The Nationals first-round draft picks in recent years have been so publicized, so drenched in high expectations, that it’s easy to forget one of their first. But Saturday, when he joins the Nationals in Cincinnati to replace injured right-hander Ryan Mattheus on the roster, 2006 first-round pick Chris Marrero will get his first big league call-up.
Marrero, a first baseman, has hit .300 for Triple-A Syracuse this season and the gifted hitter the Nationals saw when they selected him 15th overall out of high school, will make good on some of that promise as he becomes, in essence, the first of the Nationals September call-ups and makes his major league debut at age 23.
“It’s great,” said shortstop Ian Desmond who knows Marrero well from their time together in the minor leagues. Desmond was drafted by the Expos out of high school as well, two years before Marrero.
“I personally know how hard he’s worked. I know how passionate he is about the game. I hope he takes full advantage of this opportunity because this is going to be his time. I really think they’re going to give him a chance to see what he can do. I think he’s not going to let them down.”
Needing to replace Mattheus, who went on the disabled list Friday with a right shoulder strain, the Nationals opted to beef up their bench rather than replace the arm in the bullpen. Marrero will certainly see time as a starter as well, shifting Michael Morse to left field, just as Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he would to prepare Morse for next year when Adam LaRoche returns healthy.
Marrero’s call-up means that all of the Nationals top draft picks since the franchise moved to Washington outside of Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon now will have played in the big leagues at some point. The only pick other than their two most recent not to play in a Nationals uniform was 2008 selection Aaron Crow, who didn’t sign, but is pitching in the major leagues with Kansas City.
It also marks the high point in a long, difficult road for Marrero that took him through two position changes (from third base to the outfield and, ultimately, to first base), a gruesome leg injury and saw him struggle to adjust defensively. His swing, however, remained constant and the hitter he was came out this year again in Triple-A with a .300 average, .375 on-base percentage and .449 slugging. Marrero hit 14 home runs and 30 doubles.