Batter of the Week – Steven Souza, 3B, Hagerstown
When the Nationals drafted Souza with their third round pick in 2007, they probably didn’t think he would be hitting .222/.317/.328 over his first three professional seasons. But like a lot of high school picks, the selection was made based on potential. Souza’s skillset and size (6’4, 195 pounds) led many to believe that he would eventually turn into a middle of the lineup type of hitter. Souza is finally living up to some of that potential this season.
At 21 years old and in his second season at Hagerstown, Souza is hitting .287/.368/.530. He has eight doubles, four triples, and four home runs and is finally starting to show some of that power that those who drafted him believed he would develop. In seven games last week (one as a pinch hitter), he had four multi-hit games, finishing the week 9 for 23 (.391).
In Sunday’s game against Augusta, he came up to the plate as a pinch hitter with runners on third and second and the game tied. He came through with a deep fly ball to center field, that scored the winning run and in a way demonstrated his improvements this season. For his career with RISP we had been a .232 hitter, but this season he is hitting .353 in the same situations. He leads Hagerstown in triples, home runs, total bases, slugging%, and OPS. He has been batting third for the Suns for most of the season and has been thriving in the role. Two issues still remain in his game though. First, his patience at the plate is still a work in progress. He has 35 strikeouts to only 12 walks, but has still managed to maintain a .368 OBP.
The other issue is where he fits in on the field in the long term. Formerly a shortstop, Souza was moved to 3B because of his size and the amount of errors that he has racked up. In the previous two seasons he has had at least 30 errors and already has 9 for this season. It seems likely that a move to first base or the outfield may eventually be in his future, especially given the fact that the “hot corner” is already locked up for the long term on the MLB team. With his bat, though, he would be able to fit in a role as a 1B or corner outfielder.
Pitcher of the Week – Brad Meyers, SP, Harrisburg
After his brilliant season last year, in which he posted a 1.72 ERA and 2.88 FIP between Potomac and Harrisburg, Bradley Meyers had many watchers of the organization excited about his future with the team. Unfortunately, Meyers injured his right foot while jogging last summer and needed surgery in the winter that held him out for the first month of the minor league season.
Now, finally back with the team, it appears as Meyers has barely lost a step. In his first start back with Harrisburg, Meyers pitched five shutout innings, letting up only four singles and two walks. He also struck out nine batters and appears to be the heir to the ace role in the Senator’s rotation, which was recently vacated by pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg (Strasburg would be the weekly winner of this award with the way he has pitched this year, but everyone already hears enough about him every week, so I have elected to choose pitchers that get less press for this spot).
There are a ton of things to like about Meyers, the fact that he does not walk a lot of batters (2.58 career BB/9), that he does not let up many home runs (only three last season), and his ability to get strikeouts when needed, as exhibited by his nine is his last start. He is still working his way back from injury, but observers should expect for him to pitch just as well as he did last season and for him to eventually be in consideration for a starting role in the Washington Nationals’ rotation. Meyers is just another quality pitcher that has joined the ever growing ranks of potential major league pitchers that are coming up through the Nationals farm system, a group that is likely to get even bigger with Mike Rizzo at the helm.
Runner-ups: Destin Hood, Chase Lambin, Paul Demny
Top Prospect Watch
Last year’s minor league position player of the year, Derek Norris, was activated from the disabled list yesterday. He went 0 for 4 in his first game back and it may take a couple of games for him to get back into the swing of things. Hopefully he will not experience anymore setbacks from the injury he sustained last year in the Arizona Fall League.
Jack McGeary, the last week’s pitcher of the week, experienced a bit of a setback when he got roughed up by Augusta. After just letting up one home run and eight walks for the season, McGeary gave up two home runs and three walks in just three innings of work on Saturday. I mentioned last week that consistency was the key for McGeary and when he struggles with location on his curveball and fastball, he gets lit up. This is what happened this week and hopefully he can rebound and get back to what he has been doing for most of the season.
Tom Milone is a dark horse candidate to make a major league rotation one day, but he continues to show why he has the potential to do it. He has excellent control, letting up only six walks all season and attacks hitters. This past week against Bowie, he pitched 6.1 innings and let up six hits and one unearned run, while walking none and striking out four. His WHIP currently stands at 1.24 and he has yet to let up a home run this season. Out of his seven games started, he has had two below par performances, but has let up only five runs in the other five starts. The starting pitching at Harrisburg has been one of the few bright spots on the team this year.
Michael Burgess is starting to heat up. After going through a home run drought to start the season, Burgess hit two this week. While the power is starting to come back, one has to wonder if he is starting to resort to his old ways after also registering seven strikeouts this week as well. The good news is that he is not amongst the league leaders in strikeouts at this point and has the second most walks (19) in the Carolina. He is also still killing LHP (.395/.447/.628) and both of his home runs this week were off lefties.
Odds and Ends
Syracuse (18-11, 1st place, 0 GB)
Potomac (14-117, t-2nd place, 5 GB)
- A few noteworthy roster moves were made this past week. Former 7th rounder Mike Daniel was released by the club after never quite living up to expectations. Utilityman Dan Nelson was also released, though he was never going to be much more than minor league filler. And finally, first baseman/outfielder Bill Rhinehart was moved from Harrisburg to Potomac after hitting .196 to start the season in AA.
- Danny Rosenbaum, who has been mentioned frequently in this space, pitched brilliantly again last night (7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO). Rosenbaum has now pitched 40.0 innings this season with an ERA of 2.03 and has a SO:BB ratio of 36:7. He is also maintaining a GO/FO ratio of 2.12. Rosenbaum may be one of those late round draft picks that is a late bloomer, look for him to maybe get a promotion sometime in the near future.
- Mike Morse has been rehabbing with the Syracuse Chiefs and appears ready to come back to the big league club. He is batting .306/.405/.444 in ten games with the Chiefs and may get a chance to compete for the starting RF job once he returns to the Nationals.
- After a woeful start to the season, the Nationals have moved Collin Balester to a relief role. He will head down to Viera to begin the transistion and many within the club’s front office are hoping that he can take to the new role much like Tyler Clippard did last season. Balester’s fastball has maxed out around 95-96 MPH in the past and his fastball-curveball combo may work better out of the pen.
- A look at Nationals minor leaguers that are among the top 10 statistical leaders:
HAGERSTOWN – Steven Souza (R, 3B, RBI, TB, OPS), Francisco Soriano (R, 3B), Justin Bloxom (R, H, 2B), Destin Hood (H, AVG), J.P. Ramirez (2B, TB), Eury Perez (SB), Sandy Leon (OBP, AVG), Daniel Rosenbaum (ERA, IP, WHIP), Dean Weaver (SV)
POTOMAC – Stephen Lombardozzi (R, H, 2B, 3B, SB), Brian Peacock (2B), Tyler Moore (3B, HR), Tim Pahuta (HR, SLG, OPS), Michael Burgess (RBI, BB), Edgardo Baez (BB), Cole Kimball (SV), Brad Peacock (SO, WHIP), Patrick Lehman (SO)
HARRISBURG – Tom Milone (SO)
SYRACUSE – Eric Bruntlett (R, BB), Chase Lambin (TB, SLG, AVG, OPS), Josh Whitesell (TB), Andrew Kown (ERA), Joel Peralta (SV)