Nationals Arm Race

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

Spring Training 2016 NRI discussion


Arroyo could be a surprise NRI making the 25-man roster. Photo via google images

Arroyo could be a surprise NRI making the 25-man roster. Photo via google images

We discussed Non-Roster Invitees (NRI) last year (link to 2015’s post) at the behest of reader forensicane, and it was such a good topic that, upon seeing yesterday’s announcement from the various Nats beat writers (here’s James Wagner from the WP’s post), I thought I’d put up a post where we could discuss.

Reminder from last year; there were 20 NRIs; two made the 25-man roster out of spring (Dan Uggla and Clint Robinson), two others eventually got added and called up (Rafael Martin and Emmanuel Burriss) and two others were young catchers since added to the 40-man (Spencer Kieboom, Pedro Severino), so these are not throw-away players.  The odds of several of these names playing a part in this team’s future is high, even past the obvious candidates (i.e. those listed at or near the top of prospect lists).

Like last year, we’ll go by position and discuss their chances for making the team, staying with the franchise, and (depending on their roster status) their future plans with the team in general (the below format is cut-n-pasted from Wagner’s post).

Catchers (1)

  • RHH Jhonatan Solano

Discussion: Solano, the long time Nats-farm hand, returns to the fold after being released ahead of an options crunch in Nov 2014 and spending 2015 toiling for Miami’s AAA team alongside his brother.  He did get 20 MLB at bats in 2015 … and went 1-for-20.  He’s back, though his odds of breaking ahead of any of the four catchers we have on the roster seems very slim right now, even given the known offensive limitations of both MLB-projected catchers.  Now, were one of Ramos  or Lobaton go down with injury … that might open things up.  Would you rather depend on one of the two rookies on the 40-man as your backup or at least go with someone like Solano, who has at least a few MLB at bats over the past few years under his belt?  Neither A or B are good options, and you might think that the “Jonathan Lucroy to Washington” future plan may pick up speed at that point.

Odds of any of these NRIs making the 25-man roster: Negligible unless there’s an injury.

Future plans: Solano back to AAA once again as depth if there’s an injury; he may be flat out released if not since both Severino and Kieboom seem destined to head to AAA to split catching duties.

Infielders (4)

  • RHH Jason Martinson
  • RHH Brendan Ryan
  • RHH Scott Sizemore
  • LHH Matt Skole

Discussion: The team is quite familiar with both Martinson and Skole; both being draft picks and both being relatively close to the end of their tenure here.  Martinson has quietly climbed the ranks but hit just .218 in AAA last year; what he has though is power.  21 homers and corner infield capabilities (he was a SS coming out of college but quickly moved to 3B).  I view him as “Tyler Moore” insurance and the team likely has him at camp to see if he’s at all a possible option in case something bad happens.  Skole has long been a personal favorite, a former Nats minor league player of the year whose promising career was derailed by a season-long injury in 2013.  He took a big step back in 2015, not making the AAA team out of spring but eventually getting there mid-season.  He also has power (20 combined homers last year) but from the left hand side while also playing corner infield.  I view him as “Clint Robinson” insurance.

Meanwhile, both Ryan and Sizemore seemingly are competing for the second “backup utility infielder” role on this team, one that without any other moves would go to someone like Wilmer Difo or perhaps Danny Espinosa were the team to decide to go with Trea Turner from day one.  I don’t see that happening; I think Difo showed he needs more seasoning, I think the team wants a veteran at short and either Sizemore or (more likely) Ryan makes this team as the 2nd utility guy.

Odds of any of these NRIs making the 25-man roster: High: I think Ryan breaks camp with the team.

Future plans: Martinson and Skole back in AAA, Sizemore may have an opt-out but may not since he was in AAA most of last year.

Outfielders (4)

  • LHH Tony Campana
  • RHH Chris Heisey
  • RHH Reed Johnson
  • LHH Logan Schafer

Discussion: Schafer was brought in presumably to compete with Matt den Dekker as a speedy CF-capable 5th outfielder type.  Problem is that Schafer can’t hit: career .212 hitter with a meager career .319 slugging.   Campana?  Same story; the 5’8″ backup outfielder didn’t even appear in the majors last year and has just one homer in 477 career MLB appearances.  den Dekker showed some promise at the end of last season and seems like he’s the first guy to get called up if/when there’s an injury in the outfield.

