Syracuse Chiefs, AAA International League
(2011 Final Record: 66-74, 4th in North Div.)
Brad Meyers: Overlooked because of Brad Peacock and Tom Milone, Brad Meyers has turned in a pretty impressive year on his own. His 2010 was ravaged because of injuries and his one rough patch this year was due to an injury – when he’s been healthy, he’s been just as good as anyone. He improved his August ERA to 1.69 with another solid start, going 5 1/3 innings and giving up one earned run on seven hits, one walk and five strikeouts this week. People forget he had a 1.72 ERA in 2009 and a 1.47 ERA in six 2010 starts – he’s a pitcher to watch just as much as Peacock or Milone.
Yunesky Maya: Maya hurled his third consecutive solid start, this time pitching six innings and giving up just two runs on six hits and three walks with six strikeouts. His season hasn’t exactly given the organization much reason to believe he’s going to be worth the multi-million dollar investment, but he did pick up his first major league win this season and has shown flashes of why the Nats signed him.
Josh Wilkie: Wilkie had one bad month – June (7.94 ERA in 11 games) – but has otherwise been lights out in the Syracuse bullpen, picking up 16 saves with a 3.13 ERA on the year. He has only given up one earned run in 10 August appearances, and he deserves a look at the major league level: he has given up just four home runs in 60 innings this year and has nearly a strikeout an inning.
Steve Lombardozzi: It is likely Lombardozzi is headed to D.C. for a well-earned call-up after roster expansion. If he does, he’s an interesting prospect to watch, because he has produced at level despite little fanfare. He’s going to end the season with an average above .300 in both AA and AAA and a remarkable zero errors in 69 games with the Chiefs.
Matt Antonelli: Seemingly an afterthought because of Lombardozzi, Antonelli has actually had a very strong year himself. He sports a .397 OBP and has 19 doubles, three triples and eight home runs in 86 games with Syracuse. He may not get a shot this September, but he deserves a very long look next spring for a bench spot – he’s played third, short and second this season.
Corey Brown: It’s encouraging to see Brown finish the season strong after he hit poorly most of the summer. A .351/.429/.608 line in August has his season average at .234, not good obviously but better than the .210 line he had most of the year. He’s on the 40-man roster, so he should get called up after the year is up.
Harrisburg Senators, AA Eastern League
(2011 Final Record: 80-62, 1st in Western Div.)
***Harrisburg qualified for the Eastern League playoffs and will face Richmond in a best of five semi-final matchup.
Shairon Martis: It’s a shame his last regular season start was not a good one, because Martis has been phenomenal this season. Even his five-inning, five-run start on Friday can’t put a damper on his season: 8-6 record, 3.05 ERA, 146/39 K/BB ratio, .245 batting average against.
Rafael Martin: Martin has pitched very well for the Senators this season, racking up 13 saves in 34 innings with a 1.56 ERA. He still has to prove it in AAA, but there’s a possibility he’ll get a look next season if he continues to pitch well next season.
Daniel Rosenbaum: He rebounded from his first poor AA start to pitch six four-hit, two-run innings this week, walking none and striking out two. His AA ERA ends at 2.29 (regular season) after posting a 2.59 ERA in Potomac.
Bryce Harper: Harper’s status for the playoffs remains in question, but there’s no reason to rush him back so it’s likely we won’t see him unless he is for sure 100% healthy.
Derek Norris: Norris had an up-and-down year and his season average is going to end just above the Mendonza line (.203 as of this writing). He hit just .197 before the All-Star break and .211 after, but his OBP remained around .360 all season long and he also hit for pretty good power (.433 SLG; 19 home runs and 17 doubles). He can’t get by with a .200 average in AA, but it’s hard to argue with an OPS (.796) that is still very good for a catcher.
Tyler Moore: He has six walks in his last 10 games, which is always a nice bonus when he smacks three home runs during that period. The first baseman has 35 doubles and 31 home runs (90 RBI) on the season, and his slugging percentage is third in the Eastern League. If he could just walk more (or hit .280-.290), he’d get a lot more buzz than he currently gets. He should start next season in Syracuse, but with the glut of first basemen currently in the major leagues, he may have to wait to get his chance in another organization. But his power is very, very real.
Eric Komatsu: He didn’t exactly light it up after the trade to Harrisburg, hitting .232/.292/.296 in 30 AA games. He’s better than these numbers indicate, and it’ll be interesting to see where he starts next season.
Potomac Nationals, High-A Carolina League
(2011 Final Record: 68-71, 2nd in North Div.)
***The P-Nats won the second half of the Carolina League North Division with a 39-31 record, qualifying for the playoffs, and will face Frederick in a best of five semi-final series.
Josh Smoker: Smoker gave up four runs in 2 2/3 relief innings this week – obviously not a good week for him. Walks have been his problem all year (37 in 50 innings) and they crept up again this week, walking three batters.
Cameron Selik: The transition to reliever started rough, but he’s had four scoreless appearances now (two this week; 1 1/3 innings with three strikeouts) and seems to be building momentum into next season.
