After Saturday afternoon’s game, the Nationals designated Aaron Sanchez for assignment, leaving an open spot in their rotation. The only surprise in this move was that Austin Voth somehow outlasted Sanchez. Both have been bad, but Voth has arguably been worse. Either way though, neither were safely entrenched on the roster, especially with Stephen Strasburg nearing his return.
Sanchez finished his illustrious Nationals career with an 8.33 ERA through 7 starts and a 1.755 WHIP. His FIP showed he pitched into some bad luck, but was still an awful 5.48. This move was coming, it was just a matter of when. Making the move now leaves the Nationals with a hole in their rotation for Wednesday’s game against the Mets. The could hypothetically turn that gave over to the bullpen and let either Paolo Espino or Josh Rogers carry the majority of the load, but by designating Sanchez, they’ve given themselves more options with an open 40-man roster spot now. The focus seems to be on Jackson Tetreault and Evan Lee if the Nationals decide to dig into the minors. Now let’s learn a little bit about each of those guys.
Season Stats in AAA: 10 GS, 3.35 ERA, 48 ⅓ IP, 48 K, 21 BB, 1.241 WHIP
Tetreault was the Nationals 7th round pick back in 2017. He offers a 3 pitch mix with a fastball that sits in the low-mid 90s, a solid curveball and a changeup. Tetreault won’t overpower anybody but does a nice job at limiting damage and working with what he has. He’s been a steady presence in the Nats farm system since he was drafted, posting a sub-4.10 ERA in each of his seasons. At 26 years old, he’s closing in on the “now or never” point, and personally, I think he gets the call on Wednesday. He’s not on the 40-man roster, so the Nats would have to add him. That wouldn’t be an issue after DFA’ing Sanchez.
Season Stats in AA: 7 GS, 3.60 ERA, 30 IP, 37 K, 15 BB, 1.333 WHIP
Lee was the Nationals 15th round pick back in 2018. The Nats were so confident in Lee after he posted 12.2 K/9 in Wilmington last year that they added him to the 40-man roster this offseason to keep him away from the Rule 5 draft (which of course never happened). Lee is a left-handed who throws a fastball in the low-90s with a high spin rate, but his curveball is his best pitch and the pitch that generates the most swing and misses. He also throws a change up and a cutter but he needs to tighten both of those pitches up before potentially throwing them consistently to major league hitters. The most alarming thing about Lee is his 4.5 BB/9 rate, which is a slight tick higher than his career numbers at 4.3 BB/9. For me, he’ll need to limit the walks at the AA-AAA level before making it to the majors. Although he’s already 25, it feels like this would be rushing him to the majors given the 142 ⅔ innings that he’s thrown at the minor league level combined with his high walk rate.
The fact that Lee is already on the 40-man roster might give him the upper hand. From the Nats perspective though, at 26-years old, it’s probably time to see what Tetreault can do at the major league level after showing success throughout the minors. It’s also possible (if not likely) that the Nats just call on another bullpen arm and save the 40-man spot for Stephen Strasbourg’s return which should be in early June. I think fans would like to see a glimpse of either Lee or Tetreault, but the initial DFA of Sanchez left the Nats with more options than we initially thought.