Tonight, for the first time in his career, Colin Balester will start for the Nationals. Fans should be excited about this, he is the first real prospect to be called up from the system, for anything other than honorary end-of-the-year playing time (like Maxwell and Detwiler had last season). Of course, I’m not counting Flores, Milledge or Dukes, I’m talking about someone here who has grown up in this organization and has worked his way up.

Balester, 22 years old, has pitched well this season in AAA. His ERA is 4.00, nothing special, but he is 9-3. His K/BB ratio is good, about 2.8/1, and a K/9 over 7. Even nicer, over the last month, he’s 4-0 and he has an ERA under 3.00. Baseball America considers him the teams’ #3 prospect, and likes his fastball (topping out at 94 mph) as well as his curveball.

The most exciting part about this to me is that Balester is the first of this wave of pitching prospects to show up, allegedly for full time duty, to the big league club. His success would help usher in the this class of young pitchers that include Detwiler, Jake McGeary, Josh Smoker, Josh Zimmerman, and Colton Willems. For once, I think Jim Bowden puts it best, “We have no high expectations for the first month. But, we do have expectations that he’s going to develop and hopefully, by the end of the year, be a solid pitcher for us to go into 2009.”

Roger Bernadina

Or, Rogearvin, as his name is listed on the old birth certificate, has also made it up to the majors. He’s here to give Milledge a much needed break, er, DL stint, and will be playing CF quite a bit. So what to expect from him? Well, he is considered the best OF defender in the Nats’ farm system by Baseball America, and he can fly. He had 40 SBs in AA last year, and has 26 in AAA so far this season. What probably warranted his callup more than anything else this year was his bat. For the last 5 seasons in the minors he’s hit .270 or lower, usually lower, and while he can draw a walk, his SLG was a putrid .369 in 4 minor league assignments in his career. While it is a strange coincidence, it is also sad that this was the highest he ever slugged. Until this season. He is hitting .323/.393/.474 this year, which is bascially a different player than the guy who averaged .258/.344/.374 in his career. What jumps out to me is how high that batting average is – .323 is probably not sustainable. His ISO of .151 is respectable, so that even if he drops down to a .260 hitter, he’ll still slug over .400. I’m excited to see if any of these numbers translate to the majors, but if not, at least he’s fast and he can defend. You know, exactly like Willie Harris.

What ever happened to…

Wily Mo? Wasn’t this gonna be his breakthrough season? After his arrival last year, he killed the ball, he was unstoppable, he was a monster. This season, he was hurt, and now it just hurts to watch him hit. .211 is bad enough, but if he can’t hit with power, he’s worthless. All of his power came from HRs last year, he barely had any other extra base hits. And he’s not hitting any, so it aint pretty.

On Chief’s Departure

Cordero is out for the season, he’s not coming back for 12-18 months, and it just hits home what I said before. The time to trade him has passed. Now what will invariably end up happening is he will get healthy just in time to walk away, and the Nationals will get little value for him. There is nothing wrong with holding on to players that you think will make the team better, but closers are more common than people think, and someone like Cordero, who had some shakiness to many of his outings, has their biggest trade value not in velocity or strikeouts but saves. GMs still get fooled into thinking the save is more than it really is, and when someone gets as many as Coredero had, they can usually be turned around for valuable young players. Oh well.

By Charlie