Sammy Solis: His final regular season start was a good one, pitching seven innings with one earned run, one walk and four strikeouts. After a bumpy start, he has a 2.72 ERA in Potomac in 10 starts.
Eury Perez: He’s finishing the year strong, hitting a cool .500 in his last 10 games (five multi-hit games). The streak has his slash line for the year at .283/.319/.321, which is respectable for a guy his age (turned 21 in May). He had 45 stolen bases this season, but 15 caught stealing and didn’t walk very much (but had just 63 strikeouts in 424 at-bats). His numbers remind a little of a faster Cristian Guzman. He’s had a down year, but it wasn’t that poor of a year and he still has room to develop.
Destin Hood: Hood has had an up-and-down season when it comes to his batting average, getting into the low .260s at worst and close to .300 at best. Luckily, he’s maintained his patience and his power all season and his OPS has remained consistently around .800. Hood’s stock has gone up this season, but I think the team will have him start next year in Potomac – if he continues to hit well, he’ll see AA quickly.
Jeff Kobernus: He’s kept his average around .280 all year, which is good because he hasn’t walked a ton (21 walks all season). His speed is his best asset as he has 51 stolen bases on the season (five this week) and has been caught just eight times.
Zach Walters: After a slow start in Potomac, Walters has come on strong as of late, hitting .375 in his last 10 games, raising his average with the team to .286.
Hagerstown Suns, Low-A South Atlantic League
(2011 Final Record: 75-64, 4th in North Div.)
Robbie Ray: The young pitcher may have been experiencing some fatigue as the season wound down, as his last two starts were bad: a combined 12 earned runs against in 7 innings. He turns 20 in October and was fantastic all season – his poor starts were few and far between, and he always rebounded from them. The two starts are nothing to worry about as the 2010 draft pick was pitching out of high school for the first time.
A.J. Cole: Cole, like Ray, may have begun to fatigue, but his final regular season start was solid, giving up two runs in five innings with one walk and five strikeouts. His ERA will end at 4.04, not a bad mark at all for the 19-year-old. In just 89 innings, he amassed 108 strikeouts to just 24 walks.
Michael Taylor: Taylor’s going to finish the season strong, hitting .300/.391/.350 in his last 10 games. He’s improved as the season has progressed, a very encouraging sign for the outfielder who just turned 20 this year.
David Freitas: He’s likely going to end the season with an OBP above .400 with 30 doubles and 13 home runs – a very solid line for a catcher. As long as he keeps hitting, he’ll get a look, because catchers who can hit above .280 and walk as often as they strike out are rare (as are catchers who lead their teams in RBI; Freitas has a team-leading 73 on the season).
Blake Kelso: He’s cooled off significantly from his hot first half (.249 average post-break, .330 before), but his average still sits at .291 with a solid OBP of .356. He’ll need to hit to move up, though, because he’s not a great defender (17 errors).
Kevin Keyes: Keyes second half could be a positive step in his development, as he hit a slash line of .284/.360/.534 with 13 of his 17 season home runs. Will that half season be just a hot stretch or will he build off of it and become a legitimate prospect? He has the frame for a powerful outfielder and if he can hit like he did late in the summer, he’ll rise up the rankings quickly.
Auburn Doubledays, Short-Season A New York/Penn League
(2011 Final Record: 45-30, 1st in Pinckney Div.)
***Auburn qualified for the New York/Penn League playoffs, and will face Vermont in a best of three semi-final series.
Wirkin Estevez: The young Dominican gave up four runs in five innings in his start this week, bringing his season ERA above four (4.01), which is too bad because he was good all season long. He’s still very young (19) and has to fill into his frame a little more, but he has time and he’s shown he can pitch well consistently.
Matthew Skole: Skole is a solid all-around hitter, finishing .290/.382/.438, but he has 14 errors in just 72 games – that has to improve. His bat is good, though, so hopefully the defense can solidify with professional coaching.
Hendry Jimenez: Jimenez has a solid batting eye (.360 OBP) and pop for a second baseman (.477 SLG), and though he struggled in the second half, his season ended very strong with five home runs and 40 RBIs. He, like Skole, has 14 errors, a number that must come down.
Bryce Ortega: Ortega ends the season as Auburn’s leading hitter (.314 average) despite hitting just .184 in his last 10 games. He walks and steals bases well, but he doesn’t have much power (zero home runs in 194 at-bats).
Pitcher to Watch: Brad Meyers, Syracuse. Like I said earlier, Meyers has been overlooked this year despite pitching very well when healthy. He’s starting the final game for Syracuse on Monday, and he deserves to be fighting for a rotation spot next year.
Hitter to Watch: Derek Norris, Harrisburg. Is his low average a result of some bad luck (.242 season BABIP), or can he really not hit above .220 in AA? He still has patience and power, but to be considered a top prospect he needs to get his average much higher above the Mendoza line. There’s still a lot to like about Norris, but he’s worth watching to see if he improves.