by Amanda Comak
The Washington Nationals took a significant step toward deepening their starting rotation on Monday night, acquiring right-hander Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers. In exchange for Fister, the Nationals sent infielder Steve Lombardozzi, left-handed reliever Ian Krol and left-handed Minor League prospect Robbie Ray to the Tigers.
The 29-year-old slides into a rotation that already includes three All-Stars in Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez, and brings with him a track record of durability and significant playoff experience. In 2013, Fister went 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA for the American League Central champions.
“This is an exciting day for the Washington Nationals,” said President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “We feel we’ve added a talented, young veteran to our starting pitching corps. Doug is battle-tested through playoff experiences, and the depth he brings to our staff is exceptional. We are thrilled to welcome him aboard.”
In a Major League career that has spanned parts of five years, the 6-foot-8 right-hander has thrown over 200 innings in two of the last three seasons, and pitched in the postseason in each of the last three years. He is 3-2 with a 2.98 ERA in eight postseason games (seven starts).
Since 2011, the right-hander ranks 10th among Major League starting pitchers in WAR (13.1, per FanGraphs.com), ninth among MLB starting pitchers in walks per nine innings (1.82), and walk rate (4.9). He is fifth among Major League starting pitchers in home runs per nine innings (0.62) in that span, and 20th in all of the majors in ERA (3.30).
In 2012, while helping the Tigers reach the World Series, Fister set an American League record for consecutive strikeouts when he struck out nine Kansas City Royals in a row on Sep. 27.
A native of Merced, Calif., Fister was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the seventh round of the First-Year Player Draft in 2006, and was acquired, along with David Pauley, by the Tigers on July 30, 2011, in exchange for Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells and Chance Ruffin.
A second-year arbitration-eligible player, Fister is under contract through the 2015 season.
Lombardozzi, a Columbia, Md., native, served in a utility role for the Nationals the past two seasons – appearing at third base, shortstop and in left field, though his natural position is second base. In 257 Major League games, Lombardozzi is a career .264 hitter. The Nationals selected him in the 19th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
Krol, 22, was acquired by the Nationals in March as the Player to Be Named in the three-way trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle and brought the Nationals pitching prospects A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen from the Oakland Athletics. The left-hander enjoyed a meteoric rise once joining the organization and made his Major League debut on June 5 vs. the New York Mets. He did not allow a run in his first nine appearances (9.2 innings).
Ray, 22, posted a 3.36 ERA between Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. Baseball America ranked Ray as the fifth-best prospect in the Nationals’ system. Washington selected him in the 12th round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Brentwood (TN) High School.
by Amanda Comak
Three Washington Nationals Minor Leaguers took big steps in their path toward the Major Leagues on Wednesday, when left-hander Sammy Solis, outfielder Michael Taylor and right-hander Aaron Barrett were added to the team’s 40-man roster.
In order to clear space for the three players on the roster, the Nationals designated left-handers Fernando Abad and Tyler Robertson for assignment.
Solis, Taylor and Barrett, all well-regarded prospects within the organization, will now be included in Major League Spring Training this upcoming February, the first such opportunity for all three players.
The Nationals’ second-round selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of San Diego, Solis recently led the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League in wins (5) and strikeouts (29) en route to a 2.17 ERA in seven starts in 29.0 innings. Solis, 25, is 10-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 33 games (32 starts) spanning three professional seasons. Solis was recently rated by industry-insider Baseball America as the Nationals’ No. 6 prospect.
The 22-year-old Taylor hit .263 with a career-high 57 extra-base hits (41 doubles, six triples, 10 home runs), 87 RBI and 51 stolen bases in 133 games this season with Potomac of the Single-A Carolina League. Taylor’s RBI and stolen base totals ranked second among Nationals farmhands and earned him a spot on the Carolina League’s postseason All-Star team. Regarded as the Nationals’ top defensive outfield prospect, Baseball America recently rated Taylor as Washington’s No. 7 prospect and the system’s “top athlete.” He was the Nationals’ sixth-round pick in the 2009 Draft from Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Taylor is currently second in the Puerto Rican Winter League with a 1.029 OPS (.378 AVG/.451 OBP/.578 SLG).
Barrett, a power right-hander out of the bullpen, fanned 12.3 batters per 9.0 innings this season for Double-A Harrisburg. Barrett’s 26 saves ranked second in both the Eastern League and Washington’s system and he earned a spot on the Eastern League’s midseason All-Star team. Baseball America credited the 25-year-old Barrett with the system’s “best slider.” Barrett was the Nationals’ ninth-round selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Mississippi.
