Washington Nationals' prospect Bryce Harper #34 won't start in tomorrow's AFL Championship game, but he's expected to play as the Scottsdale Scorpions battle Peoria's Javelinas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
There's one game left to play on Saturday when the Peoria Javelinas and Scottsdale Scorpions meet at 1:00 pm MST, 3:00 pm EST in D.C., but the regular season in the Arizona Fall League is over, and once again the Washington Nationals' no.1 overall pick was the biggest story out West. While Stephen Strasburg's starts last year were the talk of the Fall League, Bryce Harper, the Nats' 18-year-old slugger, playing only on Wednesdays and Saturdays as part of the Scorpions' "taxi squad", managed to grab headlines this time around, hitting in 12 of 35 at bats (.343 AVG) with 3 doubles, 2 triples, 1 HR and 7 RBI's in 9 games in which he walked 4 times, K'd 11 times, and put up a .410 OBP with a .629 SLG (1.039 OPS), occasionally showing off an arm in right field which had once allowed the catcher-turned-outfielder to throw runners out at second from his knees behind the plate. Harper wasn't the only Nats' prospects to impress however...
Derek Norris, the top catching prospect in the Nats' system, following up on a 2010 season in the Nationals' system in which the 21-year-old '07 4th Round pick had posted a .235/.419/.419 slash line with 19 doubles, 12 HR's, 49 RBI's, 89 walks and 94 K's in 94 games and 298 at bats for the Class-A Carolina League's Potomac Nationals, hit in 15 of 54 AFL at bats (.278 AVG) with 5 doubles, 2 triples, 4 HR's and 19 RBI's in 16 games during which he walked 11 times, K'd 18 times and put up a .403 OBP and .667 SLG (1.070 OPS).
Harper will play in tomorrow's AFL Championship game, but according to reports today, he won't be starting in right and that's so '07 1st Round pick Michael Burgess can play there for Scottsdale. The 22-year-old left-handed hitting and throwing outfielder has played four seasons in the Nationals' organization, working his way up to Double-A Harrisburg last season, where he had a .284/.391/.649 slash line in 21 games and 74 at bats. In 18 AFL games, Burgess had 16 hits in 65 at bats (.246 AVG) with 3 doubles, 3 triples, 2 HR's, 12 RBI's, a .286 OBP and a .477 SLG.
The final Nats' prospect to play the field for the Scorpions this Fall was Stephen Lombardozzi, an '08 19th Round pick who played at Class-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg this past season, with a combined .291/.371/.431 slash line in 137 games and 545 AB's. In Arizona, the 22-year-old infielder hit .293 (24 for 82) with a .385 OBP, .439 SLG, 8 doubles, 2 triples, 4 RBI's, 10 walks and just 8 K's in 21 games.
On the mound, it was the Nats' 22-year-old left-handed 2010 2nd Round pick Sammy Solis; 26-year-old right-hander Adam Carr, an '06 18th Round pick; righty Cole Kimball, 25, an '06 12th Round pick and Brad Peacock, an '06 41st Round pick, another right-handed starter who pitched out of the pen in Arizona though he's seen as a starter and will continue to be one next season. Solis, who added a cut fastball to his fastball, change, knuckle curve arsenal, made 5 starts and one relief appearance, giving up 22 hits and 13 runs, 10 ER, in 23.2 IP, collecting 12 K's and walking 7 batters. Carr, who finished the 2010 season in Triple-A Syracuse, worked out of the pen for the Scorpions, giving up 6 hits and 3 ER in 10 appearances and 13.0 IP. Kimball, who was (8-1) with a 2.17 ERA and 11.6 K/9 in 57 games and 78.2 IP for the Class-A P'Nats and Double-A Senators this season, gave up just 1 ER on 8 hits and 2 walks in 11 games and 12.0 IP over which he struck out 15 while posting a 0.75 ERA. Brad Peacock, who'll turn 23 in February, led the Nats' prospects in K's with 17 in 12.0 IP out of the pen in which he walked just 3 and gave up 10 hits and 6 ER.
• Bryce Harper, Derek Norris and Sammy Solis got recognized by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo in an AFL overview entitled, "Which 20 prospects stood out in AFL play?", with Mr. Mayo pointing to Harper's, "plus-plus power, his plus arm in right field and his surprisingly strong running skills." Norris, who missed the '09 AFL season when he broke the hamate bone in his left hand and lacked some of the pop he'd had in the past in 2010, "...continued to show excellent on-base skills," according to Mr. Mayo and though, "He still needs work on receiving...his plus arm allowed him to throw out better than 46 percent of would-be basestealers this fall." Solis, according to the MLB.com writer, impressed scouts with his, "his size, stuff and command," and Mr. Mayo says he'll be starting in the AFL Championship tomorrow, live on the MLB Network at 1:00 pm MST, 3:00 pm EST in D.C. Then it's Winter Ball and Hot Stove talk til Spring Training opens.