2013 Spring Training Thoughts

Like a year ago, I’m anticipating a spring training that’s going to have very little drama in terms of the minor leaguers.

As for (melo)drama overall? Well, the heightened expectations coming off a 98-win season, Davey Johnson’s “World Series or Bust” proclamation, the revelation of Danny Espinosa playing with a torn rotator cuff, and of course, the whole cloud of suspicion hanging over Gio Gonzalez

Yeah, there might be a few instances in which the game played that day will be an afterthought.

So what does this mean for us?

Unlike last year, there’s no Bryce Harper madness. Oh, I’m sure if Anthony Rendon has a hot start there will be a drumbeat for him, perhaps even the suggestion of him replacing Espinosa as the incumbent second baseman, but I think the best that his fans can hope for is a ticket to Syracuse instead of Harrisburg. That is possible, of course, especially if Carlos Rivero is traded away (likely) or makes the 25-man roster as a reserve (less likely) because he is out of options.

There will be some interest, of course, in how and where Christian Garcia will pitch this year. Inside the Natmosphere, there’s been blather talk of him becoming a starter; outside of it, most folks seem to be aware that the track record for multiple-TJers is much more favorable towards relievers. In either case, someone might want to have a chat with him:

I have no idea. Wherever they want to put me to play I am okay with it. Whatever I can help the team, any spot they need help with I would love to help in any way I can. So if it is starting, relieving, whatever it is.

Unfortunately for Garcia, he has options left (three) which could lead to something perverse like being him sent down in favor of Henry “What’s That White Thing In Front of the Catcher?” Rodriguez. Likewise for Erik Davis (three), Cole Kimball (two) and as we discovered last November, Ryan Perry still has one option left. Obviously, much of the excitement for 2013 stems from how strong and deep the Nationals pitching staff looks like on paper, never mind the whole Stephen whatshisname thing.

Corey Brown and Eury Perez are going to have a tough time beating out Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore for an OF spot, unless Chad Tracy gets hurt or shows sign of decline. Given his support from Johnson, his status as a Rizzo draftee, and his contract, it’s probably safe to bet Tracy won’t get cut in March. Still, with his multiple sports hernias, Brown and Perez do have youth and health on their side.

The signing of Chris Snyder as an insurance policy for Wilson Ramos does not bode well for Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano. While Snyder reportedly has an “out” clause if he doesn’t make the 25-man roster, he’s also an Article XX-B free agent — essentially, he has enough MLB service time to qualify for a $100,000 roster bonus if he begins the season with Syracuse and can still opt out June 1st.

Translation: If Ramos needs more time, the Nats are not going to start 2013 with a rookie as the backup.

Finally, whither Chris Marrero? There’s been chatter that he’ll be traded in Spring Training. With Tyler Moore ahead of him, and Marrero’s defensive limitations, it’s certainly possible that an American League club might be interested. There are contingencies at AAA if Marrero leaves (Mike Costanzo). But what kind of return he’d net for the Nats seems negligible at this point. Seems more likely that Marrero will start in Syracuse in the hopes of proving his health and productivity.

As always, my spring training focus is to post from the minors point of view for as long as it seems reasonable. Your mileage may vary 😉

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of NationalsProspects.com. Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

14 thoughts on “2013 Spring Training Thoughts”

  1. I would like to think that the Nats could get a return for Rivero, but I can’t imagine it would be much of anything. Houston-like teams would be more than happy to pick him off of waivers (a la Justin Maxwell), but he would have to be on fire during Spring Training for teams to compete for his services.

    It’s hard to imagine that the Nats aren’t done signing people during the offseason, although each subsequent signing has surprised me when I’ve concluded that. I suppose it depends in part whether another team releases one of the remaining Arizona guys Rizzo drafted.

    I am glad Marrero got his chance for some playing time with the Nats a couple of years back. You’d hate to seee a first rounder simply fail to at least get a cup of coffee. Still, no matter how his career with the organization concludes, I expect we won’t see him in a Nationals uniform again after Spring Training.

