As has been mentioned in every single article about the Nationals for the past four weeks, their bullpen is bad. But for once, this is an article that isn’t (directly) about them.
After yet another game in which the bullpen proved porous, Nats Twitter is once again abuzz with demands for a new reliever. As if there was any doubt, the team has acknowledged its greatest weakness in a significant way, announcing that top starting pitching prospect Erick Fedde will shift to relief with an eye towards contributing in the majors sooner rather than later.
But even returns to form from existing relievers and a star turn from Fedde would not be enough to rescue the sorry bunch that is the Nationals’ relief corps. It’s stupendously likely that the Nationals will move to acquire a reliever at the trade deadline. That deadline is still more than two months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about guys who might soon be wearing the curly W.
With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.
—Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
A disclaimer: I am not a scout. None of the opinions expressed below reflect any assessments I have made based on any video or information a scout might utilize. What I am is an aggregator of scouting reports: I read any I can find, and what I have written below is based on my synthesis of the reports of others. Without further ado, I present to you: the Nationals prospects whose stock has risen the most this season, in no order.
If you stayed up to watch the entirety of Wednesday’s game, perhaps the only drama in the late innings was to see whether or not Trea Turner would get another at-bat, and with it a chance for a second consecutive cycle. The accomplishment is laughably improbable; the career record for cycles is three, set by four players. The only player to match the feat since World War 2 is Adrian Beltre.
Think about Jayson Werth for a second.
As a Nats fan who loves to worry, is he on your list of concerns? The bullpen, the defense, Trea’s hamstring… Werth doesn’t register, right?
Well, he shouldn’t. Just in case you were thinking about it.
Now, there is a reason or two to worry about Werth. But let me explain why even those shouldn’t concern you. Please, remain calm for the duration of the article.
If you’re reading this, you’re surely aware that the Nationals’ bullpen has been very bad this year. To put it empirically, Nats relievers have allowed 18 runs in 20 1/3 innings this year, or a 7.98 ERA. That’s awful!
The Nationals announced today that Blake Treinen will start the season as the closer, ending months of speculation that began right as the Nationals were eliminated in the NLDS last October. Their failed runs at the elite free agent closers showed a commitment to shoring up what has been a weak spot in the franchise’s history, but they came up empty.
Of the three reported finalists for the spot — Treinen, Koda Glover, and Shawn Kelley — all had their flaws. Glover is a rookie with a career 5.09 MLB ERA. Kelley has had two Tommy John surgeries and may not pitch back-to-back days. Treinen has had struggles with lefties and command, though he made strides in both areas last year. But the fact that this decision was so close implies something else: These players are not far apart, talent-wise. And because of that, it doesn’t really matter who the closer is.
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