Nationals Arm Race

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

MLBPipeline’s Nats top30 Prospects


Cade Cavalli named #1 prospect in the system by MLBpipeline. Photo via Lookout Landing blog

The 2021 season is almost upon us, which means that the pre-2021 “prospect season” is now winding to a close. One of the last two major prospect-analysis shops in released their rankings for the Nats, so as we’ve done in the past lets take a look and comment on their rankings versus the collective hive of other analysts.

MLBPipeline’s analysis is primarily the work of three people: Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, and Sam Dykstra (formerly Mike Rosenbaum, who is now a baseball writer free agent apparently).

We’ve now seen Nats rankings from BA, BP, MLBpipeline, Espn/McDaniel, Athletic/Law, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Prospects1500, and Fantrax. The only major shop left is Fangraphs/Longenhagen, who is nearly done releasing team-by-team rankings, and when he does we’ll publish a post for his list like this one.

Thoughts on the MLBpipeline list are below; I won’t repeat the actual list of the top 30; that’s more easily seen here, with links to video and scouting reports by clicking on the player names. There’s been a ton of movement from the last time they ranked the system at the end of December in the wake of the Josh Bell trade.

  • At the top, Cavalli over Rutledge: they’ve switched these guys at the top since December. Rutledge is given a grade-70 fastball was also recently named the Nats prospect with the best FB, but doesn’t have the secondary pitch depth that Cavalli has.
  • Same top 3 as basically everyone else: Cavalli, Rutledge, Henry.
  • Antuna up to #4; three months ago they had him at #10, and this ranking is really in line with many of the other shops. I continue to believe he could be an impactful player this year at the MLB level, despite being optioned officially over the weekend to AAA with the team’s first cuts of 2021.
  • De La Rosa jumped up to #6; they’re the most bullish of the shops on this kid. All we have to go on is crummy 2019 GCL numbers when he was 17, so this will be an illuminating year.
  • Recent IFA signing Armando Cruz debuts at #7 … wow. That’s pretty frigging high for a 16yr old, no matter what $$ he just got.
  • Like most shops, they’ve dropped Denaburg nearly out of the top 10 at this point. I’d like to point out that Denaburg will turn 22 in August, is in his fourth pro season and has a grand total of 20 1/3rd professional innings pitched. I get that he’s been unlucky with injury, but man I’d like to see something out of the guy in 2021.
  • Infante comes in at #13, in line with other shops but drastically increased by MLBpipeline since Dec, when they had him #24. What changed? Did they suddenly decide his scouting reports merited this drastic increase?
  • Romero unceremoniously dumped from #7 in December all the way to #18. #18 in a prospect list for a farm system is basically saying, “this guy is lucky to have a AAA job.” By way of comparison, Tres Barrera is #19; does anyone consider Barrera a prospect anymore? I get the ranking; his velocity and performance in the majors last year was really concerning; if he can’t cut it as an effective starter, does he even have the arm to be an effective reliever? The team seems to be turning him back into a starter; does he have the stuff to be an effective starter? What happened to the guy with two 60-grade pitches coming out of college?
  • Braymer comes in at #21. If I were to hide draft pedigree and signing bonuses, and just put Braymer and Romero’s career accomplishments side by side … how in god’s name do you rank Braymer below him? One guy has a significant minor league pedigree of accomplishment and actually succeeded in 2020’s MLB appearances, while the other guy …. didn’t.
  • Fuentes: another guy who I feel gets downgraded when evaluators look at this bonus amount versus his results. He’s a worm-burner with a heavy fastball that just gets people out, at every level. If I told you that, at the age of 21, the Nat’s had a 1st rounder reach AA and put up a 2.69 ERA and a 63/15 K/BB ratio in 63 innings (Fuentes’ 2019 age-21 season AA numbers), we’d be talking about him being the next Strasburg. But since its Fuentes … he’s barely a prospect. He’s a guy I hope proves the pundits wrong.
  • Schaller’s ranking takes a nose dive, from #16 to #27. I’m not sure why; he was decent in 2019 in Low-A, he’s got a good pedigree (a starter from Vanderbilt). He missed some 2019 time with injury, but it wasn’t arm related. Why dump him so far? I think he could make a statement in 2021.
  • Sanchez, like with BA’s ranking, is thrown in at #30 almost entirely based on the spin rate on his curve (3,000 rpms, which is MLB elite). He’ll use his age-18 season hopefully to pitch in the GCL and impress the staff.

80 Responses to 'MLBPipeline’s Nats top30 Prospects'

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  1. Here’s the big “tell” on Cavalli — when he starts facing hitter in actual games, will they keep getting hits off him? These reports have him touching 99. But the last time he faced real competition, in a mid-level conference, he was giving up 9.5 hits per nine in the spring of 2020. I know he’s been working on his spin rate and whatnot. We’ll see. I want him to be that dominant guy that they’re gushing about . . . but dominant guys don’t give up a hit an inning, at any level.

    I’ve also noted before that Henry was a much more effect pitcher in college than Cavalli was, and in a tougher conference.

    But gosh darnit, can we have at least ONE of them pan out? Please? I mean, Romero has entered the witness protection program again. Haven’t heard a peep about him this spring. He’s on the 40-man and supposedly in the big-league camp. All I’ve heard about Denaburg is that the team “is pleased with how he’s progressing.” Um, how does that translate to actually pitching?

    Agree on Braymer and Fuentes. If you take away the alleged pedigrees and just look at the stats, and level-at-age, Fuentes had one of the most impressive seasons in the organization in 2019. (Well, at least until he got busted for a stimulant.) Schaller is an interesting case in that he rose on the lists based on expectations/high ceiling, had an OK season in A-ball, hasn’t pitched since, but now he’s dropping.

    The Nats really need guys like Antuna and Mendoza to make it, as they’re SOOO short on position players in the pipeline. De la Rosa and Cruz are a long way away, no matter how good they are.


    15 Mar 21 at 2:35 pm

  2. Seth Romero…boy, I don’t know.

    I figured we’d see quite a bit of him this spring and he’d be a dark horse contender to round out the bullpen, since he can pitch to left-handers and also eat innings. Instead, he’s been invisible. Aside from Lester and Rainey, about whom we have received daily injury/recovery updates, I think he’s the only player on the 40-man roster we have not seen in a game yet.

    While I base this on nothing but his past issues and my gut feeling, I never bought the “slipped on the stairs” explanation for how he broke his hand last year, either. We know he has a temper and we know he has a reputation for being a party animal. Take your pick. Slipped on the stairs? I’m skeptical.

    Maybe that’s unfair. But why haven’t we seen him in camp? We know he was once sent home from camp for breaking curfew, and the Nats chose to hold him out of action until June that year for disciplinary reasons. How much about Seth Romero do we *not* know, if we know all of this?

    Maybe that’s unfair. But my line from the day we drafted him is that it’s on him to prove he belongs in professional baseball. He was kicked off his college team, even though he was obviously a huge asset on the field; his off-the-field issues (and issues in the clubhouse) were serious enough that the University of Houston said “thanks but no thanks”. The Nats drafted him in the first round anyway, gambling that with age, maturity, and experience, his on-field production would outweigh any off-field issues. I guess we’re still waiting for that to happen. And as long as he’s sitting out Grapefruit League games, the wait grows longer still.

    Maybe that’s unfair.


