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2016 Nats roster outlook: Is Gott ready for a late-innings role?


2016 Nats roster outlook: Is Gott ready for a late-innings role?

Age on Opening Day 2016: 23

How acquired: Trade with Angels, Dec. 2015

2016 salary: N/A

2015 stats: 48 G, 47.2 IP, 3.02 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 27 SO, 16 BB, 1.238 WHIP, 18 R, 16 ER, 4-2, 2 HR, 125 ERA+, 5.1 SO/9, 1.69 SO/BB

2016 storyline: After coming over in a December trade with the Angels for Yunel Escobar, Trevor Gott joins the Nationals bullpen with no clear role heading into 2016 spring training, but with the potential to make a significant impact at just 23 years old. The hard-throwing right-hander debuted in 2015 with L.A. and made 48 total appearances. He will look to build on that in 2016 and could be asked to carry a heavier load with the Nats than he did with the Angels.

Gott certainly fits well in the Nats' bullpen picture as spring training nears, but will he be considered for a late-innings role? Mike Rizzo said in January that it's entirely possible:

"The kid Gott that we received in the trade with the Angels. His leverage index was above average last year. 35 percent of his appearances in his first year in the big leagues were in the seventh inning or later with a one-run or tie game. So this guy’s pitched in some big opportunities."

Right now Gott presents a high ceiling, but questions as an inexperienced young pitcher. It will be interesting to see how Dusty Baker takes to him through spring training and how much he trusts him once the season begins.

Best-case scenario: Gott said it himself at WinterFest in December, he would like to someday pitch the ninth inning.

"I think all relievers goal is to become a closer at some point," he said.

For Gott to realize his dream sooner than later, it would probably require the departure of Jonathan Papelbon, or at least his demotion somewhere along the way. The former has become harder to predict than we once thought.

A realistic, best-case scenario for Gott at this juncture would probably include him winning either the seventh or eighth inning role, performing well and setting himself up to be a fixture in the backend of the Nats' bullpen for years to come. In order to do that, he will have to cut down on his walks and preferably increase his strikeout rate significantly as well.

Worse-case scenario: Back to the Baker question. Gott is very young and will have to prove himself in a Nats' bullpen that is otherwise deep with veterans. What kind of chance will Gott be given to earn a late-innings role?

Of course, Gott could pitch himself into any role if he plays well, but it's not often pitchers earn setup or closer jobs at the age of 23. For a comparison, only one reliever Gott's age (23) earned a consistent role under Baker while he was in Cincinnati and that was Aroldis Chapman. Gott has a lot of potential, but Chapman is a once-in-a-generation talent.

Most-likely scenario: The Nationals wouldn't have traded Escobar for Gott if they didn't think highly of him. Escobar was coming off one of his best seasons and has a team-friendly contract.

That, plus Gott's intriguing potential with a high-90s fastball, plus the relative uncertainty in the back of the Nats' bullpen, would seem to make Gott a good candidate to earn a significant role this season, despite his age. He will bring an electric fastball out of the bullpen and if he can control it, could separate himself from a deeper, but still somewhat pedestrian Nats' relief group.

If Papelbon is their closer on Opening Day, Shawn Kelley may have the best chance to set up. That could leave Gott for the seventh inning, unless Felipe Rivero can beat him out for the job.

[MORE: Will Michael Taylor become an everyday outfielder?]

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Inside Baseball: The Nationals' bullpen is currently bad and potentially great


Inside Baseball: The Nationals' bullpen is currently bad and potentially great

Welcome to Inside Baseball. Here, we're taking a quick peek at what's going on ... inside ... baseball. 

We're almost a month into the MLB season, and that sweet noise you hear is the sound of sample sizes starting to become reliable! So far, the Red Sox are very good except for the nights they're getting no-hit, Derek Jeter's Marlins and their .227 winning percentage "aren't accepting a losing culture," and Mike Trout is well on his way to another historically-great 3rd place finish in the MVP race. 


As it stands today, the Nationals are sitting in 4th in the NL East. It's early, they haven't been healthy, etc. etc., whatever. It hasn't been great. Their pitching staff features the best rotation in baseball paired alongside one of the worst bullpens in baseball. No bullpen in baseball has a higher homerun/flyball percentage (18%) than the Nationals. Only two teams - the Rockies and the Royals - strand runners on base at a lower clip than the Nationals (64.0 LOB%). If you really want to get into the weeds, their Win Probabilty and Clutch numbers tell a grim story too. 

Don't smash that panic button yet, though (maybe just lightly rest your hand on it?). There are a few reasons to believe that maybe the bullpen isn't actually as bad as they've been the first month.  They're striking out hitters at an elite level so far - only the Brewers and the Yankees have better K/9 and K% numbers than the Nats.  If you take take a look back at which bullpens led the league in strikeout numbers over the last handful of years, you'll see a *lot* of playoff teams. In the three-true-outcome era, having a bullpen that gets swings-and-misses is inarguably valuable. The Nats have that. 

