Nats and Marlins Tie, 2-2

The Nats got single runs in the 4th and 6th to build a 2-0 lead but gave them back in the 8th and couldn’t score in their final two trips to the plate for a 2-2 kiss-your-sister tie.

Gio Gonzalez tossed two scoreless innings in his spring debut, allowing a hit and a walk while fanning two. Matt Grace blew the save with two runs (one earned) let in on three hits in the 8th.

The Watchlist players all came off the bench or out of the bullpen:
   ●   Osvaldo Abreu subbed for Trea Turner at SS and lined out to end the 7th.
   ●   Jose Marmolejos replaced Bryce Harper in RF and singled once in two trips to the plate.
   ●   Kelvin Gutierrez followed Anthony Rendon at 3B but went 0-for-2.
   ●   Rafael Bautista took over CF from Michael Taylor but was also 0-for-2.
   ●   Wander Suero pitched around a hit and a walk in the 9th but did not allow the go-ahead run to score in his single inning pitched.

Once again, the two teams switch venues with Tanner Roark, who had been reported to pitch yesterday, expect to make his second start. The game can be heard (again) on MLB Audio with Marlins’ feed. (Get used to it: the next radio broadcast isn’t until Sunday).

Nats Drop Another One-Run Game, 2-1

Nine runners left on, two thrown out on the basepaths

It’s early, but the lack of the clutch hit has dogged the Nats this Spring Training, as they lost for the third time by one run, 2-1 to Braves.

Erick Fedde got the start and let in one run on four hits over two innings. He walked one and struck out one and was charged with the loss, but reportedly hit 93-96 on the House of Mouse stadium guns, though he did need 38 pitches to retire six batters.

Moises Sierra homered in the 9th to break up the shutout bid, made possible in part by Stevenson getting thrown out at 3B attempting to go first-to-third against Ender Inciarte in CF and Matt Reynolds gunned down at home plate attempting to score on a flyout to RF Nick Markakis. We could not confirm reports of Bobby Henley’s other decisions yesterday.

Victor Robles (CF), Jose Marmolejos (1B), Pedro Severino (C), Andrew Stevenson (LF), and Rafael Bautista (RF) were among the starters, keeping with the custom of letting the regulars sit on road trips early in spring training.

Robles and Marmolejos both went 2-for-3, with the #1 prospect connecting for a double and stealing a base (and *sigh* oversliding third base attempting to steal it with two out). Severino went 1-for-3 while Stevenson and Bautista were both 0-for-2 with a walk, with Bautista also snagging a bag.

Here’s a rundown of how the rest of the Watchlist players did yesterday:
   ●   Daniel Johnson took over for Bautista in RF and singled in his only AB
   ●   Taylor Gushue subbed for Severino at catcher and went 0-for-1
   ●   Blake Perkins drew a walk in his lone PA while replacing Robles in CF
   ●   Kelvin Gutierrez went 0-for-2 with a strikeout out in place of Chris Dominguez at 3B

The Nats return to West Palm Beach today to host the Marlins. Gio Gonzalez is expected to make his 2018 spring debut with Tanner Roark to follow from the ‘pen on three days’ rest. The game can be heard on MLB Audio (Miami feed).

Nats Triple Up Braves, 9-3

Highlighted by a five-run 6th, the Nats finally got in the win column with a 9-3 win over the Braves.

Max Scherzer dispatched Atlanta on 23 pitches over two innings with a 1st-inning hiccup over the LF fence by Dansby Swanson for the lone hit and run allowed. The Nats’ ace walked none and struck out three in his spring debut. He was credited with the win.

Washington took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 2nd on a two-run single by Chris Dominguez that plated both Matts (Adams and Wieters). Two innings later, the switch-hitting catcher launched a two-run shot to put the Nats ahead, 4-1.

After giving up an unearned run in the top of the 5th – courtesy of a Jimmy Cordero walk and a Spencer Kieboom error – the second wave put the game away. Reid Brignac and Moises Sierra each drew a one-out walk to set up Kieboom’s two-run single. Osvaldo Abreu notched a one-run safety while Andrew Stevenson matched Kieboom for another two-run single that emptied the bases.

Like Scherzer, Sammy Solis was also in midseason form as he allowed the final Atlanta run on a solo HR in the 8th. NRI David Goforth wobbled through the 9th, loading the bases with one out on a single and two walks with one before getting a shallow fly to CF and a popup to third to end it.

