Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Photos from instructional league

Photo courtesy Bill Scheuerman
Bryce Harper has been very much at ease in his first days as a pro ballplayer.
Workouts for the Florida instructional league have been going on for five days now, with nearly four-dozen Nationals prospects and rehabbing veterans getting some extra work in Viera before heading home for the winter.

The most notable name down there, of course, is Bryce Harper, the top draft pick who is getting his first taste of life as a professional ballplayer after signing a five-year, $9.9 million contract seconds before last month's deadline. By all indications, Harper is blending in nicely, getting along with teammates and coaches, diligently running through all his drills and interacting plenty with fans. I've already heard from several people who have gone to the complex there to see Harper and wound up getting autographs and photos with the 17-year-old catcher-turned-outfielder. Everyone has emerged impressed with the way the kid conducts himself.

Harper may draw the most attention, but he's far from the only significant player in Viera right now. He's joined by several fellow 2010 draft picks, including left-handers Sammy Solis and Robbie Ray, right-hander A.J. Cole and infielder Rick Hague. He's also joined by a pair of big leaguers still slogging their way through a season's worth of rehab: Jesus Flores and Chien-Ming Wang.

Flores, still trying to recover from a major shoulder injury rooted in a foul tip that struck him in May 2009, never did get his arm strong enough to return to the majors this season. The one-time catcher of the Nationals' future, though, has apparently made enough progress to play in instructional league games once the schedule commences later this week. He'll be watched closely and obviously will be shut down at the first sign of pain, but it sounds like he is going to give it a go.

What should be clear is that the Nats aren't giving up on Flores, who will be eligible for arbitration this winter but probably won't earn more than $500,000 or $600,000 because of his lack of actual playing time. Will he ever make it all the way back? Who knows? But the Nats believe it's worth hanging onto a catcher who will turn 26 next month, just in case he does return healthy again.

Wang is a different story. The Nationals signed the veteran right-hander to a $2 million contract in February, projecting he would be ready to return from his own shoulder surgery in May or June. Obviously, that didn't happen. Like Flores, Wang won't appear in either a major-league or minor-league game in 2010. But also like Flores, he has apparently made enough strides lately that he's slated to pitch some in the instructional league. Wang's fastball is registering only in the mid-80s, I'm told, so clearly he's not 100 percent back. But the consensus seems to be that the velocity will continue to return over time.

It's tough to see the Nats waiting around for that to happen, though. Like Flores, Wang will be arbitration-eligible this winter. Unlike Flores, he'll stand to make at least $3.5 million through that process, which requires the Nats to offer at least 70 percent of Wang's $5 million salary in 2009. Can't imagine they'll commit that much, not unless they see some serious progress between now and the non-tender deadline in December.

For now, though, everyone's working out in Viera, as you can see from these photos. Reader Bill Scheuerman has been down there for several days and was kind enough to pass along these excellent photos. Enjoy!...

Photo courtesy Bill Scheuerman
Jesus Flores is still attempting to return from last year's shoulder injury.

Photo courtesy Bill Scheuerman
Chien-Ming Wang hopes to pitch in some instructional league games.

Photo courtesy Bill Scheuerman
Lefty Robbie Ray passed up a scholarship from Arkansas to sign with the Nats.

Photo courtesy Bill Scheuerman
Second-round pick Sammy Solis apparently has a knuckleball in his repertoire.


Anonymous said...

Wang. The best Nats pitcher ever. Never gave up a run. Goodbye Wang.

P. Cole said...

That's a big helmet for a big head.

natsfan1a said...

Thanks for the post and thanks to our fan on the ground for the pics.

Sunderland said...

Thanks for passing this along, and thanks to NatsJack and Bill Scheuerman for helping keep us all up to date.

Dave Nichols said...

thanks Bill Scheuerman. fan photo-journalism at its finest.

BinM said...

Mark: Why would Wang's 2011 Arbitration salary be based on his prior contract? He signed with the Nationals for $2M in 2010.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

The Nats have to stop chasing their Wang.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Bill Scheuerman: These photos are the best.

Mark: Do you think the Post, Times (well, when it HAD a sports section), Examiner, Express, et al, would like these photos for their coverage. Oh, wait a minute, there is no coverage. The state of sports journalism, 2010.

Of no relevance whatsoever: I went to renew my Wall Street Journal print subscription. I swear, I felt like a guy buying a buggy wagon in 1904.

Mark Zuckerman said...

BinM: Teams are required to offer at least 80 percent of the player's previous year's salary and 70 percent of their salary the year prior to that. So even though Wang made $2 million this year, the Nats are obligated to pay 70 percent of his 2009 salary of $5 million.

I never realized this until today, but I looked it up in the CBA and that's what it says.

BinM said...

Thanks for the explaination, Mark.

Anonymous said...

Finally, a post about something POSITIVE!!! Thanks, Mark. Go Nats! I know we are losing big time - but the rookies are exciting to watch. I am going to all of the rest of my games just to see Danny Espinosa play - he has outstanding range. Anybody have any info on another team that has this many rookies on the field at one time? They are going to be better for this experience like Desi was last year.

Section 222 said...

Mark, any sense whether Wang is grateful for the $2 million the Nats paid him this year to rehab his arm and would like to re-sign with us after he is non-tendered? Presumably after what happened this year, he's not going get a big offer from another team, nor can he really expect that the Nats would want to pay him $3.5 million for next year. Does he really want to uproot himself and deal with a whole new medical staff and front office as he continues to try to come back to the majors?

Anonymous said...

I agree wiith 222. After the Chad Cordero debacle, I would hope that the Front Office has vastly improved their communications skills and would have worked something out with Wang's agent to non-tender and substitute an incentive laden contract for 2011 with a low guaranteed salary.

Harper_ROY_2010 said...

Great photos Bill, thanks for sharing them with us Mark!

Anonymous said...

Great Shots, seems like Mark got on field access.
My friend Darryl says "I love Wang."

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mark and Bill for the photos! Am anxious to hear how today's game turned out. I know my son was limited to throwing only his fastball/change-up...I assume all the pitchers were.

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