Nate McLouth is clutch, good call for Nationals

There will be a game, an at-bat where the signing of Nate McLouth will become a huge difference-maker for the Nationals.

It will be a pinch hit in the late innings of a crucial game against the Braves, or a must-win in the playoffs.

His experience with good teams in clutch situations will become an invaluable asset to the Nationals. How many times do you think manager Davey Johnson went to the bench and did not have the answer he needed in a certain situation to attempt to win a game? Manager Matt Williams will have a stronger deck from which to play from in those situations.

In nine postseason games with the Braves and Orioles, McLouth hit .321 with one double, one homer, five RBIs and three stolen bases. And in 2008, he led the league with 46 doubles, won a Gold Glove, was an All-Star and got consideration in MVP voting.

He is also a big Michigan basketball fan, who just got a “clutch” win over Stanford Saturday 68-65. Here he is commiserating with coach John Beilein before an earlier game against Duke this season.

* Low Single-A Hagerstown will be a club to watch for Dominican players to slowly make their way up the Nationals affiliate chain.

Hagerstown manager Patrick Anderson guided the Gulf Coast Nationals to a 49-9 record and a championship with a roster filled with talented and young Dominican players waiting for their chance. Right-hander Wander Suero could be one of the first to get his shot with the Suns. Suero was a ridiculous 8-1 with a 1.65 ERA in 13 games (three starts) for the GCL Nats. He had 46 strikeouts and 13 walks.

Right-hander Jefry Rodriguez also has a great opportunity to move up. Left-hander Hector Silvestre made a nice move all the way to high Single-A Potomac when they needed his arm. Catcher Raudy Read has gotten good reviews as well and could move up. He is young, but has a lot of the tools needed to move. The team will be without catcher Adrian Nieto for at least the season under Rule 5 draft guidelines, so Read and other backstops will get serious looks.

One of those other catchers is Clemson product Spencer Kieboom, who is recovering from a major injury and will get his shot if he can stay healthy.

Second baseman Wilmer Difo was pound-for-pound the strongest player at October’s first-ever Nationals prospects strength and conditioning camp. I would guess he will get the shot to move up to Auburn or Hagerstown sometime.

Outfielder Rafael Bautista hit .322 in the GCL with 27 RBIs. It will be fun to watch and see how his bat translates to a higher level this season.

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