Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats 40-man Options status


Nearly every year we talk about the Options status of the 40-man, and what it means for spring training. And this year is no different; nearly every year the options availability (or lack of them) helps drive some edge-of-the-roster decisions and the team ends up keeping players at the expense of others, often times in stark contrast to fan-perceived value or merit of inclusion.

Here’s a run-through of the Options status of the current 40-man roster. I have uploaded my Options Analysis annual spreadsheet to the Big Board; it is one of the 2021 tabs. Direct link here. The online XLS has a ton more information than we show here: it has updated Service time, first added to 40-man, known years optioned and some notes.

I divide the Roster into 5 categories of players on the 40-man:
– Vets who can refuse demotion (5 or more years of service)
– Players with Options available but who are MLB Entrenched
– Players with Options Available, jeopardizing 25-man roster status
– Players with Options almost guaranteed to be used in 2021
– Players with No Options left (the main analysis of this post).

For completion, here’s a quick run-through of all the categories:

Category 1: Vets who can refuse demotion (5 or more years of service)

We have 13 such players for 2021: Scherzer, Corbin, Gomes, Strasburg, Harris, Castro, Hudson, Harrison, Schwarber, Lester, Zimmerman, Hand and Avila.

Interesting tidbits about this group:
– Castro, Zimmerman and Avila never once burned an option
– Schwarber just got his 5 years of service time last season.
– Zimmerman earned 10&5 rights in 2015, and Strasburg earned it last year.
– Of this group, only Hand actually burned three options. Then, he didn’t make the Miami team out of spring training in 2016 so they had to DFA him; San Diego claimed him and he began to flourish from there.

Category 2: Options Avail but are MLB entrenched

We have 7 such players for 2021: Turner, Soto, Robles, Suero, Rainey, Bell, and Finnegan.

You may quibble perhaps with Finnegan being called “entrenched” but for now, his 2020 season has him being a lock for the pen in my book.

Interesting tidbits about this group:
– Turner and Bell will reach 5 years of service time in 2021, which means they would be able to refuse an option.
– Neither Soto and Finnegan has ever been optioned.
– Turner’s 2015 nonsensical call-up ended up burning the team dearly; he achieved Super2 by just a few days and the Nats have been on the hook for millions more than they “needed” to spend.

Category 3: Options Available and not a lock for the 25-man roster.

I count 5 players in this category for 2021: Kieboom, Clay, Garcia, Fedde, and Harper.

Each of these players needs some discussion.

  • Kieboom, by all accounts, is being handed the 3B job. The team did not pursue a replacement, Castro wants to play 2B, and the job is his. I suppose it is still possible that the team finds a new 3B and sends him to AAA, where a lot of people think he needs to be. But for now, he’s in this category instead of the one above.
  • Clay signed a MLB contract with the team in the 2020 off-season, somewhat oddly in that he had zero MLB service time at that point and was a MLFA. I wonder if the team “beat out” another suitor by promising the 40-man slot. Either way, I do not favor Clay to make the team coming out of Spring Training.
  • Garcia could theoretically make the 25-man roster as our backup infielder … but i’d much rather see him in AAA playing full time. His slash line was not that impressive last year (but better than Kieboom’s … hence why some are wondering what the heck the team is doing). For now, i’d send him to AAA.
  • Fedde got a 4th option thanks to some timing issues … and i’ll bet the team uses it in 2021. Which means Fedde will be in AAA as a 28yr old and service time in four different MLB seasons. That’s got to be a bummer to him. And to make matters worse he may not be the first spot starter called upon, thanks to an option-less player we’re about to talk about.
  • Harper was solid in 2019, awful in 2020, and I think his options flexibility will mean he starts the year in AAA in lieu of one of the MLFA/NRIs we’ve signed this spring. But he should be back up eventually to provide injury relief cover.

Category 4: Players with options who are almost guaranteed to be optioned out of Spring Training.

I count 11 guys in this category: McGowin, Barrera, Noll, Braymer, Armenteros, Adon, Antuna, Fuentes, Hernandez, Romero and Bacus.

Lets take these guys by category:

  • Adon, Antuna and Fuentes: just added to the 40-man, not yet expected to contribute at the MLB level.
  • McGowin, Braymer, Armenteros and Romero: i’d want this to be 4/5ths or 4/6ths of my AAA rotation. I do not consider these players serious contenders to the 5th starter role, but I do think the team may be looking at the two lefties (Braymer and Romero) as relievers going forward. I’d rather see if they can cut it as starters and provide more value. Armenteros is a wildcard; he has certainly shown he can succeed as a starter in the minors and his release by Houston was somewhat surprising. I’m guessing he pitches excellently in AAA and could be a surprising call-up mid-seaons.
  • Noll: honestly i’m not sure why he’s still rostered at this point; instead of calling him up last year they started a 19yr old’s service time clock. Eventually they called him up and he got a grand total of three starts. He’s my “first guy off the 40-man if we need space” candidate right now.
  • Barrera: you have to have a backup catcher on the roster and he’s it.
  • Hernandez sits on the 40-man after a late-season call-up, but he seems to have no spot on this team. he’s 2nd behind Noll in “next guy to get DFA’d.”
  • Lastly, Bacus seems to be an afterthought reliever on the roster right now, and is not favored to beat out several MLFA NRIs for the 2021 roster.

Category 5: Players out of options.

We have 3 players out of options for 2021: Ross, Voth and Stevenson.

  • Joe Ross is the current leading 5th starter candidate.
  • Voth (along with Fedde) are the leading competitors for said 5th starter job, and the odds on circumstance to occur is this: Voth loses the 5th starter job but “looks good” in spring training, which leads the team to either carry him as the 8th reliever or to invent a soft tissue injury and stash him on the DL for a few weeks. If Voth does NOT look good in spring training, he’s a DFA candidate come 4/1/21.
  • Stevenson has proven his worth as a plus defender, 4th outfielder type and his 2020 allowed the team to move on (finally?) from Michael A. Taylor this off-season. He’s out of options, but it doesn’t matter b/c he’s the bench OF.

Post Publishing Update 3/23/21: an Arbiter has just ruled that Erick Fedde does NOT have a 4th option, meaning that he’s now out of options and would have to be exposed to waivers if he doesn’t make the 2021 opening day roster.

