Top prospects aim for short stay in minors

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1. Bryce Harper, OF: There are not too many superlatives that haven’t been used to describe Harper. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, Harper became the Nationals‘ best prospect the minute the ink dried on his major league contract last August. Harper was very impressive this spring during his time in major league camp and is expected to start the season at Single-A Hagerstown. He could be in Washington as early as this fall, though it’s more likely he’ll hit the main stage sometime during the 2012 season.

2. Sammy Solis, RHP: The Nationals‘ second-round pick in the 2010 draft, Solis is very highly regarded within the organization for his ability to pitch to both sides of the plate with good movement and a good angle on his fastball. Solis, ranked the Nationals‘ No. 6 prospect by Baseball America, was drafted out of the University of San Diego and is more advanced than many of the Nationals‘ pitching prospects, so he’s expected to move through the system fairly quickly. Baseball America, for one, projects him to be in the Nationals‘ starting rotation by 2014, if not sooner.

3. Rick Hague, SS: Taken in the third round of the draft last year out of Rice University, Hague is an impressive hitter who has the potential to be the organizationwide batting champion when all is said and done. Drawing comparisons to Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young, Hague has played at elite levels with Rice and Team USA. While he figures to begin the year at Single-A, Hague centers the ball well and can propel the ball to all fields, so he could one of the most fun minor league players to watch this season.

4. A.J. Cole, RHP:Cole fell to the Nationals in the fourth round last year over concerns about signability - and impressed the Washington scouts enough that they offered him a well over-slot $2 million signing bonus. Cole, at 6-foot-4, 181 pounds, has a large, lean frame and is projected a front-end starter in the future. Just 19 and drafted out of high school, Cole will likely start the season at one of the organization’s Single-A levels while he adjusts to a life of baseball.

5. Robbie Ray, LHP: - Another over-slot signing, Ray, a 12th-round selection, agreed to a $799,000 signing bonus - the second-highest bonus handed out to any player drafted after the fourth round in 2010. It was thought that Ray had a strong commitment to the University of Arkansas, thus his drop in the draft, but the Nationals locked him up and are impressed by what they’ve seen so far. Ray has an incredibly fluid, easy delivery and, at 19, already possesses a strong fastball/curveball/change-up repertoire. Look for him to start the year at one of the Single-A levels.

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