Results tagged ‘ Arizona Fall League ’

Down on the Farm: Souza’s Patience Pays Off

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by Mike Feigen

November 1 was a significant day in the history of the Washington Nationals. Matt Williams was welcomed to Nationals Park and introduced as the club’s fifth manager since baseball returned to The District. It was a day of celebration.

But earlier that morning, the Nationals made a less heralded move – one that signaled redemption for a young player who hopes to play for Williams in the near future.

Souza_StevenSteven Souza, Jr., drafted by the Nationals in June of 2007 – the 100th-overall player selected and the sixth pick in the first three rounds by Washington – was added to the 40-man roster. Two of the players taken before him, Ross Detwiler (sixth overall) and Jordan Zimmermann (67th overall) are already household names in D.C., while Souza’s path to the Majors remains a work in progress.

Unlike the aforementioned college pitchers, Souza, an outfielder, came to the Nationals straight from the prep ranks. He bypassed a college scholarship to sign out of Cascade High School in Everett, Wash., a program that had sent former third-round pick Grady Sizemore to the big leagues just a few years earlier. Upon signing, Souza headed across the country to Viera, Fla., where he hit four home runs and added four stolen bases in 44 games for the Gulf Coast League (Rookie) Nationals.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-handed hitter split time between Short Season-A Vermont and Class-A Hagerstown in 2008, then repeated at Hagerstown in 2009 and 2010, hitting a combined .235 with 15 home runs and 43 stolen bases in 207 games with the Suns. At the age of 22, after being sidelined for 50 games, he advanced to High-A Potomac, where he hit .228 but improved his on-base percentage – posting a .360 mark – while adding 11 homers and 25 steals.

At that point, with five seasons of professional baseball under his belt, the young outfielder found himself at a crossroads.

The setbacks had been difficult, the progression through the Nationals system had been slow, and he’d made his own mistakes to compound the situation. Souza contemplated walking away from his dream.

***

Souza will join his Mesa Solar Sox teammates in the quest for an Arizona Fall League Championship on Saturday (MLB Network, 3 p.m. ET). It’s been two years since he reconsidered his place in the game, and in that time he has developed into a legitimate five-tool threat. Most recently, he’s become one of the top performers in the prospect-rich AFL circuit – all while playing less than most of his AFL counterparts.

Designated a “taxi squad” player, restricted to two games per week, Souza has maximized his opportunities in limited at-bats. While he wants to play every day, Souza said he’s learned that any chance to play is a blessing.

“Playing on the taxi squad has taught me a lot about coming off the bench,” Souza said.  “You have to take advantage of every opportunity.”

Souza hit .357/.426/.476 with eight runs, eight RBI and 10 stolen bases this fall, while hitting safely in 10 of his 11 games for the AFL East Division Champion Solar Sox. Twice he stole three bases in a game, showing off his explosive speed.

Down on the Farm_StevenSouza“As a bigger guy, speed is what separates me from some other bigger guys,” Souza explained. “I’ve worked a lot on agility and footwork. I owe everything to (Nationals first base coach) Tony Tarasco. He’s taught me everything I know about baserunning, and it’s translated well on the field.”

Souza’s AFL performance is coming on the heels of an All-Star showing at Double-A Harrisburg in 2013, where he hit .300/.396/.557 with 39 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases in just 77 games. In 2012, with renewed enthusiasm for the game, Souza compiled an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .938 with 23 home runs and 14 stolen bases across two levels.

The transformation has been striking; after hitting no better than .237 at any of his primary stops in his first five years, Souza has hit no worse than .290 in the two seasons since.

Doug Harris, Washington’s Director of Player Development, has been thrilled to see Souza’s career blossom.

“Steven has really come into his own over the last two years,” Harris said. “He has a broad skill set with the ability to impact a game in a variety of ways. Not only has he performed at a high level during that span, but also exhibited many intangibles that have earned him a 40-man roster spot.”

For Souza, being added to the Nationals 40-man roster was a validation for all of the hard work he put in to revive his career.

“I was really honored and humbled,” Souza said of receiving the call from the Nationals. “I’m thankful to be in such a great organization.”

