Nationals Arm Race

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

AFL 2017; who is going and why


Robles headlines our AFL contingent for 2017. Photo via

Robles headlines our AFL contingent for 2017. Photo via

Arizona Fall League 2017 rosters were announced earlier this week.

Here’s the Nats announced participants: Victor Robles, Dakota Bacus, Jimmy Cordero, Kyle McGowin, Austen Williams, Taylor Gushue, Kelvin Gutierrez.

So, that’s an interesting bunch.  We generally see AFL participants named for one of several reasons:

  1. They were hurt and need more ABs/Innings on the year.
  2. They’re uber prospects from the mid-minors who the team wants to see challenged as a “finishing school” kind of situation.
  3. They’re rule-5 eligible in November and the team wants to make a decision on whether or not they’re worth protecting.
  4. The AFL roster is short a catcher, pitcher or middle infielder so the team has to pony up one to fill the roster.
  5. They’re working on something new … a new pitch, switch hitting, etc.

So, given those rules, lets do quick judgements on why these particular players are playing in Arizona.

  • Robles: Reason #2: he’s the team’s undisputed #1 prospect; he’s heading to AFL as a finishing school challenge ahead of him likely working his way into a 2018 call-up.
  • Bacus: Reason #1 and perhaps Reason #3 as well: Bacus missed two months this year on the D/L, but also took a big step forward performance-wise.  He’s been Rule-5 eligible for two years now, but suddenly he’s succeeding at a high enough level that the team may be thinking about protecting him.
  • Cordero: #3 primarily: Cordero was outrighted in August and has had a pretty ugly 2017 season stat-wise.  But he was on a 40-man roster prior to his acquisition for a reason, and the team may want to see a bit more of him before deciding whether to protect him again.
  • McGowin: Reason #1, maybe #5: McGowin missed about two months with two different D/L stints … and was demoted twice this year.  Is the team looking to convert him to relief?  I don’t think he’s a rule-5 jeopardy even though he’s eligible for the 2nd time.
  • Williams: #3 mostly; Williams is Rule-5 eligible for the first time but struggled in AA for the second year running.  He did miss some time this year, but this seems more like a “challenge” AFL placement.
  • Gushue: #3 again, perhaps #4: Gushue is probably under advisement for rule-5 protection by virtue of the fact that he’s a Catcher and he can hit, even if he’s repeating High-A again in 2017.  You can never have too many catchers on the roster for depth, and with the team likely parting ways with Jose Lobaton we’ll need more on the roster.  Catchers on AFL rosters are also in short supply, so there’s a double reason here too.
  • Gutierrez: #1 primarily: he’s shown promise at the plate 3 years running at successive levels, but got hurt and missed a chunk of time after making the Carolina league all-star team.  He’ll get some catch up ABs in Arizona and the team will get to see him challenged too (he’s never been above High-A).

We’re all curious to see how Robles fares against top-end minor league competition of course.  But who among the rest of these guys is even considered a top end “prospect” in our system?  The next closest thing to a “top 10” guy is Gutierrez, who has been in the 8-12 range on the last few rankings.  Gushue was ranked 25th on’s mid-season ranking; the rest of these guys are not even on the top 30.  So, not a great crop of talent necessarily but a slew of guys who the team may want to add at the fringes of the roster later on.


78 Responses to 'AFL 2017; who is going and why'

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  1. It’s Robles and stuff. Gutierrez is getting pretty marginal as a prospect, a corner guy with no power, plus he missed half the season.

    I’ve already written about this at some length on Nats Prospects, but AA is generally your AFL feeder, and the Nats just don’t have a lot there. Marmolejos and Read are on the 40-man and may get Sept. looks with the big club. Ward and Voth have already done the AFL . . . and come back to have worse seasons. Hernandez is about to turn 30 and really doesn’t need the AFL developmental stuff.

    I know a lot of folks wanted to see Daniel Johnson in AZ. All I can say is that this is his first full season as a pro, and he’s pretty much proven what he needs to prove this year. He’s still somewhat raw and may benefit more at this point from the Instructional League than the AFL.


    31 Aug 17 at 10:17 am

  2. To bring forward something Marty said toward the end of the last post, if folks aren’t paying attention to the Nats right now — and I know a lot of people really aren’t — they’re missing a show. Stras pitched one of his best games ever yesterday, against a formidable Fish order (or at least the top four), plus he homered. Difo continued to build his legend. Rendon produced in the clutch.

    On Monday, Werth returned and hit one almost to the concourse. He was bouncing around on Monday like a Great Dane puppy. Scherzer was dominant as well. On Tuesday, when the game was still in doubt, Murphy had an absolutely cold-blooded RBI single with two outs and an 0-2 count. I just love watching this team. I know so many fans just have tunnel vision toward the postseason, but they’re missing a lot in the meantime.


    31 Aug 17 at 10:24 am

  3. And Trea is back. He may take a while to round into shape but he is a fun guy to watch. Just missing the Big Kid.

    Speaking of the last thread and Giolito, there was a guy from Fangraphs that also was very critical of him. Can’t find the link. He dissected his 2017 debut inning by inning and basically said that he just has no command. Did ok but nothing, especially the FB, went where the catcher set up. I kind of feel bad for the kid; he seems like a good kid and he’s been such a lightning rod because of his hype, which he didn’t create.


    31 Aug 17 at 10:35 am

  4. Here is the Giolito article Wally mentioned:

    It is indeed quite rough.


    31 Aug 17 at 12:17 pm

  5. Sorry, forgot Trea. Yes, just the walk/SB with no throw/easy run scored sequence on Wed. was a reminder of what a weapon he is. It seems almost greedy to have the Nats on pace to win close to 100 but still be thinking, “Yeah, imagine next year when they’ve got Eaton and Trea together to create havoc.”


