The “A” Teams Announce Stadium Upgrades

With Opening Day still another week away, the Nationals full-season affiliates in Hagerstown and Potomac have announced stadium upgrades and changes to the fan experience.

In western Maryland, the Suns have announced you can now buy tickets via text and/or mobile devices while going paperless with scannable tickets. New fencing has been installed behind the picnic area while the food stand has been renovated and the menu expanded. View full press release.

[Disclosure: I am a season-ticket holder] In Woodbridge, the P-Nats have extended the netting behind home plate (presumably replacing the existing netting, but also a reminder that the facility is owned and maintained by Prince William County) which will enhance fan safety and irritate people who believe they can react faster than a professional athlete. New food items have also been added, along with a “Party Zone” on Thursday to Sunday. View full press release.

So Long, Boys

As longtime readers know, forlorn Spike with his turkey legs behind him means bad news.

Yesterday, Baseball America’s latest transactions post brought the news that the following minor-leaguers have been released:
• LHP Sean Adler (GCL)
• RHP Daniel Butler (Auburn)
• OF D.K. Carey (Potomac)
• 3B Andres Martinez (Auburn)
• 2B Joshual Ramirez (Auburn)
• C/1B Chance Shepard (Auburn)
• LHP Hector Silvestre (Potomac)
• OF Edwin Ventura (GCL)
• C Luis Vilorio (Auburn)

These are just from March 16-22, but there are no other names on the MiLB.com transaction pages (not these were there; they weren’t).

I’d say Chance Shepard was a surprise, but as feared (predicted), he became this year’s Connor Simonetti – but about three months sooner. The rest are really not, as they either failed to impress, got hurt, or aged out.

And the semi-annual reminder that this is, for most of these guys, the end of their professional careers – especially now that the Save America’s Pastime Act will make it harder for some independent leagues to operate. Not that they should be exempt, but it’s specious—if now downright intellectually dishonest—to assert that this is “unexpected collateral damage.” There are 1,320,000 reasons to believe otherwise.

Three More Optioned

Seven reassigned to minor-league camp; two released.

As we wind the 2018 Spring Training, the Nats optioned Austin Adams, Pedro Severino, and Andrew Stevenson to Syracuse; reassigned seven to minor-league camp: Tim Collins, Chris Dominguez, Edwin Jackson, Spencer Kieboom, Tommy Milone, Moises Sierra and Christopher Smith; and released Reid Brignac and Ryan Raburn.

Miguel Montero, an Article XX(B) Free Agent, will be the backup catcher to Matt Wieters. Two other veteran Free Agents—Reid Brignac and Ryan Raburn—were released.

The moves officially moves all of the 2018 Watchlist to the minors.

Next up: finding out which minor-leaguers have been formally released, which may come via MiLB.com as the bootlickers boys in Durham seem to be busy celebrating young men’s peonage being codified into law.

Erick Fedde Optioned to Syracuse, Too

Sending the best 12 or 13 pitchers north with the big club went to bat against service time and sunk costs and struck out once again. Also, Erick Fedde was optioned to Syracuse yesterday.

Pay no attention to Tanner Roark getting lit like a Kennedy at an open bar last night, his third straight outing where he’s failed to give up less than three runs or pitch more than four innings.

Never mind that Shawn Kelly, who gave up 12HR in 26⅓ regular-season innings against major-leaguers, has coughed up five big flies in his last three appearances (3IP) against the not-quite-1927-Yankees lineups of the Mets, Marlins, and Cardinals.

No, I’m not naïve; I’m quite well aware that there’s no connection between the performance of Roark, Kelley, and Fedde. But it’s tiresome to listen to the lies spouted every spring about minor-leaguers having a chance to win a job. It just doesn’t happen anymore.

Even if a major-leaguer is injured (*cough* Ryan Zimmerman *cough*) they’ll get a aging replacement veteran instead, as the signings of Jeremy Hellickson and Joaquin Benoit this year and Jeremy Guthrie last year. Just don’t complain if (when) any of the veterans continue to not perform when the games count.

Victor Robles Optioned to Syracuse

As expected, the Nationals’ top prospect was sent to the back fields yesterday to join his eventual teammates at AAA Syracuse. How long he’ll be in upstate New York remains a mystery, but if you’re this guy…

Asked for the earliest date at which the Nationals could call up Robles and still postpone his free agency another year — a calculation based on accumulation of major league service time — one Nationals official said he hadn’t even thought about it.

… have I got a deal on some Florida real estate for you!

