Nats 2012 minor league awards

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Nats 2012 minor league awards

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.

Strasburg, long balls power Nationals past Cardinals

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Strasburg, long balls power Nationals past Cardinals

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg struck out nine including seven of eight in one stretch and the Washington Nationals got home runs from Michael Taylor and Danny Espinosa in a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.

Taylor's second leadoff homer of the year ended a 22-inning scoreless drought for the Nationals. Espinosa's first of the season was a two-run shot that capped a four-run fourth against Mike Leake (0-3).

Strasburg (4-0) gave up two runs on eight hits in seven innings with one walk. He has 29 strikeouts in 22 1-3 innings his last three outings. Jonathan Papelbon earned his eighth save in nine chances for Washington, which is 5-0 in Strasburg's starts.

Matt Adams hit a two-run homer off Blake Treinen in the eighth for St. Louis, who are 18-9 against Washington the last five seasons.

Leake, who got a five-year, $80 million free agent deal, gave up five runs in seven innings and has a 5.83 ERA.

Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth had an RBI apiece in the fourth.

TRAINER'S ROOM

C Wilson Ramos (bereavement list) could return this weekend after leaving following the death of his grandfather. Manager Dusty Baker said the team would be patient, adding "death has no season."

UP NEXT

Jaime Garcia (1-1, 3.24) is holding opponents to a .198 average, among the league's best. Joe Ross (2-0, 0.54) was among just five NL starters to not allow a homer, with a minimum of 20 innings.

RELATED: NATS SEE TOUGH ROAD TRIP AS GOOD TEST FOR WHERE THEY'RE AT

Nationals turn to Strasburg as they start series with Cardinals

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Nationals turn to Strasburg as they start series with Cardinals

Nats (14-7) vs. Cardinals (12-10) at Busch Stadium

The Nationals will look to bounce back after getting swept by the Phillies as they head to St. Louis for a series with the Cardinals.

Stephen Strasburg (3-0, 2.17) will take the mound for Washington looking to continue his impressive start to the 2016 season. Strasburg has never started a season 4-0.

The Cardinals will turn to Mike Leake who has allowed at least four runs in each of his four starts this saeson.

First pitch: 8:15 p.m.
TV: MASN 2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Stepehen Strasburg vs. Cardinals - Mike Leake

NATS

CF Michael Taylor
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Bryce Harper
1B Ryan Zimmerman
2B Daniel Murphy
LF Jayson Werth
SS Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
RHP Stephen Strasburg

CARDINALS

3B Matt Carpenter
RF Stephen Piscotty
LF Matt Holliday
1B Matt Adams
CF Randal Grichuk
2B Jeed Gyorko
SS Aledmys Diaz
C Eric Fryer
RHP Mike Leake

Follow along with GameView here.

Nats see tough road trip as good test for where they're at

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USA Today Sports Images

Nats see tough road trip as good test for where they're at

There is a significant contrast in the quality of teams the Nationals have faced thus far this season through 21 games and the caliber of clubs they are about to see on their upcoming 10-game road trip. It's a major scheduling quirk and as of Friday morning, the Nats are standing right on the middle of it.

Behind them is the second-easiest schedule in baseball to this point based on opponents win percentage. And up ahead are three teams that finished among the four best records in baseball last season. The worst team they will play coming up on this road swing based on their 2015 regular season record is the Kansas City Royals. They led the American League with 95 wins and later won the World Series.

The trip begins in St. Louis against a Cardinals team that led baseball with 100 wins last season. And the journey closes with the Chicago Cubs, a 97-win team that reached the NL Championship Series.

It's an unusually difficult road trip, to say the least.

“It’s one of the tougher trips I think I’ve probably ever been on," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said.

"There are three or four times on the schedule where you say, 'Hey this is going to be a heck of a road trip,'" manager Dusty Baker said. "It's going to be a test."

The Cardinals and Cubs boast the two highest-scoring offenses in baseball right now. The Cards have a +48 run differential and the Cubs - who have the best record in baseball at 16-5 - are +74. 

The Cubs and Royals rank in the top 10 in MLB in team ERA, the Cubs are second only to the Nats in baseball in the category. The Royals have the seventh-best bullpen ERA and everyone knows they can play defense.

All three teams will present challenges and, if you ask some members of the Nats, that could be a good thing.

"This is going to be a test to see -- a barometer to see how good we are right now," Baker said. "We're not full-forces yet, we haven't been and we've done pretty well, because Ben Revere, one of our igniters, is getting ready… but it's going to be exciting."

"You enjoy the challenge," Zimmerman added. "I think you get to see what we’re really made of. Go out and play three really, really good teams and I think the guys in here are excited for it.”

The Nationals are going to learn a lot about themselves over the next 10 days, that's for sure.