PT TOMORROW: NL East—Who will fill the Nationals' starting rotation void?

Washington Nationals

The Nationals got some terrible news on July 15 when it was announced that Joe Ross (RHP, WAS) would need Tommy John surgery to repair a full thickness tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Edwin Jackson (RHP, WAS), as we figured upon hearing the news on Ross, will step into the starting rotation on July 18.

Jackson was signed to a minor league contract on June 16 after being released by the Orioles three days earlier. The 33-year-old journeyman posted a 2.82 ERA, 9.8 Dom and 4.4 Ctl in 20.1 IP with Triple-A Syracuse since joining the Nationals organization, but we should add that he has been aided greatly by a 19% H% and 95% S% over that span. Jackson owns a lifetime 4.65 ERA, 4.84 xERA, 6.9 Dom, 3.6 Ctl and 50 BPV in 1,729 IP.

Jacob Turner (RHP, WAS), A.J. Cole (RHP, WAS), Austin Voth (RHP, WAS) and Erick Fedde (RHP, WAS) are other in-house options who were likely under consideration. As we wrote back on July 4, there are serious concerns about each of four.

Turner was designated for assignment by the Nationals on July 1 after posting a 5.08 ERA, 5.3 Dom, 3.5 Ctl and 23 BPV in 39 IP. He has since gotten shellacked in two starts at Syracuse (7.2 IP, 10 H, 10 ER, 7 BB and 5 K).

Cole, 25, has had a disappointing 2017 campaign with Syracuse (6.00 ERA, 6.8 Dom and 3.5 Ctl in 72 IP).

Voth has endured his own struggles. The 25-year-old has a dreadful 6.38 ERA, 5.7 Dom and 4.6 Ctl in 66.1 IP at Triple-A.

Fedde, who was ranked by BaseballHQ.com as the team’s third best prospect, is transitioning back to starting pitching after a stint as a reliever. The 18th overall pick of the 2014 MLB draft began the year at Double-A Harrisburg as a starter, but was moved to the bullpen in mid-May. He excelled as a reliever, amassing a 2.63 ERA, 12.5 Dom and 2.6 Ctl in 13.2 IP before receiving a promotion to Triple-A Syracuse. He wasn’t quite as effective there, as evidenced by a 3.86 ERA, 6.8 Dom and 1.0 Ctl in 9.1 IP before the team announced on July 2 that he will again serve as a starter. He has since made three appearances, allowing eight hits and seven earned runs while walking two and fanning five in 6.2 IP.

With Tanner Roark (RHP, WAS) also struggling, we expect the Nationals to seek starting pitching help from outside the organization. Jackson’s tenure in the starting rotation figures to be short-lived.

 

Atlanta Braves

Johan Camargo (2B/SS/3B, ATL) has been a pleasant surprise, slashing .333/.359/.505 with 1 HR in 111 AB. The 23-year-old entered 2017 with a reputation as a solid and versatile strong-armed defender whose offensive capabilities were very much in question. As BaseballHQ.com’s Nick Richards noted in the April 12 Call-Ups report, Camargo retooled his swing and wound up setting career highs in doubles and HR in 2016 (.267/.304/.379 with 26 2B, 6 3B and 4 HR in 446 AB with Double-A Mississippi). Camargo then added a reported 15 pounds to his 6’0” frame. The work has certainly paid off, as evidenced by his numbers so far this year, both at Triple-A Gwinnett (.311/.353/.500 with 4 HR in 122 AB) and Atlanta.

Camargo’s fine play has earned him additional playing time of late, typically at the expense of Dansby Swanson (SS, ATL), who has had a disappointing 2017. Swanson got off to a rough start before seeming to hit his stride in June (.306 BA, 2 HR and 82% ct% in 98 AB), but he has again cooled, batting .111 with 15 K in his last 36 AB. Camargo has started three of the past eight games in Swanson’s stead while also receiving occasional starts at second base and third base.

Manager Brian Snitker figures to continue to find ways to get Camargo into the lineup provided he continues to swing a hot bat. However, it’s worth noting that Camargo has been aided by a fortuitous 42% h% that is ripe for regression.

