Nationals Arm Race

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

End of June 2024 Rotation Review


Irvin has really stepped up for the Nats. (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Here’s the End of June 2024 check-ins on all our rotations, from MLB to FCL.

Each team section analysis 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 6/30/24: Irvin, Gore, Parker, Corbin, Herz

Rotation as of 5/31/24: Irvin, Gore, Parker, Corbin, Williams

Changes since end of last Month: Our 2024 Ace Trevor Williams hit the D/L with a right arm elbow flexor strain, the same injury that’s kept our opening day starter Josiah Grey on the D/L for 2 months. Basically destroying his trade value. Grey and Cavalli continue rehabbing from injuries, at various cadences that don’t necessarily inspire confidence of them coming back anytime soon. Grey may seem close, but Cavalli doesn’t.

Rotation Observations: Jake Irvin has suddenly turned into an ace. He went 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA and a 1.1 whip in six starts in June. Basically inline with his performance in May. After his middling May, Parker had a stellar June for a rookie; 6 starts, 3.15 ERA, 1.136 whip. Gore, who was so good in the first two months, had a struggle of a month of June: five starts, 5.13 ERA and a 1.6 whip. Corbin wasn’t that terrible last month, pitching to a 4.71 ERA and lowering his whip three tenths of a point. Lastly, Williams’ replacement Herz has had an up and down month being thrown into the fire, pitching 5 times to a 5.48 ERA and a 1.50 whip, but having one stellar 13-K start in Miami where he gave up just one hit (it was Miami, after all).

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Herz, then Corbin. Whoever is ready first from (in likely order of return) Grey, Cavalli, and Williams), we’ll probably demote Herz first, then cut ties/move to the bullpen Corbin. When the third guy is ready, then the hard decision has to be made; by that point perhaps Williams will still be on the D/L or will have magically come back and can be traded.

Bullpen comments: We have four relievers who are excellent, and who should fetch prospects at the deadline (Finnegan, Law, Harvey, Floro). We have three guys who have been awful and are probably on there b/c the AAA 40-man relievers we have aren’t that great either (Rainey, Weems, and Garcia). There’s very little middle ground

AAA Rochester

Rotation as of 6/30/24: Rutledge, Watkins, Ward, Lord, Alvarez with Grey rehab starts

Rotation as of 5/31/24: Adon, Rutledge, Watkins, Herz, Ward

Changes since end of last month: Herz rightfully earned the promotion up to the majors and was replaced with Alvarez. Then, the team could no longer ignore Lord’s AA performance and promoted him up, replacing (finally) Adon in the rotation.

Rotation Observations: Rutledge’s June performance was awful: 7.82 ERA and a 1.70 whip. Ward was even worse: a 2.20 whip, 7.65 ERA and 21/20 K/BB. Watkins had a decent month as the resident 30-something MLFA innings eater guy who probably has no shot at a call-up and is playing out the string. As noted above, Adon has mercifully been put in the bullpen in the last couple of weeks, perhaps recognition that he’s never going to cut it as a starter, that we now have plenty of starter options, and that his only shot to use his 4th option year is going to be as a bullpen member. Alvarez’ AAA debut has not gone well; he’s only got 5 Ks in four starts and 14 innings. That’s not going to cut it. Lastly, Lord’s only got one start in as of this writing and it was a 5ip 2ER game, not a bad start. Maybe Lord is turning into our next guy like Parker, who comes up with little fan fare and shows success.

Next guy to get Promoted: I was right on Herz being next up last month. There’s not a single one of these starters who’s earned a promotion this month.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Adon already presumably out of the rotation, you have to think Ward is next. We have to get better production out of these two 40-man slots.

Bullpen comments: La Sorsa has been lights out; 1.26 ERA in 11 appearances this month. That’s good because his lefty reliever competition in the majors (Robert Garcia) has been awful. Tim Cate has been impressive this month too; 16/3 K/BB in 10ip last month. New signing Eduardo Salazar has been solid and could be a RHP option once rosters expand and/or we trade some guys. Both Zeuch and Gsellman were mercifully cut mid month. The final 40-man guy on the roster Willingham had a near 9.00 ERA month.

AA Harrisburg

Rotation as of 6/30/24: Luckham, Cuevas, Solesky, Lara, Theophile (plus a couple Grey rehab starts and one Reyes spot-start)

Rotation as of 5/31/24: Luckham, Cuevas, Alvarez, Henry, Lord

Changes since end of last month: Three big changes: Henry hit the D/L (replaced by Indy-league MLFA signing Solesky), Alvarez was promoted (and replaced by Lara), and Lord was promoted (replaced by Theophile).

