A long offseason has finally come to close as the Nationals opened up spring training last week in Florida. The regular season will be fast approaching once spring training games kick off tomorrow afternoon when Max Scherzer takes the mound against the Astros.
Here are some names to watch during the action tomorrow through the end of March.
Robles comes into this season as the fourth best prospect in the game and the best prospect in the Nationals farm system. Unfortunately he lost most of last season after breaking his elbow in April during a game in Syracuse.
The 21-year-old phenom hit .276/.371/.370 in 52 minor league games last season. Robles was brought up at the end of last season and hit .288/.348/.525 in 21 games. He played Dominican ball over the winter and started out slow but finished hot with a line of .265/.345/.316 in 25 games.
It’ll be interesting to watch and see if Robles makes the team out of spring training. My guess is that if he’s hot then the team will keep him up to start the season and give him the full year of MLB service time but the club could do what they did with Trea Turner in 2016 and send him to AAA and allow him to develop even more while not allowing him to accrue a full year of service.
Is there a better come back story this year than “The Bear” Aaron Barrett? The Bear has suffered from his fair share of injuries but has continued to dedicate himself to the game he loves.
Barrett suffered a torn UCL in 2015 causing him to require Tommy John Surgery if he wanted to continue his playing career. During his recovery, he heard a snap and discovered he had fractured his elbow in July 2016. Barrett signed a minor-league deal with the Nats in April of 2017 and finally made his return to the mound last June.
It’s hard to see Barrett making the team out of spring training since he hasn’t pitched above Short Season-A since tearing his UCL late in 2015. We could see him make a return mid-season if the Nats have some injuries to relievers (knock on wood) but if we see him at all this it will most likely be during September Call-ups.
One of the top prospects in the game, the youngest of the Kieboom trio makes his second appearance at Nationals camp this year. The 34 overall prospect and second best in the farm season will look to make an impact and turn some heads before going back down to the minors to open the season.
The 21-year-old prospect was taken in the first round out of high school in Georgia in 2016. Kieboom turned heads last year by making it to AA Harrisburg after the Carolina League all star break. The young phenom took to the challenge well by hitting .280/.357/.444 with 16 big flies and 69 RBI’s in a total of 123 games between the A+ Potomac Nationals and the Senators.
Kieboom continued his success in the Arizona Fall League by hitting .295/.427/.372 in 21 games for the Salt River Rafters.
Hell would freeze over before the Nationals kept Kieboom on the opening day roster barring an act of god with at least five or six injuries to key infielders this spring. Kieboom will most likely start of at AA Harrisburg and make his way to AAA by July if all goes to plan. The Nationals signed Brian Dozier to keep second base warm for him by the time opening day 2020 rolls around.
Expect Kieboom to stay in the minors for most of the season with a potential September call-up if the Nationals are in the playoff race.
Remember when Jordan Zimmermann threw a no-hitter on the last day of the regular season in 2014? Well the pitcher opposite of him was Henderson Alvarez who was just about as dominant as Zimmermann was that day allowing only a single run in seven innings.
Alvarez has had some bumps in the road since finishing the 2014 season pitching to a 2.65 ERA in 187 innings. He had shoulder surgery in the years thereafter and hasn’t been the same pitcher since. He latched on with the Phillies in 2017 and started in three games pitching to a 4.30 ERA in 14.2 innings.
In 2018, Alvarez pitched in the Mexican League with two different teams pitching to a combined 3.58 ERA in 19 starts.
Although he’s a long shot to make the MLB roster, Alvarez could end up getting some fifth starter looks as Jeremy Hellickson and Joe Ross battle out the spot. It wasn’t too long ago that Alvarez was dominant and with help to his mechanics he could become a decent fifth starter in the league.