When offered a chance to look ahead, Souza was reluctant to set goals, saying instead that he would let his faith guide him. He made it clear, however, that he’d love to have an opportunity to play at Nationals Park in the near future.

“Honestly, if Matt Williams wants me to come in and help the team win, I’ll do that in any way I can,” he said. “If I don’t make it this year, I’ll work hard and play wherever they send me. I just want to contribute somehow – either to a win or two, or winning a championship. I’d be happy to fit in somewhere and just fade into the background.”

***

Mesa experienced a symmetrical season, racing out to a 7-0 record (plus one tie), dropping 11 of 17 games in the middle of the year, and then rallying to win its final six contests to finish with a 19-11 record. The furious finish was just enough to edge Salt River for the East Division title by a half game, as the Rafters ended their year with seven consecutive wins.

Saturday’s AFL Championship Game will be broadcast live on MLB Network at 3 p.m. ET, with the Solar Sox taking on the West Division Champion Surprise Saguaros.

Arizona Fall League, Week 5 (11.5–11)

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by Mike Feigen 

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.

Richie Mirowski continued his successful fall campaign.

Richie Mirowski continued his successful fall campaign. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

The Solar Sox enter the final three days of the Arizona Fall League season with a half-game lead over the Salt River Rafters in the East Division, with each team vying for a spot in the AFL Championship Game this Saturday.

Mesa (16-11-1) will host Peoria (10-18) and Glendale (13-13) Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling to Glendale on Thursday for the season finale. Left-hander Sammy Solis (4-2, 2.25 ERA) is tentatively scheduled to make Thursday’s start, which could potentially put fellow Nationals southpaw Matt Purke (3-1, 3.91) on the mound for the Championship Game.

That contest, which will feature the champions of the East and West Divisions, will be televised live on MLB Network at 5 p.m. ET from Scottsdale, Arizona.

Here is a look at how each of the Nationals participants in this year’s Arizona Fall League performed during the season’s fifth week (November 5–11):

ROBERT BENINCASA | RHP

Weekly Totals: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO

Season Totals: 9.0 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 7 SO, 4.00 ERA, 1.667 WHIP

BRIAN GOODWIN | OF

Weekly Totals: .235/.263/.353, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 1 BB in 19 PA

Season Totals: .299/.329/.442, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 8 R, 3 SB, 3 BB, 1 SAC, 1 HBP in 83 PA

RICHIE MIROWSKI | RHP

Weekly Totals: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO

Season Totals: (1 SV), 11.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO, 1.64 ERA, 0.818 WHIP

Catcher Adrian Nieto turned in another solid week.

Catcher Adrian Nieto turned in another solid week. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

ADRIAN NIETO | C

Weekly Totals: .250/.250/.500 in 12 PA

Season Totals: .275/.348/.350, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 4 R, 5 BB, 1 SF in 46 PA

MATT PURKE | LHP

Weekly Totals: (1-0), 4.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO

Season Totals: (3-1), 23.0 IP, 20 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 9 BB, 17 SO, 3.91 ERA, 1.261 WHIP

MATT SKOLE | 1B/3B

Weekly Totals:  .091/.167/.091, 1 BB in 12 PA

Season Totals: .152/.350/.370, 1 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, 14 BB in 60 PA

SAMMY SOLIS | LHP

Weekly Totals:  (1-0), 4.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO

Season Totals: (4-2), 24.0 IP, 26 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 7 BB, 25 SO, 2.25 ERA, 1.375 WHIP

STEVEN SOUZA, JR. | OF

Weekly Totals: .444/.444/.556, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB in 9 PA

Season Totals: .368/.442/.421, 2 2B, 6 RBI, 7 R, 10 SB, 5 BB in 43 PA

For more information on the Arizona Fall League, visit MLBFallBall.com.

Arizona Fall League, Week 4 (10.29–11.4)

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by Mike Feigen

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 fourth week (October 29–November 4):

ROBERT BENINCASA | RHP

Weekly Totals: 2.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO

Season Totals: 8.0 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 SO, 4.50 ERA, 1.625 WHIP

Benincasa tossed two innings in Arizona Fall League play this past week, allowing one run in two appearances. The 6-2 right-hander has excelled when pitching ahead in the count in the Fall League, holding opposing batters to a .200 batting average.

