Halfway through the minor league season, most of the healthy prospects in the Nationals system are performing at or above what was expected of them. The teams are also doing well, with both full-season Class A affiliates winning first-half division crowns and Class AA Harrisburg just a percentage point out of first place in a league that doesn’t split its season into halves.
Even with Anthony Rendon,Jeff Kobernus, Ian Krol, Fernando Abad and Chris Marrero excluded because they are with Washington, there’s more than enough to choose from for a midseason all-Nats minor league team. Here’s a look at the best in the farm system at each position so far in 2013, with performance and age taken into account:
Catcher: Class A Hagerstown’s Pedro Severino earned a spot in tonight’s South Atlantic League all-star game at age 19. He’s hitting .254 with a .278 on-base percentage and .324 slugging percentage in 142 at-bats. His bat has been solid enough to win him plenty of playing time and experience with the Suns’ pitching staff. Severino has thrown out 25 of 48 runners (52 percent).
First base: Hagerstown’s Shawn Pleffner is hitting .294/.396/.406. The 22-year-old left-handed hitter has drawn 32 walks and struck out 43 times.
Second base: Also at Hagerstown, 2012 second-round pick and Sally League all-star Tony Renda, 22, has .291/355/.415 numbers with 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts.
Third base: Rendon‘s departure and subsequent move to second base — at least for the time being — leave this as one of the least-stocked positions on the minor league side. Advanced Class A Potomac’s Justin Miller, 24, plays both corner-infield spots and is hitting .274/.319/.481.
Shortstop: The organization, however, does have talent on the left side of the infield, notably a pair of shortstops who can hit for power. Ian Desmond may be blocking their paths at short, but for now both remain at the position. Class AAA Syracuse’s Zach Walters, last week’s International League batter of the week who’s hitting .237/.270/.486 with 14 home runs at age 22, gets the edge here over former Texas State football player Jason Martinson (.254/.363/.483 with 12 homers at age 24 at Potomac).
Outfield: Harrisburg right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (.313/.398/.554) has taken a nice step forward at age 24. Potomac left fielder-center fielder Billy Burns, a midseason Carolina League all-star hitting .294/.355/.424 with 36 steals in 39 tries has done the same at 23. Meanwhile, Syracuse center fielder Eury Perez is 10th in the International League with a .316 batting average while slugging .435.
Starting pitchers: Right-hander Taylor Jordan, 24, has had even less trouble with the Eastern League than the Carolina League. He’s 5-0 with a 0.66 ERA at Harrisburg with 39 strikeouts and six walks in 41 innings. He had 29 strikeouts and six walks when he went 2-1, 1.24 in 36 1/3 innings at Potomac.
The rotation could be filled out with Potomac left-hander Robbie Ray (5-2, 2.84 at age 21); fellow Carolina League all-star Blake Schwartz (7-2, 2.22 combined between Hagerstown and Potomac for the 22-year-old right-hander); and Harrisburg right-handers Blake Treinen (6-6, 3.74 at age 24); and Paul Demny (4-4, 3.68 at age 23).
Dixon Anderson, a 23-year-old right-hander at Hagerstown, is also having a strong season at 4-4, 2.70. Potomac RHP A.J. Cole, who rejoined the system in the Michael Morse deal that also brought in Krol and Treinen, has 82 strikeouts and 18 walks in 71 1/3 innings but also has a 4.16 ERA. In June, Cole (4-2 overall) is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in three starts.
Reliever: Harrisburg closer Aaron Barrett, 25, has built on his Arizona Fall League experience. The 2010 ninth-round pick from Mississippi He has 12 saves and is 1-1, 2.22 with 39 strikeouts and nine walks in 28 1/3 innings.
TONIGHT’S CLASS A ALL-STAR GAMES: Hagerstown and Potomac both have sizable contingents for tonight’s all-star games.
The Suns are sending Severino, Renda, Anderson, right fielder Brandon Miller, right-hander Ivan Pineyro and closer Robert Benincasa to the South Atlantic League all-star game in Lakewood, N.J. Hagerstown Manager Tripp Keister and pitching coach Franklin Bravo will serve those same roles for the North Division team.
Meanwhile, Potomac has four players on the Carolina League all-star team for its annual showdown with the California League all-stars, this time in San Jose. Ray, Schwartz, Burns and catcher Adrian Nieto are representing the Nationals.