Nationals Arm Race

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

Minor League Full Season Staff Review 2017 – Potomac


Baez is the highest profile hurler in Potomac to start the year. photo via

Baez is the highest profile hurler in Potomac to start the year. photo via

We’re looking at the four full-season staffs, guessing the roles, and talk about the changes of the staffs from the end of last year til now.  Next up: Potomac.

See here for Syracuse 2017 review, here for Harrisburg 2017 review.

(Note: I know that there’s the most likely chance I have something wrong for Potomac since many readers here attend their games regularly; remember, i’m just a guy sitting at his desk scouting the score line so feel free to tell me where i’m wrong…)

Quick links for rosters for each full season affiliate:

And don’t forget the invaluable work of SpringfieldFan maintaining the Nats Big Board, now in its 12th season!

Note: in the below list, “missing” means that the player was on a 2016 roster, is still listed as active but is not found anywhere on a 2017 full-season roster as expected.  Most are still sitting in Extended Spring Training (abbreviated XST throughout) with the intent of getting assigned as injuries or releases occur, but some may be release candidates.   Other abbreviations I use often: MLFA == Minor League Free Agent, OOO = Out of the Organization.

((h/t as always to Mr. Erickson for the link to with the planned rotation, which I’ll use to correct my predictions below).

High-A/Potomac 2017

  • my predicted starters: Baez, Crownover*, Guilbeau*, Sylvestre*, LReyes, JRodriguez
  • purported rotation per LReyes, Sylvestre*, JRodriguez, Baez, Estevez
  • spot starts/swingman: Guilbeau*, Bacus, Borne*, Crownover*,
  • bullpen: Orlan*, RPena, Rivera, Schepel
  • dl/restricted: Peterson, Turnbull*
  • cut/released/FAs from 2016: Whiting (FA), MSanchez (traded), Holland (FA)
  • missing from 2016: Mayberry, Thomas*, Mendez


Rotation discussion: In Potomac we start to see the log-jam of starters from recent drafts.  I count 6 guys who could be starting and another 3 guys who have mostly started in the past.  As it turns out, a couple of the long-time lefty starters from the 2015 draft have been pushed into bullpen roles, perhaps for the longer term.  The burgeoning investment the team is making in the D.R. is evident here; all 5 rotation members are from the island, along with a huge chunk of the roster.

Of the starters listed above, i’d say that Luis Reyes and Jefry Rodriguez are probably on the thinnest of ice to stay in that role, given last year’s results.  Reyes had a 5.60 ERA in half a season in Potomac last year and Rodriguez had a 4.96 ERA in a full season starting in Low-A.   Wirkin Estevez feels like he’s been around forever; this is his 7th pro season in the system yet is only in High-A; he had a couple spot starts last year and I’m kind of surprised he made the rotation over especially Matthew Crownover and Taylor Guilbeau.   I could also see Grant Borne move into the rotation if one of the stated starters fail; Borne had a nifty 3.34 season in long relief in Low-A, pitching an average of 3 innings a stint, so perhaps he’s in line for getting stretched out.  I guess the old adage “you can never have too much pitching” holds true for Potomac; its nice to have 9 different guys who you know could give you a start.

The preponderance of guys used to going longer stints leaves just a handful of known “relievers” in the pen.  R.C. Orlan was Potomac’s effective closer last year and returns to that role, while Hagerstown’s closer Mariano Rivera Jr. rises up to form a nice 8th-9th inning lefty-righty combo.  Amazingly Ronald Pena returns for this 6th pro season, and returns to Potomac where he started half a season in 2014.  No offense to Pena, but I remain surprised that he’s lasted this long with the org.  The last non D/L name is a 2017 MLFA by the name of Kyle Schepel who I had completely forgotten about until I looked him up.  Kylin Turnbull, who has not thrown a pitch in anger since 2014, remains on the D/L in Potomac along with Tommy Peterson, who had an excellent 2016 season in relief and could be a good reliever if he is healthy.

The guys who are listed as “missing” include three guys who all finished the 2016 season in High-A and seem like they’re intended to start there again.

