Shortly after writing about – among other topics – likely roster activity that would take place in the next few days, the Nationals made a flurry of transactions. In all likelihood, their roster is completely established at this point, or at least very close to it.
Selected from Minors: Infielder Jordy Mercer and INF/OF Hernan Perez
Optioned to AAA Rochester: LHP Sam Clay, RHP Kyle McGowin, infielders Luis Garcia and Carter Kieboom, and outfielder Yadiel Hernandez
Reassigned to Minors: RHPs Aaron Barrett, Paolo Espino, Javy Guerra and Todd Peterson; catchers Welington Castillo, Brandon Snyder and Blake Swihart; infielder Adrian Sanchez; and outfielders Gerardo Parra and Carlos Tocci
Designated for Assignment: Infielder Jake Noll
Released from Minors: LHP T.J. McFarland and outfielder Yasmany Tomas
This leaves 29 players remaining in big-league camp, and three of them (LHP Seth Romero and RHPs Rogelio Armenteros and Will Harris) are expected to begin the season on the Injured List. In other words, the remaining 26 are presumably making the Opening Day roster – unless any players are added from other organizations.
This was a strange week from the Nationals, but very little of it will affect the Opening Day roster. The Stephen Strasburg injury scare was certainly unsettling, but apparently it doesn’t matter – don’t believe me; listen to the medical expert.
Over the last four games, Washington has pretty clearly been positioning its roster – and especially its starting rotation – for what it’ll be asked to do once the regular season starts. Here’s what I’ve noticed.
Virginia Tech football held its annual Pro Day on Friday. I don’t claim to be a reporter on the Hokies, but I keep a close eye on them and try to share my thoughts at times.
Seeing that it was Pro Day got me a bit emotional, because I had covered the event as a student reporter. Nonetheless, I came across a laundry list of information as the day progressed on Friday, and it shined a lot of insight on where Virginia Tech’s top prospects might wind up playing this fall.
There might not be any teams in the NBA in as tough of a pickle as the Washington Wizards. They can claim the league’s leading scorer this season, along with another perennial All Star and former MVP. They boast one of the most prolific three-point shooters in the league – although he’s been relatively cold from distance, compared to last season. And to top it off, they also have two young ex-top 10 picks and a couple additional recent lottery selections.
There’s star power and (at least theoretical) young assets. Yet, they sit outside of playoff contention, in danger of a third straight postseason-less finish.
What the heck is wrong with the Wizards, and why didn’t they do anything about it at the Trade Deadline?
No, trading Troy Brown Jr. and Moe Wagner for Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchison doesn’t count as “doing something” of significance. But it does reiterate some familiar questions in Washington.
Spring Training is quickly approaching its conclusion. Most roles are fairly set in stone at this point, so we’ll take the same approach we did last week towards analyzing the Nationals recent performance and the state of the roster.
Washington played four consecutive games after their midweek off-day. They won three of them, but as we all know, that’s not what’s important during Spring Training.
Let’s start with offensive performance trends, before diving into pitching and roster activity.
Not much has changed since last weekend’s update. The same four pitchers are starting games, and the lineup has largely remained consistent. However, there have been some moderately surprising performances – both good and bad – for the Nationals lately.
With that in mind, I’ve taken this midweek off-day as an opportunity to discuss productivity trends and what they might mean leading up to Opening Day. Additionally, it looks like we’ve finally reached a point at which it’s appropriate to discuss the bullpen, now that everyone has thrown a few times and roles are becoming a bit more clear.
Starters across the league are beginning to play much more frequently, and the Nationals’ starting pitchers are no exception. Relievers and other pitchers expected to open the season outside of the rotation started Washington’s first four games, with only Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin making a start prior to this week. But lately, that has shifted.
The Top Five
In four games this week, only core five starters have opened games for the Nationals. Jon Lester (thyroid surgery) has yet to make his debut, but Joe Ross, Stephen Strasburg, Scherzer and Corbin have each appeared in one game apiece this week.
The All Star break is upon us. In essence, the first semester of the regular season has ended. This stoppage is a great time to assess the performance and progress of each player on the Wizards’ roster.
Certainly, 14–20 isn’t where the team wants to be at this point. But significant progress has been made recently, highlighted by Washington winning eight of its last 11 games heading into the break. And that’s without mentioning Bradley Beal earning starting honors in the All Star game, as well as Rising Stars recognition for Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija.
With that said, let’s kick off the midseason reviews!
Note: These grades will be based on how players have performed relative to expectations. Grades should not be viewed as rankings of each player on the roster.
We all knew that adding Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber while losing Adam Eaton and Asdrubal Cabrera (among others) would result in a reconstructed Nationals batting order. They lost some decent all-around hitters and added sluggers, bolstering their thump but sacrificing some on-base potential and overall consistency.
It’s still early in Spring Training, but some lineup patterns have become clear.
Rui Hachimura is a good player. He’s the third-best all-around scorer the Wizards have, and he will continue to grow as his career progresses.
He’s at a disadvantage based on the personnel the Wizards have, though.
It’s a Guard-Driven League
The nature of the NBA – and basketball, in general – is to feature guards. They’re quicker and more explosive than most front-court players, and they tend to be more natural ball-handlers. The league has evolved to the point that some bigger players are able to dribble the ball and be playmakers with more regularity. But even with that stated, check the league leaders in points per game. You’ll see primarily guards near the top.