Abad, 27, posted a 3.35 ERA in 39 relief appearances for the Nationals in 2013. He signed with the Nationals as a minor league free agent on January 15, 2013.
The 25-year-old Robertson picked up four wins and two saves and worked to a 3.04 ERA in 47 Triple-A games (one start) for Syracuse and Rochester in 2013. He was claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Twins on June 7, 2013.
By adding Solis, Taylor and Barrett to the 40-man roster, the Nationals are protecting them from being selected in the Dec. 12 Rule 5 Draft. Unprotected players may be plucked by another organization and given a chance to make that team’s Major League roster out of Spring Training in 2014.
by Amanda Comak
Denard Span acknowledged early in the 2013 season that when it comes to “Web Gems” he probably didn’t have a large library of plays that had been highlighted. Those, many outfielders say, come from mistakes that turn into great plays. But Span’s greatest strength as a center fielder is making the difficult look effortless and routine.
And in a 2013 season highlighted by plenty of spectacular catches, Span did just that for the Washington Nationals.
Thursday evening, Span was recognized as the Nationals’ top defensive player and their representative for the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra were given the top honors. Additionally, the Diamondbacks were named the National League Defensive Team of the Year, while the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals tied for the honor in the American League.
Span, a finalist for a Rawlings Gold Glove Award, was a pleasure to watch patrol center field for the Nationals, often earning effusive praise from his teammates. The highlight of his defensive season likely came when he saved a 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants by making a sensational diving catch to end the game.
Founded in 2012, the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award winners are determined by using a formula that balances scouting information, sabermetric analysis and basic fielding statistics. They were announced in an hour-long show on MLBNetwork on Thursday night.
Here are all of the players who were honored by Wilson:
Baltimore Orioles- Manny Machado (3B)
Arizona Diamondbacks – Gerardo Parra (OF)
Atlanta Braves – Andrelton Simmons (SS)
Boston Red Sox – Dustin Pedroia (2B)
Chicago White Sox – Gordon Beckham (2B)
Chicago Cubs – Darwin Barney (2B)
Cincinnati Reds – Jay Bruce (OF)
Cleveland Indians – Yan Gomes (C)
Colorado Rockies – DJ LeMahieu (2B)
Detroit Tigers – Austin Jackson (OF)
Houston Astros – Matt Dominguez (3B)
Kansas City Royals – Lorenzo Cain (OF)
Los Angeles Dodgers – Juan Uribe (3B)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – J.B. Shuck (OF)
Miami Marlins – Donovan Solano (2B)
Milwaukee Brewers – Carlos Gomez (OF)
Minnesota Twins – Brian Dozier (2B)
New York Mets – Juan Lagares (OF)
New York Yankees – Robinson Cano (2B)
Oakland Athletics – Josh Reddick (OF)
Philadelphia Phillies- Carlos Ruiz (C)
Pittsburgh Pirates – Russell Martin (C)
San Diego Padres – Chris Denorfia (OF)
San Francisco Giants – Gregor Blanco (OF)
Seattle Mariners – Dustin Ackley (2B)
St. Louis Cardinals – Yadier Molina (C)
Tampa Bay Rays – Evan Longoria (3B)
Texas Rangers – Craig Gentry (OF)
Toronto Blue Jays – Colby Rasmus (OF)
Washington Nationals – Denard Span (OF)
by Amanda Comak
Davey Johnson said it so often during the 2013 season, there became little point in even posing the question. In the former Washington Nationals manager’s mind, the best shortstop in the league was the one he got to write on his lineup card nearly every day. As the postseason awards begin to roll in this month, it appears the rest of the baseball world is starting to agree with Johnson.
Ian Desmond won his second consecutive Louisville Silver Slugger Award on Wednesday evening, honored again as the best-hitting shortstop in the National League.
“I play the game the way I do out of respect for the players who came before me,” Desmond said. “It’s an honor to be selected for the Silver Slugger, and it’s humbling to know that it’s voted on by National League managers and coaches.”
The Nationals’ star middle infielder beat out tough competition from Colorado Rockies slugger Troy Tulowitzki and Milwaukee Brewer Jean Segura to become just the second Nationals player to earn two Silver Slugger Awards. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman took home the honor in 2009 and 2010.
Desmond also joins Derek Jeter (5), Hanley Ramirez (2) and Troy Tulowitzki (2) as the only active shortstops to win multiple Silver Sluggers.
