Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats say “Welcome to 2021” … Covid-19 says “Hold my Beer”


DETROIT, MI – JULY 01: A detailed view of an official Major League Baseball with a surgical mask placed on it sitting outdie of Comerica Park on July 1, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

So, we knew that some Nats players (the numbers keep changing) have tested positive; it started with one known case, then that caused contact-tracing issues with another 4 players and 1 staff member. We’ve heard podcasts and reports that perhaps some of the 4 players might have it as well; regardless they’re now out for at least 10 days. So far, no mention of who popped positive for HIPAA reasons, but by the time you read this we may know.

As of Noon Friday 4/2/21, the entire opening series is now off. Makes sense; the league probably wants to get a handle on the outbreak, plus its an inter-divisional series that can be turned into a bunch of DHs later on with little travel/schedule impact.

Sources (aka Nats Beat reporters) have sniffed out the replacement call ups, which gives us a hint as to who has to sit for a bit. Call-ups are:

  • Sam Clay
  • Luis Garcia
  • Yadiel Hernandez
  • Tres Barrera

Now, based on the fact that its one positive test and then four others who were in close contact … and looking at who these replacements are for … it stands to reason these are the players who are now under quarantine:

  • Sam Clay for Luis Avilan
  • Luis Garcia for Starlin Castro
  • Yadiel Hernandez for either Juan Soto or Victor Robles
  • Tres Barrera for either Alex Avila or Yan Gomes.

It doesn’t take a detective to look at that like for like list and make some quick assumptions on who the players are that got hit or who were named in contact tracing; they’re all Latino. Which makes sense; if a team has natural cliques its around nationality and native speaking tongues hanging out together on planes and in clubhouses. The only other Latino players on the 26-man roster not already named would be Hernan Perez and Wander Suero, so don’t be surprised if we find out one of these guys is involved too.

Bummer all around, and not the best way to get the season started, especially if its taken out half our starting lineup.

In other recent news:

  • H/T to NationalsProspects for the BA story on the 2021 draft: it will be 20 rounds. With a lost year of development and every team now carrying an entire “extra” roster of players who played short-season last year, 20 rounds in 2021 makes sense. I think the natural landing point might be 30 rounds: basically every pick from the 31st round onwards by the Nats as of late is a HS throw-away designed to give notariety to a scout’s kid or cousin, or to throw a player a bone who some area scout who didn’t get any of his guys drafted previously, or to puff up some kid’s ego who was always going to go to college. They’re a waste and you can count on two hands the number of picks who even stuck with our system for more than a couple seasons from the 30th round onwards (Gabe Klobotis, Tyler Watson, Jorge Pantoja, Angelo LaBruna, Robert Orlan, Billy Burns from the last 10 drafts).
  • Also H/T to Luke Erickson for the BA story on Minor League affiliates increasing in size across the board. Again, this is nothing but a good thing.
  • Speaking of BA: they re-released their Nats top30 prospects and built in the Jan 2021 IFA signings, which resulted in the Nats adding their top 2021 IFA Armando Cruz at #5, with no other changes to our top 30 and HMs (I reviewed their list in Feb 2021 here). Cruz at #5 by BA makes them the high men on Cruz’s potential amongst those shops who have rated him. At this point there’s just one major shop who has not released their Nats prospect Rankings: Fangraphs/Eric Longenhagen, who seems to have gotten overwhelmed by his choice to rank 40+ prospects per system … by himself … while also writing other stuff. New Fangraphs and ex-Astros employee Kevin Goldstein is now helping get the list done. we’ll do a similar reaction piece as we did with other major pundits and then will publish the master prospect lists on the Big Board.
  • A reminder; we still don’t have an official opening day 26-man roster; the big board lists 27 …i’m guessing Will Harris will hit the D/L when the roster is officially released. Because the games got postponed, the team was not forced to officially release its rosters and can bide some time.
  • I’ve updated the Big Board to have the Alt training site, and to account for all the big moves, DFAs, outrights, roster sizes, etc.

Waiting in a holding pattern. But lets discuss once we get more news on who is impacted.

