Archive for the ‘ What to Watch for ’ Category

Anthony Rendon to be featured on MLB Network’s ‘Play Ball’ series, with a special appearance by Bryce Harper

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Nationals 3B Anthony Rendon will be a featured guest on ‘Play Ball’ tomorrow morning. The episode, which features an interview with Anthony, as well as a wiffle ball game with scholar-athletes at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, will air Saturday at 10:00 a.m. on MLB Network.

‘Play Ball’ is hosted by Harold Reynolds and features baseball demonstrations, discussions and advice for young athletes from some of the league’s top players. Anthony’s teammate OF Bryce Harper was the featured athlete on the show last week. During his episode, Bryce discussed what he likes to do in the offseason, Daniel Murphy’s “FWAHHHH” celebration and other ways kids can try to make baseball fun again.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. on MLB Network to see Anthony at the Youth Baseball Academy, this time with a special appearance by Bryce!

In the meantime, enjoy the following clip of Anthony and Harold Reynolds from tomorrow’s show below.

TONIGHT: ESPN’s “My Wish” series to feature OF Bryce Harper & local softball player

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Earlier this month, Kaylan, a 16-year-old softball player from Gaithersburg, Md., spent the day with OF Bryce Harper at Nationals Park, as Bryce fulfilled Kaylan’s wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Their day together will be featured on ESPN’s “My Wish” series, and will air for the first time tonight, July 19, during the 6 p.m. episode of SportsCenter.

Kaylan first found out that her wish to meet Bryce would be granted at the Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic Evening of Wishes gala through a personalized video Bryce had filmed to surprise her.

Kaylan and Bryce’s day together included shopping at Under Armour, a VIP tour of Nationals Park, batting practice with the Nationals and throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. MLB.com’s Jamal Collier had the opportunity to interview Kaylan, who has battled a kidney condition since she was born, while she was spending the day at the ballpark. His story can be found here.

“Make-A-Wish is grateful for Bryce Harper who provided Kaylan and her family with an experience they will always cherish,” said Laura Caldwell, President & CEO of Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic. “When times are difficult, we hope Kaylan and her family will remember the wish experience and feel a renewed sense of hope and optimism.”

Kaylan’s wish is part of the 10th-anniversary season of the “My Wish” series. Other featured athletes include J.J. Watt (Houston Texans), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) and players from the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.

Tune into SportsCenter tonight at 6 p.m. to watch the footage of Bryce and Kaylan’s very special day together! If you don’t get a chance to watch, we will be posting the video on Curly W Live after it airs tonight. Be sure to check it out!

Spotlight on San Diego: A closer look at the Nationals’ 2016 All-Stars

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Last week, five Washington Nationals players were named 2016 Major League All-Stars, with OF Bryce Harper, 2B Daniel Murphy, C Wilson Ramos, RHP Max Scherzer and RHP Stephen Strasburg all awarded the annual mid-season honor.

This is the first time in Nationals history (2005-present) that the club will send five representatives to the Midsummer Classic. Washington previously had four All-Star players in 2012. The Nationals’ five honorees are second-most in the National League, behind only the Chicago Cubs, who will send seven players to San Diego.

In anticipation of tonight’s game, we thought it would be fitting to take a look at our All-Stars and some of the amazing stats they’ve put up through the season’s first “half.”

OF Bryce Harper – Harper will start in the National League outfield for the third time in his career. The 23-year-old earned his fourth career All-Star selection by garnering 2,865,095 fan votes, the highest vote total among all NL outfielders. The 2015 National League MVP, Harper currently leads the Major Leagues in walks (70) and intentional walks (16). He ranks fifth in the National League in on-base percentage (.400), while his 19 home runs are tied for fifth among all NL outfielders, and his OBP leads that group. Harper joins Hall of Famers Gary Carter (4) and Andre Dawson (3) as the only players in franchise history (Nationals/Expos) to earn at least three fan elections to the All-Star Game.

2B Daniel Murphy – For Murphy, who signed a three-year contract with Washington this past offseason, this is the second All-Star selection of his career (also 2014). The Nationals’ second baseman leads the National League in batting average (.348), hits (117), and multi-hit games (38). The 31-year-old, a players’ selection to the NL squad, also leads all NL second basemen in doubles (25), home runs (17), RBI (66), and slugging (.598).

C Wilson Ramos – This is the first All-Star nod for Ramos, who currently leads all qualified Major League catchers in batting average (.330), on-base percentage (.382), RBI (48) and slugging percentage (.536). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, after hitting .229 in 2015, Ramos is the only player in MLB to increase his average at least 100 points from last year to this year (min. 100 plate appearances in 2016 / 500 plate appearances in 2015). Ramos was elected via player vote.

RHP Max Scherzer – Scherzer is an All-Star for the fourth consecutive season. The 31-year-old leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts (164), ranks second in the National League in strikeouts-per-nine-innings (11.56) and is tied for the second-best WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) in the NL (0.96). Scherzer earned his 10th win of the season on Saturday night, tossing 7.0 innings of three-hit ball. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the fourth consecutive season in which Scherzer has won at least 10 games before the All-Star break. Only two other pitchers reached double digits in wins prior to the break in each of four consecutive seasons over the last 20 seasons: RHP Greg Maddux (1997-2001) and RHP Roy Halladay (2005-11). Scherzer was selected to replace teammate Stephen Strasburg on the 2016 All-Star team by National League manager Terry Collins.

RHP Stephen Strasburg – For Strasburg, the only remaining qualified starting pitcher in MLB not to suffer a losing decision, the All-Star nod is the second of his career (also 2012). At 12-0 with a 2.62 ERA, Strasburg is the first National League starting pitcher to begin a season 12-0 since 1913. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Strasburg is the fourth pitcher in MLB history to go 12-0 or better before the All-Star break, joining BAL LHP Dave McNally (13-0 in 1969), PIT reliever RHP Roy Face (12-0 in 1959) and CIN reliever RHP Brooks Lawrence (12-0 in 1956). On Friday, he extended his personal winning streak to 15 games (dating to Sept. 15, 2015). He was selected to the 2016 All-Star team by National League manager Terry Collins.

Good luck to all the Nationals representatives tonight in the 2016 Major League All-Star Game at Petco Park in San Diego!

Join the Nationals in celebrating D.C.’s international community at Taste of the World

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For the first time ever, the Nationals are set to host Taste of the World, a special event celebrating the unique, international community in Washington, D.C., featuring embassies from all over the world.

On Saturday, May 28 before the team plays the St. Louis Cardinals, the Taste of the World event will feature an array of international cuisine and beverages for fans to enjoy.

Here’s how it works:

With the purchase of a special ticket, fans will have access to the “Taste of the World” event from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. under the large blue tent on 1st Street. Embassies will each bring food and drink samples from their respective countries. Tickets can be purchased at nationals.com/taste.

