The intructional league season, which continues for two more weeks at the Nationals complex in Florida, benefits players who have not had much time in the Nationals' organization, and others who are getting back from injury and need extra at-bats under the watchful eye of the coaching staff.
Shortstop Zach Walters, acquired in the July trade from Arizona for Jason Marquis, started to get on a roll with the Single-A Potomac Nationals at the end of the season and that has carried over into instructional competition in Viera, Fla.
The switch-hitting Walters averaged .366 in his final 10 games of the season as the P-Nats surged into the post season. He batted .300 combined for two teams, with 34 doubles, seven triples, nine homers and 67 RBIs in 127 games.
Potomac Nationals hitting coach Mark Harris said this month has been a good time for the organization to take a real good look at the 6-foot-2, 195 lb., Cheyenne, Wyo. product.
"He has played well," Harris said. "He swings well from both sides of the plate. It is his first real time in group instructs with us, he has been with us for only two months. We like what we see."
Venezuelan catcher Sandy Leon hit .251 with 21 doubles, one triple, six homers and 43 RBIs. He played in only 109 games, so Harris said instructional games are perfect for Leon to get more time in the box.
"He is here mostly to hit," Harris said. "We want to keep his swing going throughout the off season. He is going to play winter ball. He has probably caught enough games. Venezuelan winter ball will be a good test for him because it is a pretty experienced league."
Georgia Tech third baseman Matt Skole hit the ground running at short-season Single-A Auburn, batting .290 with 23 doubles, one triple, five homers and 48 RBIs. Harris said they have been working with him a lot in Viera.
"He looks to be as advertised," Harris said. "We expect him to be a little bit advanced because he came from Georgia Tech. He is an advanced hitter and has the potential to have power."
Harris said Skole, as we have reported previously, has continued to work with infield coordinator Jeff Garber.
"His defense is improving," Harris said. "It is impressive how much better he is now because he was behind when we got him. We worked with Skole on fundamentals. He spent hours on catching the ball right, his footwork and first step quickness and taking the right angles to the ball and bag."
More this weekend on Kevin Keyes, Destin Hood, Eury Perez and Brian Goodwin, stay tuned. Also, working on a Sammy Solis update as he arrives in Arizona. The Arizona Fall League begins Oct. 4.