5 Names To Remember for the 2015 Rule 5 Draft


Ty Buttrey

Last Friday all 30 major league teams were forced to make critical roster decisions about which prospects to add to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from next month’s Rule 5 draft. Prospects first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five years and players signed at 19 years or older must be added within four seasons or be exposed to the Rule 5 draft, which takes place annually on the final day of the MLB Winter Meetings. Teams must pay $50,000 and have an open 40-man roster spot in order to select a player and he must remain on the 25-man roster all season or be offered back to his original team.

Dozens of players were added to various team’s 40-man rosters last week, yet as with every year, several interesting prospects were left exposed. These are five specific prospects that I was surprised to see left available to the Rule 5 draft and could hear their names selected next month.

Ty Buttrey RHP Boston Red Sox

A 2012 4th round pick who commanded $1.4 million to sign from high school, Buttrey owns a near ideal 6-6 235lbs pitcher’s frame, along with a strong three-pitch repertoire including a 91-93mph fastball, curveball and changeup. The 22-year-old is still raw on the mound, but possesses plenty of physical tools and potential. It is difficult to envision Buttrey spending all of 2016 in the majors, but any organization would be thrilled to add him to their farm system, as his immense talent could quickly turn into production on the field. A long-shot to get drafted, I am curious to see if a general manager is tempted to try to stash him in their organization next year.

Reymin Guduan LHP Houston Astros

A prototypical 6-4 205lbs, Guduan is a pure left-handed relief prospect capable of hitting 100mph on the radar gun and sits comfortably in the high-90s. He struggles woefully with his command, as evidenced by his 33 walks allowed in 45.2 innings in 2015 and career 7.4 BB/9 rate. This is the primary reason Houston left him exposed, as they are betting his lack of control will not enable him to stick in the majors an entire season. However, lefties that can throw triple-digits tempt front offices like supermodels do New York investment bankers and a team will select Guduan next month gambling on his excellent size and velocity.

Roberto Pena Catcher Houston Astros

Houston chose to protect fellow catcher Alfredo Gonzalez, but there is also a good chance the Astros lose Pena, a 23-year-old defensive wizard who threw out 25 of 51 base stealers in 2015 at Double-A. With teams always seeking Spanish-speaking catchers with outstanding defensive skills, I would be mildly surprised if a team does not select Pena.

Luis Perdomo RHP St. Louis Cardinals

Serving as an injury replacement, Perdomo pitched in the 2015 Futures Game and impressed scouts with an upper-90s fastball and a hard slider. The Cardinals likely left the 22-year-old exposed because he has not yet reached the Double-A level, but his live arm and exposure in the Futures Game could get him selected next month.

Sam Selman LHP Kansas City Royals

A former 2012 2nd round pick from Vanderbilt, Selman moved to the bullpen in 2015 with mixed results, as he struck out 69 hitters in 56.1 innings, but also walked 42 hitters. Selman has a lively fastball that can reach the high-90s and an inconsistent but intriguing hard slider, which potentially gives him two above-average to plus pitches if he can harness his control. Considering his draft pedigree and excellent raw tools, I would be surprised if Selman is not selected in this year’s draft.

Others of Note: Corey Black RHP Chicago Cubs, Wuilmer Becerra OF New York Mets, Zack Jones RHP Minnesota Twins, TJ Rivera SS New York Mets, and Dwight Smith Jr. OF Toronto Blue Jays

The Washington Nationals Add Christopher Bostick, Spencer Kieboom and Nick Lee To Their 40-Man Roster

Late Thursday afternoon the Washington Nationals announced that they have added 2B Christopher Bostick, Catcher Spencer Kieboom and LHP Nick Lee to their 40-man roster, in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Without getting too deep into specifics, the Rule 5 draft occurs at the Winter Meetings each year and those eligible this year are any college draftee from 2011 and before or any high school draftee from 2010 and before not on a team’s 40-man roster. By adding them to the 40-man, these three are now immediately protected from the Rule 5 draft next month.


