Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Nats Outfield … what happens next?


Span's injury is going to really affect this team. Photo: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Span’s injury is going to really affect this team. Photo: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve held off posting about this, since most other pundits are putting in their two cents as well.  But Denard Span‘s “core muscle” surgery has suddenly got this team potentially in a pickle in terms of outfield depth and I thought it was worth discussing.

Unlike the Jayson Werth surgery announcement, which seemed to be well enough timed to cause only a brief disruption to the Nats starting outfield plans, the Span injury could have a longer lasting issue.  And, even though Span’s not nearly the hitter that Werth is, he’s much more difficult to replace thanks to his position (center instead of corner) and his lineup skills (lead-off).

What do I think happens now?  In no particular order:

  • I’m guessing that Span misses the entire month of April.  His surgery has a “4-6 week” recovery time frame and there’s plenty of recent players who struggled for entire seasons after dealing with similar injuries.  Not a great sign for the team or for Span, heading into a walk year.
  • I’m guessing Werth also starts the season on the 15-day DL with the idea of coming off of it on the first possible day and only missing 2 weeks.
  • That means your opening day lineup projects right now to having Bryce Harper in right, Michael Taylor in center and probably Tyler Moore in left.  I’m assuming also that Nate McLouth is starting on the 15-day DL as well, given that he’s apparently not even throwing the ball yet after his Aug 2014 labrum surgery, and that the team would rather have Moore in LF than Kevin Frandsen.  Well, let me rephrase;  *I* would rather have Moore playing than Frandsen …
  • I also think the Span/McLouth DL combination creates an opening for a backup OF on the opening day roster.  And I think one Tony Gwynn Jr. is going to win it.  He may not be with the big club very long, but he could serve as the prototypical “4th OF who can play center field really well who does a lot of late-inning defensive replacement duty” guy until the roster is back.  There’s not really another guy in camp who has CF quals and the MLB experience that Gwynn Jr. has, even if he’s a career .238 hitter.
  • Gwynn could easily be added to the 40-man by opening day because at the same time he’s to be added, the team will likely be DFAing both Xavier Cedeno and Sandy Leon, both of whom are out of options and not likely to make the 25-man roster.
  • When both Span and Werth come back, it could spell the end of the line for Moore thanks to his options crunch.  That being said, he’s hitting the cover off the ball so far in spring training (insert standard March debate about spring training stats and their meaning), and the team won’t dump him if he’s hitting .350 in April, so he controls his own destiny.  Where the roster moves do come into play is the assumption that one of these lefty-hitting NRI guys is making this team too.  We likely cannot keep both Moore and someone like a Mike Carp once everyone is back.  Luckily three injuries to presumed 25-man holders makes for a stay of execution for many guys.

Now the big question; who the heck hits lead off if Span is out??  A good question.

Presuming your opening day fielders are: Harper, Taylor, Moore, Zimmerman, Escobar, Desmond, Rendon and Ramos.

Who in that group makes sense to bat lead-off?  Basically just three candidates: Taylor, Escobar and Rendon.  And none of them are really “good” candidates frankly.

  • Yunel Escobar (who is nursing his own injury and could very well also be joining the others on the DL, but we’re assuming for the purposes of this post that isn’t happening and we’re not looking at an April 1 roster that has Dan Uggla on it) isn’t exactly a prototypical leadoff hitter at this point in his career, though he generally has batted either 1st or 2nd. throughout his career.
  • Taylor projects more as a middle of the order hitter frankly, thanks to his massive K numbers (144 in 110 minor league games last year).
  • Anthony Rendon *could* bat lead-off … but he’s likely the team’s best hitter and makes the most sense batting in the #2 slot.

If I were Matt Williams, I’d probably go with this lineup: Escobar, Rendon, Harper, Zimmerman, Desmond, Ramos, Moore, Taylor.  Man that’s a lot of right handers.  The only lefty in that lineup is Harper.  But what choice does the team have?

I’m kind of excited to see Taylor get some opportunity at the MLB level frankly.  What if he lights it up?  What if he proves he’s a legitimate power-hitting center fielder who can man the #8 position for the next 5  years in Washington?  We’ll never know until he gets a shot.

Oh, btw, to all those second guessers who now feel the need to question the Stephen Souza trade, asking smarty-pants questions like “gee do you think the Nats regret trading him now??” stuff in national forums, I say this: the trade made sense at the time, the return was great, and you cannot manage your baseball team on the fear of two unexpected injuries in a 3 month time span.  Souza is very promising, so is Michael Taylor, and the team is assuming that Taylor has more positional flexibility than Souza.  You only need one or two backup outfielders on a 25-man roster, and the Nats had more than plenty heading in to 2015.  Yes hindsight is 20/20, but if the team was presented with the same trade today, knowing they were getting a future back-of-the-rotation starter in Joe Ross plus their shortstop of the future in Trea Turner, i’m not so sure they still wouldn’t make that deal and just work their way through April of 2015.

Oh, pps, has anyone noticed that the setting up of the spring rotation seems to imply that the Nats 1-5 rotation is shaking things up from years past?  It seems like we’re going to go Scherzer, Zimmermann, Strasburg, Fister and Gonzalez.  That’s last  year’s #1 pitching third, and last year’s #2 pitching last.  Can’t say I disagree based on the career accomplishments of Scherzer and Zimmermann, just kind of surprised to see Strasburg being “deposed” as the Nats #1 starter.