So lets talk about the two guys who do have some consideration.  The team knows exactly what it has with Johnson: an aging scrappy veteran who can play a corner OF and be a good clubhouse presence.  Sounds like Jayson Werth minus 6 inches of height and $120M of contract.  I think they invited him just as saying “thanks and sorry about last year.”   Meanwhile, some are talking about Heisey having a shot at this roster: I think maybe.  If the team is looking to upgrade the Tyler Moore “right-handed pinch hitter off the bench” role, then Heisey is his competition.  He’s somewhat accomplished; he has never really started in his career but hit 18 homers as a part-timer in Cincinnati a few years back.  But his bat has been just as meager as Moore’s lately: he hit just .223 combined across several AAA levels last year.  Of course, all of those figures are better than what Moore has done lately, and Heisey likely is cheaper than Moore for 2016 (Moore signed a pre-arb deal of $900k but of course could be released mid-spring training without the Nats having to pay a ton of his guaranteed salary).

The question becomes; is Heisey’s positional flexibility (he’s an OF who can play CF in a pinch while Moore can basically only play 1B) going to win out over Moore’s long tenure with the team?  Maybe.

Odds of any of these NRIs making the 25-man roster:  Pretty good: Heisey seems like he could beat out Moore for the RH bench bat.

Future plans: we don’t have a ton of depth at the OF position in AAA; i’m sure one or both of Schafer/Campana could stick around.  Johnson could elect to retire if he doesn’t make the team at his advanced age.  Heisey could stick around or could have an opt-out if he doesn’t make the squad.

Starting Pitchers (6)

  • RHP Bronson Arroyo
  • RHP Paolo Espino
  • RHP Lucas Giolito
  • RHP Taylor Hill
  • LHP Aaron Laffey
  • RHP Austin Voth

Discussion: Thanks to FA departures and starter conversions, the Nats now have just seven starters on their 40-man roster.  Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez*, Ross, Roark, Cole, Jordan.   Where as last year the team could afford to send a 5-win starter to the mop-up role, this year they’re one injury from really having to answer some very serious questions.  Which is probably why they have signed Bronson Arroyo honestly; despite throwing up low-to-mid 80s heat, he has remained relatively effective deep into his 30s.

In reality though, the Nats real SP depth is seen directly in the NRIs; in order Giolito, Voth and Espino.  These three guys are who this team likely turns to if the injury bug really bites the projected rotation.  I’m on record saying that Giolito is going to be up in 2016; might as well get him used to seeing MLB hitters (or close to it, depending on when they give him innings).  In reality, nobody on this list projects to have a shot at cracking the 2016 rotation save for injury.  The big question really comes down to Arroyo versus Roark for the 5th spot.  Is it likely that Roark gets dumped back to the bullpen again, causing a cascading series of bullpen moves (Petit to middle relief, Treinen likely to AAA)?  Not that likely but you never know, and Dusty Baker certainly goes way back with Arroyo.  I think its a certainty that the NRI prospects don’t break camp with the squad … but Arroyo could have a shot.

Can’t wait for Spring Training games though to get a glimpse of Giolito on the mound…

Odds of any of these NRIs making the 25-man roster: Decent for Arroyo.

Future plans: Four of these six NRIs will form the bulk of the Syracuse rotation (Espino, Hill, Laffey, Voth), to be joined with Cole and Jordan for the core rotation in upstate NY.  I’ve projected Giolito to start back in AA and prove he can dominate that level before moving up and bumping someone like Laffey or Hill from the AAA rotation.  That leaves Arroyo; if he doesn’t make the team, I’m guessing he’s opting out instead of lowering himself to riding buses in AAA.

