October 21, 2014

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats drop a pair in split-squad games with Braves and Astros

The Washington Nationals had a split-squad day on Wednesday, with half the team travelling to Lake Buena Vista to face the Braves and the rest in Kissimmee taking on the Astros. Unfortunately, the results were similar, as both home teams scored in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Nats.

The group in Disney fell to Atlanta 3-2. Veteran starter Chris Young, trying to resurrect his career, allowed tow earned runs on three hits and a walk, striking out three. He gave up a two-out, two-run homer to Freddie Freeman in the first inning.

The Braves got the winning run in the ninth inning off minor league closer Robert Benincasa. Joe Leonard singles to start the inning, then pinch-runner Jose Peraza stole second and scored on a single by Elmer Reyes.

Denard Span went 2-for-3 with a triple, raising his spring average to .429.

In Kissimmee, the Astros got to lefty Xavier Cedeno for three runs on four hits in the ninth to send the Nats to a 10-9 loss. Cedeno struck out leadoff hitter Gregorio Petit and Jesus Guzman ground out. But Rene Garcia singled to right and Adron Chambers ran for him. Cedeno uncorked a wild pitch, sending Chambers to second. He scored on a Delino DeShields single. Marwin González followed with a double, plating DeShields. Gonzalez scored the winning run on a George Spring single.

Tanner Roark, battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, started. He allowed three runs on three hits and two walks, striking out three, in 3.1 IP. He gave up Jason Castro’s two-run homer in the third inning. Craig Stammen allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits in two innings, striking out four.

Will Rhymes went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, Nate McLouth homered and Mike Fontenot drove in three and scored twice.

 

 

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats dump Cards 11-1

Stephen Strasburg gave up one run on two hits and two walks in three innings, but the Nats offense pounded out 11 runs on 15 hits as the Washington Nationals dumped the St. Louis Cardinals 11-1 at Space Coast Stadium in Viera on Sunday.

Strasburg wasn’t the sharpest in his second appearance, as he walked the first two batters he faced and did not record a strikeout. He did generate five ground ball outs and induced two double plays.

The rest of the pitchers that followed were near perfect. Matt Purke, Drew Storen, Craig Stammen, Christian Garcia and Luis Ayala combined for six innings of shutout ball, allowing just one hit and no walks, striking out four — three by Garcia in his inning of work.

To be fair, the Cardinals brought very few major league players for the road trip up U.S. 95.

Anthony Rendon led off and went 2-for-3 with a homer, two runs and an RBI. Wilson Ramos — hitting .563 this spring — went 2-for-3 with a run and 3 RBIs and Koyie Hill drove in two. Tyler Moore added a pair of hits in two trips.

The Nats host the Houston Astros at 6:05 on Monday.

 

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats comeback late but lose to Braves 3-2

Jordan Zimmermann made his second scoreless appearance of the Grapefruit League season, and the Washington Nationals were tied with the Atlanta Braves at 2 entering the bottom of the ninth, but the Braves pushed a run across against Danny Rosenbaum and the Nats fell 3-2 in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

Braeden Schlehuber singled with pinch-runner Joey Terdoslavich on third base with two outs to give the Braves the win. Terdoslavich entered the game after Ernesto Mejia walked. He took second on an error by Mike Fontenot and went to third on a wild pitch by Rosenbaum.

None of which should take away from Zimmermann’s sterling three-inning stint. The 2013 All-Star gave up two hits and a walk, striking out four. He faced 12 batters and got four ground outs and one fly out.

Ross Ohlendorf gave up three hits and a walk, leading to two earned runs, without retiring a batter.

Anthony Rendon went 2-for-3 leading off, and Will Rhymes went 2-for-3 as well. Catcher Chris Snyder homered in the ninth inning to tie the game up for a short time.

The Nats struck out 12 times against seven Atlanta pitchers, including four by starter Julio Teheran.

Washington hosts the Houston Astros at 1:05 pm on Friday from Space Coast Stadium in Viera.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats fall to Braves 8-4

For the Washington Nationals, spring training isn’t about winning games or even necessarily finding competition for the precious few spots that might be available for the last bench of bullpen spot. It’s primarily about getting their starting pitching ready, lined up and healthy for opening day.

