During his pre-game press conference Wednesday, before the Washington Nationals 5-1 loss tot he Atlanta Braves, Nats skipper Davey Johnson was asked if he was looking forward to seeing some of the potential candidates for the Sept. 1 roster expansion.
“I really was last year. Much more so than this year. I don’t know how many we had last year. We couldn’t have had too many. This year, we’ll probably have about five or six. The majority of them, if not all of them, we’ll have had here. Ah, maybe one exception, but we had him in the spring.”
There wasn’t a follow-up question, so we’ll have to parse Davey’s words a bit in order to take a guess at the players he’s talking about. By “had here’, we’ll assume he meant “were on the active roster” at one point this season or last. “[O]ne exception” is just that, someone who hasn’t been on the active roster this year. “[H]ad him in the spring” means he was in big league camp during spring training.
If we look at the Nats 40-man roster, it appears they stand today at 39 players. The only players on the 60-day D.L. are Wilson Ramos and Cole Kimball, neither of whom will be activated any time this season. So the Nats have room to add a player not currently on the 40-man.
For the sake of discussion, we’ll assume that all of the players on the 15-day D.L. will be activated at some point, so they don’t fall into Davey’s “five or six” he referred to in his comment. So, who’s left?
Healthy players currently on the 40-man roster but not on the active roster (9): John Lannan, Yunesky Maya, Ryan Perry, Sandy Leon, Chris Marrero, Anthony Rendon, Carlos Rivero, Corey Brown, Eury Perez. In years past, the Nats have typically just brought everyone up on the 40-man for the most part. It doesn’t seem like that’s going to be the case this year.
Lannan’s a given; he’ll take the two or three starts that will be created due to The Shutdown. My guess at the others are Maya, Perry, Leon, and Brown. All those players were on the active roster at some point since Davey took over last year. Maya and Perry could save the bullpen once or twice in blowouts over the course of a month. Leon would provide insurance as a third catcher and allow Davey to use whoever wasn’t that night’s starting catcher as another right-handed pinch-hitter. Brown could be used as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement.
That leaves Marrero, Rendon, Rivero and Perez as the “one exception” Davey referred to. I just don’t see Marrero or Rivero in the Nats long-term plans at this point, and therefore not a candidate to be called up. Marrero’s played in just 43 games this year, 27 with Syracuse, and is hitting .261/.358/.304 with no home runs and eight RBIs at AAA. Rivero is hitting .306/.353/.443 with 10 homers and 60 RBIs for Syracuse, but is not a great defender and is more organizational depth than anything.
Rendon and Perez were both at spring training with the big league camp. They are both fast-rising prospects. Rendon obviously has the pedigree of being the No. 6 overall draft pick in 2011 and has battled injuries his entire college and pro career. Perez is a gifted runner that is still trying to round out the rest of his game — offensively and defensively. I wouldn’t be surprised if either were added to sit on the Nats bench and soak in a pennant chase.
The only dark horse candidate is Christian Garcia, the flame-throwing reliever at AAA. The big right-hander missed parts of a couple of seasons with arm injuries, but it looks like he’s finally healthy and dominating hitters like envisioned when he was drafted in the third round by the Yankees in 2004.
In 41 games (a career high) this season for Harrisburg and Syracuse, Garcia, 27, has a 0.75 ERA with a 0.875 WHIP, striking out 11.8 batters per nine while walking just 2.8 per nine. But Garcia doesn’t fit any of Davey’s clues from his press conference. He hasn’t been on the roster and wasn’t in big league camp. But he is an intriguing arm to keep track of.