The first week of instructional league is under way in Viera, Fla., with the team going through batting practice, fielding drills and bullpen sessions prior to its opening game against the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 23.
Nationals director of player development Doug Harris checked in from Florida and told MASNsports.com he is excited about the players they have assembled.
We went over several field positions including the outfield, where several of the Single-A Hagerstown players are in attendance at instructional camp.
Harris was very pleased with the crop of talent on hand, including outfielder Michael Taylor, who made a successful transition this season from shortstop to outfield.
“He has a huge ceiling,” Harris said of Taylor. “He made the biggest progress of anyone in our system. Offensively, he looked good and his defense was top-notch. He has a legit power threat. I am proud of the kid. He really adapted well.”
Randolph Oduber was slowed after the All-Star break with hamstring issues but he is in Florida.
“He fought hard from the All-Star break to get back from the injury and that limited his at-bats,” Harris said. “He is a big-time runner, but is a little unorthodox putting bat to ball. He is doing well.”
Short-season Single-A Auburn’s Caleb Ramsey showed “great intelligence and instincts to play the position and has above-average tools,” Harris said.
Billy Burns is a “premium runner” and the Nationals are looking forward to seeing first-round selection Brian Goodwin on the field. Narciso Mesa had a very good Gulf Coast League season and is a “burner as well”, Harris said.
Harris said Harrisburg first baseman Tyler Moore is also in instructional camp and they will “kick the tires” on Moore in the outfield.
“(Moore) has the ability and is a big, physical guy,” Harris said. “His foot speed is not the best but he has great body control.”
Kevin Keyes and Eury Perez are also on the squad and want to continue where they left off after an outstanding summer at the plate.
Instructional league games focus on situations that come up in a normal contest. A lot of times, managers will put in a pinch runner to see how he does. For instance, they could put Taylor on first or second and see how he does trying to steal a base.
There is free substitution throughout the games and both teams work together to set up game-like scenarios. Before games start Friday, the focus is on batting practice and bullpen sessions.