Nationals Arm Race

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

Who is on your Post season Nats roster?


So, is this photo from 2012 or 2017? via federalbaseball norm hall getty images

So, is this photo from 2012 or 2017? via federalbaseball norm hall getty images

Assuming that the expected players on the D/L come back (all 10 of them as of this writing), there’s a ton of decisions to make in September.

This is probably premature, but it keeps coming up, and the Nats now have a 100% playoff odds chance right now per fangraphs, so might as well speculate.

Who is on your post-season roster?

Assuming that all of Drew, Glover, Goodwin, Harper, Madsen, Raburn, Romero, Scherzer, Turner and Werth come back and are fully healthy (yes, huge caveat), here’s what the Nats are looking at by category:

4 SPs: Options: Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Roark, Jackson.  Plus for completeness sake, Fedde and Cole.

As discussed previously, it’d take an injury to one of the first four to get Jackson to the post-season roster and in the rotation (more on this later).  Gio’s great 2017 moves him up to 3rd starter and possible 7th game decider in a long series.  Lets hope we get there.

Who plays in October:  Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Roark, in that order.

8 RPs:  Options: Doolittle*, Kintzler, Kelley, Albers, Perez*, Blanton, Grace*, Solis*, Glover, Madsen, Romero* plus 40-man guys Gott and Adams.

I think you have to carry the 7th-8th-9th guys we just acquired, so that’s your law-firm of Doolittle, Madsen and Kintzler.  Madsen apparently is more hurt that we thought and may not be back until the end of September, a situation to monitor for sure.  Albers is a lock as a middle reliever.  Perez’s capabilities of soaking up innings plus doing match-up puts him on the roster too.  I think Grace and Romero have earned their spots, thought that makes for e very lefty-heavy bullpen (which might really come in handy against the Dodgers, if we get there).  One remaining spot; i’d say that it should go to Glover …. but maybe it goes to EJackson instead if Glover isn’t healthy.  I know the assumption here is that everyone is healthy, so we’ll go with Glover for now, but I could also see Dusty Baker going with the experienced arm that could start in a pinch if Roark struggles.

So that leaves Blanton and Kelley having pitched themselves out of contention.  Solis’s up and down season costs him a post-season spot too.  Gott/Adams never had a chance based on MLB performance.

Now, the question is this; does Baker leave off vets like Blanton/Kelley for youngsters like Grace or Romero?  Maybe.  Grace/Romero’s ERAs on the season are in the 4 range … not the sub 2.00 range that would guarantee the spot.  So I dunno.  Maybe they go righty-heavy against Chicago in the NLDS then switch things up and go lefty heavy if we make it to the NLCS against LA.

Who plays in October: Doolittle, Madsen, Kintzler, Albers, Glover, Perez, Grace,  Romero.

Starting lineup: I cannot disagree with Jamal  Collier’s predicted playoff lineup from his Mailbag earlier this week.

1 SS Turner
2 LF Werth
3 RF Harper
4 1B Zimmerman
5 2B Murphy
6 3B Rendon
7 C Wieters
8 CF Taylor

Werth can work the count in the 2-hole, makes good contact and can drive the ball; if Rendon wants to stay in the 6-hole then there’s no better person to put up top with Turner.  Perhaps you switch Wieters and Taylor.  Perhaps you switch Zimmerman and Murphy if you’re not worried about having two lefties in a row.   If Goodwin could play CF, maybe he’d be starting there but right now its a coin-flip between them performance wise.  I don’t think the playoffs are a good time to experiment with Harper in CF so you can slip in Goodwin in RF so as to gain a few incremental points of OPS.  Still can’t quite believe that under-the-radar MVP candidate Rendon is batting 6th.

If Werth still isn’t healthy … then we slot in Kendrick nice and neat into LF/#2.  He’s done great there for us since his acquisition.


INF/OF Kendrick, INF/OF Lind, C Jose Lobaton, INF Drew, OF Goodwin

This Bench means that the likes of Raburn and more specifically Difo are off the roster.   I’d much rather have Drew off the bench in a critical situation than Difo.  But the thing is … Drew may not be healthy, which would leave Difo on the roster.  Maybe you carry Difo instead of Drew b/c that’d make one too many lefties on the bench (Lind, Drew, Goodwin all lefty only), while Difo can switch hit.  I could see that argument … but then again, does the player’s manager Baker go with Difo over the vet?  It may not matter; if Werth isn’t healthy, both Drew and Difo make it while Kendrick starts.



18 Responses to 'Who is on your Post season Nats roster?'

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  1. Todd, welcome back!
    To follow up on your previous comment last night, I agree Friday’s game was a punt, albeit a necessary one.

    All anyone needs to know about this remarkable season is the Nats have had 13 (!!!) starting outfielders and 9 pitchers record a save. Amazing.

