Nationals Arm Race

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

End of April 2024 Check-in On the Rotations


Parker is the minor league success story so far in 2024. Photo via WP

Hello all. One of the recurring posts I did last year that I really enjoy doing (as long as I can find time to do it) is a monthly look at the state of the rotations of our entire system. Here we are one month in and a few turns through the rotations at all levels, and here’s the first of what hopefully is a season full of rotation (and pitching staff) recaps for the Nats big club and its farm teams.

Each team will have the same items: current rotation, changes in the last month, observations, next guy to get promoted (if its in the minors), next guy to get cut, and then a few comments about relievers.

Important links for this analysis:

We’ll start with the Majors.

Rotation as of 4/30/24: Irvin, Gore, Williams, Parker, Corbin

Changes since opening day: Grey on DL, replaced by Parker

Rotation Observations: Opening day starter Josiah Grey had two ineffective starts (8.1 IP and 13 runs allowed) before heading to the DL with a scary sounding “Flexor Strain” elbow issue that often is followed up by the dreaded Tommy John surgery. Adon got a spot start earlier in the month, but the timing of Grey’s injury with Adon’s workload meant that the team gave Mitchell Parker the call up, and boy has he delivered. In three starts he got wins over basically the two best teams over the last decade or so, has kept the ball in park, and has kept his walks down. Basically everything he didn’t really do in the minors. Crazy. Meanwhile, Trevor Williams has gone from 5th starter competition in spring training to basically our most competent starter: 5 starts, 2.70 ERA, and a FIP that matches his ERA. Gore has also looked solid, with peripherals better than his actual stats albeit with a few more baserunners per inning. Meanwhile, Corbin has done what we though he was going to do (6.82 ERA), as has Irvin (95 ERA+, basically a 4th or 5th starter performance). Irvin’s FIP is lower than his ERA, indicating that he’s been a little unlucky, especially when looking at his WHIP (1.18) and his BABIP (.303; not egregious but a little elevated).

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Corbin. it’s unclear how long Grey will be out, but he’s already doing 120 feet of throwing and may be doing bullpen sessions soon. That sounds to me like end of May return, which may (finally) spell doom for Corbin here. The only other possibility would be to send Irvin down, but that’d be really difficult to defend if Corbin has an ERA approaching 7.00.

Bullpen comments: the pen has generally been great. They blew Corbin’s great start last week, but overall has been solid. Tanner Rainey may be in trouble and is basically at the top of my “next guy to get cut” list right now. Same with Weems, who just is putting too many runners on base. Lastly MLFA Matt Barnes may also have a short leash, with middling numbers and no organizational history. Problem is, who replaces them? When we get to AAA, there’s not a ton of obvious candidates to come up b/c our 10 day DL is pretty full and the candidates aren’t exactly lighting it up down there.

AAA Rochester

Rotation as of 4/30/24: Adon, Rutledge, Watkins, Herz, Ward

Changes since opening day: Parker promoted up, replaced by MLFA long reliever/innings eater Watkins (Gsellman also got a couple of spot starts in April)

Rotation Observations: Herz has looked good, which is super promising for a team that’s lacking reliable starter prospects. Parker’s promotion over Adon and Rutledge, both of whom had MLB time last year, can be pretty easily explained by their performance so far in 2024: Terrible. Adon, with the benefit of a 4th option, has an ERA in the 8s and a whip in the 2s. He’s taken a step back from his 2022/2023 AAA numbers, and I don’t think he’s coming back anytime soon. Meanwhile, Rutledge has also taken a step back so far in 2024, averaging both a walk and a hit per inning while seeing his ERA bloat up to near 9.00. Ward has struggled in his conversion back to starter from sitting in the Nats pen all last year, and it makes me wonder if the team has him in the right role. I mean, he’s now 27, he’s in AAA trying to get stretched out, he wasn’t great in the pen last year … is he salvageable? Do you abandon his rotation presence and try to get him back as a useful middle reliever?

Both Watkins and Gsellman are what they are: 30yr old MLFA veteran arms who are hanging out to try to get another shot at the bigs, but who probably just sit in AAA all year and soak up innings while waiting for prospects to arrive.

Next guy to get Promoted: Herz. On the 40-man, easy promotion to cover for the next rotation injury.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Adon. he’s eating up a 40-man spot, is now, what, 9th or 10th on the starter pecking order, he’s on his last option, and he’s not getting better. He’ll pass through waivers easily and get outrighted, so don’t be surprised if the next roster move is him. The rest of the starters in AAA aren’t really options to “demote” in that they either make it at AAA or they’re out of the rotation/gone.

