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The minor league report

Mainly, this morning, I wanted to post Bill Gluvna's weekly minor league report. (It's the penultimate edition; Gluvna tells me he's already gone to work on the grand finale, due out Sept. 12, and I'm imagining something neighboring on the length of the Warren Report, albeit with far better word play. )

I'd be remiss, though, if I didn't give a quick nod to the offense... and the winning streak it is driving. (Today, the Nats go for a season-high fifth win in a row,) Almost to the man, the Nats are hitting a stride. Just look at the assortment of recent hot streaks:

* Ryan Zimmerman is 23 for his last 70 (.329), a span going back 18 games.

* Cristian Guzman is 14 for his last 30 (.467) in his last seven games.

* Emilio Bonifacio has four multi-hit games in the last six, a stretch in which he's batting .391.

* Lastings Milledge is batting .33 (14 for 42) in his last 12 games.

* Oh, and Ronnie Belliard is batting an even .400 (34-for-85) in August.

Now, onto the Report...



This Week's Top Headline

NOTHING MINOR ABOUT IT: The Washington Nationals' affiliate in the Gulf Coast League today earned a position in the league's championship series with a 10-5 win over the GCL Twins in the single-elimination semifinals round. The GCL Nationals will be matched against the GCL Phillies in the best-of-three championship series, which will begin tomorrow in Viera, FL.

Left-handed pitching prospects Josh Smoker and Jack McGeary, both 19-year-olds, are scheduled to start the series' first and second games, respectively. Smoker, selected by the Nationals in the sandwich round (31st overall) of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, went 2-1 with a 1.37 ERA in six starts in the GCL this season after starting the year with Single-A Hagerstown. McGeary went 2-2 with a 4.07 ERA in 12 starts and led the GCL with 64 strikeouts. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

This season marks the first GCL championship series appearance for a Nationals/Expos affiliate since 1996. The GCL Nationals are one of three Washington affiliates that clinched post-season berths this season, joining the Potomac Nationals of the Single-A Carolina League and the DSL Nationals I of the Dominican Summer League. This season marks the first time since baseball returned to The District in 2005 that three of the organization's affiliates have earned post-season spots in the same season.

Triple-A Columbus Clippers
International League West Division
67-70, 3rd Place, 18.0 Games Back

BERNADINA & DELUCA: OF Roger Bernadina has hit safely in 12 straight games and in 34 of 43 games overall with the Clippers...he is hitting .396 (21-for-53) during the 12-game tear, posting 7 multi-hit efforts along the 43 contests with Columbus, he is batting .355 (61-for-172) with 10 doubles, 2 triples, 4 homers, 16 RBI and 9 steals... Bernadina was optioned to Columbus on July 11, after going 5-for-40 (.125) in 10 games at the big league level...prior to making the leap to the big leagues, the 24-year-old hit .323 (86-for-266) with 11 doubles, 7 triples, 5 homers, 38 RBI and 26 steals in 73 games with Double-A Harrisburg...for the season, he is hitting a combined .336 with 21 doubles, 9 triples, 9 homers, 54 RBI and 41 stolen bags in 115 games at the minor league level with Columbus and Harrisburg...the Curacao native leads full-season Washington minor leaguers in batting average.

LIGHTS OUT: RHP Levale Speigner has allowed just one unearned run in his last 23.0 innings (12 appearances)...since being promoted to Triple-A on June 4, he has gone 3-0 with a 2.38 ERA (11 ER/41.2 IP) in 24 appearances ...he dominated at the Double-A level, allowing just one run over 14.2 innings (0.61 ERA) in 10 appearances...Speigner, who appeared in 19 major league games with Washington in 2007, is a combined 4-0 with a 1.92 ERA and a .208 batting average against in 34 games with Columbus and Harrisburg.

