Nationals Arm Race

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

Spring Training 2020 NRI Discussion

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Nationals at Orioles 7/16/19

Nationals at Orioles 7/16/19

The Nationals, on the first day of spring training, announced their list of Non-Roster Invitees (NRIs) for 2020.

Here’s our 6th year running NRI analysis.  With this post, I’ve also got the Big Board officially updated to account for all 22 guys.  These 22 signings confirmed at least 6 new MLFA signings unknown until today (Freeman, Ward, Snyder, Wilson, Shuck and Self), so those details are on the page too.

Now, before you say “who cares” here’s some stats.  In the last five seasons (through 2019):

  • 6 NRIs made the 25-man roster straight out of Spring Training (and Guthrie technically made it 6 since he got called up a few days later and was always intended to be the 5th starter in 2017).  Basically every year an NRI has made the roster for 5 seasons running.
  • 21 NRIs eventually played for the MLB team at some point that same season.

So its likely that we’re going to see a lot of these NRIs at some point in the future.  Like, on average at least 4-5 of these NRIs are going to play for this team in 2020.

Here’s the list of 22 NRI’s for 2020

  • RH Starters: Wil Crowe, Paolo Espino
  • RH Relievers; Dakota Bacus, Bryan Bonnell, Javy Guerra, Jhonatan German, David Hernandez, Kevin Quackenbush, Derek Self
  • LH Starters: none
  • LH Relievers: Fernando Abad, Sam Freeman
  • Catchers: Wellington Castro, Taylor Gushue, Jakson Reetz
  • Infielders: Luis Garcia, Brandon Snyder Drew WardJacob Wilson
  • Outfielders: Emilio Bonifacio, Yadiel Hernandez, JB Shuck, Mac Williamson

(interestingly, there is at least one off-season MLFA signing that I had listed as being given an NRI; Tyler Eppler, who is not listed here.)

So lets squint and make some predictions.

  1. Do any of these guys stand a chance at making the Opening day roster?  Honestly, I don’t see it this year.  If there’s an injury sure, but right now the 26-man opening day roster seems pretty set.  Even at the edges of the bullpen and bench, it doesn’t seem like we have a ton of competition.
    1. Squinting at the bullpen, it seems like the last two spots will be going two guys (Roenis Elias and Austin Voth) who don’t seem likely to get sent to AAA (for reliability and options).  Elias is the only other lefty besides Doolittle, so maybe Abad/Freeman have a shot?  Guerra is a franchise favorite who probably gets called up at some point after what he did for the team last year.
    2. The edge of the Bench basically is Eric Thames, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilmer Difo: if someone beats out Difo they’re going to have to be able to play a serviceable short-stop; not sure who of the NRI infielders fits that bill.  Certainly not Snyder, Ward or Wilson, all of whom are corner guys.  And if you want to argue with a straight face that 19-yr old Luis Garcia is breaking camp with the team … well i’m just not going to consider you as someone who understands how modern baseball works.
  2. Do any of these guys project to feature at all in 2020?  At all?  Yeah definitely: I can see a couple of the relievers getting called up, especially since a number of them have MLB experience.  I could see Crowe getting the call in case we get shredded with injuries in the rotation.  I could see a flexible guy with past ties to the club like Bonifacio getting called up.
  3. Who among these guys project to eventually get on the 40-man?  past the above, Garcia obviously, but its hard to make an argument for too many others.  There’s really only like one or two “prospects” here that are called up for the experience; nearly the entire list are MLFAs that will be providing Fresno depth.

NRI Details by year, in case you were wondering…

Summary of NRIs for 2019: 18 total

  • One (1) made the 25-man roster out of spring: Jake Noll
  • Three (3) more eventually got added and called up:  Aaron Barrett, Tres Barrera, Carter Kieboom
  • Zero (0) others have since been added to 40-man (as of 2/6/20).

Summary of NRIs from ST 2018: 21 NRIs total:

  • One (1) made the 25-man roster out of spring: Miguel Montero
  • Four (4) eventually got added and called up:  Tim Collins, Moises Sierra, Jimmy Cordero, Spencer Kieboom.  Special Mention to Edwin Jackson, who opted out of Washington then excelled for Oakland later in 2018).
  • Zero (0) others have since been added to 40-man

Summary of NRIs from ST 2017: 24 NRIs total:

  • Zero (0) made the 25-man roster out of spring (though technically one kinda was; see next).
  • Five (5) eventually got added and called up (Jeremy Guthrie, Matt Albers, Grant Green, Jacob Turner and Andrew Stevenson): Guthrie was the 5th starter, stashed in XST for a few days before his ill-fated debut.
  • Five (5) have since been added to 40-man (Erick Fedde, Taylor Hill, Kyle McGowin, Wander Suero, Tim Collins)

Summary of NRIs from ST 2016: 20 NRIs total (plus perhaps a couple more that got signed late):

  • Two (2) made the 25-man roster: (Chris Heisey and as noted in the comments, thanks for the correction, Matt Belisle).
  • Two (2) eventually got added and called up (Lucas Giolito, Sean Burnett)
  • Two (2) have since been added to 40-man (Matt Skole, Austin Voth)

Summary of NRIs from ST 2015: 20 NRIs total:

  • Two (2) made the 25-man roster out of spring (Dan Uggla and Clint Robinson).  Adding Reed Johnson as a late-spring signee who made the team after his release from Miami (H/T Sao)
  • Two (2) others eventually got added and called up (Rafael Martin and Emmanuel Burriss)
  • Two (2) others were young catchers since added to the 40-man (Spencer Kieboom, Pedro Severino)

(I believe the above analysis is correct; feel free to comment if i’ve missed someone.  this is a bit tougher to keep track of b/c the team often signs MLFAs mid-spring then technically gives them NRIs … especially for Vets, and I may miss some from the original announcements).

Written by Todd Boss

February 13th, 2020 at 10:42 am

Posted in Nats in General

74 Responses to 'Spring Training 2020 NRI Discussion'

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  1. Todd. Edwin Jackson was traded by the Snakes to WhiteSox for two
    Pitchers. One of them being Daniel Hudson

    Jeff

    13 Feb 20 at 10:48 am

  2. Thank you Todd – reposting this from below because it is a more relevant thread.

    Some additional thoughts from folks on that list:

    Thames and Castro – Both players who are actually competing for something that matters. Thames is competing against Howie for AB against more right handed pitching. I don’t consider it a given that Thames plays against every righty, especially with the many other talents manning the infield right now. Martinez may confront a reality that the best lineup has Kieboom, Kendrick, and Castro in it, just as the Nationals recognized by the end of last year that Howie needed to be in the lineup as much as possible. True, there is a lot of talk about Howie not being able to play every day anymore, but what does that mean? He is an incredible athlete and mental specimen who rehabbed a torn Achilles to do what he did last year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. The Howie talent of last year has as much likelihood of being able to plan 120 games plus playoffs. So Castro and Thames have a lot to play for.

