Nationals MLB News

Major league and minor league news on the newest MLB franchise written and maintained by professional newspaper journalists.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Previewing the American League West

Here is a preview of the 2005 American League West Division:

Anaheim Angels
2004 finish: 92-70 (first)

Additions: Paul Byrd, Esteban Yan, Orlando Cabrera, Steve Finley, Maicer Izturis, Juan Rivera

Losses: David Eckstein, Jose Guillen, Troy Glaus, Troy Percival, Ben Weber, Aaron Sele.

Projected Rotation:
RHP Bartolo Colon
RHP Kelvim Escobar
LHP Jarrod Washburn
RHP John Lackey
RHP Paul Byrd

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Francisco Rodriguez
RHP Scot Shields
RHP Brendan Donnelly
LHP Mark Watson (non-roster)
RHP Esteban Yan
RHP Kevin Gregg

Projected Lineup:
C Bengie Molina
1B Darin Erstad
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Rob Quinlan
SS Orlando Cabrera
LF Garrett Anderson
CF Steve Finley
RF Vladimir Guerrero
DH Juan Rivera

Projected Bench:
C Jose Molina
IF Maicer Izturis
IF Chone Figgans
IF Lou Merloni (non-roster)
OF Jeff DaVanon

Top Prospects:
1. Casey Kotchman, 1b
2. Dallas McPherson, 3b
3. Erick Aybar, ss
4. Jeff Mathis, c
5. Kendry Morales, 1b/of

Top Pitcher: Bartolo Colon
Colon is good for 200 innings and 15 wins. His biggest problem, pun intended, has been his weight but it does not appear to affect his ability to stay healthy. It is something that will have to be watched as he gets older though.

Top Hitter: Vladimir Guerrero
Quite possibly one of the top 5 players in the American League, Guerrero can change the direction of a game with his potent bat or rifle of an outfield arm. He occasionally, though, makes things interesting in the outfield with his defence and can read balls poorly at times. There aren’t many GMs who would not want him on their team, even at $15 million a season.

Breakout Player: Dallas McPherson
McPherson will likely start the season on the DL but if he can get back quickly he has the chance to be one of the top rookies in the majors this season. He possesses tape-measure power but strikes out a ton. Expect a fast start, but he may struggle once pitchers have had a chance to develop a scouting report on him.

Oakland Athletics
2004 finish: 91-71 (second)

Additions:Kiko Calero, Dan Haren, Dan Meyer, Seth Etherton, Juan Cruz, Keiichi Yabu, Jason Kendall, Keith Ginter, Charles Thomas

Losses: Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Arthur Rhodes, Jermaine Dye, Damian Miller, Chris Hammond, Jim Mecir. Justin Lehr.

Projected Rotation:
LHP Barry Zito
RHP Rich Harden
RHP Dan Haren
RHP Seth Etherton
RHP Joe Blanton

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Octavio Dotel
RHP Huston Street (non-roster)
RHP Kiko Calero
LHP Ricardo Rincon
RHP Juan Cruz
RHP Justin Duchscherer
RHP Keiichi Yabu

Projected Lineup:
C Jason Kendall
1B Scott Hatteberg
2B Mark Ellis
3B Eric Chavez
SS Bobby Crosby
LF Eric Byrnes
CF Mark Kotsay
RF Nick Swisher
DH Erubiel Durazo

Projected Bench:
C Adam Melhuse
IF Keith Ginter
OF Bobby Kielty
OF Charles Thomas

Top Prospects:
1. Nick Swisher, of
2. Javi Herrera, of
3. Joe Blanton, rhp
4. Dan Johnson, 1b
5. Huston Street, rhp

Top Pitcher: Barry Zito
The remaining member of the Big 3, Zito does not possess the same nasty overall stuff of his former teammates, but he has a nasty curveball and is one of the better left-handed pitchers in the American League when healthy. He will have a lot more pressure on him this season so it will be interesting to see how he responds.

Top Hitter: Eric Chavez
Chavez goes about his business so quietly that it is hard to remember that he still plays for the A’s. But he does play and he is one of the best third basemen in the game and the A’s offensive catalyst. He is capable of hitting .300 with 30 or more home runs.

Breakout Player: Rich Harden
Harden is being asked to replace either Tim Hudson or Mark Mulder. No easy task for a pitcher with about a year’s worth of major league experience under his belt. But the A’s are confident that the young prodigy is ready to blossom – and he needs to if the team has any hope of winning the division. On the plus side he has better stuff than either Tim Hudson or even Mark Mulder.

Texas Rangers
2004 finish: 89-73 (third)

Additions: Richard Hidalgo, Sandy Alomar, Greg Colbrunn, Mark DeRosa.

Losses: Brian Jordan, Jay Powell, Eric Young.

Projected Rotation:
RHP Ryan Drese
RHP Ricardo Rodriguez
LHP Kenny Rogers
RHP Chan Ho Park
RHP Chris Young

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Francisco Cordero
RHP Carlos Almanzar
RHP Doug Brocail
LHP Brian Shouse
LHP Ron Mahay
RHP Erasmo Ramirez
RHP R.A. Dickey

Projected Lineup:
C Rod Barajas
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Alfonso Soriano
3B Hank Blalock
SS Michael Young
LF Kevin Mench
CF Laynce Nix
RF Richard Hidalgo
DH David Dellucci

Projected Bench:
C Sandy Alomar
IF Mark DeRosa (non-roster)
1B Greg Colbrunn
OF Gary Matthews

Top Prospects:
1. Thomas Diamond, rhp
2. John Danks, lhp
3. Joaquin Arias, ss
4. Ian Kinsler, ss
5. Chris Young, rhp

Top Pitcher: Francisco Cordero
Cordero burst onto the closer scene last season and cemented himself as one of the most feared closers in the game. He, along with the rest of the solid relief staff, helps make up for the dismal starting pitching. If he can stay healthy and keep his composure, Cordero should be good for 40-50 saves.

