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Nats Major & Minor League Pitching Staffs vs Predictions

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

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


MLB Nov 2012 Prediction

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

MLB April 2013 Actual

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

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


AAA Nov 2012 Prediction

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

AAA Apr 2013 Actual

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

AAA Discussion

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

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

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


AA Nov 2012 Prediction

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

AA Apr 2013 Actual

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

AA Discussion

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

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


High-A Nov 2012 Prediction

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

High-A Apr 2013 Actual

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

High-A Discussion

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

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


Low-A Nov 2012 Prediction

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

Low-A Apr 2013 Actual

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

Low-A Discussion

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

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

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

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

Written by Todd Boss

April 11th, 2013 at 8:41 am

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

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2013 Projected Pitching Staffs and Rotations; entire Nats system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Potomac/High-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2012

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Nathan Karns parlayed his first healthy pro season into an Organizational POTY award. Photo Potomac Nationals official via milb.com

Click here for the 2011 version of this post, for a look at how things were last year.

Here’s the High-A version of the 2012 season pitching staff review.  I’m going down the line from top to bottom; AAA is here, AA is here.  As with the other reviews, we’ll look at the main rotation, the substitute and spot starters, then focus on key relievers.  Rehab appearances are generally not mentioned.

Potomac starters.  The rotation started the season with Winters, Hansen, Olbrychowski, Grace and Swynenberg.  Lets see how the original rotation and other primary starters fared.