Acquired along with Abel De Los Santos from Texas last offseason for LHP Ross Detwiler, the 22-year-old Christopher Bostick quietly had a productive season, hitting .258/.312/.398 with 12 home runs, 42 extra base hits and 31 stolen bases in 137 games while splitting time for both the Potomac Nationals and Harrisburg Senators in 2015. Defensively he spent most of the season playing second base, though he did see some time at left field, center field and shortstop.

Offensively Bostick is a right-handed hitter with quality bat speed and loose wrists which he uses to whip the barrel through the strike zone. In addition Bostick is a wiry 5-11 185lbs with excellent athleticism and possesses plus speed, which he has used to steal 96 bases in 480 career minor league games. His swing has some excess length and generates some whiffs, but he has managed to swat 92 extra bases hits the past two seasons. He will take a walk and if he can make a few adjustments, Bostick projects as a potential below-average to fringe-average major league hitter.

In the field Bostick has an average (“50”) arm with a reasonably quick release and good athleticism. Unfortunately these skills do not add up to a dynamic defensive second baseman, as Bostick does not look comfortable and will make errors on the routine play. I project him as a potential “40” defender at second and think his future could be as a utility player.

The Nationals sent Bostick to the Arizona Fall League this spring, likely to help in this decision of whether or not to protect him in the Rule 5 draft – Bostick has seized the opportunity, batting .268/.333/.549 with 4 homers in 71 at-bats. This performance in front of scouts, plus his obvious physical tools, made this an easy decision for Washington’s front office to add him to their 40-man roster.


Chris Bostick

Drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 draft, catcher Spencer Kieboom has earned the reputation as a terrific defensive catcher. The 24-year-old Kieboom possesses a plus arm, a quick release and nimble feet, which allow him to routinely post sub-1.95 second pop times to second base. In addition, he has a good aptitude for receiving the baseball and shows the ability to block pitches in the dirt. Overall Kieboom profiles as a plus or “60” defensive catcher.

Offensively the right-handed hitting Kieboom shows good raw pull power in batting practice and a keen eye at the plate, as evidenced by his .352 career on-base percentage. He also makes contact and does not strike out much, but this contact ability does not often translate into power during game action. Kieboom should see major league time simply because of his defensive wizardry but his likely “30” hit and “30/35” raw power limits his ceiling to an above-average major league backup. Kieboom should begin 2016 as the starting catcher at Double-A Harrisburg and could reach the majors sometime next year.

Nick Lee

Nick Lee

Nick Lee was drafted by the Nationals in the 18th round of the 2011 draft from Weatherford College in Texas. A left-handed relief pitcher, Lee possesses an imposing 93-94mph fastball that touches 96, in addition to a hard 79-82mph slider with sharp downward movement. Lee spent 2015 pitching for both High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, posting a combined 3.12 ERA over 52 innings pitched with 57 strikeouts against 33 walks. Lee has excellent pure stuff, but his difficulty avoiding walks as shown by a career 4.8 BB/9 ratio (5.7 BB/9 in 2015), hinders his overall effectiveness. After being exposed to scouts this fall in the Arizona Fall League and the dearth of lefties who can throw in the mid-90s, I am not surprised the Nationals decided to protect the soon-to-be 25-year-old from the draft.

The Nationals truly had legitimate decisions to make on likely six prospects, obviously Bostick, Kieboom and Lee, in addition to 1B Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, Catcher Raudy Read and 1B Matt Skole. Due to the limited ceiling of Skole and the distance from the majors of Marmolejos-Diaz and Read, the Nationals probably make the proper call leaving them off the roster. The Nationals currently have 38 players on their 40-man roster, giving them flexibility for free agent signings and trades going forward, not to mention the potential to select a prospect themselves in the Rule 5 draft. Thursday’s activity represents one of many small moves in what is expected to be a busy offseason for the Nationals’ front office.

