Results tagged ‘ Tyler Moore ’
All of Saturday’s stories, as you might expect following last night’s performances from Washington’s most celebrated young stars, focused on Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Deservedly so, as the former became the first pitcher since Mike Mussina in 2001 to fan 13 Red Sox at Fenway Park, and the latter notched the first three-hit game by a teenager at the historic venue since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989.
Their influence was stamped all over the game, from Strasburg opening and closing his performance with a pair of strikeouts to Harper corralling the final out of the game on Adrian Gonzalez’s harmless, shallow fly to center field, probably the easiest defensive chance he had to record all night. But the real story of these Nationals is the quality performances that are flying under the radar, all of which were key in delivering the resounding 7-4 victory Friday night in Boston.
How about Danny Espinosa, inserted at the top of the lineup for his strength against left-handed pitching to face Boston’s own crafty southpaw, Felix Dubront? Espinosa responded by powering a double high off the top of the Green Monster in his first at-bat. Following a walk and another double in his next two plate appearances, Espinosa’s slash line against lefties sits at .368/.467/.684. Yes, that’s an OPS of 1.151.
Then there’s Ian Desmond, quietly putting together an All-Star caliber first half. He came up with arguably the biggest hit of the entire game on Friday. After Boston had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning, the Nats struck back for a run in the third and had the bases loaded for Adam LaRoche with one out. Dubront whiffed the first baseman on a nasty hook, bringing up Desmond with two outs. He responded with a clutch two-run, two-out double to put Washington ahead for good. In all, 13 of his 28 RBI have come with two outs. That number leads all NL shortstops, as do Desmond’s 16 doubles and 25 extra-base hits.
There was another rookie who put together an impressive game Friday night, as well. That would be Tyler Moore, who was summoned back to the big leagues after largely riding the bench in his first stint, prior to his option back to Syracuse. Starting in left field, with the daunting defensive task of managing the Green Monster behind him, Moore notched a pair of hits, including a double, and scored twice out of the eight spot in the lineup.
Then there was the veteran, Xavier Nady, who rounded out a game full of great pitching and clutch hitting with what may be the Nationals defensive play of the year to date. Playing right field in a tricky and unfamiliar ballpark, he ranged back on a shot by Adrian Gonzalez and crashed into the short wall in front of the Nationals bullpen, snagging the ball in his mitt just as he collided with the barrier to rob the Sox slugger of a home run.
Finally, there was Tyler Clippard, who found himself in a save situation with the lead trimmed to 7-4 in the ninth and the heart of the Boston lineup coming up. He induced harmless flyouts from Dustin Pedroia and the aforementioned Gonzalez to lock down his sixth consecutive save. He has pitched 5.1 innings of no-hit ball over those six chances, walking just one and striking out six.
So while Strasburg and Harper are understandably getting the lion’s share of attention from Friday’s triumph, the Nationals are sitting at 10 games over .500 at 33-23 because of a true team effort.
With the recent promotion of both Bryce Harper and Tyler Moore, we have had to shelve our Down on the Farm pieces we were planning to roll out in April. We listened to your calls for a report on Destin Hood. In fact, we took them seriously enough that we decided to put it into print, and will have it for you in the next edition of Nationals Magazine, available in-park for all June and July home games. But we’ve also been sitting on another particular prospect watch piece for a couple of weeks. That turned out to be fortuitous timing for us, as the man in question – left-handed starter Danny Rosenbaum – has gone out in the meantime and proven exactly why he should be featured in this space, and why you should read all about him below.
Currently heading up the rotation at Double-A Harrisburg, Rosenbaum was pointed out to us by Director of Minor League Operations Mark Scialabba back in Spring Training. If the southpaw was under the radar before the season started, this former 22nd-round pick out of Xavier need not worry about that for long. Blessed with a low-90s fastball that he can both cut and sink, a curveball and a developing changeup, he has succeeded at every level of the system so far, and is opening eyes and making headlines in 2012.
