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View From the Other Side: Nationals Questions for Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball

San Diego Padres v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

We start a weekend series with the Nationals tonight.

The Nationals sit second in the NL East, a game and a half behind the surprising Braves, at 37-28. They do this despite having a dozen guys on the DL (that’s an exaggeration, it’s 10 guys on the DL).

The Nationals are 8th in the NL in runs scored per game at 4.28. They are best in the NL at runs allowed a 3.50 per game. Our anemic offense has their work cut out for them.

I sent off some questions to Patrick Reddington (doesn’t that name make you think he should be the next to play James Bond?) from Federal Baseball, SB Nation’s Nationals blog.

I have to ask about Bryce Harper…What’s going on with him? One extra base hit in the last two weeks? Will he be a National next year?

Wow, you really snuck that third part in there, didn’t you. Heh. Personally, I’m not convinced that Bryce Harper will leave the nation’s capital next winter, though the prevailing sentiment out there seems to be that he’ll sign elsewhere.

I’m also not too excited about spending a significant percentage of the team’s payroll on one player, because I’ve seen that not work a few times, but I think he’s got a good thing going in Washington, he likes Davey Martinez, from what I know he has a great relationship with GM Mike Rizzo, who was out there scouting him, signed him as a teenager, brought him up, and oversaw his development, and Harper has also talked before about admiring players who spend their whole careers with one team.

Will someone come along and blow the Nationals out of the water next winter?

Could happen, of course, but I’d be okay with a Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Adam Eaton outfield, or the Nationals spending the money that would have gone to Harper on free agents.

But if I was in the prediction game, right now I think he returns to Washington, with Scott Boras and the Nats working out another big deal.

As for his on-field performance this year, I think he got frustrated in the first month, when he was walked more than any other player in major league history in March/April who’s not named Barry Bonds.

I think he got tired of it, expanded what he was willing to swing at, and got himself out of whack. He’s still leading the NL in homers (19) and walks (50), and that’s after walking just 12 times since May 1st.

Your Disabled List has a dozen or so names on it. Can I ask on the status of few of them? What’s the status of Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Wieters, Howie Kendrick and Jeremy Hellickson?

Strasburg is home in D.C. while the Nationals are on the road, working out at on his own while he waits for the inflammation in his shoulder to go away.

Zimmerman is “getting better” Davey Martinez told us on Wednesday, and they want to get him through the week and reevaluate.

Wieters, haven’t heard much recently, other than the fact that he was throwing recently, but a hamstring injury bad enough to require surgery will likely keep him out for a while longer.

Hellickson, according to Martinez again, has thrown (Davey thought, he said on Wednesday), but he said they’re waiting for him to build up strength in his hamstring before he gets back on the mound.

Kendrick tore his achilles tendon, and he’s likely done for the season, barring some sort of miraculous recovery.

Can you guys stay in the race with so many players out?

They’re right there now, with a mix of surprising veterans (Mark Reynolds, Matt Adams) and young stars (Juan Soto), but it hasn’t been easy, or pretty at times. I think the injuries to the rotation (Strasburg and Hellboy) are the bigger issues, though Erick Fedde has shown signs of growth, Jefry Rodriguez impressed in a somewhat surprising spot start, and Austin Voth, who’s been up twice, but hasn’t made his MLB debut, give the Nationals some options, but I thought the pitching depth was thin before Stras and Hellboy went on the DL.

Pitching has carried them while the offense has been on and off. Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy just got back, and look like they’re not quite 100% there, but the lineup is already different in the few games they’ve returned (Martinez noted the amount of pitches the team saw in NY was up at least in part because they got Eaton and Murph back). I still don’t totally buy the Braves, but they’ve made me look foolish thus far. I think the other teams in the division are starting to play as expected. I still think the Nationals take the NL East.

What do you figure your trade deadline needs will be? We have many exciting options, priced to sell.

Catching and pitching depth, please, what you got? I like Pedro Severino and the current backup backstop Spencer Kieboom, but I’m not totally sold on the catching depth even if Wieters makes it back and can contribute. There was talk all winter of the Nationals being involved in the catching market this winter, while they publicly claimed they were happy with Severino and Wieters sharing catching duties, then they went and signed Miguel Montero, who didn’t last long.

I’ll reiterate that I like Severino, but pinning your hopes on a 24-year-old, defense-first catcher when you have World Series aspirations is a dangerous gamble.

As mentioned above, I’m not sold on the starting depth, especially with the injuries, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them entertaining some pitching options as the deadline approaches.

We’ve been informed by our front office that calling up a teenager will do irreparable damage to his career and yet you guys did it. What’s it like watching your top prospect actually get called up? How is he doing?

As an Expos fan who followed the team to D.C. I’ve been following the prospect you’re alluding to closely, and can’t wait to see the son of Vlad in the majors. Mike Rizzo has already shown a willingness to bring the Nationals’ top prospects up when there’s been a need, with Victor Robles last season as a 20-year-old, and Juan Soto this year, at 19, not to mention Harper, who was called up as a teenager as well.

Soto’s been great, putting up a .344/.447/.641 line thus far, with four doubles, five homers (4 off lefties), impressive splits against left and right-handers, more walks than Ks thus far, and some serious power to all fields. It’s been fun thus far. I will, however, note, that though more than a few scouts said some variation of “Soto might end up being better,” all (or most, there might be an outlier) prospect lists last winter had Robles as the top prospect going into the season, before he hyperextended his elbow on a diving play in the outfield, so we’ve spent the last few weeks saying Soto is the top “available” prospect when he got the call.

Can we have a quick scouting report of the starting pitchers we might see?

The Jays are getting Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer, and Tanner Roark. Gonzalez didn’t have it last time out when he went just 3 1⁄3 innings, but remains unbeaten in his last eight starts with a 2.44 ERA over that stretch. It ends up being a question of whether he’s locating each time out.

Hitters are crushing Gio’s sinker this season, which he’s thrown more than any other pitch (.325 BAA). His two-seamer and offspeed stuff have been filthy this season (.133 AVG vs 4-seam, .203 vs his change, and .222 vs his curve).

Max Scherzer is off to the sort of start that’s got him headed towards a third straight NL Cy Young, and has people talking about pitchers getting the league MVP as well. Two starts back he threw 81 of 99 pitches for strikes, which is, come on. Who does that?

Tanner Roark has the 4th-lowest average run-support in the NL, he’s that guy in the rotation this season. He loves to throw his two-seamer/sinker inside to lefties (and when it’s on, it’s quite a weapon).

Have you had any drunken Ovechkin sightings? I’ll admit I think it is great that he’s enjoying the win so much.

I don’t live in D.C., though I spend quite a bit of time down there during the summer, so I have not run into him, but he’s been unavoidable on social media and I honestly started worrying about the amount he and the rest of the Caps were drinking over the last few days. As a non-Capitals fan (I prefer not to mention my NHL allegiance, if that’s okay), I’ve enjoyed watching friends finally see their team win, and the way the Caps have shared the Cup with D.C. has been great to see. I will note that a friend brought me to a private school his son attended around where I live when the Ducks won the Cup and I got to drink champagne out of it, thanks to George Parros, who attended the school and brought it back there to show it off.

I like asking NL bloggers if they prefer the NL, pitchers batting type game, or the AL, no pitchers hitting game?

I’m an NL fan. Don’t really like AL ball, honestly. Who doesn’t want to see Max Scherzer hit? I think it’s a nice luxury now, because the Nationals have been able to bring Murphy back and ease him in slowly as the DH in New York and now up there, but I grew up watching an NL team and just always preferred it.