Monday we posted our annual “Who’s Headed to Syracuse Next?” and that got me to thinking about which players we might see make the jump from Potomac. As we are at roughly the quarter pole for the 2013 season, this is as good a time as any to let the wild-ass guessing begin on who might be headed to Harrisburg next (arbitrary odds are next to each player’s name).
Taylor Hill (18-1)
The Vanderbilt product made three starts with Potomac in 2012, and through eight appearances this season seems to have adjusted quite nicely to the Carolina League. Despite low strikeout totals, Hill has a surprisingly great WHIP (under 1) and might see a late season call-up if a need in the Senators’ rotation arises.
Billy Burns (18-1)
To steal a phrase from the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, Burns “just wasn’t made for these times”. If this were 20-30 years ago Burns would be rated much higher on all of the prospect lists, but teams today aren’t looking for low-power singles hitters in the mold of Brett Butler. So, no matter how many bases he steals or how well he plays defensively in the outfield, the Georgia native will not be rushed through the system.
AJ Cole (14-1)
Disappointed to lose him to Oakland in the Gio Gonzalez trade, the Nationals re-acquired Cole as part of the deal this off-season for Michael Morse. Cole struggled in the first half of 2012 at High-A Stockton, but righted the ship back at Low-A Burlington with some tuning to his mechanics. As Cole is a “Rizzo guy”, don’t be surprised if the plan is to promote him for the last month of the season.
Michael Taylor (12-1)
The Nationals’ #11 rated prospect according to Baseball America has converted very successfully from shortstop to centerfield with his excellent range and potentially the best OF arm in the system. But Taylor still lags behind on the offensive side of the ball as selectivity and a better approach are two of the areas that he needs to continue making adjustments. Leapfrogged last season when Brian Goodwin was promoted from Hagerstown to Harrisburg, expect Taylor to be the de facto replacement if and when Goodwin moves on to Syracuse.
Tyler Herron (10-1)
Herron’s comeback is the stuff of a “based on a true story” Disney movie. After being selected in 2005 as a supplemental first-round pick, Herron picked up a bad attitude after failed expectations and misappropriated entitlement that led to his release. As Herron himself admits, “It took me a few years to grow up.” Independent ball was his safe haven as he played in 2010, missed all of 2011 due to surgery, but returned in 2012. It was there for Fargo-Moorhead of the American Association that Herron drew attention by compiling a 12-3 record. The Nationals signed him this off-season and nine solid appearances later at Potomac, Herron appears poised to make another step up the chain.
Cutter Dykstra (8-1)
Perhaps better known for his father or fiancée, Dykstra has made huge strides the last two years in Hagerstown and back again this season in Potomac. Luke Erickson at Nationals Prospects chalks it up to strike-zone judgment for the infielder, “That’s not just drawing walks, but working the count. Two years ago, it seemed like he was three pitches and out. This year, every at-bat is a grind, and he’s getting better pitches to hit.” That’s the approach at the plate that this Senators squad needs and manager Matt LeCroy covets.
Robbie Ray (5-1)
After struggling to a 4-12 record with a 6.56 ERA at Potomac in 2012, Ray returned to Northern Virginia to begin the 2013 campaign. The southpaw from Brentwood, Tennessee has apparently figured some things out as he hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his eight starts this season and his 55 strikeouts lead the Carolina League. If he continues his solid outings I expect Ray will be the next starter to get the call to City Island.
Jason Martinson (3-1)
Martinson was likely ticketed for Harrisburg after starting 2013 like the 12-year old who already shaves dominating the other little leaguers. Martinson batted .328/.425/.656 with five home runs and 15 RBIs winning the Carolina League Player of the Week in each of the first two weeks of the season. Since then, Martinson’s cooled off but his stock remains high in the Nationals’ organization and I think he’ll be here sooner rather than later.