Washington Nationals Spring Training Surprises


As happens every year, some players come into Spring Training and make an unexpected impact. 2013 is no different, and some players have stood out, in good ways and bad. Although the Nationals have already trimmed their initial roster significantly, and many of these players are gone, their performances against Major League-caliber opponents will not go unnoticed by coaches. Of course, no matter how good these stats may be, they must all be taken with a grain of salt given the small sample size of spring.

Mar 8, 2013; Melbourne, FL, USA; Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon (6) before a spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Rendon: Rendon struggled with injuries the past two seasons, but evaluators and Nationals coaches have maintained all along that he could make a big impact if and when he stays on the field. In 34 plate appearances before being sent to minor league camp, he hit .375/.412/.875 and led the team with four home runs, in addition to playing good defense at third base and shortstop. Despite playing only 43 games at AA last season, it now seems likely that Rendon will be called up to the majors when rosters expand in September, and given a shot to show himself in a pennant race, albeit off the bench. As the Nationals top prospect, expectations are high for Rendon, but he may have raised them even higher with his performance this spring.

Fernando Abad: In 2012 with the Astros, the left-handed Abad struggled mightily, with a 5.09 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 46 IP, mainly out of the bullpen. Despite the fact that he is only 26 and has yet to pitch 100 major league innings, the Astros decided to give up on him, and made him a free agent this past offseason. He signed a minor league deal with the Nationals, who are notably in need of lefties, and has impressed in camp. In seven innings, he has a 2.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 10.6 K/9. Coming into camp, he was considered a longshot to make the team, but with fellow lefty Bray’s struggles and Christian Garcia‘s injury, Abad could well make the team, even if only for the beginning of the season.

April 18, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Bill Bray (45) delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Bray: Bray was a first-round draft pick of the Expos in 2004, but was traded to the Reds in the middle of his first MLB season in 2006. He had some success in Cincinnati as a middle reliever, but struggled with injuries. He missed the entire 2009 season and most of 2012 before being allowed to leave by the Reds and joining the Nats on a minor-league deal. As an experienced MLB reliever and a lefty, it seemed likely that Bray would make the team as the second lefty in the pen after Zach Duke. However, he fell short in Spring Training, pitching only two innings with a 9.00 ERA and 3.00 WHIP and falling victim to the headsman’s axe in the first round of spring training cuts. The Nationals sent him to minor league camp to work on his mechanics, and it looks like he won’t make the major league team unless he can dominate the minors and gets a little lucky with how the major league pen shakes out.

Erik Davis: Davis entered the league as a 13th round draft pick in the 2008 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres and was acquired by the Nationals in a 2011 trade in exchange for infielder Alberto Gonzalez. He struggled in his first year as a Nat, with a 5.30 ERA between High A and AA, but put it together in 2012 and had a 2.71 ERA between AA and AAA as a middle reliever. During Spring Training, he has taken the next step, with a 1.13 ERA and 0.750 WHIP in eight innings. Davis was sent to minor league camp in the most recent round of cuts, but will spend the season relieving in AAA and could make it to the majors in September, if not sooner with an injury.