Rosenbaum has quietly posted impressive numbers at every stop so far in the Minor Leagues. However, he’ll have a hard time staying a secret for much longer with the tear he’s on right now in the Eastern League. Following another sparkling start on Monday – in which he struck out five without a walk, allowing six hits over 7.0 scoreless frames – Rosenbaum’s 2012 numbers are bordering on the absurd. His ERA stands at 0.76 (3 ER/35.2 IP) and he has struck out 23 against just two walks. He leads his circuit in ERA, innings pitched and WHIP (0.70), and is currently in the midst of a 24.2-inning scoreless streak that stretches all the way back to April 13. Opponents had hit just .232 against the lefty in his career before this season; in 2012, they are batting just .180.
Since beginning his professional career with the Gulf Coast Nationals Rookie League team in 2009, the lefty has posted a sub-2.50 ERA at each stop along his path through the minors. He has been remarkably consistent along the way as well, carrying a BB/9 of around 2.5 and a K/9 above 7.0 at every level. Never a high strikeout pitcher, his strong K/BB ratio and a very low home run rate (just 13 allowed over 388.0 innings in his career) have allowed him to continue to succeed.
“Danny’s kind of a later round draft pick who came in here and put up numbers right away,” said Nationals Director of Player Development Doug Harris. “He had a chance to advance and he’s been challenged with his progression.”
Rated just 23rd in Baseball America’s preseason organizational rankings and sixth among left-handed pitchers (those numbers coming before four of those above him, including fellow southpaw Tom Milone, were traded to Oakland in the Gio Gonzalez deal), Rosenbaum has clearly exceeded outside expectations. But Scialabba suggests he may even be better than Milone, who is off to an excellent start out in Oakland.
“He compares with Milone physically,” said Scialabba. “But I think his stuff might even be a little better.”
In referencing a prospect, it always helps to try to make such comparisons, in order to help project the type of player he might become as he fully develops. When you are Jewish and left-handed, of which Rosenbaum is both, Sandy Koufax references are inevitable. There has been a deeper connection to the Dodger great than just that in Rosenbaum’s life, though, as he explains.
“Growing up you always heard about Sandy Koufax, who played at the University of Cincinnati,” he said, referencing the school the cross-town rival just a few miles down the road from Xavier. “People were always saying ‘Oh, there’s the next Sandy Koufax.’ It’s a real privilege to even be considered in the same sentence.”
A better recent comparison for Rosenbaum on the field might be Ted Lilly, a similarly-sized lefty with a strong cutter/curveball/changeup repertoire. Rosenbaum has actually posted better Minor League numbers in nearly every statistical category (save for strikeouts) than Lilly, who was twice an All-Star and posted double-digit win totals in nine consecutive Major League seasons. Lilly was a fairly low profile, 23rd-round pick by the Dodgers, but earned his way to the Major Leagues through his competitive, workman-like approach on the mound. While Rosenbaum was disappointed on draft day, he hopes to follow a similar path.
“I just used that as fuel for the fire, to really go out there and prove myself,” said the southpaw of his selection, which came 651 picks after the Nationals took Stephen Strasburg first overall in 2009. “It was a great situation, because there were all new front office people here. They came and talked to us and said ‘We don’t care if you’re a first-round draft pick or a 50th-round draft pick, everyone is right here,’” he recalled, holding his hand parallel to the ground to show that all players, regardless of their status as an amateur, would be evaluated by the same standards as professionals.
That came as a huge relief to Rosenbaum, who took the message to heart: for better or for worse, nothing you have done to this point matters. Coming off what he considered a disappointing final year at Xavier, it allowed him to have a new approach, one he has carried with him throughout his Minor League career.
“I just try to start each year over from the beginning,” he said. “If I have a good year, great, that’s awesome, but I just try to go back to Spring Training in better shape, with better conditioning, and better stamina than I had the year prior. That’s how I approach every offseason: just work harder than I did before.”
After proving himself over the past few years, Rosenbaum draws rave reviews from anyone and everyone in the Nationals front office. His tough mental approach has led him to become stronger physically as well, something that Harris believes will be the tipping point for his future success.
“He’s a strong-bodied kid,” explained Harris. “His body has continued to evolve. He has a better understanding of what he needs to do, particularly in his core and his lower half to allow him to be as successful as he can possibly be.”
That approach won’t change for Rosenbaum, who has seen his hard work translate not just into numbers, but more importantly, a shot at the ultimate goal of making the Major Leagues.
