The temperatures are over 90°F every day in Glendale, Arizona where the sun is shining on the Nationals prospects who are getting to show their goods in the Arizona Fall League.
Teammates Drew Ward and Andrew Stevenson (Harrisburg Senators Double-A) are tearing it up so far. Ward leads the Glendale Desert Dogs with a .395 batting average and Stevenson has been mostly leading off and is getting on base at a .364 pace.
This is Drew Ward’s second season in the AFL, and he is a four game a week player this time compared to last year when he was just a taxi squad player as a 20-year-old. Stevenson is on the three games a week stint. The rest of the seven-member group in the AFL from the Nationals are Osvaldo Abreu, who is a middle infielder, as well as pitchers Austin Voth, Ryan Brinley, Jake Johansen, and Nick Lee.
“Coming here last year, I learned a lot about myself,” Drew Ward said.
The AFL offers new opportunities, and Drew Ward got to play 1st base for the first time in his career, and the rest of the time he has played 3rd base. Stevenson has been able to lead-off and play centerfield, and Abreu has been able to play both middle infield positions.
“One of the first things I noticed out here is the different wording and different way to talk hitting that I have received from my White Sox and Astros coaches,” Andrew Stevenson said.
Stevenson loves playing, and has moved up levels quickly this year going from Potomac High-A where he hit over .300 to Harrisburg Double-A to getting this invitation to the Arizona Fall League with some of the best prospects in baseball.
“It’s a showcase league, and you want to show everyone what you can do,” Stevenson said. “The majority of the guys here are trying to show they can play their best against the best guys of Minor League baseball.”
Stevenson was quick to point out that as a hitter you aren’t facing the same pitchers with the same catchers which makes it difficult to get a good scouting report as a hitter in the six-team Arizona Fall League.
Drew Ward is barreling up a few balls a game and wants to stand out in the AFL which he has done. Ward should be part of the Fall Stars (formerly known as the Rising Stars) game on November 5th which will be televised on MLB Network.
The AFL is about standing out so all the scouts notice you along with your own team’s evaluators. There is 4 weeks remaining on the AFL schedule to see what these Nats prospects can do.
Nats Director of Player Development, Mark Scialabba as well as Minor League outfield coordinator Gary Thurman, and hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich have all been out to see the Nats position players.
When Stevenson entered the 2015 draft out of LSU, many scouts had him as the most advanced defensive outfielder in the draft. Mike Rizzo selected Stevenson as his top pick in the 2015 draft. Stevenson will move up in the rankings and is currently the #8 prospect in the Nationals’ system which includes players that will no longer be considered a prospect like Trea Turner. Osvaldo Abreu has been the #12 prospect and Drew Ward has been ranked #14.