THE NatsGM 2015-2016 Washington Nationals Offseason Manifesto – Part-2 Pitching


No question the 2015 Washington Nationals were one of the bigger disappointments in recent memory. But while the sting remains from the poor season, the front office has had proper time to lick their figurative wounds, and it is now time to refocus toward 2016 and giving the Nationals the best chance to return to the playoffs.

Last season the Washington Nationals’ pitching staff failed to live up to the overwhelming preseason expectations, finishing 6th in the National League in ERA (3.62), 4th in Strikeouts (1,342), 1st in Walks Allowed (364), and 7th in Batting Average Allowed (.250). These results compare reasonably but unfavorably with 2014, as the team finished 1st in ERA (3.03), 6th in Strikeouts (1,288), 1st in Walks Allowed (352), and 6th in Batting Average Allowed (.244).

In Part-2 of this article, I have prioritized improving the overall depth of the pitching staff and attempting to overhaul the team’s bullpen. In addition to keep this realistic, I am focusing on keeping the pitching payroll under $71 million and the total 2015 team payroll at $151 million.  Keeping this in mind, here is my masterplan to bolster the Nationals pitching to help them return to the playoffs and reach the World Series in 2016.


Signings: None

Trades:  2B/3B Yunel Escobar to the Chicago White Sox for LHP Dan Jennings ; RHP Drew Storen to the Detroit Tigers for a Prospect ; Prospect RHP Austin Voth plus a (C grade prospect) to the St. Louis Cardinals for RHP Steve Cishek

Starting Rotation

#1 Max Scherzer $ 22,142,900
#2 Stephen Strasburg $ 10,500,000
#3 Gio Gonzalez $ 12,100,000
#4 Joe Ross $ 550,000
#5 Tanner Roark $ 550,000
Total: $ 45,842,900

Max Scherzer signed a 7-year $210 million contract with the Nationals last offseason in hopes of leading the Nationals to the World Series. While he fell short of the goal, the 31-year-old Scherzer threw 228.2 innings for Washington last season with a 2.79 ERA, 2.77 FIP, and 276 strikeouts against 36 walks, in addition to throwing 2 no-hitters. If not for the superlative performances of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Jake Arrieta this past season, Scherzer would be receiving CY Young discussion. Nevertheless, he will return to front the Nationals’ rotation in 2016.

photo 2(6)

After an unusually difficult first half of the season that saw his ERA balloon to 5.16, the 28-year-old Stephen Strasburg settled down in the second half to show his dominant form. For the season Strasburg pitched 127.1 innings for Washington with a 3.46 ERA, 2.81 FIP and 155 strikeouts. There will be trade rumors surrounding him this winter due to his impending free agent status next offseason, but expect Strasburg to remain with Washington as their #2 or Co-#1 starter next season.

Lost amongst the static of the disappointing 2015, left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez completed yet another successful season for the Nationals, throwing 175.2 innings with a 3.79 ERA, 3.05 FIP, and 169 strikeouts. Gio’s above-average walk rate and propensity for the occasional poor start often overshadow his skills, as he has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball this decade. Signed through this season with two additional club options, Gio should remain a rock in the middle of the Nationals’ rotation for the next few years.

Acquired as part of the Steven Souza trade with Trea Turner, Joe Ross was a valuable member of the 2015 rotation, pitching 76.2 innings and posting a 3.64 ERA, 3.42 FIP and 69 strikeouts last season. The Nationals decided to shut him down late in the season due to the large innings increase from his previous season, along with some signs of fatigue in his results. Ross still needs to improve his changeup to keep left-handed hitters off-balance, as lefties had a .809 OPS against him in 2015. That said this 22-year-old projects to be part of the Nationals rotation for much of the rest of this decade.

Following two consecutive solid seasons as a starter, the transition back to the bullpen was as successful for Tanner Roark as the return of Dustin Diamond to Saved By The Bell: The New Class, posting a 4.38 ERA and 4.70 FIP over 111 innings pitched. One of many lessons learned from last season is Roark is more successful as a starting pitcher, which is convenient as the Nationals need innings at the back of their rotation next season. The 29-year-old Roark figures to benefit from the team’s improved defense in 2016 and eat plenty of innings at the back of the rotation.

