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Thompson and Bloxom – The Nats Blog’s minor league players of the week

Batter of the Week – Justin Bloxom, 1B/DH, Hagerstown

Bloxom fell in between the cracks last season after be selected in the 11th round and behind another Kansas State product A.J. Morris.  After playing a full college season, his numbers suffered a bit during his stint with the Lake Monsters, where he posted a line of .228/.346/.303 in 67 games.  At K-State, Morris had a power surge in his junior year, knocking out 12 home runs and racking up 16 doubles in 62 games, but the power has yet to show up in his professional career.  While the power might not be there, the hitting skill is being displayed nicely and in this last week Bloxom was 11-28 (.393 AVG) with four doubles and seven walks.  Hagerstown manager Matt Lecroy has also been impressed with Bloxom’s bat and has recently been batting him in the cleanup spot.  Bloxom showed off some wheels on the basepaths as well, swiping four bags in the seven day span (he is 5 for 7 on SB attempts this season).  Currently, he is in the top 10 for the South Atlantic League in hits, doubles, and OBP.  Besides Chris Marrero, the Nationals lack any solid options at first base, so a hot hitting another skilled hitting 1B is a welcome addition to the system.  At his age, a promotion to Potomac may be in line sooner than anyone may have originally thought for this late round pick.

Pitcher of the Week – Aaron Thompson, SP, Syracuse

ph_457744Thompson, a former first-round selection by the Marlins, was acquired last season in exchange for Nick Johnson.  The left-handed pitcher uses a sinker-changeup combo along with a pretty sharp slider to attack hitters.  Thompson had two starts this week, both of which he pitched favorably.  In his first start, he took on highly regarded Phil’s prospect Phillipe Aumont and went seven innings to pick up the win (Storen closed out for the save).  He was then promoted to Syracuse to make a spot start and picked up his second win of the week.  His total line for the week was 15.0 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 11 SO, 12 GO:8 FO.  For the year he has a 2.81 FIP and 1.20 WHIP and has yet to let up a home run.  Thompson is on the 40-man roster and impressed many with his exceptional performance in spring training, but finds himself in a situation rare to D.C:  too many starting pitchers.  The current Nationals rotation has been performing well over the last week and even the Syracuse roster was too crowded for Thompson, who was sent back down to AA today.  Despite this, Thompson is yet another reason for Nationals fans to be excited about the future and will be up with the big league club soon enough.  Until then, dominating performances like this week’s will only increase his value.

Runner-ups:  Roger Bernadina, Stephen Strasburg, Tom Milone

Top Prospect Watch

Catcher Adrian Nieto has been getting some reps at catcher for the Suns this season.  In 9 games he is hitting .348/.444/.348, but has yet to get any extra base hits.  After being selected in the fifth round out of high school by the Nationals, Nieto struggled in the Gulf Coast League to live up the potential 2nd or 3rd round billing that he was touted as on draft day (he fell to the 5th because of concerns over signability).  Nieto will most likely be headed back to Vermont once the short season begins in June to be an everyday catcher as Sandy Leon continues to get a majority of the starts at Hagerstown.

Eury Perez has 9 stolen bases in 11 attempts this season.  He is second in the Sally League and leads all Nationals farmhands in swipes.  He is only batting .241, though, and has struck out 20 times and has only been walked 4 times.  Like Nieto, it seems pretty likely that the 19 year old will be back in short season ball come June unless he starts hitting better.
A few injured Nats’ farm hands returned to action recently.  Danny Espinosa is 10 for 23 since returning from the DL and busted out last night against New Britain, going 4 for 6 with two doubles and two RBIs.  In his second start of the season, A.J. Morris pitched five innings of three hit ball, surrendering two walks and striking out one.  He has had displayed his ability to be a ground out pitcher, getting 18 groundouts vs. only 4 flyouts.  Derek Norris was placed on the 7-day DL after experiencing complications in his hamate bone.  He had surgery on the bone last fall and had returned last week for one game.
Odds and Ends

Syracuse (12-5, 1st place, 0 GB)
Harrisburg (7-10, last place, 4.5 GB)
Potomac (7-10, 3rd place, 4 GB)
Hagerstown (9-9, t-2nd place, 1 GB)

-  In two starts (10.1 total innings) this week, Potomac starter Brad Peacock had 19 strikeouts.  He has 28 for the season and is second in the Carolina League in that category.  The bad news, he has let up a home run per a game and has an ERA of 5.23.

-  Three relievers on the Nationals farm teams have yet to let up an earned run so far:  Doug Slaten, Cole Kimball, Paul Applebee.  Raphael Martin has not allowed a run since his season debut and Drew Storen let up his first run off of a home run last Monday.

-  Roger Bernadina was named the International Leagues “Batter of the Week” for 13 for 28 showing from April 19-25.

-  It was an outstanding week for the pitchers of the Harrisburg starting rotation (33.0 IP, 21 H, 3 ER, 10 BB, 28 SO).  Strasburg, Milone, and Thompson did not even let up a run and the staff maintained a 0.94 WHIP and 0.82 ERA.
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