Rochester Red Wings Report: Can’t Win Them All

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

For two batters on Tuesday night, it appeared that the Rochester Red Wings were going to win their 10th straight game and further solidify their place at the top of the IL East and one of the bright spots for the Washington Nationals organization. For two batters on Tuesday night, Cade Cavalli was the best pitcher in the minors.

Alas, the game did not end after two batters. After striking out Matt Vierling and Austin Wynns in quick succession to begin the game, it all fell apart. While Cavalli maintained the high speeds that have made him the Nationals’ best pitching prospect, the control left him and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies) found themselves able to sit on the pitches he was able to get in the zone. Four hits, two walks, and eventually five earned runs later, and the Wings found themselves down 5-0 after the first inning, with Cavalli only going 0.2 on the day as his ERA increased to 7.62.

It was undoubtedly a disheartening display for prospect-watchers. Cavalli has yo-yo’d a bit in quality this season. At times, such as a 5.1 IP no-hit performance in late April, he has been every bit the future MLB fireballer that Nationals fans are hoping for. On other nights, such as Tuesday, he has been a messy pitcher who calls to mind Nuke Laloosh early in Bull Durham, with plenty of pure talent but none of the refinement needed to make it to the show. Whether he settles into one or the other as far as results is one of the things that Nationals fans and Red Wings fans most want to know.

While the Wings lineup was able to make it something of a game again later, the deficit was just far too great to truly make it competitive, as they fell 11-5. Outside of two good two-inning stints by Jace Fry and Andres Machado, the pitching just couldn’t hold off the IronPigs enough to allow for another comeback.

Luis Garcia, who remains by far the position player on the Wings most likely to become a mainstay in Washington, also had a rough game, going 0-3 and leaving four on base before being pulled later in the game. While the hitless game wasn’t entirely his fault (Lehigh’s Vierling made a nice diving catch to rob him in the first), the same couldn’t be said for his fielding. Often mentioned as his weakest tool and one reason why he hasn’t become a permanent fixture in the bigs yet, Garcia sadly lived down to that complaint on Tuesday, committing his fifth error of the season while also showing a lack of range at shortstop. On a few occasions, there were balls hit up the middle that a top-level shortstop may have been able to make a play on, but Garcia wasn’t able to. Some (but not all) of these may have been because of shifts in play, but it was still concerning. Shifts or no shifts, though, it is pretty concerning. While hardly something that justifies him staying in the minors (after all, Derek Jeter was infamous for his inability to get to balls hit to his left), it does show some of why the Nationals are concerned about his play in the field.

In some ways, the loss on Tuesday was inevitable. The Wings had been soaring this month, but there had been some big caveats. As I mentioned in my previous article, they’d been playing teams under .500 (with Tuesday’s loss they actually have a losing record against teams with winning records). What’s more, some of those wins during their now-ended nine-game winning streak were perilous, involving comebacks and at times shaky play that forced the Wings to win narrowly. It also felt a bit too good to be true for Rochester sports. Last week, the weather was beautiful (so, of course, the Wings were on the road) and the local hockey team, the Amerks, were storming to wins in the playoffs. Between the Wings win streak and the Amerks’ success on the rink, good vibes were at a high for Rochester sports. On Tuesday, though, the weather was cold and bitter, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that the Wings lost and the Amerks lost on the same night.

However, the ultimate reason is the probably the simplest. The thing you say after any loss:

“You can’t win them all.”

The Red Wings continue their series with Lehigh Valley for the rest of the week.

Rochester Red Wings Report: This Team is Good

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

This isn’t about any specific game- I didn’t do a post on the doubleheader I went to on Saturday. Instead, it’s about the season thus far for the Red Wings.

And, to be blunt, the season so far has been… very good! Earlier this month I said that the team could be good. Now, I feel safe in saying that the team as it is now is good. As of the morning of May 12, the Wings are 20-12 and first in the bizarre new International League East division (MLB’s takeover has made everything weird). They also are currently in a three-way tie for second-best record in all of AAA (only Milwaukee’s Nashville affiliate has a better record). They have a five-game win streak and have won eight of their last ten. They are 12-6 at home even without poor weather keeping the crowds lower than they should be.

