Nationals Arm Race

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

State of the Minors, week 2


Cole Henry has looked great so far in 2021. Photo via

Well, if there was any better indication of just how bad the farm system is … you can go look at the records of our four minor league affiliates through two weeks.

  • AAA: 2-10
  • AA: 4-8
  • High-A: 6-6
  • Low-A: 0-12

Your Fredericksburg Nats are Oh and Twelve. 33 runs scored, 121 against. They’re giving up an average of 10 runs a game, with a current run differential of -88 runs. Wow. So far, the owner of the franchise is reeeaaaallly digging the talent level he’s got to open up his $35M stadium. (Ah who am i kidding, he didn’t spend a dime of his own money, the taxpayers did! I digress).

The only team in the system actually trying (High-A Wilmington) is “only” 6-6. But we’ll get to them.

Ok, so who is hot and who is not after two full 6-game series? We’ll go by level. Here’s who’s “Hot” by level:


  • Raudy Read: 5-15 through first 12 games. But he’s on the IL. And listed as a 1B. I mean, is the guy actually catching anymore? Tres Barrera seems to be getting the bulk of catcher ABs, which makes sense since he’s the only guy on the 40-man.
  • Most of the back-end of the bullpen: Bacus, Bonnell, McGowin, Miller and Lobstein all have decent numbers in their few innings of work so far.


  • Cole Freeman has had a nice start to the season
  • Teel, Sanchez and Reyes in the rotation all have had two decent starts.
  • Sanchez in particular: 15Ks, 1 BB so far in 3 starts.
  • Sterling Sharp rebounded from his awful opener to be pretty stellar in his second start.
  • Gabe Klobotis: 5IP, 2 hits, 7/0 K/BB. How was this guy a 36th rounder??


  • Henry and Cavalli: well, they’ve lived up to the hype. Henry has given up 9 base runners in 11 innings and 4 of them scored; his K/BB is actually better than Cavalli’s.
  • Zack Brzycky: where did we get this guy? $10k NDFA last season just shows up at high A slinging dots. 9IP, 4 hits, 14/4 K/BB? yes I’ll take that.
  • Alex Troop: 5ip, 10 Ks, zero BBs, 1 hit. And that one hit scored.
  • Matt Cronin: picks up where he left off in 2019; 5.1 IP, one hit, 11/2 K/BB. Move him up with Henry and Cavalli at the end of the month.


  • Well, Michael Cuevas has had a nice start; 4ip, 1 hit.
  • Mitchell Parker started decently but got hit hard in his 2nd start. He still has 15 Ks in 7innings … to go along with 7 walks.

OK, who is NOT Hot? Well, mostly everyone, but i’ll highlight a few in particular.


  • Luis Garcia: hitting just .205 albeit with three homers.
  • Carter Kieboom: he’s only appeared in 7 games?!? What is going on? Hitting .222. We care about basically two bats in the whole of AAA and these two are it, and the opening to the season has been rough.
  • The entire Rotation: the best starter in AAA is Sean Nolin, who the team acquired with like a few days notice to be the AAA opening day starter. Can you feel the excitement?
  • Ryne Harper: the guy was good in 2019 for the Twins; now he’s 32 and struggling in AAA. He’s currently occupying the #1 position on the “first guy to get axed from 40-man when we need to make room for someone.


  • The entire offense: the team is hitting a collective .151/.235/.247 for the season. .151 team batting order. Some how they’ve won 4 games hitting .151 as a team.
  • Tim Cate: 3 starts and struggling. 1.85 whip, a .315 BAA.


  • Again, the entire offense. they’re hitting a collective .208
  • Yasel Antuna: He’s 2 for 40. Two for Fourty!! This is one of our top hitting prospects, a guy who was a MLB spring training invite. What is going on?
  • Israel Pineda: slightly better at 5 for 42. 3 of those 5 hits are homers. This is perhaps the 2nd best prospect on the team.
  • Jackson Rutledge: who had him with an 11.32 ERA through three starts?
  • Evan Lee: two starts, didn’t make it out of the 2nd in either start.
  • Todd Peterson: for a guy who hung around MLB camp as long as he did … he’s not starting well.


  • Everyone.
  • The offense is .167/.280/.222 as a team
  • The pitching staff has a collective 8.12 ERA and a 1.95 whip. As a staff they’re putting on 2 guys an inning.
  • The rotation is so bad they don’t have a single qualified hurler.
  • They have more guys with double digit ERAs than they have guys who have sub 7.00 ERAs.
  • Leif Strom has perhaps the most unimpressive pitching line: 3 appearances/2 starts, a 19.29 ERA. He’s thrown 7 innings, given up 18 hits and 9 walks. 23 runs allowed, but only 15 earned thanks to some stellar defense behind him

It can only get better from here right? A team can’t go winless for 140 games can they? 🙂

Next to get promoted: Cavalli, Henry, Cronin

Next to get demoted/released: Strom, maybe Harper getting DFA’d.