In addition to these five, the Nationals will depend on depth in the minor leagues at Triple-A Syracuse in terms of RHPs A.J. Cole, Taylor Hill, and Taylor Jordan and at Double-A with Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez.

Closer: Jonathan Papelbon $ 11,000,000
Stopper: (Steve Cishek) $ 7,100,000
RH Set-Up: Craig Stammen $ 2,400,000
RH Set-Up: David Carpenter $ 1,500,000
LH Set-Up: Felipe Rivero $ 550,000
LH Set-Up: (Dan Jennings) $ 700,000
Middle/Long Man: Blake Treinen $ 550,000
Total: $ 23,800,000
Total Pitching Staff: $ 69,642,900
Total Offense: $ 78,571,429
Total 2016 Payroll: $148,214,329

Likely against the wishes of every Nationals’ fans, I would recommend the team bring back 34-year-old right-handed pitcher Jonathan Papelbon to serve as the team’s closer in 2016. Certainly fans will remember the ugly incident involving Bryce Harper toward the end of the season and want him to be on another team next year. But regrettably the rest of baseball is aware of this incident, and Papelbon’s trade value is currently at its nadir. Given my background as a financial advisor, I cannot sell low on any asset and would gamble on a rebound season for Papelbon in 2016.

That is not to say Papelbon was not solid in 2015, as he pitched to a 2.13 ERA and 3.70 FIP, with 56 strikeouts and 24 saves in 63.1 innings pitched. In short, he is still one of the best 10-20 relief pitchers in the game, and his presence in the bullpen makes the team better. How new manager Dusty Baker manages Papelbon and his relationship with Harper could be one of his biggest challenges next year – I am willing to wager it works out well for the Nationals.

Unfortunately the time in Washington is likely over for Drew Storen, who many expect to be traded this offseason after a “vote of no-confidence” in him with the Papelbon trade last summer. I see a natural fit for a deal with Detroit, a team that needs bullpen help and gobbled up some prospects at this past trade deadline. Several names I would discuss in trade talks with Detroit would be JaCoby Jones, Jairo Labourt and Kevin Ziomek.

In order to replace Storen in the late innings, I am suggesting the Nationals make a swap with the St. Louis Cardinals to acquire right-handed submariner Steve Cishek. Scheduled to earn approximately $7 million in 2016 and under arbitration through 2017, there have been mentions that Cishek could be a non-tender candidate after a subpar 2015. However, Cishek is only 29-years-old and has been one of the best, underrated relievers in the National League the past few seasons. He possesses a career 2.82 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 9.55 K/9 ratio against a 3.42 BB/9. In addition he owns a career .40 HR/9 rate, proving he keeps the ball in the ballpark. If the Cardinals would accept Double-A pitcher Austin Voth and a prospect for Cishek, I would quickly strike this deal to make him our 8th inning stopper.

Losing Craig Stammen early in the 2015 season was a major blow to the Nationals’ bullpen, as this reliable performer had previously done yeoman’s work in the bullpen throwing 72+ innings per year for 3 previous seasons. Prior to injury Craig Stammen was the definition of a quality reliever, striking out a good percentage of hitters, issuing few walks and seldom allowing home runs. Assuming he is healthy, expect Stammen to again be a major force in the Nationals’ bullpen in 2016.

Acquired from the Yankees in June, David Carpenter suffered through an injury-plagued and forgettable season in 2015, pitching 24.2 innings with a 4.01 ERA, 5.24 FIP and 15 strikeouts before being shut down with shoulder issues. However, the two seasons prior to 2015, the 30-year-old Carpenter was one of the best relievers in the National League. Scheduled to earn $1.5 million in 2016 and under contract through 2017, the Nationals would be wise to gamble that Carpenter returns to health and previous form next year while pitching in middle relief.