Desmond, who was also a finalist for a Rawlings Gold Glove Award for the second straight year, hit .280 this past season, carrying a .331 on-base percentage that was just below his career-best .335 mark from 2012, with a .453 slugging percentage.
He was the most consistent batter in the Nationals’ lineup throughout the year, often carrying them offensively in the early months.
Desmond, 28, clubbed 20 home runs and stole 21 bases this past season — his second campaign reaching the 20-20 benchmark that recognizes speed and power — and led all NL shortstops with 38 doubles. He also drove in 80 runs.
His .784 OPS ranked second to only Tulowitzki among shortstops, but Desmond, who appeared in 158 of the Nationals’ 162 games, had 143 more plate appearances than the Rockies’ shortstop and played in 32 more games. Desmond also led all MLB shortstops with 61 extra-base hits.
A mainstay in the Nationals lineup and one of few regulars to go injury-free throughout the year, Desmond proved his breakout 2012 season was no fluke and continued to establish himself among the best in the game at his position.
Right fielder Jayson Werth had a strong case for earning one of the outfield awards, hitting .318 with a .398 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage in 129 games. His .931 OPS was the best mark of his career, and Werth hit 25 home runs, 24 doubles and knocked in 82 runs in 2013.
Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds, and Michael Cuddyer of the Colorado Rockies were the NL outfielders who took home the honors.
“Last year, it was really cool to be able to share in the excitement with my teammates when [Adam LaRoche and Stephen Strasburg] won theirs as well,” Desmond said. “I was shocked to see that Jayson didn’t get it, but respect how tough the decision process is with so many great outfielders.”
The Louisville Silver Slugger Awards, which were announced Wednesday night on MLBNetwork, are based on the regular-season performances of players and voted on by managers and coaches in each league.
by Amanda Comak
The Washington Nationals named Matt Williams as the team’s field manager on Thursday, agreeing to terms on a multi-year contract with the five-time All-Star and former Arizona Diamondbacks coach. President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.
The agreement culminates a thorough process by the Nationals to find a successor to Davey Johnson, whose tenure as the team’s manager came to an end after 2 1/2 seasons.
“I am thrilled to welcome Matt to our organization and am confident he is the best choice to lead the Nationals at this time,” Rizzo said. “He is exceptionally prepared for the task. Matt came into the interview process already possessing an extensive knowledge of our organization: our roster, our Minor League system – and our fan base.
“He has genuinely creative, unique ideas on how to increase performance, and on cultivating leadership and team unity.”
Williams, 47, comes to the Nationals after four years on the Diamondbacks’ coaching staff, the last three as their third base coach. A decorated player during his 17-year career, Williams becomes the organization’s fifth manager since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005.
“Matt has a wealth of knowledge and experience as a former player and coach,” said Theodore N. Lerner, Managing Principal Owner of the Nationals. “But what most impresses us is his ability to understand and ably communicate situations and strategies in a disciplined, forthright manner. We think he is the right leader for a Washington Nationals team ready to compete for a World Series championship.”
Williams is a rookie Major League manager, but Rizzo’s relationship with him dates back more than 10 years, to their time together in the Diamondbacks organization – and this is a role in which he long thought Williams could thrive.
“I saw first-hand the leadership qualities he possessed as a player, on the field and in the clubhouse,” said Rizzo, who was a part of the Diamondbacks front office for seven years before joining the Nationals in 2006. “He’s been someone on my radar as a potential manager for years.
“Matt was a great player, but he also understands just how much hard work goes into becoming a great player. In the second phase of his baseball life, he has channeled the intensity he had as a player into becoming an intellectual coach with a calm, confident demeanor.”
Known for his hard-nosed, no-nonsense style as a player, Williams was a career .268 hitter with an .317 on-base percentage, .489 slugging percentage and .805 OPS in 1,866 games. He totaled 378 home runs, including six seasons with 30-plus home runs. Williams earned four Gold Glove Awards and four Silver Slugger Awards as a third baseman.
“I think it’s great,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said of the hire. “He’s a younger guy who was a good player and knows the game. I’m looking forward to getting to know him a little bit… I don’t think we were too far away from where we needed to be, and I think we’re all looking forward to next year.”
A former first-round draft pick, Williams appeared in the top 10 in the Most Valuable Player voting four times in his career, finishing as high as second in 1994, when he clubbed 43 home runs and drove in 96 runs for the San Francisco Giants in the strike-shortened season.
