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Prospect spotlight: Nationals lefty Daniel Rosenbaum

By C. Trent Rosecrans | Blogger
In camp with the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and the rest of the hard-throwing Nationals rotation can be a bit intimidating, especially when you're a left-hander from a college in the midwest that can put up a reading in the very low 90s, but don't really pitch there much.

But ignoring the radar gun readings and avoiding the temptations of trying to strike everyone out is a lesson 23-year-old lefty Daniel Rosenbaum has already learned, albeit the hard way.

After a solid sophomore year at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Rosenbaum heard scouts say he could be taken anywhere from the seventh to 10th round in the 2010 draft. Instead, he saw his ERA rise from 3.79 as a sophomore to 5.28 as a junior, while his walk rate increased and his strikeout rate decreased.

"I got caught up in all the wrong things, worried about what other people thought of me rather than doing what I did the year before," Rosenbaum said on Thursday. "I got caught up in the whole velocity thing and how hard I was throwing and I was trying to strike everyone out instead of making the hitters beat me. I gave hitters confidence and I really struggled. I actually started out well, but I was walking too many guys and scouts said that they wanted me to stop walking guys, so I stopped walking guys and got hit pretty good. So that put a damper on the draft for me."

So, with a rough junior year on his resume, he lasted until the 22nd round, the 652nd pick overall -- well 651 picks after the Nationals took Strasburg.

Not much is expected of players picked in the 22nd round, in fact, the Nationals' 21st round pick from that draft of just three years ago, left-hander Mitchell Clegg, is no longer in the organization, but an independent league. It would have been easy for the Nationals to look past Rosenbaum, except that when he got the chance to pitch for them, he made it impossible for the organization not to notice him.

There's little negotiation with most college players taken in the later rounds, either they sign or… well, they sign, usually. So Rosenbaum signed quickly and was able to make eight starts and three other appearances for the Nationals' rookie level Gulf Coast League team, going 4-1 with a 1.95 ERA and 38 strikeouts to just nine walks. He then started the next season at low-Class A Hagerstown, where he had a 2.32 ERA through 18 starts and was promoted to high-Class A Potomac, where he had a 2.09 ERA in seven starts and a relief appearance.

Although his numbers don't reflect it -- he was 9-6 with a 2.52 ERA in 26 games at high-Class A and Double-A in 2011 -- Rosenbaum said last season was a struggle for him. For much of the season, he couldn't command his fastball -- which is the thing any pitcher will tell you is imperative for success. Still, even without that control or that confidence in the fastball, he not only was promoted to Double-A, but he was even better there than he was in Class A. Rosenbaum was 3-1 with a 2.29 ERA in six starts at Harrisburg.

Those struggles in 2011 are now paying off. Because he didn't have that fastball command a year ago, he used his other pitches -- a curveball, change up and slider -- more and got better control of them. Although it took until the end of spring training this year for him to find the handle on his fastball, he did. And now, well, as he said, "It's all starting to come together."

Through 10 starts this season, Rosenbaum is 6-1 with a 1.69 ERA, with a 0.938 WHIP. Before giving up six runs in his last outing, he had an ERA under 1.00. Baseball America ranked him 23rd among Nationals prospects and that ranking came out before the trade that sent pitchers Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole and Tommy Milone, along with catcher Derek Norris to Oakland in exchange for Gonzalez.

"Those are very talented guys, and seeing there's not much in front, [goal of the big leagues] is closer than it ever has been," Rosenbaum said. "I try not to look at that, I try to look at myself, what I can do to get better. That's what got me in trouble the first time. I learned my lesson. I learned to concentrate on myself."

PROSPECT TALK

• It seems like almost every week there's a Billy Hamilton update, but when you have 55 steals before June begins? Well, it's worth nothing. Through 49 games, Hamilton not only has 55 steals, but is also hitting a robust .314/.390/.446 for the Reds' high-Class A team in Bakersfiled, Calif. Hamilton has been caught stealing 12 times, which is a lot -- but he also faces an insane number of pitchouts and when he gets on base, there's no question as to what his intentions are. Hamilton went through a little slump earlier this month, but seems to have bounced back. He's hitting just .250/.315/.336 in May, but .311/.392/.356 in his last 10 games -- including 15 stolen bases in that span.

• Speaking of stolen bases, Delino DeShields Jr. (whose father was Hamilton's manager last season) now has 32 stolen bases in 50 games at low-Class A Lexington. Still just 19, DeShields is in his second season in Lexington, but is producing more, hitting .251/.366/.359. The Astros' first-rounder in 2010, DeShields hit .220/.305/.3222 with 30 stolen bases in 119 games in his first go-round in the South Atlantic League.

• And one more speedster -- Blue Jays outfielder Anthony Gose is putting up his best numbers as a pro this season at Triple-A Las Vegas. In his first year at Triple-A, the center fielder is hitting .294/.370/.422 with 24 steals. Gose, though, is struggling mightily against lefties, hitting just .156 against the southpaws.

• For the first time in his career, Rockies left-hander Tyler Matzek pitched more than seven innings on Wednesday -- and needed just 95 pitches to finish eight innings for high-Class A Modesto. Matzek, 21, was the 11th pick of the 2009 draft and has struggled with his control throughout his pro career. He's 4-3 with a 2.64 ERA overall with 66 strikeouts and 40 walks over 58 innings, with batters hitting just .173 against him. In his last three games, he's 3-0, allowing just two earned runs over 22 innings with 23 strikeouts and five walks.

Mariners shortstop Nick Franklin had a fantastic May. The team's first-rounder in 2010, hit .394/.457/.648 in the month with 10 doubles and four triples at Double-A Jackson. Overall, he's hitting .342/.406/.539. However, the switch-hitter is still struggling to hit right-handed. As a right-handed hitter, he's hitting just .216/.250/.297 versus .383/.454/.618 left-handed.

Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy will make his second high-Class A start on Friday in Wilmington (Del.). In his first at the level last Saturday, Bundy gave up his first earned runs of his pro career on a home run by Salem's Travis Shaw. Overall, he allowed two runs on six hits and struck out six with no walks in five innings.

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