Washington Nationals’ pitchers and catchers officially reported to the FITTEAM Ballpark in West Palm Beach this morning, though as some noted on Twitter, a majority of them were down around the club’s Spring Training facilities already.
Tomorrow is the first official workout of the spring for hurlers and receivers, and the first media availability of the spring for GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Martinez.
This afternoon, the Nationals posted the full list of their non-roster invitees (“non-roster invites” sounds weird though it’s right there in the tweet) for 2021 Spring Training:
We've invited these non-roster players to #SpringTraining.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) February 17, 2021
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The list of NRIs includes high-end prospects (like 2019 1st Round pick Jackson Rutledge and 2020 1st Rounder Cade Cavalli), some organizational stalwarts (Aaron Barrett; Javy Guerra; Gerardo Parra), and some veterans who received minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training this winter (like Yasmany Tomas; Welington Castillo; Jefry Rodriguez; Jordy Mercer; T.J. McFarland).
Veteran reliever Luis Avilán is in camp with the Nats competing for a spot in the ‘21 bullpen, with the Nationals noting in a press release on this year’s NRIs noting that the 31-year-old, nine-year veteran, “enters 2021 with a .203/.279/.280 [career] slash line against left-handed batters,” adding that since 2018, “he’s held opposing left-handed batters to a .176/.256/.270 slash line with just two home runs allowed along the way.”
OF Cody Wilson, one of the fastest runners and best defenders in the #Nats system, looks forward to using his reworked swing this spring. "I've improved on my hitting a lot -- just from getting reps, repeating my swing and developing it, and then just sticking with it."— Lacy Lusk (@LacyLuskBA) February 17, 2021
Cavalli is joined on the list by fellow 2020 Draft pick Cole Henry (second round out of LSU), who is ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the organization by both Baseball America and The Athletic’s Keith Law this winter, with the Nationals noting that, “[h]e went 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA (4 ER/19.0 IP) and 23 strikeouts in four starts for the Tigers in his sophomore season prior to being selected,” and, “Henry participated in Washington’s Instructional League following the 2020 season.”
The 2019 Draft class is well-represented on the list as well, with Rutledge (1st Round) at the top, third baseman Drew Mendoza (2nd), left-hander Matt Cronin (3rd), right-hander Tyler Dyson (4th), shortstop Jackson Cluff (5th), and right-hander Todd Peterson (6th), all getting invites, though, as MASN’s Mark Zuckerman noted on Twitter, a lot of the prospect types are involved so that they can get work in early with no minor league Spring Training right now.
Don't get too worked up over the fact prospects like Cade Cavalli and Jackson Rutledge are in camp. They're not competing for a spot on the opening day roster. They're getting a chance to pitch in front of the coaching staff, get a jump start on the eventual minor league season.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) February 17, 2021
There’s some interesting catching depth assembled: Castillo; prospects Israel Pineda; Raudy Read; and Jakson Reetz; along with organizational alum Brandon Snyder, and a former 1st Round pick Blake Swihart (2011, 26th overall by the Boston Red Sox).
Are you interested in seeing what Aaron Barrett, Javy Guerra, and Gerardo Parra can do at this point? Do you find any other names on the NRI list intriguing? Who will be the new Jake Noll, the prospect who catches everyone’s attention in Spring Training and either makes the Opening Day roster or makes a strong impression and puts himself in the position for a call-up?
What about Jefry Rodriguez, the one-time Washington prospect who was shipped out in the Yan Gomes deal with Cleveland and has worked his way back into the organization? Swihart is interesting too, right? Or nah? Will we get to see Tim Cate’s curve on MASN at some point this spring? We have lots of questions. What are your thoughts on the Nationals’ 2021 NRIs?