Bullpen comments: Willingham (on the 40-man) has been good and may be a decent replacement for one of the faltering MLB relievers. La Sorsa (also on the 40-man) has not been good and is probably near the top of the DFA list. Rico Garcia has been AAA’s “closer” and looks decent. Adonis Medina has looked solid as the 8th inning guy. TJ Zeuch? not so much. 5ip, 14runs on 15 hits. ugh.

AA Harrisburg

Rotation as of 4/30/24: Luckham, Cuevas, Alvarez, Henry, Lord

Changes since opening day: Lord promoted up from High-A for Knowles, who I had in the opening day rotation but, based on his usage pattern from years past, probably was always going back to his LR/SS role.

Rotation Observations: All five starters have been generally good for the first month. 2023 Minor League POTY Alvarez has picked back up where he left off, albeit with some luck (he’s walked 12 guys in 18 innings). Cuevas has looked solid, which is great news in that he’s the youngest guy in the rotation at 22 and has already passed through rule-5 once. Lord’s got a 19/4 K/BB in 13 innings but is also giving up a ton of hits. Luckham’s not getting the K’s he needs and is getting by on a low BAA. Lastly there’s the “most important” arm in AA: Cole Henry. 4 starts, just 10 IP (that’s really cautious). 11/7 K/BB, but its only 10 innings, so its really SSS. I’d like to see Henry actually pitch a full game, or at least qualify for the win.

Saenz remains on the DL; he’d probably be in the rotation if he was healthy and I remain hopeful he can continue on his progress made last year.

Next guy to get Promoted: If they had to move up a starter .. i’d move up Henry. Maybe not on merit, but on talent/challenge level. None of the other starters are really making an obvious dominant statement to move up so far.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Likewise, there’s no starter who’s really needing replacement. Lord is showing himself to be rather hittable (.316 BAA) but he’s also getting a ton of K’s. This to me perhaps says “reliever.” He’s also the only starter who didn’t start the year in AA, so it wouldn’t be a shock if he got dumped back to High-A.

Bullpen comments: Tyler Schoff continues to quietly work his way up the system; he’s yet to give up a run in 8 appearances/11 IP. Closer Nash Walters is probably too old for the level, but has also yet to give up a run in 2024. Knowles has been solid as usual in his swingman role. Orlando Ribalta is a fan favorite and continues to succeed. The only bullpen arm really struggling is Holden Powell, a college closer who’s never really impressed since his 2020 Covid year drafting. We have two relatively “important arms” on the 60-day DL; Zach Brzycky had TJ mid last year and may miss most of 2024, and 2018 3rd rounder Reid Schaller (who was effective in the AA bullpen last year) is on the “full season DL” already, which may spell trouble for him b/c he’s now 27 and probably becomes a 6yr MLFA at the end of the season.

High-A Wilmington

Rotation as of 4/30/24: Lara, Caceres, Young, Cornelio, Theophile

Changes since opening day: Lord got one start then got promoted up, replaced by Caceres.

Rotation Observations: Lara, Theophile, and Young have all been fantastic four turns through the rotation, each sporting an ERA in the 1s or 2s. Lara’s got the “worst” ERA of these three but a fantastic 37/8 K/BB ratio in his 23.2 IPs as a 21yr old. After watching Lara get socially promoted and constantly be the youngest guy at the level, he’s finally getting a chance to repeat a level and so far looks great.

Caceres and Cornelio? We’ll that’s another story. Caceres is the oldest guy in the rotation and has easily the worst numbers so far; 5.17 ERA, 8/10 K/BB in 15 innings. Cornelio’s ERA is in the 6s and he has 1-1 K-BB ratio and continues to show similar production to what he had last year. His time in the rotation may be nearing an end; i was surprised he made the rotation/got promoted from his stats from last year (a 4.68 ERA and 1.70 whip in low-A) and he’s not changing many minds.

Two important starters are on the DL here: Jake Bennett and Seth Shuman. Bennett is a 2nd rounder who had TJ last September, while Shuman continues to be unlucky health wise; he missed all of 2023 and now is on the 60-day DL to start 2024; he’s got solid career minor league numbers but can’t stay healthy.

Next guy to get Promoted: Probably Lara, even though he’s the youngest. He’s repeating High-A and has a live arm, and a 14 K/9 rate can’t stay in the rotation for much longer.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Caceres; he’s just not getting enough Ks.

