Nationals Arm Race

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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

Nats 2012 Minor League Rotations: Guesses and Results

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

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

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

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

AAA:

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

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

AA:

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

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

High-A:

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

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

Low-A:

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

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

Short-A:

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

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

GCL:

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

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

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

Auburn/Short-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2012

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Brett Mooneyham was probably the biggest name in Auburn this year. Photo unknown via mlbdraftcountdown.wordpress.com

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

Here’s the Short-A version of the 2012 season pitching staff review.  I’m going down the line from top to bottom; AAA is here, AA is here, High-A is here, and Low-A is here. As with the other reviews, we’ll look at the main rotation, the substitute and spot starters, then focus on key relievers.  Rehab appearances are generally not mentioned.  The lower you get in the minors, the harder it is to really pass judgement on a player’s real capabilities or career outlook, so take some of these evaluations with a grain of salt.  They say not to depend on small sample sizes and I agree; we’re doing after-the-fact analysis on a small sample size of a half a pro season in most cases.  This is especially true with Short-A and the GCL, where most of the roster are 2012 draftees.   So “outlook for next season” is almost entirely a guess for these players.  A ton of them will be left in extended spring to compete for next year’s Auburn team, while a ton more will be released without much fanfare.

The rotations in the lower minor leagues are also not nearly as clean as in the upper-levels.  Lots of times the “starter” is slated to go as many innings as the “reliever,” a way to get two starter candidates longer stretches of innings.  We’ll try to take that into consideration as we move forward.

Auburn starters.  The rotation started the season with Jordan/Medina, Baez, Monar, Encarnation, and Smith.   Lets see how the original rotation and other primary starters fared.

  • Taylor Jordan got 6 rehab-ish starts for Auburn before finishing the season in Low-A post Tommy John surgery. Outlook for next season: (from low-A post) Low-A rotation again.
  • Gregory Baez made 3 starts and was clearly hurt in his last one (giving up 5 runs and 5 hits in a 1/3 of an inning) before hitting the DL, where he’s stayed the rest of the season.  No word on the actual injury.  Outlook for next season: get healthy, try out the Short-A rotation again.
  • Blake Monar was one of two guys who stayed in the rotation from start to finish, ending the season with a 2-3 record and a 3.29 ERA.  He averaged a K/inning, but gave up too many walks (30 in 54 2/3 innings) which drove up his WHIP.  That being said, he kept the ball in the park (only one HR in those 54+ innings) and worked around his base runners effectively (his FIP was lower than his ERA).  I think Monar is a good lefty starter prospect for 2013 and beyond.  Outlook for next season: low-A rotation with a look towards promotion to Potomac.
  • Pedro Encarnation gave low-A a shot but couldn’t cut it, so he dropped to Short-A.  He improved on 2011’s short-A outing by starting the whole season and putting up a 4.20 ERA that was better than it seemed (his FIP was 3.59).  Outlook for next season: a repeat of 2012; he’s getting another shot at the low-A rotation, probably dropping to bullpen.
  • Nicholas Lee made the jump from wild bullpen lefty in 2011 to effective starter in 2012.  He was 3-1 with a 3.77 ERA in 62 mostly starting innings.  He cut down on his walk rate, he kept his stellar K/inning rate, and kept the ball on the ground (2 homers in 62 innings and a 1.48 go/ao ratio).  Per Nationalsprospects, he’s “not a hard thrower and scouts love his change-up.”  His FIP was nearly a point below his ERA, indicating that he was even more effective than we thought.  I like this guy; his only issue is being an undersized lefty, and thus having a tendency to be type-cast as a Loogy.  Outlook for next season: Low-A bullpen; I can’t see him sticking as a starter.
  • Brett Mooneyham was the 2nd biggest name out of our 2012 draft, going 3rd round out of Stanford (and after having gotten picked by the Nats twice before).  He’s a big, projectionable lefty who was effective in his first 10 pro appearances (2-2 with a 2.55 ERA).  But where’s the dominance?  Only 29 Ks in 42 innings.  I tend to agree with John Sickels‘ analysis, as stated here.  I’ll quote: “Just like in college: looks like a pitcher, good arm, but doesn’t dominate the way you think he should.”  Outlook for next season: Low-A rotation.
  • David Fischer was an 18th round 2012 draft pick who started the year in the bullpen and ended it in the rotation (probably to make up for promotions).  Numbers were soso; 4.96 ERA in total, slightly better in 8 starts.  I’m not sure he’s done enough to win a rotation spot in any 2013 team.  Outlook for next season: Repeating short-A in the bullpen.
  • Ivan Pineyro dominated the GCL, moved up to short-A and was not as effective, getting shelled his last two outings to balloon his ERA to 5.50 in 34 1/3 short-A innings.  It took him a year to solve GCL, perhaps it’ll take him 2013 to solve short-A.  Outlook for next season: Repeating short-A in the rotation.
  • Brian Rauh earned a quick promotion out of Short-A and finished the year in Hagerstown. Outlook for next season: (from the low-A post): low-A rotation.