The hitting has held up. As a team, they remain second in batting average and fifth in OPS. Luis Garcia, as mentioned before, has been extremely impressive, but other hitters have also contributed. Longtime minor league 1B/OF Joey Meneses is hitting .316/.354/.538 with 6 HRs, behind only Garcia on the team. OF Nick Banks hasn’t seen too much playing time, but what he has had he’s used well, slashing .355/.395/.566 in 81 PA. Andrew Stevenson, who has a long history of bouncing between AAA and the bigs, is unexpectedly tied for the league lead in stolen bases with 12.

What has really powered the Wings to their current first-place spot, though, has been the pitching. It has improved sharply since earlier in the month. Since May 2, the team’s ERA has plunged from 5.37 to 4.50, sending them from 17th in the league up to eight. At the start of the month, they were 19th in WHIP (second-to-last), now they have moved up to 10th. The opposing batting average of .237 is fifth in the league. While they still have been walking too many people (4.40 BB/9, 15th in the league), that is still an improvement over the 5.20 BB/9 they had back in early May. The relief corps especially has been impressive: the team’s relievers have a 2.88 ERA, third in the league. They are fifth and fourth in WHIP and opposing Batting Average, respectively.

Individually, long-time MLB reliever Carl Edwards Jr. was recently called up (although his debut didn’t go well), and looking at his stats it’s not hard to see why: he was absolutely shutdown. He had a 0.63 ERA and 0.49 WHIP in 14.1 IP. His call-up came after a perfect week that also saw him get a World Series ring from the Braves for his short stint with them last season.

The relievers that remain in Rochester, though, are hardly slouches. Sam Clay has gone 9.2 IP on the season thus far and still hasn’t given up an earned run. Francisco Perez has gone nearly as far (9.0 IP) without an earned run outside of his stint with the big club. Alberto Baldonado, Reed Garrett, and Jordan Weems haven’t given up runs in over two weeks. Old Nationals mainstay Tyler Clippard‘s season 4.73 ERA is a bit deceiving and is the result of two particularly bad games back in April: he has a 0.75 WHIP and non-existent ERA in May.

In my post early in May, I said that ultimately the Red Wings fortunes would depend on the hitting remaining good and the pitching improving. That has happened. Now the question becomes: can it keep up?

There is surely no way to answer that, and there are definite causes for concern. Sooner or later, Garcia will finally get called up for good, and the bullpen will presumably regress to the mean. What’s more, the teams that the Wings play will be better: the last 15 days have been against Scranton, Syracuse, and Worcester. All three of those teams are under .500 right now. The Wings are currently only .500 against teams with a winning record. So while it is safe to say that the team is good, just how good is still an open question, as most of their wins have come against weaker opponents.

So when will we get a better idea if the Wings truly belong with the big boys of the IL? The start of that answer will come next week against Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia), who are above .500, but the real answer may not come until the start of next month, when Buffalo (Toronto) comes to town. By that point, the roster may be different, and we’ll get a better idea of just how the Wings may do in the pennant chase.

Rochester Red Wings Report: Three things from Thursday

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

Three things stick out in my head from last night’s Wings victory over Scranton:

Garcia rounding third during his first-inning home run trot.
  1. Luis Garcia continues to impress. The SS accounted for both of the Red Wings’ runs in the victory. First, he took Scranton Luis Gil deep in the first inning on a solo shot. It was a home run to right of which there was no doubt. As soon as the bat hit the ball, the very sound it made could tell you it was going to be gone. Later, he tripled in the fourth before scoring on a Jake Noll sacrifice fly. For a hot second, the thought on everyone’s mind was that maybe we’d see a cycle. While that wasn’t to be (he struck out his other two ABs), it says something about how Garcia’s season has gone thus far that it felt as if it were a possibility. He’s now hitting .351/.406/.650 with 6 HR.

