Get To Know A Nat 2014: Matt Thornton

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Name: Matthew J. Thornton (not to be confused with this Matthew Thornton who signed the Declaration of Independence)
Nickname(s): Matt
DOB: September 15, 1976
Twitter?:  None
From: Three Rivers, Michigan
Position:  Reliever
Hand: Lefty

With the Nats Since: August 5, 2014 when the Nationals selected him off waivers from the New York Yankees 

Just Who Is This Guy?: Thornton is a former all-star reliever (2010 All-Star) who has been in the league, mainly the American League, for the last 11 seasons. He’s pitched a total of 655 games, logging a 32-45 record with a 3.48 ERA. Thornton spent the majority of his playing career with the Chicago White Sox but has also played for the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

During the 2004 season, Thornton made his major league debut at the age of 27 with the Mariners. He threw four innings of scoreless ball, struck out one and gave up three hits and walked one batter. He finished the 2004 season with a 1-2 record and a 4.13 ERA in 32.2 innings.

Thornton was traded to the Chicago White Sox on March 20, 2006 and performed during his tenure with the White Sox. From 2006-2012, he logged 435.1 innings, going 31-32 with a 3.25 ERA, 2.91 FIP and struck out 465 batters. During his All-Star season, Thornton threw 60.2 innings, generating a 5-4 record with a 2.67 ERA, 2.41 FIP and 81 strikeouts. He also had eight saves that season.

According to Brooks Baseball, Thornton heavily uses his fourseam fastball that tops out around 96 mph. He also throws a sinker (96 mph) a lot, and tends to throw a 90 mph change and an 84 mph curveball.

What Happened in 2013: On July 12, 2013, Thornton changed the color, being traded from the White Sox to the Red Sox. In 40 games with the White Sox before the trade, he posted a 3.86 ERA in 28 innings. He struck out 21 and issued 10 walks. With the Red Sox, he appeared in 20 games and struck out nine in 15.1 innings.

While the Red Sox won the 2013 World Series, Thornton injured his oblique in August and never fully recovered before the season was over and was left off the postseason rosters.

On November 2, 2013, the Red Sox granted Thornton his release, allowing him to sign with any team. 

What’s happening in 2014 so far?: On January 10, 2014, the Yankees penned Thornton to a two-year, $7 million deal to help bolster their bullpen. However, the Yankees decided that with the emergence of other, cheaper bullpen arms such as Dellin Betances and Adam Warren, mixed with his expensive contract, Thornton was expendable.

Thornton was actually putting together a solid season for the Yankees before the waiver claim, posting a 2.55 ERA in 46 games. He had 20 strikeouts and six walks in 24.2 innings. With the Nationals, he has appeared in three games as of August 13, 2014 and pitched 2.2 innings with a 0.00 ERA and a strikeout.

The addition of Thornton makes one of the best bullpens in baseball even more dominant. He can get batters out on both sides of the plate – right-handed batters have a .255 average against him while lefties have a .254 average against him. Thornton’s experience and veteran leadership will be valuable to the Nationals down the stretch and allow them to give some of their oft-used bullpen arms a much needed break to gear up for the postseason.

Get To Know A Nat 2014: Asdrúbal Cabrera

In an effort to give you the most up-to-date knowledge on the Nationals, here’s a look at one of the newest members of the team, Asdrúbal Cabrera.

Name: Asdrúbal José Cabrera
Nickname(s): Scroobs (Editor Note): Also, apparently, #AssCab…I’m pushing for A.Strudel)
DOB: November 13, 1985
Twitter?:  None
From: Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela
Position: Middle Infielder (primarily played SS with Cleveland but will mainly play 2B with Nats)
Hand: Throws Right, Bats Switch
With the Nats Since: Acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Indians on July 31, 2014 for infielder/outfielder Zach Walters

Just Who Is This Guy?: Cabrera is a former American League All-Star shortstop (in 2011 and 2012) who was acquired via a trade with the Cleveland Indians at the 2014 Trade Deadline. With the Nationals, he will primarily play second base, taking at-bats away from Danny Espinosa, who crushes lefties and plays stellar defensive but has a tendency to strikeout. Cabrera had a down year in 2013 that has carried over this season, but a it’s possible that the change of scenery to the National League, second base and the Nationals could jumpstart his bat and help the Nationals continue their playoff push.

Although he hasn’t played second base since 2009 when he held down the keystone for the Indians in 28 games, he has played flawless defense with the Nationals thus far. In his first game donning the Curly W on August 1, 2014 against the Philadelphia Phillies, Cabrera made a fantastic play while ranging to his left, sliding to field the ball and popping up to throw out the speedy Jimmy Rollins at first. As of August 11, 2014, Cabrera has a perfect fielding percentage in his 74 innings at second base.

