Bryce Harper's sitting and resting an injured hamstring now, but he was already scheduled to go to the Arizona Fall League on a full-time basis after playing on the "taxi squad" last fall, before the Washington Nationals made it official in announcing the names of the prospects who'll go out to the "finishing school" for the game's top prospects this year:
@NationalsPR: "#Nationals prospects to play in 2011 @MLBazFallLeague: RHP Pat Lehman, RHP Rafael Martin, LHP Sammy Solis, OF Bryce Harper, C Derek Norris"
Norris, a catcher and 22-year-old '07 4th Round pick, will be making his second trip to the AFL after missing out on the '09 Arizona Fall League when a broken hamate bone kept him from catching the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen. Norris has 15 doubles, 19 HR's and a .204/.354/.436 slash this season at Double-A Harrisburg. Sammy Solis was in Arizona last year too after he was drafted in the 2nd Round of the 2010 Draft. In 16 starts and 89.2 IP this season, his first full-year as a pro, the former University of San Diego left-hander has a 3.41 ERA and 8.9 K/9 with Class-A Hagerstown and high-A Potomac.
27-year-old right-hander Rafael Martin signed with Washington as an international free agent in 2010 after three-years in the Mexican League. Working out of the bullpen with Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, Martin's (5-1) with 12 saves, a 1.51 ERA and 10.8 K/9 in 36 appearances and 41.2 IP. Pat Lehman, a 24-year-old '09 14th Round pick has pitched for Potomac and Harrisburg as well, walking just four batters, (0.8 BB/9) and striking out 41 (7.9 K/9) in 39 games and 46.2 IP.
Tom Milone, the Nats' 10th Round pick in 2008 and last year's Minor League Pitcher of the Year, has pitched at Triple-A Syracuse all season, and according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson's sources, the 24-year-old lefty will take over Jordan Zimmermann's spot in the starting rotation when Milone makes his MLB debut with the Nationals this Saturday against the New York Mets.
In 24 starts and 148.1 IP this season, Milone's (12-6) with a 3.22 ERA, 16 walks (1.0 BB/9) and 155 K's (9.4 K/9) for the Nats' Triple-A affiliate. Nats' Skipper Davey Johnson's been talking about getting a look at Milone and fellow Chiefs' starter Brad Peacock for over a month now and both are expected to be worked into the rotation as the season winds down in September.
Also joining the Nationals' rotation, barring any setbacks in his final rehab start this Thursday, will be '09 no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg, who is now tenatively (according to sources who warn that nothing's set in stone) scheduled to return to the rotation on Tuesday September 6th when the Dodgers visit the nation's capital. New starters Saturday and Tuesday and some new faces on the roster coming soon. The 2011 season's winding down...