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Adam LaRoche, Denard Span named Rawlings Gold Glove finalists

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by Amanda Comak

The finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards were announced Thursday afternoon by Rawlings Sports, and for the third consecutive year the Washington Nationals have two players among the honorees.

First baseman Adam LaRoche and center fielder Denard Span were named as finalists at their respective positions, but they’ll have to wait until Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. ET, to find out if either will take home the prize.

LaRoche, who won his first Gold Glove following the 2012 season, faces stiff competition in his quest for a second trophy: Adrian Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau.

While LaRoche continued to make many of the outstanding plays that have come to be expected from him over the years, where he shines perhaps even more is in making the fielders around him better. LaRoche’s consistency makes it easier for the fielders he works with everyday to excel. That was evident each day he was in the lineup for the Nationals this past season.

Span, a finalist for a Gold Glove in 2013 and certainly considered by his teammates as one of the finest defensive center fielders in the Major Leagues, is also joined by elite company. He’ll be up against New York Mets center fielder Juan Lagares and Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton for the 2014 honors.

An exceptional fielder, Span continued to make the extraordinary play seem routine this season, giving Nationals fans something to look forward to each night he patrolled center field.

Each manager and up to six coaches on each staff voted from a pool of qualified players in their league, and cannot vote for players on their own team. As in 2013, Rawlings also included a sabermetric component to the Rawlings Gold Glove Award selection process, as part of its recent collaboration with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

The SABR Defensive Index accounted for approximately 25 percent of the overall selection total, with the managers and coaches’ vote continuing to carry the majority.

The winners of the 2014 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards will be announced Tuesday night, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2 in a special one-hour Baseball Tonight.

Jordan Zimmermann named NL Player of the Week

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by Amanda Comak

Washington NationalsOne day after throwing the first no-hitter in Washington Nationals history, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was named the National League Player of the Week. Major League Baseball made the announcement this afternoon on MLB Network.

Zimmermann allowed one walk and struck out 10 Miami Marlins in a masterful performance to close the regular season with the first no-hitter thrown by a D.C. pitcher since Bobby Burke on Aug. 8, 1931.

In earning his second NL Player of the Week honors, Zimmermann allowed only five balls to leave the infield all afternoon and threw only 25 total balls to Marlins batters. He faced 28 batters, threw 23 first-pitch strikes and needed only 104 pitches to complete the historic achievement.

In the eighth complete game and fourth shutout of his career, Zimmermann almost certainly turned in the best pitching performance in Nationals history.

According to the Bill James Game Score, one metric for measuring dominant pitching performances, Zimmermann’s outing ranked as the best in Nationals (2005-present) history with a score of 96 – besting the 95 score earned in his shutout over the San Diego Padres earlier this season.

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This is the fourth NL Player of the Week honor earned by a Nationals player this season – including Zimmermann for the first week of June.  First baseman Adam LaRoche and OF Jayson Werth also took home the award this season.

Prior to 2014, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (periods ending July 22, 2012; June 13, 2010; August 21, 2011; August 5, 2007), right-hander Stephen Strasburg (June 13, 2010), outfielder Josh Willingham (Aug. 2, 2009), shortstop Cristian Guzman (Aug. 31, 2008), utility man Willie Harris (July 20, 2007) and first baseman Nick Johnson (June 6, 2005) earned NL Player of the Week hardware.

Nationals reinstate Ryan Zimmerman

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by Amanda Comak

With the National League East Championship celebration in their rearview, and the promise of the postseason still ahead, the Washington Nationals became whole again on Saturday as they reinstated Ryan Zimmerman from the 15-Day Disabled List and returned him to their active roster.

Zimmerman, 29, rejoins the Nationals after missing 55 games with a right hamstring strain, suffered July 22 at Colorado.

And while the Nationals have done well to fill his void in the interim, Zimmerman’s return helps deepen their already dangerous lineup as they turn their focus toward the playoffs.

In 53 games this season, Zimmerman has hit .282 with a .345 on-base percentage and a .456 slugging percentage. While spending time at third base, first base and in left field, the Nationals’ veteran has clubbed 24 extra-base hits (five home runs) and driven in 36 runs.

This was the second Disabled List stint of the season for Zimmerman. After returning from a fractured right thumb on June 3, Zimmerman started 43 games for the Nationals, including a scorching hot month of July in which he hit .362 with a .418 on-base percentage and a .569 slugging percentage before his hamstring injury.

