All posts by Ryan Sullivan

Predicting the Washington Nationals 25-Man Roster for the NLDS

Nats Park Postseason After proudly watching the Nationals clinch their 2nd division title in 3 seasons on Atlanta’s home field last Tuesday, and shaking off the subsequent hangover, my thoughts immediately turned to the construction of the team’s roster for the 5-game series in the NLDS.

The Nationals have a deep 40-man roster and are currently fortunate to have most of their players healthy, making it slightly more difficult than normal to project their 25-man playoff roster. Certainly 21-22 spots are more than accounted for, but the last spot on the bench and a few spaces in the bullpen will be up for grabs in the final days of the season. This is my prediction for the Nationals NLDS playoff roster when announced next week.

The Lineup

#1 Denard Span CF
#2 Anthony Rendon 3B
#3 Jayson Werth RF
#4 Adam LaRoche 1B
#5 Ian Desmond SS
#6 Bryce Harper LF
#7 Wilson Ramos Catcher
#8 Asdrubal Cabrera 2B

While Matt Williams could tinker with this by substituting Jose Lobaton for Ramos behind the plate and or returning Ryan Zimmerman to the lineup, this group has ignited the Nationals impressive second half and should comprise the Game 1 starters.

Bench
#9 Jose Lobaton
#10 Ryan Zimmerman
#11 Danny Espinosa
#12 Kevin Frandsen
#13 Nate Schierholtz

The probable five spots on the Nationals playoff bench is not particularly straightforward and easy to project, though it is extremely likely Lobaton is the backup catcher, and Espinosa and Frandsen serve as the reserve infielders and pinch hitters. In addition, assuming Ryan Zimmerman continues to return from injury, he will be a valuable weapon for Matt Williams to deploy off the bench during the playoffs.

The last position on the bench is an interesting competition between veterans Scott Hairston and Nate Schierholtz, NatsTown favorites Jeff Kobernus and Tyler Moore, and talented young outfielders Steven Souza and Michael Taylor. While each player is unique and offers the team something different, the only left-handed hitter of the group is Schierholtz, which likely gives him the edge and the final bench position.

Starting Rotation
#14 Stephen Strasburg SP #1
#15 Jordan Zimmermann SP #2
#16 Doug Fister SP #3
#17 Gio Gonzalez SP #4

I have an extremely difficult time keeping breakout sensation Tanner Roark out of the rotation, as his performance since arriving in Washington more than warrants a playoff start. However, I expect Washington to use Strasburg and Zimmermann in Games 1 and 2, in some order, allowing them to return on regular rest for a possible Game 5 at home. Thus, these decisions would slot Fister and Gio to pitch on the road in Games 3 and 4, with Roark in reserve in case either struggles early.

Bullpen
#18 Drew Storen Closer
#19 Tyler Clippard RH S/U
#20 Rafael Soriano RH S/U
#21 Aaron Barrett RH S/U
#22 Craig Stammen RH M/R
#23 Tanner Roark RH M/R
#24 Matt Thornton LH
#25 Ross Detwiler LH

Five of the likely eight bullpen spots look solidified, with Clippard and Storen expected to pitch the 8th and 9th innings, Stammen and the team’s 5th starter (Roark) pitching in middle relief, and Thornton the primary left-handed reliever. I fully expect the Nationals to have Barrett on the roster due to his plus slider and strikeout ability, and although he has struggled recently, Soriano should find his way onto the roster as the last right-hander in middle relief over Ryan Mattheus or Blake Treinen.

Finally, the most difficult position to project for the Nationals pitching staff is the final lefty in the bullpen, a contest between Jerry Blevins, Ross Detwiler, and darkhorse Xavier Cedeno. While Cedeno has strong numbers against lefties, his lack of experience makes him easy to dismiss, making it a likely choice between Blevins and Detwiler. Blevins has struggled much of this season, but has quality numbers against left-handed batters and could be an asset as a pure lefty specialist. On the other hand Detwiler struggled early this season as he transitioned to his role as a reliever, but has shut down lefties this season and has better velocity than Blevins, giving the bullpen another dimension. Both pitchers have their strengths, but I expect Detwiler to eventually receive the 8th and final spot in the bullpen.

