With the Washington Nationals signing Vance Worley to a minor league deal with a spring training invite, they may finally have the rotation depth they need
After dealing Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez to the White Sox earlier this winter in the Adam Eaton deal this offseason, the Washington Nationals needed to find some depth in the rotation and the long man role. Last night, they might have found their answer.
Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post first reported that the Nats signed right-hander Vance Worley to a minor league deal with a spring training invite. Chris Cotillo from MLB Daily Dish (SB Nation) has more on the particulars of the contract:
Last season, Worley pitched for the Baltimore Orioles as their long relief man. In 35 games (four starts), the 29-year-old went 2-2 with a 3.53 ERA. He had 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings, which was the second lowest of his career. Plus, his 3.6 walks per nine was the highest total of his career.
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Worley began his career as a starter with the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2011, he went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA in 25 games (21 starts) and finished third in Rookie Of the Year voting behind two Braves (Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel).
After the 2011 season, Worley never made more than 23 starts in any season. He has played for Philadelphia, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Minnesota Twins in addition to the O’s over his seven-year career.
Despite being on four different teams, the Nats are very familiar with Worley. He is 4-2 with a 3.22 ERA in nine games (four starts) in his career against Washington.
While Worley isn’t the best starter out there by any means, he does give the Washington Nationals much needed veteran rotation depth. Plus, if he makes the team out of spring training, he can be the long reliever while A.J. Cole and Austin Voth continue to develop as starters in the minor leagues (Cole has one option left according to Roster Resource).
As a reliever, Worley did give up 11 home runs last season, which was one lower than his career high back in 2012. He doesn’t rack up high strikeout totals, but when he gets ahead of hitters, he can put them away with his sinker and his slider.
According to Brooks Baseball, teams hit .149 against Worley’s sinker and .175 against his slider with two strikes a season ago. Those two pitches are critical for Worley to get groundball outs when you consider he only had an average velocity of 89 miles per hour on his fastball in 2016 (Fangraphs).
If Worley can pitch well in West Palm Beach, he is a good option to either fill the Yusmeiro Petit role from last season or to be a spot starter in a rotation that has some injury concerns in Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross.
Minor league signings are always low risk, high reward kind of moves. In Worley’s case, the Nats are getting a pitcher that has the potential to bring them much needed versatility.