Top Hitter: Michael Young
There are many great young hitters on the Rangers but so far Young has been the most consistent. Teixeira, Blalock, Mench and/or Soriano could surpass him this season though, as they all have higher offensive ceilings. Young was absolutely stolen in a trade with the Blue Jays for Esteban Loaiza.

Breakout Player: Ricardo Rodriguez
Everyone knows about the plethora of great young hitters the Rangers have, but what they really need – if they want to compete – is pitching. Rodriguez is the best of the bunch that Texas currently has that can help them at the major league level now. Obtained from Cleveland for an excess outfielder, he has the potential to be a steal if he can stay healthy, but he only appeared in five games, while battling injuries.

Seattle Mariners
2004 finish: 63-99 (fourth)

Additions: Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, Aaron Sele, Pokey Reese.

Losses: John Olerud, Edgar Martinez.

Projected Rotation:
LHP Jamie Moyer
RHP Joel Pineiro
LHP Bobby Madritsch
RHP Gil Meche
RHP Aaron Sele

Projected Bullpen:
RHP J.J. Putz
RHP Shigetoshi Hasegawa
RHP Cha Baek
LHP Ron Villone
LHP George Sherrill
RHP Ryan Franklin

Projected Lineup:
C Miguel Olivo
1B Richie Sexson
2B Brett Boone
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Pokey Reese
LF Randy Winn
CF Jeremy Reed
RF Ichiro Suzuki
DH Raul Ibanez

Projected Bench:
C Dan Wilson
IF Jose Lopez
IF Scott Spiezio
IF/OF Willie Bloomquist

Top Prospects:
1. Felix Hernandez, rhp
2. Jeremy Reed, of
3. Shin-Soo Choo, of
4. Clint Nageotte, rhp
5. Matt Tuiasosopo, ss

Top Pitcher: Jamie Moyer
For lack of a better supporting cast, Moyer is still the Mariners best pitcher at the age of 42. He barely throws harder than a 12-year-old but Moyer can spot any of his pitches anywhere he wants and he knows how to out-think a hitter. If he can stay healthy he should be good for 180-200 innings and 14-16 wins with an improved offence and defence.

Top Hitter: Ichiro Suzuki
Suzuki should be even better this season with Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre driving him in constantly. Quite frankly, Ichiro is probably the best hitter in the game and there is no reason he should not achieve 220 or more hits this season along with 30 stolen bases and a .320 or better average.

Breakout Player: Gil Meche
Meche battled injuries for three seasons after appearing in the major leagues for the first time at the age of 20. Since his debut, the Mariners have been waiting for the big things to happen, which have been forecasted for Meche since he was a first round pick in 1996. Meche needs to work on his confidence, command and pitching ahead.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Nationals make seven roster moves

The Washington Nationals today optioned first baseman Larry Broadway and right-handed pitcher Danny Rueckel to Triple-A New Orleans, as well as right-handed pitcher Darrell Rasner to Double-A Harrisburg. The Nationals also reassigned catchers John Wilson and Hector Ortiz to minor league camp.

In addition, the Nationals placed infielder Henry Mateo (right-shoulder tendinitis) and right-handed pitcher Claudio Vargas (right-elbow sprain) on the 15-Day Disabled List. Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcements.

Spring Training Update - March 16

Washington Nationals Record: 7-6 (.538)
Hitters’ stats include: hits/at-bats, average, home runs
Pitchers’ stats include: ERA, innings, hits allowed, BB/SO

Hot Hitters:
SS Ian Desmond – 8 for 26 .308 0
IF Brendan Harris – 8 for 25 .320 0
OF Tyrell Godwin – 7 for 20 .350 0
C Brian Schneider – 6 for 19 .316 0
IF Jamey Carroll – 7 for 19 .368 0; four doubles
OF J.J. Davis – 8 for 18 .444 1; .889 slugging percentage
SS Cristian Guzman – 8 for 16 .500 1
IF George Arias – 5 for 15 .333 0
IF-OF Tony Blanco – 5 for 15 .333 0

Cold Hitters:
OF Endy Chavez – 2 for 21 .190 0
OF Brad Wilkerson – 3 for 16 .188 2
3B Vinny Castilla – 1 for 16 .063 0
OF Jeffrey Hammonds – 5 for 21 .238 1
OF Jose Guillen – 3 for 13 .231 1

Hot Pitchers:
RHP Livan Hernandez – 2.57 14 12 1-6
RHP Esteban Loaiza – 3.00 9 12 0-5
RHP Jon Rauch – 2.25 8 7 2-4
RHP Chad Cordero – 1.80 5 3 1-7
RHP Danny Rueckel – 0.00 5 3 2-2
RHP Sunny Kim – 3.38 5.2 4 1-6
LHP Joe Horgan – 0.00 3 2 1-3

Cold Pitchers:
RHP Tony Armas – 5.19 8.6 8 4-6
RHP John Patterson – 6.75 8 10 1-5
LHP Michael Hinckley – 12.00 6 14 5-3; demoted
RHP T.J. Tucker – 12.00 6 8 1-4
RHP Zack Day – 9.00 5 7 2-2
RHP Gary Majewski – 14.73 3.6 5 6-4
LHP Joey Eischen – 8.10 3.2 7 3-2

Well the Washington hitters are definitely ahead of the pitchers at this point, which goes against the norm. On the hitter’s side of things, Ian Desmond is really turning people’s heads after being a late addition to spring training due to a shortage of infielders. He won’t the team, after being drafting out of high school in 2004, but he has likely secured himself a spot on a full-season team, likely in Savannah (low-A). Even so, not bad for a teenager. Endy Chavez and Jeffrey Hammonds are going to have difficult times making the squad, especially with Rule 5 picks Tony Blanco and Tyrell Godwin playing so well. J.J. Davis has been a monster this spring and most likely will head north with the team at the end of spring training. Brendan Harris looks ready for the majors, but there is just no room for him at this point so he will likely head back to triple-A.

