October 2013

Harper Turns 21

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As you’ve no doubt already heard, Bryce Harper turned 21 today. It’s worth taking a moment to realize just what that means, and to appreciate just how much he has already accomplished.

With that in mind, here are 21 of our favorite things about the Nationals All-Star outfielder, in an only somewhat particular order. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments below:

21. The number of outfield assists Harper has amassed in his first two seasons, collecting 13 in just 115 games this year (more on that later).

20. At 20, on his first Major League Opening Day, Harper’s first swing of the season crushed a breaking ball from Ricky Nolasco into the seats for Washington’s first run. In his very next at-bat, he did it again, beginning his season with not just one bang, but a pair of them.

19. Harper provided a moment nearly as dramatic exactly three months later when he stepped back onto the field at Nationals Park, after a stint on the disabled list, and found the seats yet again. A standing ovation greeted him as he dug into the box, and he blasted an opposite-field home run, leading Washington to a 10-5 victory.

18. It was another 24 days until Harper’s next homer, but he didn’t lose his flair for the moment over that span. After Washington coughed up a ninth-inning lead against the Pirates, Harper blasted a two-run, walk-off shot into the Red Porch seats — the first walk-off home run of his career.

17. Of course, Harper can also win games with his glove. He gave up his body in the ninth inning of a one-run game in Kansas City, making one of his most spectacular catches to date.

16. In partnership with the Nationals and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Harper’s Heroes was a season-long program that treats families affected by childhood cancers to a fun-filled day at Nationals Park. The VIP experience, held on six separate occasions in 2013, included a private meet and greet with Harper as well as a special batting practice viewing, T-shirts and tickets to the game, complete with NatsBucks.

15. It’s probably time to stop running on Harper.

14. For running until they tag him.

13. The 2013 season marked Bryce’s second All-Star appearance in as many campaigns. We get the sense he’ll have a few more before he’s done playing.

12. That’s Harper’s total number of triples through two seasons, which allow us to appreciate his self-helmet removal device.

11. That’s exactly how many games back of the Braves the Nationals found themselves after a pair of tough losses in Detroit, when Harper decided to be more vocal. That led him to go out and make T-shirts for the club, which recorded the best record in the Major Leagues (34-20) the rest of the season.

10. C’mon. Stop running on Bryce.

9. That’s how many more seasons of Major League experience Jayson Werth has than Harper, whom Werth has taken under his wing. Watching their big brother-little brother relationship grow has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of the past two seasons.

8. The setup to “the steal.” After Harper was plunked by Cole Hamels with nobody on and two out the first time he’d ever faced Hamels, Harper stood at first as Werth dropped a single into left field. Recognizing that outfielder Juan Pierre was fielding the ball, Harper knew he could be aggressive on the bases, as he scorched around second and into third base. All of which led to…

7. “The steal.” With the lefty Hamels paying more attention to Werth, Harper timed him on a pickoff throw to first. When Hamels lobbed another ball over, Harper took off, sprinting home and sliding in ahead of Carlos Ruiz’s tag for a steal of home. He joined a list that includes Hall of Famer Cal Ripken as players who made their first stolen base as a major leaguer one of home plate. And he did it all in front of a national television audience on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

6. Harper’s relationship with 13-year-old Gavin Rupp. Harper and Rupp bonded before a home game this season, when Harper went above and beyond the call of duty to not just spend time with Rupp, but to really get to know him as a human being. As part of the SU2C (Stand Up to Cancer) campaign during the All-Star Home Run Derby, Harper held up a card reading “I Stand Up for Gavin Rupp” for the world to see. Harper is among many in the Nationals family who continue to mourn Rupp’s all-too-early passing later that month.

5. Harper is one of just five players with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases prior to his 21st birthday. The complete list:

Bryce Harper 42 HR, 29 SB
Ken Griffey, Jr. 38 HR, 32 SB
Mike Trout 24 HR, 40 SB
Andruw Jones 26 HR, 25 SB
Adrian Beltre 22 HR, 21 SB

4. Seriously. Don’t run on Bryce.

3. That is the total number of Major League players in history with more than 40 home runs at age 20 or younger. Harper’s 42 career long balls prior to age 21 trail just Mel Ott (61) and Tony Conigliaro (56) on the all-time list.

