Nationals Arm Race

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

Minor League Pitching Staffs: July check-in


Braymer has earned his way to AAA. Photo via Auburn tigers

Braymer has earned his way to AAA. Photo via Auburn tigers

Now that our short-season domestic staffs have now had one full “turn” through the rotation, I thought i’d be a good time to do another rotation check-in.

We’ve done two previously, which we’ll leverage throughout here:

Note: I wrote much of this prior to the 7/2/19 games, so a few roster moves and observations may be missing.  Also, feel free to add in more detailed commentary for those who have studied the players more closely in a particular level; i did not do “just last month” splits on every single player so some players who have significantly improved upon slow starts (or the reverse) may be missed.


AAA/Fresno 2019

  • Rotation Now: Fedde, JRoss, McGowin, Hoover, Braymer
  • Rotation Mid-May: Voth, McGowin, Copeland, Espino, MSanchez.
  • Rotation to Start: McGowin, Copeland, Voth, Espino, Alvarez

Changes in the rotation since last post: Voth has earned his promotion, and then earned more starts over Fedde at the MLB level.  It looks like the “hey lets use Joe Ross as a reliever” experiment is finally over; he’s been returned to Fresno to officially get stretched out and return to the rotation.  Espino is on the DL, replaced by Hoover (who suddenly at 31 is a starter after years of pitching in relief?).  Sanchez got demoted and replaced by Braymer, who just arrived.  Lastly Copeland has been returned to the long-man/spot starter role.  The sole holdover from 6 weeks ago is McGowin … but what this doesn’t show is his own up-and-back movement.  Lots of shuffle in the Fresno rotation.

I’d like to highlight Ben Braymer though, because his being in AAA is pretty amazing.  He was an 18th round pick in 2016, signed for just $100k out of Auburn, and now sits in the AAA rotation at the edge of the majors.  I don’t think the Nats have seen such a low-round pick make it this far since perhaps Stephen Lombardozzi, a 19th rounder in 2008.

  • Bullpen Now: Self, Bacus, Blazek,  Kontos, Bourque, Baez with Alvarez, Copeland as long-men/spot starters
  • Bullpen mid-may:  Rainey, Hoover, Self, Bacus, Nuno, JMills*, Blazek with Alvarez as long-man/spot starter.
  • Bullpen to start: AAdams, Rainey, Hoover, Nuno, Self, Cordero and Bacus  with Dragmire as a spot-starter

Changes in the bullpen since last post: Rainey promoted … and immediately became Nats bullpen savior of the week.  Hoover now in the rotation.  Nunu cut loose after posting a 7.25 ERA in 22 innings.  Mills sent back down.  Bourque was promoted to the majors from AA, then optioned back to AAA.  Baez promoted from AA.  Kontos signed.  Copeland dumped to bullpen.  Rodney signed and quickly promoted.   Lastly Cordero, who was in DFA limbo last post, was claimed by Toronto and is gone.  Phew; that’s 10 different moves for the team, just 3 guys in the same place they were 6 weeks ago, and just two stable names from day one.

Who’s hot:  Dakota Bacus continues to be the most impressive reliever in AAA, maintaining a seasonal ERA of 2.36 and a whip of 1.19.   Ross’ numbers as a starter in Fresno are respectable; 3.68 ERA in 5 starts with just 4 walks.

Who’s not?  Kontos has not been good so far, but a lot of his ERA is one bad outing in Salt Lake.  Howell has gotten shelled in basically each of his last 6-7 outings and looks toast from the stat sheets.

Who’s next guy to get the call?   I think Bacus deserves the next call-up, perhaps over Bourque even though he’s not on the 40-man.  I’d like to see Ross get the next spot start, on regular rest.

Who’s next to get the Axe?   I think the team may be reaching the end of the line with over-30 MLFA guys like Kontos and Hoover, now that they’ve got a slew of new draft picks in.

How are we doing with these mini-predictions so far?

