The month of May brought about a few highlights from the Washington Nationals farm system, but two players in particular stood out for their performances. This week’s Federal Reserve recaps the success of these players with hitter and pitcher of the month awards.
The winner of May’s hitting honors is bouncing back from a sluggish 2015. Meanwhile the Pitcher of the Month continues to turn heads and warrant his designation as one of the system’s best prospects.
Hitter of the Month: Drew Ward, High-A Potomac Nationals
Ward’s renaissance continued into May, a month that helped him earn Carolina League All-Star honors. Over 78 plate appearances on the month, he batted .318/.423/.576 with three home runs and eight doubles. Entering Thursday’s action, Ward’s numbers including a .313/.415/.545 triple-slash line with nine homers, just one shy of the career high he set with Low-A Hagerstown in 2014.
Following that solid season at Hagerstown, Ward was far more inconsistent at Potomac last year, when he was limited to 111 games due to injury. This year, he is showing much better strike zone judgement and making strides in his second turn in the Carolina League, as his walks have increased while his strikeouts have slightly declined. Questions remain about where Ward will settle defensively, as his size and footwork could make him better suited for first base than his current position at third.
The decision of where he best fits in the future will likely wait, perhaps until next season. For now, Ward is hitting again and is showing more promise than he has at any other point in his career.
Runner up: Rhett Wiseman, Low-A Hagerstown Suns
Pitcher of the Month: Reynaldo Lopez, Double-A Harrisburg Senators
Admittedly, this is a somewhat unorthodox pick—Lopez had a 3.51 ERA on the month and walked 12 batters in 25 2/3 innings. Still, when dissecting his outings, it becomes clear that the right-hander made tremendous strides on the month, which could mark a turning point in his development.
On the month, Lopez struck out 37 batters, and set a new career-high by fanning 12 batters against Akron (Cleveland Indians) on the 29th. (That total, by the way, was surpassed in his outing on Wednesday.) Thus far, he has a 3.97 ERA, 3.65 FIP, and an 11.1 K/9 rate in 56 2/3 innings pitched over 11 starts.
While the strikeouts have come with an unusually high number of walks, Lopez has made strides in that area, as his BB/9 rate has dipped from 3.6 to 3.3 since May 19. It still has some ways to go before it get down to his career mark of 2.9, but Lopez’s command should continue to improve with repetition.
The biggest thing going forward for Lopez will be to prove that he can last a full season, and that his changeup be refined into a quality third pitch. Should he advances in those areas, Lopez profiles as a major league starter with top-tier potential.
Runner up: Joan Baez, HagerstownTags: Drew Ward, Nationals, Nats, Reynaldo Lopez, Washington Nationals