@ Somerset Patriots (Yankees)
6th Place – Double-A Northeast, Southwest Division
The Harrisburg Senators are lucky they got out of Somerset with one victory in their opening six-game series. The offense was anemic. The fielding even worse. The team comes home to FNB Field to right the ship as they take on the Richmond Flying Squirrels beginning Tuesday evening.
- The Senators scratched out a measly 22 hits in the six-game set as they managed to push across only 13 runs. Their .120 batting average ranks 120th out of 120 minor league teams after a week of play. That’s correct — dead last.
Where do I even begin?
The team has struck out a total of 66 times, including four games in double-digits. Harrisburg led for a total of only three of the 54 innings they played against the Patriots. Nine of the 13 position players are hitting .100 or lower.
The struggle with such a small sample size at the outset of the season is pinpointing the issues. Is this a by-product of 20 months without real games? How much can we attribute to ramping back up to game speed after an abbreviated spring training? Or are some players overmatched at the Double-A level?
We’ll need more time and more at-bats to figure out the answers to those questions.
- The struggles are not just limited to the Senators either. The four Nationals’ affiliates have begun the season with only three wins against 21 losses. Fredericksburg (Low-A) was swept in their opening series, while the other three mustered only one win apiece.
Washington’s minor leaguers are hitting a cumulative .173, and only the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings are above the dreaded Mendoza line. It’s bad all over. So that means no help is coming from above or below the Senators. Everyone in the system is looking for the same answers.
- When you’re scuffling at the plate as much as the Senators are, the last thing you can afford to do is give the opponent extra outs. But that’s precisely what they did last week at TD Bank Ballpark, committing 11 errors and allowing a passed ball.
At the hot corner alone, the Senators have botched four ground balls from three different third basemen. One of those, Manuel Geraldo, also misplayed two other balls at second base. Shortstop Jackson Cluff has already thrown two away.
Once again, it’s not a problem that appears to be limited to just the Senators. The other three teams in the Nationals’ organization have committed 27 errors led by Fredericksburg’s 14 in the first six games.
Usually, cold and rainy April weather is justification for sloppy play in the first month. You can’t make that excuse this year. Perhaps the way teams approached spring training and handled the coronavirus restrictions adversely affected their readiness for the season. It sure seems like they’re still playing catch-up.
“I think we’re going to have to be very patient at times,” manager Tripp Keister said during Media Day last Monday. “I don’t want to use the word sloppy, but there was definitely a rush to get guys ready after Major League camp. Quite frankly, we haven’t had a chance to cover everything we want to do.
“I’ll give you an example. We did bunt plays with the pitching staff, and we did bunt plays with the infielders. But we never did bunt plays with them together. We’re going to do those today. But things like that, it’s my job to address anything that hasn’t been covered.”
- The highest-ranked prospect on the team, southpaw starter Tim Cate, has been roughed up in both of his outings. In fact, of the eight home runs the Harrisburg pitching staff has allowed, Cate has accounted for half of them. And all of them were in the first inning in both games putting the Senators in early deficits.
Cate’s struggles begin with getting and staying ahead of hitters. Too many times in his dreadful starts, the lefty put himself in hitter’s counts, and the Patriots made him pay.
Cate pitched to a 4.91 ERA and 0.55 WHIP while batters hit .154 off him when ahead in the count. But get behind, and the offensive fireworks go off to the tune of a 23.14 ERA and .455 batting average.
- Trying to find a glimmer of hope in the darkness…
In the lone victory on Wednesday night, a trio of bullpen arms, Gabe Klobosits, Alberto Baldonado, and Frankie Bartow, combined to throw four scoreless innings. But more impressive was their ability and willingness to command their pitches in the strike zone. Too many times, pitchers at this level will nibble because they’re afraid of getting beat. Klobosits and Bartow showed otherwise in their first taste of Double-A.
Klobosits did it again on Sunday. So far, the 36th round draft pick has been unleashing bullets firing 25 strikes on 34 pitches.
Now, can we get the guy a uniform top he’s not swimming in?