April 24, 2014

Washington Nationals 2014 Top 25 Prospects: No. 7 Michael Taylor

In this series, District Sports Page has provide detailed scouting reports on our list of Top 25 Washington Nationals prospects. You can find our overview with the entire list here. We will now move into even further detailed reports for our Top 10.

Here’s our scouting reports on prospects Nos. 21-15, prospects Nos. 16-20 and Nos. 11-16.

And so far in the Top 10:

No. 10 Eury Perez
No. 9 Jake Johansen
No. 8 Sammy Solis

Now without further ado, here is prospect No. 7, outfielder Michael Taylor.

7. Michael Taylor
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 4″, Weight: 205 lb.
Born: March 26, 1991 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US (Age 22)
Draft: Sixth Round, 2009

Hitting Ability Raw Power Power Frequency Plate Discipline Speed Baserunning Fielding Range Arm Strength Arm Accuracy Overall Future Potential
35/50 50/55 40/50 40/45 65/65 50/60 55/65 65/65 70/70 40/50 MLB Starter

Taylor has been one of the Nationals’ more successful development projects over the past few years. The club drafted him in the sixth round of 2009 Draft, and inked him to a low-profile $125k bonus to pass on his commitment to The University of North Florida, a solid but relatively unheralded baseball program coached by Dusty Rhodes. Taylor hit .447 with seven homers during his senior season playing shortstop in one of the most stacked high school circuits in the nation, competing against top prospects like Deven Marrero (now with the Red Sox) and Dane Williams.

The multi-sport athlete was largely overlooked, but the Nationals believed they had something in him. After he was drafted, Taylor struggled to perform in pro debut.  He made an ice-cold debut in the Gulf Coast League and finished the season floundering at Low-A Hagerstown. At shortstop, he made thirteen errors in 19 games, and didn’t display the aptitude for third or second base. His work at the plate was rough as well. He posted an ugly .199/.276/.298 triple-slash line through 43 games, with more strikeouts (33) than hits (28).

Taylor is an outstanding athlete, but the Nationals saw a player that needed a lot of coaching and polish before he could be all that he could be. They moved him to the outfield, and instructors Tony Tarasco (now the organization’s minor league coordinator) and Marlon Anderson set out to put his game together. With extra work in the offseason, Taylor took to the outfield like a natural, and since that point, he has evolved into one the minors elite defensive players. At the plate, he cleaned up his poor swing that was marked by an abnormally wide set-up and a wild and powerless upper-body cut. He’s still working to find mechanical consistency, but his cut is now much cleaner and it employs his powerful core to generate bat speed. Last season, he started taking his plus speed into games more often, displaying improved base-stealing instincts and smart decisions on the basepaths.

Taylor enjoyed a breakout season in 2011, when he hit .253/.310/.432 with the Hagerstown Suns as a 20-year-old. His numbers stalled a little bit in the Carolina League in 2012, but his defense earned him recognition from Nationals coaches as a player to watch in the organization. Last season his bat’s development got back on track, and is starting to catch up to his glove. He hit .263/.340/.426 with the Potomac Nationals, posting the best walk rate of his career and managing his strikeouts. He swiped 51 bases in 58 tries, tying him for second in the league behind teammate Billy Burns. His 2013 stolen base total was more than he’d totaled in his previous three pro seasons combined.

At the plate, Taylor has a long way to go before he’s an average hitter, but the athleticism and tools are there. He’s lanky with long levers, and he whips the bat with strong hands. Now that he’s shortened his set-up and is doing a better job of managing his stride and keeping his weight on his back foot until he releases his hands, he’s hitting the ball with authority more often. He still could stand to do a better job of using his legs and core muscles in his swing as he tends to cast his hands. His sprays a lot of hard line drives, and doesn’t get consistent back spin or loft yet. Once he does though, he could unlock his home run potential and hit 20+ annually in the big leagues.

Taylor has some hitting skills, primarily his quick hands and his feel for the barrel. His pitch selection and discipline took a step forward last season. which will help him improve his average and power numbers, and he’s walking up to the plate with more of a plan lately. He’s still relatively raw for his age, however. His cut tends to get out of control when he gets his pitch, wasting a lot of energy and causing him to get out in front often. And while he’s fast enough to put the barrel on nearly any fastball, he’s prone to right-handed breaking pitches.

Taylor is a plus runner out of the box and under way, and he showed the quick first step and improved reads to become an asset as a base-stealer in the MLB, maybe a guy that can swipe 30 bags annually in his prime, and leg out plenty of doubles and triples.

Taylor’s defense is his calling card and he’s one of the best defensive center fielders in the minors — and arguably the best at his level. You don’t see his inexperience at all when he plays, and he reads line drives and spin off of the bat, adjusting his routes nicely. His long-limbed stride hives him the classic gliding appearance when he moves to the ball. He covers plus range into either gap and his apparent agility and body awareness should help him play wall in the MLB. He also tracks drives over his shoulder well, and makes wide receiver grabs. To top it all off, he has a strong, accurate arm.

