Nationals Arm Race

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

2020 Nats Minor Leaguer purge announced


Thanks to Luke Erickson, who culled through Brittany Ghirolis Athletic article and Baseball America minor league transaction details to list out the 39 players who got cut from the various Nats minor league affiliates on 5/31/20.

Luke’s post at Nats Prospects here: , The Athletic’s link here: and BA’s here:

With this posting, we have completely updated both the major links for all these releases:

  • Big Board:
  • Draft Tracker:

As always, if you notice an error/omission on these two resources let me know.

I wanted to go through some notable releases, perhaps identify some surprises and speculate on the obvious ramifications going forward.

Notable/Surprise releases for me:

  • Luis Sardinas: mlb-experienced middle infielder who was relatively successful last year between AA and AAA; marginally surprised they cut him.  But, they did NOT cut Emilio Bonifacio so perhaps that’s the decision/either or player.
  • Drew Ward: the highest draft pedigree of any player released, this 3rd rounder put 7 years into the org, and wasn’t too bad in AAA last year.  He’s only 25; its not like he’s in his upper 20s.  I think he gets another chance somewhere, perhaps with us, perhaps elsewhere.
  • Tyler Mapes; one of my favorite Nats draft stories of all time.  30th rounder, cruised through the minors and was the best starter on our 2016 AA team.  What a steal.  But then he got hurt, missed 2017, and couldn’t regain his old AA glory.  Now he’s too old to keep around.  He’s a perfect example of a guy who perhaps gets one more shot with someone’s AAA team in 2020, but the loss of the season cuts his career short.
  • Bobby Milaki: drafted as a favor to a staff member, he was effective in the lower levels.  Why cut him now?  Why not see what he can do in low-A as a 25yr old?  Don’t get this release.
  • Jorge Pantoja: I never understood the team’s usage of Pantoja.  Four years straight he was in High-A; in 2019 he was actually good.  So why cut him now?  Why not after 2016 season when he posted a 6 ERA in Potomac?
  • Hayden Howard; two straight solid seasons in high-A; why cut him now?  Why not see what he can do in AA?  Oh yeah that’s right; there won’t be a AA this year.  He’s a great example of a player who was released for no other good reason.
  • Ryan Williamson: man the team was patient with this guy; drafted in 2016, did not appear professionally for another two seasons.  Put up acceptable numbers in low-A in 2019, but was way too old for hte level and I guess his time was up.
  • Derek Self: cut loose after 8 full seasons in our system.  Drafted in 2012, re-signed as  MLFA, a long serving org arm.

Stating the obvious.

Clearly the team is anticipating the loss of two full teams going forward.  Covid19 couldn’t have come at a better time in this respect for MLB’s wishes to gut the minor leagues.  We cut 40 players, add just 5 in the draft and voila; you have most of the legwork done to cut lower minor league levels.  Next spring training you have tryouts for the lowest full season team and we’ll see another huge round of cuts.

And then there’s this: the cost of keeping a player is $400/week for the rest of the season versus cutting them right now, so we’re not talking about a ton of money to keep them under contract.


Last thing: fun facts.  After cleaning up/updating the draft tracker for all these releases, here’s some useless information.

  • Ryan Zimmerman remains the longest serving player by tenure from draft day obviously, being the first player drafted by the team in 2005.
  • Next up?  Michael Taylor and Stephen Strasburg, 2009 drafteees.  Aaron Barrett did not get cut with this purge; he’s a 2010 drafteee.
  • Oldest serving non-40 man player?  Jakson Reetz, 2014 3rd rounder.  There’s now basically nobody left from the 2013, 2012, 2011 drafts on the team.

27 Responses to '2020 Nats Minor Leaguer purge announced'

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  1. As a junior in the ACC, Ryan Williamson had a 7-2 record, 2.69 ERA, and 9.9 K/9 as a lefty starter. In other words, he was better results-wise than anyone the Nats are said to be considering at #22 this year. He ended his junior year with a TJ, though, and there must have either been complications or it was his second one, as it took him a long time to get back on the mound.

    Hayden Howard had a good season at Potomac in 2018 and looked ready for promotion, but they sent him back to Potomac and he almost statistically repeated what he had done in 2018. Never understood that handling of him.

