Nationals Baseball: March 2021

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Late Tuesday Quickie -

I'm on vacation. Let's update! 

Carter Kieboom did not make the team, nor should he have by play honestly. Now the point in sending him down to have him tool around AAA to have another try in the majors? I'm not sure what it is. I guess they feel he can still be good if he resets himself but needs to go back down to do it. In the meantime expect Harrison at second and Castro at third.  This isn't the worst thing. 

Castro might be hurt - his hammy is acting up. If he misses time Jordy Mercer or Hernan Perez will play.  This isn't the worst thing, either but in a sense there are things that are worse, not that this isn't bad. It's bad

What's worse? Soto is hurt! The "don't worry about the calf tweak, we're just being careful" has turned into a full Rendon "day by day by day situation with Rendon not quite ready to play" It won't fully get there until he sits out an actual game (Sit out all spring - what do I care? Just play when you are needed).  If he does not play - this is the worst thing.

Will Harris will start on the IL - no surprise. That means the pen shakes out with the four key guys other than Harris (Hand, Rainey, Suero, Hudson), the expected other (Finnegan), the guys with no options (Fedde, Voth) and Luis Avilan.  When Harris comes back expect the worst of the last three to go bye

OK some good news - Strasburg and Max both seem fine! Expect Max to give you 90-95% of what he normally does on Opening Day (he's still working up to his full self but he's only a couple starts away).  Strasburg should be fully ok after that. There's been no sign of Lester having any issues so the Big 4 are a go right now. Other than Soto this is the most important thing and it's come through! 

Baseball in a couple days!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Happy Trails to you, until we meet... for the first time I guess

 Gio Gonzalez retired from baseball yesterday

The South Florida native was a mainstay of the Nats organization window of success, pitching for the team from 2012 until traded away in 2018.  Before coming to the Nats he was a first round White Sox draft pick who was traded to the Phillies (in a deal that involved Aaron Rowand and Jim Thome), back to the White Sox (Gavin Floyd) then over to the A's (Nick Swisher).  He'd debut for the A's before finally coming over to the Nationals. 

I liked the deal when it happened. Though the Nats did give up a lot - everyone traded away is still bopping around in the majors except Norris and that's because he hits women - they got something back that would clearly help them in the next few years and was likely better than anything given up. Not assuredly better, but likely. There was a little worry that Gio would suddenly give up a lot of bombs, moving from the huge Oakland park to DC and having some history of doing so but that never materialized. Instead Gio had the best year of his career, giving the Nats a little hope of stealing an ace, before settling into being something slightly less than he was in Oakland. An inning eatings number 3. 

Gio was characterized by (1) being healthy - having the 5th most starts from 2010-2018 (2) Striking out guys with his big curve - 10th most Ks (3) walking a ton of guys - 1st! and because of the last 2 throwing a TON of pitches - 5th, behind K guys with like 100+ more innings pitched. That made Gio's starts normally an experience to survive rather than enjoy. The type of game you'd watch him give up 2 runs in 5+ innings, but watch him take 110 pitches to do it. 

His postseasons were the Nats postseasons before 2019. Some passable work, maybe even the rare good moment, but mostly disappointment. He never had a signature game like ZNN or Stras would*, never pitching past the 5th. He did have one game that might have qualified - shutting down the Giants for 4 innings (and only 55 pitches!) but with the bats struggling Matt Williams pulled him early in a run-scoring opportunity (didn't work). No, the games you remember from Gio are G5 of the 2012 NLDS and G5 of the 2017 NLDS.  In 2012 the Nats staked Gio to a seemingly insurmountable 6-0 lead by the end of the third and Gio had it at 6-1 going into the 5th.  Holding them there for another inning, maybe 2, would probably do it. But in the 5th Gio would implode, walking three (including a bases loaded one) and uncorking a wild pitch. He luckily escaped giving up only 2 but made it necessary for the Nats to work deep into their pen.  In 2017 it was arguably even worse. A team desperate for post-season success had just seen post-season hero Michael A Taylor hit a homer to give the Nats a 4-1 lead after 2.  They wouldn't expect much of Gio, who's first inning was a similar walk/wild pitch filled mess but had settled down in the second. Get through 5, hell through 4 and we'll figure it out from there. But Gio could barely make it through 3, immediately giving back two runs with his 3rd and 4th walks of the game and second wild pitch in three innings. Even setting a low bar Gio didn't come through. 

But still despite all of the above Gio was a guy people liked having on the team, if not in the game they were currently watching. He'd go out every 5th day, do a decent job, and on a team with fragile Strasburg and questions at 5 (like every team), he kept the rotation steady. The team seemed to like him too, consistently upbeat and likeable from everything I hear.