  • Kyle Winters, an off season minor league free agent pickup, was Potomac’s opening day starter.  But he wasn’t long for the rotation; he got shelled en-route to posting a 7.02 era in 8 starts before getting released.  It does not seem like anyone else picked him up (except perhaps in Indy ball).  Lets be honest; it is never a good sign to have minor league free agents playing significant roles on high-A ball clubs.  Outlook for next season: in another organization or out of baseball.
  • High-A proved to be too much for Bobby Hansen, who put up a 5.85 ERA in 6 starts (9 total appearances) before being moved back to Low-A, where he spent 2011.  He’s young; he has yet to turn 23, so even low-A isn’t the worst place for him.  But he’ll be entering his 6th pro season in 2013 and you’d like to see him throw more than 50 innings in a season.  Outlook for next season: see the Low-A post.
  • Adam Olbrychowski wasn’t able to build on his 2011 season in High-A, regressing badly and posting a 6.24 ERA in 26 appearances (16 starts).  He lost his rotation spot halfway through the season and didn’t fare well out of the pen.   This trade didn’t work out for either team really (the Nats traded Justin Maxwell to the Yankees for Olbrychowski    in January 2011 and released him themselves; he now plays for Houston).  Outlook for next season: either one last shot in the High-A bullpen or released.
  • Matthew Grace put in his third year as a full-time starter with the Organization, and he continues to be hit or miss.  On the season he posted a 9-12 record with a 4.84 ERA and 83/48 k/bb ratio in 141 1/3 innings, but you never know what you’re getting with him.  His final start of the season featured 8 shutout innings, but his first start in August was a 3-inning 9 hit meltdown.  Outlook for next season: the organization stuck with him after a 5.17 ERA in a full season of low-A; no reason to think they won’t continue to stick with him in 2013.  AA rotation, perhaps re-peating High-A if the numbers don’t work out.
  • Matt Swynenberg was in and out of the rotation, not really excelling as either a starter or a reliever on the year.  7-5, 4.92 ERA on the season.   He was a bit unlucky on the season; he had a .343 BABIP and his FIP was a bit lower than his ERA.   Outlook for next season: he’s still young (turned 23 in February) and has plenty of time to improve.  And, given that he was a 28th round draft pick, anything he contributes is absolute gravy to the organization).   Look for him to be leading the High-A rotation in 2013 with an eye for mid-season promotion.
  • Robbie Ray was last year’s sensation, an 19-yr old dominating in Low-A.  He clearly suffered from a sophomore slump, going 4-12 with a 6.56 ERA in 22 “starts” (I put that in quotes since he had one 5-inning “relief” appearance in June).  What happened?  His K’s were down, Walks up, HRs up, BABIP unlucky, and his FIP was a full point and a half lower than his ERA.  So it wasn’t as bad as it looked.  Plus, he’s only 20 in high-A, where a lot of college guys take a year and a half to get to.  I’m not worried at all; i’ll bet he’s back to being dominant in 2013 repeating the level.  Outlook for next season: back in the High-A rotation.
  • Nathan Karns finally got a healthy full season of pitching under his belt after getting paid 3rd round money as a 12th round draft pick in the high-spending 2009 draft, and the organization finally got a look at what Karns can do: A 2.17 ERA in 24 appearances (18 starts) across 116 innings between low- and high-A.  This was no fluke either; all his advanced stats support his performance and give reason to believe he’ll continue to develop.  He was named the Organization’s Pitcher of the  Year for 2012, usually a great indicator of future success for this team.  He’s a big guy with a great pitching frame (6’5″, 230lbs) and an even better mustache (see his profile picture at milb.com).  I think Karns may be our best or 2nd best starter prospect right now.  A ight concern may be his hitting the DL in mid-August after a couple of mediocre outings; I’d guess that he’s reached an innings limit for the season and was shutdown with an unspecified injury.  This may also explain why he’s not appearing in the AFL after such a season.  Outlook for next season: AA rotation.
  • Trevor Holder finally got promoted past high-A after repeating the league for the 4th time in 2012.  He got 10 starts in Potomac before being moved up mid-season.  He was pretty good in his 9 starts in High-A this year: 3-3 with a 3.72 ERA. Outlook for next season: (from the AA post): AA Rotation.
  • Alex Meyer excelled in 7 late-season starts in Potomac after throwing 90 innings in low-A to start the  year.  Final high-A stats: 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA in 39 innings.  His ancillary numbers declined slightly moving from low- to high-A (as one would expect), but his core capabilities seem to be the same.  He’s a HUGE guy (6’9″) and the downward plane on his fastball makes it incredibly difficult to hit in the air (only 6 homers allowed in 139IP).  A lot of pundits (myself included) were critical of Meyer starting in low-A as such an advanced draft prospect, but his numbers in high-A (a more legitimate evaluation of his skills age- and experience-wise) give great hope.  The organization has had him working on mechanics all year, worried that such a big guy was going to struggle to repeat his delivery (as highlighted by this Baseball America article, subscribers only sorry).  After being basically a 2-pitch guy in college, Meyer has reportedly added a 2-seam fastball that he throws at the same velocity as his 4-seamer to go with an 87-mph change-up.  Suddenly he’s a 4-pitch guy (2 plus-plus, one plus and one fringe) and that gives him a great chance of remaining a starter.  A 6’9″ throwing upper 90s has to look like 100+ to a hitter based on his release point, and despite most scouts opinion that he’d make a fantastic shut-down closer with his 2 plus-plus pitches, he has more value to the team as a starter.  Outlook for next season: I think he starts in High-A rotation again with an eye towards quick promotion to AA.
  • Robert Gilliam underperformed in AA, got demoted to high-A and gave Potomac 7 up-and-down starts down the stretch.   Final numbers in Potomac: 1-2, 4.25 ERA in 36ip.  Outlook for next season: (cut-n-pasted from AA post): The team likes him as a starter; i’m guessing they give him another whirl in the AA rotation with Meyer sitting in High-A waiting in the wings.
  • Taylor Hill got three late-season starts after toiling all year in Hagerstown.  Outlook for next season: see Low-A post.

  • Other guys who got spot starts here and there (non-rehab):
    • Ryan Demmin served as the mop-up/swing man for the team, giving them a K/9 reliever with a 4.57 ERA on the season.  He got a couple of spot starts but only went 7 innings between the two.  He gives up a lot of hits but doesn’t walk guys.  He could continue to be a useful middle reliever.  Outlook for next season: Likely the high-A bullpen again, though he could slot up to AA if the numbers don’t work out.
    • Paul Applebee, as with Demmin, was used mostly as a long man and got a spot start before going down with injury in June.  He wasn’t great when he did pitch (5.00 era in 36ip), but he’s been useful in the organization for a while.  Outlook for next season: High-A mop-up guy again, not knowing how severe his arm injury is.