    31 Aug 17 at 2:02 pm

  6. And I am hoping the team brings up Robles today to make him eligible for the postseason. There are no guarantees that Harper is coming back, and Robles in September makes this a mighty interesting opportunity to warm up for 2018.

    With Harper already sitting, I’d rather see what Robles can do in RF than Goodwin or Difo, and he can spell Taylor as need be as well.


    31 Aug 17 at 3:02 pm

  7. The Nats have the depth of ML talent to make a play for Verlander, putting aside the economics for a moment.

    Whether they will or not is another story, but with no Joe Ross in 2018, Gio unsigned beyond that, and a former teammate Scherzer on board, why not load up now rather than rely on EJax next year? Seth Romero is the only enticing option in the minors.

    Upton is out of town so the Tigers have their openings in the OF.


    31 Aug 17 at 3:15 pm

  8. If the Nats already hit the luxury tax this year … Verlander would obliterate it going forward. He’s owed 18:$28M, 19:$28M, 20:$22M vesting option for his age 35,36,37 years. Yikes. Unless Detroit paid half his salary, that’s a ton of money. And for a guy who’s ERA has jumped from 3.04 to 3.84 this year.

    the Nats are losing a decent amount of salary to FAs; Werth’s $21, Blanton $4, Perez #4, Drew $3.5, Lobaton $1.75 and Heisey’s $1.4m. that’s $35M and change. But they have three big-money arb cases (Harper, Rendon, Roark) that probably take up a large portion of that.

    I don’t see a big signing.

    Todd Boss

    31 Aug 17 at 4:08 pm

  9. They’ve already agreed with Harper for around $22 million for next year.

    Rendon & Roark will definitely eat up the rest; especially with the type of year Rendon is having.

    Mark L

    31 Aug 17 at 4:12 pm

  10. The Nats have some outstanding surplus, and there aren’t many players they can acquire who can elevate the quality of the team that are worth that surplus. Verlander is available now, and he is pitching well and would sync well with Matt on a postseason staff.

    Sooner or later MASN is going to get settled. If not sooner, and Harper is headed out of town for 45 million a year, having a player like Verlander on board enables trading players like Gio in a package with players like Taylor to get Stanton. Rizzo always thinks the dominoes, as he did when he signed Scherzer a year before Zimmerman went to FA.

    I know these are just spitballs, but Verlander is Verlander and controllable for 2-3 years. That is enough time to cultivate the next wave, or trade surplus to get some.


    31 Aug 17 at 4:31 pm

  11. Robles is in the lineup tonight . . . for Harrisburg. No way he’s coming up.


    31 Aug 17 at 6:22 pm

  12. Angels go big with J-Up deal . . . and get down on their knees and pray every night that he opts out.

    I played around with the Verlander deal a few weeks ago when we discussed it, but I just can’t see him being worth to the Nats what he would cost, both right now to acquire him and over the remaining years of his large contract. Judging by the J-Up deal, though, the Tigers would probably give him away just to unload that contract.


    31 Aug 17 at 6:34 pm

  13. Astros go big for Verlander, giving up some quality prospects and taking on a good chunk of his salary. They’ve got ~$125M payroll so have room to take it on, with so many of their players arb/pre-arb.

    Frankly, this is a deal Houston had to make. The Astros didn’t have enough pitching to go deep into the playoffs. They still may not, but they’ve got a strong 1-2 now.

    Meanwhile, the Angels had to get J-Up to replace Revere and Phillips to fill the Danny hole.

    The first Nats said to be on the way up here on Sept. 1 are Enny Romero and Austin Adams. Mention of the latter may induce groans, but he’s been great over the last month. He hasn’t given up a run in his last seven appearances.


    1 Sep 17 at 7:37 am

  14. I’m glad that Verlander went elsewhere; for all the reasons that Todd noted above, I think it would have been a terrible idea.

    There is no chance that Robles comes up in September, nor should he. He’s just gotten to AA and is prepping for the AFL. Remember when everyone was clamoring to bring up MAT, then Giolito and Lopez? Just because they haven’t failed at the MLB level yet doesn’t mean that they are ready. Patience.

    John C.

    1 Sep 17 at 8:33 am

  15. I didn’t want Verlander either. That’s not Rizzo’s M.O. He’d rather pay big for the younger guys with much more left in the tank like Max, Sale, Gio.

    Marty C

    1 Sep 17 at 9:25 am

  16. The curiosity of yesterday: why did the Phils (who are in the #1 waiver claim position) claim Nicasio, who is still owed $600K and is a free agent at the end of the year? This deal certainly smacks of one contender getting the Phils to take him so he couldn’t reach another contender. Is that legal within baseball rules? Expect some form of quid pro quo at some point by the anonymous party.


    1 Sep 17 at 10:57 am

  17. Well, we will agree to disagree on both Verlander and Robles.

    Robles and MAT are not a proper comparison. Robles has far better plate selectivity and MAT took two years to get through Potomac. Rendon’s speed through the system’s upper levels was plenty fast, as was Harper’s. Robles’ talent is on that level.

    The Nats are trying to win a world series. IF they believed he would be in the lineup, it would make sense to get him on the playoff roster. IF they don’t, and Harper remains out of the lineup, I think that early exposure and starting his ML clock for a few weeks will only help him and the team.

    As for Verlander, the Astros gave up a lot for him. But Rizzo has acquired key pitchers in the autumn of their career – Haren, Jackson, Soriano (winter), Papelbon (winter). The Astros needed him more than the Nats, and did not necessarily get a discount.

    As for Austin Adams, with the magic number as it is, everything is low risk and with the 40 man having Adams on it, might as well run the staff like a spring training competition. Nobody stays at infinity forever.


