30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 9
We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…
The Nationals began spring training with a whopping 63 players in camp. They’ve whittled that number down to 55 in the past few days, sending eight players to minor-league camp – moves that may foreshadow the Chiefs’ Opening Day roster. Today, we’ll examine whether or not we’ll see those players in Syracuse this season…
INF Matt Skole – At 24 years old and in his fourth professional season, Skole’s already drawn raves from Nationals coaches and comparisons to Jim Thome. But he’s coming off a season in which he played just two games due to injury. Expect Skole to return to Harrisburg to start the season – that’s where he began last year – with the chance to move up midseason should his performance be anything like his career minor-league numbers (.290/.410/.510 slash line).
C Jeff Howell – 2014 would be Howell’s third straight year as a Chiefs if he spends time in Syracuse, after 30 games in 2012 and 13 games last year. However, the Nationals still have three catchers in camp (Jhonatan Solano, Chris Snyder, Sandy Leon) outside of the Wilson Ramos/Jose Lobaton combination that’ll start in Washington. With Solano all but ticketed for Syracuse, that probably leaves just one backup spot, and the guess is Howell returns to Harrisburg, where he spent the majority of last season.
RHP Gabriel Alfaro – Alfaro’s an interesting story. He pitched two years in Auburn from 2005 to 2006 and didn’t throw again until 2010 with independent-league Camden. He next resurfaced in 2012 in the Mexican League, leading the league in saves in each of the past two seasons while posting a 2.60 ERA and 11.2 strikeouts/nine innings. Despite that success, I’d hypothesize Alfaro starts in Harrisburg, just so the Nationals treat him somewhat cautiously after not having thrown in minor league baseball since 2006 – but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Syracuse with a strong minor-league camp.
LHP Tyler Robertson – Robertson pitched in 26 games with the Chiefs last year to the tune of a 3.04 ERA. After that success, you can expect to see him back here in Syracuse.
INF Josh Johnson – After a solid 53-game start to his season with Harrisburg last year, Johnson absolutely tore up the International League in 35 games with the Chiefs, posting a .341/.458/.466 slash line and stealing six bases in six tries. It’d be surprising not to see him return to Syracuse after such wild success.
C Brian Jeroloman – With one of the best batting eyes on the team, Jeroloman picked up 13 walks in 30 games for Syracuse last season, but played his remaining 21 games in Double-A with Harrisburg. His status goes back to the numbers game as pointed out in Howell’s section. The guess here is Harrisburg with a trip to Syracuse at some point in the season.
RHP A.J. Cole – Cole threw 6.2 scoreless innings, striking out seven and walking none in his first major-league spring training. He posted a 2.18 ERA in seven late-season starts with Harrisburg last year. And he’s the Nationals’ highest-ranked pitching prospect outside of Lucas Giolito. It seems he’ll start with Harrisburg again – he is only 22, and the Nats may want to take it slow with no immediate rotation vacancies to spring him into – but look forward to seeing him in Syracuse at some point this year.
LHP Felipe Rivero – Unlike the other members of this post, Rivero was officially assigned to Double-A Harrisburg – the other seven were assigned to Minor League camp. So we know where Rivero will start the year. But where will he finish it? At 22 years old, Rivero hasn’t yet pitched in a game above High-A, but the Nationals were bullish on him in spring training. Livan Hernandez, helping out the Nationals as a coach, even said “he’s going to be a superstar” just a few weeks ago. The guess here is Rivero may stay in Harrisburg year-round for seasoning, but don’t discount a rise up to Triple-A.
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