 

  • Other guys who got spot starts here and there (non-rehab):
    • Silvio Medina got four spot starts amongst 16 short-A appearances and was something of a “wild thing;” 9 hit batsmen and 5 wild pitches to go with 20 walks in 47 innings.  His 4.98 ERA was well-earned.  He did average a K/inning.  The DSL graduate turned 22 and finished his 3rd pro season.  Outlook for next season: I could see him trying the low-A bullpen despite his numbers; he can always drop back down if he can’t cut it there or loses out amongst stiff competition.
    • Jason Smith had one spot start and 11 other appearances; he was basically awful in all of them, to the tune of a 7.94 ERA in 22 2/3 innings before getting shut down in early August.  This 2011 undrafted free agent was good in 2011 in the rookie-league but couldn’t make the jump in 2012.  Outlook for next season: short-A bullpen, if not released.
    • Wil Hudgins pitched mostly in the GCL after getting picked in the 22nd round this year.  Outlook for next season: see GCL post.

Auburn Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season.  These are done in order by IP for any reliever who didn’t get at least one start.

  • Travis Henke pitched most of the year in long-ish relief for Auburn and was pretty effective: 7-1, 2.78 ERA and good ancillary numbers.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen competition.
  • Cody Davis is a fighter; non-drafted 2011 FA who is just 5’9″ and 170 (hell, that’s my size.  Well, not the weight part anyway) but puts up good numbers from the hill.  2012: 50 Ks in 42 innings and a 3.64 ERA.  He faces an uphill battle though because of his size.  He’s got nothing left to prove though in either short-season league.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen competition.
  • Derek Self was the Auburn closer and had effective numbers, but not the dominant K/9 rates you’d expect.  Stats: 3.27 ERA in 33 innings and 16 saves.  He’s got the same issue Mooneyham does; big arm (92-95mph), projectionable frame (6’3″ 205lbs), but missing dominance.  Maybe he needs another pitch, or 20lbs of muscle on his body.   Nonetheless, there’s no reason to think he won’t move up next season.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen competition, though I doubt he sticks as a closer.
  • The Nats took a flyer on local product Michael Boyden and it may be paying off; he had a 1.07 ERA in 33 2/3 innings between the two short season teams.    That ERA was slightly lucky; he had 17 walks in 25 short-A inningsOutlook for next season: low-A middle-reliever.
  • Robert Benincasa showed power stuff with impeccable control in his limited time in Short-A.  23 1/3 innings, 32 Ks and just 3 walks.  Great season.  Can’t wait to see what this 7th rounder in 2012 out of Florida State can do at the next level.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen.
  • Jack McGeary threw a total of 9 1/3 pro innings in 2012, only coming off the DL in early August.  Outlook for next season: low-A rotation competition for what may be his final season in the organization.
  • Richie Mirowski threw 7 innings in short-A before finishing the season in low-A.  See Low-A post.
  • Ronald Pena and Gilberto Mendez each started the year in the GCL and got a cup-of-coffee in Auburn.  Both seem to feature as short-A bullpen candidates in 2013.
  • Other Relievers who appeared in Short-A (not including Rehabbing MLBers).  Some of these guys threw fewer than 10 innings on the year, not nearly enough to write-up.  Outlook for next season for all of these guys seems the same: another season in the low minors, struggling to make an impact.
    • Elliott Waterman 22 walks in 25 innings.  Needs to improve.
    • Bryan Harper had big K/9 rates but not much else.  He’ll need more than a famous younger brother.
    • Andrew Wall was mediocre in a handful of relief innings after signing as a non-drafted FA this year.
    • John Peters threw a handful of innings for Auburn but ended the year in GCL.