    1 Sep 17 at 11:39 am

  18. I’m not saying that Robles is as good as Harper. Insofar as Harper and Rendon are superstars, Robles has that level of talent and we will witness his impact soon enough if he does not get injured by HBP or aggressiveness.


    1 Sep 17 at 11:41 am

  19. I do think Robles has demonstrated the talent for a very fast ascension, including coming up this year. But I don’t think there is a spot for him this year on the playoff roster once they traded for Kendrick, and Goody has performed so well. I just don’t see them choosing to play a rookie, and a rookie facing his very first action, over those two. If it was choosing de Aza or Raburn, v pushing Robles, I think Fore is right that they would have pushed Robles. The other thing that may be involved is that you occasionally see Robles benched for something like base running blunders. I don’t know that much about it, just read the traffic on Luke’s site, but maybe that is an influence too.

    As for Verlander, I can never form an opinion until I know the cost. I wouldn’t have wanted him at the Nats version of the prospect cost that HOU paid. I figure that’s something like Kieboom, DJohnson and maybe Severino or Read. I think he’d easily be the #3 starter, though I worry what he is in 2018 and 2019, but that would be very painful. For HOU, they have a deeper system plus he slots in at 1 or 1A, so it makes more sense for them.

    On Nicasio, my first reaction was that philly took him to flip him, but that didn’t happen. Not sure why they did it; seems odd. Also like HOU claiming Maybin.


    1 Sep 17 at 1:00 pm

  20. The Nats appear to be staggering through life right now, but they don’t have another off day until next Monday. Zim (despite a good game on Sun.) and Murph in particular look like they could use about a week off. The good news is that despite the nearly lost weekend in Milwaukee, they lost no ground to the Fish (+15) and only one game to the Cubs (+7).

    The Cubs remain +3.5 on the Brewers. I know it may be hearsay to say, but I’m beginning to think I’d rather see the Cubs than the Brewers in the first round. The Brewers seem to have deeper and more consistent pitching than the Cubs. With their big weekend, the Brewers did pull to just half a game behind the slumping Rockies for the last wild card slot.


    4 Sep 17 at 8:01 am

  21. 15 game lead, largest in the majors. I think I would give Zim and Murph that week off starting now. Seriously. Rendon too. Plenty of kids to give chances to, and I’m not even worri d about home field advantage.

    Might agree that MIL seems to be playing better than CHC. Are they actually better? Hard to say.


    4 Sep 17 at 12:13 pm

  22. Giolito’s latest start. 7pm, 3 hits, 1 walk, 10 Ks against Tampa. The one run he gave up was a solo homer. 52 fastballs, 28 changeups, 14 sliders and just 9 curveballs. his supposed best pitch. Interesting pitch selection. Velocity avg 93, peak 94.6. 70 of 103 pitches for strikes…..

    Even if he’s not sitting 96, flashing 99, that’s a damn effective start against a team that’s still in the WC hunt.

    Todd Boss

    4 Sep 17 at 1:23 pm

  23. Also noteworthy … Fedde’s lack of velocity in his last outing explained: he was put ont he D/L with a flexor strain. Goodbye 2017 for Fedde. Lets hope its not a flexor TEAR like what Strasburg had last year.

    Not a great debut for Fedde; 9+ ERA in 3 starts that he seemed to be making just to soak up innings (and hits) to save the bullpen.

    Todd Boss

    4 Sep 17 at 6:52 pm

  24. I’ve been saying for weeks that the Snakes are a bad matchup for the Dodgers. Well, the D-Backs swept them last week and embarrassed them last night. There is no more Dodger aura of inevitability in the playoffs, despite their big lead now. The Dodgers are 1-9 in their last 10.

    Say what you will about Dusty, and I have as many qualms as anyone else about his pushing of the starters, but he’s an ace in the hole right now as an experienced guy who knows how to ride a team with a big lead. Dave Roberts doesn’t have that experience. We’ll see how it works out for them.

    The other thing with Dusty that I haven’t seen noted: in their second full season with the Nats, when injuries and other unexpected things happened, both Davey and Matt completely lost the team. You can point out that they had tougher teams challenging them in the division, but Dusty has had more significant injuries yet has kept everything steady-as-she-goes. There are a bunch of odd personalities on this team, and it isn’t the easiest bunch to keep pointed in the same direction. Those 2013 and 2015 seasons included a lot of self-inflicted wounds. We haven’t seen those this year.

    Yeah, we’re still waiting to see postseason success. But there’s sometime to be said for actually getting this squad to the postseason in back-to-back years.


    5 Sep 17 at 8:29 am

  25. When the Nats made the Eaton trade, which I liked and still like going forward, I noted that they had bet big on Fedde. Well, . . .

    I know it’s way too early to start worrying about such things, but who is the fifth starter next year? Fedde hasn’t shown enough yet to trust him plus will be coming off a significant injury. Ross will be out for most of the year. Anyone willing to trust Cole as a regular starter? Re-sign EJax? Sorry, but even on the back end, they need to be stronger than that for the potential last rodeo with Harper and Murphy.


    5 Sep 17 at 8:35 am

  26. WP article this morning asking if Fedde is the 5th starter in 2018. Hasn’t AJ Cole made a better case for it at this point?

    Of course, these are just the internal options. In reality Cole’s walk rate is abhorrent and not sustainable for a season. Fedde posted a 9+ ERA and to me needs more AAA time to refine his arsenal. Edwin frigging Jackson looks the most impressive, now with a 3.29 ERA across 9 starts … but look deeper into his starts and its scary: he has a 5.17 FIP! That’s partly due to an unsustainable babip and partly due to a very high HR/9 rate.