Goodwin had a solid week and earned a start in the Fall Stars Game.

Goodwin had a solid week and earned a start in the Fall Stars Game.

BRIAN GOODWIN | OF

Weekly Totals: .357/.357/.857, 1 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB in 14 PA

Fall Stars Game: 1-for-5

Season Totals: .317/.349/.467, 3 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 8 R, 3 SB, 2 BB, 1 SAC, 1 HBP in 64 PA

Goodwin put together an excellent week at the plate, blasting a pair of home runs and driving in six runs for the Solar Sox. He went 2-for-4 with a home run, three RBI and a stolen base on November 4, helping Mesa to a come-from-behind, 5-4 victory. He also represented the Nationals in the Fall Stars Game, batting second and playing center field for the East squad. He ripped a clean single into right field in his first at-bat, displaying a compact stroke from the left side of the plate.

RICHIE MIROWSKI | RHP

Weekly Totals: 2.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

Season Totals: (1 SV), 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 1.29 ERA, 0.857 WHIP

Mirowski continued his stellar fall, firing two scoreless innings in relief on October 30 to lower his ERA to 1.29 for the Solar Sox. The former 45th-round draft pick went 10-3 with a 1.83 ERA between High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg in 2013, winning the fans’ choice “MiLBY” for Minor League Baseball’s best reliever.

ADRIAN NIETO | C

Weekly Totals: .250/.250/.500, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 R in 8 PA

Fall Stars Game: 0-for-1, 1 R

Season Totals: .286/.382/.393, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 4 R, 5 BB, 1 SF in 34 PA

Nieto had a solid week, starring in an October 29 contest in which he went 2-for-4 with a triple, RBI and run scored. That performance helped earn the 23-year-old backstop a spot in the Fall Stars Game, during which he entered the game as a reserve and scored a run for the East team.

MATT PURKE | LHP

Weekly Totals: (0-1), 7.0 IP, 12 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 4 BB, 2 SO

Season Totals: (2-1), 19.0 IP, 15 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 7 BB, 14 SO, 3.79 ERA, 1.158 WHIP

One week after earning the AFL’s Pitcher of the Week designation, Purke battled through two starts for Mesa and gave up his first earned runs of the fall campaign. The 6-4 southpaw will try to finish the fall league campaign strong, likely earning one final start during the season’s last week.

MATT SKOLE | 1B/3B

Weekly Totals:  .143/.333/.571, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 2 BB in 9 PA

Season Totals: .171/.396/.457, 1 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, 13 BB in 48 PA

Skole, just getting back into baseball shape after missing nearly the entire 2013 season, has shown excellent discipline throughout the AFL season for the Solar Sox. The slugging corner infielder blasted his third home run of the fall, while drawing his 12th and 13th walks – tied for second best in the circuit.

SAMMY SOLIS | LHP

Weekly Totals:  (0-1), 4.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO

Season Totals: (3-2), 19.2 IP, 21 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 20 SO, 2.29 ERA, 1.373 WHIP

Now a three-time AFL participant, Solis has emerged as one of Mesa’s top pitchers during the 2013 AFL season. He suffered a tough-luck defeat in his only appearance of the week on November 1, allowing just two unearned runs when right fielder Tyler Collins misplayed a first-inning fly ball. Despite the loss, Solis lowered his ERA to 2.29 with the effort.

STEVEN SOUZA, JR. | OF

Weekly Totals: .222/.222/.222, 2 R in 9 PA

Season Totals: .345/.441/.379, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 5 R, 9 SB, 5 BB in 34 PA

After making headlines by stealing a league-high nine bases during the first three weeks of the AFL season, Souza was in the news off the field this week when he earned a spot on the Nationals’ 40-man roster. The 2007 third-rounder has demonstrated power, speed and an advanced eye at the plate over the past two seasons in the Washington organization.

For more information on the Arizona Fall League, visit MLBFallBall.com.

Nationals Name Matt Williams Manager

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals named Matt Williams as the team’s field manager on Thursday, agreeing to terms on a multi-year contract with the five-time All-Star and former Arizona Diamondbacks coach. President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

The agreement culminates a thorough process by the Nationals to find a successor to Davey Johnson, whose tenure as the team’s manager came to an end after 2 1/2 seasons.

