Three weeks from tomorrow, I’ll board a flight to Orlando, hop in my rental car and drive to Space Coast Stadium, ready to kick off spring training.
While the offseason has seemed like it’s crawled by in some respects, it’s also weird to think that my six weeks living out of a hotel in Melbourne, Fla., are almost here.
Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report by Feb. 13, although many choose to arrive days or even weeks earlier in order to pick up their throwing programs and get settled at their houses or condos.
Going into spring, we know that many spots on the Nationals roster are already set. Many positions have been finalized. All eight starting position players are locked in, barring an injury. We know who the top four starters will be. A couple of bench pieces are set.
But there are still a handful of jobs to be won. A couple of bullpen spots are far from finalized, the fifth starter spot is still open, and a few bench jobs are up for grabs.
By now, you know the names of the guys who will be battling for these jobs. But who do you think will be the ones left standing? Who do you hope breaks camp with the big league club?
Below are a few jobs that I see as open for the taking. Survey the guys listed under each position and then chime in down in the comment section with who you think will win the jobs, and, if you’d like, who you hope to see win the spots.
The current candidates: Ross Detwiler, Nathan Karns, Taylor Jordan, Ross Ohlendorf, Tanner Roark
Notes: We’ve talked about this battle at length. Detwiler will enter camp as the favorite to land the job because of his experience and the potential he’s shown over the last two seasons. Plus, he’s left-handed, which doesn’t hurt. Roark, Jordan and Karns all made their big league debuts last season, while Ohlendorf had a resurgence in 2013 after signing a minor league deal with the Nats and spending the first half of the year at Triple-A Syracuse. If Detwiler, Roark or Ohlendorf fail to win the final starting job, they could be options to work out of the ...
The current candidates (beyond Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Jerry Blevins and Craig Stammen): Xavier Cedeno, Erik Davis, Detwiler, Christian Garcia, Ryan Mattheus, Ohlendorf, Sammy Solis
Notes: Five bullpen spots are set, unless Storen is traded or the Nats decide to add another reliever to the mix. Assuming Ohlendorf doesn’t win the final starting job, he seems likely to be the right-handed long reliever in the ‘pen. If the Nats want a second lefty behind Blevins, Cedeno, Detwiler and Solis are all options. Solis will likely start the season in the minor leagues, however. Mattheus and Garcia have had success at the big league level but will need to earn a spot with an impressive spring.
Reserve middle infielder
The current candidates: Emmanuel Burriss, Jamey Carroll, Danny Espinosa, Mike Fontenot, Will Rhymes, Zach Walters,
Notes: Of these six, only Espinosa and Walters are on the Nats’ 40-man roster. The rest are on board with minor league deals. General manager Mike Rizzo might like to see Espinosa play well enough in spring to earn a spot on the 25-man roster, but Espinosa won’t have the job handed to him. Carroll will seemingly enter camp as the biggest challenger to Espinosa.
Reserve corner infielder
The current candidates: Tyler Moore, Carroll, Espinosa
Notes: Don’t be surprised if the Nats end up adding another corner infielder via a minor league deal before spring training begins. There isn’t much depth at this spot right now, with Moore the only true backup first baseman on the roster. Ryan Zimmerman will get some playing time at first, and if Carroll wins a roster spot, he could back up at third. Espinosa doesn’t have professional experience at third base, but Rizzo indicated that he feels the 26-year-old could play some there, if needed. Does Moore end up winning a job out of camp? Do the Nats go with a makeshift rotation at the corner infield spots? Do they end up picking someone who isn’t under contract yet?
The current candidates: Sandy Leon, Chris Snyder, Jhonatan Solano
Notes: Here’s another spot where a new face who isn’t yet under contract could come into play. Snyder was signed to a minor league deal, and he’s currently set to compete with Solano and Leon, who have made brief stints in the majors each of the last two years.
Take your pick, folks. Who you got making the team at each spot?