Today, after much anticipation, Washington Nationals fans will get their first glimpse of legitimate competition as they will take the field in Port St. Lucie and face the New York Mets. It will be a battle of prospects, as Taylor Jordan will start the exhibition season for the Nationals, and Mets No. 3 prospect Rafael Montero will oppose Washington today. The Nationals have had their lineup set for a few days now, and we will be getting our first glimpse at Danny Espinosa with a fully healed wrist and Jordan following his nine start stint in Washington and offseason ankle injury.
This matchup also features Matt Williams in his Nationals managerial debut as well as our first looks at some dark horse candidates for the Nationals’ bullpen. Some names to watch will be Aaron Barrett, who struck out 69 batters in only 50.1 innings of work in 2013 for Double-A Harrisburg and also saved 26 games in 30 chances. Barrett is only 25, and with his 2013 numbers, it would not be surprising is he breaks camp with the team. Another name to watch is Christian Garcia, though he is a little less of a dark horse due to his familiarity with the Nationals and the fan familiarity. Garcia was injured often in 2013 after a very strong 2012, so it would also not be shocking if he makes the team out of spring training.
A starter to watch will be young right-hander A.J. Cole, who is slated to follow Jordan today and is coming off a solid bounce back year in the Nationals’ system after being traded to the Oakland Athletics in the Gio Gonzalez deal. At two levels of the Nationals’ system in 2013, Cole went 10-5 with a 3.60 ERA, striking out 151 batters in 142.1 innings. Cole is just 22 years old and is in his first major league camp, so a strong showing could really push Cole up, though he probably will still end up pitching in the minors this season with an outside shot to start in the event of an injury.
For the Nationals, there will be more names to watching coming onto the mound today than there will be in the batter’s box. Some positional names to watch, however, are Espinosa and Eury Perez. As we know, Espinosa is over his wrist injury and is looking to prove his shoulder his serviceable, and Perez is looking to jump to the top of the Nationals’ list of future potential center fielders. Today will be exciting for many reasons, as it is the first Nationals game of the their 2014 season, and there are many solid arms to watch as well.