Nationals Arm Race

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

How does Sammy Solis still have an option?

48 comments

Solis may have another option year that I didn't know about.  Photo via Natsinsider blog/Mark Zuckerman

Solis may have another option year that I didn’t know about. Photo via Natsinsider blog/Mark Zuckerman

My internal notes have Sammy Solis as being a lock for the 2018 roster because he was Out of Options.  In fact, this topic came up again recently in the comments when I posted quickie predictions of the opening day roster.

But, a posting today from MLB Trade Rumors doesn’t list him as being one of the Nationals’ “out of options” players, and a quick glance over at BP’s Roster Resource currently has Solis in the AAA team with an option remaining.

So, how did I have this wrong for so long?

Here’s the relevant transactions for Solis in his career related to options:

  • Drafted in 2010
  • Added to 40-man in Nov 2013 ahead of the 2013 Rule-5 draft.
  • Spent the entire 2014 season in the Minors; option #1.
  • Was up and down several times in 2015 season, including the entire month of June and again in August.  Option #2.
  • 2016; this is the iffy year because the first two option years are pretty clear.  So Lets look at his 2016 movement. I use ESPN’s transaction list as reference: http://www.espn.com/mlb/team/transactions/_/name/wsh/year/2016
    – March 14th: Solis optioned to AAA
    – April 27th: Solis recalled from AAASo. A Minor league option is burned as per this quote: “When a player is optioned to the Minors for a span of more than 20 days, he loses an option.”  This quote is as per http://m.mlb.com/glossary/transactions/minor-league-options

    3/14 to 4/27 is definitely more than 20 days, but honestly its about when the season starts. So in 2016, the Nats played their first game on April 4th.   4/4 to 4/27 is STILL more than 20 days.

    So therefore, I had thought he burned an option in 2016. Just barely … but he did.  Is “20 days” actually “20 GAMES?”  Is that the distinction?  I also know an option can be cancelled if a player is called back up for injury purposes; I notice that on that same day 4/27/16 the nats assigned Matt Belisle to the D/L … is this what cancelled Solis’ 2016 option?  It might very well be.

Either that or he got a 4th option granted for some reason (his TJ surgery?).

Nonetheless, this options situation is great for the team in terms of roster flexibility … not so great for Solis, because he may very well be one of the 7 best relievers but now may be odd man out in April thanks to this roster quirk.  But it does give us a bit of context to help do roster prediction analysis the rest of this spring…

 

Written by Todd Boss

March 12th, 2018 at 3:17 pm

48 Responses to 'How does Sammy Solis still have an option?'

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  1. Count 19 days backwards from April 27, 2017. Care to guess now when was the first game played by the Chiefs?

    Luke Erickson

    13 Mar 18 at 6:08 am

  2. Kolko said on the Sunday broadcast that Solis has “4th option,” so presumably he was granted one. FWIW, in her write-up yesterday, Chelsea Janes said that internally, the club likes Solis over Grace and Romero. Romero has not been good this spring, and Janes said that they’re stretching out Grace, presumably to be Ollie’s replacement as the long man.

    KW

    13 Mar 18 at 9:44 am

  3. While we’re at it, let’s talk bullpen. Some interesting things could happen here. Let’s assume a standard bullpen of seven guys, and that Doolittle, Madson, and Kintzler are locks. Here are the possibilities for the four remaining slots:

    RH: Kelley, Benoit, Cole (if not 5th starter), Adams, Gott (I’m assuming Glover will be on the DL)

    LH: Solis, Romero, Grace, Collins (Bryan Harper hasn’t been good enough to get into the conversation)

    Guys on 40-man without options: Kelley, Benoit, Cole, Romero, Grace

    Assumptions: Kelley very likely has a spot, and they’ll likely take at least two LHP.

    Don’t sleep on: Adams and Collins, both of whom have been good thus far in the spring. If Adams can limit the walks, he could be dominant.

    KW

    13 Mar 18 at 10:16 am

  4. Benoit is giving up rockets to AAA guys. Not good.

    KW

    13 Mar 18 at 9:51 pm

  5. A few random notes:

    — Davey told a press gaggle this afternoon that the 5th starter race is still up for grabs.

    — Kevin Long said during the telecast tonight that Eaton, Taylor, and Zim have all been getting a lot of ABs in minor-league games. That’s good to hear, but we’re also less than three weeks from opening day, so we’ll have to see when they show up in the “real” games.