    For me … we have no 5th starter candidate right now. I think we’re exploring the market. Maybe we try to flip Difo for a 5th starter in the off-season.

    Todd Boss

    5 Sep 17 at 8:55 am

  27. I think they just buy a 5th starter on the market. Wait until Jan and pick up a reclamation guy.

    Sorry, just don’t share the Dusty love. If anything, I think the opposite of what KW said, he shows no signs of lightening the load with a big lead. Dusty has largely had an insurmountable lead since the ASB, yet Murph, Zim and Rendon show real signs of wearing down. That’s inexcusable. He brings in the ‘Firm’ last night with a 5 run lead. Seriously, wtf? We have the largest lead in the majors plus no one else is above .500. It’s like he’s scared.

    I get that he has certain good qualities in a manager, like the players like and respect him and he handles the media. But his playing time choices have bothered me from Day 1. He has a massively talented team in a very weak division so I give him less credit for his record than others do. I’m just not a fan.


    5 Sep 17 at 9:33 am

  28. Off topic, I think the A’s have to be pretty happy with their trade with us. Neuse and Luzardo have performed very well even after promotions, and even Treinen looks like a useful bulllpen guy. We’re happy too – we had no choice and the guys have been good. But the initial reactions that we ‘won’ that trade were overblown, I think.


    5 Sep 17 at 10:06 am

  29. Hey, if our guys do well with the A’s, we can always get them back! I had seen that they had already pushed Neuse up two levels to AA.

    I’m not totally in the tank for Dusty by any means. I’m just pointing out that despite all the talent, this season could have still gone off the rails. In fact, under Matt Williams, it probably would have. Bud Black, whose success the Dusty haters were celebrating early this season, is in danger of blowing a big wild-card lead.

    Yeah, maybe the “A” bullpen didn’t need to work last night after they blew the game open. But as Charlie and Dave pointed out on the radio, the Nats had blown 6-0 leads against the Fish twice this season. Plus the A-team hadn’t gotten a lot of work over the weekend.

    With the pitcher usage, we also have no idea how much input Maddux has. I assume it’s a lot. He’s quite an assertive fellow with an established track record. I could see McCatty sitting back and not saying something if he didn’t agree, but not Mad Dog.

    As for the everyday players, the word seems to be that Dusty trusts his players. He will insist on days off every now and then, and I certainly agree that Zim (in particular), Murph, and Rendon need some time. We’ll see if we start seeing more “split-squad” lineups over the next couple of weeks. The minor-league season ended yesterday, so they’ll be getting back Stevenson, Bautista, et al. Maybe Marmolejos gets a cup of coffee, since he’s already on the 40-man.


    5 Sep 17 at 11:23 am

  30. I think Dusty handles the lineup better than the pitching staff. Murphy and Zim get regular days off spread throughout the season. Rendon gets regular rest too but not as much because he’s younger. Guys who are slumping want ABs to hit their way out of it. So long as Murphy and Zim aren’t hurt, they should be kept to a mostly normal schedule, with maybe an extra day here and there or an early exit in non-close games. These guys need to stay sharp and sitting them for a week is a great way to get them not-sharp. The pitching staff is an entirely different story, though. Now is the time to have a hard pitch count on the starters and to use relief pitchers judiciously, and with much less attention to game situation.

    Re Fedde: I’ve said this before, but I thought he looked very good – better than Giolito ever looked last year – in his first two starts. That guy was a fifth starter candidate. He looked like a different guy during his last start, and the fact that he’s injured is no surprise to me. I hope it’s as minor as they say it is. But even if he’s good to go in 2018, he’s probably not good to go for more than 150 innings, if that. You might think that Fedde plus Ross could get you through the season, but that assumes everything goes right with Ross’s recovery. So the Nats need to buy a starter in the offseason, whether through FA or trade. This is one of the reasons I thought a Verlander trade might make sense if Detroit paid down a good portion of his salary when we weren’t sure Strasburg was healthy – Verlander gave us another starter in 2018 and Strasburg insurance in 2017. In any event, we need a league average innings sponge for 2018 – a John Lackey type who can throw 180 innings of 4.00 ERA (I’m not advocating for Lackey, just a guy like him). Fedde stands ready to fill in for injuries, and Cole is backfill (AJ Cole cannot be in the planned starting rotation for a team that has playoff aspirations). I could even imagine some Dodgers-like DL shenanigans with Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio, Roark, Vet X, and Fedde as your six primary starters.


    5 Sep 17 at 11:27 am

  31. For the fifth starter, I would guess that they’ll make a trade. The FA class isn’t very good, and there’s a big drop from Arrieta and Darvish level to Lynn and Cashner. Cole had a 5.88 ERA and 1.746 WHIP at AAA this year. There’s no way they can trust him over the long haul.


    5 Sep 17 at 11:29 am

  32. If the prognosis on Fedde is good, it’s possible that they could sign EJax as the long man with the promise that he can complete in the spring with Fedde and Cole for the 5th starter slot. That’s not ideal, but it also wouldn’t cost much.


    5 Sep 17 at 11:32 am

  33. 5th starter – my question is, ‘how important is it’? My answer is ‘not very’, so getting by with some combination of Cole/Fedde/FA hack for a 5.00 FIP is ok by me. It’s 30 starts, and you’ll probably win 10-12 anyway with that group, maybe more. I don’t think I’d give away big assets for a guy that likely won’t be on the playoff roster.

    That part from C&D that we’ve blown big leads to the Marlins already – so what? I’m suggesting that the win isn’t that important anyway, not more than health and fatigue. I do not think a manager should leave it to the players to decide. One of the best things Rizzo did during the Stras shutdown was say ‘this is my decision, not Stras’. With the amount of bravado that goes on, the player is put into a tough spot to choose health over playing. The Mets said it was up to Harvey, and after that, what choice did he really have? The fans would have crucified him. Dusty needs to exert some authority and sit them. Maybe not for a week, I was kind of joking but 2-3 days in a row for sure.


