The Nationals announced a slate of minor league deals and non-roster invites to Spring Training, including previously unreported pacts with outfielder JB Shuck and left-handed reliever Sam Freeman.
Shuck, notably, is now being listed as an outfielder/left-handed pitcher. The 32-year-old journeyman began an attempt to convert to a two-way player last May after being outrighted to Triple-A by the Pirates. Shuck wound up tossing 20 innings — 19 in Triple-A and one scoreless frame in the Majors — and allowed eight runs for a combined 3.60 ERA. But while Shuck only allowed 16 hits in those 20 frames and managed to rack up 23 strikeouts, he also issued 18 walks and hit a pair of batters. Those types of control issues are fairly common for position players as they transition to the mound, and Shuck will look to improve upon them in 2020.
Turning to his longstanding role as an outfielder, Shuck is capable of playing all three slots and has batted .243/.296/.314 in just shy of 1300 plate appearances. He’s been a solid bat in Triple-A, evidenced by a career .292/.365/.392 slash at that level. It’s a long shot that Shuck is able to successfully reinvent himself as a fourth outfielder/reliever, but if he can do so, he’ll be an increasingly valuable asset in light of today’s newly implemented changes to roster construction at the MLB level. Taking a look in Spring Training, of course, won’t cost the Nats anything.
As for the 32-year-old Freeman, he finished out the 2019 season in the Nationals organization after signing a minor league deal, but he didn’t appear in the big leagues with them. Freeman pitched only two innings in the Majors last season (both with the Angels), and he was torched in 52 2/3 frames with the Halos’ Triple-A affiliate. He tossed six shutout innings with an 11-to-1 K/BB ratio with Washington’s top affiliate, though, and is still not far removed from a 2017 season that saw him log a 2.55 ERA/3.34 FIP in 60 innings with the Braves. In 228 2/3 innings at the big league level, Freeman has a 3.62 ERA with averages of 8.9 strikeouts, 5.1 walks and 0.7 homers per nine innings pitched.