For seven Nationals players, the most important part of the offseason began yesterday in Arizona, where the Arizona Fall League got underway.
The elite prospect league is something of a baseball finishing school, where top players get to test themselves against high-end competition before making the final steps up the minor leagues.
The Nationals' prospects playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions team that Double-A Harrisburg manager Randy Knorr is managing got off to a solid start last night.
The Scorpions beat the Peoria Saguaros 4-3, with Nationals catcher Derek Norris doing most of the damage. Norris hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning, also drawing a pair of walks and scoring the team's first run after the first walk.
Norris, the Nationals' Minor League Player of the Year in 2009, struggled at the plate this year after wrist surgery, but director of player development Doug Harris said during the year that part of Norris' low average (.235 for the year) came from teams refusing to pitch to him. One of the Nationals' most patient prospects at the plate, Norris simply let them walk him, posting a .419 on-base percentage and walking only five fewer times than he struck out.
Brad Peacock also pitched two innings for Scottsdale, striking out four batters and allowing a hit, and outfielder Michael Burgess went 0-for-3 with a walk.