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Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen...Bryce Harper?

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New York Times' sports writer Tyler Kepner looks at two emerging pitching prospects in the Sunday NY Times' edition of his baseball column Extra Bases entitled, "Pitchers on the Farm, but Not for Long", which examines the growth of both Philadelphia Phillies' righty Phillipe Aumont and Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg, whose Reading Phillies and Harrisburg Senators met last week in a series that included Strasburg's fourth minor league start, though Aumont did not pitch opposite the no.1 pitching prospect in baseball. Double-AA Reading's Pitching Coach, Bob Milacki, himself a former major league pitcher, who watched Strasburg pitch five hitless innings against the little Phillies, compares the 21-year-old right-hander to the Baltimore Orioles' own no.1 overall pick from 1989, LSU right-hander Ben McDonald, who played with Mr. Milacki and arrived in the majors with the early 90's equivalent of Strasburg's hype, but after a series of injuries, (to sum up a career in six words) failed to live up to expectations. Mr. Kepner, however, offers his own opinion as to why, as he writes, "...there are reasons to believe Strasburg will be different,":

"McDonald logged 152 1/3 innings in his final year at Louisiana State, compared with 109 for Strasburg last season at San Diego State. The Nationals have been rigid about Strasburg’s workload, holding him to 5 innings or 85 pitches, whichever comes first, for Harrisburg."

McDonald made just two starts, pitching 9.0 innings with the Frederick Keys in the Class-A Carolina League before making his MLB debut with the Orioles in September of '89, just a little less than a month after he signed with Baltimore. The next season, McDonald made 10 starts at Double-and-Triple-AAA in O's organization before joining the Orioles for good in July 1990. With Strasburg making five starts at Double-AA Harrisburg, and the plan (as most understand it) calling for five more at Triple-A Syracuse before an early June debut, the Nats are clearly taking a (slightly more?) cautious approach with their top prospect....Strasburg's not the only '09 Nats' Draft pick to get a mention in the NY Times' article, however...

Strasburg's fellow '09 1st Round pick, relief pitcher Drew Storen, who is 36 games and 48.0 IP into his own pro carerer after he was selected 10th overall last June with the Nats' second pick after Strasburg, is mentioned by Mr. Kepner as another possible June addition to the Nats' big league roster, who, "...could complement a major league bullpen that has been stingy,":

"Entering Saturday, the Nationals’ top two relievers, Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps, had combined to allow two earned runs in 31 1/3 innings."

Storen made his Triple-AAA debut on Friday night, and has now pitched at all but one level in the Nats' organization. It might take College of Southern Nevada catcher Bryce Harper a few seasons in the minors, provided the Nationals do in fact make the 17-year-old phenom the no.1 pick in this June's 2010 Draft, before he makes a contribution at the upper levels of Washinton's organization, but just as Strasburg and Storen are expected to be arriving in the majors, Washington will be given the opportunity to add another "once-in-a-generation" talent to a system full of pitching but considered short on impactful position players. Storen's already in Triple-A Syracuse waiting for Strasburg, whose jump from Double-AA hasn't been officially announced, but Harper's playing junior college ball in Nevada, so who knows when he'll arrive in the majors or whether he'll even still be a catcher when he does, but the next generation of Nationals is coming sooner than most think...