This week on Episode #29 I am lucky to be joined by MASN’s Washington Nationals beat writer and Co-Host of Nats Xtra, Byron Kerr.
During this conversation Byron discusses his job with MASN and pulls back the curtain on the magic behind producing Nats Xtra. In addition, he shares his thoughts on Nationals’ prospect Michael Taylor, working with Ray Knight, and his favorite National player to interview. Less than two weeks prior to Opening Day 2015, this is a must-listen for all Nationals fans!
Although winter seems to be stubbornly hanging around like a freshman at a college party this year, Opening Day at Nationals Park is now less than two weeks away.
With this in mind and new acquisition Yunel Escobar making his first appearance in Nationals’ uniform, I thought Monday’s game was an opportune time to scout the Nationals and their spring training progress toward the opener. These are my notes from the contest, in which Washington defeated the New York Yankees 7-6.
* Doug Fister served as the Nationals starting pitcher and had a rather uneven performance, pitching 4.1 innings and allowing 4 runs on 7 hits, no walks and 4 strikeouts. Impressively Fister had his fastball darting around the strike zone and he was able to miss plenty of bats. However, his trademark pinpoint command of the strike zone was somewhat lacking, as he left a few pitches up in the zone that were well-struck, including two monster home runs allowed. Also, Fister seemed to be around 83-86mph with his fastball according to the television radar gun, significantly below his average of 89mph last season. Certainly television radar numbers are known for their inconsistency and inaccuracy, but still, the middling velocity and hard contact is slightly concerning.
* In particular I was curious to watch new Nationals second baseman Yunel Escobar, who was seeing his first game action of the spring after injuring his oblique earlier in spring training. Escobar batted leadoff for Washington Monday and in his first at-bat he beat out an infield single to third base, running home to first in 4.42 seconds with a slip out of the box. His second at-bat had Escobar see six pitches before making a line drive out to left field.
In the field Escobar looked a little rusty, making a throwing error while attempting to turn a double play in the 2nd inning – Escobar appeared to rush the throw slightly which caused the ball to sail into the dugout. In fairness, it had just begun to rain and perhaps the baseball merely squirted out of his hand. Later in the 3rd inning Escobar made a nice reactionary diving play toward his left, a positive sign considering his injury. He was pulled in the 4th inning for Danny Espinosa and should gradually build his workload in preparation for Opening Day.
* Michael “Toolshed” Taylor continues to impress this spring, going 1-3 with a walk and a run scored Monday, along with excellent defense in center field. Taylor has struggled making contact and needs to draw more walks in the big leagues, which made his 4-pitch walk in the 2nd inning another positive sign. Then in the 4th Taylor roped a 1-0 cutter into center field for a loud single and later came around to score on a hit in the gap.
In the field Taylor made a fantastic play in the 4th inning, running far into the right field gap to easily track down a sure double. Taylor can influence the game in all three phases and his immense physical gifts could make it extremely difficult for Denard Span to reclaim his gig when he returns from his injury.
* Blake Treinen entered the game in the 8th inning and had one walk and one strikeout around a double-play. His sinking fastball was sitting 92-96mph with heavy down-and-in movement toward right-handed hitters. In addition Treinen flashed a sharp 86-87mph slider he purposely buried in the dirt to induce whiffs. Treinen has not allowed a run thus far in spring training and this success should have him seeing plenty of high-leverage innings for the Nats bullpen in 2015.
As a prospect-nerd, I was excited to see how well 3B Drew Ward would compete against major leaguers. In his first at-bat, Ward took an outside fastball and slapped an infield single to shortstop. The 4th inning found him up with men on 1st and 2nd with 1 out, and Ward worked the count before grounding out to first base, getting to first base in 4.20 seconds. While I still worry Ward will physically outgrow the position as he matures, I am beginning to think perhaps left field, not first base, could be his eventual defensive position.
Danny Espinosa had a nice single in the 4th inning against a righty Jose Ramirez, taking an outside 91mph cutter and lashing it back through the middle. I was particularly impressed with how quiet he stayed during his leg-kick then whipped the bat head confidently through the strike zone. Certainly one at-bat does not foretell how his experiment hitting exclusively right-handed will turn out, but his obvious confidence at the plate was encouraging to see from someone undergoing such a difficult transition.
University of Maryland Sophomore RHP Mike Shawaryn
Date Scouted: Multiple Times, Most Recently 3-13-15 In-Person
7-Word Scouting Report: Mature Build, Still Raw, Intriguing Fastball Slider
A physical, well-built 6-3 211lbs, Shawaryn has a mature pitcher’s build with extremely thick legs. His delivery features a drop-and-drive type movement, which slightly reminds me of former LSU pitcher and 2014 top-10 pick, Aaron Nola. Shawaryn does a reasonable job of repeating this motion, though I would like to see him incorporate his lower half more during his delivery along with better extension toward home plate when throwing the ball. These mechanical adjustments could and should improve his overall and effective velocity.
On this afternoon, Shawaryn featured a 3-pitch arsenal consisting of an 87-90mph fastball, a sweeping 77-79mph slider that overmatched the opposing batters, and the occasional well below-average high-70s changeup. Shawaryn located his fastball well, especially arm-side on the corner and the pitch often had some late cutting action. He did well to get ahead of hitters by pounding the outside corner for first-pitch strikes, then would baffle hitters with his sweeping slider that he threw both for strikes and intentionally in the dirt to induce whiffs. The slider was particularly impressive, as he would start it at the lead hip of right-handed batters and it would sweep across the outer third of the plate for a strike. The changeup was only thrown a few times to lefties as more of a “show-me” pitch; this offering needs significant work in the future.
As a sophomore college pitcher from the northeast, certainly Shawaryn is still raw and needs plenty of experience on the mound, but the starter kit is quite strong – a physical pitcher with a repeatable delivery, a fresh arm and two quality pitches. He needs to add velocity as he matures and develop confidence in his changeup, but Shawaryn is an impressive collegiate prospect. Assuming he continues to pitch well this spring and summer, Shawaryn should be on everyone’s list next spring as a potential 1st or 2nd round pick.