Player Preview: Wilmer Difo

Little is known about where Wilmer Difo came from, but what is known is he burst on the scene and would not be forgotten. At some point in his career as a minor league player Difo became a prospect. It's hard to pinpoint exactly when this happened but it may have something to do with his .315/.360/.470 batting line at Hagerstown in 2014. Difo continued that hot hitting in 2015 at Potomac and earned a surprise call-up mid-season. 

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Player Preview: Rafael Martin

Whenever Rafael Martin’s name is mentioned in discussions of 2016 predictions, two possible narratives should come to mind. 

The first – and preferred scenario for Nationals fans– is a tale that would more closely resemble a movie screenplay than a real-life story of “how to make it in baseball.” 

The second – and, arguably, more likely – narrative is one of an everyday John Doe who had just the right amount of talent to catch the eyes of baseball scouts, but who lacks the experience and development needed to shut down batters on the main stage.

Before laying out either scenario, one has to acknowledge how amazing it is that Martin’s name is even relevant in baseball today. And, should the fairytale play out, the Nationals could benefit from the ultimate underdog’s story. 

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Player Preview: Stephen Drew

One of the perhaps underrated pieces to the Washington Nationals’ infield repair job is none other than Stephen Drew. 

Signed in early January to a one-year, $3 million deal carrying up to $1.25 million in incentives, Drew represents insurance for the Nats, a team known for battling multiple injury bug outbreaks year after year. 

That’s not to forget Drew’s own gruesome battle with injury recovery. There was that fateful day of July 21, 2011, on which the only thing more gut-wrenching  then the direction Drew’s ankle bent on a slide into home plate was the manner in which he instinctively pulled said ankle back into place

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Pitching Depth Player Profiles

Depth is always an issue in the major leagues, as a 162 game season played over 183 days causes more than simple wear and tear on players. Over the last five seasons, the Nats have used at least 20 batters and 18 pitchers every year in the big leagues, averaging 21.8 batters, 21.2 pitchers, and 43 players total per season. For this reason, it’s important for us to look beyond projecting the 25-man roster (or even the 40-man roster) and look at AAAA-type players, MiLB free agent signings and Rule 5 draft picks. 

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Player Preview: Clint Robinson

Given 126 games and 352 plate appearances Clint Robinson excelled by the standards of a 30 year old rookie and bench player, hitting .272/.358/.424, good for a 115 wRC+ and 0.4 fWAR after the harsh positional adjustment of first base. That placed him 12th in the NL among first basemen with at least 250 plate appearances, just ahead of fellow left-handed, defensive deficient Pedro Alvarez and even the injury-hampered Zimmerman.

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Player Preview: Blake Treinen

Who is Blake Treinen?

Earlier this offseason, the 27-year-old right-hander joined the likes of Major League Baseball Hall of Famers in a rare category for athletes – a Jeopardy category, that is.

Recognized for the velocity of his sinker – which, as the clue stated, has been known to hit the 100 MPH mark – Treinen’s name has been tossed around a bit this offseason as a possibility to fill a hole in the starting rotation.  Recently, however, that has looked less and less likely, as manager Dusty Baker has all but declared Treinen will start the season out of the bullpen.

Setting aside what the current starting rotation might be, there are a number of reasons Washington should delay any moves to transition Treinen to a starting role. 

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Player Preview: Oliver Perez

Perez then spent some time relearning his pitching mechanics and how to get people out in the minor leagues. He was picked up by the Nationals 2 days after being released by the mets and put at Double A Harrisburg. He started 15 games there and relieved once. In 2012, the Mariners picked up the lefty on a minor league deal. Perez earned a nod back up to the big club in Seattle as a reliever on June 16th and he would go on to pitch 29 and 2/3 innings as a Mariner with a 2.12 ERA and a 2.93 FIP. Given the good performance, the Mariners brought him back for a second season where he would have his best year yet as a reliever. Perez had a 12.57 K/9 and a 3.26 FIP over the course of 53 innings in 2013. 2014 and 2015 saw continued success for Perez for the Diamondbacks and the Astros.

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Player Preview: Felipe Rivero

In the midst of all the dramatics, the 2015 Washington Nationals bullpen produced something worthy of optimism: Felipe Rivero.

Credit it to luck, instinct or great scouting – the tale of how the Nats acquired Rivero represents arguably the most recent feather in General Manager Mike Rizzo’s cap.

