Right-hander James Bourque is looking good so far at high Single-A Potomac. The 24-year-old former Michigan Wolverine is 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 11 games with two saves. He was a 14th rounder in 2014.
“James Bourque is having an outstanding start in Potomac, somebody that is now two years removed from Tommy John,” said Nationals director of player development Mark Scialabba. “Plus fastball, curveball combination and some funk and deception in his delivery. He is someone to follow this year.”
Right-hander Jefry Rodriguez, also 24, continues a nice progression this season at Double-A Harrisburg as a starting pitcher. The 6-foot-6, 232 pounder is 2-3 with a 4.58 ERA in seven starts. He got knocked around a bit in his last two starts with 10 runs allowed, but prior to that had built a 2.70 ERA.
“Starting side on the roster, Jefry Rodriguez,” Scialabba said. “Picked up where he left off, very happy to see that. He’s improved his strike quality. He commands the strike zone with three pitches. He has been consistent from outing to outing.”
Another starter is right-hander Wil Crowe, who has gone 5-0 with a 2.79 ERA at Potomac. The second-rounder in 2017 is also returning from Tommy John.
“He’s where he needs to be,” Scialabba said. “I think it’s early. Generally speaking, when you look at velocity this time of year, I think you have to be cautious. You have to understand that it’s going to change over time with the weather, with players being in shape. Getting through mid-summer, that’s where you are going to see some of these velocities stabilize and get up to where they should be.
“But with Wil, he’s going out there and competing, working fast, throwing strikes with all four pitches. Throwing any pitch at any time. Really, he is someone that is going to pitch off his fastball, mix speeds. He’s done a very nice job so far.”
There have been position changes for Harrisburg’s Drew Ward and Kelvin Gutierrez. Ward has traditionally played third base with Gutierrez at shortstop. Ward is now playing a lot of first base with Gutierrez at third. Scialabba explained the reasoning behind the moves.
“Drew Ward is going to get a lot of reps at first base, traditionally been a third baseman,” Scialabba said. “Kelvin Gutierrez will play third. Drew certainly has the hands to do it, learning the footwork. He has done a nice job of transitioning there. He’s finally healthy now.
“(Ward has) worked extremely hard at third. He’s a big-bodied guy. He does a good job fundamentally. He’s got good footwork and hands and strong arms. We will get him at first because we feel Gutierrez potentially at third base to be above average.”
Potomac outfielder Telmito Agustin, 21, suffered a dislocated finger that landed him on the disabled list and is expected back in a couple of weeks. Agustin has slashed .368/.411/.659 in 25 games. He has six doubles, three triples, four homers and 15 RBIs.