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Jun
04

A Wild Week Of Promotions In Washington

Before last night's 8-5 win over Cincinnati, the Washington Nationals had lost four consecutive games. Earlier this week, they were also held scoreless for 26 innings in a row – almost three complete games.

It’s been tough to watch.

It’s unfortunately nothing new, but as it turns out, the slump from the batter’s box hasn’t been the most important story this week.

Star performers at all levels of the Nationals organization have been rewarded this week. Left-handed pitcher Evan Lee made his major league debut, infielder Luis Garcia returned to the big stage, and plenty of other notable minor league prospects moved up a level as a result of their excellent performance during the first two months of this season.

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May
29

Once Again, It’s Time For A Nationals Youth Movement

In the past few days, two contractual developments have converged for the Washington Nationals, and both point toward the Nationals getting younger, something fans have been pleading for on social media.

First, infielder Luis Garcia exceeded the required time in the minor leagues for the Nationals to gain a season of club control (if you don’t understand what that means or how they got it, I’ll explain it in a moment).

Then following Saturday’s doubleheader, the Nationals designated starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez for assignment. This was partially done due to his poor performance (an 8.33 ERA through seven starts), but the need for a sixth starter later this week prior to Sanchez’s spot in the rotation coming up again also made it tougher to justify holding onto him.

There’s some further roster maneuvering that needs to happen in the coming days – although DFAing Sanchez was an important step. Allow me to explain the options the Nationals have to fill these two spots...

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May
20

Could Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein Be Coming to DC?

Despite how bad the Nationals are, there’s certainly a plethora of storylines surrounding the team these days.

Juan Soto is scuffling, with rumors – realistic or not – surfacing that he could soon be traded. Nelson Cruz is still in a funk, the team’s defense stinks, Luis Garcia could be promoted next week, Carter Kieboom is officially sidelined for the rest of the season, and Washington is facing Trea Turner and the Dodgers next week.

Yet none of those stories are what I’m currently most intrigued by.

As Barry Svrluga reported a month ago, the Lerner family is weighing the option of selling the Washington Nationals. While no sale is imminent, some frontrunners have emerged. including Ted Leonsis, the owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, and thereby the Wizards, Capitals and most other professional sports teams in the nation’s capital.

Although I’m intrigued by Leonsis as an option, especially since the MLB feels more like the NHL than the NBA in terms of roster construction and access to superstar players, he’s not who I’m most in favor of as a buyer.

Instead, I’d like to see Larry Lucchino - who Mike Rosenbaum of NJ.com has reported is interested - take the reins.

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May
12

For Nationals Starting Rotation, Relief Is On The Way

I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that the Nationals starting rotation looks incomplete, but fortunately, Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross are progressing towards rejoining the staff.

The Recovery

Earlier this week, Strasburg and Ross both pitched in a simulated game at the team’s Spring Training complex in West Palm Beach, Florida. Dave Martinez didn’t disclose how many innings or pitches they threw, but he had previously stated that it should be two innings.

“They both felt good,” Martinez said, relaying information the on-site medical staff had told him. At this stage, that’s all that really matters.

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May
08

Yadiel Hernandez Continues to Exceed Expectations For Nats

The Nationals went 5-4 during their most recent West Coast road trip, and Yadiel Hernandez was one of the biggest reasons for the sudden success.

It seems like I’ve written the same story every year. Hernandez enters the season fighting to even make the roster. Then, he becomes one of the best hitters on the team.

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May
01

Sunday’s Series Finale Shows Positive Developments For Nationals

To say it’s been a bumpy stretch for the Washington Nationals might be a bit of an understatement.

Entering their Sunday matinee game against the San Francisco Giants, the Nats had lost nine of their previous 10 contests. Even in terms of individual player performances, not much had gone right for them.

But that all changed Sunday. The Nationals earned an 11-5 win, some of the bats in the middle of the order – namely Juan Soto – had productive days, and a young starting pitcher and two speedsters at the bottom of the lineup stole the show.

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Apr
25

Update on Brady House, Fred Nats, and Other Nationals Affiliates

This season has been a mixed bag for Washington’s minor league affiliates, and it’ll likely stay that way for the rest of the season. As discussed throughout local media, the farm system has improved in the last 12 months, but its depth from top to bottom is still somewhat subpar.

