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NL East Notes: Mike Fast, Braves, Nationals,

Analytics guru Mike Fast joined the Atlanta Braves organization this Wednesday, he announced via Twitter. Fast was formerly the director of research and development in Houston before leaving the organization in late September. The former semiconductor engineer will serve as a special assistant to GM Alex Anthopoulous, who has made it a priority to improve the Braves’ analytics department ever since his hiring in November of 2017, writes the Athletic’s David O’Brien. Per Anthopolous himself, Fast will be part of Atlanta’s senior leadership team, giving his input into all areas of baseball operations. Now, some other rumblings from around the NL East…

  • Right field and catcher clearly require the attention of the Braves’ front office this winter, where current free agents Kurt Suzuki and newly-minted Silver Slugger Nick Markakis have left holes, but improving the bench is not much further down their winter checklist, writes Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Versatile defender Charlie Culberson was a bright spot for the bench unit in 2018, but they could use a power bat to fill the spot once occupied by Matt Adams (and most recently by current free agent Lucas Duda). Outfielder Adam Duvall was acquired from the Reds last season in part to fill that role, but he struggled mightily in his 33 games as a Brave. Duvall projects to earn $3.1MM his first time through arbitration this winter, which makes him a likely non-tender candidate. He is a career .230/.291/.454 hitter. Still, while GM Alex Anthopoulos said they will be more “open-minded” about spending significant dollars on the bench this season, that’s not a development likely to happen early in the free agent season.
  • The Nationals do not see upgrading at second base as a priority this offseason, per Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post. Earlier this week Dougherty tweeted that the Nats were comfortable going into next season with Howie Kendrick and Wilmer Difo manning the keystone. Still, it’s a bit surprising given Kendrick is coming off a ruptured achilles, and Difo hardly looked the part of a starter last season when he hit only .230/.298/.350 in 456 plate appearances. Interestingly, Rizzo cites the organization’s depth, specifically prospects Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia as reasons for their optimism about the position moving forward. Rizzo’s comments are interesting because it means the Nationals are presumably comfortable keeping Trea Turner at shortstop for the foreseeable future. Further, Washington may view Kieboom and/or Garcia to be closer to the majors than it might otherwise appear. Garcia spent the 2018 season between Single-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac, though he won’t even turn 19 until May. The 21-year-old Kieboom is the more likely of the two to make a surprise jump to the bigs (a la Juan Soto), as he played the final 62 games of 2018 at Double-A Harrisburg, hitting .262/.326/.395. The Nationals have, however, reportedly expressed some interest in Josh Harrison, though the former Pirates utilityman could back up multiple positions around the diamond.

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