WASHINGTON – When the Nationals broke camp and headed north late last month, some top pitchers not on the Opening Day roster headed to the alternate site in Fredericksburg.
But there are still some quality arms in West Palm Beach – and Brad Holman is keeping a careful eye on them.
“It is a neat environment; they get to be around older guys while getting in their innings,” Holman, the pitching coordinator in player development, told Federal Baseball from Florida on Friday. “We have this new wave of pitchers who came in” to Florida after the big league club headed north.
“The minor league begins May 4 and they will be able to transition from where they are presently to the season,” added Holman, who pitched one season in the majors with Seattle.
“They are kind of doing the same thing there (in Virginia) that we are doing here,” Holman said of the alternate site in Virginia.
Players from both Florida and Virginia will fan out to farm teams in a few weeks.
“It is going to be diverse; they have young guys there” in Virginia, Holman said of the makeup of pitching staffs in the minors. “Where they end up is not up to me. When it is all said and done, there will probably be players from there and players from here that end up in the same place.”
The full-season affiliates in the Washington system this year will be Triple-A Rochester in upstate New York; Double-A Harrisburg in the Pennsylvania capital; high Single-A Wilmington in Delaware; and low Single-A Fredericksburg – about 50 miles south of Nationals Park.
Holman has been impressed with pitchers that reported to West Palm Beach for minor league spring training.
“I would have to say from a standpoint of the whole group, I was very pleased with the way guys showed up,” he said. “These guys are just so hungry to play baseball after a whole year off. The way they showed up it was like they hadn’t missed a beat. They are in good shape.”
One familiar name who was in West Palm Beach before heading recently to Fredericksburg is veteran right-hander Justin Miller, a reliever who pitched in 68 games with the Nationals in 2018-19. “We signed him back,” Holman said.
Miller, 33, was one of four pitchers recently sent to the alternate site from Florida, Holman noted.
But for the most part, the pitchers are younger now in West Palm Beach.
“We always have a bunch of young kids coming here,” Holman said. “It has been fun to see these guys get going.”
Two prospects among pitchers who have stayed in Florida are Holden Powell, a third-round pick in 2020 out of UCLA, and Mitchell Parker, a fifth-round pick last year out of San Jacinto College in Texas.
“Mitchell, we are stretching out to be a starter,” Holman said. “Obviously, Powell is more of a reliever so we are progressing his innings. Both of those guys, because of how recent they are to the organization, we are kind of going hands-off with them. Both of them have been showing really well.”
Tim Cate was in Florida earlier this year but is now in Fredericksburg, Holman said.
“He had a little bit of a setback with a lat strain,” Holman said of the University of Connecticut product who was a second-round pick in 2018 and pitched for Hagerstown and Potomac in 2019. “He is kind of a dark horse to help the Major League club. He is going to be able to help when he gets the opportunity.”
Other pitchers in Florida are Matt Cronin, a fourth-round pick in 2019 out of Arkansas; Gabe Klobosits, a 36th-round pick out of Auburn in 2017; and Bryan Bonnell, a 36th round pick by Tampa Bay in 2015 out of UNLV.
“All of them are in a good place right now,” Holman said.
Another pitcher in Florida is Zachary Brzykcy, a non-drafted right-hander last year out of Virginia Tech.
“A real bulldog mentality with three above-average pitches,” Holman said. “Just a good kid with a hard work ethic. He throws strikes. He looks the part, there is no doubt about it.”
Holman was the Triple-A pitching coach for Washington in 2019 before taking on his new role prior to the 2020 Major League season.