Building off yesterday’s column, this afternoon I return with several additional scouting notes from the past two days in Florida. Please let me know in the comment’s section if there are players or topics you wish for me to discuss. Also, please ignore any typos or grammatical errors, I am writing these reports rapidly in order to turn them around in a timely fashion.
Although the stadium radar gun did not agree, I was extremely impressed with Joe Nathan’s performance Tuesday. Nathan’s fastball was sitting 88-89mph on the stadium radar gun, touching 90mph. In addition Nathan flashed a good slider and even showed a quality changeup to a left-handed batter in his one inning of work. Even more impressively, each pitch Nathan threw showed natural movement, with nothing going straight and everything sinking and cutting toward left-handed hitters. At 42-years-old he no longer has “closer” stuff, but if he can add another tick or two of velocity this spring, I can envision Nathan helping Washington (or another team) in middle relief this season.
Following Nathan on Tuesday for the Nationals was RHP Austin Adams, one of two players Washington received for Danny Espinosa this winter. Adams immediately caught my attention, flashing a 93mph fastball with excellent life and a powerful 87mph slider/cutter with sharp movement. Adams is listed at 6-2 225lbs and looks even bigger, with long limbs and some natural deception in his delivery. He has plenty of effort in his motion and his mechanics are difficult to repeat, which explains his past difficulties allowing walks. Nonetheless, with the potential for two above-average pitches if his command can improve, there is a chance the Nationals have found a possible asset in middle relief.
* Obviously it is only a few at-bats, but Ryan Zimmerman looks completely lost at the plate. Zimmerman appears to be cheating and guessing fastball in order to catch up to reasonable velocity, which leaves him exposed to quality off-speed pitches. Especially on Tuesday, Zimmerman’s leg kick seemed exaggerated and lengthy, hindering his ability to find a rhythm. Also, his swing looked extremely long and slow, leaving him in a position unable to hit premium velocity or reasonable breaking pitches. I acknowledge it is early in the spring and Zimmerman has only played a few games so far, but I am extremely concerned Zimmerman’s days of producing offensively are in the rearview mirror.
* Lost somewhat amongst the news on the field, Tuesday the Nationals announced that catcher Spencer Kieboom had cleared waivers and was re-assigned to Triple-A Syracuse. Last week Washington designated Kieboom for assignment to clear room on their 40-man roster for Joe Blanton.
As mentioned in last week’s column, the 25-year-old Kieboom struggled through a difficult offensive season in 2016, batting only .230/.324/.314 in 309 at-bats. A defensive stalwart, Kieboom’s offensive limitations, along with the development of other backstops in the organization, has found him in an organizational roster crunch. Likely the best thing for Kieboom’s career would be a trade to another organization, but teams cannot ever have enough catching depth and Washington was lucky to sneak him through waivers. While he does not have a high ceiling, his defensive aptitude could allow him to become a backup catcher in the majors, though his likely outcome is as a Triple-A player. Nonetheless, it was a bit of good fortune Washington was able to keep Kieboom in their organization.