With July well underway, the Minor League Baseball season is down to its stretch run. At this point many of the Washington Nationals’ prospects have defined their seasons.
To provide a snapshot of the surprises in the farm system, the Federal Reserve has listed a trio of players who have boosted their stock the most. Note that I have omitted those who were consensus Top 10 prospects coming into the season, because top producers like Michael Taylor and Steven Souza Jr. had solid pre-season projections.
Austin Voth, High-A Potomac Nationals
In a loss to Winston-Salem (White Sox) on Wednesday, Voth looked human, surrendering 5 runs on 6 hits in 4 and 2/3 innings pitched. Pitchers are subject to a bad start every now and again, especially hurlers as good as Voth has been.
Beginning with Low-A Hagerstown, the righthander is 6-4 with a 2.10 ERA over 19 starts with a 114:29 K:BB ratio in 107.1 innings pitched. After earning All-Star honors for Hagerstown, Voth has made a seamless transition to Potomac. In 6 starts with the Nationals, he has a 40:7 K:BB ratio in 37.2 innings to go along with a 1.43 ERA. That stretch has been highlighted by his current streak of two consecutive back-to-back Carolina League Pitcher of the Week awards.
Advanced numbers coming into Wednesday’s start, including a 2.26 FIP and a .125 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), indicate that Voth may be due for some regression. However, his numbers thus far have done more than enough to raise his profile. With the possible ceiling of a quality mid-rotation starter, Voth could be a steal as a fifth-round selection.
Wilmer Difo, Low-A Hagerstown Suns
Signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, Difo had a disastrous 2013, batting an accumulative .217/.296/.348 at four levels. This season, the switch-hitting infielder has been a completely different player.
Through 452 plate appearances, Difo is batting .307/.348/.450 with a league-leading 129 hits. In addition, he has shown a solid combination of power and speed with 8 home runs and 32 steals in 38 attempts.
While he can play both middle infield spots, the 22-year-old needs to work on his instincts and arm accuracy at shortstop in order to play the position at the higher levels. However, his raw athleticism gives him an advantage in his development.
Taylor Hill, Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs
As a back-to-back winner of our Pitcher of the Month award, Hill has received a lot of press on the Federal Reserve this year. While his strikeouts (5.9 K/9) are back in line with his career numbers, the righthander has seemingly come out of nowhere to put up the best season of his career.
Through 18 games (17 starts) with the Chiefs, Hill is 9-4 with a 2.63 ERA, 3.89 FIP, and a stingy 1 BB/9 rate in 106 innings. With his performance, he not only earned a late-June call up to Washington, but an All-Star selection at Syracuse.
Given that the Nationals have a plethora of options with back-of-the-rotation and bullpen arms at Triple-A, Hill’s future with the team is a bit uncertain. But for someone who has not previously ranked in Baseball America’s Top 30 for the Nationals, he is making a name for himself.
- Michael Taylor went 2-for-3 with a home run in Harrisburg’s Wednesday morning loss to Bowie (Orioles). That effort gives the centerfielder a .316/.397/.543 triple-slash line with 21 homers and 30 steals this season.
- A.J. Cole threw 7-shutout innings in a win for Syracuse over the Pawtucket Red Sox on Wednesday, striking out 6 without surrendering a walk. In 5 starts since his promotion to Triple-A, the righthander has a 24:3 K:BB ratio in 30.2 innings pitched.