Easily the best surprise in the Nationals otherwise underwhelming 2015 bullpen, LHP Felipe Rivero took advantage of his opportunity, throwing 48.1 innings with a 2.79 ERA, 2.64 FIP and 43 strikeouts. Still only 24-years-old and possessing an upper-90s fastball, Rivero has late-inning reliever potential in the future if his move to the bullpen continues to blossom. For now, Rivero expects to serve as the Nationals top left-handed reliever in 2016.

As mentioned in Part-1 of this piece, I have the Washington Nationals selling high and trading infielder Yunel Escobar before the season, ideally for bullpen depth. Several teams are seeking second baseman and third baseman this offseason and the best fit in terms of a trade appears to be the White Sox, who need help at both infield positions, plus potentially shortstop as well. In addition, Chicago appears to have good pitching depth, both in terms of young starting pitchers in the minors and in their bullpen. Ideally, I would swap Escobar’s contract of 1-year $7 million plus an option for 2017, for four seasons of left-handed relief pitcher Dan Jennings.

Possessing a solid 3-pitch mix including a 92-93mph fastball, sinker and slider, the 28-year-old Jennings owns a career 2.99 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 7.48 K/9 ratio against a 3.91 BB/9 ratio. Furthermore he shows no obvious career platoon split, allowing a .702 OPS verses righties and a .718 OPS against lefties. Jennings is scheduled to earn $700,000 in his first time through salary arbitration and would provide Washington with another solid lefty to pair with Felipe Rivero in the bullpen.

Blake Treinen provided the Nationals with 67.2 innings pitched in 2015, posting a 3.86 ERA, 3.49 FIP and 65 strikeouts against 38 walks. Blessed with an upper-90s fastball and a hard slider, Treinen dominates righties, holding them to a .184/.276/.216 batting line; unfortunately due to his lack of a quality changeup, Treinen struggles against lefties, as they slugged .336/.425/.509 against him in 2015. Until Treinen improves against lefties, he will remain as a righty-specialist and long reliever. If however, he develops even a passable changeup, the 27-year-old Treinen could still develop into a high-leverage reliever.

Additional depth at the minor league level will be provided by righties Abel De Los Santos and Rafael Martin, plus Aaron Barrett could return late in the season after Tommy John surgery. Southpaws Matt Grace and Sammy Solis will provide additional support from the left side.


While it feels strange to write a column like this and not include Drew Storen and Jordan Zimmermann, 2016 is shaping up as a transition year for the Washington Nationals pitching staff. The organization will let veterans Doug Fister and Zimmermann depart, while relying on Tanner Roark and Joe Ross to serve as the #4 and #5 starters. Furthermore there is expected to be significant turnover in the bullpen, as five or more spots could see new faces in 2016.

The weakness of the starting rotation lies in the lack of depth and the question marks at the back of the rotation in Roark and Ross. Both men have performed well at the major league level, but the Nationals need them to pitch 160+ innings next season to be successful.

Additionally, the bullpen projects to be stronger with more veteran leadership, although each of these pitchers have some possible negative working against him. That said I prioritized retooling the bullpen and striving to have seven quality pitchers in the fold. I feel like each of these seven individuals is unique and bring a different skillset, not to mention having a good blend of youth and experience.

In conclusion this master plan has added power and versatility to the offense, overhauled the bullpen with potentially seven above-average relievers, and has cut the payroll nearly 10% from last season. I have parted with three prospects, including two in the top-10, but replace them with one prospect from the Storen trade, the potential for a compensation pick for Reddick next winter and I protected all four picks inside the top-75 in the 2016 MLB Draft. If the Nationals can reasonably avoid the injury bug, there is no reason they cannot win the National League East in 2016 for the 3rd time in 5 years and challenge for the World Series.

THE NatsGM 2015-2016 Washington Nationals Offseason Manifesto

Nationals Park

Unfortunately for the Washington Nationals, the 2015 season resembled a near worst case scenario for the team. Predicted to win the division by nearly every publication and the World Series by many others, the Nationals finished in 2nd place in the NL East with an 83-79 record, seven games behind the New York Mets.

