Batter of the Week – Michael Burgess, RF, Potomac
Burgess has always drawn some controversy among Nationals observers. Some believe that the outfielder was a good potential pick that could be a power hitter for a big league team one day, while others think the 2007 sandwich pick was wasted on a prep player that will never be anything more than a platoon player that strikes out too much to have a meaningful career. He certainly provided some hope to his supporters a few years ago when he won the South Atlantic League’s home run derby and led the league in home runs and RBIs for a period of time.
On the other hand, he has fueled the flames of the detractors as he struggled to hit and struck out at an absurd rate last year with the P-Nats. Rumors have swirled that Burgess has changed up his long looping swing in order to hit for a better average and cut down on the strikeouts and so far it seems to be working for him. This season, his walk to strikeout ratio is 15:17, while for the season last year he had a ratio of 54 BB:135 SO. His current line .292/.406/.416 is drastically improved from 2009’s line of .235/.325/.410. While he has been hitting for average, the power has not been quite as prevalent as previous seasons. Incidentally, his first home run of the season came this past week, a blast to the small porch of Pfitzner Field. In his last four games, Burgess is 7-14 with 4 doubles, 6 RBIs, 3 walks, and only 2 strikeouts! What may be even more ridiculous is Burgess’ platoon splits. Burgess has mostly struggled against LHP for his career and his line against such pitchers is .238/.320/.368 (vs RHP – .262/.359/.496).
This season, however, he is currently 10 for 24 (.417) against LHP with 3 doubles and 3 walks. He has only one more hit against right handed pitchers in nearly double the at-bats (54). Do not expect this to last, though, as Burgess’ BABIP against LHP is an astonishing .588. While Burgess should improve against righties as the season progresses, which would also probably mean more power hits, one must wonder if he can bat as well against the lefties this season too. If he can, he may just give those who praise Burgess one more reason to be excited about this kid’s future.
Pitcher of the Week – Jack McGeary, SP, Hagerstown
McGeary has been somewhat of an enigma in the farm system over the years. Touted as a pitcher with first round potential and signed by the Nationals in the fifth round for first round money, McGeary has only shown glimpses of his potential since 2007. Stunting his growth has been a deal between McGeary and the Nationals in which he was able to attend Stanford (the school he originally committed to) during the school year, joining the team at the conclusion of the spring semester. McGeary has always been a strikeout guy, using his plus curveball and high heat fastball to blow past hitter’s bats. His problems have been a lack of control, leading to 4.89 career BB/9, and, at times, a flat fastball that can look like a meatball to opposing batters. This season, however, McGeary has begun to show some progress.
In only one of his five starts this season has McGeary let up more than 5 hits, 2 earned runs, or 2 walks, a marked difference from seasons past where his starts more resembled a roller coaster ride. In his two starts this week, his line was: 13.0 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO. On April 27, he pitched a gem against Delmarva, throwing seven innings of two hit ball. The strikeouts are down from previous seasons, but coupled with the drastic drop in walks (only 8 in 26 innings), it is a welcome change. Consistency has always been a huge issue for McGeary, so be sure to watch how he does over the next few starts, but the early returns on the season are very promising.
Runner-ups: Drew Storen, Steven Souza, Sandy Leon
Top Prospect Watch
Drew Storen was promoted to Syracuse this week and had made two appearences so far for the AAA team. The early results are not as favorable as they were in Harrisburg and already in 2.2 innings he has let up as many hits (5) and runs (1) as he did in 9.1 innings with the AA squad. Fans should not be concerned, though, as he was putting up ridiculous numbers in the Eastern League and an adjustment period to the more veteran competition of the International League is to be expected. If he can pitch well enough for the Chiefs, Storen could be with the major league team by this time next month.
After starting the year at a torrid pace, outfield prospect Destin Hood is starting to come back reality. He has gone hitless in his last four games and has six times in that period. His SO:BB ratio remains a huge concern at 31 SO:4 BB for the season, further reinforcing the idea that he will probably be in Hagerstown for most of the season. Despite his recent struggles, his average stills stands an impressive .333 for the year, though his OBP is sitting only 19 points higher at .352.
A.J. Morris, last year’s fourth round pick, had his second solid start of the season as he works his way back from injury. Yesterday, Morris went 5.2 innings, letting up 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, and struck out 5. He has a 1.53 ERA for the season, though he has not pitched even close to that well as his 4.28 FIP will attest. In two of his starts, Morris was hurt by Potomac fielding miscues and his own inability to work out of jams. The good news is that he has been maintaining a GO/FO ratio of 2.42 for the season.
Odds and Ends
- Saves leaders per minor league team: Syracuse – Joel Peralta (6), Harrisburg – Drew Storen (4), Potomac – Cole Kimball (3), Hagerstown – Dean Weaver (5)
- Since his first rough outing with Lehigh Valley, Atahualpa Severino has pitched 13.1 scoreless innings for the Chiefs. In that period, he has let up seven hits, six walks, and struck out six. Last season he had a 8.17 K/9 rate for Potomac and Harrisburg, but this season he has only been striking out batters at a rate of 3.68 K/9.
- Former first round pick Colton Willems is planning on retiring. He will be placed on the restricted list, allowing the Nationals the flexibility to add him back to one of their minor league rosters if he decides to change his mind for some reason. Willems and Chris Marrero are the only Jim Bowden era first rounders to not reach the major leagues. Ryan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler both made it and Aaron Crow never signed with the team.