Andrew Stevenson started the 2017 season, his second in pro ball after he was drafted out of LSU by the Nationals, at Double-A Harrisburg in Washington’s system.
The 58th overall pick in the 2nd round of the 2015 Draft was 28 for 80 (.350/.429/.438) in 20 games and 91 plate appearances with the Senators before he was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse in early May.
He struggled at the start, putting up a .178/.202/.188 line, a double, three walks and 25 Ks in his first 25 games with the Nationals’ top minor league affiliate, but things picked up at the plate in June.
Over the next 30 games, Stevenson went 36 for 110 (.327/.373/.465) with four doubles, four triples, a home run, seven walks and 18 Ks in June.
In an interview earlier this week, Stevenson said he thought he was pressing some, and also adjusting to a new level of competition.
“I was just trying to do too much up there, you know,” Stevenson explained. “You get moved up, you want to impress everybody, so you start doing a little too much, then stuff starts speeding up on you, but I think that was more the issue than the guys I was facing — but, it’s definitely better competition up here, guys are smarter around the game.”
Stevenson was 16 for 74 (.216/.293/.284) with two doubles and a homer in 18 games in July, before was called up to the majors after the Nationals lost yet another outfielder to injury on Saturday night in Arizona.
GM Mike Rizzo, who said after that draft that Stevenson plays the game at, “100 mph with his hair on fire,” told reporters on Sunday, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, that he thought the No. 5 overall prospect in the system (on MLB.com’s list) was capable of filling in while the Nationals waited for some of their injured outfielders to return.
“He’s got the ability to be able to play here in the big leagues,” Rizzo said. “Plus defender in three outfield spots. He gives you a left-handed bat and speed off the bench. A guy who’s used to playing every day.”
“[He] said I probably won’t be in there to start, but if they need me to come in late in the game to play some defense, then I’m there to do whatever they need me to do.”
Stevenson said when he got an invite to big league Spring Training, he felt like there was a possibility this day would come at some point this season.
“If you get invited to big league camp they feel like you could possibly be there at some time during the year,” he explained.
“So I think moving up to Triple-A, whenever I did, it was kind of in the sights.”
He made his MLB debut with a runner on first and two out in the sixth on Sunday in Arizona.
D-backs’ skipper Torey Lovullo brought lefty T.J. McFarland on to face Stevenson, and the 23-year-old sent a 1-0 fastball to second for an inning-ending force.
Stevenson stayed in the game, taking over in left for Wilmer Difo, who started in the outfield, and switched to short in the seventh.
He worked the count full in his second at bat, against D-backs’ righty Jake Barrett, battling for ten pitches before he took an 88 mph slider for a called strike three.
Anyone who hasn’t been following his rise didn’t get much of a feel for what the new outfielder has to offer on Sunday afternoon, so here’s Stevenson’s description of how he sees himself as a player.
“I just try to run around everywhere, just try to track down balls in the outfield. Glove is one of the biggest parts of my game, and just speed on the basepaths, try to bring that,” Stevenson said.
With the way things have been going for the NL East-leading Nationals injury-wise this season, he should get an opportunity to show fans in the nation’s capital what he can do even if he doesn’t stick around long his first time up.