Nationals Arm Race

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

Spring Training 2023 NRI Disposition


Before I clear out the “NRI color coding” on the Big Board, I thought i’d write out a bit about the 2023 spring training competitions and the fact that yet again a slew of Non Roster Invites (NRIs) have made the team.

Here’s past posts on the same topic by year: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.

So, who were the NRIs this year? By position:

  • Starters: Kuhl. Tetreault, Lee, Romero
  • Righty Relievers: Harris, , Brzycky, Castro, Colome, Machado, Peralta, Carrillo
  • Lefty Relievers: Banda*, Baldanado, Perez, Doolittle
  • Catchers: Millas, Lindslay
  • Infielders: Chavis, Mejia, Adams, Blankenhorn, Fox, Valera
  • Outfielders: Casey, Hill, Antuna, Hernandez

So, Opening day NRIs to make roster and the circumstances behind each

  • Chad Kuhl makes the roster as the 5th starter when a massive gap in the rotation opens up with Cavalli’s arm injury. I thought perhaps rule5 pick Thad Ward had a shot here, but the team seemed to decide early he was going to hang in the bullpen for now. There were a slew of 40-man member starters in camp (Adon, Irvin, Abbott, Espino), but none of them made a legitimate case above Kuhl. Abbott and Espino seem to have proved last year they were better in relief, and both were sent down to AAA relatively early.
  • Hobie Harris: the team knew they were going to be down one RH reliever in Rainey, but didn’t count on Arano’s injury, which opened up a spot. Weems is the only other RH reliever on the 40-man and seems like he’ll be the first guy cut if they need space, which left the door open for Harris, who had a fantastic spring.
  • Anthony Banda slid into the sole lefty spot in the bullpen thanks mostly to Doolittle getting hurt. There are a couple other lefty relievers on the 40-man, but they’re both too young. This was always going to a NRI, and Banda won.
  • Michael Chavis might be the biggest surprise NRI to get added, in that the team had an identical player in Jake Alu who was just added, plus a former 1st rounder in Downs who they were taking a shot at. In the end, when Kieboom got hurt (yet again) it sealed the fate of others, who failed to impress during spring.

Which of the rest of the NRIs might we see this year? I fully expect another season of RH reliever churn, so look for guys like Colome and Machado to get re-added if they stay with the team and start out well. A couple of the NRIs are legit prospects (Brzycky) who seem like they’ll be up at some point. Perhaps later in the year we’ll see a return to the 40-man for guys like Casey and Hernandez.

Written by Todd Boss

April 1st, 2023 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Nats in General

13 Responses to 'Spring Training 2023 NRI Disposition'

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  1. Alu got dinged in the spring and is starting the season on IL. Rochester is starting a 31-year-old at 3B.

    Chavis is B-A-D. His career fWAR at the MLB level is -0.6. Career .283 OBP, .265 last season, to go along with a 29.6 K rate (and only 4.5% walks). He makes Danny Espinosa look like a contact hitter. But of course Chavis was once a 1st-round pick, so naturally he must be good, right? He has a little pop, but at way too steep a price to make it worthwhile. The only saving grace is that FP isn’t still around to tell us that he’s a “major-league hitter.”

    Kuhl in 2022: 5.72 ERA, 1.56 WHIP. Opponents slugged .500 against this stiff! The uninformed tell us that he gets a pass because he was a Rockie . . . but a quick look at his splits shows a 5.04 ERA at Coors and 6.32 on the road! Here’s what guys slashed against him on the road: .292/.376/.536. YIKES! Second half of 2022, both home and road: .330/.405/.644. Against Kuhl, everyone hits like he’s worth 13/$330M.

    Harris is in his age-30 season making his MLB debut. His track record is high K, high walks.

    It’s going to be a LONG year . . . or two . . .


    1 Apr 23 at 10:24 pm

  2. Great win by Gore over Braves on Sunday. That’s all we can hope for, strong individual performances. Ruiz also off to great start. Abrams, Garcia, and Gray not so much. Sigh.


    2 Apr 23 at 9:32 pm

  3. Langford back from injury with two doubles and a homer. Crews now at .543/.664/.947. Skenes with 12 K’s in 7 IP last start. There are no wrong answers, just tough choices.


    2 Apr 23 at 9:40 pm

  4. And . . . after a 1-5 week for the Nats, Garcia is hitting .125 and Chavis is getting a look. Kuhl gave up four runs in five innings, but two Nat starters have an even worse ERA than Kuhl’s 7.20. It’s going to be a LOOOONG season.


    6 Apr 23 at 10:32 am

  5. Keith Law in a chat on the top of the draft:

    Mike Rizzo, Washington, DC
    Is there any conceivable way I pass on Paul Skenes?
    Keith Law
    Yes. There are two premium college bats in this draft, Crews and Langford.
    I don’t understand any ranking of those three guys that claims any one is clearly above or below the other two. Stick ’em in the dice cup and roll ’em.

    This is the first I’ve heard him suggest that Skenes belongs in the same class as Crews and Langford.

