The Single-A Potomac Nationals have a new manager in Matt LeCroy to defend their Mills Cup championship in 2011. The former major leaguer guided the Single-A Hagerstown Suns last season and is excited to head to Woodbridge with a few of the players that made a difference at his previous stop along for the ride.
"We had a good year last year," LeCroy said. "Guys really progressed, actually way better than we thought. Now, they will be able to move up. It is a challenging league. It will be a challenge for all these guys. I am really looking forward to it because it was really a good group of kids that worked hard. Hopefully, they will continue to do that and become big leaguers."
LeCroy said a lot of players made their mark in Hagerstown, including Eury Perez and Destin Hood.
"Eury Perez really came on at the end of the year, did a really good job. Destin Hood, J.P. Ramirez and Justin Bloxom, who got hurt at the end of the season, all those guys really know how how to play. The dedication they put in to it really paid off in the end. All four of them really had great years and I am pretty sure they will be deserving of coming to Potomac," LeCroy said.
LeCroy hopes he can continue to use speed to be successful.
"A lot of it depends on the personnel you have," LeCroy said. "Last year, I had an athletic team that could run the bases. I like to run if we can do it. I like to put pressure on the defense. Obviously, I am a big fan of pitching, too. Hopefully, we can get some pitching and good defense and bring another championship back to Potomac."
LeCroy had experience as a big league catcher and he sees talent at the backstop within the Nationals system.
"Yes, you will see Sandy Leon, he will probably be our starting catcher," LeCroy said. "What a talent he is going to be. He could catch right now in the big leagues. He is a good leader. He is a Latin player who knows English really well. I think people will really see a quality catcher in Sandy."
Having managed in Hagerstown, does LeCroy think that's a good place for the Nationals' No. 1 prospect, Bryce Harper, to begin his professional career in 2011?
"It really doesn't matter where you start, it is where you finish," LeCroy said. "But I think it will be good for him to go down there and get accustomed to some different pitching that he is not used to. Hopefully, he will do well enough to come to Potomac and not spend much time and keep moving up."
Pitching wise, Danny Rosenbaum and Trevor Holder moved up from Hagerstown last season and helped Potomac win the Mills Cup. Are there some more prospects in low-A that will also move up and join LeCroy in Woodbridge, Va., this season?
"Those two guys really had good years for us," LeCroy said. "We have some young guys that I am not sure how it is going to pan out with the big league team. It all affects what they do in the big leagues and how it will filter down. There are a lot of guys that are deserving to get that chance. Hopefully, it will work out for them."
LeCroy is excited to head down to Florida this month to get started with the young players and get them ready for the season.
"We have an accelerated program where we bring about 35 to 40 guys into camp early," LeCroy said. "It is about the same time as big league camp starts. Our first full workout with everybody is on March 8. We break camp on April 3. I am looking forward to see what happens."