Taylor’s defense and baserunning would already provide excellent value to an MLB ballclub, and his bat has promise despite so-so numbers at the plate over the past couple of years. He has some work to do on his swing and needs to develop a much better feel for hitting before he can be considered an everyday player. But if he develops into the solid all-around hitter he has the ingredients to be — a .270/.340/.420 type guy with 20-30 stolen bases — his other skills would make him All-Star caliber. Of course, the hit tool is the most important tool and the vast majority of young prospects end up falling short because they don’t pan out in this category. If the bat doesn’t get there, Taylor does still have the defensive chops and baserunning value to be a Dewayne Wise-type fourth outfielder.

Washington Nationals Top 25 Prospects Overview

For the Washington Nationals, the flip-side of  a decade-long losing streak is their extraordinarily talented, affordable roster. Their poor records came at the perfect time, just as baseball scouting was expanding and implementing new analytics methods to assess performance, and the big league draft was still unfettered by a hard-slotting system. As a result, their savvy front office accumulated a bevy of high draft picks and used them to rake in a gluttonous share of the baseball’s best athletes.

The Nationals were able to heist the franchise talents of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Lucas Giolito, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman, along with a bounty of other blue-chip prospects. The injection of young, affordable star-power led them to put together the franchise’s best stretch over the past three years, and they managed to snap a 31-year playoff drought in 2012.

Despite a step back in Major League production in 2013, the Nationals are still looking stronger than ever heading into the 2014 season. Healthy and more polished versions of Strasburg and Harper lead a stacked 25-man roster that is looking almost unbeatable following the addition of Doug Fister and the maturation of Anthony Rendon.

The franchise’s farm system isn’t what it was a couple of years ago. Naturally, promoting so many stud prospects to the Major Leagues and competing with homegrown talent comes with a price. Over the past few seasons, the club’s farm system has graduated starting pitchers Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark, gifted relievers like Storen,  Stammen and Ian Krol (now with the Tigers), as well as a long list of position players that includes Harper, Zimmerman, Rendon, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos and Derek Norris (with the Athletics). Two thirds of their projected opening day roster is comprised of homegrown players, or former prospects that spent their final seasons in the Nationals farm system.

Additionally, the cost of winning has dropped the club’s annual draft slot to the back of the line, and has forced the front office to play for the short term. They’ve traded away blue-chip prospects like Alex Meyer, Derek Norris and Robert Ray for short-run contributions, and have also parted ways with sure-fire contributors like Nate Karns, Tommy Milone, David Freitas and Steve Lombardozzi.

So, the Nationals don’t have the prospect starpower they normally do. A couple of years ago, they had the best system in the minors. Now, though they’re still strong, they’ve faded to the middle of the pack.

The Nationals savvy amateur scouting, particularly out West, has helped Mike Rizzo maintain a competitive farm system in spite of the organizations determination to put a winning roster on the field annually.

The farm system lacks balance. It doesn’t have a stand-out prospect at the upper levels at the moment, and the losses of Nate Karns, Alex Meyer and Robbie Ray have depleted a lot of their pitching depth.  Their lack of left-handedness was also exacerbated by the Doug Fister trade, which sent the extremely underrated Robbie Ray to Detroit along with Ian Krol–who’s poised to be an elite-level left-handed setup man. To get a southpaw in the bullpen finally — a void that killed their bullpen effectiveness last year as opposing managers were able to stack their lineups with lefty sluggers — the front office had to deal Billy Burns to Oakland for Jerry Blevins. While Burns isn’t a star, the little speedster looks like a superb fourth outfielder and pinch runner.

On the bright side, the lower levels of the system do sport many of the game’s most gifted athletes. 2013 first-round pick Lucas Giolito, now recovered from Tommy John surgery, is an elite-level arm when healthy, and has the stuff, intangibles and command to be an ace in a few years. Brian Goodwin, Harrisburg’s center fielder in 2013, has gotten stuck in double-A over the past two years after rising quickly through single-A ball. Though Goodwin’s five-tool profile pretty much makes him a sure bet to be a valuable player in the MLB.

The Nats didn’t have a first-round pick last June, but still made the most of their resources by grabbing a pair of high-ceiling stars from cowboy country. Former Dallas Baptist right-hander Jake Johansen largely flew under the radar in college, but his mid 90′s fastball and NFL tight end frame bless him with intriguing upside. And farmboy Drew Ward, taken in the third round last year, profiles as a left-handed version of Nolan Arenado.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll post detailed scouting reports on the players that made District Sports Page’s list of Top 25 Prospects in the Nationals organization. Below, though, are the names of the Nats’ top prospects to watch this season.