You won’t want to miss out on this fun experience featuring delicious cuisine from over a dozen countries! Participating embassies include:

  • Afghanistan
  • Barbados
  • Dominican Republic
  • Germany
  • Guatemala
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Kenya
  • Morocco
  • Qatar
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Uzbekistan

In addition to tasting cuisine from all over the world, each guest will receive a Nationals Salt & Pepper Shaker upon arrival (pictured below).

Nats Salt and Pepper

All fans are invited to enjoy other international-themed activities around the ballpark for Taste of the World, including cultural dance groups performing in Center Field Plaza, special pregame ceremony and in-park activations.

In preparation for Taste of the World, the Nationals have reached out to few embassies to get recipes of the food they are planning to bring on Saturday. Check back next week when we’ll be posting a few of those delicious recipes on the blog!

What to Watch for: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies, April 10–12

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by Mike Feigen

What to Watch for: Washington Nationals (1-2) at Philadelphia Phillies (1-2)

April 10–12, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia

The Scene

The Nationals and Phillies hook up for the first three of 19 match-ups during the 2015 season, seven of which will take place over the next 10 days. Both clubs got off to slow starts earlier this week, with Washington dropping two of three to the visiting New York Mets and Philadelphia doing the same against the Boston Red Sox.

2015 Washington NationalsThe Stakes

Surprisingly, the 2014 NL East Champion Nationals went just 3-6 at Citizens Bank Park last season, including a three-game sweep in late August. However, two of the three Philadelphia starters from that series — A.J. Burnett and Kyle Kendrick — have since moved on to the Pirates and Rockies, respectively. Still, it’s so early in the year that it’s hard to place any added importance on this series. The Nationals know their offense is not yet at full strength, with Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon and Denard Span due back over the next several weeks, so until then they will continue to focus on putting together good at-bats and playing strong fundamental defense behind their elite rotation.

The Starters

FRIDAY, 7:05: LHP Gio Gonzalez (0-0, -.–) at RHP Jerome Williams (0-0, -.–)

SATURDAY, 7:05: RHP Doug Fister (0-0, -.–) at LHP Cole Hamels (0-1, 7.20)

SUNDAY, 1:35: RHP Max Scherzer (0-1, 0.00) at RHP Sean O’Sullivan 0-0, -.–)

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez and righty Doug Fister will each make their 2015 season debuts in the series, with Opening Day starter Max Scherzer pitching in the finale. Scherzer went 7.2 strong innings in the opener, allowing just six base runners while striking out eight, but suffered the loss after a pair of errors led to three unearned runs.

Philadelphia will counter with veteran right-hander Jerome Williams in the first game, southpaw Cole Hamels on regular rest on Saturday before concluding the series with right-hander Sean O’Sullivan against Scherzer on Sunday. Hamels was roughed up by the Red Sox on Opening Day, allowing four solo home runs in his five innings of work — after surrendering just 14 long balls in 204.2 innings in 2014.

The Offenses

2015 Washington NationalsShortstop Jimmy Rollins has moved on to the Los Angeles Dodgers, marking a new era in Philadelphia baseball. The Phillies’ all-time hits leader had manned their shortstop position every year since 2001, four years before the Nationals moved to Washington. Long-time stars Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz still power the middle of the Phillies’ lineup, with veterans Grady Sizemore and Jeff Francoeur platooning in right field. Leadoff man Ben Revere gave the Nationals trouble at times in 2014.

The Nationals enter the series looking to capitalize on a late-game offensive spark in Thursday’s game against the Mets. Washington has pushed across just six runs in three games thus far, with Bryce Harper (.364/.417/.636), Michael A. Taylor (.308/.308/.462) and Ryan Zimmerman (two-run home run in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory) leading the offense. Ian Desmond, who doubled twice on Thursday afternoon, could be ready to break out this weekend.

The Best of the Rest

Should the Nationals and Phillies produce any tight ballgames, each team lays claim to advantages in the bullpen. The Nationals ‘pen has acquitted itself well to begin the season, with all seven relievers getting at least one appearance and none allowing a run to cross the plate. On the Phillies’ side, hard-throwing youngster Ken Giles and closer Jonathan Papelbon anchor the back end of the bullpen, though Giles walked three batters in two-thirds of an inning in his first action of the season.

——–

Here are tonight’s game notes, courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Communications department:

Spring Training Preview, Part VI: Non-Roster Invitees

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by Mike Feigen and Kyle Brostowitz

Every spring, teams from throughout Major League Baseball bring players to camp that are not part of the organization’s official 40-man roster. Known as non-roster invitees (NRIs), these players are often talented youngsters on their way to The Show, veteran Minor Leaguers looking for a breakthrough moment, or former Major Leaguers looking for a fresh start.

In all, 20 such players will head to Viera, Fla. with hopes of making it to Washington. That’s part of what makes their journey so special; should they impress the coaching staff, as Chad Tracy did in 2012, they could not only force their way onto the Opening Day roster but become household names on a championship-contending club.

Below is the final installment of our Spring Training Preview series: the non-roster invitees.

STARTING PITCHERS (4)

St Louis Cardinals v Colorado RockiesBruce Billings

Right-hander Bruce Billings is a veteran of eight Minor League seasons and brings with him experience as a starter and reliever. He has accumulated a 65-61 record while posting a 4.08 ERA in 217 Minor League appearances (145 starts). Billings made his MLB debut with Colorado in 2011 and appeared in one game for the Yankees in 2014, striking out seven batters in four innings.

Mitch Lively

Mitch Lively signed with the Nationals organization in July of 2014, after making the transition from reliever to starting pitcher over the last two seasons. As a reliever, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound right-hander was 22-19 with 14 saves and a 3.76 ERA in 212 career Minor League appearances. In 42 career starts, he is 16-9 with a 4.10 ERA. Last season, Lively reported to Triple-A Syracuse where he went 5-2 with a 3.86 ERA in nine games/seven starts for the Chiefs.

Scott McGregor

A former St. Louis Cardinals farmhand, right-hander Scott McGregor joined the Nationals in June of 2014 and reported to Double-A Harrisburg before earning a promotion to Syracuse in August. He went a combined 3-3 with 4.64 ERA in 12 games/10 starts between the two levels.

Matt Purke

Matt Purke, the Nationals’ third-round selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, appeared in eight games for Double-A Harrisburg before undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his left elbow on May 28. The 6-foot-4 southpaw will enter his fourth camp as a member of the Nationals organization.

RELIEF PITCHERS (5)

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Diego PadresHeath Bell

Veteran reliever Heath Bell joins the Nationals after a 2014 season in which he appeared in 13 games with the Tampa Bay Rays before stints with Triple-A Norfolk (Baltimore Orioles) and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (New York Yankees). The Nationals will be his eighth organization since signing with the Mets as an undrafted free agent in 1998. Bell was one of the premier closers in MLB from 2009-13, tallying 166 saves for three separate clubs, third most in MLB over that span. He appeared in three All-Star Games and took home the 2009 and 2010 NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year.

