We’re getting closer to Opening Day! Bill Ladson publishes what may be his last spring training mailbag late friday 3/22/13.
As always, I sometimes edit questions for clarity and answer here before reading Ladson’s response.
Q: Micah Owings is showing pretty impressive numbers in Spring Training. What are his chances of making the Opening Day roster, considering Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore are also backup outfielders?
A: Zero, barring an injury this week. The Nats outfield has been set since mid last year. Micah Owings knows this but took the offer with the Nats presumably for two reasons: the team is expected to be good (and what veteran player doesn’t want to catch on with a first place team?) and the team is a bit thin on corner outfielder OF prospects in the higher minors. Looking at the current state of the minor league depth chart, it isn’t hard to see how a solid start in AAA would catapult Owings above Corey Brown into the #1 OF reserve spot (of course, Brown can play center, so it would likely depend on which OF was injured, but still). I like reclamation projects, and I like what we’ve seen out of Owings so far this spring. I’d like to see him make it back to the majors as a big bopper. Ladson agrees, though he says the team may promote him in May or June?? Who exactly is he to replace?
Q: Most of the Nationals’ starters are not showing good numbers in Spring Training. Should we be worried?
A: Nope. Rule number one with Spring Training; pay zero attention to the stats of any established Major Leaguer. They’re not pitching these games to try to get a win; they’re pitching to get ready for the season, to work on specific pitches, to work on location, etc. I once heard a story about Tom Glavine giving up something ridiculous like 8 runs in his final spring training outing and the press corps going nuts; turns out he was working on locating his change-up, and ONLY working on locating his change-up, so once the opposing team figured out what he was doing they started sitting on an outside change-up and tattooed him. This is exactly why you can’t trust stats from Florida. Ladson agrees.
Q: Do you think the bars that Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg have set for themselves this year will be too much for them to handle?
A: I’m not really aware of any “bars” either player has set; the only things I can think of are Strasburg saying he wants to be a “workhorse” and perhaps Harper saying he wants to hit 30 homers? It isn’t like they’ve thrown down the gauntlet and said they want to win MVPs, Cy Youngs, etc. Now the Press on the other hand; yes they’ve probably set the bar too high. But (especially with Harper) it isn’t hard to see this scenario; usually MVPs are the best players from the best teams. If the Nats end up being a playoff team, and Harper is our best player …. he’s going to be a leading MVP candidate. This doesn’t imply Harper is the best player in the league (that’s NOT the definition of the MVP and not how its generally voted), but it does mean he may be in the running. Ladson dismissed the question as well.
Q: What do you feel are the plans with Eury Perez this season and beyond?
A: First off, I’d say that Eury Perez really cost himself development time this year as a side-effect of playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. The Nats demoted him while he was sitting on the bench for the D.R., and mentioned publically they were worried about his lack of work. I’d say that Perez needs another season proving himself at AAA before he really starts putting himself in the mix for a full time MLB spot. He put up great numbers last year; .314/.344/.361 between AA and AAA with 51 steals in 127 games. That’s classic leadoff/centerfielder stuff, or exactly what the team acquired in the off-season in Denard Span. In games so far this spring, Perez has just glided to 2nd base on steal attempts; he’s faster than nearly any player I can remember in a Nats uniform.
But the question is this; how does Perez fit in given that the Nats are committed to Span for at least 2013 and 2014 (it seems more and more likely we’ll be declining his 2015 option based on this paragraph), and considering that the team has rising stud Brian Goodwin who seems to be a similar player in a similar position (albeit with slightly less speed but significantly more power)? I’m beginning to think that the log-jam in the Nats outfield is going to eventually mean that Perez ends up being traded for an opportunity elsewhere. Ladson agrees with all of these points, also mentioning prospect Michael Taylor, who I always forget about.
Wow; short mailbag, only 4 questions.