Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

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First Look: Jake Irvin


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

April end of Month check-in on the Rotations


Jake Bennett might be the best looking starter prospect in the system right now. Photo from OSU

Nearly every year I get excited when we see who the rotations are at the various full-season levels, and then every year i … run out of time to check back in. I used to do “rotation review ” posts after every pass through the rotations, giving good/bad/holding serve notifications, but that was just way, way too much work for what’s an “in my spare time” endeavor.

But here we are, 2023, and we’ve seen a small burst of competence out of the big club, plus some points of interest elsewhere, so i thought i’d do a “state of the rotation” after a few turns through.

Important links for this analysis:

We’ll start with the Majors.

Rotation: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Kuhl

Changes since opening day: none, amazingly. We all knew Strasburg was going to start on the DL, and Cavalli’s injury was the dagger of spring, but through the first month the MLB rotation has not deviated. Pretty amazing for a last place team that is depending on two near-rookies and an NRI.

Observations: I don’t think anyone is surprised that Corbin’s ERA is nearly 6.00. He’s yet to have what i’d call a “good” outing despite two quality starts. He remains in the rotation thanks to his salary and a lack of better options. Kuhl’s 7.36 ERA (as of this writing) is not gonna get it done, especially for an NRI. He has to shape up and fast. Williams signed a 2 year deal so he’s not going anywhere fast, and he’s holding stead right at a league average 101 ERA+ through 5 starts. Grey’s fip slightly flatters his era, but still through 5 starts he’s got solid numbers and looks to improve on last year. For me the big win so far is the performance of Gore, who completely shut down the Mets this week and seems to improve start to start. So far in 2023, he’s looking like the real deal and is looking entirely like the trade bounty he was meant to be last year.

Next guy to get cut: Kuhl. NRI, no investment, and a 7 ERA spells doom. Is there a AAA replacement? No there isn’t (read next section), so one or two more crap starts and, if it were me, i’d be putting Ward into the rotation.

AAA Rochester:

Rotation: Adon, Irvin, Espino, Abbott, Peralta

Changes since Opening Day: Espino hit the DL right after his first start, which then gave starts to Kilome and T.Romero, both of whom were awful. Kilome posted a 19+ ERA in 2 starts and was released, while Romero posted a 9+ ERA in 2 starts/4 games and is on the DL.

Of course, Rochester is missing two names in particular that we all WANTED to see there, in Henry and Tetreault, but they’re hurt, so instead we get the two 2022 LRs from the big club Abbott and Espino taking AAA starts.

Observations; I think we all know what we have in Espino and Abbott at this point: 7th/8th bullpen arms who can soak up in long relief, even be decent as relievers, but who cannot be effective starters. Really, the same with Peralta, who has 10yrs of MLB experience at this point. I’m less interested in these guys as I am in the two prospects. Adon was awful with a capital-A last year, so 2023 is an important bounce back season, and so far, he’s doing ok; a mid 4-s Era, a bit too many base runners, but otherwise an improvement. Our other important arm here is Irvin; he’s got similar numbers to Irvin but his ERA is a point higher due to some unluckiness. Unfortunately, neither guy is doing a sub 2.00 dominance in AAA like we’d like to see. So, we’ll move on.

Next guy to get promoted: nobody: not one of the AAA starters is making any case right now to push for a promotion and take the place of Kuhl.

Next guy to get demoted or released: Abbott and Romero. Abbott is on the 40man and might be the first guy off if the team needs a slot, based on his current AAA ERA. Romero’s putting more than 2runners on per inning and it seems like he’s short for the team if they need a spot.

AA Harrisburg:

Rotation: Rutledge, Parker, Herrera (might be LR), Troop, Cuevas

Changes since Opening Day: None. AA has several guys who used to be starters (Cate, Gausch, Evan Lee, Carrillo) who I thought might be in the rotation, but clearly have all now been made relievers. Cate is the most amazing fall; he was the opening day starter in AA two years ago, now he’s a loogy. I’m slightly surprised Lee isn’t being looked at as a starter, given his big arm, and especially since one of the 5 guys in this rotation is clearly an org guy/innings eater in Herrera, but that’s just me.

Observations: Troop and Herrera are 26 and 27 respectively, both have AAA time (Herrera was in AAA in 2016!), and the presence of both in AA is probably an indictment of our pitching development lately. Clearly instead of these two you’d like to see Cate and Carrera in the rotation … but they just couldn’t cut it. So, lets focus on the prospects. The big name here is Rutledge, who struggled in Low-A, got on the 40-man and now sits in AA. So far, not bad for Rutledge, who’s had some bad luck and a lot of IR-S (Inherited Runners – Scored) from his relievers to inflate his ERA. I’m a huge Rutledge critic, but i like what i’ve seen so far. Parker may have finally matriculated to a level he can’t handle and has an ERA north of 7. He also can’t find the plate and has 16 walks in 14 IPs; hard to win when you’re giving up a baserunner an inning before anybody gets a hit. Cuevas’ breakout 2022 has come to a screeching halt in AA as well, with the highest BAA of any starter.

Next guy to get promoted: nobody: If they absolutely had to pull someone up from AA i’d probably go with Troop, who has a .216 BAA despite his ERA/FIP/WHIP peripherals.

Next guy to get demoted or released: Cuevas is only 21 and is struggling; i could see him going back to High-A soon if there was someone to take his spot.

High-A Wilmington

Rotation: Lara, Saenz, Huff, Theophile, Alvarez

Changes since Opening Day: Luckham has taken two starts, seemingly in place of Theophile, and it remains to be seen how it shakes out. Former SPs Knowles and Hernandez have been bumped to the bullpen

Observations: Luckham has been the high performer so far, a 2022 15th rounder who was used in middle relief last year. It is early, but his stuff looks great so far and he’s seemingly bumped a more valued prospect out of the rotation for now. Huff in the rotation was a surprise to this observer; he was never used as a starter last year, but that may just be due to it being his draft year as well. He’s getting hit around plenty though so far unfortunately, with a BAA in the .325 range. Andry Lara is the highest profile prospect here, by far, and he continues to underwhelm. The guy has a live arm with easy mid 90s speed, but doesn’t get the punch outs you’d expect. He’s got a solid BAA and has good control (4 walks in 18ip), but not enough swing and miss. I’m sure the Nats brass is just as frustrated. Saenz keeps on treading water, not impressing but not jeopardizing his rotation spot. Theophile only has 2 starts and 9IP as of this writing, too early to pass any judgement.

Next guy to get promoted: Probably Luckham, but i’d want to see him for half a season first.

Next guy to get demoted or released: Huff seems likely to get dumped back to the bullpen soon, if the team wants to replace him in the rotation and go with the 5 from 6 as discussed earlier.

Low-A Fredericksburg

Rotation: Bennett, Susana, Atencio, Cornelio, Denaburg

Changes since Opening Day: Atencio is probably more of a LR, and the team has given two other starts to clearly relievers when weather issues or last minute changes occur (we saw one of those this week with Susana getting yanked last minute). Aldonis seems like he’s in the mix too, perhaps at the expense of Denaburg. Read on.