    Both players also have the clubhouse pedigree and bring derivative benefit. Thames has been a regular on a playoff team, so he is a proven winner and contributor to a proven winning atmosphere. He has never won a WS, so he is a hungry player on that front, necessary in a drive to repeat.

    So is Castro – who plays shortstop and is an ironman. And Castro was so beloved in Chicago by his teammates, who viewed him even them as a mentor. And he loves the Nationals and slots in as a mentor to young Dominican superstars. Perfect timing, along with his coming union with Kevin Long.

    Given his competence in last year’s play (for a bad team and late in the year) and his willingness to play 3B, Castro seems like a perfect bridge to Kieboom’s development in AAA this year. Reflecting on your detailed summaries, it occurs to me that the Nationals are not at all likely to trade for Bryant or Arenado — that the team really IS well situated, with internal plan A & B & C, and can revisit the issue well into the year if those plans actually fail. Their floating interest, however, drives up the price for the Braves, just as it likely did on Josh Donaldson — mission accomplished!

    Castillo – Really a good idea to have a veteran catcher who has a higher ceiling for nothing more than spring training, when so many arms are working out and eve learning from catchers, and yes, shouldering innings in hot Grapefruit games. No risk.
    Good move.

    Jacob Wilson – What’s not to love? A versatile infielder with demonstrable success at AAA and in the organization. He earned a callup last year but there was no room. But given that he went to Korea, heneither stalled nor withered on the vine. And he gets to showcase in spring training. I’m happy he’s back!

    Bonifacio – Another high character, highly popular player who is a Parra analog, only one willing to play that role in AAA or Harrisburg as a mentor for the younger Spanish speaking players developing into big leaguers (eg Garcia, Hernandez, German, Ready). Again, a wise pickup for overall organizational building.

    Yadiel Hernandez – I will always dismiss the “prospect” lists until they include him in his rightful place among the top 5 prospects in the Nationals’ system. He came in at AA (because he could only get out of Cuba well into his twenties) and has only developed power, and to the opposite field no less (without losing his great batting eye and on-base qualities), while steadily rising and without stalling or being overmatched. Prospect means likelihood of success at a higher level. I see no reason not to believe in him. I am sure other organizations have asked the Nationals, particularly low budget teams and second division teams who’d like to pluck him away, hoping the Nationals see him as no more than AAAA (like others here do). I see him as an everyday OF/DH who will step in as an Soto insurance policy if our mega-superstar gets hurt. He has certainly logged the innings and put in his work, with a full winter season in Mexico behind him (and MVP runner up). Hopefully his defense is improving and he is not worn out from all the work of the past year.

    Paolo Espino – Is the kind of player that renders it unnecessary to sign drek for starting pitching depth. He is a proven ML player who is willing to toil in AAA as #8 or 9 on the starting pitcher depth chart. I wonder if he has an opt out – if not a bargain to have him in Fresno.

    Wil Crowe and Ben Braymer – Both on a show me track for AAA. Braymer showed signs of coming around in his last starts, and his career has shows rocky adjustments to a new level and impressive success after being rechallenged. As a low draft pick, he’s fun to believe in. And now that he is in AAA, he’ll be fun to watch as the Nationals think ahead to a 2021 staff with a homegrown lefty coming up closer. Crowe is the kind of pitcher who, if he does not really show higher than #5 starter stuff, becomes excellent trade bait with a good AAA year, because he is ranked high on the prospect lists and so has that hype already in place. I think that with Scherzer-Strasburg-Corbin in place for the coming years, and answers coming this year on Voth-Ross-and Fedde, the nationals can afford to sell on anyone who has less than #3 starter quality. In other words, old Roark keep, new Roark sell.

    Abad – Just always finds a way to get to the majors. Another great job to get him on a minor league deal.
    Perhaps a post-purgatory buy low.

    Kyle Finnegan – So, who closes at Fresno? We’re about to find out everyone who should. Perhaps no realistic path to opening day, but considering that he was the ONLY minor league free agent to get a 40 Man spot out of the Nationals, who were selective enough to allow Marmolejos, Ward, and Sterling Sharp to get away, that says a lot about how high they are on his potential. With Glover now gone, and Cronin no higher yet than A-, he’s the vanguard of a complement of players who could break through to be the next hot arm that gets promoted in-year because he’s mowed everyone down. Hopefully this arm wont get away like Austin Adams did.

    Jhonathan German – One of the most interesting of all those getting an NRI. His being invited, while others (Condra-Bogan) were not, is the tipoff of a prospect underranked by others – or, as Sao raises, a player on the cusp of Rule 5 eligibility whom they want to thrown into the pool to see how he swims.

    Drew Ward – So happy, really, to see him come back to the organization. With Thames on a one year deal, Zimm and Howie aging, he gets one more shot to establish his relevance. It would be great if we can look back on last winter and reflect how he went unsigned and unclaimed by other organizations who could have had him for nothing. But he has some holes he needs to fix. Hopefully he has this winter. Still young, if many years in. Now or never, but great that there is still one more now.

    forensicane

    13 Feb 20 at 11:16 am

  3. FYI Sao’s NRI writeup here at Talknats, since its more apropos to this thread

    Shameless self-promotion, but here’s what I wrote up for TalkNats on NRIs and new arrivals: https://www.talknats.com/2020/02/12/heck-guy-2020-edition-new-faces-nats-spring-training/

    Todd Boss

    13 Feb 20 at 11:19 am

  4. Don’t forget Reed Johnson in 2015. He was a Marlins NRI whom we snapped up at the very end of camp and put on the roster. So he sorta counts, IMO.

    SaoMagnifico

    13 Feb 20 at 11:48 am

  5. Meh. Frankly, I thought the combo of being World Champs and the reputation as Team Fun (which Castro and Thames referenced when signing) would lead to a better class of scrubs. Alas.

    There are only two legit prospects here: Garcia and Crowe. If the Nats keep all from among Ross, Voth, and Fedde, and we count McGowin as being ahead of him, then Crowe would figure to start the season as #9 on the starter list. Few thought they would get all the way down to Voth and McGowin last season, so you never know. (There also remains the possibility that they trade someone, particularly if Crowe looks close to ready.) As for Garcia, even if he improves markedly over 2019 (when he was play WAY above his age level), it’s hard to see him in the majors in 2020 unless there are several INF injuries.

    If I had to pick one guy with the “best” chance to make the 26-man out of the spring, it would be Guerra. There are a truckload of 40-man guys competing for bullpen spots, though, so he’d really have to be lights out.

