3 Minor League Options for the Nationals this year
We're just under four weeks away from Opening Day! Soon, we'll be getting a better understanding of what the 40-man roster may look like, but as of now, there are still some questions that need to be answered.
With that said, there are still some that might linger on into the regular season. If that happens to be the case, there's a few different avenues that the Nats might take in order to bring in the reserves that they need. Making a trade and signing free agents are options that I'm sure the Nats could look at pursuing, however don't rule out Mike Rizzo calling one of his affiliates and promoting a minor leaguer to The Show.
It's worth noting that the Minor League season doesn't start until late March/mid April; so the likelihood of some of these scenarios could certainly change. However, these are some guys that can help the Nationals this season, even if they start in the minors this season.
One more bit of housekeeping: for the sake of introducing new names to the media, this list doesn't include players like Matt Adams, Sean Doolittle, Yadiel Hernandez, or any of the prospects that we've been anxiously waiting to see play (Hassell III, Wood, Green, etc.). We still don't know which of these players will make the 40-man Opening Day Roster, but it's certainly possible for all of the veterans to appear for the Nationals this season. These are all familiar names, so for that reason, we've left them out.
You'll find that we've included some other prospects on this list, but again, for the sake of introducing new names that haven't gathered much media attention.
Jeremy De La Rosa, OF
Jeremy De La Rosa has climbed through the minor league ranks since being signed by the Nationals in July 2018. The 21 year old spent last season in both Single-A and Double-A, and received an invite to Spring Training with the Nationals this February.
De La Rosa owned a .280 batting average last year, but it is worth noting that in the 69 games that he appeared in with the Fredericksburg Nationals, that number rose to .315; he also totaled 88 hits and 10 home runs.
The 2023 Nationals Prospect Rankings project De La Rosa to make his MLB debut this season, and I can definitely see that happening. As we've wrote about before here at District on Deck, the Nationals have some decisions to make about their outfield over the next few seasons.
With James Wood, Robert Hassell III and Elijah Green coming into the picture soon, Mike Rizzo will need to begin sorting through his current outfield to find guys who he might want to keep around. I'd expect De La Rosa to get a good look this season.
Jackson Rutledge, RHP
The Nationals selected Jackson Rutledge (pictured with our old buddy Max Scherzer) with the 17th pick in the 2019 draft. The former Arkansas Razorback spent last season with Fredericksburg, and just like De La Rosa above, is projected to make is MLB debut at some point this season.
A starter in all games he appeared in, Rutledge tallied 8 wins against 6 losses, with a 4.90 ERA. In 97.1 innings pitched, he gave up 106 hits while also collecting 99 strikeouts, and holding opponents to a .276 average.
I'd imagine Rutledge makes his debut out of the bullpen, and then can work his way into the starting rotation; maybe he could reach that point this year if some of Washington's starters pick up injuries at some point during the long season.
By no means do I want to push the idea that Rutledge is as touted a prospect as someone like Josiah Gray or Cade Cavalli. However, I do believe the Nationals want to take a good look at Rutledge; after all, he was their first round draft pick a few years ago. He was actually the third pitcher taken in the draft class that included our own CJ Abrams (drafted by SD at #6), Bobby Witt Jr. and Adley Rutschmann of our Beltway counterpart Orioles.
The first (and only) veteran on his list, Colomé was invited to Nationals' Spring Training this year. The 10 year veteran spent time with Tampa Bay, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota, Seattle, and more recently Colorado. He was an All-Star in 2016 and led Major League Baseball in saves in 2017.
Colomé came into the league with the Tampa Rays as a starting pitcher, but over the first few seasons of his career, he transitioned to a reliever. He's tallied a 34-34 W/L record in his 446 appearances. Over his career, he's tallied a 3.34 ERA and has never given up more than 9 home runs in any season in his career.
While he certainly doesn't fit the Nationals young and rebuilding timeline, I believe that he is someone who the Nationals could turn to if they need a veteran presence to come in and try and close games and get this young team some wins. I can't be sure about his long term future with Washington, but watch for him to make an impact this season.
All statistics via baseball-reference.com and MLB.com