Summary

Auburn made the playoffs behind the strength of its pitching.  All up and down the staff you see dominant performances.  This bodes well as these guys matriculate to Hagerstown and beyond in 2013.

GCL/Rookie Pitching Staff year in Review; 2011

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We’d like to get Jack McGeary back on the field, pitching. Photo via capitoldugout.com

The GCL rotation is always one of the most difficult to follow, with pitchers flowing regularly in and out of rehab sessions and starters sometimes throwing fewer innings than their relievers.  Our GCL roster was filled with 20-somethings, a result of a large influx of college pitchers via the draft the past couple of years.  Its also the natural entry point for DSL grads, who graduate from the island to Viera each spring.  And this year, our GCL team was *bad*.  We were just a half-game better than the worst team in the league and didn’t name a single player to Baseball America’s season-end top 20 prospects list.  Picking a name-sake was difficult, to say the least.

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

  • Rotation: Baez 19, King 21, Encarnation 20, McGeary 22, Mieses 21
  • bullpen: Ferrer 21, Heredia 19, Herrera 21, Lucas 24, Simko 22, JSmith 21, CDavis 21, Peters 20, ASantana 20, Williams 21, Harper 21, Lee 21, Monar 20
  • Spot Starts: Medina 21
  • promotions: Cole and Ray (sort of), Meza, Karns, Hanks, McKenzie, Hawkins
  • Up-and-back: Medina
  • dl: Marcelino 18, Anderson 22
  • missing: Brazoban, Paredes

GCL starters.  The “rotation” started the season with Karns, Baez, Mieses, King, and Meza.  Here’s how these guys and the rest of the pitchers fared in 2011.

    • Nathan Karns finally looks healthy and spent most of the season in Auburn.  See the Short-A post for his review.
    • Gregory Baez is a DSL grad who looked pretty good this year; in 13 appearances (11 starts) he posted a 3.72 era.  Outlook for Next Season: rotation in Short-A.
    • Adalberto Mieses is another DSL grad who struggled this year, putting up a 6.75 era in 8 appearances and four starts.  Outlook for Next Season: repeating the GCL, perhaps in the rotation.
    • Brandon King struggled for the third consecutive year in GCL (though I believe he was hurt in 2010) after signing out of high school as a 27th rounder.  Outlook for Next Season: Back in the GCL or out of the system.
    • Christian Meza got a “start” (one of the early games where two guys each threw 4 innings), pitched well and was promoted up to Auburn, where he played most of the season.  See the Short-A post for his review.
    • Pedro Encarnation finished his 2nd straight year in the GCL, failing badly in short-A and not posting very impressive stats in the rookie league.  Outlook for Next Season: Back in the GCL or out of the system.
    • Silvio Medina appeared in short-A briefly but had 9 appearances (5 starts) for GCL.  He posted a 6.61 era in 32 2/3 innings.  Outlook for Next Season: Back in the GCL.
    • Jack McGeary was probably the most important name to pass through the GCL, coming back from Tommy John surgery after a ballyhooed career thus far with the team.  On the bright side he looked sharp in 5 starts (2.81 era in 16 ip), and on the bad side he suffered a small injury that sent him to the DL to end the season.  He’s rule-5 eligible this off season but clearly is a reclamation project.  Lets just hope he can regain some form that earned him the big bonus out of high school.  Outlook for Next Season: Back in the Hagerstown rotation for one more shot at resurrecting his career.
    • Anthony Marcelino had a spot start and 3 appearances before going on the season-ending DL after graduating from the DSL.  Outlook for next season: get healthy, back in GCL.
    • Other starters who appeared: Matt Chico had a couple of starts while the team decided what to do with him.  Chris McKenzie had two ineffective starts before ending up back in Hagerstown to end the season.  Doug Slaten had one rehab start.

 

GCL Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season, and talk about other hurlers on the team.  Most of these sample sizes are so small (most of the relievers in the GCL only threw between 5-10 innings all summer), its hard to really pass judgement.  So we’ll group them by age/experience mostly.