Manny Delcarmen

Manny Delcarmen returns for his second season with the Nationals organization. He went 4-4 with four saves and a 3.13 ERA in 46 games out of the Triple-A Syracuse bullpen. Delcarmen struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings and improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio to 2.39, while surrendering just two home runs in 60.1 innings.

Eric Fornataro

Right-hander Eric Fornataro is a former St. Louis Cardinals farmhand who came to Washington on a waiver claim following the 2014 season. He began his professional career as a starter, but has transitioned to a relief role over the last three seasons. As a reliever, he is 9-12 with 21 saves and a 3.40 ERA in 141 Minor League appearances. Fornataro made his Major League debut in 2014, posting a 4.66 ERA in eight appearances for the Cardinals.

Rafael Martin

Rafael Martin advanced through three levels of Washington’s Minor League system in 2014, going 3-2 with 11 saves and a 1.39 ERA while striking out 66 batters and holding opposing hitters to a .171 batting average. He did not allow an earned run from May 16 to Aug. 17, a span of 46.1 innings over 29 games between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse. His 11 saves were fourth among Nationals farmhands. Martin was named a MiLB.com Organization All-Star following the season.

Evan Meek

Evan Meek comes to Washington after spending the 2014 season with the Baltimore Orioles organization. The former All-Star (Pittsburgh Pirates, 2010) enjoyed five separate stints with the Orioles, going 0-4 with a 5.79 ERA in 23 appearances. He went 2-0 with 16 saves and a 1.94 ERA in 39 games for Triple-A Norfolk. His 16 saves were tied for seventh in the International League.

CATCHERS (3)

Spencer Kieboom

Former Clemson Tiger Spencer Kieboom is coming off his most productive season, bouncing back from 2013 “Tommy John” surgery by hitting .309 with 28 doubles, four triples, nine home runs and 61 RBI in 87 games for Single-A Hagerstown. He was named a South Atlantic League midseason All-Star and a MiLB.com Organization All-Star. Following the season, Kieboom hit .324 with two doubles, one home run, seven RBI and three runs scored for the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League.

Steven Lerud

Left-handed hitting catcher Steven Lerud comes to the Nationals after playing in 60 games for the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves, batted .250 with nine doubles, one triple, four home runs and 19 RBI. The former third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates has spent time in five organizations, including the Philadelphia Phillies, with whom he briefly reached the Major Leagues in 2012 and 2013.

Pedro Severino

Pedro Severino is considered the best defensive catcher in the Nationals’ chain per Baseball America, and will enter the 2015 season rated as Washington’s top catching prospect and No. 13 prospect overall. The 21-year-old Bonao, Dominican Republic native advanced to Single-A Potomac for the first time in 2014, hitting .247 with 15 doubles, one triple, nine home runs and 36 RBI in 94 games.

INFIELDERS (7)

Emmanuel Burriss

Emmanuel Burriss, a Washington, D.C., native and graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School, returns for his second season with his hometown organization after spending the 2014 season with Triple-A Syracuse. He earned International League All-Star honors after hitting .300 with 18 doubles, seven triples, six homers, 46 RBI, 22 stolen bases and 80 runs scored. He ranked among IL hitters in runs scored (3rd, 80), triples (T-3rd, 7), batting average (T-7th, .300), and on-base percentage (9th, .377) while his .300 batting average was tied for fifth among Nationals farmhands.

Cutter Dykstra

A former second-round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers and the Nationals’ return in the Nyjer Morgan trade, Cutter Dykstra advanced to Double-A for the first time in his career in 2014. He was named an Eastern League mid-season All-Star after hitting .297 with 15 doubles, three triples, five home runs, 43 RBI, 10 stolen bases and 39 runs scored in the season’s first half.

Kila Ka’aihue

Kila Ka’aihue returns to the United States after spending the previous season-and-a-half with the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball, where he hit .258 with 20 doubles, 25 home runs, 85 RBI, 77 walks and 56 runs scored in 156 games spanning the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He has appeared in 126 Major League games over parts of four seasons with Kansas City (2008–11) and Oakland (2012).

Clint Robinson

Left-handed power-hitting first baseman Clint Robinson, a former teammate of Ka’aihue in the Kansas City Royals system, joins the Nationals after spending last year in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. Robinson, 30, is a career .300/.381/.510 hitter in 921 games spanning eight Minor League seasons, including a Texas League Triple Crown in 2010. He appeared in nine games for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014, going 3-for-9 with two RBI and three runs scored.

Matt Skole

Matt Skole returned to full strength in 2014 following 2013 Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, playing in 132 games for Double-A Harrisburg. He hit .241 with 29 doubles, one triple, 14 home runs, 68 RBI, 78 walks and 58 runs scored for the Senators. Skole ranked second in the Eastern league with 78 walks and was named an Organization All-Star by MiLB.com following the season.

Ian Stewart

A member of the Los Angeles Angels’ Opening Day roster in 2014, Ian Stewart played in 24 games before landing on the disabled list with a left-hand contusion. The power-hitting left-handed hitter has played parts of seven MLB seasons with three clubs, including Colorado (2007–11), Chicago-NL (2012) and Los Angeles (2014).

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia PhilliesDan Uggla

Dan Uggla joins the Nationals after spending the previous nine seasons with the Marlins (2006–10), Braves (2011–14) and Giants (2014). His 233 home runs as a second baseman lead all active players. Uggla, a three-time All-Star and 2010 Silver Slugger winner, is the only second baseman in Major League history to begin his career with six consecutive 20-plus home run seasons.

OUTFIELDERS (1)

Mike Carp

Mike Carp is a left-handed hitting slugger and versatile defender who has appeared in Major League games at first base (143 games/122 starts) and outfield (110 games/90 starts). In 2013, he set career marks in nearly every offensive category, starting 56 games for the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. The former Mets draft pick has also played for the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers during his six seasons in the big leagues.

In 10 seasons in D.C., 76 players (Ray King and Pete Orr twice) have played in at least one game with the Nationals despite entering that same Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. 21 times players have earned spots on the Nationals’ Opening Day 25-man roster (designated by [OD]). A closer look:

2005 (7) 2006 (12) 2007 (11) 2008 (10) 2009 (11) 2010 (7)
INF Carlos Baerga LHP Micah Bowie RHP Winston Abreu RHP Collin Balester C Josh Bard [OD] RHP Miguel Batista [OD]
RHP Hector Carrasco LHP Bill Bray LHP Mike Bacsik LHP Michael Hinckley LHP Jesus Colome C Jamie Burke
OF Jeffrey Hammonds SS Royce Clayton [OD] 1B/3B Tony Batista LHP Ray King [OD] INF Alex Cintron RHP Livan Hernandez
RHP Sun-woo Kim OF Alex Escobar 2B Ronnie Belliard [OD] LHP Charlie Manning LHP Wil Ledezma [OD] RHP Joel Peralta
C Keith Osik C Wiki Gonzalez RHP Jesus Colome [OD] LHP Mike O’Connor RHP J.D. Martin RHP Drew Storen
INF Rick Short RHP Kevin Gryboski C/1B Robert Fick [OD] INF Pete Orr INF Pete Orr RHP Willy Taveras [OD]
OF Brandon Watson C Brandon Harper INF D’Angelo Jimenez LHP Odalis Perez [OD] OF Jorge Padilla
OF George Lombard LHP Ray King [OD] RHP Brian Sanches OF Corey Patterson
RHP Santiago Ramirez LHP Arnie Munoz RHP Steven Shell RHP Jorge Sosa
RHP Saul Rivera RHP Jason Simontacchi C Wil Nieves RHP Julian Tavarez [OD]
OF Mike Vento 1B Dmitri Young [OD] RHP Jordan Zimmermann
1B Daryle Ward [OD]
2011 (6) 2012 (7) 2013 (4) 2014 (1) 2015 (TBD)
INF Brian Bixler OF Rick Ankiel LHP Fernando Abad RHP Blake Treinen
INF Alex Cora [OD] OF Corey Brown RHP Ross Ohlendorf
RHP Chad Gaudin [OD] OF Brett Carroll [OD] RHP Tanner Roark
RHP Ryan Mattheus C Sandy Leon INF Zach Walters
OF Laynce Nix [OD] C Carlos Maldonado
1B/OF Matt Stairs [OD] 1B/OF Xavier Nady [OD]
1B/3B Chad Tracy [OD]

Spring Training Preview, Part V: Outfielders

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by Amanda Comak

Pitchers and catchers will report to the Washington Nationals’ Spring Training facility in Viera, Fla., in just nine days, so as our review of the Nationals’ 40-man roster hits the home stretch, we reach the outfield.

With the exception of swapping corner assignments, the Nationals’ outfield unit is once again one of the most stable in the Major Leagues. Jayson Werth, Denard Span and Bryce Harper will all return as the Nationals’ starting unit, with Nate McLouth, Michael A. Taylor and Brian Goodwin rounding out the 40-man outfield talent. And that doesn’t even include Ryan Zimmerman, Kevin Frandsen, Tyler Moore, and Jeff Kobernus, infielders on the Nationals’ 40-man who also have outfield experience.

We’ve already previewed the Nationals’ catchersrelievers, starting pitchers and infielders; now let’s review the 2015 outfielders.

*Note, 2014 totals reflect only Major League stats.

Bryce Harper

Division Series - Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants - Game Four2014 Season Totals: .273/.344/.423, 115 wRC+, 9.6% BB rate, 26.3% K rate, 1.3 fWAR in 395 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .278/.363/.489, 137 wRC+, 11.4% BB rate, 20.4% K rate, 4.3 fWAR in 597 PA.

If the 2014 Postseason was any indication, Bryce Harper could be on the verge of posting a career season. Returning from a thumb injury on June 30, Harper hit .268 with a .342 on-base percentage and a .424 slugging percentage in his final 78 games of the season, clubbing 12 home runs. In the Postseason, though, Harper was one of the Nationals’ best at the plate, slugging .882 in the four-game series (smacking three home runs, one double and driving in four runs). Putting injuries behind him, Harper is expected to move to right field on a primary basis this season, giving the Nationals the added use of his strong throwing arm in a new spot.

Denard Span

2014 Season Totals: .302/.355/.416, 117 wRC+, 7.5% BB rate, 9.7% K rate, 3.8 fWAR in 668 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .282/.338/.387, 104 wRC+, 7.5% BB rate, 11.1% K rate, 2.8 fWAR in 637 PA.

Miami Marlins v Washington NationalsComing off a career year in many offensive categories, including 31 stolen bases, Denard Span returns to the top of the Nationals’ lineup as a consistent presence and one of the best leadoff men in the league. After securing the Nationals’ single-season record for hits (184) and leading the league in that category, the Nationals are looking for another solid season out of their slick-fielding outfielder. Span did spend the offseason rehabbing a core muscle injury but is working to be ready to go at full speed by the start of Spring Training. Entering his third season in Washington, Span’s comfort level with his surroundings, working with his fellow outfielders, as well as hitting coach Rick Schu should all bode well for the final year of his existing contract.

Jayson Werth

2014 Season Totals: .292/.394/.455, 141 wRC+, 13.2% BB rate, 18.0% K rate, 4.8 fWAR in 629 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .285/.374/.454, 134 wRC+, 11.8 % BB rate, 18.6% K rate, 2.8 fWAR in 536 PA.

Division Series - San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals - Game OneConsistency has come to be Jayson Werth’s hallmark in a Nationals’ uniform, and as he enters his fifth season in the District, the expectation that he will remain a stalwart in the Nationals’ lineup remains. While Werth will be working to come back from arthroscopic surgery on the AC joint in his right shoulder, his averages from the previous three years are telling: .303 BA, .394 OBP, .479 SLG, and his projections reflect another strong season. Moving to left field should allow him to rest his legs a little more throughout the season, and hopefully keep him fresh deep into October.

Nate McLouth

2014 Season Totals: .173/.280/.237, 50 wRC+, 9.9% BB rate, 21.6% K rate, -0.6 fWAR in 162 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .238/.312/.354, 88 wRC+, 8.7% BB rate, 17.6% K rate, 0.0 fWAR in 164 PA.

Nate McLouth’s first season in the District was derailed by a torn labrum in his right shoulder, but while the surgery to repair the injury ended his 2014 season prematurely, the Nationals are hopeful he will bounce back well in 2015. The left-handed hitting outfielder gives the Nationals good depth as he can play all three outfield positions, and his bat off the bench should be a nice weapon for Nationals manager Matt Williams.

Michael A. Taylor

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals - Game Two2014 Season Totals: .205/.279/.359, 80 wRC+, 7.0% BB rate, 39.5% K rate, 0.1 fWAR in 43 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .226/.286/.354, 79 wRC+, 7.2% BB rate, 28.1% K rate, -0.3 fWAR in 368 PA.

Michael A. Taylor’s breakout season saw him post eye-popping numbers in Double-A Harrisburg (.313 BA, .336 OBP, .539 SLG, 17 2B, 22 HR, 34 SB), earn a midseason promotion to Triple-A Syracuse and the Major Leagues shortly thereafter with a debut that featured his first hit, as well as home run, at Citi Field. The offseason trade of Steven Souza Jr. pushed Taylor up on the Nationals’ depth chart. Taylor is considered one of the most athletic talents in all of Washington’s system, projecting as good insurance for the Nationals, particularly in center field, where he has the potential to develop into a plus defender.

