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End of April 2024 Check-in On the Rotations

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Parker is the minor league success story so far in 2024. Photo via WP

Hello all. One of the recurring posts I did last year that I really enjoy doing (as long as I can find time to do it) is a monthly look at the state of the rotations of our entire system. Here we are one month in and a few turns through the rotations at all levels, and here’s the first of what hopefully is a season full of rotation (and pitching staff) recaps for the Nats big club and its farm teams.

Each team will have the same items: current rotation, changes in the last month, observations, next guy to get promoted (if its in the minors), next guy to get cut, and then a few comments about relievers.

Important links for this analysis:


We’ll start with the Majors.

Rotation as of 4/30/24: Irvin, Gore, Williams, Parker, Corbin

Changes since opening day: Grey on DL, replaced by Parker

Rotation Observations: Opening day starter Josiah Grey had two ineffective starts (8.1 IP and 13 runs allowed) before heading to the DL with a scary sounding “Flexor Strain” elbow issue that often is followed up by the dreaded Tommy John surgery. Adon got a spot start earlier in the month, but the timing of Grey’s injury with Adon’s workload meant that the team gave Mitchell Parker the call up, and boy has he delivered. In three starts he got wins over basically the two best teams over the last decade or so, has kept the ball in park, and has kept his walks down. Basically everything he didn’t really do in the minors. Crazy. Meanwhile, Trevor Williams has gone from 5th starter competition in spring training to basically our most competent starter: 5 starts, 2.70 ERA, and a FIP that matches his ERA. Gore has also looked solid, with peripherals better than his actual stats albeit with a few more baserunners per inning. Meanwhile, Corbin has done what we though he was going to do (6.82 ERA), as has Irvin (95 ERA+, basically a 4th or 5th starter performance). Irvin’s FIP is lower than his ERA, indicating that he’s been a little unlucky, especially when looking at his WHIP (1.18) and his BABIP (.303; not egregious but a little elevated).

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Corbin. it’s unclear how long Grey will be out, but he’s already doing 120 feet of throwing and may be doing bullpen sessions soon. That sounds to me like end of May return, which may (finally) spell doom for Corbin here. The only other possibility would be to send Irvin down, but that’d be really difficult to defend if Corbin has an ERA approaching 7.00.

Bullpen comments: the pen has generally been great. They blew Corbin’s great start last week, but overall has been solid. Tanner Rainey may be in trouble and is basically at the top of my “next guy to get cut” list right now. Same with Weems, who just is putting too many runners on base. Lastly MLFA Matt Barnes may also have a short leash, with middling numbers and no organizational history. Problem is, who replaces them? When we get to AAA, there’s not a ton of obvious candidates to come up b/c our 10 day DL is pretty full and the candidates aren’t exactly lighting it up down there.


AAA Rochester

Rotation as of 4/30/24: Adon, Rutledge, Watkins, Herz, Ward

Changes since opening day: Parker promoted up, replaced by MLFA long reliever/innings eater Watkins (Gsellman also got a couple of spot starts in April)

Rotation Observations: Herz has looked good, which is super promising for a team that’s lacking reliable starter prospects. Parker’s promotion over Adon and Rutledge, both of whom had MLB time last year, can be pretty easily explained by their performance so far in 2024: Terrible. Adon, with the benefit of a 4th option, has an ERA in the 8s and a whip in the 2s. He’s taken a step back from his 2022/2023 AAA numbers, and I don’t think he’s coming back anytime soon. Meanwhile, Rutledge has also taken a step back so far in 2024, averaging both a walk and a hit per inning while seeing his ERA bloat up to near 9.00. Ward has struggled in his conversion back to starter from sitting in the Nats pen all last year, and it makes me wonder if the team has him in the right role. I mean, he’s now 27, he’s in AAA trying to get stretched out, he wasn’t great in the pen last year … is he salvageable? Do you abandon his rotation presence and try to get him back as a useful middle reliever?

Both Watkins and Gsellman are what they are: 30yr old MLFA veteran arms who are hanging out to try to get another shot at the bigs, but who probably just sit in AAA all year and soak up innings while waiting for prospects to arrive.

Next guy to get Promoted: Herz. On the 40-man, easy promotion to cover for the next rotation injury.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Adon. he’s eating up a 40-man spot, is now, what, 9th or 10th on the starter pecking order, he’s on his last option, and he’s not getting better. He’ll pass through waivers easily and get outrighted, so don’t be surprised if the next roster move is him. The rest of the starters in AAA aren’t really options to “demote” in that they either make it at AAA or they’re out of the rotation/gone.

Bullpen comments: Willingham (on the 40-man) has been good and may be a decent replacement for one of the faltering MLB relievers. La Sorsa (also on the 40-man) has not been good and is probably near the top of the DFA list. Rico Garcia has been AAA’s “closer” and looks decent. Adonis Medina has looked solid as the 8th inning guy. TJ Zeuch? not so much. 5ip, 14runs on 15 hits. ugh.


AA Harrisburg

Rotation as of 4/30/24: Luckham, Cuevas, Alvarez, Henry, Lord

Changes since opening day: Lord promoted up from High-A for Knowles, who I had in the opening day rotation but, based on his usage pattern from years past, probably was always going back to his LR/SS role.

Rotation Observations: All five starters have been generally good for the first month. 2023 Minor League POTY Alvarez has picked back up where he left off, albeit with some luck (he’s walked 12 guys in 18 innings). Cuevas has looked solid, which is great news in that he’s the youngest guy in the rotation at 22 and has already passed through rule-5 once. Lord’s got a 19/4 K/BB in 13 innings but is also giving up a ton of hits. Luckham’s not getting the K’s he needs and is getting by on a low BAA. Lastly there’s the “most important” arm in AA: Cole Henry. 4 starts, just 10 IP (that’s really cautious). 11/7 K/BB, but its only 10 innings, so its really SSS. I’d like to see Henry actually pitch a full game, or at least qualify for the win.

Saenz remains on the DL; he’d probably be in the rotation if he was healthy and I remain hopeful he can continue on his progress made last year.

Next guy to get Promoted: If they had to move up a starter .. i’d move up Henry. Maybe not on merit, but on talent/challenge level. None of the other starters are really making an obvious dominant statement to move up so far.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Likewise, there’s no starter who’s really needing replacement. Lord is showing himself to be rather hittable (.316 BAA) but he’s also getting a ton of K’s. This to me perhaps says “reliever.” He’s also the only starter who didn’t start the year in AA, so it wouldn’t be a shock if he got dumped back to High-A.

Bullpen comments: Tyler Schoff continues to quietly work his way up the system; he’s yet to give up a run in 8 appearances/11 IP. Closer Nash Walters is probably too old for the level, but has also yet to give up a run in 2024. Knowles has been solid as usual in his swingman role. Orlando Ribalta is a fan favorite and continues to succeed. The only bullpen arm really struggling is Holden Powell, a college closer who’s never really impressed since his 2020 Covid year drafting. We have two relatively “important arms” on the 60-day DL; Zach Brzycky had TJ mid last year and may miss most of 2024, and 2018 3rd rounder Reid Schaller (who was effective in the AA bullpen last year) is on the “full season DL” already, which may spell trouble for him b/c he’s now 27 and probably becomes a 6yr MLFA at the end of the season.


High-A Wilmington

Rotation as of 4/30/24: Lara, Caceres, Young, Cornelio, Theophile

Changes since opening day: Lord got one start then got promoted up, replaced by Caceres.

Rotation Observations: Lara, Theophile, and Young have all been fantastic four turns through the rotation, each sporting an ERA in the 1s or 2s. Lara’s got the “worst” ERA of these three but a fantastic 37/8 K/BB ratio in his 23.2 IPs as a 21yr old. After watching Lara get socially promoted and constantly be the youngest guy at the level, he’s finally getting a chance to repeat a level and so far looks great.

Caceres and Cornelio? We’ll that’s another story. Caceres is the oldest guy in the rotation and has easily the worst numbers so far; 5.17 ERA, 8/10 K/BB in 15 innings. Cornelio’s ERA is in the 6s and he has 1-1 K-BB ratio and continues to show similar production to what he had last year. His time in the rotation may be nearing an end; i was surprised he made the rotation/got promoted from his stats from last year (a 4.68 ERA and 1.70 whip in low-A) and he’s not changing many minds.

Two important starters are on the DL here: Jake Bennett and Seth Shuman. Bennett is a 2nd rounder who had TJ last September, while Shuman continues to be unlucky health wise; he missed all of 2023 and now is on the 60-day DL to start 2024; he’s got solid career minor league numbers but can’t stay healthy.

Next guy to get Promoted: Probably Lara, even though he’s the youngest. He’s repeating High-A and has a live arm, and a 14 K/9 rate can’t stay in the rotation for much longer.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Caceres; he’s just not getting enough Ks.

