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Harper, Solis starting AFL title game

Nov 20, 2010, 4:50 PM EDT

If you need a break from college football this afternoon, MLB Network has the Arizona Fall League championship between the Scottsdale Scorpions and the Peoria Javelinas at 3 p.m. EST. And the game will feature the Nationals’ top two 2010 draft picks in key roles.

Bryce Harper is in Scottsdale’s starting lineup, batting seventh and playing right field. The 18-year-old No. 1 draft pick hit .343 with six extra-base hits in his nine AFL regular-season games.

And left-hander Sammy Solis, the Nats’ second-round pick out of the University of San Diego, gets the starting nod for the Scorpions. Solis has pitched in six AFL games (five of them starts) and has posted a 3.80 ERA. Like all pitchers in the AFL, he’ll be restricted to five innings today.

Not sure if any other Nationals prospects, including catcher Derek Norris, will be in the lineup. I’ll let you know if I find out.

UPDATE AT 2:37 P.M. — Turns out both Norris and shortstop Stephen Lombardozzi are in the lineup. Lombardozzi is leading off. Norris is batting fourth. So four of the 10 players starting for Scottsdale today (they use a DH) are Nationals prospects.

UPDATE AT 7:45 P.M. — Congrats to the Scorpions, 2010 AFL champs thanks to a 3-2 victory today over Peoria. Plenty of Nationals contributed in the clincher. Sammy Solis was credited with the win after allowing two unearned runs over four solid innings. Bryce Harper went 1-for-4 with an RBI, as did Stephen Lombardozzi. Derek Norris was 1-for-3 with a run scored. Michael Burgess came off the bench to pinch-hit and drew a walk. And Cole Kimball recorded the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

  1. Anonymous - Nov 20, 2010 at 7:15 PM

    Scottsdale lineup for AFL: Lombardozzi 6, Culberson 4, Belt 3, Norris 2, Krauss 7, Pacheco DH, Harper 9, Gillaspie 5, Blackmon 8; SP: SolisFOUR NATS prospects out of a possible NINE starting in the AFL playoff. I think this mean they aren't worth "just a bag of balls" any longer. I am certain one, Keith Law, will tend to agree … as will BA et al?

  2. Anonymous - Nov 20, 2010 at 8:36 PM

    Life is good Nat's fans!In the AFL playoff game Norris scores on his first at bat. Bryce Harper drives in a run on the first pitch. Lombardozzi wins the Stenson award. Life is good.

  3. JayB - Nov 20, 2010 at 8:57 PM

    Norris is really have trouble just catching pitches….3 by my count have gone right by him to the backstop……not even in the dirt….he is really slow about turning his glove and being ready to catch a pitch…..very strange that after 3 years in pro ball he still has such big flaws in his fundamentals…..Mark what are scouts saying about Norris's progress as a defensive catcher?

  4. Doc - Nov 21, 2010 at 2:48 AM

    If Norris were to be trying to catch knuckle balls, you could understand some of this problem. Yes it is strange. He does the hard part when he hits the ball, and he's doing a pretty good job of that.

  5. JayB - Nov 21, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. JayB - Nov 21, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    It was a good showing by the Nats system. There was a lot a top talent in that game.Norris is likely NOT going to make it as a catcher. Trade him now to get the most from him…he looks like he will be a DH after a short career as LFer….reminds me of Willingham in some many ways.Solis…very smooth…very calm…good control…he looked like a good day for Lannan with a better fast ball.Steve L…..he too is going to make a lot of errors at SS, just like Ian….I would trade him for pitching, or Ian….do not need both and Danny E is the best of the 3 of them and we need to keep him!Mike Burgess…..done…I has seen him a few times in Spring Training over the years and a few times now on TV this fall….Not enough contact and he is going to get eaten up by MLB Left Handed pitchers.Harper, he is not near ready, not news to anyone I know. Swings at every pitch…if they push him too fast he is going get to the MLB level with a strike out rate above .35%. He plays very hard. I like him…he is like a Pete Rose with much more talent. Great future but not until he learns to work the count, look for his pitch early and take ball four….that may take 3 to 4 years…still he would be 22….just more reason this team needs to be aggressive in the FA and Trade market…it is going to be a while before Harper makes an impact at in Nats Park.

  7. Jeeves - Nov 21, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    Mark, what other positions has Norris played, if any? What other positions might he be able to play adequately? I'd love to see him at first base if he could handle the position defensively.

  8. Anonymous - Nov 21, 2010 at 2:56 PM

    JayB said…This post has been removed by the author.Finally, "replacement blogger" JayB actually says something that makes sense.