Eventually Gio outlived his usefulness. The Nats extended him as they could, he was still a good deal, but with his skill fading a bit the Nats didn't have much interest re-signing a 4/5 who couldn't go deep into games occasionally. They'd trade him to Milwaukee during that first lost Martinez season for a couple of nothings and unceremoniously move on. Gio would do well for the Brewers in the regular season that year, flop in an opener role in the playoffs, but get another shot at starting and do ok in 2019. In 2020 he caught on with the White Sox as insurance and didn't perform and this Spring had the same experience in Marlins camp. Rather than try to rework himself as a reliever or go off to AAA Gio hung up his cleats.

Gio was a good and remarkably durable pitcher for nearly a decade. He made two All-Star games, got a couple Cy Young votes and even an MVP one. That's a great career. Here's to an enjoyable retirement spending all that money.

*Honestly I'm not sure Max has either - though not through much fault of his own. His G5 against the Dodgers in 2016 and g3 versus the Cubs in 2017 both could have been that but the Nats didn't support him with any runs. G2 against the Cardinals in 2019 was a masterpiece but also part of a sweep where the Cards bats were completely silent. His WS performances were first fine, then OMG thank god we survived. Does G4 of the NLDS vs the Dodgers count? It's kind of a nebulous post-season career where there's no laudatory moments but not much blame either, the stench of "give me the ball" in G5 Chicago bad decisions and play all-around washed away by the WS and ALL the regular season success.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Kieboom Conundrum

The Nats had a plan. 

The amazing development of a bevy of young talent around 2012, by a mixture of luck and design, allowed the Nats to plan for the next window, which would arrive after 2015/6.  They could let the minor leagues develop mostly undisturbed then based on development choose which prospects to trade, which to keep, and who to target in free agency. Given the slightly younger major league hitting talent under control and the slightly underwhelming development of the top pitching prospects, it made sense to sign free agent pitching and trade young pitching and extend that window through 2018/2019. But this time the shorter time frame and starting with a hollowed out minors meant the Nats couldn't repeat their last plan unless everything went right. It did not. The hitting talent continued to develop - Trea Turner was good, Juan Soto great, and Victor Robles playable, but the pitching Erick Fedde, Austin Voth, AJ Cole, and later Seth Romero, Wil Crowe, did not. That left the Nats with choice and signing pitchers with hopes the more promising hitters Kieboom and Garcia (and maybe Yasel Antuna and Raudy Read) would come through made more sense. 

Now is the time when these players need to come through and they have not. The most troublesome is Carter Kieboom because as the top prospect he was the one the Nats were most reliant on. They let Rendon walk in part because Kieboom could fill that spot. They tightly held on to him in the face of some trade offers. Hell, they might have even drafted his brother to get Kieboom*. Kieboom is fairly young (24 in September) and has pretty limited major league experience - 165 PAs so nothing is written in stone but it's not just that he hasn't been up to snuff. He's been terrible. A .181 BA only 3 XBH and spotty defense as he's forced to move to a new position. This Spring has been nothing different and the Nats are starting to feel out other plans. Castro at third maybe (until he got hurt).  

You could do that. This team is ready to compete - a WC level team if they are all healthy and the FA gambles don't go bust. But for what? For what looks like not a shot at the Wild Card? It feels more like you need to see what you have here because the decisions on what the next window looks like start this year.

Max's contract is done this year. Turner next. Corbin and Soto a couple years after that. They aren't going to keep/replace them all and yet they probably need people of that level of talent. Honestly they could use one more bat. If Kieboom doesn't hit it forces the Nats into a bad position because they thought he would fill one of these spots with cheap talent for the next few seasons. If he doesn't (and no one else steps up) well then do you keep trying? Do you sign an aging Max for 2-3 more years? Do you trade Turner in hopes of building a future team that would entice Soto to stay? It's tough. 

How is everyone else doing? 

Garcia is super young (21 in a couple weeks) so there's a lot of time left. However, he also hasn't hit yet and there isn't much that makes you think he's going to develop much power or patience. The goal here is more for a slick-fielding fast running .300 slap hitter. Based on his major league stint that seems reasonable but we'll see what he does this year. Ideally I'd like to see him in AAA but he'll probably back up Castro. 

Yasel Antuna isn't quite as young (22 in October) and hadn't shown much in A ball before injuries derailed his 2018 and 2019. Consider this a restart year.

Raudy Read is definitely NOT young (28 in October) and has kind of just hung on as he's moved up the chain.  There doesn't seem to be anything here except maybe a future back-up catcher. 

Drew Mendoza is a more recent draft pick who had about 50 meh games back in 2019 in his first major league stint. Not exactly a restart like Antuna but this will be the year we get an idea of what the Nats actually have here other than a great eye.

