• AFL UPDATES: A few hours after D.C. GM Mike Rizzo talked about them with the nation's capital's baseball press, Washington Nationals' prospects Derek Norris and Bryce Harper took the field in the Arizona Fall League and continued their hot-hitting ways. Norris, a 22-year-old '07 4th Round pick and the top catching prospect in the Nats' system and Harper, 19 and the no.1 prospect overall in the organization, both went 2 for 3 for a run scored. Harper homered for the second time this fall, taking 23-year-old Chicago Cubs' prospect Marcus Hatley deep for a 3-run blast in a 10-5 Scottsdale Scorpions' loss to the Mesa Solar Sox.
Norris singled in front of Harper and scored on the HR. Norris and Harper hit back-to-back two-out singles in the sixth and Norris walked in his final at bat in the eighth before a sac fly by Harper scored the Scorpions' last run of the night. Fellow Nats' prospect Zach Walters was 0 for 4 with a K in the loss. Nats' right-hander Rafael Martin threw 2.0 scoreless, allowing just one hit.
The two hits today gave Norris ten hits in his last six games and 13 hits in 36 AFL at bats for the Scorpions. The right-handed-hitting and throwing backstop posted a .210/.367/.446 line and hit 17 doubles and 20 HR's in 104 games and 423 plate appearances at Double-A Harrisburg this season. Through nine Arizona Fall League games he has a .361/.457/.583 slash with two doubles, two home runs, eight walks and six K's in nine games. "Norris, from the word out there," D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said, "and we've got many, many guys out there covering us, all of our scouts are out there, my dad's out there for every game and he's sees us play every time they go out there, and Norris is catching and throwing extremely well, the pitchers love throwing to him, he's swinging the bat extremely well right now."
Asked about that .205 AVG this season, the Nats' general manager told reporters today, "A [.210] batting average raised some eyebrows and was a concern to us, we're just trying to figure out why?"
"We've spoken to our hitting coordinators, our hitting coaches and that type of thing," Rizzo said. "It was one of those things that I think he got into a real rut," the Nationals' GM continued, explaining that he might have been trying too hard to swing his way out of it. "He kind of got into a hole and couldn't climb his way out and tried to go 5 for 5 with every at bat and kind of dug a deeper hole for him. But his other peripherals were good, his power was as good as we've ever seen it, and again, his catch and throw skills have dramatically improved. It's a testament to our player development, Doug Harris, and specifically Bob Boone and Pat Corrales have worked diligently with this guy on his defensive side of the game."
"We know [Norris] can hit," Rizzo said, "We know he's got power, he's a high on base percentage guy. He's got a short compact stroke. We know he can hit. Package that with a plus arm, and now his feet are working, he's blocking pitches and pitchers love throwing to him. That's a really exciting package for us going into next season."
Bryce Harper's two hits on Wednesday gave him hits in seven straight games. Through 12 games, Harper's 11 for 45 (.244/.327/.467) with two doubles, a triple and two home runs. "They're on a hot streak right now," Rizzo said referring to Norris and Harper. "They're playing extremely well."
"Bryce is playing very, very well,' Rizzo continued, "The last six or seven games he's been on a hot streak and playing good defense. His defense has improved dramatically. His baserunning has improved dramatically. His propensity to steal bases has been terrific. He's moving great, he feels great and he's swinging the bat real well."
The Nats' GM also mentioned Harper's fellow 2010 Draft pick, 2nd Rounder Sammy Solis, who had his best start so far in the AFL the last time out. "Solis, his stuff has been very, very good. He's pitching at 93-94, touching 96 on our guns, and his stuff is really good. His numbers aren't great, but his repertoire has been terrific."
• Winter League Updates: VWL: Jesus Flores continued his hot hitting ways in the Venezuelan Winter League, going 2 for 4 with 3 RBI's in the Navegantes del Magallanes' 8-1 win over the Tigres de Aragua. Chris Marrero made his Dominican Winter League debut on Wednesday night, going 0 for 3 with a K in the Tigres del Licey's 5-2 win over the Gigantes del Cibao. Marrero's fellow Nats' prospect Jhonatan Solano was 0 for 1 with a K in a pinch hit appearance. Eury Perez was 1 for 1 with a double and a run scored as a pinch hitter in the Leones del Escogido's 5-2 loss to Estrella de Oriente. Nats' pitching prospect Wilman Rodriguez gave up a hit and recorded an out in 0.1 IP.