Federal Reserve: Stars emerge at Harrisburg, Hagerstown

Very few things have gone right for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators in the early goings of this season. A club that was talented on paper beginning the year fell to 4-13 with their loss to the Altoona Curve (Pirates) on Wednesday night, and has lost six one-run games.

One bright spot for the Senators has been the reemergence of Destin Hood. After back-to-back disappointing seasons at the Double-A level, the outfielder is off to a solid start, batting .386/.417/.456 through 59 plate appearances with a home run and four RBIs. In addition, Hood has stolen six bases in as many attempts, which has already surpassed the five he swiped last year.

The 24 year old’s resurgence is a good sign for the Washington Nationals, as Hood entered 2012 as one of the farm system’s most intriguing players. After the former second-round selection posted a career-high .809 OPS and 21 stolen bases at High-A Potomac, Baseball America named him the 11th-best prospect in the organization because of his power and speed. Those tools were part of an athletic skillset that led the University of Alabama to offer him a scholarship as a wide receiver in 2008.

With the numbers he has put up so far, it is reasonable to expect that Hood will cool off at some point. Even as his statistics neutralize, he is showing thus far that he could be on the verge of an excellent comeback season. If that is the case, look for him to reestablish his position as one of the Nationals’ best outfield prospects.

While Hood rebounds, Wilmer Difo is emerging as a name to watch for the Low-A Hagerstown Suns. Including his 3-for-7 performance against the Augusta GreenJackets (Giants) on Wednesday, the switch-hitter is batting .333/.370/.464 with nine stolen bases in 10 attempts. In addition, Difo has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games.

Having served time at both second base and shortstop this season, Difo’s offense compliments his solid versatility in the field, though his arm plays better at second. While it remains to be seen how the 22-year-old will perform for the remainder of this year, his start demands some attention as the season unfolds. If Difo continues to play this well, look for him to reach Potomac before season’s end.

Minors Notes

• Syracuse lefthander Daniel Rosenbaum, who was removed in the third inning during his start on Monday, saw a doctor in Washington and may require Tommy John surgery, according to a tweet he published on Wednesday. Rosenabum, a non-roster invitee for the Nationals this spring, had a 4.50 ERA for the Chiefs through four starts.

• Matt Purke is off to a sluggish start with Harrisburg, as the lefthander has posted a 9.49 ERA and a 4.4 BB/9 rate through his first three starts. He will look to get on track when he faces Altoona on Thursday.

• Brian Dupra continues to pitch in long relief for High-A Potomac. The righthander currently leads the Nationals’ farm system in strikeouts with 23, and has a 0.53 ERA and a 1.23 FIP in 17 innings pitched. While the 25-year-old is doing this against younger competition in High-A, he is pitching his way into consideration for a promotion to Harrisburg, where he will be an intriguing name to follow.

• Outfielder Estarlin Martinez is heating up for Hagerstown, as he is batting .290.348/.403 through 69 plate appearances. The 22-year-old played just 98 games last season, and with full health is looking more like the player that Baseball America ranked the 21-best prospect in the system before last season.

About Zach Spedden

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