Last Fall's AFL Rising Stars game didn't go so well for the Washington Nationals' prospects involved in the Arizona Fall League. Actually the problems started the day before the game when '09 no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg was pulled from the showcase of the league's top prospects with a strained neck muscle. RHP pitcher Josh Wilkie was added to the Rising Star's East squad in Strasburg's stead, along with Strasburg's fellow '09 1st Round pick, 21-year-old reliever Drew Storen, a right-handed major-league-closer-in-training out of Stanford who'd been taken with the 10th overall pick in the Draft and had by then already pitched his way through three levels of the Nationals' system up to Double-A Harrisburg within months of having been selected...
Storen took the mound in the bottom of the eighth inning with the East ahead 7-6, wearing the Nats road grays (#17) with the Phoenix Desert Dogs cap pulled down low on his forehead. The right-handed former Cardinal closer started San Diego Padres' infield prospect Lance Zawadzki with a 95 mph fastball for a called first strike, and six pitches later Storen surrendered an infield single that got over the mound and through the infield, unplayable for A's infield prospect Jemile Weeks. Matt McBride, a catcher in Cleveland Indians' system, selected in the 2nd Round of the '06 Draft, was up next and he took a 96 mph fastball low and outside for ball one before unloading on the second-straight fastball, this one at 95mph from Storen, lifting it to left and out of the park for a two-run blast and an 8-7 AFL West lead....Storen retired the next three batters in order, but when the AFL East squad failed to score in the top of the ninth, Storen took the loss. Josh Wilkie never pitched.
2010 1st Round pick 18-year-old slugger Bryce Harper wasn't picked for this year's AFL Rising Stars game, he's only a part-time participant in the league, of course. (But he's raking!) '07 1st Round pick Mike Burgess was selected, however, and the 22-year-old outfielder got two at bats in last night's game, going 0 for 2 with a weak grounder to the mound and a swinging K. 25-year-old right-hander Cole Kimball, a 12th Round pick in '06 who split the 2010 season between Class-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg joined Burgess on the AFL East's roster, but didn't pitch in the game, which ended up a 3-2 win for the AFL West when 28-year-old Tampa Bay Rays' outfielder Leslie Anderson hit a walk-off winner off Rockies' right-handed pitching prospect Bruce Billings.
• Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional:
Saturday night in the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional, both Nats' outfielder Roger Bernadina and recovering catcher Jesus Flores were in the lineup for the Navegantes del Magallanes 4-0 win over the Cardenales de Lara. Bernadina went 2 for 3 with a walk and a K, and he's now 4 for 15 with a double, RBI, four walks and four K's in 5 games this winter. Flores, 26, who's battled his way back from a series of injuries which have kept him off the field in D.C. since September '09 and had limited him to just 29 games played that season, is now 3 for 11 in three games for the Navegantes after going 0 for 4 last night, striking out once, but the fact that he's on the field and playing regularly is the big news for the one-time Nats' catcher of the future, whose return, though far away, would give the Nats with a talented young duo behind the plate for the next couple seasons if he can make it back to play with former Twins' prospect Wilson Ramos. But that's a best-possible-case scenario for a catcher who appeared ready to take over full-time behind the plate before the '09 season and the injuries.