Nationals Arm Race

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

First Look – Mitchell Parker

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Mitchell Parker made his MLB debut in rather daunting conditions and came out with the win. Photo via Washington Post

Nats prospect Mitchell Parker got the call to come up and replace starts for the injured Josiah Grey, ahead of Joan Adon and Jackson Rutledge, who are both higher on the pecking order but each of whom had issues preventing them from getting the call. Adon hasn’t been back down long enough since his 4/10/24 option (though I think an option can be cancelled with no notice in case of an injury), and Rutledge took a come-backer off the ankle, leaving him a bit day-to-day. So Parker gets the call.

And, well, he delivered. Here’s the box score. 5ip, 4hits, 2ER, 4Ks, and zero walks. 81 pitches to complete five innings, and he got yanked instead of facing 2-3-4 in the bottom of the 6th.

Ok, first the good: to this observer, he looked composed and strong. He’s a big guy; this isn’t the kind of guy who depends on whippy arm action and who you look at his mechanics and say, “yup, TJ coming.” His mechanics are like a combination of Clayton Kershaw at the beginning and Andy Pettite as he delivers (look at the above picture and tell me you don’t see Pettite). He struck out Mookie Betts twice (!). He struck out Shoehi Ohtani (!!). He kept the ball in the ballpark against one of the best lineups in the game, and he didn’t walk anyone. The big knock on Parker is his BB/9, and to not walk anyone in a MLB game where he could have been trying to pitch around guys is solid.

A quick glance at his Pitch F/X data shows some interesting information:

  • Pitch FX didn’t give him credit for a “fastball” all night, which seems odd b/c he definitely threw a bunch. Therefore we don’t have any velocity metrics other than my memory. I saw FBs in the 92-93 range mostly, Maybe saw a 95 peak at one point, could be wrong. That’s not bad.
  • Pitch FX has him with this breakdown of pitches on the night: 64% slider, 2.7% cutter, 21.6% curveball, and 10.8% split finger. Now, does he have a “slider?” I didn’t think so; i think he has a curve. The slider and curve average velocities in fangraphs are 79.8 and 78.6 respectively, so yeah that’s not a slider.
  • His curve looked great. Obviously; its his best pitch. The split finger had some serious movement and was described as an “out pitch” … yeah, it looked unhittable, and uncatchable.

Now for the concerning: He gave up a lot of hard contact. The Dodgers didn’t have a “soft contact” ball all night (the Nats had 28% “soft contact” by way of comparison). A lot of Parker’s outs were “line drive to LF” and “Deep fly ball caught on warning track.” So, he might have been a little lucky to not have more crooked numbers on the board.

I also feel like he had a hard time controlling the fastball in the zone (that’s the “command” portion of command and control). 81 pitches broke down to 52 strikes, 29 balls. That’s not an awful ratio, but it also was a lot of pitches to get through innings. 81 pitches through five. I mean, yes that’s a lot. I’m not sure how many pitches he had by inning, but he probably would have needed another 20 to get through the 6th, given that he was facing the heart of the order. I think we’d like to see more efficiency there; I’d like to see a starter be in the 100 range by the end of the 7th so that they could push through to a theoretical 120 pitch limit if need be to finish 8 full, then hand off to a closer. Of course, the modern game now depends so heavily on relievers that if I can get a quality start out of a guy i’m ecstatic.

All in all, a very positive debut for the guy. Can he stick around? can he give us better innings that someone like Williams or Corbin? Maybe. Lets see how it goes for the next couple cycles of the rotation.

Written by Todd Boss

April 16th, 2024 at 10:17 am

Posted in Majors Pitching

Nats Opening Day Stats and History

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One random little artifact I maintain for some reason is a collection of our Opening Day and Home Opener data. Now that we’re past both, here’s that information for review.

Home Opener Attendances through the years

  • 2024: 40,405 (4:05 tues game, 53, cloudy, slight wind)
  • 2023: 35,756 (105 thurs game, 45 degrees and sunny)
  • 2022: 35,052 (7:05 thurs game (pushed back from 4:05, then delayed to 8:21 weather. 52 degrees, cloudy, rainy)
  • 2021: 4,801 (4:05 tuesday game, 74 degrees, partly cloudy, 5mph wind)
  • 2020: 0 (7:09 thurs game, 90, partly cloudy, 7mph wind)
  • 2019: 42,263 (1:07 thurs game, 56, partly cloudy, no wind)
  • 2018: 42,477 (1:08 thurs game, 42, partly cloudy, slight wind)
  • 2017: 42,744 (1:05 monday game, 66 and cloudy, slight wind)
  • 2016: 41,650 (4:05 thursday game, 60 and 1.5hr rain delay)
  • 2015: 42,295 (4:05 monday game, 75 and gorgeous)
  • 2014: 42,834 (1:05 friday game, 50s and overcast)
  • 2013: 45,274 (1:05 monday game, 60 and beautiful)
  • 2012: 40,907 (1:05 thursday game 56, partly cloudy)
  • 2011: 39,055 (1:05 thursday game, 41 degrees and overcast)
  • 2010: 41,290 (1pm game monday, beautiful weather 80s and sunny): This was Phillies Invasaion
  • 2009: 40,386 (3pm game on a monday, chilly 53degr and overcast).
  • 2008: 39,389 (season and stadium opener), 8pm sunday night, Braves, nat’l tv clear but cold.
  • 2007: 40,389 (in rfk, 1pm game vs Florida, 72degrees
  • 2006: 40,516 (in rfk, tuesday day game vs Mets, 72degr and sunny)
  • 2005: 45,596 (in rfk, debut of entire franchise, 62degr and clear, evening game).

2024 was decent weather, compared to a few of these years. It’s amazing how we’ve had opening day be 41, and one year it was 90. That’s a 50-degree swing. DC Weather. It was good to see a bump up in attendance this year after the last couple of years, but it’s also a bummer to see how little the team has capitalized on its 2019 championship. Look, for example, what happened on Opening Day 2013 the year after the team won 98 games: it was damn near a record for the stadium (which, as far as I can tell, still remains 2012 NLDS Game 5, or the “Storen” game, of 45,966).


Home opener Results and Box Scores

The Nats are just 6-14 all time through 2024 in their home openers.

  • 2024: L 8-4, 40,405. attendance. https://www.mlb.com/gameday/pirates-vs-nationals/2024/04/01/744875/final/box
  • 2023: L 7-2. 35,756 attendance. https://www.mlb.com/gameday/braves-vs-nationals/2023/03/30/718780
  • 2022: L 5-1, 35,052 attendance: https://www.mlb.com/gameday/mets-vs-nationals/2022/04/07/662571/final/box
  • 2021: W 6-5: 4,801 attendance: https://www.mlb.com/gameday/braves-vs-nationals/2021/04/06/634624#game_state=final,lock_state=final,game_tab=box,game=634624
  • 2020: L 4-1: 0 attendance: https://www.mlb.com/gameday/yankees-vs-nationals/2020/07/23/630851#game_state=final,game_tab=,game=630851
  • 2019: L 2-0: 42,263: https://www.mlb.com/gameday/mets-vs-nationals/2019/03/28/565895#game_state=final,lock_state=final,game_tab=wrap,game=565895
  • 2018: L 8-2 42,477 https://www.mlb.com/gameday/mets-vs-nationals/2018/04/05/529504#game_state=final,lock_state=final,game_tab=wrap,game=529504
  • 2017: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/WAS/WAS201704030.shtml
  • 2016: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2016_04_07_miamlb_wasmlb_1#game=2016_04_07_miamlb_wasmlb_1,game_state=Wrapup,game_tab=box
  • 2015: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2015_04_06_nynmlb_wasmlb_1&mode=box
  • 2014: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_04_04_atlmlb_wasmlb_1&mode=box&c_id=was#gid=2014_04_04_atlmlb_wasmlb_1&mode=box
  • 2013:
  • http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2013_04_01_miamlb_wasmlb_1&mode=recap&c_id=was#gid=2013_04_01_miamlb_wasmlb_1&mode=box
  • 2012: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2012_04_12_cinmlb_wasmlb_1&mode=wrap&c_id=mlb#gid=2012_04_12_cinmlb_wasmlb_1&mode=box
  • 2011: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2011_03_31_atlmlb_wasmlb_1&mode=wrap&c_id=mlb#gid=2011_03_31_atlmlb_wasmlb_1&mode=box
  • 2010: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2010_04_05_phimlb_wasmlb_1&mode=wrap
  • 2009: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/news/wrap.jsp?ymd=20090413&content_id=4251894&vkey=wrapup2005&fext=.jsp&team=home&c_id=was
  • 2008: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/news/wrap.jsp?ymd=20080330&content_id=2467836&vkey=wrapup2005&fext=.jsp&team=home&c_id=was
  • 2007: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/news/wrap.jsp?ymd=20070402&content_id=1874785&vkey=wrapup2005&fext=.jsp&team=home&c_id=was
  • 2006: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/news/wrap.jsp?ymd=20060411&content_id=1394878&vkey=wrapup2005&fext=.jsp&team=home&c_id=was
  • 2005: http://nationals.mlb.com/news/wrap.jsp?ymd=20050414&content_id=1015977&vkey=wrapup2004&fext=.jsp&c_id=was

