August 17, 2019

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats top Marlins 10-3 in Fister’s debut

Washington Nationals prized off-season acquisition starter Doug Fister made his first appearance of the spring and veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche homered as the Nats walked over the Miami Marlins 10-3 at Space Coast Stadium in Viera.

LaRoche homered in the fourth inning off Marlins lefty Brian Flynn. LaRoche hit .198/.254/.313 against left-handers in 2013.

Fister worked two innings, allowing a run on two soft hits. He walked one and struck out two. In the second inning, Derrick Deitrich doubled on a broken bat flare and came home on a bloop single to center by Reed Johnson.

The Nats worked over Miami’s bullpen in the middle innings. In the fifth, Jeff Kobernus tripled, scoring Nate McLouth, then scored on an Ian Desmond groundout.

Then in the seventh, a walk to Brock Peterson forced home Zach Walters (2-for-2). Matt Skole doubled to plate two, then Peterson scored on a sac fly by Michael Taylor.

Walters added a triple in the eighth inning, which scored Steven Souza.

Wilson Ramos went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI earlier in the game.

Prospect Sammy Solis threw two shutout innings, allowing two hits and no walks.

The Nats travel to Tampa on Monday to face the New York Yankees at 1:05 pm ET.

Washington Nationals Spring Training 2014 Preview Part IV: The Rotation

Washington Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg pitched five innings and earned his fourth win, May 20, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg delivers in 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.

THE ROTATION

Stephen Strasburg, RHP: Some will look at his W-L record last year and decry Strasburg a bust. Au contraire. His ERA went down as his innings went up. His hit rate went down and his walk rate remained steady. He traded a few Ks for more ground balls (from 44% in ’12 to 52% in ’13), though he struck out just six fewer in 24 more innings, and his homer per fly ball rate stayed level. He’s the very definition of elite skills and getting better with age. This could be the season he puts it all together – dominance with patience, pitching not throwing, winning and leading a top-rate pitching staff. The only thing he needs now is to eclipse the 200 inning mark to finally establish him at the top of the hill, if you pardon the pun.

Gio Gonzalez, LHP: Gonzalez’ ’13 season wasn’t nearly as good as his breakout ’13, but so what? It’s not like he fell off a cliff. His ERA jumped 0.40, but that can largely be attributed to his home run rate popping back up to his career norm. It’s all about limited walks with Gonzalez, and he held the gains he made in ’13 when he came over to the N.L. He takes the ball every fifth day and has done the same job for the past three seasons. He’s as dependable an asset in the big leagues as there is in the game right now. It might not be upper-level, top-five-in-the-game elite production, but he’d be the staff ace on a LOT of big league teams.

Jordan Zimmermann, RHP: Zimmermann was the same pitcher last season as he’d been for the previous two, only this time he was the beneficiary of league average run production and his win total exploded to lead the N.L. and garner enough Cy Young votes to finish seventh. Zimmermann had a rough July (7.18 ERA in five starts) but bounced back to post a 3.36 ERA the rest of the way. His walk rate (1.7 per nine) is elite and there are more Ks there if he wants them. But he’s steadily excellent as he is. He is scheduled to hit free agency following the ’15 season (as is Desmond), and he’s going to be expensive to sign to a long-term deal, as he’s already stated in the media he won’t settle for a “hometown” discount.

Doug Fister, RHP: Acquired in December from the Tigers for INF Steve Lombardozzi and LHP Robbie Ray, Fister has toiled mostly in anonymity for most of his career, first in Seattle, then in Motown. But Fister’s main skills are hardly those of a second fiddle. Fister is a command and control specialist who generates a ton of ground balls, almost never gives up home runs (0.6 per nine) and possesses an elite K/BB ratio. Fister should thrive in front of a defense that, while not quite elite itself, is far and above what he’s been used to in Detroit. He’s the No. 4 in D.C. only by default.

Ross Detwiler, LHP: Detwiler will be given the first opportunity to claim the No. 5 starter spot in Spring Training. The Nats would love to have a second lefty in the rotation, but it all depends on if Detwiler, not young anymore at 27, can stay healthy and show the gains he made in ’12 were real. His K rate, which has never been all that good, plummeted last season to 4.9 per nine innings, even though his walk rate was down too. The hip injury of two years ago robbed him of several miles an hour off the fastball, and he dealt with back and neck problems all last season. It’s incredible the amount of injuries this guy has gone through, but none to his arm. A move to the pen might help with velocity and longevity.

Taylor Jordan, RHP: Jordan took everyone by surprise last season, called up for an emergency start or two and ended up sticking around for nine starts to a 3.66 ERA and 1.355 WHIP. He’s another ground ball specialist with good control and middling strikeout rates, so he has a limited ceiling. But he certainly had the look of a big leaguer last season.