Observations: Several big-time important prospects to the team here. Susana’s line so far: big arm, lots of Ks, can’t find the plate (10 walks in 9 innings), and got skipped in the rotation for an unknown reason recently. Not good. Bennett, our 2nd rounder in 2022, has been very solid, presenting like the classy veteran college pitcher we like. 21/5 K/BB in 15 innings, 1.11 whip, sub 3.00 ERA. So far so good for Bennett. We havn’t really seen a lot of Aldonis, but he was solid last year in Low-A and has been solid in his first two low-A starts this year. A good beginning, and something I hope he builds on. 2022 7th rounder Cornelio has gotten whacked around, but he’s not going anywhere. Lastly we come to Denaburg, who has looked awful in 2 starts and might be at the end of his string. He’s 23, already has passed through rule-5, and I’m not sure if he can get anybody out anymore.

Next guy to get promoted: Bennett

Next guy to get demoted or released: Denaburg. At some point you have to cut bait on a 1st rounder and admit defeat. I know the Nats have a hard time with this, especially when they see his big, glaring signing bonus. But he just has never come back from his arm injuries.

Written by Todd Boss

April 28th, 2023 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Nats in General

Spring Training 2023 NRI Disposition


Before I clear out the “NRI color coding” on the Big Board, I thought i’d write out a bit about the 2023 spring training competitions and the fact that yet again a slew of Non Roster Invites (NRIs) have made the team.

Here’s past posts on the same topic by year: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.

So, who were the NRIs this year? By position:

  • Starters: Kuhl. Tetreault, Lee, Romero
  • Righty Relievers: Harris, , Brzycky, Castro, Colome, Machado, Peralta, Carrillo
  • Lefty Relievers: Banda*, Baldanado, Perez, Doolittle
  • Catchers: Millas, Lindslay
  • Infielders: Chavis, Mejia, Adams, Blankenhorn, Fox, Valera
  • Outfielders: Casey, Hill, Antuna, Hernandez

So, Opening day NRIs to make roster and the circumstances behind each

  • Chad Kuhl makes the roster as the 5th starter when a massive gap in the rotation opens up with Cavalli’s arm injury. I thought perhaps rule5 pick Thad Ward had a shot here, but the team seemed to decide early he was going to hang in the bullpen for now. There were a slew of 40-man member starters in camp (Adon, Irvin, Abbott, Espino), but none of them made a legitimate case above Kuhl. Abbott and Espino seem to have proved last year they were better in relief, and both were sent down to AAA relatively early.
  • Hobie Harris: the team knew they were going to be down one RH reliever in Rainey, but didn’t count on Arano’s injury, which opened up a spot. Weems is the only other RH reliever on the 40-man and seems like he’ll be the first guy cut if they need space, which left the door open for Harris, who had a fantastic spring.
  • Anthony Banda slid into the sole lefty spot in the bullpen thanks mostly to Doolittle getting hurt. There are a couple other lefty relievers on the 40-man, but they’re both too young. This was always going to a NRI, and Banda won.
  • Michael Chavis might be the biggest surprise NRI to get added, in that the team had an identical player in Jake Alu who was just added, plus a former 1st rounder in Downs who they were taking a shot at. In the end, when Kieboom got hurt (yet again) it sealed the fate of others, who failed to impress during spring.

Which of the rest of the NRIs might we see this year? I fully expect another season of RH reliever churn, so look for guys like Colome and Machado to get re-added if they stay with the team and start out well. A couple of the NRIs are legit prospects (Brzycky) who seem like they’ll be up at some point. Perhaps later in the year we’ll see a return to the 40-man for guys like Casey and Hernandez.

Written by Todd Boss

April 1st, 2023 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Nats in General

Cavalli elbow is a huge blow for Nats


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.


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

BA Handbook Nats top 30 Reaction


Hassell is a top prospect and a major part of our future outfield. Photo via nbcsports

One of the big 4 of prospect rankings (BA, MLBpipeline, Fangraphs, and Keith Law) published their rankings this week, by way of their annual Handbook. Thanks to Luke Erickson who posted a 2-part post listing the names (part1 and part2). He also had his own reactions and thoughts.

Here’s the list from 1-30 for reference.

Last NameFirst NamePositionAcquisitionBonusBA Handbook rank
WoodJamesOF (Corner)2021 2nd26000001
Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)2020 1st43000002
GreenElijahOF (CF)2022 1st65000003
CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)2020 1st30270004
HouseBradySS/3B2021 1st50000005
VaqueroCristianOF (CF)2022 IFA49000006
SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)2022 IFA17000007
De La RosaJeremyOF (Corner)2018 IFA3000008
RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)2019 1st34500009
WhiteT.J.OF (Corner)2021 5th40000010
BennettJakeLHP (Starter)2022 2nd173480011
CruzArmandoSS2021 IFA390000012
HenryColeRHP (Starter)2020 2nd200000013
ParkerMitchellLHP (Starter)2020 5th10000014
LaraAndryRHP (Starter)2019 IFA125000015
WardThadRHP (Starter)2018 5th27500016
QuintanaRoismarOF (CF)2019 IFA82000017
CroninMattLHP (Reliever)2019 4th46450018
PinedaIsraelC2016 IFA45000019
FerrerJoseLHP (Reliever)2017 IFA?20
BrzykcyZachRHP (Reliever)2020 NDFA2000021
IrvinJakeRHP (Starter)2018 4th55000022
LeeEvanLHP (Starter)2018 15th12500023
LipscombTrey3B2022 3rd75850024
MillasDrewC2019 7th17000025
CarrilloGerardoRHP (Reliever)2016 IFA7500026
LileDaylenOF (CF)2021 2nd175000027
CateTimLHP (Starter)2018 2nd98620028
RamirezAldoRHP (Starter)2018 IFA45000029
FrizzellWill1B2021 8th17980030

And here’s my reactions. Note: the BA top 10 was previously published on 12/1/22 and nothing in the top 10 has changed. So, comments on the top 10 will sound familiar.