2. Although he didn’t win the competition, Harper advanced all the way to the finals of the 2013 Home Run Derby. He put on a show and gave eventual champion Yoenis Cespedes a good run for his money in what is hopefully just his first of many appearances in the annual event.

So, what’s number one?

1. That’s a clown question, bro.

Signature Moments of 2013: Quarterfinal #4

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With 86 wins in the books, the 2013 season had its share of lasting memories. We have seeded the top 10 in our book, and over the next few weeks we will be letting you vote in a bracket-style competition to determine the ultimate signature moment of the season. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the World Series for a new poll and to see which moments advanced on to the next round.

SigMomentsBracket10-16

“IT AIN’T OVER…” | 9.17

Following the tragic events of September 16 at the nearby Navy Yard, the mood was somber as the Nationals took on the Atlanta Braves in game one of a split doubleheader the next day. Down two in the bottom of the ninth against the seemingly unbeatable Craig Kimbrel, the Nats rallied for three runs to win the game, scoring the go-ahead and winning runs on a grounder by Denard Span that snuck between the legs of Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

BRYCE IS BACK | 7.1

Exactly three months after the Nationals 2013 campaign began, Washington came to bat in the bottom of the first with Bryce Harper hitting third in its lineup – his first game back after missing more than a month due to injury. Harper took ball one, then rocketed a solo home run to put the Nationals in front, just as he did in his first at-bat on Opening Day.

ItAintOver

Arizona Fall League, Week 1 (10.8–10.14)

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Each week, we will recap the performances of the eight members of the Nationals organization participating in the Arizona Fall League, a “finishing school” for top prospects.

The eight Nationals players are members of the Mesa Solar Sox, which is comprised of young stars from the Nationals, Angels, Athletics, Cubs and Tigers farm systems. The Solar Sox will battle the Glendale Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas, Salt River Rafters, Scottsdale Scorpions and Surprise Saguaros during the six-week season, with each team made up of players from five MLB organizations.

Here is a look at how each of the Nationals participants in this year’s Arizona Fall League performed during the season’s first week:

ROBERT BENINCASA | RHP
Weekly Totals: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO

Reliever Robert Benincasa made one appearance for the Solar Sox during the first week of the season, closing out the ninth inning of Mesa’s 13-3 victory over the Glendale Desert Dogs on October 9.

Despite allowing a leadoff home run to White Sox prospect Brandon Jacobs, Benincasa settled down to record the final three outs, including a strikeout of Reds farmhand Travis Mattair.

Brian Goodwin collected two doubles on October 14. (photo by Will Bentzel)

Brian Goodwin collected two doubles on October 14. (photo by Will Bentzel)

BRIAN GOODWIN | OF
Weekly Totals: .357/.438/.500, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB in 16 plate appearances

Brian Goodwin, rated the 65th-best prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, got off to a quick start in his second appearance in the Fall League, after playing for the Salt River Rafters in 2012.

He collected two hits in the season opener on October 8, drove in a pair of runs on October 10, and went 2-for-4 with two doubles on October 14. His work at the plate helped Mesa to a league-best 4-0-1 record (the Solar Sox tied their opening contest against Glendale).

RICHIE MIROWSKI | RHP
Weekly Totals: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO

Former 45th-round draft pick Richie Mirowski earned one appearance during the first week of the Arizona Fall League campaign, a 1-2-3 seventh inning in the Solar Sox 7-3 victory over the Surprise Saguaros on October 11.

The right-hander stymied all three hitters he faced, including a strikeout of Red Sox prospect Mookie Betts ­– who fanned just 57 times against 81 walks during his impressive 2013 season at Single-A and Double-A.

ADRIAN NIETO | C
Weekly Totals: .500/.556/.667, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 SF, 2 BB in 9 plate appearances

Cuban-born backstop Adrian Nieto had a successful first week for Mesa, catching the team’s wins on October 9 and 14 over Glendale and Scottsdale.

He went 1-for-2 at the plate with a double, a walk and a sacrifice fly in the first of those two contests, then collected two hits and a walk in five plate appearances five days later. The 23-year-old had a slash line of .285/.373/.449 this season for the High-A Potomac Nationals.

MATT PURKE | LHP
Weekly Totals: (1-0), 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO

Pitching prospect Matt Purke cruised in his first appearance of the Arizona Fall League season, allowing an unearned run in three innings of work in an October 10 win over Salt River.

