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Nats Win Third Straight To Start Grapefruit League Action

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/files/2013/03/walters.jpgBob and FP returned to our televisions on Sunday afternoon for the Nationals’ third Grapefruit League matchup of 2014. Doug Fister, perhaps the biggest acquisition of the offseason in all of baseball, made his Nationals spring debut against the Miami Marlins.

Fister’s fastball velocity was a couple miles per hour off his 2013 average through his two innings of work, but there’s no reason for alarm this early in spring. MASN has chosen to show pitch speeds on a spring broadcast, which isn’t always the best idea. Pitchers are still getting stretched out, and it usually takes a couple of weeks until pitchers reach their normal regular season velocities. Fister did make good work of his curveball several times, freezing up Marlins’ hitters on several occasions.

Ian Desmond continued to show off his speed this spring. He stole his second base in two games in the bottom of the first inning. On the broadcast, FP said that Matt Williams is encouraging his veteran speedsters to steal whenever the time is right. Here’s hoping this is a sign that the Nats will be more aggressive on the base paths this season. Further, Desmond’s speed might become a factor in where he’s placed in the batting order this season.

Fister had some trouble in his second inning of work, but he still located most of his pitches effectively for his outing. It certainly wasn’t bad work for his first spring outing. Adam LaRoche picked a line drive at first to get him out of a mini-jam and finish his work for the day.

The Marlins went from facing one giant to another. Fister, 6’8”, was removed in favor of Chris Young, 6’10”, a right-handed former MLB starter who spent all of 2013 in the Nationals minor league system or on the disabled list. Young immediately gave up a home run to Ed Lucas over the left field wall. Otherwise, he had a quiet outing, despite having some trouble with pitch location at times.

LaRoche showed his power for the first time this spring when he took lefty Brian Flynn way over the right field wall for a two-run home run. It’s good to see LaRoche with his power swing, even if it’s only in Grapefruit League action.

The Nats’ starters mostly made their way out of the game after the fifth inning, but we did get to see some big names afterwards. Sammy Solis, the Nats number six prospect according to Baseball America despite not making the Baseball Prospectus Top 10 list, got two innings of work in his first MLB spring training game.

Solis is just another Nats pitcher with a huge frame at 6’5” and 250 lbs, but Jason Parks of Baseball Prospects isn’t convinced that Solis will produce at the big league level. When asked if Solis got any BP Top 10 consideration, Parks said, “Some consideration, but he’s 25 and yet to pitch above High-A. It’s a tough sell.”

Zach Walters continued to impress this spring, going 3-for-3 on Sunday, including a triple. He's now 5-for-5 on the spring. He also started a great diving 6-4-3 double play and made a diving stop and excellent throw across the diamond. Walters' early success is definitely worth watching.

Some thoughts

- On the broadcast, FP Santangelo talked about a conversation he had with Mark Weidemaier, the Nats new defensive coach. According to FP, Weidemaier said, “there is no such thing as straight up this year” and that the Nats will look at lots of analytics and scouting to decide where to place their defenses. This is a huge, positive development that Matt Williams brings to DC, especially considering how good the Nats pitching staff can be.

I’ll have a post on The Nats Blog on Monday addressing the huge advances MLB Advanced Media has made in defensive analytics.

- Wilson Ramos has been tattooing the ball in his plate appearances so far this spring. He could be a huge offensive factor for the 2014 Nats, if he can stay healthy. So far in this career, that’s been a pretty big “if.”

Joe Drugan

About Joe Drugan

Joe is the Managing Editor of The Nats Blog and host of the Nats Talk On The Go podcast. He's been blogging about the Nationals since 2010 and with The Nats Blog since 2011.

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