    One worry about Garcia has been his fielding. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why he has not yet been called up. No such fielding issues existed on Thursday, as he cleanly handled everything hit at him and made some nice throws to get a few close putouts at first.

    What’s more, Garcia just brings an energy to the lineup. Whenever he has stepped to the plate this season, there is just a vibe that something good could happen. There have been other more touted and more talented prospects to come through Rochester, but in the still-young “Nationals Era,” Garcia is unmatched.

  2. Of course, a team doesn’t win a 2-0 game unless the pitching does well. And for the most part, that was true on Thursday. Outside of one runner reaching third in the 4th only to be left stranded and a hairy 7th inning that saw Scranton load the bases with two outs before Alberto Baldonado came in and forced an inning-ending groundout, the Wings pitching held up. Particular praise should go to the starter, Jackson Tetreault. Tetreault struck out four while going 5.2 innings of three-hit ball. He also picked off a man. This was by far his best start of the season, and hopefully is a good sign of things to come.

    Aside from a poor performance by Patrick Murphy in the 7th (0 IP, H, 2 BB), the bullpen was completely shutdown, culminating in an easy 1-2-3 inning by Carl Edwards Jr. to get the save. Sam Clay and Reed Garrett also had scoreless frames.

  3. Finally, the time of game last night was one of the shortest 9-inning games I’ve been to in person in a long time. In the stadium, it was announced as two hours and 13 minutes. On MiLB.com, they say it was two hours and 15 minutes. Regardless, it was a quick game. While part of this was because of the low-scoring pitching duel that occurred, some credit must also be given to the increased emphasis on the pace of play and pitch-clock rules in Minor League Baseball this year. The dead time between pitches is severely cut, the action happens more, and it all happens quicker. And yet, despite worries by some, it is not discernibly lesser for it. The faster pace isn’t stopping pitchers from pumping out fastballs in the mid-to-high 90s, nor is it stopping hitters from hitting. It just all happens overall in about a half-hour to an hour less time. That said, one does have to wonder if team executives may get worried that the shorter game times may hurt concession sales! I’m sure, though, that that is a problem that people like Red Wings GM Dan Mason would love to have should those shorter game times mean that more and more people overall come to games once the weather warms up.

The Red Wings continue their series against Scranton through the weekend, including a double-header on Saturday.

Rochester Red Wings Report: This team could be good

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

The idea of whether a minor league team is “good” is a hard one to answer.

For one thing, there’s the basic fact that the ultimate purpose of a minor league team is not to win games but to develop players for the parent club. Sure, an MLB team would prefer that their affiliates are doing well, but that’s at best a secondary concern. I, however, am going to go with the more on-the-field and in-the-standings definition of “good,” since that’s easier to figure out.

For another, the composition of a minor league team changes drastically over the year. During the season, players are called up, sent down, injured, released, traded, or in some cases even begin or end their careers. By the end of the season, the team may only superficially resemble the squad that began the campaign.

Take, as an example, the two people in the picture below: Luis Garcia and Dee Strange-Gordon. Dee Strange-Gordon, as mentioned before, is only in Rochester on a rehab assignment. Garcia is one of the Nationals top prospects and has been tearing up opposing pitchers, so it is doubtful he’ll still be here when the season ends.

That said, there is reason to believe that, at least as the team is now, the Rochester Red Wings are good. Or at the very least good enough to have a good shot at a winning record.

First, the obvious: the Red Wings are 13-11 after yesterday’s 8-3 win over Syracuse, one game back of Buffalo in the International League East. That is, obviously, a winning record.

Even looking beyond that, though, the Red Wings have been doing well. As a team, they are second in the league in batting average (.270, behind only Jacksonville’s .271). They are fifth in OPS and sixth in runs scored. They have the fourth fewest strikeouts, and are fourth in total bases. All very good places to be, even if the team’s best hitter (Garcia) is unlikely to remain in Rochester very long.

However, the pitching has been a cause for concern. The team has a 5.37 ERA, an ugly 17th in the 20-team league. They are 19th in WHIP, and tied for 12th in opponent batting average. They’ve walked too many people and are 18th in the league for BB/9, averaging 5.20 walks every nine innings.