  • SmithLee, Williams, Davis, Monar, Simko, and Harper should all be in the Short-A pen in 2012.
  • Herrera, Santana, Peters, Ferrer, Ramirez, and Schill probably all end back up in the GCL pen in 2012.
  • Bobby Lucas is a 2011 draftee out of GW who came out of college very old (he turned 24 in August).  He was very effective in the GCL but is well behind in his advancement based on his age.  Based on this we may see him pushed to start higher than his other GCL bullpen compatriots (probably low-A).
  • Mark Herrera is an interesting case; he was effective in short-A in 2010 but missed out on the level (perhaps coming off injury?)  He should clearly be in the mix to move higher than his other GCL teammates next year.
  • Patrick Arnold was demoted from Hagerstown out of spring, pitched a few effective innings then was released.  He was in his 4th pro season and just wasn’t advancing like he needed to.
  • Garrett Mock may have really been rehabbing, but his “assignment” to GCL and his extended stay said more about the pitcher’s future in the organization than one might think.  He was eventually DFA’d and accepted an assignment to AAA.
  • Other relievers (non-rehab) who put in GCL innings: Tyler Hanks ended the season in Auburn and should go back to Hagerstown for 2012.   Ben Hawkins did the same.  Christian Meza quickly moved up Auburn, where he ended the season in the short-A rotation mix.
  • Trevor Holder put in a bunch of “rehab” innings and was hit hard, indicative of his relative skill level once he returned to Potomac.

The further away from the majors, the harder it is to project these guys.  But hopefully we’ll see some GCL grads making their way up the system and having an impact.

Auburn/Short-A Pitching Staff year in Review; 2011

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Nathan Karns looks to resurrect a promising career. Photo via perfectgame.org

Because of life changes and lack of spare time, I stopped doing the daily reviews of the minor league pitching rotations in early august.  This was too bad, because I didn’t adequately track which 2011 draftees were placed with which team.  We’ll do some quick catch-up here.

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

  • Rotation: Estevez 19, MRodriguez 22, Meza (L) 21, Dupra 22, Karns 23, Hill 22
  • Bullpen: Kreis 22, Henke 22, Mirowski 22, Barrett 23, MRivera 24, Grisz 21, Hawkins (L) 21, Hanks 21, Bates 23
  • spot starts: Jenkins(L) 22, KLopez 21
  • promotions: Holland, Bronson (down and back), Holt, Demmin, CGarcia
  • up-and-back: Hanks, Bates
  • demotions: McKenzie (sort of), Encarnation, Monar

Auburn starters.  The rotation started the season with Demmin, Estevez, Encarnation, KLopez and Bates.