The 6-foot-4 southpaw surrendered two hits and a walk, striking out two, while throwing 30 of his 46 pitches for strikes. He was credited with the win in Mesa’s 8-1 victory.

MATT SKOLE | 1B/3B
Weekly Totals:  .250/.400/.625, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB in 10 plate appearances

Corner infielder Matt Skole received the Opening Day nod at designated hitter on October 8, clubbing a game-tying, two-run home run as part of a 2-for-4 afternoon. He drove in a total of three RBI in the slugfest, which ended in an 8-8 tie between the Solar Sox and Desert Dogs.

Skole made an important step physically on October 10, getting the start at first base for the first time since an injury to his non-throwing elbow prematurely ended his 2013 campaign. He walked and scored a run in support of Purke in the Solar Sox 8-1 win.

SAMMY SOLIS | LHP
Weekly Totals:  (1-0), 3.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO

Sammy Solis earned a start and victory for Mesa on October 9, tossing three scoreless innings in 13-3 rout of Glendale. The 6-foot-5 left-hander threw 56 pitches in the effort, allowing three hits and a walk in 3.2 innings of work, striking out two batters.

Solis, a native of nearby Avondale, Arizona, threw 59.2 innings this season after missing the entire 2012 season due to injury.

Souza made the most of his two starts during the past week. (Diamond Images)

Souza made the most of his two starts during the past week. (Diamond Images)

STEVEN SOUZA, JR. | OF
Weekly Totals: .375/.500/.500, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 R, 5 SB, 2 BB in 10 plate appearances

One of the biggest stories of the Arizona Fall League’s first week was Souza’s performance on the basepaths. The big, physical athlete stole five bases in his two starts, giving him the league lead in the early going.

Souza’s most impressive individual performance came in a 7-3 win over Surprise on October 11, in which he went 2-for-3 with two walks, a double, three RBI and a trio of steals. He followed that up by representing the Nationals in the AFL’s inaugural Bowman Hitting Challenge on October 12, a competition similar to a Home Run Derby. Souza was also a finalist for the Arizona Fall League Player of the Week.

Thank You for Your Service

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Putting on an event for as many as 40,000 people, feeding them, entertaining them, addressing their concerns and catering to their needs, is a tall task that requires many moving parts working together, in concert. Putting on 81 of such events, in strings of as many as 10 or 11 in a row, sometimes twice in the same day, is a monumental task. It requires far more helping hands than the front office staff alone can offer.

That’s where our TEAM Service members come in. A staff of 1,750 workers, local Washingtonians, Virginians and Marylanders staff the ballpark and provide everything they can to ensure your fan experience is the best possible. This year, we asked fans to nominate and vote for the best of the best, who were rewarded on the field prior to the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader on the final day of the regular season. Then, this past weekend, they enjoyed a trip to St. Louis to take in Game 1 of the NLCS between the Cardinals and Dodgers. The contest turned out to be a classic postseason ballgame, with the home side winning, 3-2, in 13 innings.

Selckman (back left), Lavigne (back center-right) and Howard (back center) were just three of the TEAM Service members on the trip.

Selckman (back left), Lavigne (back center-right) and Howard (back center) were just three of the TEAM Service members on the trip.

Karen Selckman, a bartender out at the Red Porch, was one of this year’s winners. She’s been pouring from the center field restaurant since the ballpark opened back in 2008 and has formed a group of regulars. But she was blown away to learn that she had received the honor.

“It’s completely overwhelming,” she said. “It’s flattering and I’m shocked.”

For employees like Selckman, customers with smiling faces is reward enough. This is just icing on the cake.

“What else can you ask for, you know?” she said. “If people are happy, we’re happy. It’s personal, so when you know that people are happy, it’s very fulfilling.”

Mike Lavigne has been a Guest Experience Usher, and has also worked at Nationals Park since it opened six seasons ago. He enjoys not just the company of the fans, but all his fellow coworkers, and was pleasantly surprised to be singled out among them for this honor.

“We’ve got so many good folks, how did I sneak through?” he joked upon learning of the award.

In his six years, Lavigne has seen the growth of both the team on the field and the fan base as it comes to accept the Nationals as its own team. That continued growth and connection keeps him coming back every year with more passion than the last.

