This weekend, you could well have spent it as I did, with the Nationals on the radio or TV while you went about your lives. No sport is quite like baseball when it comes to its ubiquity during the season. From the end of March until the middle of October, there is baseball every day except for two. There are random off-days for your team, yes, but the default state for the next six months is baseball. As we shrug off the remains of a brutally cold February, that’s an important mile marker for the passage of time.
The Nationals are still deep in the throes of the training process, and each of the games carries little life-and-death meaning. None of these games count on the standings, no result is the end of a career or the start of one; these are, in the purest sense of the word, games. Starters go 3 innings if they’re lucky, and by the time Take Me Out To The Ballgame is done, most of the franchise faces have had a shower and are out talking to the media. Games are decided by late inning relievers and third string prospects. It’s marvelous. Unless you’re the scorekeeper.
This past week, Nats Prospect Cutter Dykstra made his big league club spring debut in a split-squad game, and since he was borrowed from the minor league roster, was wearing his minor league camp jersey. The broadcast team from the Mets – a delight to listen to this spring, unlike the team from Atlanta – couldn’t figure out how the Nats had two number 10s in the lineup at the same time. In the end, the Nationals’ number 10 Will Rhymes ended up driving in the Nationals’ other number 10, Dykstra. These are the sorts of things that happen in the early part of camp. They’re a delight.
Last week, I gave you the details on four players on the cusp of making the roster with the Nationals, and this week I’ll do the same. Before I do, though, a quick note: Matt Skole has been cut from the big league camp and sent over to minors camp. In 9 games, Skole went 5 for 14, with 2 doubles, a homer and five RBI. His slash line of .357/.438/.786 is mighty respectable. Look for Skole to find a slot in Washington during this year’s September call ups.
Brian Goodwin, Outfield, 23 – A first round pick in the draft in 2011, Goodwin is one of the guys slotted for the outfield of the future. Baseball America puts Goodwin number 3 on the Nationals’ prospect list, but questions about his bat remain. He’s put one ball over the wall so far this spring, but an uninspiring .154/.353/.462 slash line definitely suggest that Goodwin isn’t ready for the primetime yet. He did make the Arizona Fall League’s Top Prospects team this past Fall, and that likely means he’ll be just one phone call away from the bigs.
Eury Perez, Outfield, 23 – Eury Perez (Eh-yury PERez is the pronunciation guide there, folks), is another speedster in the outfield with a hot bat for the Nats. He’s likely the fastest member of the club at the moment, and certainly the most profligate thief on their base paths. He stole 43 in 136 games in Syracuse, and racked up 64 in 131 games in Hagerstown. His highlight is his speed, but he put up a career-best 7 dingers in just under 100 games with the Chiefs last year with a .300/.336/.422 slash line. Perez has a fairly decent shot at making the 25-man as a utility man, but his Spring will have to get better.
Jeff Kobernus, Outfield, 25 – If Perez is the number one speedster, Jeff Kobernus is right behind him at number 2. Kobernus spent 24 games on the Nats roster last year amid all the injuries, but struggled against big league hitting. His .167/.306/.267 numbers aren’t going to put him too far ahead of the rest of the pack when it comes time to make decisions. I like Kobernus’ aggressive stance in the field and on the base paths, but by themselves they’re not going to win him a slot on the roster.
Michael Taylor, Outfield, 23 – This guy my be one of my favorites to watch this spring. His defense is heralded as some of the best in baseball today. As one scout told Adam Kilgore this spring, it’s the best in the “Majors, minor leagues, whatever.” Manager Matt Williams says that his defense would be an 80 out of 80 on the scouting scale. He also hit up a storm this winter, hitting .365 for los Indios de Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican winter leagues. Taylor was assigned a slot on the Nats’ 40-man roster, largely to keep him out of the Rule 5 Draft, but he hasn’t played any higher than the High-A Potomac squad yet. Look for Taylor to find himself in Harrisburg for the start of the year, with a decent shot at a September call-up if he keeps it going.
Join us this Sunday as we gather at Duffy’s on 9th St NW for wings, beer and baseball. They’ll have the sound up, and if you’re wearing Nats gear, it’s $4 Miller Lites, $4 Yuengling Drafts and $16 pitchers of Miller Lite (not that we can recommend drinking that much Miller Lite). Join us and The Nats Blog‘s Joe Drugan for some early insights into this year’s Nationals team.