On the mound, Jon Rauch has stepped up his game in pursuit of a roster spot. He has options left though, so he can be safely sent to the minors, unlike the struggling John Patterson or Claudio Vargas. T.J. Tucker and Joey Eischen are veterans who are likely to make the bullpen despite their struggles. Chad Cordero looks good in his pursuit to start the season as the team’s closer. Keep an eye on Danny Rueckel. Even if he doesn’t make the team out of spring training, he could be the first man called up in the event of a pitcher’s injury.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Previewing the American League Central

Minnesota Twins
2004 finish: 92-70 (first)

Additions: Mike Redmond, Juan Castro

Losses: Henry Blanco, Cristian Guzman, Corey Koskie,

Projected Rotation:
RHP Brad Radke
LHP Johan Santana
RHP Joe Mays
RHP Kyle Lohse
RHP Carlos Silva

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Joe Nathan
RHP Juan Rincon
RHP Jesse Crain
LHP J.C. Romero
LHP David Gassner
LHP Terry Mulholland (non-roster)
RHP Grant Balfour

Projected Lineup:
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
2B Luis Rivas
3B Michael Cuddyer
SS Jason Bartlett
LF Shannon Stewart
CF Tori Hunter
RF Jacque Jones
DH Matt LeCroy

Projected Bench:
C Mike Redmond
IF Juan Castro
IF Nick Punto
OF Lew Ford

Top Prospects:
1. Joe Mauer, C
2. Jason Kubel, OF
3. J.D. Durbin, RHP
4. Jesse Crain, RHP
5. Francisco Liriano, LHP

Top Pitcher: Johan Santana
Santana had an OK year last year. All right, he had a pretty darn awesome year and won the Cy Young award after posting a 20-6 record and striking out 265. The left hander was positively stolen out of the Houston organization in the Rule 5 draft in 1999. Expect more of the same this year and for many more to come.

Top Hitter: Tori Hunter
The Twins do not have any really mashers on their team, but have a very lineup with solid MLB hitters. That said, Hunter is the best of the group and he is made even more valuable with his Gold Glove defence in centerfield.

Breakout Player: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau (tie)
The Twins have two of the best young hitters in the major leagues in their everyday lineup this season. Mauer could hit .300 as a rookie out of the catcher position and play above average defence. He could also eventually add power to his offensive totals. Morneau, a Canadian, battled injuries and illness all winter but should be ready to provide 30 to 40 home runs and Gold Glove defence at first base.

Chicago White Sox
2004 finish: 83-79 (second)

Additions: Dustin Hermanson, Tadahito Iguchi, A.J. Pierzynski, Luis Vizcaino, Jermaine Dye, Scott Podsednik

Losses: Roberto Alomar, Sandy Alomar, Magglio Ordonez, Scott Schoeneweis, Jose Valentin, Carlos Lee

Projected Rotation:
LHP Mark Buehrle
RHP Orlando Hernandez
RHP Jose Contreras
RHP Freddy Garcia
RHP Jon Garland

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Dustin Hermanson
RHP Shingo Takatsu
RHP Luis Vizcaino
LHP Damaso Marte
LHP Neal Cotts
RHP Cliff Politte
RHP John Adkins

Projected Lineup:
C A.J. Pierzynski
1B Paul Konerko
2B Tadahito Iguchi
3B Joe Crede
SS Juan Uribe
LF Aaron Rowand
CF Scott Podsednik
RF Jermaine Dye
DH Carl Everett

Projected Bench:
C Ben Davis
IF Willie Harris
IF Ross Gload
OF Timo Perez

Top Prospects:
1. Brian Anderson, OF
2. Ryan Sweeney, OF
3. Brandon McCarthy, RHP
4. Josh Fields, 3B
5. Sean Tracey, RHP

Top Pitcher: Mark Buehrle
Buehrle has risen from obscurity as a 38th round draft pick by the Sox to become the ace of their staff and one of the best lefties in the game. He has pitched more than 200 innings in each of his four full seasons in the rotation and he significantly improved his strike outs rates last season, which bodes well for the future.

Top Hitter: Paul Konerko
Konerko had an off year in 2003 and his contract looked like an albatross. But he got hot in 2004 and more than justified the $8 million he earned. Only 29, Konerko has eight years of experience in the major leagues, after being a No. 1 pick by the Dodgers out of high school He has the potential to hit 40 home runs, drive in 100 runs and bat .300.

Breakout Player: Neal Cotts
Cotts seems to owe his success more to his funky left-handed delivery than his average 88-93 MPH fastball. That said, he possesses a lot of promise and has always put up solid numbers. He could turn into a very good No. 3 starter in the majors if the Sox ever get tired of throwing veteran fodder Contreras and Hernandez out there.

Cleveland Indians
2004 finish: 80-82 (third)

Additions: Kevin Millwood, Scott Sauerbeck, Arthur Rhodes, Juan Gonzalez, Alex Cora, Jose Hernandez

Losses: Josh Phelps, Omar Vizquel, Rick White, Matt Lawton

Projected Rotation:
LHP C.C. Sabathia
LHP Cliff Lee
RHP Jake Westbrook
RHP Kevin Millwood
RHP Scott Elarton

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Bob Wickman
RHP David Riske
RHP Jason Davis
LHP Rafael Betancourt
LHP Arthur Rhodes
RHP Bob Howry
LHP Scott Sauerbeck

Projected Lineup:
C Victor Martinez
1B Ben Broussard
2B Ronnie Belliard
3B Aaron Boone
SS Jhonny Peralta
LF Juan Gonzalez
CF Coco Crisp
RF Casey Blake
DH Travis Hafner

Projected Bench:
C Josh Bard
IF Jose Hernandez
IF Alex Cora
OF Ryan Ludwick

Top Prospects:
1. Adam Miller, RHP
2. Michael Aubrey, 1B
3. Franklin Gutierrez, OF
4. Brad Snyder, OF
5. Jeremy Sowers, LHP

Top Pitcher: C.C. Sabathia
Sabathia is as good as he is rotund. He is one of the best lefties in the American League despite his 6’7’’ 270 to 300 pound frame. The only real problem with Sabathia is that his weight has put a large strain on his body and he has problems staying healthy.