Zimmerman’s return gives the Nationals 35 players on their active roster, and Nationals manager Matt Williams said he expects Zimmerman to play all three positions in the season’s final eight games in preparation for the postseason.

Nationals 1B Adam LaRoche named co-NL Player of the Week

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by Amanda Comak

Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche was named the co-National League Player of the Week on Monday, sharing the honor with San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey. Major League Baseball made the announcement Monday afternoon on MLB Network.

LaRoche, 34, opened the month of September on a powerful tear at the plate as he helped guide the Nationals to two pivotal victories over the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies.

In earning his first NL Player of the Week honors, LaRoche hit .333 (5-for-15) with a .421 on-base percentage, and a 1.133 slugging percentage. Over the course of five games (four starts), four of LaRoche’s five total hits were home runs. He drove in 10 runs, walked three times (one intentional) and was also hit by a pitch.

Wednesday, after being relegated to the Nationals’ bench with a tight back and flu-like symptoms, LaRoche clubbed a game-tying, two-run, pinch-hit home run in the top of the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium to give the Nationals new life. In a wild back-and-forth contest that would last 14 innings, LaRoche drove in five runs – becoming just the second player in the expansion era (since 1961) to enter a game in the ninth inning or later and drive in at least five runs. Harold Baines accomplished the feat on May 4, 1999 for the Baltimore Orioles vs. the Chicago White Sox.

In addition to his game-saving home run, LaRoche gave the Nationals the lead in the top of the 12th with a two-run single to left, and helped break a tie again in the 14th when he beat out a double play to allow Ian Desmond to score what would stand up as the game winning run.

LaRoche followed that performance up by staking the Nationals to an early lead on Friday, hitting his 21st home run of the season in the bottom of the first inning, and kept slugging through the weekend. On Sunday, facing Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels, LaRoche homered in his first two at-bats, tying the game both times, for the 24th multi-homer game of his career and his second this season.

LaRoche is the 11th Nationals player to earn NL Player of the Week honors, joining RHP Jordan Zimmermann and OF Jayson Werth from this year’s club.

Prior to 2014, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (periods ending July 22, 2012; June 13, 2010; August 21, 2011; August 5, 2007), right-hander Stephen Strasburg (June 13, 2010), outfielder Josh Willingham (Aug. 2, 2009), shortstop Cristian Guzman (Aug. 31, 2008), utility man Willie Harris (July 20, 2007) and first baseman Nick Johnson (June 6, 2005) earned NL Player of the Week hardware.

Nationals announce 2015 schedule

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While the Washington Nationals’ 2014 season is headed for an exciting finish, the Nationals gave fans their first look at the 2015 slate on Monday with the release of next season’s schedule.

San Francisco Giants v Washington NationalsThe Nationals’ 81-game home schedule kicks off with Washington’s 82nd home opener since 1901 on Monday, April 6 vs. the New York Mets and is highlighted by 13 weekend series against, among others, the Phillies (three times), Braves (two times), Cubs, Pirates, Giants, Dodgers and Brewers.

Washington’s 2015 regular season both begins (see above) and concludes (Sunday, October 4 at Citi Field) against the NL East-rival Mets. The Nationals open 2015 by playing an NL East rival in 26 of their initial 32 contests, through May 10, before capping the year with 26 of its final 29 regular-season games against intra-divisional foes, September 3 – October 4.

While 29 of next season’s initial 50 contests will be played on the road, Nationals fans can experience the thrill of pennant-race baseball in the nation’s capital for themselves from August 21 – September 27, when Washington will host 26 games in 38 days within the friendly confines of Nationals Park.

The annual Battle of the Beltways Series between the Nationals and Orioles continues for a tenth consecutive season with both clubs hosting a three-game set. The Nationals welcome the Orioles to D.C. for three games, Sept. 21-23, in the latest Interleague series in the Nationals’ 11 seasons.

The Nationals will also square off with the American League East for 20 Interleague contests in 2015. Washington’s home interleague slate includes visits from the Yankees (two games, May 19-20), the Blue Jays (three games, June 1-3), the Rays (two games, June 17-18) and the aforementioned visit from the Orioles (three games, September 21-23). The Yankees’ visit to The District is their first since sweeping a three-game set at Nationals Park, June 15-17, 2012.