Relief Pitchers (5)

  • RHP Michael Brady
  • LHP Sean Burnett
  • RHP Erik Davis
  • RHP Nick Masset
  • RHP Wander Suero

Discussion: While the 40-man roster of starters is thin (7), the Nats now have no less than thirteen (!) relievers on their 40-man roster.  That’s a lot of arms.  Only 7 of them are making the MLB bullpen, and for the most part you can ink in the opening day rotation by looking at the acquisitions the team has done since July of last year.  So not a lot of room in the inn for NRI relievers.  Davis gets the invite despite getting dumped off of the 40-man roster probably as one last ditch effort to show the MLB staff he can still pitch.  Long time Nat Burnett returns to the fold coming off of a second TJ, probably given the NRI for sentimental reasons more than anything.  Brady and Masset are new acquisitions (one by trade, one by MLFA) who both project to be Syracuse middle relief (where my pre-season analysis also showed a massive glut of arms), while Suero’s callup seems like an audition to be added to the 40-man roster ahead of next off season’s rule 5 draft, since Suero just finished his 6th pro season and will be exposed next December.

Odds of any of these NRIs making the 25-man roster: Nil: the Nats have way too many relievers already and none of these guys projects to be better than what we already have on the 40-man.

Future plans: Brady, Davis, Masset to AAA, Suero to AA, Burnett opts-out looking for a MLB loogy job after proving he’s healthy again on the Nats spring training meal money dime.


I think there’s a good chance of at least one and perhaps two NRIs to make the 25-man roster.



36 Responses to 'Spring Training 2016 NRI discussion'

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  1. Starters: I hope that Arroyo is only injury insurance. I also hope that Roark shows up ready to put any doubts to rest. If Roark can’t beat out Arroyo, we’ve got problems. I guess there would still be a chance for Arroyo to stick around as a long man and bump Treinen to AAA, but I don’t think that would be healthy, either.

    Bullpen: Agreed. The Nats already have guys with MLB time on the 40-man like Martin and Solis who are probably headed for Syracuse.

    Bench: Here we may have a little competition. Lobaton (SH), Robinson (LH), and Drew (LH) would appear to be locks. If Turner beats out Espinosa, then Danny would be a bench lock as well (or traded). I don’t think that’s going to happen, but there are a number of writers out there who are pointing to Turner. If he doesn’t start, he goes to Syracuse to play every day and restart the service-time clock.

    Unless Taylor really stinks up Viera, I think he’ll stay with the big club and platoon with Revere. That’s #4 on the bench (or #5 if you count Danny). Of the other OFs, I like den Dekker far and away the best as an all-around player, but I fear they’re going to want a RH bat and a “vet.” That leaves T-Mo, Reed J., and Heisy, none of whom make my heart go pitter pat. Whoever gets that bench spot may see it vanish whenever Turner gets his call . . . at least in a perfect world where there are no injuries. (Who would have believed that Uggla would make the roster and stay for the entire season?!)

    That’s five. I just don’t see how Ryan or Difo fit. If an INF starter is hurt, they’ve got a lot of versatility as all four of the starters can play other INF positions. I think Murphy would get the first call at 3B, and Robinson could could cover 1B.

    So, I say the bench breaking camp is Lobaton, Robinson, Drew, Taylor, and . . . Heisy. We’ve had worse!


    16 Feb 16 at 3:37 pm

  2. Err, Heisey. Guess I need to learn how to spell his name (but only if he makes the roster!).


    16 Feb 16 at 3:42 pm

  3. Also add new signee Neftali Soto, another RH bat, to the mix. T-Mo, it sure looks like they’re bringing in a lot of competition for your spot!


    16 Feb 16 at 3:53 pm

  4. My presumed 40-man choices for the bench are Lobaton, Robinson, Drew, MAT, and denDekker (assuming Turner to start in AAA, and Danny to start). I don’t think you can give good odds to either Ryan or Heisey, without an injury, as they are both effectively competing with the above plus trying for Moore’s slot.
    My only other slight quibble is that, if he pitches well, I would say that Sean Burnett is just an injury to Rivero or Perez away from making the roster, as he does have a the track record that Solis and Grace don’t, and they have options.


    17 Feb 16 at 8:05 am

  5. Dave, what you put forward would be my preferred bench. I was impressed with what den Dekker did at the end of last season, and he and Taylor could provide a lot in the way of late-game defensive replacement. The rub is that if Baker follows the canard of never pinch-hitting your backup catcher like MW did religiously, then MAT would be the only available RH bat on the bench. With the Nats’ RH-heavy starting lineup, most teams would be throwing righty relievers at them anyway, but the old-school thinking would be that they have to have another RH bat. I don’t necessarily agree, but that’s the mentality.


