Quick Links

Nats could be overloaded at catcher in '13

wilsonramos101712.png

Nats could be overloaded at catcher in '13

As we transition into offseason mode, we'll start by breaking down the Nationals' roster by position (infield, outfield, catcher, rotation and bullpen) this week and examine where things stand at season's end and where things might stand moving forward. Today's position: Catcher...

C WILSON RAMOS
Stats: 25 G, 96 PA, 3 HR, 10 RBI, .265 AVG, .354 OBP, .398 SLG
1 E, 17% CS, 0.6 WAR
2012 salary: $491,250
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2014, free agent in 2017
Where he fits in: In his second full year in the big leagues, Ramos looked poised to breakout as one of the game's best young catchers. But his season ended in abrupt fashion May 12 in Cincinnati when he tore the ACL in his right knee, leaving him to start all over again in 2013. The Nationals have every reason to believe Ramos will return 100 percent healthy and pick up where he left off, but there are no guarantees. With Kurt Suzuki now in the fold as well, the club may ease Ramos back into playing shape and have the two split time behind the plate.

C KURT SUZUKI
Stats (w/WSH only): 43 G, 164 PA, 5 HR, 25 RBI, .267 AVG, .321 OBP, .404 SLG
3 E, 15% CS, 0.8 WAR (combined OAK+WSH)
2012 salary: $5 million
Contract status: $6.45 million in 2013, $8.5 million club option in 2014 (guaranteed at $9.25 million if he starts 113 games in 2013)
Where he fits in: Acquired from the A's on Aug. 3 out of desperation following a string of injuries to their catching corps, Suzuki proved far more than a stop-gap solution behind the plate. He turned into one of the Nationals' best clutch hitters down the stretch and developed instant rapport with the pitching staff. Because he's already signed for next season at a healthy price, he's guaranteed to make the club. And given the uncertain nature of Ramos' recovery from his knee injury, Suzuki could wind up the safer bet to see playing time come Opening Day.

C JESUS FLORES
Stats: 83 G, 296 PA, 6 HR, 26 RBI, .213 AVG, .248 OBP, .329 SLG
4 E, 15% CS, 0.0 WAR
2012 salary: $815,000
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible, free agent in 2014
Where he fits in: It was only a few years ago that Flores was considered the organization's long-term answer behind the plate. A major shoulder injury -- plus the acquisitions of Ramos and Suzuki put an end to that line of thinking, and now Flores looks like a man who will be without a job come 2013. Assuming both Ramos and Suzuki are healthy, there won't be a spot on the Nationals' roster for Flores. That makes him a prime trade candidate, or -- if a deal can't be worked out -- a potential non-tender candidate before the Nov. 30 deadline.

C SANDY LEON
Stats: 12 G, 36 PA, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .267 AVG, .389 OBP, .333 SLG
1 E, 14% CS, 0.0 WAR
2012 salary: $480,000
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2019
Where he fits in: Summoned straight from Class AA Harrisburg to take Ramos' roster spot, Leon wound up suffering a bad ankle sprain only four innings into his big-league career. He came back later in the season and saw a little bit of playing time, but he's still likely to need some more seasoning before he's truly ready to be a full-time big-leaguer. The Nationals love his skills behind the plate, though, and he's certainly qualified to fill in should something happen to the guys above him on the depth chart.

C JHONATAN SOLANO
Stats: 12 G, 37 PA, 2 HR, 6 RBI, .314 AVG, .351 OBP, .571 SLG
0 E, 38% CS, 0.4 WAR
2012 salary: $480,000
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2019
Where he fits in: Like Leon, Solano was a surprise call-up to the big-league roster, his presence needed only because of all the injuries sustained to the rest of the club's catching corps. The 27-year-old affectionately known to teammates as "Onion" impressed in his limited playing time, flashing a solid bat. He wound up dealing with his own injuries, then finished the year in the minors. Solano will likely be ticketed for Class AAA Syracuse again in 2013.

