CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Nationals have a lot to look forward to

Nationals have a lot to look forward to

Numbers don't always tell the whole story. If they did, fans of the Nationals might not have much reason to feel optimistic, after their big league team suffered through its second consecutive 100-loss season (59-103).

The truth is, there is a lot for Nationals fans to be excited about right now.

Some of the reasons for that excitement are pretty obvious, most notably when it comes to a few new names added to the organization this summer: right-handers Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, who helped the Nationals make a little bit of First-Year Player Draft history as the first club to ever have two picks in the Top 10.

More

Both Strasburg, taken first overall out of San Diego State and viewed by many as the best pitching prospect ever available in the Draft, and Storen, a polished closer out of Stanford taken at No. 10, are on the fast track to the big leagues.


NL East
ATL | FLA | NYM | PHI | WAS

AL East
BAL | BOS | NYY | TB | TOR

NL Central
CHC | CIN | HOU | MIL | PIT | STL

AL Central
CHW | CLE | DET | KC | MIN

NL West
ARI | COL | LAD | SD | SF

AL West
LAA | OAK | SEA | TEX

But the "S&S boys" are not the only young arms making their way up to Our Nation's Capital.

"Without a doubt, our biggest strength right now is pitching," said Doug Harris, a former pitcher himself who joined the organization as its new director of player development in October after having been a pro scout with the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians for more than a decade. "Obviously we have the high-end guys with Strasburg and Storen leading the pack, but we have a lot of pitching prospects from top to bottom, a nice variety, from kids who are just beginning their careers to ones who are nearly finishing their Minor League days."

There is also palpable excitement and enthusiasm among the Nationals Minor Leaguers because they know this is a young team where there will be opportunity for any players who can put themselves on the radar.

And Harris, who comes in with good familiarity of the system having scouted the Nationals Minor League ranks in 2009 for the Indians, is a perfect example of one of the most notable and important changes in the organization.

Prior to the start of the season, then-GM Jim Bowden resigned and Assistant GM Mike Rizzo was given the "interim GM" designation. A long-time scouting stalwart in baseball, Rizzo was finally given the full-time GM title in late August, days after Strasburg signed.

In the past several weeks, he has begun rebuilding the front office from within, bringing in more than a dozen new faces, all of whom are well-respected and well-known player development and scouting veterans.

"There is such a buzz in baseball this fall with everything Mike Rizzo has done that makes us such a viable franchise going forward, and I am so honored to be a part of that," said Harris. "We know it's not going to happen overnight, but what a great group of people to work with."

The players themselves had already started making an impact on the big league roster, particularly on the mound, where rookie pitchers such as 2007 first-rounder Ross Detwiler (5.00 ERA but 2.41 in September), Craig Stammen (5.11), J.D. Martin (4.44) and Jordan Zimmermann (4.63, though he is currently out indefinitely following Tommy John surgery) all showed why they factor into the future for the team.

Some homegrown position players also laid late-season claims to some serious playing time in 2010, most notably middle infielder Ian Desmond and outfielder Justin Maxwell, a local favorite who grew up in Maryland and played his college ball for the Terps.

In the Draft, the Nationals didn't rest on their fast-track college pitching laurels after the first round either, further deepening their pool by choosing college pitchers with seven picks in the first 10 rounds and signing 14 of their first 15 picks.

As the big league team finished with a flourish, taking a seven-game winning streak into 2010, its Minor League counterparts finished over .500 for the second year in a row, going 380-278 (.501) including a rookie-level Gulf Coast League squad that went 36-19 and took home the league title.

ORGANIZATIONAL PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

MLB.com's Preseason Picks

Justin Maxwell, OF: We predicted that his athleticism and a fierce desire to make up for lost time from a wrist injury that wiped out most of his 2008 campaign would spell a big comeback for this triple threat. It took time to shake off the batting rust, though, as he hit just .242 at Triple-A Syracuse. He did, however, show his power and speed with 13 homers and an organization-best 35 steals, and his return to the big leagues in September may indicate that he's here for good, as he hit .247 with four homers, including a game-winning walk-off grand slam on Sept. 30 against the Mets, in 89 at-bats.

Ross Detwiler, LHP: We expected Detwiler, one of the gems of the system, to continue his development in the Minors, but we didn't foresee such a quick arrival to the Majors. The 2007 first-rounder went 1-6 with a 5.00 ERA in two stints in the Majors in 2009, losing his rookie eligibility, and sending a strong message for a 2010 rotation spot as he posted a 2.41 ERA in five September games, allowing one or no earned runs in three of his four starts then.

MLB.com's Postseason Selections

Derek Norris, C: In his first full season, the fourth-rounder from 2007 was named the South Atlantic League's Outstanding Prospect, as he hit .286 with 23 homers, 84 RBIs and 30 doubles at Class A Hagerstown, showing a live bat and power to all fields. He led the organization in home runs, walks (90), on-base average (.413) and slugging (.513) and continued to show improvement on the defensive side of his game. The 20-year-old had been headed for Arizona Fall League before suffering a fracture of his left hamate bone in instructional league, but he should be good to go this spring.

Bradley Meyers, LHP: The Loyola-Marymount product, a fifth-rounder in 2007, emerged from under the radar to lead all full-season Minor League starters with a 1.72 ERA, going 11-3 between Advanced Class A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. He allowed two or fewer earned runs in 20 of his 23 starts.

Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less
{}
{}