  • April: Adams and Voth to get the call, Dragmire to get the Axe.  Results?  Adams released (?), Voth now in Majors, Dragmire now demoted.
  • May: Voth, Rainey to get the call.  Hoover, Mills, Sanchez, Dragmire to get the Axe.  Results:  Voth, Rainey now in Majors.  Mills, Sanchez, Dragmire demoted.  Hoover still hanging in there.

AA/Harrisburg 2019

  • Rotation Now: Mapes, Fuentes, MSanchez, Tetreault, Crowe with ALee just called up
  • Rotation Mid-May: Crowe, Tetreault, Sharp, Mapes, Braymer
  • Rotation to Start: Crowe, Fedde, Sharp, Mapes, Braymer*

Changes since last post: Sharp to the D/L, replaced by Fuentes.  Braymer got bumped up, replaced by MSanchez coming back down.  Lastly Lee just got promoted and may be taking someone’s spot.

  • Bullpen now: Condra-Bogan, RPena, Guilbeau*,  JMills*, ABarrett, Bonnell with Dragmire spot starts.
  • Bullpen Mid-May: Bourque, Condra-Bogan, RPena, Guilbeau*, ABarrett with Baez, Ondrusek, Fuentes as swingmen/spot starters
  • Bullpen to start: Bourque,  Brinley, Condra-Bogan, JMills*, RPena,  Guilbeau*, ABarrett with  swingman/spot starts by Baez and MSanchez

Changes since last post: Bourque up, Baez up.  Fuentes moved from swingman to rotation.  Ondrusek bounced around, he’s currently on the AAA D/L.  Mills was up and is now back.  Bonnell was signed after being dropped by Tampa and has been pretty solid.   Venters was signed, appeared briefly and was called up for bullpen reinforcement duty.  Lastly Dragmire is dumped here after posting a double digit ERA in Fresno.

Who’s hot: Steven Fuentes has continued right where he left off in High-A, and holds a 1.80 ERA in 11 appearances/7 starts in AA.  He’s only 22.  I’m guessing we’re going to start seeing more of him on Nats top10 farm lists if he keeps this up.

Who’s not? Nobody is pitching egregiously bad honestly; Mapes and Tetreault are both posting worse than you’d like to see numbers but Tetreault is just 23 and is in AA for the first time.  Mapes is a bit more concerning; he’s now 27, in his 6th pro season, was a 30th round pick probably given a 4-figure bonus, and the team has almost nothing invested in him.

Who’s next guy to get the call?   Barrett?  I wonder what else he has to prove in AA at this point.   I’d say its a bit too early to promote Fuentes, and the rest of the rotation needs more time in AA.

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Mapes may be at the end of the line, given his draft pedigree.

How are we doing with these mini-predictions so far?

  • April: Crowe, Fedde to get the call.  Sharp, Gilbeau to get the Axe.  Results?  Fedde up, the rest still hanging in there
  • May: Crowe, Bourque to get the call.  Pena to get the Axe.  Results?  Bourque up, Crowe and Pena still hanging in AA.


High-A/Potomac 2019

  • Rotation Now: Johnston, Raquet*, Cate*, ?, MPena (the question mark is because Lee got promoted the day we were writing this)
  • Rotation Mid-May: Johnston, Borne*, Raquet*, ALee, MPena.
  • Rotation to Start: Johnston, Borne*, Tetreault, Raquet*, MPena, LReyes

Changes since last post: Borne to the D/L, Lee promoted.  To replace them we got Cate from Low-A and a question mark the be filled (if it were me) by Teel.   Otherwise a very steady rotation here: 3 of the 5 havn’t changed since opening day.