38 Responses to 'Nats say “Welcome to 2021” … Covid-19 says “Hold my Beer”'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Nats say “Welcome to 2021” … Covid-19 says “Hold my Beer”'.

  1. Holy cow, latest word is from mlbtraderumors:

    12:16pm: Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo tells reporters that the fourth suspected positive has indeed been confirmed (Twitter links via Jesse Dougherty and Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post). The organization currently has 10 individuals in quarantine: the four positive cases and six (five players, one staff member) impacted by contact tracing.

    so that’s 4 positives, 5 players quarantined plus a staff member.

    No wonder they’re cancelling the series; that’s a huge chunk of the team!

    Todd Boss

    2 Apr 21 at 2:16 pm

  2. Todd, your rationale makes sense but I wouldn’t assume that Yadiel has to be a like-for-like replacement for an outfielder. What if it was Josh Bell? Maybe Harrison as the infielder for Garcia, and any pitcher (since Voth and Fedde could go from the pen to start) for Clay? I think the only safe assumption is either Gomes or Avila is involved, otherwise there are better hitters to have on the bench over a 3rd catcher.


    2 Apr 21 at 2:47 pm

  3. Regardless of who the 9 players are, what a guy punch to get to opening day after a long winter and lousy 2020 only to have the rugged pulled out from under us all. Hopefully all involved made speedy recoveries and that DC is more flexible on the full 10 day quarantine if there are any repeats of Soto’s single/false positive test last year. As much as I hate not having the Nats to finally watch this weekend, I will t complain about missing deGrom or having to face the Mets with more than a third or roster from our minor league depth.


    2 Apr 21 at 2:51 pm

  4. We’ll likely know soon enough.

    Todd Boss

    2 Apr 21 at 5:06 pm

  5. There are a ton of issues in play. I heard Mark Zuckerman on Grant & Danny this afternoon, and they were kicking around some of these. Are the players following the 10-day MLB protocol, or the 14-day DC protocol? Can they even be allowed into California for the Dodger games due to strict Cali protocols?

    Yes, the last I heard was four players who had tested positive and five players plus one staffer who had been in close contact. Nine players is a little over one-third of the 26-man roster. I’ve forgotten the details of what happened when the Marlins got shut down for a couple of weeks last summer, but this is similar. It’s a big mess for MLB, and a huge roadblock for the Nats, who already faced a gauntlet at the start of the season anyway. They’re going to be forced into some massive doubleheaders against the Mets, who already figured to be their biggest rival for a wild-card slot.


    2 Apr 21 at 9:04 pm

  6. I don’t think Garcia is for Castro, who was slated to play 3B (and who might actually benefit from a little more time to heal). Garcia is a 2B who is SS-capable, so he’s there for Harrison, Perez, or . . . gulp . . . Trea.

    There were some indications on Thursday that Soto was ready to play, so that had me guessing that Yadiel might be for Schwarber. There has been some buzz that Lester might be one of the positives, so Clay was just bullpen reinforcement for Fedde or Voth to start.

    But who knows? Right now it’s just sort of a game of Clue.


    2 Apr 21 at 9:08 pm

  7. The Nats really will be screwed if MLB forces them to play the Braves series with a third of their roster missing.


    3 Apr 21 at 11:35 am

  8. Interesting; some site called “” just posted this post, in its entirety, on their website.

    Todd Boss

    3 Apr 21 at 4:49 pm

  9. We’d be in a world of hurt if forced to play a week without 9 members of the intended 26-man, absolutely. I think at some point they’re going to have to play though.

    Todd Boss

    3 Apr 21 at 4:52 pm

  10. Kyle Schwarber, Jon Lester, Josh Harrison and Alex Avila are among the players expected to be sidelined if the Nationals begin play early next week, reports Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post (Twitter link).

    Not reported if they’ve tested positive or if they’re contact traced.

    Todd Boss

    4 Apr 21 at 3:46 pm

  11. Todd Boss

    4 Apr 21 at 3:48 pm

  12. I suspected it might have been the secret Cubs handshake 😉 Wish them all a speedy recovery!


    4 Apr 21 at 4:42 pm

  13. Guess we’re playing Tuesday.


    5 Apr 21 at 12:01 am

  14. Also, I noticed that the team officially put Harris on the DL, which would have had them exactly at 26 on the active roster before all this. Big Board is now updated with what we know for Covid protocol guys.

