October 31, 2014

Washington Nationals acquire Lobaton and two minor leaguers from Rays for Karns

The Washington Nationals made a move Thursday to shore up their catching — and restock their minor league system a bit in the process as well.

From the press release:

The Washington Nationals today acquired catcher Jose Lobaton, outfielder Drew Vettleson and left-handed pitcher Felipe Rivero from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for right-handed pitcher Nathan Karns. The Nationals also placed right-handed pitcher Erik Davis on the 60-Day Disabled List with a right elbow sprain. Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

A native of Acarigua, Venezuela, Lobaton played in a career-high 100 games for Tampa Bay last season and hit .249 with 15 doubles, seven home runs and 32 RBI en route to an above-grade .320 on-base percentage and a .394 slugging mark.

Lobaton, a switch-hitter, will back up starter Wilson Ramos and provide Major League insurance against the possibility of Ramos injury, always a concern with the burly catcher. The Nats signed veteran Chris Snyder to go along with holdovers Jhonatan Solano and Sandy Leon, but it’s been no surprise the Nats have been chasing Lobaton all offseason.

Lobaton is a highly-regarded defensive catcher, adept at framing pitches, something the Tampa organization specializes in. The 29-year-old backstop is a career .228/.311/.343 hitter with nine home runs in 564 plate appearances, with seven of his career homers coming last season when he amassed 311 plate appearances for the Rays.

The two other pieces the Nats receive are intriguing. Vettleson and Rivero were both ranked among the Rays top-10 prospects by different scouting services, though both might have stalled a bit in their development this past season.

Vettleson, 22, was a supplemental first round pick for the Rays in 2010, taken 42nd overall as a high schooler. As a 19-year-old in rookie ball in 2011 he hit .282/.357/.462 with seven homers in 267 PA. In 2012 at Low-A, those number dipped to .275/.340/.432, though his 15 homers and 24 doubles were encouraging. Last season at High-A, however, his numbers fell again (.274/.331/.388) with just four homers. The Nats will probably want to challenge him at Double-A this season, and this appears a make-or-break year for him prospect-wise.

Rivero, 22, is a slight (6’0″, 150) left-handed starting pitching prospect from Venezuela. In parts of five minor league seasons, he’s 29-25 with a 3.45 ERA, 1.298 WHIP, 7.3 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9; both peripherals went the wrong way in 2013 with a promotion to High-A though, as his walk rate went up by more than one walk per nine and the K rate dropped by 1.2.  Again, there’s talent there but Rivero is going to have to prove himself in Double-A this season or risk a transfer to the pen.

The Nats get this return in exchange for Nathan Karns, a former 12th round pick, who obviously had fallen in the pecking order in the Nats rotation prospects, passed by Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark and possibly even A.J. Cole. Karns was rated the Nats No. 9 prospect by Baseball America this season and has a big fastball and hard slider, but his other offerings are little more than works in progress right now. He’s 26, so he’s old for a prospect and the Rays obviously see him closer to the bigs in their rotation depth than the Nats do at this time.

I see a lot of Craig Stammen in Karns, and have always believed Karns would excel in the role that Stammen does for the Nats. Still, the Rays gave up a lot to acquire him, so I’m sure they’ll give him every opportunity (and then some) to stick in the rotation.

The other news was bad: reliever Erik Davis, expected to compete for a role in the Nats pen this season, was placed on the 60-day DL with an elbow strain. Davis reported some soreness in the elbow during early throwing in January and after a four-week shutdown, the pain continued once he resumed throwing. He’s slated to be shut down for six to eight weeks at this point with the hopes that the strain heals and Davis can avoid surgery, which would cost him the entire season.

Washington Nationals Games 61 & 62 Review: Nats sweep doubleheader from Twins to get back to .500

In the regularly scheduled 1:35 game Sunday, the Washington Nationals tied their season benchmark for runs in a inning. In the nightcap, a rescheduled affair prompted by the rainout Friday night, the Nats came from behind by three runs to win a game for the first time all season. The result: a sweep of the Minnesota Twins in the day/night doubleheader, which pulls the Nats back up to the .500 mark at 31-31.

