April 19, 2014

Washington Nationals Spring Training 2014 Preview Part V: The Bullpen

Washington Nationals RHP Tyler Clippard pitched 8th inning and earned 10th hold against Baltimore Orioles, May 20, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Nationals RHP Tyler Clippard in action of May 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

As a whole, the Washington Nationals return mostly intact from the teams that won 98 games in 2012 and 86 games in 2013. This is a veteran team with high aspirations of competing in the World Series. I hardly think rookie manager Matt Williams will boldly proclaim “World Series or Bust” as his predecessor did, but the implications are there.

If the team overachieved in ’12 and underachieved last season, what is the logical progression for 2014? If the ’12 and ‘13 results had been flipped, I think everyone would be riding the Nats as an odd-on favorite this season. They may be anyway.

With a rotation as solid No. 1 through No. 4 as any in baseball, a deep bullpen, an infield full of silver sluggers and a versatile outfield led by a burgeoning superstar, the Washington Nationals seem poised to make noise this season on a national level.

For the next two weeks, District Sports Page will preview the Washington Nationals 2014 season. This week, we’ll do profiles of the players on the 40-man roster and significant non-roster invitees, players that have a chance to make an impact on the Nats roster this season.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday: The Infield
Tuesday: The Outfield
Wednesday: The Catchers
Thursday: The Rotation
Friday: The Bullpen

In week two, we’ll profile the manager and front office, reveal our Top-25 minor leaguers and prospects, examine the “big picture” the Nats this season, and do a little statistical analysis and projecting.


Rafael Soriano, RHP: The saves were there last year, the elite skills were not. Soriano’s ERA and WHIP were their highest in any season he’s been a team’s top closer. On top of that, his K rate went down precipitously as he transitioned from a pitcher with a slider out pitch to a fastball pitcher, one who’s lost velocity each of the past four seasons. He lowered his walk rate, which obviously is good, but his hit rate jumped. His ground ball rate has dropped the past three seasons as his line drive and fly ball rates have risen, more evidence of him abandoning anything but the fastball. If the walk rate goes back to his normal seasonal allowance, he could be in a world of trouble. As it is, the velocity and strikeout rate drops are a big warning sign for a 34-year-old pitcher who hates not closing.

Tyler Clippard, RHP: Clippard turned in another exceptional season for the Nats with a 2.41 ERA and ridiculous 0.859 WHIP. All was bolstered by an incredibly unsustainable 4.7 H/9 rate and .172 BABiP, which completely mirrored his 2011 All-Star campaign. Those types of numbers are just unheard of, so he’s unlikely to repeat them, but he’s a funky pitcher. He succeeds with high fastballs and a changeup that almost impossible to identify out of his unusual and, frankly, weird delivery. The strikeout and ground ball rates were down just a tick but not alarmingly so. Clippard should be just fine in his established role. The big thing to worry about him is the price tag. He avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $5.88 million contract and he isn’t a free agent until after 2016, so the price tags is just going to keep going up. That’s a lot for a non-closer reliever — albeit one of the best in the game.

Drew Storen, RHP: Oh boy. Where do we start? Storen was fairly terrible in the first half, pitching to a 5.95 ERA, fueled by a .355 BABiP and outrageously high hit rate. The walks were fine, the Ks were fine, he was just simply unlucky as to balls finding their way into green space. He was sent to the minors on July 26 after wearing a the final inning of an 11-0 drubbing by the Mets on a day that he ran a 103 degree fever. When he came back Aug. 16, he was the same old Storen. Well, not really. He ditched the silly straight leg kick for a more conventional one that allowed him to have a more consistent delivery, but the results were more attributable to normalization. He held batters to a .200/.263/.214 line upon his return.

Jerry Blevins, LHP: Obtained from the A’s for Minor League Player of the Year Billy Burns, Blevins is more than a typical lefty specialist — he actually owned better numbers against righties than lefties last season. Overall, a 3.15 ERA and 1.067 WHIP were solid. He has a four-pitch repertoire and faced four or more batters in more than half of his appearance last season. Blevins won’t overwhelm with his fastball, and his K rates will keep him in a set up or LOOGY role, but he knows how to pitch. Has improved his walk rate each of the past three seasons.

Xavier Cedeno, LHP: Want the good news? Cedeno enjoyed his career year last season at age 26, earning a 1.50 ERA and 1.000 WHIP for the Nats. He struck out 9 per nine innings and walked just 1.5. Want the bad news? He also suffered his worst season as a big leaguer last year, as he allowed 11 runs (eight earned) in 6.1 innings for Houston before they cut him in April. Am I being dramatic? You betcha. But Cedeno’s numbers for the Nats came in just 6.0 over 11 games. Against lefties, Cedeno provided a .231/.333/.269 slash. Against righties, that jumped to .391/.517/.522. Granted, we’re talking 29 and 31 plate appearances here. Call me skeptical, but I just don’t see Cedeno coming anywhere near approaching his numbers for the Nats last season again. He’s not a kid, and nothing in his history indicates this was anything more than a couple of good appearances in a row against limited competition.