Who am I focusing on: I want to see what Joan Baez has; we know he can bring the heat but can he be an effective starter?  I’ve always liked the trio of lefty veteran college starters we picked in the 2015 draft early rounds; Hearn (since traded), Crownover, Borne and Guilbeau (picked in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 10th rounds respectively), so I look forward to them all moving up a level in 2017.  I want to see what the two closer-quality relievers (Orlan and Rivera) can do.


22 Responses to 'Minor League Full Season Staff Review 2017 – Potomac'

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  1. Todd, your take here is pretty close to mine. To be blunt, I don’t know that there is a “major-league arm” in the bunch. I know some have been high on Baez, but he’s yet to get much in the way of results with his big arm.

    The lefty trio has always intrigued me as well, although curiously, none has ever really been given a full-time starter role. Crownover started for the P-Nats in the playoffs last year, so I was really surprised to see him not listed in the initial rotation.

    Sandman Jr. hasn’t done anything impressive in a season and a half as a pro. This is a big season for him to “get it.”

    Remember, Potomac is a big step for pitchers. Mooneyham washed out here, and as noted Johansen still never mastered this level after multiple tries. Lopez struggled at Potomac, and Giolito took some time to be effective there. The hitters are better at this level, and with only eight teams, pitchers see them frequently.

    The story at Potomac will be much more about the hitters than the pitchers . . . at least until Watson gets promoted (although he struggled last night).


    8 Apr 17 at 9:09 am

  2. The aforementioned Robbie Ray also struggled at Potomac, with an ERA over six his first try there. I saw him once that season, and I must admit that it tainted my view of him. He gave up six runs in three innings and looked like he was throwing batting practice.


    8 Apr 17 at 9:17 am

  3. I gotta say, i’m still kinda surprised by the rotation choices in Potomac. Reyes, Estevez and Rodriguez over Crownover, Guilbeau and Borne just seems odd.

    Todd Boss

    8 Apr 17 at 9:40 am

  4. Thank goodness that old buffoon Chris Berman is essentially retired, or sometime soon we might have been treated to hearing Joan “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” Baez on ESPN. He’s the only one of this bunch I’d put down a $20 spot on to say he’ll pitch in the bigs someday, even if it is only as middle relief, midseason reinforcement. My understanding on Rivero is that he didn’t even become a pitcher until college, which really surprised me given his pedigree. Hopefully, there’s a lot of room for upside there.

    The Nats could certainly use some surprises on the upside down in Woodbridge this year.

    Karl Kolchak

    8 Apr 17 at 2:03 pm

  5. Well, any of them might be able to do as well as Guthrie. Goodness, this might be the ugliest inning in Nats’ history. So much for the buy-time-for-Ross plan.


    8 Apr 17 at 7:56 pm

  6. I’d like to ask all those who thought this whole “lets option Ross to make room for Guthrie” BS to stand up and defend yourselves.

    I was listening to the radio and they were spouting the same bs; “oh he’s in AAA to save some innings for later in the year.’ HE’S STILL THROWING INNINGS whether he’s in DC or in upstate New york. Its still wear and tear on his arm! In fact, its WORSE what he’s doing; it was apparently in the low 40s with a 17mph wind (numbers from Nats broadcast, not verified). Why the F do we have our #5 starter throwing innings when the wind chill is near zero?? If you want him throwing BS innings, leave him in viera where its in the 70s and let him pitch an intrasquad game.

    So dumb what the team has done, to go out of its way to make room for (as noted before) a 38yr old who had nearly a 7 ERA the last time he pitched in the majors. Well good luck getting your current ERA (135.00 after tonight’s debacle) even close to 7.00 this year.

    Todd Boss

    8 Apr 17 at 8:39 pm

  7. For the record, I may have been wrong on Glover but at least I wasn’t on the Guthrie bandwagon. I’ve also never been a big fan of playing games with your opening day roster. Let “the best 25 come north,” as the old saying goes. I had Worley down for the long relief/spot starter role, and while he may not have been great he certainly couldn’t have been any worse than this.