64 Responses to 'Nats 40-man Options status'

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  1. In regards to category 4 my take. Adon and Antuna are still a bit away but if either blows it away in the minors they could see time in 2021. Especially Antuna. Nats are not shy promoting position players that hit or pitchers for that matter.

    I think brass still sees Romero as a starter long term and will give him every opportunity to lock that in.

    Armenteros unless he blows it away is just pitcher depth.Braymer on the other hand is probably strictly a reliever at this point and from the left side, which puts him closer to the big leagues.

    McGowin though is the wild card. I think he is a full time reliever now and his slider at times last year was dynamic. He elicited plenty of swings and misses. He seemed to wear down late. But if he is anything like the earlier appearances we could be looking at a dynamic bullpen weapon who I think should probably be on the roster over say Wander Suero.

    Noll is a prime DFA guy. Barrera is depth. Bacus is also depth.

    But Hernandez feels like a guy to me that has a legit shot to make the opening day roster if he hits in spring training. All he has done in the minors is hit. He seems like with time he could be a prime bench bat who could even get a spot start here and there.


    27 Feb 21 at 1:07 am

  2. In the “entrenched” category, you’ve included a guy who slashed .220/.293/.315, K’d 28% of the time, posted a Difo-like wRC+ of 65, only hit the ball hard 21% of the time, and posted negative defensive stats in a key defensive position. I know Robles was a top-5 overall prospect, but man, that was an awful, awful season. If he starts off that way again in 2021, send him down and let Stevenson take over CF for a while.

    Speaking of Stevo, I sure hope his run at the end of 2020 wasn’t an illusion, but several of us keep having den Dekker flashbacks. I do think he’s the odds-on favorite for 4th OF. The question is whether they’ll keep a 5th from among Parra, Tomas, and Hernandez, or if they’ll count on Harrison to cover LF.


    27 Feb 21 at 12:18 pm

  3. Despite where i categorized Antuna, i wonder if he’s not a candidate to blow away spring training and earn the 3B slot. I mean, heck why not; he is just as lauded an IFA as Soto and Robles were. Great point on McGowin; he defintely has shown some flexibility.

    Hernandez: i just don’t see a spot for him. With a 26-man roster and 13 pitchers, that leaves 13 position players. 8 starters, 1 backup catcher leaves 4 spots. We KNOW Zimmerman is one of those spots, we KNOW Harrison is one of those spots. That leaves a backup outfielder and a backup infielder. Said backup outfielder HAS to be able to play CF; that’s not Hernandez. That’s Stevenson. And that leaves one backup infielder, which could be Garcia but more likely is an NRI like Mercer or Perez. If the team carries Hernandez … who makes way? The needs and numbers don’t add up.

    Todd Boss

    27 Feb 21 at 12:20 pm

  4. I’m just still not sure where Parra fits on a team that already has a lefty-hitting fourth outfielder, who plays better defense than Parra and likely isn’t a significantly worse hitter (might be equal or better, actually). We forget Stevenson spent virtually all of 2019 in the minors. I’m sure DMart wants him in the clubhouse, but he doesn’t seem to add anything beyond his presence.

    Ditto Yadiel Hernández, who is a nice story and had one of the best moments of a lousy 2020 season with his walkoff first career home run. But he’s limited to corner positions defensively (at best) and he’s also a lefty. At least he’s a power hitter, and the Nats could use some left-handed power off the bench, but where and when do you actually play him?

    I think McGowin is a reliever now. (Although he’s also probably the best-hitting pitcher in the system, for whatever that’s worth. I saw him absolutely rip two doubles off the wall in back-to-back at-bats in Fresno.) There are enough other candidates for the Rochester rotation, even if it’s a six-man rotation (Fedde, Espino, Eppler, Fuentes, Braymer, Armenteros, Sharp), and he had some success in relief that he hasn’t as an MLB starter.

    I’d love to see Antuna turn some heads this spring and make a serious run at the third base job, although I doubt he’s really in contention for it. It would be nice to feel as though we have a real positional prospect in the minors.

    Hérnan Pérez and Jordy Mercer seem like the most obvious logical bench/backup candidates for that last spot, although I don’t think it’s completely impossible that someone totally unexpected like Jackson Cluff balls out in camp and gets rewarded.


    27 Feb 21 at 2:52 pm

  5. Great job Todd! This clears up a lot for the armchair GM’s
    Parra is on 1 leg right now and won’t be ready until May at least.
    Last year was nuts all around but Stevenson was a better player than Robles.

    Mark L

    27 Feb 21 at 3:33 pm

  6. I think I remember Hernandez playing a little CF his first year at Harrisburg, but I could be mistaken. Parra has played some CF, but I wouldn’t count on him there now. And Mark is right, Parra is calling himself only 70-80% healthy, which I take to mean that they’re going to keep him on ice in XST limbo until May or later.

    It would be great for the organization if Antuna pans out, and sooner rather than later, but this is a guy who hasn’t played in organized games since mid-2018 and was hitting only .220/.293/.331 when he did. I must say that I’m a little skeptical of the reports of his power explosion in the Instructional League. He had spent the summer hitting off the best arms in the organization, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that he went off on some lesser hurlers in the fall.

    Also, it will be interesting to see where they have Antuna play. I don’t think anyone believes he will stay at SS. If they truly believe in Kieboom, why would Antuna be at 3B? Garcia seems to be the future at 2B (and perhaps at SS if Trea leaves — perish the thought). To my mind, LF is where Antuna should right now, particularly if they believe in his new-found power.


    27 Feb 21 at 9:06 pm

  7. Jackson Cluff seems like the next utility infielder really on the rise, despite struggles in his first half-season of pro ball. He got the alt-camp invite last summer and NRI invite now. With his limited pro experience, I would think he would be ticketed for Harrisburg at the highest. Same for Antuna. Cluff is SS-capable, which Noll isn’t (and Cole Freeman isn’t; man, he seems to have disappeared off the radar).


    27 Feb 21 at 9:22 pm

  8. I haven’t seen Freeman very much (much less scouted him), but from what I’ve read, his arm is a wet noodle, and he really didn’t impress in the Arizona Fall League in 2019 (hitting a Kieboom-esque .233/.562 over 50 plate appearances).

