We have more insight from Mesa Solar Sox pitching coach Michael Tejera on the battery of Nationals pitchers and catchers employed in the Arizona Fall League this season.
Right-hander Dakota Bacus appeared in eight games and 10 1/3 innings for the Solar Sox. Although he logged a 5.23 ERA in Arizona, he had an amazing year through two levels for the Nationals. Bacus combined to go 2-2 with a 1.80 ERA with five saves between high Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg over 23 games. He struck out 33 in 40 innings of work during the regular season.
“The main thing for Dakota is understanding who he is,” Tejera said. “He has tremendous movement on his fastball. He can sink the baseball and he has a good breaking ball. But sometimes he tries to do more sometimes and it (hurts) his mechanics. He starts pitching behind in counts.”
Tejera said the emphasis for Bacus is to trust his stuff and resist the temptation to try to overthrow. His stuff is good enough to get guys out.
“The main thing for him is to understand that he doesn’t have to throw any harder than what he has been coached,” Tejera said. “Ninety-three, 94 mph and his fastball has good movement.”
Another pitcher is right-hander Austen Williams, who went 3-11 and a 5.52 ERA in 19 starts last season. He had a bit of trouble in Arizona with 10.67 ERA over nine games (14 1/3 innings). In his first seven games in the AFL, he did well, allowing two runs or less in each outing.
Tejera points to a heavy amount of appearances Williams \ made during the regular season, but likes the stuff he can bring to the mound.
“Austen is a strike-thrower. Sometimes he pitches up in the zone,” Tejera said. “I think it was a long season for him and he was running out of gas after such a long season. At the beginning, he threw the ball well. At the end, he started pitching up in the zone and he got hit. People were hitting his pitches. But he is a strike-thrower for me. He needs to work on his changeup.”
Tejera also noted that catcher Taylor Gushue demonstrated good rapport with these pitchers and others on the Mesa Solar Sox this fall. Gushue played in 95 games last season, with 335 at-bats.
“He has a good routine. Defensively, he did a great job,” Tejera said. “I was in contact with (catching coordinator) Michael Barrett all the time. He talked to me about the drills that Gushue does.”
What is fun now is to see what the experience of the AFL means to these players in the 2018 season.