Brian Goodwin

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: .225/.301/.331, 82 wRC+, 9.2% BB rate, 25.2% K rate, 0.0 fWAR in 1 PA.

A first-round selection by the Nationals (No. 34 overall) in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Goodwin had a solid year at Double-A Harrisburg, made good progress in a late-season promotion to Triple-A and performed very well in the Arizona Fall League in 2014 (.296/.333/.444). That was enough to earn him a spot on the Nationals’ 40-man roster for the first time. The promising young outfielder figures to give the Nationals another good depth option as he projects mostly as a center fielder but can play left and right field as well.

Spring Training Preview, Part IV: Infielders

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by Kyle Brostowitz

Entering Spring Training, Washington’s 2015 40-man infield unit is a careful mixture of stability (Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon), transition (Ryan Zimmerman), quality depth (Danny Espinosa, Kevin Frandsen and Tyler Moore) and newcomers (Yunel Escobar and Wilmer Difo). The 2014 unit boasted two Silver Sluggers while leading Major League Baseball with 91 home runs. The combination of power, speed and defensive versatility allows this unit to be one of the most reliable in Major League Baseball.

We’ve already previewed the Nationals’ catchers, relievers and starting pitchers; now, in alphabetical order, let’s review the 2015 infielders.

*Note, 2014 totals reflect only Major League stats.

IAN DESMOND

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals2014 Season Totals: .255/.313/.431, 108 wRC+, 7.1% BB rate, 28.2% K rate, 4.1 fWAR in 648 PA.
2015 Steamer Projection: .258/.313/.416, 104 wRC+, 6.8% BB rate, 24.9% K rate, 2.9 fWAR in 619 PA.

The longest tenured member of the organization, Desmond is the unquestioned leader of this unit. He earned his third consecutive Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award in 2014 and was one of just three big leaguers to earn a Silver Slugger in 2012, 2013 and 2014, joining Andrew McCutchen (NL, outfielder), and Mike Trout (AL, outfielder) on this short list. Since the award’s inception in 1980, Desmond is the first National League shortstop to win back-to-back-to-back honors since Barry Larkin (HOF 2012) won five straight from 1988-1992.

Desmond was one of five “20/20” players in Major League Baseball in 2014 and his 24 home run/24 stolen base effort was his third straight dating to 2012.  He is as dependable as they come, appearing in at least 154 games in four of his five complete big league seasons.

WILMER DIFO

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: .219/.252/.300, 53 wRC+, 3.8% BB rate, 14.3% K rate, 0.0 fWAR in 1 PA.

A speedy, switch-hitting middle infielder, Difo is a product of Washington’s revamped scouting efforts in the Dominican Republic. He was signed on June 3, 2010 and progressed steadily through the Nationals’ chain before exploding onto the scene in 2014, earning him recognition and inclusion on Baseball America’s Top 10 Prospect List for the Nationals (No. 7). He was added to Washington’s 40-man roster following the 2014 season.

Difo was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Valuable Player after leading the league with 176 hits while ranking second in total bases (263), second in stolen bases (49), fourth in RBI (90) and fourth in runs scored (91). His 90 RBI were the most among Nationals farmhands, while his .315 average was good for second. He was the recipient of the Bob Boone Award, which is granted annually to the Nationals Minor Leaguer who best demonstrates the professionalism, leadership, loyalty, passion, selflessness, durability, determination and work ethic required to play the game the “Washington Nationals Way.”

YUNEL ESCOBAR

2014 Season Totals: .258/.324/.340, 95 wRC+, 8.1% BB rate, 11.3% K rate, 0.2 fWAR in 529 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .271/.333/.367, 98 wRC+, 8.1% BB rate, 11.8% K rate, 2.1 fWAR in 522 PA.

Escobar, a slick-fielding middle infielder (2013 AL Gold Glove Finalist) is a veteran of eight Major League seasons. He was acquired from Oakland in exchange for right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard on January 14, 2015. Escobar appeared in 137 games for the Rays in 2014, his fewest since 2011, due to right shoulder soreness that sent him to the 15-Day disabled list (June 30–July 11) and a left-knee sprain in mid-September that ended his season prematurely.

Escobar is expected to bounce back from those injuries and return to form in 2015 to provide stability to the Nationals infield. He will transition to second base while also providing depth at shortstop, when needed. When he takes the field for Washington in 2015, he will become the third Cuban-born player to play in the big leagues for the Nationals, joining pitchers Livan Hernandez and Yunesky Maya.

DANNY ESPINOSA

New York Mets v Washington Nationals2014 Season Totals: .219/.283/.351, 75 wRC+, 4.9% BB rate, 33.5% K rate, 0.6 fWAR in 364 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .218/.278/.348, 74 wRC+, 6.0% BB rate, 30.1% K rate, 0.2 fWAR in 181 PA.

Espinosa bounced back from a wrist injury that plagued his 2013 season. He started off strong in the month of April, hitting .291 (23-for-79) with five doubles, one triple, and three home runs in 25 games. He also hit left-handers hard in 2014, batting .301 (31-for-103) with eight doubles, three home runs and 10 RBI, posting an .859 OPS from the right side of the plate. Espinosa’s versatility and elite defensive ability at shortstop and second base allow him to be used in a variety of roles by manager Matt Williams.

KEVIN FRANDSEN

2014 Season Totals: .259/.299/.309, 72 wRC+, 2.5% BB rate, 11.0% K rate, -0.6 fWAR in 236 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .270/.309/.357, 86 wRC+, 3.6% BB rate, 10.8% K rate, 0.0 fWAR in 173 PA.

Frandsen returns for his second season with the Nationals. He brings a strong bench bat and defensive versatility to Washington’s roster. Frandsen is a career .255 (38-for-149) pinch hitter, and his 25 pinch hits the last two years rank second in MLB behind only Reed Johnson (27).

In his first season in Washington, Frandsen led the Nationals with 11 pinch hits (T-10th in NL) and started 42 games at four positions (6 at 1B, 9 at 2B, 12 at 3B, 15 in LF). He hit .303 (23-for-76) vs. left-handed pitching and .298 (14-for-47) with runners in scoring position.

JEFF KOBERNUS

2014 Season Totals: .000/.250/.000, 4 wRC+, 12.5% BB rate, 12.5% K rate in 8 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .250/.302/.332, 77 wRC+, 6.1% BB rate, 18.3% K rate in 1 PA.

Kobernus began the 2014 season with Triple-A Syracuse, playing in two contests before sustaining a broken left hand suffered when he was hit by a pitch on April 7. He was placed on the 60-Day DL on April 12 and after several rehab assignments, was recalled on June 25 and reported to Triple-A Syracuse, where he would hit .269 with 13 doubles, one triple, two home runs, 22 RBI, 22 walks, 14 stolen bases and 27 runs scored in the final 56 games of the season.