During his all-star caliber 2011 and 2012 seasons where he batted .272/.335/.443 with 41 home runs, 160 RBI and stole 26 bases in 294 games, he has batted .243/.302/.392 with 23 home runs, 107 RBI and stolen 16 bases in 241 games since then. His woes continue this season, batting .245/.306/.380 with nine home runs, 43 RBI and seven stolen bases through 105 games with the Indians and Nationals.

Cabrera may be having a down year again this season, but he has the potential to do big things for the Nationals during the playoff race. He brings veteran leadership to the clubhouse as well as postseason experience, having playing during the Indians’ 2007 and 2013 playoff runs. The small things that don’t have any effect on the daily box score are potential reasons why teams bring in a player, such as Cabrera, at the trade deadline.

Let’s get to know Cabrera even further; here are a few fun facts about him. He made his major league debut against the Chicago White Sox, starting at second base and going 0-for-3 with a run scored. On May 12, 2008, Cabrera turned the 14th unassisted triple play in Major League Baseball history against the Toronto Blue Jays. Cabrera hit his first career grand slam against the New York Yankees on April 18, 2009, propelling the Indians 22-4 win. During the 2011 season, Cabrera earned his first and only Silver Slugger for the shortstop position.

What Happened in 2013: Cabrera had a down 2013 to the tune of a .242 batting average with 14 home runs, 66 RBI and nine stolen bases. He had a career high 20.3 percent strikeout rate paired with a 6.2 percent walk rate. Cabrera was worth 0.5 WAR and missed a chunk of the season, spending time on the disabled list with a strained quadriceps.

Defensively, Cabrera committed nine errors in 136 games at shortstop for the Indians, posting a .982 fielding percentage. He was known to make flashy plays at shortstop and so far at second base for the Nationals, he has made a few great plays as well. Look for that to continue.

What’s happening in 2014 so far?: In the final year of his contact, Cabrera hasn’t came close the successes that he had during his 2011-2012 seasons with the Indians. Before he was traded, he was batting .246/.305/.386 with nine home runs, 40 RBI and seven stolen bases. Through 92 games at shortstop with the Indians, Cabrera had committed 14 errors, giving him a .963 fielding percentage, 10 points below the league average of .973 percent.

With the Nationals, Cabrera has a .233/.314/.614 slash line with three RBI and a triple through eight games. Cabrera is a perfect 34-34 in defensive fielding chances. According to the rest of season ZiPS projections on Fangraphs, Cabrera is projected to hit .270 with four home runs, 23 RBI and three stolen bases and provide a 0.8 WAR.

Those projections mixed with his fielding skills and postseason experiences should provide the Nationals with a little extra push towards finishing strong in the second half.

Get To Know A Nat 2014: Zach Walters

Name: Zachary Butler Walters
Nickname(s): ZeWeezy
DOB: September 5, 1989
Twitter?: @Zwalters02
From: Cheyenne, Wyoming
Position: Infielder/Outfielder
Hand: Bats: Switch / Throws: Right
With the Nats Since: Acquired via trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 30, 2011 for RHP Jason Marquis. 

Just Who Is This Guy?: Zach Walters is one of the Washington Nationals highly touted prospects and is rated No. 10 overall by MLB.com for 2014. He’s a versatile, switch hitter with some pop that can play multiple positions.

In the end, Walters may not be an every day starter, but he definitely is rosterable because of his hit potential and versatility.

What Happened in 2013: Walters made his MLB debut on Sept. 6, 2013 versus the Miami Marlins, going 1-for-1 with a pinch-hit single. Walters’ pinch-hit in the sixth inning broke up Jose Fernandez’s no-hit bid. Pretty clutch if you ask me. He appeared in eight games with the Nationals and had a triple slash line of .375/.444/.625. He scored two runs, had three hits (one of which was a triple), drove in a run and drew a walk. Walters made appearances at shortstop and third base for the Nationals in 2013.

During his time in the minors, Walters honed his skills at Triple-A Syracuse. With the Chiefs, he played in 134 games, with the majority of his games coming at shortstop (104). Walters had a low batting average, .253 but a high slugging percentage, .517 last season in the minors. He had 123 total hits, 32 of which were doubles, five triples and 29 home runs. I repeat, he had 29 home runs last season. He drove in 77 RBI and scored 69 runs. He also struck out a whopping 134 times.

Defensively, woof. He made 31 errors at shortstop and seven errors at third base. At least he had more extra base hits than he did errors!

What’s happening in 2014 so far?: Given all the injuries that the Nationals have had thus far in 2014, Walters actually has had some playing time with the big league club. On April 15, 2014, Walters hit his first big league home run against the Miami Marlins. It was a solo shot in the ninth inning, but he was still able to showcase some of that power. In an assortment of 27 games with the Nationals so far, Walters is batting a mere .182 with three homers, four RBI, five runs and six hits. He’s also walked three times and struck out 14 times. Walters has spent time at third base, shortstop and in left field and has yet to make an error at the big league level.

