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:
- Washington/MLB 2015 review
- Syracuse/AAA 2015 review
- Harrisburg/AA 2015 review
- Potomac/High-A 2015 review
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.
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.