Bullpen comments: Their closer Todd Peterson is 6-for-6 in SVO without giving up a run. Marquis Grissom Jr. has been equally as impressive: 17/3 K/BB in 11IP. Arias, Zinn, Collins also pitching well for a solid-looking pen. I could see some promotions here soon, especially the 26-yr old Peterson, who’s way too old for High-A. Evan Lee got shredded for 9R and was released. 27-yr old 2022 Cuban IFA Danniel Diaz is struggling and may not be long for the organization. Same with his 24yr old 2022 fellow Cuban signee Marlon Perez, who has an ERA north of 9.


Low-A/Fredericksburg

Rotation as of 4/30/24: Sthele, Sanchez, Atencio, Susana, Davis (with Sykora getting his debut on 5/1)

Changes since opening day: Sullivan out, replaced by LR/SS Atencio, with spot starts from Agostini & Polanco

Rotation Observations: So, following the Low-A rotation has been a little hectic so far in 2024. It has seen a ton of churn. Every turn through so far, we’ve replaced names in the rotation with LR/SS guys. I almost wonder if they’re doing a true 6-man rotation to cover the 6-game series the team is playing. The stalwarts though are Susana, Davis, Sanchez, and Sthele, and none of them are really pitching well. Susana continues to get lots of Ks, and give up lots of runs. Our big-armed prospect has 17/4 K/BB in 12 innings, but also has a .308 BAA and a 6.57 ERA. He’s not going anywhere of course, but it’s been a while since he put together a stretch that validated his prospect status. Davis & Sanchez have middling numbers, but decent BAAs that make me think they’ve been a little unlucky. Sthele has not looked good, striking out just 6 guys in 18 innings and four starts.

All three of the guys who i’ve got listed as “LR/Spot Starters” have better numbers than basically anyone in the rotation, and it may be just a matter of time before the likes of Tepper, Atencio, and Polanco get longer stretches in the rotation. Tepper (a 15th rounder last year) has been lights out: 20/8 K/BB in 14 long relief innings), while both Atencio and Polanco have gotten spot starts already, and i’m kind of surprised they’re not in the rotation more full time at the expense of some of these guys. Atencio in particular has 21 Ks and zero walks in 18 innings; he’s yet to walk a guy.

Two guys who were briefly in the rotation (Sullivan and Agostini) both went straight to the full-season DL. Agostini after one god-awful start, Sullivan after two solid starts. Agostini is only 19 and showed a bit of promise last year, so that’s a loss for sure. The 60-day DL already had two other guys who we would have expected to see in this year’s rotation in Tolman and Aldonis, and there’s two other starters on the 7-day right now (Amoral and Aldo Ramirez, who just can’t catch a break). That’s a lot of starters on the DL in Low-A.

Next guy to get Promoted: none of the starters are pushing for promotion; if I had to i’d move up Atencio for reasons already stated.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Sthele or Davis. Sthele has worse performance but Davis is 24 and struggling in Low-A. That’s not boding well for Davis’ future.

Bullpen comments: Thomas Schultz has been solid as the closer. Moises Diaz has yet to really get touched in 8 relief innings. Bubba Hall has been crushing it as a 24yr old and probably needs a promotion.

There’s 12 arms on the Low-A DL right now, which is crazy. That’s an entire pitching staff. I wonder how many of those arms aren’t really “that” hurt and this is just the side effect we see of losing Short-A team. There’s not a ton of players at FCL/XST right now, so you can see what the team is preparing to do in the 2024 draft; stock XST with pitchers most likely.


Phew. There’s your April 2024 look at the pitching staffs.

Written by Todd Boss

May 1st, 2024 at 12:24 pm

First Look – Mitchell Parker

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Mitchell Parker made his MLB debut in rather daunting conditions and came out with the win. Photo via Washington Post

Nats prospect Mitchell Parker got the call to come up and replace starts for the injured Josiah Grey, ahead of Joan Adon and Jackson Rutledge, who are both higher on the pecking order but each of whom had issues preventing them from getting the call. Adon hasn’t been back down long enough since his 4/10/24 option (though I think an option can be cancelled with no notice in case of an injury), and Rutledge took a come-backer off the ankle, leaving him a bit day-to-day. So Parker gets the call.

And, well, he delivered. Here’s the box score. 5ip, 4hits, 2ER, 4Ks, and zero walks. 81 pitches to complete five innings, and he got yanked instead of facing 2-3-4 in the bottom of the 6th.

Ok, first the good: to this observer, he looked composed and strong. He’s a big guy; this isn’t the kind of guy who depends on whippy arm action and who you look at his mechanics and say, “yup, TJ coming.” His mechanics are like a combination of Clayton Kershaw at the beginning and Andy Pettite as he delivers (look at the above picture and tell me you don’t see Pettite). He struck out Mookie Betts twice (!). He struck out Shoehi Ohtani (!!). He kept the ball in the ballpark against one of the best lineups in the game, and he didn’t walk anyone. The big knock on Parker is his BB/9, and to not walk anyone in a MLB game where he could have been trying to pitch around guys is solid.

A quick glance at his Pitch F/X data shows some interesting information:

  • Pitch FX didn’t give him credit for a “fastball” all night, which seems odd b/c he definitely threw a bunch. Therefore we don’t have any velocity metrics other than my memory. I saw FBs in the 92-93 range mostly, Maybe saw a 95 peak at one point, could be wrong. That’s not bad.
  • Pitch FX has him with this breakdown of pitches on the night: 64% slider, 2.7% cutter, 21.6% curveball, and 10.8% split finger. Now, does he have a “slider?” I didn’t think so; i think he has a curve. The slider and curve average velocities in fangraphs are 79.8 and 78.6 respectively, so yeah that’s not a slider.
  • His curve looked great. Obviously; its his best pitch. The split finger had some serious movement and was described as an “out pitch” … yeah, it looked unhittable, and uncatchable.

Now for the concerning: He gave up a lot of hard contact. The Dodgers didn’t have a “soft contact” ball all night (the Nats had 28% “soft contact” by way of comparison). A lot of Parker’s outs were “line drive to LF” and “Deep fly ball caught on warning track.” So, he might have been a little lucky to not have more crooked numbers on the board.

I also feel like he had a hard time controlling the fastball in the zone (that’s the “command” portion of command and control). 81 pitches broke down to 52 strikes, 29 balls. That’s not an awful ratio, but it also was a lot of pitches to get through innings. 81 pitches through five. I mean, yes that’s a lot. I’m not sure how many pitches he had by inning, but he probably would have needed another 20 to get through the 6th, given that he was facing the heart of the order. I think we’d like to see more efficiency there; I’d like to see a starter be in the 100 range by the end of the 7th so that they could push through to a theoretical 120 pitch limit if need be to finish 8 full, then hand off to a closer. Of course, the modern game now depends so heavily on relievers that if I can get a quality start out of a guy i’m ecstatic.

All in all, a very positive debut for the guy. Can he stick around? can he give us better innings that someone like Williams or Corbin? Maybe. Lets see how it goes for the next couple cycles of the rotation.

Written by Todd Boss

April 16th, 2024 at 10:17 am

Posted in Majors Pitching

Opening Day Starting Pitchers Trivia for 2024

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Grey gets the opening day nod for the Nats in 2024. Photo via WP

I have somewhat of an obsession with Opening Day Starters, and have tracked them on a spreadsheet for, well, for a long time. 20 plus years. I also love Opening Day Starter Trivia, which we’ll cover here in a moment.

Now that the 2024 Opening Day is past us, and I’ve updated the XLS for this year’s starters and done some housecleaning of now-retired starters, here’s some useless Opening day starter trivia for you.

My Opening Day Starter XLS is uploaded here to Google Sheets. It is also worth noting that Baseball Reference of course maintains similar information. Here for example is the canonical opening day list of lineups (pitchers and players) for the Washington Nationals franchise. And here’s the list of all 30 teams’ opening day lineups for the 2024 season, with similar data for all past seasons). I can’t quite find a similar resource to just the starters across all 30 teams, but I’m sure it’s there somewhere.

Ok, that being said, here’s some useless trivia related to Opening Day Starters:

  • First time Opening Day Starters for 2024: 14 of the 30, including our own Josiah Grey who takes over for Corbin, who had done the past couple. This number is down from last year’s 9 first timers, which was the lowest I had on record going back a decade. This number was artificially inflated a bit over what was expected due to spring training injuries to presumed opening day starters for teams like Aaron Nola, Gerrit Cole, and Sandy Alcantara.
  • Current active Leader of Opening Day Starts: Justin Verlander, with 12. He did 9 in Detroit, then another 3 in Houston. Others in the conversation are Kershaw (9), Scherzer (7), Julio Teheran (6), and Nola with 6 (see next)
  • Current Active Consecutive streak: Bieber in Cleveland with 5 consecutive opening day starts. Nola was the previous holder at 6 straight.
  • Current Leader of Consecutive Opening Day Starts: both Verlander and Kershaw at one point made 7 straight opening day starts for their teams, and are the current leaders in that category.