Now General Manager Mike Rizzo enters the offseason in need of changes to the roster, as free agents Ian Desmond, Denard Span and Jordan Zimmermann, along with others, are expected to depart. Further, there is a strong expectation that management will want to reduce payroll from a franchise high $162 million in 2015. Finally, the team offensively needs another left-handed bat with power to compliment Bryce Harper, a resolution to who starts at second base, shortstop, and third base, along with improving the quality of their reserves.

Last season the Washington Nationals overcame lengthy injuries to Anthony Rendon, Denard Span, Jayson Werth, and Ryan Zimmerman to post a solid .251/.321/.403 batting line and a .724 OPS, 5th in the National League. The Nationals finished with 703 runs scored (3rd in NL), 177 home runs (T-3rd in NL), 539 walks (3rd in NL) and 1,344 strikeouts (14th in NL) in 2015. While these numbers do not fully explain the team’s disappointing record, the high strikeout numbers did cause the offense to struggle to consistently score runs each night.

Today in Part-1 I focus on improving the overall offense by attempting to reduce the number of strikeouts the team accumulates, adding a left-handed power hitter and talent to the team’s bench. Also, I will bring the team payroll closer to $150 million for 2016, nearly a 10% reduction from last season, while making the depth of the roster stronger in order to return the team to playoffs next season.

2015-2016 Washington Nationals NatsGM Offseason Manifesto: Part-1 Hitting

2016 Hypothetical Payroll: $151 million (2015 $162 million, 2014 $137 million)

Signings: 2B/OF Ben Zobrist 3-yrs $49.5 mm (15, 16.5, 18), INF Cliff Pennington 1-yr $2.25mm

Trade: 2B/3B Yunel Escobar To The **** For ****  ; IF Wilmer Difo To Oakland Athletics For OF Josh Reddick & a (C/C+) Prospect


Catcher: Wilson Ramos $ 5,300,000
First Base: Ryan Zimmerman $ 14,000,000
Second Base: Ben Zobrist ($ 15,000,000)
Shortstop: Danny Espinosa $ 2,700,000
Third Base: Anthony Rendon $ 2,500,000
Left Field: Jayson Werth $ 21,571,429
Center Field: Bryce Harper $ 5,000,000
Right Field: Josh Reddick ($7,000,000)
Total Salary Lineup: $73,071,429

Wilson Ramos, aka The Buffalo, suffered through a disappointing campaign for Washington in 2015. Positively, Ramos managed to stay healthy and have over 500 plate appearances on the season; unfortunately his newfound good health did not translate perfectly to his production offensively, hitting only .229/.258/.358 with 15 homers and 68 runs batted in. Defensively, aside from the occasional difficult time catching throws from the outfield, Ramos ranks as a strong catcher in throwing out runners and pitch framing. Perhaps if the Nationals hit him lower in the order and find more days off to help keep him fresh, Ramos might hit closer to his career .258/.301/.411 in his final season before free agency.

The Face of The Franchise, Ryan Zimmerman struggled through an injury-plagued 2015 season, playing in only 95 games and batting .249/.308/.465 with 16 homers. Zimmerman has struggled through two consecutive injury-filled seasons and his absence from the “heart of the order” has been an underrated reason for the team’s struggle to consistently score runs. He will return as the starting first baseman next season and if he can stay healthy, is one of the best first baseman in baseball.

The biggest free agent expenditure I would make this offseason would be to bring versatile Ben Zobrist to Washington on a 3-year $49.5 million deal. However, I would stand firm on only three years for Zobrist and if a competitor offered him more, I would seek another alternative.  With Zobrist in the fold, I would use Yunel Escobar‘s fine season in Washington as an opportunity to sell high on him and trade him to bolster the pitching staff or prospect depth.  I will discuss this more in Part-2.

I would bring Zobrist to Washington as I see him as an ideal fit for this roster. The 34-year-old Zobrist is a switch-hitter with a career .355 on-base percentage and is capable of playing most every defensive position competently or better. I would use him at second base and bat him #1 or #2, depending on Mr. Werth, with the idea that if multiple injuries occur to the lineup, his defensive versatility could provide some insurance to the roster.