  • Bullpen now: Bartow, German, Istler, Fletcher* with Howard*, LReyes, Pantoja, Teel*, McKinney as swingmen.
  • Bullpen Mid-May: Bogucki,  McKinney,  Bartow, JRomero, LReyes, German with Howard*,  Teel* as swingmen
  • Bullpen to start: Acevedo, Bogucki, Fuentes,   McKinney,  Bartow with swingman/spot starts by Howard*,  ALee,

Changes from last time:  Istler returns from XST/witness protection.  Fletcher promoted from low-A, along with Pantoja (and Teel, and Cate: we’ve seen 5 promotions so far).  Bogucki released.

Who’s hot:  I like what I see out of Teel and Fletcher so far, both mid-season promotions.  Fletcher has a 24/5 K/BB ratio since being promoted a few weeks back, and Teel has now made it to his 4th pro level since being drafted last June.   Amazingly, Reyes seems to have found his calling, going 10 straight outings without giving up a run.

Who’s not? Raquet has the worst WHIP of the rotation, and Pena the worst ERA.  Yet both remain mainstays in the Potomac bullpen.  Raquet is putting up almost identical numbers to last year, but as a high-bonus 3rd rounder probably gets more rope than a similarly producing 15th rounder.  Pena is just 22 but may be working towards another year in Potomac.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  Istler really should be in AA; he’s given up zero runs in 10 High-A innings, which shouldn’t be a surprise since he spent most of last year in AA posting a 2.53 ERA.  Why exactly is he in Potomac?

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Unclear; McKinney’s season numbers are poor but he’s pitched a number of clean outings since his return from the D/L.  Cate’s first two starts havn’t been stellar.  I don’t have a great case for anyone to get demoted or cut.

How are we doing with these mini-predictions so far?

  • April: Tetreault and Fuentes up.  Reyes and Bourne to get the axe..  Results?  Both Tetreault and Fuentes since promoted.  Reyes dumped from the rotation finally, Borne on the D/L.
  • May: Nobody to get the call.  Bogucki and Reyes to get the Axe.  Results?  Bogucki indeed released, Reyes demoted to the pen but succeeding in new role.

Low-A/Hagerstown 2019

  • Rotation Now: Alastre, Schaller, Irvin, Adon, Stoeckinger*
  • Rotation Mid-May: Alastre, Adon, Cate*, Irvin, FPeguero.
  • Rotation to Start: Alastre/Day, Adon, Cate*/Tapani, Irvin/Teel*, FPeguero/AGuillen, Strom/Stoeckinger*

Changes since last post: Cate Promoted, Peguero to the D/L.  To replace them we’ve seen Schaller promoted up from XST/GCL and Stoeckinger pulled from the tandem starter ranks.  Like with Potomac, 3 of the 5 starters the same since opening day.

  • Bullpen now: Brasher, Tapani, Day, Howell, RWilliamson*, AGuillen as tandem starters/swingmen, TTurner, Vann* as conventional relievers.
  • Bullpen Mid-May: Stoeckinger*, AGuillen, RWilliamson*, Tapani, Fletcher*, Day as tandem starters, Brasher, TTurner in the pen as more conventional relievers.
  • Bullpen to start:  Day, Tapani, Teel, AGullen, Stoeckinger as tandem starters, German,  Fletcher* as conventional relievers.

changes since last post: Howell returns to the fold after missing all of 2018 with injury.  Fletcher promoted.  Vann (a 2018 draftee) promoted up from XST/GCL.

Who’s hot: Stoeckinger has earned his spot in the rotation (if, indeed he stays there).  2.54 ERA, 1.19 whip in 39 IP as a tandem starter this year.

Who’s not?  Alastre continues to struggle in the rotation; hes now ballooned to a 6.11 ERA and 1.71 whip on the year while repeating the level.   He’s only 21 though, so he’s got plenty of time.  Howell has struggled since his reinstatement, and he does not have a ton of time, being a lower round pick coming off injury.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  Turner has had a nifty time in the Low-A bullpen; 28 Ks in 17 innings.  I’d also say Peguero, who has the best stats of any starter, but he’s on teh D/L currently.

