The accelerated development program has its obvious goals. It is first and foremost an opportunity to get some of the best prospects in the organization in one place at one time for an extended period of spring training, surrounded by the top coaches to “speed up” the learning process.
But one other reason is pretty clear when looking at the talent and youth in the 24 pitchers in the program. The last few seasons, the Nationals have traded away some top pitching prospects and now they are looking to build depth at that position again. This formula helped them get to where they are now.
Crafty drafting and focused teaching in the minors led players like Brad Peacock and Danny Rosenbaum to be coveted by other teams and became powerful commodities in important trades for the organization. There is no other position where you can get another team interested faster than showing off your young pitching talent.
“Ideally, that is our hope as an organization is to get younger up at the upper levels so we can refill the lower levels with even younger guys,” said Harrisburg pitching coach Paul Menhart. “That is the plan so that our future of the big league team will have a crop of kids they could actually say, ‘Wow.’ ”
Menhart said the Nationals as an organization have done a nice job retooling quickly after having traded off the likes of Alex Meyer and others. They are also getting guys back from Tommy John (Sammy Solis and Lucas Giolito), although they are all on different tracks to complete recovery.
“We are getting back to that upper echelon of having a very good minor league system where other teams will be saying, ‘What in the world is going on over there?’ ” Menhart said. “It makes our big league team that much better. We can deal a couple of these guys.
“That is the plan with a lot of these guys is not to push them necessarily, but to go ahead and advance them if they are worthy. And Robbie Ray, A.J. Cole, Taylor Jordan and all these kids that have some high-A experience, it is very possible that at some point this year they could be in Double-A.”
* As for Solis, the left-hander is in the rehab throwing program and has had some mound work so far in camp.
“Solis is progressing outstanding,” Menhart said. “He has been off the mound. He hasn’t had any real setbacks since I have seen him down here that I have seen. He looks like the old Sammy I had back in the Arizona Fall League prior to his elbow ailments. He looks extremely good.”