Washington Nationals: Koda Glover A Potential X-Factor

rshinberg
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Washington Nationals relief pitcher Koda Glover was a forgotten man in 2017. This season, he has the chance for a proper introduction.

In April and May of the 2017 season, Washington Nationals relief pitcher Koda Glover was nothing short of sensational.  Surrounded by teammates getting shelled night after night, Glover was a source of light the Nats hoped would shine brightly.

During that time, Glover posted a 2.08 ERA, a 24.6 strikeout percentage while limiting opposing hitters to a .226 slugging percentage.  Stretched out over a full season, those are elite numbers for any pitcher.

However, like most in-house projects from last year’s bullpen, it went up in flames.  Glover only managed to record six outs in June.  His season halted after he injured his back while blowing a save on June 10 against the Texas Rangers.

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This initially viewed as a short-term injury.  But later that month, news surfaced that Glover also injured his rotator cuff causing severe inflammation in his shoulder.  After months of rehab, the Nats shut Glover down for good in September.

There’s no question Glover showed significant potential last season. Coming into that season, Baseball America ranked Glover as the 6th best Nationals prospect. He indeed showed why he deserved that recognition.

But the past is the past. 2018 will bring new challenges and opportunities.  And like a lot of young Nationals this season, it will offer a chance for them to break out.  Glover has as good a chance as anyone to do just that.  Of course, the primary question is his health.  William Ladson reported on Twitter last December that Glover expected first to throw off a mound in January.  With no new reports on him, we can only assume his health at this point.

In the scenario Glover is 100% for Opening Day, he will be a potentially sneaky weapon for Dave Martinez to use.

While Glover boasts a high 90’s fastball, his real weapon is a wipeout slider.  It’s so effective that even Yasiel Puig got up in arms about it!

According to Fangraphs.com, that slider is Glover’s best pitch (and from the Puig clip, it’s not hard to see why).  Over the course of his career, he limited opposing hitters to a .378 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) when throwing that pitch.

Glover has only walked two batters with his slider (2.7 walk rate).  Contrast that with 27 strikeouts (38.2 strikeout rate), and it has the makings of a go-to pitch when he needs a strikeout (if it hasn’t become one already).

While it’s highly unlikely Glover will be closing games for the Nationals anytime soon, he can be extremely valuable as a middle innings reliever, or a “stop-gap man” for when starters struggle early on.

One other thing that bodes well for Glover is that the pressure on him will be nonexistent. Last season, Glover likely had to overexert himself while the Nationals bullpen crumbled around him.

With the “law firm” of Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, and Sean Doolittle in place, Glover will have room for experimentation in low-intensity/leverage situations.

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In a couple of years from now, when Madson retires, and Doolittle becomes too expensive for the team to keep, the Nats might have their next closer waiting in the wings.

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