    Part of me is very excited about Skenes. If he doesn’t blow out his arm, he will pitch in the big leagues in 2024 and it will be exciting. I don’t think you can say the same for Crews and Langford.

    On the other hand, I am reminded of prospect lists during the 2011-12 offseason, when everybody’s top 3 was Trout, Harper, and Matt Moore in some order. If you had one of the two OFs on that list, you’d be ecstatic to different degrees. The pitcher not so much. I’m worried about the same thing in the draft.


    6 Apr 23 at 1:43 pm

  6. KLaw says later in the chat that A) he thinks the Pirates will take a position player 1/1, and B) that if given the choice between a premium position player and a pitcher, that he’d take the position player because of the pitcher injury risk.

    At this stage I’m conflicted. The Nats REALLY NEED pitching. We also know that Rizzo has an obsession with drafting pitchers, particularly extra-large ones. But Crews and Langford sure look like sure-thing elite positions players, not the gambles of all the high schoolers at the top of recent drafts. Skenes also has just started to focus on pitching full time. We’ve seen with Cavalli and Gray in recent times the challenges of learning on the job after being two-way players. That situation makes me skeptical of predictions that Skenes could be in the majors by 2024. (At the same time, the Nats are still going to suck in 2024, so there isn’t a rush.)

    Of course the Nats are overrun with OF prospects. But they’re not going to get back into contention without some big trades, probably some Gio-like four-for-one ones. And I wouldn’t call any of their OF prospects sure things, despite the monster tools of Wood and Green (to go along with the monstrous K numbers).


    6 Apr 23 at 3:54 pm

  7. Thesis: if you make it through the SEC as a starter with a sub-1.00 ERA and 15+ K/9, then you are MLB-ready (but of course I agree that 2024 doesn’t likely matter – my point is just that Skenes could pitch in a big league rotation right now and probably put up a 4.00 ERA)


    6 Apr 23 at 4:43 pm

  8. With a 4.00 ERA he’d be the Nats’ ace!

    I wouldn’t hate picking Skenes. That’s where the Nats’ “need” is, unless they have miraculous progress Gore, Gray, Henry’s recovery, Susana, Rutledge’s bounce back, etc. It’s possible that their starting pitching future looks better by draft day, but I wouldn’t bet a lot on it. And it’s gotten a whole lot more expensive to buy quality starting pitching on the free agent market.

    Very encouraging to have Gray only give up one run (on a single) in six Coors Field innings, even he did surrender eight hits. I’ll take progress. I’ll also take two hits from Abrams, even if he did get caught stealing.


    6 Apr 23 at 8:23 pm

  9. I made my case why I already think the nats will pick Skenes in a previous post. Law’s just one draft ranking opinion right now, and he’s got Crews and Langford above Skenes and Dollander. MLBpipeline’s list right now goes Crews, Dollander, Langford, Skenes … and there’s just no way it stays that way for anyone who watched Tennessee-LSU game or who has watched Dollander pitch this year. He’s pushing his draft stock way down (he’s 4-3 with a 4.19 ERA … and that’s basically on their cupcake pre-SEC schedule).

    No, you don’t draft for need. But if your top three prospects and six of your top 10 prospects are ALL OUTFIELDERS (Wood, Hassell, Green, Vaquero, De La Rosa, White) … why would you take a 2nd overall pick on yet another outfielder? None of these guys are going to the dirt, and neither is Crews/Loangford. You take the pitcher.

    Todd Boss

    7 Apr 23 at 10:53 am

  10. Skenes gave up two homers to South Carolina last night and three runs to take the loss. He only went three innings (with 8 Ks — all but one of the outs), but he left due to a long rain delay, not injury.

    Dollander lost at Florida last night and may be falling out of the top 10 picks. He’s not a part of top-of-the-draft conversation anymore.

    If the Pirates take Skenes, there’s really not much separating Crews and Langford. And despite the “need” issues, I can’t see the Nats passing on one of them for someone like Jacob Gonzalez.


    7 Apr 23 at 1:31 pm

  11. 100%. The Nats take Crews if the Pirates don.t Simple as that. But something tells me Pirates take crews. he’s absolutely safe, a college bat who plays the OF and has the longest track record and is least injury prone.

    Todd Boss

    10 Apr 23 at 3:14 pm

  12. Law thinks that Langford has a higher ceiling athletically than Crews does, although I’ve also seen the reverse argued. I’ve seen both called the most advanced college bat to hit the draft since Harper.

    The narrative right now seems to be Skenes vs. Crews for 1/1, although there’s a lot of time for things to change over the next three months before the draft.


    11 Apr 23 at 2:15 pm

  13. Skenes gave up five runs to Kentucky last night (four earned), with 13 K’s and seven hits allowed in 6 IP in an LSU romp. The Tigers led 6-0 after an inning and 11-1 after two, so they may have told him to just throw it down the middle and keep the game moving. His ERA “ballooned” to 1.69. Meanwhile, Crews walked twice but failed to get a hit, dropping is BA all the way down to .495.


    14 Apr 23 at 1:06 pm

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