Top 25 Prospects

1. Lucas Giolito, RHP

13. Blake Treinen, RHP

2. Brian Goodwin, OF

14. Austin Voth, RHP

Robert Ray, LHP

15. Jefry Rodriguez, RHP

3. AJ Cole, RHP

16. Tony Renda, 2B

Nate Karns, RHP

17. Felipe Rivero, LHP

4. Drew Ward, 3B

18. Christian Garcia, RHP

5. Steven Souza, OF

19. Sandy Leon, C

6. Zach Walters, SS

20. Drew Vettleson, OF

7. Michael Taylor, OF

Adrian Nieto, C, 

8. Sammy Solis, LHP

21. Cody Gunter, 3B

9. Jake Johansen, RHP

22. Nick Pivetta, RHP

10. Eury Perez, OF

23. Rafael Bautista, OF

11. Matt Skole, 3B

24. Brett Mooneyham, LHP

12. Matt Purke, LHP

25. Pedro Severino, C

Billy Burns, OF 

Honorable Mention: Dixon Anderson, Aaron Barrett, Cutter Dykstra, Randy Encarnacion, David Napoli, Travis Ott, Raudy Read, Danny Rosenbaum, Hector Silvestre, Maximo Valerio

________________________

Ryan Kelley is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He’s a web application developer by day and an aspiring sports journalist living in the D.C. area. He has lived in Washington since graduating from The George Washington University and has past experience working within Minor League Baseball and for Team USA. He is founder of BaseballNewsHound.com, and specializes in scouting prospects playing in leagues on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic region. A life-long ballplayer himself, he enjoys hitting home runs with his writing and scouting reports. You can follow him on Twitter @BBNewsHound and @Ryan_S_Kelley.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats drop Mets 5-4 in Grapefruit League opener

Taylor Jordan looked good in his two innings of work as the Washington Nationals dropped the New York Mets 5-4, scoring the winning run in the top of the ninth, in Friday’s Grapefruit League opener.

Jordan, in a battle for the fifth spot in the Nats opening day rotation, threw 21 pitches, 16 for strikes, to seven batters in two innings. He gave up one hit and struck out two. He got one groundout and two flyouts in the outing.

A.J. Cole, one of the Nats’ top prospects, followed and struck out two in his two innings of scoreless work, though he did give up three hits in the process.

The Nats got on the board in the fourth inning, when Wilson Ramos doubled in Ian Desmond, who reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second base to get into scoring position.

In the bottom of the inning, the Mets put four up on Christian Garcia. Cesar Puello doubled down the left field line to drive in Juan Lagares and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, then Ike Davis clubbed a homer to right to clear the bases.

The Nats put up two in the seventh. Zach Walters scored on a Koyie Hill double, and Hill came home on a single by Steven Souza.

The Nats added a run in the eighth, as Walters doubled home Matt Skole.

In the ninth, Jeff Kobernus reached and Michael Taylor tripled to bring in the winning run.

The Nationals host the Atlanta Braves Saturday at 1:00 pm at Space Coast Stadium.

 

Washington Nationals Spring Training 2014 Preview, Part II: The Outfield

Jayson Werth high-fives Bryce Harper after gunning out Greg Dobbs in the ninth inning. - Miami Marlins v. Washington Nationals, 9/7/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Health and self-preservation are key for the Nats outfield this season. (Stock photo Sept. 2012, Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

As a whole, the Washington Nationals return mostly intact from the teams that won 98 games in 2012 and 86 games in 2013. This is a veteran team with high aspirations of competing in the World Series. I hardly think rookie manager Matt Williams will boldly proclaim “World Series or Bust” as his predecessor did, but the implications are there.

If the team overachieved in ’12 and underachieved last season, what is the logical progression for 2014? If the ’12 and ‘13 results had been flipped, I think everyone would be riding the Nats as an odd-on favorite this season. They may be anyway.

With a rotation as solid No. 1 through No. 4 as any in baseball, a deep bullpen, an infield full of silver sluggers and a versatile outfield led by a burgeoning superstar, the Washington Nationals seem poised to make noise this season on a national level.

For the next two weeks, District Sports Page will preview the Washington Nationals 2014 season. This week, we’ll do profiles of the players on the 40-man roster and significant non-roster invitees, players that have a chance to make an impact on the Nats roster this season.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday: The Infield
Tuesday: The Outfield
Wednesday: The Catchers
Thursday: The Rotation
Friday: The Bullpen

In week two, we’ll profile the manager and front office, reveal our Top-25 minor leaguers and prospects, examine the “big picture” the Nats this season, and do a little statistical analysis and projecting.

Josie’s on a vacation far away…

THE OUTFIELD

Jayson Werth, RF: Werth was a stealth candidate for MVP last season, and actually ended up 13th on the postseason award ballot. The .318/.398/.532 line he posted at age 34 had everything to do with that. Werth enjoyed one of his finest seasons in the bigs, despite missing 33 games due to injury, which has to be expected from the guy at this point in his career. There’s no way he’ll every live up to the immense contract he signed to come to D.C., but when he’s been in the lineup the past two seasons he’s outdone what could have reasonably been expected of him. How long does that production continue? His defense is already slipping greatly and he has four more seasons to his contract, so it becomes an important question as Werth enters the twilight of his solid career.