One of the great parts of Spring Training is the excitement of the young players getting their first shot in a big league uniform, facing off against players they were watching on television just a couple years prior. With split-squad games (which started today, the Nationals hosting the Mets and traveling to face the Tigers), those opportunities become more abundant. Teams will take a handful of players from Minor League camp to fill out each roster, giving them an opportunity to get a few innings in. Their youthful exuberance is fun to watch, although sometimes it betrays them.
Enter Michael Taylor, one of the most talked-about young outfield prospects in the Nationals system, who came in as a defensive replacement in center field in the fifth inning of the Nationals 8-2 victory over the Mets in Viera today. He showed some nice patience in his first plate appearance, working a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth. He was then put in motion on a hit-and-run, as Sandy Leon pulled a ball perfectly through the hole vacated by the second baseman, who was covering the bag with the runner going. Taylor motored around second on his way to third, but got a little too far ahead of himself, his weight out over his front feet. Try as he might, he couldn’t stay upright, tumbling to the dirt about 50 feet shy of third base.
Mets right fielder Cesar Puello, another minor leaguer added to fill out the roster, saw the opportunity to make a play as he went to collect the ball. In fact, he saw it clearly enough that he took his eye off the ball, which he bobbled, allowing Taylor enough time to collect himself and lope down to third safely, both he and third base coach Bo Porter laughing the whole way.
“The umpire came over and was explaining to me about second base and how you have to step on it and stay on your feet,” said Taylor after the game, as his wide smile denied his attempt at deadpan humor.
Taylor will no doubt hear from his teammates about that play for the rest of camp, but he can take solace in one fact – at least this game wasn’t on television, so it’s unlikely to make him a YouTube sensation. He said that he didn’t even feel that nervous playing on a bigger stage – his body simply didn’t want to cooperate.
“I was actually kind of surprised, I was comfortable and relaxed,” Taylor said. “But for some reason my feet didn’t want to stay underneath me.”
Taylor was rewarded for continuing on to the next base, though, as players are taught to do in those situations. With runners at the corners and one out, Blake Kelso lifted a ball into right-center, where Puello redeemed himself with a nice catch. Leon had advanced almost all the way to second, and Puello fired back to first for the inning-ending double play. But Taylor made a heads-up play and tagged at third, crossing the plate before the final out was made at first base. Since the double play was not of the force out variety, the run counted. Who’s laughing now?
In other news, Ryan Zimmerman had a pair of doubles and two RBI, and Wilson Ramos also drove in a pair on two hits. Brad Lidge looked very sharp, pitching around an error and striking out the side in the sixth. The first two batters never got the bat off their shoulders on strike three, as Lidge locked up each of them with his signature slider.
Tyler Moore had a nice game as well, with two hits and an RBI. The second of his hits was a rocket to dead center field, high up off the 30-foot batters eye. Needless to say, it would have been a home run in any big league ballpark, but Moore had to settle for the RBI double.
Meanwhile, the other half of the split squad overcame a 4-0 deficit to earn a 10-inning, 5-5 tie with the Tigers.
It’s back to Jupiter tomorrow, as Washington takes on St. Louis at 1:05pm. Here are the results to date:
vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0
@ Houston – L, 3-1
vs. Houston – L, 10-2
@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1
@ Atlanta – W, 5-2
vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3
vs. Houston – W, 8-0
@ Miami – L, 3-0
vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-2
@ Detroit – T, 5-5
@ St. Louis – Sunday, 1:05pm
Overall Record: 4-3-2
With the team traveling down the east coast of Florida to Melbourne for a 7:05pm start against the Miami Marlins, here at Curly W Live we thought it would be a good time to check in on the Nationals Minor League camp, to which all players reported this week.
When we showcased our first prospect of the year, Tyler Moore, a few weeks ago, we asked you who you would like to see us feature next. The voting was very close, with Destin Hood, Alex Meyer and Michael Taylor all receiving a near equal amount of votes. Since the interest is obviously there, we decided we might as well go ahead and talk to all three of them, as well as a couple other prospects you may not know about just yet. We’ll bring them all to you in our Down on the Farm series as we progress through Spring Training.
For now, though, let’s hold a quick tie-breaker poll to see who you would like us to feature today:
In a great moment from the baseball classic Bull Durham, Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh, the young pitcher who has just reached the big leagues, drops the following line in a television interview:
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose… sometimes, it rains. Think about it.”
