Eric Gallanty writing to you today, what an opening day in Syracuse it was. Personally, it was my first Chiefs game, and what an amazing way to start. The crowd was awesome and the Chiefs offense answered the call, with 10 runs and 13 hits in a 10-2 win over the RailRiders. We’ll do it again tonight at 6:05 at NBT Bank Stadium. In case you missed it over the first week of the year, here are some roster updates the Chiefs have made so far.
Rafael Martin called up by Washington:
The Chiefs dominant closer a year ago, Martin was added to Washington’s bullpen and what a MLB debut he had. The right hander struck out five consecutive Red Sox on Sunday, the first Nationals pitcher to achieve that feat in his ML debut since Steven Strasburg in 2010. The Chiefs back-end of the bullpen is still in good hands though with former Major League all-star Evan Meek.
Matt den Dekker optioned to Syracuse:
Acquired in a trade from the Mets on March 30th, den Dekker comes to Syracuse after a week in Washington filling the void of the injured Jason Werth. It’s been a great start for den Dekker in his first three games with the Chiefs, picking up four hits and four RBIs.
Felipe Rivero to Washington, Taylor Jordan back to Syracuse
The Nats recalled Jordan before his scheduled start Wednesday after Craig Stammen was placed on the disabled list. Washington designated left-handed pitcher Xavier Cedeno for assignment a few days before, which left the big club short a southpaw in the bullpen. Enter Rivero, who will swap places with Jordan and act as Cedeno’s replacement, with Martin holding Stammen’s spot for now. Jordan is expected to arrive back in Syracuse in the next day or two.
Opening Day for the Syracuse Chiefs takes place tomorrow on the road against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. In order to get Chiefs fans into the baseball spirit, we decided to take a look at five new additions to Syracuse in 2015 to help you get to know your Chiefs before the season begins. Today’s five players to know is written by broadcast intern Andrew Grella.
1. Tony Gwynn, Jr.
– Gwynn has spent parts of eight seasons in the Major Leagues with four different teams in his career. He has played for the Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Philadelphia Phillies.
– The 32-year-old center fielder is a career .238 hitter with a .309 on-base-percentage in 685 Major League games. Once Gwynn reaches base, he wreaks havoc on the base paths. In 2011 for the Dodgers, Gwynn swiped 22 bags and has 80 total career steals.
– Tony Gwynn Jr. is the son of the late and great Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.
2. Dan Butler
– Butler was the catcher for the Pawtucket Red Sox since 2011 until he was acquired by the Nationals for Danny Rosenbaum in January of 2015.
– Butler made his major league debut on August 10th, 2014. He was pulled from Pawtucket’s August 1st game against the Chiefs because he was called up to the Majors that day.
– Butler was named the team MVP in 2013 for the Pawtucket Red Sox. In that season, he hit .262 with 14 homers and 45 runs batted in.
3. Rich Hill
– Rich Hill brings a ton of experience to the Chiefs pitching staff. The veteran left-hander has played for six major league teams over parts of 10 seasons in the Majors.
– In 2007 with the Cubs, Hill ranked fifth in the National League with 183 strikeouts and batting average against which was just .235 against the left-hander.
– Hill pitched in 14 games for the New York Yankees last season but only accumulated a total of 5 innings. Expect a heavier workload for the 35-year old this year for Syracuse.
4. Kila Ka’aihue
– Kila Ka’aihue is a native of Kailua, Hawaii but will be braving the cooler temperature of Syracuse, N.Y to open up the 2015 season.
– Ka’aihue led the Pacific Coast League in home runs in 2013 before he was sold to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. He spent two seasons in Japan. In 2014, Ka’aihue hit .257 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs
– Ka’aihue is notorious for his power. He made his Major League Debut in 2008 and hit his first home run that year off of Gavin Floyd. Ka’aihue has also homered off of Nationals starters Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer.
5. Evan Meek
– Evan Meek was an all star in 2010 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Before the All Star Break, he led all National League relievers with a 0.98 ERA.
– Meek pitched very well in Triple-A last year for the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles the Norfolk Tides. In 39 appearances, the right hander posted a sub two ERA and notched 37 strikeouts.
