Nationals Arm Race

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

First Look: Jake Irvin


WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 3: Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jake Irvin (74) pitches during his major league debut against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park on May 3, 2023. (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

An injury to their 5th starter Kuhl and a rain-induced double header gave an opportunity for the Nats to bring up one of their starter prospects, and so most of the Natmosphere got their real first good look at jake Irvin. Lets recap.

Irvin is taller and lankier than I thought; he is listed as 6’6″ 225. He features a relatively smooth delivery that lands him in perfect fielding position. According to Pitch FX data on the night, he showed four pitches (4-seamer, 2-seamer, curve, and change), sat mostly 93, peaked at 95, showed a ton of arm-side run on his sinker (average of 10 inches), had a change that came in on average at 88 (maybe a bit too close to the fastball), and a curve that got him a ton of called strikes. He mixed up the pitches well.

In the first inning, the first pitch he threw sailed on him and nailed the batter right in the back; this runner came around to score despite Irvin mostly handling the top of the powerful Cubs lineup. He punched out Swanson looking, got a little cute with Happ to walk him, got Bellinger out on a first-pitch curve pop-up before giving up a decently hit single to score a run.

His second inning was pretty clean; punchout of Hosmer, liner, then a grounder to 2nd. In the third, he’s back at the top of the order; he got a soft-lineout from the leadoff Hoerner, got Swanson out again on a pop-up, again pitched around Happ to walk him for the second time, then punched out Bellinger. That’s a great way to get through the heart of the order a second time. In the fourth, the ball never left the infield and he got an infield single up the middle erased with a GIDP.

In the fifth, he was again at the bottom of the order and looking to hit the top a third time. Unfortunately he walked the #8 hitter, who promptly stole second. He got the #9 hitter to line-out to left, no damage and no runners advancing. Then he walks the leadoff hitter, so you have 1st and 2nd with one out and Swanson coming up. Instead of letting him work through it, Martinez yanked him, and his replacement Machado immediately got a GIDP to end the inning.

Final line: 4 1/3, just 2 hits ( one infield, one RBI single in the 1st that would have been meaning less without the HBP), but 4 walks (Happ twice) and 3 punchouts. 81 pitches and just 45 strikes, so he was definitely wild and his pitch count was elevated with all the walks, but he was in position to go six full perhaps just broaching 100 pitches.

All in all, a really nice debut, and honestly i’d rather see Irvin in there right now than Kuhl, so look for Kuhl to have his DL stint extended to give Irvin another start.

And, I gotta say, If we continue with Grey and Gore being impressive, and suddenly Irvin becomes serviceable, and we somehow get Cavalli and Henry back from injury … well that’s a pretty good rotation of young, controllable, cheap starters. Hey, we deserve some good luck.

Written by Todd Boss

May 4th, 2023 at 9:52 pm

44 Responses to 'First Look: Jake Irvin'

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  1. Good writeup Todd, this is what you do best. Irvin definitely deserves a couple of more starts at least.

    Mark L

    5 May 23 at 9:59 am

  2. Skenes tonight: 7.1 IP 6H 0R 1BB 15K (including 3 on changeups to lefties; most of the rest on 86 mph breaking pitch)


    5 May 23 at 11:53 pm

  3. First, let’s note that Kuhl has a 9.41 ERA and 1.96 WHIP. The only Nat pitcher with worse numbers is Lane Thomas. Kuhl should never toe the rubber again for the Nats.

    I’m glad that Irvin had a good first start with the big club. That’s certainly better than the alternative. (BTW, FIP wasn’t impressed and has him at 5.43.) But you can’t ignore track record. Irvin’s ERA after five AAA starts this year is 5.64. His ERA at AA last year was 4.79. That’s who he is. It’s unrealistic to expect someone to be called up and be significantly better in the majors than he was in the minors.

    Now, it is worth noting that Irvin was coming back from TJ last season, so he should continue to get stronger, and perhaps a little better as he goes.

    I’m also recalibrating on what expectation should be for a league-average pitcher in the all-DH era. Current MLB average ERA is 4.35. I guess that means that 4.50 or so makes one a serviceable fifth starter. But 5.50 makes you Erick Fedde and not signed by any team. Where will Irvin fall on the 4.50 to 5.50 spectrum?


    6 May 23 at 11:57 am

  4. I know Irvin’s numbers have been mediocre. But I liked what I saw in his first start. I’m super curious to get him a second start.