MW_photo_darker“I am thrilled to welcome Matt to our organization and am confident he is the best choice to lead the Nationals at this time,” Rizzo said. “He is exceptionally prepared for the task. Matt came into the interview process already possessing an extensive knowledge of our organization: our roster, our Minor League system – and our fan base.

“He has genuinely creative, unique ideas on how to increase performance, and on cultivating leadership and team unity.”

Williams, 47, comes to the Nationals after four years on the Diamondbacks’ coaching staff, the last three as their third base coach. A decorated player during his 17-year career, Williams becomes the organization’s fifth manager since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005.

“Matt has a wealth of knowledge and experience as a former player and coach,” said Theodore N. Lerner, Managing Principal Owner of the Nationals. “But what most impresses us is his ability to understand and ably communicate situations and strategies in a disciplined, forthright manner. We think he is the right leader for a Washington Nationals team ready to compete for a World Series championship.”

Williams is a rookie Major League manager, but Rizzo’s relationship with him dates back more than 10 years, to their time together in the Diamondbacks organization – and this is a role in which he long thought Williams could thrive.

“I saw first-hand the leadership qualities he possessed as a player, on the field and in the clubhouse,” said Rizzo, who was a part of the Diamondbacks front office for seven years before joining the Nationals in 2006. “He’s been someone on my radar as a potential manager for years.

“Matt was a great player, but he also understands just how much hard work goes into becoming a great player. In the second phase of his baseball life, he has channeled the intensity he had as a player into becoming an intellectual coach with a calm, confident demeanor.”

Known for his hard-nosed, no-nonsense style as a player, Williams was a career .268 hitter with an .317 on-base percentage, .489 slugging percentage and .805 OPS in 1,866 games. He totaled 378 home runs, including six seasons with 30-plus home runs. Williams earned four Gold Glove Awards and four Silver Slugger Awards as a third baseman.

“I think it’s great,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said of the hire. “He’s a younger guy who was a good player and knows the game. I’m looking forward to getting to know him a little bit… I don’t think we were too far away from where we needed to be, and I think we’re all looking forward to next year.”

A former first-round draft pick, Williams appeared in the top 10 in the Most Valuable Player voting four times in his career, finishing as high as second in 1994, when he clubbed 43 home runs and drove in 96 runs for the San Francisco Giants in the strike-shortened season.

As a player, Williams was no stranger to the postseason. He played on six playoff teams and appeared in the World Series with the Giants (1989), Indians (1997) and Diamondbacks (2001), winning a World Series ring in Arizona. He is the only player in baseball history to hit at least one World Series home run for three different teams.

After retiring from playing in 2003, Williams dabbled in broadcasting for a few years, serving as a color analyst on select Diamondbacks broadcasts from 2005–09, and co-hosting the weekend pregame show for the Diamondbacks with his wife, Erika, in 2007. He joined the Diamondbacks as a first base coach in 2010.

In addition to his coaching duties with the Diamondbacks, Williams managed in the Arizona Fall League in 2012, leading the Salt River Rafters – which included several of the Nationals’ top prospects – to the AFL Championship Game.

Arizona Fall League, Week 3 (10.22–28)

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by Mike Feigen

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.

HARRIS IMPRESSED WITH YOUNG SOUTHPAWS

Nationals Director of Player Development Doug Harris sat down with Curly W Live to discuss the progress of left-handers Matt Purke and Sammy Solis, two of the top hurlers in the Arizona Fall League. Purke, a 2011 third-round pick, and Solis, a 2010 second round selection, completed their regular seasons with the High-A Potomac Nationals. Here are the highlights from that Q&A:

Curly W Live: Where are Matt Purke and Sammy Solis in their overall development?

Doug Harris: Both finished their regular seasons really well. Even though their innings were limited, their volume was fairly significant because they were doing a lot of work on their arms prior to them actually getting into a game. They had a nice break after the playoff run with Potomac, which freshened them up, so now they’re where they would be if they were coming down the home stretch of a regular season.

