In the wake of the draft, the Nationals called up a few players from the minor leagues, and sent some guys rigth back down. They also got rid of alleged left handed hitter Rob Mackowiak, who was doing nothing other than dragging down a putrid offense. He became expendable once Dukes showed he probably wasn’t going to hit under .150. While Dukes hasn’t had stellar overall numbers yet, over the last 15 games he has hit a very impressive .289/.421/.444. If he does that all season, in his first full season, that would be incredible. The walk rate is also great, and he’s hitting with decent power. On to the callups…

Kory Casto

We’ve seen this guy before, and it wasn’t pretty. Last year he got 7 hits in 54 ABs, 2 of them were doubles, and he walked 3 times. He also struck out 17 times. This year, he looks entirely more comfortable at the plate, doesn’t look as jumpy and keeps his head much more still. That has translated to 6 hits in only 21 ABs, 5 BBs and only 3 Ks. He is a different player this year, as evidenced by his .315/.390/.461 line in AAA (a career high in average, close to that in OBP, and a decent but not great slugging). He’s seeing over 4 pitches per PA right now, and while he’s only had a few ABs, he looks much better than last season. If he keeps hitting this way, he can spell some of the vets even if they’re healthy, as nobody’s bat (other than maybe Christian Guzman or Jesus Flores) would be terribly missed.

Garrett Mock

He didn’t look so good in his major league debut the other day, giving up 4 ER in 4 1/3 IP to the Gigantes. He was immediately sent back down, looks like my beginning of the year prediction that he, Clippard and Chico will spend alot of time on I-70 in between Columbus and DC may have been correct. As I stated then, Mock has never been great, but he’s never been healthy, and this year he pitched very well in AAA, with a 3.02 ERA and K/BB of 51/13. He is giving up more than a hit per inning, though, and he really needs to show he can keep the runs down while keeping the Ks up at the AAA level (something he has started to show this year) before they feel the need to give him anything more than injury relief time. If the rest of the season continues as it has so far for him down there, he’ll definitely be back up.

Tyler Clippard

Clippard, acquired in the trade from the Yankees, has pitched well enough in the minors. He came up for a spot start and didn’t pitch very well against a team that isn’t known for their hitting (at least until they came to DC). Clippard was sent back down today, but don’t be surprised if he gets another shot. He is still one of the more promising AAA pitchers, a guy that may be able to hold the fort down and even be successful while we’re waiting for the real young, high draft picks. In the minors, Clippard has been a real strikeout pitcher with great control – in 670 IP he has 699 Ks and only 198 BBs. He’s still young, only 23, so this year he’s gotta concentrate on being good enough in AAA to warrant time in the majors. Spot starts are one thing, consistency at the highest level in the minors is probably better for him right now.

Ronnie Belliard

That name sounds familiar, didn’t he play second base for the… yeah, Clippard was sent down to make room for Ronnie, returning from the DL. What do we expect from Belliard? Well in the first month of the season, he batted a whopping .197/.316/.343, which is slightly less awful than the .256/.313/.308 that Felipe Lopez is hitting. Since neither are a whiz with the glove, Belliard will probably get some time as the starter. As I said when Belliard was mired in a slump in April, he’s a lifetime .273 hitter, and he’s only hit below .263 once and he’s never hit above .295. That’s a pretty consistent range, I fully expect him to get within or very close to it before the year’s out.

By Charlie