Denard Span, CF: Trivia: He’s the only player in Major League history by the name of Denard. Or Span. Anyway, Span rescued his season with a torrid seven weeks at the end of the season, which was along the lines of what GM Mike Rizzo expected when he traded pitching prospect Alex Meyer to the Twins for him. Span bottomed out on Aug. 16 at .258/.310/.353, nowhere near what’s necessary in the top spot in the batting order. For the next 39 games, he hit .338/.375/.459, instrumental in the Nats late resurgence. It was too little, too late to save the Nats playoff aspirations, but the Nats have to get more near his career line (.283/.351/.387) on a more consistent basis to make this offense work.

Bryce Harper, LF: Bam Bam put up a .274/.368/.486 line his sophomore season at the age of 20. That’s at once hard to comprehend and easy to overlook. He’s doing remarkable things at such an early age. Unfortunately, he’s his own worst enemy right now with his “balls to the wall” approach at defense. At some point, self-preservation has to take hold. No manager or coach wants to tell Harper to slow down, but he needs to stay on the field – and healthy – to fulfill his promise. After crashing into the wall at Dodgers Stadium in May, he played all season on a knee that required surgery at the conclusion of the season, under the radar while many weren’t paying attention to baseball. He needs to figure out lefties (.214/.327/.321/ in 158 PAs) and breaking balls, but the talent is there. He just needs to stay on the field.

Nate McLouth, OF: Last season was the first time since 2009 McLouth played more than 90 games at the Major League level. His resurgence for the Orioles is nothing short of astounding, considering the trajectory his career was taking. In ’10 and ’11 with Atlanta he hit .190 and .228 with 10 homers combined. His first 34 games with Pittsburgh in ’12 were no better: .140/.210/.175, leading to his release. He rediscovered himself in Baltimore, hitting .26/.342/.435 and .258/.329/.399 the past two years. Now 32, McLouth will see plenty of at bats with the injury-prone Nats outfield and as a late inning pinch-hitter. By default, he becomes the leader of the Goon Squad.

Scott Hairston, Corner OF: Hairston is the right-handed hitting Ying to McLouth’s Yang. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work on paper. But Hairston’s overall numbers last year (.191/.237/.414) and age (34) – not to mention his paltry .214/.259/.484 against LHPs, who he’s supposed to “mash” – signal the end is rapidly approaching the once versatile and useful player. It’s true, all 10 of Hairston’s homers last season came against lefties, but as his slash line indicates, it was literally all or nothing for Hairston. 10 of his 27 hits in 140 plate appearances against LHPs were home runs. Against righties? .097/.147/.276. Can this actually be the Nats primary right-handed bat off the bench? With a walk rate of 5 percent and contact rate of 72 percent, this a guy whose skills aren’t declining, they’ve just about evaporated.

Jeff Kobernus, Corner OF: Kobernus made his MLB debut last year at the age of 25, past prospect status. His tryout lasted 36 PAs and resulted in a .167/.306/.267 slash as he played all three outfield positions. Small sample caveats abound, as the converted second baseman held his own in Syracuse, hitting .318/.366/.388, all minor league career highs. You like to see a player whose numbers rise as he goes up the ladder. He’s had 40+ steals each of the past three seasons in the minors and folks love his work ethic. But there’s not a lot of room in the bigs for a right-handed hitting speedster without obvious elite skills and no pop, especially in the outfield.

Eury Perez, CF: Did you see the last sentence I wrote about Kobernus? It applies even more toward Perez. His stolen base numbers have plummeted as he’s risen through the ranks, from 64 to 51 to 23. He’s always made good contact, as his lifetime .305 average will attest to. But there’s no power, less willingness to walk, and he’s only an average defender despite his speed – though he has a decent arm. Perez is destined for pinch runner/Quad-A status.

Steven Souza, Corner OF: Souza was a third round pick in 2007 out of high school, so he’s been in the system for-e-ver, toiling first in anonymity, then infamously due to his PED suspension in 2010. But Souza has blossomed a little bit the past two seasons and put himself back on the radar of the big club. He has an interesting pop/speed combo (15 homers, 20 SBs in 323 PAs for Harrisburg in ’13) with good plate discipline (.396 OBP) and had a nice appearance in the Arizona Fall League in October. The 25-year-old could have a chance to impact the big roster yet.

Brian Goodwin, CF: Goodwin is the heir apparent to the center field position at Nats Park. The 34th overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft, Goodwin has an impressive arsenal of tools. He possess elite plate discipline, something that might actually hurt his counting numbers in the minor leagues, as he simply won’t expand his strike zone for inferior pitchers. When he does swing, he has a nice blend of pop to go along with squaring up on the ball. Goodwin is a fine defender in center, though his arm isn’t the greatest, and he’s still learning to use his speed on the bases (just 19 of 30 last season). He struggled at the start of last season in Double-A, but picked up as the season went on. There’s plenty of time for the 23-year old as Span plays in his walk year this season (barring Nats picking up Span’s $9M option for ’15).

Michael Taylor, OF: Scouts have been drooling over Taylor’s athleticism since being drafted in the sixth round of the ’09 draft. Unfortunately for Taylor, he’s never really been able to translate all that athletic ability into production on the baseball field. He’s still young (23 in March), so he’s got time to “put it together”, but in over 1600 minor league at bats, Taylor owns a .249/.319/.399 slash. He repeated High-A last season and tore it up on the base paths (51 of 60 on steals) and his slash went up a little bit across the board. Double-A this year will tell the story of whether he’s a baseball player or athlete.