    Mark L

    26 Aug 17 at 9:31 am

  2. Yep, that wasn’t even a decent split-squad spring line-up on Friday for the trip over to Port St. Lucie. And yet this team has kept winning through everything. Also, that was the line-up that needed to play on Friday, with the guys resting who needed to rest. Zim apparently has dinged a shoulder, which is worrisome.

    SP: the fourth slot is Roark’s to lose to Jackson, but it could still happen. I would be surprised if it did, but it could still happen. I could see Roark being replaced more than I could see Werth sitting for Kendrick.

    Line-up: not much debate there, unless someone isn’t healthy, but that’s not allowed. Everyone is going to get healthy!

    Bench: Lind, Kendrick, and Sheriff Lobo are locks. Goodwin probably is as well, as he’s a much better defensive-replacement option in the OF than Kendrick or Lind would be. Stevenson hasn’t done anything to get himself into contention, and Raburn has been MIA and likely would lose out to Goodwin anyway. Kendrick is pretty much an upgrade on Raburn, who was an upgrade on Heisey, who they totally released.

    That leaves Difo vs. Drew, which is going to be an interesting call. Drew has really struggled to stay healthy, and he hasn’t flashed the power that has previously made him so valuable. I think if Drew gets healthy and starts hitting, it’s his spot to lose, but he’s going to have to step up and earn it.


    26 Aug 17 at 10:09 pm

  3. The bullpen is a whole separate can of worms, but at least there are some good choices.

    Locks: Doolittle, Madsen, Kintzler, Albers, Perez (5)

    In the running if healthy: Glover, Grace, Romero, Jackson, Blanton, Kelley, Solis

    They are definitely going to take at least one more lefty, and if healthy, I’d handicap them 1) Romero, 2) Grace, 3) Solis. Solis has better stuff than Grace but just hasn’t gotten it done this year.

    Among the righties, I think Dusty has lost confidence in Kelley and won’t have trouble leaving him off the roster. In fact, I think he needs to go back on the DL, or something. Blanton is still teetering, in general, trending better recently, but he hasn’t completely regained the trust.

    Glover is a real wild card, as Dusty loves him, but he still hasn’t proved himself with his body of work. I think it’s a long shot that he gets healthy and shows the dominant form that would be needed for the postseason, but it would be a boon to the bullpen if he does.

    EJax is sort of a category of his own, but it’s hard to argue with his success. You’d certainly think he’s ahead of Kelley and Blanton in the pecking order right now.

    So . . . I think a healthy Romero is one of the final three. I think the final two slots will come down to a choice from among Blanton, Jackson, Glover, and Grace. If I’m picking right now, I’d take Jackson and Grace. But all of those guys can count. Don’t tell them that these last few weeks of the regular season are meaningless.


    26 Aug 17 at 10:23 pm

  4. Drew over Difo? Still? Have we even heard from Drew in the past few weeks? Difo has been a huge replacement this season and can do just about everything better than Drew, including being healthy. It’s not even close for me.

    Andrew R

    26 Aug 17 at 11:43 pm

  5. Drew may not come back, indeed, making Difo the obvious choice. He’s not even listed to do rehab right now on MLB’s page ( So it may sort it self out.

    But .. ask yourself what Dusty Baker would do if he had to choose.

    Todd Boss

    27 Aug 17 at 8:02 am

  6. Difo, playing at what looks like his peak, is producing a wRC+ of 84. Drew last year produced a wRC+ of 124, 50 percent better. I expressed doubt above whether that version of Drew is coming back. But if it does, it’s an upgrade on Difo, particularly in what likely would be a pinch-hitting role. My gut says it likely will be Difo on the postseason roster, though, unless Drew comes back soon, and comes back playing better than he has all season.


    27 Aug 17 at 8:20 am

  7. I think most of these comments are right. I’d go Drew over Difo if healthy – that’s three quality pinch hitters. Difo does add some speed, but the Nats line up is pretty fast anyway other than C, so it’s less impactful.

    I’d also go against most of you by saying Solis over Grace. They don’t need a long reliever in the playoffs, and Solis has quality stuff when he’s going right. No Kelley or Blanton. Really hope Madison gets healthy; he’s a huge impact guy.

    Roark over EJax. They won’t even consider EJax.


    27 Aug 17 at 1:29 pm

  8. Victor Robles is playing like he wants to be on the playoff roster. Harrisburg may not be that good, but he is clearly the best player on the team.


    27 Aug 17 at 5:49 pm

  9. Matt Grace is averaging 5.27 K/9 and 3.51 BB/9. He’s not making my postseason roster, especially not with two lefties guaranteed (Doolittle, Ollie) and another likely to make the roster if he’s healthy (Romero). I think Edwin’s recent performance is largely a mirage, but I’d still rather have him on a playoff bullpen than Grace.

