The Washington Nationals' Prospect Formerly Known As Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez...And Stephen Strasburg's First Start Of '09...?

"You know, to say I'm disappointed doesn't begin to describe how I feel. I'm angry. I am very angry. We've been defrauded, and make no mistake -- this wasn't a college kid with a fake ID that came in and did this. This was a deliberate, premeditated fraud with a lot more to this story, and we are going to get to the bottom of it. There were many, many people involved in this premeditated fraud." - Washington Nationals' Team President Stan Kasten, as quoted in Washington Post writer Chico Harlan's article entitled, "I'm Angry, We've been defrauded."

SMILEYGATE...

For the second Wednesday in a row the Washington Nationals were the talk of the Majors, though last week's Adam Dunn signing was decidely better news than today's revelations about "'SMILEYGATE", which, for those who might have missed it, is the case of the rapidly aging prospect, the tale of the The Prospect Who Suddenly Wasn't, the long strange tale of Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez, whose signing several years back heralded a new competitive age for DC baseball, and whose subsequent scandal has cast a cloud over an already downtrodden franchise which is well on its way to blowing a new start, a new stadium and a new generation's goodwill. 

(ed. note - "If you need to catch up first, Dave from the Nationals News Network's post from yesterday afternoon entitled, "Washington Nationals' Prospect 'Smiley Gonzalez' is a Fraud; Who Is To Blame?", will get you up to speed...")

Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez, or, uh, Carlos Alvarez, as he's, uh, which, is, uh, I guess, his real name, was introduced with great fanfare by the nascent Nationals back in early July 2006 when the franchise was just getting on its feet and attempting to show the nation's capital that they would have a team befitting the capital city's stature. The Washington Manager at the time, Frank Robinson, introduced the "sixteen-year-old" shortstop to the gathered media, and the Nationals' Team President Stan Kasten took the opportunity to make clear the importance of the signing, telling MLB.com's Bill Ladson, as recorded in an article entitled, "Notes: Nats sign Gonzalez":

"'This is an important signing,' Kasten said via telephone. 'We can now compete for the best talent in Latin America. We will have a presence there.'"

DC's Scouting Director Dana Brown told Mr. Ladson that, "He is a switch hitter that can hit at the top of the lineup," and DC GM Jim Bowden was quoted as stating that, "He's a definite starter in the big leagues...He's an incredible shortstop." And he probably did look great, playing against teenagers who were 16 when he was 19 or 20, as it's now assumed he was following today's reports on the culmination of a months-long investigation by Major League Baseball and the FBI (Seriously?) into all sorts of nefarious activity surrounding the signing of "young" players from the Dominican Republic.

Mr. Kasten phoned the local media this afternoon and explained, or at least tried to, as much as he could, the circumstances surrounding the sudden-onset aging of their much-ballyhooed young shortstop, who'd managed to work his way onto both Baseball America's Aaron Fitt's 2009 list of the, "Top 10 Prospects: Washington Nationals", and this winter's edition of ESPN.com's Keith Law's, "Top players by organization", after winning the Gulf Coast League batting title with a .343 AVG, 12 doubles, 3 triples, 2 HR's, 33 RBI's and a .431 OBP In 51 games and 181 at bats.

At ESPN.com today, Keith Law, in an article entitled, "Nationals' pride takes another hit", offers his new list of the Top 5 Prospects in DC's system, (subtract "Smiley", add C Derek Norris), and Mr. Law also offers this damage assessement (which confirms Washington Times' writer Thom Loverro's claim that the Nationals are indeed the "laughingstocks" of the majors), or as Mr. Law puts it:

"It's simply another black eye for an organization that is already a laughingstock in the industry, and a cautionary tale to organizations ramping up their scouting operations in the Dominican Republic, where you really are only as old as you feel."

Asked on the conference call with the media whether anyone within the organization was involved in the fraud, Nationals' Team President Stan Kasten, as quoted in the article we started with entitled, "Kasten: I am angry. We've been defrauded", by Washington Post writer Chico Harlan, tells the reporters:

"'I'm not going to say anything right now while the investigation continues, and you know, you know how I am about this. I am going to let all conclusions be reached. I want it pursued to the very end. The chips will fall where they may. I just want to uncover everything I can possibly uncover, and that's what I have asked baseball's help in.'"

Where will this investigation lead? Which "chips" will fall? (A quick look around the DC blogosphere will tell you who the DC Faithful hold accountable, and it's no surprise, trust me). Unfortunately, DC fans are going to find out exactly what happened here over the coming weeks. Esmailyn Gonzalez/Carlos Alvarez's future with the organization is up in the air...The $1.4M ($1.4M?) that the Nationals thought they had given to a 16-year-old prospect? Who knows? 

(ed. note - "How about some positive prospect news?")

STRASBURG FILES...

Stephen Strasburg and the San Diego State Aztecs start the '09 season Friday with the first game of Straburg's draft year against Bethune-Cookman at 2:00 pm Pacific time(5:00pm EST). In the recently published "Lindy's '09 Major League Baseball Preview", Lindy's contributor Allan Simpson puts Strasburg at #1 on the, "Top 20 College Prospects" list, and Mr. Simpson provides this scouting report on the 20-year-old, right-handed pitcher:

"His [Strasburg's] fastball ranged from 94-99 mph last summer and typically sat between 95 and 97. Strasburg also throws a hard breaking ball that is anywhere from 78-84 mph, and he has the ability to add and subtract velocity from it effectively. The pitch breaks on two planes and is a legitimate swing-and-miss offering. He also throws a change up but rarely needs to use it in college. He has excellent command of all his pitches."

Just last month, in the interview Strasburg conducted with Eric SanInocencio for "Baseball Daily Digest Live's College Preview", the San Diego State starter told Mr. SanInocencio that he wanted to work on working his change and slider into his arsenal this season, as opposed to just blowing his fastball by college batters, and Mr. Strasburg also mentioned that he'd added a sinker to his pitch selection, so it's clear that as he competes at the collegiate level, Strasburg will also be preparing himself to pitch in the Majors, which he might be doing as soon as next September...in DC? Straburg's road to the Nationals starts Friday...

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