Today in Viera, we didn’t have a win or a loss, but we got it all in before the rain. That’s right, we had ourselves a tie, an option that Laloosh never offered, and one which baseball fans are not used to considering.
Here’s how it all went down. The Nationals plated an early run, thanks to an Ian Desmond leadoff double and a Jason Michaels two-out, RBI-single. The Cardinals pushed in front with a run in the fifth and two more in the seventh. The home side trailed 3-1 into the bottom of the ninth, when Koyie Hill dropped a high foul pop off the bat of Tyler Moore, giving the Nationals prospect new life. He took advantage, singling up the middle, and Carlos Maldonado followed by swatting a deep drive to the opposite field over the wall to tie the game at three apiece.
As it turned out, Davey Johnson had told Cardinals manager Mike Matheny around the sixth inning, when the game was tied at 1-1, that he only had enough pitching on hand to go nine innings. Matheny acknowledged that, and the two agreed that the game would go no further, no matter the score. And so, let it go down in the record books that the Nationals and Cardinals played to a 3-3 draw Wednesday, one of the anomolies of Spring Training.
Of course, ties aren’t the only aspect unique to Spring Training. It also provides some great opportunities for fans of the game that they can’t always take advantage of during the regular season. The ability to be up close and personal with those who play and report on the game is truly unparalleled, even at the Minor League level. While fans are generally most captivated by the players themselves, there are a handful of other figures around the game that can generate the same level of excitement. One of those individuals is MLB Network’s Peter Gammons.
We saw Gammons yesterday in Lake Buena Vista, as he took in the 5-2 Nationals victory over the Braves. That was when we discovered he would be traveling to Viera today to interview Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper for MLB Network. We were excited to get his take on the buzz and excitement surrounding the organization this spring. After all, when Peter Gammons talks, you listen. A three-time Sportswriter of the Year recipient and J.G. Taylor Spink Award Winner (given by the BBWAA), there is no greater authority on the modern game. We asked if he might share some of his first impressions of the 2012 Nationals so far in Spring Training, and he was more than happy to do so. Here is a glimpse of what he had to say.
“We all realize there’s a great deal of talent here,” Gammons said of Nationals camp. “I think the thing that’s really struck me, other than watching batting practice, is the job Mike Rizzo’s done in getting really good players. I hate to say ‘complimentary players’, because it’s an insult – anyone who makes the big leagues is a good player. But to be able to go out and get a Mark DeRosa, to have Brad Lidge, to have Chad Durbin, they’re some of the best people you could ever meet in your life. They’re rocks for the young players to follow.”
Look for much more from Gammons including which Nationals he expects to break out in 2012, which minor leaguer not named Harper to keep an eye on, and which team from recent history he believes this year’s team compares to best, all in the first Inside Pitch of the season, coming in April at Nationals Park.
The Nationals have another home day game tomorrow, taking on the Astros at 1:05pm. Here are their results to date:
vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0
@ Houston – L, 3-1
vs. Houston – L, 10-2
@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1
@ Atlanta – W, 5-2
vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3
vs. Houston – 1:05pm
Overall Record: 2-2-1
The Nationals hit the road again today, heading to Lake Buena Vista to pay a visit to the Atlanta Braves for the first time this spring. Champions Stadium is located at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, immediately adjacent to Walt Disney World. As such, the back of the concourse is built into a larger set of structures, resulting in some bizarre architecture for a ballpark. Instead of the usual slow curve of the concourse and tunnels below, there are lots of right-angled turns, which can leave you perplexed after a while about exactly which direction you are headed.
As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones. We found MLB Network’s Peter Gammons roaming the tunnels under the ballpark and followed him – and the music – to find our way out. What music, you ask? That of the world famous Atlanta Braves Philharmonic Saxophone Quartet, practicing prior to the game. They would play both pregame and during inning breaks, lending a sense of a bygone era to the Spring Training atmosphere.
There was a great moment on the field during the end of batting practice, about an hour before today’s game. As Bryce Harper signed autographs down the left field line, Davey Johnson yelled over to him from the batting cage. Harper trotted over to find a special guest who had requested his presence.
“Harp, I’ve been wanting to meet you for a long time,” said the jovial, giant, middle-aged man adorned in Braves warm-up gear. “I’m Dale Murphy.”
