Carolina League Player of the Year Tyler Moore is likely to begin the season in Double-A Harrisburg after smashing several records for the Mills Cup champion Potomac Nationals last year, according to Washington Nationals director of player development Doug Harris.
"He had a phenomenal year, I have never seen anything like it in 22 years. He was hitting .199 at the halfway mark and ended up hitting .260 with 30-plus (homers) and 100-plus (RBIs)," Harris said. " It is really a credit to Tyler because he suffered through a really difficult first half."
Another offensive player the Nats are excited about is Chris Marrero, who was recently added to the 40-man roster. Marrero has been in the system a few years, but Harris likes what he sees in Marrero and the improvements he has made defensively at first base.
"I do see him making strides," Harris said. "Chris has been a talented offensive player. He has obvious power. What we do see in Chris is him taking ownership in his defense. That was part of his game that was lacking. I think he recognizes the deficiencies that he had and he is making a lot of progress in that area."
The catching position continues to be a point of strength with players like Wilson Ramos, Derek Norris and a healthy Jesus Flores backing up future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez. Harris said the 26-year old Flores is ready to go for spring training as he recovers from a shoulder injury that kept him out all of last season.
"He played winter ball," Harris said. "(Flores) had a nice season. He is out there every day playing. We are anxious to see where he is at in spring training."
The Nats have always said they need to build their minor leagues up with strong pitching, and two big draft picks from the early rounds continue to impress Harris.
Sammy Solis helped guide Scottsdale to the Arizona Fall League championship. Harris said the left-hander is right on track.
"Another great job by our scouts," Harris said. "Solis is a big, physical left-hander who can run the ball up to 94, 95 mph. He has a real good feel for his changeup, very aggressive kid. I think right now the biggest thing for Sammy is defining his breaking ball, which is something we will touch on in spring training. We have a hands-off policy in our minor leagues, so we don't tinker a lot with our first-year drafted players. This spring is when we will really get our arms around him and hopefully refine his stuff. He is a very advanced, young left-hander."
The other top pitching prospect acquired in the first-year player draft is Oviedo (Fla.) high school right-hander A.J. Cole. Harris said Cole shows impressive velocity and command at an early age.
"The sky is the limit for him," Harris said. "He is a puppy. Big, physical kid, when you look at him. He has great legs. When the upper body fills in to where the legs are he will be a real physical, dominant and aggressive kid. Quick arm, got a chance to have a well above average fast ball. Another great job by our scouts."
Overall, Harris sees flashes of light at different levels of the once-depleted Nationals system, and more and more of these prospects will be major league-ready sooner rather than later.
"I think in time we will see that," Harris said. "The bulk of our waves are at the A-ball level. We have a sprinkling of guys - Marrero, Derek Norris and Stephen Lombardozzi - to go along with really a lot more pitching depth. I think over the course of 2011, we will see more guys knocking on the door."