    Law did a q&a about the top of the draft and he’s pretty sure Pitt goes with Crews at 1-1 and offers him #2 slot money and then the Nats take Skenes. But if the reverse happens, the Nats would be ecstatic with Crews.

    Todd Boss

    7 May 23 at 10:25 pm

  5. Law also keeps insisting that some of his scout buddies have Langford ahead of Crews. Unless Skenes really fades by the tournament or gets injured, though, it’s hard to see 1 and 2 being anyone other that Crews and Skenes, in some order.

    There’s no doubt that the Nats need Skenes more than they do Crews, but I wouldn’t be unhappy with Crews, who might be able to blow through the minors in a year or less. The Nats have nothing but placeholders in the OF right now. The only OF prospect of note in the upper minors is Hassell, who has been slow recovering from injury. He also doesn’t have much of a power projection. Wood does, but he’s at A+ and only hitting .267 so won’t be getting rapid promotion. Green is striking out every other time up at the A level. All of these guys may one day be good players, but Crews is probably ahead of all of them right now.


    8 May 23 at 9:26 am

  6. well your wait is over Todd, he goes tonight. if all goes well he could stick a while, no reason not to let a 26 year old sink or swim for a while.


    8 May 23 at 10:10 am

  7. They really don’t have a lot of other options. Adon probably has a high ceiling than Irvin but still appears to need more seasoning. Espino has been the best starter at Rochester, but adding him would require a 40-man move. Rutledge isn’t ready, decent but not dominant at AA. I suspect they hope to get him an MLB look by later in the year, though.

    Even though I have some doubts about how good Irvin can be, I’m more than fine with him getting an extended look with the big club. It’s the perfect season to do it. I spent the offseason calling for them to go with the kids (although 26 may no longer qualify as a “kid”).


    8 May 23 at 11:21 am

  8. I am fascinated by Law (and others’) descriptions of what’s going to happen at the top of this draft. Pitchers break, so I understand the logic that high-performing and polished position players (like Crews and, to a lesser extent, Langford) are better bets at 1-1.

    But pre-slot draft history teaches a different lesson. In a world where signing bonuses were not pre-determined by the CBA (i.e., in a world that more closely resembles a market), the individuals that received the highest bonuses and broke the then-prevailing bonus records were the elite “once-in-a-generation” college pitching prospects, e.g., Ben McDonald, Mark Prior, and Stras (and note that, though McDonald and Stras went 1-1, Prior went 1-2 because of bonus demands).

    Given Skenes’s performance, it looks like he belongs in that “once-in-a-generation” category. And scouts are explicitly putting him in that category by comparing him to Stras and Cole (who also went 1-1 though didn’t break bonus records the way McDonald, Prior, and Stras did).

    So, the idea that Crews is clearly ahead of Skenes (putting aside what PIT will actually do with the pick) requires one to believe one (or both) of the following two things: (1) MLB in general has learned over time that hitters are a better bet at the top of the draft than pitchers, even generational talents (I am dubious – pitchers have always broken and we are now better able to fix broken pitchers compared to the past; but maybe we are just better able to quantify the risk difference now, which makes hitters look like a better choice?); or (2) Crews is special and would have gone ahead of some of those other generational pitching talents at the time (I am willing to believe this, but I have some skepticism. Is Crews more special than Bryce Harper, who was paid 50% less than Strasburg by the exact same team one year later? If the Crews-is-special take is correct, then shouldn’t we think that the Nats would have taken Harper over Strasburg if they had the same draft year? And if that’s true, why did Strasburg get a $15M bonus and Harper only $10M?)

    Anyway, notwithstanding the reporting from your usual-suspect prospect guys, I think they are underestimating the likelihood that PIT takes Skenes 1-1.


    8 May 23 at 11:29 am

  9. The other point I would make along those lines is that in my glances at Pirate prospect lists, they don’t have any pitchers near the top, no ace-like guys. I suspect they need Skenes more than they need Crews. They did just give an OF a pretty hefty contract.

    (I pause here to rant that Reynolds went one pick after the Nats took the immortal Sheldon Neuse. That pissed me off at the time, and does even more now. Pete Alonso went five picks after Reynolds and signed for only $9,200 more than Neuse. [The Nats were saving money to throw at Luzardo in the 3d round.] Bo Bichette went two picks after Alonso, in the same draft that the Nats thought Carter Kieboom was better.)

