Syracuse Chiefs (70-74, 9th in International League)
Best Hitter: OF Corey Brown (.285 BA, 25 HR, 71 RBI, 83 R)Best Pitcher: LHP Zach Duke (15-5, 3.51 ERA, 164.1 IP)Biggest Surprise: RHP Christian Garcia (1-1, 0.56 ERA, 14 SV)
Brought in via a trade with the Athletics, Brown has perhaps been the best return in the deal that sent Josh Willingham to Oakland for Henry Rodriguez. The 26-year-old outfielder was at Syracuse last season, but this year has nearly doubled his offensive production. He led the Chiefs in homers, runs, walks, RBI, and triples, and also ranked second in stolen bases. He is now with the Nats as a September call-up and could be a late-bloomer that finds a permanent place at the major league level next season.
Duke is another September call-up after having a bounce back season with Syracuse. The Chiefs had trouble with inconsistency on the mound overall, but Duke himself was their most reliable starter. He led the team in wins with 15 and had the best ERA in the rotation. Duke also pitched two complete games with one of them being a shutout.
We could go a few ways with the teams biggest surprise, but the best choice is another Nationals September call-up in reliever Christian Garcia. A third round pick in 2004 by the Yankees, Garcia is finally at the major league level after undergoing Tommy John surgery twice. At 27 years old he is starting to find his way and looked well above his competition while at Triple-A.
Harrisburg Senators (64-78, 9th in Eastern League)Best Hitter: OF Chris Rahl (.291 BA, 12 HR, 50 RBI, 55 R, 26 SB)Best Pitcher: LHP Danny Rosenbaum (8-10, 3.94 ERA, 155.1 IP)Biggest Surprise: RHP Ryan Perry (2-4, ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 114.1 IP)
Rahl last played on July 27 due to a foot injury, but still remained atop most of the Senators offensive categories. He finished first in runs and RBI and placed second to Tim Pahuta in homers.
Rosenbaum was a workhorse for the Senators staff and earns Best Pitcher despite having struggled to an extent at Double-A. He was the best pitcher for Potomac last season and didnt have the same level of success at Harrisburg, but maintained a good ERA and logged a lot of innings.
Perry is a former first round pick of the Tigers who came to Washington in an offseason trade for Colin Balester. The flame-throwing right-hander spent time with the big league club in May as a reliever, but struggled and was demoted when other guys got healthy. The Nats have decided to convert him to a starter and the results thus far have been great. If he can continue with a sub-3.00 ERA in the minors, he just might realize the immense potential that made him a first round draft choice.
Potomac Nationals (64-75, 6th in Carolina League)Best Hitter: OF Kevin Keyes (.223 BA, 21 HR, 78 RBI, 27 2B)Best Pitcher: RHP Nathan Karns (8-4, 2.26 ERA, 87 SO, 71.2 IP)Biggest Surprise: LHP Robbie Ray (4-12, 4.87 ERA, 27 BB, 64.2 IP)
The Nats picked Keyes in the seventh round of the 2010 MLB Draft and this year at Potomac he found his power stroke. Keyes had a monster second half of the season with seven homers in July and five in August. He finished leading the team in home runs, RBI, and ranked second in doubles.
The 24-year-old Karns was named the Nationals minor league pitcher of the year just this week after thriving in the second half with Potomac. He finished second on the team with eight wins despite pitching nearly half the innings of the team-leader in that category, Matthew Grace with nine. He posted a ton of strikeouts and kept guys off base with an impressive 1.02 WHIP.
Ray was the biggest surprise in our mid-season awards and he continued to deserved the distinction in the second half. In fact, since we published that story he posted a 1-7 record and continued his season to forget. He had his worst month of all in August when he went 0-5 with a 15.51 ERA in five appearances. It is an unfortunate trend for a prospect who held a 3.13 ERA through 89.0 innings at Hagerstown just a year ago.
Hagerstown Suns (82-55, 2nd in South Atlantic League)Best Hitter: 3B Matthew Skole (.286 BA, 27 HR, 92 RBI, 94 BB, 1.013 OPS)Best Pitcher: RHP Alex Meyer (7-4, 3.10 ERA, 107 SO, 90.0 IP)Biggest Surprise: LHP Christian Meza (8-1, 2.97 ERA, 88.0 IP, 94 SO)
The 22-year-old Skole was just named the Nationals minor league player of the year just days after earning MVP honors in the South Atlantic League. Picked in the 5th round just last year, Skole has developed quickly into one of the best hitters in the minor leagues. He earned a late-season promotion to Potomac and should be one to watch for next season as he continues his rise through the system.
Meyer made just one more start with Hagerstown after our mid-season awards before moving on to Potomac, but his time their deserves the honor as Best Pitcher. The 69 former first round pick showed quickly he could dominate low Single-A hitters and should also rise quickly through the Nats farm system.
The 22-year-old Meza was picked by the Nationals in the 25th round of the 2010 MLB Draft and just this season got his first of Single-A ball after spending the previous season with the Auburn Doubledays. In 36 appearances with the Suns he posted a nice sub-3.00 ERA and showed he can attack batters with a high strikeout rate.