Tanner Roark, RHP: Ready for a stat? Roark threw 141 sliders to right handed hitters last season. The number of hits he gave up on that pitch: 0. As in zero. Roark is already 27, so the former 25th round pick is making up for lost time, but in 14 games and five starts he went 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA and 0.913 WHIP. That’s silly. He’s not going to repeat those numbers, obviously, but he’s stingy with free passes and keeps the ball on the ground. Noticing a pattern?

Ross Ohlendorf, RHP: Ohlendorf, he of the old-timey windup, resurrected his career last season. After consecutive years of ERAs over 7.50, Ohlendorf was probably on his last big league chance. He practically ditched his slider and relied on several different fastballs, changing speeds and locations enough to keep hitter honest most of the time. His “stuff” doesn’t compare to most of the arms the Nats have on staff, but he survived on the edges and got himself another shot this season. Is willing to work from rotation or pen and won’t be overwhelmed if the Nats have to plug him into any one of a variety of roles.

Sammy Solis, LHP: Solis, now 25, returned from Tommy John surgery to make 13 starts last season between the Gulf Coast league and Potomac. He was considered a fast riser with middle ceiling when drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft, so Solis will need to show very quickly at Harrisburg to regain the luster of a mid-rotation starter. If not, look for the Nats to quickly convert him into a bullpen arm, a role that he could enjoy a long, healthy MLB career at. It’s all up to his K/9, which took a hit last year in the first year back after surgery.

A.J. Cole, RHP: Mike Rizzo loves A.J. Cole. He drafted him in the fourth round in 2010, traded him to Oakland in the Gio Gonzalez deal, then traded back for him in the Michael Morse trade. Cole was okay at the start of the year in Potomac last season, but really took off upon his promotion to Harrisburg, where in seven starts he went 4-2 with a 2.18 ERA and 0.904 WHIP and 4.90 K/BB ratio. If Cole can get his breaking ball on par with his big, heavy fastball and MLB-average change, he could challenge for the rotation in 2015.

Matt Purke, LHP: Purke is still young, just 23. But he’s only made 21 starts in the past two seasons while dealing with the same impingement in his shoulder that cost him his last year at TCU and a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Purke’s issue is a lot like Detwiler, a cross-body action with his arm that generates a lot of torque, which in turn causes body parts to revolt and destruct. His fastball and changeup are both fringy right now and he needs innings to prove he’s still worth the effort, but it looks more and more like the Nats $4 million gamble on him in the third round of the 2011 draft will end up bust.

Chris Young, RHP: The 6’10” Young didn’t pitch in the Majors last season. Shoot, he hardly pitched at all, making just nine starts in the minors, including seven in Syracuse, where he went 1-2 with a 6.81 ERA and almost walked as many (3.9 per nine) as struck out (4.5 per nine). So why is he listed here? I’m not sure. The Nats invited him to Spring Training again and since he’s a MLB veteran I’m giving him all due respect by listing him here, but at 35, he’s done. He never had much of a fastball to begin with, relying on guile and his impressive frame, but I’ll be shocked if Young makes it through Spring Training.

NATS/P-NATS: Potomac Nationals Announce Starting Rotation for Playoffs

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The Potomac Nationals announce their starting pitching rotation for the upcoming best-of-three 2013 Carolina League Northern Division Playoff Round against the Lynchburg Hillcats (Atlanta Braves) to be hosted at Pfitzner Stadium beginning with Game One on Wednesday, September 4th at 7:05pm:

*Game One (9/4): LHP Sammy Solis (2-1, 3.43)

*Game Two (9/5): RHP Blake Schwartz (11-4, 2.65)

*Game Three (9/6) [if necessary]: LHP Matt Purke (5-3, 4.43)

The winner of the Carolina League’s Northern Division Series receives a berth to the best-of-five 2013 Mills Cup Championship Series to face the pennant winner of the Southern Division. Per Carolina League rules on odd years, Potomac will host the first two games of the Championship Series on Saturday, September 7th and Sunday, September 8th should they qualify by winning the Division Series.

Nationals send eight to Arizona Fall League

The Washington Nationals announced today the organization is sending eight players to participate in this year’s Arizona Fall League, the post-season showcase for MLB’s best young talent.

All eight players, plus one coach (hitting coach Tony Gingrich), will be members of the Mesa Solar Sox, who begin play Oct. 8.

Position players: OF Brian Goodwin, 1B Matt Skole, C Adrian Nieto and OF Steven Souza (taxi squad).

Pitchers: Sammy Solis and Matt Purke (starters), Rboert Benincasa and Richie Mirowski (relievers).

Goodwin, Skole, Souza and Mirowski all played with AA Harrisburg this season. Solis, Purke and Benincasa are rostered at High-A Potomac.

Goodwin, 22, was the 34th overall pick of the 2011 Amateur Draft and will make his second appearance at the AFL. He’s hitting .251/.350/.403 with 10 homers and 18 SBs this season in 115 games with Harrisburg.