13 Responses to 'State of the Minors, week 2'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'State of the Minors, week 2'.

  1. Who’s standing out to me (pitchers)

    AAA: Bryan Bonnell. 6 IP, 1.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 25% K. Nice. Justin Miller, Andrés Machado, and Kyle Lobstein have been all right as well. Nobody else has done much at this point.
    AA: Tiny sample sizes here, of course, but Gabe Klobosits (5 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.40 WHIP, 44% K) has been stellar. So has Frankie Bartow (3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, 44% K). Mario Sánchez has picked up right where he left off, and I remain baffled as to why the Nats didn’t give him a look at Fredericksburg last year or West Palm Beach this spring. He’s still just 26.
    High-A: How about Alex Troop? 5⅓ IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.19 WHIP, 59% K. About as good as it gets to start the season. Cade Cavalli has been brilliant in the rotation. Zach Brzykcy and Matt Cronin are unblemished in prominent relief roles. Cole Henry rebounded from a lousy first start and has been virtually unhittable since. Joan Adon was going great up until his most recent start.
    Low-A: Amos Willingham (5⅔ IP, 1.59 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 27% K) is what passes for greatness here. But he’s only pitched in two games. Michael Cuevas was good in the one game he’s pitched. I am baffled by the pitcher usage on this team; relievers who perform poorly keep getting opportunities, and relievers who perform well get iced. On the starter side, there’s really not much good to report, but it’s at least worth noting Karlo Seijas’ improvement after a Guthrie-esque first start, and his 4 K/BB ratio is nice.

    Who’s standing out to me (hitters)

    AAA: No one. Gerardo Parra has been especially disappointing relative to expectations. But really, everyone has been bad.
    AA: Cole Freeman (.278/.750) has been decent. Actually, he’s the team’s only position player, qualified or not, with an OPS north of .700 right now. So, that’s not great.
    High-A: Armond Upshaw (.276/.745) has been all right. Israel Pineda (.119/.529) isn’t doing well overall but does lead the team with three homers. Honorable mention here for Jacob Rhinesmith (.225/.711) who also has a pair of homers. Again, this is another lousy offensive team.
    Low-A: Pass. Remarkably, the FredNats have only hit four home runs through twelve games, and no one on the team has more than one. Doing the honors are Landon Dieterich, Jake Randa, J.T. Arruda, and newly promoted Leandro Emiliani. So, uh, them, I guess. And a very tepid shoutout to Onix Vega, who has a .375 OBP and more walks than strikeouts, although he’s otherwise done little to nothing.


    18 May 21 at 2:02 am

  2. The executive summary here is that it looks like we just might have a shot at graduating some major league relievers out of this minor league system, particularly from the High-A and Double-A levels. I’d like to see us keep pushing those guys. Certainly, the likes of Ryne Harper, Sam Clay, Kyle McGowin, and Paolo Espino shouldn’t be blocking their ascent to The Show, if they’re deemed ready for the ultimate test.

    Everything else…bleh. None of these four teams have featured any truly impressive offensive performances, and hitting across all four is at or close to league-worst: Rochester, 20th of 20; Harrisburg, 12th of 12; Wilmington, 10th of 12; Fredericksburg, 12th of 12. And the starting pitching has been far more bad than good, with the notable exceptions of Cade Cavalli, who has been exceptional; Mario Sánchez, who has been very good; and Cole Henry and Joan Adon, who have been generally impressive despite having one stinker apiece.

    Past Cavalli and maybe Henry, it’s hard to see where the “impact players” are on this farm right now. Maybe Israel Pineda locks in as he’s finally found his power stroke. Whatever is wrong with Jackson Rutledge ought to be sorted out sooner rather than later, or so we should hope. But it’s sure starting to look like between the once-vaunted trio of Luis García, Carter Kieboom, and Yasel Antuna, we’ll be lucky to graduate one first-division major league starter — far from the plug-and-play infield of the future we used to dream on. Goes to show, there’s no sure things in baseball.


    18 May 21 at 2:13 am

  3. Hitters providing ANY excitement: other than Pineda’s homers, not really any. Shouldn’t be too surprising, though. I didn’t think Antuna should have been added to the 40-man, and we knew something was up when they sent him to A+ instead of AA.

    They’re also probably wondering why they skipped A+ for Mendoza. He’s scuffling almost as much as Antuna, with only four hits in 30 plate appearances, with four walks and nine K’s. He does have a homer and a double, and .188 BABIP that shows him getting robbed when he has put the ball in play. He’s also gotten a little PT at 3B, which is interesting in the grand scheme of things. I continue to hope that Mendoza has an MLB ceiling, but we’ll see.

    Among the pitchers I’ve been on the (very, very small) Klobosits and Troop bandwagons for a while, so it’s good to see them excelling. They are among the guys I’ve had in mind when I’ve said that some of the pitchers might benefit more than we know from an extra year away to get fully healed.