*I wouldn't say it was a wasted pick - even in the 5th round that's a long odds to get a starter and this draft doesn't look particularly deep in retrospect.  And Spencer did get some hacks in the majors, even if they might have been a little forced.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Monday Quickie - Not a clot going on

Will Harris has a blood clot in his arm. The short of it is - that's not good and will likely to cause him to miss time. It sets the dominoes in motion and takes a bullpen you could see being pretty good and makes it more of a question.  Along with that Tanner Rainey didn't look good in his outing. It might be (probably is) just early Spring work in late Spring because the guy hasn't pitched and again - Spring is Spring. However, it is possible that he won't be ready for Opening Day either. In that case... the bullpen is exceedingly thin. 

On the good news side, Max seems healthy enough for Davey to name him the Opening Day starter. That's no surprise, it was just a matter of how healthy he was. Strasburg's calf seems to be the minor issue they thought it was and Lester looks on target to be ready when needed. So the 1-4 rotation holds for now.

Zimm is hot along with Bell, Harrison, Yadiel Hernandez, Robles and Castro so expect "we don't want to say this is meaningful but..." stories about these guys. Garcia, Kieboom, Avila, Soto, Turner, and Schwarber (.182) are having problems so expect toss away "struggling but it's Spring" lines about these guys - except Kieboom because his performance is what we are all looking at.  He gets artcles.

What about the 5th starter battle? The one I said it's fine to judge by Spring because there are good and bad reasons to start everyone?  Ross is winning. That's good because everyone understands they want Ross to win. Easy decisions when things line up like this. Ross has pitched in two games and has been a little wild (2 HB in 5IP) but otherwise ok.  Neither Fedde or Voth has pitched poorly in a vacuum (let's not worry about ERAs here) but both have given up more hits than they would have liked. 

 Onward we go!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Carrasco down - the importance of depth

Carlos Carrasco, the Mets presumed #2, tore his hammy and is probably out - let's say the first two months*. The Mets depth chart shifts and becomes

deGrom - Stroman - Walker - Lucchesi/Peterson/Yamamato

If Walker is healthy - and that's a big if - that 1-2-3 are fine but usually pitching injuries matter because of what you are forcing in at the end of the rotation, not how the top shifts. 

What should the Mets expect from the likes of that 4/5 bunch? (since these are projections ERA is fine) 

Lucchesi - 4.10-4.30

Peterson - 4.10-4.50

Yamamato - 5.00-5.40

Well there are two guys who would be perfectly ok at the back of the rotation and a third who isn't great but if you need them to throw 5 starts... you'll survive. The Mets acutally have Syndergaard coming back as well but not until later in the year. They had a starting depth of 1 and they have used that up. However even a starting depth of 1 is a lot for major league rotations.  Most teams don't go 6 deep, or even 5.  Case in point, YOUR Washington Nationals.

What do the Nats have?

Ross - 4.90-5.10

Fedde - 4.50-5.10

Voth - 4.90-5.00

Of course these are just projections but the Nats in a sense have 3 guys who fit inbetween "perfectly ok" and "we'll survive" The good news is that it's three guys for one spot. The bad news is I'd consider them having a starting depth of 0. It's fair to set these three out for one spot and hope you'll find something in the 4.50 or below range. But any injury and you'll either have two of these guys in the rotation or need one of two to hit. The latter would be a tough but possible ask, the former would be very unlikely. 

This wouldn't be too bad but Max is working back from injury AND Stras is working back from injury and is a little hurt now AND Lester had a surgery and has just started to throw AND two of these guys are well over 30. The set-up demands the Nats draw that inside straight so to speak.

Depth matters and the Mets situation shows that. The Nats don't have a likely decent fill-in for that last spot.  What do I think of the other NL East teams? I'd probably put the Braves depth at a shaky 1 - lots of options means there's almost certain a couple guys that could fill in but finding them might be hard. The Phillies I'd put at a -1, at least until Septemeber call-ups.  They have a handful of bad options and long risks for 4/5.  We'll probably know soon though what Moore really is so maybe they are a 0, but I doubt it. 

The Mets could handle a big injury best. They just had it. Now they have to hold on 2 months. Hell - if they hold on 4 months they might be a depth 2!  The Braves might be able to handle it. The Phillies would likely see their season screwed. The Nats can't handle it either but not to those levels. 

Stay Healthy!

*general timelines would put him back early-Mid May, but let's be cautious.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Let's finish it up

 While we wait to see if Davey Martinez's "ok" when it comes to Stras was a "He's ok! (big smile)" or a "ok. (walks away without saying anything more)" 

Left Field


Dom Smith



Ozuna is the clear winner here. The fielding is suspect (even though it shouldn't be? It's weird. He's got talent) The hitting is not. Even if last year is a fluke - putting up a bad year would be a shock. Dom Smith might be a better hitter than Ozuna but the guy is a DH and shouldn't be out there. The Mets know that but don't have a choice. McCutchen is aging. Unlikely to put up a special year, incapable of good defense, but should be at least average in both. Schwarber is a gamble who might not hit and probably won't field. But then again he might hit, it's what he does best. There are worse chances to take. 


