Folks, it’s that time of year again. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and I’m getting a sunburn every time I step outside; summer is (almost) officially here. Of course with the beginning of summer comes the beginning of short-season baseball, the obscure and sometimes mysterious proving ground for draftees and international signings alike. Modest baseball fields from Missoula to West Palm Beach are firing up their lights for the first times all season, ready to watch young men take their first steps towards their major league dreams or fight to keep that dream a reality. Alright that’s enough of me trying to sound poetic about short-season baseball; the low minors are fun, they’re weird, and most importantly they give many fans a chance to see their team’s newly drafted players and international free agents for the very first time. For the Nationals, several high-upside prospects are set to make their much anticipated professional debuts after the Nats splurged on international prospects last summer. When you add in the incoming draft class, Nats fans will have plenty to watch for between Auburn, West Palm Beach, and Boca Chica this summer.
Last Tuesday I discussed the state of the Nationals offensive depth, and what it could mean for the rest of the season. While I said I would write a follow up discussing the pitchers in a couple days, work and life got in the way (as they do) and I’m getting this to you a little late, so I apologize for that. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the Nationals pitching depth.
With the season a third of the way over and summer fast approaching, things couldn’t be going much better in the nation’s capital, at least as far as baseball is concerned. The Nationals are currently 36-20, good for a 11.5 game lead over the second place… (double-checks standings) Braves? The season is barely a third of the way over, and it looks like the Nats are well on their way to claiming the division title, their fourth in six years.
Despite all of their success, the Nationals still have a potential problem on the horizon, and that is their depth — or lack thereof. Although the Nationals have a commanding lead in their division, injuries happen, and the reserves will have to play well if the Nats hope to continue their hot start for the remainder of the season. Injuries and a lack of performance have already put the organizations depth to the test, and have produced varying results. With Jayson Werth on the DL, I thought it would be prudent to look at the Nationals current depth options, starting with the hitters, and see what they could bring to the team if called upon.
After being DFA’d by the Phillies during the offseason, Jimmy Cordero was given a new opportunity when he was traded to the Nationals in exchange for a PTBNL a few days later. Cordero spent much of 2016 battling a shoulder injury, limping his way to a disappointing 5.00 ERA and a career low 6.3 K/9. Once considered a potentially elite back of the bullpen prospect, injuries derailed Cordero’s career. With a fresh start and an invitation to spring training, Cordero was ready to put his injury plagued 2016 behind him and focus on earning his first major league call up. However, things quickly went south for the young Dominican. Continue Reading Jimmy Cordero and the Tale of Two Months
If you’re reading this you already know that the Nationals bullpen has been bad; like really bad. Despite the the offense leading the MLB in nearly every major category, the bullpen (or lack thereof) has been the defining storyline of the Nationals 2017 season so far. I’m not going to beat a dead horse: We all know that the bullpen has been holding back what appears to be an all-time great Nationals offense and will continue to be a major issue as the season progresses. Finally, on Tuesday night, the front office took a drastic step towards fixing this problem; transitioning Erick Fedde, the organization’s top pitching prospect, out of the rotation and into a relief role.
In an effort to keep up with their parent club, the Hagerstown Suns of the Low-A South Atlantic League have gotten off to a blistering start; going 19-12 through 31 games on the back of their high powered-offense. One of the driving forces behind Hagerstown’s success has been Dominican outfielder Juan Soto, who has caught the eye of scouts across the baseball world. The young outfielder has recently made his way onto national top 100 prospect lists, and despite his distance from the majors, could very well be the best hitter in the Nationals farm system.
Last summer, the Nationals made headlines at the deadline when they acquired Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and righty Taylor Hearn. Later that season, as the rest of the league turned their attention to the playoff race, the two teams came together once again to make a trade that flew under the radar of the national media. Following the return of Joe Ross from the 60-Day DL, the Nationals DFA’d infielder Chris Bostick, and eight days later were able to find a trade partner for him in Pittsburgh. In return the Nationals received a switch hitting catching prospect out of Florida by the name of Taylor Gushue. This was a trade of two struggling prospects who needed a fresh start; and in Gushue the Nationals have found intriguing upside to that has begun to show itself early in 2017.
It’s hard to believe that the first month of the season is almost behind us. The Nationals have been off to a red-hot start (at least the offense) and sit firmly atop the National League East. Down on the farm, things have been only slightly less cheerful. The Nationals affiliates have gone a combined 41-35, with the Low-A Hagerstown Suns leading the pack at 13-8. Individually, the Nationals have seen several top prospects come out of the gates firing, as well as a few lesser known prospects providing eye-opening performances. Despite the small sample size, the organization has been encouraged, and I would like to acknowledge these performances with my Organizational All-Stars for the month of April.
As we all know, the past year has been rough on the Nationals’ minor league system. Trades and promotions have turned what was once an excellent farm into just a mediocre one, with only a handful of high-end prospects remaining. While all of these moves have been done for the betterment of the major league club, the farm system is still in need of some restocking at all levels. With a low draft pick combined with a small bonus pool, as well as a cap on international spending after blowing through the cap last July 2nd, the traditional methods of restocking the farm offer limited near term value.