    Drew Ward had re-signed with the Nats in the offseason after reaching minor-league free agency, and he would have become a free agent again. His K% had always been marginally high but went through the ceiling the last two seasons. Ward is one who has never been particularly bad, but he was never particularly good, either. The Nats spent a LONG time trying to insist that he could play 3B despite a lot of evidence to the contrary. But the bottom line on him was that he never came close to generating the power needed from a corner position. He never cracked 20 HRs for a season, or .500 SLG. I guess now we wait to see if the New Drew, Mendoza, can do any better.

    Tyler Mapes was a fantastic story, and yes, felled by injury just as he looked to be on the cusp of something.

    Derek Self was never a starter (3 pro starts in 318 games) but never really a closer after his first half-season of pro ball, either, although he did end up with 8 saves at Fresno last year. Much like Drew Ward, he was never particularly bad, but never particularly special, either.


    2 Jun 20 at 1:06 pm

  2. Ultimately, all of these minor leaguers were long shots at best to ever see time with the Nationals’ major league squad, and therefore deemed expendable. Cutting 40 players is a full minor league team plus some extra (saving money on pending free agents, clearing space for draftees and free agent signings).

    It just sucks for these guys who have given years of their life to the game, cut loose not because they can’t play at a minor league level anymore but because the minor league level is changing.


    2 Jun 20 at 2:27 pm

  3. […] Todd Boss and Byron Kerr have broken down the roster cuts further. Meanwhile, MLB remains at an impasse for […]

  4. So, uh…hrmm.

    There seems to be some consolidation around who the Nats will draft…only it’s around two different names.

    Today Baseball America is hopping on the Justin Foscue bandwagon, and it seems like there is enough smoke there at this point that there’s fire:

    Keith Law at The Athletic says he keeps hearing Cole Wilcox’s name in connection with the Nats, in line with what many other mock drafts have projected:

    Interestingly, BA thinks Wilcox actually slides to #31, as they hear teams are generally prioritizing bats in the first round. So they have him on the board but the Nats passing him up. They mention JT Ginn as another possibility at #22, but not Wilcox.


    3 Jun 20 at 11:40 am

  5. Here’s last 2 weeks of mocks:

    Baseball America (Carlos Collazo) 5/27/20 Mock Draft v5.0: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Veen, Gonzales. Nats taking Jared Kelley, a prep RHP from Texas HS.
    ESPN (Kiley McDaniel) 5/26/20 Mock 2.0: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Veen, Max Meyer. Nats still on Wilcox.
    Fangraphs (Eric Longenhagen) 5/27/20 Mock 1.0: Torkelson, Lacy, Martin, Gonzales, Meyer. Nats on Wilcox. (Jim Callis): 5/27/20 Mock draft: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Gonzales, Veen. Nats taking Clayton Beeter, RHP, Texas Tech
    Athletic (Keith Law) 5/28/20 Mock 2.0: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Veen, Hancock. Nats on Wilcox
    Athletic (Keith Law) 6/3/20 Mock 3.0: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Veen, Hancock. Nats on Wilcox again (Garrett Crochet if Wilcox goes early)
    Baseball America (Carlos Collazo) 6/3/20 Mock Draft v6.0 ; Torkelson, Veen, Lacy, Martin, Hancock. Nats on Justin Foscue, 2B Mississippi State

    man i have a real hard time beliving this team takes Foscue over the slew of other arms who would be available in BA’s latest mock.

    Todd Boss

    3 Jun 20 at 12:10 pm

  6. Here’s BA’s scouting report on foscue:

    You have to be a standout hitter to be a day one prospect as a second baseman, and Foscue fits the bill. After a mediocre freshman season with Mississippi State (.241/.332/.353), Foscue took off in 2019 when he hit 14 home runs and posted a .338/.402/.582 slash line while finishing fifth in the SEC in hits and third in total bases. Scouts believe Foscue will be an above-average hitter, though he does it with a fairly significant leg kick in his load and an approach that gets pull-heavy. Evaluators thought Foscue quieted the lower half a bit in his 14 games this spring. His strikeout and walk rates were significantly better than he’s shown before, but it was a very small sample. He has plus raw power in the tank, though scouts wonder how much of that he’ll tap into during games with a wooden bat. He played 12 games last summer with Team USA and hit just .255/.288/.362 with wood. Foscue will need to improve his defense to stick at second base, and there’s some concern that he’ll wind up in an outfield corner, which would hurt his overall profile. Coaches praise Foscue’s work ethic and baseball IQ though, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he took the steps necessary to stick in the dirt. If Foscue were lefthanded or a bit bigger (he is listed at 6-foot, 203 pounds) it would be easier to see him in the back of the first round. A team that thinks he’s a plus hitter could still take him there, but it is more likely he goes in the second.