And, another PS: with the injury announcements to Yu Darvish and now Marcus Stroman, I wonder if teams are calling the Nats to work a trade for one of our surplus starters.  Maybe there’s still a deal out there for Zimmermann or Fister, reinstating 5-win starter Tanner Roark to the rotation and padding the farm system coffers a bit more.


55 Responses to 'Nats Outfield … what happens next?'

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  1. I see a trade for an OF. A versatile/bench/platoon guy, not a stud. I just have a hunch that Taylor is going to fizzle enough in ST that they keep him in AAA to work on his contact issues. Whether that is part of a bigger deal involving a starter, or a lower level guy, I couldn’t say. The real ‘killer’ here (which isn’t a killer, but … you know) is McLouth’s injury/underperformance. Had he stayed healthy and performed like it was reasonable to expect, we’d be fine. So I see a trade for a guy like him.

    In the absence of a trade, I’d say that your handicap is spot on, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves to think Tony Gwynn has all of a sudden become a good player. We could get lucky that he has a randomly good month, but that is the highest we can hope for (realistically).

    As for the lineup, I’d go Rendon, Harp, Zim, Ramos, Desi, … Screw it, just bat the best hitters in a row. Forget this construction stuff.


    11 Mar 15 at 10:54 am

  2. Whew, that was a lot to digest. I totally agree with your assessment of the outfield situation. Personally, it wouldn’t bother me if Taylor played well enough that Span never get the job back. He’s the same age as Desmond was when he came up for good, after all. That said, he’s likely to face a lot of growing pains as a hitter because of his free swinging ways, just like Desmond did.

    As for the pitchers, I don’t see the Nats dealing unless they get blown away by another team’s offer. They are in it to win it for this year and even Roark has an important role to play as the guy who will (hopefully) shore up a bullpen that lost a lot of talent when Clippard was traded. Never say never, of course, but I think you’re looking at the staff that, barring injury, will start this season for the Nats.

    Oh, and I also like the idea of dropping Strasburg and Gio to where they are in the rotation order. The current order is very much based on last year’s production (and will maximize the number of innings they get from FA to be Zimmermann). Also, those two have always seemed to put way too much pressure on themselves. Maybe as the #3 and #5 respectively, they’ll be able to keep their heads clear and just pitch.

    Karl Kolchack

    11 Mar 15 at 11:28 am

  3. Wally. Agree on Taylor, but i’m “dreaming” on him suddenly figuring it out. Forgetting that he struck out more than once a game in AAA.

    Gwynn hangs around on the MLB roster until everyone comes back off D/L, then is either DFA’d or assigned to AAA. I havn’t researched his options status, but realistically if he was available until 3/2/15, who really is going to give him a guaranteed MLB contract after the season starts?

    Lineup construction … can’t disagree. But as we’ve learned, there’s a difference between doing “what’s right” and doing “what Matt Williams will end up doing.” My read on him for better or worse is that he’s not exactly Joe “Stats guy” Madden and will adhere to more traditionalist structures.

    Todd Boss

    11 Mar 15 at 12:15 pm

  4. Karl; on the pitchers, totally agree. I was going to look at (say) Texas’ system to see what kind of trade made sense. But past Joey Gallo I’m not sure who out of their system I’d want. Toronto is making a go of it, but probably is payroll maxed out so wouldn’t want a $15M guy. I wouldn’t move a pitcher at this point either unless the offer was “too good to refuse.”

    It isn’t too far ago that we the collective fan base was ready to burn Desmond at the stake so to speak … suddenly he figured it out (both offensively and defensively) and we started wondering why he wasn’t being extended. You’re right; same thing could happen with Taylor. These HS draftees who spend a ton of time in the minors sometimes have these total flip/flop reversals of fortune.

    Todd Boss

    11 Mar 15 at 12:21 pm

  5. According to Zuckerman, McLouth is going to get game action as a DH today. Given that he still has nearly four weeks to get ready for the season I think there’s actually a pretty good chance that he’s on the roster on Day One. But with Span heading for the DL it seems that the Opening Day CF job is Taylor’s to lose (MW has apparently had a conversation with Taylor where MW said “you’re the guy”). So far in ST Taylor hasn’t done anything to lose it. Even with his rightful place being AAA at this point, getting 3-4 weeks of MLB experience before being sent down is not a bad thing. And if Tony Gwynn, Jr., is your alternative then I question how much having Taylor there is really going to hurt the team.

    Lineup construction? Stifling a yawn (because lineup arguments are much sound and fury signifying very little) Escobar as leadoff is … OK. He draws enough walks that he is projected by most sites as having an OBP around .330. That would be less than optimal for a leadoff hitter, but better than league average (.312 NL, .316 AL). So Escobar, Rendon, Harper, Zimmerman, Desmond, Ramos, Moore, Taylor, pitcher. Once Werth returns the fun thing to do would be to slot him in at leadoff and drop Escobar to the #7 spot (so there might be someone on base if Moore or Taylor run into a pitch). But if Escobar is doing all right then Werth would slot into #5 with Desmond and Ramos sliding one spot back each.