    5 Sep 17 at 2:54 pm

  34. I agree Dusty working the pitchers too hard. Even worked Gio too hard last week when he was having a bad game.

    Good for Giolito these last two starts. Those are some good numbers.

    I would guess Rizzo trys to fill not the 5th starter for next year but probably the 2nd or 3rd in a big trade and push Roark down to #5.

    Very odd handling of Fedde this year. No surprise he got hurt after jerking between starter and reliever routines. Seems a panic move by management that is usually ultra conservative with our blue chip TJ surgery arms.

    Marty C

    5 Sep 17 at 3:44 pm

  35. No surprise he got hurt after jerking between starter and reliever routines.

    I am not aware of any actual basis for concluding that moving from the rotation to the bullpen and back increases the risk of injury. It is not at all uncommon for pitchers to swing back and forth in roles depending on the needs of the team. I would not be surprised if the Nationals moving Fedde to the bullpen was in part based on the idea of keeping his innings as he continues to come back from TJ surgery. That, of course, and the fact that the Nats’ bullpen sucked the first half of the season.

    John C.

    6 Sep 17 at 11:07 am

  36. Fact is Zimmerman and Strasburg were very cautiously kept to their routines post TJ. Fedde was not treated the same. You don’t think there is a difference training for years to go long every 5th day, then suddenly you are pitching full bore on back to back days or 4 times a week? You don’t think that different schedule of rest and activity has different effects on the arm?

    I know why they did it. It wasn’t innings management as they know how to do that with starters. it was obviously bullpen suck that made them do it. I’m just saying they would not have done that with Stras or someone they very highly valued as a future starter.

    Marty C

    6 Sep 17 at 11:47 am

  37. The team needs starting pitching in 2018. Someone will throw more money at EJax than the Nats would.

    There is an outfield logjam next year when Eaton comes back that will have to be relieved by a trade. Even if Harper leaves at years end, there is still a surplus that can bring the team a fifth starter. I agree that the team will aim to get the best return possible (A #1-3 starter) and can package a lot, still. But it is the ML ready talent, such as Goodwin, that can headline a deal that features other really intriguing and blossoming talent.

    There is no need to trade Robles, Soto, or Kieboom and I hope the organization does not. Those depth building blocks should be added to.

    Difo will be very much in demand. But he’s such a winning ballplayer and excellent catalyst, and proven injury insurance, that unless the team does not plan to sign Rendon or Murphy, he should be kept around and trained up as a Zobrist.

    There are other minor league assets that I wish the team could move into the 40 man roster now to get a good look at with the remaining games of the season. Look how Sevy is showing up, since being liberated from Syracuse.

    In particular, I’m thinking of Neftali Soto at AAA, who Baker knew from Cincinatti, and Dan Gamache at AA, taken from the Pirates organization. The team has to make decisions at the end of the year and they may be good depth pieces to stache in AAA, and Soto may fit in better than Ryan Rayburn/Heisey types. I’d love to see Soto in Nats game action this September.

    I’ve been looking out for Yadiel Hernandez for some time, but there is no need to look at him until a non-roster invite to spring training. He has shown enough promise to envision his continued development upward, even at age 29. But he is new to the organization and so no protection risk, and ultimately at 200K, a shrewd investment in a proven Cuban property when one considers the money flushed on people like Hector Olivera.

    John Simms is another guy who has helium and whom I would expect to see next spring as a non-roster invite.

    A number of players have really turned it on at year’s end, and my own personal top-50 that I usually post here is so transformed with new talent, which is always fun in the wait until next year context. I need to take a last look at it before throwing it out there.

    Fedde was hurt. So we saw flashes and it will be up to him to impress next spring. Certainly his trade value is lower, as is Cole’s and Voth’s, and for that matter, Seth Romero’s, relative to where they once were, but on a better note, where all may be a year from now.


    6 Sep 17 at 12:05 pm

  38. Another note. The Keith Law types that I like to ridicule so not reflect the prevailing sentiments of other GMs, which highly value Nats minor league talent.

    The excellent performance by future major league players like Schrock, Neuse and Luzardo only feed that sentiment that the Nats system has strong talent. So this will help Rizzo aim high.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the Madson/Doolittle and Kintzler deals were a watershed moment for the 2017 team and the franchise in general, without exaggeration. This team is barreling into the playoffs like an underappreciated titan, gaining strength.

    The A’s trade, which benefitted both teams, will impact the 2018 offseason in very positive fashion and has lessons for future deadline planning. Instead of giving away real prospects like Schrock for spare parts to a playoff push, real prospects can be leveraged for key pieces that endure beyond a mere rental. The results are wonderful and everyone is happy.


    6 Sep 17 at 12:11 pm

  39. And yes, I’d like to see Robles get some September at bats too.


    6 Sep 17 at 12:12 pm

  40. Robles is going to get September at bats, and October at bats. In the AFL 🙂

    You don’t think there is a difference training for years to go long every 5th day, then suddenly you are pitching full bore on back to back days or 4 times a week? You don’t think that different schedule of rest and activity has different effects on the arm?

    I think that there is a difference in how one prepares; I am simply unconvinced that it has a material impact on the physical health of the pitcher. Teams often put prospective starters that are on an innings limit into the bullpen for some part of a season as a way of controlling their workload. Clearly the teams are OK with it – and, frankly, they are much more likely to have whatever information is available on the phenomenon than any of us. That doesn’t mean that they are right. But it means that, for me, it’s going to take more than “don’t you think that …” to move the belief needle. YMMV.

