The Nationals have made many moves over the past few days that may or may not have a drastic impact on the big-league club in 2011. First, they re-signed Chien-Ming Wang to a 1 year major-league deal. Second, they signed former pitching hot shot-turned OF wonder Rick Ankiel to a 1 year major-league deal. And in a slew of Monday moves the Nationals signed several minor league players (some free agents from within the organization, some from without) to different types of deals; minor league, minor league/spring training invite, major league). Only one of those players is reserved a spot on the 40-Man roster, right-handed sinkerballer Ryan Mattheus.
You know the stories of Wang and Ankiel, but you may not know anything about Mattheus, a 19th round pick for Colorado in the 2003 First Year Player Draft. He first came to the Nationals farm system in the trade that sent Joe Beimel to the Rockies. Just 3 weeks prior to the trade, Mattheus went under the knife for the all-too-familiar Tommy John Surgery. Fast-forward to this year, he was healthy enough to get in 10 games in, spread across the GCL Nationals and Vermont Lake Monsters. His stats: 10 games, 11.1 IP, 0.79 ERA, 3 R, 1ER, 11K, 3BB, .971 WHIP.
Mattheus will most likely start the season in the Nationals Bullpen.
These moves lead us to several decisions. We have 43 people for the 40-Man Roster. Who stays? Who goes?
Atilano, Balester, Broderick, Burnett, Carr, Chico, Clippard, Detwiler, Hernandez, Kimball, Lannan, Marquis, Martin, Martis, Maya, Mock, (Edwin) Ramirez, (Henry) Rodriguez, Severino, Slaten, Stammen, Storen, Strasburg, Thompson, Zimmermann
Flores, Ramos, Rodriguez
Desmond, Espinosa, Gonzalez, Marrero, Zimmerman
Bernadina, Brown, Harper, Maxwell, Morgan, Morse, Werth
We need space for Ankiel, Mattheus, and Wang. Lets look at the candidates.
Matt Chico: Career Totals: 7-15 Record. 4.95 ERA. 5.15 FIP. 1.56 WHIP. -0.3 WAR
Matt Chico was one of the stars of the 2007 Rotation Cattle Call, ending up as our #2 starter in 2008 before his career was sidetracked by Tommy John surgery. Never more than a placeholder, Chico holds value in that he throws a baseball with his left hand. At 27, he is running out of chances.
Luis Atilano: Career Totals: 6-7 Record. 5.15 ERA. 5.00 FIP. 1.49 WHIP. 0.2 WAR
Luis Atilano's only career experience came this past year when he had an outstanding Spring Training and became first in line to fill in for the 1st injured/mental-breakdown Nats Starter. When Marquis was embarrassingly bad to start the season Atilano came in and was highly effective for month, winning 3 of his first 4 starts. Then he looked down, saw the ground was far, far away, and fell apart. Atilano pitched in the rotation until July, and then was put out of his misery and sent back down to AAA Syracuse.
Shairon Martis: Career Totals: 6-6 Record. 5.33 ERA. 5.54 FIP. 1.43 WHIP. -0.2 WAR
The career of Shairon Martis was the precursor to Atilano's. Earned a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training in '09, won 5 of his first 7 starts (including an amazing complete game victory over St. Louis), and then never won another start. This was over a year ago. Martis didn't even scratch the Majors last year as he put up pedestrian numbers in AAA; 4.09 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. The plus side is that Martis is just 23 years old, so he still has some time to develop.
Garrett Mock: Career Totals: 4-13 Record. 5.17 ERA. 4.38 FIP. 1.67 WHIP. 1.1 WAR.
Mock has always been touted by Nats brass as one of the best "stuff" guys in the organization. What that really means is that he has all the talent in the world but he hasn't been able to harness it (Daniel Cabrera Syndrome). His ERA is dreadful, his WHIP is worse and he just hasn't been able to stay healthy. At 27 years old the only thing Garrett has going for him right now is his 8.03 K/9.
Atahualpa Severino: Career Totals (Minors): 26-9 Record. 2.77 ERA. 1.155 WHIP.
Severino is a 26 year old left-handed reliever, meaning he has yet to really find his niche as a pitcher. He has dabbled a bit with closing while in Potomac in 2009, but has been relegated to regular bullpen duty otherwise. His minor league numbers are pretty solid, but he is 26 years old and has yet to make the majors. Will the Nationals have a need for another lefty arm out of the pen?
Craig Stammen: Career Totals: 8-11 Record. 5.12 ERA. 4.34 FIP. 1.40 WHIP. 2.1 WAR.
Stammen seemed to reinvent himself over the 2nd half of last season; around August when he was demoted to the bullpen. In 16 appearances out of the 'pen, Stammen had 2 appearances where he gave up 1ER, 3 where he gave up 2ER, and 1 when he gave up more than 2ER. All of the rest of his appearances were of the 0 ER variety. The Nats are going to have a need for a solid long-reliever, and sinkerballer Craig Stammen has proven that he at least deserves a shot.
Justin Maxwell: Career Totals: .201 AVG. .698 OPS. 7.8 UZR. 1.5 WAR.
The Jim Bowden Special. Maxwell was once touted as a prototypical 5-tool player, but it has become evident over the past 4 years that he is simply a 3-tool player; speed, fielding, throwing. It's really nice to have a defensive specialist when you have a stacked line-up and little defense. Since the Nats are already planning on going into 2011 with 4 above-average defenders in the outfield who can also hit higher than .201, there is no need for a 27 year-old Maxwell to remain on the 40-Man.
Prediction: Martis, Mock, Severino, Stammen stay. Maxwell, Chico, and Atilano go.