Nationals’ 40-Man Roster Decisions

Photo courtesy Herm Card / Syracuse Chiefs

Photo courtesy Herm Card / Syracuse Chiefs

Later today, all Major League teams are required to finalize their additions to their 40-man rosters. Otherwise, the clubs risk losing those players in the Rule 5 draft held during the Winter Meetings on December 12.

As of Wednesday night, the Nationals have just two spots available and the team will be forced to make some tough decisions.

Definite

RHP A.J. Cole – It’s a slam dunk that the 6’5″ righty will be added to the Nationals’ 40-man roster. Coming off a solid season at mostly Triple-A Syracuse, Cole is poised to contribute at the major league level this upcoming season. The Nationals didn’t trade to get him back after the 2012 season only to lose him to another team.

Probables

LHP Matt Grace – Every MLB team is looking for left-handed bullpen help. That’s the only way I can explain the White Sox signing Zach Duke to a 3-year/$15M deal the other day. That being said, the Nationals will probably not have any room for Grace on their already crowded Opening Day 25-man roster next season. But the last thing they’ll want to do is expose Grace to the Rule 5 draft where he most certainly would get snatched up.

OF Brian Goodwin – The speedy outfielder is an interesting decision for the Nats. After a very poor 2014 in Syracuse, Goodwin has been passed over on the outfield depth chart by both Steven Souza and Michael Taylor. Do the Nats want to lose the former first-round pick? No, but I’m not sure they’re willing to release or DFA someone else off their roster (Mattheus?) to clear space for Goodwin.

Possibles

1B Matt Skole – After missing all but two games in 2013, the power-hitting corner infielder struggled last season in his return to the daily grind. 2015 could be a breakout year for Skole though as all of the Nats’ brain trust knew it would take a season for him to make up for the lost time. Then again, what we saw at Harrisburg might just be the struggles of the upper minors.

2B/SS Wilmer Difo – This year’s South Atlantic League MVP might be the Nationals’ second baseman of the future. But as talented as Difo is, odds are long that he would get picked and stick on an MLB roster for the entire 2015 season. The Nats are probably more than willing to take that chance.

Longshots

RHP Richie Mirowski – Other than Mirowski’s injury-plagued start to last season in Harrisburg, the right-hander has impressed enough that I’d be willing to risk selecting him in the Rule 5 draft if I ran a MLB club.

RHP Neil Holland – Holland has been a workhorse out of the Senators’ bullpen for the last two seasons, but his poor AFL showing this fall (10.80 ERA, .392 OBA) will scare any potential suitors away.

LHP Kylin Turnbull - A southpaw swing man might be intriguing to a lot of MLB teams, but highly unlikely in the 25-year old Turnbull’s case as he only has 19 appearances at Potomac so far. Expect Turnbull to be on the Senators’ pitching staff in 2015.

1B/OF Kevin Keyes – I’m sure leading all Nationals’ minor leaguers in home runs last season put Keyes’ name on many clubs’ radar. Not enough to earn a 40-man spot though.

OF Drew Vettleson – Vettelson’s broken wrist this season hindered his development and will likely find him back on City Island in 2015.

 

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Senators (and former Senators) celebrate Halloween

From players’ Twitter and Instagram accounts…

AFL

Derek Self (gnome), Neil Holland (Charmin bear), Tony Renda (ostrich rider), Spencer Kieboom (weird baby), and Matt Grace (Viking)

Hagues

Ricky and Lindsay Hague

Harpers

The Harper brothers: Bryan (left) and Bryce

Marty

Jason Martinson (The Riddler) and friends Poison Ivy, Bane, and Catwoman

Arnesens

The Arnesen family as The Incredibles

Simms

John Simms (Brother John) and friends King Arthur and Patsy

EDavis

Erik Davis as speed-skating enthusiast Jerry Blevins

Milones

The Milones’ dogs

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Senators Roll Call: 11/5

Photo courtesy Danny Rosenbaum's Instagram

Photo courtesy Danny Rosenbaum’s Instagram

• While some players head to the Caribbean to play in Winter Leagues, pitchers Danny Rosenbaum (’11-’12) and Pat Lehman (’11-’13) are training kids in Dubai and Cairo.

