Thirteen Days Until 2009 Really Begins For The Washington Nationals...
Asked what it meant to him that he was invited by the Washington Nationals to attend the 2009 MLB Rookie Career Development Program (RCDP), Jordan Zimmerrmann, DC's 2nd Round pick, 67th overall in the '07 Amateur Draft, who is expected to claim a role in the '09 DC rotation, tells an unidentified MLB.com reporter:
"Uh, It was a big honor, ah, I mean I didn't really know what to expect, I talked to a couple guys that were here from the Nationals last year and the year before and they said it was a good experience."
In 2008, his first full professional season, Zimmermann was (3-1) with a 1.65 ERA and 31 K's in 27.1 IP for the Class-A Potomac Nationals, allowing 15 hits, 5 ER's, 1 HR and 8 walks before being brought up to Double-A Harrisburg where the 22-year- old right hander posted a 3.21 ERA over 20 starts and 106.2 IP, surrendering 89 hits, 42 runs, 38 earned, 9 HR's and 39 walks, while striking out 103 batters.
According to Baseball America's Aaron Fitt, in the '09 edition of his, "Top 10 Prospects: Washington Nationals," Zimmermann's first full season saw him jump from the 7th ranked prospect in the organization to 1st overall, ahead of a fellow member of the '07 Draft class, Ross Detwiler, who was selected 61 players earlier than Zimmermann, going 6th overall with Washington's 1st pick of the Draft. Detwiler attended MLB RCDP in 2008, and asked an opening question similar to that which was posed to Zimmermann, but by a different unidentified MLB.com reporter, Detwiler responded: "Well you know, It always means a lot when they, uh, consider you to come to one of these things, uh, being, I mean, they, I guess they consider one of the top prospects," and Detwiler also talks of meeting fellow Nationals' prospects (John Lannan and Garrett Mock), and how it was a great way to get to know the nation's capital after he'd been introduced to the Washington's baseball fans in his MLB debut the previous September.
John Lannan was 6 starts into his career after debuting with Washington in 2007 when he attended the '08 RCDP and met Detwiler, and Garrett Mock would debut later in 2008, after having been drafted by Arizona in 2004 and traded to Washington along with Matt Chico for Livan Hernandez in August of '06. Ryan Zimmerman and Lastings Milledge both attended the RCDP in 2006, though Milledge was with the Hated Mets at the time, and Kory Casto went in 2007, where he may have met then-Tampa Bay prospect, Elijah Dukes, who was there to represent the Devil Rays...Lannan, Zimmerman, Zimmermann, Mock, Milledge, Dukes, Detwiler...Olsen, Flores, Hernandez, Balester, and Martis...What do they all have in common? They're all 25-years-old or under and they all figure to be part of the '09 Nationals' roster, for better or worse...We're now 14 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting and two months away from seeing if this youth movement's got wheels...
Upon being hired as the Nationals' Team President back in May of 2006, Stan Kasten told MLB.com's Bill Ladson, as quoted in an article entitled, "Q&A with Stan Kasten", about the process Atlanta had undertaken under his direction in order to build the franchise (over a 4-year period!) into a beast that dominated the NL East for more than a decade:
"First of all, we had to redeploy the money that we were spending year in and year out on free agents. We thought it was better spent on Minor Leaguers, scouting, adding Minor League teams, drafting more players, adding trainers and instructors in every level. It took us a little time to do it that way, but we thought it would pay off in the end, and it did."
During the recently completed Nationals' FanFest, Stan Kasten took a moment to address the crowd at a panel discussion and convey his enthusiasm for the upcoming campaign, telling the gathered fans and reporters that a great deal of last year's trouble could be attributed to injuries, but heading into '09, Mr. Kasten states, as quoted in an article and transcript by Washington Post writer Chico Harlan entitled, "The Stanifesto":
"...that young team and that injured team is now coming back a year older, a year more mature, with a lot of good young talent. And that team that was injured last year -- they're all healthy. They're all coming back healthy."
An '08 MLB.com Press Release about the Rookie Career Development Program entitled, "MLB, MLBPA hold 2008 Rookie Career Development Program", listed players around the league who had attended the seminar in previous years, and if you consider that the Nationals mentioned above are included amongst a list of players that includes Jermaine Dye, Curtis Granderson, Ryan Howard, Grady Sizemore, Ryan Braun, Matt Garza, Hanley Ramirez and Felix Hernandez, you might even begin to develop a sense of enthusiam that laughs in the face of all the pundits, scouts, number crunchers and remote viewers who say '09 will be another struggle for the Nationals, and you might just find a way to embrace the irrational belief that maybe, just maybe, this is the Nationals' year...?