WASHINGTON - MLB.com recently compiled a list of the top prospect for each Major League club that is not in the 60-player pool.
The Nationals’ rep was Cole Henry, a pitcher drafted out of LSU this year and listed as the No. 6 prospect in the system.
So how is Washington taking care of pitchers in the system not at the alternate site in Virginia?
“We put a list together and each pitching coach (in the minors) has their own call list of players,” Brad Holman, the pitching coordinator in player development, told Federal Baseball. “Each has about 10 players and I jump on calls once in a while. We have done a lot of the Zoom calls. Sometimes we will have a guest speaker and those types of things.”
Among the guests on Zoom have been Brian Holman, the brother of Brad who also pitched in the majors, and Norm Charlton, a former big league reliever with Seattle in 1993 when Brad Holman was on the team.
Baseball was not part of the discussion once the pandemic shut down pro baseball.
“Early on we just called to see how they were doing, with their family, and health-wise and staying safe,” Brad Holman noted. “We really encouraged them to throw, however, under the circumstances. We didn’t want them to put themselves in harm’s way. With this virus, a lot of guys were fairly limited in what they could do. Some guys were restricted to what they could do. Some guys were restricted to their houses.”
Holman said one pitcher, Bryan Bonnell, has not been restricted at all in Las Vegas. A product of UNLV, he is throwing bullpen sessions on a regular basis, according to Holman. The right-hander spent most of 2019 at Double-A Harrisburg but is not part of the 60-player pool.
“It is just a different dynamic from one guy to the next,” Holman said. “But we stay in contact with them, about once a week.
“It is mostly Zoom calls and phone calls. Some guys are maybe looking forward to playing Winter Ball but that is all up in the air because we don’t know if that is going to happen.”
Some of the instructors in the system are keeping in touch with pitchers in the Dominican Republic and other Latin countries.
Among those coaches are Franklin Bravo, who was the pitching coach in 2019 at Auburn in the New York-Penn League, and Larry Pardo, who had the same role in the rookie Gulf Coast League last year.
Pardo keeps in touch with pitchers from Venezuela who are in West Palm Beach and couldn’t go home after the shutdown, according to Holman.
“The pitching coaches have been awesome,” said Holman, also noting Mark Grater – the rehab pitching coordinator in player development.
Sam Narron (pitching coach with Harrisburg), Justin Lord (Fredericksburg pitching coach) and Pat Rice (Hagerstown pitching coach) also have lists of pitchers to keep in touch with, Holman said.
“We divide the guys up. We are just taking a coordinated approach to stay in touch with these guys and help them out any way we can,” Holman said. “We can’t force them to go out and pitch if they don’t have the means to do that.
Holman is in his first season as coordinator after he was the pitching coach at Triple-A Syracuse in 2018 and then last season at Triple-A Fresno.
Several of the pitchers he had at those spots have advanced to the Nationals, including some in 2020.
The Kansas City native pitched at Auburn, was drafted by the Royals out of college, and pitched for the Mariners during the 1993 season. He made his Major League debut on July 4, 1993, and came out of the bullpen 19 times with three saves that year.
Paul Menhart was the roving pitching coordinator in the minors at the start of the 2019 season.
He was promoted to Washington pitching coach in May 2019 after Derek Lilliquist was let go.
As for Henry, here is what MLB.com says of the pitcher:
“One of the best Draft-eligible sophomores in the 2020 class, Henry had gotten off to a fantastic start at LSU this past spring before the college season came to a halt. The Nationals were thrilled to find the 21-year-old righty still on the board for their second-round pick and even more so when they were able to sign him via an above-slot bonus of $2 million. Henry’s workouts were limited after the Draft due to various pandemic-related restrictions, but he has since made progress with a throwing program as well as a strength and conditioning program — both of which were coordinated by the Nationals’ staff — ahead of his arrival in Florida for the team’s fall instructional program.”
That is right, there will be a fall instructional league of some kind in West Palm Beach, FL according to Holman.
“I think we are going to have 40 players overall, 28 pitchers,” Holman said. “We are going to have to put some guidelines in place because of coronavirus.”
“Our goal is to have a full instructional league,” GM Mike Rizzo said last Sunday.
“I’m not sure what they’re even calling it this year, but it’s some type of instructional league in West Palm. There’s still a lot of hoops that we have to jump through, but our plan is to do that and we think it’s extremely important for us, to get some of our prospects some type of playing to get our eyes on them before Spring Training next year.
“Our plan is to move forward with that, again there’s nothing that’s concrete right now other than that we’re progressing towards that end.”
Top 2020 pick Cade Cavalli told reporters on Saturday that he’ll be in Florida soon.
“I’m heading down to instructs in West Palm,” Cavalli said in a Zoom call.
“So, I’m really excited about that. I haven’t been out there yet. Get to see the complex and meet everyone else in the organization. So I think it’s a great opportunity for me to do that. I’m thinking I might get a couple innings down there, hopefully, maybe — I heard — maybe against some other teams.
“That would be cool seeing some other jerseys for sure, but I’m just really excited, so I’m going to be headed straight to Florida at the end of this camp (in Fredericksburg).”
The dates for now are Sept. 23 to October 30, Holman said.