write-up.
    • Tyler Mapes threw 6 shutout IP before getting bumped to Potomac: see High-A write-up.
    • Joey Webb threw 5 innings early in the season before ending up in Auburn.  See Short-A write-up.
    • Luis Torres threw 3 innings to cover in mid July: See Short-A write-up.
    • Diomedes Eusebio is normally a 1B and threw one inning at some point.

Summary

It was a successful season for Hagerstown hurlers; I count 6-7 guys who earned promotions by pitching well in Hagerstown.  A good number of them should feature in 2016 for either Potomac or Harrisburg.  This didn’t help the Suns much, as they finished both halves right around .500, not quite good enough for a playoff spot.  2016’s staff will have some familiarity to it; I think a good portion of the 2016 opening day rotation will look just like the 2015 end-of-season rotation, mirroring the Nats recent habit of having players repeat levels in overlapping seasons and doing mid-season promotions.