Washington Nationals: 2010 Arizona Fall League Preview.

Washington Nationals' '09 1st Round pick Stephen Strasburg was a member of the Phoenix Desert Dogs last Fall. The Nats' prospects will play in Scottsdale this time around in the AFL.

The 2010 Arizona Fall League starts this Tuesday, 10/12, with the Washington Nationals' prospects playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions this time around, (under the guidance of Double-A Harrisburg skipper Randy Knorr), but there's still no definitive word on whether or not the Nats' 2010 1st Round pick, no.1 overall selection, Bryce Harper, will be a part of the Scorpions' roster. Earlier this week, Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore speculated, in an article entitled, "A Bryce Harper update from the Instructional League", that when the AFL season starts Tuesday night at 6:35 PST (9:35 EDT), "It's highly likely that it will begin without Harper." 

(ed. note - "Not that it will change things one way or the other, but Harper has, according to the Nationals' official Twitter (@NatsTownNews), hit HR's in back-to-back games this past Thursday and Friday."):

"Bryce Harper CRUSHES a home run to left field, his 2nd in as many days. #Nationals are taking on the #Braves in Viera. #InstructionalLeague"

Last year's crop of AFL Nats, which included '09 1st Rounders Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, '07 19th Round pick RHP Jeff Mandel, reliever Josh Wilkie, catcher Sean Rooney (a last-minute replacement for Derek Norris), and infielders Danny Espinosa ('08 3rd Round pick) and Chris Marrero ('06 1st Rounder), featured three Nats (Strasburg, Storen, Espinosa) who would make the MLB debuts the season after their AFL experience, confirming clearly the AFL's status as a "finishing school" for Major League teams' top prospects, (as the Nats referred to it in a recent press release.) Whether or not Harper makes his way onto the roster, which would take some finagling according to the Washington Post's Mr. Kilgore, the Nats' prospects who do participate this time around include a few you're likely to see in the near future in D.C., if not necessarily in 2011. A quick look at the Nats on the Scottsdale Scorpions' roster follows...

Pitchers: 

Adam Carr  (RHP) - A 26-year-old '06 18th Round pick out of Oklahoma State University, Adam Carr, a 6' 2'', 220lb right-hander was (6-2) with a 2.75 ERA and 67 K's (8.4 K/9) in 52 appearances and 72.0 IP combined between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse this season, collecting 14 saves in the process.

• Cole Kimball (RHP) - '06 12th Round pick out of Centanary College in Hackettstown, NJ, the Brooklyn, NY-born 6'3'', 225lb 24-year-old right-hander was (8-1) with a 2.17 ERA and 19 saves in two stops in the Nats' system at Class-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, going (3-0) with 6 saves, 8 walks (2.9 BB/9) and 29 K's (9.9 K/9) in 24.2 IP for the P-Nats and (5-1) with 12 saves in 38 appearances and 54.0 innings pitched with the Senators, during which he walked 31 (5.2 BB/9) and struck out 74 (12.3 K/9). 

• Sammy Solis (LHP) - The Nats' first pick after Bryce Harper in this past June's Draft, Sammy Solis, 21, a 6'5'', 230lb left-hander out of the University of San Diego, was selected 51st overall with the first pick of the 2nd-round, and is labeled by most as being close to major league-ready. Solis made two starts for the Class-A Hagerstown Suns after signing with Washington following a (9-2) season with San Diego in which he walked 29 (2.8 BB/9) and struck out 92 (9.0 K/9) while holding opponents to a .233 BAA over 15 G, 14 GS and 92.0 IP. In a recent (and excellent) interview with MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr entitled, "Solis ready for Arizona", Mr. Kerr writes that Solis is working with a three-but-occasionally four-pitch arsenal:

"...a 90-94 mile per hour four-seam fastball and two-seamer, a deceiving changeup (his best pitch), and a rarely seen knuckle curve."

• Ryan Tatusko (RHP) - Acquired along with RHP Tanner Roark in the deadline deal that sent IF Cristian Guzman to Texas, Tatusko, 25, the Rangers' '07 18th Round pick was (12-3) with 2.63 ERA in 30 G, 19 GS for the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders and Harrisburg Senators, pitching exclusively as a starter in the Nats' system following the trade. In an email interview I conducted with Tatusko right after he'd joined the Nationals' organization, the 6'5'', 200lb right-handed ground ball pitcher, who credited a change in his mechanics with the success he had this season, told me about his pitch selection: 

"...a fastball that is anywhere between 90-94, a curveball, slider, and change. My go-to pitches are my fastball and curve ball, as I feel confident to throw them in any count. My fastball has natural "cut fastball" movement to it and it always has been my go-to pitch. My CB and SL are my 2nd pitches, respectively, and my change up is my 4th pitch."

• Position Players:

•  Derek Norris (C) - A broken hamate bone in his left hand caused Norris, a 6'0'', 210lb, 21-year-old '07 4th round pick, to miss out on the chance of getting to catch Strasburg and Storen last year in the AFL after the then-20-year-old catcher was named Washington's Minor League Player of the Year and the Class-A Hitter of the Year by MiLB.com after hitting .286/.413/.513 with 30 doubles and 26 HR's in 126 games for the Hagerstown Suns. In 2010, Norris led the Carolina League with 89 BB in 399 PA's for the Class-A Potomac Nationals over which he hit .235/.419/.419 with 19 doubles and 12 HR's. Baseball America's Aaron Fitt's 11/09 Top 10 Prospect list had Norris as not only the top catcher in the Nats' system, but the no.2 overall prospect in the organization behind only Stephen Strasburg before the 2010 season began. 

• Mike Burgess (OF) - The second-best outfielder in the Nats' system behind Justin Maxwell on Baseball America's 2010 preseason prospect list, Michael Burgess, the Nats' third 1st Round pick in 2007 out of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida, who'll turn 22 on October 20th, hit 26 doubles, 6 triples and 18 HR's with 85 RBI's and a .265/.357/.465 slash line in 122 games and 460 at bats between Class-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg in 2010. 

Stephen Lombardozzi (2B/IF) - Stephen Lombardozzi, the Nats' '08 19th Round pick out of St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg, Florida, led Nats' minor league system with 160 hits and 90 runs scored in 137 games and 545 at bats for the Class-A P'Nats and Double-A Senators. Lombardozzi, 21, in his third minor league campaign, hit .294 with a .371 OBP, .431 SLG, 35 doubles, 11 triples and 6 HR's on the year, leaving the 6'0'', 170+lb infielder with a .293/.373/.402 line in 313 games played since he was drafted. 

The Peoria Saguaros will visit Scottsdale, Arizona's Scottsdale Stadium on Tuesday for the first AFL game of the Fall.

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