September 18, 2014

Washington Nationals Minor League and Prospect Report for July 20th

Another week of minor league baseball is in the books. Here are players around the Washington Nationals’ organization that are making headlines. For this week, we’ll go over players that participated in All-Star Games, among others. [Read more...]

Four Syracuse Chiefs Named to International League All-Star Team

Via a team press release on Wednesday afternoon, the Syracuse Chiefs, the Washington Nationals’ triple-A affiliate, announced that catcher Jhonatan Solano, outfielder Steven Souza Jr., and pitchers Taylor Hill and Aaron Laffey have been selected to the 2014 International League All-Star team. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Spring Training 2014 Preview Part III: The Catchers

Wilson Ramos "zooms" to first base on his walk-off single win over Phillies, May 4 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Wilson Ramos “zooms” to first base on his walk-off single win over Phillies, May 4 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

As a whole, the Washington Nationals return mostly intact from the teams that won 98 games in 2012 and 86 games in 2013. This is a veteran team with high aspirations of competing in the World Series. I hardly think rookie manager Matt Williams will boldly proclaim “World Series or Bust” as his predecessor did, but the implications are there.

If the team overachieved in ’12 and underachieved last season, what is the logical progression for 2014? If the ’12 and ‘13 results had been flipped, I think everyone would be riding the Nats as an odd-on favorite this season. They may be anyway.

With a rotation as solid No. 1 through No. 4 as any in baseball, a deep bullpen, an infield full of silver sluggers and a versatile outfield led by a burgeoning superstar, the Washington Nationals seem poised to make noise this season on a national level.

For the next two weeks, District Sports Page will preview the Washington Nationals 2014 season. This week, we’ll do profiles of the players on the 40-man roster and significant non-roster invitees, players that have a chance to make an impact on the Nats roster this season.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday: The Infield
Tuesday: The Outfield
Wednesday: The Catchers
Thursday: The Rotation
Friday: The Bullpen

In week two, we’ll profile the manager and front office, reveal our Top-25 minor leaguers and prospects, examine the “big picture” the Nats this season, and do a little statistical analysis and projecting.

Donning the tools of ignorance…

THE CATCHERS

Wilson Ramos: Ramos enters his age 26 season on an upswing, having mashed 16 homers in 303 PAs last season. The second of those numbers is the troubling one, as Ramos has spent much of the past two seasons recovering from various injuries. When he was healthy in ’11, he amassed 435 PAs and slugged .267/.334/.445. In ’12 he was on pace for that again, but only played 25 games due to knee surgery. Last year, it was a hamstring that limited him to 78 games. You get the point by now. If the Nats can keep Ramos healthy, they have a potential 20+ homer, All-Star behind the plate. If not, they made a move right before spring training to act as insurance.

Jose Lobaton: Meet Wilson Ramos insurance. The Nats acquired Lobaton from the Tampa Bay Rays the day before pitchers and catchers reported, along with two minor league prospects, in exchange for pitcher Nathan Karns. Lobaton is a late bloomer, as the 29-year-old has just 191 games of big league experience. Last year in 311 PAs, the switch-hitter hit .249/.320/.394 with seven homers while taking over when Jose Molina got injured. He’s a good defensive catcher, adept at framing pitches, and is universally praised by pitchers that have worked with him, though he doesn’t have the strongest throwing arm. He is the quintessential backup MLB catcher.

Jhonatan Solano: The man they call “Onion” has a great story – riding in the back of an onion truck across country lines in South America in order to attend a big league tryout camp. But his playing career is a pretty typical story – adequate behind the plate but not exceptional, just “okay” plate discipline for the position (career .302 OBP in almost 2,000 minor league PAs), and no power. Solano, 28, will continue to toil as a minor league catcher, but the Nats trade for Lobaton says all one needs to know about Solano’s chances in the majors. This was his shot, and instead the Nats went outside the organization and gave up a legitimate asset for help.