The Nationals have an impressive, deep, and healthy roster entering the 2014 playoffs, and should be the co-favorite, along with the Dodgers, to represent the National League in the World Series. In constructing this playoff roster, the Nationals will have an impressive and versatile lineup capable of outscoring other teams, combined with a potentially shutdown starting rotation and a deep, capable bullpen. Certainly anything can happen in a short 5 or 7 game series, but the Nationals (and their fans) should not wish to trade places with any other NL playoff team. Get your popcorn ready, this could be a fun fall for baseball fans in the Washington DC metropolitan area.

The Washington Nationals Claim Pedro Florimon and DFA Eury Perez

Nats Park In a somewhat surprising move Thursday afternoon, the Washington Nationals announced they had designated outfielder Eury Perez for assignment, and in a corresponding move, claimed infielder Pedro Florimon off waivers from the Minnesota Twins. Designating Perez for assignment this late in the season could be a sly attempt to sneak him through waivers and move him off the 40-man roster prior to the offseason, while Florimon will serve as much needed minor league middle infield depth.

The 27-year-old Florimon began the 2014 season as the starting shortstop for the Minnesota Twins but struggled mightily at the plate, hitting .092/.179/.132 in 76 at-bats before mercifully being sent to the minor leagues. Originally signed by the Orioles back in 2004, Florimon made his major league debut with Baltimore in 2011, before the Twins acquired him on waivers that offseason. A switch hitter, Florimon has struggled offensively at the major league level with a career .204/.266/.300, but has a more mediocre career .250/.322/.357 minor league batting line. That said Florimon’s reputation is built on his exceptional defense at shortstop, as his strong arm, soft hands, quality range, and above-average foot speed makes him an excellent defensive infielder. Under contract through 2018, Florimon should compete for a utility infield role with the Nationals next spring.

To make room on Washington’s 40-man roster, the Nationals were forced to part with Eury Perez. The 24-year-old Perez was one of the first players signed by the Nationals organization from the Dominican Republic back in 2007. Signed for only $25,000, Perez slowly climbed through the farm system before reaching the majors in 2012. Perez is a terrific athlete who will flash 4 major league quality tools, as he possesses well above-average speed and a solid throwing arm which make him a strong defensive center fielder – he also has shown an aptitude to make contact with a career minor league batting line of .305/.360/.384. Unfortunately Perez’s sheer lack of raw power and questionable ability to get on-base make him project as a reserve outfielder and defensive replacement at the major league level. With the emergence of Steven Souza and Michael Taylor this season and the presence of center field prospect Brian Goodwin, Perez was deemed expendable by the organization.

Although the timing of this transaction is slightly peculiar, Perez’s unfortunate injury this season coupled with the Nationals having four centerfielders ahead of him on the depth chart (Span, Taylor, Souza, and Goodwin) made this move nearly a foregone conclusion for the Nationals. Perez has major league talent however, and should draw mild trade interest on waivers. In a vacuum, Perez is a more talented player which makes this move slightly difficult to digest.

On the other hand, after trading Zach Walters and the strong chance that Asdrubal Cabrera and Danny Espinosa do not return to Washington next season, Florimon gives the Nationals infield depth, specifically at shortstop, that they otherwise currently do not have in the organization. As a switch-hitter with good speed and a whiz defensively, Florimon profiles as a quality 25th man. Projecting ahead to 2015, there is a much stronger chance Florimon is a part of the roster than Perez, which makes this another solid decision by the Nationals front office.

NatsGM Overall Grade -> B- / C+

Episode #13 THE NatsGM Show – Guest Chris Mellen from Baseball Prospectus

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On Episode #13 of THE NatsGM Show, I was delighted to be joined by the new Co-Chairman of Scouting/Player Development at Baseball Prospectus, Chris Mellen.  Chris and I discussed his recent promotion at Baseball Prospectus, his thoughts on Xander Bogaerts and Manuel Margot, and the Washington Nationals farm system.

Download and Enjoy, Cheers!