    Reading Law’s takes on the top three over time has been interesting. First of all, he thinks all three (he keeps including Langford) would have deserved to be 1/1 in any of the last three drafts, so he’s very high on all of them, all in all. He doesn’t think that Skenes is quite as good as Stras and Cole, but he’s willing to have that conversation. Skenes’s numbers aren’t going to be as good as theirs because he’s facing SEC competition every weekend. He’s also only pitching full time for the first time this season. Some still question whether he’s going to have a third pitch that’s MLB quality.

    It seems that Law has moved Crews ahead of Langford begrudgingly (and still has Langford ahead of Skenes) in the face of the overwhelming evidence that Crews can hit-hit-hit. He thinks Langford has more power/speed/athleticism but concedes that Crews’s hit tool is better. Law insists that some of his scout friends still have Langford ahead of Crews. And goodness, we know that Rizzo can be tempted by high-ceiling tools.

    Derek, I think I agree with you that Skenes is going to be difficult for the Pirates to pass up. If that happens, it would seem likely that the Nats would take Crews . . . unless they get tempted by Langford’s tools.


    8 May 23 at 12:56 pm

  10. Cole’s junior season: 6-8, 3.31 ERA, 9.4 K/9

    Strasburg: 13-1, 1.32 ERA, 16.1 K/9

    Skenes (so far): 9-1, 1.73 ERA, 17.3 K/9

    Skenes’s stats are quite clearly better than Cole’s in a tougher league, and are similar to Stras’s in a MUCH tougher league.

    W/r/t to Skenes and a third pitch: I recall Tom Boswell writing in a column that he asked Strasburg about that during the short period Stras was in the Nats org but not in the big leagues yet about whether Stras could “develop a changeup.” Boz wrote that Strasburg was annoyed by the question and said he had a good one already. Boz was dubious, and of course the changeup turned out to be Stras’s best pitch. I think it’s unreasonable to expect guys who throw 100 in college to showcase a changeup – they just don’t need the pitch to get hitters at that level out. I am not a scout and certainly won’t predict that Skenes’s changeup will be his best pitch in MLB like Stras. But I saw Auburn lefties absolutely flail at the Skenes changeup (including one in the dirt that didn’t make the plate). I think he “has” the pitch – whether it will be consistent and whether he can throw it for strikes is another matter (though I’ll note that Stras’s change hardly ever ended up in the zone).

    For me, I’ll be pretty happy with either Crews or Skenes though I’m pretty sure I want Skenes. If PIT takes Crews and the Nats take Langford, I’ll understand the logic. If PIT takes Skenes and the Nats take Langford instead of Crews, I’ll have a lot of questions…


    8 May 23 at 1:36 pm

  11. That’s the nice part about picking 2nd. I’m going to be ecstatic with whoever we get. The only thing that could throw a monkey wrench into this is an injury …. Skenes gets hurt, Crews goes 1-1 and now we’re looking at a step down. I know some love Langford … but he’s a corner OF in an organization that’s full of them.

    Todd Boss

    8 May 23 at 2:43 pm

  12. I’m still dubious of Irvin’s long-term MLB prospects, but I’ve got to give it up for him for Monday night. He was the real deal in SF. He can continue to make me look “bad” in this way all he wants!

    Re Langford, Law thinks he has a better chance to stick in CF than Crews, because he has more speed and (supposedly) is a better athlete. The way things are right now, though, it’s hard to think that any team is going to pick Langford over Crews.

    And what makes you think that Rizzo wouldn’t take Skenes even if he’s injured? (insert head smack emoji)

    Derek, I’m not as concerned as some are about Skenes’s change-up. I just mention it because it’s getting mentioned. That’s when I remind folks that Skenes is just in his first year of pitching full time. The other point I’d make is that his fastball seems to have more movement than those of others who have come along touching 100. Our own Cade Cavalli comes to mind. Dating back to college, he has given up an unusually high number of hits for someone who throws that hard for the simple reason that his heater doesn’t have a lot of movement. That’s why the club has spent a lot of time with him trying to increase his spin rate.


