10. Hector Nelo – The hard-throwing Miami native showed the Nationals the progress he has made since being released from the Rangers’ organization two seasons ago. He could always bring the heat, but control and a second reliable pitch have always been his issue. And for the first half of the season, Nelo showed better command and a wicked curveball he could count on on his way to allowing only five earned runs April through June. But after the All-Star break the wheels fell off on his effectiveness. He walked more batters, struck out less, and got hit around the yard as he gave up twelve runs in only 21.1 innings.
9. Sean Nicol – Nicol was used sparingly to begin the season, but when roster moves and injuries gave him an opportunity he took advantage of it. He played stellar defense at both third and second base and hit a very respectable .256 while rarely giving an at-bat away. Nicol enjoys playing the game and that enthusiasm carried over to helping with the baseball camp held by the Senators. After getting drubbed 9-2 in Game 138, Nicol took the time to sign autographs and talk to the kids waiting by the locker room door and his first question to a young fan was to see if she had a good time at the game. This is a guy who gets his role whether on the field or off.
8. Jeff Kobernus – Kobernus was on his way to duplicating 2011’s sensational season at Potomac when injuries sidelined him and a broken rib eventually prematurely ended his season. Despite playing in only 82 games, Kobe’s 42 stolen bases were still enough to top the Eastern League. I loved watching him leading off of first base kicking the dirt like a horse in the chute ready to run. Everyone in the park knew he was going, even the opposing team, but when he was completely healthy they could do little to prevent him from advancing at will. His absence from the top of the order was one of the many reasons the Senators went in the tank after the All-Star break.
7. Ryan Tatusko– The tall righthander from Indiana was without a doubt the Senators best pitcher in August as he finished the season allowing a lone run in his last 22.1 innings. Tatusko made some changes to his delivery, but the big improvement has been his focus on keeping the ball down and inducing bad swings on his late-action pitches. Tatusko had a groundball percentage of 56% and was second to only Danny Rosenbaum on the team for inducing double plays. I would think he has earned himself a spot in Syracuse next season.
6. Ryan Perry – Make no doubt, Perry has major-league ready stuff. His 154 appearances as a reliever for the Tigers over the last three seasons (including five in the postseason) are proof of that. But Perry found himself in foreign territory when he came to the Senators in late June. Yes, he never played in Harrisburg before as he skipped playing for Erie when he came up through the Detroit organization but it was more than that. Instead of getting the call from the bullpen, Perry was going to utilize his aforementioned “stuff” as a starter. It was a risky move, but one that ultimately paid off as he showed the Nationals (and other teams) that he has the makeup and talent to find himself in a rotation.
5. Danny Rosenbaum – Rosenbaum had himself a season that would have made Charles Dickens proud as it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. During his first eight starts, he was Superman on the mound as he maintained a miniscule 0.62 ERA while striking out 37 batters and only walking six. It was a dominating and impressive run…and then I don’t know what happened. He got hit harder, pitches were elevated, he didn’t get calls so he had to get more of the plate, and he expectedly lost confidence. For a finesse pitcher, those are all bad signs and the results from June on reflected that.
4. Jimmy VanOstrand – VanOstrand was more than a pleasant surprise as he was signed out of the Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters squad at the end of May. VanOstrand was a consistent hitter (.310 AVG) in the heart of the order adding a sorely needed power threat (.465 SLG). It was always fun to get to the ballpark early and watch VanOstrand launch balls onto the boardwalk and beyond in batting practice. Manager Matt LeCroy could not praise VanOstrand enough as the season wound down. He spoke very highly of his professionalism, preparedness, and way he mentored the younger players.
3. Erik Davis – If you saw Davis pitch at any point last season, you might not recognize the guy wearing the #19 jersey for the Senators this season. Healthy after off-season knee surgery, Davis was a completely different pitcher in 2012. The Stanford product embraced his move to the bullpen and became the most effective pitcher for Harrisburg as he harnessed his emotions into his electric stuff. Maybe the best thing I saw from Davis was his confidence in challenging hitters instead of nibbling as I thought he was prone to last season. Davis earned a well-deserved promotion to Syracuse in mid-August but not before posting a 7-3 record with a 2.52 ERA and five saves in his time with the Senators.
2. Eury Perez – The speedster was one guy on the team who produced with runners in scoring position as he drove in 30 runs from the leadoff position. But Perez needs a better approach at the plate as a lack of walks (only seven in 373 plate appearances) from the top of the order is troubling. Perez also was lackadaisical at times and in fact was sent to Florida in mid-June to adjust his attitude. The trip made a big difference as he returned with a new perspective and much better work ethic.
1. Chris Rahl – For the second year in a row, Rahl was passed over for promotion to Triple-A when he had better numbers. If I was him, I would be more than a little frustrated but Rahl remained ever the professional and went about his business as usual. Despite being hampered by the plantar fasciitis that eventually required season-ending surgery, Rahl was the Senators most consistent player in 2012. He led the team in RBIs with 50 (the team’s lowest total in their 26-year modern history) and scored 55 runs in only 92 games and 330 at-bats. Rahl’s versatility also came into play as he played significant time at all three outfield positions.