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Solis impresses in Arizona Fall League

Nov 15, 2013, 9:31 AM EST

File photo courtesy Bill Scheuerman File photo courtesy Bill Scheuerman

We haven’t given as much attention this year to the Arizona Fall League as in years past — that’s unfortunately what happens when there are no Nationals prospects the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper or Anthony Rendon participating — but there have been some notable performances out west over the last month.

Beginning with Sammy Solis.

The left-hander just wrapped up an impressive AFL season yesterday with five innings of 1-run ball, helping lead the Mesa Solar Sox to a 9-3 victory over the Glendale Desert Dogs that clinched a division title and placed his club in Saturday’s league championship game.

This was merely the continuation of a stellar fall for Solis, who went 5-2 with a 2.17 ERA in seven starts. He struck out 29 batters while walking only seven in 29 innings of work. He allowed one or fewer earned runs in six of his seven starts. Scouts noted in particular his quick delivery to the plate, making it all the more difficult for baserunners to steal off him.

The Nationals’ second pick in the 2010 draft (after Harper) out of the University of San Diego, Solis was headed on a fast track to D.C. before he tore his elbow ligament during spring training 2012 and missed that entire season following Tommy John surgery.

Now healthy, the left-hander is turning heads and trying to get back on that fast track to the big leagues. He posted a 3.32 ERA in 14 games this season (13 of them for Class A Potomac) and proved he had fully recovered from the injury.

Solis, rated by Baseball America as the Nationals’ No. 6 prospect, will likely open 2014 at Class AA Harrisburg, but the organization won’t hesitate to promote him quickly through the rest of their farm system if he continues to succeed and stays healthy. He’s already 25 years old, so there’s a little bit of a time crunch here.

One possible method to bring Solis along quicker: Let him debut in the majors as a reliever, an idea general manager Mike Rizzo floated to the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore earlier this week. It’s an intriguing possibility, especially given the Nationals’ need for left-handed relief.

Solis will need to prove he can continue to succeed in the upper levels of the minors, but his performance this fall in Arizona against elite prospects certainly offers a glimpse into his chances.

  1. sjm308 - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    Hate to be first. Both Solis and Purke have done a nice job this fall. Rizzo gets a decent amount of negativity from various posters but you have to give him credit for the job he has done with stocking young arms throughout our system. Can’t wait to see what Giolito does as well.

    Theo asked about options for Purke. I went to what I think is a strong source on Nationals Prospects and Theo is correct. Every time a player on a Major League contract gets sent down at the end of spring training it burns an option. You normally have just 3 but in case of an injury they will often grant a 4th. Since Purke was injured, its pretty certain we can start him again in the Minors but that will be it. So I am expecting him to be with the big club or moved in a trade after this year.

    • NatsLady - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:58 AM

      One thing that’s clear about Rizzo is he goes for high-ceiling/high risk players, like Giolito and Rendon. He gives chances to guys like Ohlendorf and Christian Garcia–and Zach Duke.

      With E-Jax, he saw a high ceiling and thought he could be “fixed.”
      With Haren, he saw an “aging” pitcher, with injuries, and again, thought it was worth a one-year shot, because, clearly, when he’s physically and mentally healthy, Haren still knows how to pitch.

      He could have hit the jackpot with Liriano, as the Pirates did. On the whole, I think I’d rather he takes risks with a high ceiling type guys. But there are going to be “failures.” That’s why it’s risky.

      • Hiram Hover - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:49 AM

        Agree that he’s been willing to take risks in the draft–Giolito and Rendon are good examples of players who fell to the Nats after other clubs shied away from them.

        The free agent signings are different, and Rizzo–wisely imo–generally hasn’t risked a lot there. He limited his risk on both Haren and EJax with one year contracts, and he wasn’t hiring them to be aces, just to hold down the back of the rotation. I was disappointed with both of those guys but don’t regard them as monumental failures, as some folks seem to.

        The wrong lesson for Rizzo to learn would be to go out and overspend, via FA signing or trade, on a starting pitcher because he doesn’t want a repeat of EJax and Haren.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:50 AM

        I think you made an interesting observation. Rizzo has been great taking a few high risk draft picks with true #1 potential. It’s a good gamble as they payoff at a higher rate because you have the Minor League years to do it.

        Lousy teams and low budget teams gamble more on high risk players on their MLB roster. I liked the EJax move as the Nats weren’t supposed to be a WS team. For 2013, you couldn’t take the same risk on a reclamation and Lohse was the move to make. Rizzo took a high risk chance on Haren where the GM book says get a player who is more of a sure thing. That was a Fail. If it worked, Rizzo would look like a genius. It didn’t work and failed miserably. GM’s get all the credit and all the blame, that comes with the job.

        Rizzo has similar choices and gets a do-over this year. He gets a healthy Stras, JZim and Gio. He has to fill 2 spots for the back of the rotation and has plenty of in-house options he didn’t have last year. Bryce will be healthy, Ramos will be healthy, and RZim will be healthy. You could almost say every position is covered except what LaRoche can do.

