Class A Auburn, the Nationals’ rookie ball affiliate, owns what must be the most fascinating short-season roster in baseball. As its season opens tonight, Auburn’s roster features not only a smattering of notable prospects, but also the player once known as Smiley Gonzalez and Bryce Harper’s older brother.
Now known as Carlos Alvarez, the 26-year-old shortstop who faked his age (as four years younger than he claimed) and identity (as Esmailyn Gonzalez) before receiving a $1.4 million signing bonus in 2006 remains in the organization. He spent the first portion of the year at extended spring training.
Alvarez is listed as a designated hitter and, at 26, playing in a league populated by 20-year-olds and first-time professionals, he is not considered anything close to a prospect. Alvarez also played for Auburn last year, hitting .306/.394/.396 over 111 at-bats.
The Nationals drafted Bryan Harper, Bryce’s 22-year-old brother, last year in the 30th round out of South Carolina. A 6-foot-5 left-hander, he made two appearances last year for the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate. Harper will pitch as a reliever at Auburn.
The Nationals also sent many of their top choices this year to Auburn. Second baseman Tony Renda, the Nationals’ second-round pick, will be joined by outfielder Brandon Miller (fourth round), catcher Spencer Kieboom (fifth round), shortstop Stephen Perez (eighth round), right-hander Derek Self (ninth round), catcher Craig Manuel (10th round).
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