Nationals Arm Race

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

Spring Training 2019 NRI Discussion


Kieboom is probably the surest NRI thing in 2019. Photo via PerfectGame

Kieboom is probably the surest NRI thing in 2019. Photo via PerfectGame

The Nationals, on the eve of spring training, announced their list of Non-Roster Invitees (NRIs) for 2019.

Here’s the list:

  • RHP — Henderson Alvarez, Aaron Barrett, Scott Copeland, Wil Crowe, J.J. Hoover, Ronald Peña
  • LHP — Vidal Nuño
  • C —Tres Barrera, Taylor Gushue
  • INF —Luis Garcia , Carter Kieboom, Jose Marmolejos, Jake Noll, Matt Reynolds, Brandon Snyder, Jacob Wilson
  • OF — Hunter Jones, Chuck Taylor

Now, before you say “who cares” here’s some stats.  In the last four seasons (through 2018):

  • 5 NRIs made the 25-man roster straight out of Spring Training (and Guthrie technically made it 6 since he got called up a few days later and was always intended to be the 5th starter in 2017)
  • 18 NRIs eventually played for the MLB team at some point that same season.

So its likely that we’re going to see 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 2019.

So lets squint and make some predictions.

  1. Do any of these guys stand a chance at making the Opening day roster?  Yeah maybe.  I think a couple of the relievers (especially Nuno) have a real shot at the bullpen if they perform in Florida.  Three of the seven guys I’m projecting to the MLB bullpen have options remaining (Barraclough, Suero and Glover), the team only really has one legit lefty in the pen (Grace) and may end up carrying 8 relievers through some roster chicanery early on.
  2. Do any of these guys project to feature at all in 2019?  Absolutely: I think Alvarez, Hoover, Nuno, Reynolds, and Snyder in particular seem likely to get call-ups to cover for injury, unless they exercise opt-outs.  Reynolds is one of the few SS capable guys in the high minors, Snyder could be Zimmerman or Adams injury coverage, and Alvarez could get the call to provide spot starts if in-house options like Fedde continue to struggle at the MLB level.
  3. Who among these guys project to eventually get on the 40-man?  The top-end prospects on this list for sure: Crowe, Garcia, Kieboom, Barrera and perhaps Gushue all seem likely to eventually make the 40-man.


NRI Details by year, in case you were wondering…

Summary of NRIs for 2019 (post season update): 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)
  • 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).


20 Responses to 'Spring Training 2019 NRI Discussion'

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  1. — Barring injury, the only one of these guys who would seem to have a chance to make the club in the spring is Nuno. He’s got the same reverse-splits problem as Solis, though, and Solis is younger, more talented, and out of options.

    — The surprise omission to me is Andrew Istler. He was at AAA with the Dodgers when traded, is new to the organization, and has a legit shot at big-league time in 2019. Why isn’t he getting a look now?

    — The “WOW” is Garcia getting the invite at age 18. I’m trying to remember whether Bryce was in the big league camp at 18, or if he had to wait until 18. At any rate, if anyone has any question whether the Nats see him as a fast riser, doubt no more. Should be priceless for Garcia and C. Kieboom to go through camp with vets like Kendrick, Dozier, and Rendon.

    — If they add Gushue to the 40-man, the catching apocalypse is upon us. He hit .212 at Harrisburg last year.

    — Where is Yadiel Hernandez? Are they ever going to give him a look?

    — Another head-scratcher to me, which I’ve posted about a few times at Nats Prospects, is the organization’s curious preference of Jake Noll over Austin Davidson. Both are infielders who aren’t SS-capable and apparently aren’t that good defensively anywhere. Noll got sent to the AZ Fall League and got the NRI this spring, but Davidson outhit him at AA last year by a wide margin: .846 OPS vs. .687.

    — The guess right now would be a Fresno rotation of Ross, Fedde, McGowin, Voth, and Alvarez, unless they keep Ross in extended spring training and don’t start ramping up his game pitching until May-June.