As per usual, here’s how the Watchlist players did:
   ●   Osvaldo Abreu, 1-2, R, RBI, K; played 2B
   ●   Andrew Stevenson, 2-3, 2RBI; played LF
   ●   Victor Robles, 0-3; played CF
   ●   Jose Marmolejos, 0-2; played 1B
   ●   Kelvin Gutierrez, 0-2, R; PH-DH
   ●   Austin Voth, 1IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 1K
   ●   Austin Adams, 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 2K

Quick note on Voth: He was clocked as high as 93 on the MASN broadcast radar gun, which, if accurate, is a good sign as we’d heard reports of him barely breaking 86-88 m.p.h. towards the end of last seasons.

The two teams rematch tomorrow in Lake Buena Vista with Erick Fedde scheduled to make his first appearance since last August. The game can be heard on MLB Audio with the Atlanta feed.

Nats Lose Another ST Game, 3-2

Twice the Nats took one-run leads, twice the Marlins answered to tie, but Washington had no answer for Miami’s final salvo in the 7th for another 3-2 loss in Spring Training.

As is common with road games in the spring, five of “our guys” filled the starting lineup and accounted for two (2) of the five (5) Nats hits, with youknowwho connecting for a first-inning single that led to the first Washington run, aided by a Marlins error, and Taylor Gushue leading off the 2nd with a single.

The Nats left five on base and just one runner in the final two frames – a two-out walk by Matt Reynolds, his second and the final of three drawn.

Jefry Rodriguez (1IP, 2H, R, ER 0BB, K) was charged with the blown save for coughing up the second run in the 6th while Bryan Harper was charged with the loss as he let in the game-winner on an HBP-2B-1B sequence before getting an out between third and home on a grounder to 3B and rolling a 6-4-3 DP.

Here’s a rundown of how the watchlist players did:
   ●   Victor Robles batted second and played CF, going 1-for-3
   ●   Kelvin Gutierrez was the cleanup hitter, but didn’t get dirty with a 0-for-3 game and a whiff
   ●   Jose Marmolejos was the #5 batter and went hitless in 3 AB’s
   ●   Gushue was the DH and the #6 hitter and went 1-for-4 with two K’s
   ●   Andrew Stevenson batted 7th and was 7 on the scorecard but went 0-for-2
   ●   Rafael Bautista subbed for Stevenson in the lineup and Robles in the field but was also 0-for-2
   ●   Osvaldo Abreu followed Adrian Sanchez at 2B but did not bat

Tomorrow, the Nats return home to host the Barves in a 1 p.m. game that will be televised by MASN. And will be live, too. Max Scherzer gets the start while Robles, Stevenson, and Abreu are expected to come off the bench.

Watchlist Reports Are Finished

Just a quick note to let folks know the 2018 Watchlist Reports are now complete. Most of the edits were on the pitchers who I punted on in hopes of them getting written up by either Baseball America or MLB Pipeline. That’s the proverbial “last shoe” from the horrid 2017-18 offseason.

Nats Drop Spring Opener on a Pair of HRs

11 whiffs, two pickoffs offset six walks drawn

The Astros scored all three runs via the home run in a 3-2 win over the Nationals in the 2018 Grapefruit League opener.

Tommy Milone got the start and worked around a 1st-inning single with a double play and struck out two in the 2nd to face the minimum of six. Jaron Long was the first man out of the ‘pen and gave up a two-run HR to Max Stassi after hitting the leadoff batter. He then retired the next six in a row.

The Houston pitchers held the Nationals to a pair of leadoff walks – Howie Kendrick in the 2nd, Brian Goodwin in the 4th – through four innings before they knotted things up in the 5th.

Andrew Stevenson doubled with out and scored on a Chris Dominguez single. After Dominguez stole 2nd, Rafael Bautista whiffed and Victor Robles walked. Jose “Orange” Marmolejos squeezed in Dominguez with a two-out single for the 2-2 score.

Houston took the lead back right back as Houston’s J.D. Davis greeted Brady Dragmire with a solo HR to left field. The Astros got their fourth and final hit off Dragmire with one out in the 6th.

Wander Suero and Tim Collins each put up a goose egg, with Suero striking out the side in the 7th and Collins fanning one in the 8th.

Washington drew a pair of walks in the 6th (Reid Brignac, Kelvin Gutierrez) but did not get a runner into scoring position as Houston erased ’em both with a caught stealing and pickoff.

Victor Robles doubled to lead off the 8th for the Nats’ fourth and final hit and was stranded at third. Washington went in order in the 9th.

Here’s a rundown of how the Watchlist players did:
   ●  Robles 1-1, 2B, following Goodwin in CF
   ●  Marmolejos 1-2, K, replacing Matt Adams at 1B
   ●  Taylor Gushue 0-2, K as the starting DH
   ●  Pedro Severino 0-2, K as the starting C
   ●  Gutierrez 0-1, BB, replacing Dominguez at 3B
   ●  Rafael Bautista 0-3, 2K as the starting RF

The Nationals head to Jupiter to take on the Marlins minor-leaguers (and the ones they’ll send to Miami *rimshot!*) with Tanner Roark expected to make the start. The game can be heard locally on 1580 AM and online via MLB Audio.

