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Spring Training 2021 NRI Discussion

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Parra may bring the shark back to Washington in 2021 as an NRI. Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

This is our 7th straight year doing this recurring post; a look at the Non-Roster Invitees (NRIs) upon their official announcement ahead of spring training.

Here’s past posts by year: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.

The team has invited 71 players to spring training, which means that joining the 39 members of the 40-man roster are an astounding 32 NRIs. FYI: the big board is now updated for all 32 NRIs, who are shaded in purple. 2020 was a weird year, which probably is why we’re seeing so many NRIs, and so many NRIs who are so young. Normally NRIs are veteran MLFAs, AAA/4-A guys and perhaps one or two top prospects. This year, the team has invited a slew of guys who have never played above A-ball, or who were drafted just last year.

Why do we care about NRIs? Because there’s a high likelihood we’ll see these guys either make the roster or get called up later on this year. Since the 2015 season:

  • 9 NRIs have made the 25-man roster straight out of Spring Training (and Guthrie technically made it 10 since he got called up a few days later and was always intended to be the 5th starter in 2017).  Basically every year an NRI has made the roster for six seasons running.
  • 29 NRIs eventually played for the MLB team at some point that same season they were in spring training.

So its likely that we’re going to see a lot of these NRIs at some point in the future.  Like, on average at least 4-5 of these NRIs are going to play for this team in 2021.


Lets review the NRIs and make some predictions.

Here’s the list of 32 NRI’s for 2021, organized by player type:

  • RH Starters: Jefry Rodriguez, Paolo Espino, Jackson Rutledge, Cade Cavalli, Cole Henry, Tyler Dyson, Todd Peterson
  • RH Relievers: Aaron Barrett, Tyler Eppler, Javy Guerra, Gabe Klobotis, Jacob Condra-Bogan, Bryan Bonnell, Jeremy Jeffress
  • LH Starters: Tim Cate
  • LH Relievers: Luis Avilan, TJ McFarland, Matt Cronin
  • Catchers: Raudy Read, Wellington Castillo, Israel Pineda, Jakson Reetz, Blake Swihart, Brandon Snyder (who is oddly listed as a Catcher but really is a 1B)
  • Infielders: Adrian Sanchez, Hernan Perez, Jordy Mercer, Jackson Cluff, Drew Mendoza
  • Outfielders: Carlos Tocci, Yasmany Tomas, Gerardo Parra, Cody Wilson

(note: post-publishing edit; I had Bonnell as a LHP; thanks for the correction. 2/22/21 added Jeffress).


So lets squint and make some predictions.

  • Do any of these guys stand a chance at making the Opening day roster?  There are a couple of opportunities for these guys this year, absolutely. All of this is assuming no injuries to the current 40-man.
    1. Lefty Reliever: right now the bullpen has two lefties: Brad Hand and Sam Clay. Hand seems like he’s going to be the closer, while Clay has never pitched in the majors. So, yeah, there’s opportunity here. Avilan has the most MLB time but his numbers have been iffy lately. McFarland has as much MLB time as Avilan and has better recent numbers. Cronin could surprise here, but he’s never pitched above A-ball. He’s got amazing numbers though. The team could also be looking to convert one of its lefty starters to a reliever (Romero, Braymer) … but those guys would be far more valuable as effective starters. At the end of the day, I think McFarland breaks camp as the loogy.
    2. 7th/8th bullpen arm/RH Reliever: Right now on the depth chart, the team only has 9 true “relievers” on its 40-man. They’re going to break camp with 8 of them. The options game probably means they carry the loser of Ross/Voth/Fedde 5th starter competition as the 8th reliever, meaning that there’s possibly some competition for that last righty out of the pen. Look for that spot to be competed between Finnegan, Bacus and then the likes of veteran NRI Guerra. I’ll bet the team breaks camp with Guerra; he’s been there before and the team knows him, sending Finnegan and Bacus to AAA. 2/22/21 update: with the Jeffress signing, I think he goes to the head of the list above Guerra.
    3. 4th OF; Is there really a competition here? I don’t believe there is. But a 5th OF could be in the works as a bench bat. See next.
    4. Bench Bat: here’s our current projected Bench bats: Harrison, Zimmerman. Not much there. I like Parra as a glue-guy, clubhouse guy, spare part kind of player. Plus he hits lefty. Plus lets be honest; his Baby Shark thing is the kind of fan engagement phenomenon that you just can’t buy in terms of publicity. Not that there’s going to be any damn fans.
    5. Spare Infielder: do we really think Garcia is the backup infielder? I don’t think so: i think Garcia goes back to AAA and one of Sanchez/Mercer/Perez makes it as a veteran infielder. Given our Pittsburgh connection, money on Mercer.