Potomac Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season.  They used an awful lot of them.

  • Neil Holland continued an excellent string of seasons for this organization since being drafted in 2010.  He was close to unhittable in 2012: a 1.64 era in 60 innings and a sub 1.00 whip.  That’s fantastic.  Outlook for next season: see if he can repeat his performance in AA.
  • Rob Wort had, frankly, a pretty amazing season as Potomac’s closer.  He had an era of 2.38 over 56 2/3 innings, and had 13 saves.  That’s not why he was amazing; He had 95 Ks in those same 56 2/3 innings.  That is a 15.09 K/9 rate!!  For a 30-th round draft pick (i.e., a guy who was never really expected to make it out of rookie camp), that’s incredible.  Outlook for next season: closer in AA.
  • Joe Testa couldn’t repeat his excellent 2011 Potomac results, putting up an ugly 5.17 era in 38 IP.  The ugly part?  A perfect 1-1 ratio of walks to strikeouts on the year (31 walks, 31 Ks).  He turning 27 in December and is entering his 6th minor league season; I think its safe to say 2013 is a “show me” year for Testa. Outlook for next season: hard to see him moved up to AA; I see him repeating in the High-A bullpen, perhaps a pure Loogy.
  • Cameron Selik looked to have “figured out” the bullpen after being a starter for most of 2011, and had a fantastic 34/3 k/bb ratio in 22 high-A innings.  He earned a promotion, but begged out of his AA debut with what probably was a torn Lat.  He didn’t pitch again after June 5th.  A shame, since it would have been nice to see how he fared upon reaching AA. Outlook for next season: I’d start him in the High-A bullpen again to make sure he’s healthy, then promote him up to AA.
  • Aaron Barrett has gone from unknown 9th rounder to organizational top prospect in one season; after tearing through Low-A with 52 Ks in 34 innings, he allowed just 2 runs in 17 high-A innings to close out the  year.  His performance earned him a trip to the Arizona Fall League along with a number of other high-profile Nats prospects.  Outlook for next season: As with Selik, I’d imagine he belongs in the AA bullpen; we’ll see if the numbers work out.  If not he starts in Potomac looking for a quick jump.
  • Josh Smoker, the Nats poster child for NOT drafting high school arms early, threw a grand total of 9.2 innings between three levels this year.  Its hard to believe, but he’ll play his 6th minor league season in our system in 2013 and then he’ll likely move on.  Outlook for next season: if healthy, High-A bullpen to try one last time to resurrect his Nats career.
  • Other Relievers who appeared in High-A 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 FA in another organization.
    • Adam Carr, a 28-yr old in high-A after spending most of 2011 in AAA.  Org arm.
    • Jimmy Barthmaier looked great in 19 High-A innings; he should since he’s 28 and in his 8th minor league season.
    • Shane McCatty struggled through a 6-week mid-season injury and an 8.83 ERA in high-A.  Nepotism seems to indicate that he’ll get another shot in 2013, deserved or not.
    • Wilson Eusebio was promoted twice, both times inexplicably based on his performance, and ended up getting lit up in Potomac.  He may be out of baseball after 2012.

Summary

Summary Potomac’s 5 opening day starters finished the season with these ERAs: 7.02, 5.85, 6.24, 4.84 and 4.92.  Thankfully guys like Meyer, Holder and Karns replaced some of these starts with decent ones later on in the season.  They got great performances up and down the bullpen though, which helped the team to remain in playoff contention late into the 2nd half (despite their sub .500 record).  At least they were dominant at home (21-13 first half, 21-15 second half), giving the Potomac fans a lot to cheer for.

