Federal Reserve’s Minor League Players of the Week: June 3

Syracuse (30-21, 2nd place, 0.5 GB)

Harrisburg (26-26, 4th place, 8.5 GB)

Potomac (23-29, t-2nd place, 6 GB)

Hagerstown (28-25, 3rd place, 5.0 GB)

Batter of the Week – J.R. Higley, RF, Hagerstown

Higley has yet to show up on many peoples radars when it comes to top prospects in the Nationals’ farm system, but he has always been a guy that has quietly been doing big things in the shadows of anonymity.  A 9th round pick in the 2008 draft, Higley is what one could consider a “max effort” type of player.  This past week Higley was 9 for 29 (.310) with two doubles, two home runs, five RBIs, and seven runs scored.  He has a propensity to strike out quite a bit, which he showed even this week, taking the walk of shame to the dugout 11 times without drawing a walk once and the power he displayed this week was not atypical for him.  He plays great defense in CF and RF, though, and fits the Rizzo mold of high character, never give up type of player.  Higley is most certainly at the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to outfielders on the Hagerstown roster, but more weeks like this could go a long way in changing that.

Pitcher of the Week – A.J. Morris, SP, Potomac

AJ Morris

A 12 strikeout performance on May 29th earned Morris mention in this spot.  What is more amazing is that until Saturday, Morris had not struck out more than 5 batters in a single game and only had 25 Ks over his first 8 starts.  After letting up some hits and runs in the first three innings, Morris retired 10 straight batters and allowed Potomac to crawl back into the game, one in which they lost in the 11th inning.  Do not expect a high amount of strikeouts from Morris on a regular basis though, that is not his game.  He is a guy that is going to battle, try to induce the ground balls, and that will work his way out of jams.  He averaged 7.7 K/9 in his senior year at K-State and currently possesses a 7.4 K/9 at Hagerstown that is close to that, but his main strength is his ability to get the grounder (1.67 GO:FO) and limit walks.  It is hard to tell at this point if Morris will be able to stick as a starter or if he will eventually be pushed to a relief role like many scouts predicted he would have to prior to last year’s draft.

Runner-ups:  Steve Lombardozzi, JP Ramirez

Top Prospect Watch
Aaron Thompson continues to exhibit Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde like tendencies.  After rebounding from a string of horrid starts, Thompson pitched quite well on May 26th, letting up only 4 hits and 1 run over 7 innings of work.  The next start, though, Thompson’s ugly side reared its head once again and he was lit up for 7 earned runs and 10 hits over 5.1 innings.  Control is not the issue for Thompson, who is allowing only 2.08 BB/9, but rather making it through the second and third times through the order.   This may be further proof that Thompson’s future lies in the bullpen rather than the rotation.

Derek Norris is back with the P-Nats after suffering a blow to the head at the hands of Salem reliever Zach Hammes.  Then just the other night, Salem relief pitcher Michael Lee delivered a similar blow to Potomac catcher Brian Peacock, which resulted in an airlift to Fairfax’s Trauma Center.  CT scans were negative on Peacock, but this is the second Potomac player that has been hospitalized thanks to the Salem bullpen.  It is hard to imagine that these pitchers were trying to bean these guys, but even if it is just a coincidence, the Carolina league needs to investigate.  Thankfully, the new, large “kazoo” helmets that minor leaguers are now required to wear probably absorbed most of the damages dealt to Norris and Peacock and both players seem likely to fully recover.

The era of Strasburg minor league ball is winding down and if you have not heard yet, he will make his major league debut against Pittsburgh on June 8th.  His final start is today and his combined total excluding that start for the minor leagues is 50.1 IP, a 6-2 record, a 1.43 ERA, 12 walks, and 60 strikeouts.

Odds and Ends

-  Keep in mind that minor league All-Star games are coming up this month and you can usually vote for your favorite players through the respective MILB.com league pages.  The dates of each of the pertinent All-Star games are as follows:

AAA:  July 14

Eastern League:  July 14
Carolina League:  June 22
SAL League:  June 22

-  Stay on the lookout for a Federal Reserve 2010 MLB draft preview to come in the next few days.  All signs point to the Nationals taking the 17 year old phenom from Nevada, Bryce Harper.