Washington Nationals Minor League Update for the Week of 5/5/13

Welcome back to District Sports Page’s weekly Minor League Update. Throughout the regular season we will continue to post up-to-date stats and brief scouting reports on the hottest and coldest prospects in the Nationals’ minor league system. We also will track the progress of top-rated players in this columb, and give injury and suspension updates.

Here are some of the system’s notable performances from the first week of May:

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Washington Nationals Minor League Update for the Week of 4/28/13

Welcome back to District Sports Page’s weekly Minor League Update. Throughout the regular season we will continue to post up-to-date stats and brief scouting reports on the hottest and coldest prospects in the Nationals’ minor league system. We also will track the progress of top-rated players, and give injury and suspension updates.

With April coming to a close, the Nationals’ organization is looking pretty strong from top to bottom. The big club is off to a decent 13-12 start. But more importantly, they’re looking strong and equipped to perform at a high level for the duration of the season. Their key players are all healthy, and their crop of young stars continues to move forward at a healthy pace.

Bryce Harper not only appears to have avoided (knock on wood) a slumping sophomore season, but he looks to be putting it all together even earlier than anyone could have hoped. The same goes for their young rotation, which is firing on all cylinders. And while Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos are sitting on the DL with minor injuries, the Nats used their system to overcome their temporary absence quite effectively. Luckily though, both players are on their way back anyway.

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Washington Nationals Minor League Update for the Week of 4/14/13

With full-season teams now in to the second-week of their 2013 campaigns, clubs are starting to get a feel for their minor-league talent. Many re-buidling big league teams are preparing to call-up their top prospects in just a couple of more weeks, when arbitration rules will fall in their favor. Contending clubs like the Nationals are less inclined to make front-page moves so early in the season, but they too are keeping an eye on their young’ins. They’re trying to get a read on what these players are worth in preparation for a mid-season trade, and they’re definitely looking for someone who can contribute in the event they need to to patch a hole internally.

The Nationals, who are now 8-5 with their win over the Marlins on Monday night, are very comfortable with their Major League roster. Outside of a few bullpen/bench tweaks they might be preparing to make–like adding an effective left-handed relief pitcher for instance–they probably aren’t going to replace one of their veteran big leaguers with any of their prized prospects just yet. Of course, things will change quickly if one of their stars suffers a serious injury.

As Mike Rizzo proved last season with Bryce Harper, he isn’t afraid to call-up one of his young stars when the club needs a boost. There’s an outside shot that top prospects like Anthony Rendon and Brian Goodwin could be in the Majors by mid-summer, while other promising minor leaguers like Danny Rosenbaum, Christian Garcia, Eury Perez and Zach Walters could contribute earlier.

Two weeks in to the 2013 season, here are some of the notable performances from the Washington Nationals minor league system:

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NATS/P-NATS: Potomac Nationals Home Opener, April 5

Potomac Nationals Opening Day 2013 at Pfitzner Stadium is Friday, April 5th as the P-Nats host the defending Carolina League Champion, Lynchburg Hillcats (Atlanta Braves) at 7:05pm. Gates to The Pfitz will open at 6:00pm.

Potomac Nationals LogoPOTOMAC NATIONALS UNVEIL 2013 OPENING DAY ROSTER
New P-Nats skipper, Brian Daubach, to lead 13 returning players and 15 newcomers

Woodbridge, VA—Enter the 2013 Potomac Nationals Opening Day Roster. With first pitch of the 36th campaign in Potomac franchise history less than one week away, the P-Nats have unveiled their official roster to begin the 2013 Carolina League season.

First-year Nationals field manager, Brian Daubach, a former World Series Champion with the Boston Red Sox, in his third year within the Washington Nationals Minor League system after the last two seasons leading the Class-A Hagerstown Suns, is tasked with mentoring 13 returning players and 15 fresh faces on the Potomac roster. Daubach led Hagerstown to winning records in each of his two seasons at the helm and took the Suns to a South Atlantic League playoff appearance for the first time since 2005.

Former Major League veteran, Chris Michalak, will oversee a 13-man pitching stable that includes potential starters: RHP A.J. Cole, LHP Robbie Ray, RHP Taylor Jordan, RHP Taylor Hill, and LHP Kylin Turnbull.

Cole (4th Rd., 2010) was signed for a MLB Draft fourth round record, $2 million bonus out of Oviedo High School in Florida, and showed flashed of brilliance (staff-best 108 strikeouts in 89.0 innings) with Class-A Hagerstown in 2011 before being packaged with C Derek Norris, RHP Brad Peacock, and LHP Tommy Milone in a trade to the Oakland Athletics that netted the Washington Nationals 2012 20-game winner, LHP Gio Gonzalez. Then, in the swap that shipped LF Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners this off-season, the Nationals re-acquired Cole in a three-team deal with the Oakland which instantly put Cole back on Washington’s prospect radar for 2013 (Baseball America and MLB.com Prospect #4). When in sync, Cole dominates his opposition with a steady diet of mid to upper 90’s fastballs and a budding slider that he continues to refine.