“Just look at it,” he explained. “The fan base, when we were first starting out, there was a lot of excitement … I think Washington has been starving for baseball for a long time.”

The view from the seats at Busch Stadium.

The view from the seats at Busch Stadium.

Lavigne’s favorite part of the job is simply the human element, the ability to interact with fellow baseball fans as they escape their daily routine at the ballpark.

“I get to watch a little bit of baseball, I get to interact with folks that I don’t get to do in the regular job. It’s just a big win. Frankly, folks want to be here. This is different than other sports.”

“Big” Al Howard is a CSC Event Staff member, one of many in charge of managing crowd control in The District’s largest sporting venue. That can be a thankless position sometimes, especially when events outside of his control cause friction among the fans. But he takes it all in stride as part of the position.

“Customer service is exactly what it says: customer service,” Howard explained. “Sometimes you have to bend over backwards. Sometimes you have to take the mud in the face. But at the same time, you try to make that experience enjoyable and at least try to accommodate whatever their questions are.”

So what is Howard’s greatest reward in the three years he has worked at Nationals Park?

“People remembering your name. People remembering you for what you’ve done. Somebody saying ‘Thank you,’ or coming back to you, or asking for you or a compliment via someone else about you.”

Consider this a big thank you from all of us at the Nationals for another great season. See you all in 2014.

Signature Moments of 2013: Quarterfinal #3

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With 86 wins in the books, the 2013 season had its share of lasting memories. We have seeded the top 10 in our book, and over the next few weeks we will be letting you vote in a bracket-style competition to determine the ultimate signature moment of the season. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the World Series for a new poll and to see which moments advanced on to the next round.

SigMomentsBracket10-14

WALK-OFF WONDERS | 7.25 & 7.26

On July 25, in a 7-7 tie, with two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth, Bryce Harper ripped a line drive to deep left-center field, just clearing the #NATITUDE sign and dropping into the second row of the Red Porch for the first game-winning home run of his career. The very next night, in the second game of a doubleheader with the New York Mets, Ryan Zimmerman punished a high fastball over the out-of-town scoreboard to give the Nationals a 2-1 victory. It was his ninth-career walk-off home run, four shy of the Major League record.

RAMOS RETURNS | 7.4

After Wilson Ramos spent 44 games on the disabled list, his return to the Nationals lineup on July 4 couldn’t have come soon enough. Ramos plated a career-high five RBI (surpassing his previous high of three), capped by a three-run bomb in the seventh inning that broke open a tie game and helped lift the Nationals to an 8-5 Independence Day win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

SigMomentpollimage

Signature Moments of 2013: Quarterfinal #2

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With 86 wins in the books, the 2013 season had its share of lasting memories. We have seeded the top 10 in our book, and over the next few weeks we will be letting you vote in a bracket-style competition to determine the ultimate signature moment of the season. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the World Series for a new poll and to see which moments advanced on to the next round.

SigMomentsBracket10-11

A STORYBOOK BEGINNING | 4.1

On April 1, Bryce Harper’s first swing of the 2013 campaign connected with a hanging curveball out of Ricky Nolasco’s hand, soared 406 feet and landed in the right field seats. In his second at-bat, the defending National League Rookie of the Year punished another Nolasco breaking ball, again to right. He couldn’t have scripted a better start to his sophomore season.

THE WALKING DEAD | 6.19


Trailing most of the game on June 19 in Philadelphia, the Nationals bats awakened just in the nick of time to force extra innings and steal a win to end a long, grinding road trip. Jayson Werth, of the “be ready to eat some face” comment following the tough loss the night before, ripped a game-tying, two-out, RBI-single in the top of the ninth inning. In the 11th, the Nationals loaded the bases for Ian Desmond, who annihilated a hanging slider from Michael Stutes for his first career grand slam, giving the Nats a 6-2 win.

Storybook

Signature Moment of 2013: Quarterfinal #1

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With 86 wins in the books, the 2013 season had its share of lasting memories. We have seeded the top 10 in our book, and over the next few weeks we will be letting you vote in a bracket-style competition to determine the ultimate signature moment of the season. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the World Series for a new poll and to see which moments advanced on to the next round.

