Last week, the Nationals released the rosters for the Fall Instructional League (a.k.a. Instrux), which were broken down by pitchers and position players. Like much of the minors offseason, inferences are often drawn because the information is sparse and/or one-sided. As noted the past two years, the invites can often be categorized as follows:
2. Changing roles or position
3. Working on a specific skill/pitch
No. 1 is, of course, relative. Nine of the 28 position players invited, for example, are 21 or younger; twelve are 23 or older. No. 2 is always interesting, especially when the player has risen to the full-season minors. Justin Miller is indeed being tried at catcher per Byron Kerr’s article on Saturday while lumbering big man Kevin Keyes is going to try to find a home at first base.
No. 3 of course is arguably the most important and obviously the most nebulous. Here, I can’t blame the club for holding its cards close to the vest, on the off chance that the weakness isn’t obvious. My guess is that this is especially true of the short-season guys where not only are sample sizes smaller, the odds of a scout having seen it are lower for the same reason. As noted two years ago, scouts aren’t keen on Instrux because the tinkering and experimenting can obscure the very things they may be looking for — a pitcher not throwing a given pitch in favor of working on another, for example.
In years past, getting an invite was a sign that the player was moving on up, but it’s not the guarantee it used to be. In 2010, all but one of the position-player invites moved up in 2011. Seven of the 2011 invitees did not. Perhaps that’s an anomaly, but I tend to think that with fewer opportunities at the top of the ladder as well as the struggles of Potomac and Harrisburg, we could see the same thing next spring. It’s become clear that the Rizzo front office has no qualms about using free agents to plug holes, even at the AA level.
Unfortunately, with no box scores released, the stories are few and far between from the FIL. There are 14 games between Friday, September 21 and Wednesday, October 10, according to this schedule I found online. We hope to have some dispatches towards the end from one of our commenters (TBRfan).
As always, I’ll do the best I can to keep the site populated until the AFL starts up. A review of the 2012 Watchlist is probably next up, and affiliation swaps are already starting to trickle out — the only drama is whether or not the Nationals will renew its PDC with Hagerstown, which is taking the unusual step of opening up Municipal Stadium to the public to demonstrate why renovation might not be an option in its quest to build a new stadium downtown.