With Brandon Phillips (2B, ATL) and perhaps Matt Adams (1B, ATL) candidates to be dealt by the end of the month, there could soon be greater opportunities ahead for Camargo, either at second base or third base, if he continues to hit.

Sean Rodriguez (1B/2B/SS/3B/OF, ATL), who has been out since February following left shoulder surgery, was slated to come off the disabled list July 17. The Braves will surely try to work him into the mix as well, and his versatility opens up a plethora of options for spot starts until a vacancy arises at second base or possibly third base. Rodriguez was an intriguing offseason signing for the Braves, as he enjoyed the best year of his career in 2016 (.270 BA and 18 HR in 300 AB). He appeared destined, prior to his February car accident, to begin 2017 as the team’s starter at either second or third base.

This situation bears watching.

 

Miami Marlins

Rumors continue to swirl regarding the possibility of A.J. Ramos (RHP, MIA) and/or David Phelps (RHP, MIA) being traded by the end of the month. We covered this back on June 20, but it’s a good time to revisit the potential fallout of the Marlins trading either or both of them.

If Ramos is dealt, Phelps would most likely assume closer duties. The 30-year-old has a 3.60 ERA, 9.6 Dom, 3.4 Ctl and 106 BPV in 45 IP this year.

Kyle Barraclough (RHP, MIA) would be the leading candidate to close should both Ramos and Phelps head elsewhere. He battled significant control issues through the first two months of the season, as evidenced by a whopping 7.7 Ctl in 22.1 IP, but he has since settled down, sporting a 3.7 Ctl along with a 3.26 ERA in 19.1 since the end of May. The swing-and-miss stuff has been there throughout, illustrated by a 12% SwK% and 10.2 Dom in 42 IP.

Nick Wittgren (RHP, MIA) has a 3.76 ERA, 9.4 Dom, 1.6 Ctl and 136 BPV in 38 IP. The 26-year-old would certainly stand to move up in the bullpen pecking order, but he is most likely behind Barraclough at the moment.

 

New York Mets

As we discussed here on July 4, it’s going to be interesting to see how manager Terry Collins divvies up playing time in the outfield now that Michael Conforto (OF, NYM) has returned from the disabled list. Prior to Yoenis Cespedes (OF, NYM) departing the July 15 game in the sixth inning with a right hip injury, it sounded as though Collins was planning to mix and match Conforto and Curtis Granderson (OF, NYM) while allowing Cespedes and Jay Bruce (1B/OF, NYM) to play most days. It remains to be seen if that will change, at least on a short-term basis, due to the injury to Cespedes, who reportedly could rejoin the lineup as soon as July 17.

Of course, with guys like Granderson, Bruce and Lucas Duda (1B, NYM) all being potential trade chips leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, it’s certainly possible that this situation could soon gain some clarity. Keep in mind that even if Granderson and Bruce aren’t dealt, a trade of Duda would conceivably rectify the logjam, as Bruce could shift to first base. (We covered first base here last week.)

 

Philadelphia Phillies

After spending most of the past few weeks batting fifth, sixth or seventh in the lineup, Odubel Herrera (OF, PHI) expressed to reporters on July 15 his desire to return to the leadoff spot, saying he was most comfortable there. Manager Pete Mackanin obliged, moving Herrera back to leadoff on July 16. Will this arrangement last?

It’s often tough to predict what managers will do, but Herrera does appear to have a rather strong case when it comes to batting atop the order. He has thrived there in the past, amassing a .290/.347/.414 with 10 HR and 11 SB in 473 AB. Those numbers include a rough start to 2017 in which he slashed .233/.242/.283 with 0 HR and 0 SB over 60 AB.

The return of Cesar Hernandez (2B, PHI) could complicate matters. Hernandez, who has been out of action since June 10 with a left oblique strain, was expected to come off the disabled list on July 17. He started 57 games in the leadoff spot before the injury and slashed .296/.405/.408 with 4 HR and 8 SB in 68 GS atop the order a year ago—mainly in the second half.

Will Mackanin stick with the hot-hitting Herrera in the leadoff spot or return Hernandez to the role he held prior to landing on the disabled list? It’s possible that Mackanin could simply go with the hot hand for the time being and allow Hernandez to ease back into things.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.