Washington Nationals Minors: Could the offense in Syracuse compete in the big leagues?

One of the Syracuse Chiefs, Jeff Kobernus, is hitting .545 to start the Triple-A season. - US PRESSWIRE

The Washington Nationals' Triple-A affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs, have gotten off to a hot start in 2013. The offense is clicking early in upstate New York. A look at just how good the team is offensively early this season.

SYRACUSE | The Syracuse Chiefs didn't score any runs from April 10 to April 12.

What the heck happened, right?

The 72-hour stretch without a single runner making it around the circuit was easily the longest scoring drought of the young Triple-A season.

Two rainouts and a travel day do that kind of stuff though.

The Chiefs, the top affiliate of the Washington Nationals, started the season with a 5-1 road trip going into Saturday's home opener with 50 runs scored and an International League-leading .545 slugging percentage and a .332 batting average (Syracuse scored 50 in 14 games last year for just a small piece of context).

"When hitters are hot they feel hot. And I don't feel hot right now," said starting shortstop Zach Walters.

A case can be made that Walters is the biggest "hole" in the lineup thus far. It is a pretty weak case, but he is "just" 6-for-24 compared to the more beefy batting averages up and down the lineup card at the start of the season. Oh, yeah, here is the thing, he does lead the team in home runs with four in five games plus he is slugging .833 with a pair of doubles.

"It is a product of working with Davey (Johnson), (Washington hitting coach Rick) Eckstein, and (Syracuse hitting coach) Troy (Gingrich) and talking to numerous guys about approach and swing path. I'd say that it is a product of work. Four home runs is great, but when I'm on, I'll be on," Walters said.

Well, consider that a warning then. Four warning shots if you think about it. The Chiefs have hit 11 home runs in six games and they aren't even doing as well as they can.

The hottest of the hot on the card is returned Rule 5 draft pick Jeff Kobernus. Kobernus spent the majority of Spring Training in the Detroit system. The Tigers somehow couldn't find a spot for him on the big league roster and the Nationals - therefore the Chiefs - are the beneficiaries of his 12-for-22 start, .593 on-base percentage and .818 slugging percentage.

"I don't think there is anything special," Kobernus said raising the question of what "special" really could be.

"You just have to do your work. It is one of those things where you need to get lucky a little bit, and get some timely hits. It is early, but it is how things go," Kobernus said.

Everything feels like a major league lineup in Syracuse right now. Maybe more of a steamroller instead of a "lineup."

At the top, leadoff hitter Eury Perez pushed his hit streak that started in 2012 to 23-games with knocks in the first half dozen to start 2013. In the middle, atypical No. 3 hitter WIll Rhymes (7-for-18) is another table-setter for Corey Brown (8-for-25, 2 HR) and Chris Marrero (triple and homer in his last game). Even at the bottom, Jimmy VanOstrand (7-for-13) and Mike Costanzo (5-for-16, 2 HR, team-lead with eight RBI) have both hit in the No. 9 spot this year. Off the bench, when he isn't playing regularly, comes Micah Owings (8-for-19, homer on Opening Day).

"The way we have been hitting, yeah (it feels like the big leagues). Even when you look over at the bench, it is pretty insane the guys that we have on the team," Kobernus said. "You look up and we have double-digit hits and seven or eight runs on the board in third or the fourth inning every night."

"Usually, you don't see this kind of stuff since it's always being so cold and rainy (to start), but we have a pretty solid lineup. We are able to feed off of one another. We have been able to put up some solid games and get some Ws," Brown said.

But then there is that shortstop hitting "only" .250.

"He hasn't missed his pitch when he has gotten it. He can always drive the ball out of the ballpark," Syracuse manager Tony Beasley said about Walters.

Geez, and he is the guy that is struggling?

To watch Syracuse Chiefs highlights click here or follow Ben Meyers on Twitter @CitizenMeyers.

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