Bullpen comments: Their closer Todd Peterson is 6-for-6 in SVO without giving up a run. Marquis Grissom Jr. has been equally as impressive: 17/3 K/BB in 11IP. Arias, Zinn, Collins also pitching well for a solid-looking pen. I could see some promotions here soon, especially the 26-yr old Peterson, who’s way too old for High-A. Evan Lee got shredded for 9R and was released. 27-yr old 2022 Cuban IFA Danniel Diaz is struggling and may not be long for the organization. Same with his 24yr old 2022 fellow Cuban signee Marlon Perez, who has an ERA north of 9.


Rotation as of 4/30/24: Sthele, Sanchez, Atencio, Susana, Davis (with Sykora getting his debut on 5/1)

Changes since opening day: Sullivan out, replaced by LR/SS Atencio, with spot starts from Agostini & Polanco

Rotation Observations: So, following the Low-A rotation has been a little hectic so far in 2024. It has seen a ton of churn. Every turn through so far, we’ve replaced names in the rotation with LR/SS guys. I almost wonder if they’re doing a true 6-man rotation to cover the 6-game series the team is playing. The stalwarts though are Susana, Davis, Sanchez, and Sthele, and none of them are really pitching well. Susana continues to get lots of Ks, and give up lots of runs. Our big-armed prospect has 17/4 K/BB in 12 innings, but also has a .308 BAA and a 6.57 ERA. He’s not going anywhere of course, but it’s been a while since he put together a stretch that validated his prospect status. Davis & Sanchez have middling numbers, but decent BAAs that make me think they’ve been a little unlucky. Sthele has not looked good, striking out just 6 guys in 18 innings and four starts.

All three of the guys who i’ve got listed as “LR/Spot Starters” have better numbers than basically anyone in the rotation, and it may be just a matter of time before the likes of Tepper, Atencio, and Polanco get longer stretches in the rotation. Tepper (a 15th rounder last year) has been lights out: 20/8 K/BB in 14 long relief innings), while both Atencio and Polanco have gotten spot starts already, and i’m kind of surprised they’re not in the rotation more full time at the expense of some of these guys. Atencio in particular has 21 Ks and zero walks in 18 innings; he’s yet to walk a guy.

Two guys who were briefly in the rotation (Sullivan and Agostini) both went straight to the full-season DL. Agostini after one god-awful start, Sullivan after two solid starts. Agostini is only 19 and showed a bit of promise last year, so that’s a loss for sure. The 60-day DL already had two other guys who we would have expected to see in this year’s rotation in Tolman and Aldonis, and there’s two other starters on the 7-day right now (Amoral and Aldo Ramirez, who just can’t catch a break). That’s a lot of starters on the DL in Low-A.

Next guy to get Promoted: none of the starters are pushing for promotion; if I had to i’d move up Atencio for reasons already stated.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Sthele or Davis. Sthele has worse performance but Davis is 24 and struggling in Low-A. That’s not boding well for Davis’ future.

Bullpen comments: Thomas Schultz has been solid as the closer. Moises Diaz has yet to really get touched in 8 relief innings. Bubba Hall has been crushing it as a 24yr old and probably needs a promotion.

There’s 12 arms on the Low-A DL right now, which is crazy. That’s an entire pitching staff. I wonder how many of those arms aren’t really “that” hurt and this is just the side effect we see of losing Short-A team. There’s not a ton of players at FCL/XST right now, so you can see what the team is preparing to do in the 2024 draft; stock XST with pitchers most likely.

Phew. There’s your April 2024 look at the pitching staffs.

Written by Todd Boss

May 1st, 2024 at 12:24 pm

11 Responses to 'End of April 2024 Check-in On the Rotations'

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  1. Hey Todd! Semi-serious question… Should Elijah Green start fitting for a football uniform?

    Are you getting a little worried about Crews? 40% K rate! 0-4 yesterday with 4 K’s. Haven’t seen that really nice stretch from him for a #1 hitting prospect yet. And didn’t do well last year either in minors. I know everyone excusing last year he was tired from long season.

    Just curious as I haven’t seen either play in person or even on tv myself. Just box score watching.


    1 May 24 at 5:55 pm

  2. Thank you for the very thorough rundown. Your hard work on these is very much appreciated and I hope you are able to keep them up over the season. A few notes / reactions / observations:

    I think you’re underselling Irvin a fair bit. If you give him 150 IP this year, he’s pacing to 3.2 WAR by FIP and 2.3 WAR by RA, and even if the latter is closer to the true signal, that’s a strong 4 and probably the best 5 in the league. Early days sure, but definitely worth watching in case the improvement is real.

    I agree Corbin should be the one to go. My plan would be to push him to the pen when Gray is back. If he’s good in that role for a couple of months – which is possible, if not exactly likely – he might even convince some contender who needs a lefty arm to take him off our hands at the deadline.