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Alastre.  Howell.

How are we doing with these mini-predictions so far?

  • April: Peguero and Fletcher up.  Alastre to get the Axe.  Results?  Peguero hurt, Fletcher up, Alastre still in the rotation.
  • May: Cate, Fletcher, Peguero up.  Brasher to get the demotion.  Results?  Peguero hurt, Fletcher and Cate up.  Brasher still holding on, having gone an entire month w/o giving up a run.

Short-A/Auburn 2019

  • rotation: NGomez, PGonzalez, CRomero, RGomez, Strom, Troop*
  • tandem starters: Chu*, Galindez*/AMartinez, AHernandez*, Segura
  • bullpen: JPeguero*, Willingham, Yankowsky,  Milacki, FPerez, ELee*, McMahan, McMahon, Moore, 

Its a little early to pass judgement on the starts out of Auburn, but we’ll do it anyway.   I will note though that with recent 2019 draftee assignments, there’s now TWENTY (20) arms on the squad.  So you have to wonder if we’re about to see some shedding.

Who’s hot:  Niomar Gomez has had 3 solid starts to begin the season, picking up where he left off last year.  Troop, in his 3rd pro season, has yet to give up a run while posting a 12/0 K/BB ratio in two starts and needs to be moved up.  Strom looks solid, after struggling in Low-A, and may be stuck between levels.

Who’s not?   18yr old Pedro Gonzalez has had 3 starts; in those 3 starts he’s pitched a grand total of 4 innings, given up 13 hits 5 walks and 18 total runs.  Those are Trevor Rosenthal numbers.  He had a 9.60 ERA in the GCL last  year; why exactly is he in Short-A going against college draftees 4 years his senior?

Who’s next guy to get the call?   Troop

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Gonzalez.



Rookie/GCL 2019

  • rotation: Denaburg, Alvarado/Seijas, Yean, Pozo, Rutledge, Peterson
  • tandem starters: Hiraldo, BPena*, Beasley
  • bullpen: Jameson, WSeverino, Amoroso, Dyson, Ferrer*, Cuevas, Ribalta

We’re basically one “turn” through the GCL rotation, and now we have 1st round pick Jackson Rutledge in Florida for (presumably) a short stay.  Surprise 2019 signees Michael Cuevas and  Orlando Ribalta are also here and may themselves be in the rotation (they were just assigned yesterday or today).

The Big News here is Mason Denaburg of course.  He’s finally on a team and pitching professionally.  Through two starts, he’s given up a couple runs in 7 innings, with a few too many walks.

Who’s hot:  too early

Who’s not?   too early.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  Rutledge really shouldn’t be here long.  Neither should Tyler Dyson, 5th round 2019 pick from Florida.  And neither should Todd Peterson, 7th round pick out of LSU.  Generally speaking, SEC starters are Short-A talents at worst, and should be fast tracked to Low-A

Who’s next to get the Axe? nobody.



XST names of interest

  • Why hasn’t Nick Wells been assigned to a level yet??  He was traded for weeks ago.
  • Robbie Dickey has not pitched since 2016,  yet still remains in XST.
  • 4th rounder Matt Cronin has yet to be assigned to a team; i’m really curious to see if he can move fast.


15 Responses to 'Minor League Pitching Staffs: July check-in'

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  1. There’s a lot to like about pitching development in the system thus far this season, particularly starting pitching. Braymer is a hard-throwing lefty on the cusp of the majors (if he can survive the PCL). Fuentes has come out of nowhere, and more specifically out of the bullpen after three years of not starting, to be what looks like a dominant starter at AA at just barely 22. Tetreault had a rough beginning at AA but has been very solid his last four starts or so and is looking good there at just barely 23. Crowe has been solid all year; his peripherals look good, including a 3.02 xFIP. So the Nats have two 2017 draft picks pitching well at AA, even though picks from rounds 1 (Romero) and 3 (Raquet) have been duds thus far.