– Meek was the pitcher who served up Derek Jeter’s walk off single in Jeter’s final at bat at Yankee Stadium in 2014.
Some more updates from Nationals training camp as the 25-man roster is almost set down in Jupiter, Florida…this update is brought to you by braodcast intern Andrew Grella.
Nationals Reassign Rafael Martin and Ian Stewart to Minor Leagues
The Nationals announced their latest roster moves after yesterday’s game against the Miami Marlins. Rafael Martin and Ian Stewart have been reassigned to minor league camp and will start the season with Triple-A Syracuse. Washington manager Matt Williams said that both Stewart and Martin can help the big league club later in the season but will start this year in the minors. That’s good news for the Chiefs. Rafael Martin was dominant for Syracuse in 2014. The 30-year old posted a 0.80 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 33 innings in Triple-A last season. In just over six innings of work this spring, Martin allowed six hits and only one earned run while holding opposing batters to a .250 BAA. As for Ian Stewart, he hit .279 in 43 at bats this spring with two doubles and three home runs. Stewart fell short of obtaining the final bench spot for the Nationals to open up 2015.
Nationals Roster Down to 27 with Two Cuts Remaining
With the final 25-man roster due on Sunday afternoon, the Nationals are down to 27 with four days left to cut two more players. Washington will have to cut one pitcher and one position player. The battles will be for the final spot on the bench and for the final spot in the bullpen. For that final spot in the pen, two left handers will be battling to be the second left handed relief pitcher on the roster. The battle appears to be between Xavier Cedeno and Rich Hill. Hill has had better numbers than Cedeno so far this Spring, however if the Nationals choose Hill, Cedeno will have to clear waivers and it is unknown whether he will return to Washington or be traded. So if the Nats would like to keep both lefties, it may be easier to send Hill down first and call him up later. For the bench spot, the battle seems to be between Mike Carp and Clint Robinson. Both players are first basemen who can play a corner outfield position and both hit from the left side of the plate. Carp has more experience than Robinson, but Robinson has had a better spring training so that battle will continue over the final four days for that final roster spot.
What this means for the Chiefs?
1. The Chiefs get a solid reliever in Rafael Martin returning to the roster to start 2015. He may not be down in Triple-A for long but will be a solid addition to the back of the bullpen to help Syracuse win some games to start the season.
2. Ian Stewart looks to have regained some of his power that he was touted for when he was younger. The 29-year-old is looking to have a resurgent year for the Chiefs after bouncing around several teams over the past few seasons. He is a legitimate power threat in the Syracuse lineup for 2015.
3. Mike Carp or Clint Robinson would both provide an offensive spark for the Chiefs. Carp was a major contributor off the bench for the 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox but has struggled offensively since last year. He only hit .189 this spring and may be sent down to get his swing back. As for Robinson, he has not played in the Major Leagues up to this point in his career, so we will see whether they want to see more from him in the minors or give him a shot to start the season.
4. The battle between the relief pitchers may come down more on contractual obligations than to skill of each of the left handers. Rich Hill can start out in the minors and has an option to opt out if he is not promoted by June 1st. Meanwhile, Xavier Cedeno will have to go through waivers if he does not start 2015 with the new club. Chiefs fans won’t want to miss Hill who has pitched very well in the Spring. When his curveball is biting, it is one of the nastiest benders in the majors.
Eric Gallanty here with today’s spring training update. I’m the newest member of the Chiefs radio booth, and can’t wait to work with Kevin and get rolling with the season.
Kevin Frandsen Released
Washington granted Frandsen his unconditional release this morning. Despite injuries around the diamond, the utility man found himself as at least the third option at multiple different infield positions. And after the Nationals signed Reed Johnson and traded for Matt den Dekker this week, the outfield in Washington is now a bit crowded as well. Frandsen spent all of 2014 with the big club, playing in 105 games with a .229 average. With Frandsen’s departure, Washington must get to 25 with a potential Chief, at least until some of the injured starters return.
OF Tony Gwynn Jr. Sent to Minor League Camp
The Chiefs are getting one of the most productive hitters in the Nationals camp this spring. Gwynn flourished in Viera, hitting .341 in spring training, holding a .420 on-base percentage. Gwynn hit .152 in 80 games with the Phillies last season, yet his spring success nearly landed him a spot on the opening day roster. But after the additions of Johnson and den Dekker, Gwynn was re-assigned to minor league camp. If his bat stays hot, Washington may come calling again.