At first appearance, the deal that brought the southpaw to Washington could only be described scientifically as “meh.” In the trade, Washington sent right-hander Nate Karns to Tampa Bay in exchange for Jose Lobaton and two minor leaguers. But, those who follow Baseball America rankings recognized the potential steal as soon as word got out that Rivero was part of the package. In gaining Rivero along with outfielder Drew Vettleson, the Nats welcomed Tampa Bay’s 17th and 20th best prospects, respectively.  

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Player Preview: Anthony Rendon

I believe in Anthony Rendon. I remember the exact moment I came to feel so strongly about Rendon as a player and as a key part of the future of the Washington Nationals. I was sitting in the bleachers in the Pfitz and up walked Anthony Rendon. A sense of anticipation fell over the crowd. The entire place was waiting for something to happen. Rendon is one of the best pure and natural hitters I've ever seen. He has a rare combination of bat speed, plate coverage, and plate discipline, and on that day in Woodbridge it was all on display.  

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Player Preview: Shawn Kelley

The 2015 Nats bullpen was a dreaded wasteland of darkness. A call to the Nats bullpen opened the door for the opposition instead of slamming it shut. It makes sense then that the Nationals 2016 off-season focused on the bullpen and one of their key additions is Shawn Kelley. Kelley's career isn't that impressive with a career 3.67 ERA and no season with more than 54 innings pitched. What Shawn Kelley is though is a veteran reliever not coming off of injury. 

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Player Preview: Michael A. Taylor

At the close of the 2015 season, there were a fair number of reasons for Michael A. Taylor fans to look to 2016 as a potential breakthrough year for the young outfielder.

On the one hand, things seem destined to get better for Taylor, whose rookie batting numbers simply don’t match the potential others have reportedly seen in him. The soon-to-be-25-year-old center fielder posted solidly mediocre offensive numbers - .229/.282/.358, with 108 hits in 511 plate appearances. More discouraging than his 35 walks were the whopping 158 strikeouts he managed.

On the other hand, what Taylor lacked at the plate, he arguably more than made up for with his glove. From the batter’s box, Taylor’s struggles amounted to a double-digit net loss of runs compared to the average Major League batter. But, according to Fangraphs, Taylor offset this by saving +14 runs more than the average defensive player in the league, per Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). 

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Player Previews: ML-Ready Pitching Depth

The following pitchers are Major League-ready, and many of them will be seen in Washington DC this summer (and not as tourists, either). None of these guys are top prospects (most of them aren’t even prospects at all), but all could develop into trade chips or bullpen pieces in 2016.

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Player Preview: Joe Ross

Joe Ross was called up to the big club on June 6th after Stephen Strasburg hit the disabled list. Ross lasted 5 innings in his MLB debut while, while striking out 4 and allowing 3 runs. Ross's next start saw him go 8 frames, while striking out 8, and allowed the right hander to notch his first MLB win. Ross stayed consistently in the positive for a while over the course of the season, ultimately having 5 wins and 5 losses over his 13 games started. Ross's last 2 starts of the 2015 season were less than stellar, seeing him go 4.1 innings or less in that time. Despite those rocky final 2 starts of the season, Ross had a solid 2015. His final line on the season was 76.2 innings pitched, an 8.1 K/9, and a 3.42 FIP.

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Player Preview: Danny Espinosa

Danny Espinosa’s career as a Washington National has been a roller coaster. Starting with a fine rookie season in 2011, a slight regression at the plate in 2012, a labrum injury that wasn’t surgically repaired, a demotion to AAA in 2013 that saw him play far more games in Syracuse than in Washington, and then a moderately better season in 2014 that was better than abysmal. It got to the point that after the 2014 season the Nats brought in Dan Uggla (coming off of a resounding 29 wRC+ in 2014) to bolster the middle infield bats. I hope this drives home the point that very little was expected from Danny Espinosa in 2015.

Then came The Danny Espinosa Renaissance (#TDER). 

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Nationally-Ranked Top Prospects

There isn’t a true consensus in the industry about where the Nats’ farm system ranks (some say upper tier, others say middle-of-the-pack), but there is little debate over who the top five prospects in the system are: RHP Lucas Giolito, SS Trea Turner, OF Victor Robles, RHP Erick Fedde, and RHP Reynaldo Lopez. Wilmer Difo makes an appearance amongst those names here and there, but the five aforementioned players have also earned the distinction of being ranked amongst the top 100 prospects in baseball by at least two of the major four publications who have released their rankings to date (Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN, and MLB.com).

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