    17 Feb 16 at 8:36 am

  6. DaveB: I think you need another infielder there though don’t you?
    – Lobaton: backup catcher
    – Robinson: lefty, 1B
    – Drew: middle infielder
    – Taylor: righty, OF
    – den Dekker: lefty, OF

    That’s two guys who can only play OF; it seems to me you need more of a utilty guy who could play 2B, 3B, corner OF as your last man on the bench. That’s where i’m thinking den dekker makes way for someone like Ryan or Heisey frankly.

    Burnett; cannot disagree. If you had to power rank the loogies on our roster right now, i’d probably go: Rivero, Perez, healthy Burnett, Solis, Grace, Lee and then probably Bryce’s brother.

    Todd Boss

    17 Feb 16 at 8:38 am

  7. With all of these prospect lists coming out, I thought KLaw had a few interesting comments. Cole developed some additional strength over the winter and maybe recovered some velo and extra snap on the CB or SL. Also picks Franco as a sleeper who could pop up lists next year.


    17 Feb 16 at 9:58 am

  8. All of this is predicated on team health and anticipated trades. There is no 2015 Werth or Span issue (yet).

    Things worked out well for Chris Young and his career. I think Arroyo’s presence is a win win for everyone, but he won;t be long for the organization. All of the youngsters will be better for him being there, and Dusty has a good clubhouse guy who knows him and is loyal to him. Overrated though that may be, since the discussion has included so much about Papelbon, I would not underestimate the value of Arroyo simply rebuilding his value with a strong spring while being remembered as a good teammate when he returns to the ML as someone else’s 4-5 starter. There is enough depth in DC.

    By biggest dark horse is Sizemore. He once had a lot more to offer than Stephen Drew. There is no room for him, but that is now and fate changes things. He is the kind of guy that I would expect to put up impressive spring stats that we would talk about.

    One person that I am thrilled to see on the NRI is Jason Martinson. I’ve mentioned him here before, just as I jumped early on Aaron Barrett, Tanner Roark, Rafael Martin, and Clint Robinson. Martinson is a player with legit power, speed, has greatly improved his shortstop defense, an arm that can back up in the OF, and has established positional versatility. And hits right-handed. He can take a walk. The biggest problem with him has always been his being a streak hitter. Those players, to me, have psychological barriers to get over. But Martinson his plodded his way up the ladder at a 2-year/level rate that is slow on the *prospect* pace. But he gets better and better rather than hits a ceiling. So I read his all-star freshman campaign in AAA as a very good sign. But I was worried that since he is beyond pundit age barriers, he might even be released by the organization to make room for Difo-Turner. So I am delighted that he is getting his moment to show up this spring and he is one of those guys I am really pulling for.

    I think denDekker has a spot on the 25 man no matter what. He has to be there.


    17 Feb 16 at 10:34 am

  9. I’ve been dutifully capturing all the new system and prospect rankings for my big XLSs … looking good.

    I’ll do a separate post on them once all the lists that I’m expecting come in. I will say this: i’m seeing massive variations in the ranking of some of these systems. Washington was 5th in Baseball America but 15th in Keith Law?? That’s a significant delta. Similarly, BA had Houston #2 and Law had them 17th. That’s just nowhere close. Law had The cubs 4th and BA had them 20th. Its like, what are you two looking at? But then they both had the bottom 5 identical, and in the identical order.

    On individual names, we’ve got BA, BP and Law in the books, waiting for MLBpipeline, Minorleagueball, Fangraphs and Prospect Digest. A couple of those don’t come out til mid-march so the prospect post will wait a while. But so far the 3 that have published are all pretty consistent with the names. Nobody’s grossly over or under ranked. Except perhaps Stevenson, who Law clearly doesn’t rate.

    Todd Boss

    17 Feb 16 at 10:44 am

  10. forensicane; on health and roster construction: Heck if Rendon and Werth were healthy on 4/1/15, would Uggla and Moore even have had jobs? Probably not.

    Martinson: is he a SS though? I can see that he played SS full time in 2014 but not so much in 2015. I guess he’s the right size for SS (listed 6’1″ 190). In 2014 he had 15 errors in 119 games; that’s about one error every 8 games. By way of comparison Desmond had 27 errors in 155 games last year (one ever 5.7 games) and we were all growing rather frustrated at times with his defense.