    15 Mar 21 at 6:06 pm

  3. It wasn’t just Romero’s college off-field issues, even though they were a Texas-sized red flag. He also had elbow issues. As a pro, he needed a TJ. Denaburg dropped in the draft because of reported arm issues. The Nats knew better . . . but he’s barely made it to the mound as a pro.

    Last summer, we were told that Romero’s pitching arm was fine, that he was still throwing in FLA and possibly even regaining some of his alleged velo. (Talk about adding one tall tale on top of another.) Like Sao, I thought he might be in competition this spring for the second LH relief slot, although I remember seeing at the beginning of the spring that they were still planning to keep him stretched out as a starter. Well, he’s stretched out all right, on a couch or training table somewhere. It’s certainly not on a mound.

    Sigh. I hated the pick, even when they were rumored to be thinking about making it. I’ve tried to get on board with hoping that he still turns into something. Dude turns 25 next month and hasn’t logged 50 pro innings.


    15 Mar 21 at 8:19 pm

  4. That Zimmerman kid sure looks like he’s going to make the team, though. That Scherzer kid, too. Not sure about anyone else, but those two look like locks.

    On the flipside, Voth may have driven a stake through his very slim 5th starter chances today. Now the question becomes one of whether he can even stay on the team. I’ve been a Voth champion for a long time, and he had a key role down the stretch in 2019. But the clock is ticking really fast on him now.


    15 Mar 21 at 8:25 pm

  5. Wander Suero looks like he’s going to make the team, too. Did he come out of nowhere a few years ago or what? I was probably driving the commentariat nuts with breathless daily updates on his performance at Harrisburg and Syracuse when he wasn’t even (or maybe barely was) a top-30 prospect, and here he is, maybe the most successful and well-established player from the entire farm during that time.


    15 Mar 21 at 8:56 pm

  6. I’ve been saying that Fuentes is my pick to be the next Suero. Gets no publicity, but he really knows how to pitch and keep the ball on the ground.


    15 Mar 21 at 9:07 pm

  7. Meanwhile, though, does anyone else really want to make this team? Mercer got a hit today to, um, raise his average to .190. Perez is at .211. Kieboom is at .182, Garcia .222 (but with an encouraging 6 walks). It’s time to either make Sao’s call to Gyorko or tell Castro that he’s playing 3B.

    Yadiel is having a good spring, but does he have a place? If nothing else, he seems to be stamping himself with legit call-up potential . . . unless Parra is still around, doing whatever they think he’s going to be doing.


    15 Mar 21 at 9:12 pm

  8. Yeah, running down the roster competition after first cuts…

    1. Max Scherzer
    2. Patrick Corbin
    3. Brad Hand
    4. Will Harris
    5. Daniel Hudson
    6. Joe Ross
    7. Wander Suero
    8. Jon Lester†
    9. Kyle Finnegan
    10. Stephen Strasburg‡
    11. Austin Voth
    12. Sam Clay
    13. Kyle McGowin
    14. Erick Fedde
    15. Luis Avilán
    16. Javy Guerra
    17. Tanner Rainey†
    18. Ryne Harper
    19. Dakota Bacus
    20. Ben Braymer
    21. Steven Fuentes
    22. T.J. McFarland
    23. Paolo Espino
    24. Seth Romero†
    25. Todd Peterson
    26. Rogelio Armenteros‡
    27. Aaron Barrett†

    Position players:
    1. Juan Soto
    2. Yan Gomes
    3. Trea Turner
    4. Josh Bell
    5. Kyle Schwarber
    6. Alex Avila
    7. Starlin Castro
    8. Ryan Zimmerman
    9. Josh Harrison
    10. Victor Robles
    11. Carter Kieboom
    12. Gerardo Parra
    13. Andrew Stevenson
    14. Hernán Pérez
    15. Jordy Mercer
    16. Yasmany Tomás
    17. Yadiel Hernández
    18. Luis García
    19. Blake Swihart
    20. Carlos Tocci
    21. Brandon Snyder
    22. Tres Barrera
    23. Welington Castillo†

    Basically, I think the spots worth watching on the positional side are #12-16, and the spots worth watching on the pitching side are #8-22.

    Yadiel has been a spring standout, but it’s really hard for me to see how he makes the team. The Nats love Gerardo Parra, and if the arbitrator rules 2020 counts as a full season for the purposes of minor league options (if not, Stevenson has an option remaining), then the Nats either carry Andrew Stevenson or they lose him. For optimum roster construction, they really probably ought to decide to carry one of Stevenson or Parra instead of both, plus a backup infielder so Harrison isn’t the only bench depth at three positions (yikes). And that’s before factoring in Hernández at all. Tough spot for him, especially since he definitely does have options.

    The pitching staff is really wide open now with the question marks around whether Strasburg, Lester, and/or Rainey can be ready for Opening Day (Rainey is seeming less and less likely to me) and whether Finnegan, Voth, and/or Fedde are actually likely to help the team or hurt it. Unlike the positional side, a lot of these pitchers can be optioned at will, so whatever the Opening Day roster looks like, it could look radically different a few days later. So this mostly matters for players like Voth, who either make the cut or will need to be DFA’d or traded, and Avilán and Guerra, who can probably opt out if not selected to the roster by Opening Day.


    16 Mar 21 at 2:13 am

  9. Yeah, if both Stras and Lester aren’t ready by Opening Day, then it gets really interesting, as they may have to keep Fedde and Voth for the rotation. I don’t even know who else they’ve got semi-stretched out. McGowin probably would be next as far as starter experience, but they’ve been using him as a one-inning guy in the spring. Braymer has started in the past but has had a couple of struggling appearances this spring. If there is a competition for second lefty in the ‘pen, he’s probably at the back of that pack right now.

    If they are keeping a second lefty, I would guess that it’s between Clay and Avilan right now. As for RHP from the ‘pen, if Rainey is on the shelf and Finnegan continues to struggle, then it really does get interesting. Harper, Bacus, and Fuentes have all had good springs. McGowin’s numbers are a little inflated from one marginal outing but otherwise has been good. And Davey has a man-crush on Guerra. And of course they have to decide whether they’re keeping Voth if he’s not in the rotation. (Unless things improve, I would say no, sadly.)

    Bench: yikes. I think Stevo should be on the squad regardless of whether he still has an option. He’s more versatile than Parra. It just has the feeling like Parra wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t promised a very good chance at a spot on the team, though.

    Also, should we be concerned that Harrison hasn’t played in a while? As Sao noted, he may be the top reserve at three positions. I also think he’s a better hitter right now than Castro . . . or Schwarber, who has been frighteningly bad, particularly for someone coming off a .186 season.


    16 Mar 21 at 9:07 am

  10. If Stras/Lester aren’t ready to go opening day? Troubles.

    40-man starters in rough order of depth: Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin*, Lester*, JRoss, Voth, Fedde, Armenteros, Braymer*, Romero*, Fuentes, Adon

    – Fedde has gotten hit at the regular rate: 8 hits, 4 walks in 7 innings.
    – Voth has been worse: 6ip, 12hits.
    – Armenteros? 1 inning.
    – Braymer? hard to tell usage but they may be seeing if he can pitch as a lefty reliever
    – Romero: zero appearances. WTF. Where the hell is he?
    – Fuentes: 3 very clean appearances so far. Of course he has. In 3 months time i’ll bet Fuentes has like a 1.90 ERA in AAA and is 5-0 and the team is going, “gee i wonder if he can compete for us?”
    – Adon already optioned, which tells you what you need to know.

    not much depth here.

