Washington Nationals Minor Leagues: Players Of The Week (4/8-4/19)

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Potomac Nationals (7-5)

While the defending Carolina League champions have been no-hit this season, the offense has been the story of their young season. In the last six games, they have scored 40 runs, including two games of 13+ runs. On Friday, Potomac scored nine runs in the ninth to come back from a 7-4 deficit against the Lynchburg Hillcats. Their total of 56 runs is 12 more than any team in the Carolina League.

Hitter Of The Week: SS Wilmer Difo (.310, 3 HR’s, 9 RBI’s)

On Saturday night, 23-year old Wilmer Difo had one of the best games of his career. Against Lynchburg, he went 5-for-6 with a grand slam, five RBI’s, two doubles, and two stolen bases. The shortstop has 11 hits in his last six games and his total of 13 hits leads the team and is tied with two others for the league lead.

Difo also has a .409 on-base percentage thru the first 11 games and is now the new leadoff hitter after Rafael Bautista broke his finger early last week. Difo made a great impression this spring with the big league club and has carried that over into the start of his high-A season. Considering that he leads the team in homers, Difo (#8 prospect) is showing he can hit for contact as well as power.

 Honorable Mention: LF Isaac Ballou (.324, 2 HR’s, 5 RBI’s)

Ballou, who was the 15th round pick of the Nats in the 2013 MLB Draft, is currently on a five-game hitting streak. Over the course of those five games, Baillou has 9 hits in 23 at-bats with three home runs. Keep in mind, last year at Hagerstown, he hit six home runs the whole season.

On Saturday, in Potomac’s 15-8 win over Lynchburg, Ballou went 4-for-5 with a double, a RBI, and a stolen base. He has recorded hits in six games with three of them being multi-hit games. With 11 hits on the season, Baillou is off to a great start for Potomac.

 Pitcher Of The Week: SP Brian Rauh (1-0, 0.84)

While you can make the case for Nick Pivetta (1-1, 0.90) this week because he was the losing pitcher when Potomac got no-hit Wednesday, I am going to go with Rauh, a 23-year old right hander who had a combined 4.50 ERA in the minors last season. In two starts, Rauh has given up one earned run in his first 10.2 innings pitched.

On Thursday, against Lynchburg, Rauh struck out eight Hillcats over 5.2 innings. Keep in mind, Rauh did not strike out more than seven batters in a start last year. At Potomac last season, he was 2-4 with a 4.39 ERA in 17 games (12 starts). The 11th round pick of the Nats in the 2012 draft is off to a great start, especially when you consider he gave up 16 runs in all of April last season.

 Honorable Mention: RP Jake Johansen (0-0, 3.38)

Johansen, who was the Nats second round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, has thrown 10.2 innings out of the bullpen, which is nearing the team lead in innings pitched. After a rough outing in the season opener (2.2 IP, three runs, three walks), the righty has given up one earned run and eight hits over the last eight innings and has struck out ten batters.

Johansen (#19 prospect) has a very good fastball, but the command is something to watch going forward. Last season, at Hagerstown, he walked 55 batters in 29 games (18 starts) to go with a 5.12 ERA. Working exclusively out of the bullpen for Potomac, Johansen has the chance to hone his fastball and use it to his advantage, but the command will be crucial if he wants to rise up the Nationals rankings. However, at least he is able to give the Nats innings out of the pen.

Next: Low-A: Hagerstown Suns