The Offensive Prospects
Each just wanted to play baseball. Last year, both Chris Marrero and Destin Hood said this -- albeit in very different contexts. Marrero, Washington's 2006 first-round pick, missed the second half of last season with a fibula fracture, the first serious injury of his career. Hood, after being selected by the Nationals in the second round of the 2008 draft, still needed to pick between a pro baseball career and a college football scholarship before agreeing to terms.
So, as Marrero missed his time, as Hood weighed his options, they both said roughly the same thing.
Marrero told anybody who would listen that he just wanted to get back on the field, and promised he'd come to spring training this year in top fitness.
Hood, meantime, called University of Alabama coach Nick Saban -- who wanted Hood as a wide receiver -- and told him the decision. Baseball.
With Washington Nationals' camp now more than a week old, Marrero and Hood have reinforced their standing as the team's top offensive prospects in big league camp. Their experiences here are intended for different purposes: Marrero is supposed to make big strides; Hood is supposed to simply get his feet wet.
Said Marrero: "I feel good coming into the season now."
Said Hood: "I feel like I have a long way to go."
Still, both are here, and for that alone the Nationals are thankful. Judging both from rankings compiled by industry publications and from the opinions of those within the game, Washington's minor league system is rich with pitching talent and lacking elsewhere. That's why Hood and Marrero stand out, and why the team is so heavily invested in each player's progress.
Marrero, a first baseman, endured a disappointing 2008. He started the year in Class A Potomac; he also started ice cold. Month by month he improved, batting .200 in April, .262 in May, .294 in June, but then in mid-June, just as Marrero was heating up, he broke his fibula while sliding into home plate. He needed surgery. He left behind an uneven picture: Progress, but not enough, and in the scouting world that counts as regression. Baseball America, before the 2008 season, had rated Marrero as the team's top prospect. A year later, he fell to No. 3.
That's why the spring -- and the upcoming season -- is so critical for Marrero. During the offseason, while working out at home in Miami, Marrero lost 10 pounds. Manager Manny Acta noted this week that Marrero looks better than he's ever seen him before.
"He's in the best shape I've seen him in the three years I've seen him here, and he's swinging the bat real good," Acta said. "It's a totally different body from what we saw last year in Potomac."
If Marrero, 20, impresses, he could start the year in Class AA Harrisburg. With Hood, 18, the Nationals are taking a more patient approach. ("That kid is just here to soak information and knowledge and stuff like that," Acta said. "I'm not going to make any predictions.")
The decision to draft Hood last year indicated the organization's willingness to take a risk -- and then pay for it. Hood, an outfielder, only fell into the second round because teams were wary of his options; you don't want to waste a high draft pick on a football player. The Nationals opted for Hood with the 55th overall pick only after their scouts vetted Hood's desires. Though he had already signed a letter-of-intent with the Crimson Tide, Hood made it clear: He preferred baseball. But he also made it clear that he wanted a signing bonus comparable with a player chosen in the first round.
When Hood agreed to terms, he received a $1.1-million signing bonus.
"I told Saban," Hood recalled. "But he was actually one of the guys who helped me with my decision. He never put pressure on me. I like him for that, and he's a good person."
At least until February, Hood kept an eye on what he missed. Two of his high school friends from Mobile, Ala., ended up playing at Alabama. The Tide won their first 12 games, taking an undefeated record into December. Hood attended several of the home games.
But now, his only link to his second sport is his number, 81. During the last week, he has taken batting practice and shagged outfield flies with a group that includes Adam Dunn. Last month, Baseball America projected Hood as the team's seventh-best prospect.
"It's still kind of weird," Hood said, "to think that I was in high school last year."
Posted by: erocks33 | February 24, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Section506 | February 24, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: NatsNut | February 24, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dfh123 | February 24, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: fischy | February 24, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BinM | February 24, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rushfari | February 24, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cokedispatch | February 24, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BinM | February 24, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 24, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 24, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: PNatsFan | February 25, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: CALSGR8 | February 25, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.