Given that the hitting has been good and the pitching hasn’t been good, it is perhaps not a surprise that the team isn’t too far away from being simply .500.

It also speaks to how the rest of the Red Wings season will turn out. If the hitting falters, the team will too. If the pitching gets better, so will the team.

It’s that simple.

Rochester Red Wings Report: Past and future on a cold night

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

It was a cold night on Tuesday as the Red Wings played the Syracuse Mets in front of a small but hardy crowd. That crowd grew thinner as the night went on and the temperature dipped ever-closer to 40, and it didn’t help matters that the Red Wings fell behind 8-1 in the first half of the game. Ultimately, though, those who stayed received a treat in the form of an epic comeback.

That, however, is not what this report is about. At least, not really. No, this is about how the past and future were both in Rochester on Tuesday.

To call Dee Strange-Gordon the past is perhaps not fair. He is still very much a present player. He’s no longer the All-Star he was in the mid-2010s, nor does he possess quite the quickness that makes him the active stolen-base leader. He’s moved into a more utility role at the age of 34, primarily playing in the outfield, unlike in the earlier parts of his career where he was mostly a middle infielder. Since leaving Miami after 2017, he’s hit .265/.292/.342 in 1094 plate appearances, a definite downgrade from the .293/.329/.367 of his career before. He spent 2021 entirely in the minors, and there was some thought that he’d start this season in the minors as well until he won a job in spring training.

Pity the poor equipment manager for the Rochester Red Wings, who had to fit his name on the back of the uniform.

Still, he’s Dee Strange-Gordon (the Strange added to his name in honor of his late mother). While never a superstar to the public (no doubt hurt by the fact he was traded to Miami from Los Angeles, as well as a suspension in 2016), most baseball fans know him, and for a few years he was one of the premier infielders in MLB. So when it was announced he’d begin a rehab from an undisclosed illness in Rochester just a few hours before game time, it was a pleasant surprise.

Wearing the number 1 once worn by his half-brother Nick Gordon during his time in Rochester as a Twins prospect, Dee was well-covered for the cold and wore his Nationals helmet to the plate for the game. Playing at shortstop for the first time this season (having been in the outfield and once in a garbage-time mound appearance in the big leagues), he was 0-2 with a strikeout and a walk at the plate, but still made an impact as he scored twice and reached base in the fifth on a fielders choice. He also made an impact in the field, taking part in a double-play.

It was clear that he wasn’t going to steal when he was no base (this was, after all, a minor league game to which he was essentially a special guest coming through on his way back to the show), but his speed still played a definite factor in keeping the fielders choice from becoming a possible double-play. He left the game in the 6th, but stuff like this is common for rehab appearances, particularly early on in the rehab stints. One game isn’t much to go on, but he seemed to be perfectly healthy and it is presumably only a matter of time before he joins the Nationals once again.

Strange-Gordon reaching base in the 5th, in hindsight, would prove very important, because the next batter was Luis Garcia, who was playing 2B on Tuesday. He’s the future in this tale. While he’s already played in parts of 110 MLB games, he’s still not even 22, and is almost certainly the top position player prospect on the Red Wings this year.

If his play on Tuesday was any indication, he probably shouldn’t be on the Red Wings much longer. Having already singled twice in the game, Garcia went deep in the fifth off Jake Reed, bringing home Strange-Gordon and himself to make it 8-3 in a much-needed sign of life for the Wings.

His next at-bat would come in the 7th, when he drew a walk. Little did we know at the time, but that would be start of the true comeback rally. A 2-out single by Joey Meneses moved him to third, and he then scored on a Josh Palacios hit right after. The next batter, Donovan Casey, then hit a home run to deep center (at first it was called a double, but that changed) to drive in three more and make it 8-7 Syracuse.

