Yesterday, the Washington Nationals announced their minor league coaching staffs for the 2015 season. The lack of turnover on the major league coaching staff prevented any minor league managers or coaches from joining Washington, thus there were few changes to the Nationals’ MiLB staff. Given the success of the farm system last season, both in terms of on-field records and, more importantly, moving prospects up to the majors, the continuity can be see as a good thing. The Nationals achieved a balance in the online poker for us players farm system last year that Continue reading…
This post concludes the Federal Reserve’s top 10 prospects list. For prospects 10-6, see part one, featuring reports on Brian Goodwin, Joe Ross, Jakson Reetz, and more of the best players in the Nationals’ farm system. Below you will find details on the top five.
5. RHP Erick Fedde
DOB: 2/25/93 B-T: R-R
Acquired: First round, 2014 2015 Team: Gulf Coast League (GCL) ETA: 2017 Continue reading…
With a new year upon us, the Federal Reserve lists the top 10 prospects in the Washington Nationals’ farm system.
Before delving into the list, there are a few things to note. Along with stats, I heavily considered personal observations and those of trusted sources. Estimated times of arrival (ETA) reflects the player’s projected debut in the majors. Some are admittedly conservative, but factors such as injuries and trades can accelerate or decelerate time tables. Continue reading…
The Arizona Fall League (AFL) announced its roster for the East and West divisions for the annual Fall Stars Game, with second baseman Tony Renda selected as the lone Nationals farmhand.
On the surface Renda, one of seven Nationals’ prospects playing for the Mesa Solar Sox, is an odd selection because of his sluggish numbers. Entering Monday afternoon’s game, he was batting .205/.234/.295 in 47 plate appearances over a team-high 12 games. Holding back Renda’s numbers was a 0-for-16 start through five games; since then, he has hit a much more respectable 9-for-28 (.321). Continue reading…
After this post, the Federal Reserve will cease weekly updates until pitchers and catchers report in February. To this point, every nuance of the Washington Nationals farm system has been recapped in some form, most notably our Minor League All-Star Team and the Players of the Year.
For those who follow the minors, now is the time of the year to scrutinize Arizona Fall League performances, start thinking about prospect lists, and look over potential strengths that could help the Nationals at the major league level in 2015. As a way of filling those needs, I am happy to say that the decision has been made to keep the Federal Reserve going by posting sporadic updates between now and February. Here is a quick overview of some of the content you can expect to see here in the coming months:
- Arizona Fall League coverage, including the Fall Stars Game and recaps of individual performances.
- Trade coverage. If a prospect goes in or out of the Nationals’ farm system, look for a report on that player’s potential.
- Nationals Top-10 Prospect List, which will likely come online sometime after December’s Winter Meeting.
- Any potential Rule-5 Draft selections or losses will be covered as well, with several notable prospects, including A.J. Cole and Brian Goodwin, entering their first year of Rule-5 eligibility.
In the meantime, look for updates from me on Twitter (@ZSpedden or @Sunsfanclub) as well as over at the Hagerstown Suns Fan Club Blog. Over the next few months, I will work with everyone here at The Nats Blog to determine the best steps for our minor league coverage next year. I owe gratitude to my colleagues for allowing this section of The Nats Blog to develop as it has since March, and for their willingness to keep the Federal Reserve going throughout the season.
Thank you to the readers for a great minor league season, and I look forward to keeping you updated as we wait for the 2015 season to begin.
- Michael Taylor ranked as the best defensive centerfielder at the Double-A level in 2014, according to Matt Eddy and his set of fielding metrics at Baseball America. Taylor, who made his major league debut in August, has drawn positive reports for his performance in centerfield, and will likely play the position regularly next year for Triple-A Syracuse.
Throughout the year, the Federal Reserve handed out monthly award winners to highlight some of the best performances in the minors this year. Now, the time has come to handout the final prizes of the season, the Hitter and Pitcher of the Year Awards.
The races in both fields were competitive. In the end, however, two already lauded prospects took the awards, with the hitter tearing through his league en route to Washington and the pitcher living up to, if not exceeding, the lofty expectations that surrounded him.
Hitter of the Year: Steven Souza Jr., Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs
Souza could never play another inning in a Nationals uniform and will still be remembered for his game-ending catch that preserved Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter on Sunday. Considering his production in the minors, however, the outfielder could be a key piece to the team’s future.
Logging 407 plate appearances across 96 games for the Chiefs, Souza batted an International-League-leading .354/.427/.577 with 18 home runs, 77 RBIs, and a 180 wRC+. He also displayed considerable speed, swiping 28 bases in 35 attempts. Souza’s production helped lead the Chiefs to their first playoff appearance since 1998, while earning him league MVP and organizational Player of the Year honors. When including his two brief rehab stints with Low-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac, Souza batted .345/.427/.577 in 100 minor league games.
