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.
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.
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.
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.
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.