    — Boz made a couple of interesting points in his chat yesterday about how the current FA market might affect the futures of a couple of Nats. I think he’s spot-on in thinking that there’s now no way the Nats pick up the $18M option for Zim for 2020 after seeing the bottom drop out of the market for 1Bs. You know Zim will want to stay here, but how low is he willing to go? This is a market where there was almost nothing for Moose, Morrison, and Lind.

    Also, Boz thinks that what happened *should* make Harper more willing to listen to a more reasonable extension offer, maybe in the 10/$300M range. He’s not sure that it will, but he thinks that it should. I’ve been saying all along that the supposed market for his mega deal is very small, and even smaller after the Yanks got Stanton.

    KW

    13 Mar 18 at 10:36 pm

  6. I think Boz is premature with that conclusion. Superstars will always get paid. If Bryce is healthy and his productive self, $400m is still in play. If he misses 40 games again, then it’s out.

    I do wonder if it makes a Rendon extension more likely though. 6/$120m might seem like too good to pass up, and that would be money well spent for the Nats. Turner too might be willing to go long.

    Wally

    15 Mar 18 at 6:58 am

  7. I disagree, Wally. Remember that Bryce’s $400M ask was jaw-droppingly enormous even before the bottom fell out of the FA market this offseason. No way he gets it now, particularly since the Yankees are out of the picture with their overloaded outfield. The $400M was never really feasible IMHO because of Bryce’s inability to stay healthy, but it’s a dead issue now. He’ll be lucky to get above $300M.

    clark17

    15 Mar 18 at 10:02 am

  8. People – Boz – are drawing conclusions that aren’t warranted by the evidence. We have a good fifteen years of escalating free agent contracts buoyed by growing revenue in the game, itself buoyed by television revenue. We have one down year for free agent contracts, and people are concluding the entire landscape has changed? I think that’s ludicrous. If the temperature during the wintertime was cold as fuck for 15 straight years, would one warm winter make you think winter was going to be warm forevermore?

    In my view, the reasons (some) free agents didn’t get paid this year are (in rough order of importance): (1) the moneybag franchises – Dodgers, Yankees – largely sat out; (2) the available players were mostly old and mostly flawed (JD Martinez is old and one dimensional; Arrieta is old and has been declining, to cite two examples). I can’t explain Moustakas. He’s a good player and he got a terrible deal. Darvish is another good example – there’s a case to be made that he’s a Strasburg-caliber pitcher but he got a sub-Strasburg deal. He’s older, and his big injury was more recent, which would suggest a haircut from Strasburg’s deal, but not necessarily that big of one.

    The moneybag franchises are not sitting out next year. And Harper is not old, which matters a ton for these sorts of things, and he’s not flawed the way this year’s free agents were. The youngest player on the market – Hosmer – got an 8 year deal and he’s a thoroughly mediocre baseball player. If Harper gets skittish and overreacts to this hot stove season and is willing to sign here for less than $400 million, I will hand-deliver him the pen. If he makes it to free agency, I’d be absolutely shocked if he signed for less than that.

    The TV money isn’t going anywhere, IMO, even if the money doesn’t come from “TV.” People like watching baseball games in real-time. Advertisers like the fact that people watch baseball games in real-time. MLB clubs are going to get revenue by broadcasting their games one way or another – from cable companies, directly from subscribers (pay streaming), from online platforms (Amazon/Netflix/Twitter/Facebook), and/or directly from advertisers (their in-house streaming service fetched hundreds of millions of dollars recently). The money is there, and MLB teams are going to get it.

    Derek

    15 Mar 18 at 10:30 am

  9. I’d add one more reason to explain this offseason, at least for the middle class player, which was written up in a recent Fangraphs article. Enough guys have broken out recently – swing change, defensive position switch, whatever – that it has made teams more confident that they can improve their own, pre-arb guys to get essentially the same performance as the older, pricier FA, so they are either lowballing or passing entirely. I think that came somewhat into play for Moose.

    I do think there are fundamental changes going on within the FA market, where the final resting point is still in flux, but that we aren’t going to see it at the elite end. So for a Rendon, Turner, there may be real opportunities for the Nats to lock them up at attractive prices. Harp is going to want to see what the market is

    Wally

    15 Mar 18 at 1:00 pm

  10. While I agree with Boswell’s belief that the FA market has changed, I think his conclusion on Harper is off.

    Teams are analytically valuing players future contribution and refusing to overpay. Teams know that players contributions are likely to drop dramatically in their 30’s and make offers accordingly. Harper is 26 and has averaged 4.35 WAR a year, but with extreme inconsistency. 2 years less than 2 WAR and 1 year of a 10 WAR. If you value him to average 4.35 WAR over 10 years a $400M contract is justified based on an inflation calculated going rate for a WAR. Teams might also calculate risk factors which could reduce that TCV, but also as a potential seat filling super star might add TCV for generating revenue.