Finally, in the 8th, the culmination of the comeback and the culmination of Garcia’s jewel of a game came. Tres Barrera tied it with a solo shot to left with one out, leading to pandemonium among the small-but-hardy crowd. Then, after a fielding error allowed Alfredo Rodriguez (who had come in for Gordon) to reach, Garcia stepped to the plate again and hit his second home run of the night to make it 10-8. His totals for the night: 4-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, 10 total bases. His batting average now stands at .360, his OPS at 1.020.

The Wings would ultimately hold on to win 10-9, moving to 10-9 on the year in the process in what may forever be known as the Luis Garcia Game. The future is bright.

Someone Not to Forget

Although much of the attention no doubt goes to Garcia, Strange-Gordon, and the other hitters who got the Wings back into the game, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Sterling Sharp. In four innings of relief, he gave up only two hits and two walks while striking out four. His shutout innings kept what was a Syracuse blowout from becoming even more out-of-hand, allowing the comeback to take place. He received no win for the performance, but in some ways it can be argued he is the one who deserved it.

The Red Wings continue their series against Syracuse throughout the week.

Rochester Red Wings Report: Four good innings of Cade Cavalli

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

Cade Cavalli is the top pitching prospect of the Washington Nationals. Some lists have him as top prospect for the Nationals overall. For four innings on Thursday, he showed why. Working in the high 90s with off-speeds in the 80s, Cavalli struck out seven Buffalo Bisons while walking only one and giving up an earned run on four hits.

That Cavalli would rack up K’s (including three in the 3rd) isn’t surprising. He led the Minors in 2021 with 175 across three different levels while also being chosen for the Futures Game. However, he has struggled in AAA and didn’t have a good spring with the Nationals this year, including one game where he gave up 10 earned runs to the Cardinals.

The Cavalli of the first four innings on Thursday appeared to have put that behind him. The problem for Cavalli, though, is that he didn’t stop pitching in the 4th inning. He also came out in the 5th. There, the Bisons jumped on him for four straight hits. He was taken from the game after 82 pitches. A few batters later, Samad Taylor hit a grand slam off Jace Fry to put Buffalo up for good. Cavalli’s final line: 4+ IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO, season ERA after two starts: 9.00. The final score would ultimately be 10-1 Buffalo as the Wings fell to .500 on the year.

Despite how the game ended, however, Thursday spoke well of Cavalli and his future. He’s only had a small sample size of two starts this year, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved (last season across three levels: 2.92 strikeouts for every walk, this season so far: 5.50 strikeouts for every walk). Plus, he certainly seemed more comfortable and less “raw” on the mound, although admittedly that is an intangible thing that is in the eye of the beholder. Doubtless he and the Nationals are hoping that he’ll be MLB-ready by mid-year. Until then, though, he’ll be in Rochester.

The Red Wings continue their series with Buffalo through the weekend.

Rochester Red Wings Report: It’s good to be back, shame about the ending

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

The last few years have, frankly, stunk for Minor League Baseball. MLB was able to succeed in a plan (which some fear is not yet over) to decrease the minors, eliminate teams and entire leagues, forcibly shift surviving teams from long-held positions in the hierarchy, and impose certain scheduling restrictions that are a mixed bag for players, front offices, and fans. Add in COVID, which eliminated the 2020 season in its entirety and caused the 2021 season to have a hodgepodge of various restrictions and generally depressed attendance, and it has been a total bummer.

Which is part of the reason why last night in Rochester was so special. It still wasn’t as big of a crowd as it could have been (it was, after all, a school night), but the crowd of 8,170 was still larger than any crowd from 2021. And it was loud, into the game, and ready to cheer.

A good boy.

And the thing is, as an advertisement for Minor League Baseball, last night’s game was better than most. A back and forth game took place. The Bisons would pull ahead, the Red Wings would pull back even, and then it’d happen again. The promotions, as always, were on point, most notably an appearance by very good boy Milo the Bat Dog. He is, after all, a very good boy. I’m still waiting for an MLB team to have a bat dog. It needs to happen eventually, right? The dog would instantly go viral, would put butts in stands, and no doubt there’d be some great moments pre-game when players give the dog much-deserved head-pats. Make it happen, Major League Baseball.