He joined Washington when rosters expanded in September and appeared in four games for the Nationals.

TYLER MOORE

2014 Season Totals: .231/.300/.385, 94 wRC+, 7.0% BB rate, 29.0% K rate, 0.3 fWAR in 100 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .244/.305/.426, 104 wRC+, 7.5% BB rate, 25.2% K rate, 0.2 fWAR in 99 PA.

Moore was set to begin the 2014 season with Triple-A Syracuse, but was recalled to Washington on April 6 when outfielder Scott Hairston was placed on the 15-Day disabled list. Moore enjoyed three stints with the Nationals, appearing in 42 games. While with Syracuse he hit .265 with 21 doubles, 10 home runs, 44 RBI and 45 runs scored in 84 games. It marked the fourth time in the last five seasons Moore hit at least 10 home runs at the Minor League level.

ANTHONY RENDON

San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals2014 Season Totals: .287/.351/.473, 130 wRC+, 8.5% BB rate, 15.2% K rate, 6.6 fWAR in 683 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .279/.350/.454, 125 wRC+, 9.0% BB rate, 15.6% K rate, 5.0 fWAR in 643 PA.

In his first full big league season, Rendon posted MVP-level numbers, finishing fifth in the NL MVP voting en route to his first National League Silver Slugger Award. He ranked fourth in MLB (2nd in NL) in Wins Above Replacement (6.6), according to Fangraphs.com, and his 111 runs paced the National League (3rd in MLB). He also ranked among National League leaders in hits (T-5th, 176), total bases (3rd, 290), doubles (T-4th, 39), extra base hits (T-5th, 66) and times on base (10th, 239).

Although he appeared in 28 games at second base in 2014, Rendon has solidified himself as one of the top third baseman in the game and will man the hot corner for Matt Williams in 2015.

RYAN ZIMMERMAN

2014 Season Totals: .280/.342/.449, 120 wRC+, 9.2% BB rate, 15.4% K rate, 1.2 fWAR in 240 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .275/.344/.449, 122 wRC+, 9.2% BB rate, 18.5% K rate, 3.4 fWAR in 570 PA.

Houston Astros v Washington NationalsZimmerman’s 2014 season was marred by two extensive disabled list stints that limited him to just 61 games. He fractured his right thumb sliding head first back into second base on April 13 at Atlanta. He returned June 3 and, upon his return, selflessly shifted to left field to allow Matt Williams flexibility when filling out the lineup card. He suffered a strained right hamstring on June 23 in Colorado sprinting to first base to beat out a ground ball. He rejoined the Nationals active roster on September 20 and started four games, all in left field. Zimmerman played defensively in left field (30 games), at third base (23) and first base (1). He did not commit an error in left field while connecting on two outfield assists.

Zimmerman will again transition to a new position in 2015, making the full-time move across the diamond to first base. Zimmerman’s elite hands and instincts hope to prove valuable in making the transition as smooth as possible.

Spring Training Preview, Part III: Starting Pitchers

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by Kyle Mann

Coming off a Major League Baseball-best 3.03 starters ERA, the Washington Nationals added 2013 American League Cy Young Award Winner Max Scherzer to a starting staff that is now projected to feature five members with Top-10 Cy Young Award finishes since 2012.

We’ve already previewed the Nationals starting catchers and relievers; now let’s dig into what could be a historically good starting staff.

*Note, 2014 totals reflect only Major League stats.

MAX SCHERZER

2014 Season Totals: 18-5, 3.15 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 10.29 K/9, 2.57 BB/9, 5.6 fWAR in 220.1 IP
2015 Steamer Projection: 14-8, 2.91 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 10.46 K/9, 2.43 BB/9, 3.9 fWAR in 192.0 IP

Even in a rotation full of aces, Scherzer stands out due to his impressive resume that includes the 2013 American League Cy Young Award and a fifth-place Cy Young finish in 2014. Scherzer, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-hander, also has two straight All-Star appearances, earning the starting nod in 2013 and winning the game out of the bullpen last season.

Now back in the National League, where he started his career as a first round pick of then-Diamondbacks Vice President of Scouting Operations (and current Nationals President of Baseball Operations and GM) Mike Rizzo, Scherzer is poised to continue his success in 2015 and beyond. Scherzer, baseball’s active leader (and fourth all-time) in strikeouts per nine innings pitched, also led the AL in wins each of the last two seasons (tied in 2014) and was a top three finisher in in strikeouts each of the past three years.

the Washington Nationals Nationals play the San Francisco Giants in the 2nd playoff gameJORDAN ZIMMERMANN

2014 Season Totals: 14-5, 2.66 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 8.20 K/9, 1.31 BB/9, 5.2 fWAR in 199.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 13-9, 3.39 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 7.65 K/9, 1.72 BB/9, 2.9 fWAR in 182.0 IP

A model of consistency, Jordan Zimmermann has established himself as one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues the past four seasons. After tying for the NL lead in wins and finishing seventh in the Cy Young Award voting in 2013, Zimmermann followed up his first All-Star season with an even better 2014.

Zimmermann’s no-hitter to end the regular season was certainly the highlight, but Zimmermann was dominant all year. Zimmermann twice won NL Player of the Week honors and allowed the fewest walks per nine innings in the league, en route to a fifth-place finish in NL Cy Young voting. Known for being a bulldog on the mound, Zimmermann finished second in the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio and fourth in WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and finished behind only National League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw in fielding independent pitching (FIP) —a key indicator of future performance.

STEPHEN STRASBURG

2014 Season Totals: 14-11, 3.14 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 10.13 K/9, 1.80 BB/9, 4.3 fWAR in 215.0 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 13-8, 3.03 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 9.78 K/9, 2.27 BB/9, 3.8 fWAR in 182.0 IP

Since being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of San Diego State University, Stephen Strasburg has established himself as one of the game’s most talented pitchers. Last season, Strasburg led the National League in strikeouts and games started behind a dominating fastball that averaged 94.8 mph and a change-up that averaged 88.2 miles per hour.

Strasburg struck out 10.13 batters per nine innings, good for second in the NL, on his way to a ninth-place finish in the Cy Young Award balloting. Thanks to a reduction in walk rate, Strasburg improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 3.41 in 2013 to 5.63 last season, good for second in the National League.  Strasburg has been the Nationals’ Opening Day starter each of the past three seasons and served as the Game 1 starter in the 2014 playoffs — and at just 26, is still improving — but it remains to be seen where he’ll slot in this rotation at the start of the 2015 campaign.