Another step in that task was taken Tuesday, as Stephen Strasburg made his spring debut. Strasburg pitched two innings, allowing one hit and no walks, striking out one. He was followed by fifth spot candidate Taylor Jordan, who did not fare as well.

Jordan gave up two earned runs on five hits in two innings, He did not walk a batter and struck out three. A.J. Cole was next, and the prospect threw two perfect frames, striking out two.

Drew Storen, coming off an up-and-down 2013, had a rough go of it in his first appearance, allowing two earned runs on a hit and two walks — to the first two batters he faced.

On the other side of the ball, Ian Desmond went 3-for-3, including his first homer of the spring, with two runs and an RBI.

The Nats host the Mets Wednesday at 1:05 from Space Coast Stadium in Viera.

NATS NOTES: The Nats signed LHP Mike Gonzalez to a minor league deal to compete for a spot in the bullpen.

With Gulf Coast idea all but dead, Nats explore Palm Beach

The Washington Nationals seemingly have been looking to replace Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL as their spring training home ever since the Lerners took over the reigns of the team from MLB. They have been rumored to be moving just about everywhere in the state of Florida as the untenable thought of moving west to Arizona for their March home lingers.

This week, still more rumors surfaced, this time with the Nats being tied to the Astros in a shared facility in Palm Beach County. Where in Palm Beach is still anyone’s guess, as city and county managers are still trying to get their heads around the idea. But one thing’s for certain: the search is still on.

Southern Florida used to be a real hotbed for Major League teams Spring Training facilities. But the Yankees left Ft. Lauderdale decades ago. The Orioles and Dodgers have followed suit. Now, the Cardinals and Marlins train in Jupiter and the Mets in Port St. Lucie. That’s it. The closest team to those three in Florida: the Washington Nationals, in Viera. The next closest? The Houston Astros in Kissimmee.

grapefruit_league

If the Nats and Astros move to Palm Beach County, the number of teams the Nats can logistically play is reduced to the aforementioned Cards, Marlins and Mets, along with the Astros, with whom they theoretically would share a facility.

The distance would be a lot shorter to those teams, which is good for the (mostly) minor leaguers that have to ride the bus for away games. The problem with Palm Beach County, for all intents and purposes, is that it practically eliminates games against ANY other teams.

Here’s a chart with drive times from Palm Beach and Viera to the other Spring Training cities.

CITY TEAM DISTANCE IN HOURS

From Palm Beach Co.

DISTANCE IN HOURS

From Viera

Jupiter Cardinals, Marlins 0:25 1:40
Port St. Lucie Mets 0:48 1:10
Viera Vacant 2:00  
Kissimmee Vacant 2:15 1:00
Lake Buena Vista Braves 2:30 1:00
Ft. Myers Red Sox, Twins 2:25 3:15
Port Charlotte Rays 2:40 3:10
Lakeland Tigers 2:45 1:35
Sarasota Orioles 3:10 2:40
Tampa Yankees 3:15 2:00
Bradenton Pirates 3:15 2:25
Clearwater Phillies 3:40 2:25
Dunedin Jays 3:45 2:30

Very obviously, the thing that jumps out is the Mets, Cards and Marlins all are reachable inside an hour’s drive from Palm Beach. But not another facility is within 2 1/2 hours, as opposed to Viera, where six cities are within two hours, and all but three within 2 1/2.

If the Nats efforts in finding a new Spring Training facility is really about increasing the number of teams they can play against within a reasonable drive, then Palm Beach County ain’t the solution. If it’s about getting closer to the four other teams they already play the bulk of their spring schedule against, then it accomplishes that goal.

If their true goal is to simply get a brand-spanking new, state-of-the-art Spring Training facility they call home for seven weeks or so every season built for them on someone else’s dime, then they should stop the pretenses and just move to Arizona.

Washington Nationals Spring Training 2014 Preview, Part II: The Outfield

Jayson Werth high-fives Bryce Harper after gunning out Greg Dobbs in the ninth inning. - Miami Marlins v. Washington Nationals, 9/7/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Health and self-preservation are key for the Nats outfield this season. (Stock photo Sept. 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.