  • the top 8 are basically the same as anyone else’s top 8 for the system.
  • Hassell over Green, otherwise consistent with the last few rankings.
  • Rutledge at #9. I won’t go into it again. Relevant stats: 4th pro season, 4.90 ERA and 1.39 WHIP as a 25yr old in Low-A. $3.45M draft bonus, 1st rounder in 2019, and now on the 40-man.
  • As Prospects1500 did, T.J. White bumped up all the way to #10.
  • Cole Henry down at #13. Fangraphs had him at #2 in July.
  • Mitchell Parker at #14, as compared to Prospects1500, which had him buried at #27, or MLBpipeline, which had him similarly buried in the off-season. I like the respect here.
  • Rule 5 pickup Thad Ward at #16 now in the system. An indictment for sure, as Erickson noted.
  • Matt Cronin at #18, when others have had him well below. Is a lefty reliever specialist a good prospect, or a fungible replacement level player?
  • Israel Pineda, at #19 in the system. After years of underperforming, he hit well at AA this year, moved to AAA briefly and was added to the 40-man. Is this the real deal?
  • Jake Irvin. #22 here, #35 at Prospects1500, and outside the top 30 at the last MLB ranking. I mean, I guess if you’re scouting the score line his AA line this year wasn’t great (4.79 ERA), but his WHIP was decent, his K/BB good, and after years away thanks to injury and Covid it was a promising season. Now he’s on the 40-man and he’s gonna get MLB starts this year. Is this a #22 prospect?
  • Evan Lee at #23, when he was outside the top 50 on prospect1500. I think this is a decent ranking for now until we see how his injury shakes out.
  • Trey Lipscomb at #24; well below the lofty #15 spot Prospcts1500 had him.
  • Tim Cate, still hanging in there at #28. Just can’t let him go can you?

outside the top 30:

  • Any of our 2023 IFA signings; i guess BA doesn’t start considering them until they start playing.
  • Jared McKenzie: mid 20s in other shops, outside our top 30. we’ll see how he does in 2023.
  • Brenner Cox: #11 on Prospects1500, outside BA’s top 30? This seems like a miss.
  • Samuel Infante: Our 2nd rounder just three years ago is nowhere to be found. Our sordid history of sh*tty 2nd round picks continues. Stop me when you hear a name you like: Bennett, Lile, Infante, Forfeited for Corbin, Cate, Crowe, Neuse, Stevenson & Perkins, Suarez who didn’t sign, Johansen, Renda, Forfeited for Werth signing, Solis, Koburnus, Hood, Smolinksi & Zimmermann. OK, that’s frigging going back to 2007 before we find a for-real impact 2nd rounder. That’s ridiculous!!!
  • Jake Alu: ok so we can rank Cate in the top 30, a guy who has basically ZERO chance of playing in the majors at this point, versus Alu, who we can almost guarantee is going to break camp with the MLB roster in 2023.
  • Hey, at least they didn’t rank Yasel Antuna.

Written by Todd Boss

January 27th, 2023 at 9:52 pm

Posted in Nats in General

Are we sure this is the right Direction for 2023?


Corey Dickerson, new Nats signing, from 2019, the last time he was good. Photo via wikipedia

Upon hearing the latest “1 year veteran FA lottery ticket” signing (Corey Dickerson), I paused to update the Big Board and slot in Dickerson into the starting lineup.

If the season opened today, here’s what we’re presumably putting out on the field:

CARuiz, Keibert#
1BSmith, Dominic*
2BGarcia, Luis*
SSAbrams, C.J.
3BCandelario, Jeimer#
CFDickerson, Corey*
CFRobles, Victor
RFThomas, Lane
DHMeneses, Joey

This lineup includes now three off-season signings in Dominic Smith, Jeimer Candelario, and now Dickerson. All of them are getting non-trivial money to come here, and all of them are going to start.

Here’s the thing. The team lost 107 games last year. We (arguably) had internal players to cover the three positions these guys are now projected to play.

Why exactly did we sign them, instead of playing our prospects??

So, instead of allowing Joey Meneses , who lest we forget hit 13 homers in 65 games last year en route to a 165 OPS+ figure, to play 1B primarily, we’ve bought Smith and guaranteed him the spot (2022 slash line for Smith: .194/.276/.284.

Instead of seeing if Carter Kieboom can actually hold onto the job at 3B, or (gasp) maybe give a shot to (arguably) the best minor league hitter we had last year in Jake Alu, we now get to watch some random guy named Candelario (2022 slash line: .217 .272 .361).

Instead of rolling the dice in LF with a guy like Alex Call (or even positionally-flexible Meneses or Alu) or newly signed Stone Garrett, or maybe even to continue to give ABs to Yadiel Hernandez (who had a 108 OPS+ last year at the position) … we get Dickerson, who is now on his 7th team at the age of 34, has zero history here, and is literally the definition of journeyman.

Is this what we really want as a fan-base? To have these positions filled by guys we couldn’t pick out of a lineup, instead of seeing if we have internal options that can grow into the positions?

What’s the goal in 2023? To only lose 106 games? Do we really care if we go 55-107 again? All our top prospects are babies, aged 19-20 and playing in the lower minors. It’s going to take several years for these guys to matriculate. We KNOW 2023 is a lost season already. The ownership is in flux, the damn MASN thing still remains unresolved, and we have $65M tied up in two starters who may never pitch again.

I mean, what’s next? Do we re-sign Nelson Cruz to paper over Meneses yet again and relegate him to the bench? What’s more valuable to the team: 4 months of a 1yr FA on the off-chance he has a decent summer and can be flipped for some low-A reliever at the trade deadline, or to see if guys like Kieboom, Alu, Garrett, heck maybe even Jeter Downs can compete?

Written by Todd Boss

January 11th, 2023 at 8:11 am

2022 Non-Tender Deadline Analysis


I’m sure Voit wasn’t happy getting traded from a playoff contender to the worst team in the league. But now he’ll likely get to test the FA waters after a non-tender. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

November is always a busy month for transactions. You have the end of the season and the parting of ways of FAs, then the declaration of dozens of MLFAs, then Rule-5 roster machinations, and now the Non-Tender deadline.

This is another long-running piece we try to do here every year. Here’s known links for years past analysis: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

The non-tender decisions generally weigh options, salary projection, roster depth, and performance. So we’ll talk about all these factors for each player. Key resources to use during this analysis will include:

While it is true that the team could choose to non-tender pre-arb players this coming Friday (as they did last year with Mike Ford), they could do these moves at any time with any number of pre-Arb 40-man players who might be needed. I would have almost no problem DFA’ing any one of Fox, Palacios, Weems, Garrett, or Antuna right now. But they’re all pre-Arb players who aren’t even projected necessarily to make the 2023 active roster, meaning they’re costing the team a pittance. So we’ll skip those names for now.

Lets review every Arbitration-eligible player we have, in rough order of projected salary, and make some comments.

