First Half Minor League Accolades
The All-Star Break is coming to an end, so I thought it wouldbe fitting to hand out my awards for Nationals minor leaguers based on their first half performances. Many of the names of the award winners should come as no surprise, as they’ve made appearances in DC already this year.
MVP – Taylor Jordan
While I’m typically not a fan of giving a pitcher the MVP title, there haven’t really been any blow-you-away performances in the organization this season besides Jordan’s 9-1 record and 1.00 ERA through 90 and 1/3 innings in Potomac and Harrisburg. Jordan’s excellence led to a promotion to the big leagues, where he’s put up a very respectable 3.32 ERA in 21 and 2/3 innings. Other candidates include Anthony Rendon (1.027 OPS, but in just 166 plate appearances), Steven Souza (.886 OPS, but in just in 237 plate appearances), and Jason Martinson (.835 OPS over the full year), but all either missed too much time or weren’t quite elite enough to be considered organizational MVP’s.
Cy Young – Taylor Jordan
To be perfectly honest, Taylor Jordan was at best on the edge of my radar going into this season. The 2009 9th round pick had a nice 2011 season (2.48 ERA, 2.74 K/BB) before succumbing to Tommy John surgery around mid-season. He came back in 2012 to throw 54 and 1/3 innings of 5.13 ERA ball in A ball, which wasn’t something to cheer about considering he was 23 years old.
This season, as you read above, he’s been pitching out of his mind. Amongst Nationals minor league starting pitchers, Jordan is first in wins (tied – 9), win percentage (90%), ERA (1.00), shutouts (tied – 2), WHIP (.947), HR/9 (0.1), and K/BB (4.8) as well as second in H/9 (tied – 6.8) and BB/9 (1.5).
As we’ve seen, Jordan does not have strikeout stuff (only 4.2 K/9 in the majors), but has excellent control (1.2 BB/9 in the bigs, 1.5 in the minors this year) and is excellent at inducing ground balls. There are some red flags that would suggest Jordan’s performance from 2013 as unsustainably good (only 1 HR allowed and minor league BABIP’s of .280 and .243 in Potomac and Harrisburg, respectively), but now’s not the time to discuss them. Jordan is a clear-cut organizational Cy Young winner in my book, and would be a shoo-in for Comeback Player as well if Anthony Rendon didn’t have something to say about it.
Rookie of the Year (best performance by a 2013 draft pick) – Drew Ward
The 2013 Nats draftees have played relatively poorly as a group, as the Auburn Doubledays have a 10-18 record. Their best 2013 draftee performance to date has been a guy who isn’t playing for Auburn, but rather for the Gulf Coast Nats. Drew Ward still hasn’t hit a home run in his professional debut, but has still put up an excellent .313/.432/.463 triple slash in 20 games so far. Ward’s 10 doubles are encouraging; as he grows into his 6’3” frame, those gappers could very well turn into home runs. One of my early worries was that Ward would be overmatched by professional pitching (even in the GCL) with a bunch of strikeouts, but he has kept his K% at a respectable 22.2%. While overall the Nats’ 2013 draftees have put together a bunch of mediocrity, the player with the highest upside out of the draft class is performing the best to start his professional career.
Hank Aaron Award – Anthony Rendon
I couldn’t bring myself to name Rendon the MVP since he only played 36 games in the minors this season, but felt that he needed to be recognized for hitting the bejeezus out of the ball in his short time down on the farm. In just 166 plate appearances, Rendon put together a .307/.452/.575 triple slash with 20 extra base hits and a 32/28 BB/K ratio in just 36 games. With his excellence in both the minors and majors this season, Rendon is proving that injuries were the only thing holding him back from being a productive major leaguer.
Relief Pitcher – Ian Krol
Stats-wise, Krol could have been a candidate for the comeback player of the year as well, given his 5.20 ERA in 97 innings for the A’s last season as a starter. The Nats moved him to the bullpen for good and he has absolutely throttled opponents. In the minors, Krol put up an 0.69 ERA, .808 WHIP, 4.8 H/9, 10 K/9 and 4.14 K/BB ratio through 26 innings. He’s also killing it in the big leagues, with a 1.80 ERA, .600 WHIP, 4.8 K/9 and 13 K/BB ratio in 15 innings.
Krol was the player to be named later in the Michael Morse deal, and has been half a win more productive than Morse by himself this season (0.3 WAR to Morse’s -0.2). The Nationals are surely looking forward to what comes next from their six seasons of team control over Krol.
Comeback Player – Anthony Rendon
Can you believe that Rendon fractured his ankle only 15 months ago? Last year, Rendon only got to play 43 games, where he hit a mediocre .233/.363/.489 in 160 at-bats. This year, he’s back and is as nimble as ever. Rendon is absolutely crushing the ball (1.027 OPS in the minors, .812 in the majors). Did I mention that he’s doing this all while playing a new position? Your move, Espinosa.
C – Adrian Nieto - .300/.379/.462 with 8 HR in 76 games for Potomac
1B – Chris Marrero - .289/.338/.466 with 10 HR in 70 games for Syracuse
2B – Anthony Rendon - .307/.452/.575 with 6 HR in 36 games for Harrisburg and Syracuse
3B – Drew Ward - .313/.432/.463 in 20 with 10 2B in 20 games for the Gulf Coast Nats
SS – Jason Martinson - .266/.371/.464 with 13 HR and 16 SB in 91 games for Potomac and Harrisburg
LF – Billy Burns - .306/.411/.372 with 45 SB in 78 games for Potomac
CF – Michael Taylor - .272/.339/.433 with 7 HR and 29 SB in 88 games for Potomac
RF – Steven Souza - .272/.371/.515 with 12 HR and 13 SB in 58 games for Harrisburg
SP – Taylor Jordan – 9-1 with 1.00 ERA and 4.80 K/BB ratio in 15 games for Potomac and Harrisburg
RP – Ian Krol – 0.69 ERA and 4.14 K/BB ratio in 21 games for Harrisburg