Nationals Arm Race

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Monthly Check-in with Minor League Pitching Staffs

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

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

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

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

AAA Rotation

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

Discussion: Syracuse YTD Stats are here for reference

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

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

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

AA Rotation

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

DiscussionHarrisburg YTD Stats are here for reference

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

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

High-A Rotation

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

Discussion: Potomac YTD Stats are here for reference

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

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

Low-A Rotation

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

DiscussionHagerstown YTD Stats are here for reference

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

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

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 :-).

GCL/Rookie Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2012

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The biggest story in the GCL was also its worst; Giolito injury. Photo Eric Dearborn via win-for-teddy blog

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

Here’s the GCL 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, Low-A is here and Short-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 short-season 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.

GCL starters.  The rotation started the season with Mieses, Barrientos, Pineyro, Vasquez, and Schwartz.   Lets see how the original rotation and other primary starters fared.

  • Adalberto Mieses put in his second poor rookie league season, posting a 5.05 ERA in 41 innings over 13 appearances and 6 starts.  He hasn’t appreciably improved over last year, which saw him put up similar numbers in the same league.  Outlook for next Season: GCL rotation competition or released.
  • Joel Barrientos pitched 45 innings as a swing-man/spot starter and posted respectable numbers (4-1 with a 3.00 era).  Especially considering that he turned 19 about a month ago.  The fact that he’s a tall lefty (though he must look emaciated; 6’2″ 145lbs?) is a bonus.  Outlook for next Season: Perhaps the low-A bullpen but more likely repeating GCL as a starter.
  • Ivan Pineyro dominated the GCL for 5 starts and got bumped up to short-A.  Outlook for next season: (from the Short-A post): Repeating short-A in the rotation.
  • Daury Vasquez was the GCL work horse, leading the staff in starts and IP.  The DSL grad actually improved on his 2011 DSL numbers (a hard feat), putting in work-man like stats of 4-6, 4.10 ERA in 52 2/3 inningsOutlook for next Season: He has  yet to turn 20, so I’d guess he repeats GCL as a starter.
  • Blake Schwartz didn’t seem to merit a two-level promotion, but he out-performed his 5 GCL starts in Hagerstown.  Outlook for next season: (from low-A post): high-A rotation, based on his status as a college senior grad.
  • Casey Selsor was drafted as an OF but threw 41 1/3 GCL innings in 2012 to a 6.10 ERA.   He was a college senior draftee who couldn’t get guys out in GCL; not a good sign for his future.  Outlook for next Season: low-A bullpen competition or released.
  • Wil Hudgins pitched mostly in the GCL after getting picked in the 22nd round this year and was pretty effective in 10 appearances and 6 starts.  4-3, 2.21 era and a great k/bb ratio of 25/3 in 36 2/3 innings.  Unfortunately, Hudgins is a college senior draftee throwing in the rookie league, so anything other than dominance is viewed as failure.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen competition.
  • Dixon Anderson threw a bunch of “rehab” innings in the GCL before finishing out the year in low-A.  Outlook for next season: (from Low-A post): competing for low-A rotation, dropping to bullpen.
  • Lucas Giolito, 2012’s #1 draft pick, threw 2 innings after rehabbing a partially torn UCL all summer and fully blew it out.  Tommy John surgery, see you in 2014.

 

  • Other guys who got spot starts here and there (non-rehab):
    • Anthony Marcelino appeared in one game, the 2nd GCL game of the season, pitched 4 innings and was subsequently released.  (?!).  I have no idea why.  Very odd; he worked through an injury all of 2011 and seemed ready to compete in 2012.
    • Kylin Turnbull, 2011’s 4th round pick who signed late and didn’t play in 2011, threw a few starts in the GCL to work out some kinks before returning to Hagerstown.
    • Wirkin Estevez threw three 3-inning rehab starts mid-season before returning to Hagerstown.
    • Ronald Pena made three “starts” of 2 innings each despite really being a reliever and then finished the season in short-A.
    • Andy Santana was relatively awful in 13 appearances and 2 starts; a 6.46 era in 23 2/3 innings.  It is hard to see a future for him after basically failing the rookie league two years in a row.
    • Gilberto Mendez looked pretty good in 33 1/3 GCL innings: 34/4 k/bb ratio and a 3.24 era.  He wasn’t nearly as effective upon reaching short-A.

GCL 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.  I’m basically ignoring any reliever who threw 9 or fewer innings in the GCL or who didn’t get a spot-start and is already mentioned above.

  • Inocencio Heredes threw 31 innings of good relief in the GCL this year, improving on his 2011 showing.   Outlook for next Season: maybe competing for a full-season bullpen spot but likely repeating GCL.
  • Kevin Dicherry was a college senior draftee who served as the closer in the GCL.  Good numbers, as you would expect.  He needs to be challenged.  Outlook for next Season: low-A bullpen competition.
  • Mike Mudron threw 24 relief innings in the GCL after he was drafted in the 32nd round as a college senior.  Outlook for next Season: low-A bullpen competition.

Summary

We all know by now that GCL is essentially used for two things: an entry point for graduating Dominican Summer League guys plus a first stop for the younger guys each draft class (High schoolers, juco guys and college guys from smaller programs).  Lots of guys never make it past the GCL, so there’s a lot of churn.  Records are nearly meaningless since so many rehab guys pass through working on a pitch or working out kinks.

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.