These Inboxes are coming fast and furious! Its almost like we’re just a few days away from Pitchers and Catchers reporting or something. I should do an inbox response. Except nobody emails me any questions. Sometimes I wonder who emails Bill Ladson some of these questions, frankly, especially the people who keep asking about who the manager will be in 2014. Anyway, here’s his 1/28/13 inbox and how i’d have responded.
Q: What is the status of Chris Marrero? Does he figure to contribute in the Major Leagues at all this year?
A: The phrase “what have you done for me lately” never seems more appropriate than when talking about Chris Marrero. In November 2007 he was listed by Baseball America as our #1 prospect. #1 over the likes of Detwiler, Zimmermann, Maxwell, Clippard, Desmond, Peacock, Norris and even Bernadina. A season-ending injury in 2008, slow progress up our system and then last off-season’s torn hamstring have now dropped him to the Nats #23 ranked prospect overall. #23 puts him behind “prospects” such as Corey Brown and right above 7-year minor leaguer Carlos Rivero.
The status of Marrero is this: he’s stuck at first-base, seemingly can’t play anywhere else, but doesn’t hit nearly enough homers in order to be a MLB first baseman. So he seems sort of in a quandry. Unless he suddenly turns into a 30-home run hitter over-night, or figures out how to play another position, he’s really in a tough spot. On the Nats depth chart at 1B, he seems to be no better than 4th right now (LaRoche, Moore, Tracy). That doesn’t bode well for him contributing at the MLB level. It seems to me that the only way he’s playing meaningful minutes at first this year is if both LaRoche and Moore come down with season-ending injuries.
On the bright side; despite us hearing about him for years, he’s only 24. But he’s running out of time. He’ll burn his 3rd and last option in 2013 and isn’t going to be eligible for a 4th. Marrero needs to hit lights out in AAA this year, get an injury on the big club and gets some big-league ABs, and build trade value.
Ladson has answered this question before and repeated his answer; he thinks Marrero needs to be traded. Great idea! Now, who exactly is going to trade for him right now? And what exactly could the Nats get in return? These sort of things matter when looking at trade candidates and it irritates me when they’re not taken into consideration by supposed “professionals” in the field.
Q: Given Danny Espinosa’s torn rotor cuff and disappointing second half last season, is there any chance Steve Lombardozzi will become the Opening Day starting second baseman?
A: Boy, the revelation that Danny Espinosa has a torn rotator cuff is big news to me. Even though its in his non-throwing shoulder (obviously; if it was in his right shoulder he’d likely have had the surgery as soon as it happened), you have to think this affects his hitting. In fact, the blog Nationals Review did just this yesterday in a great bit of analysis: before the estimated injury date Espinosa was hitting 255/.321/.416. Afterwards (including his awful playoffs): .156/.241/.234. That’s rather definitive, even if “after injury” only included a few weeks of the regular season and a 5-game series.
I think the injury gives the team a built-in excuse to replace him if he starts off the year struggling. Opening Day though? No way; Davey Johnson is a players’ manager, is old-school and will go with the team at hand unless someone gets hurt in Viera. Ladson says lets see what happens in Spring Training. I think that’s the baseball writer equivalent of an Economist saying, “It depends.”
Q: Do you think Johnson will sit Espinosa more often this season because of his injury?
A: Doubtful; he’s either going to produce or not. If he doesn’t produce, look for him to be sent to the DL for surgery. I don’t see him getting sat sporadically. Ladson says that Espinosa won’t let that happen. Last time I checked though, Espinosa was the player and Johnson was the manager. So I’m not sure how he can make that command decision.
Q: What role do you foresee Christian Garcia playing this year?
A: I see Christian Garcia starting the year as a starter in AAA and then one of two things happening; either he hurts himself again, thus destroying the whole starter experiment. Or, someone in the MLB bullpen gets hurt or gets ineffective (ahem, Henry Rodriguez anyone?) and Garcia-as-starter is scrapped as he’s brought up to pitch meaningful innings. Ladson says he expects Garcia to be a bullpen member and doesn’t buy into the starter experiment.
Q: Assuming 2013 is Johnson’s final year, do you think his replacement will come from inside or outside the organization?
A: I just don’t get how people are obsessing over the 2014 manager. Call me when the World Series is over and AFTER Johnson actually retires. Ladson predicts someone from within.
Q: After Adam LaRoche’s contract runs out, could Ryan Zimmerman move across the diamond to first base and let Anthony Rendon play third?
A: This is exactly what I believe should happen. My ideal world has Rendon hitting his way into a utility infielder role this year, pushing for more playing time next year (perhaps even forcing the Nats hand at 2nd base), and Zimmerman logically moving across the diamond to alleviate his mental issues with routine throws and to protect his body from the constant pounding he gets at 3rd. Ladson wants Zimmerman at 3rd for a long time, apparently forgetting that Zimmerman increasingly has difficulty making routine throws and being incredibly fragile.
Q: What are the chances of the Nats opening the season with Bryce Harper in right field and Jayson Werth in left?
A: Zero. But, honestly, Werth in left is a better defensive team. Harper‘s so good in center while Werth‘s range is eroding in right, it just makes more sense to switch them up. Why won’t it happen on opening day? Deference to the veteran. Deference to the contract. I expect the OFs to switch around and get each of them playing time in all three positions. Ladson says that Harper is more comfortable in left while Werth is an “above-average” right fielder. Uh, not according to UZR/150, which had Werth at a very poor -14.2 in 2012. Harper belongs in RF but it won’t happen overnight.