    I just hope they don’t get irrationally blinded by someone this spring like they were by Noll last year. As Boz likes to say, you are who your numbers say you are. His minor-league numbers indicated that he’d be pretty mediocre, which he was, even in the hyper-inflated PCL.

    Speaking of hyper-inflated numbers, it sure would be fun to see Yadiel Hernandez have a big spring. Not sure how he would fit on the actual roster, but perhaps he can force that conversation.

    I still keep hoping they’ll bring in a Pillar/Maybin to boot MAT (who is known for having legendary [false] springs), and that they’ll keep a bench bat over Difo (with Cabrera and Castro both SS-capable and Garcia only a short ride from Harrisburg).

    KW

    13 Feb 20 at 12:27 pm

  6. I’m very appreciative of the lengthy efforts by Todd, Sao, and fore here. You all, with KW leave a lot to chew on.

    It’s amazing how inspirational the 1st day of spring training is.

    Mark L

    13 Feb 20 at 1:04 pm

  7. Just to remember, we have Kieboom, Noll, Wilson, and Ward taking their shot at 3rd. Here’s their chance.

    Mark L

    13 Feb 20 at 1:46 pm

  8. Reed Johnson: good pull. As I noted at the bottom of that page its kinda hard to keep track, unless you’re really looking at the topic, of the churn of players throughout spring. I’ll add him though :-)

    Todd Boss

    13 Feb 20 at 2:32 pm

  9. I might be in the minority here, but I have no issue even in retrospect giving Noll a roster spot. He didn’t have a great year in Fresno, and he mostly looked overmatched during his cameos with the Nats, but he did win the Nats a ballgame, so…

    SaoMagnifico

    13 Feb 20 at 2:48 pm

  10. I agree with you, Sao. Noll had a great spring, and was the right person at the right time to deliver a bases loaded walk.

    KW is correct on McGowin being #8 on the starter pecking order. The options at AAA, of Fedde, McGowin, Braymer, Espino, Crowe, and Sanchez mean that even if spring results in one or more being out of the organization altogether, or one or more remaining in AA, the core of the starting staff will have enough to maintain interest while a number of newer arms season at AA (Fuentes, Cate, Teel, Tetrault, Raquet). Another wave is a year away.

    forensicane

    13 Feb 20 at 4:53 pm

  11. If you haven’t read the Svrluga/Sheinin story on how widespread the knowledge of Trashstro cheating was, make sure you do so. This is a terrible indictment of the MLB leadership:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/mlb/astros-cheating-open-secret/2020/02/11/1830154c-4c41-11ea-9b5c-eac5b16dafaa_story.html

    And if I hear someone defend Hinch again, I’m going to throw up. Please don’t insult our intelligence with such comments. This was going on in his dugout for the or four years. He’s as dirty as everyone else.

    It’s embarrassing to Manfried and MLB that they don’t have the stones to suspend players and levy a heavier fine against the franchise. Sure sounds like the major of other franchises (owners) would vote against the Astros in such cases.

    Should players be “banned”? Or at least Luhnow, Hinch, Cora, and Beltran? The latter two haven’t even officially been punished, although they did lose jobs. I don’t think a one year suspension was enough. Maybe five years, with the requirement of a formal appeal, confession, and apology to be reinstated?

    Here’s what’s clear: MLB has not effectively settled this matter. If anything, Manfred’s office has just made things worse by admitting that part of it happened, denying that other things did (2019), only punishing two people, and fining the team the cost of a utility infielder. Wilmer Difo makes more than they were fined. Sorry, but that ain’t punishment.

    KW

    14 Feb 20 at 6:39 am

  12. And more from Boz, particularly Suzuki’s quotes about what he was (pretty) sure the Astros were still doing in the WS:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/mlb/this-was-the-time-for-the-astros-to-own-their-cheating-maybe-they-missed-the-sign/2020/02/13/559300d2-4ea5-11ea-b721-9f4cdc90bc1c_story.html

    Look, 29 teams are really pissed about this (unless the Bosox were also doing it). How could Manfred not think he has enough backing from other owners to come down hard?

    Sorry Rob, this isn’t going away. Time to man up and take some real action.

    KW

    14 Feb 20 at 1:23 pm

  13. The more that comes out about Houston, the worse it is.

    Trevor Bauer’s absolutely shredding of the Astros as a team and Manfred/MLB as a whole is amazing. Say what you want about the guy (and he does have some bad social media history), his comments are absolutely spot on here.

    https://theathletic.com/1609477/2020/02/14/trevor-bauer-was-asked-about-the-astros-he-didnt-hold-back-on-his-answer/

    (warning: lots and lots of NSFW words here)

    Todd Boss

    15 Feb 20 at 5:26 pm

  14. If I’m the commish, I’m getting sick of this to the point where I warn the Astros that if their players don’t stop whining, there WILL be discipline for Astros players.

    Probably wouldn’t fly with the MLBPA. Then again, the MLBPA represents guys like Bauer, Bellinger, and Suzuki too.

    SaoMagnifico

    15 Feb 20 at 7:36 pm

  15. Interesting to see how the Nats are promoting Kieboom at 3B as their preferred option to begin the year, and that they expect him to play every day in the spring. I guess they want to resolve that question first and foremost, and are serious about getting that read.

    forensicane

    15 Feb 20 at 7:40 pm

  16. One correction to what I said above: the Trashstro “fine” (such as it is), is $5M, so the price of Difo + Taylor. Yep, very painful.

    I’m glad this is boiling over, just wondering why it took so long. All the players who played against this should be pissed. And if they are, GO TO YOUR UNION. Tell the union to tell the commissioner’s office to take action against the known offending players. We’ve been told all along that Manfred is scared of the union. It’s the PLAYERS’ union, so the players can tell the union to stand down. Very simple.

    Also, Dusty: shut up. He’s already whining that his players need protection. Well, they wouldn’t need protection if they were suspended, now would they? Problem solved! Either that, or risk having Chapman decapitate Altuve . . . then have to fine and suspend Chapman but not the cheater. What a country!

    Also, I’m glad the Nats are openly pissed about this. They need a burr under their saddle. Glad they’re feeling disrespected by the coverage of the cheaters on the other side of the barn. The cheaters lost. Talk to the winners, the ones who outwitted the cheaters.

    KW

    15 Feb 20 at 10:02 pm

  17. Fore — I share the curiosity about all the talk of Kieboom being the presumptive 3B. He’s played a total of 10 pro games at that position. As Sao keeps reminding us, he also had a power outage during the second half of last season, in the atom-ball PCL. I’m not predicting a Kieboom failure, but I’m surprised they’re building him up so much at this point, particularly when he would make a heck of a lot of service-time sense for him to be in the minors at least through April 22.

    It will be very interesting to see who is getting 3B reps. I assume Cabrera and Kendrick will get a lot of action there as well.