    Teams would probably want to sign him for 7-8 years $280-$320M, as they probably dont want to be paying him $50M at age 36.

    Contrast Harper to Trout… Trout has averaged 9 WAR with a low of 6.6 and a high of 10.5 (twice). You could make a case for Trout getting a 7 year $450M contract.

    Mark

    16 Mar 18 at 9:43 am

  11. Thank you so much Jossie!

    RedactiaZW

    16 Mar 18 at 1:40 pm

  12. Hellickson to Nats on a minor league deal. I like it. I even think I kind of called a few posts ago

    Wally

    16 Mar 18 at 6:27 pm

  13. I was just getting on here to say “score one for Wally,” but he’s already taking credit.

    Hellickson was very good for a lousy Phils team in 2016, and even during his bad 2017, his WHIP stayed at a very respectable 1.26. He had real declines in Ks, GB rate, and LOB%, though. Was he dinged? Did he have some issues with his mechanics? In looking further down his numbers, he didn’t really lose velocity, but he got away from his heater and went too heavily with the offspeed stuff.

    So where does this leave us in the grand scheme of things? Fedde was very good again today, as he’s been all spring. Cole very curiously hasn’t been pitching, at least in MLB games. He’s pitched in only two games, for a total of five innings.

    I think the Hellickson signing signals that there’s either something going on with Cole, or they’ve made the decision to trade him and needed more depth. If there’s something up with him, they may try to buy more time for him as a Nat with a DL stint. They can’t trade him while injured anyway.

    Regardless of who starts the season as #5, I don’t think Hellickson could be ready by the beginning of the year anyway. My pick from before the spring was Fedde. It’s time to find out what they’ve got with him.

    FWIW, Hellickson came up with the Rays when Davey was there.

    KW

    16 Mar 18 at 10:27 pm

  14. Or Cole could be the long man, pushing out Benoit. But has he earned it? As I said, he hasn’t been pitching, and when he has, he hasn’t been great. If it’s really a “competition,” Fedde is “winning.” (But they wouldn’t/shouldn’t have Fedde as the long man; he should stay stretched out at Syracuse if he’s not the #5.)

    I do hope that EJax doesn’t opt out and will take assignment to ‘Cuse. Milone probably will because there isn’t much market for him.

    I do find it interesting/funny that everyone seems to be jumping to the conclusion that Hellickson will be the 5th starter. He wasn’t good last year. EJax was better, and that’s a low bar. Hellickson is nice to have as depth, and he does move the needle if the 2016 version shows up, but I don’t think anything is or should be guaranteed. It’s a minor-league deal, disposable by definition.

    KW

    16 Mar 18 at 10:47 pm

  15. In other news, considering how screwed the middle class was this offseason, and how it might be even more overshadowed next year with the mega-stars on the market, is it time to think about extending Gio? I had written him off as “probably too expensive to keep,” but in the current market, and at his age (33 next offseason), would it be nuts to put 3/$36M on the table, basically extending his current $12M salary?

    KW

    16 Mar 18 at 10:55 pm

  16. Well, one bullpen slot is definitely available, the one held by Enny Romero. He’s done. He hasn’t been good all spring.

    Roark said to have really struggled today. EJax wasn’t great, either. Good we’re adding some depth to our depth.

    KW

    17 Mar 18 at 5:24 pm

  17. Scratching my head over the Cobb signing, but then I generally scratch my head over most things the O’s do. They paid basically the expected-in-Nov. market value for him at a time when there was no market for him to bid against, plus they give up the draft picks and international bonus money. Oh well, at least he didn’t end up with an NL contender, or any kind of contender.

    KW

    20 Mar 18 at 8:50 pm

  18. Fangraphs came out with the Nats prospect rankings. Overall mediocre grade, which feels right. Some surprises: Kieboom > Soto (although I think their top 100 had them flipped); Perkins up high; says Luis Garcia has outgrown SS. Also not too bullish on some of our lower level,pitchers that others are (Tetrault, etc)

    https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/top-18-prospects-washington-nationals/

    Wally

    21 Mar 18 at 1:25 pm

  19. There was some discussion of the FG list on Nats Prospects. It’s pretty under-informed, which is surprising for that crew. There are also some embarrassing aspects to it, such as the “A’s Top Prospects” headline (all too true!), having Perkins at #7, a 30 hit grade on Soto (who several scouts say has the best swing they’ve seen in a long time), and the insanity of referring to Read as a “glove-first” guy.

