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

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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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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.