I had a conversation with a friend of mine last summer. Lets just say he’s a fan of a team that is located in the northeast part of the United States.
I asked him about a well-known minor league prospect who was coming up to the big club.
His reply was surprising for someone who has followed the team for so long.
“I don’t know who that guy is.”
Once I thought about it, I really didn’t know at the time who the Nationals top minor league prospects were either; although, I could be given a free pass possibly since the team’s minor league system was pretty bare for a while.
I’ve made it a point during the offseason to learn some of the guys. It will make me a better fan and follower of the Nationals. Here’s what I’ve learned in a brief time about one of the Nationals prospects.
Collin Balester, right-handed pitcher
Balester, a 6-foot-5, 190-pounder, was a fourth round selection in the 2004 draft.
He is expected to start the season with the same club he ended 2006-Class AA Harrisburg. Last season, Balester had a rough go of it in Class A Potomac with a 4-5 record and a 5.19 ERA. According to the Beltway Boys, he allowed 14 baserunners per nine innings and struck out six and “His worst outings were early on, however, and by the time Bob Boone watched him pitch, he was beginning to look like a prospect again.
Balester was promoted to Harrisburg and pitched very well. In three starts, he was 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA in 19 2/3 innings pitched striking out 10, walking six and allowed four earned runs. Balester went six or more innings in two of his three starts.
Baseball Prospectus says that Balester, who turns 21 in June, has “90-94 mph fastball has good movement and hard curveball can be a plus pitch at times.”
Baseball Prospectus adds that Balester has been working on a change-up but has been reluctant to use it in game situations yet. A successful third pitch would certainly help Balester in the long run (duh!). A great start in 2007 will not doubt have Balester in AAA Columbus quickly.