Center Field





Another hitting vs defense thing but with a caveat. I would put Robles first - this being a crucial position and all - even though he has never hit. But he didn't field last year either. That little question mark is enough to put the clearly can hit Nimmo ahead of him, even though Brandon should definitely be a corner OF. Robles should be a top fielder in CF but last year he didn't look like it. I'd expect a bounce back but his hitting has been so poor the Nats have at least looked twice at him.  Pache obviously could be the best one out of all of these guys - a legit top prospect - but we got to see it in practice. Haseley is a guy who you can stick in the position but probably is just a stop gap between guys you actually like


Right Field





Conforto has worked hard and made himself both a very good hitter and a solid, if unspectacular fielder. At any other position in any other league he'd probably be a multi-time All-Star by now. Instead he's the fourth best RF in the NL East. You could argue Bryce and Conforto are equivalent. You could. Maybe even Conforto slightly better in the field. But Bryce has the history - having two years as good as Conforto's best, having his non-injured base be equal to Conforto's second best and oh yeah, having a historically amazing year in there. Still the HoF track isn't good enough to put him over Acuna who at 22 appears to be at the same level at the plate at these two and is actually a good fielder. And HE'S not at the level of Soto who is probably the worst fielder of the bunch at "serviceable" but might just be the best hitter in baseball today. 






Realmuto can hit and can play D. He's probably the best catcher in baseball. (him or Grandal) McCann might be third best? He might also be a fluke so no one puts him at third best. But still he's a Top 10 guy going into 2021 based on the last two years. d'Arnaud has a middling reputation but last year put up that year at the plate you kind of always felt he could. But it's just one year and the guy can't stay healthy. Gomes seems to be at best average at the plate and behind the plate. He's also the oldest.  Really you can shuffle 2-4 anyway you want. This ranking is based a lot off last year. It's kind of tough to put Gomes 2nd but not impossible. McCann has some D lapses in his history.

For completeness

LF Dickerson - 4th, but not by much. 

CF Marte - 1st! He's a solid player. Look for him to be traded. 

RF - Duvall - 5th. He's not terrible but it's not close either. Again the 4th best guy here should be a multo-year All-State

C - Alfaro - 5th.  The former highly touted prospect has yet to show anything at the major league level

What does this all mean? Nothing.  For the Nats it shows that their pitching is competitive in the NL East. Their OF is solid, but their IF in general is going to keep them from being up there with the Mets and maybe the Braves.  Can they get better in the IF? There isn't really anyone on the horizon so I doubt it.  You can imagine a world maybe where Stevenson is magically good and Schwarber/Bell can fight over who starts? 

One of the things going through this is how questionable defensively the Nats might be next year. Robles is the only top fielder at his position and he had that off year last year. Kieboom could be, but he also needs to show it consistently. After that you have Turner and Gomes being ok and then a bunch of guys who are not good. Schwarber, Bell, Soto, Castro. That's a lot of ground to cover for Robles and a bunch of guys who probably can't help.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Monday Quickie - StrasDOOOOOOM

 Injuries beget injuries and Strasburg is now dealing with a leg thing. Is it probably nothing? Probably. A twinge in the calf in a leg still getting used to throwing to real major leaguers. Can the Nats afford it being anything else? Not at all. 

Spring Training is 95% "Are they injured" and 5% "How do they look".  We talk about the latter a lot more but it's pretty meaningless. It just happens to be all we have on hand because "are they injured" is usually answered quickly and definitively. But again meaningless.  Considering I heard that "looks good" talk on a couple podcasts this weekend it's time for my annual reminder. SPRING TRAINING STATS DON'T MATTER


Who was the best Nat hitter in "Spring" in 2020? 

Jake Noll : .333 / .429 / .667

Who was the 2nd best?

OK Juan Soto. But then Luis Garcia. and Adam Eaton. and Howie.  All pretty damn bad in 2020.

Who was among the worst Nats hitters?

Asdrubal, who I guess was a little off?

Best Pitcher? 

Very few IP here but I'd argue Austin Voth (11 IP 1BB 11K 0.82 ERA 0.82 WHIP) had the best showing.

Worst Pitcher? 

Both Doolittle and Hudson were well off. Hey it's random! Sometimes it's going to line up! 

Anyway remember - these don't mean anything. Sometimes there's a kernal of truth hidden in there but you can't separate from all the kernals of lies... or something.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Ranking the infield

Let's keep moving! What else are we doing with our time? 

First Base





Freeman in a perennial MVP candidate and the best fielder in the bunch. This isn't close. Hoskins is a more complete hitter (led the league in walks in 2019) and has more history on his side so he gets my number 2 spot.  Alonso is obviously the biggest slugger but has less than two full seasons in the majors. Even still if he were a super young prospect he might have been 2 but he's not. Bell's 2019 at the plate was as good as what you might expect from Hoskins or Alonso. His 2020 was worse than anything they put up. His history says he's slighty above average.  He also might be the worst fielder. Not a bad player but a clear 4 here.  