    9 May 23 at 8:29 am

  13. Irvin looked good last night. He’s not going to look that good or close to it every time out. For me, “the real deal” would be for Irvin to be a better MLB pitcher than Erick Fedde, which I think is very much possible. The “good luck” scenario would be for him to be as good a pitcher as Tanner Roark, which seems possible but unlikely. Regardless, Chad Kuhl can take his sweet time recovering from injury…


    9 May 23 at 9:27 am

  14. I was excited when Irvin fell to the Nats in the draft, as he had been rated as a solid second rounder until a couple of bad outings in the NCAA tournament slid him to the fourth. His college numbers at Oklahoma were better than Cavalli’s almost across the board.

    Irvin missed 2020 because of COVID and missed 2021 because of TJ. He wasn’t at full speed last season in his first year back from TJ. So it’s quite possible that the “real” Jake Irvin is better than his recent stats.

    That said, he’s been pretty darn “lucky” in his two MLB starts, with a BABIP against of .231. xFIP is unimpressed and has him at a Fedde-esque 5.73. So we’ll see. But a good start is much better than the alternative.

    Also, since Stas, the only pitcher the Nats have drafted/signed internationally who has made more than 25 starts for them is Fedde. They’ve been utterly incapable of developing even half-reasonable back-end starters. Maybe Irvin can finally be that guy.


    9 May 23 at 10:10 am


    Pitches into the 7th. not a ton of hits, 3 walks 4 ks. 92 pitches mid way through the 6th meaning he could have finished 7 complete in around 100 pitches; can’t ask for much more.

    Yes, his babip and FIP and xFIP show some luck. But … are we not sure that’s just not how this guy pitches? I see a guy who throws a ball with a ton of movement right now, and relies more on weak contact versus high K rates. Those types of pitchers (think Greg Maddux in the extreme) are always going to be really underrated by FIP especially … one of the limitations of FIP in my opinion and why i don’t really use it a ton (only 40% of baseball plays are measured by FIP! 40% are walks, strikeouts and homers, so that means FIP ignores 60% of the batters a pitcher faces).

    Thats his pitch fx data. The guy is getting nearly as much break on his sinker as he is on his change. He got 9 called strikes on his curveball alone, out of the 30 times he threw it. Those are solid numbers.

    I realize this is SSS, and it doesn’t match what he was doing in the minors. I don’t have a good explanation for that.

    Todd Boss

    9 May 23 at 10:35 am

  16. I thing you’re being a little hard on him in regard to his minor league state, under 3 walks per 9 innings, 1.22 WHIP and 3.80 ERA aren’t hideous. he’s got a very good curveball so if he’s locating his fastball he’s gonna get people out. he also repeats his delivery very well.

    he may never be an ace but 3-4 starters are needed too!


    9 May 23 at 10:53 am

  17. Irvin’s stats at AA and AAA weren’t good, but I noted some of the extenuating circumstances above. It’s quite possible that he tired later last season while coming back from injury.

    I’m not down on him at all, have my fingers crossed that he can become found gold for the Nats. He doesn’t have to be the next Roark (who certainly defied his minor-league numbers). Back-end starters with ERAs in the high 4’s are commanding $10M or so these days. And SSS thus far certainly is miles better than Kuhl.

    (Speaking of Roark, I just looked him up on Baseball-Reference, where he’s pictured with a #@**!! BRAVES cap! What a travesty. He never even made an MLB appearance with the Barves.)


    9 May 23 at 12:48 pm

  18. KW, do you remember all the times that you were dead flat wrong about potential draft choices/prospects?

    And you can literally play the “they chose [x] when they could have drafted [y who turned out to be a much better player]” with every team’s draft every season. What you don’t see people who love to trash their team’s draft paying attention to is the players who were drafted by other teams ahead of them who cratered/never made it. It’s always “hey, look at the guy who made it that they could have drafted” instead of “wow, a lot of the guys taken ahead of the player they drafted didn’t make it either.”

    It’s almost like drafting is hard.

    John C.

    9 May 23 at 1:28 pm

  19. Law has a new post on Langford:

    “Langford is a 70 runner with a beautiful right-handed swing that generates real power already . . . He’s steady through contact with excellent hip rotation, getting his weight onto his front side without collapsing the back, and hitting the ball in the air a ton. He’s a disciplined hitter who doesn’t expand the zone much at all for any pitch type until he gets to two strikes, and even then he rarely misses. He plays left field in part because Florida has a plus defensive center fielder in redshirt freshman Michael Robertson, but more because Langford isn’t a natural or instinctive defender, even in left field. He’s so fast you’d think he could handle center, but we have seen guys with his speed (Derek Fisher comes to mind, and to a lesser extent Corey Ray) who just couldn’t carry it over to defense.”

