It’s been a while since there has been any Nationals’ minor league news of note. Finally, the Nats have begun issuing their non-roster invitations to spring training as well as signing players to minor league contracts.
The following players have been signed to minor league contracts (no word on whether they get an invitation to Spring Training):
LHP Oscar Alvarez and RHP Billy Sylvester – Sylvester will be returning to the Nats for a second season after a non-descript year in relief for Harrisburg in 2005 (1.67 WHIP, 11.3 K/9, 6.3 BB/9, and 1.7 HR/9). He’s 29 years old and will probably serve as no more than an extra arm again maybe this time in New Orleans. The 25-year old Alvarez has two things going for him that Sylvester doesn’t, 4 years on the birth certificate and a throwing arm on the opposite side (1.43WHIP, 5.0K/9, 3.4BB/9, and 0.9HR/9). He’s a bit old for a guy who a guy who has only 3 innings at AAA in his career but being LH gives him some leeway.
RHPs Justin Echols and David Gil – Both the 25-year old Echols and the 27-year old Gil spent 2005 with the Nats. Echols started 17G (out of 31 appearances) for Harrisburg (1.53WHIP, 9.3K/9, 3.1BB/9, and 1.6HR/9). Gil pitched in relief, splitting his season between Harrisburg (1.13WHIP, 8.0K/9, 2.5BB/9, and 0.6HR/9) and New Orleans (1.21WHIP, 6.9K/9, 2.8BB/9 and 1.0HR/9). Echols will likely fill a spot in the rotation at New Orleans, probably just an organizational guy. Gil has the opportunity to become a RH option out of the pen for the Nats if there are any injuries.
3B Brandon Larson and SSs Anthony Medrano & Rayner Bautista – Larson is yet another ex-Red from the Bowden regime. The 29-year old Larson spent the 2005 season in AA Frisco (Texas Rangers) where he batted 289/353/519. Think of him as the 2005 version of Kevin Orie as he will likely spend the 2006 season with New Orleans. The 31-year old Medrano returns to the Nats organization (2003-04) after spending a year in AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Philadelphia Phillies) where he did not shine 221/281/286, definitely an organizational guy. The 27-year old Bautista was signed out of the Independent League in 2005. His MLB career was spent with the Detroit Tigers where he batted 253 over 9 years.
The following five players were signed to minor league contracts and by the fact they are on the 40-man roster, I believe will be invited to Spring Training:
1B Larry Broadway – Given that incumbent 1B Nick Johnson is in his walk year, the 25-year old Broadway has a golden opportunity to show the Nats he is ready to take the next step and put himself in line for a roster spot in 2007. Expect him to be placed in New Orleans and watch him to see how he fares at the next level.
3B Kory Casto – With the emergence of Ryan Zimmerman, the 24-year old Casto will likely have to switch positions again if he hopes to make the Nats. While the original off-season plans where to try him out at 2B, the cancellation of the Instructional League along with the presence of Vidro and Soriano, have all but shifted Casto to a corner OF position with designs on a bench spot in 2007.
RHP Darrell Rasner – The 25-year old Rasner was only given one opportunity to start in Washington in 2005. Expect Rasner to begin the season in New Orleans but given the injury/consistency histories of Tony Armas, Ryan Drese, and Ramon Ortiz, a promotion is not too far on the horizon.
RHP Travis Hughes – The 27-year old Hughes has battled command inconsistency but if he can get his command under control as well as develop an off-speed pitch, he could become a serviceable member of the bullpen, but a start in New Orleans is all but guaranteed.
LHP Mike Hinckley – The 23-year old Hinckley had a lost season in 2005 and a bounceback is needed to keep him on the prospect radar. He has shown previous flashes of brilliance and he will be given every opportunity to prove his worth in Harrisburg in 2006.
Additionally, the following players were signed to minor league contracts with invititations to Spring Training:
RHP Steve Watkins and LHP Micah Bowie – The 31-year old Bowie will return to the Nationals in 2006 as he continues his recovery from 2003 Tommy John surgery. In 2005, he pitched in Harrisburg (1.16 WHIP, 10.5 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, and 0.6 HR/9). If he can build upon his initial successes (16IP), he could be a LH option for Washington in case of injury (after Bill Bray). The 27-year old Watkins spent the 2005 season in AAA Buffalo (Cleveland Indians) where he pitched adequately (1.36 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, and 0.9 HR/9). He’s probably bound for Harrisburg.
RHPs Andrew Good & Anastacio Martinez and OF Michael Vento – The 26-year old Good spent his 2005 starting in AAA Toledo (Detroit Tigers) where he had a 1.27 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, and 1.2 HR/9. He’ll likely begin the season with New Orleans but should be on the short list for spot starts when needed. The 25-year old Martinez was a promising prospect for the Red Sox but never lived up to the hype. In 2005, he pitched in AAA Pawtucket (1.72 WHIP, 7.1K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and 0.6HR/9). If pitching coach Randy St. Claire can work the same magic with Martinez that he did with Hector Carrasco, Martinez could be a dark horse candidate for long reliever/spot starter for the Nats in 2006. The 27-year old Vento is a #5 OF at best for a major league team though he does have some limited value as a RH PH off of the bench.
LHPs Michael Bacsik & Jim Crowell – The 28-year old Bacsik is a journeyman LH RP who has been with 4 teams in the last 5 years. The 31-year old Crowell is another ex-Bowden guy from Cincinnati who has spent 3 teams in the last 5 years. Both are likely in Viera as warm bodies.
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