    On another note, Dougherty reported on the first day of pitchers that Ross joined Max in running after throwing, but Joe (age 26) could only hang for about 30 minutes, while Max kept going full bore for an hour . . . on the first day of camp. That’s how a Hall of Famer rolls, my friends.

    Sorry to see Hellickson have to retire at age 32. At least he went out with a ring.

    KW

    15 Feb 20 at 10:11 pm

  18. Since Rizzo is big on messaging when he does speak, I think we can look to a lot of starts and innings from Kieboom in the early going to get him game experience and to see how he responds. Don;t forget, the Nationals dropped Rendon at 2B to start his career and he handled it, just as Turner shifted to CF before returning to SS. So it’s not contrary to successful history to plant him at a new position with the hope that he swims.

    If it does not work, either in the field or at the plate, there are plenty of innings toward the latter part of the spring to take a closer look at Starlin, Carbrera, and even Howie. I know nobody expects Howie at 3B, but it’s the spring and it doesn’t hurt to look.

    I’m not really worried about his power based on a couple of months production. He is young and was still a first timer in a league of close to the majors players, and can show how he adjusts having had the off season to work on it.

    forensicane

    15 Feb 20 at 11:41 pm

  19. With Zim’s return, I actually do expect Kendrick at 3B, perhaps as his primary position. I don’t see that arrangement as optimal, but unless they’re just planning to think of Zim as a pinch-hitter who will rarely start — which I doubt, based on his extensive playing time in the postseason — then Kendrick will have to get time at 3B.

    My tea-leaf reading says that Castro will be a regular at 2B. He’s consistently played 150+ games. By contrast, Kendrick started only 70 games last season, and Davey carefully managed his playing time, with outstanding results: .966 OPS in the regular season, with enough left in the tank for immortality in the playoffs.

    For Kieboom to “make it,” he’s going to need to play regularly, with the Nats riding out his ups and downs, as they did with Robles. If he does (at 3B), and Castro is a regular at 2B and Thames and Zim are platooning at 1B, then where do Kendrick and Cabrera play? Do we really think Kieboom’s bat is going to be more useful to the lineup than Kendrick’s, or even Cabrera’s? (That’s if Cabrera hits like he did as Nat, which isn’t guaranteed by any means.)

    Admittedly, these are good “problems” to have, as injuries and slumps are inevitable. Davey comes out of Maddon’s mix-and-match platoon school anyway. We all suspect that Zim will have some injury time, freeing some 1B ABs for Kendrick.

    Also, my guess is that Difo’s 26-man roster spot is tied directly to whenever Kieboom comes up. With Kieboom, Cabrera, and Castro all having experience at SS, it wouldn’t be necessary to lean on Difo’s SS capability. Difo may not even make it that long, as they’re going to have a bit of a numbers crunch if they keep two OFs. Suzuki, Kendrick, Zim, Cabrera, Stevenson, and Taylor — that’s already six reserves for only five bench slots. Stevo still has an option, but they’re pretty weakened defensively if Kendrick and Thames are considered OF reserves.

    KW

    16 Feb 20 at 8:36 am

  20. Worth noting on the Turner and Rendon comps that neither of them broke camp with the Nats as rookies. Don’t buy into the talk. Rizzo and Martinez are leaving just enough room to justify sending Kieboom down to start the season. They did this with Turner in 2016 too even after he had a great spring training.

    SaoMagnifico

    16 Feb 20 at 1:30 pm

  21. Yes, you’re right Sao. But seeing as they have to sort out Plan B, they’d best be doing it by getting folks the innings at 3B. Maybe some extra B squad games to be scheduled, and with 62 players to field including more catchers (Reetz is rehabbing), that’s a lot easier.

    forensicane

    16 Feb 20 at 1:46 pm

  22. Wouldn’t surprise me, and it occurs to me that with a larger-than-usual pool of NRIs, it will be easier for Martinez and Bogar to come up with B squads to ease the regulars in more slowly.

    SaoMagnifico

    16 Feb 20 at 11:10 pm

  23. Well, we know Zim won’t be playing much!

    KW

    17 Feb 20 at 8:14 am

  24. From Mark Zuckerman: “Starlin Castro will get all of his work at second base for now. Carter Kieboom will get all of his work at third base for now. Asdrúbal Cabrera will get the bulk of his work at third base. Howie Kendrick will work mostly at first and second bases for now, but will get some action at third later in camp.”

    So there ya go. Of course part of the takeaway could be that Zim ain’t gonna play under “later in camp,” so Howie will be splitting the reps at 1B until then.

    KW

    17 Feb 20 at 4:53 pm

  25. . . . play UNTIL later in camp . . . (but of course we’re ALWAYS told that Zim is playing in minor-league games!)

    For the record, I’m not a Zim hater at all, but his aversion to hard work in the spring has put his managers and teammates in a tough spot for years.

    KW

    17 Feb 20 at 7:24 pm

  26. Boz, from his chat on Monday:

    Soto arrived in camp today and “Wow.” He looks like a man now. At 21, he’s still filling out and keeps lifting weights. He doesn’t look muscle-bound, as they used to say. Just like he had one last period of “filling out.” Don’t know if that will impact his bat-to-ball skill level but when the bat DOES hit the ball that poor ball is going to go even further. This may be the first year when we get a sense of his mature power level — is he already there in the 30’s or is he going to have 40-homer years? As long as that .400 on-base percentage is there, don’t worry about anything.

    Soto’s career OPS+ is now 140 –or 40 percent better than league average during his years. That ranks him in a tie for 59th place among all players since 1900. Who else is at 140 OPS+ for their career? Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Duke Snider. But what if Soto gets even a little better?

    KW

    19 Feb 20 at 12:06 pm

  27. Also LOVE Soto’s “I’m just hoping to make the team” attitude:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/02/18/why-world-series-hero-juan-soto-says-he-just-wants-make-nationals/

    SO different from our last “where’s my ring?” prodigy. Of course the new prodigy has already earned one, while the last one, um, sold his soul for 13 years in hell.

    KW

    19 Feb 20 at 12:09 pm

  28. On Soto. Someone posited the question “Would you rather build your franchise around Juan Soto or Ronald Acuna” on quora this week, and it made me do some deeper dives into the two players than I had before. And one thing that really stuck out to me about Soto right now is his power/plate discipline combo. He’s had an OBP > .400 in both seasons so far; one of only a small handful of hitters to do that in the last two seasons. Meanwhile he’s slugging more than 40 points better than Acuna for his career, resulting in big wRC+ differences. And he’s still filling out; man that’s going to be one scary hitter.