  • Voit, Luke: Acquired as a throw-in with the huge San Diego trade last season. Was on an Arb2 year contract of $5.45M but the Nats only had to pay the prorated amount of about $1.9M. Projects to $6.5M in 2023 salary. Two options left, so he could be optioned. He’s positionally limited to 1B or DH, is kind of a 3 true outcomes guy, with low BA, high Ks and decent power (22 hrs in 2022). The team has almost nothing invested in the guy and discovered Joey Meneses in 2022, a guy who plays the same position AND can play RF, who makes the minimum, and who drastically out hit Voit. Heck, i’d rather put Meneses at 1B and recall Yadiel Hernandez to bash it in RF in 2023. For me, a clear non-tender.
  • Robles, Victor. Here we go again. Another season, and another year of debating this guy. Nothing has changed from the last dozen times we’ve had this conversation: Its his third straight year of hitting at or below a .600 OPS figure but giving the team plus defense in CF (he’s a 2022 Gold Glove Finalist). He’s only 26 but already has 1675 MLB PAs, so its highly likely we have what we have in him at the plate at this point. He has an option left. He made just $1.65M this year but Cots projects him to $3.9M next. $3.9M is ridiculous for a 70 OPS production, no matter how good his defense is. Meanwhile, the team has Lane Thomas who gave above league average OPS production with power who can play CF, and just added a true CF to the 40-man in De La Rosa. We are after all pretty thin on the 40-man right now in terms of OF: Thomas, Robles, Call, Palacios, Antuna, and De La Rosa. If the season started tomorrow … are you really going to battle with Call or Palacios starting in RF? I hope not, and it lends me to believe the team will be looking at OFs in FA. What does that mean for Robles? Maybe if his projected salary wasn’t so high, you could make the argument to keep him. But not at $4M for what we’re getting. But I’m not the Nats, who have continued to give him chance after chance, so him getting non-tendered would be a shock.
  • Fedde, Erick: Another guy who comes up year after year. In 2022, he was awful, going 6-13 with a 5.81 ERA, a 5.15 FIP in 27 starts. That was good for just a 67 ERA+ figure. For that he earned 2.15M this year and is projected to earn $2.65M next. He has no options. Our working theory is that the team has kept giving him chances (as opposed to them cutting bait as they did with Austin Voth) precisely due to his signing bonus, and I continue to believe this is the case. That being said … if everyone is healthy Fedde looks like he’s 6th on the SP depth chart (behind Strasburg, Corbin, Grey, Gore, and Cavalli). But we know everyone is never healthy. Would you rather have Fedde instead of one of the rest of the possible SPs? Espino, Abbott, Adon, Irvin, Carrillo, Rutledge? Espino and Abbott were both swingmen and had medicore numbers on the year, but Espino proved he was much better in relief and seem to me to be better served in the bullpen. Same with Abbott; far better in the pen in 2022 than as a starter. So those guys don’t count. That leaves Adon (1-12 in 2022) and three guys who have never pitched in the majors. So, I hate to say it, but I think the team needs to tender Fedde to eat 2023 innings.
  • Finnegan, Kyle basically became our closer upon Rainey‘s injury, and performed adequately there. As a result of getting a bunch of 2022 saves, Finnegan’s price tag goes from a MLB minimum salary in 2022 to a projected $2.1M in 2023. No matter; he performed well, he’s our 2023 closer (Rainey had TJ surgery in August and likely misses most if not all of 2023), and you tender him.
  • Thomas, Lane: has been found money ever since we got him from STL in exchange for the fading Jon Lester. He hit above 100 OPS+ in 2022, plays all three OF positions, made the minimum last year and only projects to $1.65M this year. Easy Tender, could be our CF opening day starter if the team finally cuts ties with Robles.
  • Edwards, Carl was perhaps our best 2022 reliever after signing a MLFA deal, and now is inline to get a decent pay day as he exhausts his last arb year. Edwards’ career, by the way, is perhaps the most difficult options/arbitration case/service time player i’ve ever seen: he’s been outrighted multiple times, signed both major league and minor league deals, had multiple arb cases, played for 3 different teams in 2021 alone … to this day I cannot figure out which season counted as his third arb year, but here we are in 2022 and he’s facing his 4th and last arb case.
  • Rainey, Tanner: an interesting case. He had TJ on 8/4/22, so he’ll miss most of 2023, but he’s arbitration eligible and Cots projects him to nearly double his 2022 salary to $1.5M. Why pay $1.5M to a guy who’s not going to play and will just sit on your 60-day DL all year? If it was me, i’d non-tender him and immediately resign him to a minor league deal with a handshake agreement to do a call up on 8/1/23, with performance based bonuses. If he comes back and pitches a couple of months, then structure it so he gets more than the league minimum. But this way he stays with the team and rehabs with us. One would have thought the team would have tried to sneak him through waivers earlier and just flat outrighted him (as they did with other injured arms like Tetreault and Lee). Either way, he was so dominant in 2020 (and then so awful in 2021) that the team should roll the dice with him. Or not, and tender him and pay him as little as possible and throw him on the 60-day DL as soon as you can to free up the roster spot.
  • Vargas, Ildemaro: no analysis needed; the team already signed him for 2023, avoiding arbitration. Vargas played 3B primarily for the team after it became clear that Maikel Franco sucked, and was good. But Kieboom is healthy again, and the team added Alu, so my guess is that Vargas is signed on as one of our “backup middle infielders” for 2023, ready to plug in anywhere on the dirt as needed, while Kieboom/Alu compete for the starting 3B job.
  • Arano, Victor threw a ton of innings for us last year (appearing in 43 games). He wasn’t lights out, but he also wasn’t costing the team a ton. $900k last year, projecting to $1.1M this year; resign him and put him into the mix.
  • Harvey, Hunter was either our best or second best reliever in 2022 (with Edwards) after being claimed off waivers. Found gold again. His price tag for 2023 barely projects above the league minimum; no brainer to tender.

So, If it was me, i’d non-tender Voit, Robles, and make a side deal for Rainey.

My prediction for what the Nats will do? Non-Tenders for only Voit, keeping Robles, Fedde, and all the others.

Post-publishing Actuals? Amazingly the team cut bait with Fedde. Nats non-tender Voit and Fedde.

Nats Non-Tender history.

  • 2022: Nats non-tender Voit, Fedde
  • 2021: Ryne Harper, Wander Suero, and Mike Ford non-tendered, keeping Ross, Fedde, Voth, and Stevenson, all of whom I thought would get NT’d. By the end of 2022, Voth was waived, Stevenson outrighted, Ross injured, and Fedde awful.
  • 2020: No real non-tender candidates; all arb-eligible players tendered contracts at the deadline. Didn’t even write a post for the first time ever.
  • 2019, Just Javy Guerra, who was then re-signed to a combo MLB/MLFA deal a few days later and played for us for another couple of seasons. Glover retired, and the team tendered the questionable Taylor.
  • 2018, no-one non-tendered (Roark, Taylor, Solis all candidates in one form or another).  Solis negotiated a contract pre-deadline leading to his tender.
  • 2017: No non-tender candidates; all arb-eligible players tendered contracts at the deadline.
  • 2016: we non-tendered Ben Revere, waived Aaron Barrett before having to make the NT decision, and declined Yusmeiro Petit‘s option as a way of “non-tendering” him.
  • 2015: we non-tendered Craig Stammen, but kept NT candidates Jose Lobaton and Tyler Moore (eventually trading Moore after waiving him at the end of spring training).
  • 2014: we did not non-tender anyone, though a couple weeks later traded NT candidate Ross Detwiler to Texas for two guys who never really panned out for us (Chris Bostick and Abel de los Santos).
  • 2013: we did not non-tender anyone, only Ross Ohlendorf was a candidate, and in retrospect he probably should have been NT’d since he didn’t throw a pitch for the Nationals in 2014.
  • 2012: we non-tendered three guys (Jesus FloresTom Gorzelanny, John Lannan) in the face of a huge amount of arbitration players (10).
  • 2011: we non-tendered Doug Slaten deservedly, but tendered candidate Gorzellany.
  • 2010: we non-tendered Chien-Ming Wang, Wil Nieves, Joel Peralta.  We also outrighted 5 guys prior to the NT deadline, DFA’d two more in December, and DFA/dreleased four more guys prior to Spring training in a very busy off-season.
  • 2009: we non-tendered Scott Olsen, Mike MacDougal
  • 2008: we non-tendered Tim Redding, now the Pitching coach for our Auburn Short-A team, so I guess there was no hard feelings there 🙂
  • 2007: we non-tendered Nook LoganMike O’Conner.
  • 2006: we non-tendered or declined options for Ryan Drese, Brian Lawrence, Zach Day (it might have only been Day who was officially non-tendered)
  • 2005: we non-tendered Carlos BaergaPreston WilsonJunior Spivey.