    Oh, and he’s 27 in September >.<


    28 Feb 21 at 1:34 am

  9. […] Fedde, who’s fighting an uphill battle with an option available, got the start and was touched for a run on a wild pitch after loading the bases on a single and […]

  10. Fedde’s outing could have been worse, but it was not good: loaded the bases on a hit and two walks and uncorked a wild pitch. He got out of it, but it weren’t pretty.

    The parade of eight relievers all did well and none gave up an earned run. Adon looked sharp. McGowin looked really sharp and sent a signal we shouldn’t sleep on him for a roster spot. Clay looked good, Braymer looked decent, McFarland survived. Klobosits got victimized by some lousy defense but also gave up a couple of line drives; I like his arsenal, though, especially if he adds 2-3 mph more as he rounds into midseason form, and I really liked his unbothered demeanor after that ugly Cluff E-6.

    Cluff had an awful day, not looking ready at all to play at this level. I’d suggested him earlier as an example of someone who might surprise this spring, but that was not impressive at all today. Bell beat the shift with a clean single, but as Jim Edmonds repeatedly noted, his swing looks rather long and loopy, something I hope KLong can work with him to correct before Opening Day. Schwarber looked pretty good to me, and it’s clear conditioning isn’t an issue for him. García had a pretty good game. Castro got a hit, which was nice to see. Mendoza is my Player of the Game, though, mashing a double that narrowly missed clearing the wall off Genesis Cabrera (who had a 2.42 ERA last year and is a lefty, not a pushover by any means) and making a spectacular play to barehand snag a liner off the first base bag in the ninth. Very impressive Grapefruit League debut from our “first baseman of the future”.


    28 Feb 21 at 8:27 pm

  11. Can someone explain to me why Kieboom, who DESPERATELY needs spring ABs more than anyone else, wasn’t in the lineup on Sunday? Anyone?

    Fedde is the Nats’ definition of insanity — the same thing over and over again, but somehow expecting a different result.

    McGowin — yes, since he has an option, he may not make the squad out of Spring Training, but he could really develop into something in the ‘pen. He strikes guys out, which puts him well ahead of Fedde as a relief-conversion “prospect.” McGowin may turn into the next Stammen.

    I know we’ve gotten burned in the recent past with falling college stars who didn’t pan out in Wiseman and Banks. I’ll admit, I was really excited when both were drafted. Mendoza at one point was ranked even higher than those guys, listed as a top-five overall pick in some early mocks. He has talent. But since it has been decided that he’s going to be at 1B, the bar is pretty high — he’s pretty much going to have to show 25-30 HR power to make it there. Otherwise, big-power 1B types have been pretty cheaply available on the FA market. (One also can wonder if Mendoza might start getting some looks back at 3B by midseason if Kieboom doesn’t straighten out, but that’s another story.)


    1 Mar 21 at 9:32 am

  12. Mendoza is a train wreck at 3B. I can’t find his 2019 college stats but he had like an error every 3 games with a scatter arm. I cannot imagine installing him at 3B in the sport’s top level.

    Todd Boss

    1 Mar 21 at 9:55 am

  13. Hmm, sounds like Antuna’s defensive stats . . .

    Mendoza’s whole career will ride on his bat, then. The Nats have Bell for two seasons, which should be a good time frame for them to know whether they have something in Mendoza . . . and perhaps for the universal DH to have arrived.


    1 Mar 21 at 11:12 am

  14. Antuna’s defensive stats at SS are indeed ridiculous. 20 in 21 games in GCL in 2017, then 26 in 66 games at Low-A in 2018.

    I’d like to see what he can do at 3B. Are these all fielding errors? throwing errors?’s stats are so rough its hard to pass judgement.

    Todd Boss

    1 Mar 21 at 4:42 pm

  15. Well, Antuna committed a throwing error today at shortstop, so…midseason form?

    Rough day for a couple of Natmosphere blog faves in Jacob Condra-Bogan and Matt Cronin. Kyle Finnegan got socked too. A good day — hopefully, a sign of things to come — for Carter Kieboom, among others.


    1 Mar 21 at 8:26 pm

  16. We say that folks shouldn’t be judged too much by early Spring Training outings, particularly pitchers . . . and yet sometimes, with crowded rosters, the cusp guys only get a couple of looks in big-league games. There may be even fewer opportunities with no split-squad games. Cronin will still be tagged as a riser in the organization, but you wonder how this might affect Condra-Bogan’s fate.

    Good to see a strong outing from my guy Fuentes. Also a strong inning from Bacus, who most of us have already DFA’d.

    Good starts from the Cuban duo competing for an OF slot, Tomas and Hernandez. And yes, and actual extra-base hit from Kieboom!


    1 Mar 21 at 9:55 pm

  17. Fuentes throws a bowling ball sinker and has a great changeup. There’s always a place for guys like that.

    If the Astros don’t carry Steven Souza Jr., I’d take him over Yasmany or Yadiel.


    1 Mar 21 at 11:38 pm

  18. So …. in options news, apparently Andrew Stevenson still has an option. just did a listing of all out-of-options players and he wasn’t on our list (Ross, Voth only), then i took a look at the Roster Resoruce site and they have Stevenson with 1 option too;

    I’m doing some forensic work now on his detailed options work. I initially had him burning 3 options in 18,19,20.
    – Drafted June 2015
    – contract selected on 7/23/17.
    – Optioned on 8/28/17, but then recalled on 9/7/17 … . so he was down for a grand total of 10 days, not long enough to burn an option. Therefore, no option burned in 2017.
    – 2018 and 2019: clearly in AAA for good portion of the season, so that’s two options burned.
    – 2020: optioned 3/26, recalled 7/23 … which was the first day of the season. Then optioned BACK to XST on 8/4/20, recalled 9/18/20. So his 3rd option was burned; he was in the minors more than 20 days.

    So … the only answer is that Stevenson qualified for a 4th option year and we havn’t heard it before. Here’s the rule:

    A player is eligible for a fourth option season if he has been
    optioned in three seasons and has not yet amassed five full seasons
    of professional baseball experience. A little slower now: if a player
    runs through his three option years very quickly in his professional
    career than his team is granted a fourth option.

