2010 no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper tripled and scored in the seventh inning of the Scottsdale Scorpions' Arizona Fall League season finale Thursday afternoon. Harper's Scorpions dropped the final game of the Fall 6-2 to the Mesa Solar Sox, but the 19-year-old's 2 for 3 game left him with a .333/.400/.634 slash, six doubles, two triples, six HR's, 26 RBI's, 11 walks and 22 K's in 25 games and 93 at bats. It was Harper's second go-round in the AFL. As an 18-year-old member of the Scorpions' "taxi squad" last season, Harper put up a .343/.410/.629 slash while hitting three doubles, two triples and a home run in nine games.
This year's Arizona Fall League success caps off a first professional season for Harper which started at Class-A Hagerstown where he had a .318/.423/.554 line, 17 doubles, 14 HR's and 19 stolen bases in 72 games and 305 plate appearances before moving up to Double-A Harrisburg where he had a .256/.329/.395 line, seven doubles, three home runs and seven stolen bases in 37 games and 147 plate appearances before suffering a hamstring injury.
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo, who was out in Arizona recently to see the Nats' prospects in action, told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern that he liked what he saw. Rizzo praised Harper's power and "extreme bat speed" while also noting that the catcher-turned-outfielder had, "...really come a long way in the outfield, left field and right field, he plays both. He's improving dramatically. I saw him backing up bases instinctually and not having to really think about it, so he's come a long way in that." Harper was named the no.1 prospect in the Nats' organization last week by Baseball America. Nats' Skipper Davey Johnson told Mike Rizzo recently to keep an open mind about Harper making the team out of Spring Training. Though he'll likely start the season back in the system, it won't be long before Harper's playing baseball in the nation's capital.
• (ed. note - "MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo named Harper the no.1 prospect in the AFL in his article tonight entitled, "Harper heads list of top 25 AFL prospects.")
22-year-old fellow Nats' prospect Derek Norris was 0 for 3 Thursday. The '07 4th Round pick was hitless in his last 11 AFL at bats, completing his own second trip to Arizona with two doubles, two HR's, 12 walks, 14 K's, four stolen bases and a .276/.367/.382 slash in 21 games and 76 at bats. Norris had a .278/.403/.667 line with five doubles, two triples and four home runs in 2010's AFL campaign. The top backstop prospect in the Nats' system put up 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. The Nats' general manager told reporters that though Norris' .210 AVG "raised some eyebrows... 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."
2010 2nd Round pick, University of San Diego-educated left-hander Sammy Solis, was (1-0) with a 3.80 ERA, seven walks and 12 K's in six games and five starts in the AFL in 2010, surrendering 22 hits and 13 runs, 10 earned in 23.2 IP. The 22-going-on-23-year-old Solis had a (2-1) record with a 4.02 ERA , 3.22 FIP, 8.93 K/9 and 2.68 BB/9 in seven starts and 40.1 IP at Class-A Hagerstown and a (6-2) record with a 2.72 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 8.47 K/9 and 1.76 BB/9 in 10 games and 56.1 IP at High-A Potomac before he was sent out to Arizona for the second time.
Solis struggled early, but made some changes to his repertoire (moving from a knuckle curve to a more traditional bender) and improved as the Arizona Fall League season progressed. The lefty finished his second AFL stint with a 4.50 ERA, 16 walks and 25 K's in seven starts and 26.0 IP in which he allowed 29 hits and 15 runs, 13 earned. The Nationals' GM told the MLB Network Radio hosts last week that Solis could have an impact at the major league level sooner rather than later:
Mike Rizzo: "He was 93-96, he's got a plus changeup. We're revamping, taking him from a spiked curve ball, which he had trouble commanding to a more traditional curve ball, and if that becomes a useable pitch for him, this guy could go quickly, and take off and be a real factor for us in the very near future."
2011 3rd Round pick Matt Purke told MLB.com reporters in a video posted Thursday that going to the AFL has been, "...an experience. A little bit of a struggle at the beginning. [It's] basically my major league debut out here and these guys are well advanced. Some of these guys have been playing two or three full seasons already and I just started." Asked what he's working on, the 21-year-old said he's concentrated on, "...being able to do better runner control and really make sure that my arm slot doesn't sink down, because when I had my shoulder soreness and everything my arm slot dropped. Now I'm really making sure that I have a higher arm slot and I'm a lot quicker to the plate and able to keep runners at bay."
Purke allowed nine hits and 11 runs in his first 3.1 AFL IP. The lefty gave up just two hits and two walks in his last four outings and 4.0 IP, however, striking out four to end his first Arizona Fall League experience with three walks, five K's, 12 hits and 11 runs allowed in seven games and 7.1 IP.
Nats' prospect Rafael Martin, a 27-year-old right-hander out of San Fernando, California who was pitching in the Mexican League before the Nats signed him in February of 2010, followed up on a strong first year in the organization in which he was (1-0) with a 1.13 ERA, 1.46 FIP, 11.25 K/9 and 2.25 BB/9 in six games and 8.0 IP at Class-A Potomac and (4-1) with 13 saves, nine walks (2.27 BB/9), 44 K's (11.10 K/9), a 1.77 ERA and 2.77 FIP in 32 games and 35.2 IP at Double-A Harrisburg, with an AFL campaign in which he was (0-1) with a 1.50 ERA, six walks and nine K's in 10 games and 12.0 IP over which he gave up eight hits and two runs, both earned.
Pat Lehman, a 25-year-old right-hander taken in the 13th Round of the '09 Draft, followed Martin's path this season. (2-0) with seven saves, a 1.72 ERA, 1.80 FIP, 0 BB (0.00 BB/9) and 11 K's (6.32 K/9) in 13 games and 15.2 IP at Class-A Potomac, Lehman moved up to Double-A as well, where he was (1-2) with six saves, four walks (1.06 BB/9), 34 K's (9.0 K/9), a 3.71 ERA and a 2.49 FIP in 29 games and 34.0 IP. In Arizona, Lehman was (0-4) with a 9.82 ERA in 12 games and 14.2 IP in which he allowed 26 hits, 17 runs, 16 earned and three walks while recording 17 K's.
22-year-old infielder Zach Walters, acquired from the D-Backs in return for Jason Marquis last July, had 34 doubles, seven triples, nine HR's and a .300/.367/.457 slash in 127 games and 538 plate appearances in 2011. 30 of the games and 126 of the plate appearances came after the trade, with Walters posting a .293/.336/.371 slash at Class-A Potomac. In 23 games and 80 at bats back in Arizona this Fall, Walters had a .200/.250/.288 line with four doubles and a HR for the Scorpions.