Washington Nationals: Non-Roster Invitees Who Could Stick

Dave Martinez (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Dave Martinez (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The Washington Nationals Spring Training roster features numerous players wearing high jersey numbers.  That typically means a player is a non-roster invitee who stands little chance to make the Opening Day roster, but there are various scenarios that would open doors for longshot players to stick in the Nationals organization.

Here are four Nationals non-roster invitees to keep an eye on this spring.

Fernardo Abad

Abad, 34, has made 384 Major League appearances, having garnered success as recent as 2017, in which he had a 3.30 ERA in 48 games with the Red Sox.  Last season, Abad pitched to the tune of a 4.15 ERA in 21 games with the Giants before being demoted to the minor leagues.  In Double- and Triple- A Abad posted a 2.70 ERA with 55 strikeouts to only five walks.

As a lefty, he has been tremendous against left handed hitting, holding opposing hitters to a .186/.233/.299 slash line.

Roenis Elias appears poised to serve as the left-handed specialist out of the bullpen for the Nationals in 2020.  However his time with the Nationals in 2019 was forgettable and marred with injuries.  Elias has vowed to show the “real” version of himself to the Nats in 2020, but if he isn’t able to reclaim the success he found in Seattle, Abad would be a potential left-handed option.

Emilio Bonifácio

Bonifácio, 34, tripled and scored against the Mets on Monday, a good start to his spring.

He has played in 11 Major League seasons and is looking to return to the big leagues for the first time since 2017.

This however, doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been productive in professional baseball.   He spent the 2019 season in Tampa Bay’s organization and hit .286 with 8 homers, 36 RBI, and 15 stolen bases  in 76 games.

Bonifácio’s greatest value is his versatility. He has played all over the field throughout his major league career, posting over 100 career games at second base, centerfield, shortstop and third base.

While it is far-fetched to think that he could make the opening day roster.  I could see him remaining with the Nationals in the minor leagues.

If Carter Kieboom makes the team out of the spring, that likely means the team will lose Wilmer Difo to waivers.  In that case, Bonifácio could serve as a valuable insurance policy due to his positional versatility and major league experience.

Yadiel Hernandez

Hernandez, 32, is a corner outfielder who was named the Nationals Minor League Player of the Year in 2019.  He led the Nats affiliates in home runs (33), RBI (90), slugging percentage (.604), OPS (1.009), hits (142) and runs scored (87).

This is Hernandez’s first Major League spring training invitation and his power at the minor league level offers reason to be optimistic.

The Nationals appear set in the outfield with Michael A. Taylor and Andrew Stevenson serving as reserve options.  But a strong spring for Hernandez may allow the Nationals to consider moving the $3 million plus owed to Michael A. Taylor, in favor for depth provided by Stevenson and Hernandez.

JB Shuck

The Nationals have clearly put an emphasis on versatility entering the 2020 season and JB Shuck offers just that.

Shuck 32, enters spring training with a two-way player designation.  This means he can serve as a position player and pitcher without counting as one of the (maximum)13 pitchers on the Nationals roster.

Shuck was the opening day center fielder for the Pirates in 2019, playing in 27 games before  being designated for assignment and spending the rest of the season in Triple-A.  There, he appeared in 61 games as an outfielder, hitting .268 with 3 homers.  He also  made 14 pitching appearances with a 3.79 ERA.

Shuck doesn’t do anything great and he seems like the deepest of reaches to latch on with the Nationals this year.  However, the two-way designation is a new wrinkle in baseball and it will be interesting to see how the organization values it.