Top Hitter: Travis Hafner
Hafner was a little older when he finally got the opportunity to play full-time but he made the most of it. He is now, already, one of the most feared young hitters in the league after hitting ..311 .410 .583 and driving in 109 runs. He is a pretty poor defender at first base though and should DH the majority of the time, especially with Ben Broussard at first base.

Breakout Player: Ben Broussard
Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez both broke out last season with great campaigns, and now it is Broussard’s turn. His offensive numbers, .275 .370 .488, were average to below average for a first baseman, but he also offers excellent defence. His offensive numbers have also increased each of the last three seasons and he had solid minor league statistics.

Detroit Tigers
2004 finish: 72-90 (fourth)

Additions: Maggio Ordonez, Troy Percival, Kyle Farnsworth, Ramon Martinez

Losses: Eric Munson, Esteban Yan

Projected Rotation:
LHP Mike Maroth
RHP Jeremy Bonderman
LHP Nate Robertson
RHP Jason Johnson
LHP Wil Ledezma

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Troy Percival
RHP Ugueth Urbina
RHP Kyle Farnsworth
LHP Jamie Walker
LHP Steve Coyler
RHP Franklyn German
RHP Colby Lewis

Projected Lineup:
C Pudge Rodriguez
1B Carlos Pena
2B Omar Infante
3B Brandon Inge
SS Carlos Guillen
LF Rondell White
CF Alex Sanchez
RF Magglio Ordonez
DH Dmitri Young

Projected Bench:
C Vance Wilson
IF Ramon Martinez
OF Craig Monroe
OF Bobby Higginson

Top Prospects:
1. Curtis Ganderson, OF
2. Kyle Sleeth, RHP
3. Justin Verlander, RHP
4. Joel Zumaya, RHP
5. Humberto Sanchez, RHP

Top Pitcher: Jeremy Bonderman
At the age of 22 Bonderman is the Tigers best pitcher, which says something about his promise AND the Tigers lack of pitching depth. That said, Bonderman has filthy stuff and is just starting to figure out how to pitch so the sky is the limit for this young pitcher.

Top Hitter: Magglio Ordonez

Breakout Player: Jeremy Bonderman
Bonderman? What’s he doing here… isn’t he already the Tigers’ best pitcher? Sure he is, but he also possesses the potential to be one of the best in the Major Leagues. He throws a 93-97 MPH fastball, an 83-88 MPH slider (which is harder than some pitchers throw their fastball) and a changeup. Once he learns how to "pitch" instead of just throw, he could be unstoppable.

Kansas City Royals
2004 finish: 58-104 (fifth)

Additions:Jose Lima, Andy Sisco, Eli Marrero, Terrence Long

Losses: Darrell May, Juan Gonzalez, Joe Randa, Desi Relaford, Dennis Reyes, Kelly Stinnett,

Projected Rotation:
RHP Zack Greinke
RHP Jose Lima
RHP Mike Wood
LHP Brian Anderson
LHP Chris George

Projected Bullpen:
LHP Jeremy Affeldt
RHP Nate Field
RHP Mike MacDougal
LHP Jamie Cerda
LHP Andy Sisco
RHP Denny Bautista
RHP Shawn Camp

Projected Lineup:
C John Buck
1B Mike Sweeney
2B Ruben Gotay
3B Mark Teahen
SS Angel Berroa
LF Eli Marrero
CF David DeJesus
RF Matt Stairs
DH Ken Harvey

Projected Bench:
C Alberto Castillo (non-roster)
IF Tony Graffanino
OF Aaron Guiel
OF Terrence Long

Top Prospects:
1. Billy Butler, 3B
2. Denny Bautista, RHP
3. Mark Teahen, 3B
4. Chris Lubanski, OF
5. Justin Huber, C-IF

Top Pitcher: Jeremy Affeldt
Unable to stay healthy in the starting rotation, Affeldt was moved to the bullpen and the Royals hope he, and his nasty left-handed stuff, makes the transition to dominating closer. The Royals, like the Tigers, are weak in pitching depth but Affeldt holds a lot of promise.

Top Hitter: Mike Sweeney
Sweeney is not the hitter he once was, but he is still the best the Royals have to offer. He is capable of hitting above .300 and he knows how to drive in runs, even if he does not quite possess typical first baseman-type power. He is also a smart hitter and rarely gets himself out.

Breakout Player: Zack Greinke
Greinke probably came as close as any other pitcher in quite a few years to being ready for the major leagues right out of high school. Unlike Bonderman in Detroit, Greinke has mastered the ability to pitch, much like Greg Maddux. Unfortunately Greinke does not possess the same stuff as Bonderman or Maddux in his prime. But his repertoire is good enough to make him a very solid major league pitcher, although probably no better than a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Beltran to have elbow surgery

The Washington Nationals announced that earlier today right-handed pitcher Francis Beltran was examined in Birmingham, Alabama by Dr. James Andrews, who confirmed the diagnosis of a near-complete ulnar-collateral ligament tear and agreed with the recommendation of Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, Nationals orthopedic surgeon, to reconstruct the ligament.

Surgery will be performed by Dr. Andrews, with Dr. Douoguih present, on March 15 in Birmingham. The club also today placed Beltran on the 60-Day Disabled List, according to Nationals general manager Jim Bowden.

