For Taylor Gushue, it was anything but coincidence that his first full year in the Nationals system was also his best as a professional.Acquired from the Pirates late in the 2016 season, Gushue erupted to hit a career-high 18 home runs this past season over 91 games with Class A
For Taylor Gushue, it was anything but coincidence that his first full year in the Nationals system was also his best as a professional.
Acquired from the Pirates late in the 2016 season, Gushue erupted to hit a career-high 18 home runs this past season over 91 games with Class A Advanced Potomac. The total matched his cumulative output from his first 243 career games and three seasons in the Minors.
• Arizona Fall League roster & stats
He ultimately slashed .241/.327/.437 with the P-Nats, earning both mid- and post-season honors in the Carolina League, and then finished the year with a four-game stint at Double-A Harrisburg.
"The Nats really welcomed me in, and I felt like I got a lot better this year, just working with our catching coordinator Michael Barrett, our hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich," said Gushue, Washington's No. 23 prospect.
"I just felt like it was a good fit for me. I felt like I was able to relax and just play baseball. [The Nationals] made it really easy for me to come over and be successful."
The uptick in power, according to Gushue, was a product of an improved swing and approach that he brought with him into the season.
"I think it was a lot of the work that I did this offseason," the 23-year-old switch-hitter said. "Really learning about my swing and how to use my legs -- how to hit the ball in the air."
Gushue also made progress behind the plate in 2017, improving his caught-stealing rate to 32 percent after throwing out attempted basestealers at a little better than a 25 percent clip the previous year.
"I felt like it was really easy to get better just because of all the work we did in Spring Training and during the season," said Gushue, the Pirates' fourth-round pick out Florida in 2014. "Just developing a routine and little things like that, it all just came together."
Now continuing his season in Arizona Fall League with the Mesa Solar Sox, Gushue understands the significance of being selected for the prestigious league, especially in light of his regular-season performance.
"I've always wanted to come out here," he said. "First of all, I love Arizona. Second of all, I get to represent the team I'm playing for, an even bigger honor. I was really happy to get the news that I'd be able to come out and show what I can do to the organization."
• Washington's Top 30 prospects
Meanwhile, with some Double-A experience now under his belt, Gushue is aware that he's not too far away from reaching the Major Leagues. He received a taste of what that might be like earlier this year when he had the opportunity to catch Stephen Strasburg during one of the right-hander's rehab starts with Potomac.
"That was just amazing, getting to see how he works, and his stuff is just incredible," Gushue recalled. "It was probably the most fun I've had playing baseball. That was a big nugget I took with me this year for sure."
Nationals hitters in the Fall League
Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B (WAS No. 12) -- Gutierrez, 23, was putting together a strong year in the Carolina League until he suffered an ankle injury in June that cost him the next two-and-a-half months. The 6-foot-3 third baseman is an impressive player when healthy, showing an advanced approach with good bat-to-ball skills and power potential from the right side of the plate.
Daniel Johnson, OF (WAS No. 10) -- The 2016 fifth-rounder put himself on the map with 22-homer, 22-steal full-season debut. A 22-year-old outfielder with loud tools, Johnson produced an overall line of .298/.356/.505 in 130 games between Class A Hagerstown and Potomac. The Nationals' No. 10 prospect hasn't skipped a beat in the Fall League either, recording a .333 average with five steals and nine runs scored in nine games.
Victor Robles, OF -- The top-ranked player in this year's Fall League, Robles, MLBPipeline.com's No. 2 overall prospect (Nationals' No. 1), was assigned to the Fall League after finishing the season on Washington's NLDS roster. The 20-year-old outfielder batted .250 with three extra-base hits in parts of the 13 games with the Nats, and he's opened his Fall League campaign with three hits including a homer in his first two games.
Nationals pitchers in the Fall League
Dakota Bacus, RHP -- The 26-year-old right-hander found success in his first season as a full-time reliever, posting a 1.80 ERA with five saves and a strong ground-ball rate over 40 innings (23 appearances) between Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.
"As a reliever, I think what helped me a lot was that I had to gain the confidence in throwing everything for a strike," Bacus said. "Mentality-wise I've always been a bullpen guy. I've been accepted by bullpen guys as a starter, which is tough. A lot of bullpen guys don't accept starters -- it's a totally different area."
Jimmy Cordero, RHP -- Acquired from Toronto at the 2015 Trade Deadline in the Ben Revere deal, Cordero, 26, had trouble throwing strikes in '17 en route to issuing 38 walks in 51 1/3 innings out of Harrisburg's bullpen. Should he regain his control, the right-hander has long showed stuff capable of generating whiffs at the highest level, just as he's done in the early going this fall.
Kyle McGowin, RHP -- Acquired from the Angels as part of the December 2016 Danny Espinosa trade, McGowin is using the Fall League to make up for time he lost as a result of two trips to the disabled list during the regular season. He's been a standout on Mesa's staff so far, posting a 2.25 ERA with 16 strikeouts and one walk in 12 innings across three starts. The 25-year-old righty is at his best when he's keeping hitters off balance with his three-pitch mix.
Austen Williams, RHP -- The 2014 sixth-rounder has not been able find the same success in his last two years that had seemingly put him on a fast track to the Majors during his first full season. The 24-year-old righty spent his second straight season between Potomac and Harrisburg in 2017, going 3-11 with a 5.52 ERA in 91 1/3 innings (19 starts).
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.