    Stevenson’s pro career includes 2015, his draft year, but it wasn’t a “full season.” So 16,17,18,19,20 … his 5th “full season of pro baseball” wasn’t until the end of 2020 … so he was optioned 3 times in his first 5 pro seasons.

    Ok. So Stevenson got a 4th option. does this change the equation for him versus another OF? Maybe, maybe not.
    – Hernandez has options and is on the 40-man, but really can’t play CF
    – Parra is not 100% and would require a roster move to re-add; more likely he hits the DL and is an option in mid May.
    – Harrison can play a corner OF spot, not CF
    – Tomas: corner OF
    – Tocci: … now he’s a CF.

    so, question is; does Tocci beat out Stevenson for 4th OF spot? he didn’t exactly light the world on fire for Texas in 2018, nor in 2019 in AAA. I think Stevenson’s brief-but-successful MLB history wins out.

    Todd Boss

    2 Mar 21 at 1:41 pm

  19. Great work Todd! You’ve done a lot of homework.
    I’m fascinated on how spring training works out. Let’s be honest; Stenenson was a better player than Robles last year but it was such a small sample size.

    The Nats want Robles to seize the spot but its not a given. I’d love it if Stevenson keeps hitting in March like he did in September. That would be exciting!

    I’m going to join Sao on the Fuentes bandwagon. He was very good at AA when only 22.

    Mark L

    2 Mar 21 at 2:12 pm

  20. It sounds like the key might be whether 2020 is considered a full season.

    Tocci is terrible. Terrible. He was maybe the only guy when I was doing the writeups where I was just asking, “What the hell is he doing here?” The Nats clearly must think they can fix something, and he’s still young, but no chance he beats out Stevenson, IMO.


    2 Mar 21 at 6:34 pm

  21. Meanwhile, two big pieces of news today:

    1. Baseball America reports the Nats are once again expected to sign the top position prospect in the next amateur free agent signing period, which is set to open in July (although it could be pushed back, of course). That would be center fielder Cristian Vaquero, a Cuban teenager who has been training in the Dominican Republic — and is apparently good friends with Armando Cruz — and is (surprise!) a Boras Corp. client.

    2. ESPN reports the Triple-A season won’t begin until May, probably at or around the same time as the Double-A, High-A, and Low-A seasons are set to start, barring further delays. There will be an alternate training site again for the 2021 season, although it’s unclear whether teams will use a minor league facility or just treat it as extended spring training at their Arizona and Florida complexes. This isn’t really unexpected news. Apparently teams are hoping they can get their minor leaguers vaccinated by the end of April, which seems like a distinct “maybe”.


    2 Mar 21 at 6:41 pm

  22. Todd, all your work on options is not finished, as it turns out. MLB & the Players union are negotiating now on what constitutes a season, after the two month season last year.

    Until they agree on this we really won’t know who has what. Stay tuned!

    Mark L

    3 Mar 21 at 5:29 pm

  23. A little bit of updated roster math with the delay of the Triple-A season potentially affecting some of the “bubble” players…

    On the 40-man roster, locks to make it (20):
    Rotation (4): Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Jon Lester
    Bullpen (6): Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero, Kyle Finnegan
    Catchers (2): Yan Gomes, Alex Avila
    Infielders (5): Josh Bell, Ryan Zimmerman, Starlin Castro, Josh Harrison, Trea Turner
    Outfielders (3): Victor Robles, Kyle Schwarber, Juan Soto

    On the 40-man roster, very likely to make it (3):
    Pitchers (1): Joe Ross
    Infielders (1): Carter Kieboom
    Outfielders (1): Andrew Stevenson

    NOT on the 40-man roster, very likely to make it (1):
    Pitchers (1): Jeremy Jeffress

    On the 40-man roster, fair to good chance to make it (10):
    Pitchers (8): Austin Voth, Erick Fedde, Ben Braymer, Sam Clay, Ryne Harper, Dakota Bacus, Kyle McGowin, Rogelio Armenteros
    Infielders (2): Luis García, Jake Noll

    NOT on the 40-man roster, fair to good chance to make it (10):
    Pitchers (5): T.J. McFarland, Luis Avilán, Javy Guerra, Jefry Rodriguez, Paolo Espino
    Catchers (1): Blake Swihart
    Infielders (2): Hernán Pérez, Jordy Mercer
    Outfielders (2): Yasmany Tomás, Gerardo Parra

    On the 40-man roster, little to no chance to make it (6):
    Pitchers (3): Seth Romero, Steven Fuentes, Joan Adon
    Catchers (1): Tres Barrera
    Infielders (1): Yasel Antuna
    Outfielders (1): Yadiel Hernández

    NOT on the 40-man roster, little to no chance to make it (22):
    Pitchers (13): Tyler Eppler, Bryan Bonnell, Aaron Barrett, Gabe Klobosits, Jacob Condra-Bogan, Matt Cronin, Tim Cate, Jackson Rutledge, Cade Cavalli, Cole Henry, Tyler Dyson, Todd Peterson
    Catchers (5): Jakson Reetz, Raudy Read, Welington Castillo, Israel Pineda, Brandon Snyder
    Infielders (3): Adrián Sanchez, Drew Mendoza, Jackson Cluff
    Outfielders (2): Cody Wilson, Carlos Tocci


    3 Mar 21 at 9:20 pm

  24. Some obvious outstanding questions:

    – Health. Will Jon Lester and/or Gerardo Parra be recovered enough from surgery to be ready for Opening Day? Will everyone else escape the injury bug?
    – Pitchers vs. position players. Will the Nats carry a 14/12 split or an even 13/13 split to begin the season?
    – Rotation vs. bullpen. Will the Nats open the season with a six-man rotation? Will they actually designate a “sixth starter” or rely on multiple swingmen?
    – Infielder vs. outfielder. Will the Nats prefer to have a backup shortstop/utility infielder behind Trea Turner and Starlin Castro, or a fifth/sixth outfielder (depending on how one defines Josh Harrison)?
    – Development. Will the Nats prefer to have someone like Luis García playing intrasquad games every day in April? Or is it preferable to have him playing real games even if he’s not in the starting lineup every day?


