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The Potomac Nationals were a study in contrasts

Posted by admin | Potomac Nationals Baseball

After dropping fourteen of their last twenty-one games in early July to finish their first half with a disappointing 29-39 record, the P-Nats rebounded with a 40-29 second half which included a 13-2 close to the season, just missing a spot in the post-season. With an overall 69-68 record, Potomac was the only full season affiliate to finish above 0.500.

In what is considered a pitcher’s league, the P-Nats were among the league leaders in both counting statistics (2B, HR, SB, etc) as well as rate statistics (BA, OBP, SLG). The fans in Woodbridge started the season watching strong performances from returners like Luke Montz, Brandon Powell, and Steve Mortimer while finishing off the season seeing some of the top bats in the organization (Chris Marrero, Justin Maswell, and Mike Daniel). While the overall pitching for Potomac was slightly worse than league average, pitchers like John Lannan, Ross Detwiler, and Shairon Martis took the mound for the P-Nats, providing a glimpse into what is a developing pitching pipeline.

STATISTICS

Hitting

Team AB R H HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SB
Potomac 4602 682 1245 124 546 1054 271 354 424 778 147
Carolina Lg Avg 4607 648 1209 96 476 809 262 338 394 732 139

Pitching

Team IP ERA WHIP BA OPS BAbip K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9
Potomac 1192 4.23 1.46 265 741 316 7.2 4.0 1.8 0.7
Carolina Lg Avg 1206 4.16 1.40 262 732 307 7.0 3.5 2.0 0.7

The number that jumps out the most on offense is the home run total for the P-Nats. Potomac plays their games in one of the tougher home run parks in all of the Carolina League but players like Maxwell, Marerro, Marvin Lowrance, Mortimer and even Ian Desmond still put up solid power numbers. It will bear watching how their next wave of young players adapt to a league with not only tougher ballparks but also tougher pitchers.

As has been demonstrated in the performances in Vermont, the Nationals have begun the long process of getting their pitching back in order. While the overall results in Potomac were not spectacular, this season saw a breakout performance (Lannan), a solid development year (Martis), the debut of a high ceiling arm (Detwiler), and the identification of future bullpen options (Adam Carr, Eddy Baeza, David Trahan, and Jack Spradlin).

Team Hit Pit
Potomac 23.2 22.8
Carolina Lg Avg 23.0 23.0

This is a somewhat promising sign. Potomac managed to put a roster on the field that, unlike in past years, was the right age. While there remained a number of organizational players, the bulk of the second half roster actually were players the Nationals are counting on to develop into starters (Marrero or Maxwell) or utility/role players (Daniel or Edgardo Baez).

Regular Lineup

HIT Player Other
CA Brian Peacock, 22 Luke Montz, 23
1B Brett McMillan, 23 Steve Mortimer, 26
2B Ofilio Castro, 23
3B Brandon Powell, 26 Greg Thissen, 26
SS Ian Desmond, 21
LF Chris Marrero, 18
CF Justin Maxwell, 23 Francisco Plasencia, 23
RF Edgardo Baez, 21 Mike Daniel, 22
DH Marvin Lowrance, 22
BENCH
CA Devin Ivany, 24
UTIL Matt Rogelstad, 24
UTIL Marcos Yepez, 25
OF Dee Brown, 24
3B Leonard Davis, 23
PIT (based on # GS)
SP Shairon Martis, 20
SP Craig Stammen, 23
SP Justin Jones*, 22
SP Cory VanAllen*, 22
SP Marco Estarada, 23
Other Ross Detwiler*, 21
Other John Lannan*, 22
Other Brad Meyers, 21
SP/RP Clint Everts, 21
SP/RP Carlos Martinez, 23
RP Jack Spradlin*, 22
RP Eddy Baeza, 22
RP David Trahan, 26
RP Josh Perrault, 25
RP Alexis Morales, 24
RP Gene Yost, 26
RP Greg Bunn, 24
CL Adam Carr, 23

‘*’ = lefthanded pitcher

This was a tale of two halves. Potomac opened their season with a handful of player considered prospects (Lannan, Desmond, Carr, Martis and Clint Everts) but their primary roster composition was older, more organizational type guys. They began the season with an offensive explosion as Luke Montz, Marvin Lowrance, Dee Brown and Brandon Powell led the onslaught. Unfortunately for the P-Nats, the only consistent starting pitching they received was from Lannan who began his meteoric rise with a 4-0 April. A 10-22 May saw the team slide further back as the pitching woes continued and the bats cooled off. Things began to turn around for Potomac in early June when the P-Nats received an offensive infusion. Marrero, Maxwell, Daniel and McMillan joined the team from Hagerstown immediately improving the talent level on offense. It took some time for the team to begin to gel but by the end of the season, the P-Nats had assembled a consistent and strong offense and pitching staff.

Top 10 Potomac Nationals Prospects

  1. Chris Marrero LF
  2. Ross Detwiler, LHSP
  3. Justin Maxwell CF
  4. Shairon Martis, RHSP
  5. John Lannan, LHSP
  6. Ian Desmond, SS
  7. Mike Daniel OF
  8. Adam Carr, RHRP
  9. Marco Estrada, RHSP
  10. Edgardo Baez, OF

Note: Since Marrero, Maxwell, and Daniel spent nearly an equal amount of time playing for both Hagerstown and Potomac (they actually logged more time in Potomac), they appear in both the Hagerstown and Potomac top 10 lists (not to mention, if they were excluded from the Hagerstown list, coming up with a top 10 would have been near impossible).