    Four more weeks …

    John C.

    11 Mar 15 at 12:38 pm

  6. Current guess at OD position player roster, figuring that Werth and Span are out but McLouth is available:
    C: Ramos
    IF: Zimmerman, Escobar, Rendon, Desmond
    OF: McLouth, Taylor, Harper
    Bench: Lobaton, Moore, Espinosa, Frandsen, and either Gwynn or Carp. Gwynn can run and play defense, Carp has more pop in his bat as a LH pinch hitter. If McLouth starts on the DL then they may both make it.

    John C.

    11 Mar 15 at 12:47 pm

  7. Taylor still had a significant strikeout problem last year, which is why almost no one thought he would be ready to start 2015 in the majors. In what (very) little spring action I’ve been able to see, though, his swing looked a little more compact to me, although maybe that’s just hopeful thinking.

    If he can get on base, Taylor is the obvious leadoff guy. He stole 51 bases in 2013 and 37 last year.

    Even if McLouth were healthy, he’s terrible in CF, as we’ve recently discussed. The Nats almost have no choice but to keep Gwynn for defense in CF and RF. Gwynn seemed to have very, very left in the tank at the plate last year, though. Perhaps they trade someone like Taylor Hill for a little OF help?

    Speaking of the injured, Brian Goodwin is also still MIA, as he was last year when Taylor and Souza got their MLB looks. It’s not that the Nats have Taylor and no one else in the OF upper levels; it’s that Goodwin hasn’t been healthy. And in addition to Souza, they lost suddenly decent Destin Hood to minor-league free agency.

    It is what it is. We’ll get an extended look at Taylor, ready or not. That will help with the calculations on whether there’s a need to consider re-signing Span.

    I’m also concerned about the injury to Escobar, but that’s another fret for another day.


    11 Mar 15 at 12:53 pm

  8. Difo has been awfully good so far, eh? I really liked what I saw from him today. I’m thinking he could be up 2nd half this year if Escobar doesn’t shine or if YE or Desi gets hurt.

    Andrew R

    11 Mar 15 at 4:20 pm

  9. Difo hasn’t played above A ball; it’s quite possible that the Nats start him off at A+ Potomac, and then, IF he does well there, call him up to AA Harrisburg for the 2nd half this year.

    If there are multiple injuries in the middle infield, it’s possible that he could get called up. But he’s behind a bunch of other players.

    John C.

    11 Mar 15 at 10:18 pm

  10. Difo: would have to explode two levels in 2015 to even be considered for 2016. But it’d be a very nice problem to have for the Nats frankly. It could ease the exit of Desmond, with Difo sliding into 2B starting role, Escobar as placeholder SS, Espinosa continuing as MI backup, and Turner getting one more year to season before presumably taking over as SS of the future.

    That’s a lot of hope for prospect advancement in one sentence.

    Todd Boss

    12 Mar 15 at 8:24 am

  11. Difo is showing that perhaps his bat can play in the bigs. His glove is a bit shaky. But, the Nats need lefties, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Harrisburg very quickly (if not to start the season) and then Rizzo seems to have no problem promoting from AA.

    I think Skole is showing that he can be even closer to the bigs. With that lefty bat, I’d like to see him challenging Frandsen for his spot.

    Andrew R

    12 Mar 15 at 6:46 pm

  12. Difo likely will start at Potomac (A+), which is my hope since I’d like a chance to see him play. Recent Nat prospects like Goodwin and Skole who have basically skipped A+ (Skole was very briefly at Potomac at the end of 2012) have struggled with the jump straight to AA. The Carolina League is a noticeable step up for young hitters, and some end up repeating it, most notably Michael Taylor.

    Presumably, Difo will start the season at SS, probably with Chris Bostick at 2B, although Bostick had a reasonably successful season in the Carolina League last year and won’t gain much by repeating it.

    The assumption is that last year’s Potomac duo of Stephen Perez (SS) and Tony Renda (2B) will move up to AA. Both are decent AVG/OBP guys with very little pop. They’ve been curiously absent from the big-league activity while Difo has been getting all this action. (And Renda was a second-round pick.)

    Things will get interesting when Turner parachutes into this pecking order in mid-June. Will the Nats keep Turner at SS at that time and switch Difo to SS, or promote Difo so both can keep playing SS? In a perfect world, I think the Nats would hope that both Turner and Difo can finish the season at Harrisburg and perhaps continue on to the AZ fall league. They’d like to have a good handle on the futures of both before having to make the ultimate decision on whether to pony up on Desmond.


    13 Mar 15 at 9:01 am

  13. I meant switch Difo to 2B when Turner arrives.


    13 Mar 15 at 9:03 am

  14. It does make one wonder why the heck the team keeps skipping high-A for these players. It can’t all be because they don’t like the outfield in Woodbridge.

    Good question on Turner dynamic. Good question; i’d assume Turner gets installed as SS, Difo slides back to 2B. Honestly, it is my opinion (having played both middle infield positions extensively) that it is a very easy transition to go from 2B to SS and back. I found it much, much harder to go from SS to 3B.