    One thing that gets me about all these lists is that hardly any of them try to differentiate potential MLB regulars from guys who might make the majors. Bautista has made the majors, but I laugh at anything that thinks he’s a prospect to contribute there. I would have Stevenson and Perkins only half a notch ahead of him in that regard. The Nats’ camp is full of such players, all NRIs, who are auditioning to keep the dream alive in AAA. The FG list purports to put their FV grade on everyone to value their relative MLB potential, but it’s a joke when they rank 12 guys with a 40 grade. Within that grouping, they’ve got legit potential MLB starters like Antuna and Garcia ranked the same as guys who might have trouble playing regularly at AAA. And were is Severino? He’s not on the list at all, even though I imagine he’s going to be able to spend a decade as a fringe major-leaguer.

    KW

    22 Mar 18 at 8:34 am

  20. I think they are usually an interesting read, with often a different take than most other publications that often run in herds – BA, MLB etc rank on top of each other. And I care less about the rank than the commentary behind it. The Garcia comment (getting too big) is interesting and not one I’ve heard yet. Bears watching.

    But to play devil’s advocate on Kieboom v. Soto: if Soto is limited to LF/RF or even 1B, how are those guys being valued right now? Pretty low – Moss gets cut by OAK, Lind can’t get a job, etc. so if Kieboom is a lesser hitter but plays on the dirt, is that potentially worth more? I dunno, maybe or maybe not and it hugely depends on how much lesser. The 30 current hit grade just seems to be a knock that he hasn’t done it for a full season or at higher levels.

    I do agree that they don’t really seem to know the Nats system, which is kind of surprising since one of their guys worked for ATL for a couple of years.

    Wally

    22 Mar 18 at 8:50 am

  21. I had the same thought about McDaniel — how could he not know the Nat system from his time with the Braves? Longenhagen is based in AZ, so he saw Robles and Johnson in the AFL, but probably none of the others.

    My wild guess is that Soto is going to be capable of putting up better overall batting numbers than Kieboom and even Robles, but yes, it sounds like he will be position-limited. There has been some thought that he has a good enough arm to play RF. We’ll see.

    It should be a big year for finding out whether Kieboom and Soto are legit and rapidly upwardly mobile. I hope I get to see them at Potomac. As far as Kieboom is concerned, the Nats likely will have a 2B opening in 2019, and maybe a 3B slot in 2020. I’ve never seen Difo as a potential regular, and he’s been awful this spring, so Kendrick may be full time at 2B in 2019 while waiting on Kieboom . . . unless they sign Dozier!

    KW

    22 Mar 18 at 9:11 am

  22. The way to make sense of FG’s player grades is to think about probability distributions. Antuna and Bautista have the same grade – 40 – but wildly different spreads in terms of plausible outcomes. Bautista has made the majors; he’ll probably get ABs in the majors in the future, though I doubt if he’ll ever start more than five consecutive games at the MLB level. Antuna’s upside is much much higher, but he’s so far away from the majors that there’s a decent risk he never even makes it there.

    So this is the rationale. I don’t know if it’s sensible, though. Antuna is almost certainly more valuable right now than Bautista even though he’s more risky. A guy like Bautista is the definition of replacement-level: they’re pretty much available all the time. I can imagine Antuna being part of an important trade whereas Bautista is nothing more than a throw-in at this point.

    Derek

    22 Mar 18 at 11:41 am

  23. Greetings from FL, saw two games so far and sniffed around a bit.

    Of the three folks who were all active (Difo, Sanchez, Reynolds), Reynolds impressed me the most.

    Anthony Rendon makes the game look effortless.

    I found myself missing Lind when I watched Adams.

    Moises Sierra is impressive.

    Matt Grace is not. Nor is AJ Cole. Very laborious.

    Had a chat with Billy Gardner, who is watching everybody. He is particularly impressed with Klobotsis. And he said to keep an eye on James Bourque, who has spun his wheels for a couple of years thus far.

    Juan Soto in person looks like he is about 26.

    Daniel Murphy does extra time in the cage all the time. And the he signs autographs for everybody. Very gracious and good man who sets a great example for the team. I hope he stays here.

    I spent a lot of time on the minor league fields watching drills and seeing the players in the system. Not much to offer of validity, but a lot of looks different folks relating to body type, attitude, injury, etc. Going back tomorrow in case any of you will be there.