Historical records:

  • Most Opening Day Starts in History: Tom Seaver (16).  Tied for 2nd place with 14 is Jack Morris, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Walter Johnson
  • Most Consecutive Opening Day Starts in History Jack Morris; all 14 of his starts were in a row, Mr. Durability.

Lastly, here’s some interesting team observations

  • Washington went a decade with just two different pitchers (Scherzer or Strasburg) doing the duty.
  • Texas, your defending WS champs: 8 different opening day starters in the last 8 years. And it’s even crazier than that: They’ve had 15 different opening day starters in the last 16 seasons, dating to 2009! Only one guy has repeated: Cole Hamels in 2016 and 2018. That’s amazing, that Texas basically hasn’t had a long-term Ace on their staff for nearly 2 decades.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers, despite being probably the league’s best team over the past decade or so, has had 6 different guys make their last 6 opening day starts, them the least consistent of any team. Interesting.
  • Other teams who have not really been able to find a consistent starter: Cincinnati: 5 straight different opening day starters. NY Mets: 4 straight different opening day starters. Baltimore: 8 different starters in the last 9 years. Tampa: 6 new in last 7 years. Angels: 7 new in last 8 years.

Written by Todd Boss

March 29th, 2024 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Majors Pitching

2023 Wrap Up of Rotations with 2024 Predictions

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Andrew Alvarez was the Nats Minor League POTY, and he’s probably not even one of our 20 best pitching prospects. Photo via milb.com

2023 was the first time in a decade I kept up with monthly rotation reviews for the whole season. So, we might as well finish it off with a look at the starting and ending rotations for the various major and minor league teams, and a prediction as to what the rotations might look like next year.

Here’s the recaps for the year: End of April check-in, End of May check-in, End of June , End of July, and End of August. There was no September summary since the various leagues staggered the amount of time they played in Sept, leading to this post.

Critical to this analysis are the following links:

Lets start at the top. I’m drawing from all my posts throughout the year to show the evolution of each staff’s rotation. Then for 2024, I’m generally predicting 6-7 names per rotation to account for the inevitable injuries.


MLB

  • Opening Day: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Kuhl
  • End of April: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Kuhl
  • End of May:  Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Irvin
  • End of June: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Irvin
  • End of July: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Irvin
  • End of August: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Irvin, Adon
  • End of Season: Corbin, Grey, Williams, Irvin, Adon, Rutledge (Gore on dl with blister)

2023 Discussion: Despite being a last place team, the rotation was amazingly consistent. Corbin, Grey, and Williams made 32, 30, and 30 starts respectively. Gore made 27 before going on the DL at the end of the season with blisters. Irvin came up for the ineffective Kuhl and did 24 starts of 93 ERA+ performance. Obviously the team went to a 6-man rotation in August, calling up Adon, who continues to not be good. Then, for the last few weeks Rutledge got the call up and posted about the same numbers as Adon (as in, he’s not ready).

2024 outlook: The 2024 rotation probably looks pretty similar to the 2023 one, because every one of these names is signed (or under team control) in 2024. Assuming that Strasburg indeed retires or cannot pitch, there’s really only one big name to throw into this mix: Cavalli. Perhaps the team converts Ward back to a starter after burying him on in the bullpen all year to get through rule-5 time. I think we’ll see Cavalli replace Williams in the rotation, who drops to the pen while all the others go back to AAA. If they get slammed with injuries there’s not a ton i’d trust coming up from AAA right now, so I wonder if they’ll go shopping in the FA market for more “trade at the deadline for a couple of prospects” kind of talents. But I highly doubt we’ll be seeing another FA starter, in that none of these guys has anything left to prove in AAA.

2024 rotation prediction: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Cavalli, Irvin, (with Williams and Ward as LR in bullpen). Maybe an off-season low-cost signing to flip at the deadline.


AAA Syracuse

  • Opening Day: Adon, Irvin, Espino, Abbott, Peralta
  • End of April: Adon, Irvin, Espino, Abbott, Peralta (with TRomero and Kilome spot Starts)
  • End of May: : Adon, Espino, Abbott, Peralta, Urena
  • End of June: Adon, Peralta, Urena, Rutledge, Banda.
  • End of July: Adon, Peralta, Urena, Rutledge, Banda (plus Espino before getting called up and released)
  • End of August: Peralta, Abbott, Rutledge, RMunoz, AHernandez plus Troop and TRomero spot starts.
  • End of Season: Parker, AHernandez, RMunoz, TRomero, Mengeden (Banda, Peralta shut down, Adon & Rutledge promoted up)

2023 Discussion: The AAA rotation for the bulk of the year included two guys (Peralta and Urena) who were 30-year old MLFAs who were absolutely awful but yet got starts for most of the year, a testament to the thinness of the Nats starting pitching depth at its highest levels. Adon did the majority of the year in AAA to try to prove that his 2022 was a fluke (spoiler alert; he did not: 4.62 ERA, 1.51 whip in 17 AAA starts). Espino was solid before getting called up, shelled, and released. Rutledge did about half a season of competence and was joined in the end by a couple of guys who seem likely to feature in AAA next year.

2024 outlook: I think the late season call-ups (Adon and Rutledge) are coming right back to start AAA next year; they did not impress in their short MLB stints and will be on the books as 4-A/rotation coverage to start the year. I think they’ll be joined by the two guys who got bumped up to AAA at season’s end (Parker and AHernandez), plus hopefully a couple guys coming back from injury (Tetreault), We probably see a couple of MLFA veteran MLB starters thrown in the mix (which is basically what Peralta and Urena were this year), and perhaps a AA guy (Herz) moving up.

2024 rotation prediction: Adon, Rutledge, Parker, AHernandez, Tetreault, Herz, and a Veteran MLFA in the mix (with Munoz, TRomero in the bullpen unless they leave as MLFAs)


AA Harrisburg

  • Opening Day: Rutledge, Parker, Herrera, Troop, Cuevas
  • End of April:  Rutledge, Parker, Herrera, Troop, Cuevas
  • End of May:  Rutledge, Parker, Troop, Cuevas, AHernandez
  • End of June: Parker, Troop, Cuevas, AHernandez, Saenz, plus Henry
  • End of July: Parker, Troop, Hernandez, Saenz, Henry (plus Knowles, Cuevas, Herz)
  • End of August: Parker, Cuevas, Saenz, Alvarez, Herz
  • End of Season: Cuevas, Saenz, Alvarez, Herz, Luckham (Troop in LR, Henry in limbo)

2023 Discussion: The AA roster definitely produced some player development wins this year: Rutledge ended up in the majors, Parker pitched a solid full season and should feature in AAA next year, and Alemedo Hernandez had a 2-level jump. Herz was a mid-season acquisition and pitched probably better than any of them, but only turns 23 in January so he’s in no real rush to get to AAA. Finally Alvarez ended up in AA after dominating in High-A and looks like a heck of a find as a 12th rounder, taking the system’s Minor league pitcher of the year award. Herrera’s injury and age may spell the end of his career here, Troop seems to have settled into AA as his peak level and is already 27, and Cuevas spent the entire year getting shelled. The big question mark here is Cole Henry, who was in AAA in 2022 before his injury, now can’t get guys out in AA, and I really worry his shoulder injury may be career ending.

2024 outlook: Three of the guys who ended in the AA rotation (Saenz, Alvarez, and Luckham) were the kind of mid-season promotions that the Nats like to do, and thus I see them staying in AA to start 2024 with an eye on another mid-season promotion next June/July based on merit. They seem to like Knowles as a swing man so I think he stays in that role, possibly replacing a released Troop. Cuevas should repeat; he’s still young and his numbers were poor this year. So we’ve seen most of what Harrisburg may see next year already. We’ll probably see some names rising up that we’ll talk about in the next section. But we’re hurting for names here, and its hard to squint at the High-A guys and predict any of them making the push to rise up really, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Herz still here, if we saw Tetreault pushed back a level after missing a year, or even a MLFA or two.