    How quickly we forget about Shawn Kelley. This is a guy who last year had a 12.4 K/9 and a 1.71 BB/9. These are exceptional numbers – only Sean Doolittle comes close on our current roster. Kelley has been terrible this year, however. He’s almost certainly hurt. But given that he’s actually been a good reliever in the past, I’d give him every possible chance to make the postseason roster. If he’s 85% of what he was last year, that’s still markedly better than somebody like Grace. I’d also do the same with Glover and to a lesser extent Solis – let the guys with wipeout stuff pitch their way off the roster.

    I was hoping the team would put Fedde in the playoff bullpen mix, but he did not look like the same guy yesterday. I hope it’s just general fatigue and not something more. I’d shut him down.

    Finally, I agree with Fore: Robles ought to get a look in the big leagues in September. A 20 y.o. OPSing almost 900 in AA is a future star.


    28 Aug 17 at 10:01 am

  10. One more point re: Robles. He plays with presence of mind, major league ready defense and can fly. He will elevate his game on the bigger stage, not wilt.

    I could not help but think that, fast though EJax may be, Victor Robles would have tied the score on that Murphy hit yesterday. What happens in the playoffs?

    As for before then, a late inning September outfield defense with Robles, Taylor, and Stevenson would be quite the blanket. And a lineup with both Turner and Robles will be most entertaining. I could see Robles being the kind of player that will make Harper want to stick around. I haven’t been this excited about a minor leaguer since, well, Turner.


    28 Aug 17 at 11:15 am

  11. Difo has a 2.2 bWAR this season. His defense has been stellar to go along with much improving offense.

    Remember, when Trea went down on June 29, Difo’s splits were .194/.250/.269 (101 PAs).

    Since June 30, he’s done a bit better – .335/.385/.447 (183 PAs).

    There is no way Drew is better than Difo at this point in time. Regardless of Drew being banished to the 60 day, Difo was getting the playoff spot.

    Andrew R

    29 Aug 17 at 12:55 am

  12. Is Difo a trade candidate this off-season? There’s no room in the starting infield for him in 2018 and he’s probably better than a spare infielder now. Or do you (as the Nats) say, “hmm he makes MLB minimum, he can be our primary backup infielder, Drew is oft-injured and a FA so we just replace like for like and save some bucks and then maybe slide Difo into Murphy’s 2B starting spot in 2019?”

    Todd Boss

    29 Aug 17 at 9:10 am

  13. Value extremely high now, I would trade him in package for a #1 or #2 type starting pitcher which is Rizzo’s M.O. That would be a good idea as our starting pitching looks thin and always injury worry. Difo looks so much more confident and even different stance than in years past. Seems to have figured it out and if his power improves will be very valuable. he and Goodwin a good lesson to at least give all these young guys a chance unless they strike out 50% of the time. Difo fooled me as I was heavily leaning AAAA for him. Maybe the Murphy effect helped him. Too bad Stevenson didn’t get it going in his brief opportunity. He did make contact but didn’t find many holes.

    Murphy has been scuffling for about a month now. I suspect nagging injury or just tired heavy bat. He has some awkward looking K’s now we’ve never seen in his tenure here. I would rest him up some and get him right for post season.

    Will be interesting to see how TT performs. He was killing it on the base paths but not at the plate when he got hurt. And stats were really bad in the rehab stint. Hope he can get it together to resemble 2016 Trea. Boz mentioned he can’t hit lefties at all, which is odd.

    Marty C

    29 Aug 17 at 9:45 am

  14. I’d definitely look to trade Difo. His value will be higher to other teams and perhaps we can get a young catcher or pitcher in return.

    Andrew R

    29 Aug 17 at 9:58 am

  15. I think i’d tend to look to trade Difo as well. I’m not sure he’s getting back a #1 or #2 starter though. Trea Turner would get back a #1 or #2 starter. Difo might fetch a decent outfielder and a younger pitching prospect since he has shown he can play both sides of the ball at short.

    September will get everyone the chance to rest and regroup for playoffs. Difo stays up, which means Turner can get back into playing shape at SS while Difo spells Murphy at 2B. The Nats not only have the division wrapped up, they basically have the home field in the divisional series wrapped up too (8 game lead on Cubs right now). So September will be a second spring training session to get ready for October.

    Todd Boss

    29 Aug 17 at 10:12 am

  16. […] We may have to revisit our post-season roster predictions, published on 8/26/17, given what’s been going on.  At that time I went with Doolittle, Madsen, Kintzler, Albers, […]

  17. […] posted this same topic just about a month ago on 8/26/17.  But the topic keeps coming up in the comments, we’ve had a month of players […]

  18. […] two posts (here and here) and multiple discussions about the edges of the roster, the team announced its NLDS […]

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