From March 13-19, the Nationals either reassigned or optioned 12 players to minor league camp. The position players were catcher Koyie Hill, who was subsequently traded to the Phillies; infielder Mike Fontenot; as well as outfielders Steven Souza Jr., Eury Perez, Brian Goodwin, and Michael Taylor. On the pitching side were lefthanders Matt Purke, Daniel Rosenbaum, and Sammy Solis; plus, righthanders Clay Hensley, Daniel Stange, and Josh Reonicke. As with last week’s crop, look for most of these players to begin in either Double-A Harrisburg or Triple-A Syracuse.
Purke should be followed closely. Since receiving a 4-year, $4 million contract as a third-round selection in 2011, injuries have limited him to just 105 and 1/3 innings, none of which have come above A-ball. In 2013, he was effectively two different pitchers. With Hagerstown he posted a 41:7 K:BB ratio in 29 innings with a 2.48 ERA. Upon arriving in Potomac, he pitched to contact, merely tying his Hagerstown strikeout total despite throwing 61 innings. Though he had a 4.43 ERA at Potomac, Purke’s advanced metrics, including a 3.58 FIP and .325 batting average on balls in play, indicate that he was possibly a victim of bad luck. In the Arizona Fall League, he fanned 17 in 23 innings.
Barring any last-minute developments, Purke is ticketed for Harrisburg, which would mark the first time he has been active on an Opening Day roster. Durability concerns, along with questions about whether he will develop three quality pitches, make him an unlikely rotation candidate in the near future. However, if he accumulates strikeouts and has a full season of health, a September bullpen stint is possible, especially considering that he is on the 40-man roster.
Among the players that remain in camp, Blake Treinen has pitched well thus far, striking out 8 in 9 innings of work. His 5.00 ERA can, and should, be easily dismissed considering that he has allowed just 1 run in 8 innings since a 4-run outing against the Braves on March 1. Likely to start in Syracuse, he could emerge as this year’s version of Tanner Roark. Treinen, like Roark, could leave the Nationals with no choice but to place him on the 40-man and bring him to Washington.
Meanwhile, outfielder Jeff Kobernus is batting .269/.321/.346 in 28 plate appearances. While he has only 2 stolen bases this spring, his speed has enabled him to swipe 162 bases in 200 attempts in his minor league career. Factor in his versatility—he can also play second and third base—and it’s easy to see Kobernus on the Nationals’ bench at some point, if not by Opening Day.
- As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post explained on Wednesday, the fallout of Luis Ayala’s release could shake up the minors. Righthander Aaron Barrett has yet to surrender a run or a walk in 8 innings of work, but Kilgore identifies righties Christian Garcia, Ryan Mattheus, and Manny Delcarmen, plus lefthanders Xavier Cedeno and Michael Gonzalez as other options.
- In a move that could affect the Nationals’ depth, the White Sox optioned catcher Josh Phegley to Triple-A Charlotte on Wednesday, leaving Adrian Nieto and Hector Gimenez to vie for the backup spot. Nieto, who was selected from the Nationals during December’s Rule-5 Draft, is batting .267/.353/.333 in 17 plate appearances. If he does not land with the White Sox, he could return to the Nationals and start in Harrisburg.
- Kilgore tweeted on Tuesday that Lucas Giolito’s fastball hit 98 mph during a minor league game. Giolito, the Nationals consensus top prospect, is expected to pitch his first full season this year, likely beginning with Hagerstown.
(Photo: AP Photo/Alex Brandon)