Matthew’s command is a little more crisp than it was during the regular season, which enables him to utilize his secondary stuff. You’re seeing some strikeouts and his walks are down. Sammy’s stuff has been really good out there. He’s gotten ahead of hitters very quickly, but he’s walked a few because he’s gone to his secondary stuff a little more than he’s needed to.

Sammy Solis continues to impress in the desert. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

Sammy Solis continues to impress in the desert. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

CWL: Are they both fully back on track from previous setbacks?

Harris: First and foremost, they have health. Both are very talented young men and have worked very hard to get themselves back to this point. Matthew, in particular, battled some ups and downs early on. He had a little clean-up that has enabled him to not look back and be more of the pitcher that we saw (in college). Sammy was moving really well through the system, had the Tommy John surgery, and now he’s right back on track.

CWL: They have put up excellent numbers in the Arizona Fall League. How much of an indicator are the statistics down there?

Harris: I think they’re somewhat of an indicator, but I don’t think they’re the gospel. With the Arizona Fall League, you look at each hitter day-to-day and each pitcher outing-to-outing. It’s somewhat of a scripted league, so you have to dissect things day-to-day a little more than you would in the regular season.

Matthew’s good fastball command has enabled him to get to his secondary stuff, which is why you’re seeing low hits-to-innings-pitched from him (three hits in 12 innings as of October 28).

CWL: What type of pitches are they throwing and how is their velocity?

Harris: Both have a very similar mix: a fastball, curveball and change. Sammy’s fastball is a tick more firm than Matthew’s at this point. Sammy, prior to Tommy John, was up to 96 and we’ve seen comparable velocity from him. During the regular season, Matthew was up to 94, but they both pitch in the 90-92 range. Both have good movement on their fastballs, and they’re both still developing their breaking ball consistency. Sammy’s change-up is ahead right now. Matthew is still learning how to throw it, when to throw it and developing trust in throwing it.

CWL: Do you have any goals for them for the rest of the Arizona Fall League season as they head into Spring Training?

Harris: The first thing is maintaining their health. They’re taking the ball every fifth day and they have a five-inning cap. After an abbreviated season, they’re increasing their volume, which will really allow us to expand their innings next year. That’s a critical thing for us. They’ll continue to work on fastball command and the quality of their secondary stuff. The most important thing is having them (arrive at Spring Training) healthy and ready to go into a strong 2014.

PURKE NAMED AFL PITCHER OF THE WEEK

In addition to earning rave reviews from Harris, Purke is beginning to pick up accolades for his work on the mound. The left-hander earned Arizona Fall League Pitcher of the Week honors on Tuesday, following his five innings of scoreless, one-hit baseball against Scottsdale on October 23.

Purke will take the hill Tuesday evening in prime time, when the Mesa Solar Sox travel to Salt River to take on the Rafters.

OUTFIELDER GOODWIN SELECTED TO FALL STARS TEAM

Center field prospect Brian Goodwin will represent the Nationals in this Saturday’s Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game, the league announced Monday. Goodwin, who will celebrate his 23rd birthday the day of the game, has compiled a .304 batting average with five runs scored and three RBI in 11 games with the Mesa Solar Sox this fall.

This will mark Goodwin’s second consecutive appearance in the Fall Stars contest, formerly known as the Rising Stars Game. MLB Network will broadcast the exhibition live at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday from Surprise, Arizona.

WEEKLY RUNDOWN

Here is a look at how each of the Nationals participants in this year’s Arizona Fall League performed during the season’s third week (October 22-28):

ROBERT BENINCASA | RHP

Prospect Robert Benincasa was Washington's seventh-round selection in 2012. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

Prospect Robert Benincasa was Washington’s seventh-round selection in 2012. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

Weekly Totals: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

Season Totals: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO, 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP

BRIAN GOODWIN | OF

Weekly Totals: .333/.353/.333, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB in 17 PA

Season Totals: .304/.347/.348, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 5 R, 2 SB, 2 BB in 50 PA

RICHIE MIROWSKI | RHP

Weekly Totals: (1 SV), 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO

Season Totals: (1 SV), 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1.80 ERA, 0.60 WHIP

