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Some minor stuff

So even as these guys prepare for a sweep of the Reds - from whom they have taken five of six games this year - it's worth taking another look at the minors, isn't it?

You may have seen the report that Marc Carig (thanks for filling in) dropped into the notebook this morning concerning Chris Marrero. Baseball America's "best tools" issue is out, and Marrero - the only true hitting prospect in the Nationals' system - was rated the best batting prospect in both the low-Class A South Atlantic League (he played half the year for Hagerstown) and the high-Class A Carolina league (where he now plays for Potomac, an easy drive from the District). Marrero, the offensive prospect about which you've heard the most this year, is hitting a combined .293 with 20 homers and 78 RBI, slugging .517, in 98 games this season.

Marrero's response to those honors about his "tools": Hitting two homers last night.

There were some interesting notations for the Nationals, too, though they certainly didn't dot the rankings. Hagerstown right-hander Josh Wilkie, who's a non-drafted free agent from George Washington (a la Mike O'Connor), was rated as the best changeup in the South Atlantic League. But he's just 3-5 with a 4.33 ERA for the Suns.

Potomac shortstop Ian "Remember Me?" Desmond is rated as having the best infield arm in the Carolina League. In talking with Barry Larkin about working with Desmond a few weeks ago, he wanted him to continue to improve his footwork. Manny Acta saw Desmond the other night at Potomac (when he was down there watching Shawn Hill's rehab start) and he said Desmond made a couple of very good plays. The kid, though, has never hit - just .238 in 101 games for Potomac.

Josh Whitesell of Class AA Harrisburg is rated as the best defensive first baseman in the Eastern League. The 25-year-old Whitesell, who is hitting .279 with 18 homers, is one of the few bright spots on an awful Harrisburg team.

That, then, would be it from the minors on BA's list. Ryan Zimmerman, who is tied with Florida's Miguel Cabrera for the most errors by a third baseman in the majors with 17, is ranked as the National League's second-best defensive third baseman behind St. Louis's Scott Rolen. Rolen has five errors in 89 games this year.

Some other bits and pieces from the minors. Did you see who Collin Balester faced in his last start for Class AAA Columbus? That would be Curt Schilling. The Red Sox starter, making a rehab start for Pawtucket, allowed the Clippers four hits over seven innings, all singles. Balester didn't fare as well, allowing four earned runs in 5-1/3 innings. He's now 1-1 with a 4.78 ERA in four starts since being promoted from Harrisburg, and he's 3-8 with a 3.93 ERA in 21 starts between the two levels this season. I thought for sure he'd be called up late in the year, but I can't say that now. They're getting a look at Lannan and Hanrahan for now, anyway, so we'll see.

RHP Emiliano Fruto went 0-3 with a 7.36 ERA and 25 walks in 26 innings in July. If you recall, Fruto - who some of the Nationals raved about in spring training - was part of the trade that sent Jose Vidro to Seattle in the offseason. While this was a huge coup for the Nationals, who saved much of Vidro's salary, the returns appear to be diminishing. Fruto can't figure out his control, and outfielder Chris Snelling was shipped to Oakland for Ryan Langerhans.

Snelling, incidentally, played all of six games for the Athletics before coming down with a left knee injury, and he's on the 60-day disabled list. No great loss there, even as Langerhans has hit .188 with a .295 OBP for Washington. Vidro? He's hitting .306 for the Mariners, but he still doesn't have that power (15 doubles, 3 HR, 35 RBI, .371 slugging percentage). He started the year hitting third, but was hitting second last night ... in front of old pal Jose Guillen (.286, 13 HR, 63 RBI, .439 slugging).

Also, LHP Mike O'Connor - he of the Nationals' rotation from last year - is just 1-4 with a 5.77 ERA for Harrisburg. Worse, he's on the disabled list there with a strained left shoulder. I had a feeling, when O'Connor had elbow surgery in the offseason, that we wouldn't see him this year. Now I'm all but sure of it. Hope he enjoyed being on the "Nats Caravan" for the entire month of January with Nook Logan.

And finally, because our new favorite minor league team is short-season Class A Vermont (in part because the New York-Penn League was the first league I ever covered, in part because Burlington is such a fine city, and in part because it's the only place the Nationals seem to have some people with gaudy stats), we check in on Adrian Alaniz, who gave up two runs in five innings last night. That amounts to a lousy start for the right-hander, who is now 6-0 with a 0.98 ERA. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is now 37-5 in 36-2/3 innings.

Others at Vermont: Glenn Gibson (3-0, 0.72 ERA, 42 K, 7 BB in 37-2/3 innings); Colton Willems (3-0, 2.36 ERA, 17 BB, 16 K in 34-1/3 innings); Jordan Zimmermann (2-1, 2.03 ERA, 35 K, 9 BB, 26-2/3 innings); Hassan Pena (4-2, 2.44 ERA, 20 BB, 17 K in 35-1/3 innings).

That's it for now. My apologies for such a late post. Thanks for those who were worried about my family in Minneapolis. Spoke to my dad this morning. He's fine. Hope everybody else's close ones are safe.

Talk to you from the ballpark with lineups and such.

By Barry Svrluga  |  August 2, 2007; 1:15 PM ET
 
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Comments

Barry -

Thanks for this post. It's good to get the update. How about Aaron Suess, he of the .360 BA at Vermont? Is he a prospect or just a older college guy ripping up younger low A pitching?

Posted by: #4 | August 2, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

while at the game yesterday, came up with an interesting thought. How hilarious would it be for opening day at the new park to have the Presidents Race, but with a representative mascot for each President? No one would expect it. Imagine seeing 42 10 foot blow up dolls running wild from the outfield. How much do these costumes cost? It would be well worth it. Maybe I am the only one that thinks it would be funny. Thoughts?

Posted by: theraph | August 2, 2007 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Barry:

Thanks for the update from the minors... Bummer that Marrero can't play center.

I am curious, about players like Desmond and Fruto... How much of their fall from prominence is due to their lack of production and how much is that they're being overshadowed by others in the system. I suspect that in the case of those two (and Larry Broadway) it is more about fizzling out, and less about being overshadowed...

Probably an important lesson... How many of our sizzling-hot pitchers in Vermont will still be sizzling hot in a year or two?

Posted by: Wigi | August 2, 2007 1:32 PM | Report abuse

You can definitely see the phasing out of our old dilapidated farm system, to fruits of our new scouting staff.

How about Detwiler? Any more update?

I thought I remember someone mentioning a flame throwing reliever in our farm system? Is there?

I'm ready for the sweep tonight, we're taking on a Reds farm call-up!

Posted by: G-town | August 2, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

MASN showed a bunch of Hawaii Winter Ball games last November, in which Ian Desmond played. From the (admittedly few) games I watched, he didn't strike me as being very impressive there.

Posted by: Juan-John | August 2, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

...and also, in part, because their mascot is the freakin' LAKE MONSTERS. Gitty up, Nessie.

Seriously, though, whatever happened to Zech Zincola?

Posted by: VT rules! | August 2, 2007 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm interested to see what the scouting report is on our Vermont pitchers.

There stats show they are lights out, but what about velocity?

They have great SO to BB ratios, but is this good control or batters who are swinging away at anything near the strike zone?

Posted by: estuartj | August 2, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

On another note; I'm surprised Barry didn't mention Michael Daniel. He is playing some CF for 1A potomac and since being promoted from Hagerstown his number have actually gone up.

Hagerstown;
.290 avg/.365 OBP/.473 SLG and 98 TBs in 207 At Bats
Potomac;
.333 avg/.376 OBP/.497 SLG and 85 TBs in 171 At bats

The only potential problem I see is he has 90 SO and only 32 BB in 96 games this year (both teams).

Posted by: estuartj | August 2, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse

"whatever happened to Zech Zincola?"

Pitching in Harrisburg (AA) he is 0-2 (2 Saves) w/ 5.48 ERA in 34 games (46.0 Innings Pitched).

He has a .229 batting average against and 35 SO to 32 BB and a 1.52 WHIP.

Not great numbers and not numbers that will get you out of AA...

Posted by: estuartj | August 2, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Nice updates for top prospects from the farms...tyvm. I'd also like a detailed report about the two teams in the DR. I read that Rijo is extremely pleased/excited about one of the teams that is doing exceptionally well. Not sure how good the teams they are playing though. For now, lets just finish off the Reds and prepare to deal with the Cards.

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | August 2, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

nervous note....I just checked the probable pitchers for upcoming games and it has Lannon scheduled to face the Giants next monday...might he be a part of history..gulp.

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | August 2, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

estuartj-
Thanks for the update on Zincola. That's disappointing. I really thought we'd see him and Beltran Perez in the bigs by now, especially the way they both finished last year.

Posted by: VT rules! | August 2, 2007 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I just reloaded this page for the fifth or sixth time and only now got the Blogfather's pun. "some minor stuff" indeed. You sly dog, Barry.

"I just checked the probable pitchers for upcoming games and it has Lannon scheduled to face the Giants next monday...might he be a part of history..gulp."

Given his first and second start, what makes you think his third wouldn't be memorable too?

Posted by: Section 506 (After moving) | August 2, 2007 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Glad to hear your family is okay, Barry. Thanks for the updates from the farm.

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 2, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Well I for one am ready to criticize Desmond, Justin Maxwell and scrutinize Randy Knorr, potomac's manager. I have seen 8 Potomac games this year and Ian Desmond has absolutely sucked in all of them (committing 3 errors in 1 inning once). Even when he gets a hit, as he did Monday, they are all to the opposite field (RF) with not a ton of zip. I could handle the "well he's a defensive shortstop and anything we get from Ian offensively is a bonus" excuse but then WHY IN THE HELL DOES RANDY HAVE HIM BATTING FIRST!!!

For the most part I believe Randy is doing a sub-par job considering he has no pitching down there. However, I have to question his momentum control of the baseball game and I often wonder what he is trying to accomplish (it doesn't seem to be winning baseball games). On Monday he had a great start with Shawn Hill on the mound, then threw out one of his many bad pitchers and boom Wilmington was back in it.

Knorr often waits too long to change pitchers (probably because they all stink except for Baeza & Carr, now that Trahan has been called up). Knorr continues to bat Justin Maxwell (.192 Batting average) second despite his troubles. (I'm guessing maybe because Maxwell's Blonde Fiance/wife and large family contingent has something to do with this?)

A few more questions-

1. What did 2b Greg Thissen do to continually bat last or near the bottom despite batting .270 and having one of the higher OBP on the team, He should be first.

2. There is no doubt Marrero looks good, but Mike Daniel (.333) appears to be just as good. Yet there is no press on him.

3. Powell, Rogelstad and Ivany are above average Class A players yet Ivany often bats near the bottom (despite batting .313) Why Randy? (Ian Desmond .238 or Justin Maxwell .192 should be at the bottom. Not 1 and 2)

4. Marvin Lowrance is an Average Class A player who does not appear to be more than a .257 hitter with Warning Track Power. He's lucky we don't have a lot of OF depth.

5. Here's what the lineup in Potomac Should be

1 Greg Thissen 3B .381 OBP
2 Brandon Powell DH .277
3 Mike Daniel .333 CF
4 Chris Marrero .293 LF
5 Devin Ivany .313 C
6 Marvin Lowrance .258 RF Right side hitter
7 Matt Roglestad 2B (3b or DH by nature)
8 Brett McMillan .216 1B
9 Ian Desmond .234 (SS only for defense)

Demote Justin Maxwell .205 (K's too much)back to Hagerstown, bring up 2b Marcos Cabral .301 from Hagerstown. Maxwell is taking up a OF position more deserving for Powell, Daniel, Marrero, and Lowrance.

I truly hope to see Detwiller in Potomac soon. Also, I would consider moving any of the good Vermont pitchers to potomac.


Posted by: P Nats Fan | August 2, 2007 2:50 PM | Report abuse

There is so much stuff to expore regaring the farm system.

Couple things come to mind...

1. Detwiler last pitched on July 29th, how long till he's moved up, where will he be headed next (best guess is Potomac).

2. What is the word on Esmailyn Gonzalez? He's only 17 and is hitting just .259 in the GCL, but does the organization still see him as the SS of the future?

3. In AA Harrisburg Whitesell has an amazing .921 OPS, but I'm curious what anyone has heard about OF Sheldon Fulse who is batting .290 and has a .890 OPS.

As with everyone else I'm dying to know what our prospects in the D.R. look like...

Posted by: estuartj | August 2, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

P Nats Fan,

Thanks for the 4-1-1 on the P-Nats, I'm going to games on the 13th and 27th (Both Dollar Days) to see Daniels, Marrero and hopefully Detwiler.

I wonder how much direction the minor league managers get from the organization on playing time, batting order, etc. There prime role is player development not winning games, but how much of what they do is directed from the outside and how much do they do on their own?

Posted by: estuartj | August 2, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

P-Nats fan ... you have to look at the ages of the players involved. Thissen (26) and Powell (27 in two weeks) are organizational players who are way too old for the level they are playing in while, theoretically, Desmond (21) and Maxwell (23) are still considered prospects. Knorr bats them where he does so they can accumulate more ABs and ideally develop.

Posted by: Brian | August 2, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I agree w/Brian. The W/L record is secondary in A ball. Developement is the key and I'm sure that Knorr has his marching orders as to how to run this team.

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | August 2, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I will be [RF]ed if Franklin Pierce wins any other race ever again. Screw that guy!

Seriously, would be hilarious, but probably not so good for the field.
--
while at the game yesterday, came up with an interesting thought. How hilarious would it be for opening day at the new park to have the Presidents Race, but with a representative mascot for each President? No one would expect it. Imagine seeing 42 10 foot blow up dolls running wild from the outfield. How much do these costumes cost? It would be well worth it. Maybe I am the only one that thinks it would be funny. Thoughts?

Posted by: hb | August 2, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Fact is I don't really care about their ages. If the guy can play they can play. I understand the whole at bat theory but I'd rather see prospects like Daniel or Marrerro bat higher and get more at bats if that were the case. Maxwell just doesn't belong yet, he is overmatched at this level. Desmond isn't going anywhere beyond A. I would rather see this organization reward the "prospects" that are performing rather than trying to showcase the younger ones. It's not like any of the top Nat's farm teams are not in the basement. Maybe we can at least start to "teach" these guys what it's like to win.

If you reward performance you get guys like Lannan who worked his way up with good performance.

If you reward where you were drafted and "prospect potential' you end up getting a bunch of Larry Broadway's.

Feel free to find us in Section 1 just about any Monday or Thursday. Guaranteed you'll hear us.

Posted by: P Nats Fan | August 2, 2007 3:26 PM | Report abuse

It can be maddening at times I'll admit but 27-year olds in the Carolina League are not prospects nor will they ever develop into prospects. And to give those ABs to someone who is not part of the Nationals future is not what the Player Development folks are going to do. In the minor leagues, it's all about developing the guys your scouts have identified as potential future pieces.

Posted by: Brian | August 2, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

We'd like to thank P-Nats fan for taking advantage of our sponsorship

Posted by: Washington Post $1 Nights | August 2, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

So, if I understand this right ... in the minors the focus is on player development. Okay. Winning games is secondary. Okay. Batting order is focused on getting more ABs for the kids who might ride big-league pine one day. Whoa... hang on...

Player development is a lot more than getting ABs against other young minor leaguers. Learning the strategy of baseball, to include the lineup, is important. Learning how to excel is important. And by golly, learning how to [RF]ing win is important. If these guys don't get hooked on the feeling, the adrenaline rush, of winning games as part of their development well... Maybe we should trade them all for a big center field bat and a stud starting hurler. Then we can have a good team once and get it over with.

Sorry, that pessimism and sarcasm isn't normally my 'tude. A Baseball game should be more -- a lot more -- than an opportunity for one or two young'uns to get at-bats. If I were you, I'd ask for my dollar back.

Posted by: i hate walks | August 2, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

i hate walks, I feel your pain, but that's the way it is in the minors. Development rules in the end. I once had a chance to talk to a guy who was a #1 pick and was playing in the minors at the time. He got hurt and missed a month but said the minute he was healthy, he went back into the lineup; didn't matter how his replacement did. Reason: he was a #1 pick. Dare I mention the Redskins around here, but remember how many chances Heath Shuler got? And those games counted!

Posted by: GEVA | August 2, 2007 5:52 PM | Report abuse

i hate walks ... That's just the way it is.

Posted by: Bruce Hornsby | August 2, 2007 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Bruce. Tell The Range I said howdy.

I understand playing a #1 draft pick over someone without as much promise (or, rather, hype). But I don't get putting up a purposely screwy batting order.

If Ian Desmond stinks like rotting chicken at SS, then keep him in there until the organization gives up on him. But put him in a logical spot in the batting order. Batting and success at the plate has a lot to do with playing the mental game and that changes depending on where you are in the lineup.

But whatever ... I guess it is easy to criticize. I don't have to wear tight, polyester pants outside in 90-degree weather, work with 19 year olds having equal amount testosterone and talent, or answer to Stan Kasten. I guess my job is pretty easy: buy a ticket, root-root-root.

Posted by: i hate walks | August 2, 2007 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Barry: Any plans for the Post to check out the Nats' prospects playing for Vermont while the Lake Monsters are playing this week just up I-95 in Aberdeen (against the IronBirds, the O's short season A team)? Three-game series starts tonight.

Lake Monsters vs. IronBirds: only in minor league baseball (or Japanese monster movies).

Posted by: jfoust | August 2, 2007 7:38 PM | Report abuse

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