Wait, what? If that all sounds a bit backwards to you, one can only imagine what the 19-year-old prospect – who was all of seven months old when Murphy played his last game in 1993 – must have thought. It was no surprise, though, that Murphy received the louder round of applause when introduced prior to the game from the pro-Atlanta crowd in Lake Buena Vista.
It is said that one of the great things about baseball is that you see something new every day at the ballpark. While there was nothing notable during the game to match that description, there was during the ceremonial first pitch. After sailing the first attempt wide left to the backstop, the young boy given the honor got a second chance, this time firing a strike. We are at Disney World, after all, where dreams come true (it says so right on the sign!).
Gio Gonzalez was very solid in his first outing of the spring, allowing just one single over 3.0 innings of scoreless work, striking out both Matt Diaz and Michael Bourn. Meanwhile, the offense was strong in support, as both Jayson Werth and Mark DeRosa contributed early solo shots and Chad Tracy plated a pair with a two-out double in the third. The DeRosa home run was especially encouraging, given the multiple wrist surgeries he has overcome just to be able to swing a bat again.
We joked with DeRosa, referencing a remark he had made a couple of weeks ago around the batting cage, that he had not hit a home run in two years. It turns out he hit one last spring as well, with the Giants.
“It definitely feels good,” he said. “I’m really trying not to get too high or too low because I’ve been through such a tough last two years.”
The tendon sheath that had caused him so much pain and time on the DL finally came fully off the bone in his right wrist last May. As awful as that may sound, it may have turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. DeRosa has been pain free through the offseason and the first couple weeks of camp.
“I haven’t been treating it, icing it, nothing,” he said of the ailment that has suffocated his last two seasons. “So I’m just knocking on wood every day, waking up excited to get to the field and finally play healthy.”
Anthony Rendon also collected his first hit of the spring on a double in the eighth and came around to score on a Tyler Moore sacrifice fly for the final run of the game in the 5-2 Nats victory.
We’ll return to Viera tomorrow, as the Nats get their first look at the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals. Here are the Nationals results to date:
vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0
@ Houston – L, 3-1
vs. Houston – L, 10-2
@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1
@ Atlanta – W, 5-2
vs. St. Louis – Wednesday, 1:05pm
Overall Record: 2-2
Ed. Note: Here at Curly W Live, we will be taking a closer look at some of the top up-and-coming prospects in the Nationals farm system throughout the 2012 season. Make sure to vote in our poll at the end of this article to help determine which player we will profile next.
There have been plenty of heralded prospects making their way up the ranks of the Nationals farm system over the last few years. Strong, talent-rich drafts have stocked Washington’s minor league affiliates to the point that prior to the Gio Gonzalez trade – which sent four of the club’s top 13-rated prospects to the Oakland Athletics – Baseball America had the Nationals ranked as the top overall minor league system in the game heading into 2012. Even after that deal, there are plenty of big names left, led of course by Bryce Harper. Those who keep their eyes on the minors will get their first glimpse of the likes of Anthony Rendon and the first regular season action for Matt Purke, who made his professional debut in the Arizona Fall League. These few will dominate the headlines, but we begin this season’s slate with one of the most promising power hitters in the system, Tyler Moore.
At the minor league level, where seasons are shorter and younger players are still filling out their athletic frames, large power totals are rare. In fact, only 15 minor leaguers hit 30 or more home runs in 2011, and only two have turned the trick in each of the last two years. The first name may ring a bell: Paul Goldschmidt. He was the rookie phenom who, after swatting 35 longballs for Double-A Mobile, was called up in September and played a key role in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ run to the National League West crown. The other player was Moore, a soft-spoken first baseman who, even after such an impressive two-year run, still does not appear in Baseball America’s top 10 prospect list for the Nationals.
Ranking or no ranking, that kind of power will earn you some respect and, in Moore’s case, some investment from the organization. The slugger was added to the 40-Man Roster in November, along with Eury Perez, Jhonatan Solano and the recently traded Derek Norris, to prevent him from being selected by another club in the annual Rule V Draft.
“This was his protection year,” explained Doug Harris, the Nationals Director of Player Development. “With power being a premium in today’s game, we felt like it was an easy decision for us.”
While Harris was not yet with the organization back when Moore first came into the system, he saw him as an opposing player while Harris was with the Cleveland Indians and Moore was at Low-A Hagerstown in 2008.
