Nationals Arm Race

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

Ask Boswell 3/10/14

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How bad is Fister's injury?  Photo via wp.com

How bad is Fister’s injury? Photo via wp.com

Another week, another Boswell chat (this time 3/10/14).  Not much reaction to my big rotation rankings post yesterday; maybe 4800 words is too many :-)  Here’s about a 1000 instead about Nats stuff instead of overall baseball stuff.

Q: Interested in your thoughts on the Fister  elbow inflammation? 

A: I’d say that I’m cautiously concerned about Doug Fister.  It wasn’t a grimace-induced injury like what happened to Kris Medlen.  You could easily explain this away as a typical spring training injury.  I think the best answer is “we just have to wait and see.”  If Fister misses his next start … and isn’t throwing between starts, watch out.  As we have already learned … he’s already feeling good enough to throw today (Tuesday 3/11/14) so maybe it was just a scare.  Boswell accuses the Nats of being “underly worried” about its players’ ST maladies in the past, and then says we’ll have to wait and see.  He does also reference Medlen though.

Q: Does Ross Detwiler being the only lefty in the 5th starter competition give him any advantage?

A: Maybe.  Maybe a little.  I wouldn’t mind having a 2nd lefty starter instead of a 4th righty starter, but the real reason Ross Detwiler will win the 5th starter role will come down more to options and performance versus his handedness.  This is well-worn territory though (see previous Boswell chat here and rotation projections here) so we won’t go into it greatly.  Boswell has a good point; Detwiler’s being left-handed is a disadvantage b/c the team knows they can stick him in the pen and he’ll instantly be a valuable reliever.  And then I believe Boswel predicts that Tanner Roark is winning the 5th starter spot and Detwiler is heading to the pen.  Wow.

Q: Is MLB stalling on the MASN issue b/c they’re waiting for Peter Angelos to die?

I didn’t want to phrase this “question” this way, but it was the most succinct.  Answer is, “No even the bastards that run MLB aren’t that crass.”  At least not overtly.  I think the real answer is that Bud Selig realizes just how impossible this situation is (and, frankly, the SF-Oakland-San Jose issue as well) from a legal standpoint and he’s going to just keep on waiting for one side to call out “chicken” and propose something.  We talked more at length about this issue a month ago when the Jonah Keri revalation surfaced, and (of course) nothing new has happened since.  Boswell does call this an “ultra cynical” view. 

Q: Why was Matt Skole cut so quickly?

A: Because he needs at-bats, and he’s not going to get as many of them the further we get into spring training as the veterans want 3ABs/game instead of one.  He wasn’t going to make the team; why does anyone care when he was “cut” from the major league squad?  I dunno; the whole “cuts issue” in spring training is faintly ridiculous for me anyway; is the guy on the 40-man roster?  No?  Then he’s not making this team out of Viera.  This isn’t the cattle-call that we had for pitchers in 2008 when “cuts” actually meant something closer to when your high school team had cuts.  Boswell agrees … and then gushes about Stephen Souza.

Q: Does Strasburg’s new slider put undue stress on the elbow?

A: What google article did this guy find that told him that??  I’ve never bought that argument and here’s why: I never really learned how to throw a curve ball.  I didn’t really realize this until I was an adult, but the “curves” I always thought I was throwing as a kid?  Yeah; they were sliders.  I held the ball with a curve grip and just let it tumble out of my arm, bringing my arm across my body without snapping my wrist.  And lemme tell you what: throwing a slider in this fashion was a heck of a lot easier on my arm than it was to violently snap my wrist and throw a curve ball, as I learned later on.  Personally I’ve always thought the adage, “sliders hurt your arm” was B.S.   Boswell hedges, saying that there’s different ways to throw a slider.

Q: Does it seem to you that Tanner Roark doesn’t get the respect his stats would seem to deserve?