Written by Todd Boss

November 17th, 2022 at 9:43 am

Post rule-5 Move Reactions


Rutledge amazingly gets added to the 40-man. Photo via BA

So, in the wake of my big Rule-5 preview … i didn’t think the team was going to do much.

But they did a lot. Lets talk about the players added and the players removed.


  • Jake Alu inf
  • Matt Cronin lhp
  • Jeremy De La Rosa of
  • Jose Ferrer lhp
  • Jake Irvin rhp
  • Jackson Rutledge rhp

Alu: I thought Alu was a decent candidate for his AAA success, but was thinking perhaps the team would let him slide as someone who was perhaps seen as “undersized utility guy.” Clearly they favor him more, and this gives us more evidence that Alu is going to compete straight up with Kieboom this coming spring.

Cronin: So, in my preview I thought Cronin was the only “lock” to get added, based on his plug-n-play and his success in AAA. So, no surprise here.

De La Rosa: surprised he got added. The guy is only 20 and hit .197 in a few games in High-A. Yes he raked in Low-A; read that sentence again: he’s 20. Who is going to draft his guy and have him stay on a 25-man roster all year? I’m not doubting the guy’s ability, i just can’t believe someone would waste a roster spot on a 20yr old OF like him. If he was an arm? Sure. so we’re going to have at least one 40-man player in High-A next spring.

Ferrer: I didn’t think he was really a viable candidate since he was in High-A most of the year. Again, who would pick a guy who had only demonstrated he could succeed in A ball? Nonetheless, he’s here.

Irvin: Honestly, I didn’t think his AA numbers merited a spot. But, perhaps the Nats are thinking about his pedigree instead of his performance.

Rutledge: the most amazing selection of all. Reminder: he had a .4.90 ERA in LOW-A this year. This is entirely a protection based on protecting a big bonus and not the player on the field. You can generally count on one hand the number of 40-man players in A ball in a given year … and our team is set to have two of them in 2023. Amazing.

Now, lets be honest. I’m not “mad” about any of these additions. I’m always up for protecting our players instead of letting them go. I’m just kind of surprised that some of these guys got picked, knowing what we know about rule5.

Biggest surprises not to get protected? Millas of course, given our catching depth. Nobody else really; the only other guy i mentioned as being in the realm ofpossible to get protected was Brill.

Lets talk about who the team dumped to get here. Two days ago we were at 39/40 on the 40-man; now we have 6 new guys.

  • Seth Romero mercifully cut after yet another disgression: we’ll have a separate post-mortem post.
  • Tommy Romero dfa’d: no surprise here; he was perhaps 3rd or 4th on my list of “next guy to get the DFA.”
  • Jackson Tetreault: cut not because he merited it .. but because he’s hurt and thus passed easily through waivers. More importantly (and this is the exact same situation with Lee) … Tetreault was eligible to be outrighted against his will once he passed through waivers. So this (and Lee) were strategic outrights, knowing they’d be guaranteed to still be with the org. Well done .. and another example of how the roster rules continually screw pre-arb players in this sport.
  • Evan Lee: See Tetreault; Lee has a left flexor strain, a huge red flag for teams in the modern Tommy John happy era.
  • Yadiel Hernandez: The one that really shocked me. I mean, i had him possibly penciled in as the starting LF next season based on his bat. But then again, maybe this was a calculated gamble by the team to DFA a player who they could outright and control, as with Tetreault and Lee. The cuban sticks with the team but is bound for AAA once again, a situation that has to be a huge bummer for him.

Something tells me we’ll be seeing Tetreault, Lee, and Hernandez again. But not for a while. At least we retain them.

More interesting is why the team bothered to keep rif-raf on the 40-man like:

  • Fox, who went 2-28 in the majors and a middling .241 in the minors
  • Palacios, who posted a 46 OPS+ in a completely replaceable position.
  • Weems, who posted a 5.22 ERA in the bullpen as a RHP middle reliever.
  • Garrett, who gave up 7 runs in 9 innings
  • Antuna, who continues to have 9 lives, hitting .215 in High-A. He has one option remaining until finally this arrogant decision can be put behind us when, after he again flirts with the Mendoza line in the minors in 2023, he’ll be forced to be DFA’d thanks to the exhausting of waivers in the spring of 2024.

More moves have to be coming, including some non-tenders (a separate post on that forth coming as well), because the team has to get some reinforcements this off-season besides 20yr olds who hit .190 in high-A (ahem, De La Rosa). Right?

Written by Todd Boss

November 15th, 2022 at 9:04 pm

2022 Rule-5 Protection Analysis


Cronin may be getting the 40-man call ahead of the rule5 roster deadline. hoto by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Its our Annual rule 5 protection analysis post!

This is our longest running recurring post. Every year, despite how little the rule-5 draft may actually matter, we’ve done this analysis, since we started writing this blog.

Here’s links to past years posts on this topic: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.

Reminder on the guidelines here: any 4-year college-aged draftee from 2019 or before who isn’t already on the 40-man roster is Rule-5 eligible this coming December, and any high-school aged draftee/International Free Agent from 2018 or before is newly eligible this year, assuming they were at least 18 as of June 5th of that year.  There’s always a couple of guys who have specific birthdays that move them up or down one way or the other; i’ll depend on the Roster Resource rules and the Draft Tracker for exact details, but apologies in advance if I miss someone.

Wrinkle for this year; thanks to the massive spate of injuries the team faced in 2022, we had to dump players just to get all our 60-day DL guys back on the 40-man. So there’s not a ton of room there to add players right now. The team outrighted two players last week (Perez and Berrera) to get to 39/40 on the roster … is that a hint as to what they’ll be doing for Rule5? Probably.

If they want to do more Rule5 protection additions, they’ll need to do more DFAs/releases/outrights/non-tenders … right now I see six players who seem to have little to no value on the roster based on 2022 performance (Machado, Fox, TRomero, Palacios, Weems, Garrett) and another handful of arbitration eligible players who just don’t seem like they’re going to be worth their projected salary (Voit, Fedde, Robles), so there’s definitely room to make some drops to add some of the guys we’re talking about below. We’ll have another conversation later about non-tender/arbitration candidates; but don’t be surprised if one or more of them is dumped this week.

In the mean time, lets talk Rule-5 Candidates!

Vital resources for this analysis: the Big Board, the Draft Tracker, and Roster Resource.

