Brandon Pimentel was named the Carolina League player of the month following a April that saw him hit two grand slams. (Photo by Joey LoMonaco)

FredNats notebook: Sykora hungry for success after joining Fredericksburg

by | May 10, 2024 | ALLFFP, FredNats, Sports

Travis Sykora’s rather well-rounded breakfast on May 1 consisted of yogurt, eggs, a bagel and a smoothie.  

“I couldn’t finish it all, because of the nerves,” admitted Sykora, a 6-foot-6 right-hander and the Washington Nationals’ third-round pick in last year’s Major League Baseball draft. 

That’s understandable, considering that Sykora didn’t have much time to digest nerves or nutrients prior to taking the mound at 12:05 p.m. for his full-season professional debut.

In two starts since joining the Fredericksburg Nationals late last month, Sykora has allowed four earned runs in 5 and 2/3 innings of work. He’s struck out five batters while walking two. 

FredNats manager Jake Lowery noted that Sykora was the only high school player signed by the Nationals at the conclusion of the 20-round draft last summer. He received a $2.6 million signing bonus, according to spotrac.com.

“He got paid for a reason,” Lowery said. “Just look at him.” 

At first glance, Sykora boasts a tall, athletic frame and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fastball that hovered in the mid-90s during spring training. FredNats’ pitching coach Justin Lord said Sykora’s repertoire also includes a slider and a split-finger change-up.  

“He checks a lot of boxes,” Lord said. “He’s a hard worker, very routine-oriented. He has a really good idea of what he needs to do, what it takes to be good. He’s going to learn a lot this first year as a professional.” 

Those lessons will extend beyond the foul lines, as the 20-year-old gets a taste of the grind of a 130-plus game season. 

“The road, travel, hotels,” Lord explained. “Just things the normal person doesn’t think about that you encounter as a professional athlete. These are some new things to him, and it’s going to be fun to watch him develop.” 

One aspect of Sykora’s game that’s already well-developed is arm strength. Lowery said he’s witnessed the pitcher sling the ball from foul pole to foul pole during long toss sessions.  

“He’s one of the few that can do it,” the manager said. “It’s like a shortstop playing pitcher.” 

Pimentel named Carolina League player of the month 

As Brandon Pimentel eyed Lowery in the third-base coach’s box during his at-bat in the seventh inning of an April 7 game, he might have been expecting a take sign. 

Instead, the manager decided to give Pimentel the green light on a 3-0 count. 

“I felt like I was with him in the box a little bit,” Lowery recalled with a laugh.  

Pimentel justified the discretion when he walloped the next pitch over the center field wall for a grand slam. He finished the game with a FredNats franchise-record eight RBIs and was recently named the Carolina League player of the month for April. 

Pimentel, a left-handed hitting 23-year-old undrafted free agent from El Paso, Texas, batted .351 and drove in 33 runs, as the FredNats (21-9) pulled into second place in the Carolina League’s North Division.  

“It always seems like he comes up with guys on base,” Lowery said of the first baseman. “He’s hitting in the middle of the order for a reason.” 

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