A: Yes, absolutely.   I wish I had a nickel every time I heard someone completely discount his 50+ innings of stellar work last September and invent some reason why some minor leaguer with 12 innings of experience (ahem, Christian Garcia) should be in the MLB bullpen instead of Roark.   Why does this keep happening?  Probably because he was an afte- thought, a lowly right-handed middle reliever without an eye-opening velocity or pitch.  All he does is command his fastball, keep it low and earn grounders.  Yes Detwiler (his 5th starter competition) was a first rounder … but I think at this point in everyone’s development, the team wants the best 25 guys on the field and aren’t really that concerned about how much bonus money they were paid 8 years ago.  I think we should all look up the definition of “sunk cost” and move on.  Boswell thinks Roark is a classic late bloomer.

Q: Bryce Harper said that, with a healthy knee, he should be able to stay in on left handed pitching. What type of performance should we expect to see with him against lefties, that will be indicative of a breakout season from him?

A: I hope this is true; he was pretty bad last year against lefties.   I couldn’t easily find his lefty splits for just April before his injuries … that’d be an interesting split.  I have no idea if this is true; it could be.  Something tells me his knee pain was worse than he really let on about, all season.  Boswell points out Bryce’s rookie season splits against lefties were better.

Q: What is going to happen with Tyler Moore this year?

A:  At this point I have no idea; maybe just PH duties off the bench and occasional mop-up duty?  We’ve covered this territory many times before.  Does it make sense to keep a third outfielder on the bench over a utility guy?  Not to me … if I was constructing this team i’d be sending Moore to AAA or looking for a trade and keeping another guy who can play infield.  Boswell thinks a trade to a second division team that can start him is in order.

Q: If “the window” is only open for a short time, how do you justify not finding a way to keep Strasburg going in 2012?

A: (the question was a bit longer but basically calls out Boswell for advising a double standard in terms of approving the Stephen Strasburg shutdown but also urging the Nats to “hurry up” and take advantage of this current “window” of opportunity).  Another topic that’s well-oiled; the Strasburg shutdown.  Honestly I don’t think the Nats truly feel that they have a finite “window” right now; yes there’s a huge transition year after 2016 … is that the end of a window or merely a way to move onto the next phase?  Boswell points out some facts supporting the Nats 2012 shutdown decision … it is nice to hear someone arguing FOR the health of a player.

25 Responses to 'Ask Boswell 3/10/14'

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  1. I have seen a few ST games, and I’ll say this for Souza: the guy looks like he can hit. Seems to hit every thing hard. Not sure that he is ever going to be a great fielder, but at this point, I honestly would not be surprised to see him replace Moore as a bench guy. He looks more likely to be someone’s Willingham than Moore, to me.

    Roark: I think he doesn’t get a lot of respect yet (including from me) because the way he was successful doesn’t necessarily seem repeatable. I mentioned a few posts ago that his biggest peripheral was an ability to get called strikes (near or at the top in all the majors). Basically hitters weren’t swinging at his strikes, which feels flukey. Maybe it isn’t, maybe there is genuine deception, but I still need convincing. I am still rooting for Taylor Jordan for the 5th spot. Here is a prediction: from this point forward, he’ll accrue the most WAR of all the guys currently in the running for the last starter.

    Wally

    11 Mar 14 at 5:46 pm

  2. I don’t understand why there isn’t more focus on Hairston being on the bubble vs Moore? It’s like Hairston is untouchable because he has “experience” and is making $2MM. Moore and Hairston are seemingly the same player, but Moore has some upside while Hairston appears to be declining (fast). Based on their spring performance, maybe they should consider both to be expendable in favor of guys like Souza, Walters, Perez, Kobernus?

    Andrew R

    11 Mar 14 at 11:18 pm

  3. I think that is valid, since Hairston hasn’t shown much since he has been here. But if choosing solely between them, I think Hairston gets the nod because (a) he is better defensively, (b) has a longer track record of production in this kind of role, and (c) is paid more. It is fine to eat a sunk cost if you get better performance, but kind of silly to eat that cost for the same production, which is what looks like will happen between the two.

