The Washington Nationals selected the following players as their 2019 Minor League Players of the Year:
* Player of the Year - Outfielder Yadiel Hernandez
* Pitcher of the Year - Left-handed pitcher Tim Cate
* Defensive Player of the Year - Infielder Luis García
* Baserunner of the Year - Infielder/Outfielder Cole Freeman
* Seventh annual Bob Boone Award Winner - Catcher Jakson Reetz
These players will be honored in a ceremony during 2020 Spring Training.
Hernandez, 31, paced Washington’s Minor League system in home runs (33), RBI (90), slugging percentage (.604), OPS (1.009), hits (142), extra-base hits (56) and runs scored in his third season in Washington’s Minor League system. He led Nationals full-season Minor Leaguers in batting average (.323), while his .406 on-base percentage ranked second. Hernandez was named Fresno’s team Most Valuable Player and was selected to the Triple-A All-Star game in his first full Triple-A season.
Hernandez capped the 2019 campaign in strong fashion, hitting .379 with a .464 on-base percentage and an .811 slugging percentage in the final 26 games of the season. He recorded 13 home runs, 28 RBI, 15 walks and 21 runs scored from Aug. 4 through Sept. 1.
Hernandez signed with the Nationals as a Minor League free agent on Oct. 1, 2016 after six professional seasons (2009-14) in Cuba. He was signed by Nationals Vice President of International Operations, Johnny DiPuglia.
Cate, 21, led qualified Nationals Minor League pitchers in strikeouts (139), starts (26) and ranked second in in ERA (3.07) and WHIP (1.14). He went 11-9 with a 3.07 ERA in 26 starts between Single-A Hagerstown and Single-A Potomac. Cate recorded 139 strikeouts, 32 walks and six home runs in 143.2 innings pitched in his third professional season.
He began the season with the Hagerstown Suns where he posted a 2.82 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 70.1 innings pitched across 13 starts. Cate earned the promotion to the Potomac Nationals on June 17 where he went 7-4 with a 3.31 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 13 starts. From July 27 to Aug. 26, he went 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA, 33 strikeouts, seven walks and two home runs allowed.
Cate was selected in the second round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Connecticut. He was signed by Nationals scout John Malzone.
As the youngest player in the Double-A Eastern League, the 19-year-old García is the first recipient of the organization’s Defensive Player of the Year award. He appeared in 93 games at shortstop and 38 games at second base for the Harrisburg Senators. García led the Eastern League with 312 infield assists and was charged with just 16 errors. His 129 games played led the Senators and ranked second in Washington’s Minor League system.
García capped the 2019 season rated by Baseball America as the No. 82 prospect in baseball and by MLB Pipeline as the No. 92 prospect.
The versatile García hit .257 with 22 doubles, four triples, four homers, 30 RBI, 17 walks, 11 stolen bases and 66 runs scored for the Senators. He ranked among Nationals Minor Leaguers in hits (4th, 135) and runs scored (7th, 66), in his third professional season. From May 30, through the end of the season, Garcia hit .282 with 17 doubles, three triples, four homers, 22 RBI and 43 runs scored.
Garcia was signed as a non-drafted free agent on July 2, 2016. He was signed by Nationals scout Carlos Ulloa.
Freeman, 24, is the first recipient of the organization’s Baserunner of the Year Award. He led the organization with 31 stolen bases and ranked among Nationals Minor Leaguers in runs scored (2nd, 82), hits (2nd, 141), batting average (5th, .311), walks (5th, 53), doubles (6th, 27) and on-base percentage (7th, .394).
In 123 games for the Single-A Potomac Nationals, the second-year pro hit .311 with 27 doubles, three triples, three homers, 49 RBI, 53 walks, 31 stolen bases and 82 runs scored. He struck out just 60 times while posting a .394 on-base percentage and a .404 slugging percentage. Both his .311 batting average and .394 on-base percentage ranked second in the Carolina League.
Freeman was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of Louisiana State University. He was signed by Nationals scout Ed Gustafson.
Reetz, 23, becomes the seventh recipient of the Bob Boone Award, which is granted annually to the Nationals Minor Leaguer who best demonstrates the professionalism, leadership, loyalty, passion, selflessness, durability, determination and work ethic required to play the game the ‘Washington Nationals Way.’
Reetz hit .253 with 18 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs, 55 RBI, 46 walks, three stolen bases and 54 runs scored in 96 games for the Single-A Potomac Nationals. He made 86 starts at catcher and his 13 home runs bested his previous career-high of five in 2018.
In his sixth professional season, Reetz ranked among Nationals farmhands in on-base percentage (8th, .370), walks (8th, 46), home runs (9th, 13) and OPS (9th, .812).
Reetz was originally selected in the third round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Norris High School in Firth, Nebraska. He was signed by Nationals scout Ed Gustafson.