  9. BinM - Nov 21, 2010 at 6:20 PM

    While I'd tend to agree with JayB regarding the future on Burgess (AAA at best), I beg to differ on both Lombardozzi & Norris. Norris probably has the best 'pure batting eye' in the current farm system; You don't just throw that kind of talent away haphazardly. Now, were the Nationals in the running for a real front-line MLB player or pitcher, I could see including him in a possible trade. Lombardozzi is ok at SS, but is best at 2B. If the Nationals (i.e. Rizzo) were really concerned about team defense, why not consider the following, if Spring training results look decent… Give Lombardozzi a spot on the 25-man at 2B; Move Espinosa back to SS, and shift Desmond to CF. The team gains the following benefits – Improved defense in two, if not three positions (Lombardozzi over Guzman/Kennedy at 2B, Espinosa over Desmond at SS, Desmond vs. Morgan = wash). They would also gain a vocal leader in the OF (Desmond), yet allow Morgan to contribute as a 4th OF off the bench (think Harris, with better speed, but no power). Given the current 40-man roster, the lineup would be skewed to the right-hand side of the plate, but could possibly look like: 1) Lombardozzi -2B(R)2) Desmond -CF(R) 3) Bernadina -RF(L) 4) Zimmerman -3B(R) 5) Willingham -LF(R) 6) Morse -1B(R) 7) Espinosa -SS(B) 8) Rodriguez/Ramos -CA(R) 9) Pitcher I'd still like to see another LH bat w/power in that lineup somewhere, but unless Rizzo makes a deal, it just isn't there right now.

  10. NatsJack in Florida - Nov 21, 2010 at 7:41 PM

    JayB… Lombardozzi is a switch hitter.

  11. NatBiscuit - Nov 21, 2010 at 8:11 PM

    Fascinating. Based on one televised game and armed with almost no other facts some are willing to end Norris' career at catcher, declare Burgess a failed prospect, and determine the time frame for development for Harper. I get it,we make our opinions known and talk it out in the blog. But logic tells me that this is not enough evidence to make any of those predictions. So hypocrite that I am, I predict Norris will indeed become a starting catcher in the Major Leagues, Burgess will not only play in the majors but produce at least one – and likely more – full seasons of 500 plus plate appearances, and Harper will play at least September games in 2011. Kimball and Carr (yes I know he didn't play in the game) will both play for the Nationals in 2011, and Lombardozzi will replace Gonzalez as the primary utility infielder by July 2011.

  12. JayB - Nov 21, 2010 at 8:25 PM

    NJack…you mean BinM I think….Anyway…I have watch enough baseball over the years to see a flawed catcher…after 3 years of pro baseball he should know how to set up and receive a pitch…he does not yet…….Burgess..like I said I have seen him in Potomac and in Spring Training several times….he does not have it…BinM….I like the idea of getting CF to replace Morgan. I think you could get more in trade of Ian D. as a SS then you get by moving him to CF…he is 25 years old and a move to CF would take more than a year or two to get him ready for MLB level of Defense needed.

  13. NatsJack in Florida - Nov 21, 2010 at 8:59 PM

    Sorry JayB… meant BinM… and I agree with you on Desmond. He should be the odd man out when things shake out later on.

  14. Roberto - Nov 21, 2010 at 11:27 PM

    Norris is easily the best offensive prospect in the system not named Bryce Harper. Now that he is recovering from his hamate injury a year ago, his bat is maybe a year from MLB ready. The problem is that the Nationals insist on trying to make him into a kind of poor man's Joe Mauer instead of being content with an upper-middle class one's version of Kevin Youkilis. Norris is athletic enough to be at least an average defensive first basemen and he has .900 OPS potential. Eventually, the Nats are going to figure this out — a healthy Norris' bat will make not promoting him idiotic, especially if Dunn, as expected, leaves.

  15. Anonymous - Nov 22, 2010 at 2:44 AM

    I want to chime in and agree with JayB and BinM. I agree with both of you on this point: Part of the solution for improving the Nats involves moving Desmond. Question is, where and how far? On balance, I think JayB's argument for a trade is sound. Could Desmond become a great SS? Maybe, but that isn't a sure thing. The timeline for making Desmond a good CF is unknown and thus problematic. This weekend (AFL ball) suggests we are making progress, however. If Norris could become average defensively, that would be great and create other trade possibilities (Ramos for instance). I wonder if we are a year away from replacing Dunn from within? If so, losing him will be less troubling than I thought at first. Sorry for any typos…fpcsteve

  16. Steve M. - Nov 22, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    I think any talk of moving Desmond's position in the field is premature at this point. Unless the Nats get Cliff Lee as a FA, 2011 unfortunately will be another transition year and the team can afford another season with Desmond at SS to see if he improves.Desmond still ranked ahead of Derek Jeter this past year in some fielding metrics and Jeter only had 6 errors and won the Gold Glove. My point is that Desmond wasn't great as Jeter was 3rd from the bottom but it could have been worse as errors aren't the #1 determining factor of fielding profiency.If Desmond does not improve in 2011 then you have to make a move to either 2nd base or the outfield.

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NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 91 64 --
ATLANTA 76 80 15.5
NEW YORK 76 80 15.5
MIAMI 74 81 17.0
PHILADELPHIA 71 85 20.5
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Monday's games

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W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON (4) 91 64 --
y-LOS ANGELES 89 67 2.5
y-ST. LOUIS 88 69 4.0
-------------------------
PITTSBURGH 85 71 +0.5
SAN FRANCISCO 84 71 --
MILWAUKEE 80 76 4.5
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