    “While Crews has the edge in production and defensive value, as he’s a center fielder, Langford is the better runner and athlete, and I would like to think he could get to average defense in left. Crews is the favorite to go 1-1, but Langford would be the 1-1 pick in the majority of draft years, and he’s got to be the best alternative for Pittsburgh if they want to try to negotiate with two players to strike the best deal.”


    10 May 23 at 11:52 am

  20. How is a 70 runner and a supposed plus defender NOT playing Centerfield in college? Who does Florida have that’s keeping Langford out of center and pushing him to a corner. Left field, not even the more coveted defensive position of Right.

    On friday night against TAMU, Langford in LF and leading off. the starting CF is a redshirt freshman named Michael Robetson, who bats 9th and is slugging .329 for the year.

    What?? ok, sorry, but if this dude is some CF stud, he’d be playing CF and Florida would be putting some other dude in LF who could hit. Its that simple. I don’t think he’s a CF, and scouting reports who claim it are ignoring some pretty obvious evidence.

    Todd Boss

    10 May 23 at 12:50 pm

  21. I agree with Todd that it’s fishy that Langford isn’t playing CF in favor of a redshirt freshman, who can showcase his plus defense in CF next year after Langford collects his $7M+ bonus. So I think we have to assume that Langford isn’t a CF (and Law seems to get close to admitting that).

    The only thing I’ll point out about defense is that Rickey Henderson had plus speed and played corner OF (though he did have a few years in the mid-80s where he mostly played CF for the Yankees and did ok). So it’s not unprecedented for a really fast guy to be a corner OF. But it is unusual.

    If you compare Crews and Langford’s batting stats, it is clear both that Crews is better across the board and that Langford is an awesome hitter.


    10 May 23 at 3:18 pm

  22. It should be noted that the Nats are heavily invested in CFs already, with Hassell, Green, Vaquero, and others and that Robles fellow still around. So for the Nats’ purposes, ability to play the middle of the outfield isn’t particularly required, from Langford or Crews. Just take the best damn hitter.

    As things stand now — and they often seem to change up until the draft — the general consensus seems to be that Langford probably won’t really figure into the Nats’ plans (unless the Nat scouts have him ahead of Crews, as Law insists that some organizations do). The Pirates take Crews or Skenes, the Nats get the other one, and both are happy. Law did just propose an interesting curve, though: Pirates offer underslot to both Crews and Langford and see who takes it. If Langford takes the Bucs’ bucks, then the Nats suddenly have the choice of Crews AND Skenes. So is it need (Skenes), or best player available (Crews)?

    There’s a lot of buzz that the Pirates will take Crews, but Derek makes a good case above that it would be hard for them to pass on a potential ace.


    10 May 23 at 3:45 pm

  23. If the makeup of the Florida team is such that Langford and Robertson are both going to play, and Robertson is slightly better in CF than Langford, then Robertson is going to play CF, period. Because the Florida coach’s job depends on winning, and that alignment increases the chances of winning.

    Just like if you had an ML outfield consisting solely of Mike Trout, Juan Soto, and Michael A. Taylor. Taylor playing center doesn’t mean Trout isn’t a center fielder – just that he isn’t as good defensively as Taylor.


    10 May 23 at 5:20 pm

  24. KW – I think Todd’s point is that there is probably a hitter on the FL team you could stick in left and who would slug better than .329. If the FL coach is making sensible decisions, his lineup card means that he thinks the defensive difference between Langford and the incumbent in CF is larger that the offensive difference between the guy who slugs .329 and whomever he’d stick in LF. That’s informative (and not in a good way) about Langford’s defense, IMO.


    10 May 23 at 6:29 pm

  25. That wasn’t me, but it also doesn’t matter as far as the Nats are concerned. I don’t think Crews would end up in CF for the Nats either. They’ve likely got better defensive options.

    (Barry Bonds is another example of a guy with 40 SB speed who they only let play LF. He did OK.)

    Look, you take the bat that you believe in the most. Rendon had DH’d most of his draft season and was feared to not really have a solid defensive position (one of the reasons he slid to #6, along with injury history). Turned out he was a hell of defensive 3B, but no one knew that at the time. Plus the Nats at the time thought they had their future guys at 3B (Zim), 2B (Espy), and SS (Desi) but they took Rendon anyway.


