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 – XST


He's back! photo via sbnation

He’s back! photo via sbnation

(Last post in this series, then back to the big club).

We have looked 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.

Let’s talk briefly about the 40 some-odd guys in XST or unassigned right now, name some surprises and perhaps talk about where they might slot in if/when they get a chance.

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

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!

Notes: Extended Spring Training is abbreviated XST throughout.  Other abbreviations I use often: MLFA == Minor League Free Agent, OOO = Out of the Organization.

Note: since writing this mid last week, we’ve already seen more than a few names get assigned and removed from XST purgatory.  I’ll just cross them out and not change what I originally wrote below.

Extended Spring Training Players to start the 2017 Full Season

I’m heavily depending on the great work of the Big Board for this list.  I count no less than 46 minor league pitchers who are still under contract to this team but who did not get a full season assignment.  A huge percentage of them were on Short-A or Rookie league teams and were more or less expected to repeat the short seasons.  I have not included anyone who was in the DSL last year as being in this list, coincidentally; I only try to keep track of the domestic leagues.

Below is a rough guess as to where these XST guys are intended to slot in if/when they get assigned:

  • AAA: Eitel, Guthrie, Lannan*, Outman, Nathan
  • AA: JDMartin, Blackmar, Benincasa, Rauh
  • High-A: Mayberry, JThomas*, Mendez
  • Low-A: JMorales, ALee, DeRosier, Howell, Dickey
  • Short-A: WPena, YRamierez, DRamos, Aponte, Cespedes, Fuentes, JGomez, Gunter, Mooney, Morse, Reid
  • Rookie: Alastre, Braymer, Baltrip, Amoroso, Barnett, Conner, Eusebio, German, Luzardo, McDonald, Peguero, NRamirez, Rishwain, Tindall, RWilliamson
  • unknown (been in XST for > 1yr): Bates, CFlores, AMartinez, Shackelford


AAA: by the time you read this, Jeremy Guthrie may have already taken a spot start in the majors (update: he has, making Saturday’s 4/8/17 start in Philly), which will have implied that he’ll have been added to the 40-man and 25-man, and that he’ll more or less have guaranteed his spot up there for a while (since as a vet, he won’t be able to be assigned back to AAA w/o his consent/passing through waivers).  I’m guessing the other guys make their way to Syracuse at some point, perhaps as cascading back-fills if there’s injuries requiring call-ups to the majors.  2017 spring training NRI Joe Nathan, after this writing, got signed and assigned to AAA.

AA: I could see Martin slotting in at either AA (where he ended up last year) or at AAA (due to his experience).   Blackmar struggled in AA and could get pushed back to High-A.  The other two were release candidates to me.  Update: Blackmar re-assigned back to AA as expected to replace Arias in the rotation.

High-A: All three guys here pitched for Potomac last year, and all three pitched well.  Mendez earned a promotion to AA where he got hit, so maybe he just got caught in a numbers game.  None are release candidates to me so perhaps they all missed out on the AA team but have nothing left to prove in High-A.

Low-A: Morales, Lee and DeRosier were all hurt in 2016 (Morales for the whole season, Lee/DeRosier for just half), so it all depends on the extend of the injuries.  Howell was the fastest 2016 draft class riser .. so its kind of odd he wasn’t put on a full season team.  Maybe they thought he needed more time in Short-A.  Lastly I’m not sure what  you do with Robbie Dickey; two straight years bouncing between short- and low-A with little to show for it.  The 4th rounder represents a somewhat large investment by the club that hasn’t panned out and (even though the concept of “sunk cost” may apply here) he’ll likely get more shots to work out.

Short-A:  this list includes mostly guys who were at Auburn last  year and who didn’t make the  Hagerstown cut, but it also includes some guys who should have gone further by now, so I’d guess we’ll see some releases out of this list, especially once the Rule4 draft rolls around.

Rookie: same as with Short-A, especially for the college-age guys here.  I do look forward to the 2017 debut of Jesus Luzardo of course; he could quickly become our 2nd best starting pitching prospect.