    Andrew Lee is a great story, back and advancing after missing essentially a year and a half with his second TJ.

    Sharp (22d rounder) was having a decent year at AA until he got injured; not sure what the story is with him.

    There’s been a good bit to like from 2018 draftees Cate, Teel, and Fletcher. The latter two may get chances to start at some point. Irvin has been up and down at Hagerstown but has promise overall. Disappointing that college draftee Schaller didn’t appear at all until the last week or two.

    Stoeckinger had been looking good until last night, but it’s good to see him back as a starter. Troop came back dominating at Auburn and should move up soon.

    Among relievers, I have no idea what the deal is with Istler, unless he was hurt or something. He was pitching in AAA with the Dodgers — a more stocked organization — when the Nats acquired him. But he wasn’t even in the big-league camp in the spring. I’m also not sure what the deal is with Barrett, considering his MLB experience and the desperate need for bullpen help with the big club. He’s been solid at AA but hasn’t moved. He has a 10.4 K/9 despite all the arm injuries.


    3 Jul 19 at 11:14 am

  2. On the flipside, wow, Fedde is currently a mess. He had a couple of solid (but short) MLB starts at the end of may but then went backward in June, all the way to Fresno, where he’s getting bombed. I’ve never been completely sold on Fedde, and I’m still not. I’ve always liked Ross better, but he was not good in his MLB stint.

    Voth has a real shot right now to stick with the big club. It will be interesting to see what he can do with it.


    3 Jul 19 at 1:18 pm

  3. The Nats are now in the 2d wild card slot, only half a game behind the Phils for the 1st wild card spot. They’re only six behind the Braves (five in the loss column).


    4 Jul 19 at 9:16 am

  4. Through his age-30 season, Scherzer had 105 wins. Halfway through his age-30 season, Strasburg has 104. He’s #3 all time in K/9 (Max is #4).

    I mentioned the other day that when you look at potential HOF pitchers who are around 30, Kershaw is a mortal lock, but then it gets dicey. Sale (currently with 106 wins in his age-30 season) is a possibility, but Stras is right there with him in basically every category. Neither has won a CYA, neither has a 20-win season.

    For Stras to get into serious HOF consideration, he would need a turbo-boosted early 30s like Max has had. He also needs to stay healthy. I’m just pointing out that it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Stras to get into eventual HOF consideration, which isn’t that hard to imagine after watching a dominant 14K performance.


    4 Jul 19 at 9:43 am

  5. Quite a turn around. Sure helps playing weaker teams!

    I don’t think anything has changed in terms of their decisions, though. Their bullpen is still a hot mess, without easy fixes in sight. If they can’t extend Rendon, do you really want to lose him for a comp pick? Is this team strong enough that you want to further empty the farm system for a relief upgrade or two?

    As unpopular as it may be, I’d stick to my guns on Rendon. If no extension, i’d Trade him. If they are still in the hunt, i’d Try a buy/sell thing where they pick up a decent 3b while restocking longer term by selling Rendon but I wouldn’t lose the guy for a pick.

    And to be clear, i’d stretch hard to Extend him. That’s plan A.

    And Max is awesome. Just saying


    4 Jul 19 at 10:10 am

  6. KW – we crossed posts. I agree, Stras has been under appreciated around here. He’s been terrific, consistently. Max, though, has been on a whole other level post 30. Like, steroid-era good (not suggesting he’s juicing). But I hope Stras doesn’t opt-out, or they find a modest Kershaw type extension. His opt outs are a big risk to their continued competitiveness.


    4 Jul 19 at 10:26 am

  7. The other thing that I can’t get my head around what it means for the Nats; all bullpens suck. Makes upgrades that much harder.


    4 Jul 19 at 10:31 am

  8. Thanks Todd, this is a great and informative look at the system’s arms.

    There is a lot to like with the upper part of the system. I wish I was retired, I’d be up in Harrisburg all the time. That’s where the must-see baseball is.

