Nationals Arm Race

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

End of June Check-in on Rotations


Bennett probably our early Minor League POTY. Photo from OSU

We did an end of April check-in on the rotations and an End of May check-in. Here’s another look after another month.

Important links for this analysis:

We’ll start with the Majors.

Rotation: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Irvin

Changes in the last month: None. The rotation has been surprisingly static for a last place team.

Observations: Irvin officially supplanted Kuhl in the rotation after a couple of starts after his call-up, and when Kuhl came back Irvin stayed in the rotation and Kuhl went to the pen. That is, until about a week ago, when the team gave Kuhl his outright release waivers. They didn’t bother with the whole DFA dance; they knew that they were going to eat his $2M salary, so they just summarily released the guy so he could move on. Side note: Baseball is a good living: $2M for 3 month’s work.

Irvin was looking a bit shaky for a while, but his four starts in June were solid, and his last two were really good. His seasonal numbers are now about where Corbin’s are. Meanwhile, Grey has been stellar lately and has pushed his season ERA+ into the upper 120s. Williams has held his own and looks like a promising possible trade candidate for a team looking for some innings. Gore had a sketchy month that has inflated his ERA and peripherals, but still looks like the top 100 prospect he has been since high school.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Nobody really. They’re not going to cut bait on Corbin, Williams is holding his own, the other three guys are here to stay as important pieces of the new-look future state Nats rotation. Remember; it only took the Nats three years to go from 59-103 to 98-64.

AAA Rochester:

Rotation: Peralta, Rutledge, Urena, Adon, Banda.

Changes since Last Month: Abbott got called up to the MLB pen, where he’s stayed, and Rutledge has taken his place after his late June promotion. Espino also got called up briefly but is back now, and may re-take Banda’s spot in the rotation (or not: Banda threw a decent start on 7/1; maybe he’s transitioning back to a starter role). Tommy Romero continues to be the first long man/spot starter out of the pen.

Observations; None of these starters really had a good month in June. Banda was the worst, making 5 starts, only going 19 innings in those starts, and giving up 14 ER along the way. Urena had a 5.68 ERA in June, which actually lowered his seasonal ERA of 7.17. Same with Peralta: a 5 ERA month has improved his seasonal stats. The fact that we keep giving these guys (aged 34 and 31 respectively) starts is proof positive that our pitching depth has gone to pot. Adon actually had a decent month. There’s no real point in talking about Espino; we already know he’s a better reliever than a starter, yet the team continues to push him as a starter in AAA. Rutledge got shelled in his first AAA start, but he’s more than earned the promotion.

Next guy to get promoted: Espino. But nobody’s “earning” another promotion right now.

Next guy to get demoted or released: As with last month, the moment they need a spot Urena or Peralta are gone.

AA Harrisburg:

Rotation: Cuevas, Troop, Hernandez, Saenz, Parker , plus Henry

Changes in last month: Saenz got promoted up to cover for Rutledge, when he got promoted on 6/27. Henry done with rehab and in AA but sits on the developmental list as of 6/30.

Observations: Henry’s first two starts back were horrific, so as we speak he sits on the developmental list. When Rutledge (correctly called as next guy to get promoted last month) moved up, Saenz (who had seemingly solved high-A) moved into his spot. The guy with the best month was Parker, who had a 1.35 ERA in four starts and has turned around his fortunes significantly (he was last month’s “Next guy to get demoted”). Cuevas continues to struggle (but is only 22), as does Troop (who is continuing to be the innings soaking long-man/spot starter he served in last year). Hernandez has been quietly effective with pretty amazing control; he walked just 2 guys all month.

Next guy to get promoted: Nobody really; perhaps Hernandez

Next guy to get demoted or released: I still think Cuevas looks over matched, but the first guy to make way if Henry comes back off Dev List probably is Troop.

High-A Wilmington

Rotation: Alvarez, Theophile, Lara, Luckham, Caceres, Bennett

Changes in Last month: Saenz promoted to AA (as predicted last month), Bennett promoted up from Low-A, Huff moved to bullpen

Observations: Wilmington has too many arms to put up with poor performance, which is why Chance Huff is now in the pen with his 6.12 ERA. Meanwhile, Wilmington seems to have too many starters and something may give soon. Lara continues to confound this observer, with another month of 5 ERA work on top of his 5+ ERA work all last year. Why he’s in High-A at this point is amazing, consider he couldn’t get guys out at Low-A and is incredibly young for the league. Meanwhile, Andrew Alvarez continues to impress, with a very solid month with a 1.77 ERA in his last four starts. Bennett has kept producing upon his promotion: first three stats in High-A featured a 1.29 ERA. He needs another month in Wilmington but I see nothing to indicate he shouldn’t keep on moving up. I Still think he was started way too low for a major conference Friday night starter 2nd round pick. Anyway. Caceres just got moved up and got shelled in his first start, too soon to tell. Theophile also had a solid month, lowering his seasonal era significantly. Luckham looks like the odd-man out of this rotation right now, though his ERA is much higher than it deserves to be based on his WHIP.

Next guy to get promoted: Alvarez

Next guy to get demoted or released: Lara, again.

Low-A Fredericksburg

Rotation: Lord, Cornelio, Young, Tolman, Susana, with Atencio making spot starts

Changes in Last month: Bennett promoted and replaced with Lord. Sanchez to the DL, replaced with Young. Caceres promoted, replaced with Tolman.

Observations: The Fredericksburg rotation had a great month, with all 5 of its main starters featuring sub 3.00 ERAs all month and two of them getting promoted. Cornelio had a 2.30 ERA on the month but still walks too many guys. Lord has moved up from the bullpen to take a spot in the rotation for now and his holding on, with a 2.35 ERA on the month. Same with Luke Young, who’s earned another few turns in the rotation. Susana looks the best of them with a 1.02 ERA for the month as he seems to improve month over month. Tolman got bumped up from the rookie league (as he should have been, since he’s 23) and threw zeros in his first start. Even Atencio, who was demoted out of the rotation in May, got in on the action, throwing a spot start and dealing.

Next guy to get promoted: Susana

Next guy to get demoted or released: Nobody for now.

Rookie Florida Complex League

Rotation: Zapata, Ogando, Leon, Polanco, CSanchez, Agostini

Changes in Last month: none; this is the first go-around for the FCL

Observations: First off, the concept of a “rotation” in the rookie league probably is laughable, considering the sheer number of guys on this roster and the number of off-days they get. But a semblance of an organized rotation has taken shape. Tolman started in the rotation, threw three outings giving up just one run and got moved up. The rest of this rotation? Entirely comprised of IFAs; 5 of them 2021 IFAs and Sanchez being a 22IFA. So far: Sanchez, Ogando, and Leon are getting shelled; each has an ERA in the 9 or 10 range. Polanco and Agostini are relatively competent; ERAs in the 4-5 range. Both are probably better than their ERAs; its hard to have an 5+ era with an opponent BAA of .212 as Polanco has. Last you have Zapata; 0.75 ERA through 4 starts, but he’s got a 1.50 whip, so he’s dancing out of a lot of danger.

Next guy to get promoted: Maybe Zapata, probably instead one of the bullpen guys.

Next guy to get demoted or released: Ogando or Sanchez

Dominican Summer League

Rotation: Portorreal, Farias, HMoreno, Oliveros, Rivero

Changes in the last month: none; this is the first go-around for DSL

Observations: Ok, so we know the DSL Nats are terrible (they’re 2-18 as of this writing), but it isn’t because of the pitching. Ok, its not *entirely* because of the pitching. Its primarily because their entire starting batting lineup are 2023IFAs signed in January. They’re all children. And they’re not hitting at all. (Meanwhile, one of the Dodgers’ DSL teams is 20-0 to start the season, and their other team is in 2nd place of the division. Why don’t we have two DSL teams?? Why doesn’t everyone??)

The rotation so far is up and down: Rivero only has 3 strikeouts in 10 innings; that’s not gotta cut it. Farias and Oliveros have BAAs in the .320-.340 range. Also not going to cut it. Moreno has a solid BAA but has nearly as many walks as IP. The best performer so far has been Portorreal, a 23IFA so he’s young. 5 starts, 2.45 ERA, looks solid. A great signing so far, especially for his bonus amount.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the IFA tracker for bonus amounts to get a sense of who’s supposed to be performing. Nearly all our big bonus guys were batters; the biggest bonus pitcher went to a guy on the DL all year. Portorreal got just $10k that we know about, Moreno and Rivero were 23IFAs who probably got 10k or less. The other guys in this rotation; Oliveros in 22 for >$10k and Farias, who was a 19IFA and is still in the DSL; he’s rule-5 eligible after this season!