    Among the other red flags: under sized, needs to improve his defense to play second?? sucked with wood last summer. how is this a mid first rounder??

    Todd Boss

    3 Jun 20 at 12:11 pm

  7. @Todd Boss – There’s also the (Tim Kelly) mock draft from Monday, also with the Nats taking Foscue:–1-ckavqdd3u000gp5qnwsjd44ui


    3 Jun 20 at 12:12 pm

  8. Foscue isn’t exciting at all, really. Consensus seems to be he will hit (although those Team USA numbers are, indeed, really bad) and the assessment on is that his defense is fine if unexceptional (which is a profile the Nats were happy to accept four years ago when they drafted Carter Kieboom). But the knock on these “high floor” guys is that conversely, they don’t have very high ceilings. I think the Nats would be getting a pretty safe bet to make the majors in some capacity with Foscue, which is OK value at #22, but it looks more like the best they could get from him is a durable everyday player, not a guy who is going to win hardware.


    3 Jun 20 at 12:23 pm

  9. Sao, I had a very similar take on Foscue as I read some of the reports and looked at his stats — that his bat and plate discipline make him one of the safest bets in this tier of hitters to make the majors. The level of excitement you have about him depends directly on how much you believe in his power. He does have a power track record from 2019, though, in both homers and doubles (“gap power”).


    3 Jun 20 at 12:51 pm

  10. Who ya got? These are stats from sophomore seasons in the SEC on top-caliber teams.

    A: .331/.395/.564, 14 HRs, 22 2B, 30 BB, 32 K, 309 PA

    B: .316/.397/.455, 6 HRs, 16 2B, 27 BB, 21 K, 283 PA

    A is Foscue; B just finished second in the AL MVP voting and may still be carrying his bat. I don’t think they were banging trash cans for him at LSU, though.


    3 Jun 20 at 1:07 pm

  11. Let’s frame it another way: if we assume that Kieboom is “graduating” (and that Yadiel Hernandez is not really a “prospect”), who in the Nat system is as good or a better hitter than Foscue? Right now, the only potential answer would be Drew Mendoza. I don’t buy the magical thinking associated with Luis Garcia. But it takes even more magical thinking right now with de la Rosa, Antuna, or Quintana. Maybe there’s a little hope for Jackson Cluff, but age was already against him because of his mission years, and a lost season really hurts.

    Have I mentioned that the Nats need hitters? I’d prefer Wells and at least the potential that he could stick at catcher, but I’d be fine with Foscue.

    Look, the Nats already have a Wilcox; in fact, they have two: Rutledge and Denaburg. They have three if you count Schaller, who I keep saying profiles a lot like Wilcox. They also have probably a better (on the field) pitching prospect in Romero. They’ve also got Crowe, Fuentes, Dyson, Lara, Adon, Cate, Yean — a whole slew of pitching prospects who are probably about as good as Wilcox (or better).

    If they feel like they’ve got to take a pitcher, please let it be Ginn. His results are just better than all the others mentioned in that range of picks.


    3 Jun 20 at 1:30 pm

  12. @KW – Interesting comp re: Foscue. Stats aren’t everything, obviously, and I have some concern about the wood bat numbers, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone out there saying Foscue won’t hit pro pitching.

    Garcia turned it on a little in the AFL and then looked really good in spring training. There are always guys who defy gravity in the spring, but Garcia looked REALLY good in spring training. Still, give him the benefit of the doubt and that only means he is one guy.

    Wilcox isn’t as good as Rutledge, or at least I don’t think anyone thinks he is as good as Rutledge. For that matter, the Nats had their pick between Wilcox and Denaburg two years ago, and they picked Denaburg, and Wilcox hasn’t really done anything in college to raise his stock since then. I know the C.W. is you can never have enough pitching, but it sure seems like all it takes to impress some scouts these days is 97-98 mph, and pro hitters can barrel up 97-98 mph if they know it’s coming.

