Federal Reserve: Nationals Minor League Hitter and Pitcher of the Month for May 2014

With May in the books, the Federal Reserve hands out the hardware in the form of Hitter and Pitcher of the Month honors for the Washington Nationals farm system. This month’s hitter flashed his astonishing potential, while our hurler of the month continues to emerge as the ace of Triple-A Syracuse.

Hitter of the Month: Centerfielder Michael Taylor, Double-A Harrisburg Senators

Taylor made tremendous strides in May, batting .374/.446/.720 with 9 home runs and 22 RBIs in 122 plate appearances. He also flashed five-tool potential by stealing 9 bases in as many attempts and continued to play a strong centerfield, evidenced in part by this throw on the 25th against the Bowie Baysox (Orioles):

Overall this season, the 23-year-old is batting .318/.400/.612 with 15 home runs (already a career high), 41 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases in 17 attempts.

One concern that lingers is Taylor’s strikeouts, as he leads the Eastern League with 76. Not only is he all but assured to whiff over 100 times for the fourth straight season, but he will likely top his career high of 131.

However, Taylor has shown signs of turning that part of his game around; on May 15, his K% stood at 38.5%, but has since dropped to 33%. In the process, his BB% rose from 9.6% to 11.6%. If this trend continues, Taylor will show that he can make the necessary adjustments as he progresses through the system.

Honorable Mentions: Wilmer Difo (Low-Hagerstown), Destin Hood (Triple-A Syracuse), Stephen Perez (High-A Potomac), Steven Souza Jr. (Syracuse), John Wooten (Hagerstown).

Pitcher of the Month: Righthander Taylor Hill, Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs

After nabbing Pitcher of the Month in April, Hill takes the prize again. Appearing in 6 games (5 starts), he went 4-0 with a 0.95 ERA and had a 20:5 K:BB ratio in 38 innings pitched, a span highlighted by a 22 and 2/3 scoreless innings streak that ran through the 29th. Hill was also named International League Pitcher of the Week for the week ending May 25th.

Overall this season, the righthander is 8-1 with a 1.57 ERA, 3.32 FIP, and a 51:9 K:BB ratio in 74.2 innings. Since striking out 29 batters in 30.2 innings in April, Hill’s K/9 rate has dropped to 6.1, which is more in line with his career average.

Hill’s success thus far can be attributed to his ability to induce groundballs. Stats provided by MLBFarm.com put his groundball rate at 55.26%, compared to a fly ball rate of 26.75%. Batted ball results also how that 28.87% of the balls hit off of him led to groundouts, far higher than any other outcome.

Hill is not the 40-man roster, which makes his call up less of a certainty, especially given the Nationals’ pitching depth. However, if he continues to pitch this well, it will be hard to keep him out of Washington much longer.

Honorable Mentions: A.J. Cole (Harrisburg), Nick Pivetta (Hagerstown), Derek Self (Potomac), Austin Voth (Hagerstown)

Minors Notes:

  • The Hagerstown Suns will send the following six players to the South Atlantic League All-Star Game: Catcher Spencer Kieboom, infielders John Wooten and Wilmer Difo, starters Austin Voth and Nick Pivetta, and reliever Jake Walsh.
  • Shortstop Stephen Perez and first baseman Shawn Pleffner will represent the Potomac Nationals on the Carolina League’s All-Star roster. The Carolina League All-Stars will face the California League All-Stars on June 17 in Wilmington, DE.
  • The Senators announced on Tuesday that Sammy Solis was returning to the DL with an undisclosed ailment. Solis, who was returning from a back injury, made the just one start for Harrisburg, allowing 9 runs (8 earned) in 3 and 1/3 innings in a loss to Bowie on May 26.

About Zach Spedden

Writer for Federal Reserve section of The Nats Blog and co-founder of Hagerstown Suns Fan Blog