    Todd Boss

    13 Mar 15 at 9:40 am

  15. I’d like to see them take Bostick (or someone else that I am not familiar with) and start training him for a super sub role, like Zobrist or Josh Harrison or Justin Turner. I am not suggesting he’ll be as good as those guys, but someone with a decent stick that can play average D at 2B, 3B, LF, RF is extremely valuable for roster flexibility. No time like the minors to get him that positional experience.


    13 Mar 15 at 11:38 am

  16. Amen to that Wally. I’d go further and make sure everyone can play more than one position. Why not give Ramos a little time at 1b in the spring, so he can play there in a pinch? Espy at 3B? Skole in OF.

    Andrew R

    13 Mar 15 at 11:50 am

  17. Maybe they’re waiting for the re-assignment to minor league camp for such positional flexibility experiments? Or maybe they just assume that a corner IF can easily make the transition to LF. I mean, lets be honest. Playing LF isn’t exactly a stressful time. Zimmerman waltzed into LF with a couple days of taking fly ball practice and put up positive UZRs for 2014 (albeit slightly negative in DRS).

    I’d also assume that any good SS can immediately become a great 3B. Why? Look at someone like Manny Machado; he became “Brooks Robinson” esque when he had to start playing 3B so as not to upset the incumbent in Baltimore.

    Todd Boss

    13 Mar 15 at 12:07 pm

  18. I’m a big fan of competition. And the competition this year will include the foursome of four middle infield starters at AA and A+. By August, we will know which two are candidates for emerging as early as sometime in 2016.

    Perez has some pop. He’ll get a chance as the AA shortstop. By the time the organization adds Turner, how he performs relative to Difo will be clear.

    Difo can go 2b or SS. I see him starting at A+ because Turner is not in the organization for months, and he is blocked at AA.

    Renda gets no love, because he does not hit HR and plays nowhere other than 2B. There was a reason he was drafted in the second round, though. He is a reigning batting champion and is well-respected in the organization. Maybe he is a trade candidate, but he is not organizational filler yet.

    Bostick is a very desired commodity with a live bat and less positional flexibility than Difo. He doesn’t have much more to prove at A+, but unless he switches positions, he’ll geta chance pre-Turner to show what he can do.

    And then there is Turner. He showed up without hesitation in the AFL, which has its share of excellent AA talent.

    With five players there, somebody of this bunch, barring injury or collossal flop, will see AAA this year.

    As for the Span injury and its ripple, the cleanest solution is Taylor. Rendon was thrown into the water when he came up, but a more accomplished hitter. Taylor in April is less than ideal, to me, although without Span, speed is terribly lacking on the basepaths. I would rather see Tyler Moore in left and Harper in center once Werth returns. I guess Harper agrees!

    As for Carp, Kila and Robinson will have something to say about whether he makes the team. But I cannot see the roster supporting multiple Tyler Moore types. Moore has the most value, and I think he can hit righty pitching more than well enough. I feel much better about him in the starting lineup if Zimmerman gets hurt again.

    The depth of the organization is impressive. Although the biggest challenge would emerge if both Rendon and Escobar were down for a sustained period. That will have the biggest impact on trade contingencies. Skole needs to play in the minors and polish his defense, and he will.

    And the trades will come, precipitated by other team’s needs. Cedeno has obvious value (as does Moore) and my feelings about the starting rotation, and Escobar, have not changed at all.


    13 Mar 15 at 12:07 pm

  19. Perez’s career pro SLG is .336, so I’m not seeing the pop there. Renda’s is .369, nearly all on doubles. That’s why they went out and got Bostick (.427). Difo’s career number is only .398, but he spiked to .470 last year after bulking up (organically, we hope!). FWIW, Turner slugged .406 in his short pro stint last year. If he can get above .400 at the MLB level, I would take it.

    As for grooming a utility guy, the Nats sort of have done that with Kobernus, although he hasn’t hit well enough to get a good MLB shot with a top-flight team. (I would would say that Frandsen doesn’t hit well enough to be on a top-flight team, either, but what good would it do me?)

    The “problem” with grooming young guys in this manner is that you’ve got to get them proficient defensively at one position first. Difo still looks shaky defensively, for example. The other issue is that so many of the younger players worry so much about their hitting that it’s hard to see them adding the distraction of multiple positions. This strikes me more as something that an aging minor leaguer who still wants a shot would do, like Dykstra. Could Skole do it? Well, he actually played some SS at Ga. Tech, believe it or not (mostly 3B). Nearly everything I have seem about him has him below average at 3B, though, really needing to be at 1B. For now, I’m just glad to see him making some contact and drawing some walks.


    13 Mar 15 at 1:52 pm

  20. I just had to post this here. So, Will Ferrell played for 10 teams yesterday. The guys at played along and created him a page. Its fantastic:

    Especially note the transaction history.

    To grumpy “get off my lawn” types whining about his stunt: Keep calm and shut up. Have some frigging fun why don’t you?

    Todd Boss

    13 Mar 15 at 3:52 pm

  21. Drill down on Perez. He started out on fire, was an all star, with great range on defense, and then tired. A career stat does not reflect the quantum leap he took last year in the early months. More importantly, the Nats believe in him.

