Benincasa, Grace promotions reveal strong Nationals system

A couple of more pitchers who made moves this season deserve praise as we look ahead to 2014 and setting up the organizational rosters. Robert Benincasa and Matt Grace both were promoted this season and showed promise with their efficiency and consistency.

One a right-hander and the other a southpaw, both spent time under high Single-A Potomac manager Brian Daubach in 2013.

Daubach said Benincasa did not miss a beat after his promotion from low Single-A Hagerstown when he arrived with the P-Nats.

The former Florida State reliever went 0-1 in 20 games for Hagerstown with a 2.57 ERA. He had 30 strikeouts and 10 saves in his 21 innings.

Arriving in Woodbridge, Va., the 23-year-old Benincasa rolled up 17 saves in 25 games over 30 innings, with a 3.00 ERA.

“Benincasa is another guy who had a really good first half in Hagerstown and came to Potomac and nothing changed. He kept going after hitters,” Daubach said. “I think (he) blew one save all year and had (27) saves.”

Benincasa will now be able to showcase his talents for the Mesa Solar Sox as they begin play in the Arizona Fall League on Oct. 8.

A left-hander that made a nice jump this season was Grace.

Grace moved from starter to the bullpen in 2013. Daubach was impressed with how Grace was able to make what can sometimes be a thorny transition to the bullpen. But Grace excelled, earning a midseason promotion to Double-A Harrisburg.

Daubach said just being able to continue to be successful in moving out of a starting role deserves accolades, but then to go up a level and also do well deserves extra kudos.

“What Grace was able to do going to the bullpen (was tremendous),” Daubach said. “He threw a lot more strikes than probably I thought he would have done because he didn’t always do that as a starter. He really pounded the zone, had a really good sinker. He was throwing a little bit harder out of the ‘pen, his slider was sharp. It was a very good year for Matt Grace as well.”

Left-handers who can pound the zone and get guys out late in games are always difficult to find. If Grace can continue that momentum, he could be an interesting candidate for the Nationals this coming season in an obvious need position.

It is no surprise that these seasoned hurlers are continuing to advance in the Nationals system as both came out of well-known, successful and prestigious collegiate baseball squads. Benincasa out of Florida State and Grace from UCLA hail from two programs that are well known for playing good baseball. UCLA just won their first national title in 2013 and Florida State has made 21 College World Series appearances.

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