    Tim Bogar is a nice man. Treated my little boy particularly warmly. So did Jonathan Pryor, who gave him batting gloves. Had not to root harder for folks like that.

    forensicane

    22 Mar 18 at 1:33 pm

  24. Derek, I get what you’re saying, but it strikes me that what you’re saying would be a good argument for split grades on each prospect, like they do with the grades on each tool, with Current/Projected. Before I go too far, I looked up the guidelines of the FG overall player grades:

    https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/scouting-explained-the-20-80-scouting-scale/

    Antuna could be a 40/55, while Bautista is maxed out and would be a 40/40. I’m not sure I agree with either of those constructions, though, as most would probably put Antuna higher than the 40 “bench” grade even now, while I would argue that Bautista should get a 35, their ranking for “emergency call-up.” He’s not close to making the bench on the Nats. Stevenson and Perkins are more the true 40-45 players, with bench/platoon as probably their max.

    The 45 for Fedde strikes me as pretty low, as I still think he has 50-55 potential, which they put as #3-4 starter.

    KW

    22 Mar 18 at 1:35 pm

  25. Forensicane, good scoop! I’ve never made it to Spring Training, but it’s on the Bucket List.

    Your report on Cole and Grace echoes what I keep saying — what’s the big deal of trying to keep guys who are out of options just because they’re out of options? Both Abad and Bastardo have been DFA’d this week, and they’re better than Grace. There are plenty of these guys around. Cole is a long man/swing man at best, but he’s not as dynamic as Adams or Gott, or probably even Smith, who has been a surprise of camp.

    Everyone who sees him seems to like Klobotsis. Maybe the Nats fixed something that was keeping him from getting good results in college. He had an ERA of 5.18 as a senior, WHIP of 1.70, K/9 of only 5.45.

    I’m very eager to see Soto at Potomac. Yes, sometimes it’s interesting to actually eyeball these guys. Daniel Johnson looks like the bat boy but had three times as many HRs in one year as Gutierrez, who is sculpted, has in his pro career.

    KW

    22 Mar 18 at 1:47 pm

  26. Fedde optioned to AAA.

    KW

    22 Mar 18 at 4:18 pm

  27. Hey Fore – I’ll be there on Sat with my wife and kids. First time for me. Let me know if you’re there and we can try to meet. Fair warning: I’m the only baseball fan in the group :-) I’m envious of the Billy Gardner conversation. Do you know him, or are the coaches generally accessible like that?

    Derek – I think you are on to something about valuing the difference between types of prospects of different profiles, and boiling it down to one number. I don’t have an answer myself. I’ve thought something like the trade value series that Cameron used to do might be more informative, but how in the world would come up with those values for hundreds of minor leaguers?

    KW – I am with you on the Grace point. < 50% chance he is claimed if DFA'd.

    Wally

    22 Mar 18 at 4:52 pm

  28. I’m headed out of town so I will miss you. But I cannot recommend this enough as a father son activity — particularly to take in the practice fields. Coaches are occasionally accessible – you have to go in the morning hours and catch people walking back to the clubhouse after workouts.

    I was there to help my son get autographs from major and minor leaguers. He did well – on the practice fields. I didn’t really start probing folks until I got my bearings, and by then I had enough squandered opportunities to be worthy of no envy. That noted, my favorite disclosures from the week:

    1) A recent high draft pick pitcher told me, in an appraisal of minor league talent, “Juan Soto is on a totally different level from everybody in the farm system. He is a major leaguer right now. The guy is going to be an all star.”
    2) Austin Davidson says that Erik Fedde’s velocity has taken a big step forward
    3) Marmolejos says that if Jimmy Cordero can ever get it over the plate consistently, look out
    4) Ryan Zimmerman said the two minor leaguers he saw who really impressed him on the mound were Phillips Valdez and Sterling Sharp. Somebody else mentioned Sharp to me as well.

    I also got a lot of updates on injuries and such. It’s fascinating to take in the players up close to size them up on attitude, conditioning, how comfortable they are with themselves, how happy, etc. You realize how little you know from reading stats and yet I would reiterate (ad nauseum) that when you go there you also realize how much less the pundits know than you think.

    I recommend the trip heartily to any father to take son. Can’t wait to do this next year.

    forensicane

    24 Mar 18 at 12:40 am

  29. I could write a lot more but most of it is minor league related. Suffice to say that I’m thinking about who starts in Potomac and who starts in Hagerstown.

    forensicane

    24 Mar 18 at 12:44 am

  30. KW – Johnson is pretty thickly muscled. Not like Wilmer Difo, who makes me wonder whether he is too muscled. But Johnson looks like a defensive back.