  • Ryan Demmin‘s short-A career was “short,” lasting 5 mostly good starts before being promoted up to high-A.  He eventually settled in Low-A and was reviewed thereOutlook for next season: (from high-A post): Potomac middle reliever.
  • Wirkin Estevez was the workhorse of the short-A squad, making 14 appearances (13 starts) and posting a respectable 4.01 era as one of the younger pitchers in the league as a 19yr old.  He was up and down in his starts; some good to great, some bad to awful.  He’ll need to be more consistent going forward to stay in the rotation.  Outlook for next season: The 2010 Dominican Summer League (DSL) grad should graduate to low-A, though I’m not sure there’s room for him in the rotation.  I’m guessing he’s a bullpen arm there.
  • Pedro Encarnation had three mostly bad starts before getting demoted to GCL.  We’ll review him there.
  • Kelvin Lopez, despite being one of the first starters through the rotation, was really just putting in a spot start and pitched mostly out of the bullpen.  He was relatively effective in the short season, posting a 3.65 era in 10 games and 24 2/3 innings.  Outlook for next season: Entering his 4th pro season he should feature in the Hagerstown bullpen, but the competition there will be crowded.  He had better numbers than most of his 2011 Hagerstown competition and should stick.
  • Colin Bates started hot in the rotation, got promoted after 7 starts, then floundered in Hagerstown before getting dumped back to Auburn in late august, where he worked out of the bullpen.  His ERA was good in short-A (2.25) and was an improvement over 2010, but he’s already old for the level and needs to improve for next year.  Outlook for next season: Potomac middle relief on a short leash.
  • Manny Rodriguez was one of the first 2011 draftees to appear in our system, signing quickly as a 10th round pick and pitching 50 innings over 14 appearances and 12 starts in Auburn.  Results?  2-3 with a 4.65 era in his first pro season.  Like a lot of guys coming off full college seasons, he seemed to tire in his late August starts.  Outlook for next season: Repeats Short-A as a starter.
  • Christian Meza started the season in the GCL, then was promoted after two appearances to join the Auburn rotation.  He had 10 starts and posted a 5.68 era in them.  Outlook for next season: with all the starter prospects we drafted in 2011, I think Meza drops to the bullpen and repeats Short-A in 2012.
  • Brian Dupra was another 2011 draftee (a Senior out of Notre Dame) who featured as predominantly a starter in Auburn.  He had better results than some of his draft day compatriots, posting a 4-4 record with a 3.46 era in 54 2/3 innings.  Outlook for next season: he starts the season in the Short-A rotation after staying behind in extended spring training.
  • Nathan Karns has been an enigma so far in his Nats career.  A 2009 draftee, he never appeared professionally after signing, then missed all of 2010 with an injury.  The team started him slow in 2011, giving him 5 starts in the GCL (where he didn’t allow a run over 18 innings while giving up just 2 hits), and then giving him another 8 good starts in Auburn, where he was a respectable 3-2 with a 3.44 era.  He was rather wild on the season, with nearly as many walks as strikeouts, but the promising arm drafted 2 years ago seems to be back.  Outlook for next season: He’ll compete for a rotation spot in Potomac but may settle for a bullpen role.
  • Taylor Hill was another 2011 draftee who featured in the Auburn staff, getting five late season starts after pitching out of the bullpen after signing.  His control was impeccable; 27Ks against just 3 walks in 31 innings, and his 5 starts were stellar; a 2.38 ERA in those appearances.  Outlook for next season: He was a college senior draftee and will play next year as a 23 yr old.  I think he’ll win a spot in the Potomac rotation out of spring.

Auburn Relievers:

  • A slew of 2010 and 2011 draftees pitched out of the Auburn bullpen and struggled.  Kreis, Henke, and Barrett each posted eras in the 4-5 range for the 2011 squad.  None of these guys were high round draft picks and were always meant to be primarily organizational guys unless proven otherwise.  Barrett was mostly used as the closer and had 32 ks in 26 innings, but also had a ton of walks and a 4.05 era.  Outlook for next season: All 3 back in Short-A bullpen.
  • Chad Jenkins survived his third pro season and put up good short-A numbers in a combo role of loogy and long relief.   Unfortunately he had more walks than strikeouts, and time may be running out for the 2009 17th rounder.  Outlook for next season: another shot at the Hagerstown bullpen, with the firing line if he can’t cut it in his 4th pro season.
  • Manuel Rivera is a long serving DSL grad finishing his 5th pro season in our system.  He put up good short-A numbers in a relief mode (3-0, 2.81 era in 20 appearances) and may be a Dominican Republic find.  Outlook for next season: he moves up to the Hagerstown bullpen to give full-season baseball a shot.
  • Mirowski, Grisz, Hawkins and Holt all pitched really well in the Auburn bullpen after being 2011 draftees (or in Grisz’ case a non-drafted FA find).   Holt was promoted up to Hagerstown and finished the season there.  Outlook for next season: all four could be in the mix for a full-season bullpen job, or could find themselves back in Short-A if they don’t make the team out of extended spring.
  • Tyler Hanks bounced around the low minors this year, pitching lights out in the GCL before struggling in low-A and ending the season in the short-A bullpen.  Outlook for next season: he should get another shot at the Hagerstown bullpen.
  • Others who appeared briefly: Christian Garcia was a waiver claim mid-season from the Yankees; he threw a bunch of good innings in Auburn before moving back where he belonged; AAA.  Blake Monar threw a few innings then decamped back for the GCL.  Lastly Silvio Medina did the same as Monar, pitching mostly out of the GCL.

Its hard to predict where a lot of these guys will end up; the team drafted SO many arms in 2011, mostly older college guys, that we may very well see a ton of churn in the bullpens of Hagerstown, Potomac and Auburn for next year.  Plus we’ll have a new wave of rizing DSL stars and 2012 signees to consider once these teams are put together.  So predictions are tough.

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

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

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

Good

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

Bad

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

Mediocre/Inconclusive

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

Relievers of Note and other Thoughts

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

Trends

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