MLB Pipeline Releases its 2018 Top 30 for Washington

All 30 players are homegrown

How’s my driving? I think we’re parked, man.

While we await the Spring Training games to begin, and sift through the stories of the position players who reported early along with pitchers and catchers (and Shawn Kelley), MLB released its new Top 30 list for the Nationals yesterday.

The big deal, according to MLB.com, is that the list is 100% homegrown. Ordinarily, I’d remark about Detective Holmes’s constipation, but in an age where an All-Star OF is DFA’d despite a reasonable salary, this may actually be noteworthy.

MLB’s Top 6 is identical to BA’s – then they start to shuffle: Antuna ahead of Crowe; Johnson, Gutierrez, and Stevenson ahead of Read with Perkins the #11 choice for both.

But then things get weird. Like they were ingesting something.

Luis Reyes, who was not ranked at all by BA this year or MLB last year, was somehow ranked #14. Put down the coffee or tea or soda before you read:

Reyes’ stuff arguably is the best among right-handed pitchers in Washington’s system. Combining athleticism with a fast arm, Reyes pitches with a 92-94 mph sinking fastball that nets him both whiffs and ground balls. Club officials rave about his high-spin-rate curveball, a potential plus pitch, and Reyes impressed them with his changeup development in 2017.

Uh, no. Reyes didn’t have the best stuff on his team, never mind the rest of the righthanders in the system. I saw Reyes pitch a lot last summer and aside from one strong outing against the second-worst offense in the league, he was decidedly mediocre.

Moving on, there are two other outliers:

● Wander Suero at #24 – That’s a little, um, high for a 26-y.o. finally cracking AAA.
● Cole Freeman at #27 – Yes, I put him on my Watchlist, but he still zero professional ABs (affiliated, at least).

For those wondering, there is still no word on what the injury was that kept Freeman from playing after the CWS.

Non-surprises, Drew Ward and Anderson Franco nearly falling off the list (nos. 28, 30) while Pedro Severino (20) and Rafael Bautista (21) remain despite little evidence to suggest they’ve NOT hit their ceilings.

Just two days left before the games begin (and four until those other games end).

The BA Prospect Handbook, Part Two

Because I know you’d just scroll down to this anyway:

16. Jackson Tetrault 21. Nick Raquet 26. Austin Voth (10)
17. Brigham Hill 22. Kyle Johnston 27. Joan Baez (29)
18. Jose Marmolejos (26) 23. Jose Sanchez (24) 28. Anderson Franco (14)
19. Drew Ward (12) 24. Jefry Rodriguez 29. Jakson Reetz (18)
20. Taylor Gushue 25. Telmito Agustin (28) 30. Osvaldo Abreu (21)
   THOSE WHO INSIST ON
   THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX…
   …ARE USUALLY BEHIND
   IN THE COUNT.
31. Gabe Klobosits

It was noted here last year and in the comments this year, but IFAs still dominate the list. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is the Nationals predominant source of teenage talent – just 11 signed, 45 drafted in the past five years; and five of those have been traded already.

As mentioned in the previous post, two of the nine newcomers weren’t pitchers: Daniel Johnson and Taylor Gushue. A tenth player that wasn’t on last year’s list is Jefry Rodriguez, who was on the list in 2016 and returns despite an 80-game suspension.

The rest are all pitchers taken in the 2017 Draft: Romero, Crowe, Tetrault, Brigham Hill, Raquet, Johnston, and Klobosits. All are 21 or older so the pressure will be on for them to move quickly up the ladder. And to be honest, there’s no one really blocking them.

Before we list the projected 2021 Nationals Lineup, let’s have a good laugh at the 2018 projected lineup from the 2015 handbook:
C – Wilson Ramos
1B – Ryan Zimmerman
2B – Tony Renda
SS – Ian Desmond
3B – Anthony Rendon
LF – Steven Souza
CF – Michael Taylor
RF – Bryce Harper
#1SP – Stephen Strasburg
#2SP – Jordan Zimmermann
#3SP – Lucas Giolito
#4SP – Doug Fister
#5SP – Gio Gonzalez
CL – Reynaldo Lopez

Three out of 14, five if you’re being generous about Strasburg and Gonzalez. Just your usual reminder about BA not taking into account free agency (Desmond), injuries (Ramos), trades (Giolito, Lopez, Souza), or a sudden decline in skills (Zimmermann, Fister).