MLB-Miami Marlins at Washington NationalsDOUG FISTER

2014 Season Totals: 16-6, 2.41 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 5.38 K/9, 1.32 BB/9, 1.3 fWAR in 164.0 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 12-10, 3.78 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 6.20 K/9, 1.82 BB/9, 2.1 fWAR in 182.0 IP

In his inaugural season in Washington, Doug Fister had the best ERA among all Nationals starters, and his 2.41 ERA was good for fourth best in the National League. Considering he may head into 2015 as a possible fourth starter in the rotation, D.C. has plenty of reasons to be excited about the team’s chances during the 2015 season. With a quick tempo and a four-pitch mix that perplexed hitters all season long, Fister improved his ERA every month of the season on his way to an eighth-place finish in the NL Cy Young Award voting. Finishing behind only teammate Jordan Zimmermann in the NL in walks per nine innings, Fister’s control is the key to his success. After flourishing in his first season in the nation’s capital, Fister is poised for another great season for the Nationals in 2015.

GIO GONZALEZ

2014 Season Totals: 10-10, 3.57 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 9.19 K/9, 3.18 BB/9, 3.1 fWAR in 158.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 11-9, 3.70 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 8.68 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, 2.0 fWAR in 163.0 IP

The lone southpaw in the Nationals’ batch of starters, Gio Gonzalez enters 2015 coming off a strong September where he posted a 2.48 ERA and had 31 strikeouts and only five walks. Overall, his effectiveness in 2014 was masked by an ERA more than a half run higher than his FIP, which could indicate a return to some of the numbers the Hialeah, Fla. native posted during his 21-win 2012 campaign. The two-time All-Star is sixth among active pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings and sixth among active MLB lefties in career ERA, with an uptick in numbers since joining the Nationals three seasons ago. Gonzalez could be in line for a strong 2015, particularly if he continues to develop his change-up, a pitch he threw with more regularity in the second half of the season.

TANNER ROARK

2014 Season Totals: 15-10, 2.85 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 6.25 K/9, 1.77 BB/9, 3.0 fWAR in 198.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 2-2, 4.10 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 6.44 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, 0.3 fWAR in 38.0 IP

Part of the package the Nationals received for Cristian Guzman in a 2010 trade, Tanner Roark finished the 2014 season with 15 wins and a 2.85 ERA, proving his strong rookie season was no fluke. While Roark’s 2015 role isn’t yet clear, he’s shown he can be very successful as a starter, or coming out of the bullpen, including 22.2 innings in 2013 in which he posted a 1.19 ERA. After finishing last season in the Top 10 in the National League in wins, WHIP, walks per inning pitched and pitching WAR, Roark provides great rotation depth for the Nationals and should easily beat his Steamer projections if he gets regular work. As the old saying goes, you can never have too much pitching, and Roark has shown he will provide value no matter how he is used in 2015.

New York Mets v Washington Nationals - Game OneBLAKE TREINEN

2014 Season Totals: 2-3, 2.49 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 5.33 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, 0.6 fWAR in 50.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 2-2, 3.55 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 6.83 K/9, 2.17 BB/9, 0.2 fWAR in 45.0 IP 

A key part of the three-team trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle before the 2013 season — a deal that also netted the Nationals A.J. Cole and Ian Krol (later an integral part of the trade for Doug Fister) — Blake Treinen’s blazing fastball generated a lot of buzz in D.C. during his first taste of the Major Leagues. After posting an outstanding 2.49 ERA in 15 appearances (seven starts) with the Nationals in 2014, Treinen is an option to provide rotation depth, or be utilized out of the Nationals bullpen. A former college walk-on, Treinen threw his hard, sinking fastball nearly 80 percent of the time last season with an average speed of 94.8 miles per hour. Regardless of role, Treinen should be a solid contributor for the Nationals in 2015.

TAYLOR JORDAN

2014 Season Totals: 0-3, 5.61 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 5.96 K/9, 2.81 BB/9, 0.1 fWAR in 25.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 1-1, 3.79 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 6.45 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, 0.1 fWAR in 20.0 IP

After a successful rookie season in 2013, Taylor Jordan began the year in the Nationals rotation before returning to Triple-A Syracuse in early May. The young right-hander underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow in September, and began the process of working toward this spring. A groundball pitcher, the Merritt Island, Fla. native has induced a 56 percent groundball rate during his time in the Majors, peaking at 57.5 percent during his 2013 campaign, in which he posted a 3.66 ERA. Provided he’s healthy to start the season, Jordan should be ready to contribute in the role and the level the Nationals feel will be his best fit.

TAYLOR HILL

2014 Season Totals: 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 5.00 K/9, 3.00 BB/9, 0.1 fWAR in 9.0 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 1-1, 3.88 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 5.69 K/9, 1.65 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 30.0 IP

A sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft out of Vanderbilt University, Taylor Hill made his Major League debut for the Nationals in June and earned his first big league start in September of last season. While Hill ran into some tough luck during his brief MLB stint, he produced an outstanding 2.81 ERA for Triple-A Syracuse in 144 innings. Hill provides great starting rotation depth for the Nationals.

A.J. COLE

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: 0-0, 4.14 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 6.99 K/9, 2.73 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 1.0 IP

Ranked as the Nationals’ No. 2 prospect by MLB.com, A.J. Cole features a fastball that sits in the mid-90s as well as a solid changeup and curveball. After being selected as a fourth-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Cole was included in the haul to acquire All-Star Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics in December 2011. But the Nationals have always been high on Cole, who was reacquired by the Nationals in January 2013 as the centerpiece of the Michael Morse trade. After a successful 2014 season between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, in which he combined for a 3.16 ERA and 111 strikeouts over 134 innings, Cole enters Spring Training with a chance to contribute to the Nationals at some point during the 2015 season.

FELIPE RIVERO

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: 0-0, 4.48 ERA, 4.48 FIP, 6.86 K/9, 3.96 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 1.0 IP

Acquired with Jose Lobaton and Drew Vettleson last spring for Nathan Karns, Felipe Rivero is a hard throwing southpaw who can hit 97 mph with his fastball. He complements that offering with a curveball and a change-up, both which show promise. The native of Venezuela struck out 8.4 batters per nine innings across three levels in 2014, ending his season with a stint in the Arizona Fall League. If Rivero improves his command, the 23-year-old projects as left-handed starter in the majors, but also has potential as a left-handed stopper in the bullpen.

SAMMY SOLIS

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: 0-0, 4.06 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 7.16 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 1.0 IP

A 6-foot-5 left-hander, Sammy Solis has pitched well when healthy. Solis has an impressive 3.33 ERA over the course of his Minor League career with 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings, and features a fastball that can touch 95 miles per hour to go with a solid change-up. A former second-round draft pick out of the University of San Diego, Solis has the chance to move through the Nationals’ system quickly.