Sandy Leon: Leon, 25, just can’t hit. He’s a quality receiver with a good arm, but his lifetime minor league .237/.325/.325 masks his dreadful ’13, as he hit just .177/.294/.252 in 374 PAs. He was enjoying a good 2012, hitting .322/.396/.460 in just 64 games when Ramos’ knee injury necessitated his emergency call-up to the bigs. Then, in his debut game, he was run over by Chase Headley on a play at the plate, suffering a high ankle sprain that robbed him of much of the rest of his season. Perhaps his 2013 numbers were stifled with regaining strength in the leg. But nothing he had done prior to his outburst in ’12 indicates any real long-term gain.

Chris Snyder: Snyder was signed as a non-roster invitee and will probably be Solano’s caddy in Syracuse, kept around in case of catastrophic injury behind the plate. He was once a very useful catcher with pop, but at 33 he’s just hanging on for now.

Koyie Hill: Hill, 35, was once a highly-regarded catching prospect, but that clearly was last decade. He’s never hit in the Majors (.206/.266/.287) and was signed principally as a spring training bullpen catcher with Major League experience.

Washington Nationals Game 139 Review: Late runs prove difference in 3-2 win over Philly

ZIMMERMANN GETS 16th WIN, ZIMMERMAN HITS 17th HOMER IN WIN

The Washington Nationals are running out of games to make up ground on the wild card leaders, but they at least they are still winning games. Wednesday night, in front of a hostile Philadelphia crowd, the Nats scored single runs in the seventh and eighth innings which proved to be the difference in a 3-2 win over the Phillies.

The win tightens the Reds wild card lead to 6 1/2 games with just 22 games to play.

Jordan Zimmermann improved to 16-8 with the win. He gave up two earned runs on seven hits and one walk, striking out five. He beat Roy Halladay, who walked four and hit a batter in the first two innings, but escaped three different bases loaded situations with just one run against.

Halladay, who’s fastball has been severely diminished due to problems in his shoulder, allowed just three hits in six innings, but also walked  grand total of five during his outing.

The Nats loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth with two outs and the pitcher spot up, but manager Davey Johnson allowed Zimmermann to hit for himself. He bounced out to Halladay, snuffing a potential rally.

But the Nats got into the Phillies pen and took advantage as they had all series long. Zimmerman’ homer, a no-doubt-about-it shot in the seventh came off Zach Miner. One inning later, the Nats turned a walk, sacrifice, stolen base and fielder’s choice into the game’s winning run.

Wilson Ramos led the inning off with a walk off lefty Jake Diekman. Rookie Jeff Kobernus pinch-ran for the slow-footed catcher, and righty Scott Hairston pinch-hit for lefty Corey Brown. Hairston took the first two pitches for balls, then placed a perfect sacrifice to the third base side of the pitcher’s mound. Diekman (L, 1-4, 3.09) made a clean play to get Hairston at first, but Kobernus moved up a base.

Kobernus then stole second off the lefty reliever, and Steve Lombardozzi hit a ball to the right side that Chase Utley made a play on, but couldn’t get enough on the throw home and Kobernus raced home with out a tag.

The Phillies almost tied it up in the bottom of the frame. Utley singled with one out off Ian Krol and went to third on Carlos Ruiz’ single to center. Craig Stammen struck out Darin Ruf for the second out of the inning, but the ball got away from backup catcher Jhonatan Solano. Solano tracked the ball down and lunged back to home plate, where the hard-charging Utley tried to avoid the tag, but Solano got his glove on Utley’s hip before his hand hit home plate.

Rafael Soriano pitches a perfect ninth inning to earn his 38th save of the season.

THE GOOD: The Zimmerman(n)s. Jordan had a bit of a rough start, but settled down nicely. Ryan went 1-for-4 with the big home run and is hitting .333 over his last 10 games.

THE BAD: Ian Desmond. 0-for-4.

THE UGLY: Davey Johnson’s decision to allow Zimmermann to hit for himself in the fifth was a ballsy call. The Nats had a chance to bust that game open with one swing and two outs, and Davey decided that his team would be able to get into the Phillies bullpen and instead allowed his starter to give him another two quality innings to qualify for the win. Had it backfired, though…

THE STATS: 6 hits, 6 BBs, 8 Ks. 0-for-5 with RISP, 11 LOB. No errors, 2 DPs.