Group 1: Newly Eligible 2019 draft College Players this year worth consideration for protection:


  • Millas, Drew, a 7th rounder by Oakland in 2019 and who we acquired in the 2021 trade dump, perhaps is the most difficult Rule-5 choice we face (certainly the MLBpipeline guys think so). He’s a known prospect and has solid defense, but slashed just .211/.280/.296 once he got to AA. We’re not exactly “deep” in catchers in the organization (rostering just three right now), but we also have two known opening day catchers right now without argument, so Millas’ 2023 goal will be to learn how to hit in AA, then push his way to AAA. Does that sound like someone who is a risk to get selected in the Rule-5 draft? Not in the modern game, where teams routinely start their backup C twice a week. There’s no way a guy who hit .211 in AA would be trusted to call MLB games right now. I’ll say he’s a slight, slight chance to protect but not really a candidate.
  • Mendoza, Drew: 3rd rounder, 1B/DH: he of course *should* be a Rule5 protection … but this 3rd rounder has been a huge disappointment in his career. He slashed .208/.288/.316 as a 1B/DH repeating High-A in his age 24 season. Not a protection candidate.
  • Cluff, Jackson: 6th round SS: socially promoted to AA this year, where he slashed .190/.278/.278. I’ve questioned why he’s still in the system, let alone why he got nearly 400 ABs in 2022. Not a protection candidate.
  • Pratt, Andrew: 10th round Senior sign, still hanging around despite a career BA of .183. God bless him; signed for $10k and probably wasn’t expected to make it to 2020 season, let alone rostered 3 years later. Not a protection candidate.
  • Arruda, J.T.: 11th round middle infielder who got an above slot bonus. Couldn’t cut it at High-A in 2021, got hurt early 2022 and had decent numbers (as one would expect) repeating Low-A. Not sure what his career outlook is, but not a protection candidate.
  • Dunn, Jack, a 20th round senior sign who, like Pratt signed for $10k and was mostly an afterthought, now sits on the AAA roster as a middle infield backup. Great career; not a threat to be protected.
  • Strohschein, Kevin, a 21st round senior sign, posted a .586 OPS in high-A this year. Great that he’s still hanging around, but not a protection candidate.
  • Alu, Jake presents an interesting case for protection. In 2021 he hacked his way into a promotion to AA, where he didn’t suck. Then in 2022 he posted an .830 OPS in AA showing some power, which led to a AAA promotion where he posted a very solid .323/.372/.553 figure with 11 homers in 59 games (!) while playing mostly 3B (with some 2B cover). Is he possibly pushing his name towards meriting a 40-man spot? I mean … if Carter Kieboom hits .200 yet again in spring training, does the team consider someone like Alu instead of a 31-yr old retread like Ildemar Vargas for 2023? I mean why not? That all being said, is he someone who another team would pluck and stick on their MLB roster all year? Maybe? The Nats signed Alu as a Senior for a pittance ($10K) and in the neanderthal accounting of MLB clubs that means they very little “invested in” him, but players who hit .300 in AAA don’t grow on trees (our team had just 4 who hit .300 this year … and two of them had fewer than 6 games to do so). Personally, i’d protect him just to see what you have, but I could understand why the team might roll the dice on a lower profile guy.

This list recently included names like Ydens, Martina, Renda, and Barrios but they were all released in mid-2022.


  • Rutledge, Jackson, our 1st rounder in 2019 and the guy who some pundits as recently as last off-season thought was a better prospect than Cade Cavalli, toiled to a 4.90 ERA, a K/inning and a 1.39 WHIP while repeating Low-A in 2022. Low-A. First round college sign four years out of college. Its patently ridiculous. On the one hand the entire baseball world knows he’s a 1st rounder and knows he can put up 7ip/3H/0R/10K starts. On the other hand, he’s got way, way too many 4ER in 5IP starts to be trustworthy. If he was putting up like 12 K/9 stats, maybe someone would take him as a flier for a middle relief RHP guy, but he’s not. He’s not protectable, but he’s also an asset the team may feel the need to “protect.” I’d be shocked if he was protected, but hey, they also protected a guy a couple years ago in Antuna who was this low in the minors.
  • Cronin, Matt, 4th round power Lefty reliever who pitched most of the year in the back end of the AAA bullpen, posting good numbers. This is the textbook definition of the kind of guy teams would pluck in Rule-5, make the 7th guy out of the bullpen, and see if they found gold. I think he’s a lock to be protected.
  • Dyson, Tyler, 5th round pick in 2019, missed all of 2020 with injury. Not a protection candidate, but a good arm to watch in 2023.
  • Peterson, Todd, 7th rounder in 2019, struggled with injury in 2022 and ended the year on the 60-day DL. Not a candidate to protect, and someone who I hope rebounds to prior form.
  • Ribalta, Orlando ended the year as a middle reliever in High-A with decent numbers, but isn’t a threat to protect.
  • Knowles, Lucas worked as an effective swingman all year in High-A, but shouldn’t be considered a threat to be picked even so. Perhaps next year if he can repeat this performance in AA.
  • Moore, Davis missed the entire 2022 season with injury.
  • Willingham, Amos, like a lot of arms in this list, pitched well for High-A this year. Hi-A 25yr olds drafted in the teens don’t generally make prospect noise, and Willingham is in the same boat.
  • Yankosky, Tyler posted a 1.78 ERA in 21 mostly 8th/9th inning relief appearances and was well on his way to a promotion, then he got hurt in mid June and did not appear again. Someone to watch for in 2023 for sure, but not likely to get plucked.
  • Stainbrook, Troy was yet another High-A middle reliever in 2022, posting a 4.75 ERA with more walks than IP. Surprised he’s still on the roster and might not make it out of ST 2023.
  • Alston, Garvin, a 37th rounder in 2019 by the White Sox who we got in a little reported trade in April (it was such a minor deal that it’s unclear what we traded to Chicago for him; money perhaps? ). Nonetheless he pitched great this year, posting a 1.96 ERA in High-A and earning a promotion to AA in August (where he got shelled). Probably not a protection candidate in 2022, but a player to watch for in 2023.
  • Shuman, Seth: a 6th rounder in 2019 by Oakland who came to us in the Gomes/Harrison trade during the 2021 purge. He was pitching quite well in High-A’s rotation, but left a game early in early July and never returned. Its unclear what the injury was, and we hope he returns in 2023. Not a candidate.

Group 1 Rule-5 Protection Candidates: Millas (slight), Alu (maybe). Rutledge (doubtful), Cronin (lock).

Group 2: Newly Eligible 2018 High School-age drafted players under consideration for protection

This section is always easy, since we rarely draft HS kids, but this year there’s a big name.

  • Denaburg, Mason. 1st rounder 2018. Made 13 starts in Low-A this year after multiple seasons of injury issues. Obviously not a candidate to get drafted despite his 1st round pedigree. Example 1-A of why drafting prep RH pitchers in the 1st round is risky.

Group 2 Rule-5 Protection Candidates: none.

