The Team of the 2010s: Outfielders

Over 11 weeks we’ll be running polls to determine the Harrisburg Senators’ Team of the 2010s. When we’re done, we’ll have starters for every position on the field including a designated hitter, utility player, right-handed and left-handed starter, and reliever.

Did a player turn into a MLB superstar? Or maybe he was a legend on City Island? Or just maybe he was your favorite because he was a better person than a player? Or you just loved his walk-up songs? How you make your selection is solely up to you.

Mondays we will post that week’s poll and Fridays we will announce the winner. You can only vote once a day, but that means you get five opportunities to stuff the ballot box.

This week you get to pick the outfielders, so you can select 4 with each day’s vote.

 

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7/19: Just One Thing

In an effort to write more than I have been, I decided to try at least putting together “Just One Thing” about each game I cover. It might be about a particular play, an at-bat, or a guy’s walk-up song. Whatever piques my interest that game. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Let me set the stage: In the bottom of the third inning with Adrian Sanchez on first base and one out, Dante Bichette Jr. came to the plate.

A swinging strike and a called strike from Portland starter Bryan Mata found Bichette in an 0-2 hole. But that’s when the at-bat got interesting. Bichette fouled off five straight pitches including some hacks that would look bad at a coach-pitch game.

In the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Bichette did the same and just reached out to make contact. But this time he softly rolled it over into no man’s land between the mound and third base. Just well placed enough for an infield single that kept the rally going.

While the rest of baseball cares less and less about strikeouts and making contact, Bichette seems to have gone the other way.

This season with the Senators, Bichette has struck out a career-low 14.8% of his plate appearances. Factor in his time with the independent league High Point Rockers to begin the year and his K rate drops to 11.6%.

It’s not like he was colossal strikeout guy before. Most of his career he’s hovered around 17-19%. But the change Bichette has made in his two-strike approach has been noticeable.

“I know the game has shifted to homers and strikeouts,” Bichette said. “And I tried that for a few years with the Yankees, and it didn’t work out too well for me. One thing I know I can do is put the bat on the ball at a really high rate. So I just decided to see how that would work out. Strikeouts have gone down, and hits have gone up.”

Bichette’s philosophy at the plate has crystallized even further as the season has progressed. The former first-round draft pick of the Yankees in 2011 has whiffed only five times in July so far, and that includes three times in Michael Baumann’s no-hitter this past Tuesday for Bowie.

“I feel like if you put the ball in play more than not, you’re successful more than not,” he said.

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The Team of the 2010s: DH Bill Rhinehart

Photo courtesy Will Bentzel / Harrisburg Senators

Bill Rhinehart (2008-11) – .246/.322/.442, 307 G, 126 R, 154 RBI, 64 2B, 42 HR2B, 4 HR)

Promoted quickly up the chain in 2008, Rhinehart had struggled every season he was at Double-A Harrisburg even earning a demotion to Potomac in 2010. But 2011 was different for Rhinehart as he changed his physical and mental approach at the plate to astounding results.

He drove the ball all around the ballpark to the tune of the team’s highest slugging percentage and even at 26 years old became a sought after piece in the trade deadline deal that sent Johnny Gomes to the Nationals.

The University of Arizona product finished the season strong for the Cincinatti organization, but failed to repeat his success in 2012 when he played 92 games at Triple-A Louisville. By 2013, the former 11th round draft pick was out of baseball.

Rhinehart is also remembered fondly in some circles for his one pitching appearance where he recorded the final three outs while striking out one in a lopsided 13-2 loss to Altoona.

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7/18: Just One Thing

In an effort to write more than I have been, I decided to try at least putting together “Just One Thing” about each game I cover. It might be about a particular play, an at-bat, or a guy’s walk-up song. Whatever piques my interest that game. We’ll see how long this lasts.

There was very little to like about Thursday night’s 4-0 loss to the Portland Sea Dogs. Aaron Fletcher throwing a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the ninth during his Double-A debut qualifies as one of the few bright spots.

Drafted a little over a year ago in the 14th round by the Nationals, the southpaw has been a very fast riser in the system. Fletcher began the year in Hagerstown throwing 28 innings in 15 appearances with a 0,68 WHIP and 1.61 ERA before earning a promotion to Potomac at the end of May. He continued to impress with the P-Nats increasing his strikeouts per nine innings while lowering his ERA in 12 games before being bumped once more up the chain.

Fletcher’s quick ascent has been so meteoric that Thursday night’s appearance was the first time Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy saw the lefty pitch. While LeCroy was with the upper-level guys during spring training, Fletcher was with his future Hagerstown Suns teammates on the backfields.

“I liked that he came in and went after the hitters,” LeCroy said. “It’s good to get him in on a low leverage spot, but for the first time at a different level, he was amped up pretty good.”

The promotions for the University of Houston product in his first professional season have been unusual for the Nationals. Even for college players, Washington tends to be conservative with their placement and how fast they move guys through the system.

Take Taylor Guilbeau and Andrew Lee as examples. The pair were drafted in the 10th and 11th rounds of the 2015 draft from Alabama and Tennessee respectively. Three full seasons before Fletcher was drafted, yet both Guilbeau and Lee repeated Hagerstown or Potomac multiple years before finally landing in Harrisburg in 2019.

That has clearly not been the case for Fletcher who has shown enough at his previous stops to earn a crack at Double-A this season.

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The Team of the 2010s: Designated Hitter

Over 11 weeks we’ll be running polls to determine the Harrisburg Senators’ Team of the 2010s. When we’re done, we’ll have starters for every position on the field including a designated hitter, utility player, right-handed and left-handed starter, and reliever.

Did a player turn into a MLB superstar? Or maybe he was a legend on City Island? Or just maybe he was your favorite because he was a better person than a player? Or you just loved his walk-up songs? How you make your selection is solely up to you.

Mondays we will post that week’s poll and Fridays we will announce the winner. You can only vote once a day, but that means you get five opportunities to stuff the ballot box.

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The Team of the 2010s: C Sandy Leon

Sandy Leon (2012-13) – .218/.310/.303, 135 G, 50 R, 45 RBI, 24 2B, 4 HR)

After watching him in the opening game of the 2012 season I wrote, “Sandy Leon might be the most perfect catcher I’ve ever seen up close and personal. He possesses a rifle for an arm, the quick hands of a lightweight boxer, and the footwork of a Russian ballet dancer. Most catchers would settle for one of those, but Leon has all three.”

However, the then 23-year-old backstop impressed that season almost as much as a batter. He hit a career-high .311 in Harrisburg in 40 games before being called up to Washington where he was injured during his MLB debut.

Leon returned to Harrisburg to begin the 2013 season, and although his defense was still omnipresent, the Venezuela native slumped offensively especially from the left side of the plate. His role in nurturing the pitching staff that year to a postseason berth, as it became the best in the league cannot be understated.

Since then, Leon has enjoyed a five-year career with Boston including last season when he went 3-for-6 appearing in three World Series games as the Red Sox won the title.

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The Team of the 2010s: Catcher

Over 11 weeks we’ll be running polls to determine the Harrisburg Senators’ Team of the 2010s. When we’re done, we’ll have starters for every position on the field including a designated hitter, utility player, right-handed and left-handed starter, and reliever.

Did a player turn into a MLB superstar? Or maybe he was a legend on City Island? Or just maybe he was your favorite because he was a better person than a player? How you make your selection is solely up to you.

Mondays we will post that week’s poll and Fridays we will announce the winner. You can only vote once a day, but that means you get five opportunities to stuff the ballot box.

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