NEXT GAME: Friday, Sept. 6 in Miami against the Marlins. Dan Haren (8-12, 5.02) faces Jose Fernandez (10-6, 2.33).

NATS: Happy Birthday, Jhonatan Solano

HAPPY 28th BIRTHDAY, JHONATAN SOLANO!

Washington Nationals Catcher Jhonatan Solano was born on 08/15/1985 in Barranquilla, Columbia.

Jhonatan Solano is currently playing in Syracuse.

Follow Jhonatan Solano on Twitter and make sure to wish #23 a happy birthday.

Jhonatan Solano during Photo Day – Colorado Rockies v. Washington Nationals, 7/07/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

 

NATS/CHIEFS: Syracuse Chiefs Opening Day Roster, April 4

Today, April 4 is the opening day for the Syracuse Chiefs, Washington Nationals Triple-A Affiliate.

Syracuse Chiefs Press Release HeaderCHIEFS ANNOUNCE PRELIMINARY 2013 OPENING DAY ROSTER
12 players from last year’s team to return

Syracuse, NY—The Syracuse Chiefs, Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, are pleased to announce their preliminary roster for the 2013 season. Syracuse, led by second-year manager Tony Beasley, will begin its season on Thursday, April 4, at 7:05 at Lehigh Valley, with its home opener on Friday, April 12 at 2:05 vs. the IronPigs.

Syracuse’s active Opening Day roster features 16 former major leaguers and seven players on the Nationals’ 40-man roster. The Chiefs also return 12 players from last year’s Syracuse squad and 15 former Chiefs in total.

The Chiefs’ opening day staff will consist of 13 pitchers, five of whom spent time in Syracuse last season. Yunesky Maya (11-10, 3.88 ERA in 28 starts with the Chiefs in 2012), Tanner Roark (6-17, 4.39 ERA in 26 starts) and Ryan Perry (1-1, 4.50 ERA in 11 relief appearances) are slated to hold three of the spots in Syracuse’s rotation. Maya returns for his fourth season with Syracuse, with Roark and Perry as second-year Chiefs.

The other two spots in Syracuse’s season-opening rotation will be held by right-hander Ross Ohlendorf and left-hander Danny Rosenbaum. Ohlendorf, a veteran of 108 major league games with the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres, is in his first year with the Nationals’ organization. Rosenbaum, recently returned from Colorado after being selected in the 2012 Rule V draft, will begin his fifth professional season in the Nationals’ organization. He sported a 3.94 ERA for Double-A Harrisburg in 26 starts last season.

The bullpen will feature returning right-handers Erik Davis and Jeff Mandel, with Mandel also entering fourth Syracuse season and Davis his second. Right-hander Ryan Tatusko also rejoins the team for the second time after spending the entire 2012 season in Harrisburg, where he sported a 3.50 ERA.

Two other former Chiefs join the bullpen – left-hander J.C. Romero and right-hander Jeremy Accardo. Romero, a veteran of 680 major-league games, pitched in five games for the Chiefs in 2011. Accardo, who’s pitched 262 games in the majors, tossed five games for the Chiefs in 2008, the final year of Syracuse’s affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The remaining three spots in the bullpen are filled out by two former major leaguers – left-hander Fernando Abad (Houston) and right-hander Mike Crotta (Pittsburgh) – and left-hander Patrick McCoy, who finished 7-3 with a 3.70 ERA in 50 games for Double-A Harrisburg last season.

Offensively, both Chiefs catchers return from last year’s squad. Jhonatan Solano rejoins Syracuse for the fourth time after a season in which he made his major league debut (.312 batting average in 12 games with Washington), while veteran Carlos Maldonado also returns to Syracuse for the fourth time. The two have combined to play in 306 career games with Syracuse.

