- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2006

One of the Washington Nationals’ selections in this month’s draft made a surprise visit to RFK Stadium yesterday.

Shortstop Stephen King, whom the Nationals selected in the third round (91st overall) out of Winter Park (Fla.) High School, hit in the batting cage before the game and introduced himself to club personnel. King, who is unsigned, took batting practice as manager Frank Robinson and hitting coach Mitchell Page watched.

When the 18-year-old emerged from the batting cage, Robinson was there to point out flaws in his swing.

“He was just telling me to stay down on the ball, not kind of get under it and loop through a little bit, and stay on top of everything and not lift the front shoulder,” King said.

King is one of six high school players the Nationals took with their first six picks. Though two first-round picks, third baseman Chris Marrero and right-hander Colton Willems, are considered the jewels of this draft, King helps bolster a position that is thin throughout the organization.

King has signed a letter of intent to play baseball at LSU but sounds like he’ll turn pro instead.

“I really want to play professional baseball. I’m sure we’ll work something out,” King said.

According to Baseball America, King entered the draft as the No. 42 prospect and was rated the third-best defensive player among high school players eligible for the draft. The right-handed hitter batted .355 with five home runs and 23 steals this season at Winter Park.

Two weeks ago, King attended a pre-draft workout at RFK with nine other high school prospects, including Marrero, second-round pick outfielder Stephen Englund, and third baseman Dustin Dickerson, a 15th-round selection.

During the season, King suffered a strained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and believes his knee injury caused him to fall out of the draft’s first round. His father and high school coach, Bob King, projected his son going in the draft’s supplemental round.

“The draft didn’t quite go the way we thought it would go,” he said. “There were some rumors that the Cubs were really considering him with the 13th pick. I thought he was going to Boston with the 44th pick. Then Boston called a little bit later than that. He didn’t want to talk to Boston, and then the Nationals called.”

King is one reason why the Nationals had the major leagues’ youngest average age of their draftees in rounds one through 10 at 19.1 years old. Pre-draft scouting reports labeled King with the potential to develop into a five-tool shortstop in the mold of Bobby Crosby or J.J. Hardy.

“I like what I saw with all the kids we had here for the workout before we went on the road the last time,” Robinson said. “They all showed great ability for high school kids. Things you see in high school kids now that you wouldn’t see 10 to 12 years ago is the way they handle themselves. What jumps out is how mature they are, and the fundamentals are very good and [King] just seemed to be what I call a natural around the other guys on the ballclub.”

Medical update

Second baseman Jose Vidro was in the lineup last night after leaving Tuesday’s game in the bottom of the sixth with a bruise on the right side of his chest after robbing Colorado Rockies second baseman Jamey Carroll of a hit with a diving catch on the grass in shallow center field. Meanwhile, first baseman/outfielder Daryle Ward was available to pinch hit last night after being sent home Tuesday night because of the flu. Ward did not get into the game.

Soriano nears milestone

Alfonso Soriano singled in the fourth inning last night and is just eight hits away from reaching 1,000 for his career. Soriano would become the second Nationals player to reach the milestone, following outfielder Jose Guillen last Sept. 9.

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

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