    3 Mar 21 at 9:26 pm

  25. Great summary Sao.

    I like the news that the team is stretching out Romero and Braymer. I’d like to see them in AAA competing like normal to see what we have.

    Todd Boss

    4 Mar 21 at 12:39 pm

  26. I doubt Romero starts at Triple-A. He didn’t look nearly ready to be facing the level of competition he did in the majors, and aside from that cup of coffee, he hasn’t played above A-ball. Would expect Double-A for him.


    4 Mar 21 at 5:26 pm

  27. Sorry for getting a little behind here. Love Sao’s breakdown and questions. Here are a few of my guesses.

    — I really doubt the Nats will go with a six-man rotation, for several reasons. First, Rizzo and Davey are fairly old-school with some things, and that seems a little radical for them. Second, when you have Max, Stras, and Corbin, it’s just better to have them starting 60% of your games instead of 50%. Also, there’s now some question whether Lester will be ready by the start of the season. Since they ideally wanted only one from among Ross/Voth/Fedde starting, it’s hard to see them being excited about the prospect of all three.

    — It’s early, but man, Fedde is off to a rough spring start. Hard to think of him as one of a six-pack of starters right now.

    — Early comments from Parra sure sound like there won’t be a shark in the water until May or so. Stevo would seem to be the very most likely 4th OF, particularly since he’s CF-capable. As Sao says, hard to know if they will keep a 5th OF. My guess is that they’re leaving that open to see if Tomas will have a good spring and force the question. Ideally, he could be a good platoon partner with Schwarber. Harder to see Yadiel having much of a path to make the club out of the spring, unless Stevenson really tanks.

    — My guess is that Tomas is sort of the fulcrum for the final roster spot. If he hits big, it will be hard to keep him off. If he doesn’t, then it likely will be Mercer or an extra pitcher.

    — I’ve been scratching my head for a while over the organization’s seeming presumption that Kieboom is ready to start and Garcia isn’t. Garcia hit significantly better at the MLB level in 2020 than Kieboom did. They’re convinced that they want Castro in the lineup, though, and it sure seemed like Castro, last year, didn’t want to play 3B.

    — Great to see the high exit velocities from Zim early in the spring . . . when he’s usually not even playing. I had a little concern over whether he still had anything left in the tank, but he does seem to. You can’t fake EV.

    — Robles has two early walks, which I take as a good sign. Isn’t hitting much yet, though.


    5 Mar 21 at 11:28 am

  28. I would have sworn that Stevenson was out of options, but it sounds like that is still up in the air for at least some who were optioned in 2020 . . . which could just totally screw up the whole option system.

    Of course since Read pretty much got his 4th option for the time he missed from his PED suspension, anything is possible!


    5 Mar 21 at 3:01 pm

  29. The major problem with carrying Tomás is that means three of the five guys you’ve got on the bench only play one position, and if Turner gets hurt or ejected, then you have to reconfigure the infield so you have a shortstop. If you’ve already burned Harrison as a pinch-hitter, you’re SOL. I guess then you’ve got…uh…Yan Gomes playing third base? Awesome.

    Steve Mears says he’s heard from inside the organization that there’s real interest in opening the season with fourteen pitchers and twelve position players, which I think is a pretty bad idea because it really means you’re taking a big risk whenever you pinch-hit or pinch-run with Harrison or Stevenson. Also, why the hell do we need a nine-man bullpen? Seriously, nine relievers? Hopefully they’ll come to their senses. It really makes very very little sense.


    5 Mar 21 at 4:38 pm

  30. FWIW, Tomas has actually played 3B at the MLB level, not well, and six years ago, but he’s done it. I’m thinking he was actually signed from Cuba as a 3B, but the Snakes transitioned him to LF.

    Elsewhere, apparently no one wants to be 5th starter, as Voth got roughed up tonight. Ross has yet to pitch.

    Two walks for Garcia tonight — encouraging.


    5 Mar 21 at 10:40 pm

  31. I’m not sure there’s any valid debate anymore that García is not better than Kieboom. I think the kid is better now, has a higher ceiling, and has a higher floor. So, that seems pretty cut-and-dried to me.

    From the Department of Super-Small Sample Sizes, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer are both now handily outhitting Kieboom. Of course, Kieboom could go 2-for-2 with a double tomorrow and change that. Such is the nature of spring training!

    This would be an interesting roster setup:

    Catchers – Avila/Gomes (not strict platoon)
    First basemen – Bell/Zimmerman
    Second basemen – García/Castro
    Third basemen – Harrison/Mercer
    Shortstop – Turner
    Left fielders – Schwarber/Harrison
    Center fielder – Robles
    Right fielder – Soto
    Extra outfielder – Stevenson


    6 Mar 21 at 2:01 am

  32. Your preferred go-to lineups with that roster setup would probably look something like…

    vs. RHP

    Robles – CF
    Soto – RF
    Turner – SS
    Bell – 1B
    Schwarber – LF
    Harrison – 3B
    Avila – C
    García – 2B

    vs. LHP

    Robles – CF
    Soto – RF
    Turner – SS
    Zimmerman – 1B
    Castro – 2B
    Harrison – LF
    Gomes – C
    Mercer – 3B

    It’s still not as strong a roster as I’d like (ideally, Harrison isn’t playing every day, Mercer is either a pure bench player or not even on the roster, and we have one more middle-of-the-order bat), but both of those lineups are tough to game-plan against, with the R/L/R/L balance against right-handers and a whole slate of righty hitters (plus Juan Soto, who could not care less which side you throw from) staring down left-handers, with a nice mix of contact and power hitters.

    I’m not going to make sweeping judgments about Kieboom based on like three or four spring training games, but suffice it to say he needs to show me something for me to believe in him, and the wait continues.


    6 Mar 21 at 2:10 am

  33. Yes, same thing I said above — why is the presumption that Kieboom has an MLB job to lose, but that Garcia still needs more time in the minors? I’ve been asking that all winter. It just doesn’t seem logical.

    Also, why do they seem scared to tell Castro that he needs to play 3B? Would it hurt his feelings? I mean, if they’re paying me $7M — as in, seven times what Harrison is making — I’d wash the jocks and drive the bus if they asked me.

