Results tagged ‘ Florida Instructional League ’

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.

30 Players in 30 Days: Bryce Harper


Bryce Harper 3.JPGBryce Harper has been labeled the Lebron James of baseball. So in case you didn’t watch “The Decision: Part II,” Bryce Harper is taking his talents to the desert and
will join the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. It was a decision–influenced by Harper’s talent–and made by General Manager Mike Rizzo and his staff because they didn’t want him to be idle for the next two months after he held own in the Instructional League. Yeah, there are drawbacks but Rizzo believes the benefits will easily outweigh the possible cost: struggling.

Harper proved he can play in the Florida Instructional League. He batted.319 (15-for-47) with four doubles, a triple, four homers, 12 RBI and seven walks. Harper–who led Washington’s Instructional League squad in homers, RBI and walks–posted .407 on-base and .702 slugging percentages en route to a stellar 1.110 OPS (OBP+SLG).

Now, this isn’t the Instructional League–the AFL offers the top-talent that is knocking on the door of the Majors–but Rizzo isn’t concerned.

“There is a high level of baseball going on,” Rizzo said. “Two months of this guy working out, practicing and playing will only benefit him. He is going to be fine in the [AFL].”

To ease Harper into the action they will restrict his playing time. He will join his new club on Tuesday as a member of the Scorpions’ Taxi Squad. Translation: he will work out, travel and dress normally as do members of Scottsdale’s active roster but he will only be eligible to participate in games twice a week, usually on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Harper will also be eligible to replace Nationals farmhands on Scottsdale’s active roster due to injury.

Part of the incentive to send Harper to Arizona is that he will be able to work extensively with Manager Randy Knorr, considered one of the best teachers in the Nationals organization, to learn the intricacies of right field. He will also work with Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein to refine his swing.

“He’s 17 years old and he doesn’t even turn 18 until Saturday,” Rizzo said. “He is very excited. What I had to decide on was: ‘Is he going to be over his head in the AFL?’ It’s a very advanced league, but I think he is going to handle it. It’s going to be very valuable to him.”

While this may seem like it is putting him on a fast track to the Majors, it isn’t. He is still expected to start the season in Single-A.

“He is going to A-ball, make no mistake about it,” Rizzo added. “He is not going to be a rushed guy. We are going to let his performance and development dictate where this guy goes.”

In other news not Harper, here are a few Nationals farmhands who performed at high levels during the just-completed Instructional League: outfielder Tyler Moore (.550, 4 doubles, 2 home runs, 11 RBI), catcher Sandy Leon (.429), outfielder Eury Perez (.357, 3 stolen bases), infielder Steven Souza (.345, 4 doubles, 2 home runs, 4 RBI), righthander A.J. Morris (0.00 ERA in 4 games, 7 strikeouts in 5.0 innings), lefthander Sammy Solis (0.00 ERA and 9 strikeouts in 9.0 innings spanning 3 games), righthander Ryan Mattheus (1.35 ERA and 6 strikeouts in 6.2 innings) and lefthander Robbie Ray (2.53 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 10.2 innings spanning 4 games).

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