    Why does den dekker “have to be there?” I still don’t get what he offers that’s better than what Taylor offers in terms of a backup outfielder. Den Dekker has now K’d in 22% of his MLB plate appearances, so it isnt’ as if he’s some magical OBP machine as compared to Taylor … and yes while Taylor strikes out a ton (30% career rate) Taylor also can hit 480-foot homers (Taylor hit the 5th longest homer in the majors last year; It isn’t often you see a power/speed/ defense combination like you get in Taylor (16-19 in SBs last year).

    Todd Boss

    17 Feb 16 at 10:56 am

  11. btw; if you’ve never seen Taylor’s 479-foot homer video,

    Watch the replay; in the background Werth reacts before anybody else; he knew what he’d just seen.

    Todd Boss

    17 Feb 16 at 10:58 am

  12. With the versatility of the four INF starters, plus Drew and Robinson, the Nats could easily cover for any INF injury to finish out a game (although no one is allowed to get hurt this season!).

    I could see Todd’s logic for arguing for another middle infielder for the bench, though. But who? Ryan can’t hit a lick. I’d send Scherzer to pinch hit before Ryan. Sizemore used to be able to get on base pretty well but last was regularly seen in the majors in 2011! Soto is younger and once showed some serious pop at AA . . . several years ago. Martinson, about whom I had serious hopes circa 2013, makes Taylor look like a contact hitter. At least Difo could offer some serious speed.

    But really, would it be defensible to keep any of these guys over, oh, I don’t know, maybe Trea Turner?! At some point, the “best 25 go North” argument kicks in. I know he needs ABs (and recouped service time), but in what promises to be a tight divisional race, do you really want to stash an asset for an arbitrary period of time?

    Another option comes to mind. Give Desi 2/$20M with an opt-out. Tell him up front that he’s not going to begin the season as a regular and that you want him to learn the OF and 3B to become a Zobrist-like super sub (things he has already volunteered to do to try to get teams interested in him). Yes, he’d be an expensive bench player, but not that much more expensive than what the Nats flushed on McLouth, and it would be a short-term commitment. I know, I know, I want that comp draft pick, but at some point you have to wonder if he’s going to get signed at all before May, so there may be no draft pick anyway. I don’t really think the Nats would sign him, but it’s an option, particularly with how far his price has fallen.


    17 Feb 16 at 12:26 pm

  13. Its a good point (Desmond): at what point does the team say “gee, maybe we’re overlooking the obvious here.” Desmond gets a one-year pillow contract at or near his QO value to save face, the team has its starting SS solved, it has its “second utility guy” problem solved in Espinosa and Drew, Turner goes to AAA but gets called up when there’s an injury, and we move forward.

    Todd Boss

    17 Feb 16 at 1:00 pm

  14. I wouldn’t want Desi at SS; that ship has sailed, and delaying Turner does no one any good. Train Desi at 3B and LF, where our most brittle cogs do their business. He’d certainly have the arm to play RF as well. Who would you trust more in a full-time role, in 2016, if Werth goes down: MAT, or Desi?

    I really don’t think they’d do it, though. They REALLY want the comp pick, and the slot money that goes with it. But if Desi gets into March unsigned, wouldn’t they at least think about it?


    17 Feb 16 at 3:10 pm

  15. What if the price on Ian Desmond is down to like 1yr/$8M? Less? At what point is this “win now” team better off in terms of balancing production and value going back to considering Desmond?

    Todd Boss

    17 Feb 16 at 3:30 pm

  16. On Desmond, no, no & no. KW is right, that ship has sailed.

    Mark L

    17 Feb 16 at 10:12 pm

  17. Todd, I often wonder on Desmond and would you take him back for a bargain deal and could he have a better 2016? I think so much of the final roster moves is based on health that you never know.

    Look at last year with Uggla making the team and Clint Robinson!

    Ghost of Steve M. (

    17 Feb 16 at 10:47 pm

  18. I think the bench will look very veteran this year. I don’t think Rizzo wants to go with unproven players unless they clearly earn their spot.

