Beginning with four cuts on Sunday, the Nationals have sent eight players to minor league camp this week. That includes catchers Jeff Howell and Brian Jeroloman; infielders Matt Skole and Josh Johnson; righthanders Gabriel Alfaro, Tyler Robertson, and A.J. Cole; as well as lefthander Felipe Rivero. All of these players are likely bound for either Double-A Harrisburg or Triple-A Syracuse, but Cole and Skole in particular are worth following.
Cole logged 6 and 2/3 scoreless innings of relief work, striking out seven without yielding a walk. Last season, the righthander went 10-5 with a 3.60 ERA and 151:33 K:BB ratio between High-A Potomac and Harrisburg, while being the lone National named to the Futures Game. Bill Ladson of MLB.com said on Wednesday that the 22-year-old is expected to start with Syracuse.
Skole offers perhaps the most power of any Nationals prospect. After belting 27 home runs between Low-A Hagerstown and Potomac in 2012, he played just two games for Harrisburg last season when a collision at first base caused a torn elbow ligament. In camp, he posted a 1.0223 OPS in 16 plate appearances while spending time at first and third base. The biggest factor for Skole will be regaining health as he returns to the minors, likely beginning back at Harrisburg. If his power stroke is in full force, expect him to make the jump to Syracuse, with a spot on the Nationals bench in September not out of the question.
As for the prospects that are still in camp, Steven Souza, Jr. has looked great thus far. In 24 plate appearances, the outfielder is batting .304/.333/.565 and hit his first home run during a 7-4 loss to the Astros on Monday. Souza, who was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, will likely be in Syracuse’s starting outfield.
Despite going 0-3 against the Braves on Wednesday, Zach Walters remains one of the most intriguing hitters in camp. The switch-hitter has a .500/.600/.938 triple-slash line, with a home run and 4 RBIs through 20 plate appearances. Given the Nationals crowded infield situation, he will probably return to Syracuse for at least the beginning of the season, but he could hit his way back to Washington before too long.
Out of the bullpen, Aaron Barrett has thrown 7 innings without allowing a run, including 1 and 1/3 during Wednesday’s 10-9 loss to the Astros. The righthander has also fanned five batters without surrendering a walk. He was added to the 40-man this offseason after posting a 2.15 ERA, striking out 69 in 50 and 1/3 innings, and saving 26 games for Harrisburg in 2013. Without a spot on the Nationals roster, Barrett is likely to close in Syracuse, but could provide immediate insurance for the major league bullpen.
- Ladson reported some bad news on Wednesday, revealing that Sammy Solis has been shelved due to back problems. The lefthander, who last appeared in a game on March 2, has suffered a myriad of injuries during his minor league career, including Tommy John surgery after the 2011 season.
- Making his first appearance in six days, Daniel Rosenbaum did not allow a run in 2 innings of work against the Braves on Wednesday. After spending all of 2013 in Syracuse, the lefthander has a 2.70 ERA with 2 strikeouts in 3 and 1/3 innings out of the bullpen this spring.
- Before getting touched for 3 runs in just 2/3 of an inning against the Astros on Wednesday, Xavier Cedeno had not allowed a run through his first five appearances. Cedeno currently has a 4.76 ERA with a 4:2 K:BB ratio in 5 and 2/3 innings.
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