This weekend while most wise people in the Washington area were seeking shade and shelter from the uncomfortable heat, humidity and torrential downpours, I spent the time in Frederick watching the Keys host the Potomac Nationals. Labor Day marks the end of the minor league season, so nothing Mother Nature could throw at the area could keep me from Harry Grove Stadium.
Frederick entered this 4-game series against their local rival still in the hunt for a playoff berth, but a P-Nats doubleheader sweep on Sunday sunk their chances. Nonetheless, these weary young players muddled through the lousy weather and numerous rain delays to show future big league potential. Today I highlight three Potomac Nationals players that were particularly noteworthy this series.
Pedro Severino Catcher
Signed as an international free agent in 2010, the 21-year-old Severino is one of the better defensive catchers currently in the minor leagues. Physically Severino resembles a middle infielder, with an athletic, agile frame with projection remaining in his lower half as he matures. Armed with a strong arm, above-average blocking skills, and soft hands, Severino projects to be an above-average or better defensive catcher at the big league level. He is easily one of my favorite players to watch on defense in the minors.
In this viewing Severino showed progress offensively from earlier this season, hitting a monster home run Monday and showing an improved effort to lay off breaking pitches in the dirt. For the season Severino did not post overwhelming offensive numbers, although he has a reasonable swing with no obvious apparent flaws, and shows decent power in batting practice. Still young for this level of competition and with a strong chance to gain mass in the future, Severino could blossom offensively next season. Severino projects as a dynamic defensive backup catcher, with the potential to be a starting caliber player if his offense shows refinement with further experience.
Stephen Perez Shortstop
The difference between 2013 Stephen Perez and the 2014 version is as different as the winner on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, as he has improved more in one season than any player in recent memory. Last winter Perez gained 10-20 pounds of muscle mass while maintaining his above-average speed and overall athleticism. This has transformed his prospect profile from a dynamic defensive middle infielder lacking the bat to likely reach the majors to a possible future big league player.
The 23-year-old Perez possesses a strong, accurate arm and sure hands, which when combined with his physical skills makes him an above-average defensive shortstop. A switch-hitter Perez shows quality bat speed, especially from the left-side, and his increased muscularity has allowed him to pepper the gaps with doubles this season. While Perez’s reputation will always be as an exciting defensive middle infielder, this improved physicality could allow him to develop into below-average starter or valuable utility infielder at the major league level.
Ross Ohlendorf Right-Handed Pitcher
Sunday evening Ohlendorf was making a rehabilitation start for the Nationals, throwing 3 scoreless innings and allowing only 2 hits and 1 walk. Featuring his patented full overhead windup, Ohlendorf featured a lively 90-94mph fastball, an 82-84mph slider with tilt and late-breaking action, along with a rare, firm 83-85mph changeup. I was impressed with how he aggressively attacked the strike zone and his fierce demeanor on the mound, as he overwhelmed these hitters with his repertoire.
Ohlendorf is currently on the 60-day disabled list for the Nationals, but is on the 40-man roster so the team could choose to recall him to Washington to provide depth for the pennant chase this month. However, with several arms promoted to Washington yesterday and his current place on depth chart, the team may choose to shut him down for 2014. Either way I was intrigued by this brief outing from Ohlendorf and would strongly recommend a team sign him to a minor league contract this winter.