Rapid fire! Nats mlb.com beat reporter Bill Ladson didn’t even wait seven days to release his latest inbox, this one dated 1/15/14. We just got done arguing about the last one! He must have a huge backlog of questions from baseball-starved fans who can’t wait for pitchers and catchers to report (we’re less than a month away now; Nats report date is 2/13/14).
Btw; I heard it from a friend of a friend that the Nats may have given extension offers to both Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann this week; havn’t seen that news pop up on any beat reporter RSS feeds or elsewhere yet. But if true, its good to see the dialog opening up now as opposed to deep into spring training. Stay tuned and lets see if these rumors turn out to be true!
As always, we write our responses here before reading his and edit questions as needed:
Q: What was the reason behind signing Jamey Carroll and Mike Fontenot to Minor League deals?
A: Because Syracuse loves having old, over the hill veteran guys playing middle infield for them. No seriously, both Jamey Carroll and Mike Fontenot profile as your typical aging veteran trying to hold on for one last shot, accepting a minor league/non guaranteed contract with an invite to major league spring training so that they can compete for bench spots. And this team absolutely has a need for middle infield depth after trading away Steve Lombardozzi and given the question marks that come with other middle infield options on our roster Danny Espinosa (has he remembered how to hit again?), Zach Walters (can he actually play shortstop without booting every other ball hit to him?), and Jeff Kobernus (is he even a middle infielder any more after focusing on the OF for so long)? At this point, I think at least one of them will make the roster unless we make another trade. Ladson says Mike Rizzo loves depth and the team is looking for a backup to Espinosa.
Q: At which Minor League level will Lucas Giolito start this coming season after tearing it up with the Gulf Coast Nationals and Class A Auburn?
A: In my big system-wide prediction piece in December 2013, I predicted Lucas Giolito will start in Low-A/Hagerstown. There’s no reason not to get him going in full-season ball, and low-A makes the most sense given his age. In a perfect world he’d dominate low-A in the first half and get promoted to high-A/Potomac for the 2nd half. Ladson also says Hagerstown.
Q: Am I the only one concerned about Bryce Harper‘s weight gain?
A: Bryce Harper is in his low-20s; he was always destined to “fill out” and gain more muscle mass. It will only mean more ferocious power and hopefully more strength to help him slog through the 162 game schedule. On the downside, it means less speed on the bases and probably less range in the outfield, neither of which is really too much of a concern for a premium power hitter. If it means that my dream of Harper playing center field and taking over the reigns from the likes of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays as premium power-hitting CFers, so be it. Ladson says there’s no worry.
Q: If the Nationals give Espinosa or Jeff Kobernus a spot on the Opening Day roster, who would be the first player sent to Syracuse?
A: I’d have to think Kobernus would be first expendible player; the team already has too many outfielders (3 starters in Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth, a backup in Scott Hairston and a presumed 2nd backup in Tyler Moore). There’ s just no room for a third extra outfielder on modern teams; you need that 2nd bench spot for a guy who can cover the middle infield. Ladson didn’t really answer the question, just saying that Espinosa would be “given every chance” to make the team.
A: I do not think the team would move Adam LaRoche at this point. You’d get almost no value back and would be creating a hole in your lineup that the team can’t easily fix. If you think a team is going to give up a “good starter” or even a “bullpen pitcher” for a mid-30s guy who underperformed last year, then you’re fooling yourself. Bill Ladson: stop taking dumb trade questions!
Back to the question though; the team seems convinced that Ryan Zimmerman‘s throwing issues are behind him, since he’s had more than enough time by now to recover from his Oct 2012 shoulder surgery. Btw, take a look at his baseballprospectus link and look at his unbelievable injury history; I can’t think of another player with such a long list of maladies. Now, once LaRoche is gone and the team is looking at a hole at first, a premium 3rd base defender wasting his talents at 2nd, and a litany of free agent options to provide cover at 2nd and/or 3rd… yes we may see Zimmerman come back across the diamond. Lets see what happens in 2014; if Zimmerman returns to gold glove form, we may be having a different conversation next off-season (as in, who are we getting to play 1B). Ladson talks up LaRoche, calling him one of the best defensive firstbasemen in club history. If LaRoche is so good, we must have really had a bad run of first basement. LaRoche posted a -2.0 UZR/150 last year, good for 17th of 19 qualified first basemen in the league … sorry, hard to talk about how great defensively you are one of the WORST first basemen statistically in the league.