    Also, I don;t often have the chance to express appreciation for Bryce Harper. I abhor the idea of 35-40m for a player, but he is like a Werth overpay that you make for a championship team. I really hope he stays (and he should) but have to take an interest in the Nats minor league outfield derby if he does not.

    forensicane

    24 Mar 18 at 12:49 am

  31. Fore, I’ve feared for a couple of years that Difo was going to get bopped with an 80-gamer. He seems unnaturally pumped up. I’ve seen Johnson at Potomac. You’re right, he looks like a football player, but a relatively short DB. This is a big year for him. He needs to keep progressing and showing the power, up into AA. (I would guess he’ll start back at Potomac.)

    I’m beginning to think Soto will start at Potomac as well. Lots of good reports on him, and he homered in the MLB SS game on Friday. I’ve taken a little grief for being a hair higher on him than I am on Robles. Could be a big year for him. Is it too much to think that he might be able to end the season in Harrisburg and the AFL and have some impact on the club’s decision on Harper? Or is that nuts?

    Reynolds seems pretty certain to be the last bench guy, over Sanchez. Montero has beaten out Severino, which I’ve predicted all spring, although Sevy didn’t do much; neither did Montero. Still some interesting decisions in the ‘pen. Gott has been excellent this spring. Romero has been awful. Grace hasn’t been great. But Gott is the only one of that trio with an option.

    I’m still trying to figure out how I can get Cole traded to the Giants. SF has one of the worst farm systems in baseball, though, so there might not be much available in return.

    KW

    24 Mar 18 at 9:38 pm

  32. I’ll reiterate how ridiculous FG’s current 30 hit grade on Soto is.

    KW

    24 Mar 18 at 9:52 pm

  33. OK, Reynolds AND Sanchez sent to the minors, keeping eight relievers. Scratching my head. Difo’s line in the spring: .196/.237/.268. With Kendrick likely playing every day until Murph is back, Difo is the only reserve for 3/4 of the infield. Glad to see that Gott seems to have made it. He’s been excellent in the spring. Romero has been awful, and Grace hasn’t been great. Maybe they find themselves and the Nats look like geniuses for keeping them. Not holding my breath on that, though. One of them is probably gone when Hellickson is ready.

    KW

    25 Mar 18 at 8:16 pm

  34. Happy Opening Day to all! I will go on and make some predictions and will move them forward if Todd posts a predictions page.

    NL: Dodgers win the West, but AZ stays within 10 games, and COL hangs with AZ. I didn’t believe in an SF revival even before their starter injuries and sure don’t now. The Dodgers still have some pitching vulnerabilities, the kind that left them trading for Darvish last year. I don’t think they’re winning 104 again. In the Central, I’d love to pick against the Cubs, but I just don’t think the Brewers or the Cards have enough pitching. Those championing the Cub pitching as wonderful, however, seem to have forgotten that Darvish, Quintana, and Lester all had ERAs north of 4.00. The Cubs also have a vulnerable bullpen. In the East, I think rumors of Met and Phil revivals are overplayed; the Nats should win the division by 15+. The wild card race should look pretty similar to last year, with AZ, COL, MIL, and STL all in it.

    AL: I’m going to go against the consensus and pick the Bosox over the Yanks in the East. I think Boston’s starting pitching will prevail over 162. CLE and HOU look unchallenged in their respective divisions. I have no idea about the wild card beyond the NYY/BOS loser. MIN may have invested enough to stay in the playoff hunt. I like what the Angels have done with their lineup but still question whether they’ve got enough starting pitching. There are quite a number of decent teams in the AL that won 75-80 games last year — eight fit that description — that could take a small step up and get into wild-card contention.

    So . . . it’s quite possible to foresee the exact same division winners and wild cards as last year, and the same problems with only a couple of the division races staying within 10 games.

    KW

    29 Mar 18 at 8:52 am

  35. Baseball’s back. Woo hoo.

    Ok, Predictions: let’s shake it up. I think the Nats struggle a bit this year, probably at pitching. I dunno if that’s an injury or two, or what. I see them winning the division, but it’s much closer than expected. 90 wins? But I see them winning their first playoff series and losing in the NLCS. Eaton is excellent, as is Rendon. MAT regresses a little but is still pretty good. Harp misses 30 games, Zim misses 50 and otherwise has a poor year, and Murph doesn’t play until after May 15. Adams is very productive off the bench. Turner gives us another mixed year of excellence and prolonged slumps. They extend Rendon, and re-sign Murphy, and let Harp leave. Kintzler saves 10 games, and Suero comes up and becomes a mainstay.