So my prediction? multiple NRIs joining the team: McFarland, Jeffress, Parra and Mercer.

Do any of these guys project to feature at all in 2021? Absolutely. Past my four NRI predictions, I can see more than a few of these guys getting call-ups later on if they stick.

Who among these guys project to eventually get on the 40-man?  There’s a bunch of our top prospects on this list: Cavalli, Henry, Rutledge, Cate, Cronin. And there’s lesser-known but older/effective guys who seem like good bets to put themselves onto the roster. Nats spring training games should be great.

Are there any surprise non-NRIs in the system right now? Yeah a couple surprise non-invites. Two arms that were on the 60-man last year are not invited: Nick Wells and Sterling Sharp. Wells is a lefty reliever; why not invite him and have him compete? Sharp has MLB time; why not put him in camp? No other real surprise non-invites.


NRI Details by year, in case you were wondering… (this is recycled material, carried along year by year)

Summary of NRIs for 2020: 22 total

  • Three (3) made the 30-man roster out of Spring training: Javy Guerra, Sam Freeman, Emilio Bonifacio
  • 4 more eventually got added and called-up: tbd by end of 2020 season (Wil Crowe, Dakota Bacus, Luis Garcia, Yadiel Hernandez).
  • 0 more since been added to 40-man post 2020-season: tbd before 2021 season, but thanks to odd 2020 60-man roster all the NRIs under consideration here already got the callup.

Summary of NRIs for 2019: 18 total

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

Summary of NRIs from ST 2018: 21 NRIs total:

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

Summary of NRIs from ST 2017: 24 NRIs total:

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

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

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

Summary of NRIs from ST 2015: 20 NRIs total:

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

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

Baseball America pre-season 2021 top-10 list reactions

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

Baseball America dropped the first off-season ranking of prospects for the Nats on 11/20/20 and, well, it was interesting.

Click here for the top 10 and their list of “best tools” for the system. It might be behind a paywall. If not that, then a quick chat with BA’s Lucy Lusk provides some insight on the list as well.

The last time we got any appreciable updated rankings was MLBpipeline’s end-of-the-season look at the system with the slew of 2020 graduates/call-ups removed. Technically MLBPipeline’s list is a running dynamic update, not a static list as of that moment in time, but I capture them as major updates occur for tracking.

Nonetheless, the two orgs definitely have different viewpoints on the top of the Nat’s farm system. Lets talk about some of BA’s conclusions.

  • BA has Cade Cavalli ahead of Jackson Rutledge at the top. I find this kind of interesting, given that Rutledge is younger, had pro ball experience in 2019, was in the 60-man pool along with Cavalli, and was a 1st round pick just like Cade.
  • Furthermore, in BA’s “best tools” they list Rutledge as having the best fastball AND the best slider. So, unless Rutledge literally doesn’t have a 3rd pitch, and his first two are the system best … not sure how he’s not #1 over Cavalli.
  • Therefore, Cavalli must really, really be promising, or have some pretty amazing secondary stuff.
  • Tim Cate: best curve AND best control. All he’s done since they drafted him was win. I think he’s an excellent 3rd or 4th starter in the making for this team in a couple years.
  • BA is amazingly bullish on Yasel Antuna. They list him as having the best hitter for average AND the best power hitter?? For a SS currently listed as 6’0″ 170? Well, no wonder the Nats just protected him on the 40-man. This is also a big change in BA’s opinion of him just from July, when they ranked him 12th in the org. The BA staff think Antuna is nearly top 100 material. They like him more as a 2B/3B option versus SS, with the thinking that maybe the infield goes Carter Kieboom, Luis Garcia, Antuna and a FA bopper at 1st. Hey; if Kieboom can learn how to hit, i’m all for that.
  • They have soured fast on Wil Crowe, dumping him to 10th in the system. MLBpipeline has him 3rd right now just after the two big 1st round arms. He made three starts in 2020, got shelled in all three, gave up 5 homers in 8 1/3rd innings … does that mean the jury is now out on Crowe forever?
  • They’re quite bullish on Jeremy De La Rosa, having him ranked 6th when most shops have him in the teens. Only other pundit anywhere close on De La Rosa is Keith Law, who had him 8th last spring. I mean, he did get invited to the 60-man roster as an 18yr old … quite a statement. Maybe we have another Juan Soto on our hands.
  • Lastly, in their tools section they give “Best Athlete,” “Fastest Baserunner” and “Best Defensive Outfielder” all to the same guy: Cody Wilson. Looks like the next Andrew Stevenson.

Nats 2018 Draft Class; Highlights of picks 11-40 and overall class review

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mlb-draft-2018-768x367

Another  year in the books, and another 40 guys now potentially part of the Nats organization.  Ok well really more like 32-33 new guys; that’s about how many i’d expect to sign out of this class.