• Fan (and grounds crew) favorite Devin Ivany (’07-’08, ’10-’12) appears to be headed back to the Nationals’ organization as the journeyman catcher returns in the likely role of a coach.

• Two former Senators who made their Major League debuts this season were claimed off of waivers as the Orioles nabbed Pat McCoy (’11-’13) and Carlos Rivero (’13) appears headed to the Pacific Northwest and the Mariners.

Brad Peacock (’10-’11) isn’t expected to be ready for the start of Astros’ spring training as the righthander recently underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in and remove bone spurs from his right hip. (Ultimate Astros [Drellich])

Paolo Espino (’14), Jeff Howell (’12-’13), Josh Johnson (’10-’13), Jose Lozada (’12-’14), Scott McGregor (’14), Adrian Sanchez (’14), and James Simmons (’14) have all re-upped with the Nationals’ organization for next season.

• After 19 games with the Orioles at the start of the 2014 season, Steve Lombardozzi (’10-’11) was lost in the shuffle at Norfolk. (Birds Watcher [Franz])

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Pace of play initiatives trying to cut down the time of games

Perhaps you’ve heard that this season’s Arizona Fall League is testing out new pace of play initiatives from Major League Baseball in an effort to speed up the game.

Among the new rules that have been implemented, ones I’d like to focus on are:

* Hitters are required to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box throughout an at-bat unless there is a foul ball, wild pitch, passed ball, if a pitch forces him out, or the umpire grants “time.”

* For games played at the Salt River Fields, a 20-second pitch clock will be posted in each dugout, behind home plate and in the outfield that will begin when the pitcher gets possession of the ball and stops when the pitcher begins his motion.

That last one has already come under fire as one-time Senator Robbie Ray and former first overall draft pick Mark Appel have already been penalized for pitch-clock violations.

Robbie Ray delivers a pitch with plenty of time still remaining

Robbie Ray delivers a pitch with plenty of time still remaining

Let’s start with an easy question…Is there a problem with how long baseball games take? Maybe.

During the 1988 season, a nine-inning game took an average of 2 hours and 45 minutes. This past regular season the average length of a game had ballooned to 3 hours and 2 minutes (and that’s not mention that nine-inning games this postseason have averaged 3 1/2 hours).

There are many factors why there has been a 17-minute increase over the last 26 years including the innumerable commercial breaks, increased number of pitches per game (136.2 per team in 1988 vs. 144.7 in 2014), introduction of instant replay, and expanded situational specialists out of the bullpen.

Watch any old ballgames on YouTube and you’ll quickly notice the amount of time between pitches is notably shorter. Players step out of the batter’s box but they don’t adjust their batting gloves, helmet, body armor, and cup on each and every pitch. Pitchers don’t walk around the mound composing themselves, go through a series of adjustments as well, and see 40 signs before agreeing to one.

Most of the full games you can find on YouTube are playoffs and World Series contests. So, every pitch really means that much more than a random Tuesday night game in June, but pitches are still generally thrown every ten to 15 seconds.

The rule changes in the AFL are meant to fix these issues or at least contain them to something more manageable. But in watching old games there is one big issue I have seen that causes quite the time delay and I fear will not be addressed.

The frequency new baseballs get put into a game.

Now, the moment a ball hits the dirt on a ground ball, a low pitch, or a pickoff attempt the ball gets thrown out immediately. A new one is thrown in by the ump and the pitcher backs off the rubber, takes his off-hand out of his glove, and rubs the new ball up to work it in a little.

Then, baseballs rarely got replaced unless the pitcher requested a new one or the ump decided it was too marked up. If the ball hit the dirt it wasn’t automatically thrown out.

That being said, my theory is purely observational and anecdotal. I don’t know if anyone has ever done a study on the number of baseballs used today compared to years ago to prove the point. But watch the World Series the next couple of days and tell me an awful lot of time isn’t consumed by umpires throwing in new baseballs. This fairly recent trend in pristine baseballs for each and every pitch is pushing the time of game farther and farther out.