    Dropping them both for Souza and another kid? I could see it for Souza and one of the speedy guys, probably not Walters. Always hard to predict how a young kid will react to getting limited PAs after playing full time. I would probably go with Hairston and either Perez or Kobernus (I don’t see this actually happening, just seems logical to me in terms of roster construction). And be ready to bring up Souza if Hairston is hitting .150 in mid May.

    Wally

    12 Mar 14 at 8:14 am

  4. I agree with you that the Garcia lovefest among some fans is baffling. To me, he looks like the pitching version of Alex Escobar, who maybe could have been a perennial All Star outfielder ‘cept for the nagging little problem of staying healthy for more than a dozen games at a time. Anyway, you would think the bloom would be coming off the Garcia rose given how he has been lit up in ST so far.

    Don’t get me wrong. I wish the man well and hope he can be healthy and an asset to the Nats at some point, but Roark is clearly the horse to be riding entering the 2014 season.

    bdrube

    12 Mar 14 at 12:22 pm

  5. Regarding the MASN contract situation, there is a very “data dense” series over on Camden Depot. While you have to consider the source, and much of the analysis does indeed seem slanted to put the Orioles position in the best light, there were definitely some facts / references that I had not heard before. Including:
    - Apparently the original contract included a reference to a specific methodology for calculating “fair market value” that was the legal basis for the (low) offer to the Nats from MASN
    - While I didn’t follow all of the calculations and numbers, the author made a case that when the equity participation was included, the offer was much closer to the deals that other teams have gotten (especially over a 20 year period).
    It definitely confirmed that it is a much more complicated issue than most of us Nats fans like to portray (although I still think Selig is a sleazeball for allowing it and not forcing it to resolution).
    The analysis is spread over 4-5 articles in Feb / March, but the first is located here:
    http://camdendepot.blogspot.com/2014/02/what-we-know-about-masn.html

    DaveB

    12 Mar 14 at 1:14 pm

  6. bdrube – I am one of those baffling Garcia lovers. Completely agree that the health issue gives legit reason for concern. But I think it is important to have a few guys in your pen that have overpowering stuff. We have a decent pen but not a lot of the overpowering guys: I put him and Clip as the closest thing to that, maybe Storen (Det would be close too, if he was in the pen and his velo ticked up). Not everyone needs to pitch high leverage innings, but you do need some of those and overpowering stuff is a big advance there. I don’t put Roark into that camp, and with our staff, don’t really see the need for a high quality long man. So Roark makes more sense to me as either the 5th SP or down in Syracuse.

    DaveB – I really liked those articles too (didn’t read the last one yet). I thought that he was pretty balanced. I read his conclusion as ‘Nats are probably entitled to more than the O’s have offered, but not as much as they think’. Mostly due to the expected average value over a 20 year period, assuming that they keep offering the 7% increases that they have so far, and how most contracts have that ratcheting up over time.

    Wally

    12 Mar 14 at 1:41 pm

  7. I’m in the Garcia camp as well for same reason as Wally. Man, he was really good at the end of ’12 and I’m interested in seeing if he can do that again.

    Also, good stuff on the MASN talk, but the big thing is that there is the 5 year reset to market value which was part of the Lerner negotiation. It was impossible for Lerner to know at the time of negotiation that there was no way to settle a disagreement with Angelos on fair market value and that the problem could extend forever. There needs to be an arbitrator brought in to mediate what FMV is.

    Andrew R

    12 Mar 14 at 1:45 pm

  8. Here’s the game that sold Roark for me: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/WAS/WAS201309172.shtml . 7ip 101 pitches, two hits (both in the same inning) against the playoff-bound Braves in mid September. There was no “slacking off” in that game; the Braves were a good team playing for post-season positioning and got shut down efficiently. Or maybe it was this game: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ATL/ATL201308170.shtml : 8/17/14: 4innings, 6 Ks in Atlanta to save the Nats bacon in the infamous Strasburg “I was kind of wild” game.