Unknowns: what do you make of players who are on pace to miss nearly a year and a half of pro time?  I have no idea where any of these guys slot in any more and wouldn’t be surprised to see them all let go at this point.

19 Responses to 'Minor League Full Season Staff Review 2017 – XST'

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  1. You know, we all chuckled at the signing of Lannan as a submarining lefty reliever, but considering how shaky Solis and particularly Romero have been, and the lack of confidence anyone has in Ollie, the odds are good that we’ll see at least one loogy called up to the big club this year from among Lannan, Grace, Cotts, and Collins (much later in the year).

    With the rest of these guys, there’s a lot of chaff to separate in looking for a few grains of wheat. Like Todd, I was surprised that Howell didn’t surface, either at Hags or even Potomac. I also thought that Ramirez would be in the Hags rotation. His numbers at Auburn last year were very similar to McKenzie Mills’.

    Of all these guys, of course, Luzardo is the biggest one for the future of the Nats. They paid a late-first-round price for him and his pre-surgery upper 90s fastball. Among the rehabbing, I’m also curious to see what Williamson can do. He was a starter in the ACC with a sub-3.00 ERA when he TJ’d. Bryan Harper will also be coming back from his first TJ, and Andrew Lee from his second.


    12 Apr 17 at 9:41 am

  2. I didn’t chuckle about Lannan, I love stories like him and JD Martin trying to reinvent themselves. It is very cool.

    I didn’t realize that Luzardo threw that hard, I thought it was more 90-94?

    I’m not as big on th prospects as you guys. Unless he’s a big signing or draftee, I don’t even pay attention until they get to POT. Especially the Latin kids because they start so young.


    12 Apr 17 at 10:01 am

  3. Todd, just wanted to say thanks for this series you did, manna from heaven for seamheads like myself.

    the next set of cuts will be some people we know have followed or awhile.

    Mark L

    12 Apr 17 at 10:05 am

  4. Luzardo reputedly had ticked up into the upper 90s last spring before he blew out, which was a factor in the increased buzz about him. (Gee, that sounds like the Giolito story!)

    The reason Luzardo matters is that Fedde is the only truly legit MLB starter prospect in the system right now. We can like Voth and Watson as much as we want, as well as W. Davis and M. Mills at Hagerstown, but they probably aren’t future starters for a contender. The Nats paid Luzardo like they think he’s the next Fedde. We’ll see. As a high school draftee, the clock won’t be ticking as fast on him as it is on Fedde.

    I admit that I have a hard time keeping the Latin kids in the lower levels straight as well. At least the college draftees come in with some sort of hierarchy attached to them from where they’re drafted. Occasionally a Latin kid generates buzz from how much was paid, like Soto, and Antuna and Garcia for this season.


    12 Apr 17 at 10:16 am

  5. Thanks Mark! I can see a LOT of cuts coming. 40+ names in XST now, and you have to think we’re going to add another 15 arms or so June 5th. There’s already 11 or so guys in XST who I think were in Short-A LAST year … it could get ugly for some of these college age draftees soon.

    Todd Boss

    12 Apr 17 at 10:56 am

  6. I for one am interested to see what Lannan can do. But honestly, I’m really surprised no one ever tried him as a regular reliever without the submarine angle. If you look at his career numbers the first time through a lineup, they’re actually pretty darn good (2.67 ERA with a .686 OPS against and a .308 wOBA against). His mediocrity as a starter is larger due to being hit way harder the second and third times through the lineup. He seems like an obvious candidate to see what he could do limited to an inning per appearance.