Syracuse’s infield is split between three returning Chiefs and three newcomers. First baseman Chris Marrero, shortstop Zach Walters, and third baseman Carlos Rivero – a postseason International League All-Star last season – will rejoin the Chiefs after spending time in Washington’s major league camp this spring. Infielder Jeff Kobernus, who led stole 42 bases for Double-A Harrisburg to lead the 2012 Eastern League, will join them for his Triple-A debut. Former major leaguers Mike Costanzo (Cincinnati) and Will Rhymes (Detroit, Tampa Bay) round out the six-man group.

In the outfield, postseason International League All-Star Corey Brown will return to Syracuse for the third time. Brown led all Chiefs players in 2012 with 25 home runs and also appeared in 19 major league games for Washington. He’ll be joined by 22-year-old Eury Perez, the youngest Chief on the Opening Day roster. Converted pitcher Micah Owings, who’s appeared in 174 major league games, and former Canadian Olympic outfielder Jimmy Van Ostrand will both join the Chiefs for the first time.

Tickets for all Syracuse Chiefs home games are on sale now and can be purchased online at SyracuseChiefs.com, by calling 315-474-7833, or in person at the Chiefs ticket office. Full- and partial-season ticket plans are also available through each of the same three methods.

Washington Nationals trim spring roster to 33

With Opening Day just two weeks away, and manager Davey Johnson’s preference to play his starters heavily in the next-to-last week of Spring Training, the Washington Nationals sent out much of their Major League-ready backup talent to the minors before taking on the Detroit Tigers at Space Coast Stadium Monday morning.

The Nats today optioned right-handed pitchers Erik Davis, Yunesky Maya and Ryan Perry, catcher Jhonatan Solano, infielder Chris Marrero and outfielder Corey Brown to Syracuse of the Triple-A International League. Additionally, the Nationals re-assigned right-handed pitcher Ross Ohlendorf and infielder Zach Walters to minor league camp.

Along with sending these players down, the Nats also granted catcher Chris Snyder his unconditional release. Snyder had an opt-out in his contract and is expected to sign a contract with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Snyder move signals that the team is comfortable with Wilson Ramos to open the season on the active roster. Ramos missed much of last season with two surgeries to his knee.

Washington Nationals 2013 Season Preview: The Catchers

This week, District Sports Page has taken a look at the players that should comprise the 2013 roster of the Washington Nationals. Following a record-setting season last year that saw the Nats finish first in the N.L. East and advance to the playoffs for the first time since the relocation, GM Mike Rizzo has tweaked the roster a bit and expectations have never been higher for the organization, which is expected to be a legitimate World Series contender this season.

On Monday we broke down Nationals’ starters, Tuesday we evaluated the bullpen, Wednesday we looked at the outfielders. Thursday we previewed the infield. Here’s our final installment, The Catchers.

PROJECTED OPENING DAY CATCHERS: Kurt Suzuki, Wilson Ramos, Chris Snyder. First callups: Jhonatan Solano, Sandy Leon, Carlos Maldonado. Down on the Farm: Spencer Kieboom.

Kurt Suzuki: Suzuki, 29, came to the Nats in a deadline deal with the Oakland A’s for catching prospect David Freitas and became the Nats full-time catcher down the stretch. Reunited with Davey Johnson and Rick Eckstein, who coached the then-youngster with the U.S. Olympic team in 2008, Suzuki hit much better in D.C. (.267/.321/.404 in 164 PAs) than he did the first half in Oakland (.218/.250/.286 in 278 PAs). Suzuki is signed through this season (at $8.5M), with a team option at the same rate for 2014. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals 2012 Roster Review: The Catchers

The Washington Nationals finished the 2012 season with the best regular season record in their short history since the relocation in 2005 at 98-64 and a bitterly disappointing loss in the best-of-five National League Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. In this series, we’ll take a look at each of the 43 players that appeared for the Nats in this historic season, grade them, and evaluate their position going forward. Age listed is 2013 Opening Day; grades are relative to expectation.

Today, we look at the catchers.

