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Nats prospects faring well in Fall League

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Nats prospects faring well in Fall League

While the Fall Classic got off to a rousing (and unexpected) start last night, the Fall League is kicking into high gear out in Arizona.

A "finishing school" of sorts, the AFL features upper-level prospects from every organization in baseball, dispersed among six teams for a six-week season. Stephen Strasburg participated in 2009. Bryce Harper was there in both 2010 and 2011.

The Nationals don't boast anyone quite as prominent as those two this fall, but there are several notable names currently playing for the Salt River Rafters. Let's run through everyone on the roster to date...

3B ANTHONY RENDON
The Nationals' first-round pick in 2011 (sixth overall), Rendon is off to a bit of a sluggish start. In nine games, he's hitting .212 (7-for-33) with two doubles, three RBI (all of them coming on Oct. 17), six walks and eight strikeouts. He has only one hit over his last 14 at-bats, but the Nationals are less concerned with the 22-year-old's numbers and more concerned that he get significant playing time after missing most of the regular season with a fractured ankle.

OF BRIAN GOODWIN
Another 2011 draft pick (compensation for losing Adam Dunn to the White Sox), Goodwin has hit well so far in his AFL debut. In nine games, he's batting .286 (10-for-35) with three homers, two doubles, three RBI, four walks and 12 strikeouts. He's already got four multi-hit games and is reaching base at a .359 clip.

1B MATT SKOLE
The Nationals' organizational player of the year after launching 27 homers in 101 games at low-Class A Hagerstown, Skole has picked up right where he left off at the end of the regular season. He's amassed a .387 batting average (12-for-31) in nine games with two homers, three doubles, seven RBI, seven walks and 11 strikeouts. A third baseman during the season, he's been playing first base with the Rafters (in part to keep the hot corner open for Rendon).

SS JASON MARTINSON
The 24-year-old shortstop is on the Taxi Squad (so he only plays Wednesdays and Saturdays), and he's struggled to produce in the limited opportunities he's received. In five games, Martinson is 1-for-18 with a double, three RBI, one walk and nine strikeouts.

RHP RYAN PERRY
After seeing time in the Nationals bullpen this year, Perry was sent to Class AA Harrisburg and converted into a starter. He dominated at that level but has yet to see that success translate to the AFL. The 25-year-old right-hander has made three starts, allowing seven runs and eight hits in nine total innings.

RHP COLE KIMBALL
Having missed the entire season while recovering from major shoulder surgery, Kimball is trying to rehab his way back to the big leagues this fall. The 27-year-old reliever has made four AFL appearances, two of them not so strong (including a three-walk debut on Oct. 12). Kimball has made two scoreless outings, though, including one in which he retired all four batters he faced (two via strikeout).

RHP PAUL DEMNY
The 23-year-old hurler didn't make much of a name for himself at Class AA Harrisburg (6-8, 5.46 ERA in 28 appearances) and he's already put a bunch of men on base in the AFL (15 in 7 2/3 innings, seven via walk).

RHP AARON BARRETT
A ninth-round pick in 2010, Barrett impressed as a late-inning reliever with low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac this year, and he's been lights-out against some very tough competition in Arizona this fall. In four scoreless innings so far, Barrett has five strikeouts without issuing a walk.

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What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

It was just a few weeks ago that Joe Ross' postseason availability was in question, and if he could return in time, whether he would pitch out of the Nationals' bullpen and or as a starter wasn't clear. Manager Dusty Baker wondered aloud if he would get his young right-hander back, even as Stephen Strasburg dealt with elbow injuries.

The progress Ross has made in a short period of time since is remarkable and after his 90-pitch outing on Thursday afternoon against the Diamondbacks, the 23-year-old looks and feels ready for the playoffs, and not just to pitch in relief, either.

"I'm hoping I get the opportunity to start, but that's up to them," Ross said. "But I'll take any opportunity I get to pitch and go out there and compete. I just want to help the team in any way I can."

Ross wasn't great on Thursday in his third start back from the disabled list. He only made it four innings, as his pitch count soared early. But in giving up just one run, he's now pitched 9 2/3 innings in three games back. During that stretch he's allowed three runs and struck out 14.

[RELATED: Wilson Ramos hopes to be back with Nationals]

It has been a process of baby steps for the Nats starter, a slow progression back from right shoulder inflammation, an injury rehab that featured a setback in late July. Now, though, he is essentially back to normal, just in time for the NL Division Series which begins next week.

"I feel good. I felt really good today. I felt really good last start. I guess it's just a point of executing pitches," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind really on whether I can go out and compete."

Baker mentioned that Ross could pitch in releif early in the NLDS against the Dodgers. That could keep him available for a start later on, if it's kept short like a normal bullpen session.

But one has to wonder if Ross has improved his case enough to pitch Game 3 of that series, given Gio Gonzalez' recent struggles. The lefty has allowed 19 earned runs in his last 23 innings going back five starts.

Regardless, Ross has certainly come a long way in just three MLB outings.

"He looks ready," second baseman Wilmer Difo said through an interpreter.

With all the negative injury news the Nationals have received in recent days, between Wilson Ramos' season-ending injury and Strasburg essentially ruled out for the NLDS, having Ross fully back in the mix is a nice change of fortune for the NL East champs.

[RELATED: Matt Belisle sounds like safe bet for Nats playoff roster]

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Wilson Ramos knows his knee injury could mean the end of Nationals' tenure

Wilson Ramos knows his knee injury could mean the end of Nationals' tenure

Wilson Ramos won't be on the field for the Washington Nationals when the team takes on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the N.L. Divisional Series next week.

The 2016 N.L. All-Star catcher will undergo surgery to repair the ACL he tore in his right knee on Monday night against the Diamondbacks

Ramos has been arguably the Nationals' most constant offensive threat this season, and had positioned himself as the team's backstop for the foreseeable future.

But the injury changed everything.

Not just because the surgery and rehab will stretch well into Spring Training, but because the 29-year-old Ramos will become a free agent at the end of the season. On top of that, a second ACL injury (He tore it in 2012 as well) means that taking the field everyday as a catcher may not be a viable option for him much longer.

"Unfortunately, this injury happened so close to the end and it may affect whether I’m able to stay with a National League team or not," Ramos told reporters prior to the Nationals' 5-3 win over the Diamondbacks on Thursday afternoon.

"But if it’s up to me, I definitely would like to keep playing for the Nationals and play as long as I can."

Ramos is a solid defensive catcher, but his biggest strength is at the plate. Being able to be a part of a lineup everyday is where he is most valuable, and that may mean playing in the American League, where he can serve as the designated hitter and fill in as catcher.

But this doesn't mean Ramos is done as a member of the Nationals, just that he's aware his time could be coming to an end.