    I realize a lot of his numbers last fall were against sub-par teams, and (in opposition to the Atl start i just talked about) he got shelled in StL. But hey, the Nats are going to be playing an awful lot of games this year against Miami, the Mets, the Phillies. If a guy goes out and throws a shutout against one of those teams, its still a shutout in the book.

    Todd Boss

    12 Mar 14 at 2:54 pm

  9. Hairston vs Moore: I agree with Wally here; slightly more flexible defensively but only slightly. Hairston could be a DFA if he hits his weight for two months.

    Todd Boss

    12 Mar 14 at 2:55 pm

  10. Dave: read the first post on Camden Depot and my blood boiled at the stupidity of the comments. My own fault; if you ever want to dismay yourself at the lowness of anonymous internet commenters, just read a CNN.com article’s comments on a topic that you would think would garner 100% empathy or support. I didn’t realize he had finished the series; i’ll go check out the rest.

    Never heard about the valuation methodology; I wonder what his source was for that.

    Equity participation; can’t see how its possibly even close to being equal right now if O’s own 90% or more AND are low-balling the per-year payouts. 66 is twice of 33 last time i checked, and it’ll take the Nats two decades jsut to get to 33% ownership.

    Todd Boss

    12 Mar 14 at 2:58 pm

  11. Todd,

    Hairston plays defense?

    Re: MASN, who cares what the equity is if the rights fees are a lot – the Dodgers don’t have equity in their deal, I believe. It’s the total package and the Nats are unable to negotiate that total package for some reason even though the deal calls for “fair market value.”

    Andrew R

    12 Mar 14 at 3:03 pm

  12. Rights fees: Absolutely agree. And that’s why I agree with those who believe MASN should be dissolved and both teams should just negotiate with an existing sports carrier like Comcast.

    I’m not really wedded to Hairston as a utility guy frankly … i’d rather see a home grown product there. But I do believe his salary will buy him his 25-man spot at least to start the season.

    Todd Boss

    12 Mar 14 at 3:06 pm

  13. Masn: I’d love nothing more for both sides to agree to an arbitration … and then have that abitrator rule that Angelos needs to cut a check for $150M to Lerner to “make up” for his dragging his feet. I’d laugh and laugh and laugh.

    …. and it’ll never happen. I can’t stand this situation as a Nats fan, but dispassionatly thinking about it realize that Angelos has a point, a contract is a contract, and he’s a lawyer by trade going up against an incredibly lawsuit-adverse organization in MLB. Like the whole concept of “territory” or not … by default DC was Baltimore’s territory whether or not that made any sense.

    Personally I would like all those idiots who claim loudly about how the suburbs of DC are “Baltimore’s territory” to tell me about their experiences trying to take their kids to a ballgame on a tuesday night, departing from (say) Ashburn. It’ll take you 2+ hours to get to Baltimore. I m ight as well drive to frigging Philadelphia on a weekend.

    Grr. One more sh*tty situation that Captain Bud has bestowed upon the game thanks to his being in bed with every owner in his own way .

    Todd Boss

    12 Mar 14 at 3:10 pm

  14. Boswell is totally in the tank for Roark. Seems to feel that he’s the second coming of Mike Boddicker. I’m more skeptical than that, but I do think that he has a shot at the #5 rotation spot. Roark winning the #5 spot would be great news … for Ayala, Delcarmen and the rest of the log jam competing for the last bullpen spots. Because then Detwiler would be a second lefty in the ‘pen (although much better than simply a LOOGY) and an extra spot might open up for a RHRP.

    John C.

    12 Mar 14 at 5:45 pm

  15. I’ve been running all over the place and feel like I’ve missed half of spring training, not to mention Todd’s 700th post (congrats!). So lots of catching up to do.

    Fifth starter: let’s start with the 6’8” elephant in the room that no one seems to be addressing: right now, this completion is for FOURTH and fifth starter. With quality alternatives on hand, there is no reason to rush Fister and his tender elbow. It’s much more important to have him healthy in Sept. and Oct. than March and April.

