The Nationals are about to enter September under much different circumstances than they did last season, with different priorities as they get set to expand their roster. Instead of looking for specialists to use sparingly during a pennant race, the Nats can see what a few players have at the big league level and maybe even showcase guys for future trades.
In 2011 when the Nats were also around the .500 mark, they brought up six players, including Steve Lombardozzi, who became a key bench player on the NL East-winning 2012 club, and Brad Peacock, who helped them land Gio Gonzalez the following winter.
Who will get a look this season? Here are a few names to watch as the Nats get ready to expand their roster:
LHP Ian Krol – This one’s easy. Davey Johnson already said the Nats plan to call Krol back up in September, after the lefty was optioned to Syracuse on Aug. 21 to make room for Ross Ohlendorf. Krol gave up five earned runs in his last seven innings before being sent down and will look to find the success he had when he was first called up in early June. He should see as much game action as any of the call-ups and could lock up a bullpen role for next season.
RHP Ryan Mattheus – Mattheus was also sent down recently, on Aug. 15, and the roster expansion should help him return to Washington. Mattheus struggled after coming back from the DL on July 26, leaving for Syracuse with a 6.26 ERA through 23 innings this season with the Nats. He’s been okay in three outings in Triple-A since the demotion (1 ER in 3 IP) so we’ll see if he can finish the season strong.
OF Eury Perez – Perez came up last September and saw limited action this season with the Nats (5 games). The 23-year-old is known for his speed and defense and hits over .300 in the minors. If the batting average could ever translate to the MLB level, he’d be a solid trade chip or potential bench option for 2014.
IF/OF Jeff Kobernus – The speedy utility man spent a month with the Nats earlier this season after debuting on May 25 and playing in 15 total games. Kobernus is versatile with the ability to play infield and outfield, and can also be used in pinch-running situations.
RHP Erik Davis – Working in Davis’ favor is the fact he’s already been up with the Nats this season, appearing in five games in the month of June. He has, however, had a bit of a rough going this month in Triple-A, having allowed earned runs in three of his last five outings. Davis should still get the call and provide another right-handed relief option for the Nats through the last month of the season.
OF Corey Brown – The Nats have picked over Brown several times this season, opting to go with new faces instead of the 27-year-old outfielder. But Brown makes sense for this September, having already spent two stints with the team over the last two seasons. He played 19 games with the Nats last year, and showed power with two doubles and a home run in 28 at-bats. His minor league numbers are a bit down from last season, but he’d still give Washington a lefty bat off the bench and another backup outfielder.
1B Chris Marrero – Marrero was a September call-up in 2011 and has played eight games with the Nats this season. The former first round pick is having a decent year at Syracuse overall, batting .277 with ten home runs and 56 RBI. But if Marrero comes up, he probably won’t see much time in the field. The Nats are giving Tyler Moore a shot at first base on off days for Adam LaRoche, and Marrero may be the odd-man out.
IF Zach Walters – Walters has been a standout at Syracuse this year with a team-leading 29 home runs through 125 games. He isn’t on the 40-man roster currently, so that’s a consideration, but Walters is the type of player the Nats could showcase in September. If he can flash similar power at the MLB level, maybe he draws interest from a team this offseason.
IF Danny Espinosa – Davey Johnson said this past week he doesn’t expect the Nats to call up Espinosa, as bringing him back should be viewed as a reward. Espinosa hasn’t shown any signs of improvement with Syracuse since his demotion, hitting .203 with 94 strikeouts in 67 games. The Nats would like to see him turn things around and re-install himself as part of the team’s future, he just hasn’t proved worthy of a second chance.