For Steve Lombardozzi, it was somewhat easy to be overlooked. In a system where former top picks Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg garnered a great amount of attention, the second baseman quietly plugged his way toward the big leagues. In 2011, Lombardozzi put himself squarely on the radar.
A model of consistency during his four years in the organization since being selected in the 19th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Lombardozzi -- a career .298 hitter in the Minors -- arrived by playing his way to the big leagues this past season. Though he hit .194 with one RBI in 13 games with the Nationals, his combined .309 average with eight home runs, 52 RBIs, 30 steals and a .790 OPS between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse in 2011 speak to his growth and the impact he is having in the organization.
"[Lombardozzi] did a great job at two levels -- extremely well prepared, very detailed in his work and preparation, both offensively and defensively," said Nats farm director Doug Harris. "[He's] not blessed with the biggest tools, but gets the most out of who he is."
The spotlight figures to shine only brighter on Lombardozzi due to a shakeup at the top of the organization following the acquisition of left-hander Gio Gonzalez, which sent highly touted prospects Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole and Derek Norris to the Athletics. While the trade and greater exposure alone won't provide Lombardozzi with a big league job, the organization's 2011 Minor League Player of the Year recipient is enthused about his progress and the opportunities ahead of him.
"When you get up there, it's a dream come true, but you want to stay there and never leave," Lombardozzi said. "It makes you that much more hungry to work hard in the offseason and set goals for yourself. I think as I've gotten older and played a few years, I think I've gotten smarter with how I work and how I prepare."
Lombardozzi's season and eventual promotion, combined with the value of prospects that landed Gonzalez and Harper's impressive first year, exemplify the increasing strength of the Nationals' system. While there is still work to be done, Harris took many positives away from 2011 on the farm.
"I was really excited about the year we put together," Harris said. "I felt there were a lot of individual strides as well as continuing to develop as an organization. I think it was a really good year."
Nationals' Top 10 Prospects
|1.||Bryce Harper, OF||Harper|
|2.||A.J. Cole, RHP||Solis|
|3.||Danny Espinosa, 2B||Taylor|
|4.||Wilson Ramos, C||Perez|
|5.||Derek Norris, C||Hood|
|6.||Sammy Solis, LHP||Steve Lombardozzi, INF|
|7.||Eury Perez, OF||Marrero|
|8.||Chris Marrero, 1B||Kimball|
|9.||Destin Hood, OF||Robbie Ray LHP|
|10.||Cole Kimball, RHP||Rick Hague, SS|
Top 10 review
Arguably the biggest headline of the Nats' Minor League season was the professional debut of Harper. The top pick of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft performed at a very high level with Hagerstown, hitting .318 with 14 home runs, 46 RBIs, 19 stolen bases and an .977 OPS in 72 games. That prompted the organization to challenge Harper by sending him to Double-A Harrisburg.
Harper's numbers weren't as strong in Harrisburg -- .256, three home runs, 12 RBIs, seven steals in 37 games -- but he was putting together quality at-bats and started to look locked in before injuring his hamstring. In addition to his work at the plate, Harper demonstrated stronger decision-making with his throwing, became a better baserunner and absorbed a lot about the game.
Destin Hood is another power-hitting outfielder who impressed at the Class A level in 2011. Hood, who will turn 22 shortly before Opening Day, hit .276, smacked 13 home runs (eight more than in 2010), drove in 83 runs and stole 21 bases. The second-round pick in 2008 is steadily rounding into form.
"Destin Hood was very consistent throughout the year, locked into his approach and doesn't stray from it," Harris said. "A lot of people question his power production. He's a guy who's so disciplined in his approach ... he's a very mature young man for his age. He's very focused by what he's trying to accomplish."
Organizational Players of the Year
MLB.com's preseason picks
Harper, OF: It would be hard to have asked for anything more, given the hype. Spending all year at age 18, Harper tore up the South Atlantic League and earned a double-jump to Double-A after 72 games. Even with slowing down, then being shut down with a hamstring injury in August, he still hit a combined .297/.392/.501 with 17 homers and 26 steals.
Sammy Solis, LHP: A full season split between Potomac and Harrisburg, with organizational titles in ERA and strikeouts, was the prediction. While he did earn a promotion, it was from Hagerstown to Potomac, and he got a late start to the year because of a groin injury. His overall year -- 8-3, 3.26 ERA in 17 starts -- was solid, but not Pitcher of the Year worthy.
MLB.com's postseason selections
Tyler Moore, 1B: In 2010, he surprised many by hitting 31 homers and slugging .551. He backed it up with a move to Double-A, hitting another 31 bombs and slugging .532. At 24, he's not the biggest-name prospect in the system, but it might be time to take his power seriously.
Peacock, RHP: He began the year in Double-A, moved up to Triple-A and ended the season in the big leagues. He won the organizational pitching Triple Crown with 15 wins, a 2.39 ERA and 177 strikeouts all while holding hitters to a miniscule .188 batting average.
Jon Star is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.