    Jason Martinson is a great example of a bat-first shortstop who turned into an excellent shortstop last year. (of course, his bat went south). Tyler Moore has also turned himself into afar better first baseman than he was two years ago. Give Difo a chance. Concentrating on one position helps.

    As for Kobernus, his big tool is speed, which the Nats lack.

    Skole’s defense at 3B has drawn positive reviews. Mostly because he actually hasn’t been forced to shift to 1B yet! What a plus it would be if his bat took off and he proved a serviceable 3B option!


    13 Mar 15 at 3:53 pm

  22. I once had great hope for Martinson. I hope he gets one more year, just to see if he can figure it out. Harrisburg seemed to be a general black hole for everyone there last year, except the few like Cole and Taylor who escaped.

    If Ferrell is looking for a character name for a new movie, I would suggest “Uggla.” Oh, wait, we can’t do Uggla jokes anymore, can we? OK, OK, so Melvin Upton Jr.


    13 Mar 15 at 4:07 pm

  23. For the supersub guy, I think it has to be a bat first guy that can at least fake it at 2B and 3b for short stretches. Kind of a wRC+ = 90-100, with > .400 slugging. Zobrist is/was so valuable because he was actually above average at multiple positions, and as a hitter. really, the guy was an above average starter, they just didn’t keep him at one position. That isn’t going to happen again, I don’t think.

    I don’t know the minor league guys too well, but Bostick’s profile fits how I think it would work (as would Martinson). these are guys that may not make it as a full time regular, but as a super sub, they might carve out a career. Really just talking 24th/25th man. I’d even teach them catching as an emergency C, so you could pinch hit your backup C and still know you can finish the game with someone who probably doesn’t get killed.

    And KW, I am with you. Someone like the Nats apparently think Frandsen is.


    13 Mar 15 at 4:44 pm

  24. Since no actual coverage of spring training seems to be allowed, I’m sitting here trying to read the tea leaves from the box score. The first thing that strikes me from yesterday is that Sammy Solis went 2.2 with 3 K’s, so apparently he’s alive and reasonably well, for once. The guess would be that they’re stretching him out to be the rare (only?) LH starter on the horizon, probably at Syracuse. He’s one who, if healthy, has the talent to be a darkhorse candidate for one of the open rotation spots next year. That’s a l-o-n-g shot, though.

    Uggla doesn’t seem to have done much at the plate but draw a few walks. I had wondered if they would try to get him in at other positions, but he seems glued to 2B. He’ll keep getting ABs with Escobar out, though. But I’m not seeing anything that says he’s going to be in real competition to make the team.

    Espinosa, meanwhile, has only struck out once. It’s a small sample, but I’ll take the bit of encouragement. Dykstra is taking good advantage of his opportunity, but he’s not going to beat out Frandsen or Espinosa.

    In the OF, Gwynn is hitting like his dad. It won’t last, people; just look at his career stats. He’s still 98% just a defensive replacement, but as discussed above, with Span out, he’s got a good chance to stick, at least for the first month or two.

    In the LH bat battle, the ones who have done a little thus far are Clint Robinson, Skole, Stewart, with Carp trailing a bit but still in the mix. The big strike against Robinson is that he’s 1B-only, but he will be good bench insurance if he’s willing to go to Syracuse. Skole and Stewart will get 3B reps with Rendon out, and Stewart can also be a LF sub, as can Carp. Right now, I would probably say the battle for that spot would seem to be between Stewart and Carp, but that’s just wild speculation. With the injuries, the Nats are going to need someone with more flexibility than Robinson can offer.

    Michael Taylor has hit well but already has 4 K’s in 11 ABs, with no walks.

    It’s harder to make any sense of the bullpen story. In the just-guessing department, the fact that they’ve used Treinen in shorter stints leads me to believe that they’re leaning more toward keeping him with the big club in the ‘pen than at Syracuse as a starter.

    Just my reading of the tea leaves. What are you guys seeing?


    14 Mar 15 at 8:15 am

  25. On the positive side, with all these improvements in technology, I’ve seen clips of several guys that are intriguing. I’ve seen TMo and Difo play a whole bunch. TMo’s PAs seem to be consistent with his stats, (meaning good) and his bat seems lively and even his plate discipline looked good (not chasing bad pitches). I doubt somehow changes who they are at 28, so I attribute it to his winter ball giving him a timing advantage, but at this stage of ST, I’d say he is a favorite.

    Difo was mixed. Looked to have a decent bat, but also pretty raw overall, to my eye. I keep thinking of Guzman when I see him, but that is more about body type, I am sure. Also not a bad career for him, if he turns out that way. He may be the super sub guy, when all is done, but I think he showed enough to keep seeing if he earns a spot as a regular (but I didn’t get a strong feeling that he becomes a middle infield guy fixture in a couple of years).

    Saw Cole just the other day, and was not impressed. Mediocre velocity and stuff, bad command. Admittedly a bad outing even according to him, but he didn’t do much to make me think he is a rotation guy.

    Also saw Treinen again. I don’t think that guy can throw a ball straight. Stuff just looks really, really good to me. I’d give him a Rich Harden comp, without looking to see if the stats line up. I think you use these guys as long as you can, because my intuition tells me that a guy with that much movement has a higher injury risk.