    Todd Boss

    19 Feb 20 at 12:42 pm

  29. We should start seeing reports on who is already impressing soon enough. Regrettably, one of those is Sterling Sharp with the Marlins. Insofar as everyone wanted him protected and he was taken, it feels like he must have done something to undermine his standing with the organization, especially given the lesser success of Nationals players taken in the draft.

    I’ll be going to spring training within a couple of weeks (annual pilgrimage with my boy) to watch the major and minors. Who else is going? And what would you want to know? Perhaps a good idea for a separate thread, for each of us to perform citizen journalism and report back here to the base.

    forensicane

    20 Feb 20 at 7:08 am

  30. fore, I’m quite jealous here. Anything you can see with your scouts eye is always helpful.

    Mark L

    20 Feb 20 at 7:35 am

  31. Spring Training goals (if I were there):
    – a for-real assessment of Kieboom’s progress playing 3B. Eyes on doing grounder drills and in games. See, I think the team signed FAs so as to cover for Kieboom, in that they signed three different FAs who “can” play 3B (Kendrick, Cabrera, Castro). I didn’t say “play it well defensively.”
    – If Kieboom really is set to make the starting roster, who makes way? I don’t see a way to keep Kieboom AND one of Difo/Sanchez/some guy who can play SS in a pinch unless you’re telling me that Kieboom is your backup SS.
    – If you’re attempting to tell me that Kieboom is your backup SS, i’ll point you to his defensive metrics from last year: https://www.fangraphs.com/players/carter-kieboom/19958/stats?position=SS#fielding . He posted a -7 DRS in just 10 games played/90 innings at short. His defense was SO BAD at short stop that analytically he cost his team nearly a run a GAME playing there.

    ok enough about Kieboom.

    – Ryan Zimmerman; i’m not happy that i’m already hearing that Zimmerman is going to “take it easy” in the spring. What is he an antique roadster from the 30s? Jesus christ is playing baseball, not running a triathalon. Get out at first, stand there scratching your ass for 3 innings and play ball. I just do not get the handling of him.

    – 5th starter battle: is the team set on Ross? Does Voth stand a chnace? Is Fedde a viable option? Lots of people seem to be Fedde apologists and Ross defenders; does that include Nats management?

    Todd Boss

    20 Feb 20 at 9:00 am

  32. Todd, they did that last year with Zimmerman and he wasn’t ready on Opening Day. If he turns it up big time in March I’m okay with that.

    Mark L

    20 Feb 20 at 10:25 am

  33. Zim is two months younger than Max. On the very first day of camp, Max literally ran the very athletic Joe Ross into the ground, and kept running for 30 minutes after Ross quit.

    Max will be a Hall of Famer. Zim had at least near-HOF talent. We certainly can’t blame all of his injury issues on conditioning, but goodness, you have to wonder if he would have had a different career arc if he had approached things differently.

    KW

    20 Feb 20 at 10:25 am

  34. Voth: I’m convinced that Menhart was behind him FINALLY getting a chance last season, so yes, I think Menhart will make sure he gets a chance this year. I really think it’s between Voth and Ross with Fedde having the miraculous 4th option year. That’s good, as Fedde thus far has been the least deserving of the three. The presumed thought/hope is that Voth and Ross will both be good enough to make the 26-man, with one as the long man. Considering that Sanchez is usually only good for five or six IP and isn’t getting any younger, it would be good to have a trustworthy bridge.

    Shortstop: There’s no need to carry a Difo or Sanchez in case Turner gets hurt. Cabrera, Castro, or Kieboom could cover for the rest of a game, and a sub could arrive from the minors for the next game. (I think at least one from Difo and Sanchez would clear waivers after a DFA and remain with the organization, maybe both.) I think it’s a bigger question whether Garcia is up to playing MLB SS than it is about Kieboom. I don’t think Carter is ever going back to SS.

    Kieboom: the much, MUCH bigger question about him is whether he can play 3B defensively. He’s had almost no experience there (I think only 10 pro games). Frankly, I will be pretty surprised if Kieboom breaks camp as the 3B, both because of the inexperience and the service time issues.

    KW

    20 Feb 20 at 1:48 pm

  35. Fore, weren’t you the one who told us in the spring two years ago that Soto was MLB-ready even though he was ticketed for Hagerstown? We want more news like that!

    Really, the only Nat minor-leaguer I think who would have a chance of showing dominance of a similar level would be Rutledge. I seriously doubt he would move up that fast, though. There seems to be some speculation that Cronin could make a Glover-like run through the minors, however. And who knows what the unicorn known as Seth Romero can do if he ever actually appears. Very curious to know whether Romero and Denaburg look healthy and full speed, and in shape (in Romero’s case).

    On the hitting side, I guess this is the year we find out if Mendoza is a legit prospect, or another top college player who fell in the draft for a reason, like Wiseman and Banks. The Nats have so few serious field prospects in the pipeline behind Kieboom and Garcia that they really need Mendoza to click.

    KW

    20 Feb 20 at 9:20 pm

  36. I do wonder whether Rutledge really could be good enough to put himself in position to challenge for Sanchez’s rotation slot in the spring of 2021. Maybe that’s a stretch. Maybe it isn’t. He’d need to be very good at both A+ and AA in 2020 to even get an NRI.

    KW

    20 Feb 20 at 9:26 pm

  37. Yeah, that was me about Soto, KW. But really, it was Brigham Hill who told this to us. And so, last year, when my (10 year old)son saw him again, he called out, “It’s Brigham, the Mormon prophet!” Priceless!

    Sometimes, though, things take a while to blossom. Sometimes the tips take a bit to develop, and one has to be patient. Mike Barrett told us that Tres Barrera was the most impressive catcher he saw in the system, that he made big strides. And he did emerge on the radar a bit. But he is not really part of the conversation, in part because his bat tailed off as the year advanced. But perhaps one has to look past that because part of the maturing of a player and getting over a hump from year to yer is making in-season adjustments. And, because the Nationals have already signaled their interest in Barrera by giving him so much major league exposure.

    So in a way, I am still expecting good things from players who were impressive then but did not exactly set the world on fire. Just because players have taken a step, even a big step does not mean that they have not taken all of those steps at once. Rather, they are headed up the ladder developmentally and there is reason to think they will get there. So I will return to revisit some of the predictions that were realized to a degree, but only a limited degree.

    This is why I always say that the Nationals system is underrated by pundits — because Rizzo is always able to trade a good player that we have never heard of for what he thinks the team needs. To me, the best expression of this was the Kelvin Herrera trade; the Royals perceived the Nationals to have the best offer of multiple teams with far better rated systems, and the Nationals gave up players who were “ranked” but not really taken seriously by anyone. Yet Gutierrez was a major leaguer last year.

