Nationals Arm Race

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

Ladson’s inbox 1/28/13


Espinosa's shoulder injury is the big news this week. Photo AP Photo/Nick Wass

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.

13 Responses to 'Ladson’s inbox 1/28/13'

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  1. This Espinosa news confounds me. Zim had surgery immediately after the season ended. Why not Espi? I’ve had rotator cuff issues and even when I’m not using my shoulder it can be irritating, and I’m not trying to lift myself up off the grass after snagging a line drive or attempting to check a swing.

    I understand he doesn’t throw left handed, but swinging the bat cannot be comfortable. Let alone making difficult catches, rolling on the ground and positing himself to make throws.

    Makes me question his common sense.

    Sec 314

    29 Jan 13 at 10:40 am

  2. Ladson is a “professional,” all right…a professional hack. Anyone who knows anything about baseball would know that the Nats wouldn’t get anything more than a bag of baseballs for Marrero right now. He’ll be strictly injury insurance this year, and barring an extremely unlikely explosion of power at AAA will be DFA’ed to clear the roster spot next fall.

    As for Espinosa, I totally do not get his decision not to have the surgery immediately. That revelation along with Gio now being connected to the latest PED scandal are causing some dark clouds to appear on the horizon of what was a very sunny outlook heading into spring training.


    29 Jan 13 at 10:56 am

  3. Both of you commented the same thing; why didn’t Espinosa get surgery immediately? I’m guessing one main reason: he does not want to lose his job. I think rotater cuff recovery is in the 9months range. This is the exact surgery that Cole Kimball had; he had surgery July 2011 and didn’t pitch again until deep into the 2012 season (can’t find exact date but it had to be no earlier than mid-August).

    As it is, Espinosa is clinging to that job. Yes he’s fantastic defensively, but leading the league in Ks, seeing your BA and your OPS lower, and clearly struggling while hitting lefty has got to have him pressing and pushing to stay on the field. I’m betting he hid the injury so he wouldn’t get taken out of the line up, which prevents someone like Lombardozzi from suddenly hitting .300 and becoming immovable from the lineup (the Wally Pipp situation, as it were).

    Todd Boss

    29 Jan 13 at 11:19 am

  4. Tell Chris Marrero to give my regards to Broadway.

    Feel Wood

    29 Jan 13 at 11:22 am

  5. I agree with Sec314 and bdrube: the decision not to have surgery seems poor. Isn’t this essentially what Laroche had in 2011? I don’t think that Espy is quite fighting for his job in the eyes of the organization as it seems to us (harkening back to our 7th best 2B WAR discussions on him), but playing through this just doesn’t seem like it is going to end well.

    Re: Garcia, one of the things that I think makes Davey such a good manager is that he usually plays the best guys. That seems kind of obvious, but I don’t think it always (or even often) happens. ‘Respect the vets’ kind of stuff. Look at Davey basically forcing Det over Lannan last year, for instance. So I can see ST ending and Davey basically forcing Garcia into the pen right away. I am not sure what the domino effect is, and maybe Rizzo overrules him in the ‘options’ game, but I could see Garcia as being one of his top 3-4 relievers right away, and I doubt Davey wants to go without that for long.


    29 Jan 13 at 12:30 pm

  6. Todd – btw, I keep having trouble with your banner when I am on your home page. The Weaver quote kind of blurs with the heading of the first article and the comments link, such that I cannot access the comments link from your homepage. If I come to an article (as opposed to the homepage) via Nats Insider, then it doesn’t happen and I can access the comments.

    It might just be something weird happening from my computers, but it started a week or two ago, and it happens from either a PC or MAC. Just FYI.


    29 Jan 13 at 12:34 pm

  7. Yeah, i see it too. I have no idea what it is. I can’t really call tech support either because, we’ll, I’m tech support. :-) I do have to move the blog at some point so maybe its a bug in our existing config that can get cleaned up.

    Todd Boss

    29 Jan 13 at 1:20 pm

  8. It’s amazing Marrero is 24, seems to have around forever.
    It looks like we’re all in agreement on Espinosa, don’t see how he can be a productive hitter this year. Rendon going to be knocking on the door very early this year.

    Todd, don’t know if this helps, but I have the same tech trouble. Can’t read or make comments as is.
    What I have been doing is going to Nats Insider and the links work great at that point.
    Don’t know why, I’m a tech dummy. :)

    Mark L

    29 Jan 13 at 7:11 pm

  9. Here’s a laugh–MLB trade rumors was taken in by Ladson’s stellar “reporting:”

    “Chris Marrero could become trade bait for the Nationals during Spring Training, opines’s Bill Ladson. The Nats took Marrero with the 15th overall pick of the 2006 draft but the first baseman has struggled to stay healthy and looks to be blocked at first base behind Adam LaRoche and Tyler Moore. Marrero, 24, has hit .284/.353/.452 with 86 homers in 2791 minor league plate appearances and received 117 PAs at the Major League level with Washington in 2011.”



    29 Jan 13 at 10:56 pm

  10. Yeah i saw that too .. mlbtraderumors obviously isn’t taking into consideration the reputation of the writer here amongst frequent readers of my blog. We should organize a writing campaign :-)

    Todd Boss

    30 Jan 13 at 10:58 am

  11. Good to know on the issues w/ the blog. I’ll look into it.

    Todd Boss

    30 Jan 13 at 11:01 am

  12. Found it! When I published the Earl Weaver obit quickie post, I cut and pasted the quote from the top of the page into the blog entry … when I did that, WordPress took the html divider code for that quote and embedded it into the blog post. So, from there on out the top graphics have been corrupted by the rest of the attempted blog post that day. So a quick update/cleaning up of those div tags did the trick.

    Todd Boss

    30 Jan 13 at 11:23 am

  13. All issues surfing directly to should be fixed now.

    Todd Boss

    30 Jan 13 at 11:24 am

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