Spring Training games are well underway, and there are a host of new Washington Nationals non-roster invitees you might not know. Most of these non-roster invitees have been picked up to be roster fillers, and most have little-to-no chance of making the team. Despite this fact, it’s always nice to recognize and know a little bit about those guys. Here are five of those players that fans will get a glimpse of during this Spring Training.
1. Jarrett Hoffpauir
Signed by Washington on December 14 to a minor league contract, Jarrett Hoffpauir has appeared in five spring training games so far, going 0-for-5. In seven seasons since was drafted by the Cardinals, Hoffpauir has played with three different teams spending the majority of his time in the minors with only 21 games in the majors. While his stats in the minors have been decent with a .285/.366/.428 stat line, he has disappointed in the majors with a .217/.308/.283 slash line. Look for Hoffpauir to get time at second base when Espinosa gets a break in the late innings.
2. Jeff Fulchino
Thirty-two year-old reliever Jeff Fulchino signed with the Nationals on December 16 after leaving the Astros for free agency. Drafted by the Marlins in 2001, Fulchino has seen a good amount of time in the majors with four different teams. In 178.1 innings pitched over 5 years of service, he has accumulated a career 4.84 ERA with a 1.464 WHIP and 162 strikeouts. Fulchino has thrown two innings for the Nats this spring, posting a 1.00 WHIP with no runs scored against him yet. With the Nationals’ deep bullpen, Fulchino will have a hard time breaking into the majors, but where there are injuries, there is a chance.
3. Waldis Joaquin
Waldis Joaquin threw two innings of shutout baseball on Monday, March 5 and earned the save. The San Francisco Giants signed the now 25 year-old from the Dominican Republic as a free agent in 2003. In seven full years in the Giants system, he has a career 3.50 ERA in 293.1 innings pitched. His major league debut occurred in 2009 but his appearances have not produced consistent results. In three years and only 21.2 innings he has given up 13 earned runs along with walking 17 batters. Joaquin signed with the Nationals as a free agent on the same day that Jarrett Hoffpauir signed. Realistically, Joaquin has no chance of making the major league club, but he will see a lot of time in either AAA or AA.
4. Mark Teahen
The most experienced player out of this bunch, 30 year-old Mark Teahen has seen 7 years of major league time with three different teams playing almost every position. Averaging a .264/.327/.409 career slash line in the majors, Teahen probably has the best chance of these five players at making this team because of his versatility. Early in his career, he posted impressive numbers with the Kansas City Royals, but those numbers have since tapered off. In three games this Spring Training, Teahen has already seen six at-bats but has failed to record his first hit. Depending on his performance this spring, Teahen may be put into the competition for one of the Nationals’ final bench spots if any injuries occur.
5. Andres Blanco
Andres Blanco has started his spring going 0-for-5 with one nice defensive play. The now 27 year-old, signed as a free agent in 2000 by the Royals, has played 6 years in the majors with three different teams. In 235 games, he has a .255/.301/.333 slash line with 77 stolen bases while playing numerous positions. Blanco will have to play great to overcome Teahen in the battle for one of those final bench spots, but he has an outside shot.
There are plenty of other unknown players in Nationals camp this year, but there is one thing that makes this list of five players great. Two or three years ago, most of these guys would have been locks for the Nationals 25-man roster. With the Nats improvements in every aspect of their roster, from position players, to pitchers, to bench players, DC baseball fans are finally seeing what they’ve hoped for for years.