Menhart views early camp pitching roster as most talented in his 10 years with Nats

Nationals minor league pitching coordinator Paul Menhart is well into his new season with the club, and with a new title. He is taking over the title from Spin Williams, who moved on to new responsibilities as the Nationals senior baseball advisor.

Menhart has worked his way up with the Nationals as a critical pitching coach from Single-A Hagerstown to Triple-A Syracuse, and has coached the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan, Blake Treinen, Aaron Barrett and many others.

But that doesn’t mean the meat and potatoes of the job will change too much for either coach. Menhart said working under Williams while he was the pitching coordinator was an invaluable experience.

“The wonderful thing about Spin is that he let me do my thing,” Menhart said. “There were some core beliefs and I taught those, but he also gave a lot of free rein to be me and do what I thought was right. We had numerous conversations. I would always clear it with him if I thought (a pitcher) needed this or that. More often than not he would say, ‘Get it done, go for it.’ There is a lot of trust there. He continues to teach me.”

This season’s early camp has a pitching roster that Menhart believes is the best he has seen with the Nationals.

“I haven’t seen a group this talented in my 10 years of doing this. And that can be quoted,” Menhart said.

There are no less than 19 Latin players on the Nationals’ early camp roster, nine of which are pitchers. Seven of those are Dominican pitchers, one a Panamanian (Paolo Espino) and one from Venezuela (Anderson Martinez).

“A special note of credit goes to (director of international scouting) Johnny DiPuglia and our Latin scouting staff,” Menhart said. “This is the best crop of Latin young players that we have seriously ever had. There are legitimate prospects amongst us as we speak.

“It’s just amazing what they have done. These guys have got an extremely high ceiling. We haven’t had that in the past. Kudos to the scouting staff, unbelievable job.”

Click here for a quick preview of a pair of them in Jefry Rodriguez and Luis Reyes, with more of these capsules to come. Click here for another on Abel de Los Santos.

The Nationals have worked to add a high volume of Latin players versus paying for just the one or two top-dollar guys. Further, the Nationals’ intense concentration on improving, implementing and running their Dominican Academy has also had a major influence on why the crop of players now in Florida are at such a high level.

“Our academy (in the Dominican) run by Sandy Martinez and (pitching coach) Pablo Frias, they’ve really got it going,” Menhart said. “I had the pleasure of going down there last fall and I had an eye-opening experience of how well-run and how well-coached those kids are. They are learning the program. They are on board.”

This is not to leave out the rest of the early camp pitching staff, which has done a great job of coming to Florida ready to get better and prepare for regular season baseball in April.

“They are really maturing,” Menhart said. “I have been just so pleased with their work ethic. They are getting after it every day and really taking stock in their career. They are showing major improvements. I am very excited about this season.”

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