Lots to dig into from the past couple of days. Here’s today’s update, with some writing assistance from one of our 2015 broadcast interns, Andrew Grella…
C Sandy Leon traded to Red Sox
Leon, one of the Chiefs’ main catchers last year, was sent to Boston on Monday in exchange for cash. Last season, Leon hit .229 with five home runs in 51 games for the Chiefs. He’s mainly known for his defense behind the plate, having thrown out 17 of 29 base-stealers last year between Syracuse and Washington. Leon’s departure comes as little surprise – the 26-year-old was out of options and would have had to clear waivers to return to Syracuse.
OF Matt den Dekker acquired from Mets
On Sunday, Nationals G.M. Mike Rizzo expressed his satisfaction with the team’s depth. On Monday, he traded a catcher for cash, a reliever for an outfielder and signed another outfielder. (More on that in a bit.) The key move of the day was trading left-hander Jerry Blevins, a mainstay in last year’s bullpen, for den Dekker, a 27-year-old outfielder who’s bounced between Triple-A and the major leagues each of the last two years. In 80 big-league games, he’s hit .238 with a .325 on-base percentage and 57 strikeouts. Last year in Las Vegas, however, he posted a .334/.407/.540 slash line in 93 games. (Grain of salt alert: Las Vegas is a hitter-friendly park in a notoriously hitter-friendly league. Still. Pretty darn good.) Expect him to start on the Nationals’ bench, with a move to Syracuse potentially corresponding once Washington’s lineup returns to full health.
OF Reed Johnson signed to a minor-league deal
Johnson, who enters 2015 at 38 (!) years old, was released by the Marlins yesterday morning and signed by the Nationals in the afternoon. He posted just a .266 on-base percentage last year with Miami, but did rank second in the major leagues in pinch-hits. The guess here is Johnson either makes the big-league team or moves on. His last stint as a full-time minor leaguer? 2003 – with the Syracuse Chiefs.
What does this all mean for the Chiefs?
1. Syracuse likely won’t have left-hander Xavier Cedeno (also out of options). Blevins’ departure opens a spot in the Nationals’ bullpen for a southpaw, and Cedeno may be it.
2. Dan Butler and Steven Lerud, almost definitely, will be your starting catching tandem on Opening Day.
3. Syracuse’s outfield just got stronger. While we don’t yet know who’ll be in the Chiefs’ outfield, the acquisitions of den Dekker and Johnson bolster the Nationals’ outfield depth. With those two, Clint Robinson, Tony Gwynn, Jr. and others still in major-league camp, expect Syracuse to have a strong outfield group to begin the year.
The Chiefs may have received nearly 25% of their roster today, with the latest round of Nationals’ cuts as follows…
That’s six non-roster invitees who are all but assured to start the season in Syracuse. Let’s briefly examine them, one by one…
Cutter Dykstra (25-year-old 2B/utility player)
- Hit .274 with .349 OBP in first Double-A season last year. Career .363 minor-league OBP.
- Second-round pick of Brewers in 2008; traded to Nationals in 2011 for Nyjer Morgan.
- Son of former major-leaguer Lenny Dykstra
- 2015 OUTLOOK: Starting second baseman. Dykstra’s played seven different positions in the field in his career, but only played at second last year. Expect him to continue a slow ascent through the minors.
Emmanuel Burriss (30-year-old SS)
- Post-Season All-Star last year with Chiefs; hit .300 with .377 OBP in 116 games.
- Hit seven home runs last year (including one in postseason), surpassing entire professional total from first eight years.
- Washington, DC native.
- 2015 OUTLOOK: Starting shortstop. With another season like last year’s, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Manny return to the majors and play for his hometown team. On Opening Day, he should lead the Chiefs onto the field once more.
Steven Lerud (30-year-old C)
- Career-best .376 OBP last year with Gwinnett Braves.
- Has played in Pirates, Phillies, Orioles and Braves’ organizations…15 major-league at-bats between 2012-13 Phillies.