Next guy to get promoted: Portorreal

Next guy to get released: ERivero

Conclusions: most of my predicted promotions from last month took place, and we’re getting a ton of impressive results out of Low and High-A. Still need to see Henry get back into the swing of things to make me feel better.

Written by Todd Boss

July 2nd, 2023 at 11:04 am

8 Responses to 'End of June Check-in on Rotations'

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  1. Nice write up, Todd. Thanks for posting!

    John C.

    3 Jul 23 at 2:22 pm

  2. Callis: “The biggest lock among the early picks is the Nationals taking Skenes, even if the Pirates pass on Crews. If Skenes is gone, Washington would grab Crews.” He also says that there are rumors that Crews wants a $10M contract, which could drop him to the Tigers or lower.


    5 Jul 23 at 11:30 am

  3. Law from last week: “I was on a Pittsburgh radio station the other day and said that I think this Crews stuff, while true in the sense that people are saying this and Crews might really not want to go 1, is a lot of posturing. If the Pirates take him, he’ll sign. He’ll probably force full slot but it’s not like he can go higher next year. As for your second question, nothing is “official” until the picks are made, but all indications I have right now are that they’re more likely to take not-Crews than Crews, and I know Skenes is on their short list.”


    5 Jul 23 at 11:37 am

  4. I don’t blame Crews for wanting out of PIttsburgh.

    But it leaves us with a potentially tough situation if Crews wants 1-1 money and wen don’t want to give i.

    Todd Boss

    5 Jul 23 at 3:51 pm

  5. I saw a hint somewhere that Crews is a Boras guy. That can’t be officially confirmed, but it seems reasonable. My guess right now is that Skenes is going to the Pirates, the Nats are getting Crews, and that they’re going to have to go overslot to sign him. I don’t think they’ll get to $10M, but maybe $9.25M.

    I saw that Ghost at NatsTalk recently made the Crews comp to Rendon, which is a comp I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Derek has mentioned Bregman. It’s not unreasonable to think that he could be with the big club by the latter part of 2024, or certainly by sometime in 2025, which is probably a similar timetable for Wood.

    As much as I’d like to add Skenes to the pitching staff, it seems to be trending a lot more toward Crews. Presumably the Nats will be looking for a Bennett-like college arm in the 2d round.


    5 Jul 23 at 4:21 pm

  6. Everyone that follows these things say the Nats are only looking at Skenes or Crews. Crews is indeed a Boras guy, so that’s a negative.

    Boras had a nose ring fitted on Ted Lerner for years, not sure if Mark Lerner is as pliable.

    Mark L

    5 Jul 23 at 4:49 pm

  7. Longenhagen/Fangraphs has a mock out:

    They have Crews 1/1 and Skenes 1/2. “I think Skenes is a virtual lock at no. 2 regardless of who the first pick is, and I now think there’s a growing likelihood that that first pick will be Langford. Not enough to mock him there just yet, but enough that I’d consider him the second most likely player to go first behind Crews. . . . If Langford goes first, I think Skenes still goes second, with Crews going third.”

    Most of the older “chatter” has the Nats preferring Crews to Skenes, whereas this is consistent with the newer chatter I’ve seen, which suggests the reverse. I smell some public negotiating. If Crews is out there trying to make people think he won’t go to PIT, then his objective is to get the Nats to offer the highest possible bonus at #2. The Nats’ obvious counter move – even if they want Crews at #2 – is to make Crews think they actually prefer Skenes.

    We’ll know on Sunday, I guess. The most interesting scenario BY FAR is if the Nats get to choose between Crews and Skenes (rather than taking the one PIT passes on). Who knows whether the Nats will have that choice, and I am dubious any of the new reporting/mocks between now and Sunday is going to shed much light on it.


    6 Jul 23 at 10:22 am

  8. If Crews is indeed a Boras guy, that means Pittsburgh is in trouble b/c they’re a penny pinching org who will go the cheaper route. I’m not afraid of Boras; the Nats have always had boras guys and havn’t had an issue.

    If Pitt picks Langford in a cost savings move (not unlike their pick of Davis a few eyars back), then indeed Nats have an interesting choice.

    Todd Boss

    6 Jul 23 at 10:48 am

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