Outlook for next season: see the Low-A post.

Hagerstown/Low-A Pitching Staff year in Review; 2011

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Despite injury issues, Taylor Jordan was your best low-A starter this year. Photo via wffn.net/hueytaxi on flikr.com

(4th in a series looking at all the minor league levels of pitching.  AAA, AA and High-A links).

The Hagerstown rotation was one of real interest all season, with teenage prospects AJ Cole and Robbie Ray both holding down spots, with 2010 2nd rounder Sammy Solis putting in his Nats debut, and with unexpected performances from unexpected players.

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

  • Starters:  Cole 19, Ray (L) 19, Grace (L) 22, Demmin (L) 23, Swynenberg 22
  • Bullpen: SBrown 24, Eusebio 23, McCatty 24, Holt, Graham 23, Weaver 23, McKenzie 22
  • spot starts:  Applebee(L) 23
  • promotions: Bronson (sort of), Selik, Solis, Holland
  • up-and-back: Weaver
  • demotions:  Jenkins(L) 23, Bates 21
  • dl: McGeary 22, Jordan 22, Hansen (L) 21
  • cut/released/traded: Hicks (traded), Ott, Vasquez, Erb, Garcia, Gibson, Manno (traded), Arnold

Hagerstown starters.  The rotation started the season with Selik, Grace, McKenzie, Hansen and Jordan.  Here’s how these guys and the rest of the pitchers fared in 2011.

  • Cameron Selik was a revelation, giving up just one run in his first 29 innings pitched before earning his promotion to high-A.  This after not even being on the radar after his quiet debut in short-A in 2010.  Outlook for next season (from high-A post): starting in the High-A rotation with an eye towards moving upwards.
  • Matt Grace was the sole starter in the Hagerstown corps who lasted the entire year in the rotation.  Unfortunately, he was merely average most of the year before tailing off badly with some really bad starts in August which really spoiled his lines. Final season stats: 12-7, 5.17 era.  He gave up a LOT of hits (169 in 132 innings).   Outlook for next season: I’d guess he competes for the high-A rotation, but may be converted to a bullpen arm.
  • Christopher McKenzie had a very rough 2011, posting nearly a 7.00 ERA in 13 appearances (10 starts).  He struggled early, lost his rotation spot when the teenage duo of Ray/Cole were placed on the squad, had a couple of DL trips and ended the season by putting in a couple of starts in late August.  This is the 2nd year in a row that McKenzie had a very ugly ERA number; somehow I doubt there will be a 3rd year lasting through the season with numbers that high.   He does have youth on his side though; he doesn’t turn 22 until December.  Outlook for next season: his age and experience put him in the high-A bullpen, but if he can’t get his ERA into respectable figures he will be released.
  • Bobby Hansen was an enigma this year; he went 5-1 in 10 early season starts with a 4.10 era (most of that sullied by a 6 run first inning in a one-off mid-April start), then suddenly he was pulled from the rotation.  After a number of weeks he was placed on the DL and resided there the rest of the season.  Commenters here pointed out that he was “hurt” and was going to be “out for a while” but I’m not sure official word ever came down.  Outlook for next season: get healthy, then get back into the low-A rotation.  He’s young and he has time to move up with good performance.
  • Taylor Jordan put together the start of a great season in the Hagerstown rotation, going 9-4 with a 2.48 era in 18 appearances (17 starts).  However, he went on the DL in early July and never made it off.  Like Hansen, we struggled with information on the injury.   Outlook for next season: same as Hansen: get healthy and get back into the Low-A rotation.
  • AJ Cole surprisingly joined up the full season low-A team (as opposed to my guess of pitching in the GCL as a 19-yr old) in May and at times showed the upper-end ceiling he has, and the reason he earned such over-slot money as a 4th rounder in 2010.   He exceeded expectations through May and June, then fatigued in July and August, dragging down his season stats.  On the year: 4-7, 4.04 era but most importantly a 108/24 k/bb ratio in just 89 innings as one of the youngest arms in low-A.   Not a bad first pro season.  Outlook for next season: I’d guess he starts again in Low-A, looking for more consistency before moving up.
  • Robbie Ray joined the team the same time as Cole, but frankly out-impressed his more heralded 2010 draftee.  For weeks Ray was pitching as if he were wise beyond his years, and though he also tired in August (especially in his last two starts, which raised his season era from 2.31 to 3.13) his season can only be considered a great success.  Final numbers: 2-3, 3.13 era and 95/38 k/bb in 89 IP.  Outlook for next season: Same as Cole; I think he starts in low-A again with an eye towards a quick move upwards.
  • Ryan Demmin was an undrafted 2010 FA who pitched lights out in short-A but who couldn’t handle the jump to High-A.  Upon his eventual arrival in Hagerstown he entered the rotation and pitched pretty effectively; 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 5 starts.   For some reason he was dumped back out of the rotation in late August and ended the year with a few relief appearances.  Across 3 levels he was 8-2 with a 4.25 era with pretty good k/9 numbers.  Outlook for next season: I’m guessing he’s destined for the bullpen; his k/9 as a lefty bodes well for his future.  Potomac middle reliever.
  • Matt Swyndenberg improved in his 3rd pro season, still relatively young for the level but putting up good numbers.  He toiled out of the bullpen in long relief for most of the summer, posting a 2.66 ERA in 50 innings across 20 appearances.  When he got a chance to start, he was up and down, with some good and some bad starts and a 4.67 ERA split.  He’s not a big time K/9 guy and seems destined to try to make it as a reliever moving forward.  Outlook for next season: Potomac middle-relief.
  • Paul Applebee served as the long-man/spot starter all season, picking up 72 relief innings and another 24 2/3 in 5 spot starts.   He repeated low-A in 2011 and improved marginally.  He was a 10th rounder out of college in 2009 and needs to move up.   Outlook for next season: Potomac middle-relief, perhaps a similar long-man/spot starter role.
  • Shane McCatty got one spot start in the middle of the season, a high point for his otherwise unimpressive year.   A 6.63 era in 57 (mostly) relief innings is a distinct decline from his numbers at the same level last year.   Unfortunately Nepotism is at play here; if it weren’t for his last name, he may have already been released.  Outlook for next season: As with McKenzie, the low-A bullpen looks to filled with rising arms from Auburn and the GCL. I’m guessing he moves to the Potomac bullpen with a short leash.