Josie’s on a vacation far away…

THE OUTFIELD

Jayson Werth, RF: Werth was a stealth candidate for MVP last season, and actually ended up 13th on the postseason award ballot. The .318/.398/.532 line he posted at age 34 had everything to do with that. Werth enjoyed one of his finest seasons in the bigs, despite missing 33 games due to injury, which has to be expected from the guy at this point in his career. There’s no way he’ll every live up to the immense contract he signed to come to D.C., but when he’s been in the lineup the past two seasons he’s outdone what could have reasonably been expected of him. How long does that production continue? His defense is already slipping greatly and he has four more seasons to his contract, so it becomes an important question as Werth enters the twilight of his solid career.

Denard Span, CF: Trivia: He’s the only player in Major League history by the name of Denard. Or Span. Anyway, Span rescued his season with a torrid seven weeks at the end of the season, which was along the lines of what GM Mike Rizzo expected when he traded pitching prospect Alex Meyer to the Twins for him. Span bottomed out on Aug. 16 at .258/.310/.353, nowhere near what’s necessary in the top spot in the batting order. For the next 39 games, he hit .338/.375/.459, instrumental in the Nats late resurgence. It was too little, too late to save the Nats playoff aspirations, but the Nats have to get more near his career line (.283/.351/.387) on a more consistent basis to make this offense work.

Bryce Harper, LF: Bam Bam put up a .274/.368/.486 line his sophomore season at the age of 20. That’s at once hard to comprehend and easy to overlook. He’s doing remarkable things at such an early age. Unfortunately, he’s his own worst enemy right now with his “balls to the wall” approach at defense. At some point, self-preservation has to take hold. No manager or coach wants to tell Harper to slow down, but he needs to stay on the field – and healthy – to fulfill his promise. After crashing into the wall at Dodgers Stadium in May, he played all season on a knee that required surgery at the conclusion of the season, under the radar while many weren’t paying attention to baseball. He needs to figure out lefties (.214/.327/.321/ in 158 PAs) and breaking balls, but the talent is there. He just needs to stay on the field.

Nate McLouth, OF: Last season was the first time since 2009 McLouth played more than 90 games at the Major League level. His resurgence for the Orioles is nothing short of astounding, considering the trajectory his career was taking. In ’10 and ’11 with Atlanta he hit .190 and .228 with 10 homers combined. His first 34 games with Pittsburgh in ’12 were no better: .140/.210/.175, leading to his release. He rediscovered himself in Baltimore, hitting .26/.342/.435 and .258/.329/.399 the past two years. Now 32, McLouth will see plenty of at bats with the injury-prone Nats outfield and as a late inning pinch-hitter. By default, he becomes the leader of the Goon Squad.

Scott Hairston, Corner OF: Hairston is the right-handed hitting Ying to McLouth’s Yang. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work on paper. But Hairston’s overall numbers last year (.191/.237/.414) and age (34) – not to mention his paltry .214/.259/.484 against LHPs, who he’s supposed to “mash” – signal the end is rapidly approaching the once versatile and useful player. It’s true, all 10 of Hairston’s homers last season came against lefties, but as his slash line indicates, it was literally all or nothing for Hairston. 10 of his 27 hits in 140 plate appearances against LHPs were home runs. Against righties? .097/.147/.276. Can this actually be the Nats primary right-handed bat off the bench? With a walk rate of 5 percent and contact rate of 72 percent, this a guy whose skills aren’t declining, they’ve just about evaporated.

Jeff Kobernus, Corner OF: Kobernus made his MLB debut last year at the age of 25, past prospect status. His tryout lasted 36 PAs and resulted in a .167/.306/.267 slash as he played all three outfield positions. Small sample caveats abound, as the converted second baseman held his own in Syracuse, hitting .318/.366/.388, all minor league career highs. You like to see a player whose numbers rise as he goes up the ladder. He’s had 40+ steals each of the past three seasons in the minors and folks love his work ethic. But there’s not a lot of room in the bigs for a right-handed hitting speedster without obvious elite skills and no pop, especially in the outfield.