Second Base





This isn't super clear because McNeil is likely the worst in the field here. But his bat has been so obviously superior (his worst year is better than anyone else here's best) that I have to say it carries the day.  From there Segura, Albies, and Castro are all about the same type of hitter. Albies probably takes it in the field but Segura's no slouch.  Albies' youth also helps him here. Segura is probably going to pencil in as the best hitter by a nose but Albies could get significantly better, Segura won't.  Castro is a lesser Segura at the plate and not great in the field.






How much do you buy into Turner's 2020? Me I see a fast guy who puts the ball in play a lot and sometimes more balls go where they ain't. But for Trea in 2020 it wasn't a high BABIP (well a little but not crazy) as much as a sharp decline in Ks. I don't know. I'm going to go consensus here and go with the every steady Lindor who is one of the best fielders in the game and provides more pop than average, and pop has more value. Trea 2017-2019 fits in obviously at 2. Trea 2020 would be one. I'll say 1.5 for now. There's a pretty big gap here to Didi. Gregorious has become a good hitter in the middle of his career.  He's aging out of SS though. Someone else that needs 2020 to be real is Swanson. He's a very good fielder but hasn't put together a full season of above average hitting yet. These are both starters though unlike our next position

Third Base





BLEECCCCH. YUCK! What are these guys doing on these teams?! OK it's not that bad but still when you are putting guys in 4th in other places that are really decent major leaguers this is a swing. Davis gets the one spot because he has hit, can hit, and probably will hit, though likely nothing too impressive. Unfortunately he's a hack in the field. Esentially he's Josh Bell but in the NL East 3rd base situation that's first not fourth. Bohm is not good in the field either but compared to the other two prospects here at least he hit some in the majors. Riley, who also can't field, hasn't broken past below average yet in the majors but he does have a lot of pop. Kieboom has been flat out terrible in his time with the Nationals. The best you can say is he's the youngest and as a former (out of position) shortstop, he's almost certain to end up the best fielder in this bunch once he gets used to third. He seemed to be getting it last year. 

You know who's a good third baseman? The Marlins' Brian Anderson. That guy is underrated. Solid fielder, above average at the plate. Does nothing exceptional but no real weakness.  He's the best third baseman in the NL East.

(for the rest of the Marlins - Aguilar would be 4th at first, Isan Diaz dead last at 2nd (can he be 6th?), Miguel Rojas who just had everything go right at the plate in 2020 and is a decent fielder would fit into the Didi/Swanson mix. I'd probably put him 5th because history/age sees him more of a worse Swanson but 3rd would be just as fine if you love recency) 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Thursday follow-up - Marlins and the pens

 Tuesday was not quite complete and my loyal readers were clamoring CLAMORING for more.  The big questions were (1) Where would the Marlins fit in? (2) What about closers/pen? So let's answer those

(1) Where would the Marlins fit in? 

The Marlins rotation is likely this

Sandy Alcantara, Sixto Sanchez, Pablo Lopez, Elieser Hernandez, Trevor Rogers/Edward Cabrera/etc.

Sandy would be 5th out of 5.  He's not too off of Fried honestly but unlike Fried I can't see him putting together a season that might end up the best out of all #1s.  It's just not there

Sixto would be 4th. He's a legit prospect with good stuff but you got three of the best guys in the number 2 spot in baseball ahead of you.  I would put him ahead of Morton because of Morton's age and 2020 performance, even though I still like Morton as a 2. Sixto is good. 

Pablo would be 5th. Again he's not bad, 2020 was very good but he's a step behind the solid Zach Eflin and a big injury risk. 

Hernandez would be 4th.  He's might be ok I don't like the Matt Moore grab at anything but a 5. There's a big step down here from the Anderson/Walker/Lester group. 

Rogers/Cabrera/etc. would be 4th.  I like them better than the Phillies group (again assuming they build Howard up most of the year as he is actually probably good) and not as good as the Nats group, but ultimately they are all the same sort of bottom of the Top 100 prospects set. 

The Marlins rotation might end up being middle of the road but you could argue the Top 5 in all of baseball are all NL (the NL East trio and the Dodgers and Padres - though I'd put the Yankees somewhere in the mix) and the Phillies are probably 10ish. So being 7th in the NL would actually be really good. There's a lot of youth here so big steps forward taken last year could be real and there could be more to come. But variability, and the competitions keeps them the 5th best rotation in the NL East in my opinion. (You see how one Top 3 injury for the Phillies might put them 5th.  Should have signed Jake!)

(2) Closer Rankings

Edwin Diaz

Brad Hand

Will Smith

Archie Bradley

Anthony Bass / Yimi Garcia

I have a soft spot for Diaz. I believe 2019 was just a fluke and his pitching in 2018 and 2020 - which were arguably the best closing jobs done in the majors - is more indicative of his talent. Just an incredible strikeout guy, special talent really. A step behind him, and still probably Top 5ish in baseball is Hand. who has been consistently very good for half a decade. A step behind him and more just outside the Top 10 is Will Smith. He's been as good as Hand and for longer BUT he missed all of 2017 with an injury and pitched terribly last year. I like to dismiss 2020 as much as possible but Smith was too bad to not take into account. Bradley is a step behind him. A perfectly adequate closer and maybe the best in the group at keeping the ball in the park. Bass and Garcia are good arms but unproven. 

(3) Pen rankings 






The Braves pen has one vet arm to rely on in Martin and several live young arms. Pens are variable but there isn't a bad arm to point to and there's potential. The Mets have a similar set up but with no youth.  They could have the best pen IF Betances is as good as he could be, but that's a big IF and one you want to see first. The Nats pen is perfectly acceptable. Hudson is probably not that good and Harris was a surprising disappointment in 2020 but Rainey and or Finnegan might step into their roles. It's likely to have two good arms and some issues with the final few, you know, a bullpen. The Phillies re-worked their whole pen but guys like Alvarado, Watson, and Coonrod are decent arms to have, not pen builders. A lot will fall on Neris returning to 2019 form and Kintzler. It's not a bad pen, middle of the pack. Phillies fans will take that but again - looking at the competition they fall back in the East. Marlins are a bunch of arms that have good and bad years recently that you can't rely on. It's not the worst pen I've seen but in a reverse of the Braves there isn't a good arm to point to.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Tuesday Quickie - Odorizzi not in the East or the NL

 The last of the big FA (for what it's worth) dropped over the weekend with Jake Odorizzi landing with the Astros. They had a starter break his finger and be out for the season, and a top prospect look in line for Tommy John.  Forced into it they offered Jake the three year deal he wanted but it's not quite perfect, lower in salary and laden with incentives. The important thing for the Nats is Jake didn't end up in the NL East with the Phillies.  

I mentioned this before but the Phillies were in most need of Jake, not because their rotation is terrible, it's not - it's pretty good, but because everyone else's rotation in the East is better. 

#1 Starters

Jacob DeGrom

Max Scherzer

Aaron Nola

Max Fried

Jacob deGrom is the clear number one of number ones, especially with Max on the mend. 8th, 1st, 1st, and 3rd in Cy Young voting the past 4 years. But you don't want to push Max any further down given his history of being awesome (7 straight Top 5 Cy finishes before 2020s disappointing campaign). That leaves Nola third, even though he's been a very good to great number one for a few years, including two recent years with CY votes; 3rd in 2018 and 7th last year. Fried, 5th in last years Cy Young (look I told you this was a good group), rounds out the group as someone who could have the best year but probably is not the best pitcher here. Which again is like being the 6th fastest sprinter in the Olympics.

#2 Starters

Stephen Strasburg

Carlos Carrasco

Zach Wheeler

Charlie Morton

Another great bunch, but assuming Strasburg is healthy, and all indications is that he is, then he's the best of the lot. He's consistently been very good to great for a decade even if a little fragile and he's only 32 next year. Carrasco had a health issue of his own a couple years ago but otherwise has been right there a half step behind Strasburg. Wheeler had the best 2020 and has been good but at only 3 years doesn't have the long history and that puts him third. Morton is no slouch - overall not as good but recently maybe better than anyone here. However a bad 2020 and being clearly the oldest at 37 puts him at 4.

#3 Starters

Mike Soroka (Kyle Wright / Bryse Wilson)

Patrick Corbin

Marcus Stroman

Zach Eflin

This is also dependent on health but Soroka seems likely to be back if not for the start of the season, then very soon after. He's very young (23) and has been nothing but effective so far. With a chance to get even better he's my pick here.  I put Corbin over Stroman here but I could be convinced otherwise. Both are up and down pitchers for their recent careers. Corbin had the higher peak and is generally healthier so he gets my 2, but Stroman was much better last year and is two years younger so I'm not fighting anyone who wants to switch it. Eflin is a solid #3 but has to show he can be more to match up with the rest of this group.


At this point the rotations are pretty close. I think the Mets separate just because deGrom is such a proven #1. And the Nats then separate because who's going to go against Max+Stras? But neither the Braves or the Phillies are far behind. But remember this is about needing one more guy. Onward!

#4 Starters

Ian Anderson

Taijuan Walker

Jon Lester

Matt Moore

This is where the Braves make up for the "issues" of the 1/2 not being as good as the others. Anderson is a legit prospect is 23 and could blossom into a top of the rotation guy. He certainly showed that potential last year. The other guys are questions. Here Lester's health isn't enough given his age and declining stats, to get past Walker. Walker - who was healthy in the brief 2020 but barely pitched in 2018 or 2019, was not as good as his ERA but better than Lester last year and the last time he was healthy (yes 2017) he looked solid. It's another one I'd accept a switch but again Lester was bad last year and is 37. At some point this matters.  Moore is a complete wild card. He looked pretty good in Japan but wasn't good in recent major league stints. I wouldn't bet on him at all and he's clearly the worst option here.

#5 Starters

David Peterson / Joey Lucchesi / Syndergaard

Drew Smyly / et al

Joe Ross / Erick Fedde / Austin Voth

Chase Anderson / Vince Velasquez / Spencer Howard

In Peterson and Lucchesi the Mets have two perfectly good 4/5 guys to bounce into this spot depending on who looks better (personally I think it'll be Lucchesi). Beyond that they have the potential of a returning Syndergaard but unlike everyone else injured mentioned here he's not close. He should be back this year but when is a question so he hangs over the spot but can't add much too it. The Mets are taking this because of the other two who are perfectly ok! Smyly is probably not going to be any better than a 5 but the Braves have yet to exhaust their seemingly endless supply of young arms with Kyle Muller, Tucker Davidson, and Jasseel De La Cruz all potentially seeing time this year. They aren't special, ranking like Rutledge and Cavalli, but quantity and readiness matters. We all know the Nats triple headed monster. This group of aging prospects has been a mixed bag and are just as likely to flame out as to be good. Still that's better than the Phillies. If they were going to give a bunch of time to Howard that'd be different but they don't want to risk his arm on a full season so expect a slow roll out for Howard meaning more time for Vince - who has one non-bad year since 2016 and Chase who has three straight bad years looking at the stats. 

You can see in these two spots how the Phillies are dragged down. The Mets are clearly the best. The Braves have the potential, the Nats have the likely dependable innings through the Top 4. The Phillies? They have a three that can hang with a couple of the best Top 3s in baseball and then prayers. Odorizzi would have given them a 4 (either him or Eflin) who was a clear #2 and a mix then at 5 with Moore plus these losers that might have nicked past the Nats. They still would have the "worst" rotation in the East, but as I said in an earlier blog post it would have been likely Top 7/8 in baseball. Worst by comparison - very good in general. Now it's like 10-15 which isn't bad but unless the bats become world beaters it's not going to be enough. 

And anything that keeps a direct competitor down is good for the Nats

Thursday, March 04, 2021

JBJ signed - not a Phillie or a Met

Just a minor note of interest as both the Phillies or the Mets could have used the upgrade to Jackie Bradley Jr, but instead it looks like he's going to sign with the Brewers.  He's not much of a hitter anymore but still a solid fielder and the combo would have been an improvement for either team. Not enough to make it worth the cash outlay though given they probably could use more help elsewhere (Phillies - rotation, Mets another pen arm).   They aren't likely to do either of those but that's still on the table and more likely than this ever was. had 4 questions for the Nats this year in their ongoing series. They were (and I'll answer them best I can) 

1) Is Stephen Strasburg healthy?

Not sure but all indiciations are yes so why not believe it until you are shown otherwise? 

2) Can they extend Soto?

 CAN they? Yes. WILL they? Not this year.  Ask again later.

3) Who fills in after the stars?

Someone is going to step up. Schwarber. Bell. A rejuvinated Zimm. A breakthrough Robles. A surprise Castro. There is too much decent talent to go 0 for 5 after Soto and Turner (Gomes is what he is - he's not going to carry anything in the best of circumstances).  Will it be more than one for an entire year? I doubt it. But Soto, Turner, Whoever is this year's 2019 Howie, and the rest will be good enough most of the time.

4) What happens if they fall short this year?  

 Ooooh.  Depends on what they see of their precious few pitching prospects. I think if they like what they see of Cavalli and Rutledge (and hopefully someone else) they let Scherzer walk, sign Turner (shockingly keeping a hitter I know), and keep doing their fill-in and compete thing while they try to hold onto Soto. If they DON'T like what they see, I think they sell for parts, to try to build around Soto with prospects and keep him here. The big questions is if they keep Turner or not and I think that depends on what the market will bear for him. A good haul might send him packing but it's a rarity these days. Also Nats don't sign batters long term using money on pitching. It's a tough call but I see him gone in this scenario. 

(of course what will happen is one guy will look great, the other will be mediocre, they'll have one surprise step up and like Garcia will be decent enough in AAA and really we don't get the nice "Do A or B" easy choice you like to have)

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Spring Training Memories

 There's not much to talk about in Spring even though we REALLY want to talk about baseball things.  Maybe this year it's more of a just really not REALLY but still we have baseball on the brain. So how about some Spring Training Nats memories to bide the time

2005 : Happy Boz. What I remember about the first Spring Training is the Nats for some reason deciding Endy Chavez, and no one else, had to work on his patience.  Now it was true Endy didn't walk but that wasn't his game. He was a defense first guy who hoped to slap .290 to make it worthwhile playing him. This plan worked - but also broke him. He walked but didn't hit and they ended up dealing him and he hung around for much longer than anyone could have imagined in that 4th OF role.  