The early game was all about two big innings… and Jordan Zimmermann. The leader of the 2013 staff did it again, pacing the Nats with seven innings of two-hit, shutout ball. Rookie Ian Krol and Xavier Cedeno — lefties both — kept the Twins off the scoreboard in the eighth and ninth innings to preserve the shutout.

The late game was a case of chipping away at a deficit, one run at a time, until the Nats overcame the hole they’d dug themselves, with four different players driving in runs and four different players scoring runs. Then a parade of relievers shut the door and kept it that way until the Twins’ last out was exhausted.

In the early game, the Nats exploded for their seven runs in the fourth and fifth innings off Twins starter Scott Diamond. Consecutive singles by Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche set the table for Ian Desmond in the fourth. Desmond singled to center and third base coach Trent Jewett sent Werth, who was cut down at the plate on a great throw by center fielder Clete Thomas. But Anthony Rendon followed with a smash off shortstop Pedro Florimon’s glove, and LaRoche and Desmond both came around to make it 2-0.

In the next inning, Diamond intentionally walked Werth to load the bases after Jeff Kobernus walked and Ryan Zimmerman doubled. LaRoche made him pay, with a single to the left side which plated Kobernus. A visit by the Twins pitching coach did no help, as Desmond followed with a two-run single three pitches later. Rendon put the cap on the inning, doubling off reliever Ryan Pressly to drive in LaRoche and Desmond.

The rest was up to Zimmermann, who was equal to the task yet again.

In the nightcap, Nathan Karns was not very good and put the Nats in a hole early, allowing four earned runs in the first three innings, on five hits and two walks. Washington got a run in the third on three consecutive singles by Roger Bernadina, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth. But an Adam LaRoche strikeout and Ian Desmond double play ground ball halted the threat there.

Two innings later, LaRoche came though, with a two-out RBI sacrifice fly, which brought home Denard Span to cut the lead to one and moved Bernadina to third. Again, the rally stalled at just one run as Desmond was called out on strikes.

The Nats tied the game finally in the sixth. Anthony Rendon singled off shortstop Pedro Florimon’s glove and scored on Span’s two-out triple. Bernadina walked to give Zimmerman a chance to take the lead, but the Nats No. 3 hitter struck out looking to end the frame.

The very next inning, though, back-to-back doubles by LaRoche and Desmond did the trick, putting the Nats up 5-4.

The entire bullpen were the heroes in the second game. It started with Craig Stammen, who came on for Karns in the fourth and blanked the Twins for two innings. Erik Davis, Fernando Abad, Tyler Clippard (W, 5-1), Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano (S, 16) all did their jobs to earn the Nats 31st win of the season.

THE GOOD: Jordan Zimmerman. We’re out of superlatives for the stoic righty. Two hits, two walks and 8 Ks over seven shutout innings for his ninth win of the season.

In the early game, Desmond went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and Rendon went 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs. In the evening game, Roger Bernadina went 2-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored. Nice game for The Shark.

THE BAD: Kurt Suzuki went 0-for-3 with 4 LOB in the first game.

THE UGLY: Karns. He left everything up in the evening game and paid for it. With Detwiler coming back this week, Karns will probably find himself back in Syracuse for more seasoning.

THE STATS: First Game: 14 hits, 4 BBs, 4 Ks. 5-for-10 with RISP, 8 LOB. E: Rendon (4, fielding), Zimmerman (11, throw).

Second Game: 10 hits, 4 BBs, 7 Ks. 3-for-14 with RISP, 9 LOB. E: Rendon (5, fielding); one DP.

NEXT GAME: Tuesday at 8:40 ET in Colorado against the Rockies. Dan Haren (4-7, 5.45) faces Jhoulys Chacin (3-3, 4.59).