    I think Castro is the real, undiagnosed sticking point here. They’re paying him $7M, so they’re going to play him, but he doesn’t want to play 3B, so they’re making a false choice between Garcia and Kieboom. Of course Garcia could probably play a fine 3B, and Kieboom could be the one sent down for “seasoning” at 2B.


    6 Mar 21 at 8:37 am

  34. Also, Schwarber is a career .197 hitter vs. LHP (.189 in 2020). They HAVE to platoon him. One doesn’t have to be a genius at analytics to see that. And that platoon partner may end up being Harrison . . . except it can’t be if he’s starting at 3B.


    6 Mar 21 at 8:44 am

  35. You can platoon Harrison with Schwarber if you have someone else to play third base against lefties. Above I tabbed Mercer for the job, although it could be someone else.


    6 Mar 21 at 10:49 am

  36. Mercer would be fine for a utility infielder. He’s a cut above the Difo/Adrian Sanchez days. But if he’s starting at a corner position for a team that hopes to contend, you have a problem.

    This may be a delusional dream, but Harrison strikes me as someone who could have a Kendrick-like late career surge. He seems to have figured something out, and it’s making him really enjoy playing baseball again.


    6 Mar 21 at 1:04 pm

  37. Coming back to Starters. We have a lot of them. Assuming no injuries lets say that the MLB rotation is as expected: Scherzer, Stras, Corbin, Lester, Ross.

    That leaves these SPs currently on the 40-man to distribute: Voth, Armenteros, Fedde, McGowin, Braymer*, Romero*, Fuentes, Adon
    I’m guessing the option-less Voth lucks out and gets carried on an 8 or 9 (!!) man bullpen. Assuming 6 man rotations in the minors, this likely distributes the rest of the 40-man starters as follows:
    – AAA: Armenteros, Fedde, McGowin, Braymer, Fuentes
    – AA: Romero
    – HighA: Adon (maybe AA but he’s never pitched above Low-A).

    But, we currently have these non 40-man guys sitting on the AAA roster: Gomez, Tetreault, Lee, Sharp, Rodriguez, Espino. Where do we put these guys?
    Gomez is like Adon; i think he’s just sitting on the AAA roster procedurally; he should go to HighA. Tetrault prob goes to AA to repeat it. Lee is already 27 and was in AA in 2019; he should be in AAA. The rest (Sharp, Rodriguez, Espino) all have MLB time and should be no lower than AAA. So that really overloads AAA.

    Todd Boss

    6 Mar 21 at 2:04 pm

  38. I think JRod and McGowin are going to be relievers this year, so that addresses that for Triple-A.


    6 Mar 21 at 2:49 pm

  39. As for Mercer starting, any bench player is going to get some starts. I don’t love the idea of him starting every game versus lefty pitching, but I’ve been banging on the idea of getting an actual everyday third baseman all winter and it keeps stubbornly not happening.

    Kieboom could be on the short side of that platoon, sure, but I don’t think the Nats want to curtail his playing time like that. He should be getting daily reps somewhere unless and until the Nats give up on him as an everyday corner infielder.


    6 Mar 21 at 2:52 pm

  40. Wow, who knew the Nats read my posts?! Tomas played 3B today. LOL. I’ll repeat, he hasn’t played there in the majors since 2015.


    6 Mar 21 at 8:57 pm

  41. Jeffress abruptly released for “personnel reasons”, which I suppose you could read as either he violated team rules for personnel or the Nats are going another direction with limited space in camp and/or the roster for personnel. Mysterious.

    Anyway, a lot easier now to see paths onto the 40-man roster for Parra, Mercer et al. and a spot on the 26-man for a Braymer or a Clay.


    7 Mar 21 at 1:05 pm

  42. That’s a little strange about Jeffress, although it was also a little strange that he didn’t rate an MLB contract. A lot of arms in competition for the last one or two bullpen spots, depending how many they keep.


    8 Mar 21 at 5:22 am

  43. Jeffress: it’s hard not to make the assumption that, based on his multiple past suspensions, that he did something unsavory that caused the team to quickly cut bait.

    Todd Boss

    8 Mar 21 at 8:20 am

  44. Ross finally takes the mound this afternoon. Has he already been anointed the 5th starter? The way the team has talked, it seems like it’s his to lose, which is weird considering how long it has been since he was particularly good. I do think Ross has the highest ceiling vs. Voth and Fedde, but based on the track record of all three over the last couple of years, I don’t really understand why there is a presumptive favorite. Oh well.

    Jeffress stuff = very weird.

    In other news, Rizzo stated publicly that he’s been authorized to pursue extensions with Turner and Soto. The mind boggles at what the Soto number could be. Also, with Boras as his agent, who knows if an extension even would be possible. The outline for a starting point, obviously, would be the Tatis contract.

    For Turner, it’s hard to say. Maybe start a 7 x $20M? Turner might want more money than that, but based on how the market was during this offseason, that’s a higher number of years than most were offering. That’s more years, and more money overall, than (older) Realmuto got. Springer got a little more money than that over six years, with much higher power numbers.


    8 Mar 21 at 12:46 pm

  45. Another awful outing for Kyle Finnegan, who gave up a three-run bomb to a minor league scrub. Gotta think he is on thin ice for a roster spot right now. Luis Avilán was impressive, striking out three. Jordy Mercer was 0-for-2 on the line change, although one of those was a productive groundout to advance the runner to third base.


    8 Mar 21 at 5:08 pm

  46. Finnegan was very good in 2020. At least he still has three options left . . . which is why I didn’t understand why the A’s let him go. But if he’s borderline for getting optioned, and Jeffress is gone, and Lester isn’t certain for Opening Day, there’s suddenly two or three spots that might be in play that weren’t expected to be.

    That said, I sure hope Finnegan gets things figured out, as guys who average 95.5 on their heater don’t grow on trees (despite what we’re told about nearly every pitcher we draft).


    8 Mar 21 at 9:26 pm

  47. I just noticed that MLB eschews their normal rules for granting the win in spring training. Ross gets the win by facing 7 batters.

    Yesterday’s starting lineup looked pretty strong; Robles, Turner, Soto, Bell, Zimmerman, Schwarber, Castro, Avila, Kieboom. Replace Zimmerman with the Pitcher spot and move everyone up one slot and that might very well be the opening day lineup. That being said … i’m not sure Robles is ready for the leadoff primetime, and I’d rather not put Soto in the #3 hole (I think he needs to be #2). My optimal opening day lineup remians:

    Turner, Soto, Bell, Schwarber, Castro, Avila, Kieboom, Scherzer, Robles.

