Last night was a night for the prospects and prospect-lovers in Nats town. Stephen Strasburg had a great night in his return from injury slash 2011 debut. But there was much more to the night than that. The team was filled with youngsters, and had a conspicuous lack of older players. The average age of the team last night, including all the relievers, was barely over 26 years old. If you haven’t figured out that they are a team of the future, here’s some strong evidence.

11 of the 17 players last night were 26 or younger. That’s a young team right there. And, in this case, it’s a promising team. That should make you feel good. Now let’s take a look at how some of these youngsters did last night.

Stephen Strasburg

Of course, we should start with the man of the night, Strasburg. His line was great – 5 IP, 4 K, 0 BB, 2 H, 0 ER. After allowing a leadoff double, he retired the next 11 hitters. He was, in a word, great. But there is more to this. First of all, he looks fully recovered from the surgery, dialing up the high-90s fastball and hitting his spots like we were used to seeing in his 12 starts last year (can you believe it was that many?). More than that though, he looked like a different pitcher. He wasn’t throwing 98 on every fastball. It looked like he wasn’t TRYING to strike out everyone. It’s as if he realized he’s so good, that he can get people out without blowing it by them on every pitch. But still, when he needed to, he dialed it up. He struck out Aaron Miles, if I recall correctly, but throwing him some 96-ish fastballs, then with two strikes, punched it up to 99. That’s the kind of things that great pitchers do, not just great talents. He’s going to be remarkable to watch.

Chris Marrero

Alright, this wasn’t the debut of Chris Marrero, but the 23 year old first base prospect had a good game. He went 2 for 4 and had his first extra base hit in the majors, a double. He has now played 10 games in the major leagues, a mere 38 PAs, but in that time, he’s hitting .308/.342/.333. He looks comfortable at the plate, and hopefully that power establishes itself more very soon. Regardless of whether they are trying him out for next year, or showing him for a trade, he is comporting himself quite well.

Brad Peacock

What does Brad Peacock need to do to get a little love? First, in pregame talk, Davey Johnson said if the weather was bad enough to put doubts on how long Strasburg could pitch before a tarp came out, he’d start Peacock. As if Peacock wasn’t a hard throwing young prospect who had never pitched in the majors, but was an old crafty vet. Then, when Peacock does come in, it’s with two men on base versus Matt Kemp. I don’t have a problem with a potential future starter coming out of the bullpen, but starting him out from the stretch, against someone who may be the NL MVP, just seemed a little cruel. Peacock didn’t respond well, giving up a walk and three hits, allowing 3 runs to score before he got out of the inning with a double play. In the next inning, he did better, getting a weak groundout and a shallow OF popup, before allowing a seeing eye single at which point he was pulled. Frankly, I don’t know what to think about Peacock. He has a fastball, that’s for sure, but can he pitch in the majors? I have no idea at this point. I’d like to see him come in from the bullpen again, or to start, but not in a situation like that. I hope down the road he has some more opportunities without being set up for failure in such a way. Of course, if he had just mowed everyone down we’d just be talking about how great he looked. I am reserving judgement on him at this point.

Atahualpa Severino

Another young pitcher made his debut last night, this time the wonderfully named Atahualpa Severino. He and Tupac are the only people I can think of named after Incas, but that’s besides the point. Severino has been spectacular in the minors for the last few seasons, until 2011 when he was only decent and missed a good amount of time. Over his minor league career, though, he’s got a 2.93 ERA, and in 337 2/3 IP, he has 353 Ks and 146 BBs. While not a great ratio, with that many Ks, a few extra walks aren’t bad. He faced one batter last night, and, despite running the count full, struck him out.

Stephen Lombardozzi

One more debut last night was from 2B prospect Stephen Lombardozzi. Many see Lombardozzi as a replacement for Ian Desmond, shifting Danny Espinosa over to SS. Lombardozzi, in 4 seasons in the minors, has shown himself as a light hitting middle infielder who hits for average and gets on base with a good eye. And in his debut, he worked a walk in his only plate appearance. As for being a Desmond replacement, it is worth noting that Desmond has, since August 11, hit .317/.367./485 in 110 PAs. Take it back all the way to July 5, and he’s hitting .284/.340/.426 in 219 PAs, about 1/3 of a full season. Don’t write him off just yet. Meanwhile, Lombardozzi should get some time this month to show off what he can do.

A few debuts and a young lineup helped highlight the promising future for this team. This September should be fun to watch, but next year will be even better.

By Charlie