Washington Nationals: Arizona Fall League Preview.

Since the Nationals first announced that both of their '09 1st Round picks, pitchers, Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, would be participating in the Arizona Fall League, the DC Faithful have been anxiously awaiting the start of the AFL season as a remedy to the 100-loss blues fans have suffered through the last two years, and starting tomorrow, the Phoenix Desert Dogs, featuring right-handers Strasburg, Storen and Jeff Mandel, catcher Sean Rooney, shortstop Danny Espinosa and first baseman Chris Marrero will begin play at 3:35 pm EST against the Mesa Solar Sox in the first of 32 Fall games... 

Strasburg and Storen everyone knows at this point. Federal Baseball.com readers were introduced to Jeff Mandel in a Potomac Nationals report by Anthony Masterson, the P-Nats' Broadcast and Media Assistant back in early May. A 19th Round selection, taken 580th overall in the 2007 Draft, Jeff Mandel is a 24-year-old right-hander out of Houston, Texas and Baylor University, who was a combined (12-6) with a 3.38 ERA in 25 GS and 151.2 IP in '09, over which he allowed 141 H, 70 R, 57 ER and 43 walks while collecting 89 K's in two stops in the Nationals' system, pitching first with Potomac and then for the Harrisburg Senators.

The same report by Mr. Masterson featured Chris Marrero, the Nationals''06 1st Round pick, selected 15th overall, who had been named the Carolina League's Player of the Week after he hit in 12 of 28 at bats with 3 HR's and 12 RBI's over a seven-game stretch in late May. The 20-year-old converted first baseman played 122 games with the Potomac Nationals in 2009, hitting for a .287 AVG with 21 doubles, 16 HR's, 65 RBI's, a .360 OBP, .464 SLG and .824 OPS. Marrero was called up to Double-A Harrisburg for 23 games to end the season, and he hit in 20 of 75 at bats with 6 doubles, 1 HR and 11 RBI's with the Senators to finish his 4th season in the Nationals' system. 

Sean Rooney, who's on the Desert Dogs' roster I've discovered, is a replacement, I'm assuming, for injured catcher Derek Norris, who reportedly broke the hamate bone in his left wrist recently, "while working out in the (Florida) Instructional League,", and is scheduled for surgery, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article entitled, "Guzman, Norris to have surgery", after which he isn't expected to resume baseball activities until December.

Rooney, the Washington Nationals' 2006 8th Round pick, taken 241st overall, is a 23-year-old catcher out of Yorba-Linda, California, who split his '09 campaign between Class-A Advanced Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, where he hit for a combined .275 AVG with a .330 OBP, .407 SLG, .736 OPS, 23 doubles, 6 HR's and 46 RBI's in 94 games and 327 at bats. 

(ed. note - "Check out the P-Nats' Anthony Masterson's interview with Rooney from earlier this season..."):

AUDIO: Potomac Nationals Weekly Update - Sean Rooney Interview by Anthony Masterson. (Length: 6:00).

Danny Espinosa got the nod as the Nationals' representative in the '09 All-Star Future's Game. The 22-year-old shortstop, ranked by Baseball America's Aaron Fitt as the "Best Defensive Infielder" in the Nationals' system in this year's preseason list of DC's Top 10 Prospects, Espinosa spent the season with the Class-A Potomac Nationals, where he put together a .264 AVG in 133 games and 474 AB's over which he scored 90 runs and hit 31 doubles, 4 triples, 18 HR's, 72 RBI's, with 29 stolen bases, a .375 OBP, .460 SLG and an .834 OPS. 

(ed. note - "Also check out the Potomac Nationals Report/Anthony Masterson interviews..."):

• AUDIO: Potomac Nationals Weekly Update - Danny Espinosa Interview - Anthony Masterson. (Length: 5:20)

AUDIO: Potomac Nationals Weekly Update- Drew Storen Interview - Anthony Masterson. (Length: 5:58)

• Everything Written About Stephen Strasburg Here At Federal Basbeball.com In The Last Year.

LINKS: 

• "Strasburg, top picks highlight AFL" - Jonathan Mayo | MLB.com: News

"The important numbers are: 1, 5, 12 and 18. That's the No. 1 player taken in the 2009 Draft, five of the top 10 from the first round of said Draft and 12 of the Top 50 in MLB.com's updated Top 50 prospects list who will most likely be attending the 18th edition of the Arizona Fall League."

• "Arizona Fall League stocked with top talent" - Jonathan Mayo | MLB.com: News

"'I'm real fired up,' said the Nationals' other 2009 first-rounder in Arizona, Drew Storen. 'It was good to get back into the swing of things at instructs. Seeing Strasburg throw in person was pretty cool. Seeing the top level guys on my team here, I'm excited to play with them and to face some of the guys on the other teams.'"

• Pssst...Strasburg's scheduled to make his next start on Friday night in Arizona...

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