Craig Stammen, RHP: Stammen could start for half the teams in baseball. His stuff is that good. All his peripherals continue to go in the right direction and his traditional numbers are solid across the board. Is this a pitcher that has found his spot? Or are the Nats hiding a gem, either intentionally or not. Either way, Stammen has proven to be an absolutely invaluable arm in the long role that he’s occupied the past two season for the team. His walk rate dropped by 0.7 this year over last — if that holds, he should earn higher leverage late innings if Clippard gets too expensive.

Ryan Mattheus, RHP: On the other hand… Mattheus was unlucky, sure. His BABiP of .405 screams it. But look at the rest. Rising walk rate. K rate less than 6 per nine. Lost velocity on his sinker. Punching a locker, breaking his hand and being completely and utterly lost once he returned. The hit rate is going to stabilize somewhat, but how much is luck and how much is just erosion of skill? He’s 30, not a youngster that needs to figure things out. He needs to prove health and competence or there are plenty of arms that will push him out of a job.

Josh Roenicke, RHP: Roenicke is famous for being the son of former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Gary Roenicke and also being Ian Desmond’s brother-in-law. Roenicke the pitcher, however, is mediocre at best. He was brought in as an NRI and will provide depth in Syracuse most likely. He walks way too many (5.2 per nine in 62 IP last season) without the high K rate (just 6.5/9) that allows you live with it.

Erik Davis, RHP: Davis made his MLB debut last season at age 26, compiling a 1-0 record, 3.12 ERA and 1.269 WHIP in 8.2 innings, striking out 12 while walking just one. This was after going 3-7 with 15 saves, 3.10 ERA and 1.433 WHIP in AAA, so small sample caveats abound. Davis was slated to compete for a role in this year’s pen, but was placed on the 60-day D.L. with an ”elbow strain” on the same day the Nats traded for Jose Lobaton. It’s quite possible he never throws a pitch to Lobaton.

Christian Garcia, RHP: “If only Garcia could stay healthy…” Any Nats fan that knows more than just Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg will cite Garcia as their secret weapon. He’s got the stuff, he knows how to pitch, and he’s still young enough (27) that he could impact the MLB roster. Unfortunately, that part of staying healthy just keeps eluding Garcia. He’s already had two Tommy John’s while he was property of the Yankees and last season he was limited to 13.1 innings in the minors after suffering a torn wrist tendon, which triggered shoulder soreness and hamstring injuries. He owns four quality MLB pitches, he just needs to get on a mound to show them off. Problem is, he can’t.

Manny Delcarmen, RHP: Delcarmen, 32, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2010 with the Rockies. Why is he here? Well, he’s always had good stuff and has had several full seasons of downright goodness at the big league level. In 07-08 with the Red Sox he was a quality righty in their pen and some thought he had closer written all over him. Problem is, his walk rate was always high and got higher the older he got and his K rate plummeted after he hit 27. When he should have been in the peak of his career, he busted. Read into that however you want. Last year in AAA, he went 3-3 with a 2.83 ERA and 1.222 WHIP in 54 innings, so there might be something left. At the triple-A level, anyway.

Aaron Barrett, RHP: Barrett was drafted four times: by the Dodgers in the 44th round of the ’06 draft, by the Twins in the 20th round in ’08, by Texas in the 27th round in ’09 and finally by the Nats in the 9th round in 2010 after his eligibility ended for the University of Mississippi. Barrett, at age 25, dominated AA last year for Harrisburg, going 1-1 with a 2.15 ERA and 1.093 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9 and outrageous 12.3 K/9. In fact, in 149.2 IP in his minor league career, Barrett owns a 12.0 K/9 rate. He does this all with an average fastball, but a slider that Baseball America deemed best in the Nats’ system. At 6’4″, 215 he has a big league build. He needs to pitch against players his own age this year but his arm is definitely intriguing.

Clay Hensley, RHP: Hensley is a slight (5’11″, 190) righty that for the past few seasons has been able to fool enough batters to keep getting chances in the big leagues. But at 33 now, he’s running out of gas. Last season for San Francisco in 50.2 IP he walked 5.3 per nine and his ERA (4.62) showed it. Coupled with a 5.19 ERA for Florida in ’12, Hensley’s hanging on to the end of his rope.

Washington Nationals Minor League Update for the Week of 5/5/13

Welcome back to District Sports Page’s weekly Minor League Update. Throughout the regular season we will continue to post up-to-date stats and brief scouting reports on the hottest and coldest prospects in the Nationals’ minor league system. We also will track the progress of top-rated players in this columb, and give injury and suspension updates.

