Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for March, 2023

Skenes Watch


Skenes has gone from two-way 1st rounder to near 1-1 in just a few starts. Photo via Valley Shook

So, the Nats have the #2 overall pick in 2023’s June amateur draft, only behind Pittsburgh at the top.

While its early in the season, there’s a couple of interesting points to keep up with. The consensus #1 pick right now continues to be LSU outfielder Dylan Crews, and he’s done absolutely nothing to dissuade evaluators of that 1-1 pick so far this season. Through last weekend’s series, Crews’ batting stats look more like a slow-pitch softball hitter’s stats: .531/.658/.988 slash line, 9 homers in 81 ABs, 26 walks to 12 Ks. LSU’s early schedule was a bit easy, but Crews has kept up his performance through the first couple of SEC league matches.

Pittsburgh is notoriously risk adverse in the draft, and there’s nothing that says “risk aversion” more than taking a College outfielder. At this point in the process, i’d be completely floored if Pittsburgh didn’t take Crews.

Which leaves the Nationals with their pick of anyone else.

Now, in the odd case that Pittsburgh decides to be clever and signs an under-slot deal at 1-1 with someone else (something like what Baltimore did recently), The Nats would be fools not to take this guy. Yes our top 3 prospects are all outfielder prospects. No its not a position of need. But this is baseball, not the NBA or NFL. You do not draft for need; you draft the best player available.

But this article is not about Crews. Its about the realities of the Nats current farm system (i.e. almost no pitcher depth) and the emergence of a near 1-1 player in this draft: LSU’s Friday night starter Paul Skenes. Skenes was an Air Force transfer who put up solid numbers in Colorado as a two-way player (not that he’s hitting for LSU’s powerful lineup) before moving into the SEC. And all he’s done since arriving is dominate. Here’s his pitching lines on a week to week basis so far:

  • Home vs Western Michigan: 6IP, 3 hits, 0 Runs 12/1 K/BB.
  • Neutral vs Kansas State: 6IP, 2 hits, 1 ER, 11/2 K/BB
  • Home vs Butler: 6IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 13/0 K/BB
  • Home vs Samford: 6Ip, 2 hits, 1 ER, 12/1 K/BB
  • Away vs Texas A&M: 6.1 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER, 11/0 K/BB
  • Home vs Arkansas: 7ip, 2 hits, 1ER, 12/3 K/BB

Total? 6 starts, 37.1 innings, just 14 hits allowed to go with a gaudy

Maybe you could quibble about the quality of his first few starts, but TAMU was ranked 15th in the nation when they met two weeks ago, and Arkansas was ranked 3rd when they met in Baton Rouge. Plus Kansas State is a power-5 conference team and Samford is no slouch.

This guy is legit, and he’s legitimately shutting down some of the best teams in college baseball.

Scouting reports on him have not really caught up to what he’s doing so far in 2023. MLBpipeline says the following: “After working at 93-95 mph and touching 99 with his fastball last spring, Skenes operated at 95-99 mph during fall practice, and the flat approach angle and carry on his heater make it even more difficult to hit. His slider has improved at LSU, becoming an 85-88 mph beast with sharp break when it’s on, though it can get loose at times. His power changeup arrives at 88-91 mph with fade and shows signs of becoming a solid offering.

Skenes is hitting 100, 101 now. He’s sitting upper 90s with three pitches. Its a bit early, but he’s performed against two tough SEC teams.

I think he’s the Nats #1 draft target right now.

Written by Todd Boss

March 27th, 2023 at 9:47 am

Posted in Draft

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