Beltran was acquired from Chicago (NL) as part of a 4-team deal on July 31, 2004. The 25-year-old is 2-2 with a 5.87 ERA in 56 career games spanning parts of two big league seasons with the Cubs and Expos.

He will likely miss the entire season.

Nationals trim three more from roster

The Washington Nationals optioned left-handed pitcher Mike Hinckley to Double-A Harrisburg and reassigned right-handed pitcher Dan Smith to minor league camp on March 14, according to general manager Jim Bowden. The club also optioned right-handed pitcher Josh Karp to Triple-A New Orleans.

Hinckley was named by Bowden as a long shot to make the team this season despite not pitching above double-A. However, he struggled in the spring and posted a 12.00 ERA in six innings of work.

Smith was returning from surgery and will continue to work his way back as a member of the New Orleans bullpen.

Karp, a former No. 1 draft pick, has struggled in recent years despite his huge promise and No. 1 starter repertoire. He may be converted to the bullpen this year and join Smith in the New Orleans pen.

In other news, second baseman Jose Vidro hyper-extended his elbow and should be out for a few days. It is not considered serious.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Nationals sell 50,000 tickets in six hours

The Washington Nationals sold over 50,000 tickets during the first six hours of individual game ticket sales; with the predominance of transactions handled online (87%), followed by phone sales (8%), and Ticketmaster outlets and RFK Stadium Box Office sales at 5%. The top five selling games were contests on Saturday, May 14 (vs. Chicago-NL), Sunday, May 15 (vs. Chicago-NL), Sunday, April 3 (Exhibition game vs New York (NL) with net proceeds slated for the Washington Nationals Foundation), Saturday, April 30 (vs. Philadelphia), and Friday, May 13 (vs. Chicago-NL).

Single game tickets were available for the Nationals' first game at RFK Stadium vs. the NY Mets benefiting Washington, D.C. area charities on April 3, and all regular season games, excluding Opening Night, Thursday, April 14. Sales began at noon and fans were able to purchase tickets at the RFK Stadium Box Office, by visiting any Ticketmaster outlet, calling Ticketmaster at 202-397-SEAT (7328), or logging onto

Prior to the Box Office opening at noon, several raffle prizes were given away to those waiting in line to purchase tickets. Rob Larsen of Washington, DC was the first raffle drawing winner, as he took home two (2) tickets to Opening Night on April 14, when the Nationals host the Arizona Diamondbacks at RFK Stadium.

In addition to the publicized drawings, the Washington Nationals rewarded the first fan in line with four (4) tickets to Opening Night. Marvin Jones, a native of Washington, D.C., lined up at the Box Office ticket windows at 7:15 am on Saturday morning. Jones was shocked to learn that he was going to receive tickets to the much coveted game on April 14. "Baseball is finally back in Washington, D.C. - where it belongs," commented Jones, who grew up just blocks from RFK Stadium in Northeast.

Other items that were given away included a Nationals authentic home jersey, an authentic Spring Training jersey, a Nationals t-shirt and Nationals cap. Fans waiting in line were treated to donated food items, including Dominic's hot dogs, Krispy Kreme donuts, and Sierra Mist soda, along with music onsite provided by 93.9 WKYS-FM Radio.

Tickets for the Nationals Home Opener on April 14 will go on sale Saturday, March 26 at noon. Nationals fans will be able to purchase up to four (4) tickets each per transaction for Opening Night. The Nationals group sales program will not be in effect for Opening Night. Tickets may be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 202-397-SEAT (7328), visiting the RFK Stadium Box Office or any Ticketmaster Outlet, or logging onto

Friday, March 11, 2005

An early look at the minor leagues: Double-A ball

The Harrisburg Senators
Eastern League (Double-A ball)
Season starts: April 7 versus Bowie

In the list below, uppercased players appear to be the most likely to make the major leagues, although it is very early in their careers. Scouting reports (previously published on this site) have also been included for players on the Nationals’ top 15 pitchers and top 15 hitters lists. The majority of hitters in Harrisburg, though, are minor league veterans and journeymen. There are few, if any, prospects. As always, more in depth statistics for all players can be found at The Baseball Cube.

Pitchers’ stats include ERA, innings pitched, walks-strikeouts. Hitters’ stats include batting average, on-base average and slugging percentage.

Field Staff: Keith Bodie, manager; Rick Tomlin, pitching coach; Frank Cacciatore, coach

Starting Rotation
Experience: 4
Age: 22
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 170
2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, 2.87, 94, 23-80

Hinckley could be a very effective No. 2 or No. 3 starter in the majors, although his ceiling is not as high as that of a healthy Clint Everts. However, Hinckley could be in the majors much quicker, with a mid-season promotion likely. The 2001 third-round pick out of high school throws in the low 90s with a plus curve and an average changeup. He has solid command as well.

Experience: 3
Age: 24
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 210
2004 Level and Stats: High-A, 3.17, 119, 31-88

The 2002 second-round pick possesses a sinking low-90s fastball, an improving curve and a changeup. Rasner does not have great control but it is not terrible either. The lack of any really outstanding pitch limits his ceiling to that of a fourth starter. He could end up being a solid middle reliever.

LHP Brett Price
Experience: 4
Age: 25
Height/Weight: 5’10’’ 165
2004 Level and Stats: High-A, 3.53, 99, 53-100

RHP Jason Stevenson
Experience: 4
Age: 23
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 175
2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, 4.06 135, 46-75

LHP Michael O’Connor
Experience: 3
Age: 24
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 170
2004 Level and Stats: High-A, 4.11, 103, 42-104

Experience: 6
Age: 24
Height/Weight: 6’5’’ 180
2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, 3.42, 102, 35-65

The 6'5'' 180 lbs lefty has always put up intriguing numbers but he could never stay healthy. 2004 was no different in the injury category, but Rundles had a 3.43 ERA in double-A. This season he should be ready to pitch in triple-A but there may not be room for him there. Rundles - who throws an 87-91 mph fastball, a plus changeup and an OK curveball - would probably be best suited for the bullpen given his lack of durability.

