The Washington Times - June 19, 2008, 10:15AM

By JAY LeBLANC
June 19, 2008

In the days leading up to the 2006 MLB draft, this much appeared certain: With 2005 first-rounder Ryan Zimmerman already holding his own in the big leagues, the Washington Nationals weren’t in the market for a third baseman and likely wouldn’t be for years to come. Nevertheless, they couldn’t talk themselves out of drafting a power-hitting high school third baseman from Miami named Chris Marrero with the 15th overall pick.

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Of course, Marrero wasn’t drafted for his glove, but for his bat. He was considered one of the top high school hitters available in the 2006 draft and might have gone much higher if not for a hamstring injury that negatively affected his play during his senior year. After agreeing a deal that included a $1.625 million signing bonus, Marrero reported to the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate, switched to the outfield and provided confirmation that he’d be able to hit pro pitching by batting .309 in 84 at-bats.

Marrero solidified his prospect status in his first full professional season in 2007. Splitting time between the Class A Hagerstown Suns and the advanced Class A Potomac Nationals, he hit .275 with 23 home runs and 88 RBI. In the offseason, he was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 1 prospect in the Nationals organization and the 27th best in all of baseball. Marrero is making the transition to first base this year, and after a slow April in which he hit just .200 with two home runs, he’s been swinging the bat much better over the past several weeks and is now at .250 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI on the year. I recently spoke with the Nats’ top prospect, who won’t even turn 20 until July 2:

Q: What were your thoughts when you first heard you’d been drafted by the Nationals? Did you know in advance that they were looking to take you?

A: I didn’t know the Nationals were going to take me. I was surprised that they took me, and the first thing they told me was that I was going to get a position change, so it was a little different for me, but I’m just happy that I’m with them right now and I hope to make it to the big leagues with them.

Q: You played third base in high school and began your pro career in the outfield. Now the Nats are switching you to first base. How is the transition going so far?

A: It’s been going alright, you know, I’m getting better as the games go by and all I can do right now is play a lot of games and just get better.

Q: Could you describe your approach at the plate? Do you come into an at-bat looking for a specific pitch, or do you just kind of react to what’s thrown?

A: I’m just trying to see the ball and hit it right now. Maybe later on, when I’m in the big leagues, I’ll have to start thinking more, but right now all I’m trying to do is just hit the ball hard.

Q: To what extent do you utilize videotape and scouting reports when you’re preparing to face a certain pitcher?

A: We don’t have that right now, but for just for videotape we look at our swings during the games and just try to correct our swings here and there. That’s all we use the videos for.

Q: Is there any player, past or present, that you try to model yourself after?

A: I like Alex Rodriguez.

Q: What do you like about A-Rod?

A: I like the way he carries himself and the way he plays the game.

Q: What are some aspects of your game that you’re trying to improve upon this season?

A: Just defensively and just mentally, realizing you’ve got 140 games to play and you’ve got to take it one game at a time.

Q: Nationals Park isn’t too far from Pfitzner Stadium. Do you ever make it up there to watch the big-league club?

A: Last year I went to a couple games but this year I haven’t been able to make it to any games, so hopefully on an off-day I’ll get to go to one of the games.

Q: When do you see yourself making your big-league debut? Do you have a specific goal in mind?

A: I don’t know when I’m going to make it - I just want to make it.

Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times and Mayor of the National Pastime web community. His Prospect Q&A column runs every Monday and Thursday throughout the season. He can be reached at jleblanc@washingtontimes.com.

Photo by Amanda Rice

Be sure to check out our previous National Pastime Prospect Q&A’s: Matt Wieters, Orioles; Ross Detwiler, Nationals; Adrian Alaniz, Nationals; Jake Arrieta, Orioles; Greg Golson, Phillies; John Shelby III, White Sox; Brandon Erbe, Orioles.