Several times in Monday's post game press conference, Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman, while discussing Danny Espinosa's breakout performance, took a moment to mention that the emergence of young talent like Espinosa this year and Ian Desmond last season, "...is a great compliment to our scouting and player development to bring those two guys along the way they have and get them ready to play here." "To be able to go find that talent like the scouts do and cultivate it the way our player development does, I think it says a lot about the organization."
"To have two young guys like that up the middle," Mr. Riggleman said about Desmond and Espinosa, "...nothing's cast in stone, but it's encouraging to know [the Nats have] two good athletes there that can play for a while,":
Jim Riggleman: "It's one of those days where you really feel good about the direction the organization is going, you know, Zimmermann's out there, young athletic guys are out there, everybody's swinging the bat...It was a good day. It's a statement for the organization that, as we say, "there is light at the end of the tunnel."
Ian Desmond was equally enthusiastic about the state of the Nats' system when I asked the Nats' shortstop if he could give Nationals fans any names from the organization that the fans should follow this past April...
Ian Desmond: "There's a lot of guys down there. Leonard Davis, he's one of my good buddies, he can swing the bat. I mean there's too many for me to name off, I mean, Seth Bynum he hits 20 HR's a year, he's a second baseman, and he's real good with the glove. Pete Orr is one of my favorite teammates ever. Great guy. Great teammate. He's an older guy, veteran that's been around in baseball. He took me under his wing a lot, he's been looking out for me for the last few years. Uh...like I said there's so many, I mean everything that everyone said about our minor leagues being depleted is 100% false. I mean, we have a great minor league system, we have a bunch of guys that work hard, that play hard, that are hungry to be up here."
I asked Danny Espinosa the same question yesterday, and the 23-year-old infielder, who was selected in the 3rd Round of the '08 Draft and played 275 games over two-plus seasons at four stops in the Nats' system, offered several names for Nats fans to watch:
Danny Espinosa: "There's a lot of guys, you can go, Chris Marrero, Michael Burgess, let's see, who else have I played with...Jesus Valdez, Jhonatan Solano is a good catcher...Triple-A you've got like Boomer Whiting, you've got Seth Bynum. You guys know all the other guys, like Pete Orr, all those guys, there's a lot of guys that I've played with that have been very impressive."
One name that doesn't get mentioned often as a young up and coming part of the Nats' organization since he's already been up for a few years and bounced back and forth between the minors and majors with occasional success and intermittent issues on the mound is right-hander Collin Balester. Lost somewhat in Espinosa's breakout performance Monday afternoon is the fact that the 24-year-old right-hander dominated in his one inning of relief work. With no pressure on him in a 13-3 game, Balester came out throwing heat, getting a groundout from the first batter he faced with four mid-90's fastballs (each 94-95.) Balester started Mets' infielder Ruben Tejada with a 96mph fastball for a called strike and got strike two with another 96mph heater that Tejada fouled off before dropping a brutal 80mph 0-2 bender on Tejada for a swinging K. Two down quickly and backup catcher Mike Nickeas doesn't stand a chance, three-straight fastballs at 95mph and another bender 15mph slower and that's Balester's second K of the day and the ballgame.
"It was a good day," Jim Riggleman said of the Nats' win, "It's a statement for the organization that, as we say, "there is light at the end of the tunnel." [repeated for dramatic effect]