    This is the kind of fiasco you get when your GM starts believing his own press clippings and thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room. I’ve been saying since 2015 that the Nats could use another strong presence in the front office to question his decision making now and again. Now his boneheaded decision making just handed a game to the one division rival who, if everything breaks right, could sneak up on them the way the Mets did in 2015, and with Worley gone and the bullpen already getting gassed they don’t even have a long reliever. Brilliant.

    Karl Kolchak

    8 Apr 17 at 9:30 pm

  8. Yeah, I saw on Luke’s site that Ross is pitching tonight. I agree — how is that saving innings??? If the finagling was in part so they didn’t have to DFA Romero, that’s not looking too special right now, either. He left his magic in sunny FLA, as did Guthrie. Not sure how you even justify giving Guthrie another look after that, certainly not another start.

    I know it’s early, and this was only one game sacrificed, but that was just awful, and they’re going to burn through a whole game’s worth of bullpen innings. Plus Trea is hurt.


    8 Apr 17 at 9:32 pm

  9. Karl, Worley was awful in FLA. It sure looked like they wanted to keep him, and they kept giving him chance after chance, and he gave up two or three runs every inning. He never even came close to forcing their hand.

    So who is the mop-up guy for the mop-up guys now that CRob is gone?


    8 Apr 17 at 9:37 pm

  10. As for Ross, the innings limit excuse is obviously total BS. If that’s the case, why didn’t they hold him back a year ago when everyone knew that he’d be limited to around 180 innings assuming he has stayed healthy?

    Yet another issue is how long they are going to wait before cutting bait on Romero. As of Blanco’s home run, all three bullpen lefties now have ERAs north of 10.00. Is it time to worry yet?

    Karl Kolchak

    8 Apr 17 at 9:52 pm

  11. Crossed wires with you there, KW.

    Seriously, this is turning into a real dumpster fire. Does anyone really believe Gott, Martin, Grace or “Fat” Albers is going to come in and right the ship? And wasn’t it just a year ago that a rezally bad Giants bullpen sunk and otherwise fairly good team, which is why they ponied up the dough for Capps?

    Karl Kolchak

    8 Apr 17 at 9:55 pm

  12. Arrgh–Melancon, not Capps, obviously.

    Karl Kolchak

    8 Apr 17 at 9:56 pm

  13. Terrible game, but we shouldn’t make more of it than it is, just 1 loss. Turner’s injury is the far worse event.

    FWIW, while Worley wasn’t good in ST, he was decent last year while Guthrie hasn’t been in three years, and I’m surprised that didn’t carry more weight.

    I think we’ll see two pitchers tomorrow. I’ll guess Cole and Albers. I’d expect a DFA of Guthrie and DL for Turner, with a pitcher as Turner’s replacement for a few days until the staff gets rested again.


    8 Apr 17 at 10:52 pm

  14. Wally–just seeing Cole’s name raised as a possibility is causing me hives. I also can’t see Albers getting the call over guys who are already on the 40-man roster, not to mention that we just saw how little ST means with Guthrie and Romero, and Albers only struck out 6 batters in 11.2 IP this spring.

    I guess we’ll find out tomorrow, but boy, none of the options are looking very good at the moment.

    Karl Kolchak

    8 Apr 17 at 11:03 pm

  15. Well, not trying to give you hives, but who else is there? Ross can’t come back for 10 days unless there’s an injury. Voth maybe, but I think they’ll want to keep him stretched out as a starter. Gott, Martin, Grace? Are they really any more comforting? Guthrie’s 40 man spot will be free.

    The good news is that this happened early, so with off days they should be able to recover quickly, especially if Stras goes deep tomorrow.

    And again, it’s the first week. I’m not panicking about the pen. I think there are some good arms there and this could just be a bad stretch happening to multiple guys at the same time


    9 Apr 17 at 12:01 am

  16. FWIW, Ross got knocked around at Syracuse on Saturday as well, giving up four runs (three earned) in only 2.2 innings. It’s possible there’s some lingering health issues with him that haven’t been publicly addressed. If there aren’t, though, you would think that he’ll be back up this week, as 10 days will have passed before his next rotation turn. They just can’t have Guthrie completely melt down the whole bullpen again. At least I hope they won’t.