    Todd Boss

    16 Mar 21 at 3:05 pm

  11. I think they thought they had some swing/starter depth with Armenteros, J-Rod, and Sharp, but all of those guys have been MIA, as has Romero, who they talked about keeping stretched out. They made the Crowe trade thinking all of those guys would be part of the mix. Cate also has been hurt.

    Espino is still around, and I wouldn’t rule out McGowin still getting some starts if they get desperate. I would guess they will have Fuentes and Braymer stretching out at AAA, at least until some of the other starter-depth guys actually reappear.

    FWIW, Michael Tejera is now the pitching coach at AAA, and he had a lot of success with guys like Braymer, Fuentes, and Sharp at Harrisburg. He knows them well.


    16 Mar 21 at 3:58 pm

  12. Todd, you nailed it on Fuentes. Ha!
    Remember that when the Nats drafted Romero he was a 14 year-old. Then he gets hurt last year and the story we got has a 5% chance of being true. Something happened this year and the Nats are hiding it.

    Good point, KW, about Tejera. Here’s hoping.

    Mark L

    16 Mar 21 at 4:13 pm

  13. Harrison got a little time subbing at 3B last night, where Carter the K is down to .160 with a 34% K rate. We’re two weeks from the season. Where’s the miraculous Plan B?

    On a more positive note, Robles continued his spring resurgence, so I’m now less worried that he’s going to suck again at Kieboom level. Bell and Castro also built on good springs. The bullpen had 5.1 IP of one-hit, no-walk ball, including strong outings by four guys trying to make the team (McGowin, Guerra, McFarland, and Harper).


    17 Mar 21 at 5:38 am

  14. It is worth remembering that Harrison can, indeed, play 3B. Not a ton of games there over the last few years, but he was at least 1/2 time a 3B in his younger PIT years.

    Maybe we’ve all been seeing this wrong. maybe your Opening day lineup is this: Robles, Turner, Soto, Bell, Schwarber, Castro, Harrison, Gomes, Pitcher.

    i’m ok with that. That’s a bit of an “older” lineup, but no gaping holes for Garcia or Kieboom. I don’t entirely like robles at the top.

    Todd Boss

    17 Mar 21 at 4:46 pm

  15. Yes, but Harrison is also the only real RH platoon option for Schwarber in LF. And Harrison is also the backup 2B if Garcia is in Rochester.

    I’m actually hoping for really good things from Harrison. He has a bit of that Kendrick profile, primed for a second act, supercharged by KLong. Now, I’m not saying he’s going to go full .344 Howie of 2019 (plus postseason legend), but with enough PT, he could probably equal Howie’s 17 HRs and 62 RBIs from that year.

    I’m not entirely sure what they’re hoping to accomplish with Robles at the top of the order. It seems like a Dusty thing — “he’s a fast guy, so he should lead off.” But fast guys who don’t get on base that often spend a lot of time, um, sprinting back to the bench. I understand the logic of wanting more baserunners ahead of your two best hitters. But if you move Trea down the lineup, you neutralize some of his speed advantage. You also (slightly) decrease the chances of an extra AB for Turner and Soto late in games. We’ll see. If Robles is getting on base, it will work. If he’s not, it will be a rally/inning killer ahead of your two best hitters.


    17 Mar 21 at 5:50 pm

  16. I think the Nats have to carry another utility infielder. The options they have in camp right now have not been impressive, but that may or may not matter very much if the Nats figure a seasoned veteran guy like Jordy Mercer doesn’t need to prove he can play, just that he can stay healthy and look credible at a couple positions where he doesn’t have much experience (and so far, so good).


    17 Mar 21 at 6:48 pm

  17. The Nats are rebuilding the Pirates (Bell, Harrison, Mercer) and the Pirates are rebuilding the Nats (Difo, Goodwin, Crowe).


    17 Mar 21 at 7:17 pm

  18. At least it isn’t the Diamondbacks anymore.

    Todd Boss

    18 Mar 21 at 2:41 pm

  19. Amen. But it is the Cubs! At least they’ve mostly been good.


    18 Mar 21 at 3:49 pm

  20. What are the Nats going to do with Yadiel? His OPS this spring is over,I think, 1.100. Another home run today.

    And, who starts opening day at 3rd. It can’t be Kieboom!

    Mark L

    18 Mar 21 at 3:50 pm

  21. If the Nats are able to option Stevenson and Parra (who has been missing since his brief debut on Monday) isn’t ready to go for Opening Day, Hernández could conceivably make the team, with Harrison as the emergency backup center fielder since Hernández doesn’t have the speed to play there.


    18 Mar 21 at 4:19 pm

  22. Yadiel must have heard that Rochester in April is a little colder than Cuba, so he seems to be doing everything in his power not to go there. He didn’t homer off a scrub, either, it was Familia. He is indeed giving the Nats a lot to think about. If I’m remembering correctly, Hernandez actually played some CF in Harrisburg his first season, and I think played a good bit there in Cuba. If he could only play 3B . . .

    Meanwhile, the guy who supposedly is being given the 3B job is “hitting” .143. How long is this experiment going to continue? At what point do they put Harrison at 3B and let him get really acclimated before he starts playing there regularly?


    18 Mar 21 at 7:03 pm

  23. Honestly, I think Kieboom is the guy. Rizzo has had plenty of time to make a move. Either he sees something none of the rest of us are seeing, or he’s just too stubborn to admit defeat. So I’m really just hoping for the best; maybe he turns it on when it starts to count.

    Then again, I pulled the numbers, and above the High-A level, excluding that ultra-hot stretch at Triple-A in the first half of 2019 (April 4-24 and then May 9-June 24 after his brief, ill-fated promotion to the majors), he’s a .249/.681 hitter. Include spring training and it’s .243/.680 (a statistically insignificant difference).

    You can see how much that hot hot hot stretch at Triple-A (.330/1.079 over 254 plate appearances!) inflates his overall numbers. When you don’t subtract that period, across Double-A, Triple-A, and MLB, he’s a .269/.784 hitter (.263/.771, including spring training).

    But since then, from June 25, 2019, to the present day, he’s a .253/.671 hitter (.240/.646, including 2020 and 2021 spring training to date). He has 15 XBH (3 HR) in that stretch over 435 plate appearances, including spring training games, with all of the homers coming in the Pacific Coast League. He had 32 XBH (13 HR) in that 254 PA stretch in 2019, plus two more in his 43 plate appearances at the MLB level that year.

    Anyway, apropos of nothing, I looked up Danny Espinosa’s 2016 game logs and over 150 plate appearances from May 31-July 16, he hit .297/1.038 with 19 XBH (13 HR).


    18 Mar 21 at 9:36 pm

  24. Despite COVID, Kieboom is still young enough to have age on his side. This will be his age-23 season. Clearly, he’s not a Juan/Bryce-level phenom who was ready earlier. I wish the Nats would stop treating him like one. He has been young for his age at every level, and he’s just done OK, nothing fabulous. Right now, his path is reminding me more of Brian Goodwin, who the Nats pushed ahead like he was a star-caliber talent and didn’t give him proper time to develop. I don’t know that they “ruined” Goody, though; he was probably always a bench-level talent who they misjudged because he filled out a uni so well. Are they making the same mistake with Kieboom? I don’t know. What I do know is the odds of him “finding himself” while playing every day against NL East pitching are going to be very low.