With Triple-A Syracuse again this season, Walters has appeared in 34 games and has a .288/.331/.629 triple slash line. He has hit 10 home runs, driven in 31 runs and has scored 21 runs so far this season. Walters has 38 total hits, nine of which are doubles and three triples. His strikeout totals are lower (37) and he has taken more walks this season so far (seven total in 2014 through 34 games, 20 total in 2013 through 134 games).

His defensive numbers in the minors have gotten much better, too. He’s only committed seven errors so far (three at second base and four at shortstop). Walters has played in 16 games at second base, two games at third base, 10 games at shortstop and five games in left field. Gotta love that versatility.

My take is that unless there is another injury that happens to the Nationals this season and hopefully there’s not, Walters will spend most of his time in Triple-A working on all aspects of his game. He’ll probably get the call once the minor league season is over and the MLB rosters expand. When he does come up, I hope that he continues to “Let It Go” and asks everyone, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

*Note* All stats are as of June 22.

Get To Know A Nat 2014: Sandy León

Sandy

Name: Sandy David León
Nickname(s): None that I could find
DOB: March 13, 1989
Twitter?: @sandyleon41
From: Maracaibo, Venezuela
Position: Catcher
Hand: Bats: Switch / Throws: Right

With the Nats Since: Signed by the Washington Nationals as an amateur free agent on January 21, 2007.

Just Who Is This Guy?: León is a backup catcher who made his Major League debut on May 14, 2012, the day after he was first called up. He went 0-for-1 with a strikeout in his debut but severely sprained his ankle during the game because of a home plate collision with Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres. (ed: We wrote about Sandy Leon, briefly, back in 2013.)

León came back later that season and finished off the year with a .267 batting average in 12 games. He had eight hits, scored two runs and drove in two RBI. He walked four times and struck out 11 times. León caught a total of 83.1 innings, making one error and allowed three passed balls.

Digging a little deeper into his catching stats, León is actually a decent catcher in terms of framing. In 2012, he had 663 chances to frame a pitch and earned 14 strikes extra for his pitcher based on his framing skills. That’s 4.4 extra runs added, which was good for No. 30 overall on Baseball Prospectus’ list of catchers for that year.

What Happened in 2013: During the 2013 campaign, León spent virtually all of the season in the minors. He played two games with the Nationals, logging one at-bat and struck out. He played three games with the Auburn Doubledays and didn’t do much, but was then promoted to Double-A Harrisburg and played in 95 games there. León batted .177/.291/.252 and hit three home runs and drove in 26 RBI. He walked 47 times, struck out 57 times and scored 35 runs. He even legged out a triple. In terms of defense, León committed six errors with Harrisburg and allowed nine passed balls.

What’s happening in 2014 so far?: I feel like I write this every time, but with the sheer amount of injuries that have pillaged the Nationals so far this season, León has gotten some playing time because of it. Filling in as the backup catcher (behind Jose Lobatón who was filling in for Wilson Ramos), León has a batting average of .170 in 16 games (as of June 22). He had one home run, three RBI and nine hits.

León’s defense has actually gone down from his 2012 season to his 2014 season in terms of advanced catching metrics. In 2014, he’s had 930 framing chances and only gained nine strikes extra from them, adding 2.9 runs.

During his 16 games at Triple-A Syracuse (when Ramos wasn’t injured), León is batting .294/.390/.392. He has yet to hit a home run but has drive in six RBI and has 15 hits. He has a perfect fielding percentage behind the plate and is 4-for-6 throwing runners out attempting to steal.

Overall, León is more of a defensive catcher than an offensive threat. The injuries to Ramos have given León an opportunity to showcase some of those skills, but he still needs some grooming in the minors at the plate. There is a good chance he’ll be going back down as soon as Wilson Ramos is healthy enough to catch again, which may be any day now.

*Note: All stats are as of June 22.

Get To Know A National 2014: Xavier Cedeño

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Name: Xavier Cedeño
Nickname(s): None that I could find
DOB: August 26, 1986
Twitter?:  None that I could find
From: Guayanilla, Puerto Rico
Position: Relief Pitcher
Hand: Left
With the Nats Since: Selected off waivers by the Nationals from the Houston Astros on April 23, 2013.

Just Who Is This Guy?: Xavier Cedeño is a left-handed relief pitcher who made his Major League debut with the Houston Astros on September 16, 2011 at the age of 25. In his first relief appearance, he pitched 1/3 of an inning and gave up a hit.

According to the Brooks Baseball page on Cedeño , he has a four-pitch arsenal that ranges from the low 90s (fourseam fastball and cutter) to mid-80s (changeup) and a low-80s curveball.