Skole, 24, hit 27 homers in 2012 but has missed most of the season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, an injury sustained in a freak accident fielding a ball at first base. Nieto, 23, was lauded as a good handler of pitches when drafted by the Nats, but faced a 50-game PED suspension in 2011 which slowed his development. He’s hitting .289/.375/.455 with 11 homers in 106 games this season. Souza, 24, has struggled with shoulder issues his entire minor league career, but has put together a solid season in AA, hitting .285/.381/.545 in 70 games.

Solis, 25, is in his first season back from Tommy John surgery and is 2-0 with a 2.72 ERA and 1.226 WHIP in 12 games in High-A. He was the Nats second round pick in 2010. Purke, 23, has put up with lingering shoulder troubles from an injury in college, but has started 11 games for the P-Nats and has gone 5-4 with a 4.82 ERA and 1.429 WHIP. Benincasa, 22, has 15 saves in 23 games for Potomac and strikes out 10.3 per nine innings. Mirowski, 24, was 8-3 with six saves in 32 games with the P-Nats and 1-0 with a 2.73 ERA in 10 games with Harrisburg.

Solis shut down, likely to need Tommy John surgery

The news out of Viera on Sammy Solis is not good.  The 23-year old lefty was shut down by the Washington Nationals and will be evaluated by orthopedist Lewis Yocum, with the likely outcome of the dreaded Tommy John surgery.  Solis becomes the latest Nats high draft pick to fall victim to the procedure, following Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg.

Solis was a second round draft pick in 2009 out of the University of San Diego.  At the time, he was expected to be a quick riser to the big leagues, though his plateau was likely as a No. 3 or 4  starter.  He didn’t possess a huge fastball, but threw strikes with four pitches and always had a “bulldog” mentality in college.  He was rated by Baseball America as the organization’s sixth-best prospect in their latest evaluations. [Read more…]

Arizona Fall League Update: Bryce Harper on fire; Joins Norris for Rising Stars Game

For Bryce Harper, what a difference a couple of weeks makes.

The 19-year old Washington Nationals phenom got off to a slow start in the Arizona Fall League this season, struggling out of the gate as he seems to do every time he changes a level.  For the last two weeks, however, he’s has been flat-out raking.  In his last ten games, the outfielder has hit .410/.467/.923 with three doubles, five home runs and 19 RBIs.

Harper on deck at spring training (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Overall, in 16 games and 62 at bats, Harper is hitting .290/.357/.613 with five homers and 20 BRIs.  Oh, and he’s still the youngest player in the league. [Read more…]

Bryce Harper off to slow start in Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League is in its second week already, so there’s a big enough sample size to take a look at how the Nats prospects are faring.  The biggest thing that jumps out in the stats is that Bryce Harper, playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions, is 2-for-23 in six games (.087/.160/.087) with no extra base hits and just one RBI.  He’s walked twice, struck out four times, and is 3-for-4 in stolen base attempts.  Harper hit a combined .297/.392/.501 in 109 games between Single-A Hagerstown and Double-A Harrisburg last season with 17 home runs, 58 RBIs and 26 steals in 33 attempts.

Harper on deck at spring training (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Harper’s been a notorious slow starter at every level he’s attempted, but this is his second go-round in the AFL.  His numbers will bear watching over the next month (the AFL runs through Nov. 17) to see how he rebounds from this mostly miserable start.  Something worth keeping in mind: he’s still the youngest player on his AFL team, by more than a year behind Angels outfielder Mike Trout. [Read more…]

Nationals send cream of minor league crop to Arizona Fall League

The Washington Nationals sent seven players to the Arizona Fall League this year, including 2010 first overall pick Bryce Harper, to compete for the Scottsdale Scorpions.  Joining Harper are LHP Matt Purke (’10 third round)LHP Sammy Solis (’10 second round), C Derek Norris (’07 fourth round), RHP Pat Lehman (’09 14th round), RHP Rafael Martin (’10 international free agent) and INF Zach Walters (’10 ninth round, acquired from Arizona for Jason Marquis).

Bryce Harper in his Double-A Debut in Harrisburg (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Obviously, most of the attention in on Harper, the soon-to-be 19-year old from Las Vegas.  He made quite a splash this season, his first in professional baseball, tearing up the Single-A South Atlantic League for the Hagerstown Suns, before a post-All-Star game promotion to Double-A Harrisburg, where he was heating up before pulling a hamstring trying to go from first-to-third on Aug. 19.  In 37 games for the Senators, Harper hit .256/.329/.395 with seven doubles, a triple and three HRs.  He pounded Class-A pitching to the tune of .318/.423/.554 with 17 doubles and 14 HRs in 72 games.  Harper will be the youngest player in the AFL for the second straight season. [Read more…]

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