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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.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 20, 2010; 2:45 PM ET
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Any info on Mench's defense?

Posted by: joemktg1 | April 20, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Rosenbaum was our 22nd round draft pick last year. He went 4-1 with a 1.95 ERA over 37 innings in the Gulf Coast (Rookie) League, not too shabby. A few more good starts in Hagerstown and we might see him in Potomac. He turns 23 in October so I suspect they will move him along relatively quickly if he shows he can compete.

Posted by: BobLHead | April 20, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Did you mean Erik Arnesen flat-out CAN pitch?

Posted by: NatsNut | April 20, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Mench's defense is a good offense, at least at one time. Not fast, average to below average arm. In other words, he has to hit like Willingham in order to justify playing him in the outfield every day (and Willingham, as a former catcher, has a much better arm).

Posted by: BobLHead | April 20, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

It's 3:30 p.m., less than three and a-half hours til first pitch. Anybody have lineups? Lineups, anyone? Adam? Barry would have had 'em up two hours ago? Shades of Cheeks, when he was dreaming of running Restaurant Row.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | April 20, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

News on Destin Hood is very exciting.

But in looking at BA's report on him, I see that he's "a fringe-average runner, limited to LF." Wasn't he the kid who was being recruited as a wide receiver at 'Bama?

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | April 20, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Erik Arnesen is with AA Harrisburg, not Low A Hagerstown.

Posted by: cassander | April 20, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for these MiLB updates. I appreciate it.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 20, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Not bad, but superfluous compared to the folks at and the new kids on the block at

Posted by: Wooden_U_Lykteneau | April 20, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

It's only superfluous if one frequents those other blogs, which I don't. No offense to either one, but there's only so much blog-reading time in the day. For that reason, I appreciate the periodic updates here and on my other "top 3" sites (Nats Insider and MASN).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 20, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Top 3 as in this blog and those two. I can add, I promise. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 20, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

"Not bad, but superfluous compared to the folks at and the new kids on the block at"

Goessling's insights were superb. He went down a list of players everyone had been asking about. Then asked Doug Harris to throw one out. No one, (not Brian Oliver, nor Sue Dinem) that Nate Karns has been suffering from a long-term illness? Natsprospects is likely going to be more about the Potomac Nationals nee' Cannons. Natsfarm is an excellent overview of the overall farm system, the promotions, the releases, progress at an organizational level.

What Ben and Adam bring to the table is the beat reporter'' knack for digging deeper along the ability to ask the more pertinent questions supported by the entities they work for.

Posted by: periculum | April 20, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Yep, Arenson is now a reliever in Harrisburg not Hagerstown. He has been doing extremely well as a long to middle relief specialist.

Posted by: periculum | April 20, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Yay Kilgore, keep it coming!! For a team who has given us the last two years on the field, the news that comes from the minors is ever-important.

Posted by: tgerbracht | April 20, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

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