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Picking it Up and Laying it Down

Over the last week and a half, the Senators Grounds Crew ripped up the existing infield grass at Metro Bank Park and laid down a new sod for the 2015 season. Pictures courtesy of the Grounds Crew Facebook page (which you really should “Like”).

mbp sod 1 mbp sod 2 mbp sod 3 mbp sod 4 mbp sod 4a mbp sod 4b mbp sod 5 mbp sod 6 mbp sod 7 mbp sod 7a mbp sod 8 mbp sod 8a mbp sod 9

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The Eastern League Roundtripper: 9/22

Photo courtesy Binghamton Mets

Photo courtesy Binghamton Mets

• Congratulations to the Binghamton Mets who claimed their first Eastern League championship since 1994 with a three-game sweep of the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

Eastern League Year-End Awards
MVP: Steven Moya, Erie
Pitcher of the Year: Henry Owens, Portland
Rookie of the Year: Michael Taylor, Harrisburg
Manager of the Year: Billy McMillon, Portland

Eastern League All-Star Team
Catcher – Elias Diaz, Altoona
First Baseman – Christian Walker, Bowie
Second Baseman – Devon Travis, Erie
Shortstop – Matt Duffy, Richmond
Third Baseman – Niuman Romero, Bowie
Outfield: Dariel Alvarez, Bowie
Outfield: Steven Moya, Erie
Outfield: Michael Taylor, Harrisburg
Utility: Brian Burgamy, Binghamton
Designated Hitter: Reynaldo Rodriguez, New Britain
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher: Adrian Sampson, Altoona
Left-Handed Starting Pitcher: Henry Owens, Portland
Relief Pitcher: Oliver Drake, Bowie

• The New Britain Rock Cats ended twenty years of affiliation with the Minnesota Twins as they signed a new two-year PDC with the Colorado Rockies. The Double-A team reached the Texas League Championship series this past year and has made the playoffs in each of the past three seasons. The move changes the makeup of the Eastern League for the first time since 2003.

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Caleb Clay deserved better from the Angels

clay
On August 9th, the Red Sox and the Angels battled for 19 frames and the Anaheim bullpen was forced to work 12.2 innings.

Needing reinforcements, the Angels called up former Harrisburg Senator Caleb Clay in time for their Sunday game against Boston. This wasn’t a “normal” transaction either as Clay had to also be added to their 40-man roster.

But the Angels never called Clay’s number during the game. Starting pitcher Hector Santiago tossed six shutout innings and the contest was scoreless into the eighth inning. Maybe Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia was reluctant to use Clay in such a high leverage situation. But the Red Sox plated three runs in the eighth and held a 3-1 lead over the Angels into the final frame. Instead of summoning Clay, Scioscia went to newly acquired reliever Vinnie Pestano to mop up the final three outs in the top half of the inning.

That would be the closest Clay came to making his Major League debut. The next day was an off-day for the Angels and the right-hander was ticketed back to Salt Lake City.

Baseball is a business and the Angels didn’t owe Clay anything.

But I thought they might make things right when the rosters expanded at the beginning of September. The Angels did call up four pitchers when the Pacific Coast League ended, but none were Clay.

Admittedly, Clay’s solid season (3.78 ERA, 1.18 WHIP before the call-up) went in the crapper after the disappointing turn of events. He closed his year with four straight losses posting a 7.99 ERA and allowing six home runs. But it would have been a nice gesture by a team that is generally regarded as a first-class organization.

Look at the Red Sox and how they handled another former Senator, Carlos Rivero.

On August 25th, Boston called up Rivero after Xander Bogaerts was forced to the disabled list the day before. Just like Clay, it was the first time Rivero got the call to the majors. The third-baseman made his debut four days later when he was inserted as a pinch-hitter. Rivero didn’t see further action again until 11 days later when he subbed into the game and collected his first Major League hit. By that time Bogaerts had returned and another two position players had been promoted to the Red Sox. But yet, they still had room on the roster for Rivero.

Look at the Texas Rangers. They recently called up shortstop Guilder Rodriguez who has toiled in the minor leagues for 1,095 games and 13 seasons. But in 2014, Rodriguez played only nine games at AAA and posted a rather anemic slashline of .269/.347/.298 for Double-A Frisco. And yet, the Rangers found a place on the expanded roster for Rodriguez because he’s been a great teammate and positive influence for many of their young players.

Yes, the Red Sox and Rangers are out of the playoff race. But the Angels were clearly going to make the playoffs (since they were the first team to clinch a spot this past Monday night). It would have been nice if they could have found a spot for Clay this September.

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