In case you forgot, MLB rosters were agreed to be expanded for the 2020 season.
The Player Pool
At 4 p.m. ET today, all MLB teams were required to unveil the list of 60 players who would be a part of their Spring Training roster. As is likely the case for most teams, the Nationals’ player pool looks very intriguing, including many of their top prospects – most of whom weren’t even on the 40-man roster, not to mention pushing for a roster spot – prior to the league shutdown.
Anyone with an asterisk was added to the player pool after not being a member of the 40-man roster. In addition to Carter Kieboom (the organization’s top-rated prospect), the other notable prospects the Nationals promoted were infielder Luis Garcia (No. 2), right-handed pitchers Jackson Rutledge and Wil Crowe (Nos. 3–4), and left-handed pitchers Tim Cate, Seth Romero and Matt Cronin (Nos. 8–10).
The inclusion of these players doesn’t mean they’ll be used during the season – if there is a season – but it almost certainly means they’ll all go to Spring Training with the team on July 1 (assuming all goes according to plan) and be available once the season starts – unless they opt to not play.
Of note, infielder Adrian Sanchez was placed on the injured list and removed from the 40-man roster and the 60-man pool.
UPDATE: It has since been announced that Sanchez, who had been optioned to the minor leagues in March, has been placed on the minor league injured list, not the 60-day major league IL.
Regular Season Implications
Now onto Opening Day roster speculation! As a reminder, all teams will be able to field 30 players for the first two weeks of the season.
Presumably, major league service time will no longer factor into the Nationals’ thought process. That means no politics; the players to make the team will essentially be the best 30 players.
Assuming no players opt out from playing, here’s how the initial 30-man roster could look:
Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, Joe Ross
Sean Doolittle, Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero, Roenis Elias, Ryne Harper, Austin Voth, Erick Fedde, Javy Guerra*
Yan Gomes, Kurt Suzuki
Eric Thames, Ryan Zimmerman, Howie Kendrick, Starlin Castro, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carter Kieboom, Wilmer Difo
Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Adam Eaton, Michael A. Taylor, Andrew Stevenson, Emilio Bonifacio*
Of note, any player who the Nationals want to carry on the active roster would have to also be on the 40-man roster. The 60-man player pool only applies to who goes to Spring Training and will be eligible to play at some point during the season.
When the Nationals released Hunter Strickland back in March, they opened up a 40-man roster spot. The opening was never filled, and the news regarding Adrian Sanchez creates another vacancy. The favorites to take over those two positions appear to be right-hander Javy Guerra – who the Nationals carried for a significant portion of last season – and switch-hitting utility man Emilio Bonifacio.
UPDATE: With Sanchez moving to the minor league IL, he will still count towards the Nationals’ 40-man roster, leaving them with only one vacancy to fill.
Since they’ll be fielding a designated hitter in the lineup now, the Nationals could opt for a position player – likely Brandon Snyder or Yadiel Hernandez – instead of Guerra.
In addition to the core active roster – the 30 players to start the season and subsequent cut-down rosters – teams will each carry a “taxi squad”.
The same rules regarding roster status apply here. Unless the Nationals were willing – or forced, in the case of a severe injury – to remove someone from the 40-man roster, the extra catcher would almost certainly be Raudy Read, the most likely additional pitcher might be Aaron Barrett or Kyle Finnegan, and the emergency position player – if they carried one – would have to be Jake Noll.
As it stands, the regular season is scheduled to start on July 23. The Nationals are preliminarily projected to open the season against Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees.
The status of the entire league is obviously fluid depending on how COVID-19 affects the players, but there is a framework in place, provided nothing catastrophic happens. If nothing else, professional baseball will be reopening on Wednesday, July 1, and we now know who the Nationals will be carrying to begin the restart.