Group 3: Newly Eligible 2018 signed IFAs under consideration for protection:

Note; we have a ton of 2018 IFAs on the big board; i’m not going to bother naming these guys unless they’re out of rookie ball, even if they’re mentioned on roster resource as someone to watch.

  • Rivero, Yoander: hit a combined .214 between low and high A. Not a protection candidate.
  • De La Cruz, Christopher: hit well in FCL, but then struggled in Low-A. Not a candidate.
  • Caceres, Bryan: 5.92 ERA in a full year in the Low-A rotation. Not a candidate.
  • Theophile, Rodney: destroyed Low-A in the rotation, then put up a 5 ERA in high-A. Not a candidate. Just got selected to play for Nicaragua though in the WBC, so he’ll get some exposure. Someone to watch.
  • Ferrer, Jose ; Great year as the high-A closer, earning two promotions and ending the year in AA. Lefty, but undersized. Definitely a breakout candidate for us in 2022, but would he get picked? Perhaps. A small risk if he’s left unprotected.
  • Pena, Bryan: 5.74 ERA in low-A, not a candidate.
  • Guasch, Richard; trade bounty from Oakland for Gomes/Harrison; did well in High-A while repeating but got shelled in AA. Not a candidate.
  • De La Rosa, Jeremy: Crushed in Low-A in 2022, slashing .315/.394/.515. Moved up to High-A and struggled. A solid prospect for sure, not yet a rule-5 candidate. Someone to watch in 2023.
  • Atencio, Jose: Eight starts in Low-A this year, decent numbers. Not a candidate, but is only 21 and could be a name to watch in 2023.
  • Ramirez, Aldo: trade bounty for Schwarber, but who missed the entirety of 2022 with injury.

Group 3 Rule-5 Protection Candidates: Ferrer (maybe).

Group 4: Rule-5 Eligible Drafted/Domestic hold-overs of note: these are players who were rule-5 eligible previously but who put together a nice 2021 and might need additional thought. They’re sort of organized by draft year, from 2017 to earlier. Note; draft signings from 2015 hit 6-year MLFA this off-season, so they’re not listed here).

  • Tim Cate, 2nd rounder from 2018. 5.31 ERA in 21 starts in AA in 2021, and was subject of much discussion around rule-5 last year. As it turns out, it was all for naught; in 2022 he got demoted to High-A, then upon his return to AA posted a 6.16 ERA. Ouch. Is he even a prospect at this point? Unsure; certainly he’s not going to get protected.
  • Alex Troop, 9th rounder from 2017. He missed nearly all of 2018 with injuries, so he’s gotten a late start. He was a workhorse in AA in 2022, a swingman with middling numbers but filling in. Not a candidate to protect.
  • Armond Upshaw, 11th rounder from 2016. Promoted to AA in 2021, where he hit .186. Missed the entire 2022 season with injury. Not a candidate to protect.
  • Matt Merrill, a 2020 MLFA originally drafted in 2017 by Houston. Pitched his way out of the High-A rotation and ended the year as a swing-man eating up low-leverage innings and nearly a 7 ERA. His time may be short with the org.
  • Cody Wilson, 13th rounder in 2018: hit a combined .124/.225/.164 across three levels in 2021 as a backup CF. In High-A as a 26yr old in 2022. Not a prospect.
  • Onix Vega, 20th round catcher from 2018: hit .233 in Low-A in 2021, then was the starter in High-A in 2022 with decent numbers. If we’re not protecting Millas, we’re certainly not protecting Vega.
  • Cole Daily, 22nd rounder from 2018: hit just .193 across several levels in 2021 as he was bounced around to provide middle infield cover for the lower minors. Hit .222 in High-A in 2022. Not a prospect.
  • Reid Schaller, 3rd rounder from 2018: decent numbers as a middle reliever in High-A and AA in 2021, then an ugly 5.70 ERA in 2022. Not a candidate.
  • Jake Irvin, 4th rounder from 2018. spent all of 2021 recovering from Tommy John surgery, then was babied in 2022 to build back up arm strength. Finished in AA with middling numbers; he’s someone to keep an eye on in 2023 for sure, but not likely a candidate to get protected at this point.
  • Carson Teel, 16th rounder from 2018: had a decent 2021 season, earning a promotion from AA to AAA as a long man/spot starter. Same thing happened in 2022; bounced around and mopped up innings. Not really a prospect, just an org arm.
  • Ryan Tapani, 21st rounder from 2018 who never appeared in 2022; unsure if he’s even still with the organization at this point.
  • Justin Connell, 11th rounder from 2017: starting corner OF for high-A in 2021, then promoted to AA in 2022. Despite being with us forever, he’s only 23, but has never garnered much prospect buzz. Not a candidate to be protected.
  • Trey Harris came to us in the 2022 trade deadline and was a 2018 draftee, so he’s Rule-5 eligible. He didn’t exactly light AA on fire this year (.630 OPS) so he’s not likely to get plucked.
  • Matt Brill was a minor league R5 draftee and 17D guy. In 2022 for us he was great in AA, struggled in AAA. Seems like an edge-of-the-40man roster RHP reliever, not a guy who will stick in the majors. Low risk to get picked.

Names released from this list in 2022: K.J. Harrison, Jacob Condra-Bogan, Cole Freeman, Alex Dunlap, Jackson Stoeckinger, Gage Canning, Jacob Rhinesmith, Kyle Marinconz, Andrew Karp, Chandler Day, Frankie Bartow

Names no longer eligible b/c they’ve made it to MLB: Evan Lee

Names now MLFAs: Nick Banks, Andrew Lee, Ike Schlabach

Group 4 Rule 5 Protection candidates: Irvin (not really), Brill (doubtful)

Group 5: IFAs: 2017 and older

Again, if the IFA isn’t out of rookie ball there’s no point in discussing.

  • Jordy Barley, SS, trade return from San Diego for Daniel Hudson. Hit .203 in High-A, not a candidate.
  • Wilmer Perez, C. the 2016 IFA was mostly a backup Catcher in high-A, hit .206. same for 2022.
  • Geraldo Diaz, C. hit .217 as a backup catcher in Low-A in 2021, then .254 in 2022 as the notional starter. Still not a candidate to be drafted.
  • Viandel Pena, SS. Hit .214 in Low-A in 2021, then a few points higher in High-A in 2022. Not a candidate to get drafted.
  • Ricardo Mendez, OF. Hit .227 in HighA this year. Not a candidate.
  • Leandro Emiliani, hit .165 between the GCL and Low-A in 2021, then .228 in High-A in 2022. Still not a candidate to be drafted, unclear why he keeps earning promotions.
  • Pedro Gonzalez, SP. was in the 2021 opening day rotation for Low-A, demoted after giving up 19 runs in 9 innings. In 2022, he again got shelled in low-A, this time as a reliever. Time is running out for Pedro.
  • Carlos Romero, RP. Pitched as a swing-man in 2021 Low-A, posted a 5.00 ERA and a 1.63 whip. Still in that role in 2022, but pitched to a 3.36 ERA with 97Ks in 72ip. Interesting. Still not a candidate to get picked, but someone to watch in 2023.
  • Karlo Seijas, SP. somehow stayed in the Low-A rotation the entire season, making 22 starts and pitching to a 6.84 ERA. Got absolutely shelled in 2022 in Low-A and is on the restricted list; may have been released.
  • Jose Sanchez, SS. The 2016IFA Hit .232 as the part time SS in low-A, somehow got to High-A in 2022, hit .231. Not a candidate.
  • Alfonso Hernandez, SP. The 2016IFA showed a ton of promise after a solid 2021 season, but missed the entire 2022 season on the DL.
  • Niomar Gomez, SP. the 2016IFA threw just 6 innings in 2021 and then missed the entire 2022 season with injury.
  • Wilson Garcia, a C we signed as a MLFA but who is Rule-5 Eligible. he’s 28, he raked as a DH only in AA this year, and of course i’d be shocked if he got picked. But he’s on here.
  • Luis Reyes, a 2013IFA who’s still hanging around. He got no less than 21 starts in our system between AA and AAA, a ridiculous indictment of our development system as of late (that we opted to give so many starts in AA to a 28yr old versus a prospect). not a candidate.
  • Francys Peguero: a 13IFA who’s still hanging around. He had a 4.89 ERA in AA this year as a 27yr old. Not a candidate.

