Potomac Nationals: Pitcher Of The Year

If you had polled anyone associated with the Nationals to identify the pitchers of the year in Potomac entering 2006, to a person, the names Collin Balester, Clint Everts, and Mike Hinckley would be the first mentioned. Touted as top overall prospects entering the seasoning, only one finished with what could be considered a solid season. Here are CapitolDugout.com's pitchers of the year.

Coming in it at #4 is right-handed reliever Juan Ovalles. The 24-year old Venezuelan threw 62 2/3 innings for Potomac with a 3.30 ERA, 1.31 WHIP while striking out 80 and walking 32. He held opponents to a .219 batting average while totaling seven saves and six wins for a Potomac team that won more than its share of games late.

Finishing in a dead heat at #2 are the Moraleses, left-handed starter Ricardo and right-handed reliever Alex. The 23-year old Ricardo was the most consistent starter for Potomac in 2006, finishing with a 6-10 record in 23 starts. Over 132 innings pitched, Ricardo used his finesse and off-speed pitches to strike out 69 batters with a 4.70 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. Ricardo's performance in Potomac earned him a late season promotion and a start for the Harrisburg Senators. While he doesn't have the overpowering fastball you would hope for, his consistency made him a solid contributor for Potomac.

The other Morales, Alex, was one of Potomac's more reliable relief pitchers. He has a mid-90s fastball and an excellent slider which he used over 32 appearances for Potomac in 2006. Over 45 2/3 innings pitched, Morales struck out 49 batters while walking 25, finishing the season with a 2.17 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, holding opponents to a .189 batting average. Alex's biggest weakness is pacing himself. He has the repertoire to be an above average relief pitcher, but needs to learn to pace himself in order to be available on the more frequent basis hard-throwing relief pitchers are often called.

While his overall numbers are not what the Nationals would have hoped for, the #1 pitcher in Potomac was right-hander Collin Balester. The highly-touted 20-year old finished his stay in Potomac throwing 118 innings over 23 appearances (22 starts) where he battled to bring down his ERA to 5.19 and WHIP to 1.52 after a terrible April and May. 

Balester described his struggles, "I started off so slowly probably for the first seven to eight starts. After a while, I finally started to feel good out there on the mound. At first, it felt like I didn't have a clue what I was doing, but then I put nine starts together where I didn't give up more than three runs."

Balester throws a developing curveball and changeup, but it's his low-90s fastball that intrigues the Nationals, as he can hold the command and velocity on throughout the game.

Former Assistant Director of Player Development Nick Manno said "The thing that sets Collin apart from other pitchers his age is that he really has shown a feel for fastball command, which is so difficult for a young pitcher to develop. The sky is the limit for Collin."

Capitol Dugout Top Stories