Alas, the only thing that went wrong was the end of the game, as Buffalo took a 6-4 lead that the Red Wings couldn’t make up in the bottom of the 9th.

Other than that, though, it was perhaps the best night at the ballpark in Rochester since 2019.

Clippard not long for AAA

One highlight last night was the performance of Tyler Clippard. As I mentioned back in my one-line-look, the reason why the two-time All-Star with 803 MLB game appearances under his belt is in Rochester to begin with is largely because he signed late. He’s just in AAA for now to build up his arm.

If his performance last night was anything to go on, it won’t be too long. In the top of the 8th, Clippard sent down the Bisons with ease in order, including no-doubt strikeouts of Joshua Fuentes and Cullen Large.

So if you live in Rochester and want to see Tyler Clippard, make sure to head to Frontier Field soon, since he won’t be there long.

The Red Wings continue their long series against the Bisons through Sunday.

One line each on every member of the 2022 Rochester Red Wings opening day roster

One line (or at least a sentence- it could be longer than a line depending on your screen) on every member of the opening day roster of my hometown Rochester Red Wings. They range from statistics to trivia and everything in between. Of course, it’s possible that this roster will change drastically in just a few days once MLB begins its season.

  • Alberto Baldonado made his first MLB appearance late last season, striking out Bryce Harper during his debut.
  • Cade Cavalli is considered the Nationals’ top pitching prospect and should be the top man in the Rochester starting staff to begin the season.
  • Tyler Clippard was a two-time All-Star for the Nationals earlier in his career and will begin in Rochester primarily due to the fact he was signed late and needs more time to build his arm up.
  • Carl Edwards Jr. won a World Series title in 2016 with the Chicago Cubs.
  • Jace Fry played in the 2006 Little League World Series for Oregon.
  • Reed Garrett returns to North America after pitching two seasons in Japan for the Seibu Lions.
  • Hunter Harvey has pitched in 26 career games with the Orioles and joined the Nationals organization in late March.
  • Gabe Klobosits had a 2.45 ERA in 18.1 innings last season for the Wings while also spending time in Harrisburg and Washington.
  • Francisco Perez made his MLB debut last season for Cleveland.
  • Erasmo Ramirez has pitched in 216 career MLB games, primarily for Seattle and Tampa.
  • Luis Reyes was signed by the Nationals in Aug. 2012, when he was just 17.
  • Jefry Rodriguez split time between Rochester and Washington last season.
  • Seth Romero missed time this spring with a stiff back, hampering an attempt to start the season with the big club.
  • Aaron Sanchez was the 2016 AL ERA leader and made the All-Star Game that season for Toronto.
  • Curtis Taylor was acquired off waivers from the Toronto organization in December.
  • Lefty Carson Teel primarily played with Harrisburg in 2021 but did make five appearances for the Wings.
  • Jackson Tetreault threw all six innings in the Wings’ 4-0 rain-shortened loss to end the 2021 season.
  • Logan Verrett has pitched in 57 career games in MLB and has also had time in Korea and the independent leagues.
  • Jordan Weems split last season between the Oakland and Arizona organizations, including seven games in MLB.
  • Tres Barrera split time between Rochester and Washington last season, and actually hit better in MLB than he did in AAA!
  • Although he reportedly retired, longtime MLB catcher Welington Castillo is listed on the team’s roster, albeit not listed as not being with the team.
  • Chris Herrmann is no stranger to Rochester, having played here for parts of three seasons during the Twins era.
  • Wilmer Perez played some winter ball during the off-season in his native Venezuela.
  • Luis Garcia is once again the youngest member of the Red Wings (born: 5/16/00), and is considered one of the top prospects in the Nationals organization.
  • Bahamas-born Lucius Fox may be the fastest man on the team with 142 stolen bags during his minor league career so far.
  • Joey Meneses was the IL MVP in 2018 and played for Team Mexico in the Olympics last season.
  • Jake Noll was last season’s team MVP and was named to the league’s All-Star Team at the end of the season.
  • Adrian Sanchez hit well in Rochester last season while splitting time between here and Washington.
  • Richard Urena was with the Buffalo Bisons the last several years and so is likely familiar to many Red Wings fans.
  • Andrew Young played in 58 games for Arizona last season before being selected in the MiLB Rule 5 draft by the Nationals.
  • Nick Banks is from Chris Herrmann’s hometown of Tomball, Texas.
  • Donovan Casey was one of the player acquired in the Max Scherzer trade last season.
  • Matt Lipka hit .291/.352/.449 between AA and AAA in the Arizona and Milwaukee organizations in 2021.
  • Cole Freeman has twice been named to Washington’s organization All-Star Team by MiLB.com, but this will be his first season in AAA.
  • Andrew Stevenson has played 248 career MLB games, all with Washington.
  • Princeton grad Alec Keller is said to have retired according to MiLB.com, but is still listed on the team’s roster- albeit not with the team.
  • Manager Matt LeCroy returns for his second year as manager and third overall (he played for the 2007 team).
  • Hitting Coach Brian Daubach hit 20 or more HRs for four straight seasons in Boston from 1999 through 2002.
  • Pitching Coach Rafael Chaves has MLB pitching coach experience, as he held the Mariners job in 2006 and 2007.
  • Development Coach Billy McMillon was the skipper of the Worcester Red Sox last season