NATS NOTES: Before the games, the Nats recalled 1B Chris Marrero from AAA-Syracuse. The right-handed hitter was hitting .306/.355/.502 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 55 games for the Chiefs. After the games, the team sent 1B/OF Tyler Moore to Syracuse. Moore has struggled all season and the team hopes that he’ll find his swing playing every day in the minors.

Washington Nationals Game 57 Review: Middle relief culprit again in 6-3 loss to Braves

If the Washington Nationals want to consider their deficit in the N.L. East, they need to look no further than the team across the diamond from them Sunday. The Atlanta Braves took advantage of the Nats bullpen yet again, while Washington could muster nothing against the Braves’, falling in the series finale 6-3. With the loss, the Nats drop below .500 (28-29).

The Braves lead in the East stretched to a whopping 6 1/2 games — the largest in baseball currently. The Nats have a season series record against the Braves of 3-7, accounting for a large portion of that deficit.

As was the case Saturday night, the Nats bullpen could not handle their responsibility, as Zach Duke walked four and gave up two hits in his two-thirds of an inning, effectively digging the Nats hitters a hole they are incapable of rallying from these days.

Duke’s incapacity to throw strikes Sunday made a loser out of Nathan Karns (0-1, 6.00). Karns was not as strong as in his debut, but left two runners on base when he left the game, and Duke allowed both to score. The rookie, who made his second MLB start, gave up four runs — three earned — on seven hits and a walk, striking out six in 4 2/3 innings.

After the Nats went in order in the top of the first against Braves starter Paul Maholm (W, 7-4, 3.68), the Braves jumped right on Karns. Leadoff hitter Andrelton Simmons reached on a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman, his tenth of the season. The next hitter, Ramiro Pena, clobbered a fastball into the stands in right for an early 2-0 lead for Atlanta.

The Nats got both runs back in the second. Adam LaRoche doubled to lead off and went to third on Ian Desmond’s bunt single. Tyler Moore followed with a run-scoring single to left to get the Nats on the board. Later in the inning, Maholm butchered Karns’ popped up bunt. All hands were safe, and Desmond scooted home with the then-tying run.

The tie didn’t last long, as B.J. Upton homered off Karns in the bottom half of the inning to re-take the lead.

Things stayed that way until the fateful fifth inning. Justin Upton started the Braves rally with a one-out single off Karns. After the Nats righty got Freddie Freeman to fly out, he lost Evan Gattis on a 3-2 fastball after having the slugger down 0-2. Manager Davey Johnson called on Duke at that point, and Duke did nothing but pour gasoline on the fire. On Duke’s ninth pitch to Brian McCann, the Braves catcher finally got one he could handle, slapping a single to left field to plate Upton. Duke got out of the inning without more damage, but he wasn’t done yet.

Desmond homered in the top of the sixth to cut the Braves lead to 4-3. In the bottom of the frame, Duke walked the first two batters he faced. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners up, Duke intentionally walked Justin Upton to face Freeman. The decision backfired, as Freeman doubled off the top of the wall in left field, plating two more runs. The play was reviewed as the Braves thought the hit was a home run, but the call on the field stood.

Not that it mattered.

The Nats went hitless in the last three innings, failing to muster any sort of comeback. Washington has yet to score on the Braves bullpen in their ten games this season. For the entire year, the Nats are hitting .194/.252/.286 in innings seven though nine.

THE GOOD: Right-hander Erik Davis, called up Saturday from Triple-A Syracuse, made a successful Major League debut, throwing 1 2/3 perfect innings of relief, recording two strikeouts.

THE BAD: The bottom third of the Nats order went 1-for-9 with five runners left stranded.

THE UGLY: Zach Duke. Whatever magic the lefty used last season to get his name back in good graces, he must have used all up. His ERA sits at 8.71 now and just continues to have poor performance after another, giving up multiple runs in four of his last five appearances.