2024 rotation prediction: Henry, Cuevas, Saenz, Alvarez, Luckham, maybe Tetreault, maybe Theophile


High-A Wilmington

  • Opening Day: Lara, Saenz, Huff, Theophile, Alvarez
  • End of April:  Lara, Saenz, Huff, Theophile, Alvarez with Luckham
  • End of May:  Lara, Saenz, Huff, Alvarez, Luckham, with Theophile getting spot starts
  • End of June: Lara, Alvarez, Luckham, Theophile, Caceres, Bennett
  • End of July: Lara, Alvarez, Luckham, Caceres, Lord, (with Theophile, Bennett)
  • End of August: Lara, Luckham, Caceres, Lord, Bennett,
  • End of Season: Lara, Luckham, Caceres, Lord, Bennett (with Diaz doing late season spot start, Theophile shut down)

2023 Discussion: Wilmington’s rotation had a couple of success stories for sure: Saenz and Alvarez both earned mid-season promotions; it probably took Alvarez a month more than it should to have been moved up. Theophile seemed to be on the same path but completely disappeared on July 7th, never hitting the DL and with a decent 3.48 ERA/1.28 whip going). The rest of the rotation was middling at best. They were hurt by the loss of Seth Shuman, who had a 3.23 ERA in high-A in 2022 but who missed the whole season.

2024 outlook: Bennett is a big name for this team but struggled upon reaching High-A. There was never an official report of an injury, but Roster Resource lists him as being “injured” which usually means something serious, but we’ll have to wait and see. Hf healthy, he’ll be back, as will most of the guys there at the end of the season. Theophile was 24 this year and seemed to get High-A, so if he’s healthy i could see him starting in AA. Otherwise, the rotation in August seems to be what they’ll go with starting next year.

2024 rotation prediction: Lara, Luckham, Caceres, Lord, Bennett, Shuman plus a couple of guys moving up based on social promotion (Young, Cornelio, Tolman if he’s not hurt)


Low-A Fredericksburg

  • Opening Day: Bennett, Susana, Atencio, Cornelio, Denaburg
  • End of April:  Bennett, Susana, Atencio, Cornelio, Denaburg (plus Aldonis)
  • End of May:  Bennett, Susana, Cornelio, Sanchez, Caceres,
  • End of June:  Susana, Cornelio, Lord, Young, Tolman (with Atencio making spot starts)
  • End of July: Susana, Cornelio, Young, Tolman, Atencio (with Denaburg spot start)
  • End of August: : Cornelio, Young, Sullivan, Tepper, Stethe (Amaral getting 3 bullpen game starts)
  • End of Season: Cornelio, Young, Sullivan, Tepper, Stethe (with Polanco, Leon, Agostini late-season callups, not listing all the DL guys)

2023 Discussion: The Fredericksburg rotation this year basically had one decent success story (Bennett) and a slew of question marks. Bennett showed that its dumb to put a 2nd round polished college Junior in Low-A, cruising through 9 starts before getting bumped up. Caceres also got promoted, but not really on merit (his low-A numbers: 4.80 ERA, 1.52 whip in 15 games/7 starts). The rest of this crew left something to be desired. Susana is the only real “prospect” pitcher in Low-A, and he struggled: 5.14 ERA, 1.52 whip, 62/40 K/BB in 63 innings. Now, Susana was the 5th prospect in a 5-prospect deal, the proverbial “lets throw a lottery ticket 18yr old prospect into the deal as the final sweetener.” He’s only 19. So patience. As for the rest of this crew, by season’s end several of the rotation guys were 2023 draftees … but remember, we only signed on significant starter in this year’s draft, and he was a HS kid (Sykora). All the rest of the starters we drafted were either 5th year senior/nominal fees or $150k teen-round guys with little expectations. So with all due respect to Sullivan and Tepper and Stethe and Amaral … if we get one prospect out of this crew who gets out of Low-A we’ll be happy.

2024 outlook: For as “thin” as our internal options looked at AA, there’s an abundance of names in the mix right now for Low-A. This is the consequence of getting rid of Short-A; all these college arms get backed up, quickly. Right now here’s the list of “Starters” on the low-A roster, including everyone on the DL or Restricted list at the end of the season (listed by acquisition date):

  • 2023 draftees: Sullivan, Tepper, Amaral, Stethe
  • 2022 draftees: Young, Cornelio
  • 2021 draftees: Tolman
  • 2022 IFAs: Susana
  • 2021 IFAs: Agostini, Polanco, Leom
  • 2018-2019 IFAs: Aldonis, Atencio, Aldo Ramirez
  • Long Relievers: Polanco, Rodriguez, Otanez, Sanchez, Denaburg, Romero, Hiraldo, Marquez

That’s FOURTEEN guys who are listed as starters right now, and the Fredericksburg has 33 arms listed right now (!!). Something seems like it has to give. The team just has way too many arms here. Look for whole-sale shedding of these failed starters/long relievers at some point, perhaps next spring, perhaps when we start drafting players next year and need the roster spots. I think the team will put its highest rated prospects (Sykora, Susana and Aldo Ramirez) back in the rotation, join them with 2023 draftees and the best of the IFAs, and everyone else becomes a reliever.

2024 rotation prediction: Sykora, Susana, Aldo Ramirez, Aldonis, Amaral, plus a couple from Sullivan/Tepper/Stethe.


FCL Rookie

  • Opening Day: CSanchez, Zapata, Agostini, Leon, Polanco
  • End of June: CSanchez, Zapata, Agostini, Leon, Polanco (plus Ogando)
  • End of July: CSachez, Zapata, Agostini, Leon, Polanco (Otanez one spot start)
  • End of Season: CSanchez, Zapata, Agostini, Leon, Polanco

2023 Discussion: Basically, the FCL rotation was the same practically all season. Ogando got two spot starts and got shelled. Otanez was even worst than that. So, we only have 5 names to discuss:

  • Sanchez: 22IFA, 20yrs old, 7.92 ERA, 22 walks and 22 Ks in 30IP.
  • Zapata: 21IFA, 19yrs old, 4.81 ERA but only 25Ks in 39ip.
  • Agostini: 21IFA, 19yrs old, 4.53 ERA
  • Leon: 21IFA, 21yrs old, 5.58 ERA, 35/9 K/BB so that’s good but BAA was .287
  • Polanco: 21IFA, 22yrs old, 5.63 ERA

2024 outlook: Agostini, Leon, and Polanco got pushed up to Low-A, which is curious because none of them was the best starter in the FCL. The only one of these guys i’d have promoted is Zapata. I’d have the rest of them out of the rotation. Spoiler alert to the DSL analysis: there’s not a ton coming up the pike worth saving spots for; its a stretch even to assume that the two DSL Graduates mentioned will stick. I don’t think there’s any of these guys that will push for Low-A, given the slew of pitchers up there.

2024 rotation prediction: Agostini, Zapata, Leon, and a couple of 2024 draft picks Roman & Cuevas from the DSL could push for rotation spots but likely are LR at best domestically.


DSL Rookie

  • Opening Day: Farias, Portorreal, Moreno, Oliveros, DPerez
  • End of June: Farias, Portorreal, Moreno, Oliveros, DPerez
  • End of July: Farias, Portorreal, Moreno, R.Ramirez, with D.Perez doing spot starts.
  • End of Season: Farias, Portorreal, Moreno, A.Roman, E.Rivero (Cuevas one spot start)

2023 Discussion: Like with the FCL, the DSL nats managed to get through their season with mostly the same rotation. So lets run through them and their performance this year:

  • Farias: 19IFA, aged 21, 7.07 ERA this year. Aged 21! going against mostly 17yr olds.
  • Portorreal: 21IFA, aged 18, 4.79 ERA, 1.39 whip, 29/10 K/BB in 32ip.
  • Moreno: 23IFA, aged 18, 4.70 era but 28 walks to 25Ks in 30IP.
  • Oliveros: 22IFA, aged 20, 8.14 ERA and a .350 BAA; that’s hard to do
  • Perez: 21IFA aged 19, 4.45 ERA in mostly long-relief, 40/18 k/BB in 32ip
  • Ramirez: 22IFA, aged 19, 3.26 ERA, 1.53 whip
  • Roman: 21IFA, aged 20, 3.20 ERA, 1.04whip, 32/7 k/BB in 39 ip
  • Rivero: 23IFA, aged 18, 7.30 ERA, 1.95whip
  • Cuevas: 22IFA, aged 20, 3.44 era, 1.24whip

2024 outlook: Of all these guys, you can only squint and make an argument for a couple of them to get off the island and try for the FCL rotation next year. I’m guessing the team releases the three guys with ERAs in the 7s and 8s (Farias, Oliveros, Rivero) returns a few of them who were young but showed some decent promise (ERAs in the 4s, guys like Portorreal, Moreno, Perez), and then perhaps tries sending a couple specifically to the FCL. I like Roman’s performance here: decent control, aged 20 but only in his second year, so he’d make a lot of sense to move up as a FCL long reliever. Same with Cuevas: similar numbers, similar age and signing, and he excelled in that multi-inning model

2024 rotation prediction: Portorreal, Moreno, DPerez, Ramirez, plus a couple of 2024IFAs


One last thing. By most accounts, this is a rough order of our Starting Pitcher prospects now in the system, along with a brief statement of their performance in 2023 and outlook for 2024:

  • Cavalli: TJ; missed all of 2023, should be in 2024 MLB rotation, projecting as #2 starter
  • Bennett: crushed Low-A, struggled in High-A, disappeared for a bit, probably High-A in 2024
  • Sykora: 2023 draft pick out of HS, did not pitch, hopefully starts 2024 in Low-A rotation
  • Susana: struggled low-A, may need to move to bullpen, but still young. Low-A again 2024
  • Rutledge: shot up the ranks, ended in MLB, looks like he could improve. AAA/4-A in 2024
  • Ward: stashed in the MLB bullpen as a rule-5 guy, exhausted rookie status, could be a starter in 2024, but likely continues in bullpen.
  • Herz: trade acquisition pitched great in AA at age 22, could push for AAA in 2024
  • Henry; really struggled post TOS in 2023, worried for career, will be in AA again in 2024 trying to regain form.
  • Lara: over promoted, struggled in High-A all season, should repeat High-A in 2024.
  • Irvin: graduated to MLB, pitched in rotation most of year, hoping for closer to 100 ERA+ in 2024
  • Parker: solid in AA all year, should feature in AAA 2024.
  • Aldo Ramirez: hurt, missed all of 2023, hoping to see him pitch in Low-A 2024.
  • Saenz: under-the-radar performance earned promotion in 2023, starts in AA 2024
  • Shuman: missed all of 2023, hoping to bounce back in High-A in 2024.
  • Alvarez: solved High-A, had solid peripherals in AA, should return there in 2024.

I don’t think I need to say it; this is not a lot of depth. We really need to get guys like Bennett, Sykora, and Henry to return to form and earn their draft pedigree. I’d really like to see IFAs like Lara and Ramirez show up and deliver. But look for 2024 to be a pitcher-heavy draft.

Written by Todd Boss

October 8th, 2023 at 10:17 pm

End of June Check-in on Rotations

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Bennett probably our early Minor League POTY. Photo from OSU

We did an end of April check-in on the rotations and an End of May check-in. Here’s another look after another month.

Important links for this analysis:


We’ll start with the Majors.

Rotation: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Irvin

Changes in the last month: None. The rotation has been surprisingly static for a last place team.

Observations: Irvin officially supplanted Kuhl in the rotation after a couple of starts after his call-up, and when Kuhl came back Irvin stayed in the rotation and Kuhl went to the pen. That is, until about a week ago, when the team gave Kuhl his outright release waivers. They didn’t bother with the whole DFA dance; they knew that they were going to eat his $2M salary, so they just summarily released the guy so he could move on. Side note: Baseball is a good living: $2M for 3 month’s work.

Irvin was looking a bit shaky for a while, but his four starts in June were solid, and his last two were really good. His seasonal numbers are now about where Corbin’s are. Meanwhile, Grey has been stellar lately and has pushed his season ERA+ into the upper 120s. Williams has held his own and looks like a promising possible trade candidate for a team looking for some innings. Gore had a sketchy month that has inflated his ERA and peripherals, but still looks like the top 100 prospect he has been since high school.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Nobody really. They’re not going to cut bait on Corbin, Williams is holding his own, the other three guys are here to stay as important pieces of the new-look future state Nats rotation. Remember; it only took the Nats three years to go from 59-103 to 98-64.


AAA Rochester:

Rotation: Peralta, Rutledge, Urena, Adon, Banda.

Changes since Last Month: Abbott got called up to the MLB pen, where he’s stayed, and Rutledge has taken his place after his late June promotion. Espino also got called up briefly but is back now, and may re-take Banda’s spot in the rotation (or not: Banda threw a decent start on 7/1; maybe he’s transitioning back to a starter role). Tommy Romero continues to be the first long man/spot starter out of the pen.

Observations; None of these starters really had a good month in June. Banda was the worst, making 5 starts, only going 19 innings in those starts, and giving up 14 ER along the way. Urena had a 5.68 ERA in June, which actually lowered his seasonal ERA of 7.17. Same with Peralta: a 5 ERA month has improved his seasonal stats. The fact that we keep giving these guys (aged 34 and 31 respectively) starts is proof positive that our pitching depth has gone to pot. Adon actually had a decent month. There’s no real point in talking about Espino; we already know he’s a better reliever than a starter, yet the team continues to push him as a starter in AAA. Rutledge got shelled in his first AAA start, but he’s more than earned the promotion.

Next guy to get promoted: Espino. But nobody’s “earning” another promotion right now.

Next guy to get demoted or released: As with last month, the moment they need a spot Urena or Peralta are gone.


AA Harrisburg:

Rotation: Cuevas, Troop, Hernandez, Saenz, Parker , plus Henry

Changes in last month: Saenz got promoted up to cover for Rutledge, when he got promoted on 6/27. Henry done with rehab and in AA but sits on the developmental list as of 6/30.

Observations: Henry’s first two starts back were horrific, so as we speak he sits on the developmental list. When Rutledge (correctly called as next guy to get promoted last month) moved up, Saenz (who had seemingly solved high-A) moved into his spot. The guy with the best month was Parker, who had a 1.35 ERA in four starts and has turned around his fortunes significantly (he was last month’s “Next guy to get demoted”). Cuevas continues to struggle (but is only 22), as does Troop (who is continuing to be the innings soaking long-man/spot starter he served in last year). Hernandez has been quietly effective with pretty amazing control; he walked just 2 guys all month.

Next guy to get promoted: Nobody really; perhaps Hernandez

Next guy to get demoted or released: I still think Cuevas looks over matched, but the first guy to make way if Henry comes back off Dev List probably is Troop.


High-A Wilmington

Rotation: Alvarez, Theophile, Lara, Luckham, Caceres, Bennett

Changes in Last month: Saenz promoted to AA (as predicted last month), Bennett promoted up from Low-A, Huff moved to bullpen

Observations: Wilmington has too many arms to put up with poor performance, which is why Chance Huff is now in the pen with his 6.12 ERA. Meanwhile, Wilmington seems to have too many starters and something may give soon. Lara continues to confound this observer, with another month of 5 ERA work on top of his 5+ ERA work all last year. Why he’s in High-A at this point is amazing, consider he couldn’t get guys out at Low-A and is incredibly young for the league. Meanwhile, Andrew Alvarez continues to impress, with a very solid month with a 1.77 ERA in his last four starts. Bennett has kept producing upon his promotion: first three stats in High-A featured a 1.29 ERA. He needs another month in Wilmington but I see nothing to indicate he shouldn’t keep on moving up. I Still think he was started way too low for a major conference Friday night starter 2nd round pick. Anyway. Caceres just got moved up and got shelled in his first start, too soon to tell. Theophile also had a solid month, lowering his seasonal era significantly. Luckham looks like the odd-man out of this rotation right now, though his ERA is much higher than it deserves to be based on his WHIP.

Next guy to get promoted: Alvarez

Next guy to get demoted or released: Lara, again.


Low-A Fredericksburg

Rotation: Lord, Cornelio, Young, Tolman, Susana, with Atencio making spot starts

Changes in Last month: Bennett promoted and replaced with Lord. Sanchez to the DL, replaced with Young. Caceres promoted, replaced with Tolman.

Observations: The Fredericksburg rotation had a great month, with all 5 of its main starters featuring sub 3.00 ERAs all month and two of them getting promoted. Cornelio had a 2.30 ERA on the month but still walks too many guys. Lord has moved up from the bullpen to take a spot in the rotation for now and his holding on, with a 2.35 ERA on the month. Same with Luke Young, who’s earned another few turns in the rotation. Susana looks the best of them with a 1.02 ERA for the month as he seems to improve month over month. Tolman got bumped up from the rookie league (as he should have been, since he’s 23) and threw zeros in his first start. Even Atencio, who was demoted out of the rotation in May, got in on the action, throwing a spot start and dealing.

Next guy to get promoted: Susana

Next guy to get demoted or released: Nobody for now.


Rookie Florida Complex League

Rotation: Zapata, Ogando, Leon, Polanco, CSanchez, Agostini

Changes in Last month: none; this is the first go-around for the FCL

Observations: First off, the concept of a “rotation” in the rookie league probably is laughable, considering the sheer number of guys on this roster and the number of off-days they get. But a semblance of an organized rotation has taken shape. Tolman started in the rotation, threw three outings giving up just one run and got moved up. The rest of this rotation? Entirely comprised of IFAs; 5 of them 2021 IFAs and Sanchez being a 22IFA. So far: Sanchez, Ogando, and Leon are getting shelled; each has an ERA in the 9 or 10 range. Polanco and Agostini are relatively competent; ERAs in the 4-5 range. Both are probably better than their ERAs; its hard to have an 5+ era with an opponent BAA of .212 as Polanco has. Last you have Zapata; 0.75 ERA through 4 starts, but he’s got a 1.50 whip, so he’s dancing out of a lot of danger.

Next guy to get promoted: Maybe Zapata, probably instead one of the bullpen guys.

Next guy to get demoted or released: Ogando or Sanchez


Dominican Summer League

Rotation: Portorreal, Farias, HMoreno, Oliveros, Rivero

Changes in the last month: none; this is the first go-around for DSL

Observations: Ok, so we know the DSL Nats are terrible (they’re 2-18 as of this writing), but it isn’t because of the pitching. Ok, its not *entirely* because of the pitching. Its primarily because their entire starting batting lineup are 2023IFAs signed in January. They’re all children. And they’re not hitting at all. (Meanwhile, one of the Dodgers’ DSL teams is 20-0 to start the season, and their other team is in 2nd place of the division. Why don’t we have two DSL teams?? Why doesn’t everyone??)

The rotation so far is up and down: Rivero only has 3 strikeouts in 10 innings; that’s not gotta cut it. Farias and Oliveros have BAAs in the .320-.340 range. Also not going to cut it. Moreno has a solid BAA but has nearly as many walks as IP. The best performer so far has been Portorreal, a 23IFA so he’s young. 5 starts, 2.45 ERA, looks solid. A great signing so far, especially for his bonus amount.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the IFA tracker for bonus amounts to get a sense of who’s supposed to be performing. Nearly all our big bonus guys were batters; the biggest bonus pitcher went to a guy on the DL all year. Portorreal got just $10k that we know about, Moreno and Rivero were 23IFAs who probably got 10k or less. The other guys in this rotation; Oliveros in 22 for >$10k and Farias, who was a 19IFA and is still in the DSL; he’s rule-5 eligible after this season!

Next guy to get promoted: Portorreal

Next guy to get released: ERivero


Conclusions: most of my predicted promotions from last month took place, and we’re getting a ton of impressive results out of Low and High-A. Still need to see Henry get back into the swing of things to make me feel better.

Written by Todd Boss

July 2nd, 2023 at 11:04 am

End of May Check-in On Rotations

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We did an end of April check-in on the rotations; how about and end-of May one too?

Important links for this analysis:


We’ll start with the Majors.

Rotation: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Irvin

Changes since opening day: Irvin for Kuhl, who went out with a slight injury and then has been kept down while Irvin came up and, at least initially, looked solid.

Observations: Irvin’s first two starts were fantastic. Even his third was promising, with his numbers inflated by a couple of infield singles and a crummy reliever who let in 3 of Irvin’s inherited runners. Since then though, it has not been good, and Irvin’s ERA now hovers in the mid 5.00 range. He’s giving up way too many base runners (1.68 whip) and I think he needs to head back down to work on his command. Meanwhile, Grey & Gore continue to look solid, if a bit wild, and look like solid rotation pieces for the next 5-6 years. Trevor Williams continues to get by on smoke and mirrors (there’s more than a point difference between his ERA and FIP), and Corbin is who he is at this point, eating up innings for his salary until he runs out his contract at the end of next year.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Irvin. I think the Irvin experiment has trailed off and Kuhl will regain his spot in the rotation for a little while longer. Neither is really deserving, Do you want Irvin to continue to develop in the majors so that you can give innings to a one-year guy like Kuhl?


AAA Rochester:

Rotation: Urena, Adon, Abbott, Peralta, Espino

Changes since Last Month: Just veteran MLFA Urena replacing the promoted Irvin in the rotation.

Observations; The seasonal ERAs of these five starters is, in order: 5.18, 9.35, 4.50, 6.25, and 6.11. That’s awful. It isn’t much better controlling for the last month; none of them have an ERA under 5.00. What’s interesting is that we know (based on last year’s MLB stats) that both Espino and Abbott work far better as relievers versus starters, yet they both continue to stay in the rotation. Urena is 31 and has been awful, Peralta 34 and nearly as bad. I’m not sure what to do with Adon; he’s regressed since his AAA season last year, is falling in the depth chart, and soon may be nearing the “next guy to get cut from the 40-man to make room” territory

Meanwhile, Tommy Romero is kind of like the “6th starter,” a swingman who gets spot starts, and his numbers look great. I’m not sure why we cling to spots for washed up AAA starters in their 30s when we could feature guys who might actually be prospects. I think the team should release Urena and Peralta, put Irvin back here, and put Romero in the rotation in the short term.

Of course, the likely answer to “why is Urena still here” is named Cole Henry, who is doing a re-hab tour of the minors and should return to the AAA rotation soon, likely spelling Urena’s release. Jackson Tetreault is also lurking in rehab, but he’s getting shelled in a-ball right now and doesn’t have anything to prove below AAA, so we could see some shuffling. I’d like to see

Next guy to get promoted: nobody deserving

Next guy to get demoted or released: Urena/Peralta for Henry/Tetreault, then if we need a AA promotion put Abbott or Espino back in the pen.


AA Harrisburg:

Rotation: Cuevas, Alamedo Hernandez, Rutledge, Parker, Troop

Changes since April: Hernandez in for Herrera, who seems to have had a season-ending injury in early May.

Observations: The AA rotation is starting to come together. Three of these guys have sub 3.00 ERAs for the month of May (Rutledge with a 1.90 ERA, Cuevas with 2.84, and Hernandez with a 2.70). I’m especially interested to see what Cuevas (age 21) does the rest of the way; a 21yr old in AA is impressive enough, for him to be effective is amazing. Hernandez is a 23MLFA that the team signed out of the Mexican leagues, he’s just 23, and he’s shown to be pretty effective as well; the Mexican league is considered a “AAA-quality” league and I wonder if he’ll be effective if he gets moved up. Amazingly to this observer, the former 1st round pick Rutledge, who I was almost convinced was a complete bust, is the bets of them; 1.90 ERA in May, 0.97 Whip, 20/4 K/BB in 23 innings. Dare I say it … he’s starting to look like a 1st rounder! I mean, should we start putting his name into future MLB rotation consideration along side Cavalli and Henry and Skenes when we draft him? 🙂

The season has also shown that guys who were formerly being used as longer relievers or starters are now clearly one-inning relievers. Evan Lee, Lucas Knowles, and Tim Cate all included.

Next guy to get promoted: Rutledge. Heck, he’s on the 40-man, if he dominates AA another month move him up to AAA and bump one of the retreads there.

Next guy to get demoted or released: Parker. After cruising through the A ball leagues, he’s apparently met his match in AA. Good thing for him is that he’s a lefty with punch-out capabilities, so he’s got bullpen options.


High-A Wilmington

Rotation: Luckham, Saenz, Huff, Alvarez, Lara, with Theophile getting spot starts

Changes since April: None really, just the addition of Luckham

Observations: Wilmington’s rotation has been harder to track this month thanks to two guys doing rehab starts there, plus some rainouts/double headers making for a bunch of spot starts. Huff and Lara continue to struggle; Lara at age 20 in high-A continues to confuse me; he had a 5.53 era in low-A last year and now has an even higher ERA in High-A this year. Is this good for his development? Why not keep him in low-A, a more age-appropriate league, until he proves he can solve it? Luckham was last month’s darling; he’s come back to earth. Really, the best performer has been Saenz, who gave up just 3 earned runs in the month of June and is repeating the level. Another month like this and he’ll be moving up. Theophile seems like he’s somewhere in rotational limbo, but has a big enough arm to possibly feature more as a reliever.

Next guy to get promoted: Saenz

Next guy to get demoted or released: Lara


Low-A Fredericksburg

Rotation: Bennett, Susana, Atencio, Cornelio, Denaburg

Rotation: Bennett, Cornelio, Sanchez, Caceres, Susana

Changes since April: Denaburg mercifully moved to the bullpen and replaced by Sanchez. Aldonis briefly in the rotation but got hurt. Atencio moved to the bullpen for Caceres.

Observations: Jake Bennett making fast work of Low-A: he had a 33/3 K/BB ratio in 5 starts in May and now sports a 1.93 ERA in 9 starts. Could we finally have a successful 2nd round pick? I think he needs to get out of Low-A, given his draft round and collegiate pedigree. Our other major prospect in Low-A is Susana, who had 4 starts but went just 14 total innings in the month. His numbers are decent, but he has to go deeper in games. 2022 draftee Cornelio is just way too wild (12 walks in 15 May innings). Caceres is an older IFA (he’s 23 just getting to Low-A). Sanchez halved his seasonal ERA in May, so that’s good.

Next guy to get promoted: Bennett

Next guy to get demoted or released: I don’t know; they’ve already demoted Denaburg and Atencio, we need another month to see which of the other guys would go next.


Conclusions: by most accounts, our top starter pitching prospects right now are in rough order:

  • Cavalli (TJ, out for year)
  • Susana (scuffling in Low-A)
  • Bennett (crushing in Low-A, needs to be promoted)
  • Rutledge (crushing in AA, needs promotion)
  • Ward (stashed in the MLB bullpen as a rule-5 guy)
  • Henry (so far so good on come-back from TOS)
  • Lara (over promoted and struggling in high-A)
  • Irvin (in the MLB rotation, may need more AAA time)
  • Parker (struggling in AA)
  • Aldo Ramirez (hurt, in XST)

When we draft Skenes he’ll take over as #1 on this list.

Could we be choosing 5 from Grey, Gore, Irvin, Cavalli, Henry, Rutledge, Skenes, Ward, and Bennett in a couple years time? That’s the dream.

Written by Todd Boss

June 1st, 2023 at 9:43 am

First Look: Jake Irvin

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WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 3: Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jake Irvin (74) pitches during his major league debut against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park on May 3, 2023. (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

An injury to their 5th starter Kuhl and a rain-induced double header gave an opportunity for the Nats to bring up one of their starter prospects, and so most of the Natmosphere got their real first good look at jake Irvin. Lets recap.

Irvin is taller and lankier than I thought; he is listed as 6’6″ 225. He features a relatively smooth delivery that lands him in perfect fielding position. According to Pitch FX data on the night, he showed four pitches (4-seamer, 2-seamer, curve, and change), sat mostly 93, peaked at 95, showed a ton of arm-side run on his sinker (average of 10 inches), had a change that came in on average at 88 (maybe a bit too close to the fastball), and a curve that got him a ton of called strikes. He mixed up the pitches well.

In the first inning, the first pitch he threw sailed on him and nailed the batter right in the back; this runner came around to score despite Irvin mostly handling the top of the powerful Cubs lineup. He punched out Swanson looking, got a little cute with Happ to walk him, got Bellinger out on a first-pitch curve pop-up before giving up a decently hit single to score a run.

His second inning was pretty clean; punchout of Hosmer, liner, then a grounder to 2nd. In the third, he’s back at the top of the order; he got a soft-lineout from the leadoff Hoerner, got Swanson out again on a pop-up, again pitched around Happ to walk him for the second time, then punched out Bellinger. That’s a great way to get through the heart of the order a second time. In the fourth, the ball never left the infield and he got an infield single up the middle erased with a GIDP.

In the fifth, he was again at the bottom of the order and looking to hit the top a third time. Unfortunately he walked the #8 hitter, who promptly stole second. He got the #9 hitter to line-out to left, no damage and no runners advancing. Then he walks the leadoff hitter, so you have 1st and 2nd with one out and Swanson coming up. Instead of letting him work through it, Martinez yanked him, and his replacement Machado immediately got a GIDP to end the inning.

Final line: 4 1/3, just 2 hits ( one infield, one RBI single in the 1st that would have been meaning less without the HBP), but 4 walks (Happ twice) and 3 punchouts. 81 pitches and just 45 strikes, so he was definitely wild and his pitch count was elevated with all the walks, but he was in position to go six full perhaps just broaching 100 pitches.

All in all, a really nice debut, and honestly i’d rather see Irvin in there right now than Kuhl, so look for Kuhl to have his DL stint extended to give Irvin another start.

And, I gotta say, If we continue with Grey and Gore being impressive, and suddenly Irvin becomes serviceable, and we somehow get Cavalli and Henry back from injury … well that’s a pretty good rotation of young, controllable, cheap starters. Hey, we deserve some good luck.

Written by Todd Boss

May 4th, 2023 at 9:52 pm

Cavalli elbow is a huge blow for Nats

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Its been a busy month for me, and i’m only partially paying attention to Nats headlines. Earlier this week, I did notice/hear that Cade Cavalli had been pulled from a start with something related to an elbow, and while it didn’t register with me at the time, eventually the news came out.

Tommy John. Full tear. Out 12-18 months.

Gut-punch.

The Nationals’ starting pitching depth has really taken a beating in the last couple of years.

  • Strasburg: thirty IP in 3 years and zero faith that he’ll ever return.
  • Corbin has forgotten how to pitch.
  • Grey had an ERA > 5.00 and a FIP of nearly 6.00 in the majors.
  • Rutledge can’t get any one out in Low-A (and is laughably assigned to AA right now)
  • Henry had TOS, the same thing that may be ending Strasburg’s career.
  • Adon literally couldn’t get anyone out in the majors.
  • Carrillo couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn and is now a AA reliever.
  • Irvin is back after TJ but is no where near resembling the 2nd round form he exhibited in College.
  • Denaburg returned after lenghly absences and is no longer considered even a top 30 prospect
  • Cate forgot how to pitch and was outrighted.
  • Romero finally crossed the imaginary line keeping him employed with the team with his latest transgression (not that he was considered a prospect anymore…)
  • Lara got lit up in Low A while eating pizza and burgers (anyone believe his listed weight of 180?)
  • … and now Cafalli is out for a while.

That’s your 2020 1st rounder, 2020 2nd rounder, 2019 1st rounder, 2018 1st rounder, 2018 2nd rounder, 2017 1st rounder, $60M in payroll, and a couple of significant prospects for whom we dumped Scherzer and Turner. In other words, that’s nearly every top draft pick for four years running, a massive chunk of your current payroll, and every arm we got in return for dumping two franchise players two years ago.

What a debacle.

The Nats have almost zero Arms in the upper minors pipeline at this point who you’d look at as an up and coming replacement. Why? Because multiple years of futility drafting arms has badly caught up with this team. Who sounds promising? 2022 2nd rounder Bennett hasn’t done anything to embarrass or hurt himself yet. that’s good. Parker continues to get people out despite having very little “stuff” as the scouting reports claim. Theophile showed some promise last year before getting promoted. Maybe Susana can amount to something, or Aldo Ramirez. But that’s the entire system. anyone in FCL or DSL is 5 years from making an impact.

It could be a dark, or expensive, 5 years for this team. Consider how many top end offensive prospects we have. If those guys come up and start really cranking … they by themselves can power the team to a 500 record. Kinda like what happened to this team between 2010 and 2011. The team went from 59 wins in 2009 to 69 wins in 2010 to a .500 record in 2011. We all know what happened then. So, unless this team can find more arms somewhere, they may be buying them on the open market to support what could be a pretty good hitting team in a few years.

We havn’t talked much yet about the 2023 draft, but I’ll bet you $1 right now we got back to an all-pitcher draft like we used to do. And that’ll start at the top, where there’s a couple of big-time SEC arms likely for the taking in Chase Dollander and Paul Skenes. Dollander was a 1-1 guy last year, but hasn’t been quite as impressive as Skenes: in 4 starts this year he’s 4-0, 48-4 K/BB and has given up just 8 hits in 24 innings. Ok, so those starts were against Western Michigan, Kansas State, Butler, and Samford, so not that impressive, but still against D1 hitters.

For 2023, maybe we’ll find some gold like we’ve done with Meneses. But man we could use some good news on the pitching front.

Written by Todd Boss

March 17th, 2023 at 2:17 pm

State of the Rotations at this point in the Off-Season

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So, the Nats have made some moves to theoretically shore up the rotations. I thought it was useful to take a quick gander at our starter depth and take a glance at what may happen.

Relying on the Big Board as always, lets do some thought exercises and think about the rotations for 2023 in all the full season teams.

MLB Projected Rotation

There are 11 Starters on the current 40-man roster, but only 5 rotation slots. But we also know we have serious injury concerns with some starters, some guys who are likely swingmen, some who are destined for A-ball.

  • Strasburg, if healthy
  • Corbin, if effective
  • Grey
  • Cavalli
  • Gore
  • Williams, newly acquired and apparently promised a rotation spot

My guess as to what happens is this: Strasburg is still hurt and goes on DL to start season, leaving us with the Corbin/Grey/Gore/Williams/Cavalli rotation (probably in that order). Now, both Cavalli and Gore had injury issues last season; if they cannot go, look for Ward, Espino, and Abbott to fill in (though honestly, Espino and Abbott’s splits as relievers were so much better than as starters that i’d look to keep them there).

This also assumes the team is going to continue to let Corbin pitch to a 7 ERA. I’m not sure they continue to do that forever; at some point, especially if someone presents coming out of AAA as worthy, we’ll see him either dumped to the pen or (more likely) released.

Now. Does the team seek out another starter to bolster this group? Only if they KNOW that there’s injury issues that likely lead to Grey/Cavalli/Gore starting on the DL, because otherwise they’re out of room. Lets say they bought another FA starter; who makes way? Not a healthy Strasburg or Corbin; that’s $60M of payroll. Not Williams. Not Grey; we didn’t trade for the guy to dump him in the bullpen. And certainly not Gore or Cavalli, who have nothing left to prove in AAA.