        I have said I would blow up the bench with no guarantees to Hairston and Lombo and TyMo and pick the 4 best plus a catcher and spend my money on a 4th outfielder.

        The weakest link the Nats have is 1st base. That’s what needs to be fixed, not trying to add another Ace. You don’t win many games scoring 3 runs or less.

  2. NatsLady - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    Posted this on the previous thread, but it’s a little more relevant here.

    Was just reading a Baseball Prospectus chat on prospects and the AFL. Came across this nugget.

    richardkr34 (Saint Paul, MN): True or False: Giolito is the highest ceiling arm in the minors

    Mark Anderson: True.

    I neglected to include Giolito in some of my earlier answers on potential #1s and the top pitching prospects in the minors; just a silly oversight on my part. Giolito has a freakish ceiling.

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/chat/chat.php?chatId=1098

    Here are some other notes.

    Wesley (Utah): Could Chris Marrero provide value to a team at 1B? Or is he done?

    Mark Anderson: I don’t think he’s much more than a bench option.

    nictaclacta (Glendale): Mark, in you opinion, what level of contribution will Lucas Giolito, Mark Appel, Kyle Zimmer be making in 2015? Never too early to plan. Thanks.

    Mark Anderson: Appel should be in the Astros rotation from day one. Zimmer has a good chance to spend half of that season in the big leagues. Giolito may not be there yet.

  3. Section 222 - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    I like the idea of Solis in the bullpen. The Cardinals have had great success with starting their best pitching prospects off there, and I always think back to how dominant David Price was in that role in his September callup and postseason appearances in 2008. A lights out lefty middle reliever could be pretty valuable for the Nats this year.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      I’ve always felt that way. Do you remember how David Price got to the Rays and Adam Wainwright to the Cardinals. The bullpen.

      Not every player can do it. The great ones can make the transition.

      • Section 222 - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:18 AM

        I wasn’t aware of Wainwright’s history, but you’re absolutely right. He had 61 relief appearances in 2006, and then became a starter in 2007. Something to be said for that I think.

        I wonder if the Rangers are going to bring Neftali Feliz back as a starter or reliever. He was effective in September last year, coming back from TJ surgery.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:52 AM

        Purke would be a good one to put on a Wainwright type of plan. The Rangers have to determine greatest need. Feliz can probably make the transition well.

        The reason a few years ago I pushed so hard for Detwiler to the pen was because of his limited repertoire. Few starters survive on 1 pitch. A few like Wacha can make it on 2.

      • masterfishkeeper - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:57 AM

        Earl Weaver used to say that a young starter should learn in the majors by pitching in long relief. I was surprised that Davey didn’t try that with some of our youngsters.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:04 PM

        masterfisherkeeper, maybe davey wanted to but rizzo was opposed to it?

      • Hiram Hover - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:32 PM

        Not a bad idea to ease a few of the baby arms into the big leagues via the BP, which would also allow them the occasional spot start.

        That’s sort of what happened with Wacha. He didn’t get a lot of seasoning in the BP–6 innings in 10 appearances–before he moved into the rotation and made 9 starts. Promising, but hardly enough to declare him a sure success in 2014.

      • tcostant - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:17 PM

        Wainwright was closer in the World Series to boot!

        Don’t forget big time pitchers Pedro Martínez and Johan Santana both starter in the pen!

    • Hiram Hover - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      er, make that 10 innings in 6 appearances out of the BP for Wacha.

      • masterfishkeeper - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:44 PM

        Faraz,

        Your suggestion is probably right. I expect that whether to use a young pitcher in relief is an organizational decision, and not a managerial one.

  4. langleyclub - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Barring another injury, Giolito will pitch in the bigs 2015.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:40 AM

      That’s a bold prediction. It could happen but given his age and the fact he has done nothing in the Minors while factoring the Nats rotation depth a lot would have to come together to get him to the Majors that quick.

      I don’t think Rizzo will rush him.

      • jd - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:49 AM

        I’m with you Ghost. Let’s see Giolito have some success at say Potomac before we have in the bigs in 2015.

  5. Faraz Shaikh - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    What about Purke in big leagues as relief pitcher? since there is also the matter of options, we can try to see if he can stick in the bullpen. if not, send him down. or his past/possible injuries prevent Nats from doing that?

  6. Theophilus T.S. - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    I really like Solis in the majors as bullpen trainee. He’s as ready as Detwiler was 2-3 years ago and the internal LH options aren’t very impressive.

  7. NIWatcher - Nov 15, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    Does that picture show him throwing a knuckle-ball? I wasn’t aware he had a knuckler..

    • David Proctor - Nov 15, 2013 at 6:39 PM

      He throws a knuckle-curve. Fastball-changeup-knuckle curve is his repertoire.

      • Just Me - Nov 15, 2013 at 6:58 PM

        He has a regular curve too.

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