    I also have a hunch that Rizzo is waiting for Lucroy to show he is healthy in ST before pulling the trigger. Maybe something built around Taylor + a pitching prospect


    18 Feb 16 at 7:00 am

  19. Desi would only be a bargain for the Nats. I’ve forgotten what value Fangraphs put on a surrendered first-round draft pick, but it was something like $10-15M. That’s only worth it to any team if you amortize it over several seasons. With the Nats, the question about Desi would not only be where he fits, it would also involve his mental state, as he was in terrible shape mentally the first third of last season, and the offseason ordeal can’t have helped him.

    Still, it’s hard to look at a player of Desi’s quality available for $8-10M with no long-term commitment and not at least think about it. The Nats signed McLouth with the stated idea that a reserve OF could get 400 ABs for them. That projection proved true; they just didn’t go to McOut.

    I don’t know. I’ll state again that I would not want Desi in the SS mix. It’s time to move on there, and the position is well covered with Danny, Turner, and Drew. But would it make sense to look at Desi for 3B/LF?


    18 Feb 16 at 7:30 am

  20. Wally, I fear you are right about the “veteran” bench, which would seem to be the inclination of both Rizzo and Baker. Unfortunately, “veteran” brings to my mind the LONG string of guys the Nats have used for the last several years who were far beyond their shelf life, if they ever had any at all (Frantzen). As noted, Drew and Robinson would seem to be locks, and Lobaton as well unless there’s a catching trade. Is T-Mo now considered a “veteran”? Reed Johnson passed over the hill at least three years ago, but he’s the type that Rizzo loves . . . and then has to cut in June . . . unless you’re Uggla.

    Another point about the bench. Based on FP’s stories, it seems that Baker likes to give his bench players an everyday opportunity at least once a week or so. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me except for the backup catcher, but that’s apparently what Dusty does. So look for Murphy to be sitting once a week for Drew, or some such nonsense.


    18 Feb 16 at 7:38 am

  21. I have no problem at all with the regulars sitting once a week to keep fresher … although you mostly wouldn’t need to sit any one player once a week to get the bench players up that often. (e.g., if we go with the single IF, Drew would essentially be the sub for Murphy, Danny and Rendon.) On that point, to answer Todd’s question to me above, I don’t think you HAVE to have another IF with the flexibility of the ones we have. In the (hopefully) worst case scenario that we have two MI injured in the same game (say Murphy and Danny), then you could have Drew at SS, Rendon at 2nd, Robinson at 1st, and RZ would have to finish a game at 3rd. Not horrible, and Trea could be there the next day. Perhaps not ideal, but I see no reason to keep a no hitting Ryan holding the roster spot for Trea, over DenDekker who was hitting really well at the end of last year (especially since I think Werth is the guy who should get the most “days off”).


    18 Feb 16 at 8:14 am

  22. I agree with DaveB’s analysis. The positional flexibility is strong enough that you could get through a game in almost injury scenario and have your call up there by the following day. I suppose that you could piece together a scenario where they are on the road for a stretch and can’t get the replacement guy there in time, but not sure that I would go with a second MI just for that.

    I am not sure Clint is a lock; I think that he still has to perform decently well in ST to get the nod. I also like the idea of a Martinson/Bostick jack of all trades type, but don’t see them starting off that way this year, not with all the veteran MIs and OFs they brought to camp on NRIs.

    there was a picture I saw somewhere of the Ross/Stras workout group from this winter. Ross looked HUGE. Not just tall, but beefier.


    18 Feb 16 at 8:44 am

  23. I think Desi’s time with us has past. I have been worried for the guy all offseason, and it is playing out in the worst possible way, but if he does sign a low pillow contract, he can and should find a place where he has a clearer path to playing time. I suspect the hang up with CWS is that he isn’t ready to sign one of those just yet. I’ve also thought MIN could be a spot.

