We’re back with another edition of Mailbag Monday. Today we tackle your questions as the Nationals enter the final three weeks of their season. If you want your question to be answered in next week’s mailbag, make sure to @ us on Twitter @HalfStHighHeat
#1 – Corbin was somewhat decent today, and it was Avila’s first time behind the plate in a while… how much do you think recent pitching troubles can be attributed to younger, inexperienced catchers making calls?” (@juansotoHR)
This is a really interesting question, and it’s actually something that crossed my mind the other day as well. Since the trade deadline, Washington’s pitching staff has given up an average of 6.1 runs per game. You are not going to win many baseball games with that bad of a pitching staff. Now it’s fair to assume that the struggles are directly related to a lack of talent, but it is interesting to wonder if pitch selection could be playing some type of factor.
A perfect example is Saturday in game one. Erick Fedde had Mets’ second basemen, Javy Baez, in a 2-2 count. Instead of trying to get the free-swinging Baez to chase a pitch out of the zone, Fedde laid in a lollypop curveball right down the middle of the plate, and Baez took it into the left-field bullpen. This is where there’s just no way to tell was this just bad execution from Fedde or just a bad pitch selection by the coaching staff? The Nationals’ catchers do get directed by the coaching staff about what pitch to throw so you can’t really blame them, but I do think having an experienced backstop could benefit this team next season. They need someone that is better offensively than Avila, but if Riley Adams can play some 1B next year I think they could benefit from adding an experienced catcher to the roster.
#2 – “Does anyone know anything about Stephen Strasburg’s recovery from TOS surgery?” Also, what are the chances Josh Bell is extended?(@ADH6626)
I guess we can consider no news being good news, but all has been quiet on the Stephen Strasburg front since his TOS (Thoracic outlet syndrome) surgery. Strasburg will join a small group of MLB pitchers to have this particular surgery, but his chances of returning to the field seem to be in his favor. According to a study done by PubMed, from 2001-2017, “74% of professional pitchers who undergo surgical intervention for TOS are able to return to play at the MLB level. With regards to performance, the majority of metrics were unchanged from prior to surgery, indicating return at a similar functional level.”
It’s all pretty unknown because of how much different recovery can be for individual pitchers. Strasburg may have to change up his mechanics or learn how to pitch with less velocity, but at the very least it seems like he has a good shot to be healthy and ready to go next season.
In regards to Bell, I think he’s a great candidate for an extension this offseason with just one year left on his deal. I’ll have more thoughts on that in an article coming early next week so stay tuned.
#3 – Predict who will be our 5 starters next year.” (@TheRallyMullet)
If the Nationals want to be even semi-competitive next season, they need their starting pitching to be much better. The weight of that burden will fall on the shoulders of their three locks for the rotation, Josiah Gray, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. Outside of those three, I think Mike Rizzo and the Nationals front office will acquire another quality starting pitcher, either via free agency or a trade. I don’t see it being a guy like Marcus Stroman or Kevin Gausman, who would require a big-money, long-term commitment, but I do think they will go after a quality arm. The Oakland Athletics are a team to keep in mind as potential trade partners for a starter. Oakland is having money problems and might have to shed off some salary. Could Washington acquire a guy like left-hander Sean Manea, who will be in the final year of his deal?
After Gray, Strasburg, Corbin and the FA/Trade acquisition, I think Erick Fedde, Palo Espino, and potentially Sean Nolin/Josh Rodgers will battle it out for the five spot until Joe Ross is able to return.
#4 – “Will one of the big free agent SS’s be the main target this offseason?” (@JosiahFarrell8)
We’d all love to see the Nationals go after one of the big free agent SS’s this offseason, but I still think it’s more likely they don’t than do. After not being willing to sign a long-term deal with Trea Turner, I just don’t see Washington going after a guy like Carlos Correa or Corey Seager who will demand a five-to-six-year deal worth over $200M. A guy I do think they could consider is Blue Jays infielder Marcus Semien. At age 30, Semien won’t demand as much money as Correa or Seager, but he still would be an incredible addition to the Nationals lineup.
#5 – “What free agents will Rizzo set his sights on in the offseason?” (@Rigel9000)
Here’s a list of 10 players I think could be realistic targets for the Nationals this offseason.
-2B/SS Marcus Semien
-RF Michael Conforto
-RF Avisail Garcia
-SP Dylan Bundy
-SP Robbie Ray
-LF/1B Kyle Schwarber
-OF/2B Chris Taylor
-SP Jon Gray
-SP Steven Matz