    Really, though, they don’t need a long man with the big club. Blanton is fine in the role when need be, as he was on Saturday. If they truly need another starter in place of Ross, stop looking at the retreads and give a chance to Voth or Fedde.

    For now, we need at least seven from the new pitch-to-contact Stras today. Dusty says Trea will probably miss only a couple of days. The sun came up . . . except for Guthrie. You do wonder if they’ll DFA him right away in order to bring up another arm for the depleted bullpen.


    9 Apr 17 at 7:34 am

  17. Still one spot open on the 40-man … so if you D/L Turner you could call up someone new AND call up a 40-man starter to provide some cover. But yeah they’ll need bullpen arms, not starters.

    Something tells me they won’t DFA guthrie that fast. Or maybe not. I dunno; they went so far out of their way to keep him, why cut bait on him after “one bad outing?”

    Todd Boss

    9 Apr 17 at 7:58 am

  18. They did DFA Guthrie, ending his Nat career with a 135.00 ERA.

    Thus ends an up-and-down first week. The first four starters look fine. What’s going on with the fifth is a mystery. The bullpen is a work in progress, both in personnel and in roles. Of the newbies, I’m generally pleased with what I’ve seen of Wieters and Lind, although Lind’s defense is as bad as advertised. Murph gets only one hit and it’s considered an off day. Eaton may not totally make us forget the pitching price paid, but he’s fast on his way to becoming a fan favorite. Harper started hot but doesn’t yet seem consistent. And, dare we risk saying it, is the old Zim back? That could be the biggest news of all.


    9 Apr 17 at 6:44 pm

  19. Now Nathan has re-signed on a minor-league deal. Must think the prospects of getting a call-up are suddenly better than he thought.


    9 Apr 17 at 7:22 pm

  20. Check out these updated ERAs from Syracuse:

    Antolin – 33.75
    Martin – 20.25
    Cotts – 19.29
    Ross – 10.12
    Hill – 9.64
    Grace – 9.00

    And my buddy Cole hasn’t even had his chance to get bombed yet. Hat tip to Wally for calling it on Albers, who sat out in the pen as Glover took the loss in a non-save situation.

    Karl Kolchak

    9 Apr 17 at 9:01 pm

  21. Well at least Gott (the best of the bunch) had a nice clean inning.

    new posted on this ridiculousness.

    Todd Boss

    9 Apr 17 at 9:10 pm

  22. Turning to Potomac, I think Baez has shown every reason to be intriguing. He is young, has quality stuff, and has shown flashes of dominance, which is what makes the prospect a prospect. The difference between making it and not are being able to sustain dominance. Players without dominant talent will rise as high as their moxie takes them — and sometimes that’s a lot.

    As for the others, the Nats have brought players out of long relief and into the rotation at the A level before. So performance will dictate the rotation by year’s end. With so many retreads in the system, seemingly well more than in year’s previous, it seems that the Nats will give a number of arms the chance to sink or swim as starters and then make way for the next wave that is now in long relief or in Hagerstown.

    Silvestre was quite a commodity before injury. Let’s see what he has left, now that he is one more year removed from his rehab. Estevez is sink or swim. So is Jefry Rodriguez, who gets a social promotion on arm.

    Guilbeau, Crownover and Borne are known quantities and also promoted. So it is not as if they are held back. I’m sure that one or more of them will be solidly in the Potomac rotation by year’s end, if not promoted.

    This is a staff, and a year, in which we can see how Spin Williams and Menhart can help the minor leaguers develop. When a staff begins and our experienced observers here feel that no one excites them, it’s intriguing to see whom we will discover from this young bunch. At least they are not the retreads we see in AA.

    But perhaps that is the point. The older players are the placeholders until dominance at A+ graduates to displace them as the year advances. Hopefully we see a lot of that stepping up.


    10 Apr 17 at 11:38 am

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