SCOTTSDALE AZ - OCTOBER 20: Washington Nationals prospect Bryce Harper #34 playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions sits in the dugout during the AZ Fall League game against the Mesa Solar Sox at Scottsdale Stadium on October 20 2010 in Scottsdale Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Washington Nationals' Assistant GM and Vice President of Player Development Bob Boone appeared on the Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio show "Inside Pitch" late this afternoon with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden to talk about the Nats' prospects who played in the Arizona Fall League, the Nationals' search for a first baseman and the rumors that one of their young infielders is much sought-after on the trade market. The interview began with Boone, (who joined the Nats as Mr. Bowden's Assistant after having managed for him when Bowden was the GM in Cincinnati), being asked by Bowden about the AFL contingent the Nats sent out to Arizona to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions this fall. Boone told his former boss that, "Really everybody in the Fall League did well for us,":
"The guy that saved the final game, the championship game that they won was Cole Kimball, who I'm very excited about. A big right-handed farm boy* that can really fire it and that I think has a good chance of making that club next year. Derek Norris is really coming on. Hit well there and his catching keeps getting better and better, he calls a real good game, throws great, threw out 51% of the runners this year and, he just needs time behind the plate. But Harper is...he's beautiful. I just love him. He's blended in with the guys, he's one of the guys all the time. He acts older than his age. You keep looking at him and going jeez, when he was Instructional League he was 17. [Laughs] He's supposed to be a Senior in high school this year...but he did great, considering, especially the fact that he could only play two days a week, he played Wednesdays and Saturdays so it's tough to get in the groove when you're playing that little, but it was a great time for him to work. He's a diligent worker. Can play any position on the field. He's in right field for us, he had a great arm and he did more than I think I expected from him and all of a sudden, we've got some ammo in the pipeline. Steve Lombardozzi, a second baseman did a great job there, and we're really excited about what's coming."
After losing 100+ games in back to back seasons, the Nats were able to make a ten-game improvement over their '09 campaign in 2010 and as Mr. Boone explained, the team was able to learn some important things about the talent they already have in the organization. "I think the ballclub ended up pretty good there [in 2010]," Boone says. "We found out some things with Danny Espinosa out of Long Beach State, [who] came up and showed that he's close to being ready if not ready right now to play in the big leagues, and Ian Desmond, the shortstop, really upgraded our defense even though we made some errors. I think with that and the Wilson Ramos kid who we got in a trade and of course we have Pudge [Rodriguez] back this coming year. It bodes well for a lot of things. Drew Storen pitched out of the pen, the pen did very well. What we're lacking is a little bit of starting pitching and losing [Stephen] Strasburg was a real tough thing, but you know, it's what happens to kids and pitchers..."
"I really think that first base is going to be an issue," Boone explained when asked what else the Washington Nationals were looking for this winter. "There's some talk about Josh Willingham going to first base," the Asst. GM said, but in the end, "It depends on what's gonna happen with Adam Dunn, and everything on the club is kind of up in the air depending on what happens there. Certainly from afar it doesn't look real encouraging, but you know, the defense in the middle and at third base Ryan Zimmerman is going to be terrific and the outfield play is getting better and better. We saw Roger Bernadina kinda come into his own a little bit. He's going to have a chance, and I think we're really looking to improve the bench some, and obviously waiting to see what happens at first base, and we need some more starting pitching, so just those few things."
Do the Nats need to add starters? "I think we do," Boone says. "but you know, Jason Marquis is a real bulldog competitor, and he had those bone chips and pitched with them, then got them taken out and came back at the end of the year, so I would expect him to get back to a little bit more legitimate Jason Marquis here for next year and I think he can surprise a lot of people, but we're definitely looking. We're looking under every rock for a legitimate starting pitching veteran kind of guy that we know can get two hundred innings and pitch better than .500 so, I think that's certainly our need when you compare our club with the leaders in our division that's certainly going to be a need for us."
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal's report today entitled, "Nats' Desmond drawing interest" discussed the possibility of the Nationals' parting ways with their 25-year-old shortstop. According to Mr. Rosenthal's anonymous "major league sources", Desmond, "is drawing strong trade interest...and could be a chip the team uses to land a quality starting pitcher." Would the Nats consider dealing Ian Desmond? "We're really excited about [Desmond]. He kind of plays (although it's a stretch but) a [Troy] Tulowitzki-type** game," Mr. Boone said, "and he made some errors, we expected him to, but I think he's going to get better and better and he's certainly shown some power at the big league level and played with a desire that's certainly advantageous to a big league ballclub. I'm not sure of the rumors that are going around. I think on our club anybody would be available except for the third baseman and I'm sure Mike Rizzo would talk to anybody about any of our players except Ryan Zimmerman right now. But I think Ian showed that he's going to have a real bright future and he would be a tough one to trade, but if you have to do it..."
(ed. notes - " * = Kimball's from Brooklyn, NY. ** = Jim Riggleman once compared Desmond to Tulowitzki too:
Jim Riggleman: "I hesitate to compare names, because the other guy I'm going to mention has accomplished so much, but I can say that speaking to my good friend Jim Tracy (ed. note - "Riggleman spent 2001-'04 in LA as the Dodger's bench coach under Tracy."), and other people in Colorado, this is what they said [Troy] Tulowitzki was when he walked in the door in Colorado. He became the leader on that ballclub in Colorado.")