The Nationals will make Interleague road stops in Boston (three games), New York (two), Tampa Bay (two) and Baltimore (three games, July 10-12).

San Francisco Giants v Washington NationalsThe ‘15 home schedule also features the following holiday home games: Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 10 vs. Braves), Father’s Day (Sunday, June 21 vs. Pirates), Independence Day (Saturday, July 4 vs. Giants) and Labor Day (Monday, Sept. 7 vs. Mets).

Of the Nationals’ 12 homestands, only one will last 10 or more games, and Nationals Park will host 10 games in 11 days to close out the home slate from September 17-27 (Marlins, Orioles, Phillies).

September/October (17 games), August (16) and June (15) contain the most home games in a calendar month, while April hosts the fewest (10).

All dates and opponents on this schedule are subject to change.

For a limited time, fans who purchase a 2015 NATS PLUS Membership receive priority access for the Postseason. For more information or to purchase 2015 Memberships, visit nationals.com/2015, call 202.675.NATS (6287) or email at ticketinfo@nationals.com.

Nationals add six players to expanded roster

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals September call-ups arrived on Monday as the team recalled RHP Aaron Barrett, LHP Xavier Cedeno, C Sandy Leon, 1B/OF Tyler Moore and RHP Blake Treinen from Triple-A Syracuse. Additionally, OF Steven Souza Jr. (left shoulder) was returned from rehab and reinstated to the active roster.

Marlins v. NationalsBarrett, 26, is 3-0 with a 3.21 ERA in 40 games, (33.2 IP) for the Nationals this season. The hard-throwing righty made the Nationals 25-man roster out of Spring Training and quickly earned an integral role in manager Matt Williams’ bullpen. His 11.50 strikeouts per nine innings ranks second among all rookie National League relievers this season, behind only Philadelphia’s Ken Giles (12.72).

Barrett returns to the Nationals after going 1-0 with two saves in 10 games for Syracuse – in which he did not allow a run, surrendered five hits, walked one batter and struck out eight.

Cedeno, 28, rejoins the Nationals for the fourth time this season. The left-handed reliever has not allowed a run at the Major League level this season, scattering four hits in three appearances (3.1 IP) with one strikeout. At Triple-A, Cedeno was 5-1 with a 2.29 ERA in 35 games (39.1 IP).

While holding International League batters to a .163 average against and possessing a 0.86 WHIP, Cedeno has struck out 57, walked 12 and allowed just 10 earned runs. Against left-handed batters, his ERA drops to 1.35.

Leon, 25, strengthens the Nationals’ catching corps for the stretch run in his fourth Major League stint of the season. The switch-hitting catcher hit his first Major League home run on April 14 off Kevin Slowey in Miami, and posted a .169 average in 18 Major League games this season. Leon hit .229 for Syracuse with five home runs and 25 RBI.

Known for his above-average defensive skills behind the plate, Leon has caught 45 percent of attempted base stealers over the course of eight Minor League seasons.

Cincinnati Reds v Washington NationalsMoore, 27, makes his third return to the Nationals’ Major League roster this season, adding power and versatility off the bench. In 34 Major League games (16 starts) this season, Moore hit .214 with three home runs and 11 RBI. The first baseman/outfielder hit .265 with a .367 on-base percentage and a .434 slugging percentage at Triple-A this season, clubbing 31 extra-base hits and driving in 44 runs in 84 games.

In 46 career big league games as a first baseman, Moore has hit .325 with eight doubles, six home runs and 26 RBI.

Treinen, 26, rejoins the Nationals for the sixth time this season. He is 1-3 with a 2.35 ERA in 11 Major League games (five starts) this year. The right-hander earned his first MLB win on June 28 at Wrigley Field when he held the Cubs to two earned runs over 5.0 IP. As a starter in the majors, Treinen has worked to a 2.50 ERA, and as a reliever he’s posted a 1.54 mark.

Treinen had an 8-2 record with a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts at Triple-A this year.

Souza Jr. returns to the active roster after missing 20 games with a left shoulder contusion. The 25-year-old, who was named the International League MVP last week, led the league in almost every offensive category: batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.432), and slugging percentage (.590). He also hit 18 home runs, drove in 75 and stole 26 bases.

Souza Jr. is 1-for-12 (.083) with one walk and four strikeouts in the Major Leagues this year.