    Brzykcy had a 10.5 BB/9 in college to go with 13.9 K/9. So far as a pro he has that same 14.0 K/9 but the BB/9 down to 4.0. Obviously his flame-throwing still plays at the pro level.


    18 May 21 at 1:42 pm

  4. I hate to interupt all this moaning but I’ll remind everyone that Luis Garcia is the youngest player in Rochester in 21 years.

    Of the quartet of reinforcements in Fredericksburg, expect at least 2 or 3 to have terrific years once they get used to playing games again. They are very young and didnt play in games in 20 months.

    Mark L

    18 May 21 at 5:46 pm

  5. Not that wins and losses are worth a bucket of warm spit, but the fact that Carson Teel has a 2.65 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP, and an 0-2 record is atrocious. Can somebody please give this man some run support?


    19 May 21 at 2:47 am

  6. Interesting line out of Cavalli yesterday.,lock_state=final,game_tab=box,game=643820

    6ip, 10 hits, 2 walks, 12 Ks.

    95/64 pitches/strikes, which isn’t bad.

    He faced 28 batters. He gave up 9 singles and a double. his 18 outs were achieved as follows: 12Ks, 2grounders, 2flyballs, a double play and a caught stealing.

    9 singles. here’s how all 10 hits went:
    – 1st: nubbed grounder near the pitcher
    – 1st: RH hitter hits a linedrive to right on a 0-0 pitch
    – 1st: lefty hitter pulls a linedrive to right on a 0-1 pitch, run scores
    – 3rd: infield single to SS
    – 3rd: single to center, run scores
    – 4th: infield single, deflected by Cavalli to 3rd
    – 5th: lefty hitter pulls liner to right
    – 5th: right hander late on a liner to right
    – 5th right handed hitter pulls a grounder down the line for a double.
    – 6th grounder to the 1B (?? how is that a hit?)

    So; 10 hits: four of them infield singles, another couple right handers hitting balls to right. A double pulled down the line. To put some context on the start.

    Todd Boss

    19 May 21 at 11:08 am

  7. It’s too bad that Parra isn’t playing better, as the big club sure needs some dancing, or something. It’s a decently talented squad, but right now, it’s playing like a team that’s just waiting for something to go wrong. It isn’t making it’s own breaks, taking advantage of opportunities, putting pressure on opponents. In 2019, they were able to flip that script. At that time, though, they had some fiery personalities like Eaton, Kendrick, Doolittle, plus the old pros like Parra and Sanchez. Harrison sort of seems like that type of personality, but in general, they seem a quart low of fieriness.

    Can they turn it around? No one is running away with the NL East. The Braves’ supposed juggernaut is off kilter. The Mets have key injuries mounting. So the opportunity is there for the Nats. I just don’t get a good vibe from this team, though. It’s still playing like it was in 2020. Obviously Soto finding his grove and Stras coming back in good form would help. We’ll see. Right now, though, they’re sort of painful to watch, just waiting for the other shoe to drop every night, and thinking every potential rally is going to go for naught, ended by a mighty whiff.


    19 May 21 at 12:21 pm

  8. Thanks, Todd, for the context on Cavalli. Seems mostly bad luck and bad defense.

    Mark L

    19 May 21 at 3:58 pm

  9. Fredericksburg now 0-15. Nice. And they’re not even close to winning a game; -115 run differential in 15 games. they lost 14-1 yesterday, getting just 3 hits.

    AAA: 3-12, AA: 5-10, HighA 8-7, low-A 0-15.

    Todd Boss

    21 May 21 at 9:17 am

  10. No wonder the Nats favored minor-league contraction, since they only have players for about 1.5 decent teams . . .

    Other than the old-for-level A+ OF of Canning, Upshaw, and Rhinesmith, and perhaps Pineda’s power surge on the few times he has actually made contact, there’s nothing even close to interesting among the minor-league hitters right now. Quite a number of college hitters have fallen a bit in draft projections (hint, hint).

    What a tough deal all around for Fredericksburg — players, fans, coaches, including young manager Mario Lisson trying to hold things together.


    21 May 21 at 1:44 pm

  11. I wonder whether the 5/22 comeback, with the Harrison grand slam and Zim three-run shot, will help put some spark into this season. I admit, I was pretty PO’d early in that game about such a mediocre performance against such a bad team. And it’s still concerning that Lester got rocked in his second straight outing. But at least the team finally showed some energy. And Stras sure looked back to full speed on Friday night.


    23 May 21 at 7:49 am

  12. Okay, we are now a little past the quarter pole of the season and Juan Soto is the teams #4 hitter, and he’s barely above Schwarber, who’s surging right now.

    Mark L

    24 May 21 at 4:19 pm

  13. Well,I worded that wrong. Soto is now the Nats 4th best hitter after the quarter pole.

    Mark L

    25 May 21 at 5:58 am

Leave a Reply