Hagerstown Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season, and talk about other hurlers on the team.

  • Most of Hagerstown’s relievers were, well, bad.  Eusubio, Brown, Weaver, and Holt all sported ERAs at the 5.00 level or above in various amounts of innings.   Bates, Jenkins and Hanks were each demoted mid-season (though Bates made it back to low-A at the end of the season).  Outlook for next season: all of them need to show they can product in low-A before moving on.
  • Neil Holland earned a promotion to Potomac where he was even better than in low-A.  Outlook for next season: (from high-A post): moving on up again, starting in the AA bullpen.
  • Fan Favorite Christopher Manno put up consistently ridiculously good numbers in a late-innings/closer role for Hagerstown before being packaged in the Jonny Gomes deal.  We wish him well.
  • After Manno was traded, Ben Graham took over in the shared-closer role and pitched well enough.  He was 4-4 with a 3.30 era in 46 relief innings.  He’s another non-drafted FA after the 2010 draft that may add value to the organization.   Outlook for next season: middle-relief in Potomac.


Minor League Rotations Cycle #14: good/bad/soso

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A.J. Cole has quietly begun to dominate low-A ball. photo: AP

(Programming Note: as you may have noticed, i’m about 3 versions of this recurring post behind.  A long weekend away and then two weeks of quick deadlines at work and todo items at home have conspired against these posts.  I hate it when life interferes with blogging!  Anyway, I’ve kept up-to-date the trends, copied over some of the “news and notes” from the older posts and will just pick up with the 14th cycle).