IN THE MINORS
Nearly every catcher in the organization found his way onto the big-league roster at some point this year, so there's not much left in the system. Veteran Carlos Maldonado is a well-respected catcher, but he's not a prospect by any stretch of the imagination. David Freitas was highly regarded at Class A Potomac, but he was dealt to Oakland in exchange for Suzuki. Adrian Nieto, a fifth-round pick in 2008, has only two games of experience above low-Class A Hagerstown. The Nationals used their fifth-round pick in this year's draft on Spencer Kieboom from Clemson.

OFFSEASON NEED?
The Nationals certainly don't need to add any more catchers from outside the organization. They just need to figure out who gets the No. 1 job. If Ramos proves he's healthy in spring training, it would be tough not to give him his starting job back. He's got far more upside than Suzuki, both offensively and defensively. At the same time, the Nationals can't discount what Suzuki did for them down the stretch while understanding he's historically performed better when playing on a regular basis. As for Flores, it would appear his time with the organization is over, a disappointing end to a once-promising career.

Quick Links

Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

reyes_darnaud_mets_usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

NEW YORK -- Travis d'Arnaud hit two home runs and the New York Mets ended a three-game skid, rallying past a watered-down lineup of Washington Nationals 7-6 on Friday night.

Washington manager Dusty Baker said he needed to "give my big boys much needed rest" with the playoffs nearing, and not a single regular started for the NL East champions. Star Daniel Murphy pinch hit in the eighth and flied out.

MORE NATS: RATHER HAVE THE CUBS, BREWERS, OR CARDINALS IN NLDS?

The Nationals begin the Division Series in exactly two weeks. If the current standings hold, they would host the World Series champion Chicago Cubs to open the best-of-five matchup.

Adam Lind hit a three-run homer for Washington. It was the Nationals' 203rd home run this season, matching the franchise record dating to 1969 when they were the Montreal Expos.

Howie Kendrick had an RBI double and prized prospect Victor Robles lined a two-run triple in the fifth that put Washington ahead 6-1.

Nationals reliever Shawn Kelley exited in the eighth inning because of an apparent injury. He' has struggled this season and missed more than two months because of back problems.

Nori Aoki had three hits for the Mets, including a go-ahead double in the sixth inning off Joe Blanton (2-4).

Chasen Bradford (2-0) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.

Jeurys Familia, the Mets' third pitcher in the ninth inning, came on to strike out Robles with runners on first and third for his fourth save -- his first since May 5. Familia, who missed three months after surgery to repair a blood clot, entered as part of a double switch, with Kevin Plawecki taking over at catcher for d'Arnaud.

D'Arnaud hit a solo homer in the second and connected for a tying, three-run drive in the fifth that finished starter Edwin Jackson. That gave d'Arnaud a career-best 15 homers and marked his second multihomer game, the other coming in April against Washington.

MORE MLB: POSTSEASON BRACKET PROJECTION (THURSDAY)

Mets starter Robert Gsellman allowed six runs in five innings. He moved up a day to pitch in place of ace Jacob deGrom, who was moved back in the rotation until Sunday because of a stomach illness this week.

Quick Links

Cubs, Brewers, or Cardinals: potential postseason opponents for the Washington Nationals

cubs_brewers_cardinals.jpg
USA Today Sports

Cubs, Brewers, or Cardinals: potential postseason opponents for the Washington Nationals

The regular season is winding down and there is no drama in the nation’s capital.

With a stranglehold on the National League East for the entire season, the Washington Nationals were the first team in baseball to earn a playoff spot and their division. Since June, the Nationals’ lead has been hovering around 20 games. Their record against the division is 44-26 with three NL East series forthcoming.

Beyond that, positioning has not been a factor in the National League either. It was a near forgone conclusion that the Nationals were going to earn the No. 2 seed in the NL side of the postseason. There was a slight chance last week that Washington could pass the Los Angeles Dodgers with them losing 16 of 17 games. Alas, the Dodgers took two out of three in their series, solidifying their No. 1 seed hopes.

