The Topps Company, in conjunction with Minor League Baseball, named their 2009 Class A All-Stars today, and two Washington Nationals prospects were on the team.
Shortstop Danny Espinosa, who plays for Potomac of the Carolina League, was named to the team. From the press release:
Danny Espinosa (22), of Santa Ana, Calif., scored 90 runs for the Potomac Nationals, tops in the Carolina League. He also led league third baseman with a .965 fielding percentage. Espinosa ranked in the top five in the circuit in homers (18), walks (74), on-base percentage (.375) and extra base hits (53). The Washington Nationals tabbed him in the third round in 2008 out of Long Beach State (CA) University.
Derek Norris, catcher for Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League, was named as a designated hitter. His press bio:
Derek Norris (20), of Goddard, Kansas, finished among the top five in the South Atlantic League in homers (23), extra-base hits (53), RBI (84), runs (78) and slugging percentage (.513). The Hagerstown Suns catcher led the league with a .413 on-base percentage and 90 walks in being named the SAL’s Most Outstanding Major League Prospect. The Washington Nationals tabbed Norris out of high school in the fourth round in 2007.
Espinosa is fresh off his experience in the Arizona Fall League, where he acquitted himself quite well. Norris was supposed to play in Arizona as well, but broke the hamate bone in his hand and had to have surgery to remove it. He was thus forced to miss the top off-season prospect league, but is expected to be ready for spring training.
These two position players, along with 1B Chris Marrero and SS Ian Desmond, and pitchers Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen and Bradley Meyers, represent some of the best the Nats have to offer in the minor leagues. They give fans a glimpse into what could be a promising not-too-distant future.
And now that the organization has given general manager Mike Rizzo the tools he needs (scouts and numbers crunchers), there's reason to hope for the restoration of quality baseball in the nation's capital.
Let's hope that Rizzo doesn't get caught up worrying about 2010's record and ties the club up with lousy contracts to mediocre pitchers, all in the name of inching closer to .500.
The real promise lies with these minor leaguers, along with All-Star Ryan Zimmerman and a few other bits and pieces already at the major league level.
Rizzo is faced with some interesting challenges as well this season.
Is he a buyer or seller? If the team is faced with another 90 or 100 losses at mid-season, does he trade away 1B Adam Dunn and LF Josh Willingham, or does he give them extensions?
All interesting questions as the winter meetings approach.
One thing is for sure: there's talent coming. A little bit at a time, maybe, but it is coming.