What Happened in 2013: After being claimed off of waivers in April, Cedeño was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse where he pitched until he was called up for a brief stint in June 2013 (two appearances) before he was sent back down to Syracuse again. When rosters expanded in August, he was brought back up and made nine more appearances out of the bullpen, giving him 11 total appearances on the season for the Nationals. Cedeño pitched a total of six innings, giving up five hits and one earned run. He struck out six batters and only walked one. It’s interesting that while he was with Houston, Cedeño  pitched 6.1 innings and got shelled to the tune of a 11.37 ERA in only five games, but was lights out for the Nationals.

Coming from the American League to the National League, mixed with some fine-tuning in the Minors really seems like it turned Cedeño’s season around. With Syracuse, he appeared in 39 games, going 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA in 34.1 innings and even notched four saves. He only allowed 23 hits, 11 runs (five earned) and had an 11.8 K/9 ratio. This could be one of those cases where the player has all the tools necessary to succeed, but just needs a change of scenery in order to achieve that success. It’s definitely a small sample size to work with, but it’s worth watching for the rest of this season.

What’s happening in 2014 so far?: Cedeño has spent the majority of his time in Syracuse again this season, but has one appearance with the Nationals on April 21, 2014. In that game, it only took him 15 pitches to go 1.1 innings but gave up two hits along the way. As of June 6, Cedeño has picked up where he left off last season, owning a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings. He has 16 strikeouts, has only issued three walks and given up seven hits with Syracuse.

If he can keep turning it around in the minors and accomplish the same success in the Majors once he gets called back up, he has the chance to be a valuable asset to an already strong Nationals bullpen.

Get To Know A Nat 2014 – Greg Dobbs

GDF

Name: Gregory Stuart Dobbs
Nickname(s): “Dober” or “Roy Hobbs”
DOB: July 2, 1978
Twitter?: None that I could find
From: Los Angeles, California
Position: Corner Infield/Outfield positions
Hand: Bats lefty, throws righty
With the Nats Since: Signed a Minor League contract with the Nationals on May 12, 2014 and was called up on May 16, 2014.

Just Who Is This Guy?: Greg Dobbs is a journeyman corner infielder/outfielder who has bounced around the Majors since 2004. Dobbs made his MLB debut on September 8, 2004 with the Seattle Mariners appearing for the first time as a pinch-hitter and hitting a home run in his first at-bat.

After a few years with the Mariners, he became a Philadelphia Philly and was a part of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies. In 2011, Dobbs signed a minor league contract with the Florida/Miami Marlins and was eventually DFA’d on April 29, 2014 and released on May 6, 2014. His release and eventual signing was perfect timing for the Nationals with Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper, both lefty bats, out with injuries.

Dobbs’ best year came in 2011 with the Marlins where he hit .275/.311/.389 with eight home runs and 49 RBIs. Through 941 games over 11 seasons, Dobbs is a career .262 hitter with 46 home runs and 273 RBIs. In 527 career games playing defense, Dobbs has a decent .972 fielding percentage over 3,547 innings.

What Happened in 2013: The 2013 season for Dobbs had him appear in 114 games, hitting two home runs and driving in 22 runs. He legged out 11 doubles and had a total of 54 hits, giving him a slash line of .228/.303/.300.

In the field, Dobbs played 51 games at first base and one game in right field for the Marlins. He only committed one error in 423 innings at first base and played perfect defense in his five innings in right field for the Marlins last season.

What’s happening in 2014 so far?: In 13 at-bats with the Marlins, Dobbs got off to a horrid start, batting .077 with four strikeouts and only one hit. All of his appearances were of the pinch-hit variety and didn’t log any playing time in the field.

So far, in his brief stint with the Nationals, Dobbs has appeared in seven games and is batting .313/.294/.375 with three hits in 16 at-bats. He has also driven in two runs. Look for him to provide a little bit of help to the Nationals offense when they’re in need of a lefty batter. Otherwise, Dobbs won’t do much more than be a stopgap until ALR comes back from injury. unless there is another injury to ALR.

Get To Know A Nat 2014: Tyler Moore

T Mo At Bat

Tyler Moore at bat. via @ANatsFan

Name: Tyler Michael Moore
Nickname(s): T-Mo, Moore-Power 
DOB: January 30, 1987
Twitter?: @T_Mo12
From: Brandon, Mississippi
Role: Bench Player  Positions Played: First Base, Left Field
Hand: Righty
With the Nats Since: Drafted in 2008, Debuted in 2012

Just Who Is This Guy: If you really don’t know the handsome man that is the personification of country hardball, read our 2013 preview here.

Briefly, Moore is a strong bench bat that plays first base and left field now and then. The plan was for Moore to have a bigger role by now, but a bad 2013 campaign has relegated him back the bench where he’s likely going to be for a while. With Adam LaRoche on the DL, Tyler Moore is going to see some more playing time now and then.

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