    Todd Boss

    9 Mar 21 at 8:45 am

  48. Yes, I’m quite skeptical of Robles and his .297 OBP leading off, although that does seem to be something they’re at least trying in the spring. Maybe they’re thinking he will see better pitches . . . although there have been many times in the last two years where he was hitting “ahead” of Turner and Soto in the #9 hole anyway. Robles had .326 OBP in 2019, though, which is closer to what’s needed, and .356 at AAA in 2018, so there’s hope that he can be more disciplined. He’s not incredibly disciplined when he does get on, though, as he got thrown out a quarter of the time in 2019.

    Here is the difference in plate appearances if Trea and Juan are pushed down in the order:

    Of course it’s possible they go Robles-Soto-Turner-Bell if they really want to go R-L-R-L. The farther Turner hits down the lineup, the more is speed threat is negated. It’s not “bad” to have a guy who just slugged .588 in the #3 slot, though.


    9 Mar 21 at 11:39 am

  49. Just like in September, Stevenson is playing better than Robles. I know thats not the narrative the Nats want, but halfway through spring training its the story.

    Mark L

    9 Mar 21 at 1:41 pm

  50. Sounds like that Strasburg kid may be pretty good. It’s big news if he’s back to 2019 form.

    If there are spots opening up in the bullpen, don’t sleep on Fuentes. He’s having a very good spring thus far. He has been a starter (2019) so could fill a long-man role if need be.

    Not having a good spring: Drew Smyly. Congrats, Braves, for WAY overpaying for a potential disaster.


    10 Mar 21 at 7:43 am

  51. Mark — I’ve expressed concern all winter about Robles. They really don’t have a whole lot of other options, though. I mean, Robles, was a top-10 prospect in baseball, and if he doesn’t really pan out, that’s a major blow to the Nat organization. Stevenson might be a serviceable replacement, but I think they’re going to give Robles every chance to figure stuff out, and then some. I sure would have signed another OF, though.

    Also, when do we start having the conversation about why can’t Garcia start in the majors and Castro play 3B, with Kieboom in Rochester? Why can’t we have that conversation? It seems apparent that Garcia is ahead of Kieboom right now.


    10 Mar 21 at 11:15 am

  52. Posted this over at TalkNats too, but sharing it here as well…my “power rankings” at about the halfway point of spring training, ranking players by likelihood of making the team.

    1. Max Scherzer
    2. Stephen Strasburg
    3. Patrick Corbin
    4. Brad Hand
    5. Daniel Hudson
    6. Will Harris
    7. Jon Lester†
    8. Wander Suero
    9. Joe Ross
    10. Austin Voth
    11. Tanner Rainey†
    12. Kyle Finnegan
    13. Sam Clay
    14. Luis Avilán
    15. Erick Fedde
    16. Ben Braymer
    17. Kyle McGowin
    18. Javy Guerra
    19. Steven Fuentes
    20. Dakota Bacus
    21. Ryne Harper
    22. T.J. McFarland
    23. Paolo Espino
    24. Gabe Klobosits
    25. Seth Romero†
    26. Tyler Eppler
    27. Bryan Bonnell
    28. Joan Adon
    29. Jackson Rutledge
    30. Cade Cavalli
    31. Matt Cronin
    32. Jacob Condra-Bogan
    33. Cole Henry
    34. Tyler Dyson
    35. Todd Peterson
    36. Jefry Rodriguez†
    37. Rogelio Armenteros‡
    38. Tim Cate†
    39. Aaron Barrett†

    Position players:
    1. Yan Gomes
    2. Trea Turner
    3. Ryan Zimmerman
    4. Kyle Schwarber
    5. Josh Bell
    6. Alex Avila
    7. Josh Harrison
    8. Starlin Castro
    9. Victor Robles
    10. Juan Soto‡
    11. Andrew Stevenson
    12. Carter Kieboom
    13. Luis García
    14. Jordy Mercer
    15. Hernán Pérez
    16. Yadiel Hernández
    17. Gerardo Parra†
    18. Jake Noll
    19. Blake Swihart
    20. Yasmany Tomás
    21. Adrián Sanchez
    22. Brandon Snyder
    23. Carlos Tocci
    24. Tres Barrera
    25. Yasel Antuna
    26. Drew Mendoza
    27. Raudy Read
    28. Cody Wilson
    29. Jakson Reetz
    30. Jackson Cluff
    31. Israel Pineda
    32. Welington Castillo†

    † hasn’t appeared in an official Grapefruit League game
    ‡ has appeared, but currently shut down

    The numbering doesn’t matter that much toward the top and toward the bottom, and it’s all subjective anyway. Spots #10-21 or so on both lists are really the only spectra worth looking at right now, and the focus ought to be on spots #12-18 or so, barring the unexpected.


    10 Mar 21 at 7:03 pm

  53. To add: I’m erring on the side of caution with Soto. If he had a bad burrito and that’s why he was feeling “a little ill” today, no sweat. If he has a garden-variety virus, he’ll miss some time. He’ll miss more time if he has COVID-19, especially since he’ll have to go through protocols. If he’s still feeling the effects of that foul ball that clipped him on the side of the head the other day, the timetable for recovery there gets fuzzy (could be either concussion symptoms or an inner ear issue). In any case, he *should* be fine for Opening Day, and we know Soto could go 2-for-5 with a run-scoring extra-base hit falling out of bed. But again, erring on the side of caution.


    10 Mar 21 at 7:09 pm

  54. Good couple of innings today from Voth, although no K’s. I was scratching my head a little at his placement on Sao’s list, until I remembered that Rainey has yet to pitch. Honestly, I think there are a couple of bullpen slots wide open. If Voth isn’t the 5th starter, I do think they will keep him as the long man/swing man, unless he really stinks in the spring, which he hasn’t done thus far. And of course Lester’s status for the beginning of the season is still unknown, although it sounds like the surgery wasn’t as major as originally thought.

