30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 22
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…
We’re in the final days of spring training for the Nationals, with decisions still to be made. Let’s outline what the big-league club’s looking at, and how that trickles down to Syracuse…
The Candidates: Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark, Chris Young
The Skinny: This is all but officially a two-man race at this point, with Jordan and Roark duking it out, though Matt Williams has continued to bring up the veteran Young’s name. Roark – baseball’s “reigning king of the called strike” – emerged from a red-hot Chiefs season to sport a 1.51 ERA in 14 games (five starts) at season’s end. Jordan was no slouch himself, putting up a 3.66 ERA in nine starts with Washington in his rookie campaign. Young’s best shot? The fact that he’s healthy again and has an opt-out in his contract, meaning the Nationals likely can’t send him to Syracuse without losing him.
The Favorite: It’s a true coin flip between the first two. I’ll guess that Jordan gets the nod based on his youth and a slightly higher ceiling. Plus, Roark pitched well in relief last year, meaning the Nationals could keep both Jordan and Roark on the roster in this scenario. Hey, speaking of…
The Candidates: Tanner Roark (if not starting), Aaron Barrett, Xavier Cedeno
The Skinny: I would have put left-hander Mike Gonzalez in here, but he was released five minutes ago, so the race is down to three. Barrett, who closed for Harrisburg last year, hasn’t allowed an run or walked a batter in nine games in his first ever spring training. Cedeno’s sported a 3.68 ERA in nine spring games after a 1.50 mark in 11 games (but only six innings) for the Nationals last season.
The Favorite: Roark will probably be on the Nationals one way or another, and if Jordan ends up starting, this should be Tanner’s spot to lose. If not? I’d say Barrett has a 51-49 edge because of his impressive spring. Don’t discount the possibility of the Nationals keeping a third left-hander, though, with nine of the team’s first 12 games against the lefty-heavy Braves and Mets.
Last Two Bench Spots
The Candidates: Scott Hairston, Jamey Carroll, Tyler Moore
The Skinny: This assumes that Jose Lobaton, Nate McLouth and Danny Espinosa will all make the Nationals, and there’s no reason to suggest otherwise. Hairston should also be close to a lock, as he’s guaranteed to make $2.5 million this year, but Matt Williams wasn’t entirely committal when talking about his potential fifth outfielder recently. After a season in which he posted just a .191/.237/.414 slash line, Hairston’s at .194/.256/.333 this spring. Carroll, a 40-year-old super-utilityman, is also hitting just .194 in spring, but provides leadership and versatility. Moore’s .607 spring OPS matches his mark from last regular season in 63 games with Washington, though he improved toward year’s end.
The Favorites: Hairston will probably get a bit of a longer leash because of his contract and the fact that he’s on the 40-man roster. He’ll likely start with the club. The decision then comes down to Carroll – plays every position, not on the 40-man roster – and Moore – plays 1B and corner OF, on the 40-man roster. The Nats would have to clear some space to make way for Carroll, but it’s highly doubtful he’d go to Syracuse, and Moore still has an option. Washington may go the conservative route and keep Carroll – in order to keep both.
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