To say the Nationals 2021 bullpen was a liability is an understatement. They finished the season ranked 28th in LOB% (67.7%), and 29th in ERA (5.08), FIP (4.86), and fWAR (-0.2). Now, this off-season should be focused on adding another bat for the lineup and revamping the relief corps. They still need to add a closer and at least two other arms for the late innings.
Only a few players from last year’s relief core are locks to make the 26 man roster next year, with a plethora of others vying for a spot. Here is a look at next year’s bullpen situation.
Battling For A Spot
Once viewed as a potential building block, Suero is coming off the worst year of his career. In 42 2/3 innings, he posted a 6.33 ERA, with 44 strikeouts. A favorite of Manager Dave Martinez, expect Suero to be given another opportunity to stick in the bullpen come Spring Training.
After dominating in the Minors, Washington called up Gabe Klobosits at the end of July. However, he struggled to translate his success to the big leagues, posting a 5.56 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. He was demoted, but continued to dominate in the Minors. Between AA and AAA, he posted a 2.35 ERA in 38 1/3 innings. A strong Spring could land him another chance in the big leagues.
Since arriving in D.C. for the 2020 season, Ryne Harper has struggled, posting a 5.46 ERA in 59 1/3 innings. However, he found some success last season, posting a 4.04 ERA, with 31 strikeouts.
Called up due to injuries early on, Sam Clay was overwhelmed in his rookie season. In 45 innings, he went 0-5, with a 5.60 ERA, 34 strikeouts, and a 4.61 FIP. A longshot to make next year’s 26 man roster, Clay will need to have a massive Spring.
Andres Machado was one of the few bright spots in last year’s bullpen. He posted a 3.53 ERA in 35 2/3 innings while striking out 30. Only 28, Machado will need to prove at Spring Training his season wasn’t a fluke.
Once seen as a potential fifth starter, Austin Voth has become the team’s long reliever. He started the season strong, recording a 3.35 ERA in the first half, but after the All-Star break, teams seemed to figure him out. His problem stemmed from pitching with runners on. Opponents slashed .368/.446/.600 against him when someone was on base, compared to .185/.271/.361 when no one was on. Voth will need to earn a spot as the team’s long reliever.
Penciled In For 2022
Since signing a three-year deal worth $24 million, Will Harris has only thrown 23 2/3 innings for the Nationals. He underwent season-ending surgery in each of the past two seasons, but due to being owed eight million for next year, Harris is a lock for next year.
After posting a 2.66 ERA with a 14.2 K/9 in 2020, Rainey took a major step back last season. He dealt with multiple injuries and when he was healthy, he struggled to find the strike zone. He tied his walk rate (7.1) and posted an ugly 7.39 ERA and 5.63 FIP.
However, when he returned to the bullpen at the end of August, he seemed to turn a corner. He only allowed one run in 4 2/3 innings in August, with eight strikeouts and two walks. Once seen as the closer of the future, Rainey still needs to work on his control, but will be leaned on heavily next season.
After Daniel Hudson was traded to San Diego, Kyle Finnegan became the team’s closer. He went 11/14 in save opportunities, but seems more suited for the seventh of eighth-inning role. Down the stretch, he was by far the team’s best reliever, finishing the season with a 3.55 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 66 innings.
Acquired from the Padres in the Hudson trade, Thompson showed flashes but struggled with command. He posted a 4.15 ERA, with 21 strikeouts, and 14 walks in 21 2/3 innings with the Nats. A groundball pitcher, Washington will need to shore up their infield defense in order to help him out.
With only 24 2/3 career innings in the Majors, Thompson needs repetitions and for now, will benefit from being used in the middle innings.
Claimed off waivers, Patrick Murphy was on the end of some bad luck seen by his 5.30 ERA and 3.38 FIP. Known for his impressive fastball, Murphy struck out 23 batters in 18 1/3 innings, while only walking six. Thanks to his impressive strikeout numbers, Murphy is a safe lock to start in next year’s bullpen.