Rotation Observations: Luckham is probably the new “ace” of the rotation and pitched like it in June: 3.71 ERA in 5 starts with solid peripherals. Cuevas is now #2 in seniority and was awful: 7.52 ERA going 0-5 in five starts. Solesky’s debut has been solid: 3.42 ERA in two starts and two relief appearances. Lara’s debut in AA as a 21 yr old has gone ok for his age and experience: 5 starts, 4.67 ERA, 1.56 whip. You couldn’t ask for more out of Theophile: 2 starts, 10ip, and just 2 runs given up so far. That’s amazing considering that he had an ERA in the 6s last month in High-A.

Next guy to get Promoted: Maybe Solesky? He’s way too old for AA (26) and could slot into either their rotation or their bullpen. After that perhaps Luckham, who has turned around his season with a solid stretch.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Cuevas. He’s now 1-8 with an ERA in the 6s for the season. He’s young yes, but he’s not getting any better.

Bullpen comments: there’s a lot of solid performers in this bullpen. Romero (already promoted once this year) didn’t give up an ER all month and had a 16/2 K/BB. Acosta? 19Ks in 11IP. Sinclair gave up 1run in 11ip. Peterson: 1.93 ERA. Tyce? same: 1.93 ERA in June. Opponents aren’t getting any breaks from the AA bullpen right now.

High-A Wilmington

Rotation as of 6/30/24: Atencio, Caceres, Young, Cornelio, Shuman (plus a couple rehab starts from Cavalli and Brzycky)

Rotation as of 5/31/24: Atencio, Caceres, Young, Cornelio, Theophile

Changes since end of last month: Just one: Theophile promoted, replaced with Shuman, who finally returns from injury.

Rotation Observations: Atencio and Caceres both had similar months: kind of middling ERAs in the mid-to-upper 4s, not a lot of K power, and bloated Whips. Nothing impressive really. This franchise continues to stick by Cornelio as a starter despite him basically being the same guy his entire career: 5.something era, mid 1.50whip. Luke Young’s ERA wasn’t impressive but at least he’s not walking many guys (5bb in 25 ip). Shuman’s got just one start under his belt; 3 1/3ip, 1 ER.

Next guy to get Promoted: Shuman. He’s 26, should be in AA at least, and has a career minor league ERA in the mid 3s.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Probably Caceres at this point: he’s 24, not really showing he’s got it. They also have very little invested in the guy, as a 2017 IFA signee who probably got $10k or less (since his actual signing bonus was not denoted).

Bullpen comments: Matt Cronin, who sits in High-A for some dumb reason, is basically unhittable there and provides no value. Brzycky has gotten 10 rehab innings in here and looks great, that’s a great sign for him coming back from TJ.


Rotation as of 6/30/24: Sykora, Susana, Davis, Sthele, Polanko (plus 4 Shuman rehab starts and 1 Grey start)

Rotation as of 5/31/24: Sthele, Sanchez, Susana, Davis, Sykora, Polanco

Changes since end of last month: Bryan Sanchez went to the D/L, and the team seems to have gone to a conventional 5-man rotation.

Rotation Observations: The Low-A rotation looks awesome. Lets start with our biggest prospects: Susana gave up just 2 ER in 20 innings across 4 starts. Unfortunately, his earlier months were so bad he still has a 4.91 seasonal ERA. Point is, he was beyond lights out: 32/8 K/BB in 20 june innings. Has he finally figured it out? 2023 big-time draft prospect Travis Sykora was excellent in June: 4 starts, 2.41 ERA and 24/6 K/BB in 18ip. That’s awesome to see, since we’re so used to seeing these prep draftees suck. However, neither of these two guys were as good as Polanco and Davis last month, who put up sub 2.00 ERAs. Only Sthele continues to struggle, with an 8.00 ERA on the month and a 7.28 ERA for the season.

Next guy to get Promoted: Has to be Davis, who was the “next guy” last month too. He’s the oldest at 24, an 11th rounder with decent bonus $$ investment, and just finished off a stellar June.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: As it was last month, and the month before, Sthele.

Bullpen comments: The closer Arguellas pitched a shutout for the month. Diaz at 27 inexplicably remains in low-A confounding hitters 5-6 years his junior. Mason Denaburg actually looks competent as a middle reliever in Low-A now, but at 24 probably should be plying his trade at the higher levels.

Rookie/FCL Nationals

Rotation as of 6/30/24: Colon, Portorreal, Camilio Sanchez, Brayan Romero, and rehabbers

Rotation as of 5/31/24: Colon, Portorreal, Camilio Sanchez, Brayan Romero, “Farias”

Changes since end of last month: Very little actually; the four main guys listed here all seem to be in the “FCL rotation” and then the 5th starts have been taken by a litany of rehabbers like Farrell, Amaral, and Aldo Ramirez.

Rotation Observations: Colon: awful. 9.28 ERA, 2.72 whip and 9/13 k/BB in 10 innings. Portorreal: mediocre: 5.71 ERA in 4 starts. Romero: very solid: 2.08 ERA in four appearances. Sanchez: lights out: 0.73 ERA in 12 innings. This is great for Sanchez b/c he was awful last month.

Next guy to get Promoted: If Sanchez continues to pitch like this, as a 21yr old he should move up. Romero is 20 and he’s also a candidate.

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Maybe Colon, but honestly these 10ip samples wildly fluctuate with one bad start.

Bullpen comments: The two best bullpen arms from June already got promoted up to low-A (Arguellas and Otanez. There’s not much else noteworthy.

Rookie/DSL Nationals

Rotation as of 6/30/24: De la Cruz, Reynoso, Vera, Thomas, Feliz (with Hernandez getting a couple spot starts)

Rotation Observations: Unlike the 2023 DSL Nats, there’s some promise here already. Feliz (technically a IFA23 signing but he never pitched last year) has a 27/3 K/BB ratio in his 20 ip with a sub 2.00 ERA and a 0.70 whip. He’s looked great. Thomas (a 17yr old 24IFA) had an intriguing opening month: 1.98 ERA but he had 11 walks in 13ip and has some control issues to work on. De La Cruz and Reynoso were middling, 6.00 ERA types with nothing special to note right now. Vera and Hernandez? awful. Vera had a whip north of 3.00, and a 18/9 BB/K ratio in 11ip. Hernandez was even worse: 17 walks and 4Ks in 8ip. Wow.

Next guy to get Promoted: Feliz

Next guy to get cut/demoted: Hernandez; at age 20 he’s been awful and is too old. he’s not long for the league.

Bullpen comments: too early to tell really; most of the relievers only have a handful of innings.

That’s it for June 2024.

Written by Todd Boss

July 1st, 2024 at 6:00 pm

10 Responses to 'End of June 2024 Rotation Review'

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  1. Thanks for great write-up, Todd. These monthly check-ins are really enjoyable.

    I will say I’m not sure I get why you’re so down on Robert Garcia. His season ERA is mediocre (4.44) but it’s been sequencing and BABIP luck. His xERA, SIERA, FIP and xFIP are all around 2.50. And, in small samples, these peripherals tend to be more predictive of future ERA than ERA.

    Plus, for June, his luck has somewhat turned round. 0-0 with a 3.38 ERA (and a 0.66 FIP!), though only 8 innings. I’m not claiming he’s destined for the 8th or 9th innings, but he’s been a solid piece – way closer to Law and Floro than Rainey and Weems.

    I also agree that all three major league IL folks are looking pretty dicey. Williams hasn’t even started throwing, I believe, so I don’t see how he can even get one ML start before the deadline. Do we still trade him? I can’t see us getting much for an injured pitcher, especially given his short track record of success.

    Cavalli has looked alright when he’s thrown, but I’m still extremely skeptical about these erratic rehab delays that aren’t part of the well trod protocols. We’ve seen the org deal with lots of TJs over the years, and they’ve never done this. And “being a little ahead of schedule” never was an actual problem. Everyone has multiple options if you don’t have the rotation spot and Herz, especially, actually should be in AAA. Best case scenario is some minor non-arm injury that they just don’t want to disclose, but it’s possible that something more serious has happened.

    And speaking of more serious, I’m surprised you didn’t mention that Gray’s velo was 3 ticks down in his last AAA start. Maybe it was something innocuous, and the team certainly didn’t seem concerned. They let him throw 73 pitches over 3 innings, so he got his work in. I guess we’ll see what happens in his next start, but given the nature of his injury, it’s hard not to think this portends TJ.

    It really hurts us for next year if both Gray and Cavalli fail to come back. It basically undoes the advantage that Irvin and Parker’s development has given us. We better really hope that neither of them regresses.


    2 Jul 24 at 11:33 am

  2. Robert Garcia: fair enough. His fip is more than 2 points less than his ERA for the season, and his K/9 is awesome.

    I havn’t read about Grey’s reduced velocity.

    Todd Boss

    2 Jul 24 at 4:34 pm

  3. Well, here’s some not so welcome news on Gray, and why his velocity was down.

    “further elbow discomfort” is baseball-speak for torn UCL. Why they’re not doign the damn MRI today is beyond me.

    Todd Boss

    3 Jul 24 at 8:58 am

  4. Ugh. Pretty much what I was expecting, but still – ugh. It probably wouldn’t have mattered, but how the hell did they let him keep throwing for 3 innings?

    And, yeah, the MRI delay is hard to understand. There can’t be a medical reason for it, can there? Like there’s swelling they’re waiting to recede? I don’t think that sounds plausible.

    Most likely they just know the outcome and don’t want to disclose it yet for whatever stupid PR reason.

    At least the flu story for Cade is close to a best case scenario. I’m sure it’s not good for his rehab to start and stop like this (and it could mean a lower innings limit next year if he runs out of time this season), but it doesn’t sound like the kind of setback that meaningfully decreases his chances of eventually recovering fully.

    Honestly, we’re set up to weather Gray’s injury pretty well. Hopefully we sign Burnes or whoever and it’s FA Ace, Gore, Irvin and the best two of Cavalli, Parker and Herz on opening day, and the depth is the third of those three plus Lara, Lord and Rutledge. That’s a very solid SP plan.


    3 Jul 24 at 11:41 am

  5. What do folks make about the seeming improvement–specifically BB%–that some of our pitchers have made when jumping from AAA to the big leagues? To be fair to Parker, it looks like his improvement came in the offseason (i.e., his 2024 AAA BB% is both much better than his pre-24 numbers and consistent with his MLB number).

    One potential theory relates to Doolittle. His remit appears to be “optimizing arsenal usage,” which I take to mean encouraging pitchers to throw their most effective pitches more often. You could imagine an organizational philosophy that focuses on processes in the minors and results in the majors. In the minors: repeat delivery, work on developing all pitches, including less effective ones. In the majors: your job is to not give up runs. Such a philosophical dichotomy could lead to a lower BB% (but in Parker’s case–why would it also lead to such a large decline in K%)?

    Figuring out what is sustainable vs. not sustainable for Irvin, Parker, and Herz matters a huge amount. All three have shown that they are MLB caliber pitchers. Irvin, I think, has proven that he belongs in an MLB rotation, and it would take like two months or a half season of poor results to make me think otherwise. The question for him is whether his recent success makes you think he’s someone you want starting a game in a playoff series or whether he’s more of a back-of-the-rotation type. Parker is tougher to evaluate, but I think the question is whether he’s someone you can count on to fill out a rotation or whether he’s better in the bullpen. The huge improvement in BB% is both promising and worrying. The Jeckyll-and-Herz routine, I think, is mainly a function of Herz having so few starts. I think we need to be skeptical that a guy can halve his BB%–but the Mitchell Parker experience suggests otherwise.

    I 100% think the team needs to buy a FA starter if it wants to be a plausible threat *in* the postseason. But I don’t know that *this* offseason is the time to do that sort of pitcher shopping–especially if we think that Parker and Herz are real rotation candidates for ’25.


    3 Jul 24 at 1:03 pm

  6. as the last monthly roundup of the first half, I think we can all agree the picture is not as bleak as feared. significant big club contributions from home grown pitchers and generally good progress from those down on the farm.

    Gray’s injury is unfortunate but he’s not one I was counting on to anchor the staff the last half of the decade. hopefully Cavalli has not tweaked anything and still has plenty of time to end the season good to go for ’25.

    Lara, Sykora and Susana have performed well. Lord has adjusted to the new age of analytics and thrived. Rutledge has taken a step (or two) backwards, sure seems like he needs his improvement to come from the mental side. at least he has stayed healthy and takes the ball every turn. too early to give up but he needs to finish strong.

    some potential future middles relievers also enjoying some successes, whether it be starting or relieving at the moment.

    Happy Fourth everyone!


    3 Jul 24 at 1:08 pm

  7. @Derek: great question. Parker career minor league BB rate: 167 BBs in 329 innings (4.5 per 9), while in majors he’s got 18 in 72 innings (2.25 per nine). He’s halved his walk rate since arriving in the majors.

    I think you’re right with it being an approach with Doolittle. Fangraphs and BP have already done articles this year on the improvements Irvin and Gore specifically ahve made this year. Irvin is a new guy.

    Todd Boss

    3 Jul 24 at 1:38 pm

  8. Hickey/Doolittle may end up being the yin and yang of the Nats pitching development


    3 Jul 24 at 2:28 pm

  9. Great stuff again Todd.
    Since your writeup Cuevas pitched 5 perfect innings and finished with 6 innings of a 1 run game.

    Mark L

    5 Jul 24 at 11:28 am

  10. Cuevas: Yeah … these monthly checkins are the epitome of short sample sizes. I looked at the end of April post … I said Lord was next to get cut from AA. We know how that turned out.

    We’re seeing a ton of really good pitching this season.

    Todd Boss

    7 Jul 24 at 9:24 am

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