RHP Jason Bergmann
Experience: 3
Age: 23
Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 185
2004 Level and Stats: High-A, 1.14, 31, 18-28

RHP Josh Girdley
Experience: 6
Age: 24
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 180
2004 Level and Stats: High-A, 5.24, 34, 15-19

RHP Chris Barlow
Experience: 3
Age: 24
Height/Weight: 6’6’’ 210
2004 Level and Stats: High-A, 4.27, 111, 24-48

RHP Dan Kolb
Experience: 4
Age: 25
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 190
2004 Level and Stats: High-A, 5.79, 84, 44-76

RHP David Gil
Experience: 5
Age: 26
Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 210
2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, 6.86, 84, 34-55

LHP Alex Lontayo
Experience: 1
Age: 29
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 190
2004 Level and Stats:

RHP Kip Bouknight
Experience: 4
Age: 26
Height/Weight: 6’0’’ 190
2004 Level and Stats: Triple-A, 6.75, 62, 32-38

RHP Mark Difelice
Experience: 7
Age: 28
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 190
2004 Level and Stats: Triple-A, 3.44, 89, 27-70

RHP Shawn Hill (DL)
Experience: 5
Age: 24
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 185
2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, 3.39, 87, 20-53

A representative of Ontario, Canada, Hill was one of the Expos’ best pitching prospects before his career was put on hold by surgery. He throws a 90-91 mph sinker, an above average curve and a changeup. Hill also possessed excellent control of his offerings before he was injured, but time will tell if the year off will affect that or not. Without his signature solid command, Hill could be destined for a future middle relief role.

C Jason Belcher
Experience: 5
Age: 23
2004 Level and Stats: High-A, .289 .357 .438

1B Aaron McNeal
Experience: 7
Age: 27
2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, .260 .313 .434

2B Melvin Dorta
Experience: 6
Age: 23
2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, .261 .310 .327

3B Shawn Norris
Experience: 4
Age: 24
2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, .315 .429 .500

SS Ramon Castro
Experience: 8
Age: 25
2004 Level and Stats: Triple-A, 228 .317 .350

LF Doc Brooks
Experience: 6
Age: 25
2004 Level and Stats: High-A, .332 .401 .561

CF Marcus Nettles
Experience: 5
Age: 25
2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, .246 .302 .283

RF Cristian Guerrero
Experience: 7
Age: 25
2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, .248 .286 .405

C John Wilson
Experience: 5
Age: 26
2004 Level and Stats: Triple-A, .256 .318 .393

C Drew McMillan
Experience: 6
Age: 24
2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, 214 .275 .295

IF Dan Dement
Experience: 5
Age: 26
2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, .256 .318 .443

IF Wes Carroll
Experience: 4
Age: 26
2004 Level and Stats: High-A, .244 .308 .303

1B Clyde Williams
Experience: 7
Age: 25
2004 Level and Stats: High-A, .238 .288 .417

OF Juan Camilo
Experience: 9
Age: 28
2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, .262 .341 .421

Next up is the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Nationals' March 10 game vs Indians

All right, I have a little time this afternoon so let's take a look at the Nationals split-squad game this afternoon, which they lost to the Cleveland Indians 3-1.
FYI: The other half of the Nationals also lost to Florida 5-3.
The outfield battle continues to heat up J.J. Davis and Carlton (Tyrell) Godwin having excellent games. Both outfield hopefuls went 2 for 3 and Davis drove in the Nationals only run. Endy Chavez took another 0-fer.
Young infielder Ian Desmond, who has dazzled people with his defensive prowess, had a tough day at the dish going 0 for 3 with three strikeouts. He also made an error at shortstop.
On the mound, everything went smoothly for the Nationals until the wheels fell off in the eighth inning for Dan Smith, who lost the game after allowing three runs on three hits. An error also figured into the equation.
Tomo Ohka pitched three shutout innings and Jon Rauch followed up with two. Chad Cordero and Joe Horgan each pitched a successful inning of work as well.
So far the pitching looks really good for the Nationals, but six hits is not going to get it done on most nights.

Previewing the American League East

The 2005 American League East Division:

New York Yankees
2004 finish: 101-61 (first)

Additions: Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, Felix Rodriguez, Tino Martinez, Tony Womack, Rey Sanchez, Mike Stanton

Losses: Javier Vazquez, Jon Lieber, Travis Lee, Miguel Cairo, Enrique Wilson

Projected Rotation:
LHP Randy Johnson
RHP Mike Mussina
RHP Kevin Brown
RHP Carl Pavano
RHP Jaret Wright

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Mariano Rivera
RHP Tom Gordon
RHP Paul Quantrill
LHP Mike Stanton
RHP Steve Karsay
RHP Felix Rodriguez
RHP Tanyon Sturtze

Projected Lineup:
C Jorge Posada
1B Tino Martinez
2B Tony Womack
3B Alex Rodriguez
SS Derek Jeter
LF Hideki Matsui
CF Bernie Williams
RF Gary Sheffield
DH Jason Giambi

Projected Bench:
C John Flaherty
IF Rey Sanchez
IF Andy Phillips
OF Ruben Sierra

Top Prospects:
1. Eric Duncan, 3B
2. Robinson Cano, 2B
3. Philip Hughes, RHP
4. Steve White, RHP
5. Christian Garcia, RHP

Top Pitcher: Randy Johnson
There have been three Randy Johnsons who have played in the major leagues and I think it is safe to say that this incarnation is the best of the three. He has been a dominating force for the past fifteen years and should continue to be so for at least another year or two, or so the Yankees have gambled. At the age of 41 Johnson is still one of the best pitchers in the major leagues and good for almost 300 strikeouts, 200 innings and 15 to 17 wins. It’s hard to imagine this guy once walked 152 batters in a major league season. And just think, if the Expos had not traded him in 1989 for veteran Mark Langston he might have been a Washington National…

Top Hitter: Alex Rodriguez
Perhaps one of the best hitters in the majors, A-Rod’s reputation has taken a big hit since his glory days in Seattle and he is no longer the golden boy of baseball. Rodriguez left Seattle for record-setting riches in Texas, which were one of the worst teams in baseball, despite his supposed desire to play for a winner. Well, that didn’t work out and now Rodriguez is a member of the Yankees, playing for a winner and still collecting his huge paycheck. Business aside, Rodriguez is a constant threat in the lineup and good for 35 to 50 home runs, 100 RBI and close to a .300 average.