Here are some of the system’s notable performances from the first week of May:

[Read more...]

Trio of Washington Nationals Prospects in Arizona Fall League

The 2012 AFL Rising Stars Game featuring Potomac Nationals 3B Anthony Rendon and RHP Aaron Barrett will air on Saturday night, November 3rd at 8:00pm EST on MLB Network, MLB.com, and Sirius/XM Radio.

Anthony Rendon – Winston-Salem Dash v. Potomac Nationals, 8/12/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Brian Goodwin on deck during spring training 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

P-Nats 3B Anthony Rendon and RHP Aaron Barrett set for national stage in the desert

Woodbridge, VA—Perhaps the most efficient barometer in determining the playing career projections of Major League Baseball’s most esteemed prospects is the nationally televised Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game. Since the annual blue chip showdown was initiated for baseball’s most polished prospects in 2006, a whopping 72.6 percent of the contest’s participants graduated to The Show. With almost three out of four prospects within this supreme talent pool accruing time in MLB, the 2012 AFL Rising Stars Game certainly provides a glimpse of the bright big league futures for the desert’s cream of the crop.

A pair of Potomac Nationals standouts and three Washington Nationals farmhands in all, who wear the uniform of the AFL’s Salt River Rafters, are set to make appearances on Saturday night in a ballgame that will definitely radiate the ambiance of a souped-up all-star prospect classic. Third baseman Anthony Rendon (1st Rd, No. 6 Overall, 2011), right-handed pitcher Aaron Barrett (9th Rd, 2010), and outfielder Brian Goodwin (Supplemental 1st Rd, No. 34 Overall, 2011) were chosen to compete by invitation only in the all-star game wrapped in an all-star league.

Among the best of the best, Rendon, 22, and Barrett, 24, both spent time with Potomac during the 2012 season, while Goodwin made the springboard jump from Class-A Hagerstown to Double-A Harrisburg. Amidst an injury plagued season, Rendon played well in limited action hitting .333 to complement five extra base hits and 17 total bases in just nine games with the P-Nats. Barrett was lights out in relief for the Potomac bullpen as he maintained a 1.06 ERA in 11 appearances, striking out 21 batters in 17.0 IP, and earning one save. Goodwin, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on the eve of the Rising Stars Game, hit .280 in 100 games over two Minor League levels, collecting 107 hits, 26 doubles, 14 home runs, 52 runs batted in, and 18 stolen bases in 25 attempts.


RHP Aaron Barrett: NR, 3.38 ERA, 7 G, 8.0 IP, 1 BB, 7 SO, 2.00 GO/AO

OF Brian Goodwin: .268 BA, 14 G, 15 H, 11 R, 4 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 4 RBI, .931 OPS

3B Anthony Rendon: .275 BA, 14 G, 14 H, 8 R, 5 2B, 6 RBI, 19 TB, 3 SB, .367 OBP

2012 AFL Rising Stars Game will air on Saturday night, November 2nd at 8:00pm EST on MLB Network, MLB.com, and Sirius/XM Radio.

2012 AFL Rising Stars weigh in on the biggest star:

To follow 2012 stats for the Salt River Rafters of the AFL head here:

There are six teams in the Arizona Fall League: the Scottsdale Scorpions, Mesa Solar Sox, Salt City Rafters, Phoenix Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas and Surprise Saguaros. These club names were picked by Major League Baseball as reflective of the Southwestern desert traditions in the state.

The teams are broken into two divisions, East and West. Each Major League Baseball team sends six top prospects to the Arizona Fall League, 180 players in all. The games are played in the Spring Training stadiums used by the Giants, Mariners, Padres, Cubs, A’s, Royals, Rangers, D-backs and Rockies.

How good are the players in the Arizona Fall League? The 2011 All-Star Game in Arizona featured 41 AFL alums, including both starting pitchers — Roy Halladay and Jered Weaver.

Each August, Major League clubs hold a position draft to determine the players who will go to Arizona. Most are Double-A and Triple-A Minor League players. Each club can opt to send one player considered a Class A player.

Renew your P-Nats season tickets at Pfitzner Stadium for only $50 per seat. Five-game Pick ‘em Packs start at just $55 per seat. Sponsorship opportunities for the ‘13 season are now available. Plan your corporate outing now in preparation for next season as the P-Nats offer discounted group rates and all-inclusive picnic options. Visit the P-Nats online at www.potomacnationals.com or call the ticket office at 703-590-2311 for more!