AAA Projected Rotation

Based on our current 40-man starters, their option status, and their capabilities, along with who we’ve signed as MLFAs (and assuming these guys don’t have opt-outs), here’s what our AAA rotation looks like right now:

  • Adon
  • Irvin
  • Alexy
  • Kilome (pretty sure he’s still with us as a 22 MLFA signing)
  • Henry (injured in 2022)
  • Tetreault (injured in 2022)
  • Lee (injured in 2022)
  • T.Romero (just resigned for 2023)

So. This being said: Henry had TOS is is out. Tetreault had a shoulder fracture and may or may not be out. Lee had a flexor sprain (often a precursor for Tommy John) and may not be reliable. So this may be thinner than we think.

Adon deserves to be in AAA. Irvin may not really “deserve” to be in AAA based on a 3.83 ERA in AA, but he’s on the 40-man and needs to be challenged. I’m pretty sure Kilome (a MLFA signing from LAST off-season but who is still listed as active and wasn’t on any MLFA lists) is here. That, plus newly signed MLFA Alexy and the re-signing of Romero makes five. But this is thin; the LR in AAA is Troop and his 2022 numbers were not good. I suspect we’ll be seeing a bunch more MLFA signings here, with perhaps Irvin being pushed back down to AA to start.

AA Projected Rotation

Here’s where things get thin, fast.

  • Cate
  • Reyes
  • Herrera
  • Parker
  • Shuman
  • Knowles

Cate at this point sounds like an innings eater in AA. Reyes and Herrera are long-serving org arms who also sound like Innings eaters in AA. If it was me, I’d be pushing up three starters out of High-A, all of whom pitched to really solid numbers in 2022. Parker posted a 2.88 ERA in 24 starts in High-A and absolutely will be in AA. Shuman hit the DL in July and never came off; the WP reported it was due to “elbow soreness.” Uh oh. Well, if he’s healthy he was solid in High-A in 2022, repeating the level, and has nothing left to prove there. Lastly you have Knowles, who had a 3.19 ERA as a swing man type with 13 starts. Why not.

If all these 6 are healthy, look for Reyes or Knowles to be a swing man type, maybe have Irvin duck into AA, or find another MLFA. I can’t see another High-A guy deserving of promotion.

Wow, this looks like a weak rotation for a AA team though.

High-A projected rotation

  • Rutledge
  • Cuevas
  • Theophile
  • Merrill?
  • Saenz (maybe a reliever/long man now)
  • Gausch?
  • Collins
  • Alvarez
  • Hernandez (injured all of 2022)
  • Dyson (injured all of 2022)
  • Denaburg maybe?

Here’s where things get harder to predict. Rutledge, newly added to the 40-man and owner of a 4.90 ERA in low-A last year (“but he improved in August!”) just has to be promoted. Cuevas and Theophile are holdovers from the 2022 rotation, looking to improve, and I’d guess they start in the rotation as well.

After that, its a crap shoot. Merrill and Saenz were both kicked out of the 2022 rotation after sucking. Do they get another shot or are they Relievers now? Gausch started the 2022 season as a AA starter, got lit up, then suddenly was a reliever in High-A. Does he return to the rotation? Collins was an already too old for the level swing guy with solid low-A numbers; he could be given a shot in the rotation. Alvarez had great K numbers, prompting his promotion to High-A, but he seems more like a bullpen guy as a lefty.

You have two formerly solid looking starters in Hernandez and Dyson who missed all of 2022 but who showed 2021 promise at the level; they should (if healthy) slide right back in. Lastly you have to look at the rest of low-A to see who should be moved up … and the pickings are slim. Denaburg at this point is too old for Low-A and its time to see if he can ever become anything; i’d move him to High-A and if he can’t cut it move him to the pen. Can’t make much of a case for anyone else out of last year’s Low-A rotation to move forward … which will make the Low-A rotation super easy.

Low-A Rotation

  • Susana
  • Bennett
  • Cornelio
  • Young?
  • Lara
  • Caceres
  • Atencio
  • Aldonis
  • Ramirez

We have to lead with Susana, who soon will be our best SP prospect once Cavalli graduates.

From there, I have to think at least the two top college Junior draftees from 2022 (2nd rounder Bennett and 7th rounder Cornelio) will be in low-A rotation. Perhaps even 11th rounder Luke Young.

After that, you have several holdovers from 2022 in Lara and Caceres. Lara is still ostensibly one of our better prospects and he’s super young, so he’s definitely starting. That’s six already, before talking about two guys who also were in the low-A rotation last year but who could get bumped to LR roles in Atencio and Aldonis.

Post publishing, KW in the comments reminded me about Aldo Ramirez, who we got from Boston in trade but who has been hurt. He was looking really solid for us in Low-A in 2021 before getting hurt and should start here in 2023 with an eye on moving up fast.


Did I forget anyone? What do you think; do we still need some reinforcements?

Written by Todd Boss

December 15th, 2022 at 2:41 pm

Nats acquire Ward in Rule-5

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Mar 26, 2021; Port Charlotte, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Thaddeus Ward (97) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As widely expected, given the fact that they nearly lost 110 games in 2022 and they have precious little in terms of starting pitching prospects right now (amazingly, given how pitcher heavy they’ve drafted prior to 2022), the Nats took advantage of having the #1 pick in the rule-5 draft to select a promising AA Pitcher from Boston named Thad Ward.

(somewhat surprisingly to this observer, the Nats did not select a second player in the Rule5, nor did any other team, despite having an open slot on our 40-man).

You can find plenty of content on Ward, given that he went 1-1 in this draft and prospect writers like the MLBpipeline and Fangraphs guys are starving for content right now. But I thought i’d pipe in here with some thoughts.

First off, Ward’s numbers in 2022 at AA were excellent: 7 starts, 2.43 ERA, 41/14 K/BB in 33.1 IP, 1.26 whip. He’s coming off of TJ so his numbers were limited. By way of comparison to the a couple of National’s AA starters of note in 2022:

  • Thad Ward: 2022 AA stats: 7 starts, 2.43 ERA, 41/14 K/BB in 33.1 IP, 1.26 whip
  • Jake Irvin, 2022 AA stats: 15 starts, 4.79 ERA, 78/20 K/BB in 73.1 IP, 1.17 whip
  • Cole Henry, 2022 AA stats: 7 starts, 0.76 ERA, 28/9 K/BB in 23.2 Ip, 0.59 whip
  • Evan Lee 2022 AA Stats: 7 starts, 3.60 ERA, 37/15 K/BB in 30 IP, 1.33 whip

So, interesting comparison side by side especially to Irvin and Lee; he’s got quite similar numbers to Lee, better numbers in fewer innings than Irvin. His scouting reports were excellent pre TJ injury, and it seemed like he was well on his way to Boston’s rotation before getting hurt.

So, where does he fit in? What can he do?

Right now, our SP depth looks something like this, in this order:

  1. Strasburg
  2. Corbin*
  3. Grey
  4. Gore
  5. Cavalli
  6. Ward
  7. Adon
  8. Irvin
  9. Rutledge

That’s it. We have guys like Espino, Abbott as Long Relievers/Spot Starters, but their reliever splits are so much better that this team desperately doesn’t want to give them starts.

So, of our depth:

  1. Strasburg: TOS recurrence, no guarantee he’ll be healthy in 2023
  2. Corbin*: He had a 6.31 ERA last year.
  3. Grey: 5.02 ERA, worse FIP last year and may not be as good as we think.
  4. Gore: ended the year hurt, never got off the DL post acquisition. Promising of course … but unproven at the MLB level
  5. Cavalli: one start, got lit up, hit the DL.
  6. Ward: coming off TJ, never been above AA, has to stay on MLB roster or be returned.
  7. Adon: 1-12 with an ERA north of 7.00 last year, needs to figure it out in AAA.
  8. Irvin: newly added to 40-man, needs to prove himself at AAA first.
  9. Rutledge: never pitched above A-ball

Not too promising.

Lets assume that Strasburg is still on the DL: that puts Ward right in line for the 5th starter spot right now. Is the team going to do more acquisitions to acquire depth? Perhaps. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Mike Rizzo buy a veteran starter on the cheap (say, 1yr/$10M guy), who slots in at #4 in the rotation and (if everyone is healthy) pushes Ward to the pen. That’s fine: he can work as an Espino/Abbott LR type. It’d be a waste to turn him into a reliever now, especially coming off TJ with a fragile elbow and the tendency to over-throw in shorter relief stints. But that’s the thing: who wants to bet me a dollar that more than one of the current projected top 5 starters isn’t hurt to open 2023? That’d put Ward right back in the rotation, even if we do a FA acquisition. Works for me; lets see what he can do.

All in all, a promising looking signing who looks to be a big part of 2023 for this team.

Written by Todd Boss

December 8th, 2022 at 10:14 am