With all three of their regular outfielders likely to return, the Nationals have a tough choice to make with Souza. Having already dominated Triple-A, another stint at that level is unnecessary. Considering that Scott Hairston’s deal is set to expire, the Nationals could use Souza off their bench, where his combination of power, speed, and defense could make him a productive reserve.
Runner-up: Michael Taylor, Double-A Harrisburg Senators and Chiefs
Pitcher of the Year: Lucas Giolito, Low-A Hagerstown Suns
Giolito entered this season as one of the game’s most hyped prospects, with the only major concern being how his health would hold up in his first full season after Tommy John surgery. Those fears were quickly muted, as the righthander dominated the South Atlantic League (SAL).
Making 20 starts, Giolito went 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA, 3.16 FIP, and a 110:28 K:BB ratio in 98 innings pitched. While he was consistent throughout the season, his performance made a considerable spike with his dominant July. During that month, Giolito went 4-0 with a 1.19 ERA and a 33:5 K:BB ratio in 28 and 1/3 innings, including a start on the 25th against Kannapolis (White Sox) in which he allowed 1 hit while striking out 9.
As part of their protocol with pitchers recovering from Tommy John, the Nationals shut Giolito down in August. His numbers with the Suns netted him several honors, including the SAL’s Most Outstanding Pitcher and Prospect awards, organizational Pitcher of the Year, and a selection to the MLB All-Star Futures Game.
Giolito is more than living up to his billing as one of the game’s top pitching prospects. At just 20-years-old, he figures to open next season with the Potomac Nationals.
Runner-up: Austin Voth, Suns, Nationals, and Senators.
- On Tuesday, Matt Eddy of Baseball America ranked the power and speed combinations among minor league players this season. Michael Taylor topped the list, with Steven Souza Jr. coming in fifth and infielder Wilmer Difo ranking eighth.
- A reminder that next week will mark the conclusion of the Federal Reserve’s weekly updates. However, occasional posts, including Arizona Fall League coverage, will be provided until February, when the weekly content resumes.
Next week the Federal Reserve will hand out its final awards of the season, the Pitcher and Player of the Year. Before doing that, however, it seems appropriate to honor the best players at each position in the Nationals’ Farm System.
The criteria is simple. With the roster construction based off of Baseball America’s Postseason All-Stars, minus the use of a DH, there are eight position players, five starting pitchers, and a closer. Ineligible from this list are players who appeared exclusively with short season teams, as the roster is composed of players from the Auburn Doubledays, Hagerstown Suns, Potomac Nationals, Harrisburg Senators, and Syracuse Chiefs.
|Catcher: Spencer Kieboom, Suns
First Base: John Wooten, Suns, Doubledays*, and Nationals
Second Base: Tony Renda, Nationals
Third Base: Drew Ward, Suns
Shortstop: Wilmer Difo, Suns
Destin Hood, Senators, Doubledays*, and Chiefs
Michael Taylor, Senators and Chiefs
Steven Souza Jr., Chiefs, Suns*, and Doubledays*
That group includes two MVP winners in Difo and Steven Souza, who claimed the South Atlantic (SAL) and International League honors respectively. Souza is also one of two players to debut in the majors this year, with the other being Michael Taylor.
|A.J. Cole, Senators and Chiefs|
Taylor Hill, Chiefs
Lucas Giolito, Suns
Reynaldo Lopez, Doubledays and Suns
Austin Voth, Suns, Nationals, and Senators
Jake Walsh, Suns and Nationals
*Denotes time spent with team on rehab assignment.
Cole and Giolito lived up to their billing as two of the Nationals’ top pitching prospects, with Giolito winning the SAL’s Most Outstanding Pitcher and Prospect awards. Voth, Hill, and Lopez all had breakout sasons, as Lopez’s was highlighted by a 38 and 1/3 consecutive scoreless-innings streak between Auburn and Hagerstown.
In the bullpen is Walsh, a 34th-round selection in 2013 who broke out with a solid season. After earning an All-Star selection with a 1.45 ERA and a 7.8 K/9 in 31 innings at Hagerstown, the lefthander was equally impressive in Potomac, where he posted a 1.71 ERA and an 11.6 K/9 in 21 frames.
- The Nationals announced today that Steven Souza Jr was named Minor League Player of the Year, while Lucas Giolito was named the Pitcher of the Year. In addition, the organization honored Wilmer Difo with the second-annual Bob Boone Award.
- Ben Badler of Baseball America named Jakson Reetz the 14th-best prospect of the Gulf Coast League (BA subscribers can access scouting reports here). Reetz’s successful stint in the short-season circuit was profiled in last week’s Federal Reserve.