The Nationals’ September call-ups helped the Chiefs clinch their first IL North Division title in 25 years on Saturday night. The players will join the Nationals before the start of their three-game series at the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday evening.

Wilmer Difo named South Atlantic League MVP; Lucas Giolito named Most Outstanding Pitcher & Top Prospect

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by Amanda Comak

Two more Washington Nationals prospects earned end-of-year accolades on Thursday with the South Atlantic League announcing Single-A Hagerstown infielder Wilmer Difo as the league’s Most Valuable Player and right-hander Lucas Giolito the league’s Most Outstanding Pitcher and Most Outstanding Major League Prospect. Additionally, Suns center fielder Rafael Bautista was named to the SAL post-season All-Star team and Single-A Potomac manager Tripp Keister was named the Carolina League Manager of the Year.

Difo, a mid-season SAL Northern Division All-Star and post-season All-Star second baseman, currently leads or is tied for the league lead in hits (174) and total bases (257). Hitting .321 this season, good for sixth in the league among qualifiers, Difo has worked to a .366 on-base percentage and a .474 slugging percentage for the Suns.

The 22-year-old native of the Dominican Republic is among the SAL leaders in RBI (88, third), stolen bases (49, second), runs scored (90, tied for second), extra-base hits (50, fourth) and most plate appearances per strikeout (9.55, fifth).

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game - World Team v United StatesGiolito, ranked by Baseball America as the No. 11 prospect in all of baseball at mid-season, went 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA for the Suns in 20 games this season. Over 98.0 innings he allowed 28 runs (24 earned) on 70 hits, including seven homers. Giolito, the Nationals’ first-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, walked 28 and struck out 110.

The 20 year old was named the SAL Pitcher of the Week on two occasions this season and represented the Nationals at the Sirius/XM All-Star Futures Game, along with outfielder Michael A. Taylor, in Minneapolis in July.

Bautista, like Difo, was named to the mid-season Northern Division All-Star team as well. The 21-year-old currently leads the league in stolen bases (66), and is tied with Difo for second in runs scored. Bautista is hitting .283 this year with a .337 on-base percentage and .373 slugging percentage. His 66 stolen bases are a Suns single-season record since the team has been a member of the South Atlantic League.

Keister managed Potomac to the first- and second-half Northern Division titles, clinching the second-half crown on Wednesday night. With a 75-55 record this season, Potomac will host Game 1 of the Northern Division Championship Series on Sept. 3 at Pfitzner Stadium.

Nationals sending seven to Arizona Fall League

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by Kyle Brostowitz

The Arizona Fall League announced its rosters for the 2014 season on Tuesday and seven Washington Nationals farmhands, along with one manager and one trainer, will represent the organization as members of the Mesa Solar Sox during the 2014 season. The AFL, known as the “finishing school” for the game’s top prospects, will begin its season, Tuesday, Oct. 7.

farm graphicMatt Grace – LHP – 2010 First-Year Player Draft (8th round, UCLA)

Grace, 25, began the year at Double-A Harrisburg before getting promoted to Triple-A Syracuse in mid-June. In 47 combined appearances out of the bullpen, Grace went 5-1 with a 1.22 ERA (10 ER/74.0 IP) while striking out 60 batters and holding opponents to a .211 batting average. He experienced a remarkable run in which he allowed just one earned run over 39.1 IP (0.23 ERA), spanning 24 appearances for the Senators and the Chiefs. A ground-ball machine, Grace posted a ground-ball rate of 69 percent this season. For context, the Major League average is usually around 44-45 percent.

“He’s had a terrific year at two levels,” said Nationals Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Player Development Doug Harris. “The opportunity to go to the Arizona Fall League for him is a chance to work on and develop the breaking ball.”

Neil Holland – RHP – 2010 First-Year Player Draft (11th round, Louisville)

Holland, an Eastern League mid-season All-Star, went a combined 7-4 with a 3.27 ERA (26 ER/71.2 IP) in 44 games/one start between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse. He was promoted from Harrisburg to Syracuse on July 7 and returned to Harrisburg 10 days later. Over his last nine appearances, the 26 year old has pitched to a 0.59 ERA (one ER/15.1 IP) while allowing 10 hits and striking out 15 batters along the way.

“Neil got a taste of Triple-A this year and got a chance to play at two different levels,” Harris said. “He’s a sidearm guy and we’re working with him on repeating his delivery, and repeating all three pitches from the same slot. The Arizona Fall League is a great venue for him to do that, against better hitters.”

