WASHINGTON - If there is minor league baseball in 2021, the landscape will look very different for the farm teams of the Washington Nationals.
There will be a new Triple-A affiliate in Rochester, New York – making the move after two years in Fresno, California – in the International League instead of the Pacific Coast.
The new Carolina League team will be in Wilmington, Delaware, while Fredericksburg, Virginia – slated to open in 2020 – will move down to the low Single-A South Atlantic League from the Carolina.
But the one constant will be the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, who have been the farm team of the Nationals since 2005.
The Senators played a key role in the 2019 World Series title.
With Triple-A Fresno on the other side of the country, Washington general manager Mike Rizzo and director of player development Mark Scialabba posted several Major League-ready players in the Pennsylvania capital.
That made them a lot closer to Nationals Park or East Coast cities if needed on short notice.
One player who spent most of the 2019 season in Harrisburg was outfielder Michael A. Taylor, who came up big in the postseason with several clutch hits and plays on the defensive end. Taylor, drafted by the Nationals, recently signed with Kansas City.
Right-hander Aaron Barrett pitched for Harrisburg in 2019, was named to the Eastern League All-Star Game and led the league in saves. He returned to the majors in September 2019 and even though he was not on the postseason roster he was part of the wild celebration in the visiting clubhouse the night the Nationals won Game 7 over the Astros.
“It is surreal,” Barrett said in the Nationals’ clubhouse at Minute Maid Park. “Four years ago I couldn’t even throw batting practice. It is just a special; it is a blessing.”
One of the catchers for Harrisburg in 2019 was Jake Lowery, the best college catcher in the country and the Johnny Bench Award winner in 2011 at James Madison in Virginia.
He was able to catch in the bullpen and games for some Major League veterans that year that the Nationals also used in Washington as well.
Harrisburg had veteran pitchers on the roster for part of 2019.
That includes Trevor Rosenthal, Justin Miller, Erick Fedde, Brad Boxberger, and Kyle Barraclough.
The manager of the Senators in 2019 was Matt LeCroy, a former catcher for Washington and a former bullpen coach for the Nationals.
Before the 2020 season, South Carolina native LeCroy was named control quality coordinator for the Nationals.
“It is just another set of eyes for our staff and player development,” LeCroy, who would have been in uniform at games in the minors in 2020, told Federal Baseball earlier this fall of his new role.
“We want to make sure we are on the same page with our program and make sure we are on the same page with the big-league staff.”
Harrisburg was also a solid training ground for several players that came up through Washington’s system.
That includes pitcher Stephen Strasburg, the MVP of the 2019 World Series; and former stars Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon.
Juan Soto played briefly for the Senators before he was promoted right to Nationals Park in May 2018.
The 2010 Harrisburg manager was Randy Knorr, who was recently added to the Major League coaching staff after being with Fresno in 2019.
The 2011 manager for the Senators was Virginia native Tony Beasley, who played at Liberty University and in the minor leagues with the Orioles and Pirates.
He was once traded for Fairfax native Tommy Shields, now the co-field coordinator in player development for the Nationals.
Beasley was a former coach for the Nationals under Frank Robinson. Shields played at Rochester while in the Baltimore system and played in the majors for the Orioles and Cubs.