    But the bigger problem with Desi’s market is that he’s had 4 straight worsening years offensively, and most teams have good looking prospects coming n the next 2-3 years, so no one feels he’s worth it. That’s my guess, anyway


    18 Feb 16 at 8:51 am

  24. Veteran Bench: can anyone say “Matt Stairs?”

    Bench construction: i may be pushing perhaps an “old school” bench construction theory. What do you really “want” in a 5-man bench? Past the obvious backup catcher, You want lefty and righty pinch hitters with power capability, you need at least one backup middle infielder who can play short stop in a pinch, you need an outfielder capable of playing CF in a pinch. You want some speed in there for pinch running opportunities but not at the complete expense of any other capabilities. Am I missing anything? So, using that logic right now if the season started you’d be looking at this bench:
    – catcher: Lobaton
    – lefty power: Clint Robinson
    – righty power: Tyler Moore/Chris Heisey
    – middle infielder: Stephen Drew
    – CF-capable outfielder: Michael Taylor

    So maybe i’m wrong in wanting the second middle infielder guy. But to those of you who say Den Dekker needs to be on this roster, who makes way? And if you keep Den Dekker AND Michael Taylor, isn’t that the same role on the bench? Both are CF-capable late-inning replacement types. Both have speed. Only Taylor has power. So maybe your argument is this bench:

    – catcher: Lobaton
    – lefty power: Clint Robinson
    – righty power: Taylor Moore/Chris Heisey
    – middle infielder: Stephen Drew
    – CF-capable outfielder: Michael Taylor/Mat Den Dekker

    I can see this argument … but feel like it also leaves the team rather thin in terms of infielders. Robinson, Taylor and den Dekker are all 1B/OFs. Nobody on this bench is designed to play (say) 3B. What you really want is a utility guy like Kevin Frandsen, who played 1B, 2B, 3B and LF for this team during his stay.

    If you subscribe to my “two infielder bench/utility guy” theory then your bench could look like this:
    – catcher: Lobaton
    – lefty power: Clint Robinson
    – righty power/CF-capable outfielder: Michael Taylor
    – middle infielder: Stephen Drew
    – utility player: Brendan Ryan

    Last year, Ryan played the following positions for NYY: 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, RF and P. Now to be fair, he only had significant innings at 2B, SS and 3B but that’s not the point; he’s the definition of a utility guy who can plug in wherever you need him.

    I dunno; clearly there’s too many players for too few spots. Maybe a trade is in order. Do you package Taylor and his potential to a team that could use him? I mean, if they “layered” taylor with Revere, does that mean they’ve lost patience with him? Do you think the team is going to platoon Taylor and Revere? If you move Taylor for something you want (Michael Lucroy?) then den Dekker inherits the backup OF role by virtue of being the sole remaining guy on the 40-man who can adequately man center field in the majors.

    Todd Boss

    18 Feb 16 at 8:59 am

  25. I’m one who feels that the jury is still out on whether Taylor can be an everyday player for a contending team. That said, the Nats REALLY need for him to work out, as their other internal prospects for an everyday OF are very thin (unless you think Robles is blowing through three levels this year and starting to hit for power). So I’m not sure they’re in a position where they could afford to trade him. I think they’ll probably more or less platoon him with Revere, although I hope they can read OBP well enough to know not to have him leading off.

    I’m not that worried about covering 3B on a short-term basis. Per fielding stats, Murphy is better at 3B than he is at 2B. I think it would have to be REALLY an emergency for the Nats to risk Zim back at 3B, even for a few innings. They’ve got to keep him healthy. If you’re looking for an INF bench darkhorse, though, don’t overlook Neftali Soto . . . if he hits.

    Heisey would seem to be an upgrade on Moore and would seem to go into the spring as the leading RH bat candidate . . . if he hits. Several of the LH bat candidates the Nats brought in last spring didn’t hit at all, clearing the way for CRob. I think den Dekker may have more potential and defensive flexibility than Heisey, but he could be the odd man out on a LH-heavy bench. I sure hope some of these guys can at least outplay Reed Johnson!


    18 Feb 16 at 10:41 am

  26. Martinson has grown into an excellent shortstop. It is his first position, third base being his second (he moved there in part to accommodate Turner last year) and he can play outfield and has the arm and athleticism for it.

    I’m in the “no to Desmond” camp for all of the reasons noted. Perhaps someone will have an injury on another team and their urgency will land Desmond a job.

    As for den Dekker, he really turned a corner in 2014 with the Mets. Then they traded him. Then he goes to AAA. He recovered late in the year, and I think his later production was reflective of where he is at potential wise. The power is a surprise, but it was what it was and related to a change in stance (as opposed to juice). So a guy who plays defense, can hit for power, can pinch hit, can clutch hit belongs on the team.