Double-A Harrisburg Senators
Eastern League Southern Division
71-66, 3rd Place, 11.0 Games Back

SETH'S POWER SURGE: 2B/SS Seth Bynum has hit a professional-best 20 home runs this season...he entered the season with just 15 home runs in his previous 4 seasons combined...Bynum boasts a .270 batting average (69-for-256) with 15 doubles, 14 homers and 47 RBI in 78 games at the Double-A a combined 117 games with Harrisburg and Single-A Potomac this season, Bynum has batted .266 with 28 doubles and 77 RBI...he was signed by the Nationals as a non-drafted free agent out of Indiana University in May 2004.

Single-A Potomac Nationals
Carolina League Northern Division
First Half: 42-28, First Place, 7.0 Games Ahead - Northern Division Champs

Second Half: 34-31, First Place, 2.5 Games Ahead

BE LIKE MIKE: OF Michael Burgess has crushed Carolina League pitching since being promoted to Potomac on August 11, hitting .268 (15-for-56) with 3 doubles, 6 homers and 18 RBI in 15 games...9 of his 15 hits have gone for extra bases...the 19-year-old had 26 doubles, 18 homers and 60 RBI in 112 games with Hagerstown before making the jump to Woodbridge...his 24 home runs overall are tops among Washington minor leaguers...the Tampa native continues to lead all of professional baseball with 27 outfield assists...Burgess, selected 47th overall in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, was recently cited in Baseball America's annual Best Tools survey as possessing the Best Outfield Arm in the Single-A South Atlantic League.

PENA PITCHING IN: RHP Hassan Pena struck out 9 and did not walk a batter in 7.2 scoreless innings on Monday vs. Salem (Astros)...Pena, 23, improved to 2-1 with a 3.99 ERA (17 ER/38.1 IP) in 7 starts with the P-Nats...for the season, Pena is a combined 4-3 with a 3.22 ERA in 13 starts with Potomac and Hagerstown.

Single-A Hagerstown Suns
South Atlantic League Northern Division
First Half: 34-35, 5th Place, 6.5 Games Back

Second Half: 24-41, 6th Place, 19.0 Games Back

CATCHING ON IN HAGERSTOWN: C Sean Rooney has hit safely in 6 of his last 7 games at a .522 (12-for-23) clip with 3 doubles and 2 RBI...during that 7-game stretch he has raised his batting average 17 points, and has now batted .316 (77-for-244) with 16 extra-base hits (13 doubles, 2 triples and one home run) and 26 RBI in 71 games with Hagerstown this season...defensively, he has thrown out 24 of 79 (30%) attempted basestealers, while sharing catching duties with Travis Reagan...Rooney was selected in the 8th round of the 2006 Draft out of Saddleback Community College (CA).

Short-Season Single-A Vermont Lake Monsters
New York-Penn League Stedler Division
27-37, 4th Place, 10.0 Games Back

DANNY BOY: INF Danny Espinosa, 21, has gone 12-for-25 (.480) with 11 walks in 9 games as a professional...he has posted a multi-hit effort in 5 games...the switch-hitting California native was selected in the 3rd round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of Long Beach State University (CA).

GOOD START: OF Marcus Jones, Washington's 11th-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, is hitting .333 (5-for-15) with 4 RBI in his first 4 pro contests...Jones, a Washington, D.C. native who attended The Landon School For Boys in Bethesda (MD), batted .318 with 13 doubles, 3 triples, 7 home runs and 49 RBI this season as a junior at North Carolina State University.

Gulf Coast League Nationals
Gulf Coast League East Division
33-22, First Place, 2.5 Games Ahead - East Division Champs

BATTING CHAMP: SS Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez won the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League batting title after completing his second domestic season with a .350 batting addition to the batting crown, the 18-year-old also led the league with .436 on-base percentage...he finished the GCL regular season with 62 hits, 12 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs, 33 RBI, 23 walks and 9 stolen bases in 50 games.

By Chico Harlan  |  August 30, 2008; 11:31 AM ET
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Next: Tonight's lineups from Nats Park



Posted by: the hulk | August 30, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Nice news about the GCL, DSL, and P-Nats. When Espinosa was drafted, I thought I had heard him pegged as a player who rise through the organization quickly. I kind of hoped he would be our 2d baseman of the future, before we cornered the market.

Speaking of 2d basemen, Chico, thanks for taking my q in your chat about Belliard and why he had not been traded. I/M/O, he could really have helped a contender, and I'm surprised no one grabbed him. I agree he has totally tolerable contract for the Nats to keep as a backup. What I was surprised at, though, is the idea that he could not start for others. He has played 147 or more games a year from 2004 - 07, with over 500 ABs every year. I think Chico low balled him when he should only get 300 ABs in an ideal situation. He's shown no decline. In fact, his power has improved markedly. Maybe what Chico was saying is that he can be an outstanding back up for several years if you start to ease his workload. Still, I really wonder why teams with IF problems did not offer something of value for him, and I wonder why obtaining multiple 2d basemen was a priority (enough of a priority to burn your best trading asset).

Posted by: PTBNL | August 30, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Carrying forward with a P-Nat update:

Also, the P-Nats beat Wilmington tonite, clinching the second-half division title (they already had a playoff berth because they won the first-half title, too). Ross Detwiler, who started, also helped the P-Nats to clinch the first-half division title. Wilmington clinched a wild card berth due to a Frederick loss, so they will face the P-Nats at the Pfitz when the division championship series begins on Wednesday. Go P-Nats!

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 29, 2008 11:04 PM

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 30, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Also, I believe that the GCL Nats took game 1 against the GCL Phillies.

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 30, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Althouh the headlines make it look like the Nats minor leagues are progressing, the truth is that they are regressing. Baseball Perspective, who focuses on minor league talent, had the Nats ranked 14th at the beginning of the season. They now have them ranked in the mid-20's. There is no great cornerstone prospect (like O's Matt Weiters)in our minor league system. Marrero is hurt, Burgress strikes out 30% of the time, Detweiler has been a flop, and now we can't sign Crow. Truth is, The Plan is a Failure because the Lerner's won't spend the money and Bowden has no track record in building through the draft.

Posted by: disgusted | August 30, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

GCL Nats defeated the GCL Phillies 5-1 yesterday in game one of their best-of-three. Game two is happening right now with Jack McGeary on the mound.

Posted by: Brian | August 30, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

If the Nats farm system is taking a step back its because so much of the talent we did have from AA and AAA is now in or has seen significant time in the bigs.

I disagree that Marrero and Burgess (as well as E. Gonzalez) aren't cornerstones. Detwiler hasn't progress like we'd have liked this year, but he's far, VERY far from being a flop. Next year will be very telling for his future, but normally a college draft prospect (especially pitchers) take 3 years to be MLB ready. He has made some technical adjustments to his delivery which has caused some serious problems with control, but he is making progress and may be much better having worked through this.

Jordan Zimmermann is also a cornerstone player in my opinion, he'll likely start next season in AA or AAA and likely be an everyday starter in the bigs by this time next year.

I hate all the doom and gloom BS just because of Crow. The Plan is progressing and I think our farm system will be stacked up through AA next year and many of our top prospects now will be contributing in the majors by late '09 or '10.

Posted by: estuartj | August 30, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse


Please shed some light on this topic. By your very words here, it seems to me that the "Plan" is working. Yet, one of baseball's great minds wrote a scathing article indicting the Nationals in general and the Lerners specifically as an organization that is about to cave in on itself. That Kasten is a figurehead only and his talents/credentials as a top baseball executive are being ignored by the powers-that-be, who are running the team into the ground. Thom Loverro is somewhat light on firsthand reporting, but he is a trusted columnist and I believe that the Times might have merit here. So what I would like is for The Washington Post to address this topic in some fashion. Boswell, Wilbon, Sheinen, you, Solomon; any one of you should take a stab at this so that those that follow the Nats who are Washingtonians will be put at ease. When we have lost 2 baseball franchises and have endured a 33 year hiatus we tend to get the heebee-geebees when we read such negativity. So, we've heard from Rosenthal (Fox Sports/Balto Sun), and we've heard from Thom Loverro (Moonie Times). I would like to hear from the Washington Post and perhaps you could actually talk to someone with the team or in the Lerner family. Thank you.