    I just don’t think Ginn is gonna sign for #22 money. I could be totally wrong, but he’s already turned down first-round money once, and he’s got a good shot to boost his stock by getting back on the mound in 2021.


    3 Jun 20 at 1:41 pm

  13. In one of the draft write-ups I’ve seen, one of the writers actually comp’ed Casey Martin with Bregman. Martin strikes out way too much to be in that conversation, though. When I saw Foscue’s stats and good K/BB ratio, I got curious to see how they compared with Bregman’s and frankly was surprised at how close they were. And yes, of course there are others factors, and if teams really thought Foscue was the next Bregman, he’d be in the 1/1 conversation (or technically 1/2 conversation; that Dansby Swanson pick doesn’t look so great now!). (Of course Swanson was also sort of a one-year wonder with his college power, hitting 15 HRs as a junior after only 3 as a soph.)

    I’m still very meh on Garcia. He started very hot in the AFL, and his first five or six games propped up his slumping for much of the rest of the way. It seemed like that league figured him out pretty quickly. He did make good contact in spring 2020, but still with almost no power (only one of his 10 hits went for extra bases). Plus the one spring game I actually saw him on TV, he had one go right through the wicket, little league style. I sure hope he “makes it,” of course; with so few other quality position players in the pipeline, the Nat desperately need him to.

    I completely agree with the thinking the Rutledge is better than Wilcox. Denaburg and particularly Romero probably are, too, which I part of the reason I scratch my head at the thinking that the Nats need Wilcox.

    I’d make a couple of counterarguments about Ginn’s signablity: the main one is that with one TJ on the books, he’s now just one pitch away from getting nothing. Another is that he probably won’t be recovered enough to pitch much — or risk pitching much — by the 2021 NCAA season. What little he pitches then likely wouldn’t change his draft standing. His only other option would be to redshirt and pitch in college in 2022, sort of the Wil Crowe path, but that left Crowe deep in the 2d round plus sort of behind the age-clock 8-ball his whole pro career.

    So I think it makes sense for Ginn to come out now. Wilcox is the one I don’t understand coming out now. If he’s as good as some folks are trying to claim he is, he’d do a lot better to go back to Athens next spring and dominate, which would move him into the top 10 to 15.


    3 Jun 20 at 3:29 pm

  14. Foscue with wood bat: he actually had an excellent summer in the Perfect Game league in 2018, with 17 hits in 17 games plus 16 walks. In 2019, he had 12 hits in 14 games with Team USA, only 3 walks, 11 Ks. Not great, not terrible, SSS for both summers. Scouts seem to have liked the adjustments he had made at the plate early in 2020 from what they saw from him in summer 2019.


    3 Jun 20 at 3:41 pm

  15. I thought the same about Foscue (vs Bregman). Foscue’s nowhere near a 1-1 candidate though. BA has him ranked 39th. Bregman’s bat was always projected to play, and he was a SS in college who is now providing plus=plus defense.

    Foscue is already being described as defensively challenged at second?? that’s where you stick infielders who can’t field or throw and he can’t hack it there? who needs a slap hitting 6′ corner outfielder?

    Todd Boss

    3 Jun 20 at 3:46 pm

  16. Patrick Bailey, a consensus top-15 pick, hit only .231 for Team USA, with twice as many K’s as hits. So it seems that folks can make as much or as little of those stats as they want.

    FWIW, Nick Banks hit .386 his Team USA summer.


    3 Jun 20 at 3:47 pm

  17. Todd, if Bregman’s bat was “projected to play,” why isn’t Foscue’s? I don’t look at Foscue’s stats and see a “slap hitter” at all. Luis Garcia is a slap hitter; 12 HRs in 1300 pro plate appearances is a slap hitter. Even if Foscue ends up in LF, I think his bat projects better than Eaton’s. But I don’t think Garcia is going to be a regular at 2B and that Foscue could be.

    If the Nat pick really is between Foscue or Wilcox, I’d take Foscue every time. Maybe Wilcox does have a higher ceiling, but he also has a much, much lower floor.


    3 Jun 20 at 3:59 pm

  18. Todd Boss

    3 Jun 20 at 4:07 pm

  19. I dunno. Why is one guy ranked at the top of his draft while the other is called a middle 2nd rounder?

    Todd Boss

    3 Jun 20 at 4:10 pm

  20. I don’t have access to d1baseball — what’s the gist? It’s interesting that many draft lists have Westburg and Foscue listed so closely. Foscue has better college performance but presumably a lower ceiling; Westburg has less on the college performance side but possibly a higher ceiling, if he finds some HR power lying around somewhere, and if he doesn’t outgrown SS.