Ray (12th Rd., 2010), an exciting southpaw slinger, who owned a 3.13 earned run average over 20 starts with Class-A Hagerstown in 2011, looks to rebound from an arduous 2012 ledger. Ray, MLB.com’s #10 Washington Nationals prospect, who was signed away by Washington from a commitment to play college baseball at Arkansas, fanned 95 batters in 89.0 innings pitched just two seasons ago, and looks to build on his three-pitch arsenal and crafty potential.

Jordan (9th Rd., 2009) had a successful comeback season in 2012 following Tommy John surgery. Jordan was terrific for Hagerstown in 2011 with a 9-4 record and petite 2.48 ERA before his injury sidelined his track. The powerful right-hander went 3-4 with a 4.05 ERA in 9 starts last year to build his strength back and feel comfortable using his entire repertoire in preparation for the 2013 season. Jordan enters this year’s P-Nats slate as the 17th ranked Washington Nationals prospect by MLB.com.

Hill (6th Rd., 2011) found success in 2012 over both Class-A affiliates pitching to an 11-7 record and walking only 34 batters in 139.1 innings pitched. Hill pitched to contact but many of those balls were bounced on the ground and found the gloves per his 1.18 groundball-to-flyball ratio. Hill was promoted to Potomac in late August after going 10-6 over 24 appearances and 20 starts with the Suns. Hill saw action in three starts over 15.0 innings and finished the season 1-1 in the Carolina League. A true strike-thrower, Hill was honored by Baseball America with the Best Control designation with regards to all Nationals farm arms.

Turnbull (4th Rd., 2011) brings with him plenty of hype. MLB.com’s 17th ranked Washington Nationals prospect signed late in 2012 and began his full-season MiLB career in Hagerstown after a four-outing stint with the Gulf Coast League Nationals. A projectable southpaw that throws flames, Turnbull covets consistency in 2013 after registering a 4-5 record and 5.16 ERA in 18 appearances, 17 of those starts, a season ago. The ceiling is high for Turnbull if he can exhibit control and command with his secondary pitches, a developing slider and emerging splitter combination that could prove deadly for Carolina League opposition if he can get them over for strikes. Turnbull has a big frame and will look to maximize his very live arm that pumps heaters as high up as the mid-90s.

Potomac’s lone returning right-handed bullpen arm is Robert Gilliam, a former Oakland farmhand exchanged in the Gio Gonzalez trade, who will begin his 2013 season inactive following 36.0 innings logged with the P-Nats in which he garnered 30 strikeouts.

Nationals returning left-handed pitchers in the bullpen feature Paul Applebee, who will begin the season inactive after earning a 2-1 record in 13 appearances in 2012, Matt Grace, winner of a team-high nine games last season for Potomac, and Josh Smoker, a 2007 compensation 1st round draft pick who will also start the season inactive after just two trips to the bump for the P-Nats in 2012.

Promoted to Class-A Advanced Potomac in 2013, RHP Colin Bates, will join the P-Nats ‘pen after tossing lights out in Hagerstown where he went 8-3 with a 2.79 ERA in 29 relief outings.

LHP Ben Hawkins was terrific pitching out of the Suns bullpen as he racked up 57 strikeouts in 58.1 innings pitched while maintaining a 3-3 record and a 3.55 ERA in 30 trips to the mound.

RHP Greg Holt was a model of consistency in Hagerstown with a 5-2 record while holding opposing batters to a stingy .233 batting average.

LHP Christian Meza was arguably the most dominant force out of the Hagerstown bullpen in 2012. Meza was tied for the ‘pen lead with 8 wins and sported an anemic 2.97 ERA in 33 relief appearances and three spot starts. Meza held opposing sticks to a tiny .208 batting clip while collecting 94 strikeouts in 88.0 innings pitched with just 37 walks. Meza only received a losing decision once in 2012.

RHP Richie Mirowski was a stud relief asset for Hagerstown going undefeated in 16 bullpen trips to the mound. Mirowski overwhelmed Sally League swatters to the tune of 28 K’s in 27.0 innings and finished the ’12 campaign with a 2.00 ERA.

RHP Tyler Herron joins the Washington Nationals after a 2012 tenure spent with the independent Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks of the American Association following an arm injury in 2011. Herron, a former 1st round MLB draft pick selected 46th overall in 2005 by the St. Louis Cardinals, last pitched in affiliated baseball in 2009 with the Double-A Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates) where he fanned 18 batters in 26.0 innings but held a 4.50 ERA in eight appearances and four stars. Herron, a former Baseball America Top-10 St. Louis Cardinals prospect, will look to regain the prominence that enticed the Cards to offer him a $675,000 signing bonus.