    11 May 23 at 6:45 am

  26. Sorry, KW! Apparently all two letters look the same to me!


    11 May 23 at 9:32 am

  27. Derek; yes, that’s exactly what i meant.

    Now, i would not put it past a College coach to be an idiot. After all, they constantly bunt their #2 hitters and throw kids 150 pitches and other nonsense things.

    Todd Boss

    11 May 23 at 12:08 pm

  28. Rendon: still, to this day, cannot believe he slipped to #6 to us. He was a golden spikes winner as a sophomore! Never draft for need, always BPA.

    Todd Boss

    11 May 23 at 12:09 pm

  29. Yes, I gave regular thanks to the Royals for taking Bubba Starling at #5.

    That was a pretty loaded top of the draft, though:

    Four of the top eight ended up with contracts with AAVs north of $30M. Three more in the top 12 are over $20M. And Fernandez at #14 would have been another $30M guy.


    11 May 23 at 3:59 pm

  30. The mocks are starting to roll in with Crews #1 and Skenes #2, including BA, (Callis), and ESPN (McDaniel). I do agree with Derek that we can’t assume that the Pirates will pass on a generational starting pitcher, though.

    The Nats obviously need Skenes more, but that’s sort of the point with the Pirates too. A grading consensus seems to be emerging that Crews is (slightly) better than Skenes, though. Either way, the Nats should be getting a top-tier prospect, one hopefully ready for the majors by 2025, if not earlier.


    12 May 23 at 1:21 pm

  31. Crews vs Skenes at 1-1: my perception of the Pirates is that they are risk averse, and will thus favor the hitter over the pitcher.

    but, if Pirates go skenes 1-1, you gladly grab Crews at 1-2. Yes we’d have a crunch of outfielder, especially in high-A where he’d likely go at first and you have Wood and De La Rosa and McKenzie and Young. but right now in AA you’re starting a MLFA in Rutherford, so probably you’d promote Wood, put Crews in CF in High-A for the rest of 2023 (if you play him at all), and go from there. It only becomes a problem when you have the 5th top OF prospect matriculate to the majors, filling in LF CF RF DH and 1B.

    Todd Boss

    12 May 23 at 3:36 pm

  32. Well, let’s compare apples to apples. De la Rosa, McKenzie, and Young may have a chance to make the majors, but the chances of them becoming high-level players are low. Also, you forgot Hassell, who finally seems recovered from injuries and is hitting .333 in SSS at AA.

    The real MLB starter/potential star OFs would be Wood, Green, Hassell, and perhaps Vaquero, who hasn’t even played stateside. I also wouldn’t sleep on the higher-level potential of Daylen Lile, who is off to a great start at the A level. He will need to show some power, but then so will Hassell. Lile and Hassell are more contact-first than the others.

    Where would/could Crews fit on this spectrum? He’d be ahead of all of them developmentally, with the possible exception of Hassell. But he’s got a higher ceiling than Hassell. Wood is playing reasonably well at A+ level but not dominating so probably is still a couple of years away from the majors. Green has unlimited potential, but guys with swing-and-miss issues tend to take awhile to make their way through the minors. Lile will advance more quickly than Green.

    Also, the Nats aren’t going to be able to get back to contention just by drafting and developing (which they haven’t been good at, BTW). They’re going to have to make some trades. And the majority of their high-level prospects are outfielders. So drafting Crews would give them more flexibility to trade someone like Green, Vaquero, or Wood (although I really believe in Wood and wouldn’t want to part with him).


    13 May 23 at 10:38 am

  33. I watched the FL and LSU games on SEC network last night.

    Langford has a thick build. I think one of the prospect guys called him Trout-lite, and that description is apt, at least visually.

    Crews has a really active lower half at the plate. He crouches deep and spreads out a lot with two strikes. Very fluid movement.

    Skenes (pronounced with one syllable – sKEENs, not two syllables – sKEN ES – like I had thought) is enormous, though most of it in his lower half. It seems like he has the frame to add a lot of weight up top, if he wants. Skenes was unhittable through 3 IP – K’d 8 of 9 batters. He threw only a few changeups (all to lefties) but they looked good. He has a slider (lots of horizontal break) and a curve (more vertical), both mid 80s velo. I think he would do well to have more separation between the slider and the curve – I’d try to get him to throw a tighter slider in the high 80s/low 90s and leave the curve as is. Everything he threw was in and around the zone – though he got many whiffs on sliders out of the zone that pro hitters would have laid off of, IMO. And he got tired – he was pumping “only” 97 in the 7th and he started the first 3 IP at 100-101. It looked like easy gas too – presumably because Skenes is just an enormous person. He got one or two looking Ks on front hip 2 seamers inside to lefties, so he’s got that in addition to the 4 seamer. Conclusion: Skenes could start in the big leagues right now. He surely needs better fastball command, but the stuff is so so so good (and really similar to Strasburg’s stuff when he first came up).