    John C.

    6 Sep 17 at 4:54 pm

  41. Fedde and the changing roles: I’m not sure i’d put his arm injury on the roller coaster he went on this year, but i would put his lack-luster results on it. But, fact of the matter is this: in AAA this year he had just 24 innings starting and only 9 relieving. His ERA was better relieving, but his BAA and whip were worse.

    … but it was a grand total of 34 frigging innings. So that’s just not enough to really pass judgement.

    Todd Boss

    7 Sep 17 at 12:28 pm

  42. Forensicane and I get our wish: Passan reporting that Robles is getting called up today.


    7 Sep 17 at 2:32 pm

  43. Huh, that’s a surprise to me. I hope it isn’t a bad omen for Harp in the playoffs.


    7 Sep 17 at 3:02 pm

  44. Wally, that was my first thought too, but I don’t think it makes sense upon further reflection. Even if Robles plays really well, I can’t imagine Dusty/Rizzo sitting Werth or Kendrick in the playoffs in favor of Robles. Those two have just too strong track records to be displaced by a prospect doing well against September-caliber pitching. It’s more within the realm of possibility (but still remote) that he outplays MAT by so much that he and not MAT is the go-to CFer in the playoffs. In my view, the Harper replacements are already on the roster – Werth, Kendrick, and (god help us if we care about defense) Lind.

    It’s more plausible that Robles’ promotion says something about Goodwin’s recovery (haven’t heard much on that front recently). But really, I think this callup is a reward for Robles having a highly productive season and an effort to get him some MLB clubhouse exposure before 2018, when they plan to rely on him more. How they use him will be a tell: few starts and few ABs would support my theory.


    7 Sep 17 at 3:13 pm

  45. Congrats to forensicane! Robles gets his shot. Perhaps 10 months too early 🙂

    Todd Boss

    7 Sep 17 at 3:17 pm

  46. Fedde to 60-day DL corresponding move. NO surprise there.

    Todd Boss

    7 Sep 17 at 3:22 pm

  47. Derek – yeah, looks like you are right. Chelsea J tweeted it was a reaction to Goodwin’s setback.

    Well, it will be fun to see him in action firsthand.


    7 Sep 17 at 4:33 pm

  48. But of course. I’ve been laughed at on predictions here since clamoring for Tanner Roark while he was in AAA. And more recently, for saying Turner would be a transformative franchise player.

    It’s not a reaction to Goodwin. It’s a reaction to Robles. He is that special.

    Boy is this a fun year, and a World Series team. People like Robles and Severino are a shot in the arse to the veterans.


    7 Sep 17 at 5:13 pm

  49. And if they play Robles and he does well, a shot in the arse to Harper too, going into an off season of contract negotiations. Good for Rizzo. He really does not disappoint. Go Nats!


    7 Sep 17 at 5:20 pm

  50. I don’t get the timing though. Why call him up on the 7th instead of a week ago when he could be eligible for Post season roster?

    Todd Boss

    7 Sep 17 at 8:01 pm

  51. I heard Charlie and Dave on their pregame, and they were a bit perplexed about the Robles call-up, too. I have a hard time understanding why they’re “starting the clock on him” now, particularly with plenty of other OFs available with Stevenson and Bautista coming back up today as well.

    Part of my guess would be that they’ve got a curiosity about when Robles might be ready next season, perhaps with the thought that if he’s that close, they could think more seriously about trading Taylor or Goodwin in the offseason (for that fifth starter). Stevenson thus far has looked like he needs more seasoning. We’ll see what Robles can do.

    Meanwhile, the current word on Goodwin and on Glover isn’t sounding good for the postseason. Might have to revisit those prospective postseason rosters.


    7 Sep 17 at 9:16 pm

  52. KW

    7 Sep 17 at 9:36 pm

  53. Don’t look now, but the Nats are only six games behind the Dodgers for NL best record. With only 22 games left, they probably won’t catch them — and with the D-Backs potentially lurking in the first round, they might not want to — but not that long ago it looked like the Dodger-Nat win difference might end up a gaping 120 to 92 or so. Now it may be only 103-100. (The Nats currently project to 99.5 wins.)


    8 Sep 17 at 7:21 am

  54. Not worth the effort to chase HFA if it means continuing to push the guys hard. Really benefit the most by having the guys as fresh as can be.

    Pretty funny base running brain freeze by Bautista last night. He looks like he is going to have a major league career, though. More like a 4th OF type, but he looks the part of a major leaguer to me.

    Taylor’s D has really stepped up a notch. He is taking much better angles than he used to. That alone (meaning even if the offensive improvement isn’t permanent) makes him a league average player. I think he has the 2nd most D WAR behind Simmons


    8 Sep 17 at 9:39 am

  55. Assuming Goodwin does not return for the playoffs, which of the four players do you want as your 5th OF, i.e., someone who may have an important late-inning AB and play some OF defense late in games: De Aza, Stevenson, Bautista, Robles.

    De Aza is probably the least likely to make a routine baserunning error, though he has by far the least baserunning speed. As between Robles, Bautista, and Stevenson, I don’t know who’s the fastest, best base stealer, or least mistake prone. Robles by far seems like the most likely to be able to get an extra base hit, followed by de Aza. Bautista and Stevenson are singles hitters, with Stevenson maybe having just a little more power. None of these guys is great at drawing a walk, though Robles is an HBP machine. Bautista is the most likely to make contact, Stevenson the most likely to K (he’s been a K machine in the big leagues).

    As for defense, Robles has the stellar scouting reports though who knows whether his age/bat/athleticism are inflating those reports. Stevenson looks clearly inferior to MAT range wise but I wouldn’t consider him a minus in CF. His arm stinks though. I haven’t seen enough of Bautista to form an opinion and I don’t think de Aza can play CF anymore.

