Potomac Nationals release 2018 Opening Day roster

p-natsThe Washington Nationals have released the 25-man Opening Day Roster for their Carolina League affiliate Potomac Nationals.

The 2018 P-Nats’ Roster to begin the 41st year of Potomac Baseball features six players among Baseball America’s Top 30 Washington Nationals Prospects, and 19 players who have previously donned The Red, White, & Blue.

Tripp Keister returns for his fifth season at the helm. The manager of the P-Nats for the 2014 League Championship led the club to a second place finish overall in the Northern Division (73-65) in 2016. After a second playoff appearance under Keister in 2016, the P-Nats struggled in the 2017 campaign, as the club finished with a 63-77 record. Keister enters the 2018 season with a career 386-364 MiLB managing record, which includes stints with the Gulf Coast League Nationals (2012), Class-A Hagerstown Suns (2013) and with Potomac (2014-current). Keister is on the verge of Potomac Nationals franchise history this season, as he sits only 34 wins behind Joe Cunningham for the most managerial wins in franchise history.

The consensus top ranked prospect on Potomac’s Opening Day Roster according to both Baseball America and MiLB.com is IF Carter Kieboom (#4). Drafted in the 1st round (28th overall pick) of the 2016 MLB Draft, Kieboom has impressed at every stop at his ascent up the Washington Nationals’ farm system. The high school shortstop debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 2016, where he hit a respectable .244 with 25 runs batted in and 22 runs scored. In 2017, Kieboom made quick work of the Gulf Coast League (five games) and New York-Penn League (seven games) in route to a promotion to the Low-A Hagerstown Suns. The 20-year old spent most of last season with Hagerstown, as he hit .296 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs. Despite only playing in 61 total games due to injuries last season, Kieboom was named an MiLB.com Organizational All-Star as the top shortstop in the Washington Nationals’ minor league system.

RHP Wil Crowe (#7) is one of two members of the Washington Nationals’ 2017 draft class to reach the High-A level. The six-foot-two, 240-pound right-hander, was a 2nd round selection last year out of the University of South Carolina. After a sharp debut season in professional baseball following last year’s draft, Crowe is set to skip the Low-A level altogether and break camp as a member of P-Nats pitching corps. Crowe made two starts with the Gulf Coast League Nationals and seven starts with the Short Season-A Auburn Doubledays last season, where he registered a 2.96 earned run average and 17 strikeouts over 24.1 total innings. The 23-year old looks to be fully recovered from the 2015 Tommy John surgery that cost him to miss the entirety of the 2016 collegiate season. Crowe has one of the best curveballs in the Nationals’ minor league system and fastball that has hit 97 on the radar gun.

OF Blake Perkins (#11) was one of two outfield prospects selected by the Washington Nationals in the 2nd round of the 2015 MLB Draft (Andrew Stevenson). The 21-year old is best known for his speed and defensive abilities out in centerfield, as Perkins was recently named the best defensive outfielder in the Nationals organization by Baseball America. A natural right-handed hitter, Perkins has successfully converted to a full-time switch-hitter, tapping into additional power from the left side of the plate. As a member of the Hagerstown Suns in 2017, he had his best season as a professional, as he led the South Atlantic League in runs (105) and walks (72), while he represented the Suns in the league’s Mid-Season All-Star Game.

OF Telmito Agustin (#25) is back for a second stint with the P-Nats, after he split time between Potomac and Hagerstown in 2017. Entering his age-21 season, Agustin has been a highly touted prospect since he signed with the Nationals as a free agent out of the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2013. After he broke camp with the P-Nats last season, Agustin struggled in his first 33 games of the season, with an average of .206 (21-102) before he was sent down to Hagerstown. Once he got settled with the Suns, Agustin was a key contributor for the club, as he maintained a .277 batting average in 80 games, with a career-high nine home runs.

RHP Joan Baez (#27) will start the season with the P-Nats’ pitching corps for the second straight year as a highly regarded prospect in the Washington farm system. The 2014 international free agent from the Dominican Republic is best known for his heavy fastball, which can flash triple digits on the radar gun. In 17 starts for The Red, White, & Blue last season, Baez spun 79 innings, tallied 65 strikeouts, and notched four wins along the way. The 23-year old struggled at time with his command in 2017, with 66 walks in 79 innings, but still managed to finish the season with a 3.87 ERA.

C Jakson Reetz (#29) is another top prospect in the Nationals’ system set to return to the Red, White, & Blue in 2018. The Nebraska native joined the Washington Nationals as a 3rd round draft pick back in 2014, and has proven to be a reliable backstop thus. In 2017, Reetz was a stalwart defensively, with a career-low four errors in 526 total chances between Low-A and High-A, good for a .992 fielding percentage. The 22-year old has improved as a hitter from year to year. Reetz started last season on the disabled list before he played in 37 games with Hagerstown before a promotion to Potomac in mid-July. Between both teams, he hit a combined .237 with four home runs and 22 RBIs.