As a player, Williams was no stranger to the postseason. He played on six playoff teams and appeared in the World Series with the Giants (1989), Indians (1997) and Diamondbacks (2001), winning a World Series ring in Arizona. He is the only player in baseball history to hit at least one World Series home run for three different teams.
After retiring from playing in 2003, Williams dabbled in broadcasting for a few years, serving as a color analyst on select Diamondbacks broadcasts from 2005–09, and co-hosting the weekend pregame show for the Diamondbacks with his wife, Erika, in 2007. He joined the Diamondbacks as a first base coach in 2010.
In addition to his coaching duties with the Diamondbacks, Williams managed in the Arizona Fall League in 2012, leading the Salt River Rafters – which included several of the Nationals’ top prospects – to the AFL Championship Game.
by Amanda Comak
The finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards were announced this morning by Rawlings Sports, and for the second consecutive year the Washington Nationals have two players among the honorees.
Shortstop Ian Desmond and center fielder Denard Span were named as finalists at their respective positions, but they’ll have to wait until Tuesday, October 29 to find out if either will take home the prize.
Desmond, who was also a finalist for the award in 2012, is up against tough competition in Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons and Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Span faces some heady competition as well with Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez and Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen also named as finalists. McCutchen is considered a frontrunner for the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award when it is announced in November.
Neither Nationals player has won a Gold Glove previously, but both would be deserving of the honor this year.
Desmond, whose range and exceptionally strong throwing arm were on display often again this season, finished the year with a .971 fielding percentage. Fangraphs.com ranks him among the five best shortstops in the league in most advanced metrics categories.
Former Nationals manager Davey Johnson, a three-time Rawlings Gold Glove second baseman himself, often said that he viewed Desmond as the best shortstop in the league – offensively and defensively.
Span was a pleasure to watch patrol center field for the Nationals, often earning effusive praise from his teammates for the effortless way with which he made difficult catches look simple. The highlight to his defensive season likely came when he saved a 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants by making a sensational diving catch to end the game.
Advanced metrics seem to underrate Span, though Fangraphs.com still ranks him as having the third-best Ultimate Zone Rating in the league behind A.J. Pollock and McCutchen, perhaps because he is not among the most laser-armed outfielders. But his exceptional defensive work does not go unnoticed by those on the field. Jayson Werth said late in the 2013 season that he trusts Span more than any center fielder he’d ever played with .
Each manager and up to six coaches on each staff voted from a pool of qualified players in their league, and cannot vote for players on their own team. But this year, for the first time in its 57-year history, Rawlings added a sabermetric component to the Rawlings Gold Glove Award selection process, as part of its new collaboration with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
The SABR Defensive Index accounted for approximately 25 percent of the overall selection total, with the managers and coaches’ vote continuing to carry the majority.
The winners of the 2013 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards will be announced Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN2 in a special one-hour Baseball Tonight.
by Amanda Comak
Welcome to the “new” Curly W Live Blog, which is a lot like the old one, except for one twist: I am pleased to announce that the Washington Nationals have asked me to come aboard and steward the keyboard in this space.
Going forward, this is the main spot where you can find my writing, along with plenty of other Nationals-related content.
Loyal Curly W Live blog readers may notice some changes over the next few months, and certainly when things get underway in the 2014 season.
We’re going to have more contributors, including myself, and the hope is that we will be able to provide a comprehensive inside look at the team by bringing all kinds of interesting stories to the forefront. That goes for all of our publications, too, including Inside Pitch, which is available in-season at the ballpark, and Nationals Magazine, where my writing will be featured as well.
When I left The Washington Times after three seasons on the Nationals beat, I mentioned that part of why I was doing so was because it was time for a change. While my role is different, and multi-faceted here, I will still be writing. I will still be a vocal part of the coverage of this team going forward. But this is also a new challenge for me, and a new opportunity. I couldn’t be more excited about the potential that lies ahead in bringing some of the best stories about this team to you, the fans.
From a technical standpoint, I have joined the Nationals as Director of Baseball Media Relations and New Media. So, in addition to working with the media, some of my responsibilities include overseeing our various social media channels. With that in mind — and to be sure that you don’t miss a thing — please follow the Nationals accounts on Twitter (@nationals), Facebook (facebook.com/nationals) and Instagram (@nationals), if you are not already.
I will remain active on my @acomak account on Twitter as well, but the best place to go will be @Nationals for all of your updates.
Thanks for taking a few minutes to read about what’s been going on here. This offseason should be an exciting one for the Nationals, and I’m looking forward to getting started.