Help is (kinda) on the way

Through just over a month, the Nationals have already proved the importance of building depth, with nine players missing a total of 181 games thus far due to injuries. Five call-up pitchers have combined to play 15 games, and six players whose roster spot would be debatable on a fully healthy Nats team (Robinson, den Dekker, Uggla, Johnson, Moore, and Taylor) have combined to play 88 games.

It's easy to look at the players who are on the squad and think that they'll just go down to Syracuse and become depth players again when guys like Rendon and Janssen return, but it's not that simple. Uggla, Moore, and Johnson (when he returns from injury) would all likely leave the organization if they were removed from the 25 man roster, either via waiver claim, trade or refusing a minor league assignment. For that reason, it's important to see who else is around in case more injuries occur. The good news is that there is plenty of good pitching depth in the upper minors, with the bad news being there is little position player depth.

The Syracuse Chiefs have a solid combination of starters (A.J. Cole, Taylor Jordan, and Taylor Hill), righty relievers (Rafael Martin and Eric Fornataro) and lefty relievers (Rich Hill and Felipe Rivero) that are ML-ready. Cole's MLB debut was a disaster, but he's only allowed six runs in four starts in AAA (he does only have 11 K's in 21 innings, though). Martin (11 K in 5 and 2/3 innings), Fornataro (2.84 ERA, 3.67 K/BB ratio) and Jordan (2.79 ERA in four starts) are having solid starts to the year as well. Joe Ross is pitching well in Harrisburg as well, striking out 10.1 per 9 innings and putting up a solid 2.81 ERA through six starts and 32 innings.

Unfortunately, the bats are not following the pitchers' lead in Syracuse. Out of the eleven batters who have played in at least ten games for the Chiefs, Jason Martinson (.759), Ian Stewart (.741), and Josh Johnson (.718) are the only ones to have an OPS over .700. That ain't good. Spring Training darling Tony Gwynn is hitting .207/.260/.315, backup catcher Dan Butler is at .222/.317/.315, and trade acquisition Matt den Dekker is at .187/.238/.200. Infielders Cutter Dykstra and Manny Burris have a combined .240/.325/.315 triple slash. Wilmer Difo is hitting a combined .320/.374/.546 between Potomac and Harrisburg, but other than that, there's not any help in Harrisburg, either.

Obviously one month of stats aren't enough to draw conclusions on players, but the early returns from the bats in Syracuse and Harrisburg are much less promising than those of the pitchers. The Nats bats better hope they avoid the injury bug, especially up the middle.


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