    None of these comments are hard and fast opinions, just impressions from limited views.


    14 Mar 15 at 9:02 am

  26. For most, the sample size is just too small. Moore is making the statement he needed to, especially in the face of outfield injuries. The fact that the organization has given playing time to Derrick Robinson tells you how depleted the Nats view their own spring outfield. Goodwin and McLouth are not being played and Taylor, for all the talk of his being “the guy,” is not getting every at bat he can.

    But Werth is coming along and so things will evolve in that regard.

    As for the others, Clint Robinson has been well regarded in his career as a pinch hitter, and there is that need for a bat that does not have to stay warm to hit hot. Carp is not stepping up, nor is Uggla, and Stewart now has an opportunity, if slim.

    The bullpen remains crowded, and I don’t think Treinen’s use reveals the hand until the cuts and trades start coming. There are too many starters in camp for so many games.

    It’s way too early to project Difo, other than to appreciate that for an A+ player, he sure looks like he’s got something to offer.


    14 Mar 15 at 9:59 pm

  27. I assume Goodwin is still hurt, missing another big opportunity. I agree that T-Mo is taking strong advantage of his. I still don’t see how he fits with the team for the longer term, though (once Werth comes back). For Moore’s personal future, a trade would be better for him, certainly better than getting DFA’d in May or June. I do give him credit for really showing up ready to make the most of his chance this spring, though. I just don’t see how he fits with the RH bat and defense limited to 1B and RF.

    Difo has looked a bit shaky defensively in the very little I have had a chance to see him. That by itself probably will seal his fate to A+ instead of skipping to AA. It’s still hard to know if he could be an MLB regular. He’s got great speed, and he made a huge leap with the bat last year.

    By the way, Difo is about to turn 23, making him half a year older than Bryce. Michael Taylor is a year and a half older than Harper. We forget how young Bryce is.


    15 Mar 15 at 3:49 pm

  28. Espy isn’t batting his weight again in ST. How many chances does the guy get? He should have worked on RSD in winter ball and come ready to play like TMo did. Uggla isn’t impressing IMO. Meanwhile Difo is 23 and Skole is old as well – why not give those guys a real shot to play this season if not right out of ST.

    Andrew R

    15 Mar 15 at 5:25 pm

  29. Moore: makes the team out of ST, gets mysterious “soft muscle” D/L injury when all the injured presumed 25-man guys come back, goes on rehab tour of the minors while the team figures out what the heck to do with him (aka, finds a trading partner).

    Espinosa: yeah, kind of agree with Andrew R here. If he *knew* he was going to try RH only, why the hell wasn’t he in winter ball? To me this smells like a Boras move.

    Difo: still too young. Want to see him a full season against the cream of the minors in high-A and AA.

    Uggla: yeah; dump him.

    Skole: Agree; its like suddenly everyone remembers why he was the minor league hitter of the year. Still think he starts in Minors but whoever wins the “left handed veteran cattle call” will be on a short leash with Skole waiting in the wings.

    Todd Boss

    16 Mar 15 at 11:13 am

  30. Skole needs to play every day, be it AAA or AA. And he has to get back to dominating offensively. A fast promotion would kill his ceiling.

    Maybe Espinosa goes, but not with so much instability in the middle IF.

    What is the last day a team can cut a veteran without being responsible for his salary? I’m starting to wonder whether Stammen loses a numbers game with Roark and Treinen ad Barrett in the BP. And Blevins…aren’t Grace and Cedeno more “affordable?”

    the Nats track record with waiver claims…Thornton, Gwynn, Frandsen, Robinson may yield four 25 man products. Who’d have thunk it?


    16 Mar 15 at 12:21 pm

  31. One should be very wary of a “hot spring.” It’s possible for players to take huge strides forward in a season, as Taylor and Difo did last year, but for guys who are a little older, they generally are who their numbers say they are. To wit:

    Moore lost 150 points off his AAA SLG in 2014 from 2013, down to only .434, while striking out 77 times in 84 games. He homered only once per every 35 plate appearances.

    Skole’s SLG dropped to .399 at AA last year, and he struck out 127 times in 132 games. He homered only once per every 39 plate appearances. Yes, he did miss nearly all of 2013 due to injury, and he essentially skipped A+. But he’ll turn 26 in July, so time is running short to fulfill the promise he showed in 2012. All of this to say that while the Nats haven’t given up on him, there’s a reason they brought in so many other LH bats.

    As for Espinosa, I’ve been voicing frustration for months that he wasn’t in the winter leagues or somewhere swinging RH day and night. This is a guy whose overall talent level far exceeds what Moore or Skole ever had, but it seems pretty clear that the work ethic will never come close to matching the talent. Still, he’s too valuable a reserve to unload.


    16 Mar 15 at 12:26 pm

  32. Almost positive both Blevins and Stammen are on guaranteed contracts.

    That being said, I subscribe to calling all guaranteed payments sunk costs and not letting them influence decision making. I think Stammen and Blev are safe, but hope they strongly consider ditching Frandsen and McLouth and maybe Danny (he has an option left).

