Jul 17, 2014, 4:25 PM EDT
With the MLB All-Star break occurring this week, it seems like a good time to take a look at the Nationals’ minor league affiliates. There have been some big surprises and disappointments in the Nats’ farm system in 2014, here is a breakdown of the standouts on each team:
TRIPLE-A SYRACUSE CHIEFS
Best position player: OF Steven Souza, Jr.
Souza made his MLB debut earlier this season with the Nats on April 13, but since has been stashed away in Syracuse due to an outfield logjam in Washington. While in Syracuse he has thrived with a .371 average, 14 home runs, 62 RBI, 21 stolen bases and 53 runs in 74 games. Souza just keeps getting better and now holds a 1.063 OPS on the season. He looks like he could start for a handful of MLB teams right now and it will be interesting to see how the Nats make use of him moving forward.
Best pitcher: RHP Taylor Hill
Hill is another Chiefs player we saw in Washington this season, as he debuted on June 25. Overall he’s been dominant at Syracuse this season, holding a 9-4 record with a 2.63 ERA across 106 total innings. Since the beginning of last year he has a 2.83 ERA in 270 2/3 innings pitched down in the minors.
Biggest surprise: OF Destin Hood
Hood’s stock dropped significantly last season when he hit just .224 at Double-A Harrisburg, but this year he’s been a completely different player. Through 58 games at Syracuse (he played his first 19 at Harrisburg) he’s hitting .301 with seven home runs and 25 RBI. A former Alabama football recruit, Hood has always had the talent. Now it appears he’s putting it together.
Biggest disappointment: OF Brian Goodwin
This was supposed to be a big year for Goodwin with the uncertainty of center fielder Denard Span’s future in Washington. Goodwin, however, has essentially been passed on the organizational depth chart by Harrisburg’s Michael Taylor. Goodwin, a former first round pick, is batting just .219 through 81 games. This from a supposed future leadoff hitter.
DOUBLE-A HARRISBURG SENATORS
Best position player: OF Michael Taylor
Well, have the Nationals found themselves something in this one. Taylor has exploded this season to emerge as the team’s best position player prospect by a longshot. The 23-year-old is batting .323 with 18 homers, 54 RBI, 67 runs and 27 stolen bases in 88 games. That’s just his offense. Anyone who follows the Senators closely will tell you he’s arguably the best defensive outfielder in all of Double-A. If Taylor keeps it up, it would not be surprising to see him get the call in September. Span may not be here in 2015 and they might want to see what they have in Taylor
Best pitcher: RHP A.J. Cole
Cole was promoted to Syracuse not too long ago, but his 14 starts at Harrisburg earned him this distinction. The right-hander was brilliant, going 6-3 with a 2.92 ERA and 61 strikeouts across 71 total innings. Cole, 22, is looking MLB-ready and if he were in an organization without the pitching depth of the Nats, you can bet he’d be up by now.
Biggest surprise: 3B Cutter Dykstra
Many Nats fans know the name, as Cutter is the son of former MLB star Lenny. He also has a famous wife. But this year Dykstra is starting to make a name for himself as one of the leaders of the Senators. Through 79 games Dykstra is hitting .297 with a .786 OPS, five home runs and 43 RBI.
Biggest disappointment: LHP Matt Purke
The career track of Purke has been an unfortunate one, as the lefty has been plagued by shoulder and elbow injuries ever since he was drafted by the Nats in 2011. This year he went 1-6 with a 8.04 ERA before it was determined he would need Tommy John surgery. Hopefully he can come back strong and someday reach his potential.
HIGH-A POTOMAC NATIONALS
Best position player: 2B Tony Renda
A second round pick in 2012, Renda is being groomed as a potential future starter at second base. He’s nowhere close to the big leagues, but he has looked very good this season with a .295 average, .371 OBP, 49 runs and 13 steals in 66 games.
Best pitcher: SP Dakota Bacus
It’s somewhat slim pickings when it comes to the P-Nats’ pitching staff, as there have been very few standouts. Bacus, however, has been the leader of their rotation with a 3.71 ERA in 19 total appearances, 12 of them starts. The 23-year-old came to Washington from Oakland in the Kurt Suzuki trade last August.
Biggest surprise: RHP Bryan Harper
Bryce’s brother earned a promotion to Double-A this season after a strong first few months at Potomac. The former South Carolina Gamecock posted a 2.59 ERA with one save in 17 appearances before heading north.
Biggest disappointment: LHP Brett Mooneyham
The Nats’ third round pick in 2012, Mooneyham made his first 10 appearances for Potomac before being demoted to Hagerstown. In those games – seven of them were starts – he allowed 27 earned runs in 33 innings, good enough for a 7.36 ERA. The lefty out of Stanford entered the Nats’ system with high promise, but has really struggled over the last season and a half.
LOW-A HAGERSTOWN SUNS
Best position player: C Spencer Kieboom
Kieboom was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, but up until this season was affected greatly by injuries. He missed most of 2013 after having Tommy John surgery. Now he is healthy and thriving at Hagerstown with a .330 average, .877 OPS, five home runs and 41 RBI through 57 games. The Nats could use some more depth at the catching position down the pipeline and Kieboom is turning into a solid prospect.
Best pitcher: RHP Lucas Giolito
In his first full season as a pro, Giolito is looking every bit the blue chip prospect that made him a first round pick. The 20-year-old is 4-2 with a 2.47 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 14 starts. Giolito told CSN this week he expects to have an innings limit around 100 this season, so at 65 2/3 he’s about two-thirds of the way there.
Biggest surprise: RHP Austin Voth
Picked in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, Voth began the season at Hagerstown before moving up to Potomac. With the Suns he posted a 2.45 ERA in 13 starts with 74 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings. He’s also gotten off to a nice start at Potomac with a 0.35 ERA through his first four starts, a stretch of 26 innings.
Biggest disappointment: RHP Jake Johansen
The Nats’ first pick in 2013, Johansen is a raw prospect with a high ceiling at this point. Still, his first full year in the minors has been a bit of a struggle. The 23-year-old is 5-4 this year with a 4.86 ERA in 17 games (16 starts). Opponents are currently hitting .285 off the Dallas Baptist University product.
NL EAST STANDINGS
FRI: Nats at Reds, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Reds, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Reds, 1:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Marlins, 12:40 p.m.
THU: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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