Breakout Player: Andy Phillips
Phillips has had a heck of a time getting out of the minor leagues, while playing in an organization that favors veterans. He turns 28 this year, which is way too old to have a productive, above-average major league career for someone who has only played five games in the majors. That said, Phillips could develop into an awesome utility player for five or six years. He can play third base and second base and possesses power. He hit .318 .388 .569 last season in triple-A Columbus with 26 home runs. Phillips also has a minor league career average of .296.

Boston Red Sox
2004 finish: 98-64 (second)

Additions: Matt Clement, John Halama, Edgar Renteria, Ramon Vazquez, Jay Payton

Losses: Pedro Martinez, Doug Mientkiewicz, Dave Roberts

Projected Rotation:
RHP Curt Schilling
RHP Matt Clement
RHP David Wells
RHP Tim Wakefield
LHP Bronson Arroyo

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Keith Foulke
RHP Mike Timlin
RHP Byung Hung Kim
LHP Alan Embree
LHP John Halama
RHP Matt Mantei

Projected Lineup:
C Jason Varitek
1B Kevin Millar
2B Mark Bellhorn
3B Bill Mueller
SS Edgar Renteria
LF Manny Ramirez
CF Johnny Damon
RF Trot Nixon
DH David Ortiz

Projected Bench:
C Doug Mirabelli
IF Ramon Vazquez
IF Kevin Youkilis
OF Jay Payton
OF Adam Stern (Rule 5)

Top Prospects:
1. Hanley Ramirez, SS
2. Brandon Moss, OF
3. Jon Papelbon, RHP
4. Jon Lester. LHP
5. Anibal Sanchez, RHP

Top Pitcher: Curt Schilling
What is left to say about the one-ankled wonder that has been said in numerous news stories, documentaries and at every New England office water cooler? Like his former teammate, Randy Johnson, Schilling is one of the best pitchers in the major leagues and back at "home" with the team that originally signed him. It just took him 19 years to throw a major league pitch for the Red Sox. But, all things considered, it turned out pretty well for Red Sox fans. Expect another couple of star seasons for this pitcher, if he can stay healthy.

Top Hitter: Manny Ramirez
Considering that he was put on waivers two years ago, it’s hard to believe that Ramirez is one of the most feared hitters in the majors. But he also comes with an enormous contract and collected $22.5 million last season, which has kept the Red Sox from being able to improve the team around him as much as they would have liked. Again, though, it seems to have worked out for them. Believe it or not, his line of .308 .397 .613 is slightly below his usual output. I certainly wouldn’t scoff at 43 home runs or 130 RBI though.

Breakout Player: Bronson Arroyo
Arroyo teased the Pirates with his promise for years after being drafted out of the third round in 1995. It all came together for him in Boston, though, and he became one of the best No. 5 starters in the major leagues, which is no doubt one of the reasons the Red Sox won the World Series. He won’t get as many innings as other Red Sox starters if he stays in the five spot, but he could be good for 12-14 wins and 170-190 innings. There has also been a belief among scouts that Arroyo could make a solid closer someday.

Baltimore Orioles
2004 finish: 78-84 (third)

Additions: Sammy Sosa, Steve Reed, Steve Kline, Jay Witasick, Chris Gomez

Losses: Jerry Hairston, Marty Cordova

Projected Rotation:
RHP Sidney Ponson
RHP Rodrigo Lopez
RHP Erik Bedard
RHP Daniel Cabrera
LHP Bruce Chen

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Jorge Julio
RHP Steve Reed
RHP Jay Witasick (non-roster)
LHP B.J. Ryan
LHP Steve Kline
LHP John Parrish
LHP Matt Riley

Projected Lineup:
C Javier Lopez
1B B.J. Surhoff
2B Brian Roberts
3B Melvin Mora
SS Miguel Tejada
LF Jay Gibbons
CF Luis Matos
RF Sammy Sosa
DH Rafael Palmeiro

Projected Bench:
C Geronimo Gil
IF David Newhan
IF Chris Gomez
OF Larry Bigbie

Top Prospects:
1. Nick Markakis, OF
2. Hayden Penn, RHP
3. Adam Loewen, LHP
4. Val Majewski, OF
5. Jeff Fiorentio, OF

Top Pitcher: Sidney Ponson
I actually happened to be in Aruba this winter when Ponson was arrested in his homeland for allegedly punching out a judge in a beach dispute. Everyone on the island was talking about it and Ponson has decided to turn his back on Aruba and remain in the U.S. full-time. Whether his tumultuous off-season has any affect on his season remains to be seen, but he wasn’t overly effective last season after signing a lucrative free agent contract with the team that originally signed him. If everything goes well, Ponson should be good for 15 wins and 200 innings.

Top Hitter: Miguel Tejada
Once considered in the second tier of shortstops, after Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, Tejada has either joined them or surpassed some of them. A big money free agent signee by the Orioles two off-seasons ago, he did not disappoint in his first season with his new club. Tejada hit .311 .360 .534 and drove in an amazing 150 runs for a club that wasn’t all that good. At the age of 29, he should have quite a few more great seasons ahead of him.

