It turns out that the “child” is 26 year old Rogelio Armenteros. Martinez avoided his name because he wasn’t quite sure how to say it. The Nationals freed Armenteros from the Arizona Diamondbacks in early December. He is still relatively unknown to most in the organization. The basics: he’s only played five major league games (all with the Houston Astros in 2019), missed the 2020 season, recovered from elbow surgery, and made a lot of changes.
How many changes.
However, the data on Armenteros is a tiny sample size. He has 333 spaces in the public record. Realistically, he’s a fifth starter candidate, with men swinging between majors and minors as needed. His remaining option in the minor league made him an attractive surrender for the Nationals, who always say, “You can never have too much pitching.” In this case, with this soft-throwing righty from Cuba, they deepen the pool of guys who could get started in a pinch.
An unofficial ranking of the 40-man squad starters brings Armenteros right to the edge:
5-7. Joe Ross, Austin Voth and Erick Fedde
10-12. Seth Romero, Steven Fuentes and Joan Adon
This is important as the 2019 Nationals had eight different pitchers making at least eight starts. In 2018, 11 jugs made two or more. Arms are fragile. It’s almost a guarantee that no team can get through a six-month schedule with the five-man rotation they want. There are also additional complications and a louder call for depth from a pandemic shortened season. And that’s all why Armenteros was a quietly smart addition to the Nationals.
Its remaining options allow them to send armenteros up and down at will. The above rankings do not take into account that Ross, Fedde or Voth enter the bullpen as a tall man. That doesn’t mean they can’t go back to the start if necessary. But it brings Armenteros even closer to his next chance.
The depth of the Nationals has been reduced by a few moves over the past six months. They turned Kyle McGowin, a former deep starter, into a slider-slinging reliever. They traded Wil Crowe, a 2020 deep starter, for the Pittsburgh Pirates to win first baseman Josh Bell. From there, in addition to Armenteros, they have Braymer, Romero, Fuentes and Adon in the mix.
Braymer is a 26-year-old linker who impressed in a game against the Miami Marlins in September. Romero, a 24-year-old leftist, is a former first round player who made his debut last summer to plug a hole in the bullpen. Fuentes and Adon were added to the 40-man list this winter to protect them from being selected in the Rule 5 draft. Both are still far from the show.
Armenteros has a little more experience than anyone in this group. He beats Braymer in a total of five or three appearances and spent two sources in camp with the Astros. To get there, Armenteros excelled in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Its class AAA numbers were another selling point for the Nationals.
“It has four parking spaces. He’s got a really nice change, he’s a strike thrower, throwing in the mid-90s, ”Martinez said of Armenteros, who made a handful of appearances in the Dominican Republic this winter. “We have the feeling that he is in this mix. What I like about our spring training is that we have depth. Of course we will have a fifth starter. The rest of these people, we have some depth there. So it’s really good to go into a season and know that we have someone who can step in and fill the void if something happens. “
In those five appearances with Houston – two starts, three in relief – Armenteros’ fastball averaged 91 mph. But it might seem a little quicker to thug because he often throws off-speed pitches.
According to FanGraphs, his 333 major league seats were reduced to around 48 percent fastballs, 28.5 percent changes, 18 percent corners and 5 percent sliders. If this average had been averaged over a more frequent sample size, only 10 starters would have triggered a higher rate of change, according to Statcast 2019. Armenteros’ mix could change with more confidence in his fastball and curve. Maybe it should be long term. But his current approach may make him popular with Jim Hickey, the Nationals’ new pitching coach.
“I firmly believe in the change,” Hickey said in October. “A lot of guys don’t like switching because it’s not a sexy pitch, it’s not a huge swing-and-miss pitch for a lot of guys, but there are a lot of outs.”
Hickey added that changes are usually easier to throw for a punch than curveballs or sliders. And that, he explained, makes it a critical point when a pitcher is behind on a count and thugs can sit on their fastball.
In Armenteros’ favor, he threw his switch to every batsman in every situation. Its use hardly depends on the number or whether it is facing a right-handed or left-handed person. That’s another reason his fastball could play better than 91 mph would suggest.
One strange dynamic with Armenteros is that the Nationals would rather not see him in April. The same goes for anyone who loses between Ross, Fedde or Voth and Braymer, and so on. But every season shows whether a club has pitching depth or not. At some point Armenteros’ phone rings.