Taking a look at their individual numbers, it's clear there's an excellent backend hidden somewhere in the bullpen right now. Sammy Solis' ERA is almost four runs higher than his FIP (fielding-independent pitching), a clear sign that Solis has pitched well but been a victim of the Nats' shoddy defense. The same goes for Ryan Madson, whose ERA sits at almost seven despite an FIP under three. Assuming that bullpen roles become more established once the data catches up, the Nats' bullpen could look a lot better in a month or two. 


What you should know: Manny Machado's half-season showcase is going swimmingly. He's slashing .360/.447/.708 with eight homers through the first month or so of games. He's posted a 208 wRC+, which is a fancy way of saying he's been 108 percent better than league average at the plate so far. He's been the most valuable hitter this season and the second-most valuable player overall. Meanwhile, the Orioles are 6-17 and already 12 games out of first place in the AL East. It hasn't even been a month yet. Is this the year the the MLB trade deadline is exciting?!

What you should watch: Angels @ Astros (4/24-4/25)

Shohei Ohtani is pitching on Tuesday night, so that's reason enough. But, if you need more, there's also Mike Trout, the defending World Series champs, and Justin Verlander pitching on Wednesday. It also happens to be a battle between the best two teams in the AL West, separated by half a game for first place. If there's such a thing as exciting April baseball, it looks like this. 

Player of the week: I know we already talked about him, but no one's been better than Manny Machado over the last seven days. He's hitting .500/.586/1.208 with five homers during that span. After being bit by historically bad luck during the first half of last season, Machado has been putting up monster numbers ever since:

Random baseball gif: 

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Nats give up monster HR, drop series-opener with Giants


Nats give up monster HR, drop series-opener with Giants

SAN FRANCISCO  -- Mac Williamson hit a two-run homer in the sixth to lead the Giants past the Washington Nationals 4-2 on Monday night.

Chris Stratton (2-1) struck out five over 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hits.

Williamson, playing his first home game at AT&T Park this season after being called up during the recent road trip, connected with a deep drive to right-center off Shawn Kelley after he relieved starter Gio Gonzalez (2-2). Gonzalez walked Brandon Belt to end his day before Williamson crushed the first pitch he saw from Kelley.

The 464-foot shot by Williamson is the furthest homer by the Giants this year, topping his previous 434-foot homer Friday after he was promoted to face the Angels in Anaheim. Earlier Monday, Williamson drove in his team's initial run on a fielder's choice in the fourth.

Only three home runs have travelled further in 2018, according to MLB StatCast: Franchy Cordero (489), Avisail Garcia (481) and Marcell Ozuna (479)

San Francisco kicked off a 10-game homestand by winning back-to-back games for only the second time this season and first since April 4-7. The Giants were coming off their first series victory of the season against the Angels.

The Nationals' runs came on a pair of sacrifice flies, by Howie Kendrick in the third and pinch-hitter Andrew Stevenson in the seventh.

Gonzalez allowed three runs and four hits, struck out four and walked three in five innings.

In his only other start against Washington, Stratton threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts last Aug. 13.

Hunter Strickland, who brawled with Bryce Harper during Washington's last visit to AT&T Park in late May 2017, finished for his fourth save in six chances. Harper didn't bat in the ninth.


Washington traded right-hander A.J. Cole to the New York Yankees for cash. The 26-year-old Cole was 1-1 with a 13.06 ERA in four games for the Nationals and was designated for assignment last week.


Ex-Nationals manager Dusty Baker, who guided Washington to back-to-back NL East titles before his firing after last season, visited the ballpark to see his former club.

Did he plan the visit in advance?

"Maybe," Baker said, grinning.

Nats pitcher Stephen Strasburg hustled out to give Baker a big hug behind the batting cage.

"What's up Dusty, how you doing?" Strasburg said.

Baker also visited with third base coach Bob Henley, the loan holdover from his coaching staff.

Baker is now working in an advisory role to Giants CEO Larry Baer while getting to watch son, Darren, play his freshman college season at California in Berkeley.

"I am good," Baker said. "How bad can it be between Cal, San Francisco and Sacramento?"


Nationals: OF Adam Eaton, on the disabled list retroactive to April 9 with a bone bruise in his left ankle, won't be rushed back until he is completely pain-free. "When you see him in the lineup he'll be ready," manager Dave Martinez said. "He's coming along. When we get him back this time we don't want any issues." ... OF Brian Goodwin remains in Florida with pain in his bruised left wrist.

Giants: LHP Will Smith is eagerly anticipating his return from Tommy John surgery that cost him all of last season, and he could come off the DL as soon as Tuesday. He pitched twice for Class-A San Jose and three times so far for Triple-A Sacramento. He is scheduled to throw consecutive days for Sacramento on Wednesday and Thursday then another short outing Sunday. "We're close. We're getting there," Smith said, noting it will be "awesome. I'm ready to go." ... RHP closer Mark Melancon (flexor strain in pitching elbow) is scheduled to play catch during Thursday's off day. There is no timetable for his return, manager Bruce Bochy said. ... LF Hunter Pence (sprained right thumb) did some hitting and is scheduled for early batting practice Tuesday.


Giants lefty Ty Blach (1-3, 4.10 ERA) will face the Nationals for the first time in his career when he pitches the middle game of the series opposite right-hander Tanner Roark (1-1, 3.24).