We reviewed the top 10 more in-depth in the previous post since, historically, the most likely eventual MLB impact players are all top-end draft picks.  Lets zip through the rest of the draft and do some quick commentary.

  • Round 11: Frankie Bartow, U Miami’s closer.  I like this as an 11th rounder, which in today’s draft system are the first time you can grab someone of note and have a decent shot at them.  Bartow has some career accolades (freshman all-american, finalist for collegiate closer of the year, etc).  Yes he’s a college closer and that’s all he’ll be, but I like this as an 11th rounder.
  • Round 12: Graham Lawson, also an 8th/9th inning guy for South Carolina.  Not as accomplished as Bartow, but similar role.
  • Round 13: Cody Wilson, a corner OF from FAU.  Good power this year (14 homers), good speed (nearly 20 SBs).  Not a bad 12th rounder.   College Junior though so he has some leverage but it doesn’t seem like he slipped really.
  • Round 14: Aaron Fletcher.  a Senior lefty starter from U Houston.  Um, this was Houston’s Friday starter, who pitched a 4-hit, 0 earned run gem in the CWS regional opener to beat Purdue.   Why wasn’t he picked up already?  College numbers look great for a good team in a decent conference, conference pitcher of the year in 2018.  Perhaps its because he doesn’t have massive K/9 numbers.  Nonetheless, I like this pick.
  • Round 15: Evan Lee, a two-way draft eligible sophomore player for Arkansas.  Lefty reliever and a corner OF.  This is a weird one; he doesn’t have great numbers on either side of the ball, but he was an absolute beast coming out of HS (all-american on every service, Gatorade player of the state, etc).  I wonder if this is an over slot candidate.
  • Round 16: Carson Teel, College Jr lefty starter from Oklahoma State.  Entered the weekend rotation mid-season, gave them 11 starts, including getting the Win over USF in last weekend’s regional.  Decent numbers on the season skewed by one bad outing against West Virginia.  Another value pick.
  • Round 17: Ridge Chapman, coll JR mid-week starter for South Carolina; looks like a guy with some inflation in his stats; his BAA is .189 on the year but his ERA is 4.95.   He’s a Juco transfer into South Carolina and his Juco numbers were pretty impressive; perhaps an area scout remembered him from 2017 (when he was drafted late but chose not to sign).
  • Round 18: Jacob Rhinesmith, Coll Jr center fielder from Western Kentucky (which, i’d like to point out, has completely ripped off the Nats Curly-W on their uniforms…).  14  homers, 13 SBs as a center fielder?  Another Juco transfer with very gaudy 2017 numbers.  Listed as 6’1″ 195, lefty.  Maybe he sticks in center?
  • Round 19: Zach Linginfelter, RHP coll Sophomore from Tennessee.  Was in relief most of the season, then put into the rotation towards the end of the year.  Pitched well in the SEC tourney.
  • Round 20: Onix Vega, a Juco C from Broward College.  Gotta have catchers for your short season teams.

Past Round 20, I’ll just note interesting guys; see the table above for the next 20 picks fully.  From here down honestly most guys are just one-and-done short-season players.

  • Round 21: Ryan Tapani, 5th year Sr RHP from Creighton.  Looks like Creighton’s Friday starter with pretty gaudy numbers (10-1, 2.38 ERA on the year).  Just named 3rd team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.  Son of former MLB player Kevin Tapani, a former pitcher who had more than 350 major league starts in a 13 year career. Nice 21st rounder senior sign.
  • Round 26: Colin Morse, a senior RHP from Shenandoah University by way of … McLean HS.  A local kid.  He seemed like a weekend starter for Shenandoah the last three  years, and he had starts in all four years of his career.
  • Round 30 Trey Vickers, senior SS from Wichita State.  Basically a four year starter at SS for a good baseball program.  Not flashy, but I like the career accomplishment for a higher profile program.
  • Two late round picks (Rounds 34 and 40 picks Tyler Baca and Michael Menhart both seem to be related to Nationals front-office staff (respectively,  Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Baca and Pitching Coordinator Paul Menhart).
  • Round 37 pick Cole Wilcox is an interesting throw-away pick; he was projected as a 1st rounder prior to the draft and was even tied to the Nats in some mocks, but he had a $3M price tag and so once he fell out of the 1st round he was guaranteed to go to school.  He announced his intent to honor his commitment to University of Georgia even before the Nats picked him, where he’ll be a draft eligible sophomore in two years’ time.

Its notable that every single pick the Nats had between rounds 25 and 32 (8 straight rounds) were College seniors.  And then, they ripped of five straight HS draftees from rounds 33-37, including a guy who was projected to go in the first round (Wilcox) in the 37th.   It is almost as if the team got to round 33 and was like, “eh, we’re good, pick a bunch of prep kids as favors to executives or who we have no chance of signing.”

Summary of the Draft class:

  • 23 Arms, 18 Position players, which adds up to 41 since we have a 2-way guy in Evan Lee.
  • 16 College Juniors (or draft-eligible Sophomores)
  • 14 College Seniors with no leverage
  • 3 Juco guys
  • 7 High Schoolers, 6 of which are basically throw-away picks in the late rounds.

Of the 30 4-year college guys:

  • 8 from SEC teams
  • 1 from Pac12 teams
  • 2 from ACC teams
  • 1 from Big10 teams
  • 2 from Big12 teams
  • 5 from non-major conference but still big-time Baseball programs (FAU, Houston, Sam Houston State, UConn, Wichita State)
  • 11 from smaller/non division 1 programs

Not surprisingly, a huge take from the SEC, which proved this year they’re unrivaled in terms of college baseball power.

Geographic Locations of picks:

  • 6 from Florida, 4 from Georgia
  • 4 from California, another 2 from Arizona
  • 4 From Texas, another 2 from Oklahoma and 2 from Arkansas
  • 3 from Tennessee, 2 from South Carolina and 2 from Kentucky
  • 5 from the Midwest (Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska)
  • 4 from random remaining states: one each from Connecticut, Wisconsin, Oregon and Virginia.

that’s 36 of the 40 picks from these 5 general areas.  We know that Florida, Georgia and California are the three heaviest areas for providing baseball talent, but normally we see a big focus in the Texas/Oklahoma area with our drafts.  Not this year; one quarter came from the two southeastern states this year.


 

Here’s a table with all 40 picks.

RoundOverallNamePositionCol/HSCollege or CmtmState
127Denaburg, MasonRHP (Str)HSFloridaFL
265Cate, TimLHP (Str)Coll JrUconnCT
3101Schaller, ReidRHP (Rel)Coll SoVanderbiltTN
4131Irvin, JakeRHP (Str)Coll JrOklahomaOK
5161Canning, GageOFColl JrArizona StateAZ
6191Karp, AndrewRHP (Str)Coll SrFlorida StateFL
7221Day, ChandlerRHP (Rel)Coll JrVanderbiltTN
8251Cropley, TylerCColl SrIowaIA
9281Driskill, TannerRHP (Str)Coll SrLamarTX
10311Shaddy, Carson2BColl SrArkansasAR
11341Bartow, FrankieRHP (Rel)Coll JrMiamiFL
12371Lawson, GrahamRHP (Rel)Coll JrSouth CarolinaSC
13401Wilson, CodyOF (Corner)Coll JrFlorida Atlantic UFL
14431Fletcher, AaronLHP (Str)Coll SrHoustonTX
15461Lee, EvanLHP (rel)/OFColl SoArkansasAR
16491Teel, CarsonLHP (Str)Coll JrOklahoma StateOK
17521Chapman, RidgeRHP (Str)Coll JrSouth CarolinaSC
18551Rhinesmith, JacobOF (CF)Coll JrWestern KentuckyKY
19581Linginfelter, ZachRHP (rel)Coll SoTennesseeTN
20611Vega, OnixCJC J1Broward CollegeFL
21641Tapani, RyanRHP (Str)Coll SrCreightonNB
22671Daily, ColeSSColl JrNotre DameIN
23701Hamilton, ColeCJC J1Linn Benton CCOR
24731Marinconz, KyleSSColl JrCal Poly San Luis ObispoCA
25761Vann, ChrisLHP (Str)Coll SrMercerGA
26791Morse, ColinRHP (Str)Coll SrShenandoah VA
27821O'Connor, Pablo2BColl SrAzusa Pacific UniversityCA
28851Chisolm, Blake1BColl SrSam Houston StateTX
29881Pogue, ColtonSSColl SrPittsburg State UKS
30911Vickers, TreySSColl SrWichita StateKS
31941Quintana, JonathanOFColl SrBarry UFL
32971Maley, AlecRHP (Str)Coll SrKentuckyKY
331001Haney, JackCHSCedartown HSGA
341031Baca, TylerOFHSThe Linfield School (CA)CA
351061Binelas, Alex1BHSOak Creek HS (WI)WI
361091Blessie, BoRHPHSRobert E Lee HS (TX)TX
371121Wilcox, ColeRHPHSHeritage HS (GA)GA
381151Milacki, BobbyRHPColl JrArizona Christian UAZ
391181Nardi, AndrewLHPJC J2Moorpark Col (CA)CA
401211Menhart, MichaelRHPHSRichmond Hill HSGA