Nats Season Openers.
We are slightly better in Season openers: Record: 8-12. We’ve been home 12 times, away 8 times.

  • 2024: Away: Reds d Nats 8-2. WP: Montas. LP Grey (Starters: Grey, Montes). https://www.mlb.com/gameday/nationals-vs-reds/2024/03/28/746737/final/wrap
  • 2023: Home: Braves d Nationals 7-2. WP: Luetge, LP Corbin (starters: Fried, Corbin): https://www.mlb.com/gameday/braves-vs-nationals/2023/03/30/718780
  • 2022: Home: Mets d Nationals 5-1. WP: Megill, LP Corbin (starters same): https://www.mlb.com/gameday/mets-vs-nationals/2022/04/07/662571/final/box
  • 2021: Home: Nationals d Braves 6-5. WP: Hudson, LP Smith (starters Scherzer v Smyly): https://www.mlb.com/gameday/braves-vs-nationals/2021/04/06/634624#game_state=final,lock_state=final,game_tab=box,game=634624
  • 2020: Home: Yankees d Nationals 4-1. WP: Cole, LP Scherzer (starters same): https://www.mlb.com/gameday/yankees-vs-nationals/2020/07/23/630851#game_state=final,game_tab=,game=630851
  • 2019: Home: Mets d Nationals 2-0. WP: deGrom, LP Scherzer (starters same): https://www.mlb.com/gameday/mets-vs-nationals/2019/03/28/565895#game_state=final,lock_state=final,game_tab=box,game=565895
  • 2018: Away: Nats d Reds 2-0. WP Scherzer, LP Bailey (starters same): https://www.mlb.com/gameday/nationals-vs-reds/2018/03/30/529420#game_state=final,lock_state=final,game_tab=wrap,game=529420
  • 2017: home: Nats d Marlins 4-2. WP Strasburg, LP Phelps (Starters Strasburg, Volquez): https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/WAS/WAS201704030.shtml
  • 2016: away: Nats d Braves 4-3. WP Treinen, LP O’Flarity (starters Scherzer, Teheran): http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ATL/ATL201604040.shtml
  • 2015: home: Mets d Nats 3-1. WP: Bartolo Colon. LP: Max Scherzer http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/WAS/WAS201504060.shtml
  • 2014: away: Nats d Mets 9-7. WP Aaron Barrett, LP Familia (starters Strasburg, dillon Gee): http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN201403310.shtml
  • 2013: home: Nats d Marlins 2-0. WP: Stephen Strasburg. LP: Ricky Nolasco. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/WAS/WAS201304010.shtml
  • 2012: away: Nats d Cubs 2-1. WP Clippard, LP Marmol (starters: Strasburg and Ryan Dempster): http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHN/CHN201204050.shtml
  • 2011: home: Braves d Nats 2-0. WP: Derek Lowe. LP: Livan Hernandez. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/WAS/WAS201103310.shtml
  • 2010: home: Phillies d Nats 11-1. WP: Roy Halladay. LP: John Lannan http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/WAS/WAS201004050.shtml
  • 2009: away: Marlins d Nats 12-6. WP: Nolasco, LP; Lannan http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/FLO/FLO200904060.shtml
  • 2008: home: Nats d Braves 3-2. WP: Jon Rauch. LP: Peter Moylan (Starters: Tim Hudson and Odalis Perez) http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/WAS/WAS200803300.shtml
  • 2007: home: Marlins d Nats 9-2. WP: Dontrelle Willis. LP: John Patterson http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/WAS/WAS200704020.shtml
  • 2006: away: Mets d Nats 3-2. WP: Glavine, LP: Hernandez. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN200604030.shtml
  • 2005: away: Phillies d Nats 8-4. WP: Lieber, LP: Hernandez. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHI/PHI200504040.shtml

Written by Todd Boss

April 5th, 2024 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Nats in General

Four Full Season Rosters Now Available

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2024 AAA’s opening day starter Joan Adon. 2nd year in a row he’s done the deed. Photo via federalbaseball.com

The four minor league full-season affiliate rosters are now available, and all four rosters are updated in the Big Board.

Thanks to Luke Erickson who found all the links directly and summarized them this morning at nationalsprospects.com The MILB transaction pages aren’t updated yet. Direct links to each roster announcement:

Here’s some observations on the four rosters, dividing up outfield players and pitchers.

AAA non Pitchers:

  • The pushing down of both Alex Call and Jacob Young may have impacted the call-up of guys like Crews or Hassell, but probably not. I don’t think Crews “earned” his way to AAA based on his AA performance at the end of last season, but I also think he’ll work his way up soon.
  • I commented on the logjam of middle infielders on this roster at Luke’s site, but i’ll comment here again. So AAA has Alu (2B, 3B, LF), Kieboom (3B only), Baker (2B only), Dunn (SS and 3B), and Mejia (SS primarily) as its middle infielders. Alu is a 40-man roster player, so he kind of has to play. But if he plays 2B or 3B, then one or the other of Kieboom or Baker is sitting. If you put Alu in left field, then suddenly one of Call, Young, or Wood is sitting; that’s two 40-man players and our 2nd best prospect. So … where the heck are all these guys going to play? Are we just going to rotate them in and out of DH (so Blankenhorn sits)? It just seems like they need to make an adjustment here somehow. This will become a major issue soon if/when Brady House has to be promoted.
  • Millas the starter, Lindsly the backup Catcher. Lindsly continues to hang around.
  • The team retained Yepez and Blankenhorn to serve as 1B/DHs, they “beat out” a couple other guys in spring training and keep their hopes up of making their way to the MLB roster if and when we trade the likes of Gallo, Meneses, or Thomas.

AAA Pitchers

  • I posted about it when they all got optioned together 3/15/24, but the AAA rotation has been known for a few weeks now. Love it. First time (as i noted in the above link) we’ve had so many prospects in a AAA rotation in a decade or more.
  • The back-end of the bullpen includes at least two guys i’d keep an eye on: Jacob Barnes looked great in spring training, and 40-man member Willingham.
  • The rest of the bullpen in AAA is the expected collection of MLFAs, Waiver claims, etc. Tim Cate was at one point a prospect; maybe he can make it as a loogy (in as much as a “Loogy” even exists anymore with the 3-batter minimum rule).

AA non-Pitchers

  • Lots of prospects here. Too bad Harrisburg doesn’t visit my hometown of Richmond until very late in the season; i’d love to see the collection of 1st and 2nd rounders here.
  • Pinckney will take Woods’ spot in the outfield, to go with Crews and Hassell. I know many like Pinckney as a low-profile prospect, and he did get a NRI and got some ABs against major leaguers this spring … and looked really overmatched.
  • House still here, but … as per the above 2B/3B log jam, there’s really nowhere for him to go. Something is going to have to give, soon. House really should be in AAA.
  • Barley got demoted to be the starting SS in AA; he needs to hit more.
  • The rest of the bench are all 26-27 yr olds who are probably on their last lifelines; Wilson, Cluff, Arruda, Garcia, and Witt. None of these guys are really prospects; just org guys filling spots until guys earn their way up from High-A.
  • No Trey Harris anywhere, so he’s in XST land, either hurt or with the team trying to figure out how he fits in.