    13 May 23 at 10:59 am

  34. Good scoop. So you’d vote for/hope for Skenes? I agree with your earlier comment, though, that we shouldn’t assume that the Pirates will pass on a generational pitching talent, no matter what the mocks say.

    There’s much to like about what Gray and Gore are doing. Put Skenes with them, hope for recoveries by Cavalli and Henry, and they could have a terrific young, team-controlled (cheap) staff and money to spend on everyday-position free agents.


    13 May 23 at 2:12 pm

  35. I can understand the philosophical position not to take a pitcher at the top of the draft (and I’ve heard Elias with the Os won’t take a pitcher in the first round). But watching Skenes pitch against college hitters was a bit like watching Shaq play college basketball: Skenes is just too good for college because he physically overwhelms the opponent. He’s close to a sure thing, performance wise. I’m hoping for PIT to pass on him, for the Nats to take him at 1-2, and for him to stay healthy.


    14 May 23 at 9:22 am

  36. Derek; agree.

    Gray and Gore looking solid. Irvin got a 3rd start yesterday (getting back to the point of the post) and though he took the L and gave up some runs … i remain positive. his line looks awful thanks to the complete ineptness of the guy who relieved him. I watched most of his start:
    – 1st: gave up a double to Lindor; bad pitch. But K’d Alonso and otherwise got the top of the Met’s order out easily.
    – 2nd: gave up another double, on a decent swing from Canha. Gave up a 106mph fly out to CF to end the inning … but still no damage
    – 3rd: gets 9-1-2 out in order with little trouble
    – 4th: 2 Ks and a weak grounder to retire the heart of the Mets order. Lindor K, Alonso K, Baty grounder to short.

    – 5th: Marte flairs a 70mph texas leaguer to right. Canha gets another double, on a decent pitch that was just a little higher than Irvin wanted. Run scores. Then he walks the #8 hitter before punching out the #9 hitter.

    Now he’s at the top of the order for the 3rd time. Nimmo hits a 3-hopper between Irvin and Garcia to score … a bit unlucky perhaps, in that Garcia playing at DP depth makes the play easily. he gets a punchout for 2nd out, then Lindor gets a BS infield single to score another run. Irvin hits Alonso with a first pitch (remember he’d struck out Alonso twice already) to load the bases.

    So, really. Now he’s given up 3 runs in the inning; really only the first of which i’d say was the result of solid contact. But the bases are loaded … for Thompson to walk a run in, then give up 3 straight hits to score ALL of Irvin’s inherited runners.

    the box score line looks like crap. Yes he missed his spot a few times and walked the #8 hitter to help get the 5th inning rally started. But its not like the 5th inning was filled was homers or laced gappers. It was a grounder up the middle, a 70mph exit velocity flaired ball, an infield grounder. I’d still be optimistic if i’m Davey.

    Todd Boss

    15 May 23 at 11:42 am

  37. In his postgame remarks Davey said that Irwin is staying in the rotation.

    John C.

    15 May 23 at 2:16 pm

  38. FIP agrees with your eye test on Irvin, keeping him at 3.43 against a 4.11 ERA. Even with the bad inning, he’s only surrendering a .222 BA against, and even more impressively, only a .296 SLG against. His hits-per-nine (7.0) is better than that of any other Nat starter, and really than that of anyone else on the team other than Thad Ward. (Ward has allowed an amazingly low 4.9 H9 but is killing himself with walks.)

    I was an Irvin skeptic, but he’s convincing me that he’s worth an extended trial. In the admittedly small sample size, he’s certainly better than Kuhl, and at least as good as Trevor Williams.

    The other good news on the Nat pitching horizon is that Jackson Rutledge finally seems to be putting things together at AA. He’s allowed only one run across 18 innings in May, and only four walks. (The Mason Denaburg story is trending poorly in the opposite direction, but we’ll take success where we can find it.)