“As an opposing scout watching him, he was a guy that could always impact the baseball,” recalled Harris. “When he was in Hagerstown, it was really pole-to-pole power. Really his best power was to right-center, which is a true indicator of a guy who has a chance to come into bigger power down the road. So you saw glimpses of it, and I think a lot of the doubles he hit in Hagerstown got turned into home runs over the last couple of years.”
After hitting 30 two-baggers but just nine home runs in 111 games at Hagerstown in 2009, Moore got off to a rough start his next season at High-A Potomac. In 79 games through July 12, he had collected 47 RBI, but was batting just .191. Moore made an adjustment, though, and turned his season around completely. Over his final 50 contests, he went a staggering 76-for-193 (.394) with 21 home runs and 64 RBI. He would go on to lead the Carolina League in home runs (31), RBI (111), doubles (43), slugging percentage (.552), extra-base hits (77) and total bases (277), earning both league MVP honors and the Nationals Organizational Player of the Year. Moore put together another impressive campaign last year in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League, where he matched his home run total of 31, and again lead the league in RBI, extra-base hits and total bases.
In fact, in 189 games played since his remarkable turnaround, the 6’2”, 210-pound righty has swatted 52 home runs and driven in 154.
“When you break down the 2010 season that he had at Potomac…he really came into his own in the second half,” explained Harris. “It’s a credit to him. He’s a tireless worker, he never wavered in his approach or his intent day-to-day, and it really speaks volumes about who he is.”
Like many sluggers with such impressive power numbers, Moore also racks up his fair share of strikeouts, averaging 125 K’s over the past three seasons. However, he has also batted a very respectable .277 over that same stretch and it’s hard to argue with the run production.
Clearly, the Nationals have seen something in Moore’s potential ever since he was just a prep player at Northwest Rankin High School in Brandon, Mississippi. They actually drafted him on three separate occasions: in the 41st round straight out of high school in 2005, in the 33rd round after a year at Meridian Junior College in 2006, and finally in the 16th round after two years at Mississippi State in 2008. Moore signed at last, and has spent each of the last four seasons at a different level of the farm system, slowly playing his way up to Double-A in 2011. Now, as he enters his first big league camp in Florida, Moore will face new pressures and expectations from the Nationals staff. So, just how high is Moore’s ceiling?
“I think a lot of that is really up to Tyler,” said Harris. “He’s obviously put together two very productive years back-to-back. He’s going to be given an opportunity at a higher level and a chance to continue to show what he’s capable of doing. I know that our Major League staff is excited to get a glimpse of him in Spring Training.”
As for how Moore will respond to the challenge, Harris is not worried.
“Tyler is a very high-character young man, a tremendous teammate,” said Harris. “He’s an early-to-the-ballpark kind of guy. He blends with every mix of player. He’s a quiet leader, not a big-time vocal leader, but he’s got a great presence and he’s very well-liked amongst his teammates.”
Those traits should serve him well, as Harris suggested that the coaching staff may try Moore out at several defensive positions to see where he can best fit into the Nationals’ future plans. Originally drafted as a third baseman, he has played exclusively at first base (or been a designated hitter) in his 448 career minor league games. Harris said the staff has tried him in the outfield a bit as well, and that they will continue to “kick the tires” on that experiment moving forward. Either way, it will just be one more adjustment, something Moore has shown that he’s good at making.
“There’s an adjustment period going to a new level each year,” said Harris. “I know that he’s preparing himself to be ready to go out of the gate this year. He’s a kid that’s had to earn everything he’s got.”
While Moore seems destined for Syracuse in April, if he is able to find similar success at the Triple-A level in 2012 as he has the past two years, fans in the District may get a glimpse of him before the year is out.
Bryce Harper has been labeled the Lebron James of baseball. So in case you didn’t watch “The Decision: Part II,” Bryce Harper is taking his talents to the desert and will join the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. It was a decision–influenced by Harper’s talent–and made by General Manager Mike Rizzo and his staff because they didn’t want him to be idle for the next two months after he held own in the Instructional League. Yeah, there are drawbacks but Rizzo believes the benefits will easily outweigh the possible cost: struggling.
Harper proved he can play in the Florida Instructional League. He batted.319 (15-for-47) with four doubles, a triple, four homers, 12 RBI and seven walks. Harper–who led Washington’s Instructional League squad in homers, RBI and walks–posted .407 on-base and .702 slugging percentages en route to a stellar 1.110 OPS (OBP+SLG).