THE STATS: 5 hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks. 2-for-6 with RISP, 3 LOB. E: Zimmerman (10, throw). No DPs.

NEXT GAME: Tuesday at 7:05 against the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Jordan Zimmermann (8-3, 2.37) hosts Jeremy Hefner (1-5, 4.74).

Washington Nationals Game 52 Review: Long ball powers Nats past O’s

Washington Nationals Nathan Karns MLB debut, May 28, 2013 (Photo Courtesy of Jenn Jenson)

Washington Nationals Nathan Karns MLB debut, May 28, 2013 (Photo Courtesy of Jenn Jenson)

At long last, the Washington Nationals (27-25) offense came alive Tuesday night as the team out-hit their Beltway rival Baltimore Orioles (28-24) 9-3 at Nationals Park.

After an 81-minute rain delay, right-hander Nathan Karns (ND, 0-0) took the mound for Washington, called up directly from Double-A Harrisburg as a result of Ross Detwiler’s placement on the 15-day disabled list. Karns tossed a less-than-stellar 4.1 innings, but there were clear indications that the potential is there.

For starters, the 25-year-old pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, forcing Nate McLouth, Manny Machado and Nick Markakis out on infield grounders. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 51 Review: Hammel, Orioles hand Nats first loss vs. AL this season

The Baltimore Orioles (28-23) tallied 15 hits on Memorial Day in Washington, D.C. as the Washington Nationals (26-25) fell 6-2 in front of a sellout crowd.

Washington entered Monday’s game a perfect 5-0 against the American League this season, but the Orioles wasted no time adding a blemish to the Nats’ interleague record. It didn’t help matters that the Nats were shorthanded with bursitis keeping Bryce Harper out of the lineup. Fortunately for the Nats, Harper’s MRI showed no structural damage, which keeps open the possibility that the phenom could return to the lineup in a DH role in a couple days’ time.

Nevertheless, Jason Hammel (W, 7-2) looked sharp through eight innings against the Harper-less Nationals’ order, holding Washington to eight hits and two runs in his stint.

Still, the Nats took an early one-run lead in the second inning via an Adam LaRoche single and stolen base, believe it or not. The snag marked just his second stolen base of the season and the eighth of his career. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals to call up Nathan Karns to start vs. Orioles Tuesday

In a surprise move, the Washington Nationals announced Monday after their 6-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles they will call up RHP Nathan Karns for his Major League debut Tuesday against the O’s. Ross Detwiler, whose rotation spot Karns will take for the moment, was placed on the 15-day DL over the weekend with a  strained lat muscle.

Karns, 25, is currently 4-2 with a 4.60 ERA and 1.311 WHIP at Double-A Harrisburg. He strikes out 11.0 batters per nine innings while walking 3.6. Last year, at High-A Potomac, Karns went 8-4 with a 2.26 ERA and 1.019 WHIP with remarkably similar K/9 (10.9) and BB/9 (3.3).

Karns leapflogs three pitchers at AAA with Major League experience to earn the spot start; Ross Ohlendorf, Chris Young and Ryan Perry, none of whom is having a particularly good season. The team recently DFA’d Yunesky Maya in order to promote Jeff Kobernus last week.

Karns is big (6’3″, 230) and has always had good strikeout numbers in the minor leagues, but as a pitcher drafted out of college, he’s also always been old for his level, so he’s an interesting case study.

This move also speaks to the lack of organizational depth the Nats have at starting pitcher, as they reach into Double-A for a pitcher with an ERA over four instead of three pitchers at Triple-A with big league experience.

Karns will face the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman, the No. 4 overall pick in last year’s draft, who made his first start last week for Baltimore.

Washington Nationals Minor League Update for the Week of 4/28/13

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, and give injury and suspension updates.