    Anyway, if they truly value Kieboom, they will give him a real chance to straighten himself out in the minors. They’re doing him no favors by trying to force him into a job he’s clearly not ready for yet.


    19 Mar 21 at 7:29 am

  25. Maybe the team will move Zimmerman back to 3B. He’s also hitting the cover off the ball and only one of Zimmerman/Bell can play.

    Todd Boss

    19 Mar 21 at 9:55 am

  26. Todd, you forgot Zimmerman has an arthritic shoulder. He can barely throw from 1st to 2nd.

    Mark Luksch

    19 Mar 21 at 10:27 am

  27. I should have emphasized the sarcasm in that answer. 🙂

    Honestly, i think Harrison might be the solution. I’ll bet Kieboom gets a month-long run batting 8th and starting at 3B and if he doesn’t cut it, its back to AAA and an uncertain future.

    Todd Boss

    19 Mar 21 at 10:40 am

  28. The Kieboom situation is a challenging one for the Nats. They really NEED for him to make it, as it is difficult to maintain a top-level team if you don’t have a certain level of cheap, controlled talent to give you the flexibility to spend in other areas. That point becomes even larger if they go for big, long-term contracts for Turner and Soto.

    The problem with giving Kieboom a month at the MLB level to keep trying to work things out is that the Nats have 10 divisional games in April, plus six with the Cards, three with the Dodgers, and two with the Jays. So 21 of their 24 games in April are with teams that were in the playoffs last year plus the rejuvenated Mets. If the Nats start slowly, they will dig a deep hole really quickly.

    I really, really hope Kieboom makes it and turns into a quality player. But it’s not negativity to say that he isn’t that right now. I see Sao getting blasted at NatsTalk for his Kieboom commentary. I think I see more longer-term potential in Kieboom than Sao does, but that potential isn’t ready yet for the MLB level. It just isn’t. And it doesn’t help the young man to expect him to figure things out at a level he isn’t ready for yet.

    It is instructive to note that Spring Training is a very SSS. Kieboom and Robles, the two we have most worried about this winter, have both appeared in 11 games. Robles has 8 hits, Kieboom has 4. Robles has actually struck out once more than Kieboom has, in three additional plate appearances. Significantly, Robles has four hits for extra bases and four walks. We perceive Robles as having a much better spring than Kieboom, but if Kieboom would get four hits over the next two games, including a couple of homers, while Robles posts a couple of O-fers, their numbers would be close. I think that’s what the Nats keep hoping, that Kieboom will have a couple of good games and find himself. They MUST see something in BP, and in Fredericksburg last summer, that hasn’t shown up in his game production yet. But man, how long do you wait to see it?


    19 Mar 21 at 11:58 am

  29. You’re right, of course, that Kieboom is still young, and he’s been young just about everywhere he’s played. I just question, when looking at the numbers, the wisdom of treating him as “inevitable”. He looks to me like a high-OBP hitter who profiles decently up the middle and can get on hot streaks. Then again, is 250+ PAs really just a *streak*, and whether it is or not, can he be said to be *streaky* when he’s been cold for half the 2019 season, then 2020 spring training, then (after a fashion) the 2020 shortened season, and now 2021 spring training?

    I talk about Kieboom quite a bit not just because he frustrates me, but because he fascinates me. No qualified hitter until Kieboom in the wacky 2020 shortened season had put up a .010 ISO in the majors. And at the same time he was hitting at Mendoza and putting up one of MLB’s most meager OPS numbers, his OBP was actually…borderline good? He was destroying Triple-A well under the average age for nearly three months, but since then, he hasn’t been effective at all.

    I don’t know what happens with his career. I really don’t have a clue. In a way, I can hardly blame Rizzo for wanting to see what happens with him, because I’m interested to know myself.


    19 Mar 21 at 12:00 pm

  30. I think others have pointed this out (or something close), but also if Kieboom start all year, Harrison can’t simultaneous start at 3rd, act as MI backup, and be a platoon partner for Schwarber.


    19 Mar 21 at 2:15 pm

  31. Speaking of Schwarber….

    Spring Training stats as of today: 5-27 with 1 double and 2 homers, 12 strike outs. .185/.313/.444.

    Maybe we’re worried about the wrong hitter right now. Yeah Kieboom’s numbers are worse than that … Kieboom has a ML option and a MLB min salary. Schwarber is guaranteed $10M.

    Todd Boss

    19 Mar 21 at 3:46 pm

  32. Oh, I have the capacity to worry about a lot of things at one time! LOL. I’ve said all along they needed a RH bat to platoon with Schwarber, and that they needed another 3B-capable option in the INF. They signed neither and are now in a pickle. This team just isn’t deep enough, particularly to be counting on miraculous turnarounds by half the lineup — Bell, Schwarber, Robles, and Kieboom. Avila wasn’t great in 2020, either, and neither was Castro in his limited time.

    As I’ve said, if all these pieces come together, and if the Big Three starters stay healthy, this team can compete for a playoff spot. But they’re really threading the needle to hope that all of those things go right. They didn’t in 2020, and it got ugly quickly.

    Harris now looking doubtful to start the season with a blood clot in his arm, so perhaps that opens another bullpen spot for McGowen/Fuentes/Bacus.


    19 Mar 21 at 4:26 pm

  33. Well, Josh Harrison sure needs to be playing somewhat regularly . . . somewhere. And Yadiel Hernandez is up to .480. Bell and Robles sure look like they’ve turned around their 2020s.

    Sorry Davey, but it sure looks like your guy Guerra is running on fumes. More strong outings from Bacus and McGowin. I know a number of us had Bacus high on the potential DFA list, but not the way he’s pitched this spring.


    19 Mar 21 at 10:21 pm

  34. Kudos to Voth for stepping up big in one of his last opportunities. Made it much easier to keep him on the team after this start.

    If there really is a competition between Perez and Mercer, Perez is at .280 and Mercer is at .143. Mercer has more of an MLB track record but hasn’t gotten it done in ample opportunity this spring.

    Harrison made yet more of a case that he’s got to play regularly. If they wish, start him at 3B against RHP and in LF against LHP. Keep Kieboom as the reserve. They likely wouldn’t do that, though; either Kieboom is starting or in Rochester. Most guys who hit .147 in the spring get to go to AAA. That’s how it works.


    20 Mar 21 at 8:42 pm

  35. And Mercer just got a hit to jump to .208 . . .


    20 Mar 21 at 8:44 pm

  36. Wow, looks like the Nats laid a Guthrie on Gio. Hope they didn’t end his career.


    20 Mar 21 at 9:58 pm

  37. Two doubles for Kieboom in his last two games, and at least one well-struck ball that was caught. Good sign, hopefully he can get it going. I’ll need to be convinced he actually can hit enough to stick at third base, but some hitting is better than no hitting at all.

    Seems like Pérez has been getting more and better opportunities than Mercer; he can play more positions; and while he hasn’t hit for any power, he has had more (and more timely) hits this spring. Seems likely that he will be the guy if the Nats manage to have more sense than to carry nine relievers (which would be ludicrous) or to carry two virtually identical (and not particularly versatile) players in Stevenson and Parra.


    21 Mar 21 at 1:54 am

  38. Getting down to final roster predictions. Best guess would be that they’ll keep Kieboom with the big club, come hell or high water. Harrison and Zim are locks for the bench in the INF. It seems likely they they will keep a utility guy between Perez and Mercer. Perez has had a better camp. Either would require a 40-man move, probably at Noll’s expense.

    Of course Yadiel Hernandez has had an off-the-charts camp and still may not make the team in the OF. Stevenson hasn’t had as good a spring, but he has more versatility and has been very effective as a PH in a SSS. Even though they REALLY needed a RH bat in reserve, Tomas did nothing to force his way into consideration. If he had had Yadiel’s spring, he might be on the team. Then there’s the matter of Parra, who just doesn’t make a lot of sense for this team, at least on the field. If they really want to keep him around, can’t he just be the BP pitcher? Anyway, since they’ve been playing him, I assume they will keep him as yet another LH OF, despite not really having a need for him, and despite Yadiel having a much better camp. (Also, Parra would require a 40-man move.)

    Avila is the backup catcher by default. Castillo never even played. Barrera, Reetz, and Read collectively managed two hits across 21 plate appearances in A-games. Oy.

    Ross and Lester collectively have appeared in two games but seem to have been given the last two starter slots. Voth and Fedde both struggled early, so they gave Ross the 5th slot almost by default. Voth has rebounded enough to warrant being kept in the bullpen. I assume that Fedde will be optioned and kept stretched out at Rochester.

    Harris is out for now from the bullpen, and who knows whether Rainey will be ready. Locks are down to Hudson, Hand, and Suero. Finnegan struggled early but seems to have rebounded enough to make it. That’s four, plus Voth would make five, Rainey potentially a sixth. They figure to keep a second LHP, between Avilian and Clay. I see more saying Avilian than Clay, but Clay is on the 40-man and Avilian isn’t, FWIW. I think McGowin has made a strong case for himself and has at least a little MLB track record. Bacus, Fuentes, and Harper also have had good springs, and all are on the 40-man.

    As for clearing 40-man space, will Romero go on the 60-day IL? I mean, he hasn’t been seen or heard about. I guess Harris could be a 60-day candidate as well, depending on the severity of his issue.


    22 Mar 21 at 8:29 am

  39. I checked on all unsigned free agents and there sits Jed Gyorko. This is someone who had a .838 OPS in 2020. Clearly the Nats heve major depth issues in the infield and Gyorko can play 3rd base. What the hell is going on with the Nats front office?

    Mark L

    22 Mar 21 at 10:43 am

  40. Gyorko. no idea. He only made $2M last year and got bought out of a $4.5M option by Milwaukee. So it isn’t like he’s commanding $10M.

    I dunno. I don’t understand why he got bought out after a somewhat decent season at the plate. He was a full time 3B as recently as 2018 but can move around too, which the nats like.

    Todd Boss

    22 Mar 21 at 12:24 pm

  41. Sao has been on the Gyorko train for several weeks. My guy until he signed was Brad Miller, who you could have as an INF LH bat to balance Kieboom, Castro, Harrison, and Zim. You could also tell Carter that he wasn’t there for “his” job.

    I don’t understand the dogged insistence that Kieboom is ready, so I can’t explain why someone like Gyorko isn’t being signed. Maybe they see Harrison as their Plan B at 3B, but they didn’t sign anyone to platoon in LF, either. I don’t get it. I’ve been saying that all spring. They needed to sign a couple of guys to make this a much stronger, deeper team, and they didn’t do it. But yet they can find money for a mascot like Parra.


    22 Mar 21 at 12:43 pm

  42. As for the original subject of this post, let’s take a look at the “prospects” getting the longest look in the big-league camp. Those would be Steven Fuentes (#22) and Todd Peterson (NR). That’s right, Peterson, the 6’5″ reliever out of LSU who the Nats had starting some at Auburn after he was drafted in 2019, is still with the big club, long after Cronin, Dyson, Adon, Antuna, and others were sent packing. Apparently, Jim Hickey likes what he sees of Fuentes and Peterson.


    23 Mar 21 at 7:48 am

  43. that’s really interesting about Peterson. I like that Fuentes is getting a longer look. Maybe finally he’ll get a shot.

    I almost wonder if Fuentes is the new Tanner Roark. Scouting report doesn’t fly off the page, but gets guys out with command and movement.

    Todd Boss

    23 Mar 21 at 10:14 am

  44. Carter Kieboom is hitting an even .500 OPS this spring.

    Just sayin’.

    Mark L

    23 Mar 21 at 10:36 am

  45. Re Kieboom, that number is actually significantly boosted by a double and a triple in his last two games. The glass-half-full approach, which is apparently the Davey/Rizzo one, is that he’s starting to figure things out. That’s very positive thinking based on a very small sample.


    23 Mar 21 at 10:49 am

  46. Re Fuentes, he’s always been good. I first noticed him when he posted a high K/9 and low FIP at age 19 in 2016 vs. mostly college draftees in the NY-Penn League (RIP). He struggled a little punching above his age level at Hagerstown the next year but then posted excellent numbers in ’18 and ’19. As we’ve noted, in ’19 they also began giving him some starts. Does he have Roark-like late-blooming starter potential? Who knows. But the AA pitching coach who got the system to give him a look as a starter was Michael Tejara, who has been promoted to AAA. And obviously Fuentes has gotten himself on Hickey’s radar.

    Sometimes it does take a new pitching coach to spot some hidden value in a system. I think Menhart had a lot to do with getting looks for Voth, McGowin, Braymer, and Austen Williams in particular.


    23 Mar 21 at 11:18 am

  47. Massive Nats’ news flash: Castro is starting at 3B today in what looks like mostly their everyday lineup. Garcia is at 2B, although his spring actually has been worse than Kieboom’s. (Not a good look by our two supposed-to-be-ready prospects, who aren’t even listed as prospects anymore.)


    23 Mar 21 at 12:06 pm

  48. Strong pitching from the Nats today, including the presumed #4 and #5 starters. Combined age of today’s starters, Lester (37) and Wainwright (39): 76! Wainright has a 1.83 for the spring. The Cardinal 3B is hitting .194, just slightly better than Kieboom’s .167. Arenado is a mere moral at sea level.

    Schwarber homered off of Wainwright (lots of NL Central experience with him), and Bell continued his blistering spring: .389 with 10 RBIs. Hope he can carry it over into the regular season. Is it too out there to think that the Nats could get 50 homers from the 1B position if Zim can stay healthy?


    23 Mar 21 at 3:53 pm

  49. Huge news just hit: MLB has taken away Fedde’s 4th option.

    Which mean’s he’s out of options, which means the team faces some pretty serious roster issues now w/r/t him and Voth.

    Todd Boss

    23 Mar 21 at 4:53 pm

  50. Bad news on Fedde.

    After today’s game Kieboom’s lofty OPS of .500 is now .488.
    On the bright side Yadiel is still crushing it at 1.220!

    Mark L

    23 Mar 21 at 5:45 pm

  51. Nats are pretty much going to have to trade one of Fedde/Voth. Only question to me is whether they do it before Opening Day.

