Austen Williams Feels At Home In The Pen
Shortstop Carter Kieboom, a 2016 first-round pick out of high school in Marietta, Ga., handled a jump to Double-A as a 20-year-old.
Kieboom actually turned 21 on the final day of the campaign at Harrisburg, where he spent the second half. In a season split between the high Class A Carolina and Double-A Eastern leagues, he hit .280/.357/.444 with 16 home runs in 123 games. He also impressed Nationals officials with his steady defense at shortstop.
The younger brother of Washington backup catcher Spencer Kieboom may not be far from the major leagues himself after a season in which he played in the Futures Game in D.C.
Righthanded reliever Austen Williams pushed his velocity up to 96 mph and further developed his curveball, which has late biting action and depth. He also commanded both sides of the plate and dominated at both Double-A and Triple-A.
The 25-year-old Williams recorded a 1.19 ERA in 32 appearances (two starts ) with 89 strikeouts in 68 innings for Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse before pitching in the big leagues for the first time.
"He’s found his comfort level in the bullpen and has blossomed in this role,” farm director Mark Scialabba said of the 2016 sixth-round pick from Texas State. "He’s freed up his arm this year, improved the timing of his delivery and is attacking the zone aggressively with his fastball/curveball combination.
"In the pen, he’s demonstrated the ability to provide us with length—going multiple innings many times throughout the year—but he also possesses the ability to pitch in high-leverage, shorter stints to finish off a game.”
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KEEP AN EYE ON
Six-foot-6 righthander Jake Irvin made a strong first impression in pro ball, going 1-0, 1.74 in 21 innings at stops in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and at short-season Auburn.
"(Scouting director) Kris Kline and his scouts did a great job of selecting Jake Irvin in the fourth round of this year’s draft,” Scialabba said of the former Oklahoma standout. "In his short time with us, he’s impressed our staff with his ability to repeat the strike zone with a consistent, effortless delivery and an easy arm action.”
** Among the organization’s starters, 26-year-old righthander Kyle McGowin stood out as the minor league leader with a 0.90 WHIP. He went 8-6, 2.80 with 152 strikeouts in 142 innings over three minor league levels and also is a September callup.
** Lefthander Matthew Crownover, a 25-year-old from Clemson, pitched the first no-hitter in Potomac Nationals franchise history. He threw 110 pitches over nine innings in a 7-0 win against Lynchburg. He held the same Hillcats to one run in five innings in the first round of the Carolina League playoffs.