Posted by: 6th and D | August 30, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Sheinen weighed in this past week saying that Angelos and O's is a better organization going forward than the current Nats and Lerner ownership group.

Seems to me they just need to get ride of part of the organization that are not working. Look what happened when they did what I called for weeks ago, bring up minor league coaches that have performed and reward them. Boom, we hit with the AAA hitting coach on the bench the first night....Fire Lenny Harris, Tim Tolman, Jim Bowden, Jose Rijo, and all the other ex Reds yes men Bowden has put around himself. Give the team to Stan and tell him put a respectable team on the field next year and plan to win more than lose in 2010. This is not a too much for get done for a proven team president in a mid to large market with a new park. Failure in this market like we have seen is directly attributable to Lerner and Jimbo and you can not fire Lerner so Jimbo and his hires most go.

Just face facts, Jimbo has failed and so has this coaching staff. Keep Acta if you like but fire the people on the staff that have not performed.

Posted by: JayB | August 30, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

"So, we've heard from Rosenthal (Fox Sports/Balto Sun), and we've heard from Thom Loverro (Moonie Times). I would like to hear from the Washington Post and perhaps you could actually talk to someone with the team or in the Lerner family."

And which one of these two guys do you classify as "one of baseball's great minds"? Did either of them talk with anyone from the team or the Lerner family before they wrote their damning articles?

Posted by: with six great minds, you get eggroll | August 30, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

"Look what happened when they did what I called for weeks ago, bring up minor league coaches that have performed and reward them. Boom, we hit with the AAA hitting coach on the bench the first night"

That guy would have needed the healing touch of Jesus (no, not Flores or Colome) in order to effect a change in the team's hitting in only one night of presence. More likely, he was still trying to find his way around the clubhouse and introducing himself to the guys on the team then, not offering any wisdom or instruction.

Posted by: the lerners are jewish, they'd never hire jesus | August 30, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Snapshots. Man-oh-man. Any time we look at our minor league system - or the big club - it's just a snapshot in time that reflects how things are going that day. We are being inundated with polls right now regarding our upcoming presidential election. They change every day. Is Barak Obama or John McCain beging more - or less - stupid each time a tracking poll is announced? No. A particular poll is just reflecting the temperature of the electorate at that moment. Moods swing daily.

Why should we not then look at our minor league system the same way? There were times this year when collectively, the Nats' minor league teams had one of the very best combined winning percentages in the major leagues. That percentage has gone down over the summer but it's the same players playing in the same organization.

We as a fanbase need to keep an eye on the big picture. Sure, Ross Detwiler hasn't looked great this year, but the Nationals are tinkering with his delivery. Let's see how he'll do once he gets confortable with his new arm slot. And sure, Michael Burgess strikes out 30% of the time. So does Ryan Howard of the Phillies. Who would you rather have at first base, Ronnie Belliard or Ryan Howard? Suddenly, striking out once every three times doesn't seem so bad.

Jack McGeary absolutely sucked earlier this year for the GCL Nationals, which made me wonder if this school / baseball thing was going to work. By years end, he's reduced his ERA to a very respectable 4.07 and led the GCL in strikeouts.

Chris Marrero and Michael Burgess and Smiley Gonzalez may, or may not be, star quality players. A couple of years ago, I thought that Mike O'Connor and Kory Casto, pitcher and player of the year in the Nats' minor league system, were stars-in-the-making. It isn't looking promising for either of them, but that might change next year.

Point is, until these kids succeed, or fail, we won't know if they are major leaguers. And in some cases, it takes a lot of time.

Just ask Josh Hamilton.

And Sandy Koufax.

Posted by: The Beltway Boy | August 30, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

No Offence JayB but your story is getting more than tired. You have given your opinion more than once. Give it a rest. By repeating your bias over and over do you actually think it will become true?

Posted by: Tired of JayB | August 31, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

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