    ARI takes the West, CHC the central. WCs are LAD and NYM. I like NYY to get to the WS. My other upset would be Twins over CLE in the central, and OAK doing much better than expected – in the WC hunt until the end and finishing around 83 wins. BOS misses the playoffs and Dombrowski gets fired.
    MVPs: Correa, Arenado
    CY: Keuchel, Stras

    Wally

    30 Mar 18 at 9:25 am

  36. Well, three up, three down. Can’t do better than that, even though I don’t think it told us much we didn’t know.
    Beat up on bad teams? Check
    Deep lineup? Check
    Good top of rotation? Check
    Thin, untrustworthy bullpen? Check

    I guess if you are looking for a surprise, Eaton playing all three days was good. I liked Martinez lineup decisions, too. Rendon should bat 2, and Trea, while I’m a big fan, has not shown he deserves to hit before Eaton, Rendon, Harper and Murphy. Could you put him 5th, not 6th, sure but that’s quibbling. I did, however, think Turner showed better plate discipline, so hopefully that holds up.

    Should be fun to see them against ATL. 2 out of 3 sounds about right.

    Wally

    2 Apr 18 at 2:03 pm

  37. Not too much to quibble about other than the front end of the bullpen. I didn’t think Romero and Grace should still be on the team, so not too surprised. Kelley didn’t appear at all. Solis was very good one day, not so much the next.

    The Eaton experiment is off to a roaring start, isn’t it? Let’s just hope Davey is smart enough to move Trea up to #1 when Eaton takes a day off and not put Taylor or Difo leading off, as Dusty did. Yes, it’s very encouraging that Trea worked three walks vs. only one K. His “launch angle” looked pretty good on the HR, too. You wonder if a little “launch angle” has gotten into Eaton as well, whose previous HR high is only 14. We know it has gotten into Adams, who had a monster mash. If I were to make a semi-outrageous prediction, it might be that Adams will get more ABs than Zim this season.

    The Nats only took 10 of 19 from the Barves last year. They need to do a better job against the bottom feeders, particularly those in the division. I’m curious to see how the starts for Roark and Cole go. I’m thinking we may see Hellickson sooner rather than later.

    In other baseball, I flipped over some during the Nat game yesterday to watch Ohtani. He was awful in the spring but sure looked like the real deal in OAK. He was consistently hitting 99.

    KW

    2 Apr 18 at 3:34 pm

  38. Well, Davey aced moving Trea up in the order on Monday, and Trea drew another walk. Kelley appeared and looked good. If the 2016 regular season version of Kelley were to reappear (NOT the numb-armed playoff one), that would be significant.

    Still concerned about Zim. Time to let Matt Adams inflict a little damage on his former club.

    Meanwhile in the NL, shaky starts from the Dodgers and Cubs, who are both 2-3. The Dodgers used nine pitchers in the 15-inning affair with the D-Backs last night, while AZ used eight. The Cubs didn’t manage to score against the Reds’ #4 starter after the Nats took BP against the Reds’ staff all weekend.

    KW

    3 Apr 18 at 9:03 am

  39. My early impressions of Martinez are: I like what he’s doing with the lineup and defensive substitutions. ‘Play the best players the most, and in the best spot to succeed’. So he’s riding Harp, Rendon and Turner, while Murph is out and Eaton is working his way back, and flopping the other guys based on matchups and situations. Means Adams tonight over Zim. Also helps avoid my problem with Dusty of too much deference to the vets. Big fan of switching out Zim and Kendrick to 1B. Love it, and keep it up.

    I remain undecided on his bullpen usage though, with early indications that I won’t love it. The Nats don’t have a deep bullpen, and the danger in the regular season is over reliance on the few good guys, which will break them and weaken the pen even further. Take last night – Roark pitches great and gives you 7, with a big lead. Great job with Kelley, but in the 9th with an 8-1 lead, use a guy that you don’t want tonight if it’s a close game. Romero or Gott, for instance. Cole is shaky to begin with, so don’t use the ‘long guy’ yesterday when you can get by with a weaker pitcher. I should say though, that I’ve come to realize that I generally disagree with most managers on bullpen usage, so maybe the problem is with me. Davey 1.0 was the best, imo.

    On Zim, I agree with you but the truth is he isn’t an important part of the lineup, unless Martinez rolls him out there every day in the 4 spot regardless of performance, which I’m hopeful we’re seeing signs he won’t do. Adams is a good back up, and even if he was in a platoon situation, he get the majority of the PAs. Let’s see what Zim can do over an extended stretch. I don’t really see evidence of the fasciitis so maybe the whole spring training thing was as they are saying.

