Stedler Division rivals: Vermont Lake Monsters

Centennial Field, home of the Vermont Lake Monsters/Photo courtesy of vermontlakemonsters.com

The Vermont Lake Monsters, New York-Penn League affiliate of the Washington Nationals, finished last season in third place in the Stedler Division with a 34-41 record.  They will be the opponent of the Connecticut Tigers on June 26 for Connecticut’s home opener.

Brian Oliver, author of Nationals Farm Authority, joined Connecticut Tiger Den to talk about Nationals prospects in extended spring training who may report to Vermont when the New York-Penn League season begins.

Stephen Hamel: Graham Hicks is the Nationals’ highest rated prospect in extended spring training according to Baseball America, but he struggled with his control last season. Based on his tall, lanky frame, I would think he projects to add some velocity. Can you give me a brief scouting report on him? What do you expect from him this season?

Brian Oliver: Hicks is exactly what you think, a projectable left-handed starting pitcher. His FB is 90-92 but the Nationals are hoping that will go up a tick or two as he matures. He has a pretty good curveball and developing changeup. The guy he gets compared to is another National, Ross Detwiler … a lanky LHP. I expect him to start the year in Vermont, likely as the #1 SP. His ceiling looks more #3 or 4 SP.

SH: Michael Taylor was the Nationals 6th round pick in 2009. Does he project as a shortstop or a third baseman? Do you think he will play for Vermont at all in 2009?

BO: I believe the Nationals hope he sticks at SS. He didn’t play in 2009 so I’m going to assume he starts off in the Gulf Coast League.

SH: The Nationals have several catchers in extended spring training. Which one is most likely to be assigned to Vermont? Why?

BO: Of the guys they have, I’d assume it will be Wilfri Pena and Ricardo Martinez (though a 2010 draft pick out of college is a strong consideration). Martinez is probably the higher ceiling guy, but I don’t see future star in either guy.

SH: Will Naoya Washiya be promoted to Vermont this year? What is the strength of his game?

BO: Washiya is an interesting guy. He is from Japan, but played at a Junior College in the US. I believe he is the second Japanese player ever drafted. His best tool is his speed. Reports are it’s a plus tool.

SH: Chad Jenkins struggled with his control in 2009, but he did have a solid strikeout rate as a member of the Lake Monsters. What do you expect from him this year as he repeats the New York-Penn League?

BO: As an older player, I figure Jenkins will settle into the starting rotation. He needs a strong season to avoid falling into the organizational guy category.

SH: Is there anyone else in extended spring training I haven’t mentioned who may make a splash with Vermont this season?

BO: The hitter I am interested in is OF Derrick Phillips. He was drafted out of HS in 2008 and struggled some in the GCL in 2009. He is one of those below the radar guys I could see developing into a solid contributor for the Monsters. Of the unassigned arms, I figure that Nate Karns is going to be in Vermont. He is a hard-throwing RHRP. I am guessing he’ll be the closer in Vermont. He has a 92-95 mph FB and a solid curve.

I’d like to thank Brian Oliver for helping me preview the 2010 Vermont Lake Monsters.  His work can be found at natsfarm.com.

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