On the surface, the Washington Nationals’ 2014 draft class did not warrant much attention during the second half of the minor league season. First-round selection Erick Fedde’s Tommy John surgery is keeping him off the mound until at least next summer, while second-round lefthander Andrew Suarez and ninth-round first baseman Austin Blyer opted to return college instead of signing with the team.
While the anticipation of Fedde’s return will be the biggest story about this class heading into next season, the third-through-fifth round selections just finished a solid half-season. Foremost among that group is third-round catcher Jakson Reetz. In 155 plate appearances across 43 games with the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Nationals, the 19-year-old batted .274/.429/.368 with one home run and 15 RBIs. Reetz’s OBP owes much to his patience, as he posted a 16.8 BB% compared to a 19.4 K%.
It will be interesting to see how the Nationals handle Reetz next season. On one hand his age, combined with catcher Raudy Reed’s solid season in Short Season-A Auburn likely earning him a promotion to Low-A Hagerstown, allows the club to be more cautious and place Reetz in Auburn. However, he may follow a similar path to that of Drew Ward, who spent 2013 in the GCL and bypassed Auburn to play all of 2014 in Hagerstown. Look for more information on his potential assignment to emerge over the next few months, but Reetz will undoubtedly be one of the organization’s most intriguing prospects next year.
In addition to Reetz, the Nationals saw solid performances from a pair of righthanders; fourth-rounder Robbie Dickey and fifth-rounder Drew Van Orden. Appearing with three different teams, the highest of which was Hagerstown, Dickey went a combined 1-4 with a 4.15 ERA with a 23:11 K:BB ratio in 34.2 innings pitched. Most of that time came in Auburn, where Dickey posted a 2.25 ERA and a 2.74 FIP in 20 innings over five starts.
Van Orden, meanwhile, recovered from a slow start at Auburn to post solid numbers. In 41 innings over 10 games, eight of which were starts, he sported a 4.39 ERA and a 4.32 FIP with a 35:11 K:BB ratio. Van Orden was especially dominant in the month of August, posting a 2.25 ERA during that span while striking out 22 batters in 23 and 2/3 innings.
With that performance, Van Orden figures to join Dickey in Hagerstown’s rotation next season. From the onset of 2015, the development of both pitchers should figure heavily into how the 2014 draft class is evaluated.
- The Suns came up just short of the South Atlantic League (SAL) Championship, as they lost the decisive game to the Asheville Tourists (Colorado Rockies) by a final of 4-1 last Saturday. While they did not win the title, the 2014 squad’s 87 regular-season wins is the second highest in Suns’ franchise history.
- Matt Eddy of Baseball America ranked the 10 Minor League Baseball full-season MVPs based on their potential as prospects. Steven Souza Jr. who claimed the Triple-A International League’s prize, ranks fifth, while SAL MVP Wilmer Difo comes in seventh.
- Starting in October, the Federal Reserve will cut back on its content and provide sporadic updates until Spring Training 2015. In the meantime, stay tuned, as some of the best minor league coverage has been saved for last, including next week’s Postseason All-Star Team.
With a 5-1 win Wednesday night over the visiting Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Rangers), the High-A Potomac Nationals clinched the Carolina League’s Mills Cup Championship Series.
Highlighting the victory for Potomac was another strong postseason performance from John Wooten, who went 2-for-4. Over the series’ four games, he went 8-for-15 with three home runs, including two in the Nationals’ game three victory on Tuesday. With those numbers, Wooten was named the Mills Cup Championship Series MVP.
Wooten’s postseason showing was a fitting follow up to his regular season performance. In 422 plate appearances, 301 of which came with Low-A Hagerstown before his promotion to Potomac in July, Wooten batted .293/.335/.474 with 12 home runs and 72 RBIs while spending time at several positions, including both infield and outfield corners
On the pitching side, Hector Silvestre clinched the series with an outstanding start. Hurling six innings, the left-hander allowed one run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts. That start follows a strong playoff start by Silvestre on Sept. 3, when he limited the Lynchburg Hillcats (Braves) to one run on five hits over seven innings with three walks and five strikeouts.
During the regular season, the Potomac Nationals’ 78-58 record was the best in the league’s Northern Division and second best throughout the league behind the Pelicans, who finished 82-56. Two of their best prospects, catcher Pedro Severino and second baseman Tony Renda, are slated to playing in the Arizona Fall League’s upcoming season. Renda, who won the league’s batting title with a .307 clip, was also joined on the Carolina League’s postseason All-Star Team by teammates Shawn Pleffner, Stephen Perez and Oscar Tejada, as well as his manager, Tripp Keister.
With Potomac sealing the title, another Washington Nationals’ affiliate is trying to win its league championship. On Thursday night, the Hagerstown Suns will play for a 2-1 advantage in their best-of-five series against the Asheville Tourists (Rockies). In order to gain that lead, the Suns will need starter Reynaldo Lopez to continue the dominance he has shown over the last two months.