Marrero is considered one of the Nationals top prospects for good reason. He turned 19 in early July and held his own in the pitching-strong Carolina League. He did wear down in his first exposure to full-season professional baseball but the numbers he put up offensively demonstrate the ability is there. The question Marrero needs to answer is what position will he ultimately settle into as he continues to mature. It appears the choices are down to left field or first base. As I mentioned in the Hagerstown recap, he is almost a lead-pipe lock to begin 2008 in Harrisburg though they might start him out for a month or so in Potomac given how he wore down in late 2007.

Detwiler only made a brief stopover in Potomac and while his statistics were not eye-popping, he was drafted at #6 overall for a reason. He has three average to above average pitches with a low-90s fastball, low-80s breaking pitch and serviceable change. The promising thing about Detwiler is his poise and aggressiveness on the mound. He goes after hitters and doesn’t nibble around the strike zone. The biggest concern for Detwiler is his weight. He is rail thin and there have to be durability concerns over the course of a full season. It will be intersting to watch and see if the Nationals can succeed in putting some additional weight (muscle) on Detwiler in hopes of continuing his development as a starting pitcher. He profiles as anywhere from a #2 to #4 starting pitcher, it all depends upon his durability and whether he can make the adjustments necessary to handle a higher quality of hitters. While he was promoted to the majors in September, expect him to pitch primarily in Harrisburg in 2008.

I’ve already touched on Maxwell …

Scouts have always been high on Maxwell’s potential but injuries have delayed his development. In 2007, Maxwell began to deliver on much of that promise. He can legitimately play CF though his arm is not as strong as one would hope to find in a CF. At the plate, however, he looks to be above average. His has power to all fields, can run and began to develop consistency in pitch identification as the season wore on. His combined performance in Hagerstown and Potomac earned him Nationals Minor League Player of the Year honors as well as a September promotion to the majors. While it might be tempting to install him in CF in the new ballpark to start 2008, it would make more sense to let him begin the season in Harrisburg where he can continue his development against pitchers considered to be the top prospects of their respective organization.

Martis quietly had a solid developmental season pitching all year in Potomac. The 20-year old righthander finished the season 14-8 with a 4.23 ERA and 1.34 WHIP with 108 strikeouts in 151 innings of work. He has a low-90s fastball, above average curve, and solid change. He has the highest ceiling of the starting pitchers who spent any appreciable time in Potomac though the middle of the rotation seems his most likely ceiling. He should Detwiler in Harrisburg to form an intriguing 1-2/L-R punch in the Senators rotation.

Lannan was the biggest surprise of 2007. He came out of nowhere to earn a mid-season promotion to Washington. His repertoire consists of a two and four seam fastball (high-80s/low-90s), a mid-70s curve and his best pitch, a changeup. Lannan is the classic soft-tossing lefthander who excels when his control is on. His ceiling is as a middle to back of the rotation starting pitcher. Expect the Nationals to give him every opportunity to make the starting rotation out of spring training but it would not surprise to see him on the Columbus to Washington shuttle for most of 2008.

It seems like Desmond has been on the prospect radar forever. While he is not the future Derek Jeter that many suggested after a couple of strong spring training performances in 2005, he still has the ability to develop into a solid major leaguer, perhaps even a starting shortstop. He began 2007 in Potomac after a failed experiment in Harrisburg in 2006 (he finished the season back in Potomac). Desmond struggled with consistency early in 2007 but something clicked with him after the All-Star Break (286/372/478). He has an interesting mixture of developing extra-base power and above average speed on the basepaths. But it is his glove/arm that will always be his calling card. He had the strongest arm of any player I saw play in Woodbridge this season. He makes the spectacular play with ease but seems to make mental mistakes on the routine plays. Harrisburg is where he’ll begin 2008, playing SS and leading off for the Senators.

I’ve also touched on Daniel …

The presence of Marrero and Maxwell led to Daniel falling between the cracks. From what I’ve seen of Daniel, he’s one worth watching. While his ceiling might not be as a major league starter, Daniel has the potential to develop into an above average #4 OF. He can play all three OF positions with above average defense, has shown the ability to hit for average (some scouts believe he could add more power as he matures), and probably his greatest asset is his quickness. Not only is Daniel fast from a 60 time, he is also an incredibly adept baserunner. He has the ability to ID pitches and takes the extra base as good as anyone in the organization. I would expect (hope) the Nationals install him as a starting OF in Harrisburg in 2008. Whether it be left, center or right, Daniel could be a valuable piece for the Nats going forward.

Carr played 1B in college but was drafted by the Nationals in 2006 as a RHRP. Carr was the hardest thrower of anyone in Potomac in 2007 (and among the hardest throwers in the organization as a whole). He struck out 65 hitters in just under 50 innings of work going 3-1 with 10 saves. The struggles for Carr were with his control. Along with the strikeouts, he also piled up 38 walks, too high for his role as key piece of a bullpen. If he can gain some control over his repertoire, he has the potential to develop into a Rauch-like performer for the Nationals. He finished the 2007 season in Harrisburg where he is also likely to begin 2008. Do not be surprised if Carr is pitching in Washington by the middle of 2008.

Estrada made only eleven starts for the P-Nats striking out 54 hitters in 58 innings of work, finishing the season 5-3 with a 4.97 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. Estrada has a low-90s fastball, an above average curve and a developing change. He is likely a #4/5 starter as his ceiling. Depending upon the numbers game, Estrada seems destined to either pitch at the back end of the Harrisburg rotation or the front end in Woodbridge.

Baez put up one of the quieter solid seasons for Potomac hitting 278/366/437 in 76 games for the P-Nats with 10 home runs, 50 RBI and 10 stolen bases. His season was ended by a blood clot. He profiles as a utility OF and given the presence of Marrero, Maxwell and Daniel in front of him might begin 2008 back in Potomac.

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