    Mark L

    4 Jul 19 at 4:59 pm

  9. At least the Nats moved into 2d place in the division, and 1st place (by hairs) in the wild card, on a date that’s easy to remember — the 4th of July. FanGraphs now has them at 74.5% to make the playoffs, although only 22.9% to win the division.

    Todd was right in his last post to highlight the first six series the Nats have after the All-Star break. Their playoff chances could ebb and flow a lot with that stretch. The last game of that stretch, against the Braves, coincides with the trade deadline, so on-the-field performance will have a lot to do with whether they’re buying or selling.

    I will be shocked if the Nats go over the luxury tax line, so I can’t see them bringing in anyone expensive. I also can’t see them trading Rendon, unless they go into a death spiral and are totally convinced that they can’t re-sign him.

    Bullpen: as Wally noted, there are a lot of teams struggling with the bullpen, plus there are a lot teams still in contention, so a lot of competition for the available arms. Will Smith would be at the top of the list, of course, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Internally, Barraclough and Miller are starting their rehab assignments, so some help is on the way. Grace hasn’t pitched since June 22 (wow), so, um, he would figure to be the first to go. Maybe they’re waiting to see if Venters falls on his face before canning Grace? Rodney actually looks curiously promising.


    5 Jul 19 at 1:02 pm

  10. Todd, I’d like writeup on Braymer, didn’t realize has the 1st in awhile that high from a lower round.

    If you look at Braymer’s trajectory, e art year since he came on board has risen a level in mid-season. A very steady move upward. This suggests that he’ll be ready for the show right around this point next year. Impressive.

    Mark L

    5 Jul 19 at 5:43 pm

  11. So what would you folks have said in April if I had told you that on July 5, Voth would be taking his regular turn in the rotation as the 5th starter, Rodney, Venters, and Guerra would be pitching out of the ‘pen, and Parra would be starting in CF over Robles? And that Rosenthal had been cut three weeks ago?

    Venters isn’t looking like he’ll be here long. He makes Grace look good in comparison. Rodney has been impressive thus far, though.


    6 Jul 19 at 1:56 pm

  12. No love for Taylor Guilbeau? He certainly seems to have taken to the bullpen well now that they’re no longer trying to have him start. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him in DC before the season is out, especially given the struggles of the LHRP not named Doolittle.

    John C.

    9 Jul 19 at 5:31 pm

  13. I admit that I’m also guilty of overlooking Guilbeau. I think I mentally wrote him off last year. He’s 26 now, so it’s sort of now or never. His numbers are terrific, though: 2.31 ERA, amazing 2.02 FIP, 1.06 WHIP, 11.3 K/9.

    In other LHP news, the Nats have assigned Cronin straight to Hagerstown, an aggressive placement that indicates they think he can move up quickly.

    Considering Guilbeau’s successful move to the ‘pen, will Raquet be next?


    9 Jul 19 at 7:23 pm

  14. I missed Guilbeau. Very good numbers for sure, against top competition. My bad.

    Todd Boss

    10 Jul 19 at 2:48 pm

  15. Ready for the second half! We will find out a lot about the Nats’ mojo over the next couple of weeks. The Phils are staggering, and the Nats need to keep kicking them while they’re down. Cutch and Herrera are gone for the year, and Arrieta could be.

    As I’ve said since the offseason, I have a hard time seeing the Braves having enough pitching to make it to the finish line, even with Keuchel. (Plus over his first four games, Keuchel has a 4.76 FIP and a meager 4.3 K/9.) The Braves have a heck of a lineup, though, and they’ve sidestepped the injury bug thus far.

    And the Nats? Bullpen, bullpen, bullpen. Let’s hope Doolittle just needed a few days off and isn’t already starting to wear out. The lineup should be fine, as nearly everyone was finding a groove before the break. Stay healthy and I like our chances.


    12 Jul 19 at 1:04 pm

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