The next wave of prospects from the short-season Single-A Auburn Doubledays, including several late round picks, will begin to fill the rosters of Single-A Hagerstown and advanced Single-A Potomac when the 2012 season draws closer.
One of those players we will hear from is former Georgia Tech third baseman Matt Skole, who had a very promising start to his career with Auburn.
Skole hit .290 with five homers and 48 RBIs in 72 games. He smacked 23 doubles and one triple, while stealing two bases.
"Matty had a great year," said Gary Cathcart, manager for the Doubledays and the coordinator for instruction for the Nationals. "He was a fifth-rounder, so obviously we put some stock in what we hope will happen in the future. He has got a chance to be a big left hand hitter and play the corner infield position at third. He has a chance to hit for power if he makes a few adjustments.
"But he has a real good idea how to hit. I think he led the league in walks and was top three or four in RBIs and he hit .290 which was as low as he was all year. He got a little tired at the end, I think, because he was at .300 for most of the year. As far as position players go, he probably would be No. 1 on the list. who I thought he would have a chance."
Another player we have talked about before, but who also turned heads, was shortstop Bryce Ortega from the University of Arizona. Ortega hit .314 with 15 doubles, 23 stolen bases and 21 RBIs.
"We got a sleeper in the 41st round with (the) shortstop Ortega," Cathcart said. "he is one of those real grinders, tough kid and loves to play. Maybe the tools don't stand out but when you watch him play over the course of a season he can really run and steal bases."
Skole and Ortega both made the New York/Penn League All-Star team.
Also, first baseman Justin Miller out of Middle Tennessee State had a tremendous season. Miller hit .299 with 17 doubles, five triples, seven homers and league-leading 47 RBIs in 63 games.
"Justin Miller had a heck of a year for us at first base," Cathcart said. "He was a utility player and kind of an extra player for us the year before in Vermont. He was given a chance and bought into the program. He was a real surprise for us. I would like to see him get 400 or 500 at-bats for us next year in Hagerstown and you never know.'
Cathcart was further impressed with the overall play from Caleb Ramsey, an 11th-round left fielder out of the University of Houston. Ramsey hit .280 with 11 doubles, one triple, one homer and 26 RBIs, adding 15 stolen bases in 64 games.
"He is a real cerebral guy and really studies the game," Cathcart said. "He is a real perfectionist. Speed does not look like he is getting there but he is very good when under way. He might have led the league in assists from left field.
"I was staggered at how accurate he is from all different positions out in left field. Ramsey has real good mechanics. He was throwing guys out left and right at second base and home plate. He did a real good job and I am pretty sure he will play in Hagerstown as well."
Cathcart was pleased overall with the crop of talent he had in Auburn and what may happen to a few of those players this season.
"We lost in the league championship, but we had a really good year," Cathcart said. "We had some guys who were not really expected to do much really buy into the program and jump on board. Plus all the draft picks (played well). We had a decent bunch."