    Andrew R

    16 Mar 15 at 12:26 pm

  33. Espinosa’s “right side only” experiment is actually going better than I expected. In an incredibly small sample size he has shown the ability to draw some walks. To think that he’s going to come out of the gate hitting .250 against RHP is pretty silly, IMHO. Hell, if he ends up at .235 vs. RHP with some walks and the occasional extra base hit that would be … well, not great, but enough to make him valuable.

    I don’t get the sudden fascination with Skole. Sure, he was minor league player of the year a couple of years ago. In A Ball. But he hasn’t really been good since, certainly not good enough with the bat in AA ball last year to overcome his limitations as a defender (both on ability and positional flexibility) and as a baserunner. There’s a reason that the Nats left him unprotected in the Rule 5, the same reason that no one took him. At this point he’s going to have to light up AAA to get himself into that seat in the wings.

    John C.

    16 Mar 15 at 12:33 pm

  34. Skole wasn’t protected bc a team would have to feel confident he could stick on their 25 man roster all season. Even for the most optimistic Skole fans, that’s beyond reasonable. However, now that he is healthy again, I think it is reasonable for him to be up and down this season to fill in as needed.

    Andrew R

    16 Mar 15 at 12:35 pm

  35. Calling Espinosa’s work ethic into question is completely unwarranted. Question his judgment, question his stubbornness, sure. But if anything he has shown that his work ethic is so overdeveloped that it gets in the way of his progress. Whether it’s playing through injury or taking too many swings and overanalyzing his own mechanics, I’ve never seen any indication that he doesn’t work.

    His offseason work may not be what you want him to work on. That doesn’t mean that he lacks dedication, just (if you are right and he is wrong) judgment.

    John C.

    16 Mar 15 at 12:37 pm

  36. Skole had a miserable, miserable start, then started to ignite last year and really went on a tear. Then he petered out. The guy needs to show he can dominate and sustain him. I have maintained belief in him because of his demonstrated high success in late innings and in close games. He has ice in his veins. Having suffered through the miserable showing vs. SF, that’s enough for me to wait on, be it this September or sooner, or later.

    In the meantime, get him reps in the field as well.

    The Mets are looking to trade for LH relief. The Nats have surplus. Why trade Cedeno when you have Blevins and his salary? Just sayin’. Guaranteed or not, better to get value than merely cutting a controllable pitcher like Cedeno (another waiver claim by Rizzo).


    16 Mar 15 at 1:10 pm

  37. I’m with JohnC on Espinosa. Love the one you’re with. He may actually yet end up as the starting 2b on opening day.


    16 Mar 15 at 1:14 pm

  38. Espinosa said at Fan Fest that he would soon start working on RH vs. RH. By that time, T-Mo had already been touring the Third World to get in his licks. That’s all I’m saying.

    Forensicane, what do you have against Escobar? He’s a significant upgrade and by all accounts was working his tail off to get familiar with 2B before he got hurt.


    16 Mar 15 at 1:52 pm

  39. I don’t have anything against him. But he is not a championship player and he is now further set back by being injured and not in a position to adjust to a new position and team. Espinosa’s defense is great, he hits lefties fine, and if he can hit righties better than last year, the comparison question becomes, “what do we all have against Espinosa?”

    Just food for thought. Danny is just getting started in this RH hitting RH, for better or worse. The early returns, under the circumstances, are not so dreadful as we anticipated. More to the point, he is on the field and Escobar is not.


    16 Mar 15 at 2:06 pm

  40. Skole: how long does it take to come back from broken wrists for a hitter? Skole’s 2014 might have been evidence of that …. as well as a two level jump (in essence) from the last time he face live pitching. He didn’t get taken in Rule 5 simply because he’s positionally limited and will depend on hitting his way to the majors … and he didn’t even slug .400 in AA last year.

    Todd Boss

    16 Mar 15 at 2:08 pm

  41. Todd, he wore out, but before he did, he was on fire. I was posting on him last summer before he faded.

    He’s still got it in him. He may not be a talent to stay on a roster all year YET but so what? That’s what development is for. Joe Dillon is a fantastic hitting coach. Putting Skole and Taylor and Goodwin with him will reap dividends by years end.

    Tanner Roark was Rule 5 eligible, too, passed over,
    and one step up turned him into the player they traded for. Bet you some scout saw it coming and is kicking themselves that they let him get away.


    16 Mar 15 at 2:16 pm

  42. Roark is a scary example of what I believe is a significant blind spot in current pitcher scouting. The guy who doesn’t throw 95 and who relies on pitching to contact, command and control. These guys get passed over, ignored during scouting events, are just given filler innings and labeled org guys early. Until they get a shot at the majors and suddenly are 5-win hurlers.

    If Greg Maddux was a prospect today, he’d be lucky to be drafted.

    Todd Boss

    16 Mar 15 at 2:41 pm

  43. Todd, I just saw Kurkjian talking about that and how things will need to change with all of the TJ surgeries. I agree with him – how can a team effectively prepare for a season knowing it’s likely that 1 or 2 of your starters will be out for a season? I think teams will soon look for some Maddux-types to make sure they can field a good rotation when the fireballers go down.

    Andrew R

    16 Mar 15 at 2:46 pm

  44. Speaking of pitching; huge blow to Mets losing their #2 starter Wheeler. As if the Nats path to the playoffs wasn’t already easy, it just got a bit easier. Unless of course you think that this greases the skids for Noah Snydergaard to show up and he’s the second coming of Roger Clemens.