    12 Apr 17 at 11:01 am

  7. Lannan as closer! 🙂 Its Dennis Eckersley redux.

    Todd Boss

    12 Apr 17 at 11:33 am

  8. How about a quick peak at the flip side–namely those guys who made the cut who already appear to be on thin ice:


    Antonlin – 16.20 ERA, 3.30 WHIP, 6 BB in 3.1 IP
    Cotts – 19.29 ERA, 2.57 WHIP, Age 37


    Johansen – 22.50 ERA, 3.00 WHIP


    Estevez – 13.50 ERA, Age 25 at High A

    Looks like there are potential spots available for Lannan and Martin plus a couple of the others. There are quite a few others who have started slowly who it is too early to say it’s time for them to move on. Give it another month or so.

    Karl Kolchak

    12 Apr 17 at 12:25 pm

  9. Syracuse is an embarrassment so far. No disagreements with any of these guys. Lannan may be called soon. Martin may have to wait for a starter spot (perhaps when JRoss gets called back up?) BTW did you notice who the announced starter is in AAA tonight? Its Ross’ turn but they’ve listed Matt Grace (??) as the starter.

    Todd Boss

    12 Apr 17 at 12:46 pm

  10. Grant Green called up. 40/40 now on roster … Green wasn’t exactly lighting it up in AAA (2 for 13 in 4 games) but he fits a need. Skole and Snyder definitely hitting this first week; that’s good to see. Clint is not; just 2 for 18. Its early.

    Todd Boss

    12 Apr 17 at 12:47 pm

  11. It’s sort of a mixed blessing for Green, though, as I believe he is out of options, so he would have to be DFA’d when his DC time is done, probably when Turner is ready. They could send Taylor or Difo down instead, I guess, but both are better than Green. Albers is on the same very short plank, although he’s got a much better MLB track record than Green does.


    12 Apr 17 at 12:52 pm

  12. I love a good story as much as anyone, but as we saw on Saturday night, some don’t quite have a happy ending. So call me a Lannan skeptic. His career WHIP is 1.436, and his K/9 is only 4.7. That’s not a winning reliever combo.

    I’ll freely admit some negative bias here, though. I’m not a Lannan hater at all, but to me, it was a big symbolic step when the Nats not only didn’t have to start a guy like Lannan anymore, but didn’t even need him on their MLB roster.


    12 Apr 17 at 12:53 pm

  13. I’ll admit, I liked the Cotts signing. Early returns are NOT good.


    12 Apr 17 at 12:55 pm

  14. KW is right on Green; zero options. He as added Nov 2012, optioned 2013, 2014, 2015. DFA’d at the end of 2015 and outrighted to AAA. His 2016 contract was a MLFA, he got called up, but then had to be DFA’d back to AAA. So it’d be the same boat here.

    Todd Boss

    12 Apr 17 at 1:00 pm

  15. So apparently he knows the drill! I don’t think there would be too much chance of losing him.


    12 Apr 17 at 1:04 pm

  16. FWIW, too bad Manny Burriss wasn’t available for the curtain call. I wasn’t clear if his drug bust was PEDs or recreational.


    12 Apr 17 at 1:08 pm

  17. Burriss’s suspension was for a “drug of abuse,” not a PED.

    But yea, he’d likely be getting the call-up and not Green.

    Todd Boss

    12 Apr 17 at 2:23 pm

  18. Too bad. Hope he gets straightened out. When they re-signed him, I thought they might be thinking about setting him up in a community outreach gig post-baseball.

    There are at least a couple of other DMV guys in the pitching list above. Phil Morse was very up-and-down at Auburn, with several good outings marred by a couple of bad ones that blew up his ERA. When Kevin Mooney was drafted in 2015, I thought he might be able to be a quick riser, but he didn’t make it out of the GCL in 2015 and apparently didn’t “pass” Auburn in 2016. College kids who repeat Auburn in their third year in the organization generally aren’t given a lot of slack.


    12 Apr 17 at 2:50 pm

  19. Burriss makes a ton of sense, given that he’s the only DC high school prospect that I know of anywhere close to the majors right now. But a “drug of abuse” report, and a 2nd one at that, is huge. They can’t have him representing the organization like that. Just a dumb move from someone who should have known better.

    Todd Boss

    12 Apr 17 at 4:00 pm

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