One element of the minor league system that has been an advantage for the Nationals is the close proximity of each affiliate to each other and to Washington, D.C., and most importantly, Nationals Park.
Countless times, the Nats have utilized their high Single-A location in Woodbridge, Va., the Potomac Nationals, to rehab their major league players. Even low single-A Hagerstown is just over an hour away from D.C., and if the Suns are home instead of the P-Nats, players can get access to live pitching in a competitive situation without having to board a plane.
Further, minor league coordinators for the Nationals can get from Triple-A Syracuse to Double-A Harrisburg fairly easily. The trip by car is reachable in four hours.
One advantage for regional fans is they can see Nationals prospects play and then also have access to Nationals Park a half-day drive or less away.
Baseball America recently did a study on the combined miles between minor league affiliates and the club’s parent city and found the Orioles No. 1 (487 miles) and the Nationals No. 2 (668 miles). By contrast, the Giants affiliates are furthest away from San Francisco at a whopping 6,700 combined miles.
Nationals director of player development Mark Scialabba recognizes this as a distinct advantage and notes how this helps the entire organization function at a higher level.
“The proximity of our affiliates to D.C. lends itself to several advantages,” said Scialabba. “From a player development perspective, it creates a more efficient travel process for player moves. For our major league players on the DL, it provides convenient options for rehab assignments.
“It also eases travel for our staff, especially our coordinators and front office. From a business and marketing perspective, I assume there are benefits for our regional fans to be able to watch the development of our homegrown players and feel more connected to the players/staff when they get to D.C.”
“Some of them actually become part of the process as host families and end up staying in touch with them throughout their rise through the minor leagues and, hopefully, to D.C.”
Of course, the combined miles will change in 2019 when the Nationals will need to find a new Triple-A affiliate because the Mets have purchased the Syracuse Chiefs. Leaving Las Vegas will lop off 4,017 miles the Mets’ total. If the Nationals select Las Vegas as their new Triple-A affiliate, most of that miles total, at least 3,000 miles or more, will go into the Nats’ column. Unless they can work out a deal with the A’s and Nashville, Tenn.