With just over thirty games to go the Washington Nationals are for all intents and purposes playing for 2022. Whether you call it a tank job or not, management is putting more stock in getting reps for younger players and seeing who will be a part of the team moving forward, than caring about getting notches in the win column.
In less than a week rosters will expand, giving a handful of others the chance to show off their talents at the big league level. Very few current Nationals players have guaranteed starting jobs for next season.
Just in the past month two trade acquisitions have burst onto the scene and are giving the front office something to think about. Catcher Riley Adams has impressed in his short time behind the plate, and outfielder Lane Thomas has strung together some positive at-bats as well.
There are a few others who want to end the year on a high note. We’ll start in the bullpen.
3 players who have something to prove to the Nationals brass during the remainder of the season.
Sam Clay needs to prove he belongs in the big leagues, because maybe he doesn’t. Maybe there was a reason he pitched in the minors six years and hadn’t broken through with the team who drafted him (Minnesota Twins).
Clay has been used in a multitude of scenarios this year and none of them have worked out well. He’s supposed to be tough on left handed hitters, though lefties hit .261 off him. The Nationals tried to use him as a setup guy late in games, though opposing batters hit .378 off him when he pitched in a save situation. He had a 1.200 OPS against him in the eighth inning. Opponents batted .359 against him when he pitched with zero days rest.
On balls hit to the outfield, opposing players have 38 hits in 56 at-bats against Clay. The self-described sinker-ball pitcher who throws the ball low in the zone to get ground balls, has only allowed seven hits in 68 at bats on balls hit in the infield, but wow! His splits are flat out terrible.
Clay is controllable. He’s cheap. The Nationals have given him plenty of opportunities. He hasn’t rewarded them. Sam Clay has a little over a month left in the season to prove he can be an asset, even on a rebuilding team.