Eury Perez, CF: Did you see the last sentence I wrote about Kobernus? It applies even more toward Perez. His stolen base numbers have plummeted as he’s risen through the ranks, from 64 to 51 to 23. He’s always made good contact, as his lifetime .305 average will attest to. But there’s no power, less willingness to walk, and he’s only an average defender despite his speed – though he has a decent arm. Perez is destined for pinch runner/Quad-A status.

Steven Souza, Corner OF: Souza was a third round pick in 2007 out of high school, so he’s been in the system for-e-ver, toiling first in anonymity, then infamously due to his PED suspension in 2010. But Souza has blossomed a little bit the past two seasons and put himself back on the radar of the big club. He has an interesting pop/speed combo (15 homers, 20 SBs in 323 PAs for Harrisburg in ’13) with good plate discipline (.396 OBP) and had a nice appearance in the Arizona Fall League in October. The 25-year-old could have a chance to impact the big roster yet.

Brian Goodwin, CF: Goodwin is the heir apparent to the center field position at Nats Park. The 34th overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft, Goodwin has an impressive arsenal of tools. He possess elite plate discipline, something that might actually hurt his counting numbers in the minor leagues, as he simply won’t expand his strike zone for inferior pitchers. When he does swing, he has a nice blend of pop to go along with squaring up on the ball. Goodwin is a fine defender in center, though his arm isn’t the greatest, and he’s still learning to use his speed on the bases (just 19 of 30 last season). He struggled at the start of last season in Double-A, but picked up as the season went on. There’s plenty of time for the 23-year old as Span plays in his walk year this season (barring Nats picking up Span’s $9M option for ’15).

Michael Taylor, OF: Scouts have been drooling over Taylor’s athleticism since being drafted in the sixth round of the ’09 draft. Unfortunately for Taylor, he’s never really been able to translate all that athletic ability into production on the baseball field. He’s still young (23 in March), so he’s got time to “put it together”, but in over 1600 minor league at bats, Taylor owns a .249/.319/.399 slash. He repeated High-A last season and tore it up on the base paths (51 of 60 on steals) and his slash went up a little bit across the board. Double-A this year will tell the story of whether he’s a baseball player or athlete.

Washington Nationals Spring Training 2014 Preview, Part I: The Infield

Ryan Zimmerman gets Matt Kemp out in top of 5th (third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to first baseman Adam LaRoche) - Los Angeles Dodgers v. Washington Nationals, Game One of Doubleheader on September 19, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Ryan Zimmerman is a key component to Nats playoff hopes. (stock photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page, Sept. 2012)

 

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.

With no further adieu… [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Spring Training site still in flux with options dwindling

The Washington Nationals have not made it a secret they would like to leave Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL, and move into a new, state-of-the-art training complex more centrally located toward central Florida to increase the number of teams they can play during spring training. Their lease runs through 2017, but can opt out at any time because they have paid Brevard Co. back for $7 million in construction bonds

Reading through the tea leaves of municipal governments in Florida, the Nats’ dreams may have a hard time becoming reality.

From all indications, the Nats would like to have Osceola County build them a two-team training complex. Reports Florida Today.com (July 10):

Preliminary plans presented by Osceola County officials to tourism leaders show a 9,000-seat stadium; 10 practice fields for major league, minor league and amateur baseball use; and up to two 200-room hotels on county-owned land about 1.5 miles east of downtown Kissimmee.

According to MyFoxOrlando.com, Osceola County’s tourism board, for their part, okayed a $98 million proposal Wednesday to build a dual-team, 120 acre spring training facility, but it still faces stiff inspection at the County Commission.

Tourism board member George Chen says he likes the baseball project, but not  if the county commission continues a history of what he called irresponsible  spending of tourism tax dollars.

“Without a guarantee from our board of county commissioners that they will be  spending tourist development taxes in a responsible way, it makes this project  very, very risky,” Chen said.

One of the big obstacles for Osceola County would be attracting another team to share the facility — and the building costs. The Houston Astros have trained at Osceola County Stadium, an attractive — but outdated — facility near the airport. The other team whose lease runs out in the near future is the Toronto Blue Jays, who currently train in Dunedin, FL, on the gulf coast.