    15 Feb 19 at 9:07 am

  2. Err, whether Bryce had to wait until he was “19” in 2012. I don’t remember if he was in the big-league camp in 2011 at 18. Garcia will turn 19 in May. He was the youngest player at the A+ level last season.


    15 Feb 19 at 9:15 am

  3. AAA rotation thoughts: agree with Ross, Fedde, Voth, McGowin, and Alvarez assuming he doesn’t have an early opt out.

    Also seems to have Dragmine, Copeland, Goforth in the mix perhaps.

    Todd Boss

    15 Feb 19 at 11:54 am

  4. I thought Bryce signed a major league deal?


    15 Feb 19 at 2:37 pm

  5. Bryce Harper did sign a MLB deal in Aug 2010. Then burned two options in 2011 and 2012 before getting called up mid 2012. Rendon also signed a MLB deal. I don’t think Strasburg did though. no he did too per Cots:

    Todd Boss

    15 Feb 19 at 3:19 pm

  6. Bryce was actually called up pretty early in 2012, April 28. Things haven’t been the same since!

    I’m starting to see some scuttlebutt about a possibility I’ve mentioned: Ross sticking with the big club in the bullpen. We’ll see. I still think he can be a capable MLB starter, but if he’s going to be limited for 2019, that might be the best role for him.


    15 Feb 19 at 3:28 pm

  7. Ross in bullpen; i thought I read Zuckerman’s story this am that they’d prefer sending these guys to Fresno to pitch regularly? that’s what i’d prefer too.

    Todd Boss

    15 Feb 19 at 4:34 pm

  8. Regarding early season “roster chicanery,” it’s going to be tough given that none of their 5 projected staters can be demoted without being DFA’ed. As the only backup SS, Difo is also safe as are Adams and Kendrick. The only one I’m not sure about is Taylor–does he have an option left?

    Karl Kolchak

    15 Feb 19 at 5:47 pm

  9. Taylor is the only CF-capable reserve, unless they’re willing to get by with Eaton there in a pinch. Taylor has no real “competition” in camp, though, other than Stevenson. I cringe at the thought of Taylor and Difo as PH options, though. Nice RH/LH options in Kendrick and Adams, however. The word on Kendrick’s recovery sounds really good.


    15 Feb 19 at 7:59 pm

  10. I was just responding to ‘when was Bryce in the big league camp’. I think if he was on the 40 man from the beginning, he was always in the big league camp and not an NRI.


    15 Feb 19 at 9:16 pm

  11. Correct. Harper has never been an NRI and is probably one of the key reasons why they created the rule against 40-man deals upon signing.

    As for options, the following have one left according to my volunteer:

    * Along with Spencer Kieboom, both have been outrighted. This is bigger than Oprah because all three can become free agents if they pass through waivers.

    Luke Erickson

    16 Feb 19 at 9:28 am

  12. Interesting to know that Taylor still has an option. I guess theoretically, the Nats could send MAT to Fresno and go with a four-man bench so they could carry an eighth man in the bullpen. Kendrick and Adams could play (or at least stand in) the outfield, and Eaton could be the backup for CF. I doubt the Nats will do that, but they could.


    16 Feb 19 at 10:05 am

  13. Barring injury, there don’t seem to be any positional battles in the spring. I guess there would be a small chance that Stevenson could beat out Taylor for the last bench spot, but that would be rated as unlikely. Matt Reynolds isn’t a real challenger for Difo as the utility INF. The only issue at catcher would seem to be when/how they’re going to remove Severino from the 40-man, by trade or DFA.

    Is there a true open competition for 5th starter? That will be interesting to see. Among Hellickson, Ross, and Fedde, I think Ross actually has the most talent if he’s completely healthy. I’d say it’s Hellickson’s spot to lose, though.