I bring this up because any time I get a chance to link to the greatest (ultimately meaningless) playoff catch of all time, I do it.

2006 : Battle of the Wills.  Soriano comes in and refuses to play OF.  The Nats demand he moves to the OF because he stinks at 2B. He blinks first. He plays OF the rest of the year. There was kind of a residual excitement to the incredibly weird 2005 season* for what would be the last time in a few years

2007 : Quantity over Quality. The Nats invited 36 pictures to Spring Training and not one of the starters had been healthy and on a major league roster the previous year. It got the Nats the 13th best SP group in the NL but hey in 2006 they were 15th and 2008 14th so success!

2008 : Bowden rides the Segway

2009 : Bowden rides the rail out of town as he and Jose Rijo do some shady things in latin america. At this point the team feels like a crazy embarrasment - because they were!

2010 : The Nats fans raise 10K to send Mark Zuckerman to go to Spring Training. That still amazes me. However I did get this blog post title from it : Zuckerman's Famous Gig, so it's all worth it. This was also Stras' first Spring and you know, hope again.

2011 : Bryce's Spring. Nothing much happened but Boz might have been peak Boz in a rhapsodic waxing on a Spring Training "brawl"

2012 : The Nats head into their... forever season not knowing who the CF would be and if Bryce might be it. Some people worried about Davey being too old. First time ever fans came into a spring thinking maybe there would be a playoff challenge at the end of it

2013 : World Series or Bust, can only lead in two directions. The young and talented Nats who surprised everyone in 2012 were favorites to win it all and there was a ton of excitement around the team. Full seasons of Stras and Bryce? Rendon coming? What gullible dopes we were. The minor news was Soriano being brought in kicking Storen down to set-up even though he really didn't screw up. Luckily he'd handle it like a pro.

2014 : Matty Williams' first year as the Nats jettison Davey because... well because they always planned to. Yeah not a great plan it turns out.

2015 : Scherzer is brought in and Bryce asks where's his ring. Still looking for it.

2016 : Dusty is brought in to fix the Matt Williams debacle while the Nats deal with the fact they forced themselves into a "Papelbon or Storen" corner.  They'd choose Pap.  He'd stink too. It was the first season without some major players as ZNN and Desmond both were gone.

2017 : I got nothing. At this point the Nats felt in a cycle of be great and blow it and be good but not good enough to make playoffs. Spring was about getting to the season so we could find out which one it was.

2018 : Davey gets hired and brings a camel into Spring Training to get over the hump.  A nation groans. Meanwhile Janes yells at fans because we don't buy that Zimm is really healthy but just likes to practice unseen on backfields this one year. Here's Calcaterra buying into it a month in.  Fool!  They'd admit a year later he was hurt and we were right and they were wrong. WE ARE ALWAYS RIGHT.

2019 :  All about Bryce for the last time as Bryce eventually signs with Phillies. Once Smitten, Bryce Bye?  THAT'S GOLD Jerry. Davey smashes cabbages not past his dumb college orientation bonding ideas. (luckily he'll wise up and stop that and let the clubhouse form it's own bond)

*For those too young to remember - Hey there might be a 15 year old reading this! - Nats should be awful, lead the NL East by like 5 games on July 4th weekend. But they collapsed and were 5 games out a month later. They remained in the playoff hunt until Mid September and finished a very surprising .500

Monday, March 01, 2021

Monday Quickie - Spring has Sprang

 I'm pretty sure that's the way the saying goes. 

The Nats had their first ST game. That it ended in a tie should only highlight the fact that these things don't matter. Once we get some stats for people to read too much into I'll do my annual "You know who led the Nats in ST homers last year? Wilmer Difo"* tweet. For now if you like ST baseball (which I don't really if I'm not there) sit back and enjoy some baseball stuff. Otherwise just know the season is progressing like it should and keep an ear to the ground about injuries. 

In other news - nothing has happened. We're sitting here waiting on Jake Odorizzi, JBJ JR, and maybe Shane Greene? There are a couple other guys out there that might help but these are the three that I would think WOULD help so I'm waiting to see if they end up in the NL East. But you've heard this for a couple weeks now. They should really sign! Baseball is coming!

OK let's wait on Strasburg and Max.  We should hopefully see Stras sometime this week, though that's not a given - vets start kind of when they want to.  Max appears to be a little further off, maybe this upcoming weekend if we are lucky. But health it the most important thing so everyone take your time.

*not true.  Well almost certainly not true. I'm not looking at that right now. It's a made up statement