Today we conclude our mid-season look-in on Nats prospects in the baseball oasis that is the Arizona Fall League. Yesterday we dropped in on the 4 Nats pitchers participating in the league, today we will check in on the trio of Nats position players suiting up for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Derek Norris - Age 22 - Catcher - Selected by the Nats in the 4th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft
His 2011: Derek spent the entire year with the Senators, playing in 104 games, most of them behind the dish. While his batting average was a lowly .210 (hey Adam's Dunn and LaRoche are jealous of it) his OPS was a solid .813.
AFL Stats: He is really showing the Nats what he can be, an on-base machine with decent power. His .339/.443/.482 slash line is impressive, as are the 3 stolen bases and a 12 walks against only 11 Ks. The Nats must be loving what they are seeing, though they would probably like to see a bit more power, as Derek has only 4 XBH. Derek is in an interesting position within the Nats organization who are already set for the foreseeable future at catcher with Wilson Ramos. But the Nats aren't complaining. Good young catchers are valuable; he can remain at catcher in case Ramos gets injured or his production falls off, he can move to 1B or even a corner OF position, or he can be traded if Mike Rizzo is knocked over with an offer. At the end of the season I would have guessed he would be back at Harrisburg for 2012, but his strong AFL performance, coupled with a strong spring could land him in Syracuse.
Zach Walters - Age 22 - Infielder - Acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in return for Jason Marquis
His 2011: Zach split his time between South Bend and Potomac this year, putting up an impressive numbers. A slash line of .300/.367/.457 is great for a switch hitting middle infielder, but his 19 errors are not ideal, nor are 129 Ks in 477 ABs.
AFL Stats: Not good. In 61 ABs he has just 11 hits and 17 Ks. He has just 2 BBs and an OPS under .500. The Nats can't be happy about his offensive woes, but he is going against much more experienced minor-leaguers, many of whom are top prospects. He should break minor-league camp and head for Woodbridge, where I see him getting a whole season to play short and work on his hitting. There is no reason to rush his development at this point, with Ian Desmond still having a ton of potential and Danny Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi ready to take over if Desmond fails to realize that potential.
Bryce Harper - Age 19 - OF - Selected by the Nationals with the first overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft
His 2011: Surrounded by fanfare and hoards of scouts and reporters, Bryce started his year with low-A Hagerstown. It took him a few weeks to get his footing, but he eventually showed he was ahead of everyone else on the field, posting an OPS close to 1.000 and earning a late season promotion to Harrisburg. Again he struggled at first, but soon found his comfort zone and began to show he was equal to his Double-A competition. At age 18. Freak.
AFL Stats: Billed as one of the main attractions and in his second AFL season, Bryce has not disappointed, to the tune of a .314/.388/.643 slash line in 70 ABs, with only 12 Ks. What's more impressive is the talent level of the pitchers he is feasting on. It's one thing to beat up Sally League pitching, but hitting YouTube worthy HRs against the top pitching prospects in baseball is a sign that he is going to be a very special player. Harper will be in major league camp in Viera with a very outside chance of heading to DC with the big club. More likely he is back in Harrisburg, where he could conceivably stay all season. Mike Rizzo has a plan for Bryce and I doubt it involves seeing him in DC before September of this year.
Let's hand out some grades, because, well, we just can't help ourselves:
Pat Lehman - D
Rafael Martin - C
Matt Purke - D
Sammy Solis - B+ trending towards A
Derek Norris - A
Zach Walters - D-
Bryce Harper - B+
How would you grade them? How much do you think the AFL really impacts these players futures? Share with the group!