With April coming to a close, the Nationals’ organization is looking pretty strong from top to bottom. The big club is off to a decent 13-12 start. But more importantly, they’re looking strong and equipped to perform at a high level for the duration of the season. Their key players are all healthy, and their crop of young stars continues to move forward at a healthy pace.

Bryce Harper not only appears to have avoided (knock on wood) a slumping sophomore season, but he looks to be putting it all together even earlier than anyone could have hoped. The same goes for their young rotation, which is firing on all cylinders. And while Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos are sitting on the DL with minor injuries, the Nats used their system to overcome their temporary absence quite effectively. Luckily though, both players are on their way back anyway.

[Read more...]

Washington Nationals Minor League Update for the Week of 4/21/13

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, and give injury and suspension updates.

So far this season, the Nationals’ minor league system has continued to be one of the most productive and exciting in pro baseball. Flashy young stars like Brian Goodwin and Anthony Rendon are off to loud starts, while an arms race of young pitchers has torn-through opposing lineups, resulting in heaps of strikeouts.

Things got even more interesting on Saturday though. The Nationals announced that they had promoted Rendon, who is widely considered one of the premier prospects in minors, to Washington to make his highly anticipated MLB debut. While the former  Dick Howser Award winner was originally slated to spend at least the first few months of the regular season in the minors at double-A Harrisburg, Ryan Zimmerman’s recent injury and Rendon’s hot-hitting apparently forced the front office’s hand. Regardless, this is yet another exciting development in a system full of exciting developments. Rendon follows a long line of homegrown stars on the Nats big-league roster, graduating after the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Drew Storen, Bryce Harper and others.

Though Rendon’s promotion has grabbed the attention of the Nats faithful, the club has plenty of other thrilling minor-league storylines. Here are a few of them–hot off the presses:

[Read more...]

World Series or Bust–Washington Nationals 2013 Roundtable Part V: Prospect Watch

With opening day right around the corner, each day until then District Sports Page’s Nats staff will take a look at one of the biggest issues concerning your 2013 Washington Nationals. We borrowed a quote for the title of the series from Nats manager Davey Johnson’s Spring Training proclamation that he expects a “World Series or Bust” in Natstown this season.

We’ve also invited the other credentialed blogs to chip in with their answers. Then on Opening Day, look for the results to the DC Chapter of the Internet Baseball Writers Association Preseason Survey, where we polled The Natosphere on various topics related to the Nats, as we have for the last several seasons.

Participants:

Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief, District Sports Page
Alyssa Wolice, Staff Writer, District Sports Page
Ted Starkey, Contributor to DSP, author and Editor at SBNation.com
Ryan Kelley, DSP Prospects Writer and founder of BaseballNewshound.com
Patrick Reddington, Editor, Federal Baseball
Joe Drugan, Managing Editor, The Nats Blog
Tom Bridge, Editor, WeLoveDC.com

Part I: Grading the Offseason
Part II: What do you expect from Bryce Harper?
Part III: What aspect of the Nats has you most excited for the coming season?

Part IV: What aspect of the Nats has you most concerned?

Part V: Which prospect are you most looking forward to following this summer? [Read more...]

Washington Nationals make more cuts: Rendon, Perez, Skole & more

The Washington Nationals made another round of cuts Thursday morning before hosting the Houston Astros at Space Coast Stadium, bringing the spring roster down to 42.

The club optioned outfielder Eury Perez to AAA-Syracuse and right-handed pitcher Nathan Karns, catcher Sandy Leon and infielder Anthony Rendon to AA-Harrisburg. Additionally, the Nationals re-assigned left-handed pitcher Pat McCoy and infielders Will Rhymes and Matt Skole to minor league camp.

Rendon put together a very impressive big league camp. The 22-year-old third baseman went 12-for-32 (.375/.412/.875) with four home runs, four doubles and 11 RBIs while with the Nats this spring. He accumulated 28 total bases in 13 games.

Perez, 22, went 8-for-23 (.348/.375/.348) with four runs scored, two stolen bases and no extra-base hits.

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