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.
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