Jesus Flores (28): 296 plate appearances. .213/.248/.329. 12 doubles, 1 triple, 6 homers, 26 RBIs. 59 Ks/13 BBs. Flores proved his health this season, but showed little at the plate and struggled throwing out base runners (9-of 60, 15%), though that’s symptomatic of all Nats catchers due to the pitchers’ problems with holding runner. Flores is third-year arbitration eligible so his salary will bump up from his $850 base last season, though probably not appreciably enough to warrant letting him go for that reason alone. He’ll stand third on the depth chart however entering spring training, so it’s not out of the question the team does not offer him arbitration and allows him to leave as a free agent. Grade: C-

Kurt Suzuki (29): 164 plate appearances. .267/.321/.404. 5 doubles, 0 triples, 5 homers, 25 RBIs. 20 Ks/11 BBs. Acquired in a mid-season trade, Suzuki did everything the Nats hoped he would upon arrival. He mightily struggled in Oakland this season after several years on 15-homer power. Reunited with Davey Johnson and Rick Eckstein, who had him with the U.S. Olympic team, Suzuki cut down his stroke and made better contact in the N.L. Threw out 5-of-33 (15.1%) of base stealers in N.L. after nabbing 23-of-60 (38.3%) in A.L. in first half speaks to Nats pitchers complete ineptitude of holding runners. Under contract through 2013 for $5.21M with team option in ’14. Will enter spring as No. 1 catcher. Grade: B

Wilson Ramos (25): 96 plate appearances. .265/.354/.398. 2 doubles, 0 triples, 3 homers, 10 RBIs. 19 Ks, 12 BBs. Ramos remains the Nationals best long-term fixture at the position, but after tearing the ACL and meniscus in his right knee in May and the subsequent surgeries June 1 and July 18, Ramos might not be ready to start catching in spring training. Even then, they will want to take an abundance of caution not to put full-time stress on that knee until he’s in full baseball shape. Threw out 4-for-23 (17.3%) base stealers in limited time. Will be backup and work his way back into the lineup as the season progresses and he gets stronger. Ramos is not arbitration eligible until 2014. Grade: incomplete-injury

Jhonatan Solano (27): 37 plate appearances. .314/.351/.571. 3 doubles, 0 triples, 2 homers, 6 RBIs. 5 Ks/2 BBs. The man they call “Onion” made his Major League debut at age 26 this season and didn’t look overmatched at the plate at all. But he’s a career .250/.306/.339 hitter in seven minor league seasons, so Solano isn’t a real prospect. He’s thrown out 33 percent of base stealers in the minors though, so he has some proficiency behind the plate. Still, he looks more like organizational depth than a player looking to get a chance in to prove himself in the big leagues. Battled an oblique injury all year that limited him to just 141 total plate appearances across Majors and minors.  Grade: A, in extremely limited duty.

Sandy Leon (24): 36 plate appearances. .267/.389/.333. 2 doubles, 0 triples, 0 homers, 2 RBIs. 11 Ks/4 BBs. Leon was the unfortunate catcher that was called up, started, and injured in his first game. He came back later in the season for a few at bats after the roster expanded. He hit .322/.396/.460 across three levels in the minors this season, mostly for AA-Harrisburg so he looks like he has a pretty good idea of what to do at the plate. Not eligible for arbitration. Grade: B

 Carlos Maldonado (34): 12 plate appearances. .000/.182/.000. 1 RBI. 4 Ks/2 BBs. Maldonado has amassed 74 plate appearances in parts of four Major League seasons. He’s a AAA catcher, only to be used at the Major League level in the most dire of circumstances. He could return as a minor league free agent to catch at Syracuse.

NATS: Happy Birthday, Jhonatan Solano

HAPPY 27th BIRTHDAY, JHONATAN SOLANO!

Washington Nationals Catcher Jhonatan Solano was born on 08/15/1985 in Barranquilla, Columbia

Jhonatan Solano is currently on the 15-Day DL. Hope Solano is healing quickly and will be back soon.

Make sure to wish #23 a happy birthday.

Jhonatan Solano during Photo Day – Colorado Rockies v. Washington Nationals, 7/07/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

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