Spring Training Preview, Part II: Relief Pitchers

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by Kyle Mann

Over each of the next few weeks, we’ll break down the entire Nationals roster as the team prepares to take the field in Viera, Fla., to get to work on defending their NL East Division title. Continuing this week with relief pitchers, we’ll take a look at the stockpile of talent acquired and developed by President of Baseball Operations & General Manager Mike Rizzo, 2014 NL Manager of the Year Matt Williams and their respective staffs.

We already reviewed the catchers, so now let’s delve into some of the arms they’ll spend their time catching: the relievers.

*Note, 2014 totals reflect only Major League stats.

Miami Marlins v Washington NationalsDREW STOREN

2014 Season Totals: 2-1, 11 saves, 1.12 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 7.35 K/9, 1.76 BB/9, 0.9 fWAR in 56.1 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 3-3, 33 saves, 3.37 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 7.89 K/9, 2.28 BB/9, 0.3 fWAR in 65.0 IP

Since being drafted No. 10 overall in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, right-hander Drew Storen has been a steady contributor in the Nationals bullpen. After the toughest year of his young career in 2013, Storen came back with a vengeance last season, posting an N.L best 1.12 ERA (min. 50 innings pitched). Coming off such a strong year, Storen is being counted on to build off his great 2014 campaign and lock down the ninth inning for the defending NL East Champions.

MATT THORNTON

2014 Season Totals: 1-3, 0 saves, 1.75 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 7.00 K/9, 2.00 BB/9, 0.7 fWAR in 36.0 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 3-2, 2 saves, 2.96 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 8.33 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, 0.5 fWAR in 55.0 IP

An 11-year veteran, Matt Thornton was acquired by the Nationals from the Yankees last August to provide a veteran left-handed presence in the bullpen. Thornton responded with 18 scoreless appearances for the Nationals while also stranding 100 percent of inherited baserunners. Signed through 2015, Thornton is projected to continue his success in the back-end of the Nationals bullpen in 2015, which will likely include a significant late-inning load again this season.

CRAIG STAMMEN

2014 Season Totals: 4-5, 0 saves, 3.84 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 6.94 K/9, 1.73 BB/9, 0.6 fWAR in 72.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 3-3, 3 saves, 3.46 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 7.53 K/9, 2.42 BB/9, 0.3 fWAR in 65.0 IP

Craig Stammen has proven to be Mr. Everything for the Nationals since making his Major League debut in 2009. A starting pitcher in 2009 and 2010, Stammen has since established himself as a solid, versatile reliever for the Nationals the last four seasons, posting an ERA under 4.00 each year. While Stammen’s ERA rose from 2.76 in 2013 to 3.83 last season, his FIP and underlying peripherals indicate his performance was much closer to his outstanding 2013 than his ERA showed. With a career best 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio last season, thr right-hander should be in line for another solid season in 2015, no matter which role he occupies in the Nationals’ bullpen.

Atlanta Braves v Washington NationalsAARON BARRETT

2014 Season Totals: 3-0, 0 saves, 2.66 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 10.84 K/9, 4.43 BB/9, 0.6 fWAR in 40.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 2-2, 1 save, 3.21 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 9.20 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 0.3 fWAR in 45.0 IP

Whether you count securing the win in his Major League debut on Opening Day, or taking down the Rockies Brandon Barnes in a July 23rd anthem stand-off among the highlights, there’s no doubt that Aaron Barrett proved himself as a bullpen force during his rookie season. Finishing the year with an outstanding 2.66 ERA and extremely impressive 10.84 K/9 mark, Barrett provided plenty of reasons for Nationals fans to be excited about his second MLB season. Barrett has the ability to pitch in a right-handed set-up role for the Nationals in 2015, and if he can improve upon last season’s 4.43 BB/9, it seems the sky is the limit for him.

JERRY BLEVINS

2014 Season Totals: 2-3, 0 saves, 4.87 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 10.36 K/9, 3.61 BB/9, 0.7 fWAR in 57.1 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 3-2, 1 save, 3.11 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 9.03 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, 0.2 fWAR in 55.0 IP

A teammate of Stammen’s at the University of Dayton, Jerry Blevins joined Stammen as a key bullpen contributor during his first season in the Nation’s Capital. The left-hander’s 4.87 ERA from last season may be a bit misleading, but if you dig a bit deeper you’ll see that he had an outstanding 10.36 K/9 and 2.77 FIP, plus some impressive performances out of the bullpen during the postseason. Blevins’ strong peripheral stats lead to a rosy 2015 projection for the international traveler where he should combine with Thornton to provide solid left-handed contributions in the Nationals’ bullpen.

XAVIER CEDENO

2014 Season Totals: 0-0, 0 saves, 3.86 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 6.43 K/9, 0.00 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 7.0 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 3-2, 1 save, 3.11 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 9.03 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, 0.2 fWAR in 55.0 IP

While Cedeno has only pitched 13 innings for the Nationals since being acquired from the Houston Astros early in the 2013 season, he has performed well at the Major League and Triple-A levels during his time in the Nationals organization. In 74 appearances for Triple-A Syracuse, Cedeno has a 1.84 ERA with 102 strikeouts in only 73.2 innings. As a left-hander with great numbers in the Minor Leagues and several solid stints with the big league club, Cedeno is a great option as a third lefty out of the ‘pen for the Nationals in 2015.

ERIK DAVIS

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: 1-1, 0 saves, 3.52 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 7.87 K/9, 2.75 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 15.0 IP

Davis, a college teammate of Drew Storen’s at Stanford University, underwent Tommy John surgery last season and is due back during 2015. Davis impressed during a call-up in 2013 with 12 strikeouts in 8.2 innings pitched for the Nationals. With a 3.10 ERA in Triple-A Syracuse in 2013, Davis could be another option for the Nationals bullpen as soon as he returns to full health.

Chicago Cubs v St. Louis CardinalsERIC FORNATARO

2014 Season Totals: 0-0, 0 saves, 4.66 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 4.66 K/9, 3.13 BB/0, 0.0 fWAR in 9.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 1-1, 0 saves, 4.44 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 5.70 K/9, 3.08 BB/9, -0.2 fWAR in 20.0 IP

Acquired from the Cardinals this offseason, Fornataro is known for premium velocity and posted a 2.57 ERA for Triple-A Memphis last season. Fornataro had a 4.66 ERA in eight MLB appearances with the Cardinals last season and the 27-year-old provides solid right-handed depth for the Nationals bullpen. 

MATT GRACE

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: 1-1, 0 saves, 4.24 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 5.86 K/9, 3.16 BB/9, -0.2 fWAR in 25.0 IP

Grace, a 2010 selection in the First-Year Player Draft out of UCLA, has excelled in the minors since a move to the bullpen. After posting a 1.17 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last season, the 6-foot-4 left-hander was selected to attend the Arizona Fall League, regarded as a finishing school for Major League prospects. Grace posted a 3.18 ERA in the hitter-friendly league, showing that he is ready should the Nationals call on him to provide left-handed depth in their bullpen in 2015.

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