In­juries, slow start put spot­light on prospects

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY DAVID DRIVER

Na­tion­als sec­ond base­man Daniel Mur­phy had knee surgery in Oc­to­ber and has yet to play in a ma­jor league game this sea­son.

Catcher Matt Wi­eters went on the dis­abled list April 2 and out­fielder Adam Ea­ton fol­lowed nine days later. Start­ing pitcher A.J. Cole made just two starts be­fore veteran Jeremy Hel­lick­son was slated to take his spot in the ro­ta­tion Mon­day night in New York, when the slump­ing Na­tion­als were set to be­gin a three-game se­ries against the divi­sion-lead­ing Mets.

The ma­jor league sea­son is less than a month old and the or­ga­ni­za­tional depth of the Na­tion­als is al­ready be­ing tested. While the Open­ing Day ros­ter has 25 play­ers, the 40-man ros­ter may be just as im­por­tant — es­pe­cially when a big league club is patch­ing as many holes as Wash­ing­ton is.

“There is a lot of hard work that goes into the off­sea­son,” said Mark Scial­abba, di­rec­tor of player de­vel­op­ment for the Na­tion­als. “You need depth at Triple-A, and Dou­ble-A. Our job is to pro­vide Mike [Na­tion­als gen­eral man­ager Mike Rizzo], the front of­fice and coaches depth in case any­thing goes wrong.

We have al­ready seen that.

“In­juries “are part of the game. Who do you have to re­place those play­ers, hope­fully for a short pe­riod time? We feel very good about the start­ing pitch­ing depth,” added Scial­abba, in an in­ter­view at Na­tion­als Park on Sun­day.

The Na­ton­als, re­garded as one of the bet­ter-stocked or­ga­ni­za­tions in the MLB, have sev­eral prospects who could end up help­ing the team at some point this year:

Triple-A Syra­cuse Chiefs, In­ter­na­tional League

One of the top young pitch­ers for the Na­tion­als is right-han­der Austin Voth, who has not yet played in the ma­jors. He had an ERA of 1.69 in his first two mi­nor league starts this sea­son.

“Austin is in a very good place. His hard work and ded­i­ca­tion in the off­sea­son is start­ing to bear fruit,” Scial­abba said. “He is off to a great start.”

The Na­tion­als have two veteran big league starters at Syra­cuse who were with the team in spring train­ing: lefty Tommy Milone and right-han­der Ed­win Jack­son. Milone (0-0, 6.10 ERA through Sun­day) was drafted by the Na­tion­als and then re­joined the or­ga­ni­za­tion while Jack­son (0-0, 2.00) pitched last sea­son for Wash­ing­ton.

“They are cer­tainly very much part of our depth,” Scial­abba said. “They are ex­pe­ri­enced and Ed­win was with us last year and helped our team. His sec­ond out­ing (with the Chiefs) was bet­ter than his first. With Tommy, he has done an out­stand­ing job, too. He can pro­vide depth and pro­vide an op­tion for us.”

Right-han­der Erick Fedde, a top young prospect, had a 2.70 ERA in his first two starts with the Chiefs.

Two out­field­ers at Syra­cuse with who saw ac­tion last year with the Na­tion­als are Rafael Bautista and An­drew Steven­son. Bautista hit .286 in his first three games with Syra­cuse. Steven­son was hit­ting .138 in games through Sun­day.

“Steven­son is cer­tainly some­one we could call on at some point,” Scial­abba said. “He could pro­vide de­fense and hope­fully put the ball in play (on of­fense). Bautista be­gan the sea­son in Dou­ble-A to play ev­ery day with (Vic­tor) Robles in cen­ter in Syra­cuse.”

Out­fielder Vic­tor Robles, the top prospect in the sys­tem, hurt his wrist while div­ing for a ball last week but X-rays were neg­a­tive. Veteran catcher Tuffy Gosewisch, who played for Seat­tle last sea­son, made his de­but for Syra­cuse on Satur­day.

Dou­ble-A Harrisburg Se­na­tors, Eastern League

One of the best young pitch­ing prospects for the Na­tion­als is Je­fry Ro­driguez, who had a 2.25 ERA af­ter throw­ing 6.2 score­less in­nings on Fri­day against the Bowie Baysox.

“He is throw­ing the ball very well,” Scial­abba said. “He picked up where he left off last year (at Sin­gle-A Po­tomac). He has com­mand of his fast­ball and is throw­ing strikes. His curve­ball is im­prov­ing. He is mak­ing strides with his change-up. He can pro­vide us with some depth down the road.”

An­other pitcher who has yet to make the ma­jors is lefty re­liever Bryan Harper, the brother of all-star out­fielder Bryce Harper. He was a non­roster in­vi­tee and did not al­low a run in his first three out­ings for Harrisburg.

High Sin­gle-A Po­tomac Na­tion­als, Carolina League

One of the top young pitch­ers for the Na­tion­als is Wil Crowe, a sec­ond-round pick out of the Univer­sity of South Carolina last year. He al­lowed one run in five in­nings Satur­day against the Fred­er­ick Keys and has an ERA of 3.60 in his first two starts.

“Wil is off to a great start as well,” Scial­abba said. “We chal­lenged him a lit­tle to be at that level. He earned that right. He is not afraid to pitch in­side. He is only go­ing to get bet­ter. He has a fast­ball, slider change-up and curve. He is ex­cit­ing young right-han­der pitcher for us.”

Low Sin­gle-A Hager­stown Suns, South At­lantic League

Per­haps the best young hit­ting prospect in the low mi­nors for Wash­ing­ton is out­fielder Juan Soto, 19, who had four hits in a game April 8 and then three more two days later for Hager­stown. He was hit­ting .361 in games through Sun­day.

“Great start. That is what we ex­pected from Juan,” Scial­abba said. “He is very con­sis­tent from at-bat to at-bat. He is strong and healthy and that is what we wanted to see the first half of the sea­son. He has a chance to be a very good de­fender and baserun­ner as well.”


Pitcher Austin Voth had an ERA of 1.69 in his first two mi­nor league starts this sea­son with Triple-A Syra­cuse. The prospect is one of sev­eral pitch­ing op­tions in the mi­nors for the Na­tion­als.

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