September and April are favorite baseball months for fans. April brings a new season with anticipation of a new team’s potential blossoming along with the cherry tree buds. In September, fans get a peek at next year’s rookies and enjoy the end of summer and beginning of fall weather. So, here are some of the new green shoots that the Nationals may give a big-league look at.
Pitchers, hopefully, will include Brad Peacock and Tom Milone. Peacock is a right-hander with a fastball hitting the upper 90s and nicely averaging three walks and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings this year in the minors for Harrisburg and Syracuse. Tom Milone has been similarly impressive, especially in his control statistics, averaging less than one walk and more than nine strikeouts per nine innings at Syracuse.
If these guys perform as well as envisioned, the National’s starting rotation next year could include some dynamic young talent. With established starters Steve Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman and John Lannan returning, and Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler and the ever-young Livan Hernandez added to the mix, this rotation may not challenge the Phillies starting pitching in salary but may give them a run for their money in the standings.
Chien-Ming Wang is a surgery-rehabilitated version of a September call-up, although he appeared this season on the baseball field a month or so early. Having won 19 games in both 2006 and 2007 for the NY Yankees, he had major shoulder surgery in 2009 which made his attempted return to stardom a long-shot, uphill battle. If he succeeds, it would be a huge payoff for the Nationals on the gutsy investment they made in his rehabilitation.
Steve Lombardozzi, a switch-hitting second-baseman, the son of a six-year major league infielder, plays the game with the hustle and game smarts expected of a baseball family upbringing. He hit over .300 with Harrisburg and Syracuse and is a base-stealing threat. Lombardozzi will put pressure on our very talented resident middle infielders, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. Since our current second-baseman, Espinosa, also spent his minor league career as a bazooka-armed shortstop, the competition for the two positions among the three acrobatic infielders will be fun to watch.
Chris Marrero is a power-hitting first-baseman, also hitting about .300 for Syracuse this season. He has been working hard at improving his defensive skills at first base, although that position seems to be well-occupied with Michael Morse, both offensively and defensively. Morse has proven to be an excellent defensive first-baseman and has been less impressive when playing the outfield, so Marrero’s value may prove to be as a part of a trade to strengthen the team at another position. However, if Morse can improve his outfield play with hard work, as he did his first-baseman skills, Marrero could prove an exciting option at first base.
And can you say Steven Strasburg and Bryce Harper? Strasburg worked hard during his year-long rehab not only getting his pitching arm ready but strengthening his legs and abdominal muscles. If he follows the path that Jordan Zimmerman just completed, having had the same surgery and rehab program a year earlier, Strasburg will tease us in September with his talent, but I can’t wait for next April.
A look at Harper would be this September’s cherry-on-our-sundae bonus. Harper has already been fun to watch, and his talent is obvious. He throws with power and hits with even more power. But his competitive attitude is also equally enthralling. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and brings an energy to the field that builds energy in the stands. The only little thing he needs to do, before is hit major league pitching. Time will tell and, as an 18-year-old, time is on his and on the Nationals side.
So, welcome new Nats.