With a rainout on the final day of the regular season on Thursday, the Nationals’ juggernaut Gulf Coast League team finished with a record of 49-9. That’s an astounding and record-setting winning percentage of .845, which, according to the team, is the best single-season winning percentage of any U.S.-based minor league team at any level.
The rookie ball team, comprised mainly of players from the Dominican Republic and recent draftees, was so good, in fact, that it finished 24 1/2 games ahead of the GCL Marlins (.424 winning percentage) in the East Division. The second-best winning percentage of any team in the entire league belonged to one of the Yankees’ GCL teams, which posted a .600 winning percentage. The GCL Nationals were that much better than every other team.
All season, Nationals officials jokingly referred to the team as the organization’s juggernaut. The only team in minor league history with a better mark was the Blue Jays’ 1992 Dominican Summer League team which posted a 68-2 record, a .971 winning percentage.
“They’ve had an amazing season,” said Nationals director of player development Doug Harris. “We’re really proud of what they’ve accomplished and they’ve accomplished it the right way. A tremendous staff there. It’s young, first-year players. A high percentage of them have come from out Latin American program coupled with players from the draft. They play fundamental baseball. They don’t panic. They throw strike one. They catch ground balls. They situational hit. They’re aggressive base runners. It’s all the things we preach.
On Friday, the Nationals GCL team will play the GCL Pirates in the first round of the playoffs. If the Nationals win, they will advance to play the winner of the other GCL Red Sox and GCL Yankees game in the best-of-three championship series.
The Nationals GCL team is one of three minor league teams in the system that has reached the playoffs this season. Class A Potomac and Class A Hagerstown have also clinched postseason berths in their respective leagues. Class AA Harrisburg could become the fourth Nationals minor league team with a win on Thursday night.
“We’re never going to sacrifice development for the sake of winning a ballgame. But anytime you can play in a playoff atmosphere coming down the stretch … and when you can do it for multiple years, it’s never the same as a major league setting, at least these guys have had a taste of some of that,” Harris said. “Hopefully they impact our major league club at some point.”