To begin the 2016 season, I would start Danny Espinosa at shortstop, allowing the organization to put top prospect Trea Turner in the minor leagues to delay his arbitration clock and give him additional minor league experience. Fortunately, this allows the Nationals to capitalize on his excellent defensive skills at shortstop and his ability to hit for power from both sides of the plate. Last year Espinosa hit .240/.311/.409 with 13 home runs over 118 games, while playing five different positions. When Turner proves he is major league ready and contract arbitration is in the rearview mirror, Espinosa will slide into a valuable reserve role garnering at-bats at second, shortstop and third base.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon injured himself early in spring training on what appeared to be a routine play and struggled to get on-track all season, batting only .264/.344/.363 and 5 home runs in 80 games played. I am hoping with a permanent return to his natural position and some better luck with his health, Rendon can return closer to his 2014 season, when he hit .287/.351/.473 with 21 bombs.


As with several others Jayson Werth also battled through a difficult, injury-riddled season, playing in only 88 games while batting .221/.302/.384 and 12 home runs. In addition, Werth appeared to struggle at times defensively in his first season back in left field. Considering his salary and age (36), he is a near certainty to return in 2016 for the Nationals, so the team must maximize his skills and bat Werth atop the lineup to capitalize on his on-base skills. Assuming he has a healthier season in 2016, Werth still has another year of above-average production “left in the tank”.

After several years of imagining what a full, healthy season from Bryce Harper would look like, 2015 was his breakout season, slugging .330/.460/.649 and 42 home runs – in short, he was the best player in the National League. My only change with Bryce is the decision to permanently move him into center field, where he has appeared most comfortable during his career and the defensive metrics state is his best position. Otherwise, I would hope for another healthy season for Bryce and another 35+ homers in 2016.

One of the most underrated players in baseball, the 28-year-old Josh Reddick enters 2016 in his final season of salary arbitration before free agency next winter. Oakland has mentioned publicly wanting to discuss a contract extension with Reddick, but their historical track record say he should be available in trade discussions this offseason. If Oakland feels like 2016 is a rebuilding year or Reddick will not sign long-term, they could look to deal him and an offer headlined by nearly major league ready Wilmer Difo would be difficult to refuse.

Reddick is a quality left-handed hitting outfielder coming off a strong campaign in 2015, batting .272/.333/.449 with 20 home runs, 77 runs batted in and 10 stolen bases in 149 games played. In addition, Reddick has the reputation as a solid defender in right field and a quality baserunner, making him a all-around baseball player. He does struggle against left-handed pitching, which could further explain Oakland’s willingness to trade him: however, a platoon with Michael Taylor could provide a way to mask this weakness.

Due to his salary, left-handed bat with power and defensive skills, I feel Reddick would be an ideal addition for the Nationals this winter. Certainly it is steep to trade six years of Difo for one of Reddick, plus a hypothetical compensation pick next winter, thus I would insist on a sweetener to close the deal. But considering Turner is with Washington for six years and Zobrist and Espinosa are also around, Difo feels like an expendable piece this winter.

Jose Lobaton $ 1,500,000
Clint Robinson $ 550,000
Cliff Pennington $ 2,250,000
Michael A. Taylor $ 550,000
Matt den Dekker $ 550,000
Total Reserves: $ 5,500,000
Total Offense: $ 78,571,429

Returning as the backup catcher in Washington, Jose Lobaton played only 44 games and struggled in the limited playing time in 2015, hitting only .199/.279/.294 with 3 homers. That said Lobaton had another strong season defensively and scores well by the pitch framing metrics. A switch-hitter, Lobaton has shown a career platoon advantage batting left-handed – perhaps having him play more games verses righties could give Ramos additional rest and help Lobaton find a groove offensively. I would hope to see Lobaton play closer to 60 games for Washington, not due to injuries to Ramos, in 2016.

