Third baseman Drew Ward went from taxi squad player in 2015 to full-time participant in the 2016 Arizona Fall League and impressed.
Ward hit .309 with six doubles and had one stolen base, 13 runs scored and eight RBIs in 21 games. He continued where he had left off in high Single-A Potomac (16 doubles, 11 homers) and Double-A Harrisburg (seven doubles and 24 RBIs).
He also wanted to improve on his defense, a focus of his when the season began in Woodbridge, Va., in April. Ward had three errors in the first week in Arizona, then none in the final five and a half weeks of competition.
Glendale Desert Dogs pitching coach Sam Narron had a first-hand view of Ward’s progress.
“To see him hit two years removed from Hagerstown, so to see the development that he’s gone through the last two years at the higher levels, and to see where he is now, it’s pretty impressive,” Narron said. “He swung the bat very well. He was consistently in that two (or) three spot in the lineup. Drew played a very good third base for us - even played first base once or twice and he held his own.
“We had a really good group and they represented the Nationals very well out there, on and off the field. Can’t say enough about those guys. They went about their business and it was just fun to watch all of them go out there and perform as well as they did.”
Shortstop Osvaldo Abreu finished up with a .267 batting average. Although the talented infielder wasn’t placed on the 40-man roster this time around, Narron likes what he sees from this young player.
“He has got a special knack over there. He made some great plays going deep into the hole at shortstop. I remember a couple of years ago when he was supposed to come with us in 2014 and a broke a finger,” Narron said. “So he missed pretty much that whole year. If you can come back and continue to progress from something like that as a guy that went through Tommy John and had to sit out a whole year, you see guys that miss that amount of time, they don’t ever come back from that mentally, that seems to be the hardest part.
“I have no doubt that he is mentally strong and just going to continue to go about his business and get better. Next year is a whole new year. He might force his way on to the 40-man before too long. He’s going to be just fine.”
Center fielder Andrew Stevenson worked on his outfield throws with manager and former major league outfielder Aaron Rowand. Stevenson hit .353 in Arizona, finishing third in the league in batting, and had nine steals. On November 7 against Peoria, Stevenson went 5-for-6 at the plate.
“Stevenson had a tremendous fall, highlighted by that five-hit game. Seemed like every time he was in there, he got a hit at least,” Narron said. “He put together great at-bats in the game. He was on base causing havoc. He stole a bunch of bases. He played a very good center field.
“His throws improved. Rowand worked with Andrew on his throws. He got better. He held his own out there, getting the ball in quickly and accurately. That’s the thing you want from an outfielder: Get the ball in quick and get it where it needs to be.”