We’ve mentioned players who were added or subtracted from the Nationals’ 40-man roster on several occasions so far this offseason, but it’s probably worth mentioning everyone who currently resides on that roster, because some names tend to slip through the cracks and don’t garner much attention.
The 40-man roster, for those who don’t know, serves multiple purposes.
First and foremost, it represents the pool of players a club can call up to the major leagues at any point in time. In order to call someone up who isn’t already on the 40-man roster, someone else has to be dropped entirely (which usually involves exposing them to waivers).
Secondly, the 40-man roster is used to protect players from being taken away by other clubs in the Rule 5 draft. In a nutshell, if you were drafted out of college four years ago or drafted out of high school (or signed internationally) five years ago, you are eligible to be lost in the Rule 5 draft if not added to your club’s 40-man roster.
The Nationals’ 40-man roster has gone through a massive amount of change in the last year. Indeed, only 22 players currently on the 40-man were on it exactly one year ago. That’s a lot of turnover.
Here’s the current list (note: There are only 39 players on the roster at the moment, leaving an opening for an acquisition without needing to drop someone else):
CATCHERS (3): Riley Adams, Tres Barrera, Keibert Ruiz
INFIELDERS (5): Josh Bell, Mike Ford, Alcides Escobar, Luis García, Carter Kieboom
OUTFIELDERS (7): Yasel Antuna, Donovan Casey, Yadiel Hernandez, Victor Robles, Juan Soto, Andrew Stevenson, Lane Thomas
STARTING PITCHERS (10): Joan Adon, Gerardo Carrillo, Patrick Corbin, Paolo Espino, Erick Fedde, Josiah Gray, Josh Rogers, Seth Romero, Joe Ross, Stephen Strasburg
RELIEF PITCHERS (14): Sam Clay, Kyle Finnegan, Ryne Harper, Will Harris, Gabe Klobosits, Evan Lee, Andres Machado, Patrick Murphy, Francisco Pérez, Tanner Rainey, Jhon Romero, Wander Suero, Mason Thompson, Austin Voth
You already know most of these names, and we’ve written about almost all of them in at least some detail. But let’s not shortchange the others who haven’t drawn much attention since season’s end.
Yasel Antuna is a 22-year-old, switch-hitting shortstop who still has quite a way to go to make his major league debut. He hit .227/.307/.385 over 457 plate appearances with Single-A Wilmington this season, so he figures to open 2022 at Double-A Harrisburg. He needs to make some real strides in the field, after committing 36 errors in 96 games this season, before he can be considered in the picture. (UPDATE: Turns out the Nats have already decided to move Antuna out of the infield. He was working in the outfield during the fall instructional league, hopefully providing him a better path to D.C.)
Mike Ford was acquired in-season after being let go by the Yankees. The 29-year-old, left-handed-hitting first baseman has 101 games of big league experience, but he faces long odds of making the club as Josh Bell’s backup, especially if Ryan Zimmerman decides to return for another season.
Gerardo Carrillo was one of the four players acquired from the Dodgers in the Max Scherzer-Trea Turner blockbuster, and he could be someone to keep an eye on in 2022. The 23-year-old right-hander didn’t have great numbers at Double-A (4.76 ERA, 1.443 WHIP over 96 1/3 innings at Tulsa and Harrisburg), but he struck out 10.1 batters per nine innings. If he can keep his walk rate down at Triple-A, he could be among the candidates to join the rotation sometime next year.
Another player acquired from the Dodgers (Donovan Casey) joined Evan Lee in being added to the 40-man roster last week, the two prospects the Nationals decided to protect from the Rule 5 draft. Neither has reached the majors yet, but Casey is knocking on the door as a backup outfielder, and as a left-handed reliever Lee could always be on the verge of getting the call.
Every other pitcher listed above has appeared in at least one game for the Nationals over the last two seasons, with one exception: Francisco Pérez. The 24-year-old lefty was claimed off waivers from the Guardians earlier this month, which immediately placed him on the 40-man roster. Pérez appeared in his first four major league games this season, and in 30 combined games between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, he had a 1.87 ERA.