    As we’ve discussed, there are a number of different directions they could go with the last couple of slots in the bullpen. Doolittle, Rosenthal, Barraclough, and Grace seem like locks, and Miller is pretty likely. There will be a bunch of guys angling for the last couple of slots. Most still have options, but Solis doesn’t.


    16 Feb 19 at 10:14 am

  14. Just saw that Storen signed with the Royals to try and put his career back on track. Wish him luck. Meanwhile Clippard, who had a fairly good year last season, remains unsigned.

    I also saw where Reynolds (as in Mark) went back the Rockies on a minor league deal but is expected to make the club, presumably backing up Murphy. Now if Colorado would just sign Harper, Gio, Madsen and Wieters they could corner the market on 2018 Nats.

    Karl Kolchak

    16 Feb 19 at 10:14 pm

  15. If it comes to pass, here’s the 2018 defensive fWAR of the prospective Philly OF: Harper -18.1, Herrera -9.0, McCutcheon -7.9. That’s a collective -33.0. Wow.

    The Phillie meeting with Harper was six weeks ago. Obviously he’s been hoping and praying for a reasonable offer from basically anyplace else. Money ain’t everything, kid. Take less and go to SF or SD where you’ll be infinitely happier.


    17 Feb 19 at 9:26 pm

  16. That’s a lot of bad defense to try and hide. Even if the Phillies sign Harper, they still don’t have the pitching.
    KW, you’re admonition to Harper presumes he has more brains than ego. It’s the other way around.

    Mark L

    18 Feb 19 at 8:44 am

  17. I’m in the camp that Harper did not suddenly go from a quality defensive right fielder (2016 uzr/150 of 5.9, 2017 uzr/150 of 4.6) to the worst defensive right fielder in the game (2018 uzr/150 of -15.4).

    Not while being in his mid 20s, irrespecitve of how much he’s bulked up. Something was clearly amiss with his defense in 2018. Theories abound and have been talked about here, but I believe it was a combination of:
    – him playing more conservatively to protect his body heading into free agency
    – him dogging it b/c he was dissatisfied with the direction the team went in 2018.

    Todd Boss

    18 Feb 19 at 10:28 am

  18. I think you guys are underestimating the Phillies. I think they are pretty good right now and if Harper or Machado go there, they’ll be close to or on par with the Nats. I agree SPs is a weakness but it’s not that bad. Nola is excellent, the other guys are middling but have performed in short spells and they can always trade for someone else.

    But I agree that Harper to Philadelphia is dangerous for him. One, it’s a blue collar fan base and that’s not Harper. Second, if he has one of these off seasons while the team also disappoints, they could turn on him quickly. He has to know that and it’s part of the delay but my guess is that they are tens of millions higher than the next guy. Very hard to say no.


    18 Feb 19 at 12:13 pm

  19. Remember; Harper comes from a blue-collar family; his dad is a long-time iron worker who worked on constructions projects. I wouldn’t worry about that. He’s a lightning rod for criticism; despite having 30 war and an MVP by the time he’s 25 people think he’s over rated. Over rated! I guess he’s over rated b/c he’s not Mike Trout, who is on route to be one of hte best 4-5 players in the history of the game. I suppose it just isn’t enough that he’s well on his way to a Hall of fame career. I mean, if he just matches his career thus far in the next 10 years, he’ll be at 60 bWAR by the time he’s 30. That’s more than what Joey Votto has right now with 4 years to spare.

    So … yeah i’m worried if he goes to PHilly. I think he’ll crush in that stadium. And trust me, knowing more than a few Philly fans … if he wins an MVP there, he’ll buy himself a decade of excuses. Ask any phillies fan about Ryan Howard, who was just stealing money at the end of his career. You’d have been hard pressed to find a Philly fan who would bad mouth him. He won an ROY, MVP and a WS title.

    Todd Boss

    18 Feb 19 at 1:58 pm

  20. […] Summary of NRIs for 2019: 18 total […]

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