The time has come to add in Short-A (starting 6/17) and GCL (6/20).  There’s 15 arms assigned to the Auburn Doubledays, and it will take a bit to determine who the starters are.  I’ll do a couple of quick posts with predictions versus actual rosters (though predicting the short-season squads is really difficult, since most of the guys there are 2011 draftees).  As always, Sue Dinem has a nice post highlighting where the Auburn roster guys came from (2010 assignment or 2011 draftee).  Lastly, Byron Kerr highlighted the opening day for the Auburn affiliate.

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

Good

  • Brad Meyers rebounded from a string of sub-par to bad starts to take the win on 6/16.  Line: 7IP, 7H, 2ER, BB, 4K, HR.  Meyers has (to this point) kept up his unbelievable k/bb ratio (39 to 4 in AAA, 77 to 4 on the season), but has been struggled in AAA thus far (a 4.80 era and well over a hit per inning).
  • Tanner Roark also rebounded on 6/16, putting in a quality start (2er in 6ip).   He still seems to have taken a severe step backwards this year (with a 6.00 era on the season) and may be pitching his way out of the team’s long term plans.
  • AJ Cole struck out 9 in 5 innings on 6/16, giving him 40 (against 8 walks) in 32 low-A innings thus far.  I’ll take that from a 19yr old.
  • Ryan Demmin‘s return to starting pitching on 6/17 for Auburn went well; 5IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 3BB, 4K.  He washed out of Potomac’s bullpen earlier in the year; lets see if he can stick in Auburn’s rotation.
  • Collin Bates may not have started 6/17′s Auburn game, but he went 4 innings and clearly seems in competition for the rotation (so i’ll grade him here).  Results?  Pretty dominant: 4IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 3K.    Lets see if he gets a start the next time through the rotation.
  • Brad Peacock got a bit unlucky on 6/17, turning 4 hits over 7 innings into 3 runs, but another 7Ks to pad his gaudy season numbers helped him to the victory.   Honestly, I’m not sure what he really has left to prove in AA; why do we keep Stammen in the AAA rotation if he’s being used out of the pen when he gets called up?
  • Paul Demny had his best outing of the year on 6/18, pitching 5 innings of one-hit ball before making way for his bullpen.
  • Erik Arneson put up good numbers for Harrisburg (this time) on 6/19: 3 hits and 7 Ks over 6 innings.  As i’ve said before, Arneson seems to have picked the short straw and seems to be the organization’s go-to spot starter.

