Washington Nationals Minor Leagues: Players Of The Week (4/20-4/26)
By Ricky Keeler
Hitter Of The Week: 3B Drew Ward (.321, 0 HR, 12 RBI’s)
While Wilmer Difo has been the story of the Potomac Nationals so far (.323, 3 HR, 14 RBI’s), it is Ward who deserves more recognition as he is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the best third base prospect in the Nationals organization. The third round pick by the Nats in the 2013 MLB Draft is in the top ten in the Carolina League in batting average and tied for third in RBI’s. Last season, Ward hit .269 at low-A Hagerstown with ten home runs and 73 RBI’s (top ten in the South Atlantic League)
This week, Ward recorded nine hits and drove in three runs. His best performance of the week came on Wednesday against the Wilmington Blue Rocks. In that game, Ward went 4-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. He had a four game hit streak before going 0-for-2 in Game 2 of the doubleheader on Sunday against Lynchburg. However, Ward has all three RBI’s in the last five games as he has been one of the main reason why Potomac has scored the most runs in the Carolina League (79)
Honorable Mention: C Spencer Kieboom (.250, 1 HR, 10 RBI’s)
Earlier, I talked about how Pedro Severino has been doing in double-A. Severino and Kieboom were two catchers that were invited as non-roster invitees by the Nationals to major league spring training. MLB Pipeline ranks Severino at 11 and Kieboom at 20 in the organization, but Kieboom is off to a great start for Potomac.
He enters this week on a six-game hit streak and he has driven in at least one run in four of his last six games. On Monday, Kieboom went 2-for-4 against Wilimington with a solo home run ans two RBI’s. Kieboom was Ward’s teammate at Hagerstown last season and hit .309 with nine home runs and 61 RBI’s. Kieboom only has ten hits this season in 12 games, but the fact that he has hit in six straight shows that he is starting to catch fire as the 24-year-old continues to rise up the prospect rankings.
Pitcher Of The Week: SP Wander Suero (3-0, 2.50)
We have talked about a couple of pitchers already on this Potomac team such as Nick Pivetta and Brian Rauh (who has since been promoted to Harrisburg), who have ERA’s of 0.53 and 0.51 respectively. That being said, Wander Suero has been off to an excellent start as he has won all three games in which he has pitched. The 23-year-old righty from the Dominican Republic has faced the same team in all three of his starts (Lynchburg), but two of those starts have been very good.
On Friday, Suero threw seven innings, gave up one run (none earned) on four hits, struck out seven batters, and walked one. The last time Suero threw seven innings in a start came on August 21 of last season for Hagerstown. Last year, at low-A Hagerstown, he showed good control, walking 11 batters in 17 games. He has carried that control to this season as he had two starts of zero walks. While Potomac’s offense gets all the attention, their team ERA of 3.21 is third in the league.
Honorable Mention: SP Nick Pivetta (1-1, 0.53)
I mentioned Pivetta earlier and he does make the pitchers of the week for the second week in a row, but for good reason. He went seven innings in a start against Wilmington on Monday where he gave up no runs on three hits, struck out five, and walked two. Keep in mind that the 22-year old right hander has not given up more than three hits in any of his starts this season.
In addition, opponents are hitting .138 against him. Ruah and Pivetta also have a near identical WHIP (0.74 for Ruah, 0.76 for Pivetta). The Nationals continue to find solid pitching prospects as Pivetta doesn’t get talked about with the likes of Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, but his name will come up in that conversation soon eough if he continues to put up these kind of stat lines.