Now, this isn’t the Instructional League–the AFL offers the top-talent that is knocking on the door of the Majors–but Rizzo isn’t concerned.
“There is a high level of baseball going on,” Rizzo said. “Two months of this guy working out, practicing and playing will only benefit him. He is going to be fine in the [AFL].”
To ease Harper into the action they will restrict his playing time. He will join his new club on Tuesday as a member of the Scorpions’ Taxi Squad. Translation: he will work out, travel and dress normally as do members of Scottsdale’s active roster but he will only be eligible to participate in games twice a week, usually on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Harper will also be eligible to replace Nationals farmhands on Scottsdale’s active roster due to injury.
Part of the incentive to send Harper to Arizona is that he will be able to work extensively with Manager Randy Knorr, considered one of the best teachers in the Nationals organization, to learn the intricacies of right field. He will also work with Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein to refine his swing.
“He’s 17 years old and he doesn’t even turn 18 until Saturday,” Rizzo said. “He is very excited. What I had to decide on was: ‘Is he going to be over his head in the AFL?’ It’s a very advanced league, but I think he is going to handle it. It’s going to be very valuable to him.”
While this may seem like it is putting him on a fast track to the Majors, it isn’t. He is still expected to start the season in Single-A.
“He is going to A-ball, make no mistake about it,” Rizzo added. “He is not going to be a rushed guy. We are going to let his performance and development dictate where this guy goes.”
In other news not Harper, here are a few Nationals farmhands who performed at high levels during the just-completed Instructional League: outfielder Tyler Moore (.550, 4 doubles, 2 home runs, 11 RBI), catcher Sandy Leon (.429), outfielder Eury Perez (.357, 3 stolen bases), infielder Steven Souza (.345, 4 doubles, 2 home runs, 4 RBI), righthander A.J. Morris (0.00 ERA in 4 games, 7 strikeouts in 5.0 innings), lefthander Sammy Solis (0.00 ERA and 9 strikeouts in 9.0 innings spanning 3 games), righthander Ryan Mattheus (1.35 ERA and 6 strikeouts in 6.2 innings) and lefthander Robbie Ray (2.53 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 10.2 innings spanning 4 games).
The Nats named Tyler Moore as their Minor League Player of the Year and left-hander Tom Milone as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Moore hit .269 with 43 doubles, 31 home runs, 111 RBI and 78 runs scored in 129 games with Potomac of the Single-A Carolina League. He led the CL in nearly every offensive category, including doubles, home runs, RBI, extra-base hits (77), total bases (277) and slugging percentage (.552). Moore’s 77 extra-base hits were tied for second-most in Minor League baseball.
The 23-year-old is the first Minor Leaguer in Washington Nationals history (2005-present) to record at least 30 homers and 100 RBI in the same season. He is the first franchise farmhand to reach the 30-homer, 100-RBI plateau since Andy Tracy (37 HR, 128 RBI) accomplished the feat in 1999.
For his efforts, the right-handed hitting slugger was named 2010 Carolina League MVP and earned post-season All-Star honors. Moore also claimed MiLB.com CL Batter of the Week honors four times during a six-week stretch from July 12-August 22. He was selected by Washington in the 16th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
Milone, Washington’s 10th-round selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, went 12-5 with a 2.85 ERA in 27 starts with Harrisburg of the Double-A Eastern League. With 155 strikeouts and just 23 walks in 158.0 innings pitched, the southpaw posted an impressive 6.7/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 8.83 strikeouts per 9.0 innings. The 23-year-old allowed two earned runs or less in 19 of 27 (70%) starting assignments and surrendered three earned runs or less in 23 of those 27 (87%) outings.
Milone’s 155 strikeouts paced the Eastern League, ranked second in Double-A and finished fourth among left-handers in minor league baseball. The University of Southern California product ranked among EL leaders in ERA (second), WHIP (second, 1.16) and wins (tied for second). He was selected as a mid-season Eastern League All-Star. Milone’s 24 wins over the past two seasons (2009-10) are tops among organizational pitchers during that period.
Moore and Milone will be honored for their accomplishments during an on-field ceremony prior to Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. contest against Philadelphia.