RELATED: MLB'S HUNT FOR OCTOBER

Dusty Baker then basically threw in the towel for that race. He spread out his rotation to six pitchers and gave his players consistent rest. Focusing on the postseason more than the playoff race, he does not appear to care about their positioning.

With that, the Nationals are all but guaranteed to finish second behind the Dodgers. Floating between four and six games back, there is no sense of urgency.

There is no worry about the team in third either. The Chicago Cubs, as of September 22, sit seven games behind the Nationals and are in the thick of a Divisional race.

Either way, even if the Nationals were to collapse and the winner of the National League Central was to rocket up to second, the Nationals will play against whoever wins the division in the No. 2 vs. No. 3 match-up.

The Central has actually been the Nationals Achilles heel this year. They finished with a 17-13 record vs. NL Central teams. It is not the whole division the Nationals have to worry about though, just the one that comes out.

Entering Friday’s action the Cubs are well on their way to winning the division, according to fangraphs.com. Below are the current odds to win the division:

Chicago Cubs                     97.8%
Milwaukee Brewers          0.9%
St. Louis Cardinals            1.3%

This is slightly misleading though, because the Central could completely flip before the postseason. The lead is 4.5 over the Milwaukee Brewers and 5.0 over the St. Louis Cardinals. However of their final 10 games, three are against the Brewers, four against the Cardinals, all seven on the road.

RELATED: UPDATED MLB WILD CARD RACE

In the five-game NLDS the Nationals will face one of these teams. Even if it is the defending World Series Champions, you have to like the Nationals’ odds.

CHICAGO CUBS PREVIEW

Current record: 85-67
2017 Record vs. Washington: 2-4
Last head-to-head postseason series: Never
Starting pitchers: Jon Lester (11-8), Jake Arrieta (14-9), John Lackey (11-11), Kyle Hendricks (7-5), Jose Quintana (6-3)
Top position players: Kris Bryant (.292 BA, 28 HRs, 69 RBIs), Anthony Rizzo (.278 BA, 32 HRs, 107 RBIs)

If these two teams were to meet up, it would be easily the best starting pitching match-up in the National League. Likely the Cubs would only go to four guys, maybe three if they get desperate. With Jake Arrieta on the mind, that would be a dicey move to start the postseason. They have not played to the level that the 2016 did a year ago, but a majority of the position players are still in place and can still put together a run.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS PREVIEW

Current record: 81-72
2017 Record vs. Washington: 3-4
Last head-to-head postseason series: Never
Starting pitchers: Zach Davies (17-9), Chase Anderson (11-3), Brandon Woodruff (2-2), Brent Suter (3-2)
Top position players: Domingo Santana (.281 BA, 28 HRs, 80 RBIs), Travis Shaw (.274 BA, 30 HRs, 96 RBIs)

As one of the hottest teams in the first half of the season, the Brewers are only relying on their early success. Their team has quickly cooled off and their number two starter Jimmy Nelson is out the remainder of the season. The rest of the roster is shaky at best as they are trying to stay relevant in the postseason chase. If the Nationals are fully prepared for the playoffs there should be no worries if Milwaukee represents the Central.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS PREVIEW

Current record: 80-72
2017 Record vs. Washington: 3-3
Last head-to-head postseason series: 2012; Cardinals won 3-2 in NLDS
Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (12-5), Carlos Martinez (12-11), Lance Lynn (11-7), Michael Wacha (12-8), Luke Weaver (7-1),
Top position players: Yadier Molina (.276 BA, 18 HRs, 82 RBIs), Tommy Pham (.311 BA, 21 HRs, 168 RBIs)

With both the Brewers and Cubs you know what you are getting, with the Cardinals it could be anything. The starting pitchers have a history of success, just not in 2017. Also how Wainwright comes back will be a huge factor in how the Central race will play out and how their odds in the postseason increase. With a mix of a young and aging line-up, the Cardinals can both win with the long ball and piece runs together by playing small ball. St. Louis is easily the most interesting team of the three and could be the scariest if the Wainwright comes back at 100%.

Both the Brewers and the Cardinals have to rely on each other to win the NL Central. They cannot do it on their individual series's alone.