Just one year removed from seeing mega-prospect Bryce Harper depart for higher levels, the Hagerstown Suns’ roster posses more talent now than ever before. They currently have a record of 42-27 and although I know wins don’t mean anything in the minors it does help illustrate how good this team is compared to the other South Atlantic League ball clubs. There are obviously a number of guys contributing to their dominance, but here are some of the biggest standouts:
Billy Burns, OF, age 22
.314 AVG, 0 HR, 25 RBI, 24 SB, .424 OBP, .390 SLG, .814 OPS
Burns, the National’s 2011 32nd round pick, has really excelled so far in his first full season as a pro. The Mercer University product has very little power at just 5’9″ 180 lbs, but he possess blazing speed that he uses to his advantage both on the base paths and in the outfield. Burn’s speed combined with his plate discipline (33 walks) make him an ideal lead off hitter and a headache for opposing pitchers. Billy is also stellar defensively, using his great speed to cover a lot of ground and has yet to make an error this year.
Steven Souza, Jr., OF, age 23
.292 AVG, 9 HR, 41 RBI, 1 SB, .351 OBP, .542 SLG, .893 OPS
2007 3rd rounder (out of high school) Souza seems to be finally figuring things out in his 6th season as a minor leaguer. In his first five seasons (all between rookie ball and A+ levels) the athletic 6’3″ 220 pounder has shown flashes of power and speed but never posted a batting average over .237. This season Souza seems to be seeing the ball better, with just 32 strikeouts (131 Ks in 2011) and an average above .300 for most of the season. Steven Jr. is currently on pace to blow away career high’s in batting average, doubles, homers, and runs batted in. The only negative against Souza in 2012 has been his base running. He’s stolen just 1 base on 7 attempts after stealing 25 on 34 attempts in 2011. It may be that the bulk he added in the off season is slowing him down or it may just be a bit of a fluke, either way it’s no real cause for concern.
Caleb Ramsey, OF, age 23
.293 AVG, 5 HR, 41 RBI, 9 SB, .357 OBP, .432 SLG, .789 OPS
Ramsey, an 11th round pick in the 2011 draft out of the University of Houston, has really made the transition from college to pro ball look easy. Caleb signed with the Nationals quickly after the draft, allowing him to get a nice chunk of professional experience right away playing with the Auburn Doubledays of the short season New York Penn League. He performed well there and has kept it up with the Suns. Ramsey is an aggressive hitter who isn’t going to walk much, but he won’t strike out much either (24 K/ 22 BB) and has above average speed. He does have some power but he’s best characterized as a gap hitter who runs the bases very well (42 R in 63 G), an ideal number 2 hitter.
Matthew Skole, 3B, age 22
.296 AVG, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 4 SB, .444 OBP, .540 SLG, .984 OPS
The Nationals made Skole their 2011 5th round pick out of Georgia Tech and they are extremely happy that they did. Skole is by far the prospect I personally am most excited about. He had an extremely productive college career and has already become one of the most feared hitters in South Atlantic League despite this being just his first full season as a pro. He ranks in the top 20 of the Sally League in nearly every offensive category including; AVG (19th), R (50, 6th), HR (T-1st), RBI (3rd), BB (62, 1st), OBP (1st), SLG (7th), and OPS (2nd). A case could be made that he is already the best player at the low-A ball just over a year after being drafted. The only drawback with Matt has been his defense at third base. He already committed 15 errors and that’s probably the only reason he’s still only at the low-A level. Skole’s glove can’t hold him back forever though, i’d be shocked if he isn’t heading to Potomac after today’s (June 19th) SAL All-star Game.
Brian Goodwin, OF, age 21
.308 AVG, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 11 SB, .429 OBP, .475 SLG, .904 OPS
Brian Goodwin was the National’s 2011 supplemental 1st round draft pick out of Miami Dade CC and has really burst on to the scene in his first year as a pro. Goodwin’s first few games with the Suns were amazing (click his name above to view April numbers) until he sustained an injury that kept him off the field for about a month. Upon returning his numbers dropped a bit (understandably so) but he has since hit his stride again with a .350 average in his last 10 games (along with 9 RBI and 6 SB). At 6’1″ 195 Goodwin is a toolsy outfielder with an impressive mix of speed and power. His skill set is reminiscent of BJ Upton but with a little less home run power and a little more plate discipline (28 K, 25 BB). To me Goodwin is the second most promising position player prospect on the Suns right now behind Matt Skole.
Jason Martinson, SS, age 23
.272 AVG, 10 HR, 63 RBI, 23 SB, .391 OBP, .449 SLG, .840 OPS
2010 fifth round pick out of Texas State, Martinson has been one of the most potent hitters in the SAL all season. Martinson is really a special talent, possessing above average power and blazing speed, a legit 20-20 threat every year (maybe 30-30 if he continues to improve). The 6’1″ 190 pounder currently leads the Sally League in runs scored with 68 and his 63 RBI tie him for the league lead. However there are reasons why Martinson has yet to get promoted above Hagerstown. He’s never hit for much of a batting average, he strikes out a ton and he’s not great defensively (13 errors in 2012). The good news is that he certainly has the athleticism to be a good fielder and at just 23 he has time to improve his 2-strike approach to cut down on the Ks. If he continues to develop the way he has this year, the Nats will find themselves with yet another power hitting middle infielder in the future.
Alex Meyer, RHP, age 22
6-3, 3.33 ERA, 70.1 IP, 77 K, 28 BB, .218 Opp BA, 1.19 WHIP
Meyer, the National’s 2011 first round pick out of the University of Kentucky and the top rated pitching prospect in the organization, has really been dominant after getting off to a rocky start as a pro. When I did my Nat’s prospects April report card I made the assessment that Meyer had been unlucky based on the fact that his secondary numbers (K/BB ratio, WHIP, Opp BA, etc.) looked much better than his era. He’s not unlucky anymore and his low era (and still dropping) reflects how effective he’s really been. The 6’9″ 220 pound right hander has moved passed his rough start to go 5-1 with a 2.59 era in his last 10 outings. Meyer has gone at least 5 innings in each of those 10 starts and allowed 2 earned runs or less in 8 of them. With every start, he seems a little more dominant and has shown enough confidence in his stuff to consistently pound the strike zone. Meyer’s combination of imposing size and electric stuff make him a nightmare for opposing hitters, he should move through the minors fairly quickly.