With the Nationals’ minor league affiliates set to begin their seasons later this week, the rosters have mostly been finalized. Here’s a pretty comprehensive list of where most notable Nationals minor league players will start their seasons, starting with news about players still in extended spring for one reason or another.
>>> Robbie Ray and A.J. Cole, both drafted last year and given signing bonuses well above slot, were two of the most impressive pitchers in spring minor league camp. But both will begin the year in extended spring training in order to guard against several factors, primarily limiting their volume of innings thrown this year.
“We want to build a real good foundation for those guys,” Nationals director of player development Doug Harris said. “We want to make sure we put the blocks down before we put up the pictures or the chandelier. Both guys were fantastic. We’re really excited about them. I want to be excited about them in July and August of ‘11 and ‘13 and ‘15.”
Ray and Cole, both drafted out of high school, have only pitched a once-every-five-day cycle three times, and the Nationals want to monitor them in Florida as they adjust to the professional schedule. Also, Harris said, keeping them in Florida will protect their arms from cold weather.
>>> Sammy Solis, the left-handed starter the Nationals took in the second round last year and gave a $1 million signing bonus to, is rehabbing from a minor groin injury and will stay in Florida. Solis, who also pitched in the Arizona Fall League, is doing “great,” Harris said, and recently began a throwing progression. The Nationals have not finalized where Solis will start 2011, but Harris said Solis will “likely” start in Class A Potomac once he’s healthy.
>>> Side-winding reliever Atahualpa Severino spent most of last season in Class AAA Syracuse and pitched in major league, but shoulder fatigue kept him off the initial Syracuse roster and in Florida. The Nationals are monitoring him and believe it’s nothing more than a spring “dead arm” he experienced after pitching in winter ball. “We’re hoping he won’t be there too far behind,” Harris said.
>>> The Nationals signed reliever Rafael Martin, 26, out of the Mexican League last spring. His unique background created an odd adjustment for him this offseason – “it was the first time in his life he didn’t pitch,” Harris said. When he showed up this spring, his arm slot in his delivery had changed. There is nothing physically wrong with Martin, but the Nationals are keeping him in Florida so he can relearn that muscle memory, Harris said.
>>> Hagerstown has yet to release its opening day roster, but here are noteworthy names from Class A Potomac, Class AA Harrisburg and Class AAA Syracuse:
Closer Cole Kimball, first baseman Chris Marrero and starting pitcher Tom Milone are the only three players promoted from Class AA Harrisburg to Syracuse. The Nationals named Milone their 2010 pitcher of the year after he went 12-5 with a 2.85 ERA, 155 strikeouts and 23 walks in 158 innings pitched.
The Syracuse starting rotation will be, in some order, Ross Detwiler, Yunesky Maya, Garrett Mock, J.D. Martin and Milone.
The Nationals sent Luis Atilano, who made more major league starts for them last year than all but three pitchers, all the way to Class AA. Ryan Tatusko, one of the pitchers the Nationals received last year in the Cristian Guzman trade, and Erik Davis, the starter the Padres sent for Alberto Gonzalez, will also fit into the rotation. Brad Peacock, who struck out 148 batters in 142 innings last year before playing in the Arizona Fall League, will also start here.
Catcher Derek Norris, perhaps the Nationals top position player prospect after Bryce Harper, and first baseman Tyler Moore, the Nationals’ 2010 minor league player of the year, will play in Class AA for the first time. Infielder Stephen Lombardozzi, a Columbia, Md. native who played in the Arizona Fall League, returns to where he finished 2010.
Outfielders Destin Hood, Eury Perez and J.P. Ramirez will make the leap from Hagerstown. Perez is widely regarded as one of the Nationals 10 best overall prospects.
Shortstop Rick Hague, the Nationals’ third-round pick out of Rice last season, will also jump from Hagerstown. Cutter Dykstra, the second baseman the Nationals acquired from the Brewers in a trade for Nyjer Morgan, will start here.
Josh Smoker, one of the players the Nationals picked in 2007 with the compensatory picks provided by Alfonso Soriano’s departure, ended his season pitching well in Hagerstown after the Nationals converted him to relief. Danny Rosenbaum struck out 115 batters and walked 41 in 144 innings last year between Hagerstown and Potomac. He’ll start in Potomac.