    Todd Boss

    5 Apr 21 at 8:03 am

  15. Now 11 Nats out. Holy moly. But ordered to play the Braves on Tuesday, after just one Nat workout today. That would be the winless Braves, who opened the season getting swept by the Phils and barely hitting at all. What a mess. Harrison and Schwarber are two of the key bats in the lineup. With an off day on Thursday, they can probably skip Lester’s first start, but then they are scheduled to play 13 days in a row.

    I guess the recall of Garcia means that they’re intent on Castro getting comfortable at 3B. Didn’t even think about playing the Kieboom card. Perez had a lot better spring than Garcia did, so it will be interesting to see who they actually start at 2B. Same for LF, where Yadiel had a much better spring than Stevo, but then Yadiel was the one who got optioned.

    Gomes will have to be in the lineup as much as possible, as Barrera hasn’t proven yet that he can hit MLB pitching, even in the spring.

    Too bad about Denaburg . . . but he did “fall” to them because of arm issues. And he’s had nothing but arm issues since being drafted. He will turn 22 in August. At least we’ve now heard something about him, unless Romero.


    5 Apr 21 at 8:42 am

  16. I’ll post about Denaburg later this week.

    Todd Boss

    5 Apr 21 at 10:31 am

  17. The wildcard here is Lucroy. Will he be with the team tomorrow or not?


    5 Apr 21 at 10:39 am

  18. Who would you rather have as your C backup; Barrera or Lucroy? Honestly, i’m surprised they havn’t already made the 60-man DL move with whatever BS injury they’re going to claim on Romero and made it happen.

    Todd Boss

    5 Apr 21 at 11:03 am


    Well, we may have the list of players who are out.

    Trea Turner, Josh Bell, Kyle Schwarber, Josh Harrison, Patrick Corbin, Jon Lester, Brad Hand, Yan Gomes, Alex Avila and Jordy Mercer.

    But that’s only 10. we know there’s 4 positive tests and 7 in isolation.

    Todd Boss

    5 Apr 21 at 5:05 pm

  20. Trea, Bell, Schwarber, BOTH catchers, the top reliever, two starters . . . How is it fair to require this team to play?

    I hope they start Yadiel over Stevo. They really need that extra pop in the lineup. But boy, it’s going to be tough. Let’s hope Zim’s spring shine keeps shining . . . and that Soto’s spring hangover is over. They’ll be facing two lefty starters for the Braves. I predicted that the Smyly signing wouldn’t end up well, so let’s make me look good from the first game.


    5 Apr 21 at 6:54 pm

  21. Quite an opportunity for Cody Wilson if he makes the team. He’s never played above Low-A and he’s never been a top prospect.


    6 Apr 21 at 2:42 am

  22. I liked Wilson’s power/speed combo profile when the Nats drafted him, but he hit .215 at Hagerstown in his one full season as a pro, with very limited power. The Nats’ emphasis on him right now is head-scratching, even more so than Noll making the Opening Day roster in 2019. I mean, unless there are some unreported releases, they do still have Nick Banks, who hit AA pitching OK (.288, with a 128 wRC+), and Cole Freeman, who they had in the AFL the last time there was an AFL.


    6 Apr 21 at 7:19 am

  23. I would wish everyone a happy Opening Day, except I’m not happy. It’s a travesty to make a team this shorthanded play. MLB gave the Marlins a nine-day COVID break last season, with a much shorter window in which the games had to be made up. It’s doubtful the Marlins would have made the playoffs if forced to play with a AAA roster for that period. But now MLB is going to force the Nats to play the two bests team in the NL (by ’20 record) without 40% of the roster. That’s just not right. Is this MLB’s idea of punishing the Nats for not handling COVID protocols better?


    6 Apr 21 at 7:29 am

  24. No real answers to your points KW. It reminds me of the differing standards the NFL had on covid-hit teams; they would freely cancel some games, but then forced Denver to play a game in which every single one of its QBs were out and th ey had to start a backup WR at the position.

