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.