For just about any team, losing two of its best hitters to injury is a devastating blow. While they may have their fair share of challenges ahead of them, the Low-A Hagerstown Suns are still looking to keep winning without some key contributors.
Coming into the season, the Suns featured two prospects that clearly ranked among the best in the system — shortstop Carter Kieboom and outfielder Juan Soto. Early in the year, both players backed their prospect status with solid production. Soto batted .360/.427/.523 through his first 96 plate appearances, while Kieboom posted a .333/.398/.586 triple-slash line in 123 plate appearances.
Having Soto, one of the organization’s most costly international free agents in history, and Kieboom — a top pick in last year’s draft — helped the until both hit the DL. Soto was first, with a right ankle injury earlier this month forcing him to the DL, while Kieboom was placed on the DL after a leg injury against the Rome Braves on May 12.
Losing both players would be tough on just about any lineup, but the Suns have shown to be resilient thus far. They recently took three of four on the road against the Asheville Tourists (Colorado Rockies), and are now 9-6 on the month. Overall, the team boasts with a 24-15 record and is two games ahead of the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Miami Marlins) for first place in the South Atlantic League Northern Division.
The question of how the Suns have competed so far warrants a closer look, especially with the Lakewood Blue Claws (Philadelphia Phillies) about to come to town for a four-game series in Hagerstown and the closing of the first half just weeks away.
One of the most apparent aspects of this team’s success is the production of its entire offense. The Suns have a league-leading .285/.350/.446 triple-slash line as a team, while belting 38 home runs — most in the circuit.
Aside from Kieboom and Soto, the players among the Suns’ best crop of hitters are those many prospects followers should be familiar with, and perhaps some lesser-known names. A pair of former second-round selections, outfielder Blake Perkins and third baseman Sheldon Neuse have both been steady contributors. Neuse in particular has been hot of late, batting .327/.411/.469 on the month entering play Thursday, giving him an overall triple-slash line of .271/.346/.417.
Among the other names that have stood out are Daniel Johnson and Aldrem Corredor. Johnson has a .308/.359/.592 triple-slash line with a team-leading nine home runs, while Corredor sports an even an .900 OPS after going 4-for-5 with three doubles and a triple Thursday.
Pitching might not be the team’s strength, but there are a few names that have stood out. Left-hander Tyler Watson continues to show why he could rise up the ranks, as he has fanned 50 batters through 44 innings while posting a 3.89 ERA. Not to be outdone, fellow southpaw McKenzie Mills may have the argument as the Suns’ best starter. Through 36.2 innings, Mills has struck out 38 batters while walking merely eight in that span.
With the South Atlantic League’s half-season playoff system, the Suns could learn in the coming weeks whether they make the postseason. Of course the development of their players will — and should — take precedence over wins and losses, but so far the Suns seem to have the perfect balance.Tags: Aldrem Corredor, Blake Perkins, Carter Kieboom, Daniel Johnson, Hagerstown Suns, Juan Soto, Nationals, Nats, Sheldon Neuse, Washington Nationals