Breakout Player: B.J. Ryan
What’s not to like when a left-handed reliever strikes out 122 in 87 innings. That’s right, nothing. Ryan is already a pretty darn good player, so why is he set to breakout? All signs point to him being anointed the Orioles’ closer this season over inconsistent incumbent Jorge Julio (another former Expo). There aren’t many left-handed closers outside or Billy Wagner, but Ryan has the nasty stuff to be just as successful.

Tampa Bay Rays
2004 finish: 70-91 (fourth)

Additions: Denny Neagle, Casey Fossum, Mark Guthrie, Travis Lee, Roberto Alomar, Kevin Cash, Alex Gonzalez, Danny Bautista, Josh Phelps

Losses: Jose Cruz, Tino Martinez, Geoff Blum, Rey Sanchez, John Halama, Chad Gaudin

Projected Rotation:
LHP Mark Hendrickson
LHP Denny Neagle (non-roster)
RHP Dewon Brazelton
RHP Doug Waechter
LHP Casey Fossum

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Danys Baez
RHP Travis Harper
RHP Jesus Colome
LHP Mark Guthrie (non-roster)
LHP Trever Miller
RHP Lance Carter
RHP Rob Bell

Projected Lineup:
C Toby Hall
1B Travis Lee
2B Roberto Alomar
3B Alex Gonzalez
SS Julio Lugo
LF Aubrey Huff
CF Carl Crawford
RF Danny Bautista
DH Josh Phelps

Projected Bench:
C Kevin Cash
IF Jorge Cantu
IF/OF Eduardo Perez
OF Joey Gathright

Top Prospects:
1. Delmon Young, OF
2. Scott Kazmir, LHP
3. Joey Gathright, OF
4. Jason Hammel, RHP
5. Reid Brignac, 3B

Top Pitcher: Denny Neagle
It’s kind of scary to think that a team’s best pitcher has battled injuries for two years, had Tommy John surgery and was arrested in the off-season for allegedly soliciting a prostitute. But everyone deserves a second chance and that’s what the Rays are for Neagle. And he also supplies the Rays with a solid veteran left-handed pitcher who won 20 games seven years ago. At the age of 36, coming off a major injury and the mental scars from pitching in Colorado, I’m not sure how much Neagle has to offer besides experience.

Top Hitter: Aubrey Huff
Huff edges out speedy Carl Crawford for the Rays best hitter because of his game-changing power, solid eye at the plate and good bat control. The only thing Huff does poorly (actually it’s horrendous) is field his position, whether it be third base, first base or the outfield. With Josh Phelps at DH and Travis Lee at 1B, though, Huff is going to find himself in the outfield this season. If he hits like he did two seasons ago, .311 .367 .555, his defence can be easily overlooked.

Breakout Player: Doug Waechter
If healthy this season, this local St.Petersburg boy stands to be a solid member of the Rays rotation. He has put up solid minor league numbers and possesses the stuff to be a solid third or fourth starter in the major leagues. Waechter struggled last season and posted a 6.01 ERA but he wasn’t hit really hard and only allowed 68 hits in 70 1/3 innings. That said, 20 of those 68 hits were home runs. His strikeout totals were down to 36 and he must learn to stop allowing teams to put so many balls in play, at least until the Rays improve their overall team defence.

Toronto Jays
2004 finish: 67-94 (fifth)

Additions: Corey Koskie, Billy Koch, Scott Schoeneweis, John McDonald, Shea Hillenbrand

Losses: Carlos Delgado, Chris Gomez, Dave Berg, Chris Woodward

Projected Rotation:
RHP Roy Halladay
LHP Ted Lilly
RHP Miguel Batista
RHP David Bush
RHP Josh Towers

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Justin Speier
RHP Billy Koch
RHP Brandon League
LHP Scott Schoeneweis
RHP Kerry Ligtenberg
RHP Vinny Chulk
RHP Jason Frasor

Projected Lineup:
C Gregg Zaun
1B Eric Hinske
2B Orlando Hudson
3B Corey Koskie
SS Russ Adams
LF Frank Catalanotto
CF Vernon Wells
RF Alex Rios
DH Shea Hillenbrand

Projected Bench:
C Greg Myers
IF John McDonald
IF Frank Menechino
OF Reed Johnson

Top Prospects:
1. Brandon League, RHP
2. Aaron Hill, SS
3. Guillermo Quiroz, C
4. Francisco Rosario, RHP
5. David Purcey, LHP

Top Pitcher: Roy Halladay
Halladay was the Cy Young winner two years ago but stumbled in 2004 after succumbing to injuries for the first time in his career. Halladay missed a chunk of the season mainly due to overuse in previous seasons, when he led the majors in innings pitched. The Jays have promised to lessen this bulldog’s load a little bit, in hopes of keeping him healthy after signing him to a lucrative contract after his Cy Young season. If healthy, he should be good for 15-20 wins, 230 innings and 200 strikeouts.

Top Hitter: Vernon Wells
Wells had an All Star 2003, but struggled in 2004 when he tried to do too much while slugging first baseman Carlos Delgado was out with injuries. This season, Wells must not try to do too much again now that Delgado has departed the team for sunny Florida. It will be difficult because he is now the Jays best hitter. If he stays within himself, Wells can be counted on for a .300 average, 30 home runs, 100 RBI and Gold Glove defence.

Breakout Player: David Bush
Bush burst onto the scene last season as a rookie after being drafted out of college as a senior in 2001. The most impressive part is that until 2003, Bush was a one-inning closer. The Jays were impressed with his repertoire of pitches and decided to give him a shot at the starting rotation and they are glad they did. In his first season starting, Bush won 14 games and had148 strikeouts in 158 innings while splitting the season between high-A ball and double-A. In his first taste of big league ball, Bush went 5-4 with a 3.69 ERA in 97 2/3 innings. Bush probably profiles as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in the rotation.

Up next is the American League Central Division