    Todd Boss

    16 Mar 15 at 2:56 pm

  45. Looks like Thor may be a Ryan Leaf special – million dollar arm, ten cent brain. I think we’ll find out soon enough with Wheeler down.

    Andrew R

    16 Mar 15 at 2:58 pm

  46. No one saw Roark coming – no one! So I doubt that anyone is kicking themselves over him.

    Better example: Souza. He started his turnaround in High A Potomac, then was left exposed to the Rule 5 draft. He went unclaimed, probably because he was (slightly) old for the level and because he’d been this close to outright release before that season. Still, he always was athletic/had tools, and you could stash a reserve OF type. I wonder how many scouts got ignored by their team management on Souza.

    John C.

    16 Mar 15 at 4:09 pm

  47. I wonder if being fortunate with Souza was one of the factors that led the Nats to put Difo on the 40 man roster despite never having even played in High A ball.

    John C.

    16 Mar 15 at 4:10 pm

  48. The Nats saw Roark coming. How many pitchers go 6-17 and get an invitation to spring training? Roark turned the corner in late 2013, despite his stats, and they saw promise. Maybe not Rule 5 promise, but he was no Mitch Lively.

    Souza was injured that year at a+, BTW. That and being a year removed from quitting a team will hurt one at any age, let alone the PED thing. A bad attitude tag can be like herpes. Fortunately for Souza, it was more like syphillis (curable).


    16 Mar 15 at 5:24 pm

  49. Sorry, for Roark I meant he turned corner late in the 17 loss year. Boy, time flies.

    Difo has a neon sign attached to him. Baseball America called him, after 2014, the best power speed combo middle infielder in all the minor leagues. A guy like that can no longer be hidden.


    16 Mar 15 at 5:28 pm

  50. Difo is the kind of player that can be buried on a 25-man roster for a year and be stolen. Every team has a backup middle infielder with almost no expectations of providing replacement level offense that they have to carry, and Difo could have filled that void for any one of a number of teams with little to no aspirations of competing this year. That’s really why he was added despite having never played above low-A.

    Same thing to a certain extent can be done with the last guy out of your bullpen, or the “lefty pinch hitter” type guy we’re auditioning for this year.

    Of course, on a team with WS aspirations, there is no such thing as a wasted roster spot.

    Todd Boss

    17 Mar 15 at 11:27 am

  51. Ask Scott Hairston about wasted roster spots on a team with WS aspirations…

    Sorry, couldn’t help it.

    PS. I won’t even mention Frandsen… oh wait, I just did.

    Andrew R

    17 Mar 15 at 11:39 am

  52. I chalk up the likes of Hairston and Frandsen entirely on the choice of coach/GM that this team has selected. When you bring in a long-time player coming from an organization (Arizona) with more than its fair share of accusations of “old school-ness” … you have to expect some personnel decisions like this.

    Todd Boss

    17 Mar 15 at 1:00 pm

  53. And now it is 3/18. Who the Nats trade, and for whom, figures to be an interesting plotline.

    Kobernus was let go, signifying a comfort level with the AAA outfield even with Goodwin hurt and Taylor in the mix at the ML level. I suppose they have seen enough of Dykstra to peg him for 2B and Syracuse and possibly Skole in the Chief starting lineup as well. And while we do not yet know this, the Kobernis departure may mean an unexpected ascent from AA from Kevin Keyes or Drew Vettleson. Some early minor league roster intrigue.

    Also notable was Rivero pushed back to AA with Solis. Bring on the competition! Two lefty starters (or Solis to the BP) to go with Voth, Simms, and Ross. Harrisburg has impressive pitching talent and a lot of depth at the AA level that will filter down to A+ (Giolito, Lopez, Pivetta, Silvestre, Spann/Bacas/Lee).

    Menhart was gushing about the Dominican pitching talent in Byron Kerr’s column. Have to wonder if anyone surprises us (other than Jefry Rodriguez) by showing up on this year’s Hagerstown Suns roster from early on.


    18 Mar 15 at 3:34 am

  54. Good luck to Kobernus. I had hoped (for three years) that he would hit enough to get into the utility picture, but he never did. His move mostly to OF increased the need for more from his bat.

    It’s a humane thing to release him now, giving him a couple of weeks to potentially catch on elsewhere. It’s curious from the front-office perspective, though. Yes, it clears a 40-man spot, but just from the guys without options, the Nats are guaranteed to have one spot (Leon), likely two (Cedeno), and maybe three (Moore). As things stand right now, one would think they will be adding Gwynn and one of the lefty bats. Of course it’s always possible they’re clearing a landing spot for a trade . . .

    Despite his age, Solis hasn’t really pitched above A+, and Rivero didn’t exactly ace AA last year. I’m guessing that the multi-innings appearances by Solis mean that they want one more look at him as a starter. They don’t have much in the way of LH starters, so what have they got to lose?

    Among the lefties, where will Purke go, and as a starter or reliever? And is Mooneyham at risk of release?


    18 Mar 15 at 7:57 am

  55. New posted on Kobernus release….

    Todd Boss

    18 Mar 15 at 9:29 am

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