Ranking the Senators’ MVP – Part III: The Top Ten

Photo courtesy Andy Colwell / The Patriot-News

As part of our year-end coverage on the Harrisburg Senators, I’m ranking all 53 players that played this season by what they contributed to the team’s successes and failures. Tuesday we covered Part I which had numbers 53 through 31 and yesterday in Part II we handled 30 through 11. 

If you agree or disagree with any ranking feel free to leave a comment and try and sway my way of thinking.

10. Derek Norris (.210/.367/.446, 75R, 46 RBI, 20 HR, 13 SB)

2011 was not the offensive season many had predicted for Norris as he barely hovered over .200. Supporters will point to his on-base percentage and praise his patience and selectivity at the plate. Detractors will propose the catcher isn’t aggresive enough when he’s up to bat in certain situations. I see both sides to the argument. I will say that if his eye is as good as he thinks it is, his strikeouts are only going to go down the higher he climbs because I would guess half of his punchouts on the season were looking. Defensively, passed balls still remain a bugaboo as he allowed 15 this season, but it’s a far cry from the 28 he let go at Hagerstown two years ago. But Norris really excelled at throwing out runners as he used his somewhat unorthodox delivery (very over the top) to catch a league best 40% of baserunners.   

Josh Johnson
Photo courtesy John Whitehead / The Patriot-News


9. Josh Johnson (.244/.349/.365, 70R, 36 RBI, 8 HR, 21 SB) 

JJ was the heart of the Senators throughout the season and their vocal leader on and off the field. For the second straight season, it fell on Johnson’s shoulders to replace a highly touted prospect (last year Espinosa at SS, this year Lombardozzi at 2B) and 25-year old middle infielder responded by taking on an even bigger leadership role. As the team suffered through an August swoon, it was Johnson who wanted the playoffs and a championship as much as anyone.

8. Rafael Martin (4-1, 13 Saves, 1.77 ERA)

Martin was a workhorse out of Randy Knorr’s bullpen last season appearing in 47 games and the load took its toll on a pitcher who a short, four years earlier was pitching once a week in a Sunday adult baseball league. After working through dead arm issues in camp at the start of this season, Martin remained in extended spring training until the middle of May. The late start and a change in roles to the back end of the bullpen kept Martin fresh and effective all the way through the end of the season. He led the team in saves (13) and allowed the opposition to score in only six of his 32 appearances.

7. Tim Pahuta (.260/.312/.496, 29R, 43 RBI, 15 HR)

Once Pahuta stopped trying to pull everything over the rightfield fence and he commited himself to going the opposite way, his entire season changed. He went from hitting exactly .200 at the All-Star break and barely hanging onto a roster spot to hitting .307 the second-half and becoming an integral part of the lineup. Pahuta was the Senators’ best hitter from July on and was the one guy you could definitively say improved at the plate from April to September.

6. Archie Gilbert (.313/.382/.491, 51R, 40 RBI, 12 HR, 26 SB)

After joing the Nationals as a relative unknown from the Oakland A’s organization for the last three years, Gilbert exceeded expectations and was definitely a pleasant surprise during the 2011 season. The 28-year old Californian was the only full-season regular to hit over .300 and he led the team in stolen bases (26) and outfield assists (8). He rarely gave at-bats away as he struck out in less than 10% of his plate appearances and he displayed astonishing pop for his diminuitive 5’8″ frame.

5. Shairon Martis (8-6, 3.05 ERA)

Long before Martis threw only the third no-hitter in team history on August 26th, the Curacao native had become a different pitcher for the Senators this season. The organization challenged him to change and he responded by eating healthier and getting in better shape. He took control of his career by reworking his delivery and approach as he worked ahead of hitters by aggressively attacking the strike zone. Martis pitched well enough to put himself back on the radar and he deserves another shot with the Nationals or another MLB team.

Bill Rhinehart
Photo courtesy John Whitehead / The Patriot-News

4. Bill Rhinehart (.283/.376/.587, 55R, 59 RBI, 21 HR) 

Promoted quickly up the chain three years ago, Rhinehart has struggled every season he’s been at Double-A Harrisburg even earning a demotion to Potomac in 2010. But 2011 was different for Rhinehart as he changed his physical and mental approach at the plate to astounding results. He drove the ball all around the ballpark to the tune of the team’s highest slugging percentage and even at 26 years old became a sought after piece in the trade deadline deal that sent Johnny Gomes to the Nationals. It was no coincidence that Harrisburg’s offense became stagnant after Rhinehart was dealt.

3. Brad Peacock (10-2, 2.01 ERA)

Peacock posted one of the most dominating pitching seasons in Senators’ team history as he hit double-digit wins and struck out 129 batters in only 16 appearances. It was pretty obvious to anyone watching that Peacock was above this level long before he got promoted to Syracuse. As I said a full month and a half before he got the call to Triple-A, “He’s become the 12-year old who already shaves dominating the other little leaguers.” If it weren’t for his abbreviated time here in Harrisburg, I’m pretty sure we could have added team MVP next to his growing list of awards and accolades that includes Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.

2. Erik Arnesen (8-4, 2.43 ERA)

There’s not much more I can say about Arnesen that I haven’t already, so I’ll recycle the thoughts I previously posted after another typical start in mid-August: “During warmups, he looks like the Senators convinced your next door neighbor to give it a shot on the mound today. Former high school stars sitting with their families and still reliving their glory days ten years after the fact will convince themselves that they could hit this guy. He looks like nothing special or impressive. That is until you see him pitch. Batter after batter, inning after inning, start after start. Arnesen is a true warrior on the mound and no offense to anyone else on the Senators, but I’m never happier watching this team than I am every fifth day when I get to see him pitch.”    

Tyler Moore
Photo courtesy Jenny Kane / The Patriot-News

1. Tyler Moore (.270/.314/.532, 70R, 90 RBI, 31 HR) 

When Moore launched a bomb over the center field wall in the second game of an August 26th doubleheader, he became only the second player in modern Senators’ history to reach the 30-home run plateau. A pretty impressive number for a guy who physically pales in comparison to a specimen like Mike Stanton or a big guy like Ryan Howard. But Moore is cut from the same “country strong” mold as a guy like Jim Thome. It’s that kind of strength and bat speed that gives him the ability to hit tape-measure home runs onto the roof of the team store as well as opposite field doubles into the deepest recesses of right-centerfield at Metro Bank Park. Moore was one of the few constants in the Senators’ lineup day in and day out as he played in a team-leading 137 games and always found his name in the cleanup spot. It was a role he clearly relished and thrived in as he wrote his name in the Senators’ record books for numerous offensive categories.

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