RHP Derek Self makes the springboard jump from the Short-season-A Auburn Doubledays to Potomac as a strong closer candidate after shutting down opposing New York Penn League hitters to a .260 batting average against to complement a whopping 14 saves in 15 save opportunities, which was tied for the most saves in the circuit. Self boasted a 3.27 ERA and a 3.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

P-Nats hitting coach, Mark Harris, back for his second season overall with the P-Nats, who led the Hagerstown hackers in 2012, will mentor a potent starting lineup this season with Potomac.

The human backstops for the P-Nats in 2013 feature former Baseball America top-25 prospect, C Adrian Nieto, who competed for Team Spain in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. The Cuban-born switch-hitter bashed to a .257 batting clip with six home runs and 39 runs batted in over the course of 70 games for Hagerstown in 2012; results that yielded his best professional season. Nieto caught over 30 percent of would-be base stealers in the Sally League last season (20 caught stealing in 66 base swipe attempts) and returns to the Class-A Advanced level after a two-game stint with the P-Nats in 2011.

Also in competition for time behind the dish, C Cole Leonida joins the Nationals after displaying his pop on the South Atlantic League circuit. Platooning with Nieto in Hagerstown last year, Leonida ripped seven doubles, a pair of triples, and four long balls while producing 24 RBIs in 56 contests. Leonida cut down 24 runners in 86 stolen base attempts good for a punch-out percentage of 28%.

The Potomac infield is set for vast power potential and terrific defense. A converted outfielder-to-infielder, 1B Kevin Keyes returns to the Pfitzner Stadium diamond after cranking a team-high 21 homers while driving in a club-best 78 runs. Keyes’ imposing .459 slugging percentage and .749 OPS make him a premier power threat in 2013. Keyes will look to round up his .223 batting average while still squaring up balls that find the gaps as he belted 27 doubles last year.

2B Adrian Sanchez will return to man the right side of Daubach’s infield where he earned a .972 fielding percentage and committed only 10 errors in 76 games at second base. Sanchez owned a solid .269 batting average in 2012 over 101 games and his 101 hits ranked 2nd on the team. Finding real estate often, the durable speedster wreaked havoc on the basepaths stealing 25 bags in 41 tries for the 2nd most swipes in the Potomac clubhouse.

SS/3B Jason Martinson had a career season in 2012 splitting his time between Hagerstown and Potomac. Martinson, MLB.com’s Nationals #20 prospect, hit .245 between the two Nationals affiliates with 123 base hits, 104 runs scored, 22 four-baggers, 106 RBIs, and Martinson stole 30 bases. Martinson’s 2012 .770 OPS swells his bam-box potential at The Pfitz and he projects to be a hallmark in the middle of Daubach’s lineup card.

SS/3B Blake Kelso brings his diverse skill set back to Potomac where he stole the most bases on the squad (27) and collected 107 total bases. Kelso was tied for 2nd on the club with 51 runs scored, and defensively owned a .976 fielding percentage in 100 games committing only 8 errors in 338 total chances while turning 32 double plays at second base, shortstop, and third base.

Infielder Cutter Dykstra, son of former New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies great, Lenny Dykstra, and MiLB.com 2012 Organizational All-Star, ripped at a .291 pace last season in 110 games in Hagerstown, while connecting for 28 doubles, seven home runs, and 64 RBIs. Supplementing the fleet feet of the P-Nats roster, Dykstra took 32 bags in 35 attempts last season, good for 2nd most on the club.

Potomac Nationals veteran utility man, Francisco Soriano returns to The Pfitz to begin his fourth consecutive campaign with the P-Nats. Soriano, a fan favorite, served the Nationals well in 2012 with a consistent .270 batting average over 87 games with 44 runs scored, 11 doubles, six triples, 40 walks, and 12 stolen bases. Soriano made appearances at first base, second base, third base, shortstop, center field, and right field, and collectively, had a .961 fielding percentage (11 errors in 74 games).

Potomac is poised for a terrific outfield template with a unique combination of speed, power, on-base consistency, and rangy defense.

Outfielder Michael Taylor, MLB.com’s #5 ranked Nationals prospect, who some have said is a future center fielder contender for the Washington Nationals, returns to Woodbridge following a well-rounded 2012. Taylor, the club’s everyday center fielder, led the team with 33 doubles, while drawing 40 walks (tied for the team lead), and 19 stolen bases. Baseball America has tabbed Taylor as the Nationals farmhand with the “Best Tools” in the categories of Best Defensive Outfielder and Best Outfield Arm. It is Taylor’s unique blend of speed, quickness, range factor, power, and a keen hitters’ eye that makes him a key piece of the Potomac Nationals’ arsenal.

LF Caleb Ramsey, who was a Sally League All-Star in 2012, served as the best all-around hitter with respect to contact and pop for the Hagerstown Suns in 2012. Ramsey batted .294 in 127 games, stomped on home plate 78 times and led the team with 136 hits. Ramsey’s southpaw stick got red hot with runners in scoring position and two outs as he logged a .314 batting average in that situation. Ramsey’s 66 RBIs were 4th best on the club, and he was also 2nd in the league with 10 triples.