In addition to Crowe, the P-Nats will welcome other new arms to the rotation and bullpen. RHP James Bourque, LHP Hayden Howard, and RHP Gabe Klobosits will all don a Potomac Nationals uniform for the first time. Returners to the P-Nats include LHP Matthew Crownover, RHP Steven Fuentes, RHP Tyler Mapes, LHP Jordan Mills, RHP Jorge Pantoja, RHP Ronald Pena, RHP Mariano Rivera III, and RHP Sterling Sharp.

Bourque (14th round, 2014 by Washington; University of Michigan) emerges onto the Potomac Nationals roster after two seasons with the Suns. Primarily a starter, Bourque logged a career-high 113.2 innings last season, with 90 strikeouts in 23 appearances (20 starts). The 24-year old’s 2017 earned run average of 5.07 was a touch higher than his career mark of 4.84.

Howard (12th round, 2016 by Washington; Texas Tech University) is an imposing, six-foot-five lefty, who excels out of the bullpen. In his first full season of professional baseball, Howard maintained a 2.95 earned run average in 31 appearances with Hagerstown in 2017. Strikeouts have proven to be a big part of Howard’s game, as he looks to build off of a 2017 campaign in which he punched out 74 batters in 76.1 innings.

Klobosits (36th round, 2017 by Washington; Auburn University) had a terrific professional debut following last season’s draft into the 2018 campaign. The six-foot-seven, 270-pound right-hander, found immediate success out of the bullpen across three different levels of the Nationals’ minor league system. In 20 total appearances with the Gulf Coast League Nationals, the Short Auburn Doubledays, and the Hagerstown Suns, Klobosits held a sparkling 1.47 ERA. The 22-year old struck out 34 batters in 30.2 innings and had a knack for finishing games off as well, notched six saves in his debut season.

Crownover (6th round, 2015 by Washington; Clemson University) will return to the Potomac Nationals after he finished his 2017 campaign with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators. Prior to his promotion on the first day of June, Crownover was a standout for the P-Nats, both out of the bullpen and in the starting rotation. In 10 games (six starts) in the Carolina League last season, Crownover held a 1.94 earned run average, with 42 strikeouts over 46.1 innings.

Fuentes (International Free Agent, 2013 by Washington) is back for a full season with the P-Nats after he appeared in just two games with the team in 2017. Prior to his call-up in August, Fuentes made 25 appearances (one start) with the Hagerstown Suns, as he pitched to a 4.41 earned run average with 53 strikeouts over 63.1 innings of work.

Mapes (30th round, 2014 by Washington; Tulane University) is another pitcher who will break camp with the P-Nats after last appearing with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators. The 26-year old will look to work his way back to 2016 form after he missed the entirety of the 2017 season. Mapes was a standout in the Eastern League in 2016, as he earned an invitation to the league’s Mid-Season All-Star Game. Over the course of the full season, Mapes appeared in 25 games (all starts), tossed 155 innings, picked up 12 wins, and tallied a 3.19 ERA along the way.

Mills (28th round, 2014 by Houston; St. Mary’s College) is the only member of the Opening Day P-Nats roster who was not originally drafted or signed by the Washington Nationals. After the Nationals signed him in 2017, Mills spent the beginning of the season with Hagerstown. After 20 appearances and a 3.03 earned run average, Mills earned a promotion to Potomac in July. Mills was a solid contributor to Tripp Keister’s bullpen, with two wins and a 4.20 earned run average in 18 games.

Pantoja (30th round, 2015 by Washington; Alabama State University) has bounced between Hagerstown and Potomac throughout the last two years, but 2018 will be his third stint with the P-Nats. In his 28 appearances out of the bullpen in 2017, Pantoja struck out 34 batters over 48 innings with an ERA just a shade over 2.00.

Pena (16th round, 2012 by Washington; Palm Beach State College) is the lone returning 2017 Carolina League All-Star on the P-Nats roster this season. The 26-year old got off to a terrific start last year, with a 3.57 earned run average over 22.2 innings in 15 first half appearances. Although Pena struggled after the All-Star break, he will once again be a key piece of this year’s P-Nats bullpen.

Rivera III (4th round, 2015 by Washington; Iona College) is set to break camp with the Potomac Nationals for the second consecutive season. The son of the great Mariano Rivera followed up an All-Star 2016 season with a career-low 4.00 earned run average in 2017. The 24-year old appeared in 31 games with the P-Nats last season, all out of the bullpen, where he struck out 38 batters and walked just 15 over 54 innings.

Sharp (22nd round, 2016 by Washington; Drury University) is yet another returning pitcher with Carolina League experience for manager Tripp Keister. Sharp earned a promotion to Potomac last August after a 3.69 earned run average over 92.2 innings in 18 games (17 starts) with Hagerstown. The six-foot-four right-hander made six appearances (five starts) with the P-Nats to end the season, as he totalled 32 innings and a 4.78 earned run average.

