AFL Update: Week Two - While there were just 310 fans in attendance when the Scottsdale Scorpions dropped a 4-2 decision to the Mesa Solar Sox on the road in Mesa, Arizona's HoHoKam Park Thursday night, the previous evening 822 fans (and quite a few credentialed members of the national baseball media) had joined the scouts and team officials who'd traveled from around the country to watch the Arizona Fall League debut of the second-youngest player to ever participate in what's generally regarded as a "finishing school" for the game's top prospects. Washington's 2010 no.1 overall pick, 18-year-old outfielder Bryce Harper, didn't disappoint, driving in two runs in his final at bat with an opposite field ground-rule double that scored the fifth and sixth runs in what ended up a 6-3 Scorpions' win. Harper's first hit followed 3 AB's in which he'd reportedly impatiently attacked the few pitches he saw, but scouts noted his bat speed and the fact that he looked far from overwhelmed as proof that Harper belonged, talent-wise, in the same league as the competition he'd be facing this Fall.
919 fans were at the Scorpions home park, Scottsdale Stadium, to watch the Nats' second-straight no.1 overall pick in his second game on Saturday against the visiting Phoenix Desert Dogs. Harper lined sharply to third on a 2-1 pitch in his first at bat, then singled the second time up on a line drive to right off left-hander Manuel Banuelos, a 19-year-old in the New York Yankees' organization, who was the sixth-best prospect and the third-best pitcher in the Yanks' system according to Baseball America in their most-recent rankings last December. Peter Andrelczyk, a 24-year-old right-hander from the Marlins' system got Harper swinging on three pitches in his third AB, which led off the sixth, and the Nats' 6'3'', 225lb left-handed slugger singled again in his final at bat, when an opposite field grounder got by third with one out in the eighth. Two games in against the best pitching he's faced, Harper's now 3 for 8, .375 with a double and 2 RBI's.
Harper wasn't the only Nats' prospect to impress on Saturday, as '07 4th Round pick Derek Norris blasted his 2nd AFL HR to left off Andrelczyk to lead off the fifth. Norris, who'll turn 22 this winter, missed out on a trip to the Arizona Fall League last year when the top catcher in the Nats' system broke the hamate bone in his left hand while preparing for the AFL, then struggled to produce the power numbers he had in 2009 when he moved from Class-A Hagerstown to high-A Potomac Nationals in 2010. It was Norris' discerning eye at the plate that caught everyone's attention this season though, as he walked 89 times in 94 games (.419 OBP) and that patience has carried over to Arizona, where he's put up a .316/.480/.789 slash line, walking 5 times in 6 games and 19 at bats so far this season.
Nats' right-handed pitching prospect Cole Kimball didn't fare quite as well, however, as the 25-year-old '06 12th Round pick needed 28 pitches (14 strikes) to get through the top of the ninth. A one-out walk and back-to-back singles off Kimball drove in the Desert Dogs' only run of the game, and the first run Kimball's surrendered this fall in 5.0 IP in which he'd given up just one hit before yesterday's outing.
Bryce Harper's off til Wednesday, but the Scottsdale Scorpions are back in action Monday night when they travel to Peoria to battle the Saguaros at 3:35 pm in the east on Monday, 12:35 pm MST.
• Nats' Prospects in the AFL:
1. Bryce Harper: 3 for 8, .375 AVG, .375 OBP, .500 SLG, 0 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI's, 1 K.
2. Derek Norris: 6 for 19, .316 AVG, .480 OBP, .789 SLG, 4 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 6 RBI's, 5 BB, 7 K's, 1 SB.
3. Stephen Lombardozzi: 6 for 24, .250 AVG, .367 OPB, .417 SLG, 6 R, 4 2B, 2 RBI's, 4 BB, 2 K's, 1 CS.
4. Michael Burgess: 6 for 24, .250 AVG, .321 OBP, .292 SLG, 2 R, 1 2B, 4 RBI's, 3 BB, 8 K's, 1 SB.
1. Sammy Solis: (0-0), 6.75 ERA, 2 GS, 6.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 4 K's, 1.50 WHIP.
2. Brad Peacock: (0-0), 1.50 ERA, 4 G, 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K's, 0.83 WHIP.
3. Cole Kimball: (0-0), 1.80 ERA, 4 G, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K's, 0.80 WHIP.
4. Adam Carr: (1-0), 2.25 ERA, 3 G, 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K's, 1.00 WHIP.