Here is an update on a few of the prospects that continue to improve as the offseason rolls along. All of these players were at the instructional league camp in Viera.
Nationals hitting coordinator Rick Schu says the entire camp went very well and turned out to be an excellent teaching tool for the organization as several players refined their offensive and defensive skills before heading off to winter ball or back home for offseason work.
Carolina League MVP Tyler Moore showed what he has at the plate, but they also worked on his fielding while in Florida.
“Moore came down and was putting on a display in batting practice at instructs,” Schu said.
“He has that special sound of the ball coming off his bat. As I have said before, Tyler reminds me a lot of Marlins second baseman and former Arizona diamondbacks prospect Dan Uggla.
“His main focus was working on his defense. Infield coordinator Jeff Garber - we call him the ‘Garbinator’ - put him through the grinder every day to with his defense work and Tyler got better.”
Schu says infielder Stephen Souza came in and had a really good camp.
“Souza was a guy on the radar. Stephen started off hot and finished kind of slow and had some things come up, but he had a really good instructional league offensively.”
There was nothing scary about infielder Stephen King’s progress (sorry, my lone Halloween joke).
“King had some injuries and his numbers did not reflect the kind of season he had offensively,” said Schu, who feels King has the defensive tools to be one of the best.
“He came into instructional league trying to work on his rhythm and timing. He had a really good camp driving some balls. I am pretty excited about him because he is one of the best defenders we have in the organization from the big leagues all the way down. He started to figure out that bat a little bit, so that is exciting.”
Schu also liked what he saw from infielder Jason Martinson.
“Jason really got consistent at the plate. He pressed a little bit in the field, but he is an athlete, an ex-football player that just needs to play. I am excited about him.”
One kid Schu will see a lot of in the offseason is catcher David Freitas, a prospect from Hawaii who is actually from the Sacramento area, where Schu has his batting cages.
“Freitas had a really good camp as he understood how to pull the ball a little bit more,” Schu said. “He has always been a guy that has been more in the gaps that had been rolling on the balls in the middle in, he is figuring out to drive them. Field coordinator Bobby Henley has worked with him on his receiving so he is doing really well.”
It is impressive how much depth the Nationals are building at the catching position with Jesus Flores, Wilson Ramos, Derek Norris, Freitas, Adrian Nieto and Sandy Leon.
Leon, a switch hitting catcher from Venezuela, is probably one of the best defensive guys they have in camp, according to Schu.
“He had a really good camp swinging the bat. His numbers would have been a lot better because he kind of faded hard late in Hagerstown just ‘cause he was catching every day and the weather beat down on him. He is definitely a guy who has offensive potential. He is back in Venezuela for winter ball. That will be a good experience for him.”
Schu also said Nieto had a good camp and worked on his defense and his receiving.
“Henley worked on his stance and his setup to where he was able to soften his stance, get his knees tucked in a little bit. The main priority was getting his left-handed swing figured out.
“We made some adjustments in his swing so that he has a two handed finish, a little better stride direction; he really started to hit the ball pretty good left-handed.”
For the complete audio interview with Schu check out nationals360.com. It is also available on iTunes and you can follow me @bkerr32 for prospect updates.
I am hoping to check in with Nationals pitcher John Lannan this week and to get a one-on-one interview with Nats prospect Michael Burgess. As soon as I do, you will see it here first.