- Set Nevada high-school state record with 60 career home runs. (Joey Gallo has since broken it with 67.)
- 2015 OUTLOOK: Backup catcher. Dan Butler should get most of the Chiefs’ backstop reps as a member of the 40-man roster, but Lerud’ll get some run after a solid season in the I.L. last year.
Kila Ka’aihue (31-year-old 1B)
- Played in Japan with Hiroshima Carp over last two seasons.
- .313/.421/.620, 16 HR in 53 games with Triple-A Reno in 2013 – his last year to date in affiliated baseball.
- Brother Kala, Jr. and father Kala, Sr. both played minor-league baseball as well.
- 2015 OUTLOOK: Starting 1B/DH. Matt Skole and Clint Robinson could also end up at first base, but Ka’aihue’s played just 10 career games outside of first in his career. He’ll gladly take aim at NBT Bank Stadium’s short porch in right field.
Derrick Robinson (27-year-old OF)
- Missed entire 2014 season after shoulder surgery.
- Played 102 games with 2013 Cincinnati Reds, his big-league debut season, hitting .255 with .322 OBP.
- Has stolen 321 bases in eight professional seasons, with a high of 69 in 2009.
- 2015 OUTLOOK: Versatile outfielder. A healthy Brian Goodwin should get most of the reps in center field, where Robinson’s played most of his career, but concerns over Goodwin’s shoulder could get Robinson some look at their position. Expect him to also play quite a bit in left field.
Manny Delcarmen (33-year-old RHP)
- Led 2014 Chiefs with 46 games pitched, sporting 3.13 ERA.
- Surrendered just two home runs in 60.1 innings pitched while striking out 55.
- Former World Series champion with Red Sox; has also pitched with Rockies, Mariners, Rangers, Yankees and Orioles’ organizations.
- 2015 OUTLOOK: Setup reliever. Rafael Martin and Matt Grace are likely to take care of the final two innings, but Delcarmen should be another reliable bridge in the back of the Chiefs’ bullpen.
Soooo…remember that post we wrote two days ago? About how Jeff Kobernus was likely to be in the Chiefs’ outfield? And how we expected him to be in Syracuse come Opening Day?
That news came down yesterday from camp. At first, the move came as a surprise, especially without a corresponding move on the 40-man roster. Kobernus had filled in with the Nationals each of the last two years and had an option year remaining (e.g. he wouldn’t have to clear waivers to be sent to the minor leagues). To shed a little light on the move, here’s Matt Williams’ explanation from today, courtesy of the Washington Post…
So there you have it. Our best to Kobernus as he searches for a new home. Update your Chiefs starting lineup bingo card accordingly.
As for today’s move…
No surprise here. Cole split time between Harrisburg and Syracuse last year, and with the Nationals’ rotation set in stone, A.J.’s back in Triple-A. As a reminder, he made a strong first impression with the Chiefs last year, throwing to a 3.43 ERA in 11 starts. (The offense also liked him; the Chiefs scored more than six runs per game in his starts, helping Cole to a 7-0 record.) Cole’s a candidate for the top spot in Syracuse’s rotation this year.
With exactly one month to go before Opening Day at NBT Bank Stadium, we figured this was as good a time as any to start our periodic spring training updates. Here’s an early look at some Nationals’ transactions as Syracuse’s roster begins to take shape…
Saturday: IF/OF Jeff Kobernus optioned to Triple-A; RHP Erik Davis continues rehab from Tommy John surgery in Minor-League camp
With 154 games played over the last two years at Syracuse, Kobernus’ return to Triple-A is no surprise. Last year, he struggled with injuries and sported a .257/.338/.359 slash line in 59 games with the Chiefs, stealing just 15 bases. But a healthy offseason could turn Kobernus back into the All-Star-caliber player we saw in 2013. That season, he hit .318 in 95 Chiefs games with a healthy .366 OBP and 42 stolen bases. Expect Kobernus to continue his transition into a full-time outfielder and trot out to left field on Syracuse’s Opening Day.
Meanwhile, Davis went under the knife last April 2nd, putting his return to game action still a number of weeks away. In December, he told reporters at NatsFest that he’s expecting to return in late April or early May. A healthy Davis would be great news for the Chiefs’ bullpen – he sported a 3.10 ERA in 45 games in 2013, the same year in which he made his major-league debut.