    Whether the Nats get to draft Skenes or not, we can cross our fingers that they get to Spring Training in 2024 with Irvin, Cavalli, Henry, Rutledge, Adon, and maybe even Ward ready to compete for rotation spots. Even two have two or three of them as viable options by then would be good news.


    15 May 23 at 2:37 pm

  39. Luke reports a rumor that Cole Henry is about to make a rehab start for Frederickburg. Fingers definitely crossed on that one. Lest we forget, Henry had an 0.76 ERA in seven starts at AA last year at age 22 before being promoted and injured soon thereafter. He’s elite . . . if he can stay healthy.

    Davey reported that Chad Kuhl pitched a simulated game yesterday. One has to wonder if he surrendered eight runs in that one.


    16 May 23 at 8:54 am

  40. so far, so good on Irvin. I still cannot explain why suddenly in 3 starts in the majors he’s getting so much weak contact that he couldn’t get in AAA or AA. Different ball? weather? i dunno. I remain cautiously optomistic. I mean, lets be honest, if Irvin could be a 4th starter who maintains 100 ERA+ that’s worth $10M on the open market in a starter we don’t have to get. Grey, Gore, healthy Cavalli, healthy Henry, irvin, ? yeah; sign me up. that’s two potential #1s, two #2s and a 3/4.

    Rutledge: amazing. i cannot explain this one either. How does a go from a 4.90 ERA in low-A to controlling the games in AA and posting such nifty stats? his BAA has gone down 70 points against two levels’ better hitters. I mean, did the Nats hire new pitching coaches? I want to see it for a full half season before moving him to AAA.

    and that’s before talking about Skenes.

    I want

    Todd Boss

    17 May 23 at 2:07 pm

  41. Two good (albeit short) starts in a row for Henry. Is it time for AA?

    I watched Skenes again on Thursday. Lower FB velo – he was 97-98 at the top rather than 100-101. Two caveats: (1) who knows about the accuracy of the radar gun readings on the telecast? (2) he maintained his velo better this start – he was hitting 97 in the 7th inning.

    He was also less dominant to my eyes – longer ABs, fewer swinging strikes. And it looked like he mainly featured the slider as his breaking pitch whereas against Mississippi St he mixed the slider and the curve more (though I will say it was sometimes hard to tell pitch-by-pitch – SEC network wasn’t giving radar gun readings on every pitch).

    I will note, however, that he did throw two changeups to a RH batter – this guy:

    I believe it was in the 7th inning, and it was definitely the third matchup of the game between these two. So I think Skenes was giving GA’s best hitter (25 homers this year) a different look. Anyway – the two righty-righty changeups produced two swinging strikes, including for the strikeout. The strikeout pitch bounced in front of the plate, the catcher couldn’t handle it, and the batter ended up on 1B.

    Again, I am not a scout and have seen probably a dozen Skenes changeups at most, but I think the pitch will play. Georgia’s .390 hitting RH 1B with 25 homers had *no chance* against it. I suspect it will become a weapon in pro ball, including potentially against righties a la Strasburg.

    I will say that I think Skenes’s breaking pitches aren’t quite as good as Strasburg’s when he was a prospect, which jibes with what scouts have said.

    Still: I want him at No. 2. And he should pitch again this week (and hopefully not too many times after that…sorry LSU).


    22 May 23 at 1:02 pm

  42. Cole Henry promoted to Wilmington. Presumably will head to Harrisburg quickly if he continues to have good results.


    23 May 23 at 1:38 pm

  43. Henry: yeah definitely want to see him moving up, but i’m ok with slowly.

    Skenes: the hard part about throwing 100 is … you don’t develop your off-speed as much. I remember a scene from my HS days; we had a guy who threw gas, end of the game, he blows two pitches by a kid, then … decides to throw him a changeup because, well, he thought he was in the majors. Finally kid can catch up to the pitch and clocks it for a game winning hit. Duh. Throw it by the kid with 4-seamers until they prove they can hit it, then show them something else. This is the kind of stuff that won’t show up until a guy like Skenes is in AA probably.

    Todd Boss

    23 May 23 at 4:18 pm

  44. Don Sutton used to scream about that: if they can’t get around on your fastball, don’t bail them out by giving them something slower. And Sutton could throw (likely doctored) junk with the best of them.

    I’ve got my figures and toes crossed that Henry can fully make it back. He’s an unusually polished pitcher for his age.


    23 May 23 at 5:39 pm

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