Washington Nationals Spring Training

Federal Reserve: Top Five Prospects To Watch

When they take the field this evening, the Washington Nationals will begin Spring Training as a complete team that has very few positions to settle. While that could force some prospects back to the minors, a few of them stand out.

To preview Spring Training, the Federal Reserve presents five prospects to watch. Keep in mind that Spring Training statistics do not have predictive value, but these players should offer plenty of intrigue over the next few weeks. Continue reading…

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The PTBNL Problem: Analyzing Trea Turner’s Unusual Circumstances

Few minor league players will play under more bizarre circumstances during the season’s first two and a half months than shortstop prospect Trea Turner. By the middle of June, Turner will be with the Washington Nationals, the team that acquired him to bolster a weak area of its farm system and to potentially become the long-term replacement of Ian Desmond. Though his major league chances ultimately lie in their hands, Turner is required to begin the year with the team that traded him, the San Diego Padres. Continue reading…

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Federal Reserve: MiLB Coaching Announcement Features Rick Ankiel

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 farm system last year that Continue reading…

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Federal Reserve: Top Prospects 1-5

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…

RHP Joe Ross (Jeff Nycz)

Federal Reserve: Top Prospects 6-10

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…

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Federal Reserve: Renda selected for Fall Stars Game roster

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…

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Federal Reserve: Regular Season Send Off

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.

Minors Notes:

  • 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.
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Federal Reserve: Hitter and Pitcher of the Year

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.

Minors Notes:

  • 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.
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Federal Reserve: 2014’s Top Performing Minor Leaguers

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
PAs AVG OBP SLG HR RBI BB% K% SB CS
361 .309 .352 .500 9 61 5.8% 18.6 2 2

First Base: John Wooten, Suns, Doubledays*, and Nationals

PAs AVG OBP SLG HR RBI BB% K% SB CS
422 .293 .335 .474 12 72 5.5% 15.4 5 5

Second Base: Tony Renda, Nationals

PAs AVG OBP SLG HR RBI BB% K% SB CS
472 .307 .381 .377 0 75 9.1% 12.5% 19 5

Third Base: Drew Ward, Suns

PAs AVG OBP SLG HR RBI BB% K% SB CS
478 .269 .341 .413 10 72 8.8% 25.3% 2 2

Shortstop: Wilmer Difo, Suns

PAs AVG OBP SLG HR RBI BB% K% SB CS
610 .315 .360 .470 14 90 6.1% 10.7% 49 9

Outfield:

Destin Hood, Senators, Doubledays*, and Chiefs

PAs AVG OBP SLG HR RBI BB% K% SB CS
420 .298 .348 .460 11 42 6.4% 21.5% 10 3

Michael Taylor, Senators and Chiefs

PAs AVG OBP SLG HR RBI BB% K% SB CS
493 .304 .390 .526 23 61 11.6% 29.2% 37 9

Steven Souza Jr., Chiefs, Suns*, and Doubledays*

PAs AVG OBP SLG HR RBI BB% K% SB CS
419 .345 .427 .577 18 77 12.4% 19.1% 28 7

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.

Starting Pitchers
A.J. Cole, Senators and Chiefs
Wins Losses ERA IP Ks BBs K/9 BB/9
13 3 3.16 134 111 32 7.5 2.1

Taylor Hill, Chiefs

Wins Losses ERA IP Ks BBs K/9 BB/9
11 7 2.81 144 86 25 5.4 1.6

Lucas Giolito, Suns

Wins Losses ERA IP Ks BBs K/9 BB/9
10 2 2.20 98 110 28 10.1 2.6

Reynaldo Lopez, Doubledays and Suns

Wins Losses ERA IP Ks BBs K/9 BB/9
7 3 1.08 83.1 70 62 7.6 2.8

Austin Voth, Suns, Nationals, and Senators

Wins Losses ERA IP Ks BBs K/9 BB/9
7 7 2.77 126.2 133 38 9.4 2.7

Closer

Jake Walsh, Suns and Nationals

Games IP Saves Ks BBs K/9 BB/9
37 52 12 54 14 9.3 2.4

*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.

Minors Notes:

  • 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. 
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Federal Reserve: Wrapping Up The Minor League Season

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.

Minors Notes:

  • 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.