    On bat alone, I’d probably want Robles, de Aza, Bautista, Stevenson in that order (funny, the projection systems list them in that order too). IF the Nats think he’s reliable on the bases and in the field, Robles seems like the right choice. If it’s not Robles, I’d go with the best defender/baserunner. de Aza’s bat is probably ever so slightly better than the other two at this point, but his speed/defense doesn’t match up. I’m not happy if any of those three guys hits in a key spot in the playoffs.

    Notwithstanding all of this, I predict de Aza will be on the playoff roster.


    8 Sep 17 at 11:20 am

  56. A tip o’ the cap to those had Robles coming up this September. I’m pretty surprised by it, because his stats as a 20yo in AA have been closer to good than great. I am glad that I was at the ballpark last night to be part of the ovation for him, though. That was pretty neat. And he wasn’t hit by a pitch!

    I’m not certain, but I believe that there is some wiggle room to the postseason roster – that someone can be added if another, qualified player is unavailable due to injury. But don’t quote me on that 🙂

    John C.

    8 Sep 17 at 11:21 am

  57. John, how comfortable did Robles look at the plate? I had turned off the TV and turned in by that time. Stevenson has looked very uncomfortable at the plate during most of his MLB at-bats. When I saw Robles at Potomac, he sure didn’t lack for confidence, but this is a whole new ballgame.

    Apparently, Robles could in fact be eligible for the postseason roster. Someone has spelled out the details on the Robles post on Luke’s site. So now we’ve got a month-long audition from among De Aza, Stevenson, Bautista, and Robles. According to Jorge Castillo, Dusty made it clear yesterday that he isn’t going to use Difo in the OF in the playoffs. De Aza can’t (or at least shouldn’t) play CF, so unless the Nats take one of the other three, the only CF reserves for Taylor would be Bryce or Trea, neither a particularly good option. Defensively, Stevenson is probably the best among the candidates, but as noted, he’s looked overmatched at the plate.

    Who ya got?


    8 Sep 17 at 12:12 pm

  58. I should note that, as of 9/8, I agree with Derek’s assessment that De Aza likely will get the postseason spot, unless one of the others really shines in Sept.

    In his pregame comments yesterday, Dusty noted concerns about Robles not being polished enough yet, both defensively and on the bases.


    8 Sep 17 at 12:15 pm

  59. It’s up to Robles to prove he belongs on the postseason roster and he will get a fair chance.

    Dusty’s comments are his way of impacting the players. He needs to push Robles to up his game just as Difo needed to be called out and even demoted earlier in the year. That says nothing of how they feel. How do they feel? They called him up, that’s how they feel.

    As for Robles, no one yet knows how he will produce. But he has the fearlessness for playoff baseball. And to me, any guy willing to get hit by a pitch again and again, even after career risk injuries, has elephant balls and I want him on the field when it matters.


    8 Sep 17 at 12:57 pm

  60. It was hard to judge Robles. I think he saw 4 pitches, then flied to right. Seemed fine but it was the smallest of possible sample sizes. If this is really a consideration (adding him to the playoff roster), then he probably needs to start for a week or two and play 10 games before deciding. I’d lean De Aza too. But do they even need a 5th OF? I don’t see why Harp (assuming that he is back), MAT, Werth and Kendrick isn’t enough. I think that you can replace injured players mid series, right? If so, worst case is you slide Bryce over mid game. If they need a CF, I’d go with Stevenson now but I understand the view favoring Robles.

    Does this mean that Robles won’t be playing in the AFL?


    8 Sep 17 at 1:01 pm

  61. Rather than insert any more of my own speculation, I would encourage everyone to read Luke Erickson’s comparison of Stevenson, Bautista, and Robles in the comments of this post, since he’s had long looks at all of them:

    Wally, with both Harper and Werth gimpy, I think they’ve got to take a fifth OF on the postseason roster. But I’ve been wrong before.


    8 Sep 17 at 1:23 pm

  62. OK, Kelley is currently OFF the evolving postseason roster. Ollie was pretty shaky on Friday night as well, but he’s had a somewhat better track record this year.


    8 Sep 17 at 10:33 pm

  63. Also, Doolittle is a badass. He may be a tightrope guy sometimes, but there is no question about his “makeup” for the back end.


    8 Sep 17 at 10:41 pm

  64. Just saw that Giolito got ejected from his start yesterday … specifically because he was complaining about the balls/strikes on the last batter. Check out the pitch f/x from that batter:

    Uh yeah … he’s got a significant beef. Pitches #2 and #6 were not just borderline but well within the zone. Robot umpires now! 🙂

    Todd Boss

    9 Sep 17 at 9:13 am

  65. After yet another 0-fer on Friday, on a night when his teammates got 16 hits, De Aza is now slashing .163/.191/.256. Yeah, it’s time to start taking a long look at the other options.

    Remarkably, the Nats are now just five games behind the Dodgers for NL best record, with three games head to head next weekend.


    9 Sep 17 at 9:47 am

  66. I’ve watched all three of Robles PAs now, looking to see if I can figure out why he gets HBP so often. I don’t think he excessively dives into the ball, so I’m not sure what’s the deal.

    Carp just called Neftali Soto an ‘outstanding prospect’. 🙂


    10 Sep 17 at 2:07 pm

  67. So of course, he just gets hit. Pitch was way inside, not the result of him diving in. Admittedly he didn’t move much to get out of the way.

    Getting an almost crazy big lead (and getting picked off)


    10 Sep 17 at 2:36 pm

  68. Last Robles update: Beautiful swing and terrific blast to right center, high off the wall for his first hit. Great speed around the bases. Slides into 3rd and keeps going past the bag and is tagged out.

