IL Preview: Syracuse Chiefs
The Syracuse Chiefs struggled to get things going in 2013, finishing the season in last place in the North Division with a 66-78 mark. With injuries at the Major League level, the Chiefs roster was depleted throughout the campaign.
This season, the Chiefs are focused to put up a better showing. First year man Billy Gardner Jr. will lead a solid group of players in 2014.
Pitching: The Chiefs will be lead by right-hander Ross Ohlendorf. Last season, he went 4-6 with a 4.66 ERA in 14 games (13 starts) for the Chiefs. He was promoted to the big league level several times, making 16 appearances and going 4-1 with a 3.28 ERA for the Nationals. This will be Ohlendorf’s fourth tour in the International League level, having played with Indianapolis Indians in 2011, the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2012 and Syracuse in 2013.
While, Ohlendorf enters his fourth year of IL play, the staff will get a shot in the arm if top prospect A.J. Cole makes the club. Cole is the No.2 prospect in the organization according to Baseball America. Last season, he went a combined 10-5 with a 3.60 ERA through High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. He may need a little bit more seasoning, but he has the stuff to excel at the Triple-A level. Cole features a mid-90’s fastball, a tight changeup and hard breaking curveball. He works his fastball on both edges of the plate and utilizes his changeup as his strikeout pitch. In 143 innings, Cole fanned 151 batters in 2013. Through four minor league seasons, Cole has amassed 393 strikeouts in 353 innings.
Infield: IL All-Star Zach Walters will be the staple of the offense. The shortstop clubbed a league-high 29 homers in 2013, while batting .253 (123-for-487) with 32 doubles and 77 RBIs. Walters’ accolades earned him a big league call up in September, going 3-for-8 with one triple and one RBI in eight games. He will be joined on the diamond by Pacific Coast League All-Star Brock Peterson. Peterson, who slugged 25 homers and drove in 86 runs as a part of the Memphis RedBirds, elected free agency and signed with the Nationals during the offseason. Peterson has made a strong impression during the 2014 Grapefruit League season, batting .370 (10-for-27) with two doubles, one homer and six RBIs in 15 games. He will likely start the season at Syracuse with incumbent Adam LaRoche manning first base at the big league level. The rest of the infield will be composed of experienced Triple-A talent, as Wil Rhymes, Jeff Kobernus, Mike Fontenot and Emmanuel Burriss will fight for playing time.
Outfield: The outfield is so deep that the Chiefs may send top prospect Brian Goodwin back to Double-A Harrisburg. Despite playing 164 games at the Double-A level, Goodwin may start the season with Harrisburg, because the Chiefs outfield will have Tyler Moore, Eury Perez and Steven Souza occupying one of the three spots. Moore is a Triple-A standout, having batted .318 (55-for-173) with ten homers and 46 RBIs in 45 games for the Chiefs in 2013. Perez, the No. 20 prospect in the Nationals organization according to Baseball America, batted .300 (121-for-403) with 18 doubles, five triples, seven homers and 28 RBIs in 96 games for the Chiefs in 2013. The newcomer will be Souza, who will make the jump to the Triple-A level for the first time in his career. Souza hit .300 (82-for-273) with 23 doubles, one triple, 15 homers and 44 RBIs in 77 games with Double-A Harrisburg. He enters the 2014 campaign as the No.10 prospect in the Nationals organization according to Baseball America.
Schedule: The Chiefs will meet the G-Braves at Coolray Field from July 6-9, while the G-Braves make the trip to Syracuse, NY from July 25 through 28.
Projected Depth Chart: