Skipping a team’s Winterfest is certainly one way to send a message. The Washington Nationals didn’t like it one bit and shortly after sent their one-time shortstop Danny Espinosa to the Los Angeles Angels for two pitching prospects.
Danny Espinosa reportedly skipped Nationals Winterfest because of Adam Eaton https://t.co/WU3RKR2Zx3— HardballTalk (@HardballTalk) December 11, 2016
Espinosa felt his role would be changed with Adam Eaton’s arrival. That meant the Nationals had a new centerfielder. A new centerfielder meant that the Trea Turner experiment in centerfield was over and that he would likely move to shortstop, leading to either a position change or a being relegated to a bench role for Espinosa. Espinosa — yes, the same Espinosa who tied for the National League lead in errors, batted a whopping .209 last season and hasn’t posted an OBP above .315 in five seasons — took a strong stand, one that the Nationals didn’t agree with. Hours later he was gone, where he would likely have to switch positions back to second with Andrelton Simmons already in LA.
So, who did the Nationals get in return?
Days after sending away two of their top pitching prospects, they brought in two new ones. Kyle McGowin is the prize of the trade I suppose. The 25-year old right-hander, a fifth rounder for the Angels back in 2013, had a 2016 that saw him make his Triple-A debut to mixed results. Here’s what John said about McGowin in the preseason:
Kyle McGowin missed much of 2014 with a sore elbow but returned healthy and effective in 2015, holding his rotation spot in Double-A all season. A fifth round pick in 2013 from Savannah State University, he features a 90-94 MPH fastball and a slider that varies between average and plus depending on when you see him. His change-up is workable and his command isn’t bad, though he showed some pronounced gopher ball tendencies last year. This is a number four starter profile and he could turn into a workhorse arm, though it is also possible his stuff could play up and be more dominant in relief.
McGowin began 2016 in Double-A, making five starts. He posted a 4.56 ERA with a 32-to-9 strikeout-to-walk rate over 25.2 innings pitched, equating to a career high 11.22 strikeouts per nine. He posted a 3.88 FIP and a nice 1.21 WHIP, so his ERA may have been inflated behind some bad luck. Triple-A did not go as well.
The 6-foot-3, 195 pound righty made 22 starts spanning 116.1 innings. He posted a sky-high 6.11 ERA (backed by a 5.09 FIP) and 1.63 WHIP. He struck out just 98 over that span, walking 46, nearly one walk for every two strikeouts.
The key for McGowin seems to be the development of his low-80s changeup, as right now he is primarily a two-pitch guy, backed by his low-90s sinking fastball and low-80s slider. Most still project him as a back-end rotation arm that can eat innings, but if he can’t develop that changeup to at least average, he seems more likely destined for the bullpen. McGowin should show immediate improvement in the lighter-hitting International League as you can expect him to start in Syracuse.
Like McGowin, Austin Adams is a 25-year old righty. The reliever was drafted by the Angels in the 8th round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of USF. Having never seen him live, searching around the web, I found that his reports (again, like McGowin) come with some very mixed reviews. Baseball America seems to think he has the goods, pretty electric stuff at that with a plus-fastball sitting in the mid-90s, touching 97, as well as a slider that can miss bats. His execution of the two pitches led to a career-high 13.28 strikeouts per nine in 41.1 Double-A innings this year, missing almost all of July and August with arm fatigue.
The issue has long been his command. He has walked more than four per nine at every stop that he has made in which he has logged more than 35 innings. In fact, his last three seasons are quite worrisome. He sat at 8.04 in 59.1 2014 innings, 7.61 per nine in 36.2 2015 innings and 5.23 last season. So, in a manner of speaking, his command has indeed improved, but seems to have a bit of a way to go.
Adams is already a reliever, so there is no question of where he will fit in for the Nationals. Armed with two-plus pitches and the ability that he has shown to miss bats, he could turn into a quality big league set-up man with the right fine tuning. Expect him to start in Syracuse as well, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make some pitches in Washington this season as long as he stays healthy.