Names lost from this list in 2022: Juan Diaz, Omar Meregildo, Malvin Pena, Jorge Hurtado, Andry Arias,

Names no longer eligible b/c they’ve made it to MLB roster: Israel Pineda

Names now MLFAs: Gilberto Chu, Gilbert Lara

Group 5 Protection Candidates: no one.

Group 6: Former 40-man guys who have been outrighted previously

  • Jake Noll, 7th rounder from 2016. Its unclear whether a guy who has been outrighted is R5 eligible, but Noll is now 28 and put up serviceable numbers in AAA. I don’t sense he’s a candidate.

Group 6 protection candidates: none.

So, who would I protect?

Summary of above:

Group 1: Millas (slight), Alu (maybe). Rutledge (doubtful), Cronin (lock).
Group 2: none
Group 3: Ferrer (maybe).
Group 4: Irvin (not really), Brill (doubtful)
Group 5: none
Group 6: none

So, who would I would protect?

Based on there only being one 40-man spot open right now, I predict we protect just one player:

  • Matt Cronin

If we had more … I would consider protecting, in order of likelihood:

  • Jake Alu
  • Drew Millas
  • Jackson Rutledge
  • Jose Ferrer

Post Publishing Results: Wow, they added SIX players! Cronin, Alu, De La Rosa, Rutledge, Ferrer, and Irvin. A couple of these were pretty big surprises to me.

Written by Todd Boss

November 14th, 2022 at 1:19 pm

2023 Draft Order … not finalized


This is a Tank. This is also what Washington did this season. Photo credit: some German newspaper; does it really matter? 🙂

(quick personal note: apologies for the radio silence here. I have not posted since September 9th, more than 6 weeks ago. Not that there was a ton to post about; when the team emptied its coffers of all remaining players with any trade value, it wasn’t a surprise how the rest of the season was going to play out. That being said, we moved at the end of August and i’m working multiple consulting gigs, and, well, its been tough to put the time in on this blog with so many other items pressing for my time. I hope to do better this off-season, doing some typical non-tender, arbitration, rule-5 posts, etc).

It seems typical that the Nats would manage to finish with their worst record since moving to 2005 (and nearly their worst record ever as a franchise, being only pipped by the amazingly bad 52-110 1969 Montreal debut season) in the exact same year that MLB goes to a draft lottery at the top of the draft. So, instead of having the biggest bonus pool and first crack at the top draft talent … we have to wait to see where we actually pick. Perhaps this is penance for the amazing set of circumstances that led us to pick 1st overall two years in a row, which netted us both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper and set the franchise on a pathway towards multiple playoff runs and the 2019 World Series title.

How quickly the tides turn, and this year we finished 55-107, which guaranteed us the worst record in the league by a full 5 games over the Oakland Athletics.

So, how does the lottery work? Tanks to this excellent NBCsports article, here’s how it works:

  • Each non-playoff team is assigned odds of getting the top pick.
  • The worst three teams each have equal odds at 16.5%, meaning that despite the fact that Washington was worse than Oakland and Pittsburgh, we all have the same chance.
  • The lottery only lasts the first 6 picks, then goes in direct order after that.

So, We have basically a 1 in 6 chance of getting the #1 pick. We have right around a 50% chance of getting a top 3 picks, and we can pick no worst than 7th.

Here’s the exact draft odds/reverse standings for 2022.

So, its a coin flip that we get into the top 3, meaning its highly likely we get a really solid pick. I’ve already started collecting names for the top of the 2023 draft. Right now the top prospects are looking like the following:

College Prospects:

  • Dylan Crews, OF/RF LSU. Opted out of 2020 draft as a projected 2nd rounder, now might go 1-1. Hit .362/.453/.663 as a freshman. sept 2022 #1 player in the class.
  • Jacob Gonzalez, SS Ole Miss. Bonafide SS who hit .355/.443/.561 with 12 home runs and more walks (38) than strikeouts (34) his freshman year. #1 prospect in class Dec 2021.
  • Chase Dollander, RHP Tennessee. 2nd team AA in 2022, mid 90sfb with good off-speed. Helium guy mid 2022, not sure why he’s jumped other candidates.
  • Rhett Lowder, RHP Wake Forest. ACC pitcher of year in 2022, starred for Team USA summer 2022.

Prep Prospects:

  • Max Clark, OF, Franklin (Ind.) Community HS. Vanderbilt commit, lefty hitting OF prospect #1 prep player in the class as of mid 2021. Went 5-5 one day at Area codes. #1 prep player in draft per BA Sept 2022.
  • Walker Jenkins OF, South Brunswick HS, Southport, N.C. 18U national team as underclassman in 2021. #1 HS player in class per Fangraphs Dec 2021, #2 prep in class per BA Sept 2022.
  • Thomas White, LHP Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. Uncommitted. Highly polished LHP starter.
  • Cam Collier, 3B Mount Paran Christian HS, Kennsaw, Ga.. Louisville commit, huge power, biggest bat in class.

So, even in the worst case, where the Nats are shut out of the lottery and pick 7th, one of these players is absolutely going to be available, or a player who pops up this coming spring. So, all is not lost: don’t forget that we have gotten really solid players drafting in the #4-6 overall range in the past:

  • Ryan Zimmerman was 4th overall in 2005
  • Ross Detwiler was 6th overall in 2007
  • Anthony Rendon was 6th overall in 2011 (via a set of circumstances that still boggles the mind to this day)
  • Elijah Green was 5th overall this year.

The lottery order likely is set at the Winter Meetings, so we’ll revisit this post then.

Until then … are you finding yourself actually rooting for Philadelphia and Bryce Harper in the playoffs? Are you rooting for San Diego with their own ex-Nat super star Juan Soto? Great games so far.

Written by Todd Boss

October 18th, 2022 at 9:34 am