    Todd Boss

    6 Apr 21 at 8:20 am

  25. Making the Nats play today just doesn’t pass the smell test.
    The only good news is the whole team should be vaccinated sometime this month.

    Speaking of Covid, did everybody see the pictures of the morons at the Ranger game yesterday.

    Mark L

    6 Apr 21 at 8:35 am

  26. I just looked up the Cards from 2020. They got a SIXTEEN-DAY COVID break last season. Sixteen. The Nats have gotten five, at the beginning of a 162-game season.


    6 Apr 21 at 8:51 am


    Opening day roster announced. they’ve added two guys from off the 40-man. I’m working on big board now.

    Todd Boss

    6 Apr 21 at 12:08 pm

  28. All the roster moves announced:

    18 moves announced today. 18. has to be a record.

    Todd Boss

    6 Apr 21 at 12:24 pm

  29. I thought Trea was among the tainted. Oh well, I’ll take whatever bit of good news there is.

    Who had Lucroy and Barrera as the Opening Day catching duo?

    Most of the call-ups make sense . . . except Cody Wilson. As I always say, I hope he proves me wrong, but I’m not counting on it. I also hope that Yadiel gets the start in LF over Stevo, as we need a bigger bat in the lineup.


    6 Apr 21 at 1:11 pm

  30. Hey Todd, any changes to the bug board should be made in pencil, not ink. 🙂

    Mark L

    6 Apr 21 at 1:40 pm

  31. Apparently Wilson is designated as a “replacement player” for I guess the DH tomorrow or maybe for Covid, so he doesn’t have to pass through waivers to go back down? I am unaware of this rule.

    Big board admin has turned into a full time job.

    Todd Boss

    6 Apr 21 at 1:41 pm

  32. So, here’s the list of 40-man players who did NOT get called up: Antuna, Armenteros, Romero, Fuentes, Adon and Braymer.

    Todd Boss

    6 Apr 21 at 1:42 pm

  33. Calling “Romero” would be like calling “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?”

    Fuentes had a good spring, but so did McGowin and Harper, who both have MLB experience. Clay was better in the spring than Braymer. Antuna and Adon aren’t anywhere close to being MLB-ready, and Armenteros got only a very short look in the spring. (I seem to recall that he was injured, but I don’t remember any details.)

    Wilson should only be there for break-glass-in-case-of-emergency. Robles and Soto are young enough to play a full doubleheader.


    6 Apr 21 at 1:52 pm

  34. How ’bout THAT? Now to get greedy, sweep the Braves, and bury them with an 0-6 start. Not counting on it, though. Really, with all the obstacles, I would take the Nats going 2-4 across the Brave and Dodger series.

    SSS, but a very good start to the Robles leadoff experiment, if he’ll take two walks. And I’m going to predict right now that when this is over, McGowin will stay up with the big club over Finnegan. I loved what Finnegan did last season, but right now, he’s not that guy.


    6 Apr 21 at 8:19 pm

  35. Acuna = Mr. 1st AB

    Soto = Mr. last AB

    Who would you REALLY rather have? OK, I’d rather have Acuna’s ridiculously good contract, but other than that, I’ll stick with our guy.


    6 Apr 21 at 8:21 pm

  36. I thought about it at the time — I would have seriously considered walking Soto. I know that would have put the winning run at 3B with less than two out. But the Nats would have had Garcia at the plate against the Braves’ best lefty reliever. They then could have gone to a righty vs. Castro. The Braves may have signed Smith specifically to get Soto out, but that plan has resulted in some rocket shots thus far.


    7 Apr 21 at 5:28 am

  37. Huge to get Game 1 of the COVID squad. Hopefully they can carry it over and at least go .500 through the Cardinals series. Shoot, that may have been a worthy goal with the full squad. Overall, impressive win. The stars were stars, the bottom of the order had great ABs and the bullpen had some bright spots. Too many walks though, and too many HRs from Max.


    7 Apr 21 at 7:07 am

  38. Great to see Stevenson look as great as he looked in September. Every one of his at bats was high quality.

    Soto and Turner have already made everyone forget their springs.

    Mark L

    7 Apr 21 at 9:09 am

Leave a Reply