    I’m a broken record, but I hate the idea of carrying nine relievers — it leaves the bench far too threadbare, especially since neither Zimmerman nor Bell can play another position, and there’s no game with the new extra-innings “let’s get this over with” rule in which you’re going to need to use ten pitchers. But if the Nats have to carry seven freaking starting pitchers, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for relievers you would actually want to pitch in a game you’re trying to win, without cutting into bench depth. Best I’ve got would be something like:

    1. Brad Hand
    2. Daniel Hudson
    3. Tanner Rainey
    4. Wander Suero
    5. Kyle McGowin
    6. Kyle Finnegan
    7. Austin Voth
    8. Erick Fedde

    Which, obviously, leaves you with no lefty aside from Hand, unless McGowin and/or Finnegan start the year in the minors (and I think both deserve a spot on the MLB roster, quite frankly).

    Rizzo has traded guys who win arbitration cases against the Nats before, even very late in the offseason — remember Jerry Blevins for Matt den Dekker? — so I wonder if he’s shopping Fedde. He’s really not useful to the Nats without that fourth option, unless Strasburg has a setback or someone else goes down. He’s not a world-beater, but he could probably return a B-tier prospect or two.


    23 Mar 21 at 7:38 pm

  52. I’m not a neutral observer on this issue, as I’ve always been on Team Voth over Team Fedde. If it were me, I would have traded Fedde two years ago, when he still might have had some value. He has more of a pedigree than Voth, and was less-bad in 2020, so he still might have more value now, but not much. The bigger question might be whether Fedde has pissed off Rizzo in a Blevins-type way by taking the option question to an arbiter.

    There are several ways the Nats could play this. One would be to do as Sao sketched out and keep both Voth and Fedde in the bullpen. To me, this isn’t ideal, as neither has experience pitching out of the ‘pen in late-inning, high-leverage situations. Keep one as a long-man/swing-man would be fine, and probably has been the plan all along, although frankly, McGowin might be better than either of them in that role. Next option would be to seek a straight trade, which wouldn’t net much, maybe that utility infielder or RH 5th OF that they need. Another play would be to attempt a DFA. If it goes through, then the guy can stay with the team and go to the minors; if it doesn’t, then you just make the trade with the team that puts the claim on him.


    24 Mar 21 at 7:31 am

  53. It seems like what Rizzo needs to do is find a team with the capacity to carry the optionless-Fedde. an interesting take suggested that Rizzo would read this as an insult by taking it to arbitration. I wouldn’t put it past him based on past actions with Blevin/Den Dekker; good call.

    Todd Boss

    24 Mar 21 at 12:32 pm

  54. The organization has leaned much more in Fedde’s favor over the years than it has Voth’s. If Fedde is the one who leaves, I think we very much can put it on the pissed-off Rizzo theory. There should be willing trade partners, as both of those guys would be 5th-starter upgrades for the majority of teams.

    We’ll see. One would think that even before this development, Rizzo had already gotten calls about one or both of those guys. He knows who is looking. But other teams also know that he’s now in a pickle. I really don’t think he’s going to get much in return for either guy.

    The other wild card here is Stras’s health. If he isn’t really healthy, then there may not be a trade right now.


    24 Mar 21 at 2:56 pm

  55. Now I understand that Stras is expected to go 80-90 pitches tonight, so maybe the health concerns are just my paranoia.

    Zim at .500 for the spring and Bell at .405. I’ll reiterate my prediction that the 1B combo could go for 50 homers this season.


    24 Mar 21 at 6:58 pm

  56. Oh my. Maybe we don’t need to keep any lefties in the bullpen. Strong night by the offense, frightening night by the pitching staff, with three innings still to go.


    24 Mar 21 at 8:53 pm

  57. I make an annual pilgrimage to spring training with my boy – would recommend it to anyone. So we watched three games this week (including tonight), and I watched closely. These are thoughts I had on players, in no particular order.

    Josh Harrison – It’s hard to not envision him in the starting lineup. He plays defense competently, solidly, is in the right position all the time, has good energy in the field, hits the ball solidly. I only saw him play 2B, and was impressed.

    Starlin Castro – I watched him play 3B right in front of me. He made a great play to throw out Arenado, a top flight 3B play. He can play 3B, no doubt. The question is whether the team is better off with him at 3B and Harrison at 2B or vice versa.

    Carter Kieboom – Plays 3B competently and confidently. Twice i saw him recover to throw players out on tough chances he bobbled. On the other hand, he clearly lacks confidence at the plate and has had his chances. I would be shocked if he was not starting the year in AAA. They can’t give up on him, but he just does not measure up to the options available.

    Luis Garcia – He did not impress me as anything more than a scratch hitter, and I love that he is 20 and all.But I can;t help but feel like he and Kieboom are just playing and getting playing time to enhance their confidence for when they actually will be ready/needed in the starting lineup. The team knows that they have in Harrison and Castro and I think that is where this is headed.

    Juan Soto – I did not see him hit the ball hard. I did not see him run full tilt in the field. I saw him run partial speed on a ground ball. I felt like I was watching Bryce Harper in his contract year. And then I saw him argue with an umpire, balls and strikes. Juan Soto is not doing Juan Soto things. It’s not a 400 m look.

    Andrew Stevenson – I love the guy, his arm looks stronger in CF. He hits line drives and looks confident at the plate. But the power blip that people raised an eyebrow for is not there right now.

    Ryan Zimmerman – I saw him hit two home runs tonight off right handed pitching and an almost third. The ball is blasting off his bat. I don’t understand why he gets no innings at 1B, but perhaps, as above, Martinez knows what he can do and needs to watch others or let Bell get his work in with the infielders.

    Josh Bell – A lethal bat. You can feel the threat in the lineup there. He is a brick glove at 1B, and will cost the team runs there. I’d like to see him DH and to see Zimmerman get starts at 1B. But the bat is real.

    Tres Barrera – Played quite a number of innings that I saw, and teams scored runs. So if that means he handles pitchers poorly, so be it.

    Max Scherzer – Can be dominant and then gets undone by the interspersed long ball. But I saw him throw 90 pitches and still bring it at 90 in late March. He’s ready and I am already hoping the Nationals extend him (see below).

    Kyle Schwarber – A real three outcome player. The strikeouts make you gnash your teeth, but he does work his counts, and then he blasts off a couple, and all is right with the world again. I thought he played a pretty decent LF. No great range, but frankly, he hustled more than Soto and I thought his arm was strong.

    Jon Lester – Pretty impressive 3+ innings. Only a few hard hit balls. I had peace of mind after watching him. Doesn’t throw hard, but wasn’t nibbling, changed speeds well.

    Joe Ross – The most impressive pitching I saw from the four starters I watched this week. Lots of weak contact, strikeouts, saw him get up to 96(!), had the upper hand on the Cardinals offense throughout. Pumped strikes all afternoon.

    Steven Strasburg – Statistically OK but below expectations. Was not dominant, muddled through until it caught up with him in inning 4.

    Hernan Perez – He has the look of a guy who will make this team. Fluid, confident, aware player in the field at multiple positions. Occasionally hits the ball hard.

    Yadiel Hernandez – What’s not to love? He has had big numbers, but when I saw him, put up in big spots, he did not deliver. One might think that were his bat impossible to keep off the roster, he would break camp with the team. Were I to be his agent, I would call him a cheaper and better and more controllable long term version of Kyle Schwarber (but with a lesser arm). But he smells like trade bait to me.

    Dakota Bacus – I felt like I was watching the end of Jeremy Guthrie’s career all over again.

