For the first time since 2011, the Washington Nationals have added more than a couple players to its 40-man roster in preparation for next month’s Rule 5 draft. RHP A.J. Cole, IF Wilmer Difo, LHP Matt Grace, and OF Brian Goodwin were added this afternoon while RHP Ryan Mattheus (released) and IF Pedro Florimon (waived) were removed. Earlier this week, LHP Matt Purke was also released as was longtime backup backstop Jhonatan Solano.
Even F.P. Santangelo could have predicted the inclusion of Cole; that’s how obvious it was. A hard-throwing RHP is relatively easy to bury in an MLB bullpen, not to mention that GM Mike Rizzo traded for him in January 2013 some 13 months after dealing him away as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade. Cole figures to begin 2015 in AAA, but if history is any guide, a strong spring and/or injuries could have him making his MLB debut before Memorial Day.
Perhaps it’s more of an indictment against the other MI options than an endorsement of his future viability, though Wilmer Difo did about as much as a Low-A prospect could do in 2014, winning South Atlantic League MVP while earning the second annual Bob Boone award. The 22-y.o. posted a .315/.360/.470 line while showing both power (14HR) and speed (49SBs). Difo figures to begin next season in Potomac, though I’m sure his inclusion on the 40-man will spur speculation of a two-level promotion.
As noted in the previous post, Grace’s 2014 season earned him a place as a situational lefty and could be the next Aaron Barrett. He may not throw 95 mph but does generate a lot of ground balls (3.23 G/F ratio) and is tough on left-handed batters (just a .371 OPS). If he doesn’t make the 25-man roster, look for him to return to Syracuse in 2015 and have a carry-on bag ready to go.
Brian Goodwin was once the heir apparent to Denard Span but now has Michael Taylor breathing down his neck. Injuries limited Goodwin to just 81 games last season, but having turned just 24 less than three weeks ago, it would seem that the Nats brass seem willing to let him get healthy in 2015 while also serving as insurance should Taylor falter. It will be interesting to see how the two (Goodwin & Taylor) will be used when they appear in the same outfield, though I’d be more surprised about seeing Goodwin in LF than Taylor in RF, given the latter’s cannon right arm.