Felipe Rivero – LHP – Acquired from Tampa Bay along with C Jose Lobaton and OF Drew Vettleson in exchange for RHP Nathan Karns.

Rivero was limited during the 2014 regular season due to injury, but returned to the mound in late July. In his last two starts for Double-A Harrisburg, the hard-throwing lefty has tossed 11.0 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and striking out 11. Rivero, 23, was originally singed by the Rays out of San Felipe, Venezuela, on July 8, 2008.

“We’re just trying to continue to build his innings,” Harris said of Rivero’s AFL assignment. “Continue to build his volume. Since he’s come back he’s pitched arguably as well as we’ve seen him, and our hope is just to continue that process.”

Derek Self – RHP – 2012 First-Year Player Draft (9th round, Louisville)

Self earned Carolina League mid-season All-Star honors after going 3-0 with three saves and a 1.69 ERA (5 ER/26.2 IP) with 30 strikeouts and just five walks in 17 appearances out of Potomac’s bullpen. He was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg in early-June and tossed 37.2 innings of relief for the Senators.

“Derek had a strong year at Potomac and got a chance to touch Double-A, where he continued to learn at a higher level,” Harris said. “The Arizona Fall League is an opportunity for him to face a more diverse offensive player. The AFL is a hitter’s league and we want to continue to expose him to a better offensive player.”

Spencer Kieboom – C – 2012 First-Year Player Draft (5th round, Clemson)

After his 2013 season was cut short due to injury, Kieboom hit .311 with 27 doubles, four triples, seven home runs, 58 RBI and 47 runs scored in just 83 games for Single-A Hagerstown in 2014. Keiboom, 23, was a South Atlantic League mid-season All-Star selection and will help anchor an all-Washington catching corps for the Mesa Solar Sox

“After missing the 2013 season following Tommy John surgery, Spencer had a terrific year in Hagerstown,” Harris said. “The AFL will give him a chance to play with some older players and continue to advance his development.”

Pedro Severino – C – Signed as a non-drafted free agent, December 13, 2010

Severino will join Kieboom behind the plate for the Solar Sox. Known mainly for his above-average defensive abilities, Severino hit .248 with 15 doubles, one triple, eight homers, 31 RBI and 39 runs scored in 89 games for Potomac. This season marked his first season in the Carolina League after earning All-Star honors with Hagerstown (South Atlantic League) in 2013.

“Severino really turned his season around offensively,” Harris said. “Going to the AFL gives him a chance to continue that progression. He’ll get to see a little different pitching and continue to develop offensively.”

Tony Renda – INF – 2012 First-Year Player Draft (2nd round, University of California-Berkeley) 

Renda, 23, led the Potomac Nationals and ranked among Carolina League hitters in batting average (3rd, 300) and runs scored (4th, 72). He also clubbed 21 doubles, four triples, 47 RBI and had 17 stolen bases in 100 games for Single-A Potomac.  Known as a slick-fielding middle-infielder, Renda committed just eight errors in almost exclusive action at second base. In 2013, as a member of the Hagerstown Suns, Renda received the inaugural Washington Nationals “Bob Boone Award,” given to farmhand who best exhibits professionalism, leadership, loyalty, passion, selflessness, durability, determination, and work ethic required to play the game the “Nationals Way.”

“Tony has put himself in position to face the next challenge,” Harris said. “We feel like this is a good step in his preparation for that. He’s had a terrific year.​”

Patrick Anderson – Coach – Manager, Hagerstown Suns

In his second year in the Nationals’ chain, Anderson has guided the Suns to a 84-50 record and a potential playoff berth in the South Atlantic League playoffs. Anderson led the 2013 Gulf Coast League Nationals to a 49-9 (.845) record and a GCL Championship in his first season as a member of the organization.

T.D. Swinford — Athletic Trainer, Potomac Nationals

Swinford just completed his fourth season in the Nationals’ organization, but his first with the P-Nats. Swinford spent the 2013 season in Hagerstown, and served as the Athletic Trainer in Auburn for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Steven Souza Jr. named IL MVP and Rookie of the Year; Billy Gardner Jr. named Manager of the Year

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by Amanda Comak

The finest season in recent memory for the Washington Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate Syracuse Chiefs produced several accolades on Tuesday as the International League announced its year-end award winners and post-season All-Star team.

