Photo by Jesse Sanchez/MLB.com
Meet the 2008 Gulf Coast League Batting Champion. SS Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez led the GCL Nats into the playoffs with a .350 average in 50 games (177 ABs). The 19 year old compiled a .436 OBP, 17 extra base hits and stole 9 of 11 bases on the season.
Gonzalez was the Nationals first major amateur signing out of the Dominican Republic back in 2006, when the team was committed to making a splash on the international scene. More recently, he was linked to the investigation of bonus-skimming from amatuer players abroad, albeit without apparent cause.
The GCL Nats will be joined in the minor league playoffs by the defending champion Dominican Summer League Nationals and our neighbors to the south, the Hi-A Potomac Nationals. So if anyone gives you grief about the product on the field at Nats Park, you can say "Hey, the Nats have already clinched a playoff berth. Thrice!"