    No matter how exciting the Major League club is, though, your coverage of the minor will be required reading every day. Thank you for that.


  2. As I’ve stated before, I hope Rivero gets a fair chance in ST. IMHO he has a better utility profile than Lombo.

    Rivero is ready for the Bigs, whether it’s in a Nats’ uni or some other team’s.

    1. There’s a very plausible scenario in which Rivero takes Lombardozzi’s UTIL IF role: Espinosa’s injury transpires much like Adam LaRoche’s 2011. Espinosa plays through the pain as it becomes increasingly obvious that he needs surgery. Lombardozzi becomes the starting 2B and Rivero inherits the the utility position, primarily backing up Zimmerman and Desmond.

      Based on the Nationals’ track record of forcing allowing players to play through injuries, I’m half expecting Espinosa to miss the entire season.

  3. I agree with Will that this ‘play through and see what happens’ with Espinosa has a very small chance of ending well.

    The betting pool for this hasn’t even been set set up yet, but already I’m reading today that Mark Prior has said ‘he’s in the best shape of his life’.
    You think he could have waited for spring training to begin. I guess we’ll have to set up the pool for the 2nd person to do it. Not as much fun.

  4. I totally agree about Espinosa. I see him going to the DL with Lombardozzi taking over 2B. Rivero would then get at least a chance in the show. I guess we’ll see. I just hope they don’t screw around with it until May like ALR.

  5. Very nice to find out some of the options left for various players. Is there a site where this is shown for all our players? I am guessing that Brown might be out of options but Perez still has two. I don’t post here often but read every new article. Thanks for what you do.

  6. On the Espinosa injury. I am of the belief that he will not make it through the season. I am just amazed he put off the surgery. I like the earlier post with Rivero taking over the utility spot and Espinosa on the dl.

    1. It simply does not make any logical sense to “play through it”. The injury happened during the season, and yet he opted not to have surgery during an opportune 6 month break. He could have gone under the knife October 13, and had 4.5 months before he even needed to resume baseball activities.

      Rather, he’s going to strengthen the muscles around the torn rotator cuff instead of addressing the real problem. I’m no surgical expert, but it seems like an awfully risky plan, especially given the fortuitous timing (it’s not like Espinosa this cropped up in mid-April).

      1. Agreed that it makes no sense. I often wonder who really calls the shots when it comes to making a treatment decision. The club (who owns the contract) or the player (who owns the body). Hard to picture a situation where Espinosa was diagnosed with this and the club recommended he postpone the surgery. So in light of this scenario, I’m guessing he must have gone against club wishes / recommendations and decided to go this route. Seems strange….

        1. FWIW, I asked Will Carroll via Twitter if he could recall an instance of a player avoiding shoulder surgery. He cited Ryan Zimmerman, which is a bit specious because Zimmerman ultimately did have surgery, albeit after the season. However, one may infer that if the club “allowed” (quotes because I am also unclear who truly has the last word) Zimmerman to play through it, then Espinosa might be, too.

  7. The earlier Espinosa has the surgery the better chance and increased likelihood he is ready for ST 2014. I expect they will be looking closely at him during ST and the WBC. If he looks like the Espinosa of last Fall I can’t see how they will keep him on the roster given he has both options and a serious injury.

    If Rivero can prove he can play the outfield its pretty much fait accompli. He is the superior athlete to Lombo and is younger and recently has begun to show some decent power both last year in Syracuse and in winter ball.

    I therefore find it highly unlikely that Rivero will be traded. The fact that he wasn’t moved shows that that Rizzo et al knew about Espinosa’s injury and plan on keeping him for insurance.

  8. Meanwhile, Anthony Rendon gets to put in a solid year in minor league ball and prove he can finish a season reasonably injury free.

    However, if Rendon shows well in the spring I wouldn’t be surprised to see Johnson reach down and yank him up if they run into some serious catastrophic injury beyond Espinosa.

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