The 2018 P-Nats infield will look familiar to fans on Opening Day, as Ian Sagdal, Austin Davidson, Bryan Mejia, Jake Noll, David Masters, and Edwin Lora all return for another season with the Red, White, & Blue. Aside from Carter Kieboom, Tres Barrera is the other newcomer to play on the dirt this season at The Pfitz.

Sagdal (16th round, 2015 by Washington; Washington State) returns to Potomac after he served as the team’s everyday first baseman last season. Sagdal built off of an All-Star 2016 with Hagerstown to lead the 2017 P-Nats in at-bats (473), hits (122), doubles (29), RBIs (69), and total bases (189). The six-foot-three 25-year old’s presence should be felt in the middle of Tripp Keister’s lineup again this season.

Davidson (13th round, 2014 by Washington; Pepperdine University) spent the entirety of his 2017 campaign with the Potomac Nationals. The 25-year old proved to be a versatile piece of the P-Nats infield last season, with appearances in the field at first base, second base, and third base, while also slotting in the lineup as a designated hitter. Davidson had two separate DL stints last season, but in 102 games, he hit .272 with seven home runs, 53 RBIs, and 22 doubles.

Mejia (International Free Agent, 2011 by Washington) is entering his third season with the P-Nats. In 2017, Mejia contributed all over the field for The Red, White, & Blue, with innings defensively at second base, third base, shortstop, and left field. In 115 total games, Mejia batted .234 with 38 runs scored and 40 runs batted in.

Noll (7th round, 2016 by Washington; Florida Gulf Coast University) will break camp at the High-A level for the first time after being a promotion to the P-Nats last August. The second basemen got off to a hot start in Hagerstown last year, with 16 home runs 67 RBIs in 108 games as the team’s everyday second baseman. Noll came up to play 17 games in Potomac at the end of the year.

Masters (14th round, 2013 by Washington; Central Arizona College) might be the most familiar face of all for P-Nats fans, as he returns for his fourth season with the club. After battling a disabled list stint in the month of May, Masters rebounded to hit for a career-high .241 batting average in 89 games with The Red, White, & Blue in 2017. Masters proved his value on defense as well last season, as he appeared at all four infield positions.

Lora (International Free Agent, 2012 by Washington) will break camp with the P-Nats for the second consecutive season. Last season, the Dominican Republic native served as the everyday shortstop for manager Tripp Keister. Just entering his age-22 season, Lora is still one of the younger players on the roster. Over 111 total games in 2017, Lora batted .229 with 49 runs scored, 18 doubles, and 12 stolen bases.

Barrera (6th round, 2016 by Washington; University of Texas at Austin) will join Jakson Reetz as the 2018 catching tandem for the P-Nats this year. Barrera has started 109 games behind the plate since his selection in the 2016 MLB Draft. With Hagerstown, Barrera held a .995 fielding percentage, while he threw out 30% of opposing base stealers.

Along with Agustin, Jack Sundberg and Rhett Wiseman will return to The Pfitz in 2018. Blake Perkins is the lone newcomer in the outfield for the P-Nats.

Wiseman (3rd round, 2015 by Washington; Vanderbilt University) is back for a second year in Potomac to provide a power stroke in the 2018 Nationals’ lineup. As the P-Nats’ everyday right fielder in 2017, Wiseman tied his career-high in home runs with 13, the second-best total on the team. Wiseman also ranked second in at-bats (432), runs (55), and total bases (169).

Sundberg (26th round, 2016 by Washington; University of Connecticut) makes up the final piece of the returning P-Nats outfield in 2018. An above-average defender, Sundberg is athletic enough to play all three outfield positions. The 24-year old played in a career-high 110 games last season, as he hit .277 with a .361 on-base percentage. Sundberg led the team in runs (56), walks (52), and stolen bases (24).

There will be a new face alongside Keister in 2018, as Sam Narron enters his first season as the pitching coach of the P-Nats. Luis Ordaz will once again serve as the hitting coach for The Red, White, & Blue.

Narron begins his tenure with Potomac in 2018 after three seasons with the Hagerstown Suns. The 36-year old spent 2012 and 2013 with the Auburn Doubledays. Narron’s pitching staff surrendered the fewest walks in the South Atlantic League in 2017. He is a former pitcher himself, with one Major League appearance with the Texas Rangers in 2004.

Ordaz begins his third season with Potomac and eighth within the Nationals’ system. The former infielder appeared in 206 MLB games with St. Louis, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay. Ordaz led the P-Nats to a team batting average of .250 in 2017. The 42-year old worked with the Auburn Doubledays from 2011 to 2013, and spent 2014 and 2015 with the Hagerstown Suns.

In 2018, the Potomac Nationals covet their sixth Mills Cup Championship in the franchise’s 41st season.

The 2018 Potomac Nationals season gets underway on April 5th at Pfitzner Stadium against the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Kansas City Royals). First pitch for the opener is set for 7:05pm.


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