SigMomentsBracketBRYCE

ONE HIT WONDERS | 4.25 & 4.26

On April 25 against the Cincinnati Reds, Gio Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano combined to throw just the second one-hitter in the history of the young Nationals franchise, handing the Reds an 8-1 loss. The very next night, Jordan Zimmermann did all the work himself, needing just 91 pitches to finish a one-hitter of his own, his first career shutout, 1-0. It was the first time since August 10-11, 1917 that a Washington-based baseball club had one-hit an opponent on consecutive days, when Walter Johnson and a trio of Senators did so to the Chicago White Sox.

ONE GRAND SWING | 8.10

Jayson Werth reached the 1,000-hit milestone in memorable fashion on August 10, in an 8-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. After a pair of singles in his second and third at-bats got him to 999, Werth was set up for a chance to reach the 1,000 mark in his next at-bat, which came in a tie game with a runner at first and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The normally methodical Werth took no time to make his presence felt, jumping on the first pitch and wrapping it inside the left field foul pole for a go-ahead, two-run home run.

GrandSwing

A Werthy Candidate

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Andrew McCutchen is going to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award. One of his Pirates teammates, either Marlon Byrd or Francisco Liriano, seems destined to win National League Comeback Player of the Year. The honors will be deserved, as they have all had exemplary seasons, worthy of such accolades. And while Jayson Werth will not take home either of those – he was not even a finalist for the Comeback Player of the Year Award – there is a third honor for which he is nominated that he absolutely deserves: The Hank Aaron Award.

Each year, every team in baseball has a single nominee for the award, which recognizes the most outstanding offensive performer in each league. And although the Nationals received a number of standout performances in 2013 – from Ian Desmond leading all National League shortstops in extra-base hits to Ryan Zimmerman’s prolific September that left him with the team lead in home runs – Werth’s career year stood above the rest.

Despite early season injuries, Jayson Werth enjoyed a career year.

Despite early season injuries, Jayson Werth enjoyed a career year.

When the dust settled on the 2013 regular season, only one player ranked in the top five in the National League in OPS (second, .931), slugging percentage (third, .532), on-base percentage batting (fifth, .398) and batting (tied-fifth, .318). And although he played just 129 games due to some lingering injuries, Werth still slugged 25 home runs en route to a 154 OPS+.

For those of you more inclined towards advanced statistics, consider wRC+ (weighted runs created plus), a statistic that Grantland baseball writer Jonah Keri considers “the most telling offensive stat in the game.” The statistic attempts to quantify a player’s total offensive value and measure it by runs, and is park- and league-adjusted. For a complete breakdown, see the Fangraphs explanation here.

Despite wRC+ being a ratio, it is also a counting stat, meaning that it will go up the more extra-base hits, stolen bases, etc. achieved. And despite playing in only those 129 games, Jayson Werth (160) led all of the National League in wRC+ in 2013.

That’s right, better than the five-tool player McCutchen (155). Higher than both sluggers Paul Goldschmidt (156) and Joey Votto (156), who each appeared in at least 160 games. And Werth provided those runs for the Nationals all while maintaining his trademark patience at the plate.

Fans at Nationals Park show their support for their right fielder.

Fans at Nationals Park show their support for their right fielder.

Once again, Werth led the National League in pitches per plate appearance – just as he did in 2011 (4.37), 2010 (4.37) and 2009 (4.50) – clocking in at 4.24. The 34-year-old veteran paced a trio of Nationals in the top dozen in the league (Adam LaRoche, ninth – 4.07, Zimmerman, 12th – 4.01) as Washington was the lone Senior Circuit club with three players over the four-pitch threshold. Werth’s 4.42 career mark is still the highest active rate in Major League Baseball and among the highest of all time (third, unofficially) since the statistic began being tracked in the 1980s.

He also continued to steal bases at an exceedingly high rate, swiping 10 bags in 11 attempts. That raised his career success rate to 87.0 percent (114-for-131), good for fourth all-time in Major League history among qualifying players.

While continuing to do what he does best, Werth shrugged off early injuries en route to the National League Player of the Month Award in July, and made a great case to repeat the feat in August. He set career marks in batting and OPS, exceeding the 2010 season that saw him earn an eighth-place finish in the National League MVP voting. And while he may ultimately fall short of other awards this season, the Hank Aaron Award should – literally – have his name all over it.