Steven Souza Jr., who led the International League in almost every statistical offensive category, was named the league’s Most Valuable Player as well as its Rookie of the Year, and Chiefs manager Billy Gardner Jr. was honored as the International League’s Manager of the Year. Additionally, infielders Emmanuel Burriss and Brandon Laird were named to the International League’s post-season All-Star team, along with Souza Jr.

Washington Nationals vs Houston AstrosSouza Jr. was called up to the Major Leagues three times this season, including most recently on Aug. 4. But in 91 games at Triple-A, Souza Jr. hit .354 with a .435 on-base percentage and a .601 slugging percentage — all of which lead the International League. The 25-year-old is on track to take home the International League batting title at year’s end.

While clubbing a team-high 18 home runs, Souza Jr. stole 24 bases and was selected as a starting outfielder at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Durham, North Carolina.

Souza Jr. is the sixth league MVP in Syracuse history, and the first since Chad Mottola in 2000. He’s also the franchise’s seventh International League Rookie of the Year, and first since Shawn Green in 1994.

Souza Jr. was also the first Syracuse outfielder selected to the International League’s post-season All-Star Team since Corey Brown in 2012.

This is the second consecutive season in which a player won the league’s MVP and Rookie of the Year awards, following Rochester’s Chris Colabello in 2013. Souza Jr. is the first Syracuse player ever to win both honors in the same season.

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In his first season in the Nationals organization, Gardner Jr. has the Chiefs on the verge of the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 1998, bringing the Chiefs back to contention after a lengthy postseason drought.

Syracuse struggled early and was in last place in the North Division as late as May 21, but the Chiefs played the best baseball in the league in May and June, surging to the top of a tight IL North Division race. The Chiefs have scored the second-most runs in the league and allowed the second-fewest. Their pitching staff also leads the IL with 15 shutouts this season.

Gardner, who is in his 20th season managing in the Minor Leagues, becomes the fifth IL Manager of the Year from Syracuse, following Frank Verdi (1970), Vern Benson (1979), Doug Ault (1985), and Bob Bailor (1989). Gardner is the son of Billy Gardner Sr., who managed the Minnesota Twins from 1981-1985 and the Kansas City Royals for part of the 1987 campaign.

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Emmanuel Burriss: While being among the International League leaders in batting average (.307), on-base percentage (.383), runs scored (79), and triples (7), Burriss has struck out fewer times per plate appearance than any hitter in the league. The 29-year-old, who played in 282 Major League games with the San Francisco Giants from 2008-2012, signed with the Nationals as a free agent this past December. Burriss follows Zach Walters to give the Chiefs two straight seasons claiming IL post-season All-Star shortstop honors.

 

Brandon Laird: Laird, 26, is one of just two players in the International League to tally 80 or more RBI this season. He is also among the league leaders in slugging percentage (.486), batting average (.303), and OPS (.839). Laird is in his first season with the Nationals after coming over in a March trade. The infielder has played 53 games in the Major Leagues since 2011, with the Yankees and Astros and his older brother, Gerald, is a catcher for the Atlanta Braves. The last Syracuse third baseman on the IL post-season All-Star Team was Carlos Rivero in 2012.

Michael A. Taylor named Eastern League Rookie of the Year

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by Amanda Comak

Michael A. Taylor’s breakout season earned him his first Major League promotion, featured his first Major League hit and home run, and catapulted him through the Nationals’ system.

On Saturday, it also earned him an accolade from the Double-A Eastern League.

Taylor, 23, was named the 2014 Eastern League Rookie of the Year after hitting .313 with a .396 on-base percentage and a .539 slugging percentage in 98 games with Double-A Harrisburg this season.

Taylor, who was promoted to Triple-A on Aug. 4 and was then called up to the Major Leagues on Aug. 10, clubbed 17 doubles, two triples and 22 home runs in Double-A. He drove in 61 runs, scored 74 and stole 34, all while playing defense at a level that has prompted many evaluators to rank him among the best defensive outfielders in the entire organization.

Taylor led the Eastern League in OPS (.935) at the time of his promotion to Triple-A and was also ranked among the leaders in slugging percentage (.539, second), total bases (207, second), runs scored (74, second), home runs (22, third), on-base percentage (.396, fourth), stolen bases (34, fourth) and batting average (.313, sixth).

The Florida native was selected by the Nationals in the sixth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale.

 

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