Watson, Bray on Different Tracks

Watson, Bray on Different Tracks

The Nationals will have to decide about Brandon Watson in the coming months, but it appears that they already have decided about Bill Bray.

Brandon Watson went four for four and scored four runs in AAA New Orleans' 7-5 win over Oklahoma on Monday. Zephyr starter Roy Corcoran was shaky and New Orleans trailed the RedHawks 5-1 going into the bottom of the third. Joe Horgan relieved and held Oklahoma at bat while Watson and the rest of the offense rallied for the win. Horgan picked up the win and Bill Bray got the save.

Watson, 23, is now batting .367 with an OPS of .863. He was a ninth-round selection of the Expos in 1999, and he went straight to pro ball from high school. Since then, he has been working his way up through the system and he batted .319 in AA Harrisburg in 2003 and 2.93 in Edmonton, the Expos' AAA affiliate until this year. Still, you don't find him on any lists of the organization's top prospects, although such lists tend to lag behind actual performance.

The organization needs to make a decision on Watson in the coming months. He's not on the team's 40-man roster and since this will be his sixth year in the minors he may eligible for free agency after the season. They will have to decide if this season is a sign that he could help the big-league team or if he's one of those "4A" players who can star in the minors but can't cut it in the big leagues.

Bray, 22, who picked up his second save, seems to be on a fast track to the majors, although he would first have to be added to the 40-man roster. The team's first-round selection in the 2004 draft out of William and Mary, the lefty started the year on the injured list with a shoulder problem, and then was assigned to A Potomac. In mid-June he was called up to Harrisburg and spent just 10 days there before getting the call to New Orleans. Bray's ERA for the Zephyrs stands at a perfect 0.00, although the sample size is small as he has just five appearances and 4.2 innings of work.

He's been used mostly in what is now the majors' normal closer role, coming in to start the ninth inning when the team is ahead by a fairly close margin (three runs or fewer constitutes a save situation). Even though he's on the fast track, it's unlikely that he will be pitching in Washington this fall. If he can stay healthy, though, there could be a a young lefty-righty combination in the Nats' bullpen for years to come, with Bray and Chad Cordero nailing down wins for Washington.

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