ADRIAN NIETO | C

Weekly Totals: .286/.375/.286, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB in 8 PA

Season Totals: .300/.423/.350, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R, 5 BB in 26 PA

MATTHEW PURKE | LHP

Weekly Totals: (0-0), 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO

Season Totals: (2-0), 12 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 12 SO, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP

MATT SKOLE | 1B/3B

Weekly Totals: .000/.200/.000, 3 BB in 15 PA

Season Totals: .179/.410/.429, 2 HR, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 6 R in 39 PA

SAMMY SOLIS | LHP

Weekly Totals: (0-1), 3.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO

Season Totals: (3-1), 15.2 IP, 18 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 16 SO, 2.87 ERA, 1.47 WHIP

STEVEN SOUZA, JR. | OF

Weekly Totals: .571/.571/.571, 3 SB in 7 plate appearances

Season Totals: .400/.520/.450, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 3 R, 9 SB, 5 BB in 25 PA

For more information on the Arizona Fall League, visit MLBFallBall.com.

Arizona Fall League, Week 2 (10.15-21)

Twitter: @Nationals | Facebook: Nationals | Instagram: @Nationals

by Noah Frank

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 the Week 2 performances from the Valley of the Sun, where Mesa’s 8-2 record is easily the league’s best:

ROBERT BENINCASA | RHP

Weekly Totals: 3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO

Overall Totals: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO

After allowing a single run in each of his first two outings, the former Florida State Seminole has posted consecutive scoreless frames in his last two relief appearances. 

BRIAN GOODWIN | OF

Weekly Totals: .235/.235/.235, 1 R in 17 plate appearances

Overall Totals: .290/.333/.355, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 SB, 1 BB in 33 plate appearances

The top position prospect in Washington’s system hit safely in six of seven AFL contests so far. He’s teed up left-handed pitching in the early going (in, albeit, a very small sample size), going 4-for-8 with both of his extra-base hits against southpaws. Goodwin also stole a pair of bases in his second week with the Solar Sox.

RICHIE MIROWSKI | RHP

Weekly Totals: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

Overall Totals: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO

The 24-year-old right-hander continued to impress against right-handed hitters, who are 0-for-6 with three strikeouts against him. While Mirowski did allow his first run of the fall, he has yet to yield a walk through his first three outings.

ADRIAN NIETO | C

Weekly Totals: .143/.333/.143, 1 RBI, 2 BB in 9 plate appearances

Overall Totals: .308/.444/.385/, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 SF, 4 BB in 18 plate appearances

The switch-hitting Nieto continued to show an impressive eye at the plate, where he racked up four walks with just three punch outs so far. This should come as no surprise to fans of the Potomac Nationals, who saw Nieto draw 53 walks while fanning just 82 times in 452 plate appearances this season.

Purke dominated through four hitless innings last week.

Purke dominated through four hitless innings last week. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

MATT PURKE | LHP

Weekly Totals: (1-0), 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 1 BB, 7 SO

Overall Totals: (2-0), 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 HPB, 2 BB, 9 SO

Purke cruised to his second win in as many Arizona Fall League starts with four hitless innings of work last Thursday against Peoria. While he walked and hit a batter, the promising lefty fanned seven — half of the 14 batters he faced as Mesa cruised to a 6-1 victory. Nationals officials said Purke did well attacking hitters, showing good command of his fastball and his changeup.

After two outings, Purke is tied for second in the league in wins (2), third in WHIP (0.57), fourth in opponents batting average (.083) and tied for fourth in strikeouts (9).

MATT SKOLE | 1B/3B

Weekly Totals: .375/.643/.875, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 R, 6 BB in 10 plate appearances

Overall Totals: .313/.542/.750, 1 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R, 8 BB in 24 plate appearances

Despite opposing pitchers’ best efforts to pitch around him, Skole managed hits in each of the three games he played last week, while also collecting six walks. He continued to display the dual ability to show great patience at the plate while also hitting for power, as he swatted his first double and second home run of the fall, striking out only once this week.

In his five games played, Skole has reached at least twice in four of them, so it should be no shock that his .542 on-base percentage  ranks second in the league. Skole, who spent much of the year rehabbing April Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow, also ranks among league leaders in walks (tied for third, 8) and slugging percentage (fifth, .750).

