The Arizona Fall League, where many of each organization’s top prospects play each other once the minor league season is over, began a week ago. Eight Nationals prospects are on the Mesa Solar Sox, a team shared with minor leaguers from the Angels, Athletics, Cubs and Tigers. Five games into the season, the Nationals players have plenty of action already, but a few names stand out.
Matt Skole, who impressed Nationals officials with his power during big league spring training and began the season with Class AA Harrisburg, had been out since April because of Tommy John and wrist surgery on his non-throwing arm. Skole, a left-handed hitter who can play both corner infield positions, homered in his first game back. He is 1 for 5 with two RBI in two games so far, and is expected to see a large chunk of time at first base. His return from surgery and rehab will be one thing to keep an eye on. He missed a significant amount of playing time this season. Should he recover well, he could begin next season at Harrisburg again and start where he left off last season, his development essentially stalled by a year. But by next July, he will be 25.
Catcher Adrian Nieto, who hit .285 for Class A Potomac this season, is 2 for 4 with a double in two games. Outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who posted a .953 OPS at Harrisburg this season, is 3 for 8 with three RBI in two games. Outfielder Brian Goodwin, who hit .252 in his first full season at Harrisburg this season, has played in three games for the Solar Sox and is 5 for 14 with two doubles. Goodwin, the Nationals’ top hitting prospect, had a good showing in last year’s AFL, hitting three home runs and showing some of his power potential.
Of the pitchers, the progress of Sammy Solis, an Arizona native, will also be worth watching. The left-handed sinker-baller is among the next wave of young Nationals starting pitchers that the team’s front office holds in high regard and hope will begin pushing towards the majors in a year or so. Solis’ development so far has been slowed by Tommy John surgery, which he was returning from this season, and a shoulder soreness that forced him to miss a month this summer at Class A Potomac. Solis logged only 57 2/3 innings for Potomac this season, posting a 3.43 ERA. Pitching the AFL will help provide some of the innings that he has missed. He has tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings already.
Matt Purke, finally healthy after 2012 shoulder surgery, is another left-handed starter pitching in the AFL who needs the innings. He tossed 90 combined innings between Class A Hagerstown and Potomac, and posted a 3.80 ERA, struggling some once he was promoted. He has tossed three scoreless innings so far in the AFL. He is also joined by right-handed relievers Richie Mirowski and Robert Benincasa. We will provide more updates here, and insights from scouts, on the showings of these players, particularly the ones who could play heavily into the Nationals’ future.