It took Bryce Harper 33 AFL AB's to hit his first Arizona Fall League home run of 2011. Before the Washington Nationals' 2010 1st Round pick (no.1 overall) connected on a two-run HR to left field off 24-year-old left-handed Oakland A's '08 4th Round pick Anthony Capra in his second at bat, the just-turned-19-year-old Harper doubled to center off the A's '08 2nd Round pick, 24-year-old right-hander Tyson Ross, for his second double in two games. Harper K'd swinging in his third at bat in the fifth, but walked with two down in the sixth and scored the fourth of five Scottsdale runs as the Scorpions rallied from down 9-3 to within one run of the Phoenix Desert Dogs at 9-8.
Phoenix added a run in the bottom of the sixth to take a 10-8 lead, but a two-out RBI single by Harper in the seventh cut the Desert Dogs' lead in half at 10-9, leaving the left fielder 3 for 4 with a HR, walk and 3 RBI's. Harper then took a four-pitch, two-out walk in the ninth, setting fellow Nats prospect Derek Norris up with runners on first and second and two down. A wild pitch put both runners in scoring position and Norris' single tied it at 10-10 after nine...
With three hits through nine innings, Harper had two doubles, a triple, a HR and three singles in his last 16 at bats after starting the Arizona Fall League with an 0 for 15 stretch before he collected his first hit. In his first pro season, the 18-year-old phenom, who turned 19 on 10/16, put up a .297/.392/.501 slash with 24 doubles, 2 triples and 17 HR's in 109 games and 452 plate appearances. His second stint in the Arizona Fall League started slowly, but he seems to be getting the hang of it.
Harper's fellow 2010 Draft pick, Sammy Solis pitched in his third AFL game of the year, allowing five hits, one HR, four runs and four walks in 3.0 IP in which he threw 67 pitches, 37 for strikes and struck out four while inducing four groundouts. Derek Norris ended the night 1 for 4 with 2 walks and 2 K's. The Scorpions completed the comeback by scoring a run in the top of the 10th to take an 11-10 lead and a half-inning later the win.
• VWL: Jesus Flores was 0 for 4 with a walk in his first hitless game with the Navegantes del Magallanes. The Nats' backstop still has 11 hits, three triples and two home runs, in 22 Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional AB's. Gregor Blanco's Tiburones de la Gaira beat Flores' Navegantes 6-5 in 11 innings, but Blanco was 0 for 5 with a walk and a K. Seth Bynum and Carlos Maldonado were a combined 0 for 6 with Bynum walking once and Maldona striking out twice in the Aguilas del Zulia's 5-0 loss to the Cardenales de Lara.
• DWL: Jhonatan Solano went 0 for 3 with a walk and a K in the Tigres del Licey loss to the Toros del Este last night. Federal Baseball's favorite left-hander Atahualpa Severino made his second appearance for the Tigres last night, retiring the only batter he faced.
• You can keep track of all the Nats' players and prospects in the AFL and Winter Leagues HERE.
• Nats' Roster Move: The Washington Nationals announced on Tuesday that they'd returned 2010 Rule 5 pick Elvin Ramirez to the New York Mets. Elvin Ramirez, a 24-year-old 6'3'' right-hander, signed as an undrafted free agent with NY in Sept. '04. Pitching at A+ and Double-A in the Mets' system in 2010, Ramirez was (4-4) in 52 G and 80.0 IP, posting a 4.16 ERA overall. (A+ - 49 G, 73.1 IP, 4.17 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 7.98 K/9, 5.28 BB/9) (Double-AA - 3 G, 6.2 IP, 4.05 ERA, 7.70 FIP, 6 BB, 7 K's.)
In the Dominican Winter League last year, Ramirez was (1-2) with a 1.85 ERA in 20 games and 24.1 IP, walking 5 BB (1.85 BB/9) and striking out 28 K's (10.36 K/9). The Nationals pointed to the fact that the right hander had finally figured out how to control his fastball and the fact that he allowed just 2 HR's in 80.0 IP while holding opponents to a .212 BAA in 2010 in a press release on his selection in the Rule 5 Draft.
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo explained to Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore, in an article entitled, "Nationals select Elvin Ramirez in Rule 5 draft", that the Nationals felt Ramirez was, "...finally figuring out the strike zone."
"The latter portion of the minor league season and this winter," Rizzo said, "he's taken it to a different level. He's a big, power guy we hope helps us in the bullpen this year." Ramirez had shoulder issues in Spring Training, however, opened the season on the DL and eventually underwent surgery which ended his season.