Sunday: RHP Taylor Hill optioned to Triple-A; RHPs Eric Fornataro, Mitch Lively & Scott McGregor reassigned to Minor-League camp
(A quick word on terminology here: Hill was “optioned” because he’s on the Nats’ 40-man roster. The other three were “reassigned” because they’re non-roster invitees.”
An early theme of this spring – a dynamic Chiefs pitching staff could be taking shape. Hill’s a likely Opening Day candidate after leading the rotation with an All-Star season in 2014. Lively, who struck out 11 in the Chiefs’ division-clinching win at Pawtucket, could join him, while McGregor might be destined for Syracuse or Harrisburg depending on numbers.
The new guy in the bunch is Fornataro, a sinker-dominant reliever who comes over from the Cardinals. He put up a 2.57 ERA in 44 games with Triple-A Memphis in the notoriously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League and threw in eight games with the big league club to boot. Fornataro owns a career 1.68 GO/AO (groundout to air out) ratio in the minors. He won’t strike out many batters, but he gets results. Expect him in the back end of the Chiefs’ bullpen.
Monday: OF Brian Goodwin optioned to Triple-A; LHP Sammy Solis optioned to Double-A Harrisburg
Though Goodwin struggled offensively in his first Syracuse season, remember this – he’s only 24 years old and he’s played just three years of professional baseball. The Nationals still think highly of Goodwin, promoted to their 40-man roster in the offseason. His plate discipline’s not in doubt – with 50 walks in 81 games, he was by far the Chiefs’ most patient hitter last season. An increased approach to contact could turn 2015 into a breakout year for Goodwin.
Solis, meanwhile, is a name to monitor at a lower level. The Nationals grabbed him out of the University of San Diego in 2010 as a second-round pick – but injuries have hampered Solis’ progress throughout his minor-league career. He threw in just five total games last year because of elbow discomfort, two years after Tommy John surgery, and hasn’t yet thrown 100 innings in a professional season. At 26 years old, however, Solis’ talent still remains – as evidenced by Director of Player Development Mark Scialabba’s continuous praise. With a healthy season, Solis could finally find his way to Triple-A.
We’ll continue to update the Chiefs as spring training rolls along. For more on Syracuse and its parent club, tune into The Score 1260 today at 5:15. I’ll be on with Mike Lindsley for a Chiefs’ Spring Training Update.
We also welcome your thoughts and comments. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @ChiefsRadio – we’d love to hear from you.
Happy Fourth of July, Chiefs fans! As if a sold-out crowd, gorgeous weather and spectacular fireworks weren’t enough, the Nationals’ widely-regarded second-best prospect will make his second Chiefs start of the year today – right-hander A.J. Cole. Here’s our broadcast intern, Daniel Comisi, with a look at the 22-year-old out of Florida:
Labeled as the #2 prospect in the Washington Nationals organization and #69 overall on MLB.com’s Top 100 list earlier this year, A.J. Cole made his Syracuse Chiefs debut on Saturday against the Buffalo Bisons. In 5.2 innings, Cole allowed eight hits, six runs (only one earned), one walk and five strikeouts. Selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by Washington, Cole was traded with Derek Norris, Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock to the Oakland A’s for Gio Gonzalez in December 2011. In one full season with Class-A Burlington and High-A Stockton, Cole started in 27 games, sporting a 3.70 ERA with 133 strikeouts in 133.2 innings. Cole was traded back to Washington along with Blake Treinen and Ian Krol in a three-team trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle and John Jaso to Oakland. In 2013, the 22 year-old was named to the 2013 All-Star Futures Game and promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, where he started in seven games and was 4-2 with a 2.18 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP in 45.1 innings.
According to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, Cole’s struggles in Oakland’s organization were not a worry and he was thrilled to reacquire Cole…
His developmental curve is on track, and we’re going to get him with our pitching people and kind of straighten out his delivery and I think that this guy will be a quick mover for us from this point forward.