    Kyle McGowin – I sure hope he makes the team. He can deliver a strikeout, and I watched him pull Lester out of trouble.

    Todd Peterson – Obviously he pulled the Willie Wonka coupon with Dave Martinez, who keeps using him to watch something he likes. OK, so he’l get placed well in the minors.

    Brad Hand – I know his numbers were bad, but I saw the Nationals play listless defense behind him.

    Tanner Rainey – Basically not ready and should be on a “rehab assignment.”

    Victor Robles and Trea Turner – I am not seeing pressure from the running game. That must evolve to make the Nats a World Series contender.

    The COVID restrictions were deflating, but it was a blast!


    25 Mar 21 at 1:46 am

  58. As I watched the Nationals and Cardinals, and players vying for opportunity, another thought occurred to me: So many players are prospects who don’t make it, and when they do, are no more than marginal contributors. Stars, true stars are rare.

    This is precisely why trades for transcendent players, in my estimation, are worth it. There is always the possibility of failure, yes. But there is a reason why you give up a lot for Betts, and Yelich, and Arenado, and Sale, etc. there is something about seeing a player in a lineup and expecting him to be a star fixture like Rendon — without having to pay 250 million.

    So if the needs are there, trade as need be. The Nationals know what they have and know what’s out there.

    Are Harrison-Castro enough? Is Jose Ramirez or Chapman or even Kris Bryant worth the cost? Would it be if we were all the more confident in Scherzer re-upping?


    25 Mar 21 at 3:14 am

  59. Great work, fore, a real scout’s view of the team.

    Mark L

    25 Mar 21 at 7:21 am

  60. Thanks for all of this Dr Fore; this was fantastic!

    Todd Boss

    25 Mar 21 at 8:41 am

  61. FWIW, the defensive stats say that Castro is better at 3B than at 2B, and that Harrison is better at 2B than at 3B.

    Speaking of the future of those positions, we’ve talked a lot about Kieboom this spring, mainly because the team seemed to be insisting that he was ready to be in the MLB lineup. I’ve said several times I thought it was curious that they were pushing harder for Kieboom to be “ready” than they were Garcia, who was more than 100 OPS points higher in 2020. But as Fore notes, Garcia hasn’t looked good this spring, either. The pop he showed in ’20 is missing, as a sole double is his only extra-base hit of the spring. About the only positive is that he seems to be taking more walks. But man, our top two prospects are both in a real funk. It’s weird, too, because neither of them are on “prospect” lists anymore, even though they clearly aren’t established major leaguers yet.


    25 Mar 21 at 10:56 am

  62. Bell vs. Zim: Bell is 120 OPS points higher against RHP than LHP, so he and Zim make an obvious platoon. Zim would also make a lot of sense as a late-inning defensive replacement, and of course as a real ace-in-the-hole pinch hitter.


    25 Mar 21 at 11:27 am

  63. With Castro’s hamstring strain, I’m going to say he’s questionable for Opening Day. That leaves us with power rankings like:

    1. Max Scherzer
    2. Daniel Hudson
    3. Patrick Corbin
    4. Brad Hand
    5. Joe Ross
    6. Wander Suero
    7. Jon Lester
    8. Stephen Strasburg
    9. Austin Voth
    10. Tanner Rainey
    11. Erick Fedde
    12. Kyle Finnegan
    13. Luis Avilán
    14. Kyle McGowin
    15. Javy Guerra
    16. T.J. McFarland
    17. Sam Clay
    18. Will Harris‡
    19. Paolo Espino
    20. Todd Peterson
    21. Seth Romero†
    22. Rogelio Armenteros‡
    23. Aaron Barrett†

    Unless Fedde is traded, Harris makes a miraculous recovery, or Rainey has another setback before Opening Day, this looks like it’s just a decision on which two of McGowin, Finnegan, or Avilán to carry on the Opening Day roster — or whether the Nats can’t decide and end up taking all three, leaving the bench short.

    Position players:
    1. Yan Gomes
    2. Josh Bell
    3. Trea Turner
    4. Kyle Schwarber
    5. Ryan Zimmerman
    6. Juan Soto
    7. Alex Avila
    8. Josh Harrison
    9. Victor Robles
    10. Andrew Stevenson
    11. Hernán Pérez
    12. Carter Kieboom
    13. Luis García
    14. Jordy Mercer
    15. Gerardo Parra
    16. Yadiel Hernández
    17. Starlin Castro‡
    18. Yasmany Tomás
    19. Adrián Sanchez
    20. Blake Swihart
    21. Brandon Snyder
    22. Carlos Tocci

    I continue to think Pérez is likelier to make the team than Mercer, although Mercer has put together some better plate appearances of late and is a better defensive infielder, so I don’t think it’s a slam dunk. While they’re both in the top 13, I’d be a little surprised if both Kieboom and García make the team, as I think it’s unlikely they’ll be in the everyday lineup together (Harrison should play either second or third base just about every day until Castro is back). That seems like it opens the door for Parra or Hernández, or even both Pérez and Mercer (which would be a twist), or for the Nats to just go with a short bench until Castro is healthy.


    25 Mar 21 at 5:08 pm

  64. Today’s injury to Soto bumps him down the power rankings. Move Parra up. We’ll see whether the Soto issue lingers or is resolved quickly.


    25 Mar 21 at 9:26 pm

  65. Todd – please delete the earlier post with erroneous user name.

    From what I saw in person, Parra would be on the team rather than Hernandez. He acts as now as a vocal leader and is more defensively capable. Perez and Mercer are redundant, especially since offensive expectations of both are lower. One or the other (I think it will be Perez). It feels from being at the games like Parra is on the team, in an intangible way. Hernandez brings power and pinch hit bona fides and at least fills a unique role.


    26 Mar 21 at 8:19 am

  66. Basically I see three different plausible bench configurations:

    Bench #1: C Alex Avila, 1B Ryan Zimmerman, INF/OF Josh Harrison, OF Gerardo Parra, INF/OF Hernán Pérez

    This bench doesn’t really need another pinch-hitter, and Pérez adds far more versatility than Diet Parra (a.k.a. Andrew Stevenson). Swap Stevenson for Parra or Jordy Mercer for Pérez if you like, it doesn’t make a ton of difference. Zimmerman, Harrison, and Parra are your go-to pinch-hitters. Pérez is mostly there as injury insurance or a late-game defensive replacement.

    Bench #2: C Alex Avila, 1B Ryan Zimmerman, INF/OF Hernán Pérez, OF Andrew Stevenson, OF Yadiel Hernández

    If Harrison and/or Parra slides into the everyday lineup, this might be the bench. Hernández adds a viable pinch-hitter alongside Zimmerman that would otherwise be dearly lacking. Pérez and Stevenson are not power threats but can pinch-run and play defense.

    Bench #3: C Alex Avila, 1B Ryan Zimmerman, INF/OF Josh Harrison, OF Andrew Stevenson

    This is the short four-man bench for if the Nats carry nine relievers. The Nats are white-knuckling it whenever Harrison or Zimmerman pinch-hit early in a game, because there’s no redundancy on the infield at all. Harrison also can’t play shortstop (and has very little experience at first base), so an injury or ejection could mean rearranging the whole infield and potentially playing someone like Josh Bell or Yan Gomes out of position to patch it together for the rest of the game. But hey, at least the Nats won’t have to make any difficult decisions about their bullpen this way!


