Checking in on Nationals minor leagues
Nationals Director of Player Development Doug Harris dropped by Nationals Park yesterday, and he was good enough to share information and thoughts on some Nationals minor league developments. Let's empty out that section of the notebook:
*At Class AAA Syracuse, Kevin Mench is "absolutely raking," Harris said. "He's as good as I've seen him in three years." Mench is batting .394 with a .991 OPS and playing right field for Syracuse.
"He may help us at some point," Harris said, meaning the major league club.
Mench is attempting a comeback after playing last year in Japan with the Hanshin Tigers. Mench has dropped 15 pounds and may be regaining form from early in his career. In 2004, at 26, Mench hit 26 home runs with an .874 OPS for the Texas Rangers. "He should be what [Josh] Willingham is," Harris said.
But Mench's production declined every season thereafter, and in 2008 with the Brewers he hit zero home runs in 115 at-bats while posting a .677 OPS. After his season in Japan, Mench is showing flashes of his old self in Class AAA.
"He's in a good place right now," Harris said.
It seems to me the Nationals would prefer Justin Maxwell to step forward and seize the right field position, especially when left-handers are pitching against them. But if the Nationals are playing meaningful baseball in midsummer and Mench's early tear turns out to be not a fluke, then he could become a viable -- and fascinating -- option.
*At Class A Hagerstown, Daniel Rosenbaum has allowed one run in 17 1/3 innings this year, striking out 18 and walking three. Rosenbaum is another lefty in the John Lannan mold -- he played college ball at Xaiver and has touched 91 on the radar gun.
Rosenbaum succeeds with a unique delivery. He has a short, quick arm motion when he winds up, which makes his pitches difficult for hitters to track. Rosenbaum can throw his fastball to both sides of the plate and mixes in an effective changeup and curve.
"He's got a chance to be all right," Harris said. "He's got a real nice arsenal."
*Destin Hood is batting .429 for Hagerstown. "That's a classic case of, what comes first, confidence or success?" Harris said.
*Reliever Erik Arnesen, another Hagerstown player, has allowed one earned one run in 10 innings. "He can't flat-out pitch," Harris said. "He's got great poise. He just gets out -- attack, attack, attack."
With those three making impressions, Harris is pretty pleased with what's going on in Hagerstown. "I'm happy with that club," Harris said. "We are where we should be in that league."
*Harris said Stephen Strasburg's Class AA Harrisburg teammates have enjoyed the attention. Harris compared the hoopla around Strasburg to when Michael Jordan played for the Birmingham Barons. Harris would know -- he pitched for the Memphis Chicks in the Southern League in 1994. He says he faced Jordan 15 times, and that Jordan had one single on a chopper and 14 strike outs. "He couldn't hit at all," Harris said.
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