While some scouts are comparing Cole to Matt Cain, a fly-ball pitcher who occasionally struggles to get lefties out, others have compared him to Justin Verlander, a tall, lanky pitcher with a high-velocity fastball. Cole is listed as 6’5” and 200 lbs, so his peak 95 mph fastball seems even faster to hitters with his long stride to home plate. Cole also has a power curveball and a decent changeup, but his fastball is his best pitch and he gets most of his strikeouts by throwing it past hitters. It appears that most scouts say that if Cole is able to develop his curveball, he has the possibility a major-league starter for many, many years.
Cole’s next start will be on Friday against Pawtucket after Thursday’s game versus Lehigh Valley was postponed.
Indianapolis Indians star prospect Gregory Polanco takes the field once again against the Chiefs today in what could be Polanco’s final series in the minor leagues. Need a quick guide on who Polanco is and what you might see on him? Here’s a look from one of our interns here in the broadcast booth, Daniel Comisi:
The 22 year-old Dominican came into the 2014 season listed as the 10th best prospect in all of major league baseball according to Baseball America. But if you take out the guys who are in the majors right now, (Bogaerts, Taveras, Tanaka), he is the seventh top prospect still in the minors and the second-best outfielder, behind the number one prospect, Byron Buxton. Even though Polanco is ranked the seventh prospect in all of the minors, only Archie Bradley with the Arizona Diamondbacks is in Triple-A and there has already been plenty of questioning of why Bradley was not called up in April. The other five are in Double-A or lower.
Polanco has shot up the Pittsburgh organization after being signed as an international free agent with the Pirates in 2009. In the year of 2013 alone, he went from High-A Bradenton, to Double-A Altoona, and spent the final two games of the year with Triple-A Indianapolis. If you only look at his Double-A and Triple-A stats: through 127 games, he is batting .303 with 12 home runs, 7 triples, 29 doubles, and 28 steals in 40 attempts (70% success rate). But the stat that I was drawn to was this: through 467 games and through 1944 plate appearances to date, Polanco has only struck out 303 times and has walked 184 times. That is a very low strikeout rate (15.5%, the MLB average is 23.1%) and a high contact rate (74.9%, the MLB average is 71.5%). With his speed, he has the capability of turning a routine ground ball into a base hit – as he did last night – and would be great at the top of the Pirates lineup.
Polanco is the best prospect in the International League and has the capability of being the next Wil Myers or Yasiel Puig, who will make an immediate impact and be in the running for Rookie of the Year award even though he has spent the first 60 games in the minor leagues. Similar to Puig, if Polanco was born in the U.S. he would most likely be a star running back or linebacker in football with his 6-foot-4, 220-pound build. But since he was born in the Dominican Republic, where baseball is the best way to get off the island, he was surrounded by baseball.
So why is he still in the minors if he is the next great prospect in Triple-A and the Pirates desperately need him in right field? Well, the most educated guess that I can make is that the Pittsburgh Pirates are using a strategy that most MLB teams use when dealing with the “Super Two” exception. While this is a very complicated rule, here is the simplest way I can put it. A “Super Two” player is a player who is the top 22 percent of the players with more than two years of service time but less than three. David Schoenfield of ESPN wrote a very good article about Polanco and why he is still in the minors. In Polanco’s case, the first professional game he played was with Low-A State College in 2011, which would make the 2014 season his third year in the Pirates organization. Since he is in the top 22% of prospects and is between two and three full seasons in the Pirates organization, Polanco would have the ability to file for arbitration a year earlier than the other 78% of players and receive drastically more salary because he projected to be a top player and is hitting the ball extremely well in the minors. But if the Pirates hold Polanco in the minors until mid-June, it will delay his arbitration clock and Polanco will have to wait an extra year to file for arbitration and get the big contract. Most small-market teams like Houston (George Springer this year) and Tampa Bay (Wil Myers last year) do this because they do not have the money to pay for their top prospects like the Los Angeles Angels can do with Mike Trout, who signed a six-year $144.5 million deal this offseason.
So if you can make it to the ballpark during the next three games, I highly encourage you to do it, because he will be one of the next big stars in the major leagues. But Chiefs tickets are much cheaper than the Pirates and you will be able to see two of the top teams in the International League playing each other. First pitch for every game of this series is at 7:00.