Some teams are going to go at the Astros, but it won’t be the Nationals

The endless inferno that is the Astros cheating scandal continues to burn with the fire of a thousand suns. In the past few days, most everyone has continued to pile on Houston, the Astros players, Commissioner Manfred, and the sport itself.

The games, meanwhile, rapidly approach: the first spring training games begin Friday, primarily against college teams. On Saturday, though, is when most teams get into real action against other MLB teams, with the headliner no doubt being the World Series rematch between Spring Training facility roomies Washington and Houston. It may well be the most anticipated first-game-of-spring in a decade or more, as the baseball world watches intently to see if it will be the first time that one of the 29 other teams take their vengeance upon the sinful sign-stealing ‘Stros.

It is possible, but I think most people are going to come away disappointed. Why? Here’s why:

  1. The Nationals, having defeated the Astros last October, have in some ways already gotten the best kind of revenge. If the Astros had won the World Series, it is quite likely that retaliation would be forthcoming… but of all the teams in the league, Washington probably has the least amount of beef.
  2. The Nationals will be contenders this year. Given the talk by the league that they are going to crack down on intentional HBP this season, it’s likely that the suspensions for pitchers will be longer than in the past. While it is certainly possible that some minor leaguer may go head-hunting looking to make a name for himself in front of his fellow ballplayers, we aren’t going to see Strasburg or Scherzer start their regular season on a suspension.
  3. Given that this is spring training we’re talking about, it is entirely possible that the people we’d expect to get beaned for the scandal won’t even be in the game long enough for it to happen, so unless if the first pitcher from the Nationals goes after Altuve, Bregman or the like, the opportunity will be gone fast.

So, in other words: baseball vigilante justice is coming… but I don’t think it will come on Saturday.

“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2016): The Nationals are no longer the hot pick, so they might as well win the NL

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to (and in some cases the aftermath of) the beginning of the 2016 season. Earlier installments can be found here. This is the Nationals entry.

Last season, the Nationals were the trendy pick to win the World Series. This year, they are not.

Which probably means they’ll go and win the NL because baseball history is full of teams going on to win after everyone else has moved on to a new pick. The best Cardinals team of this century (2004) didn’t win the World Series, but two years later (2006) a 83-76 team won it, for example. Plenty of people probably picked the Cardinals in 2004. I doubt as many picked them in 2006, at least once the playoffs started and they only had a 83-win season.

So… why not the the Nationals? They still have Bryce Harper, they still have Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Jonathan Papelbon is…well…. Jonathan Papelbon, for better and for worse. Maybe Daniel Murphy will be even half as good as he was in the postseason last year. Are they as good on paper as some previous Nationals teams? No. But, well, these games aren’t played on paper.

So… why not the Nationals?