Bad

  • Evan Bronson got hit very hard on 6/16 on the day he seemingly took over Mitchell Clegg‘s rotation spot, giving up 11 hits in 5 and a third.
  • An ugly outing for Craig Stammen, perhaps jet-lagged from his brief callup on 6/18.  Line: 3IP 6H, 5ER, BB, 2K, 2HR.
  • Carlos Martinez got a spot start to cover for a Harrisburg doubleheader on 6/18, and in doing so became the 12th starter used in AA.  The result?  He showed why he’s not in the rotation, getting peppered for 6 hits and 3 runs over 4 innings.
  • Wirkin Estevez had an interesting game in Auburn’s 2nd game of the season on 6/18: 3⅔ IP, 9H, 6R, 6ER, BB, 6K.   9 hits but 6 Ks in less than 4 innings?   Estevez pitched well in the DSL last year, but history has shown that it may not translate to the continental pro game.
  • Yunesky Maya returned to Syracuse from a 4-game stint in the bigs, and must have been depressed for his 6/19 start.  He gave up 10 hits over 5 innings.  Unfortunately, I think he better get used to living in upstate New York for a while.  Amazingly he was in line for the victory by virtue of his team’s offense.
  • Pedro Encarnation‘s first short-A start was not terrible, but wasn’t great; 3/ 2/3 innings, 3 runs, 4 walks. I’m surprised he’s in the short-A rotation, given that he’s not really shown us much during his first two pro seasons.
  • A bad short-A start for Kelvin Lopez, another guy who wasn’t exactly great for us in the GCL last year.  Line: 3⅓ IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 2BB, 3K.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Shane McCatty had a run of the mill spot-start on 6/16: 4ip, 5 hits, 3 runs (2 earned).  It is the 2nd time in 2 weeks that one of the lesser bullpen arms in Hagerstown has been pressed into action.  Maybe they should have kept Garrett Mock down there for the playoff push.
  • Tommy Milone had a poor start (by his standards) on 6/17, giving up 7 hits and 5 runs (4 earned) in less than 6 innings.  He continues his mastery of the strike zone though, now standing at 82ks against 5 walks on the year.  Unfortunately, his ERA has been creeping up over the past few starts, leaking runs here and there.  I still think the team could make use of him in the rotation if the need arises, this year.
  • Erik Davis obviously was around the plate on 6/17, giving up 10 hits to go against 8Ks (and 0 walks) in a 6 inning effort.
  • Robbie Ray wasn’t quite as dominant as we’ve come to expect on 6/17, but only gave up one run through 5 to take a no-decision.  He gave up quite a few hits and didn’t have nearly the dominant K rates as he has in previous games.  He’s still been amazingly dominant considering his age and his lack of pro experience.
  • Trevor Holder‘s performance on 6/18 was probably better than his box score showed: 7 hits and 3 runs over 6 and a third, but all three runs came on one big homer.  It was enough to cost him the loss.
  • Taylor Jordan had a quality start on 6/18, but nothing special.  6ip, 3 runs, a couple of Ks.  He’s continued to get wins for Hagerstown with decent numbers and not-very-dominant stuff.  But he has a sub 3.00 era and doesn’t walk a ton of guys.  I don’t know how much upside that means.
  • Sammy Solis piched out the string for a Hagerstown team that was eliminated from the first half playoffs on 6/19: 4 innings, couple of earned runs, 5 ks.  Nothing bad, but nothing special.
  • Another mediocre (for him) start for Ross Detwiler on 6/20: 6⅔ IP, 3H, 2R, 2ER, 4BB, 3K.  I continue to maintain he’s injured in some way or another and trying to pitch through it.
  • Nathan Karns had an up-and-down rehab start in GCL (season opener on 6/20).  2⅔ IP, 1H, 0R, 2BB, 2K.  Its usually difficult to tell who the “starters” are in GCL, but we’ll do our best.