Solis earned two victories last week and leads the circuit with three wins.

Solis earned two victories last week and leads the circuit with three wins. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

SAMMY SOLIS | LHP

Weekly Totals:  (2-0), 9.0 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 12 SO

Overall Totals: (3-0), 12.2 IP, 12 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 14 SO

Solis may have had the most notable week of all the Washington prospects, starting twice and pitching Mesa to a win both times. His eight-strikeout performance in just four innings in a 7-4 win over Scottsdale stands out as a particularly good sign for how he’s progressing, as he fanned no more than five batters in any of his 14 regular season outings this year.

After missing the 2012 season, Solis entered 2013 ranked as  the 11th-best prospect in the Washington system by MLB.com. But the left-hander now leads the AFL with three wins and ranks second in both innings pitched (12.2) and strikeouts (14).

STEVEN SOUZA, JR. | OF

Weekly Totals: .200/.500/.200, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB, 3 BB in 8 plate appearances

Overall Totals: .308/.500/.385, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 2 R, 6 SB, 5 BB in 18 plate appearances

Souza started just two games last week, but reached base twice in each contest. He walked twice, stole a base and scored a run on Saturday against Salt River. He is now a perfect 6-for-6 on the basepaths, sharing the league lead in steals.

Nationals Youngsters Wrap Up Instructional League Camp

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by Mike Feigen

As the Nationals concluded the regular season and some of their top prospects prepared for the Arizona Fall League, other Nationals farmhands headed to Viera, Fla., to take part in the Instructional League.

Instructional League provides an opportunity for young players to continue their development by maximizing their strengths and working through their weaknesses in a controlled environment. It also allows executives, coaches and scouts to evaluate the progress players made during the year, and give further instruction as they head into the offseason.

Roughly 45-50 players participated this year, according to Mark Scialabba, Nationals Director of Minor League Operations. They ranged in age from 16-year-old third baseman Anderson Franco, one of the Nationals’ newest international signings, to Double-A infielder Jason Martinson, who celebrated his 25th birthday this past week. The camp also included a number of 2013 draft picks, who have yet to participate in Spring Training.

Ross Detwiler made great progress in the Instructional League.

Ross Detwiler made great progress in the Instructional League.

“Overall, it was a good camp,” Scialabba said. “It was about three-and-a-half weeks long, so it’s not an extremely long period of time – but when we’re on the field, we play the game hard.”

The Instructional League schedule is also helpful for rehabilitating Major Leaguers. This year they had left-hander Ross Detwiler, who did very well in his continued rehab from a back injury. Scialabba said everything was a success during Detwiler’s time in Viera, where he headed during the final weeks of the big league club’s season and pitched in game situations.

“Ross threw the ball really well,” Scialabba said. “He finished the camp healthy. Outing to outing he improved, and his fastball velocity was there. We couldn’t ask for anything more from Ross.”

For players with less experience than Detwiler, the Instructional League also helps prepare them for the length of a full big league season. Many Minor Leaguers see their game action come to an end around Labor Day, so the extra few weeks of baseball can be essential to their development. The extra playing time can particularly benefit players like 2012 first-round pick Lucas Giolito, who came back from Tommy John surgery to throw 36.2 innings between the Rookie Gulf Coast League Nationals and Short-Season A Auburn Doubledays this year.

“(Lucas) did a great job,” Scialabba said of the 6-foot-6 righty. “His stuff is off the charts and he has an electric arm. He has to learn to put away hitters with all three pitches, continue his development with PFP (pitchers’ fielding practice), hold runners and control the strike zone. We’re really pleased with his progression so far.”

Two other pitchers who earned high praise following their Instructional League performances were 2013 top pick Jake Johansen and young Dominican hurler Jefry Rodriguez.

Lucas Giolito continued to impress in his first full season of professional ball.

Lucas Giolito continued to impress in his first full season of professional ball.

