The Nationals doled out their annual minor league awards on Friday, and speedy outfielder Billy Burns was named player of the year while right-handed starter Taylor Jordan was selected as pitcher of the year.
Burns, 24, was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2011 draft out of Mercer University in Georgia. The 5-foot-9 outfielder developed into a switch-hitter soon after he signed to add to his versatility. Burns is known as the fastest player in the Nationals system, stealing 74 bases in 84 attempts this season. In three seasons in the minors, he has stolen 125 bases and been only caught 17 times.
Burns hit .312 and posted a .422 on-base percentage in 91 games with Class A Potomac this season. He was promoted to Class AA Harrisburg and hit .325 with reached base at a .434 clip. His combined season totals are strong: .315/.425/.383, no homers, nine triples, 12 doubles, 72 walks and 54 strikeouts. He played 119 games in the outfield this season, between left field and center, and committed only two errors.
Jordan, 24, is not an unsurprising pick as the farm system’s most distinguished pitcher. The 6-foot-3 right-hander rose from obscurity to become a fast-rising prospect and then reached the majors. Jordan underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011 and began the season at Potomac. He posted a 1.24 ERA over six starts and jumped to Harrisburg where he punched up a 0.83 ERA over nine games. He had a combined 1.00 ERA over 90 1/3 minor league innings before the Nationals called him up because of injuries to the starting rotation.
Jordan acquitted himself well. The power sinkerballer posted a 3.66 ERA over nine major league starts before he was shut down in mid-August at 142 combined innings because of a team-mandated inning limit. Jordan pitched well enough in the majors for the Nationals to believe he can compete for a spot in the starting rotation next spring.
Tony Renda, a Class A Hagerstown second baseman, was given the inaugural Bob Boone Award, which will be given annually to the Nationals minor leaguer who “best demonstrates the professionalism, leadership, loyalty, passion, selflessness, durability, determination and work ethic required to play the game the Washington Nationals way.”
Renda, 22, drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft from Berkeley, hit .294/.380/.405 with three home runs, 51 RBI, 68 walks and stole 30 bases in 36 attempts in 606 plate appearances. He led Hagerstown by playing in a team-high 135 games and earned a South Atlantic League all-star selection.
Past winners of the award:
2012: INF Matthew Skole, RHP Nathan Karns
2011: INF Steve Lombardozzi, RHP Brad Peacock
2010: OF Tyler Moore, LHP Tom Milone
2009: C Derek Norris, RHP Brad Meyers
2008: OF Leonard Davis, RHP Jordan Zimmermann
2007: OF Justin Maxwell, LHP John Lannan
2006: INF Kory Casto, RHP Zechry Zinicola
2005: INF Kory Casto, LHP Michael O’Connor