CF Billy Burns had a breakout season in 2012 in the SAL posting a .322 batting clip, 3rd best in the league, in 113 games, while running circles around the basepaths with 38 stolen bases. Burns was on base all the time finishing with a .432 OBP, 2nd best in the SAL landscape. Baseball America has dubbed Burns as the Fastest Baserunner in Washington’s organization.

RF Randolph Oduber competed in the ’13 WBC as Team Netherlands embarked on an underdog run deep into the tournament. Oduber was injured for a portion of the ’12 campaign with Potomac but salvaged his season with a respectable .252 batting average in 80 games along with 13 doubles, four triples, five home runs, and 27 RBIs. Oduber also grooved station-to-station for 14 stolen bases in 17 attempts.

P-NATS 2013 OPENING DAY ROSTER

ACTIVE 25-MAN ROSTER

(Listed alphabetically by position)

Pitchers (13)
Colin Bates
A.J. Cole
Matt Grace
Ben Hawkins
Tyler Herron
Taylor Hill
Gregory Holt
Taylor Jordan
Christian Meza
Richard Mirowski
Robbie Ray
Derek Self
Kylin Turnbull

Catchers (2)
Cole Leonida
Adrian Nieto

Infielders (6)
Cutter Dykstra
Blake Kelso
Kevin Keyes
Jason Martinson
Adrian Sanchez
Francisco Soriano

Outfielders (4)
Billy Burns
Randolph Oduber
Caleb Ramsey
Michael Taylor

INACTIVE ROSTER (3)

-Paul Applebee
-Robert Gilliam
-Josh Smoker

Potomac Nationals Opening Day 2013 at Pfitzner Stadium is Friday, April 5th as the P-Nats host the defending Carolina League Champion, Lynchburg Hillcats (Atlanta Braves) at 7:05pm. Gates to The Pfitz will open at 6:00pm.

For all three games of Opening Weekend from April 5th through Sunday, April 7th, the first 1,000 fans in attendance for each contest will receive a P-Nats 2013 Magnet Schedule presented by: Quinn’s Goldsmith. In addition, the best fireworks show in Northern Virginia will be on display following Saturday night’s 6:35pm game. Then, on Family Day at The Pfitz Sunday afternoon, a 1:05pm first pitch will usher in Kids Eat Free sponsored by: Little Caesars Team Dumfries & Haymarket as kids 12 and under will receive a free slice of pizza courtesy of Little Caesars. Kids Run the Bases will take place after the ballgame.

Washington Nationals 2013 Season Preview: The Outfield

This week, District Sports Page will take a look at the players that should comprise the 2013 roster of the Washington Nationals. Following a record-setting season last year that saw the Nats finish first in the N.L. East and advance to the playoffs for the first time since the relocation, GM Mike Rizzo has tweaked the roster a bit and expectations have never been higher for the organization, which is expected to be a legitimate World Series contender this season.

On Monday we broke down Nationals’ starters and Tuesday we evaluated the bullpen. Today, we provide a glimpse at Davey Johnson’s outfield.

PROJECTED OPENING DAY OUTFIELD: LF – Bryce Harper, CF – Denard Span, RF – Jayson Werth; Bench: Roger Bernadina, Tyler Moore. First callups: Corey Brown, Eury Perez [Read more...]

NATS/P-NATS: Potomac Nationals Taylor and Karns Named Carolina League Players of the Week


Taylor, Karns Named Carolina League Players of the Week
P-Nats Sweep Player of the Week Awards for July 16-22

(WOODBRIDGE, VA) – The Carolina League has announced that OF Michael Taylor and RHP Nathan Karns have been named Players of the Week for the week of July 16th to 22nd. It’s the first week Potomac has swept the awards.

Taylor earns his first Hitter of the Week award in his professional baseball career batting .483 (14-for-29) over seven games. Of those 14 hits, eight of them came in consecutive plate appearances over the weekend against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Taylor also hit his first three home runs of the season including a grand slam, the first by a P-Nat in 2012. For the week, Taylor scored 13 times and drove in eight runs while slugging .931.

Taylor, 21, is hitting .245 on the year and his third in the Carolina League with 29 doubles. The speedy centerfielder also shares the team lead with 44 runs and ranks in a tie for third with 15 stolen bases through 100 games.

For Karns, 24, this is the second time this season that he has earned the award for Pitcher of the Week. He shut down the Lynchburg Hillcats last Monday firing six scoreless innings yielding only a single and two walks for the win. Karns’ second start of the week was even better as he threw six hitless innings on Saturday against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans with the only runner reaching base on an error. In that game, Potomac was two outs shy of throwing a no-hitter. For his two starts, Karns was 2-0 tossing 12 scoreless innings surrendering only one hit and striking out eight batters.

In his first full season of professional baseball, Karns is locking down the Carolina League. His 1.88 ERA and 0.82 WHIP would be tops in the league if he had the necessary amount of innings to qualify. Karns is 6-0 in his last seven starts and has not lost a decision since June 9th.

The Potomac Nationals are celebrating their 35th Anniversary of professional baseball and family fun, for all your ticket needs please call the box office at 703-590-2311 or visit www.potomacnationals.com.

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