    So we’ve seen most of the reported package: poise, athleticism, batting eye and stroke, HBP and baserunning adventures (almost picked off first a couple of time, thrown out at 3rd).

    It’s a ridiculously small sample, but I have to say, the guy clearly looks like he belongs already to my eye, more so than either Stevenson or Bautista. But also is a bit undisciplined on the bases, and he made me nervous with leads at first.


    10 Sep 17 at 3:31 pm

  69. Let’s start with the lead: NATS CLINCH! Never take it for granted.

    Also, Stras is pitching at his absolute best ever, with 34 straight scoreless innings.

    As Wally noted, Robles did everything as advertised. It was the same when I saw him at Potomac, extremely aggressive on the bases, almost to a reckless degree. He doesn’t lack confidence. He also has true “gap power” and does put the barrel on the ball.

    Meanwhile, the team that claims to own the town laid a golden turd on its opening day. C’mon, folks, it’s time to start paying more attention to the Bryce contract questions and NONE to Kirk’s. What will it take for the DMV to dump the perennial soap opera for the team with four division titles in six years? A parade at the end of the season, maybe?


    10 Sep 17 at 7:35 pm

  70. Man, that Robles oppo swing was really sweet. He looks like McCutchen at the plate. I’d like to see all four guys – Robles, Stevenson, Bautista, and de Aza get a bunch of reps over the last three weeks. Robles is almost certainly the best player already, but that doesn’t mean he’s the best choice for a 5th OF spot on a postseason roster.


    11 Sep 17 at 12:13 pm

  71. A great team and an opportunity for the next 19 games to sort out the questions of this thread. The fact is, there are several players on the bubble. And others simply getting better.

    A few observations:

    Michael Taylor is playing more like the multi-tool everyday talent everyone envisioned. He has shown himself to have the capacity to go on runs of power that can really carry a team. The fact that he is hitting the ball out now is big. The question is whether he can continue to heat up and sustain through the playoffs. But he certainly has had the rest.

    Trea Turner’s power is a surprise, given his injury. He is playing conservative on the stolen base side rather than trying to catch Hamilton, but will be fun to watch when turned loose in the playoffs.

    Every bit as much as Robles, I am looking forward to seeing Severino get impact innings and the opportunity to establish himself for the postseason. And, to see Raudy Read get innings to see what he has to offer as well. We know Lobaton is a weak link, and Wieters needs rest. The catching situation, organizationally, has the most depth and the lowest rung at the ML level.

    AJ Cole in the bullpen is included among the auditions. I cannot see Shawn Kelley getting any meaningful postseason time. He is a mess and should get his work over the offseason to see if he can be fixed next spring, or they can just eat his 5 million.

    It is amazing to see the Nats win time after time with their B team lineup.

    Another interesting question – how many Nats make it over 100 RBI this year? And over 25 HR?


    11 Sep 17 at 12:16 pm

  72. Boz just picked Robles as his playoff bench replacement for Goodwin:


    11 Sep 17 at 1:08 pm

  73. But … can Robles even be on the roster? He got called up after the 9/1 deadline.

    Or is that deadline for new acquisitions being eligible for post season roster? That’s gotta be it. Internal callups are still eligible. That’s gotta be it. And now that i think about it, didn’t some KC reliever a couple yaers ago basically make his MLB debut in the playoffs? And Matt Moore was a call up in mid Sept who started Tampa’s playoff game one year.

    just talking/typing out loud here 🙂

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 17 at 1:29 pm

  74. Actually, even more interesting than RBIs (to me) is how many players will hit at least 10 HRs. Right now they have 7, with three at 9 (Turner, Werth, Wieters). They have Difo (5) and Kendrick (6 as a Nat) also looming out there as more remote possibilities. 10 players with at least 10 HRs seems crazy. I don’t know how to search that but would be interested to know how many teams have ever done that.

    Yeah, Robles can be on the playoff roster. It was a 40 man issue, not 25 man call up, and there was a big discussion of it somewhere that essentially boiled down to he is replacing someone who went on the 60 day DL.

    Re: Robles, I also think McCutcheon when I see him. They have undeniably similar builds but also I think they have somewhat comparable skill sets. That would be the 2% outcome for Robles to hit.


    11 Sep 17 at 1:49 pm

  75. There’s a lot of Natosphere debate about whether Robles can be on the postseason roster. The consensus seems to be that he can, since he A) was part of the organization before Sept. 1, and B) can be listed as an injury replacement for one of the 60-day DL guys like Drew or Raburn.


    11 Sep 17 at 2:01 pm

  76. The 1998 Yankees had ten players with double digit HRs. Interestingly, in the “Year of the HR,” Tino Martinez led the team with “only” 29. The Yankees’ 10th player was Shane Spencer, who despite what would become a journeyman OF career flashed insane power with ten HRs in just 73 plate appearances (!) followed by two more in the three game ALDS sweep of the Rangers.

    Of course, that was a team that is on the short list of best teams of all time, in an offense-happy era, playing with a DH.

    John C.

    11 Sep 17 at 3:52 pm

  77. Don’t look now, but the Nats are only 3.5 games behind the collapsing Dodgers, with three head to head this weekend.

    Jorge Castillo’s piece on Robles indicates that Goodwin over the last few days has been making better progress than had been expected. No guarantees, but he’s now at least back on the radar for possible return for sometime in the playoffs.


    12 Sep 17 at 7:43 am

  78. Just new posted about Collier’s mailbag, which talks a lot more about post-season roster make up and mentions the OF in particular as a state of flux.

    Todd Boss

    12 Sep 17 at 10:50 am

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