First Half Minor League Accolades

The All-Star Break is coming to an end, so I thought it would
be 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.

All-Star Team

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

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