    For the record, I’m not totally in the tank for Foscue; if it were me, I’d pick Wells. But I’m excited that the Nats are linked to any hitter. They need hitters, plus their track record with the few picks they’ve spent on hitters in the first couple of rounds has been good.


    3 Jun 20 at 4:23 pm

  21. @KW – I agree. I’m just not feeling the love for Wilcox. If the Nats draft him, of course, I’ll hope I’m wrong and he turns into a stud. But I’m seeing a lot of the red flags I look out for in discussions of him: effort in his delivery, doesn’t fool hitters, mostly relies on his fastball. Those “little issues” that scouts will overlook as they drool over his ability to throw in the high 90s can quickly snowball into a mysterious failure for a pitcher to achieve his “true potential”. (See also: Fedde, Erick; Solis, Sammy; and Cole, A.J.)

    Foscue isn’t exciting, as I’ve said, but he’s fine. I feel kind of the same way about a few other pitchers who have been mocked to the Nats, like Clayton Beeter; his results have been roughly comparable to Wilcox’s, but I like that he has four pitches and his stuff plays up because of the deception in his delivery. There’s still risk with Beeter, who had some serious command issues in 2019, but the Nats pride themselves on being able to tame wild pitchers (Rutledge’s walk rate was the only blemish on his San Jac track record, too). Wells is my guy too because of the big bat, but I can also see him appealing more to an AL team…unless NL front offices are conceding they’ll probably be living with the designated hitter rule by the time this year’s draftees debut anyway.


    3 Jun 20 at 6:04 pm

  22. Yeah, I would find someone like Beeter or Bobby Miller more interesting than Wilcox. If you’re going to draft for big potential, go real big (a la Rutledge). I assume Wilcox is a Boras guy (don’t know), and it’s possible Boras is putting the word out linking him to the Nats because it’s an easy sell. That seems to be a Boras tactic when some of his clients are falling down the board; suddenly, we hear the Nats have interest.

    But I have a fondness for college hitters who have hit well in college, even if there are position questions attached to them, which seems to be the case with Foscue and Wells. If Foscue was a SS, he’d be in the top 15 on a lot of boards. There was actually some thought in 2017 that Hiura could fall to Nat range because of his lack of position and arm issues, and I was jumping up and down about him. My alternate that year was Brent Rooker, but folks said #25 was too high for him since he might just be LF/1B/DH and was a senior. Well, the Twins took him at #35, and he’s already hit well at AAA. The “projectable arm” we took is, um, projecting to start 2021 at A+. In 2018, I wanted Seth Beer, another LF/1B/DH, who the Trashstros ended up taking the next pick after Denaburg. He hit so well that he was one of the key pieces in acquiring Greinke just a year later (but then stopped hitting after the trade). Not sure what we could get for Denaburg, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a near-Hall of Famer.

    We’ll see. My default is to think the Nats will take a large pitcher, and to be pleasantly surprised if things turn out otherwise.


    3 Jun 20 at 7:33 pm

  23. Wilcox is indeed a Boras client. Some seem to think the Nats will for sure go with a Boras guy, but Rutledge isn’t and Kieboom isn’t, and I don’t think Andrew Stevenson is either.


    3 Jun 20 at 7:49 pm

  24. I don’t have ESPN+ but saw on the SEC Network this evening that McDaniel is now mocking Foscue to the Mets at 19 and Wilcox to the Nats at 22 (sigh). FWIW, Foscue seems to have some helium to be the first college bat of the second tier . . . which might be bad if the Nats actually are interested in him.


    3 Jun 20 at 10:16 pm

  25. McDaniel loves Wilcox to the Nats — had him there in every single mock. Seems like working backward at that point unless Mike Rizzo is practically engaged to the guy.


    3 Jun 20 at 11:07 pm

  26. A bunch more mocks came out. i may post my “mock draft collection” and we comment there until the draft, since that’s what we’re already talking about 🙂

    ESPN+ is killing me b/c no RSS feed, its how i get notified on everything else that gets posted.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jun 20 at 7:51 am

  27. new posted.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jun 20 at 8:29 am

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