Keep that in mind for this projection:
C – Raudy Read
1B – Daniel Murphy
2B – Wilmer Difo
SS – Trea Turner
3B – Anthony Rendon
LF – Adam Eaton
CF – Victor Robles
RF – Bryce Harper
#1SP – Stephen Strasburg
#2SP – Max Scherzer
#3SP – Joe Ross
#4SP – Erick Fedde
#5SP – Wil Crowe
CL – Seth Romero

We now return you to your baseball-less Saturday…

The BA Prospect Handbook, Part One

If you’re thinking this is late, you’re right. Usually the book arrives in January, sometimes in early February.

For better or worse, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook is the Bible for prospect followers insofar as everyone refers to it. I’d say more but—to steal from Jeff Foxworthy—who needs grief from folks who flip you the bird when you obey their “honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker?

The brethren from Durham have deemed the Nationals as the 15th-best organization of the 30, despite midseason trades that cost them last year’s nos. 15, 17, and 27 prospects (see below) and a breakout southpaw (McKenzie Mills). That’s how much they valued the 2017 Draft, which is represented by seven pitchers in the Top 31.

New to the book this year are positional rankings for prospects across of all of baseball, of which Victor Robles was ranked the #2 centerfielder, Juan Soto, the #7 corner outfielder, and Carter Kieboom, the #15 shortstop.

Despite the Nats yo-yoing him like an Italian rapper between starting and relieving, Erick Fedde was still rated the 29th-best righthanded pitcher. (For those wondering, they ranked 10 for C, 1B, 2B, 3B, and COFs, 15 for LHP, 20 for SS and CF, and 40 for RHP.)

Without further ado, let’s review how last year’s Top 30 fared:

Graduated (4) – Wilmer Difo*, Koda Glover, A.J. Cole, Brian Goodwin,
Traded (3) – Jesus Luzardo, Sheldon Neuse, and Tyler Watson
Dropped out (3) – Edwin Lora, Matt Skole, Nick Banks
* had already surpassed service-time limits in 2016

That’s roughly a third of list, which is fairly normal. Seven of the nine newcomers are the aforementioned pitchers from the 2017 Draft. One you’ll see today, the other you’ll see tomorrow. They should be pretty obvious.

Unfortunately, none of them are teenagers, thus the Nats’ Top 31 according to BA still skews older: four players are or will be 25 before the season starts, two more will turn 25 during the season, and two more will turn 25 by the end of 2018. Some things never change.

So, as we’ve done in years past – a look at the Top 15 today, nos. 16-31 tomorrow. Last year’s ranking, if applicable, in parentheses:

1. Victor Robles (1) 6. Luis Garcia (7) 11. Blake Perkins (20)
2. Juan Soto (3) 7. Wil Crowe 12. Kelvin Gutierrez (16)
3. Erick Fedde (2) 8. Daniel Johnson 13. Andrew Stevenson (5)
4. Carter Kieboom (8) 9. Raudy Read (22) 14. Pedro Severino (9)
5. Seth Romero 10. Yasel Antuna (25) 15. Rafael Bautista (11)

2018 Spring Training Thoughts

Pitchers and catchers report. They’re four great words, no doubt, but as you get older they’re surpassed by things like “they made an offer” or “kids start school today” or “the test was negative.”

So whether you’re ecstatic (like Boomer) or indifferent (like Lulu), Spring Training starts today for the Washington Nationals.

Yesterday, the Half Street politburo finally released the names of the guys you’ll forget in four weeks 17 non-roster invitees with minor-league deals, and four current minor-leaguers—Jimmy Cordero, Taylor Gushue, Spencer Kieboom, and Osvaldo Abreu. It’s rather telling that just one (1) of these 21 players is homegrown and not a pitcher or a catcher.

This is not anything new, mind you. For the past five spring trainings, it’s been pretty obvious that few, if any, of “our guys” have more than an infinitesimal chance of making the Opening Day roster (which is good; teams that do have that situation are usually on track to lose 90-100 games).

No, I’m not forgetting Victor Robles, but he’s already on the 40-man roster and it seems unlikely he’ll best Bryce Harper by breaking camp with the Big Club. I do hold out some hope that they’ll repeat his treatment and call him up after 19 days in the minors, thus preserving an option.

Now the realization should set in that we’re still 11 days away the actual games, of which I’ll cover gratuitously for about 2-3 weeks to get back into the habit of writing every day, then step aside and wait for the minors’ regular season to begin (which will be complicated this year by my having my annual business trip/conference around Opening Day; don’t feel too bad, it’s New Orleans this year).

Otherwise, Happy Valentine’s Day!