Of course, he hasn’t thought about it… the same way he hasn’t thought about what date is Independence Day or Christmas. Every front office knows what that date is for their top prospects.

As mentioned previously, Robles made this decision easier and less of a farce than Ronald Acuna by struggling over his last few games after starting relatively strong. It may be heresy to suggest this, but it could also be that Robles isn’t quite ready yet.

That really shouldn’t be a surprise: Few 20-y.o.’s are ready for The Show after just 37 games at AA, zero at AAA, and less than 360 games total. Even Acuna has put in more time at AA (57 games) and AAA (54 games). That’s what makes players like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout so special – particularly in this current era where service-time manipulation is not tolerated, it’s celebrated.

I return you to your snowy Wednesday, which in the D.C. area, probably means working from home. Those of you who have to do it with small children may be inspired to work on your novel.

Shifting Gears

Shifting-GearsIt’s time to shift gears away from day-to-day coverage and wait for the minors to start up. This is the third time in four years that I’ve pulled the plug without a specific action or event, just a feeling that it’s been enough.

It’s an indulgence for a minors site to write about spring training, but especially when there are virtually no jobs up for grabs. There’s a teeny-tiny bit of drama over who might be the backup catcher or who’s the #5 starter, but the big club’s made it pretty damn clear that it’s not going to be one of “our guys.”

So sometime this week, Pedro Severino, Erick Fedde, Victor Robles, and Andrew Stevenson will get the proverbial red card in their lockers and prepare to play the RailRiders on April 5 instead of the Reds on March 29.

This year when the minors start up I’ll be in New Orleans for a work conference (and the Baby Cakes, natch), so it might be a little bumpy at the beginning of Season 9 of this little site. My hope is that the week-long gap (as opposed 2-3 days) will enable the full-season rosters to be set earlier, too (if no one gets hurt).

Until then, we’ll back to offseason mode… waiting for news… waiting for… snow?!

Cards Blank Nats, 10-0

The wheels came off the bus in the 6th as the Cards decked the Nats for five runs en route to a 10-0 shutout.

A.J. Cole gave up a run on a home run and two hits total over four innings. He walked one and struck out six while suffering his second spring loss.

Anthony Rendon singled twice and Matt Adams pushed a bunt down the third base line against the shift to comprise the Washington “attack.” The rest of the lineup went 0-for-23.

Victor Robles (CF) and Severino (C) were in the starting lineup while Andrew Stevenson came off the bench as the second center fielder.

The loss drops Washington to 10-11-2. Max Scherzer is expected to make the start tomorrow; same time, same venue, but different opponent (Marlins). The game can be heard on MLB Audio (Miami feed).

Mets Outslug Nats, 9-7

The Mets put up crooked numbers in three big innings to hand the Nats a 9-7 loss.

Tanner Roark, who was rocked for three runs on Sunday, put on seven baserunners in three innings and let in three of ’em to take the loss.

As mentioned in this morning’s post, Michael Taylor and Adam Eaton were both in the starting lineup, CF and LF respectively. Taylor went 1-for-3 with two whiffs while Eaton homered once in two trips to the plate.

Just three Watchlist players appeared in the game.
• Andrew Stevenson pinch-hit for Sammy Solis in the 4th and struck out.
• Victor Robles subbed for Taylor in CF and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.
• Osvaldo Abreu was the third SS and flew out to make the second out in the 8th.

Washington hits the road for Jupiter, Fla. to play St. Louis tomorrow. Both the Nats and Cards radio teams will be broadcasting while the St. Louis feed will be broadcast on MLB.tv

Nats Double Up Cards, 4-2

Down 1-0 after five and half innings, Washington’s regulars broke out for four runs in the 6th and the subs held the lead for a 4-2 win over St. Louis.

Gio Gonzalez started and gave up a run on a home run and three hits total over five innings. He walked one and struck out three.

Erick Fedde nearly completed the game, allowing the second Cards run on three hits and a walk over three and 2/3rds innings. He was lifted for Tim Collins who preserved the win for Fedde by retiring the only batter he faced on a 6-3 grounder to end the game.

Andrew Stevenson was the lone Watchlist player to start, taking left field and three trips back to the dugout after going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

Fellow watchlister Victor Robles came off the bench to replace Brian Goodwin in CF but struck out in his only plate appearance, which is making it far easier to send him down for service-time manipulation than some other 20-year-olds.

The Mets come to West Palm Beach this afternoon to face Tanner Roark and the Nats. The game will interrupt the prattling about Kirk Cousins on WJFK 106.7FM, and both Michael Taylor and Adam Eaton are expected to play.