Andrew Stevenson’s batting average plummeted to .420 Thursday night after he broke character and went 0 for 3 against the Hartford Yard Goats. His Class AA Harrisburg Senators fell, 1-0, despite seven innings of one-run ball from Erick Fedde.
But this week will go down as a historic one for the 22-year-old outfielder. With a 5 for 7 showing Monday night in Hartford and a 5 for 5 performance Tuesday, Stevenson became the first Harrisburg Senators player to post consecutive five-hit games.
“Everyone’s been messing with me,” Stevenson said. “It’s been fun. We’ve been winning, too. So everyone can joke about it.”
Stevenson was the Nationals’ first pick in the 2015 draft, a second-rounder plucked from Louisiana State, where he built a reputation as a speedy and strong defensive outfielder with a propensity for contact at the plate. Stevenson started last season in Potomac, hitting .304 in 68 games, but after he was called up to Class AA Harrisburg, he hit .246 in 65 games. So the Nationals sent him to the Arizona Fall League for more work. There — forgive the jargon — he raked. He led the league in hits, and finished with a .353 average that only eventual league MVP Gleyber Torres outdid.
“I didn’t have the best success last year in Double A. I figured I kind of had something to prove going to Fall League,” Stevenson said. “I was able to have some success, and was just trying to build off that coming into this year.”
He has done that. The Nationals brought Stevenson into big league camp in spring training, where he looked comfortable and far from overmatched. In 15 games with the big leaguers, Stevenson hit .333, 8 for 24 with three doubles and five RBI. After 10 hits in two games — and even after the 0-for that followed — Stevenson is now hitting .420, fourth in the Eastern League, where many top prospects hover before rocketing to the big leagues.
“I’m just swinging at good pitches. That’s what it really comes down to,” Stevenson said. “Swinging at your pitch and doing something with it. The past few games, I was able to kind of lock it in and have some success.”
The Nationals’ outfield situation is complicated and convoluted, and Stevenson’s path to the big leagues is hardly clear or quick. The major league outfield consists of three locks, Jayson Werth, Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper, none of whom are going anywhere this season, barring injury. Should Werth leave for free agency after this season, many within the organization think Victor Robles could be ready to slide into his place. Robles, by the way, was placed on the 10-day disabled list Thursday. He had returned to the Potomac Nationals’ lineup Monday after experiencing leg tightness, but did not last long before the Nationals sat him down again.
But between 37-year-old Werth and 19-year-old Robles is a core of young, speedy, contact-first outfielders that range from Brian Goodwin to Rafael Bautista, who emerged as a Dusty Baker favorite this spring. Michael A. Taylor, currently on the big league roster, is also a contender for what normally are four or five major league roster spots. Chris Heisey occupies another.
In other words, while the Nationals’ outfield situation is full of moving pieces and immovable objects, Stevenson is doing his part to adjust to Class AA and make some history in the process.