    Joan Adon, Jake Irvin were two pitchers from which lots was expected. They were OK, even good at times, but did not even get promoted. Eric Senior was impressive in spring and Gary Thurman tipped me off to him; his Auburn stats were meh. But yes, he was batting third at Auburn, so months later they were seeing him as having something to unlock. And I would add, he is a nice, Michael Taylor humble-sweet kind of personality and athletic look one roots for and big BP power. Jacob Rhinesmith is another one whose rise was anticipated; he did fine, yes. But I don’t see him ranked. Cody Wilson was impressive, but that did not translate in his first year. But he certainly has a speed tool and has an it-quality of a ballplayer.

    So I’ve learned a lot more from having been down there about what to ask and what to see and how to take it in.

    FYI we’re not going down until late in spring training, so what I’ll bring back will be pretty late-term intel that scoops the minor league roster announcements a bit. That should be fun. Why rely on reporters, 90% of whom wants clicks and don’t care to inform readers and are lazy, when you can just learn yourself?

    forensicane

    21 Feb 20 at 4:06 am

  38. We can all just as soon read tea leaves. Johnathan German as an NRI (instead of others) is conspicuous. That may be a year or two ahead, but that can’t go unnoticed.

    forensicane

    21 Feb 20 at 4:08 am

  39. In the spirit of Peter King, here’s a factoid that may interest only me: there have only been two guys make the majors named Kelvin, and they were traded for each other. (FWIW, Herrera had been lights out before he was traded, and that looked like a really good deal at the time.)

    For as long as we live, folks are going to be relitigating the myriad of Rizzo trades over the years to bolster the bullpen. Almost never discussed is the root problem: the Nats’ persistent inability to develop relievers, despite drafting pitchers by the truckload. Part of the problem is that the Nats stubbornly insist on keeping guys as starters long, LONG after it appears that they would benefit from a change. I fear they’re doing that now with Fedde, as they did with Cole and others. Near the MLB level now, Braymer and Raquet look like good candidates to switch to relief, particularly concerning the desperate need for LH relief arms.

    The Nats also have this curious thing where they push guys who have been successful in relief into starting. Fuentes and Andrew Lee are recent examples. Yes, at least theoretically, starters are of more value than relievers . . . and yet we keep giving up prospect capital by the truckload to bring in relievers. Schaller and Peterson as guys in the lower minors who were relievers in college who are now starting. Since he was drafted, many have projected that Romero would end up in relief, but I’d bet a nickel that he’s still a starter when he reemerges, even though he’ll be on a big innings limit for a couple of years.

    KW

    21 Feb 20 at 8:38 am

  40. Eric Senior was a serious stud in junior college. This will still only be his age-22 season, although it’s sort of now or never for him to start looking like a solid pro ballplayer and move up a couple of levels.

    There was a lot of buzz about Adon last spring. Both he and Irvin were very up and down at Hagerstown. Adon is 21, while Irvin just turned 23. I think the FG guys were suggesting that he might be better served to be a reliever.

    The under-the-radar guy I keep touting is Alex Troop, who missed most of 2018 because of injury but was very strong in a SSS across two levels in 2019. He’ll turn 24 in July, so this is make-or-break time for him. It would be good to see him make the A+/AA two-step.

    KW

    21 Feb 20 at 8:52 am

  41. Troop is also a nice guy. And a two way player that has newfound value. But coming off an injury, especially as the Nats manage arm rehab and on an innings limit, he is as far as can be anticipated (keep that in mind for discussions about Seth Romero and managing expectations).

    As for what to expect, if you are a lefty, there will always be a place for you. Incidental to the discussion about whether Yadiel Hernandez is a “prospect” at age 32, and I believe he is the Nationals #3 prospect, one can play age-im all one wants, but a guy like Ryne Harper forces his way into the discussion with his minor league success, just as did Tanner Roark, at any age. Troop and Romero and other lefties will always have that door open for the promise of their southpaw pedigree.

    Another word about Romero. Count me in as the first person who says the critiques of his maturity are overrated. I may be completely drug-abstinent, but pot smoking as he did a few years ago and pot smoking now are dealt with in massively different ways.

    To that end, there is plenty of scuttlebut about how certain teams underperformed last year because they had too many pot smokers. What that speaks more to is that the players union keeps the Commisioners office at pay, just as they have on the Astros scandal, and the consequence is in the integrity of the game, as well as the product on the field. I hope the Nats drug test and enforce; if I were handing out massive contracts, you had better believe I wouldn’t tolerate pot smoking or alcohol excess.

    forensicane

    21 Feb 20 at 10:46 am

  42. As for Senior, I think it’s pretty realistic to expect him to be in full season A- to start, and go from there. But let’s see how he is progressing.

    forensicane

    21 Feb 20 at 10:49 am

  43. Romero’s problems went well beyond being one or two tokes over the line. He had perpetual conditioning issues in college and was ultimately kicked off the team for fighting with teammates, not pot. Since getting millions for the Nats, he’s had conditioning issues and was sent home for what were loosely described as immaturity issues. He didn’t come back from his TJ in the latter part of last season in what would have been a normally expected time frame, leading to wondering if he had been dedicated to his rehab program. In short, the dude has been one disappointment after another. But he’s alleged to have talent, so he keeps getting more chances.

    It would be in the Nats’ best interest to have Romero succeed, but I find it difficult to root for that kind of guy.

    KW

    21 Feb 20 at 2:02 pm

  44. Laziness is just laziness until it gets drug tested. So is irrational aggression.

    That said, you make an indisputable point. That noted, Souza was once quite the butthole,too, and salvaged a career in time.

    forensicane

    21 Feb 20 at 3:05 pm

  45. Souza, to his credit, has always said he appreciated how the Nats handled him and that everything WAS his fault.
    I’m rooting for him with the Cibs this year.

    Mark L

    21 Feb 20 at 5:08 pm

  46. I do hope Romero turns things around and makes something of his career. It’s just been frustrating to watch all of this play out, like a slow-motion car wreck. It seemed pretty clear from the cheap seats that he looked like an uber-risky guy to pick even before they drafted him. (He had past elbow issues in addition to the “character” ones.) Meanwhile, Nate Pearson, taken three picks after Romero, is one of the fastest rising prospects out there.

    And then, even while already dealing with Romero’s issues, they doubled down by making the risky Denaburg pick. Again, the guy taken with the very next pick, Seth Beer, has been a fast riser, at least until he hit a wall after being traded for Greinke.

    Let’s hope we finally picked a winner in Rutledge!

    KW

    21 Feb 20 at 10:03 pm

  47. Fore commented about German a couple of days ago, and I had registered a little surprise that he got an NRI over AFL guys Condra-Bogan and Andrew Lee. This take is from Jesse Dougherty last evening:

    There has been some light buzz within the organization surrounding 25-year-old reliever Jhonatan German. A few members of the front office have suggested keeping an eye on him. A few players have mentioned the movement and deceptiveness of his stuff. German, a native of the Dominican Republic, is a nonroster invitee after excelling with Class AA Harrisburg last summer. He had a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings, walked just one batter and did not allow a home run while pitching for the Senators.