- VOTE NOW FOR JAYSON WERTH FOR THE 2013 HANK AARON AWARD -

Down on the Farm: Arizona Fall League

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Though the regular season has come and gone and the postseason has entered its second week, eight members of the Washington Nationals organization will have the opportunity to continue their development this year in one of baseball’s most talent-rich environments.

Pitchers Robert Benincasa, Richie Mirowski, Matt Purke and Sammy Solis will be joined by catcher Adrian Nieto, infielder Matt Skole and outfielders Brian Goodwin and Steven Souza in the Arizona Fall League, a self-described “finishing school” for top prospects. The Nationals players will compete for the Mesa Solar Sox, which is comprised of Minor League stars from the Nationals, Angels, Athletics, Cubs and Tigers organizations.

Souza has slugged 38 home runs over the past two seasons.

Souza has slugged 38 home runs over the past two seasons.

Over the course of the six-week schedule, the Solar Sox will battle five other teams located throughout the greater Phoenix area – each featuring prospects drawn from five clubs – showcasing their talents in front of scouts, front office executives and fans of the game.

The Solar Sox open their season today at 3:30 p.m. ET when they take on the Glendale Desert Dogs. Center fielder Brian Goodwin has been penciled into the No. 2 spot in the batting order this afternoon for Mesa, while Matt Skole will hit eighth and serve as the designated hitter. Former Nationals farmhand David Freitas, now with Oakland, will do the catching for the Solar Sox, which will be opposed on the mound by Minnesota prospect Alex Meyer –  the former first-round pick for whom the Nationals acquired center fielder Denard Span this past offseason.

The season’s midway point will be marked by the Rising Stars Game on Saturday, November 2, and will conclude with the Arizona Fall League Championship on Saturday, November 16. Both November showcase games will be broadcast live on MLB Network.

Here is more a comprehensive look at the Nationals participants in this year’s Arizona Fall League:

ROBERT BENINCASA | RHP

Age: 23 (9.5.90) | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 180 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right

Selected in the seventh round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Florida State University

Robert Benincasa has solidified his place as a dependable bullpen arm in the Nationals organization, saving 27 games between Class-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac during the 2013 season. The 23-year-old right-hander showed a strong command of the strike zone, totaling 64 strikeouts against just 14 walks in 51.0 innings pitched across both levels.

The Florida State University product was also a closer at the college level, saving 16 games and compiling a 1.32 ERA as a junior with the Seminoles, earning first team All-ACC as well as first team All-American honors from Baseball America.

Brian Goodwin heads back to the Fall League for a second year.

Brian Goodwin heads back to the Fall League for a second year.

BRIAN GOODWIN | OF

Age: 22 (11.2.90) | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 195 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right

Selected in the first round (34th overall) of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Miami Dade CC

Brian Goodwin, rated the 65th-best prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, is an energetic young outfielder who just completed his first full season with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators. He collected 40 extra-base hits (19 doubles, 11 triples, 10 home runs) on the year, adding 19 steals on the base paths.

“(Brian) is a rangy center fielder who gets good jumps,” said Nationals Director of Minor League Operations Mark Scialabba during the 2013 season. “He has the potential to play center field in the Major Leagues, and is a very athletic, dynamic baseball player who can show you flashes of all five tools.”

RICHIE MIROWSKI | RHP

Age: 24 (4.30.89) | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 190 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right

Selected in the 45th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Oklahoma Baptist University

Like Benincasa, Richie Mirowski is a talented right-hander who tallied eye-popping numbers out of the bullpen during the 2013 campaign. The 24-year-old breezed through High-A Potomac en route to Double-A Harrisburg, going a combined 10-3 with a 1.83 ERA, seven saves, and 88 strikeouts against just 15 walks in 68.2 innings of work. His 11.5 strikeouts-per-nine innings and 0.90 WHIP both ranked among the best in the organization.

Mirowski has emerged as a late-round steal from the Nationals talent-rich 2011 Draft. Selected in the 45th round out of Oklahoma Baptist University, the Nationals converted Mirowski from a college starter to his current relief role.

ADRIAN NIETO | C

Age: 23 (11.12.89) | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 200 | Bats: Switch | Throws: Right

Selected in the fifth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of American Heritage (FL) HS

Cuban-born catching prospect Adrian Nieto enjoyed the finest season of his professional career in 2013, contributing in the batter’s box and behind the plate for the Potomac Nationals. The 23-year-old switch-hitter slashed .285/.373/.449 in 452 plate appearances, with a career-high 11 home runs and 53 RBI. He also threw out an astounding 42 baserunners, giving him a total of 100 caught stealings since 2010.