With that said, there are some major sources of excitement throughout the organization, not the least of which resides in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The Prized Possession At The Plate

I really try my best to not speak hyperbolically as a baseball viewer. When things are going great, there’s always a chance that they can get worse, and vice versa. And even in the moment, there’s typically more nuance than data or the eye test reveal.

Here’s the indisputable, cold-hard fact, though. Brady House has advanced, next-level baseball talent, especially in the batter’s box.

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Apr
24

The Starting Pitching Predicament The Nationals Are Facing...

For nearly the first two weeks of the season, everything stayed roughly on-script in Washington’s starting rotation.

Sure, Anibal Sanchez was sent to the Injured List before making his season debut, but inserting Josh Rogers into his place was an easy fix.

But that all came crashing down this week as things went haywire, shedding some light on the intentions of Dave Martinez and the front office with their young starting pitchers.

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Apr
17

Is It Time For The Nationals To Promote Luis Garcia?

Sending infielder Luis Garcia back down to Triple-A was one of the toughest decisions Dave Martinez had to make this spring.

His reasoning was simple: Garcia needed to improve his overall consistency in the field, and he felt that there was enough middle infield talent on the big league roster to allow Garcia’s development to come in Rochester instead of Washington.

Garcia’s a month shy of 22 years old, so it’s not as if keeping him in Triple-A is holding him back. But he certainly doesn’t have anything left to prove offensively, and he’s also trending favorably as a defender.

He’s Succeeding in Triple-A

Sure, Garcia hasn’t hit spectacularly in the major leagues yet, but in 49 games in Rochester across the last two seasons, he’s hitting .323 with a .986 OPS – which, if the minors tracked such metrics, would give him approximately a 180 OPS+, 80 percent better than league average.

This season, Garcia is batting .377 and leading the league-wide Triple-A level with 20 base hits.

Garcia hasn’t been bad defensively, either. He’s committed four errors in 12 games (10 at shortstop and two at second base), but they all came in his first five games of the season. Since then, he’s been much more steady.

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Apr
13

Sorry for Doubting You, Maikel Franco...

The Washington Nationals have now won three of their last four games, including two of three in Atlanta against the Braves – and the biggest reason is a torrential stretch at the plate from third baseman Maikel Franco.

Although he’s a former top 20 prospect in baseball (according to Baseball America), Franco has seen relatively limited success in the major leagues. Case in point: He stumbled to a wins above replacement (WAR) of -1.6 – yes, that’s a negative WAR – in 104 games in Baltimore last season.

Washington signed Franco to a minor league contract this offseason, with the intent to make him earn his way onto the Nationals roster. That all changed when Carter Kieboom suffered a flexor mass and UCL strain, but it didn’t suddenly make Franco a player – he was simply viewed as the only other option.

The Turnaround

Franco started the season 0-for-13 with four strikeouts and a double play, leading up to his final at bat against the Mets on Sunday.

Since that point, the 29-year-old has nine hits in his last 14 at bats, including a home run and seven RBIs, and his batting average has risen from goose eggs to .346.

It’s not as if his overall tendencies at the plate have changed. He’s still been extremely aggressive and pull-happy, but he’s also made hard contact at an elite rate, as shown below.

Franco and Dave Martinez have emphasized the need for Maikel to chase fewer pitches, particularly ones that are low and outside. He’s improved in that area to a degree, but he also simply isn’t swinging and missing (as illustrated by his “whiff rate” being significantly above average).

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Apr
10

Nelly, Lucius, Bullpen Save Nationals From An Ugly Opening Series

This wasn’t the way the Nationals wanted their season to start.

They hosted the Mets for four games and lost three of them. The two biggest themes? Starting pitchers not lasting long, and the bottom of the order offering no production.

The unlikely savior from what would’ve otherwise been a worst-case scenario start to the season was Lucius Fox, who was making his big league debut, aided by a three-RBI game from Nelson Cruz.

Pitching

Amazingly, rookie Joan Adon and veteran Erick Fedde were the only starting pitchers to record a single out in the fifth inning – and neither of them lasted beyond the fifth.

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