Clint Robinson was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season for the Nationals, turning a minor league contract with a spring training invite into a bench spot and a batting line of .272/.358/.424 with 10 home runs over 309 at-bats. Exposed defensively in the outfield, the left-handed hitting Robinson will spell Zimmerman at first base and act as a pinch hitter in the late innings for the Nationals next season.

In order to delay top offensive prospect Trea Turner’s arbitration clock and allow him more time in the minors, the Nationals should sign a versatile, veteran utility infielder like Cliff Pennington. The 31-year-old Pennington is coming off a subpar 2015 season, but has a solid reputation as an above-average defensive infielder. A switch-hitter, Pennington is a stronger hitter from the left-side, perhaps giving Washington a nice platoon with Espinosa if an injury occurs to an infielder. While it feels expensive paying $2+ million to a utility infielder, his experience and defensive wizardry makes the investment more than worthwhile.

Michael A. Taylor expected to spend most of 2015 in the minors refining his skills, but due to injuries, he played 138 games for Washington last season. The 24-year-old battled with a low walk rate and an excessive number of strikeouts as a rookie to hit .229/.282/.358 with 14 home runs and 16 stolen bases. Those numbers, plus his outstanding defense in center field, gives Taylor a legitimate case to serve as an everyday starter in Washington’s outfield.

However, Washington’s need for additional left-handed power, coupled with his speed and defensive versatility, makes him a better fit as a reserve next season. That said, considering both Harper and Werth’s injury history and the desire to gain the platoon advantage against lefties, Taylor could easily see 400+ at-bats acting as the team’s 4th outfielder in 2016.

Acquired from the Mets for Jerry Blevins, OF Matt den Dekker performed well after a midseason recall from the minor leagues. He added a leg kick to his swing during his demotion and returned with a vengeance, hitting .267 with 4 home runs in 75 second half at-bats. Capable of playing all three outfield positions and owning some legitimate left-handed pop, den Dekker profiles as an ideal 5th outfielder/25th man for this roster.


In this exercise I believe I traded for a terrific left-handed hitter in Josh Reddick to pair with Bryce Harper, while the expensive signing of Ben Zobrist gives the team a strong on-base presence and positional versatility. Furthermore, using Danny Espinosa and Michael A. Taylor in more appropriate reserve roles will bolster the bench while helping accentuate their many strengths and hiding some of their weaknesses. Finally, I have brought the offensive part of the payroll below $80 million, keeping me on course to stay within the $151 million budget.

The offense still projects to struggle with strikeouts and their starting lineup has several players with extensive injury concerns. Certainly the roster is better positioned to survive multiple injuries to starters due to the increased depth, but losing more than 1 or 2 players to long-term ailments would test the run-scoring capabilities of the offense.

However, the starting lineup now has 4 right-handed hitters, 2 lefties and 2 switch-hitters, giving the team far more balance than the heavily righty lineups in 2015. Furthermore, with Werth’s career .365 OBP and Zobrist’s .355 OBP hitting in front of Rendon, Harper, Zimmerman and Reddick, this has a chance to be a dynamic offense capable of wearing out opposing pitchers.

Finally, I should note this team will be better defensively with Rendon returning to third base and Espinosa taking over for Desmond at shortstop, not to mention the positive additions of Zobrist and Reddick. The Nationals have a chance to start an average or better defender at each position next season. If the team embraces fielding analytics more so with the new coaching staff, the 2016 team could make solid improvements in run prevention next season.

Overall I am extremely confident and pleased with the starters and overall offense I have constructed above. The team has good on-base skills atop the lineup, excellent power in the heart of the order and a versatile, deep bench. The Achilles Heels’ for the offense will always be the injury concerns of several top hitters and the propensity toward inconsistent offensive output due to the number of strikeouts. However, this team will get on base, hit plenty of home runs and play solid defense along the way, giving it a chance to win most games. If they can avoid the injury-bug, there is no reason the Nationals will not have one of the better lineups in the National League next season.

**** Return Monday 11/16 for Part-2 as I construct the Washington Nationals Pitching Staff For 2016.  Thanks for reading! ****