    Sao, there’s no way Noll makes the 26-man ahead of Tomas. I’m not saying that Tomas is going to make it (off to a slow start), but Noll isn’t going to be on the squad.

    I guess it’s a good thing they weren’t depending on Welington Castillo, as he still hasn’t been able to play. That said, their fascination with using Avila a good bit scares me — .184 BA in 2020, 35.5% K rate. BAs in preceding years were .207 and .165. He does take walks, but he makes Danny Espinosa look like a contact hitter.


    10 Mar 21 at 10:01 pm

  55. I do not think Noll’s going to be on the squad, but I don’t think Tomás will be, either. From my vantage point, they’re both at the bleeding edge of the conversation for the last bench spot.

    I’m not as down on Avila as others. I’ve said before I’m wary of guys with low batting averages, because unless the bases are loaded, you have to make contact to drive in runs — but you also have to not make an out to keep the line moving, and like Schwarber, Avila walks a ton to keep up an average-to-good OBP despite a low batting average. Avila also has some power, which he’s already shown off this spring. I don’t want him getting more starts than Gomes, whom I think is a better overall player (including offensively), but he’s a worthy backup and personal catcher for Max.


    11 Mar 21 at 12:22 am

  56. Okay Sao, you made me look. Luis Avilan is someone I know nothing about and he’s ranked as the 14th best pitcher in camp.
    This is his 10th year if he sticks; he pitched only 8 innings last year. Good numbers, 32 years old, from Venezuela, and a mid-innings guy.

    Mark L

    11 Mar 21 at 7:37 am

  57. Here’s sort of the hidden problem with personal catchers, though. As I’ve noted before — fairly obvious, but not often discussed — the Nats’ best chances to win this season will be the what we hope are close to 60% of their games started by Max, Stras, and Corbin. It looks like Avila will be Max’s personal catcher, however, and there’s been talk that he will be for Corbin as well. So for TWO-THIRDS of the games that the Nats have their best opportunities to win, they would not be putting their best lineup on the field.

    I guess you could make two arguments about this: the lesser pitchers might benefit from having the better hitter in their lineup, or that you maximize your best chances to win when your best pitchers are starting. I’m in the latter camp. There have been years in the past where the Nats have not given Max and/or Stras enough run support. I’ve lost count of the number of Max starts they have lost where he has given up two runs or less. Yes, he is often matched up against the other team’s best pitcher . . . which is all the more reason to start YOUR best lineup.

    Also, what if Max is starting against a lefty — Smyly, Kershaw, whoever? Of course you want to be able to start Gomes against LHP. But if you’ve made the silly personal catcher commitment, you’ve already dug yourself in an unnecessary hole with your biggest star.


    11 Mar 21 at 8:32 am

  58. I was clinging to the very thin hope that Tomas would have a good spring and be the LF platoon bat they so desperately need with Schwarber. Actually, I was given no choice but to cling to that hope, after my pleas all winter that they sign a RH OF bat went ignored.

    I’m still guessing that Harrison will end up with that LF platoon time, but we’ll see.


    11 Mar 21 at 8:35 am

  59. Gomes has been Corbin’s catcher, and he’s got him again in today’s game. I wouldn’t worry about it.


    11 Mar 21 at 10:25 am

  60. Nope, I choose to worry! Just looked at the game log, and the Nats lost ELEVEN games in 2019 when Max gave up three earned run or less. Now as we know, the bullpen blew a few of those, but nevertheless, in nine of those eleven losses, the Nat offense scored three runs or less. The Nats lost seven games in which Stras gave up three or less and the offense scored three or less. So the offense/bullpen wasted a staggering 18 “quality starts” from their two best starters.


    11 Mar 21 at 10:50 am

  61. Lineup for today makes the twist that I had mentioned — Soto #2 with Trea #3. I’m OK with that, IFFFFF Robles shows the plate discipline and contact to lead off. Otherwise, it’s just a wasted out before our two best hitters. Robles only had a 21% hard-contact rate in 2020. As of right now, I don’t trust Robles to take enough walks, or to be smart if he gets on (thrown out 25% of the time in 2019). If Robles is the stud he was projected to be, this is a great spot for him. But coming off of his 2020 mess, man, this would be a huge expectation, based a lot more on hope than on performance. (See also Kieboom, Carter.)


    11 Mar 21 at 11:06 am

  62. Hit (bunt single, though, not hard hit), walk, SB, and run for Robles. Kieboom drew his first walk of the spring. Finnegan looked shaky again. He’s really opened he door at the back end of the bullpen.


    11 Mar 21 at 3:53 pm

  63. None of the NRI pitchers have been all that impressive. Javy Guerra has looked good, but 1) I doubt he’s going to opt out and go elsewhere, he seems thoroughly loyal to the organization, and 2) the Nats don’t really need another long reliever if they carry Austin Voth.

    Neither Mercer nor Pérez have been anything very special (well, Mercer’s defense has been quite good). Parra is still the x-factor here…although I really don’t see what he adds on the field that we don’t get with Stevenson as the fourth outfielder, plus he doesn’t really help the problem that Harrison is both our go-to right-handed bench bat when Zimmerman is starting and our only credible backup at 2B/3B in case there’s a midgame injury or ejection. But anyway, I think the NRI of choice is a position player, although we shouldn’t completely ignore Matt Cronin…


    11 Mar 21 at 9:57 pm

  64. It seems that nearly all the NRI RHP, plus Adon and except Guerra, have been mostly moved to the minor-league camp as the vets start to take more innings. Fuentes and Bacus have had good outings, and McGowin has looked really good at times but then had a bad inning or so. Ryne Harper has more MLB experience, but his 2020 reliability record wasn’t good.

    LH relievers are a different story, as they seem to be giving long looks to a lot of them. As much as I’m rooting for Cronin, and think he might be a factor with the big club as early as midseason, I have a hard time seeing him making the club now, particularly with all the walks. McFarland has never excited me. Braymer, Clay, and Avilan, in some order, all seem to be given chances to compete to be the second lefty. Braymer could be a multi-inning guy, Clay has the most electric stuff of the three, and Avilan has the most MLB experience.

    Has there been any word about the always-mysterious Seth Romero? He’s on the 40-man but seems to have entered the witness protection program yet again.


    11 Mar 21 at 10:29 pm

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