The Astros, however, are heading an effort to work with Palm Beach Gardens to build a new two-team complex there, 141 miles south of where they currently play. The team currently tagged to share the facility? The Toronto Blue Jays. According to the Houston Chronicle’s Astros blog, Ultimate Astros (July 11), the Astros are “…close to finalizing a deal to move their spring training home from Kissimmee, Fla., to Palm Beach Gardens,” and that the Blue Jays are the other team attached to the project.

Barring an unforeseen setback, the Astros and Toronto Blue Jays will share a facility in Palm Beach Gardens in the same manner the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals share a facility in Jupiter, Fla.

Who does that leave as a dance partner for the Nats? In reality, no one.

There are 15 teams that train in Florida and all but the Nationals, Astros and Blue Jays are locked into long-term agreements with their current training facilities, including four teams (Orioles, Twins, Red Sox and Rays) that have moved within the past five years. There had been an exodus from teams training on the Atlantic Coast, with the Dodgers leaving long-time spring training home Vero Beach for Arizona, and the Orioles moving from Ft. Lauderdale across the state to Sarasota.

If the Astros/Blue Jays complex in Palm Beach Gardens comes to fruition, that will bring two more teams to the Atlantic Coast, perhaps forcing the Nats to consider staying in Viera. They might not have much of a choice.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that Monday, Osceola County commissioners denied a request from the county manager to start negotiations with a developer/designer for the project in that county, citing that until one team commits to the project, nothing will move forward.

“Until that first team makes a commitment, no one else is making any moves,” Don Miers, the county’s sports facilities manager, said of expected team relocations.

As we mentioned, the only teams that could be connected to the project are the Nats, Astros and Jays.

WOGX.com (Fox 51 in Orlando) described the municipal’s participation in even more dire terms (July 11), reporting:

On Tuesday, top brass from Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals presented their proposal for a brand new dual stadium to each of Osceola County’s five commissioners.  The Nationals recently told officials in Brevard County, where they currently play in Viera, the team does not intend to renew it’s lease at Space Coast Stadium.

But quoted Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr. saying, “I’m anxious to see the tourist community’s reaction to this proposal first,” Hawkins said. “If they are not positive, it would be a hard sell.”

Hawkins also stated his concern for the proposal missing plans for hotels on the complex.

Also concerning to the commissioner was the absence of plans for a private developer to build a hotel on the stadium’s property.  As it stands, the team would have to drive 45 minutes to the nearest hotel.

“There wasn’t a real commitment to build a hotel,” said Hawkins Jr.

It’s apparent that despite the Nationals desire to move out of Space Coast Stadium and into a new, state-of-the-art two-team complex, there remains multiple hurdles to clear before they can pack the moving trucks. It looks more and more likely that though they wish for greener pastures, they may have to make do with what they have for the foreseeable future.

Washington Nationals Prospect Preview and Scouting Report: Zach Walters

Zach Walters

Shortstop
Height/Weight: 6’3”/210 lbs
Born: 9/5/1989
Bats/Throws: Both/Right
Comparable MLB Players: Jason Barlett, Adam Kennedy, Omar Infante, Erick Aybar, Brandon Crawford

Scouting Grades

 Present  Future
 Hitting Ability  4  5
 Raw Power  4  5
 Power Frequency  3  4
 Plate Discipline  3  4
 Running Speed  5  5
 Baserunning  4  5
 Arm Strength  7  7
 Arm Accuracy  4  6
 Fielding  4  6
 Range  5  6
 Overall  4  5

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
[Read more...]

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Haren gives up four homers in Nats’ 8-5 loss to Marlins

The Miami Marlins put on a derby against Dan Haren and the Washington Nationals Tuesday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium – not in the least, Giancarlo Stanton, whose first inning shot landed well beyond the right field wall.

While the Nats’ bats – namely, Bryce Harper – helped Haren walk away with a no-decision, Ryan Mattheus did not step in for the loss until the seventh inning, with the game tied 5-5. [Read more...]

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