After naming the Player and Pitcher of the Month for April last week, this is the perfect time to focus on a few the players who are off to good starts in May.
While the Double-A Harrisburg Senators continue to struggle with an 11-26 record, two of their top prospects are producing. Centerfielder Michael Taylor has a 1.039 OPS through his first 12 games this month, with a .316 average and 3 home runs. On May 8 against the Binghamton Mets, he went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs and fell just a double short of the cycle. Overall, Taylor has a .269/.348/.538 line with 8 home runs, 19 RBIs, and 7 stolen bases in 9 attempts.
Taylor, who placed seventh in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook’s ranking of the Nationals’ farm system, displays a solid combination of power and speed to go along with his plus defensive skills. One concern, however, is his 38.5 K% and accompanying 9.6 BB%. In order to succeed at the higher levels, he must show more patience, improve his recognition of breaking balls, and make contact more consistently. While that adjustment is by no means easy, Taylor’s start is bolstering his status as a long-term centerfield option for the Nationals.
On the pitching side, A.J. Cole is 3-2 through 7 starts with a 2.73 ERA, 2.65 FIP, and a 26:7 K:BB ratio in 33 innings pitched. The righthander has been particularly sharp this month, as he has a 1.72 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 15 and 2/3 innings.
At this point, it is hard to see how Cole is not promoted to Triple-A Syracuse before too long. His strikeout numbers have been in line with his typical production since he did not fan a batter in his first start of the year, while 1.9 BB/9 rate quantifies his impressive command. If Cole continues to pitch this well, a spot in Washington’s bullpen before the year’s end will be within reach.
Meanwhile, the Low-A Hagerstown Suns’ rotation has been extremely successful this year, with Austin Voth and Lucas Giolito highlighting the recent stretch. Voth, a fifth-round selection out of the University Washington last year, has a 19:2 K:BB in 17 and 2/3 innings to begin the month. Overall, the righthander leads the Suns with 40 strikeout and a 1.87 ERA, along with a solid 2.36 FIP in 33 and 2/3 innings.
Giolito is coming off arguably his most dominant start, posting a new personal best 7 strikeouts in 6 innings against Kannapolis (White Sox) on Sunday. His innings total also set a new career high; this season, Giolito has a 36:14 K:BB in 32 and 1/3 innings and has held opposing batters to a .186/.276/.297 triple-slash line.
Last, but not least, in this roundup is Stephen Perez, whose offense has help catapult the High-A Potomac Nationals to first place. The switch-hitting shortstop has a .862 OPS thus far in May, and is batting .316/.389/.427 in 134 plate appearances overall. While Perez was better known for his defense prior to this year, the strides he has made at the plate make him a likely candidate for a promotion to Harrisburg.
- Destin Hood is off to a good start through his first 14 games with Triple-A Syracuse, posting a .306/.386/.449 line. The second-round pick from 2008 joined Syracuse for the first time after posting a .739 OPS in 76 plate appearances with Harrisburg.
- Out of Potomac’s bullpen, Gilberto Mendez has yet to issue a walk through his first 13 and 2/3 innings, a span during which he has struck out 12 batters and posted a 2.63 ERA.