Game #83 Big roster news on Strasburg, Papelbon, Joe Ross, Giolito + Internationals Signings: Game Thread

Here is what we know so far is that the Nationals are shuffling the rotation again and are now inserting Stephen Strasburg today as the starter and activating him from the Disabled List which will require a corresponding roster move.

We will know shortly the fate of Lucas Giolito who was supposed to start today. This is not an absolute indication that Lucas Giolito is going back to the Minor Leagues as we now have health concerns for Joe Ross who had a a sizeable drop in velocity last night and through the game. There might be nothing wrong with Joe Ross, other than some arm fatigue, but with a roster move needed, the Nats could err on the side of caution and could move Ross to the 15 day DL or make a bullpen move.

Also keep in mind that Jonathan Papelbon finished his rehab stint last night with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators completing 2 games in a row with no runs, no hits, 1 walks, and 2 strikeouts. Papelbon could be activated today, but most likely will be activated tomorrow.

In total, two roster spots will need to be cleared between today and tomorrow, and there could be a flury of moves.

Trea Turner continues to get work in at centerfield and middle infield and could be ready to add depth to the Nats at a multitude of positions in the not-to-distant future that could give Dusty Baker a true weapon in the speed game and improve the team’s on-base percentage in place of Michael Taylor. In good news, Ben Revere is having a great week for the Nationals turning in 3 Web Gems and Friday night’s walk-off along with a .391 /.417/ .522 /.938 slash for the week and only 1 K.

“So far, so good,” Kevin Brown of the Syracuse Chiefs told TalkNats. “[Trea] has looked confident chasing down balls as he’s run down a few in the gap. Center field arm is solid – no mental mistakes in terms of hitting cutoff men or throwing to the wrong base.”

As we reported during the game last night, we noticed that Joe Ross’ fastball velocity was dropping. In our postgame report we wrote:

“Joe Ross gave up 4 runs tonight and has now done this in consecutive starts. There was also a velocity dropoff with Ross in the latter innings on his sinker. Ross has an average sinker velocity at 93.5mph. Tonight Ross’ sinker velo was 91.8, and in his last inning had dropped to 89.”

On the 5th pitch of last night’s game, Joe Ross threw a 95.5mph fastball but slowly his velo dropped during the game. On the last pitch of the night, Joe Ross delivered a 91.3mph fastball. Ross’ averaged 91.8mph on his sinker vs. a previous 2016 average of 93.48. That is almost exactly 1 1/2 mph slower velocity on Joe’s sinker on average than his season average had been at. Is this cause for concern? Evidently yes, as Dusty Baker said, “We’re looking into some things. We were limiting Joe’s innings if you haven’t noticed. We usually take him out in the sixth and seventh inning even though he would cry for some more. We were trying to limit his workload.”

On the other hand, Joe Ross did not seem publicly concerned with his velo and had an explanation. He was more concerned with his command and control.

Joe Ross had this to say after the game, “I was feeling good and at 90-94, 95 mph the first two innings, it kinda dropped I was missing a lot of spots and I just thought ‘locate’, that’s kind of what i was focused on, get more ground balls. And then 91-92 mph 5th or 6th inning, whatever that was, I mean I felt good it’s just my stuff just wasn’t there, command wasn’t really there, little frustrating but I feel all right. Usually, command is like one of my things.”

Joe Ross explained the velo drop-off with an explanation. “It can be tough just because that few miles an hour can kind of get them to commit early on the fastball, makes your off-speed, slider, change-up that much better,” Joe Ross said. “When you don’t have that much velocity separation between pitches, then it makes it easy for them to sit back and not have to guess on one spot for the location of the pitch so it kind of just makes it easier overall for the hitter.”

The international draft was yesterday, and the Nats were huge movers and shakers to the point that they will be penalized for going over their cap of an allotted international signing pool of $2,335,000. In fact, Rizzo blew through that cap on just Yasel Antuna who the Nats rated the highest in the Latin American talent pool next to Kevin Maitan who went to the Braves. Here is how Baseball America rated them—here.

Cuba could soon join the international draft, and be part of this draft process in the future. The new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) will also set new rules for the international signing portion which is another reason the Nationals went big into this draft before the rules change.

dominican baseball

Photo credit to Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Cuban baseball

The strategy has been if you are going to exceed your cap, blow through it as it will curtail what you can do in the following 2 years which kept the Cubs, Dodgers, and Yankees mostly out of the mix and the Red Sox were banned this year and again for next year. Whatever the final total is for the Nats international expenditures, it will be much higher as they will pay a 100% penalty to MLB for exceeding the $2,335,000 cap.

The Nationals signed 19 players in total so far and here are the notables:

  1. Luis Garcia, Shorstop, Dominican Republic (No. 3 prospect), $1.3 million
  2. Yasel Antuna, Shortstop, Dominican Republic (No. 14 prospect), $3.9 million
  3. Ricardo Mendez, Outfield, Venezuela (No. 30 prospect) $600,000
  4. Israel Pineda, Catcher, Venezuela $450,000

In addition, there are international players who are not 16 years old yet who the Nats can make official on their 16th birthday and the Nats are believed to have Jose Sanchez, Shortstop, Venezuela, (No. 9 prospect) sewn up and will announce his signing shortly at what is thought to be $950,000.

The previous high spent from the Nats on an internationals player was previously $1.5 million for Dominican outfielder Juan Soto last year. Before that, the most the Nationals had ever spent was on one player was on Carlos Alvarez in 2006, and in case that name means nothing to you, Alvarez was the fraud formerly known as Esmailyn ‘Smiley’ Gonzalez who brought scandal to the Nationals Latin American farm system and changes to front office personnel that led to the change at General Manager with the removal of Jim Bowden, top adviser Jose Rijo, and Dominican Academy head Jose Baez, and these moves put Mike Rizzo at the helm.

When people ask what Dan Jennings was doing for Mike Rizzo, Jennings was a key point man for Rizzo working with Nationals VP, International Operations, Johnny DiPuglia and Director of Player Procurement Kasey McKeon, and Special Assistant to the General Manager  Terry Wetzel in scouting this talent and getting the players signed.

As to today’s game, Stephen Strasburg is pitching for the Nationals against lefty John Lamb.

Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, DC
1st Pitch: 1:35 pm EDT

Line-ups (subject to change without notice):

  1. Michael Taylor CF
  2. Jayson Werth LF
  3. Bryce Harper RF
  4. Daniel Murphy2B
  5. Wilson Ramos C
  6. Ryan Zimmerman 1B
  7. Anthony Rendon 3B
  8. Danny Espinosa SS
  9. Stephen Strasburg RHP
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