    German’s fastball sits between 94 and 96 mph, but the extension of his release makes it appear faster. Catcher Tres Barrera pointed to him Thursday and said, “Those are the longest arms I have ever seen!” They even seem disproportionate to his 6-foot-4 frame. But they make it so his heat seems a few ticks faster, and hitters notice. One player who faced German in live batting practice walked away with a wide-eyed assessment: “It shouldn’t be too long before he is in the show.”

    KW

    22 Feb 20 at 7:17 am

  48. I’m guessing Condra-Bogan will be called over from minor league camp for a game or four. But Germán is the higher-ranked prospect, and as good a year as JCB had in 2019, Germán was better. Looking forward to seeing what he can do.

    SaoMagnifico

    22 Feb 20 at 12:00 pm

  49. I mentioned this over at NP, German was signed in the DR at 20, incredibly old signing, and this is his 6th year in the org.

    Mark L

    22 Feb 20 at 12:34 pm

  50. The Nats have had incredibly good success with “older” Latin signees. Now, it should be pointed out that 17 qualifies as “older.” Off the top of my head, the list includes Reynaldo Lopez, Difo, Severino, and Suero, and I’m sure I’m forgetting others. The Nats’ Latin scouts have done significantly better at identifying MLB reserve-caliber player among the second tier in their area than the college scouts have done domestically.

    KW

    22 Feb 20 at 9:20 pm

  51. The first games of spring are in the books! Nice day for NRIs Brandon Snyder and Jacob Wilson, and for Austin Voth fighting for a spot in the rotation and James Bourque jockeying for a bullpen role (now or down the line). Rough day for Derek Self, who got utterly shellacked, and Carter Kieboom, who had some fieldng misadventures while going 0-for-3 with a walk.

    SaoMagnifico

    23 Feb 20 at 4:38 pm

  52. Best news of the day is Jakson Reetz getting into game action, let alone hitting and scoring the winning run. He was not expected to be back in action this quickly. Huzzahs to him for recovering at the speed of a football player.

    James Bourque ended well last year, and now he is carrying it over. He gets the second star, and Jacob Wilson outshines Kieboom on the day Brian Dozier’s signing with SD Padres is announced.

    forensicane

    23 Feb 20 at 5:34 pm

  53. I think Wilson has a better chance than the C.W. might suggest. He can play basically anywhere, he destroyed the PCL last year, and if he’s added to the roster, he becomes optionable depth (someone like Snyder or Bonifacio would have to be DFA’d to be sent down, e.g. to make room for Carter Kieboom).

    SaoMagnifico

    24 Feb 20 at 12:32 am

  54. Very good to see Voth have a strong first outing of the spring. Fedde struggled, against the Marlins no less. I think Ross has been rescheduled to today.

    One unasked question about 5th starter is whether those three are the only real competitors. Could McGowin, Crowe, or even Braymer get into the conversation with a dominant spring? I’m not saying it’s likely, but it could be in the realm of possibility.

    Sao, I would take Wilson as a bench utility guy over Difo or Sanchez in a heartbeat. He has, um, at least stood at SS during 18 pro games, . . . which is 7 more than Kieboom has stood at 3B! As I’ve noted, though, I’m not sure there will be space for a bench utility guy if they keep two true OFs. This is all the more true if/when Kieboom is on the MLB roster. Regardless, yes, Wilson and Noll likely will be the only utility types with options left, and Wilson significantly outhit Noll last year.

    KW

    24 Feb 20 at 8:29 am

  55. What to do with Noll. Jacob Wilson was so much better in Fresno and there are only so many spots on the 40 man.

    Mark L

    24 Feb 20 at 10:51 am

  56. One or both of Difo and Sanchez will be cut this spring, and I think there’s a not-tiny chance Elias will be cut as well. Noll could be cut further on down the line, but he’s in no imminent danger.

    SaoMagnifico

    24 Feb 20 at 11:07 am

  57. Let’s see whether Wilson’s power is real (launch angle) or PCL.

    Otherwise, I don’t know for him as a defensive player. Difo plays a pretty competent SS and can steal bases.

    forensicane

    24 Feb 20 at 3:39 pm

  58. One guy to keep an eye on in this particular discussion is Jecksson Flores. He is a Venezuelan, just added as an NRI, who was in the Royals system and the Nats signed him as a MLFA. Flores was looking like an OG for the Royals but in 2018 busted out, in his first year at AA, and won a batting title while showing — yes, positional versatility and speed and occasional thump.

    He had a very ordinary first year in AAA, but he’s quite a find on the MLFA list. The Nationals gave him the winter off after two straight years of winter ball and summer ball. At 26, he may have something more to offer. Certainly he adds depth in the upper minors that’s better than what is typically available. And best of all, he reportedly plays with infectious energy. It feels like the Nationals are recruiting for clubhouse up and down the organization (see Bonifacio, whom I think was brought in to play at AAA and play a Parra role for the up and coming players).

    forensicane

    24 Feb 20 at 5:00 pm

  59. fore, thanks on Flores. I was listening to the game yesterday and drew a complete blank when I heard his name.

    As for Difo, his defense was awful last year with the Nats. A definite regression.

    Mark L

    24 Feb 20 at 5:43 pm

  60. Difo is horrible. I don’t discount his chances of making the team, but he’s been given every chance in this organization, and he’s just not very good at baseball. Seems like a nice guy, but no part of his game is good.

    SaoMagnifico

    25 Feb 20 at 12:07 am

  61. I’m not looking to advocate the merits of Difo. I just don’t see Wilson as a comparable, especially as he has no MLB experience to reference. It’s like trying to project Jake Noll. Certainly his selling point is his offense.

    With someone like Cabrera around, Difo is quite dispensable. Hopefully he has prospect trade value when that time comes, and injuries happen, so it will. He has had his chances, and for the past two years, has disappointed. And like Michael Taylor, he performed well one year (2017) when the team really needed him to. That has earned him a longer look. Hopefully the way he ended last year, as an everyday SS and leadoff hitter who hit very well after the all-star break at AAA, can restore interest, given that he is out of options.

    A player who is out of options and has some value should be traded (unlike Severino, who was given away). A player who is out of options who has a potentially higher ceiling should be kept. Difo is the former, not the latter. Whether Taylor is the former of the latter continues to be our ongoing debate.