    I think Alvarez is the first promotion from AA. The team is taking a very long view with Henry. The focus is on building up his strength and remastering his mechanics. No need to rush challenging him with the higher level. I think he’s at AA until he’s routinely able to pitch 5 or 6 innings (or until they give up and make him a reliever), so I think it’s Alvarez who takes Watkin’s or Adon’s spot in 4-6 weeks.

    Cuevas has looked much better than I expected. His last start was incredible. Another month or two of this, and I’ll cheerfully admit that I was wrong about him being org depth and add him to my ranked prospect list.

    Lara also looks like he’s finally putting it together. The strikeouts cannot be faked and you just can’t argue with a 2.37 xFIP. He’s been great and I think he’s up to AA as soon as there’s a spot for him.

    I’ve watched a few of Susana’s starts and he’s had to pitch through some particularly bad defensive lapses. He has been pitching great, and his ERA just isn’t representative. His strikeouts are up and his walks are way down. I don’t care about the ERA this year at all. I want him to hold these peripherals, stretch out to 5+ inning starts and stay healthy. I also keep him at low-A all year, and let him learn to dominate. He’ll still be plenty young for A+ next year.

    Lastly, it feels too early to have a read on the relievers, but one guy I can’t help commenting on is Marlon Perez. Not sure what’s wrong with him. Maybe he’s hurt or his mechanics got messed up. It’s too stark to be just a small sample fluke, so I think there’s a real issue. But I doubt he’s on the chopping block. Even after his recent struggles, his ERA and FIP average out to under 4 over the past two seasons at A+. I hope they can get him right. He had it locked down last year and was the one one guy I thought was under-leveled when they released the OD rosters.


    1 May 24 at 6:28 pm

  3. thx for this, a lot to cover.

    the end of May report will be notable as we’ll no longer be analyzing stats accumulated in weather more suitable for the Iditarod


    2 May 24 at 8:46 am

  4. Great write up, Todd. This is why your site is a regular stop on my daily patrol of the InterNats.

    John C.

    2 May 24 at 11:33 am

  5. FredMD: fair point.

    Todd Boss

    2 May 24 at 10:50 pm

  6. MartyC: yes definitely worried about Crews. He missed some time last week with something undisclosed and I worry he’s hurt. He also has some really uncharacteristic stats: 20 ks and just 3 walks in 13 games?? that’s weird. He was 19/8 ratio in 20 AA games last year. Is he trying to hit everything out?

    Todd Boss

    2 May 24 at 10:52 pm

  7. Crews did double and triple tonight so hope he’s turning it around. And nice to see Hassell off to a good start this season.


    3 May 24 at 12:07 am

  8. Hassell has basically been lost since we acquired him. part due to the transition to a less hitter-friendly league, and then part hamate bone recovery. When i saw him last fall he looked awful. But I think he’s an important prospect as well to matriculate. If we had an OF of Hassell/Crews/Wood by mid 2025 i’d be ecstatic.

    Todd Boss

    4 May 24 at 2:41 pm

  9. SMS; thanks for the detailed response.

    Irvin underselling: I hope so. If he’s a 100-105 ERA+ guy for this team … man that’s just found gold. Grey, Gore, Irvin, Cavalli, Parker? That would be a really nice, young, affordable rotation for the next few years.

    Corbin trade value: I mean, he’d have to go to the pen and show he’s a useful piece. I don’t think he has it. Is he veteran enough to accept that move or demand a release? I dunno. I don’t think he’s useful even as a bullpen piece honestly, and with teh team carrying Nunez already as basically a never-plays-bench guy, you can’t really afford to do that with a bullpen guy too.

    marlon Perez: He was as good last year as he’s been bad this year. 24 repeating high-A; why didn’t he get promoted to AA this off-season? We’ve got a 27yr MLFA in the AA bullpen; they wanted that instead of promoting Perez? See, that tells me something.

    Todd Boss

    4 May 24 at 2:47 pm

  10. Fair enough on Perez, though it might just mean that the mechanical issue (or whatever’s gone wrong) was identified during ST. We can’t know what the team’s promotion plans for him were back in October.

    Unrelated, I saw that BA refreshed their top prospect list for the Nats. Any thoughts on the update? Parker into the top 10 is interesting. They had him like 30th preseason. Big jump for 5 starts, though he’s certainly looked legit so far.


    7 May 24 at 11:46 am

  11. I’ll separately post on the BA update. I didn’t realize they jumbled spots. And I think its notable Woods is 1 now above Crews, so I’ll opine on that.

    Todd Boss

    8 May 24 at 8:45 am

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