The Washington Nationals signed the grizzled veteran to give the bullpen multi-inning depth. Can Matt Albers make the squad?
If he makes the club, Albers stands to take in a base salary of $1.15 million with $200 thousand more in incentives. That is if he makes the big-league club. He has a pair of opt-out days baked in. March 24 if he thinks he can latch on to a major-league team elsewhere or June 1 if the thrills of Syracuse and Triple-A wear off.
When Albers is good, he is tremendous.
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From 2012 through 2015, he was dominant out of the pen. With the Chicago White Sox in 2015, Albers posted an ERA of 1.21 in 30 games and 37 innings. Never a strikeout pitcher, he whiffed 6.8-per-9 while earning a WHIP of 1.071. A solid person that can get you over three outs if needed.
When he is bad….
Last year was a disaster for Albers and the ChiSox. In 58 games, the ERA ballooned to 6.31, the WHIP jumped to 1.675 and he allowed 10 balls to leave the yard. In November, the White Sox bought out his contract, making him a free agent.
Which Albers we see is a mystery; only solved by facing live hitters this spring.
Featuring a hard sinker, according to Fangraphs, Albers increase his velocity from 90- to 92-mph and his percentage using it from 68 to 73 percent. He has a slider and change, which also jumped in speed, but used them less during his struggles. When he mixes in his slider, he is successful.
Now with guru and pitching coach Mike Maddux, the key is getting Albers to cut his velocity, mix in the slider and pitch to contact more. He will never blow hitters away, instead he must be a pitcher and not a thrower.
Can he make the club?
It will come down to how well he pitches in the mid-to-late part of the Grapefruit League. The smart projection is an opt-out or time with the Syracuse Chiefs to build on his spring efforts. If he can keep the ball on the ground, Albers has a real chance making the team. He must throw strikes and not nibble.
Watch his mechanics.
Also, watch him hit this extra-inning double last year against the New York Mets:
There are positives in bringing Albers in, even with a bad 2016. If he regains his form, his presence gives the Nats another option to start out of the bullpen.