    But I see Cabrera as more the replacement for Difo than anyone.

    forensicane

    25 Feb 20 at 5:44 am

  62. Folks need to keep in mind that, barring injury (Zim), the Nat bench is already pretty full. Assuming Gomes and Thames as the more regular starters at C and 1B, that leaves a bench of Suzuki, Zimmerman, Kendrick, Taylor, and Stevenson. And that’s with Cabrera starting at 3B. If the Nats were to break camp with Kieboom at 3B (which I think is unlikely, despite all the buildup the team is giving him), that likely pushes Stevo to Fresno to make room for AssCab on the bench. (Thames has played some RF and Kendrick some LF.)

    The biggest deal about Wilson and Flores is that they have minor-league options. So does Noll, but I think Wilson is a better hitter. Difo and Sanchez almost certainly will have to be DFA’d at the end of the spring since they have no options left. I didn’t really understand why the Nats tendered Difo, particularly after a woeful wRC+ of 60. Anyway, I’m pretty sure Sanchez will pass through waivers and re-sign with the Nats. Difo could as well, although he’s the type a second-tier team might pick up.

    KW

    25 Feb 20 at 10:37 am

  63. Rizzo is pretty good at tender-trade thinking. I think there are a few who are playing as showcases.

    One area I am watching closely is catching behind Suzuki and Gomes. Gomes is in on a two year deal, and that’s safe, and can start or share. But top of the minors depth is Read, Gushue, Barrera, and now Reetz, who scored from second on the GW hit Sunday and did not look to be the least bit limping.

    Barrera and Read threw out runners attempting to steal. Gushue was 1-3 caught stealing. Barrera caught the showcase game and may well have the tag of fair haired favorite. When I am in WPB, I will definitely chat up the pitchers for their impressions on the catching talent in the upper minors. There are enough teams that really need catching that if multiple people show well, the Nationals will have marketable assets. Realmuto isn’t going to leave Philadelphia, and I don’t think Suzuki will be catching in DC in 2021, so looking ahead at that position is more important than the lack of chatter on that front.

    forensicane

    25 Feb 20 at 11:33 am

  64. The Phils took Realmuto to arbitration and beat him on it, so there’s probably not a lot of love/attachment there. Depending on being able to sign a certain catcher from another team is never really a “plan,” though.

    I’m not particularly high on any of the in-house guys you mention being able to make the step from AAAA quality to dependable MLB reserve. Reetz finally hit somewhat better last season in his second tour at Potomac. Read hit well in Fresno (like everyone else) but has always looked overmatched in his few MLB at-bats. We’ll see.

    I would proceed here to chide the Nats for their terrible track record in developing catchers, but they have a whole lot of company in that misery across the league.

    KW

    25 Feb 20 at 12:40 pm

  65. Reetz and Wilson looked good again today. Wilson hit one a ton that I think the wind pushed foul down the left field line. Reetz has some wheels for a catcher.

    Hunter Strickland had a really bad outing. He couldn’t locate his pitches, and Paul deJong crushed a three-run homer off him that was a no-doubter. I think the Nats have a little more than two weeks to decide whether to keep him on the roster or cut him loose at one-sixth of his 2020 salary. Meanwhile, we’ve seen some good relief work so far from others like Ryne Harper and James Bourque (who seemed to be on a mission to work on his curveball today).

    SaoMagnifico

    25 Feb 20 at 5:10 pm

  66. That’s a worrisome outing by Strickland. A bounceback from him would go a long way toward solidifying the depth of the ‘pen. He’s a guy who has done some part-time closing at the big-league level and been a solid set-up man. But if he doesn’t have it, and can’t soon find it, I hope the Nats learned their lesson last year and will cut him loose early and cut their losses. Guys like Finnegan and Ryne Harper give them some other legit alternatives.

    Meanwhile, that Soto kid is off to a good start on his stated goal of just making the team. He’s still younger than most of the NRIs (except Garcia).

    Wilson is a former Card farmhand, so I’m sure he took some glee in punishing the team that released him.

    KW

    26 Feb 20 at 6:29 am

  67. The Cardinals actually never released Wilson — he was a minor league Rule 5 draft pick by the Nats a few years ago.

    SaoMagnifico

    26 Feb 20 at 8:12 pm

  68. Sao — I thought I remembered he had been a Rule 5 minor-league pick, and tried to check that on the transactions section of MiLB. It had Wilson listed as waived by the Cards. Weird. Anyway, we’re glad to have him. I will remind folks that he turns 30 in July, so he’s not exactly Luis Garcia.

    KW

    27 Feb 20 at 4:58 am

  69. Best news out of camp thus far has been the strong outings by Voth and Ross. Much has been made of the competition for the 5th starter slot, and it will be fun to watch, but the success of both of those guys will be important. I would bet that both will make double-digit starts for the Nats this season.

    It will be an interesting competition. I think Ross has the higher-ceiling talent, but in recent times, Voth has been able to have more consistent success.

    When people talk about the best rotations in baseball, they usually talk about three guys at the top of a rotation. Many, many of those teams really suck at starters #4 and 5, though. How is a rotation “great” if your team may end up bullpenning a third of its games? Anyway, all the more reason to celebrate how strong the Nats should be at #5 and #6.

    KW

    27 Feb 20 at 5:05 am

  70. Did anyone watch the game to see whether the wild pitches were on the pitchers or on Read?

    forensicane

    27 Feb 20 at 7:50 am

  71. No, I didn’t see the game, but that question reminds me of Luke’s oft-repeated comment that Read has a talent for retrieving balls at the backstop.

    Kieboom’s second error in three games has me thinking that his germination time at AAA might end up lasting until mid-season. Sure hope Cabrera doesn’t suddenly lose his late-season magic and revert to his Ranger stats.

    KW

    27 Feb 20 at 8:16 am

  72. Yes, KW, that’s exactly what inspires it. There’s little else to evaluate a catcher on. Suzuki can’t throw anyone out, but the pitchers love throwing to him. I’ll get the intel on the young catchers and how they relate when I go down there, but the caught stealing stats and the pitch blocking number are there and important when you have sinkerball pitchers (eg Ross) or Corbins who bury the slider.

    It’s notable, though, that Read got the start with Ross, and Ross had the two scoreless innings again. And, he homered off Tanaka, against whom none of the other Nats did much with.

    Also, worth noting that with the Yankees losing Severino, and in the market for starting pitching, the Nats affordable option (Ross) just auditioned quite well. Certainly the Yankees are known to trade prospects (and overpay as needed-panicked) for what they want and always have great depth. Just sayin.

    forensicane

    27 Feb 20 at 11:32 am

  73. You have to think Read would be major league ready DH somewhere in the AL.

    Mark L

    27 Feb 20 at 2:25 pm

  74. I’ll never understand, given how granular stats are, why they don’t have stats for catchers like ERA and even %hard contact. Seems to me that “handling pitchers” would feed into that.

    forensicane

    27 Feb 20 at 7:41 pm

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