Washington Nationals Minor Leagues: Players Of The Week (5/18-5/24)
By Ricky Keeler
Hagerstown Suns (22-20)
Hitter Of The Week: LF Jeff Gardner (.261, 2 HR, 10 RBI’s)
The 23-year-old left fielder heads into tonight’s action against Greensboro on a ten-game hitting streak. This past week, I want to highlight the last two games Gardner played against the Lexington Legends. In those games, Gardner went 7-for-10 with a RBI. Yesterday, he went 4-for-5 in the Suns 14-13 ten-inning loss to the Legends. He had 13 hits, one home run, and four RBI’s this week.
In 20 games this month, Gardner is hitting .299 with one home run and 12 RBI’s and has a .442 slugging percentage. Right now, his slugging percentage this season is .406 (second on the team amongst players who have played in 30+ games). Plus, he is fifth on the team in hits with 36. How long will Gardner be able to keep up this hitting streak?
Honorable Mention: SS Osvaldo Abreu (.273, 1 HR, 11 RBI’s)
For the first time this season, Abreu makes the slideshow and for good reason. The 20-year-old shortstop has recorded a hit in each of his last eight games. This past week, Abreu had two multi-hit games out of those eight, but he did have four runs batted in. This includes driving in a run in each of the last two games against the Legends.
This month, Abreu is hitting .291 with one home run and nine RBI’s. His batting average of .291 is up from the .245 average he had in April. He is sixth on the team in hits with 35, second on the team in doubles with 11, and has a .326 on-base percentage. He does rack up the errors in the field as he leads the team with 15 errors. Last season, Abreu hit .229 with one home run and 15 RBI’s for short-season Auburn.
Pitcher Of The Week: SP Phillips Valdez (5-2, 1.47)
Valdez and Austen Williams have clearly separated themselves as the top two pitchers in the Hagerstown rotation. The 23-year-old right-hander made two starts this week and gave up two runs while striking out ten batters in 13 combined innings. However, Valdez deserves recognition for one start in particular where the other team could not find a way to get anything going against him.
On Monday night, against the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Valdez went seven innings and did not give up a hit. He struck out four batters and walked two in the win. Valdez induced 13 ground ball outs as well, so there wasn’t much hard hit contact against him. In five starts this month, Valdez has a 1.29 ERA. He is tied with Williams for the fourth lowest ERA in the South Atlantic League. Plus, he is third in the entire league in WHIP (0.93).
Honorable Mention: RP Justin Amlung (1-0, 1.29)
For the second straight week, a Suns reliever makes the honorable mention portion of this slideshow. 25-year-old Justin Amlung made three appearances out of the bullpen this week and pitched very well. In 4.1 innings, he gave up one hit, struck out five, and did not walk a batter. Amlung did pick up the save in Saturday’s win over the Legends and has two saves in as many chances.
This season, while it is a very small sample size, opponents are only hitting .091 against Amlung. He has six strikeouts in seven innings and has yet to have a walk. Last season, with the Cubs high-A affiliate, the Daytona Tortugas, Amlung was 4-4 with a 4.37 ERA in 15 games (nine starts). While the Nationals have yet to use him as a starter this year, Amlung is off to a good start for the Suns bullpen.