AA Pitchers

  • I’m guessing on the rotation, since most of the pitching staff on 2024 opening day was there on 2023 closing day. I think we’ll see Henry, Saenz, Alvarez, Cuevas, and Knowles. Obviously everyone’s got their eye on Henry, and if he starts out hot he might really force the Nat’s decision making process on what to do with Joan Adon in AAA in particular. I think its time for Adon to move to the bullpen, and a promotion could be the catalyst.
  • Also interested in 2023 pitcher of the year Alvarez, and to see if 22yr old Cuevas can push for a promotion mid-season
  • A couple of noteworthy relievers to watch in Sinclair, Schoff, and Ribalta. The rest of the AA bullpen are mostly over-age 27-28yr old/MLFA types who are now org-arms soaking up innings until they get released.
  • Where did Luckham go? He should be in this squad, perhaps he’s nursing an injury in XST because he didn’t get demoted to High-A.
  • Both Reid Schaller and Zach Brcycky are on the 60-day DL, seemingly out the entire year. Both are valuable back-of-the-bullpen arms who have performed well, and are one of the reasons it was such a cattle call for RHP relievers in spring training.

High-A non-pitchers

  • Because of the AAA->AA outfielder log jam. Daylen Lile starts in High-A again. He really needs to move forward, perhaps he’s still recovering from his scary Spring Training incident.
  • High-A has a log-jam of 1B/DH types that probably gets cleared up soon: Boissiere, Frizzell, Stehly, and TJ White only have so many ABs to share and all seem to play the same position. This may be the year that Frizzell and Stehly get cut; they’re both 25, both hit in the .230 range last year, and it may be time.
  • A couple of interesting middle infielders here: Infante was a 2nd rounder who hasn’t done much, and Kevin Made is very high on prospect lists.
  • The big name missing here is De La Rosa, who’s a top 10 prospect. MLBpipeline reported he has a “shoulder injury” right now. Great.

High-A Pitchers

  • I count Seven guys who were primarily starters last year in High-A; some of them are going to have to go to the pen. I’m guessing the team keeps Lara, Lord, Caceres, Theophile, and Luke Young in the rotation, sends Cornelio and Gausch officially to the pen, where they’ll join other former starters like Huff and Collins.
  • Not really much in the way of bullpen arms to keep an eye on here; if you’re already in the pen by High-A, it’s going to be really tough to make your way further up. Grissom, Marlon Perez two possible names to keep an eye on.
  • There’s a few high-A names completely missing that we should have heard about: Zinn, Cronin, and Lee. Zinn was a 2022 NDFA who’s had some success but who is off all the full season rosters. Cronin and Lee are both former 40-man lefties who have badly regressed, and may be in XST as a weigh-station before getting released.
  • Four Arms sit on the 60-day/all year DL already. Jake Bennett will miss the whole year after injuring his arm mid-season then waiting until September to get TJ surgery last year. Yet another 2nd round Nats draft pick who is in serious danger of not turning into anything. More interesting is Seth Shuman, who missed half of 2022 and all of 2023, now sits on the 60-day DL to start 2024. Great numbers, hasn’t pitched in nearly 2 years.

Low-A Non-pitchers:

  • Like the AA lineup, there’s lots of high-potential batters in Low-A. The middle of their order: Cruz, Vaquero, Quintana, and Green is something scouting guys can dream on. The rest of the lineup are mostly NDFAs and lesser prospects, kind of looking to see who can stick.
  • There’s a slew of guys here who are already 23 or 24, way too old for the level, and something will have to give (Baca, Dugas, Glasser, and Pimentel).
  • Brenner Cox made the team, which is great to see. Still hasn’t turned 20 yet.

Low-A Pitchers

  • Like with most of these lower end rosters, the 2024 opening day looks similar to 2023 closing day.
  • The rotation looks like its probably going to five from Agostini, Sullivan, Tepper, Polanco, Susana, and Sthele. If they go 5-man rotation it could be any of these who drops.
  • The bullpen is a mismash of IFAs, rule5s, and failed starters, most of whom are already 24.
  • Two big names not making it out of XST/FCL: Travis Sykora and Aldo Ramirez.
  • Four arms on the 60-day DL already, including two starters who have some promise in Aldonis and Tolman.

That’s it for now. I count 29 names “on” the FCL roster right now and another 16 in XST, which puts the domestic rosters way over the 165 player limit. So I’d imagine some cuts are coming at some point. Also, I have more than 50 names on the DSL roster, so i’d expect some serious shedding there come July.

Let the games begin!

Written by Todd Boss

April 2nd, 2024 at 4:01 pm

Opening Day Starting Pitchers Trivia for 2024

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Grey gets the opening day nod for the Nats in 2024. Photo via WP

I have somewhat of an obsession with Opening Day Starters, and have tracked them on a spreadsheet for, well, for a long time. 20 plus years. I also love Opening Day Starter Trivia, which we’ll cover here in a moment.

Now that the 2024 Opening Day is past us, and I’ve updated the XLS for this year’s starters and done some housecleaning of now-retired starters, here’s some useless Opening day starter trivia for you.

My Opening Day Starter XLS is uploaded here to Google Sheets. It is also worth noting that Baseball Reference of course maintains similar information. Here for example is the canonical opening day list of lineups (pitchers and players) for the Washington Nationals franchise. And here’s the list of all 30 teams’ opening day lineups for the 2024 season, with similar data for all past seasons). I can’t quite find a similar resource to just the starters across all 30 teams, but I’m sure it’s there somewhere.

Ok, that being said, here’s some useless trivia related to Opening Day Starters:

  • First time Opening Day Starters for 2024: 14 of the 30, including our own Josiah Grey who takes over for Corbin, who had done the past couple. This number is down from last year’s 9 first timers, which was the lowest I had on record going back a decade. This number was artificially inflated a bit over what was expected due to spring training injuries to presumed opening day starters for teams like Aaron Nola, Gerrit Cole, and Sandy Alcantara.
  • Current active Leader of Opening Day Starts: Justin Verlander, with 12. He did 9 in Detroit, then another 3 in Houston. Others in the conversation are Kershaw (9), Scherzer (7), Julio Teheran (6), and Nola with 6 (see next)
  • Current Active Consecutive streak: Bieber in Cleveland with 5 consecutive opening day starts. Nola was the previous holder at 6 straight.
  • Current Leader of Consecutive Opening Day Starts: both Verlander and Kershaw at one point made 7 straight opening day starts for their teams, and are the current leaders in that category.

Historical records:

  • Most Opening Day Starts in History: Tom Seaver (16).  Tied for 2nd place with 14 is Jack Morris, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Walter Johnson
  • Most Consecutive Opening Day Starts in History Jack Morris; all 14 of his starts were in a row, Mr. Durability.

Lastly, here’s some interesting team observations

  • Washington went a decade with just two different pitchers (Scherzer or Strasburg) doing the duty.
  • Texas, your defending WS champs: 8 different opening day starters in the last 8 years. And it’s even crazier than that: They’ve had 15 different opening day starters in the last 16 seasons, dating to 2009! Only one guy has repeated: Cole Hamels in 2016 and 2018. That’s amazing, that Texas basically hasn’t had a long-term Ace on their staff for nearly 2 decades.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers, despite being probably the league’s best team over the past decade or so, has had 6 different guys make their last 6 opening day starts, them the least consistent of any team. Interesting.
  • Other teams who have not really been able to find a consistent starter: Cincinnati: 5 straight different opening day starters. NY Mets: 4 straight different opening day starters. Baltimore: 8 different starters in the last 9 years. Tampa: 6 new in last 7 years. Angels: 7 new in last 8 years.

Written by Todd Boss

March 29th, 2024 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Majors Pitching

Spring Training 2024 NRI Disposition

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Derek Law was with us so briefly i couldn’t find a picture of him in a nats uniform. Photo via mlbtraderumors.com

In an annual tradition that, unfortunately for the likely record of the team, seems to be pretty popular with the current incarnation of the Nationals, as we approach the end of spring training its time to start naming Non Roster Invitees (NRIs) to the 40-man/26-man active roster because they’ve made the team. This post continues the tradition of looking at the NRIs the team had this year and talking about how they fared.

Here’s past posts on the same topic by year: 2023, 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.

So, who were the NRIs this year? We actually didn’t have that many, initially announcing on 2/15/24 a list of just 11 players (as compared to the cattle calls of 30+ NRIs of years’ past). Now, eventually we added a few others of note, as we always do throughout the spring, and apologies if i missed some (I’m not counting the slew of minor leaguers that were temporarily ‘assigned to Washington’ as NRIs), but here was the list of NRIs all told.

By position:

  • Starters: Davies
  • Righty Relievers: Bleier, Gsellman, J.Barnes, M.Barnes, Law, Perdomo
  • Lefty Relievers: La Sorsa
  • Catchers: Lindsley, Pineda
  • Infielders: Yepez, Baker, Diaz, House, Lipscomb
  • Outfielders: Crews, Wood, Hassell, Rutherford, Winker, Rosario, Blankenhorn,

When the Nats announced the 26-man opening day roster, we had a slew of NRIs who made the team.. Here’s the 2024 Opening day NRIs to make roster and the circumstances behind each:

  • Matt Barnes: Signed on 2/17/24, just after the initial Nats announcement, and who outpitched some other Nats relievers during spring and made the team. He was Boston’s closer in 2021, but now will slot in as a 6th/7th inning guy. Not a bad pedigree to have, and could be useful if he can keep his ERA down as a trade piece mid-season.
  • Eddie Rosario earned a spot on the team ahead of Call and Young, somewhat surprisingly, and gets a chance to rebound a little bit. He was basically a starter for Atlanta last year and wasn’t bad; 100 ops figure and 20 homers for a playoff team. How was he a MLFA? crazy. Anyway, he’ll slot in as starting LF, while Young returns to AAA despite his performance last year. Call rockets to the top of my “next guy to get cut” list, now that he’s seemingly 7th out of 7 outfielders on the 40-man with a slew of OF prospects rising fast.
  • Jesse Winker was an all star two years ago when he put up a scathing 143 OPS season, can play a little RF, and probably mixes in with Meneses into the DH. He’s all lefty. I wonder who actually starts between him and Rosario; Winker has better up-side and is younger, but Rosario was better in 2023.
  • Derek Law won the last bullpen spot, beating out a couple of other of NRIs and some of our bullpen holdovers from 2023.

Now for some discussion on a few of the players who did NOT make the team as NRIs ( by category)

  • Starters: Davies: was given full opportunity to go head to head with Trevor Williams for the 5th starter spot and did not earn it. Released on 3/22/24 with a few days to go in Spring when it became clear.
  • Righty Relievers: some of the veteran FA MLFAs/NRIs like Perdomo, Bleier, Gsellman, and Jacob Barnes competed and lost out to others. Perdomo was released on 3/24/24, probably because he was going to refuse the AAA assignment. The others remain to be seen whether or not they take the assignment to AAA. Jacob Barnes in particular pitched really well, but seems to have lost out in a h2h competition with Matt Barnes (no relation).
  • Lefty Relievers: La Sorsa was probably never really in the mix to beat out Robert Garcia, but when Ferrer hurt his back the chance was there. We picked him up on Waivers last year and he’s likely to be a solid option in 2024.
  • Catchers: neither LIndsley or Pineda were really in the mix to make the team, especially Pineda, who we just snuck through waivers and now can keep off the 40-man but in the system. You always need extra catchers in spring training.
  • Infielders: House the obvious top-end prospect, but the Nats MO isn’t to give opening day spots to these guys when you can bury them for a little while to get a year. Repeat this for Wood and Hassell later on. Baker and Lipscomb are lesser heralded prospects, but both seem like they’ve got a future with this team. Lipscomb was the last guy cut, really pushing for a spot at the expense of Rule5 guy Nunez, or maybe even the lackadasical Luis Garcia. So you can put Lipscomb on the short list of guys who are probably coming up soon. Yepez and Diaz were in the category of “big bats off the bench” competition and seem to have lost out to the likes of Rosario and Winker here.
  • Prospects Wood and Hassell probably up to get reps with their very-soon-to-be future teammates. Blankenhorn and Rutherford both hit well last year and re-signed; they’re good corner 1B/LF/DH type reserves to have in AAA.

Which of the rest of the NRIs might we see this year? We probably will see some of the RH relievers who stick around, its likely we get MLB debuts in 2024 from Crews, Wood, Lipscomb, maybe Baker.

Written by Todd Boss

March 27th, 2024 at 9:19 am

Posted in Nats in General

Final QO Free Agent signs, 2024 Draft Order finalized

6 comments

Super agent Scott Boras seems to have over-played his hand with his stable of FAs this off-season, leaving them with shorter deals, less guaranteed money, and far too little spring training to get ready. Photo via LA Times.

If you had March 18th for a two-time Cy Young award-winning free agent to sign, then you won the Scott Boras 2024 off-season bingo game. Blake Snell, who had this stat line last year as a 30yr old: 14-9, 2.25 ERA, 1.189 whip, 234/99 K/BB in 180 innings/32 starts, finally signed just a couple weeks before the season starts, virtually guaranteeing that he misses time for his new club San Francisco. He gets a handsome pay day for 2024 on a short-term gig (2yrs/$62M) but fails to secure the long-term deal that he probably expected coming off a Cy Young winning age-30 season, and probably heads back into FA next off-season w/o the qualifying offer dragging him down.

This is a two-part post. One briefly about the draft, then one about the QO in general.

2024 Draft Order. With Snell’s signing, the 2024 draft order is (finally) finalized. The Giants give up a 3rd rounder to sign Snell, and with it barring any additional last minute penalties we know how things are going. Here’s a link to the 2024 Draft order worksheet (with sources and past years all in the same place), showing the original order and how the various teams picked up or lost picks. Quick summary of movement:

  • Arizona, Baltimore: got supp-1st picks for having top-performing rookies
  • Minnesota, Los Angeles Angels, Toronto, and Sandiego: picked up picks at various points for losing QO-attached FAs.
  • St Louis, San Francisco, Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston: lost picks for signing the same QO-affiliated guys.

The Nats started with the #10 overall, then #48, #88, #118, #148 and so on. After all the movement, we now sit with #10, #44, #79, #108, #140, #169, #199 and so on. So we improved 4 spots in our 2nd rounder, 9 spots for our third rounder, 10 spots for the 4th rounder, and 9 spots for each round going forward.

Qualifying Offer recap for 2023 off-season

Ever since the Qualifying Offer system was introduced in 2012, i’ve hyper-tracked the players who have gotten tagged with them to gauge impact to their free agency. Here’s a Link to my Qualifying Offer Tracking xls. This past off season saw a massive drop in spending from teams, as typical big-money spenders sat out the off-season, were already maxed out and sitting at luxury tax penalties, or had serious revenue concerns with all the RSN issues we’ve been having. However, we also saw that Boras’ three QO-tagged agents sit and wait for months into the off-season before signing.

  • Cody Bellinger: didn’t sign until 2/24 for 3yrs/$80M
  • Matt Chapman: didn’t sign until 3/3 for 3yrs/$54M
  • Snell as discussed; didn’t sign until 3/18 for 2yrs/$62M

As others have pointed out, that’s less guaranteed money for those three guys than some guys got by themselves this off-season. None of them get the kind of 9-figure career-setting payday they probably wanted, but at least all three get opt-outs in case they blow up 2024 to try it again.

Snell therefore is the first QO-assigned player who I think was really hampered by the tag in years. When it first came out, several mid-level free agents took the QO confidently thinking they’d get t heir money like they always did, and got hurt by it. In fact, probably the worst example of the QO screwing a player involved one of our own, Ian Desmond, who declined a 1yr $15.8M deal but couldn’t find anything on the market and ended up taking a 1yr $8M deal three weeks into spring training that year. Now, Desmond eventually got paid by Colorado in a weird contract that turned out to be awful for the team, and of course all these guys are millionaires, so i’m not crying too much for them, but this analysis is more about players getting (or not getting) their worth.

The two sides had their chance to get rid of the QO, but bailed on it in the last CBA negotiations because the owners tied an International Draft to it, which is kind of ridiculous on both sides. QOs impact just a handful of the 1200 union members every year … and owners are just being stupidly short-sighted if they demand an international draft so that they can save a couple million dollars a year. But that’s a topic for another day.

At least these QO Boras clients can go into next off-season knowing they can’t get the offer again, which will free up their markets considerably.

Written by Todd Boss

March 19th, 2024 at 11:32 am

Your 2024 AAA Rotation Revealed Early?

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Thaddeus Ward should get stretched out in Rochester this year. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On March 11th, all on the same day, the Nats optioned the following arms to AAA:

  • Cole Henry
  • Mitchell Parker
  • DJ Herz
  • Thaddeus Ward
  • Joan Adon

If this was a Jeopardy answer, the question would be, “What is, the Rochester 2024 opening day rotation for $100, Alex?”

(Note: Adon’s option confirmed his previously unknown “4th option,” given for reasons unknown. Maybe its because he was so young when added. He doesn’t seem to have missed enough time in any season since he got added in Nob 2020 to qualify per the previously understood rules. Beats me. It works to our favor absolutely, in that we get one more season to see if he can turn into something useful).

Now, odds are that at least one or two more starters will be joining the party in AAA, including one Jackson Rutledge, which would push one of these guys out, presuming Rochester is doing a 5-man rotation. The only other 40-man starters still on the active spring training MLB roster (Strasburg and Cavalli) both should be getting sent to the 60-day DL soon.

Plus, we still have two veteran NRI MLFAs in camp in Spencer Watkins and Zach Davies who could stick around, but neither of these guys are going to supplant the progress of the above five arms. My guess would be that the team retains one of Watkins or Davies, pushes Ward and Henry to AA as starters, then your AAA rotation is Parker, Herz, Adon, Rutledge and Watkins/Davies.

Of course, this also overloads AA, who (according to big board right now) already has 4 starters in Luckham, Saenz, Alvarez, and Cuevas. So we’ll see.

More to the point, for the first time in a while the AAA rotation looks like it’s mostly home-grown, actual prospects instead of being filled with 30-something MLFAs. Here’s a quick look going backwards a few years at the opening day AAA rotations:

  • 2023: Adon, Irvin, Espino, Abbott, Peralta; That’s 2 prospects, two MLFAs/Waiver claims, and one org guy
  • 2022: Tetreault, Sanchez, Cavalli, Reyes, JRodriguez. That’s one prospect, one rehab guy, and three org guys.
  • 2021: Nolin, Fuentes, Braymer, JRodriguez, Armenteros: that’s three org guys and two MLFAs.
  • 2020: Covid
  • 2019: McGowin, Copeland, Voth, Espino, Dragmire: that’s one prospect, one org guy, and three MLFAs.
  • 2018: Voth, Milone*, Fedde, EJackson, Vargas: that’s 3 prospects and two MLFAs.
  • 2017: JRoss, Turner, THill, Voth, Cole: finally back to a time when we had mostly prospects: this is 4 prospects and one MLFA in Turner.

We’ll see what 2024 starts with but it could be 4 prospects and a MLFA, or possibly even 5 prospects. And with the planned rise of AA’s stars to AAA this year, we’re not dependent on a gazillion retreads to fill the field either.

Written by Todd Boss

March 15th, 2024 at 11:43 am

Nats 2024 Top 60 Prospect List from Nationals Arm Race

21 comments

This is your pundit for today.

So, after a dozen posts reviewing other people’s Nats prospect lists, here’s me putting my money where my mouth is. For the first time ever, I offer to you my list of our top prospects.

I’m not just stopping at 10 (that’s easy), or even 30. I was going to publish 50, but found I had 10 “honorable mentions” so i went ahead and ranked them too. Here’s my top 60.

60 prospects is, well, its a lot. Teams can only have 165 total domestic (non DSL) players even rostered, so ranking 60 deep is really a large percentage of our entire minor league system. It includes nearly every starting position player in AA, High-A and Low-A and most of our starting pitchers at these levels.

My methodology: with the benefit of seeing how all the other scouting pundits have ranked these players, I tweaked my rankings per player up or down all spring. If I initially was way off on a guy, I’d use his scouting reports from MLB pipeline or Baseball America to get a fresh opinion. I use the Nats Big Board, which now has direct links to the milb.com stats page for every single player in our system to go eyeball stat lines and progression.

My approach to ranking prospects: I’m bearish on DSL players in general at this point; we’ve seen millions of dollars be spent on 16yr olds who went nowhere. I’m not impressed by guys who are already relievers in High-A. I’m skeptical on young arms until they actually do something and generally rank them lower. I probably give more credit than may be due to guys who are in AA or AAA but who don’t light up the stat line. I do have some favorites who I over-rate, like everyone. I try to be honest about that.

I have not seen all of these players in person. In fact, I have not seen most of them. I’m not a professional scout. I’m just a fan of the Nats and want to see these guys matriculate so we can start to win again. So, here goes.

Nationals Arm Race/Todd Boss top 60 Nats prospects for 2024:

NAR RankLast NameFirst NamePosition
1CrewsDylanOF (CF)
2WoodJamesOF (Corner)
3HouseBradySS/3B
4CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)
5MoralesYohandy3B
6Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)
7LileDaylenOF (CF)
8GreenElijahOF (CF)
9VaqueroCristianOF (CF)
10HerzDJLHP (Starter)
11BennettJakeLHP (Starter)
12RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)
13YoungJacobOF (CF)
14SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)
15SykoraTravisRHP (Starter)
16PinckneyAndrewOF (Corner)
17LipscombTrey3B
18HenryColeRHP (Starter)
19NunezNasimSS
20LaraAndryRHP (Starter)
21MadeKevinSS
22De La RosaJeremyOF (Corner)
23HurtadoVictorOF
24MillasDrewC
25QuintanaRoismarOF (CF)
26ParkerMitchellLHP (Starter)
27BakerDarren2B
28AlvarezAndrewLHP (Starter)
29SaenzDustinLHP (Starter)
30FelizAngel3B/SS
31CruzArmandoSS
32WhiteT.J.OF (Corner)
33PinedaIsraelC
34RamirezAldoRHP (Starter)
35McKenzieJaredOF (CF)
36CuevasMichaelRHP (Starter)
37BrzykcyZachRHP (Reliever)
38InfanteSamuelSS
39AldonisPabloLHP (Starter)
40YoungLukeRHP (Starter)
41SchoffTylerRHP (Reliever)
42BrownMarcusSS/2B
43NunezElijahOF
44ShumanSethRHP (Starter)
45TheophileRodneyRHP (Starter)
46BarleyJordySS
47LuckhamKyleRHP (Starter)
48FrizzellWill1B
49AcevedoAndyOF
50SuggsMattC
51GuaschRichardRHP (Reliever)
52MotaJorgelysSS
53KnowlesLucasLHP (Reliever)
54CroninMattLHP (Reliever)
55AgostiniGabrielLHP (Reliever)
56SotoElianOF/SS
57SolanoEdwinSS
58BatistaCarlosOF
59ThomasJohnathanOF (CF)
60CoxBrennerOF (CF)

Ok. here’s some thoughts going through to walk you through how I ended up with these guys where they are. This is going to be really, really long analysis, as I try to really capture why I put each guy in each spot. So, strap in.

  • Same top 4 as everyone else. Yes, I think Crews > Langford 🙂
  • I’ve got Morales at #5. Is it good to have two top-end 3B prospects? Both he and House are basically the same size (6’4″ and between 210-225). Both are big enough to slide to 1B and be a pretty good defensive player there. Both he and House have identical defensive grades (60 arm, 50 field), both were oversized SS in high school. Could one or the other be a 6’4″ second baseman? I can’t really find too much evidence of 2B that big, even though we have plenty of taller SS these days (Tulowitzki, Seager, Ripken, and A-Rod were all 6-3 or 6’4). I suppose this is a good problem to have, having two potentially solid 3B racing to get to the majors first. The scouting report does note that the Nats played Morales some at 1B this year, probably tipping their hand as to where he’ll play if House owns the position as we expect he’ll do. There’s also always the DH spot but that’d be a waste for a decent fielder, which he seems to be.
  • From #6 to #9 I have four straight Center Fielders. I have Hassell over Lile, despite the multiple conversations we’ve had about the topic. They’re really close, but I’m skeptical about Lile’s size and his ability to stay in CF. I do believe Hassell will return to form after the hamate bone bugged him for a big chunk of 2023. I’m also now skeptical about Lile’s durability; a TJ and now a potential back issue on his resume will hamper his development. Not his fault, but that’s the breaks.
  • I have Green #8; he started at #5 for me this offseason, but discussion and other shops have convinced me to drop him based on swing and miss concerns. Yes, I know the team is messing with his swing, and I have not lost faith. Maybe he’ll blow up in 2024, jump two levels, and suddenly he’s in the top 50 for the entire league. It isn’t often you see a guy with his combination of tools (60 power and 70 run? That’s like Willie Mays tools)
  • Vaquero? I mean, he’s basically a high school grad last year hitting .197 in Low-A; can’t fault that. But i’m starting to get the opinion that he’s in the top 10 on the basis of his signing bonus ($4.9M) more than his skills or capabilities. MLB pipeline scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 70 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45. Compare that to Green: Hit: 40 | Power: 60 | Run: 70 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 50.
  • #10 through #12 I’ve got three straight starters. I went Herz, then Bennett, then Rutledge. Herz is a lefty who just dominated AA at the age of 23 and could very well replace Corbin as the token lefty 4th starter in our rotation. You could make an argument that Bennett should be a little lower; he’s missing all of 2024 with TJ and he (at the same age as Herz) couldn’t get guys out in High-A, but his ranking is consistent with his pedigree and other shops, so we’ll go with it. Rutledge i’ve historically been down on, but you can’t argue with his 2023. Can he succeed in the majors? Jury is out; he has four pitches, two of them plus, which usually screams reliever. If he goes to AAA and makes either his change or his curve more useful, then he’s got something to keep MLB hitters at bay as a 5th starter to start. That’s the hope.
  • Young at #13: I’m higher on him than anyone else besides Ghost. Call me crazy, but if you push your way up 3 levels AND you don’t hit .180 in your MLB debut, i’m sold. If we didn’t have Robles on the hook for multiple millions and a hope that he’ll be a trade candidate in July, i’d say go with Young on opening day. But, i’d rather see him start and play in AAA unless there’s an injury or one of our presumed starters (Garrett?) isn’t ready to answer the bell. You tell me: i’m sure Young would rather ride the pine in the majors collecting a salary instead of riding the buses in AAA and playing in 30 degrees all April. Young at #13 is actuals over potential analysis. I think a guy like Young doesn’t get prospect love b/c he projects as a 4th outfielder. Well, at least he’s made it to the show; that’s worth more than the guy who is 25 in High-A who also projects as a 4th outfielder.
  • I’ve got Susana and Sykora 14/15, thinking right now they’re basically the same guy; 18-19yr old with big arm and shiny scouting report. I’m lower on these guys than probably anyone else (McDaniel had Susana #5 of all things), but i’ve just completely worn out any confidence that any prep pitcher ever pans out for us. I hope i’m wrong; i hope these guys rocket up the system and turn into the next coming of Doc Gooden. But their wash out rate is so high its hard to be confident.
  • I probably begrudgingly have Pinckney at #16, and started with him much lower. He was an under-slot senior sign last year who went 102nd overall. Is it possible every team in the league who passed on him three times just missed on a bargain? Something tells me he’ll plateau and wash out before he gets to AAA. Baseball Prospectus had him ranked 9th, by way of comparison. SSS: he has looked relatively overmatched in limited ST at-bats.
  • Lipscomb quietly at #17, despite solid production since the moment he was drafted. He’s an NRI this spring and he was hitting well while playing multiple infield positions. I mean, is this guy our starting 2B of the future? He exuded confidence on the field in AA, clearly a team leader for that squad of top-end prospects.
  • Henry at #18: this is kind of splitting the difference between a complete TOS wash-out and remaining hopeful he returns to form. Remember, this guy used to be ranked as high as our #2 prospect just a couple years ago. He may be a long-shot to turn into the #2 starter projection he used to be, and maybe his worst case is a top-quality back of the bullpen guy (alongside Rutledge?). The big test is past; his velocity is all the way back post TOS, so now its just refinement.
  • Nunez at #19: another one I could argue two different ways. He seems to be 100% glove without much in the way of a bat. Well, we’re about to find out since the rule5 draftee seems set to be one of the two utility infielders on the big club all year. Can he actually hit? Is 19 too high? could be. A brief ST glimpse shows he’s really, really tiny. Like, he looks like your kid brother put on your uniform and hit the field. Good glove though, and has made some solid contact.
  • Andry Lara at #20. Here’s the first place where we see a major deviation between the other shops. Lara has some of the easiest velocity out there. He’s always been young for the level, and even though he was in High-A rotation all year he was just 20. His monthly splits show he finished well … even if he was only pitching 4 innings a start. I’d like to see him pitch deeper into games, turn lineups over a third time maybe, and dominate Wilmington for a couple more months before coming up to AA. But if he’s 21 and holding his own in AA, that’s better than a #20 prospect. MLB didn’t even have him in their top 30, which I think is a mistake. Nats: PLEASE don’t shove him to AA; let him get stretched out and succeed in High-A for a couple months.
  • Kevin Made: no idea what we have with him. Law ranked him #9 (!), Ghost didn’t even have him in his top 30. So there’s huge variation here. But he’s super small (just 5’9″) without any power projection. So he’s going to have to be a high OBP plus defender type to make it, and he’s got work to do.
  • De La Rosa at 22 and Quintana at 25 are kind of the same analysis: they’re both relatively young IFAs with decent but not flashy numbers and are corner OFs. Quintana is lesser regarded and didn’t even make MLB’s top 30, but I’ve got him mid 20s for a reason; he’s got some pop and could be a sneaky riser in the system.
  • Hurtado, our big money 2024 IFA signing, slotted in at #23 (Our other top ranked/big money 2024 IFA signing Feliz comes in at #30). That’s well below anyone else who actually included 2024 signees in their lists, and he’s this low because i’m cynical about the capabilities of these guys til we see them.
  • Catchers: I’ve got Millas at #24, Pineda at #33. Is Millas even a prospect anymore? He just turned 26, has been in the system for years. He’s never projecting to be anything other than a backup Catcher. Pineda i’m including as eligible by lack of ABs and not looking at service time manipulation. He’s 3 years younger and had really done well in AA a couple years ago as a 21yr old, but took a step back this year. I think Pineda has a chance to still be a “prospect” but can he supplant Riley Adams? Seems doubtful. I hope Pineda rebounds this year and gives the team some options in case we suffer a Catcher injury in the Bigs.
  • Parker at #26: I like this guy and think he should be higher. But scouts seem doubtful that his stuff will play at higher levels. We’ll see now that he’s on the 40-man. I saw him pitch for AA and was impressed. He’s been solid at every level he’s pitched; he just keeps moving up and moving on.
  • Baker at #27: the definition of a guy who has no flashy tools but probably ends up with a decent MLB career as a career utility backup guy. And the way that Garcia looks this spring, it may not even be that far off. If Garcia can’t hit, and continues to be such a defensive liability, the team may cut bait and try someone else.
  • Andrew Alvarez at #28. Our 2023 minor league pitcher of the year ended the year in the AA rotation after cruising in High-A all year. I’m one of the few to even mention the guy; the only other shop to list him is BA at #30. Not even Prospects1500, which spent most of its 40-50 range guys listing 16 yr olds who hit .150 in the DSL after signing for $5 grand didn’t list him.
  • Saenz at #29. Honestly he should be higher. 3.43 ERA in a full season starting in AA. Problem is, he doesn’t light up the scoreboard, so nobody thinks he’s a prospect. But he’s a lefty, like Alvarez, and you don’t have to throw mid-90s to be an effective lefty in the majors.

So, that’s the top 30 with discussions on nearly every guy. We still have 30 to go. I’ll kind of do short comments on random players the rest of the way out so this isn’t 5,000 words.

  • TJ White at #32: I’m not as bullish as Ghost (who had him at #19); i just want to see him rebound.
  • Aldo Ramirez at #34: this guy used to be a top 10 prospect; he should be higher and could jump 20 spots in a season if he can show he’s healthy. Lets hope so; our SP prospect depth is shaky.
  • Cuevas at #36: ok the guy is 22 and spent the whole season in the AA rotation. Even if he wasn’t great, that’s one of the youngest guys in the league. If he had an era in the 3s he may be a near top 10 prospect. Maybe he should be higher.
  • Brzycky at #37: this is as high as I’m willing to go for a reliever. I don’t care how good he is. There’s a couple more relievers on the list, but i’m a follower of the adage that you can find relievers from your failed starters.
  • Infante at #38: hopefully this is the last of our long-line of failed 2nd round draft picks.
  • Schoff at #41 kind of quietly has made his way to AAA as a reliever only guy from the start.
  • Seth Shuman should be higher. But he’s now 26 and he missed all of last year with injury. He has a career minor league ERA of 3.28. He’s just lost so much development time.
  • Jordy Barley seems like he should be higher; he’s the starting SS in AAA at 24 and was a mid 20s prospect a couple years ago. But this year i’m the sole person to list him anywhere.
  • Will Frizzell at #48 may be too high. I think he’s a lingering prospect due to a good season a couple years ago.
  • Andy Acevedo at #49 is here solely because the team gave him $1.3M last year. Same with Solano at #57. These are guys who got a ton of money and hit in the mid .150s last year but who will be kicking around the system for years thanks to their signing bonus “investments.”
  • Suggs at #50 is the sole other catcher on this list. That’s crazy; we have zero catching depth.
  • Lucas Knowles; all he did was worm his way up to AAA as a rubber armed lefty reliever. Lots of value there if he can sling it and get people out. But does this kind of guy play in the majors? I feel like there’s a “minor league type” of arm who every team in High-A and AA loves, who can gets guys out when the starter blows up and keeps teams in games, but never gets any prospect love and has little shot of ever making it.
  • Cronin at #54: man what happened to this guy? On the 40-man, then pitched so badly that he got outrighted and then pitched even worse. Kind of like Evan Lee a couple years ago, who has regressed so badly he’s not even in the top 60.
  • Elian Soto is ranked solely because of who his brother is.
  • Carlos Batista at #58 is the sole hitter from the 2023 IFA who even had something close to a respectable batting line in DSL last year. Doesn’t make him a prospect; it makes him the shiniest egg of a bunch of rotten eggs.
  • Brenner Cox finishes it out at #60. He’s looked overmatched from the moment the team signed him. Probably should have gone to college.

Who did I miss?

  • Prospects1500 listed a whole bunch of 23IFAs in its 40-50 range; none of them are better than the relative journeymen we have in our 50-60 range even.
  • A couple of 2023 upper teen picks Liam Sullivan and Nick Peoples got some prospect mention elsewhere; i wasn’t impressed.
  • Tim Cate is still in the system. Not even in the top 60.
  • Brandon Boissiere; i used to like this guy, but he’s struggling to hold on to a job.
  • Holden Powell: man, hard to believe he was a 3rd rounder.

Phew. that was a lot. Thanks for reading and this probably concludes prospect season. I’ll recap Fangraphs whenever it comes out because I can’t help myself, but time to move forward.

Written by Todd Boss

March 11th, 2024 at 9:06 am

Posted in Prospects

MLB Pipeline Nats top 30 for 2024 review

26 comments

Wood's blast was the highlight of the night for Harrisburg. Photo via milb
Wood has been tearing up spring training; could he actually make the team? Photo via milb.com

The last of the major pundits (that i’m waiting for, ahem Fangraphs) has dropped their Nats prospect rankings for the new season. Here’s a review of the MLBPipeline Nats top 30, done by MLB’s scouting pundits Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, and Sam Dykstra.

Here’s a list of all the ranking lists i’m aware of and/or have reviewed this spring so far, in order of their release (and if I reviewed them, a link to that recap):

Lastly, here’s a link to my Nationals Prospect Tracking XLS, which has all the above ranks, along with more than 230 historical rankings dating back to the very first Baseball America ranking in January of 2005 for the franchise just after moving here.

On with the review of MLB Pipeline. Here’s their top 30 in tabular format:

MLB rankLast NameFirst NamePosition
1CrewsDylanOF (CF)
2WoodJamesOF (Corner)
3HouseBradySS/3B
4CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)
5MoralesYohandy3B
6GreenElijahOF (CF)
7LileDaylenOF (CF)
8Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)
9VaqueroCristianOF (CF)
10SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)
11SykoraTravisRHP (Starter)
12HerzDJLHP (Starter)
13HurtadoVictorOF
14BennettJakeLHP (Starter)
15RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)
16LipscombTrey3B
17PinckneyAndrewOF (Corner)
18YoungJacobOF (CF)
19NunezNasimSS
20MillasDrewC
21BrzykcyZachRHP (Reliever)
22ParkerMitchellLHP (Starter)
23MadeKevinSS
24FelizAngel3B/SS
25HenryColeRHP (Starter)
26PinedaIsraelC
27BakerDarren2B
28De La RosaJeremyOF (Corner)
29SaenzDustinLHP (Starter)
30WhiteT.J.OF (Corner)

And here’s some thoughts.

  • This is probably the list that I most agree with so far. When I put this top 30 end to end against my list (which will be forthcoming soon) it’s pretty amazing how well it lines up.
  • Same Top 4 as nearly everyone else.
  • Morales seems to be settling in as the near consensus #5 prospect in the system.
  • I can’t argue with the set of players ranked 6th to 9th, all of whom are Center fielders. Green above Lile and Hassell kind of ignores his 2023 struggles a bit; I have him below Lile/Hassell. Vaquero at #9 seems pretty consistent; nearly every other pundit has him in the 7-9 range.
  • Comment on Lile: man I hope he’s ok and doesn’t have any long term damage.
  • Susana and Sykora 10-11: so now we’re starting to see a bit of the methodology that MLBPipeline adheres to; they’re a little heavy on ceiling and potential. This is probably why Green is higher than his actual on-field performance earns him right now. I like Susana and Sykora, but they’re both 19yrs old with mostly big fastballs and shiny scores on a scouting report.
  • The two 2024 IFAs come in: Hurtado at #13 and Feliz at #24. I think Hurtado is a bit high at 13, but a couple others had him in that range, so it isn’t egregious.
  • I’m a little higher on Young and Nunez than they are, but again its within the mid-teen range and splitting hairs to criticize that they’re ranked 18 and 19 instead of 13 and 14.
  • Brzycky at #21? Don’t get that one. An injured reliever ahead of a 40-man starter in Parker?
  • Kevin Made at #23 shows the drastic variations of opinion: they’re right in line with what BA said, but echelons below what guys like Law and McDaniel said.
  • Henry at #25 is pretty much low man amongst the professional pundits. Ghost had him at #30 for reasons he explained post review. They are not bullish on his return from TOS.
  • Can’t really complain about anyone in the 25-30 range.
  • TJ White is their biggest faller from last year, as noted in the writeup.

biggest misses?

  • Andry Lara; outside top 30. I’m not sure i agree with that, even with as much as I’ve criticized his placement.
  • Quintana out of top 30; not egregious, just noting that most shops have him in the 19-20 range.

Written by Todd Boss

March 4th, 2024 at 11:49 am

Posted in Prospects

Nationals 2024 Roster Option status

19 comments

Kieboom faces a critical spring. Photo via Federal Baseball

Honestly, this option status was more apropos when we talked about non-tenders last fall, or perhaps before thinking about what the team was going to do this off-season w/r/t free agency.

But, here we are. We’re at the beginning of spring training, the team has brought in a slew of players on one year or MLFA/NRI deals (including at least 10 MLFA veteran relievers) and for those on the 40-man right now, options flexibility will be a big factor in what happens this spring.

So, lets do some options analysis to try to couch possible roster decisions that will have to be made by the end of March.

I’m using Roster Resource (now at Fangraphs) to drive this analysis. I used to keep track of options in a private XLS, but it was just way too tedious as compared to the pros at these sites. If they have it wrong, then I’ve got it wrong here. Also, here’s the Big Board which shows all the NRIs who might be pushing these guys for a job.

Current 40-man roster Players with Zero Options remaining

These non-5year veteran players either have to sick on the active roster going forward, or will face the dreaded DFA/outright if they need to be demoted off the active roster. I’ll list them in order of most likely to get DFA’d this spring to least likely:

  • Carter Kieboom. Kieboom’s time with the team seems like it has come to an end. For the second straight off-season, instead of holding 3B empty for their former top prospect to own, the team has bought a one year veteran Free Agent to man the position. Candelario last year and Nick Senzel this year. If you’re an infielder and you’re not starting at the MLB level, then you need to be able to do one of a couple of things: 1) play middle infield (which Kieboom cannot), 2) be good defensively or be a fast runner (which Kieboom isn’t), 3) play outfield as well (which he never has), or hit well enough to man either 1B or DH (which he never has either). The team also bought itself a starting 1B in Joey Gallo and has an established DH in Joey Meneses. On top of THAT, the team has more than a couple big bopper NRI MLFAs who specialize in playing 1B/DH (Yepes, Diaz, Blankenhorn, Winker, Rutherford). None of this leaves Kieboom a ton of roster flexibility. I suppose he could try to play a corner outfield, but we’re set there too, with more OF options than we have positions honestly PLUS a slew of OF prospects coming up. I hate to say it, But Kieboom is in trouble. Save for an injury to Senzel or Gallo, or Kieboom hitting .450 this spring, I think he’s staring at a big career crossroads at the end of March.
  • Joan Adon, thanks to being added to the 40-man In November of 2020 despite only having gotten to Low-A by that point, now faces a pretty predictable situation. He’s 25, clearly needs more time in the minors, but is out of options and faces a pretty obvious roster crunch coming out of spring training. I mean, he was awful in the majors in 2022 and again in 2023. He wasn’t really that great in AAA either. He’s probably 7th on the starter depth chart (if that), and the team would have to dump a reliever they’d rather keep in order to protect him from being exposed to waivers. If there’s an injury to the projected starting 5 (Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Irvin) he’ll be gifted the spot to save him, but it seems like an inevitability he gets DFA’d.
  • Jordan Weems shows what happens when you look slightly deeper into pitching stats. In 2023, his ERA went down to 3.62 but his FIP went way up to 4.90. His Hits/9 went down but his BB/9 went way up. His 2023 was probably smoke and mirrors, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he blew up in April after making the team and got DFA’d.
  • Luis Garcia, who is out of options because he was put on the 40-man way, way too soon and still doesn’t seem like the team is completely convinced he’s their long-term solution at 2B. But, they also seem set to go with him as the starter. But, they sent him down last year for a month for some reason (he was hitting .268 at the time even though he hit mostly .220 the first half of the season). So who knows. They didn’t guy a veteran 2B FA so his spot seems safe.
  • Tanner Rainey, who missed all of 2023 but was our highly effective closer in 2022, seems pretty unlikely to lose his spot if he’s healthy. The thing is, if he struggles in spring, they’ll just DL him and say, “post-TJ surgery recovery” or some nonsense, so he could go to AAA and work things out.
  • Ildemaro Vargas is the kind of utility player every manager wants: can play 6 positions, hits decently enough. His bat fell off a bit in 2023, and the team got itself a middle infielder in Rule5 in Nunez who now occupies one of the sports Vargas would be competing for. MLB benches these days basically are: a Backup C, two middle infielders, one spare outfielder, and one big bat who can rotate into 1B and DH (preferably lefty as well). So Is Vargas set for one of the two middle infield positions right now? Probably. The only other middle infielder NRI is Darren Baker, and i don’t think he’s ready for prime time. Also, not for nothing, the Nats extended Vargas in the middle of September, so clearly they’re not thinking of axing him.
  • Kiebert Ruiz: they gave him 8yrs/$50M and he’s the starting catcher; he’s not in any jeopardy of getting DFA’d irrespective of option status. So he’s least likely of the “zero options” guys.

Current 40-man roster players whose option status may/will impact their making the team.

  • Jake Alu: If Vargas and Nunez are your two middle infielder bench options, that likely shuts the door on Jake Alu being a regular on the active roster for a bit. He’s unable to play SS; he can play 2B, 3B and LF. He also got a long look last year and didn’t really hit (.226/.282/.289). I think he’s the dreaded 4-A guy, who will shuttle back and forth between AAA and MLB to cover in case of an injury to the 2B/3B starters. Maybe Nunez flops as a rule5 pick and gets returned and Alu sticks; we’ll see. That’s what spring training is for.
  • Jake Irvin: i’ll just put this here; if the team convinces themselves they need to keep Adon, Irvin has two options and could get sacrificed. I would be kind of shocked if this happens, since Irvin seems more likely to become a regular 4th/5th starter going forward than Adon, but the team has done something like this before with John Lannan making millions to pitch in Syracuse in 2012.
  • Jackson Rutledge seems like he’s 6th on the pecking order and should be a safe bet for AAA save injury. But, like with Irvin … if the team decides it wants to keep Adon, Rutledge will head north.
  • Cade Cavalli probably starts the year on the 60-day DL and may slot right into the MLB rotation when he’s ready irrespective of option status. But he’s got plenty of options if his rehab goes more slowly than expected and could hang in AAA for a while.
  • Drew Millas has plenty of options, but is 3rd out of 3 on the Catcher pecking order right now, and will be either the MLB backup or the AAA starter.
  • Thad Ward: last year’s rule5 roster gambit, can now safely be sent down since he’s officially “ours.” And he’s got plenty of options. My guess is that he goes to AAA and gets converted back to starting. Which is what the team should do with him, since our starting pitching prospect pipeline is so thin.
  • Alex Call and/or Jacob Young: so, assuming that Stone Garrett and Victor Robles are healthy and able from the get go (which may be a bad assumption given what we’re hearing about Garrett’s recovery from a broken leg last summer) one of these two gets dumped to AAA. Honestly, if they need someone to ride the pine in the majors i’d rather it be Call so that Young can play full time in AAA, but it may be the reverse. Both have options. If Garrett can’t go, look for Young to start in left and Call to be the MLB backup. Yes Davey Martinez said Young was “competing” with Robles for the starting CF job; i don’t believe that. I think the team wants Robles to earn the spot, hit .330 for 3 months, and get flipped to a contender in his walk year.
  • Relievers with options who sucked last year: Jose Ferrer (5.03 ERA), Mason Thompson (5.50 ERA), and Amos Willingham (6.66). They’ll all start in AAA unless someone gets hurt, and given the plethora of MLFA veteran arms the team has signed, these three guys are also at the top of my “next guy off the 40-man to get whacked” list just after the obvious DFA candidates discussed above. Thompson’s situation may work itself out; it seems like he may have a UCL injury that will send him to TJ and the 60-day DL.
  • The four arms just added: Herz, Parker, Henry, Brzycky: no real chance any of these four make the 25-man opening day roster. The AAA staff looks like it’ll be amazing this year.

Predictions:

  • No injuries to projected rotation in spring.
  • Adon waived.
  • Kieboom waived
  • Thompson TJ/60-day dl to open a roster spot
  • Weems makes opening day roster but is on short leash
  • Young makes opening day roster, Call to AAA.
  • At least one NRI bat and maybe two NRI arms make the team.

Written by Todd Boss

February 22nd, 2024 at 11:06 am

Posted in Nats in General