    Wally

    3 Apr 18 at 9:34 am

  40. It will be interesting to see how long Davey lets Zim stay at clean-up if he doesn’t start hitting. After all, he might be aware of a certain strategy to walk Harper to get to a scuffling Zim! The Nats figure to see several of the big Met right-handers, so it will be an interesting call to see how many shots Adams gets against them.

    Questionable bullpen usage: yes, if Grace is supposed to be the long man, don’t use him the night before Cole is starting. There are plenty of other options with a big lead. (Dave Roberts, already in postseason form, pulled Ryu after only 3.2 last night and ended up having to use eight other guys.) I was also a little surprised to see Davey go with Mad and Doo on Sunday after Solis gave some of the lead back. He also warmed up but didn’t use Kintzler on Sat., a practice for which Dusty got heavily criticized. Nothing terrible yet; just want them reasonably fresh for the Met series. Sure would be nice to put the Mets three or four games back just a week into the season.

    KW

    3 Apr 18 at 10:24 am

  41. Ha, ha – too early to watch the standings. Maybe if it reaches double digits.

    I’m hopeful he won’t keep Zim there too long. Let’s see what he does tonight

    Wally

    3 Apr 18 at 12:48 pm

  42. I guess I should come here to crow about being right about Cole, but even I didn’t expect him to be THAT bad. That was awful. DFA him and don’t look back. Where have you gone, Jeremy Hellickson? Nats Nation turns its lonely eyes to you . . .

    Meanwhile, Stanton whiffs five times and GETS BOOED by Yankee fans in the home opener. Bryce, pay close attention.

    KW

    4 Apr 18 at 8:25 am

  43. Is a five-K game a platinum sombrero?

    I just don’t think AJ Cole is a starting-caliber pitcher in major league baseball. He’s 26 and has been middling in AAA for three years. The best you can hope for from him as a starter is something around a 5.00 ERA. That, combined with the ability to stay healthy and take the ball every fifth day, might be of value to some mediocre/bad teams, but not to the Nats. To the extent he has any future with the Nats, it’s as a long man in the bullpen. Maybe he blossoms and becomes Craig Stammen. But Craig Stammen is his realistic ceiling as an MLB pitcher, his draft/prospect pedigree notwithstanding. FWIW, I’d much rather see what Cole can do in the bullpen and DFA Grace, who I doubt would even get claimed.

    Derek

    4 Apr 18 at 9:59 am

  44. I doubt either get claimed. I’m in agreement, I am skeptical that Cole can be effective at the major league level.

    Enny Romero is unpitchable right now, for different reasons. Makes me nervous to watch him, with shades of Henry Rodriguez (who at least provided humorous episodes from time to time). They need like 3 new arms for the pen; nothing great, just serviceable guys. Hopefully Suero is one, when healthy. Maybe Adams although I’m skeptical on his command. 2011-2015 Stammen would be wonderful

    Wally

    4 Apr 18 at 10:23 am

  45. Cole looked overmatched and scared on Tuesday. He didn’t look MLB-ready. People can talk all they want about “stuff” and “location,” but that was a guy who had no answers and wanted to go crawl under the tarp. Maybe they could hide him in the bullpen and try to rehab his confidence in some blowouts, but why? They have no other “long man,” but right now, I’d rather that be EJax than Cole or Grace.

    And yes, Romero is en fuego, in a bad way. Gott hasn’t been great. Solis has been up and down. Kelley has had one good outing, but his arm could fall off at any time. And yes, it sure feels like they only kept Cole, Grace, and Romero because they’re out of options. That’s no way to run a contender! All three could probably pass through waivers right now.

    KW

    4 Apr 18 at 12:56 pm

  46. Yeah, I can’t argue with that. I’d be fine if they called up Ejax, Milone and Hellickson and got rid of those three guys. Maybe put Romero on the DL and see if you can fix him; at least he’s had some periods of quality. At some point I’d like to see Adams and Suero get a chance.

    Wally

    4 Apr 18 at 6:21 pm

  47. Interesting news about Rizzo. I’m glad he’s re-signed and will be here for (at least) two more years. But a two-year extension for a GM seems a bit unusual, IMO. I wonder what the story is…

    Derek

    5 Apr 18 at 9:49 am

  48. I saw that but haven’t read up on any of it yet. I wonder if it was a trade off between years and salary, or if the Lerner’s still have a bit of a ‘prove it’ to me going on, which would be unfortunate.

    Wally

    5 Apr 18 at 5:10 pm

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