    26 Mar 21 at 12:45 pm

  67. I suspect they’re going with option #1. They HAVE to have a SS-capable infelder on the bench. Just have to. And right now it seems like that is Perez. Not Garcia, not Mercer, certianly not Kieboom or Harrison.

    I wonder though if it isn’t #1 with Hernandez instead of Parra right now for injury purposes … though his 8inning showing probably dispels that concern.

    Todd Boss

    26 Mar 21 at 1:38 pm

  68. Much as I love baby shark, if they take Parra over Stevenson, I will be as annoyed as you can reasonably be over a 4th OF. Stevenson probably hits better than Parra at this point, and there’s no comparison in the field. Robles seems to get hurt some, and an OF defense of Soto – Parra – Schwarber won’t cover much ground. It might not be homers-bouncing-off-Canseco’s-head bad, but it would be bad


    26 Mar 21 at 3:47 pm

  69. I have to think there’s some frustration among management with Stevenson, who will get on absolute tears and hit a bundle, enough to make you believe he’s ready for an expanded role, and then he’ll let you down by reverting back to being a .230 hitter with no power and a lot of swing-and-miss. (It’s not an effort thing, I believe, since he always seems to give 110%. He’s ultimately just not that great of a hitter.)

    Parra was decent as a fourth outfielder for the Nats in 2019 (about a .750 OPS, which isn’t going to threaten for everyday playing time but is just fine from your third- or fourth-best pinch-hitter) and the Nats obviously loved what he brought to the clubhouse. If he’s healthy, and if Stevenson can be optioned, I think he’s the guy. We all know defense is not a top consideration for the Nats, as Mike Rizzo builds teams around extra-base hits and pitching for the strikeout.


    26 Mar 21 at 3:55 pm

  70. I agree Stevenson is likely to be a fairly empty .230 hitter. Even so, he’s still arguably a better bat than Parra who hit .267/.305/.384 — in Japan — last year.

    For what it’s worth, Fangraphs projections have Stevenson better at the plate on a rate basis than Parra.


    26 Mar 21 at 6:52 pm

  71. On their face, those Parra numbers are really awful. But apparently he was dealing with a balky knee that eventually required surgery when he couldn’t play through it anymore.


    26 Mar 21 at 7:26 pm

  72. Interesting — I didn’t know that. I just figured time comes for us all and while Parra is a little bit young to completely fall off a cliff he’s old enough it wouldn’t be the world’s biggest surprise. I guess we’ll find out whether the team thinks he’s done or not.


    26 Mar 21 at 7:52 pm

  73. Meanwhile, Kieboom’s OPS is now .347.

    Yadiel’s OPS has now dropped to 1.175.

    Bell, Schwarber, and Harrison are crushing it.

    Mark L

    27 Mar 21 at 9:23 am

  74. Final cuts. Here’s the roster, assuming no major changes:

    Rotation (5): Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Stephen Strasburg, Jon Lester, Joe Ross
    Bullpen (8): Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson, Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero, Kyle Finnegan, Austin Voth, Erick Fedde, Luis Avilán
    Catchers (2): Yan Gomes, Alex Avila
    Infielders (7): Josh Bell, Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Harrison, Starlin Castro, Trea Turner, Hernán Pérez, Jordy Mercer
    Outfielders (4): Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Kyle Schwarber, Andrew Stevenson

    Pérez and Mercer have already been added to the roster, with Jake Noll DFA’d (good luck, Jake!). The Nats will still need to make a corresponding move for Avilán, which could be another DFA, a 60-day IL placement for one of their injured pitchers (Will Harris, Rogelio Armenteros, or Seth Romero, all of whom technically remain on the active roster as of right now).

    The Nats will presumably have Paolo Espino, Tyler Eppler, Ben Braymer, and Steven Fuentes keeping ready to be the first men up in case of a starting pitcher injury, although Fedde and Voth being in the bullpen provides a good built-in insurance policy. Tres Barrera and Blake Swihart appear to be the near-term catching depth. Carter Kieboom and Luis García will presumably get everyday reps on the infield. Gerardo Parra’s demotion could be a temporary one. Yadiel Hernández figures to be either the first man up in the outfield or right behind a 100% healthy Parra.

    It’s not a great team. But a team it is, and it’s ours.


    27 Mar 21 at 4:45 pm

  75. Or a trade, I meant to say. Mind wandering.

    Trading Kieboom now would seem foolish, unless the Nats have seen enough that they’re convinced he’s not likely to ever muster up more trade value than he does right now (or the Reds or Diamondbacks or someone are desperate enough that they’ll deal). Trading Fedde or Voth could still work, as they can recall an optioned player to replace someone going on the IL, as Armenteros, Harris, and Romero are likely to do. Trading someone like Yadiel Hernandez, who may have played his way into looking like an attractive piece for someone this spring but clearly isn’t at the forefront of the Nationals’ plans, is an interesting outside-the-box possibility.


    27 Mar 21 at 5:35 pm

  76. Judgement day for Kieboom, Garcia. A huge indictment for Kieboom; i think he has zero trade value right now. I’m not sure how but I feel like he’s been mishandled.

    Really surprised Perez and Mercer are on. seems duplicative. may write up a reaction piece.

    Todd Boss

    27 Mar 21 at 6:16 pm

  77. I’d mentioned it as at least a possibility, but I’m surprised too. It sure looked like they were competing for the same bench spot. Could be the Nats decided they couldn’t carry three banged-up guys in Soto, Castro, and Parra and Mercer was the safer bet over Parra. Could be the Nats decided they needed some added insurance for Castro specifically. Could be the Nats just see things differently and liked both Pérez and Mercer for bench spots from the get-go.


    27 Mar 21 at 6:33 pm

  78. Yes, the mild surprises to me are that they kept both Perez and Mercer, and that Parra wasn’t on the roster. I think Sao may be right — they kept both of the infielders for now because of uncertainty if Castro is healthy.

    They gave Kieboom every chance in the world, and then some. But they simply couldn’t start the season with him.

    Noll likely will clear waivers and stay with the organization. They’ve got at least three 60-day candidates to clear the other slot. The Romero situation is bizarre, even by Romero-situation standards. I mean, there’s been NO mention of him.

    There’s also a chance that they open a 40-man slot by trading Fedde or Voth. I understand why they’re doing it that way, but they’re really not in a position to carry both of them, not with the question marks with the ‘pen right now. Harris is out for a long time. Hudson and Hand both struggled in the spring. No one thinks Rainey is completely healthy. Finnegan also had surprising spring struggles. Avilan had high K totals but still isn’t exactly who you would want facing Freeman or Harper. And McGowin had a heck of a lot better spring than either Fedde or Voth. Ryne Harper also had a sensational spring.


    27 Mar 21 at 7:50 pm

  79. As with McGowin, how do you tell Yadiel Hernandez that he’s being cut in favor of Stevenson? Yeah, I understand that Stevo offers more defensive flexibility, but he did NOTHING to earn the job over Yadiel. Nothing. FWIW defensively, there was word that Harrison played CF in a B-game and looked just fine.

    I say this as someone who WANTED to believe in Stevenson after his late-season run in 2020. But his 2021 camp screams “same old Stevo.”


    27 Mar 21 at 7:58 pm

  80. new posted on slew of moves and impact.

    Todd Boss

    28 Mar 21 at 10:15 am

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