Results tagged ‘ Washington Nationals ’

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.

Ian Desmond, Denard Span Named Rawlings Gold Glove Finalists

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by Amanda Comak

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

Desmond is a Gold Glove finalist for the second straight season.

Desmond is a Gold Glove finalist for the second straight season.

Shortstop Ian Desmond and center fielder Denard Span were named as finalists at their respective positions, but they’ll have to wait until Tuesday, October 29 to find out if either will take home the prize.

Desmond, who was also a finalist for the award in 2012, is up against tough competition in Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons and Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

Span faces some heady competition as well with Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez and Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen also named as finalists. McCutchen is considered a frontrunner for the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award when it is announced in November.

Neither Nationals player has won a Gold Glove previously, but both would be deserving of the honor this year.

Desmond, whose range and exceptionally strong throwing arm were on display often again this season, finished the year with a .971 fielding percentage. Fangraphs.com ranks him among the five best shortstops in the league in most advanced metrics categories.

Former Nationals manager Davey Johnson, a three-time Rawlings Gold Glove second baseman himself, often said that he viewed Desmond as the best shortstop in the league – offensively and defensively.

Span was a pleasure to watch patrol center field for the Nationals, often earning effusive praise from his teammates for the effortless way with which he made difficult catches look simple. The highlight to his defensive season likely came when he saved a 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants by making a sensational diving catch to end the game.

Advanced metrics seem to underrate Span, though Fangraphs.com still ranks him as having the third-best Ultimate Zone Rating in the league behind A.J. Pollock and McCutchen, perhaps because he is not among the most laser-armed outfielders. But his exceptional defensive work does not go unnoticed by those on the field. Jayson Werth said late in the 2013 season that he trusts Span more than any center fielder he’d ever played with .

070313-461 denard span

Span excelled in center field in his first season with the Nationals.

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. But this year, for the first time in its 57-year history, Rawlings added a sabermetric component to the Rawlings Gold Glove Award selection process, as part of its new 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 2013 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards will be announced Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN2 in a special one-hour Baseball Tonight.

An Offseason Field Trip

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by Noah Frank

There may not have been any games played at Nationals Park last weekend, but the field was still put to good use. The Washington Nationals and the Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF) partnered to host the first Field Maintenance Clinic at Nationals Park as part of the Field Maintenance Education Program, a joint initiative between BTF and Major League Baseball.

Nationals Head Groundskeeper John Turnour and Assistant Head Groundskeeper Mike Hrivnak hosted 25 local coaches from more than 20 youth organizations on Saturday morning.

The two-hour clinic featured instruction on everything from maintaining the lip of the grass to prevent bad hops to keys to ensuring a safe, playable mound and the do’s and don’ts of clearing water off a wet infield. Turnour and Hrivnak were able to take the work they do on a Major League field and translate it into tips that youth leagues can use, even though they don’t have the same resources available. One such piece of advice was that it’s better to use towels to remove standing water on a field rather than sweeping it off with a broom.

In conjunction with the clinic, the Nationals and BTF selected Banneker City Little League to receive a $10,000 grant. The newly formed league will use the money for the upkeep and renovation of the upper field at Banneker Community Center. Check out photos from the clinic in the slideshow below.

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Arizona Fall League, Week 2 (10.15-21)

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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.

An Introduction

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by Amanda Comak

Welcome to the “new” Curly W Live Blog, which is a lot like the old one, except for one twist:  I am pleased to announce that the Washington Nationals have asked me to come aboard and steward the keyboard in this space.

Going forward, this is the main spot where you can find my writing, along with plenty of other Nationals-related content.

Loyal Curly W Live blog readers may notice some changes over the next few months, and certainly when things get underway in the 2014 season.

We’re going to have more contributors, including myself, and the hope is that we will be able to provide a comprehensive inside look at the team by bringing all kinds of interesting stories to the forefront. That goes for all of our publications, too, including Inside Pitch, which is available in-season at the ballpark, and Nationals Magazine, where my writing will be featured as well.

When I left The Washington Times after three seasons on the Nationals beat, I mentioned that part of why I was doing so was because it was time for a change. While my role is different, and multi-faceted here, I will still be writing. I will still be a vocal part of the coverage of this team going forward. But this is also a new challenge for me, and a new opportunity. I couldn’t be more excited about the potential that lies ahead in bringing some of the best stories about this team to you, the fans.

From a technical standpoint, I have joined the Nationals as Director of Baseball Media Relations and New Media. So, in addition to working with the media, some of my responsibilities include overseeing our various social media channels. With that in mind — and to be sure that you don’t miss a thing — please follow the Nationals accounts on Twitter (@nationals), Facebook (facebook.com/nationals) and Instagram (@nationals), if you are not already.

I will remain active on my @acomak account on Twitter as well, but the best place to go will be @Nationals for all of your updates.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to read about what’s been going on here. This offseason should be an exciting one for the Nationals, and I’m looking forward to getting started.

Harper Turns 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. For running until they tag him.

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

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

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

10. C’mon. Stop running on Bryce.

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Seriously. Don’t run on Bryce.

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

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

So, what’s number one?

1. That’s a clown question, bro.

Signature Moments of 2013: Quarterfinal #4

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

SigMomentsBracket10-16

“IT AIN’T OVER…” | 9.17

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

BRYCE IS BACK | 7.1

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

ItAintOver

Thank You for Your Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The view from the seats at Busch Stadium.

The view from the seats at Busch Stadium.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Werthy Candidate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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