It used to be that names were changed to protect the innocent.
Now, it’s a case of identities being withheld because of the Internet.
Thus is the world of minor league baseball these days. Mobile technology and social networks have forced baseball organizations to keep plans for minor league teams close to the vest.
The Hagerstown Suns are no exception.
“We like a lot of guys who will probably be going there, but I really can’t mention any names yet,” said Doug Harris, the Washington Nationals player development director. “We are shooting to finalize the team by Thursday. Every kid reads the Internet now.”
That turns stocking the roster into cloak-and-dagger secrecy. The biggest reason stems from no one wanting to say a player is destined to play somewhere only to be sent elsewhere.
As the Nationals make the cuts from the parent team, players trickle down through the system until they reach Hagerstown. Add to the process that a glut of talent on the Single-A level — which includes No. 1 overall draft pick Bryce Harper — makes the decisions even tougher as players will be sent to the Gulf Coast League and extended spring training to continue their development.
Harris can say the Suns have every chance to be a thrilling team to watch.
“I’m excited about this group,” Harris said. “This is going to be a good hitting team.”
That has been a rarity for the Suns. In previous years, Hagerstown’s teams have been very young and needed to work their way into becoming polished hitters.
The direct feeder to the Suns will probably be the Vermont Lake Monsters, the Nationals’ New York-Penn League Single-A, half-season affiliate last year.
Shortstop Blake Kelso led the Lake Monsters with a .309 average, while designated hitter David Freitas hit .307. Outfielder Russell Moldenhauer hit eight homers in 38 games.
Vermont was led by starter Matt Swynenberg, who finished 4-2 in 12 starts. Starter Taylor Jordan struck out 54 batters in 62 innings.
Vermont has since joined the Oakland Athletics’ farm system, while the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays are now the Nationals’ affiliate in the New York-Penn League.
“For the last few years, pitchers have been a lot of our high draft picks,” Harris said. “The Suns will have a number of good pitchers, but now we are getting the hitters playing at the level they should be playing at.”