While the Fall Classic got off to a rousing (and unexpected) start last night, the Fall League is kicking into high gear out in Arizona.
A "finishing school" of sorts, the AFL features upper-level prospects from every organization in baseball, dispersed among six teams for a six-week season. Stephen Strasburg participated in 2009. Bryce Harper was there in both 2010 and 2011.
The Nationals don't boast anyone quite as prominent as those two this fall, but there are several notable names currently playing for the Salt River Rafters. Let's run through everyone on the roster to date...
3B ANTHONY RENDON
The Nationals' first-round pick in 2011 (sixth overall), Rendon is off to a bit of a sluggish start. In nine games, he's hitting .212 (7-for-33) with two doubles, three RBI (all of them coming on Oct. 17), six walks and eight strikeouts. He has only one hit over his last 14 at-bats, but the Nationals are less concerned with the 22-year-old's numbers and more concerned that he get significant playing time after missing most of the regular season with a fractured ankle.
OF BRIAN GOODWIN
Another 2011 draft pick (compensation for losing Adam Dunn to the White Sox), Goodwin has hit well so far in his AFL debut. In nine games, he's batting .286 (10-for-35) with three homers, two doubles, three RBI, four walks and 12 strikeouts. He's already got four multi-hit games and is reaching base at a .359 clip.
1B MATT SKOLE
The Nationals' organizational player of the year after launching 27 homers in 101 games at low-Class A Hagerstown, Skole has picked up right where he left off at the end of the regular season. He's amassed a .387 batting average (12-for-31) in nine games with two homers, three doubles, seven RBI, seven walks and 11 strikeouts. A third baseman during the season, he's been playing first base with the Rafters (in part to keep the hot corner open for Rendon).
SS JASON MARTINSON
The 24-year-old shortstop is on the Taxi Squad (so he only plays Wednesdays and Saturdays), and he's struggled to produce in the limited opportunities he's received. In five games, Martinson is 1-for-18 with a double, three RBI, one walk and nine strikeouts.
RHP RYAN PERRY
After seeing time in the Nationals bullpen this year, Perry was sent to Class AA Harrisburg and converted into a starter. He dominated at that level but has yet to see that success translate to the AFL. The 25-year-old right-hander has made three starts, allowing seven runs and eight hits in nine total innings.
RHP COLE KIMBALL
Having missed the entire season while recovering from major shoulder surgery, Kimball is trying to rehab his way back to the big leagues this fall. The 27-year-old reliever has made four AFL appearances, two of them not so strong (including a three-walk debut on Oct. 12). Kimball has made two scoreless outings, though, including one in which he retired all four batters he faced (two via strikeout).
RHP PAUL DEMNY
The 23-year-old hurler didn't make much of a name for himself at Class AA Harrisburg (6-8, 5.46 ERA in 28 appearances) and he's already put a bunch of men on base in the AFL (15 in 7 2/3 innings, seven via walk).
RHP AARON BARRETT
A ninth-round pick in 2010, Barrett impressed as a late-inning reliever with low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac this year, and he's been lights-out against some very tough competition in Arizona this fall. In four scoreless innings so far, Barrett has five strikeouts without issuing a walk.