The rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals are off to a league-best 28-6 (.824) record in the East division this summer. The Nats have won 11 of their last 12 games and are 11 games ahead of the GCL Cardinals in first place.
The roster is a mixture of young talent from the U.S., Dominican Republic and elsewhere, college kids and players out of high school. They were placed on the roster out of extended spring training and have bonded quickly, becoming a cohesive unit that has dominated the competition early in the season.
Nationals director of player development Doug Harris was just in Florida to see them play.
"They are doing a terrific job as a team, as a unit, the staff, the players," said Harris.
"Every day someone new contributes to the success of the ballclub. The staff has done a terrific job of laying a great foundation.
"They really have done a tremendous job of playing fundamental baseball. That is what has put them in the position they are in. They are the baby Nats."
Harris said the group is solid on offense, moving runners along, doesn't make mistakes in the field and pitches well.
"They sit there and when the opponent makes a mistake, they make them pay," Harris said. "They are very patient for a young team. Their mantra is 'no panic.' They have shirts made that say 'no panic' on the back. They are a very patient ballclub for a young, inexperienced group of kids.
"I saw them play five games last week, they won all five. Three of those games were the cleanest baseball games I have ever seen in the Gulf Coast League."
Here is a rundown of some of the players (not a complete list, but the whole team is playing well) and how they have fared early on. The influence and success of Dominican players cannot be ignored.
(Editorial Note: I will have a breakdown of the rise of the Nationals' Dominican program in the next few days.)
CF Rafael Bautista, RHH, Santo Domingo, DR - .325 in 32 games with 38 hits, two doubles, one triple, 19 stolen bases and 13 RBIs.
3B Drew Ward, LHH, Leedey, Okla. - .320 in 32 games, 35 hits with 11 doubles and 22 RBIs, .434 OBP.
1B Jose Ramon Marnolejos-Diaz, LHH, S.D., DR - .314 in 31 games with right doubles, two homers and 19 RBIs.
2B Bryan Mejia, Switch-hitter, Bani, DR - .286 in 28 games, four doubles, five triples, eight stolen bases and 13 RBIs.
RHP Wander Suero, 6-foot-3, 175 lbs., Sabana Larga, DR - 4-1, 0.84 ERA. Eight games, three starts, 32 innings, four runs, three earned runs, eight walks, 24 strikeouts. He has won four straight decisions from July 12 to July 30.
RHP Jefry Rodriguez, 6-foot-5, 185 lbs., Haina, D.R. - 3-0, 2.10 ERA. Seven starts, 30 innings, seven earned runs, 11 walks, 29 strikeouts.
LHP Jake Walsh, 6-foot-3, 185 lbs., Plano, Tex., Missouri - 0-0, 1.69 ERA. Nine games, two earned runs, nine strikeouts, two walks.
LHP Joseph Webb, 6-foot-5, 230 lbs., Reno, Nev., Menlo College - 2-0, 2.45 ERA. Six games, three earned runs, six hits in 11 innings, 16 strikeouts and five walks.
LHP Hector Silvestre, 6-foot-3, 180 lbs., San Pedro De Macoris, DR - 3-0, 3.38 ERA. Seven games, three starts, 24 innings, 21 strikeouts, five walks, nine earned runs. Transferred from high Single-A Potomac.
RHP Lucas Giolito, 6-foot-6, 225 lbs., Santa Monica, Calif. - 0-1, 6.23 ERA. Five starts, eight 2/3 innings, six earned runs, seven walks, 11 strikeouts. Giolito got hit a bit in his last start July 26, taking his first loss, allowing five runs, four earned runs in 2 2/3 innings with one walk and three strikeouts.