It's been a little while since we've done one of these, but this morning, I took the list of players you'd asked about here, added a couple of my own and brought it to Nationals player development director Doug Harris, who, as always, was gracious with his time in talking about a few Nats prospects. Here's what he had to say:
Jeff Mandel: The 25-year-old was promoted to Syracuse yesterday after a solid start to the year at Double-A Harrisburg. "I saw his last start," Harris said. "I've seen him twice this year. His last start was particularly impressive. He gave up three runs in the second inning, but he was exceptional beyond that. His sinker is late and crisp. It's not a pitch with big sink, but it gets on a hitter. His velocity has really climbed in the middle of the game. He's throwing 92-93 in the seventh inning, and has a very efficient slider. Sinkerball guys tend to (increase their velocity) more than other guys. They take a little while to get going, and you can get to them early because they're better late. I don't think there's anything he's doing other than smelling the finish line a little bit. He'll dial it up. He's going to step on the jugular."
Harris said Mandel will bounce between the rotation and the bullpen at Syracuse; he hasn't mastered his changeup yet, which is what he'd need before the Nationals settled on putting him in the rotation. "He's going to need some time at the next level," Harris said. "With his sinker and slider, he can help with the bullpen. If his change continues to develop, he's a viable option as a starter He throws it, but it's his third pitch at this point, on a day when the slider maybe isn't at is best. He needs to become more consistent with that to keep left-handers off him. It's not a pitch that's not usable, but it's not same quality as the other two. Sinkerballers tend to get quicker outs, so they don't have to worry about (the changeup) until they're forced to worry about it."
Victor Garate: The left-handed reliever, whom the Nationals acquired in the Ronnie Belliard trade last August, was also promoted to Syracuse from Harrisburg this week after striking out 21 batters in 17 2/3 innings there and allowing just one run. "Garate was absolutely wearing the hitters out in the Eastern League," Harris said. "He's another guy that, with warmer weather, he continues to develop. He's had a great month-and-a-half. He's a guy I'm keeping my eye on."
Erik Arnesen: The big right-hander is pitching in the rotation at Double-A Harrisburg after spending some time in the bullpen, and has struck out 27 batters, while walking just six, in 29 2/3 innings. "He's going to be in the rotation. We flip-flopped him a little bit, and he's done a nice job in both roles," Harris said. "That's a tremendous value on a staff. He's a guy that does an outstanding job of pitching down effectively. He leverages the ball very well, works at a hitter's knees. He doesn't have a true power fastball or a true power sinker, but he leverages the baseball, and he's got a nice little slider and split to work off of that. He's an aggressive, poised kid."
Tom Milone: Outside of Stephen Strasburg, few of the Nationals' pitching prospects have been more impressive than Milone, a gritty left-hander in the mold of a John Lannan who uses a good sinker to get batters out. He's walked just six batters in 43 innings, striking out 34 in that time. "Tom Milone continues to get people out. He's a crafty left-hander, and he's got huge stones on the mound," Harris said. "You could put him in Yankee Stadium and it wouldn't phase him."
Eury Perez: The center fielder is hitting .248 at Hagerstown, but is 7-for-13 in his last four games. "Eury has really come on in the last 10 days or two weeks," Harris said. "He's quieting his approach - he had a leg kick going that we were trying to minimize. He's staying on balls, recognizing pitches better. He's beginning to blossom. I was in there on Sunday, and his confidence and his body language are significantly different than they were earlier in the year." The 19-year-old Dominican Republic native, Harris said, looks to have turned a corner. "Again, the weather's getting warmer. That does play a factor to young Latin players."
J.P. Ramirez: Taken in the 15th round of the 2008 draft and signed just before the Aug. 15 deadline, Ramirez is hitting .281 at Hagerstown. He is hitting .314 against right-handers and just .154 against lefties, but like a number of the Suns' outfielders, Harris said Ramirez is doing a good job of punishing pitchers' mistakes. "J.P.'s made some nice strides," Harris said. "He had a good spring training, and he's carried it over. I'm pleased with the progress." The Suns are second in batting average and runs and fifth in OPS in the South Atlantic League, and Harris said the work done by hitting coach Tony Tarasco is paying off. "I think that staff is a tremendous staff. Our (minor-league) hitting coordinator (Rick Schu) does a tremendous job, as does the staff there. We do an excellent job of grinding. Some of those guys are at the ballpark at 11:30, 12:00. With what we're doing, there's never a lack of effort, I'll tell you that."
Daniel Rosenbaum: The left-hander was named the South Atlantic League's pitcher of the week after a pair of seven-inning shutout performances last week. He has a 2.36 groundout-to-flyout ratio this year, and has a 1.72 ERA for the season. "It comes with his ability to repeat the strike zone, control and repeat his delivery," Harris said. "He doesn't force his delivery. He doesn't muscle his delivery. He repeats it very well. He's another guy who continues to work on his changeup. If you can throw a breaking ball for a strike in that league, pretty good chance to have success. He's got deception in his delivery, and with the other things, he complements it very well. He's throwing a curveball, and he throws a cutter that's kind of evolving into a soft slider. We're slowly morphing it into a little bit of a slider."
Dominican Summer League:
Jean Carlos Valdez: The Nationals' top Dominican signing from last year, the shortstop won't be coming to the United States this year, Harris said. "He's going to stay in the Dominican. I have not seen him since the fall," Harris said. "We're going to continue to get him regular at-bats down there and continue his development in the summer league down there."
One bonus for you - Harris' thoughts on Drew Storen, who was called up to the majors on Sunday: "Any time one of our guys goes to the big leagues, I'm excited. Hopefully it's for the right reason. With Drew's stuff, he'll continue to help us. He's got really good stuff. He signed the day after the draft, and it goes to show the potential benefits that come from getting that first full season."
I asked Harris if he felt like Storen was ready to go to the majors, and he didn't hesitate. "Stuff-wise, he has as good of stuff as anybody," Harris said. "We had a need at this point, and we felt like he was prepared to stick his toes in the water. Big-league hitters will force him to make adjustments, but with his arsenal, he can make adjustments."
Any prospects you're curious about? Leave your thoughts in the comments of this post, and I'll ask about them next week.