Entering the season, the Low-A Hagerstown Suns roster included a five-man starting rotation that was perhaps the best in the Washington Nationals farm system. The staff, which was noted for including Lucas Giolito and Jake Johansen, the Nationals last top two picks, saw 2013 fifth-round selection Austin Voth emerge as its ace. The righthander became the first starter to make the jump to High-A Potomac when he was promoted on Monday.
In 13 starts for the Suns, Voth went 4-3 with a 2.45 ERA, 2.77 FIP, and a 74:22 K:BB ratio in 69.2 innings pitched. One of his best starts during that stretch was on June 10, when he threw 7 1-hit innings in a victory at Lakewood (Phillies), striking out 6 and walking 1.
Voth was considered a prospect coming into this season, as Baseball America ranked him 15th in the Nationals farm system, but his production in Hagerstown makes him a name to watch for the rest of this season. Though his fastball is more often in the 90-92 mph range, he can run it up to 95 and has improved his command as the season has progressed.
The jump from Low-A to High-A is not as easy as it appears for two reasons: High-A hitters are usually older and more patient at the plate, and the Carolina League features only eight teams, meaning that Voth’s new opponents may adjust to him quicker than if he were in a larger league. With that said, he has an advanced feel for his three-pitch repertoire, which includes a changeup and a slider, and has the ceiling of a solid mid-rotation starter. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, look for Voth to put up solid numbers in Potomac and make the jump to Double-A Harrisburg as early as next Opening Day.
As Voth’s dominant season continues, one position player may finally be turning a corner after his slow start. Matt Skole has been on a tear in Harrisburg, as he is batting .286/.359/.625 this month. The infielder belted his 5th home run of the month on Thursday in the Senators’ 13-5 loss to the New Britain Rock Cats (Twins).
Skole ended the month of April at an absolutely horrid pace with a .177 average and a .472 OPS. Even with a relatively better May and his impressive start to June, he is still hitting just .236/.323/.399 with 8 home runs in 266 plate appearances. While his overall numbers still leave much to desired, it is a good sign that he is starting to reemerge. Prior to this season three outlets—Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com—ranked Skole as a Top-10 Prospect in the Nationals farm system, and Matt Williams went as far as to compare his opposite field power to that of Jim Thome. If this trend continues, Skole should be considered, along with teammate Michael Taylor, as one of Washington’s best power hitting prospects.
- Taylor went 3-for-4 for Harrisburg on Thursday. The centerfielder is now batting .339/.419/.602 in 293 plate appearances with 17 home runs.
- Reliever Matt Grace has delivered 2-scoreless innings to begin stint at Triple-A, including a scoreless inning on Thursday in the Syracuse Chiefs 9-3 win at Norfolk (Orioles). Grace, an 8th-round pick by the Nationals out of UCLA in in 2010, joined Syracuse for the first time after posting a 1.02 ERA, 2.65 FIP, and a 8.2 K/9 rate in 35.1 innings at Harrisburg.
- Jim Callis of MLB.com reported on Wednesday that catcher and third-round selection Jakson Reetz had agreed to an $800,000 bonus with the Nationals, well above the slot value for the pick. Reetz’s potential impact on the farm system was discussed in last week’s Federal Reserve.
(Photo from MiLB.com)