>>> Left-handed pitcher Matt Purke, the other high Nationals draft pick with recent injury concerns, has been throwing without any out-of-the-ordinary restrictions. “He’s throwing the ball really well,” Harris said. The Nationals selected Purke with the 97th overall pick and signed him to a major league contract.
>>> Harris has been impressed with the overall ability level in Viera. “The talent from two years ago to now, it’s unbelievably different,” Harris said. “We’re much more physical, much more athletic.” In years past, the Nationals were thin at several affiliates. After the last few draft classes, “we’ve really got to have to be real creative in carving out opportunities for some of these guys.”
>>> When asked for standout performers early on at the Instructional League, Harris mentioned Class A Hagerstown outfielders Michael Taylor and Kevin Keyes. Taylor, 20, has the speed to play center field and this year hit .291/.351/.498 in the second half of the season. Keyes, 22, hit 17 home runs and slugged .510 this season in 304 at-bats. Keyes dropped about 15 pounds over the course of the season. Keyes, a seventh-round pick in 2010 out of Texas, has “probably made bigger strides than anybody in the organization from last year’s draft.”
>>> As the Nationals surged in the final three weeks of their season, the minor leaguers at the Instructional League would gather around a television set at nights and watch the games. They saw players like Brad Peacock and Steve Lombardozzi who had come through the system, whom they knew from spring training. “It made it real for a lot of players,” Harris said.