Johansen, selected in the second round out of Dallas Baptist University, dominated in his first taste of Minor League action. The right-hander compiled a 1.06 ERA in 10 starts for Short-Season A Auburn, striking out 44 batters and allowing just 22 hits in 42.1 innings. Rodriguez, 20, went 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA for the GCL champion Nationals squad during the 2013 season and continued his progression in the Instructional League. Scialabba said the lean, 6-foot-5 right-hander touched 96 miles per hour with a good curveball in Viera, giving Nats fans another young arm to keep an eye on for the future.

On the offensive side of the ball, Scialabba singled out 2013 third-rounder Drew Ward and 20-year-old catcher Pedro Severino as stars of the Instructional League camp.

“Drew Ward really shined,” Scialabba said of the 18-year-old third baseman, who completed high school a year early to enter the draft. “He’s mature beyond his years; not only physically, but mentally. He has very good plate discipline for a young player, with a very short stroke that stays in the zone for a long period of time.

“Pedro is a young catcher with tremendous makeup. He’s a high-energy guy who has worked really hard at learning the English language. He has a contact bat, but his value is going to be his defense. He has a cannon behind the plate.”

When camp wrapped up a week ago, the final step for the Nationals participants was to receive their offseason workout plans and get their nutritional programs in order. Most players will take a break from baseball and start hitting the weights in the next few weeks, before ramping up their baseball activity closer to Spring Training.

Scialabba also said some select players will return to Viera this November for a newly implemented winter conditioning program. The extra instruction will give the staff yet another opportunity to ensure the young talent throughout the organization stays on course for a successful 2014 season.

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.

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.”

Top Prospecting

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Top Nationals prospect Anthony Rendon showed impressive gap-to-gap power last spring in Viera, but hit just six home runs over 133 at-bats in an injury-plagued 2012.. Since his arrival in camp this year, though, the ball has been jumping off Rendon’s bat more, as was evidenced by a home run he hit in batting practice prior to Sunday’s contest at Space Coast Stadium– a moonshot that that ricocheted off the base of the scoreboard, a solid 40-50 feet up the berm behind the left field wall. Just a few hours later, he showcased that power again, off a legitimate Major League reliever in Miami’s Ryan Webb.

With the wind blowing out to left in the fifth inning – following a rain delay of over an hour – Rendon hit an opposite-field shot out to right-center field, plating Steve Lombardozzi to give Washington a 2-1 lead. It was the only run-scoring hit of the day for either team, as both Marlins tallies came via RBI-groundouts in the top of the third and ninth in a 2-2, 10-inning draw.

Rendon's two-run blast accounted for all of Washington's scoring Sunday.

Rendon’s two-run blast accounted for all of Washington’s scoring Sunday.

Rendon was the only member of the Nationals starting lineup not to be pulled during the delay, as both he and manager Davey Johnson wanted the young prospect to have another opportunity at the plate.

“I told him I wanted him to have one more at-bat and he said ‘I want one more at-bat,’” explained the skipper. “He certainly made it count.”

Johnson went on to stress that Rendon is all-but Major League ready, needing just repetitions and an opening on the roster to play in Washington.

Injuries have sidetracked what appeared to be an express lane path to the Major Leagues for Rendon. The Rice University product broke his ankle in just the second game of the season last year, costing him the first half of his year. After rehab, he became the most well-traveled man in the system, making stops with the GCL Nationals, Short-Season Auburn, High-A Potomac, and Double-A Harrisburg, finally culminating his campaign with an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League.

Davey Johnson says all Rendon needs is repetitions and a chance to play.

Davey Johnson says all Rendon needs is repetitions and a chance to play.

Entering the season as the top-rated prospect in the system according to Baseball America, MLB.com and every other major outlet assigned to such rankings, the pieces are finally coming together for the 22-year-old considered by many to have the top bat in the 2011 Draft.

“I’ve had the same approach for a while now, I guess it’s just clicking,” said Rendon of his health and his improved power, especially to the opposite field. “That’s a good thing.”

Yes, yes it is.

The Nationals travel back to Port St. Lucie to take on the Mets for the second time in three days tonight at 6:10 p.m., and will once again be televised live on MLB Network. Gio Gonzalez is scheduled to make his first start of the year for the Nats, who are searching for their first Grapefruit League victory.

Here are Washington’s spring results to date:

Record: 0-1-1

Results:

2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3

2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2

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