Nats say Potomac’s stadium in good shape, top prospects likely will play there again this season

In the past, players like outfielders Bryce Harper and Brian Goodwin bypassed Single-A Potomac because there were some questions about the field conditions at Pfitzner Stadium below average. But the Potomac Nationals have coordinated with the Washington Nationals to improve the field conditions in Woodbridge, Va. The field has been in a good shape for a few seasons now. Those two players skipped a level more because they were deemed ready for Double-A competition instead of inadequate facilities.

Giolitothrowingwhitesidebar.jpgNationals director of player development Mark Scialabba said last month that field conditions are very good at Pfitzner Stadium and had no bearing on whether or not a top prospect would skip the high Single-A stop. This season, top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito is likely to begin the year with the P-Nats.

“Really, the stadium doesn’t have any bearing on whether we move players here or not,” Scialabba said recently. “We have a nice field. The grounds crew does a good job here. The Potomac Nationals have expanded the clubhouse over the years and helped our players play at in a more comfortable environment and we are pleased with our relationship with Potomac Nationals.”

Scialabba said Carolina League play is a good test for these young players and a step up from the competition they faced in the low Single-A South Atlantic League.

“It’s a very important league to play in,” Scialabba said. “It’s very competitive. The Carolina League is where players start to learn how to grow up and face teams. There are eight teams in the league, so you are going to face teams numerous times and you are going to have advance scouting reports for the first time. So it is a challenge so we want our players to come through this level.”

Advanced scouting is key to refining a prospect’s skill and his ability to work on what other teams believe are his weaknesses. For the first time in their careers, pitchers and batters will look to challenge the other’s tendencies. Hitters see a lot more breaking pitches and in parts of the zone that make them uncomfortable. Pitchers throw at velocities that are charted for late-inning tendencies when they slow down. The ones that can maintain their consistency, or adjust the best, are the ones that have the best chance to move to Double-A and beyond.

Outfielder Michael A. Taylor was a great example of a player who made adjustments to his approach at the plate and his pitch recognition. After learning at Potomac in 2012, he improved his power numbers at the plate by 50 RBIs in 2013. He also had 19 more extra-base hits in only 24 additional games. He had four more hits and 15 more walks. He still struck out at times, but as coaches want to see, Taylor worked on lowering his swing-and-miss totals in high-leverage situations. Striking out with no one on base is not as bad, but if there is a runner at second with less than two outs, you need that grounder to advance the runner.

The players that excelled at Hagerstown, and most of those that went 52-9 with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nats a year prior for the title, now have moved up to Woodbridge. The Nationals have confidence that the stadium will hold its own as Potomac continues to work on its future stadium site along the Interstate 95 corridor. The Nationals also appreciate the convenience of the location. Prince William County is easily accessible during the season, so they can jump down from South Capitol Street to see a prospect or send one of their major league players their for rehab games on a moment’s notice.

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