A Tale Of Two Prospects, A Year In the Lives Of Washington Nationals' Prospects Chris Marrero And Ross Detwiler.

On November 7, 2007, Baseball America writer Aaron Fitt's report entitled, "Top Ten Prospects: Washington Nationals", had Chris Marrero, an 18-year IN/OF who'd just completed his second season in the DC system, and 21-year old left-hander Ross Detwiler, Washington's 1st pick, 6th overall in the '07 Draft, listed as the first and second highest-ranked prospects, respectively, in the Nationals' organization, and MLB.com had the two listed (in the same order) as the top prospects from Washington, 31st and 37th overall in baseball, in their league-wide rankings before the 2008 MLB season entitled Top 50 Prospects in Baseball, which was subtitled, "New faces welcomed into elite group". 

Marrero had been selected with the Nationals' second 1st Round pick in 2006, behind only pitcher Colton Willems, as part of an '06 Draft Class that also featured hurlers Cory VanAllen, Zechry Zinicola and Adam Carr, but it was the '07 Draft Class, which included not only Detwiler, but pitchers Josh Smoker, Jordan Zimmermann and Jack McGeary, as well as fielders Michael Burgess and the recently-dealt Jake Smolinski, that truly impressed, earning Baseball America's distinction as the, "'Best Draft in the Industry' as part of Baseball America's annual Draft Report Cards," according to an Official Washington Nationals' Press Release from 10/26/07. 

Chris Marrero played just 70 games for the Potomac Nationals in 2008 before a collision during a play at the plate resulted in a broken right fibula and ligament damage to his ankle, requiring surgery and costing the 19-year-old P-Nats' first baseman the remainder of his third professional season. Marrero posted a .250 AVG in the short season, to go along with 15 doubles, 2 triples, 11 HR's and 38 RBI's in 256 AB's. Washington Times' writer Mark Zuckerman's article about Marrero's season ending entitled, "Top prospect out for season after leg injury", quoted DC GM Jim Bowden's assessment of the injury's impact on Marrero's development:

"When you have a setback like this, it obviously affects your timetable to the big leagues,' Bowden said. 'But long run, he'll be fine. We'll get him healthy. And luckily, if you're going to have a broken leg somewhere, first base is probably the best place for it to happen.'"

The reports on Ross Detwiler's 2008 campaign varied throughout the season as he struggled early but ended up participating in the P-Nats Class-A Carolina League Championship run. Washington Times' writer Ben Goessling summed up the tone of most of what's been written about Detwiler's '08 development, in a 10/1/08 article entitled, "Player Development Coming Slowly, Surely", where Mr. Goessling wrote that:

"...left-hander Ross Detwiler stagnated at Potomac, his mechanics going through an overhaul that robbed the 2007 first-rounder of consistency much of the year."

Detwiler spoke to MLB.com's Bill Ladson in an article entitled, "Detwiler learning lots in the desert", where he explained what he thought were the reasons for his somewhat dissapointing (8-8) 2008 record, and the 4.68 ERA he put up in the 26 starts and 124.0 innings pitched:

"'I got away from throwing strikes,' he said. 'The hitters were getting fastballs on fastball counts. If they know that a fastball is coming they can sit on it and hit it hard somewhere. Later in the season, I started to get ahead of people a little more and make more quality pitches.'"

Detwiler recovered down the stretch and pitched well in the Postseason with Potomac, and this fall the 22-year old worked out of the bullpen for the Peoria Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 4.63 ERA with no decisions in 9 appearances and 11.2 IP in which he allowed 16 hits, 6 ER's, 2 HR's and 4 walks with 7 K's. Nationals' Pitching Coach Randy St. Claire visited the Saguaros and reported back to MLB.com's Bill Ladson for an article entitled, "St. Claire visits AFL prospects", where he provided the following assessment of Detwiler's game:

"'He has been working very hard on keeping his lines to where he can [throw the ball on] both sides of the plate,' said St. Claire. 'Ross commanded the ball pretty decently. It was really nice to see him make that adjustment. I know he is working hard at it. That is something it takes a little while to correct. He was a little inconsistent with the curveball. He did throw some good ones, however."

We won't know how the successes and struggles of the 2008 season affected the status within the Nationals' system of the two prospects in Baseball America's eyes until their rankings of the Top 10 Prospects in the DC Organization for 2009 drop on January 7th of the new year, (according to Baseball America's own posted calendar), but a glimpse of the attitude towards Washington's prospects amongst the baseball cognoscenti was provided recently by John Sickels of Minor League Ball.com, who presented his list of the, "Washington Nationals Top 20 Prospects for 2009", which found Marrero and Detwiler, (who Mr. Sickels had ranked first and second, respectively, in his 2008 Prospect list), now ranked as the third and fourth best prospects, (again, respectively), in the organization behind two members of Detwiler's '07 Draft Class, pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, (1), and outfielder Michael Burgess, (2).

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