    We started with four competitors, but Ohlendorf has been sidelined and seems consigned to AAA depth. That’s fine. Frankly, I think everyone would have been a little disappointed if he had ended up having to be the guy at 5th.

    Both Jordan and Roark have each had one rocky outing but otherwise have been quite good. They’re truly competing, which is great. Det had better success yesterday, and it wasn’t just the Tidewater Tides. Still, his relative lack of success in developing non-fastballs concerns me and seems to reinforce the impression that he would do better in the ‘pen.

    When Det has his full complement working, he is one of the best pitchers on the entire staff. Still, I’m thinking more and more that he would really strengthen the ‘pen. Among the other two, I’ll cop out and agree with everyone: Roark is probably better right now, but Jordan probably has more long-term potential. And as I said, they may both continue the competition into the regular season.

    KW

    14 Mar 14 at 8:07 am

  16. Bench: let’s start with the “open competition” at second. It’s over. TKO. Rendon met it head on and looks ready (350/391/600) to take that next step we all hope he can make. As for Espinoza (167/310/208), well, they highlighted his ability at SS, so it’s time to talk trade. He’s not making this ship.

    If Rizzo is being honest about the situation, Hairston (190/261/286) is in the same lifeboat. I’m sure Rizzo is desperate for someone to take that $2.5M contract off his hands so he can save a little face with the owners. Please, PLEASE don’t give us the Chad Tracy spiel that Hairston is a “professional hitter” and that he’ll come around. I would definitely be looking for ways to cut ties with Hairston before T-Mo, although he hasn’t been too great, either (242/235/242).

    I’ve been riding the Souza horse all winter, and he sure is making me look good (280/333/520). Plus even if he struggles a bit at the plate, he’s just miles ahead of Hairston and Moore in the OF and on the bases. I’m going to be extremely disappointed if he doesn’t make the squad.

    Presumably, McLouth and Lobaton are locks, although right now they’re both making Espi’s plate performance look good. The INF/utility spot is wide open if Espi isn’t going to make it. Walters starting off blazing, has slowed a bit, but still has awesome numbers (474/565/842). Like everyone else, though, I’m scared by his high K rate and suspect defense. If you ticket him for Syracuse, that leaves Kobernus (263/300/368) and Rhymes (400/500/400). Career-wise, their numbers look pretty similar. Kobe is younger and a lot faster. Rhymes has more experience at 3B if we have real reasons be concerned about Zimmerman. (Although any extended absence would probably put Rendon at 3B and the utility guy at 2B.) If Matty W. is as committed to the pressure on the base paths as he seems to be, then he’ll go with Kobe. You could put a lot of pressure on opposing relievers in the late innings with to PR threat of Kobernus, Souza, and McLouth.

    So, on my bench thus far, I’ve got McLouth, Lobaton, Souza, and Koberus. That leaves one more slot. Brock Peterson certainly is doing all he can to make the club (389/476/611). His MiLB numbers make him look a lot like T-Mo, albeit with better OBP. However, if there are real Z-man elbow concerns, why not think about keeping Skole for the extra 3B capability? I don’t think it’s going to happen, though, and I have a sinking feeling that the last spot on the bench is reserved for an old D-Back, Mr. Hairston. If they go whole hog and keep Hairston, Moore, and Espinoza, they’re really courting a repeat of last year’s bench disaster, though.

    KW

    14 Mar 14 at 8:10 am

  17. Good analysis KW. If it were me, bench would be Moore, Lobaton, McLouth, Kobernus, and Walters. I love Souza, but would be afraid to have him riding the bench so much as the 5th of and think Kobernus can be valuable as a pinch runner and since he can play both IF and OF.

    Andrew R

    14 Mar 14 at 8:51 am

  18. KW, I think that your analysis puts far too much emphasis on Spring Training stats, which are really, truly meaningless. Not just a small sample size, but a small sample size under artifical conditions. The real importance of Spring Training is to get everyone healthy and ready for the season. ST stats, whether good or bad, simply do not correlate to regular season results. You have to look beyond ST stats to the larger record, where the players are in their careers, etc.

