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MARRERO ON TRACK FOR A 2011 DEBUT

[October 16th] --When the Washington Nationals selected Chris Marrero with the overall 15th pick in the 2006 amateur draft, the team hoped they were drafting a high school slugger who was polished enough to make it to the majors quickly, possibly by 2011.

Were they right? At this point, it sure seems like it.

The Nationals had closely followed Marrero in high school and were very impressed, but they weren’t sure he’d still be available when their turn came. As a junior, Marrero had batted .379-13-25 for Monsignor Pace High in Miami, and was considered one of the best rising seniors in the nation.

However, a hamstring injury suffered early in his senior year forced Marrero to open up his stance, and his production dropped significantly.

Now the Nationals weren’t sure he was a risk worth taking with their first round pick.

A pre-draft workout at RFK Stadium, however, allayed the team’s fears. Marrero was pain free and able to close his stance, and the ball began to rocket off his bat. He hit several balls over the fence that day, two into the upper deck.

The Nationals were sold and made Marrero their top pick of 2006.

He signed quickly, garnering a $1.6 million bonus and reported to the Nationals Gulf Coast League team as a starry eyed 17-year-old. He did well, hitting .309 in 89 at-bats. Marrero impressed the organization in 2007, batting a combined .275-23-88 for low-A Hagerstown and high-A Potomac.

Marrero returned to Potomac in 2008 and started slowly, but had his numbers up to .250-11-38 in 70 games before breaking his leg in a slide into home, ending his season.

Never an Adonis physically, Marrero spent that off-season running, lifting weights, but more importantly, avoiding fast food. Countless stories came out of Viera Florida this spring about Marrero’s chiseled features and a renewed desire to succeed.

Playing for Potomac for a third year, the now 20-year-old batted .287-16-65 before finishing the season with ‘AA’ Harrisburg where he held his own against pitchers three and four years his elder, hitting .267-1-11 in 75 at-bats.

Scouts project Marrero to be a power hitter capable of hitting 30 homers at the major league level, but as good as he is offensively, he has real problems in the field. A natural third baseman, he was shifted to the outfield because of Ryan Zimmerman, but was just too slow to catch balls hit into the gap.

He is now the team’s first baseman of-the-future, but he continues to have problems defensively. He committed 20 errors in 2009 and there is no sign that he’ll ever be anything more than adequate in the field.

Marrero is part of the Nationals’ Arizona Fall League team and in two games thus far is 3-7 with a double and a homerun against baseball’s top young pitchers.

Chris Marrero is just 20, he’s playing Double-A ball, he’s part of the elite Arizona Fall League, and he will likely be arriving at Triple-A Syracuse sometime late next season.

If he continues to perform like he has, he just might get his cup-of-coffee with the Nationals next September and then—who knows?—he could see some significant playing time in 2011 at the major league level.

Or, he might not. Not everyone is Ryan Zimmerman, who was mature enough—and good enough—to start in the majors at 21.

But whether or not he makes it in 2011 really isn’t important. The hope four years ago was that Marrero would be in the position to play with the big club in five years, and it looks like that’s exactly where he’s going to be.

My guess is that the Nationals—unwilling to put Marrero in a position to fail—will extend Adam Dunn’s contract, giving the kid from Miami a little more time to polish his game.

By 2012, the Nationals should be in a position to contend for a playoff spot, and Chris Marrero should be ready to help them get there.

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