Nieto, whose family defected from Cuba when he was a child, teamed up with future Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer to win a Florida state championship in high school. The 2008 fifth-round pick participated for Team Spain in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

MATT PURKE | LHP

Age: 23 (7.17.90) | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 205 | Bats: Left | Throws: Left

Selected in the third round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Texas Christian University

Talented left-hander Matt Purke will try to build on a successful – and healthy – 2013 campaign when he takes the hill for the Solar Sox this fall. Purke completed 90 innings between Class-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac this season, hinting at the dominance that made him a consensus All-American during his freshman season at TCU in 2010.

Purke started six games for the Suns, striking out 41 and walking just seven in 29 innings, before earning a promotion to the P-Nats. He finished the year with a flourish in Woodbridge, going 5-0 with a 2.11 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over his final seven starts of the regular season.

Skole was a non-roster invitee to Major League camp this spring.

Skole was a non-roster invitee to Major League camp this spring.

MATT SKOLE | 1B/3B

Age: 24 (6.30.89) | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 220 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right

Selected in the fifth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Georgia Tech

Nationals 2012 Minor League Player of the Year Matt Skole will have an opportunity to further his development in the Arizona Fall League, after suffering an injury to his non-throwing arm in the second game of the year and missing the entire 2013 season.

Skole, a physical specimen at 6-4, 220 pounds, is expected to play third base for Mesa after serving as a first baseman this spring. The Georgia Tech product hit an impressive .291/.426/.559 with 27 home runs and 104 runs batted in a season ago, earning an invitation to big league camp.

SAMMY SOLIS | LHP

Age: 25 (8.10.88) | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 230 | Bats: Right | Throws: Left

Selected in the second round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of San Diego

Solis, the Nationals second selection in the 2010 Draft (Bryce Harper being the first), will continue his road to recovery from Tommy John surgery, which wiped out his 2012 campaign. The big left-hander completed 59.2 innings in 2013, going 2-1 with a 3.43 earned run average across 14 games for the Gulf Coast League Nationals and the Potomac Nationals.

The Avondale, Arizona native and University of San Diego star will pitch in the Fall League for the third time in his young career, after throwing 23.2 innings in the circuit in 2010 and 26.0 more in 2011.

STEVEN SOUZA, JR. | OF

Age: 24 (4.24.89) | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 220 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right

Selected in the 3rd round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of Cascade (WA) HS

Souza has come into his own during the past two seasons, hitting 38 home runs and stealing 34 bases in 174 games between Class-A Hagerstown, High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. In 77 games with the Senators in 2013, Souza compiled a .300/.396/.557 slash line, earning All-Star Game and Home Run Derby appearances at the Double-A level.

“(Steven) is a big, strong, physical presence with big-time raw power to all fields – and he can fly,” Scialabba said about the 24-year-old slugger. “He’s someone who has the potential to hit in the middle of the lineup and be a run producer.”

Signature Moments of 2013: Wild Card Matchup #2

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With 86 wins in the books, the 2013 season had its share of lasting memories. We have seeded the top 10 in our book, and over the next few weeks we will be letting you vote in a bracket-style competition to determine the ultimate signature moment of the season. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the World Series for a new poll and to see which moments advanced on to the next round.

SigMomentsBracket_10.7

LOMBO LIFTS NATS | 6.4

With the Nationals trailing 2-1 late against the New York Mets, the bats came alive with a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning. Ryan Zimmerman led off the frame with a double and scored on a single by Adam LaRoche, who went to third on a double by Ian Desmond. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Steve Lombardozzi worked a nine-pitch at-bat before lifting a sacrifice fly down the left-field line, just deep enough to score LaRoche for the Nats first walk-off win of the 2013 season.

BRYCE IS BACK | 7.1

Exactly three months after the Nationals 2013 campaign began, Washington came to bat in the bottom of the first with Bryce Harper hitting third in its lineup – his first game back after missing more than a month due to injury. Harper took ball one, then rocketed a solo home run to put the Nationals in front, just as he did in his first at-bat on Opening Day.

BryceBack

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