NATS/SUNS: Four Hagerstown Suns in SAL All-Star Game

Matt Skole Leads List of Four Suns Voted as 2012 All-Stars
Suns Manager Brian Daubach elected to serve as a coach for a second consecutive season

Hagerstown, MD – The Hagerstown Suns, in conjunction with the South Atlantic League, today announce that Suns infielder Matt Skole, catcher Adrian Nieto, outfielder Caleb Ramsey, pitcher Aaron Barrett and Manager Brian Daubach have been elected to represent Hagerstown on the Northern Division team at the 53rd Annual SAL All-Star Game to be played on June 19, 2012, at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park, in Charleston, South Carolina, home of the Charleston RiverDogs.

Skole leads the list of Suns All-Stars having been among league leaders in several offensive categories throughout the season. He is currently batting .294 and ranks second in the league with 12 home runs, while checking in at third in the standings with 53 RBIs. Skole is atop the SAL in walks with 51 in 55 games played, while maintaining the league’s second highest slugging percentage at .441. A true run producer, the Woodstock, GA native has five sacrifice flies this season, first in the SAL.

Skole joined the Suns after an impressive 2011 campaign with Short Season-A Auburn where he led the New York-Penn League in RBIs (48) and doubles (23) while finishing second in extra-base hits (29) and third in total hits (79). He was selected in the fifth-round (157th overall) of the 2011 draft by the Nationals.

Ramsey, an 11th-round pick (337th overall) by the Nationals in 2011, will patrol the outfield as an All-Star. Ramsey has been a .300 hitter for Hagerstown throughout the season (currently .299 BA) while committing just one error in 45 games played. Ramsey is second on the club in hits with 55, including four doubles, four triples, five home runs and 32 RBIs. Ramsey’s consistency at the plate has brought him a seven-game hitting streak, 11 multi-hit games and seven multi-RBI games.

Nieto, a fifth-round pick of the Nationals in 2008, will represent the Northern Division as one of the league’s top offensive catchers. The Cuban-born backstop is currently batting .261 and coming off a season best seven-game hitting streak. Nieto, a switch-hitting catcher, has smacked eight doubles to go along with four home runs and 25 RBIs and is batting .340 versus left-handed pitching.

Barrett has emerged as one the SAL’s top relievers, especially in late game scenarios. Barrett is 3-1 with a 3.05 ERA and leads the Suns with six saves on the season. The Evansville, IN native has held opposing hitters to a .203 batting average while striking out 33 and walking just eight over 20.2 innings pitched. His swing-and-miss stuff has the right-hander fanning nearly 45% of hitters with an official at-bat against him. Barrett was selected in the ninth-round of the 2010 draft by the Nationals.

Daubach has been selected to serve as a coach for the Northern Division squad after managing the team in 2011. Under his guidance, the Suns are currently at their high-water mark, ten games above five hundred (33-23) and in second place in the division. Hagerstown is one of the SAL’s premier offensive clubs, ranking fourth in team batting average (.271), while checking in at second in home runs (54), runs scored (349) and RBIs (332). Patience at the plate has contributed to the Suns’ success in the first half, as they lead the SAL in walks with 265. Hagerstown’s first half highlights include a six-game winning streak from 5/12-5/18 and a 24-2 drubbing of the Rome Braves on 4/25, which stands as the greatest offensive output by a SAL team this season.

Both all-star teams will be represented by 26 players, selected by the votes of the team’s managers and coaching staffs, local media and front office executives. Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park will be hosting its fourth SAL All-Star game. The last time the All-Star Game was held in Charleston was in 2004, when the Southern Division defeated the Northern Division 4-2.. The annual SAL All-Star Game dates to 1960, when the All-Stars defeated the Salisbury club, 6-2, in Newton, NC.

“Once again, the amount of talent that will be showcased in this game will be incredible,” said Krupa. “The expectations of the fans are high, and I believe they will have a fun time during this exciting event. Executive Vice President & General Manager Dave Echols and his staff in Charleston have been working for more than a year to live up to the tradition and host one of the most anticipated events on our baseball calendar.”

A variety of events have been scheduled in Charleston along with the SAL All-Star Game. On Monday, June 18th, batting practice and the preliminary rounds of the Home Run Derby will be held on the deck of the USS Yorktown. On Tuesday, June 19th, there will be an All-Star Luncheon at the Marriott Charleston where the 2012 SAL Hall of Fame members will be inducted. Carolyn McKee, Bill Murray and Joseph P. Riley, Jr. will be honored as members of the class of 2012. New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman will be the featured speaker at the All-Star Luncheon. Beginning at 2:30pm at the stadium, the All-Fan Fest will be an opportunity for fans to get autographs from and pictures with the SAL All-Stars. The final round of the Home Run Derby begins at 5:15pm and the first pitch of the 2012 All-Star Game is scheduled at 7:30pm. More information can be found on the website of the Charleston RiverDogs at www.riverdogs.com.

%d bloggers like this: