Can Ferrer be Nats' trusted lefty reliever of the future?

While not officially prospects anymore, my last two review posts are going to be on two young players who contributed a good amount of time to the Nationals’ major league club in 2023 but didn’t get player reviews of their own.


Age on opening day 2024: 24

How acquired: Signed as international free agent, July 2017

MLB debut: July 1, 2023

MLB service time: 94 days

Salary: $770,000

2023 levels: Triple-A Rochester and Washington Nationals

2023 stats: 3-0, 5.03 ERA, 39 G, 6 GF, 34 IP, 37 H, 19 R, 19 ER, 4 HR, 13 BB, 2 IBB, 25 SO, 1 HBP, 1.471 WHIP, 86 ERA+, 4.55 FIP, 0.0 bWAR, 0.1 fWAR (major leagues)

Quotable: “For me, it's more about throwing strike one with his fastball first. He's got a really good changeup, too. And I've talked to him earlier about utilizing that pitch a little bit because it's almost the same arm angle. Everything's the same with his fastball. I don't want to put too much in his head, but the biggest thing I told him, 'Hey, attack the hitters. Throw strike one. Forget about your secondary pitches. Just get ahead and if on chance you do have to throw a slider, don't be afraid to throw it. Just let it go.' And we'll see where we go from there.” – Davey Martinez

2023 analysis: After spending much of the first three months of the season without a left-hander in the bullpen, by early July the Nationals suddenly had two: Joe La Sorsa and Ferrer.

Ferrer, a 23-year-old from the Dominican Republic, joined the team in Philadelphia on June 30 when Patrick Corbin needed to go on the bereavement list for a family matter. The lefty starter had just pitched a gem in Seattle, so the team knew he wouldn’t pitch in the three games against the Phillies. They also knew they should probably have another lefty available in the bullpen to face some of the Phils’ tough left-handed hitters.

Enter Ferrer, who brought a 4-3 record, 3.83 ERA, 1.550 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 40 innings over 34 appearances with Rochester, his first time in Triple-A. He came to the Nationals riding a six-inning scoreless streak over his final five outings with nine strikeouts while holding opponents to a .158 average (3-for-19).

The hard-throwing lefty made his first two major league appearances that weekend at Citizens Bank Park, first in a blowout loss then in a high-leverage situation to help hold on to a win.

In his debut, Ferrer struck out Brandon Marsh, got Bryce Harper to ground out and struck out J.T. Realmuto on a combined 11 pitches. The next day, he gave up a leadoff double to Brandon Stott and then walked Alec Bohm, but got a double play off Darick Hall and struck out Marsh to end the threat and preserve the Nats’ 5-3 lead in the sixth.

That set the stage for Ferrer to stick in the Nats bullpen for the entirety of the season’s second half, during which he showed flashes of brilliance with his four-seam fastball while also showing his inexperience with his lack of consistency in the zone.

2024 outlook: Ferrer went from being a trial run while a veteran starter needed to spend time away from the team to a bullpen staple for the rest of the season.

His stretches of success over three months in the majors came in waves. He started his big league career with four straight scoreless outings before giving up runs in five of his last eight in July. From the beginning of August to mid-September, he had shutout outings in 19 of his 21 appearances while striking out 13 over 19 innings.

The fatigue may have gotten to him, however, as he gave up seven runs in just 3 ⅔ innings over his last six appearances.

All in all, Ferrer impressed in his first stint in the bigs. His fastball velocity ranked in the 76th percentile in the majors, and he had a low barrel percentage (2.9) and high groundball rate (55.3).

As with most young pitchers the Nats threw this year, they would like to see him use his changeup more. He got whiffs 31.9 percent of the time with the off-speed pitch, but he only threw it 26.3 percent of the time. The Nats would also like to see Ferrer improve his slider, which he tossed only 10 times all season.

Once he improves his secondary pitches, he should find more consistency around the strike zone, leading to more strikeouts and groundouts and less walks.

Ferrer still has some developing to do, but the way he performed in his first big league action after flying up the Nats system, (he made stops at Single-A Fredericksburg, High-A Wilmington and Double-A Harrisburg in 2022 before starting this season at Rochester) gives promise to his potential as a high-leverage lefty out of the bullpen.

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