The Washington Nationals added a veteran presence to their pitching staff yesterday, acquiring Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers for three players: left-handed pitchers Ian Krol and Robbie Ray, plus infielder Steve Lombardozzi. Here is my take on the three youngsters moving from our nation's capital to Michigan.
Steve Lombardozzi, INF: A 19th round pick in 2008 from St. Petersburg College in Florida, Lombardozzi has filled the utility infielder role for the Nationals the last two seasons. He hit .273/.317/.354 in 384 at-bats in 2012, followed by a weaker .259/.278/.338 mark in 290 at-bats in 210.
A switch-hitter, he was born September 9, 1988. The son of former Minnesota Twins second baseman Steve Lombardozzi, the younger version is quite similar to his father: a slick defensive player who doesn't hit much. Lombardozzi is a very talented fielder at second base in terms of range and reliability and has also played some outfield, but a weak arm precludes regular use at shortstop. He won't provide much OBP or power, but his "little ball" skills and glovework could keep him around for awhile.
Ian Krol, LHP: Originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the seventh round in 2009 from high school in Illinois, Krol was traded to Washington this past March as part of a three-way trade with the Seattle Mariners. Krol was hampered by injuries and disciplinary issues early in his career, including an incident where he made anti-gay comments on Twitter, but his talent hasn't been doubted.
Born May 9, 1991, the 6-1, 210 pound Krol pitched in the majors this year and performed reasonably well, posting a 3.95 ERA in 27.1 innings with a 22/8 K/BB. The Nationals used him as a reliever but he started in the Oakland system. His fastball runs at 90-96 MPH, averaging about 93, and he mixes in a curveball and change-up. At worst he should be a useful bullpen asset, but another shot at starting is possible down the line.
Robbie Ray, LHP: Ray was drafted by the Nationals in the 12th round in 2010, from high school in Brentwood, Tennessee. He had a very difficult 2012 season (6.56 ERA in 21 starts in Low-A) but turned things around suddenly in 2013, posting a 3.11 ERA with a 100/41 K/BB in 84 innings for High-A Potomac, followed by a 3.72 ERA with a 60/21 K/BB in 58 innings for Double-A Harrisburg.
A 6-2, 170 pound southpaw, Ray was born October 1, 1991. He has a 90-96 MPH fastball and a good change-up, but his slider is mediocre at best and will need to be improved for him to start at the big league level. That said, he made a lot of progress in '13 and could develop into a number three or four starter if all goes well. Failing that, he could be useful in the bullpen.
ANALYSIS: From Detroit's point of view, this looks financially motivated to me, which is not the same thing as saying it is bad or wrong. Fister is a solid pitcher, but is heading into his arbitration years, gives up a lot of hits, and is quite reliant on having a good defense behind him. The Tigers may simply not have been comfortable making a long-term commitment to a guy with his profile. In exchange, they got two young lefties with potential power arms, help for the bullpen at a minimum and perhaps starters down the line.
From the Nationals point of view, Fister provides 180-200 innings of reliable strike-throwing and they didn't have to give up a super-hot prospect to get him. Overall I can see the logic from both sides, even if it is unusual to see the Tigers trade for prospects.
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