    I love Michael Taylor and think he will be a star. With Harper’s fate unaccounted for, I would be reluctant to move him for Lucroy to make room for Werth and Ben Revere. Only a gross overpayment trade (Shelby Miller) because he is controllable.


    18 Feb 16 at 12:11 pm

  27. I can take or leave Desi. His decline has always concerned me, and I was decidedly against a big extension for him. Plus I really want the draft pick as well. If there may not be a draft pick, though, I do think he becomes a bargain bat that it wouldn’t hurt the Nats to at least consider.

    I hope the high school teammates, den Dekker and Taylor, both have strong springs and let the chips fall where they may. As CRob proved last spring, if you keep hitting the ball hard, you can force people to reconsider their plans.


    18 Feb 16 at 2:14 pm

  28. I am kind of with KW on Taylor. I like him and see him adding value to a winning team, but that K% needs to improve quite a bit, say dropping by 50%, in order for him to become an above average player. And the problem is that he has always shown large contact problems. And it is a little surprising that he isn’t showing more value as a baserunner.

    Unless he takes that big step forward, I can see him being a valuable role or platoon guy, or maybe a starter that you carry in a stacked line up. So if someone was willing to value him as more than that, I’d have to think hard about it.

    My bench would be :
    den dekker
    CRob or one of the NRI that perform well

    I like both taylor and den D because they can be used multiple ways – runner, PH, defense, and also to give guys days off I would not go north with TMo


    18 Feb 16 at 2:24 pm

  29. FWIW, Davey Lopes, who stole 47 bases at age 40 (!!!), is supposed to be an absolute base-running guru. But I agree, Taylor often looked like a deer in the headlights while taking his lead at first.

    There has been some internet buzz about Taylor trying to shorten his swing during the winter. I’m still a skeptic. I WANT him to succeed, but his K totals remind me way too much of Espinosa’s career arc. Dusty’s career K% was only 11.5, so there’s a new sheriff in town who believes in making contact. We’ll see how that translates to who he puts on the field.


    18 Feb 16 at 2:57 pm

  30. Just reading Chelsea’s story on Turner and wondering whether he really does have a chance to be be the starter out of camp. If so, that really would tighten the bench window of opportunity. You would figure likely locks to be Lobaton, Drew, Espinosa, and probably CRob. I know CRob isn’t a total lock, but it’s very telling that they didn’t bring in LH bats to challenge him. The cattle call this year has been for RH bats.

    Anyway, that’s four, so there would only be one slot left, for an OF. Taylor vs. den Dekker vs. Heisey vs. Johnson. Hmm . . . as noted, Taylor is probably the only one with a chance to develop into a MLB regular, but den Dekker made a lot more contact down the stretch last season, with some unexpected pop. If they’re only keeping one true OF, it can’t be Johnson, who would be very limited defensively. It would be an interesting choice. I hope Heisey is willing to go to AAA, as he looks like a quality player to have in reserve.


    19 Feb 16 at 7:16 am

  31. OK guys, here’s your own spring training fantasy:

    I’d be playing a VERY deep 2B but think I could keep the defensive hit under -10. But yeah, I’d take the -5 at the plate against MLB pitching, no doubt.


    19 Feb 16 at 9:01 am

  32. I like the Badenhop signing.

    Turner will be a fan favorite and a dynamic player. He is a winner, a spark, and will make an excellent youthful pillar with Bryce. I hope they bond. Who knows whether Turner will be on OD, but I would not be surprised at all if he tears up the spring. Now imagine HIM with Davey Lopes.


    19 Feb 16 at 11:11 am

  33. Even at the height of my own playing powers (playing locally in the Credit Union back in the 90s), I couldn’t catch up to mid 90s heat. And that was with aluminum. And 20 years ago. and 30 pounds ago. 🙂

    Todd Boss

    20 Feb 16 at 7:47 am

  34. […] year running for this post: Here’s a link to 2016’s version and a link to 2015’s […]

  35. […] Summary of NRIs from ST 2016: 20 NRIs total (plus perhaps a couple more that got signed late): […]

  36. […] Summary of NRIs from ST 2016: 20 NRIs total (plus perhaps a couple more that got signed late): […]

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