Relievers of Note and other Thoughts

  • Mark Zuckerman reports that Chien-Ming Wang is (finally) ready to leave extended spring training and go out on a rehab assignment.  This means he’s going to supplant a starter, somewhere in the system.  I’d guess he’s going to Potomac to start, as they seem to have the least-performing collection of starters right now and he’d completely overmatch the younger hitters in low-A.  The implication of his going out on a rehab assignment is this: he only gets 30 days in the minors (probably about 6 starts) before the Nats have to make a decision on what to do with him.  He has no minor league options, so in 30 days he either joins the 25-man roster, goes back on the DL or is DFA’d.  After all we’ve invested in him (and for the sake of his career), I’m hoping he still has something left.
  • The rotation in Harrisburg has proved challenging to keep up with; they’ve now used 11 different starters and we’re only about a 1/2 of the way through the season.  At the time of this writing I can’t tell any longer who is really in the rotation.  Tatusko seems back, but Arneson has pitched well out of the bullpen (though only mediocre as a spot-starter).  I guess its a good problem to have, as they’ve rolled to 10 straight wins recently and are getting pretty dominant performances out of 3/5ths of their rotation nearly every time out.
  • Jimmy Barthmaier got slaughtered out of the pen on 6/1, which broke up a decent string of appearances for him lately.  He’s got ugly season-long numbers, is old for AA, and may be on his way out.
  • Hagerstown relievers Shane McCatty and Ben Graham both got torched in a very odd 6/1 Hagerstown game.  Its the 3rd such god-awful outing for McCatty this year, sprinkled around decent ones.  Same story for Graham.  Both guys really aren’t getting the k/9 rates they need as bullpen options in the low-minors to have any shot of moving up.
  • Christopher Manno numbers, as of June 1st: 25 1/3 innings, 0 earned runs, 8 hits, FOURTY strikeouts against eight walks.  As frequent commenter Mark L might say, “what does this guy have to do to get promoted??”  He proved later on in the month that he is human (giving up a few runs here and there towards the end of the first half), but he still has dominant numbers and merits a promotion.
  • Ryan Mattheus looks like he’s fully recovered from 2009 Tommy John surgery, with 24 Ks in 21 innings and only 10 hits allowed through AA and AAA stints on the season.  If anything his numbers have improved at AAA.  His problem is 40-man status; he passed through waivers and was retained by the club, and I’m guessing they won’t want to put him back on until completely necessary (perhaps 9/1 callup?).  Update: he got his long awaited shot at the majors, having been added to the 40-man on 6/10/10. He replaces Cole Kimball, who has “right shoulder inflammation” (as nearly every major league pitcher does) and went on the 15-day DL. Kimball has been pretty effective thus far, but is walking guys far too often and the rest may do him some good.
  • Not that Bryce Harper is involved with the pitching in Hagerstown, but I thought i’d take a quick look at how he’s faring with his latest outburst.  As of 6/3, here’s his ranks in the entire Sally League in various categories: 6th in batting average (.346), 3rd in OBP (.432), t-1st in homers, 1st in RBI, 1st in Total bases, 3rd in OPS (1.055), and he’s even t-14th in stolen bases.  Not a bad set of rankings considering he’s like the 2nd youngest guy in the league.
  • Brad Peacock is starting to get noticed by some of the ESPN scouts.  Jason Grey featured Peacock on 6/2 from an NL-only fantasy perspective, noting he’s at 95mph with a “good” curve and a developing change-up.  That’s not going to be enough to be a major league starter.  Grey’s espn colleague Keith Law took a Peacock-related question on 6/2, noting that Peacock really is a one-pitch pitcher without an above-average 2nd pitch according to most scouts he’s asked about.  Neither of these reports is really that positive about Peacock’s future unfortunately.  My guess is that he will probably be told to start really working on his change-up, which reportedly has good velocity delta but not much movement and not much command.  You would have to think Peacock needs good command of that third pitch to have any shot at being a starter.
  • Interesting Harrisburg moves last week: Oliver Perez going to the DL, with Arneson continuing his pin-ball assignments throughout the organization, coming back down from Syracuse.  He seems to be the designated spot-starter/moving man this season. Erik Davis was on the DL for a quick trip and regains his rotation spot, but it remains to be seen what the rotations look like after this shakes out.
  • What is going on with Bobby Hansen??  He hasn’t appeared in a game for Hagerstown since 6/1, but isn’t on the DL.  He seems to have given his rotation spot to Sammy Solis … but hasn’t appeared since.  He wasn’t Hagerstown’s worst starter and had pretty good numbers as a 21-yr old in low-A.  Is he hurt?  Is he in the dog house?  Has he gone and hooked up with the manager’s daughter?
  • Tom Milone is starting to get noticed by the national press.  Rob Sickels had a feature on him on 6/20, as did Rob Neyer on sbnation.com
  • The busleaguesbaseball blog featured Auburn on 6/20.
  • 9-lives pitcher Garrett Mock was placed on the 7-day DL in Harrisburg after two brutal starts there.   As of 6/21, here’s the list of pitchers on the 7-day DL in AA: Mock, Perez, Atilano and Chico.  In other words, a collection of guys who are all way too old for AA and are closer to their outright release than making it back to the big club.
  • We may soon see a whole slew of 2011 draftees taking over rotation spots in Auburn.  Some of the “starters” we have there have not exactly impressed during their pro careers, and in some cases makes you wonder how they still have jobs.

Trends

Top 3 deserving promotion: Peacock, Ray, Milone
Top 3 whose jobs are in jeopardy: Mock, Holder, Grace