Lopez, the Federal Reserve’s Pitcher of the Month for August, followed his successful regular season with a strong performance in game two of the Northern Division Championship Series. Facing the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Marlins), the righthander threw six shutout innings on two hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts.
In addition to a solid outing from Lopez, the Suns are hoping that Wilmer Difo and Drew Ward will continue to hit as well as they have. Ward is a combined 4-for-8 over the Championship Series’ first two games, including two doubles in a Game Two victory. Difo, meanwhile, belted two home runs that victorious game two, including the game-winning solo shot in the top of the 10th inning.
Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium will host the series’ final three games, with a potential do-or-die Game Five slated for Saturday night at 7:05.
- On Tuesday, the Nationals announced a Player Development Contract (PDC) extension with Potomac that runs through the 2016 season. That announcement ensures that all four of the non-Nationals’ owned clubs will remain affiliates, as Hagerstown and Short Season-A Auburn recently extended through 2016, while Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse agreed to deals prior to the season that will last through 2018.
- The third Nationals’ affiliate to make the postseason, Syracuse, was eliminated last Friday in a loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox. While a sweep at the hands of the Red Sox was a disappointing end for the season, it was still a special year for the Chiefs, as it marked their first playoff appearance since 1998.
The Minor League Baseball season has come to a close. While three Washington Nationals’ affiliates, the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs, High-A Potomac Nationals, and Low-A Hagerstown Suns, have made the postseason, most of the organization’s prospects have finished their seasons.
To recap August, the minor’s final full month, the Federal Reserve is once again giving out its Pitcher and Hitter of the Month Awards. This month features a clean sweep for the Suns, who could not have made the playoffs without the contributions of these two players.
Hitter of the Month: Wilmer Difo, Suns
One of the most consistent players in the farm system this season, Difo elevated his game in the month of August. In 125 plate appearances over 28 games, the switch-hitter batted .369/.432/.586 with 5 home runs and 18 RBIs. Along with his power, Difo helped the Suns with his speed, as he stole 14 bases in 16 attempts.
As noted here a few weeks ago, Difo’s breakout has been one of the more surprising stories in the minors this season. After posting an accumulative .217/.296/.348 at four levels last year, the infielder emerged as a key cog because of his power, speed, and defensive versatility. He finished the season with an overall line of .315/.360/.470 with 14 home runs, 90 RBIs, a league-leading 176 hits, and a 131 wRC+ in 610 plate appearances.
With those numbers, Difo was recognized as the South Atlantic League’s MVP and was named to the Postseason All-Star Team.
Honorable Mentions: Jakson Reetz (GCL Nationals), Tony Renda (Potomac), Pedro Severino (Potomac), Jimmy Yezzo (Hagerstown).
Pitcher of the Month: Reynaldo Lopez, Suns
If anyone has a stronger case than Difo for being the most improved player this year, it is Lopez. Stepping up for the Suns, who lost Lucas Giolito because of an innings limit, in August, the righthander went 3-0 with a 0.27 ERA and a 25:6 K:BB ratio in 33 and 2/3 innings pitched over 6 starts. During that stretch, Lopez allowed just 13 hits.
Lopez’s success was discussed here two ago, when he was in the midst of a 37 and 2/3 scoreless innings streak. Although that streak snapped in a start against Hickory (Rangers) on August 24, he still allowed just 1 run the entire month.
Spending a good portion of this season with Short Season-A Auburn before joining the Suns, Lopez combined his fastball, which can touch 100 mph, with a rapidly improved curveball and progressing changeup to post stellar numbers. Between the two clubs, he went 7-3 with a 1.08 ERA and a 70:26 K:BB ratio in 83 and a 1/3 innings. He will start for the Suns on Friday when they face Greensboro (Marlins) in game two of their current postseason series.
Honorable Mentions: Ian Dickson (Potomac),Rafael Martin (Syracuse), Matthew Spann (Potomac), Drew Van Ordern (Short Season-A Auburn).
- Despite a highlight reel catch from Michael Taylor (video) in the bottom of the third, the Chiefs suffered a 2-1, 10-inning loss against the Pawtucket Red Sox on Wednesday. Game two of this best-of-five series will begin tonight at 7:05.
- Hector Silvestre limited the Lynchburg Hillcats (Braves) to 1 run over 7 innings, earning a win in the Nationals’ 4-2 victory last night. The two teams will meet at Potomac’s Richard G. Pfitzner Stadium tonight at 7:05 for game two.
- Trailing 2-0 entering the bottom of the ninth, the Suns rallied past the Greensboro on a walk-off single by Rafael Bautista in their 3-2 win on Wednesday. Following an off day, the Suns will try to clinch the best-of-three series when Lopez takes the mound on Friday.