    Detwiler, for example. You want to put him in the ‘pen based on his results, but he is clearly working on diversifying his pitch set with both changeups and breaking pitches. It’s more important that he get used to the feel of the pitch and to throwing it in a game. If his offspeed stuff continues to improve over the next couple of weeks he’s going to be the #5 starter pretty much regardless of the ST stats because he will be much better equipped to pitch in the regular season.

    As others have noted, Peterson is basically Tyler Moore except two years older and with a slightly worse AAA track record. If it comes to it I’ll stick with Moore, thanks.

    Hairston is going to be on this team, too. He’s there as a RH bat to occasionally give Span, Harper or McLouth (depending on Werth’s health) a blow against a LH starter, and to be PH power off the bench against a LHRP. His track record in that role is pretty good, actually. Even in the midst of a terrible year last year his OPS against LHP was better than league average, and he homered about once every 12 at bats against LHP. His job is to be on the bench and give the other manager something to think about before sending a LOOGY in to pitch to LaRoche, McLouth, or Span (Harper will never be PH for). Hairston has been getting some work in at 1b so that his PH for LaRoche wouldn’t burn two players. Hairston isn’t even that old; remember he’s Jerry’s younger brother. At 33 he isn’t young, but he’s not (yet) at the age where he is likely to fall off the baseball cliff. He’s close, but the Nats don’t care – they only have him for this season.

    Walters has terrible plate discipline in the minors and terrible OBP. He needs to play every day to work on that (and his defense). He’s not going to NY with the Nationals to rust on the bench. The Nats are considering him for the utility role, which is why he’s started getting work in at 2b. Expect that to continue in AAA. Espinosa’s glove and legs are major pluses to his being the utility guy. He has looked better at the plate, too – he has made more contact and only had a couple of ugly K’s. It’s the new approach that is more significant for Espi, not the (meaningless/SSS/ST) results. Barring someone offering real value for Espinosa, he’s on this ballclub.

    So Lobaton, Hairston, McLouth and Espinosa are essentially locks. That leaves Moore (not Peterson). He truly is on the edge, and the team may end up deciding it wants another backup infielder (Carroll?). Hairston getting reps at 1b in practice is not a good sign for Moore.

    John C.

    14 Mar 14 at 10:33 am

  19. Observations…

    The farm system is producing the depth that the organizations needs and to a better degree than before. This is why pundit prospect rankings, as an organization and of individuals, are so irrelevant, misleading, and useless. I keep reflecting that Dombrowski had 15 pitchers he wanted to acquire, and two of them were Nats (Ray and Jordan). Karns netted three quality players. Burns got a proven and controllable lefty reliever even up.

    Cole is going to be in AAA faster than folks think. I would not be surprised if he breaks spring training in the AAA rotation; after all, AA will most likely feature Rivero, Purke, Schwartz, Hill, and Solis. It would be wonderful to see a AAA rotation of Rosenbaum, Treinen, Jordan, Cole, and Ohlendorf. As exciting as the Hagerstown rotation of Giolito, Voth (who I actually think will be in Potomac), Johansen, Rodriguez, Pivetta, and Orlan (or Silvestre).

    Jordan being the major league #5 is a possibility. If that is the case, Cedeno to AAA and the consequent ripple. But the organization does not need to push Jordan, so even if he outperforms Roark and Detwiler, if both of those options are excellent, healthy, and ready, Jordan to AAA as the top arm in the organization until Giolito proves he is the second coming of Dwight Gooden. And then, we watch AAA to see how the Jordan Zimmerman negotiations shake out, and we watch Fister’s health as well.

    Souza has blown away the whole strikeout-prone nonsense, too old silliness, and is now rightly being considered in the context of the top position prospect in the organization that he is, whatever the pundits say. He will be a force in Syracuse, and we will be talking about him in June. He is doing what he needs to do and playing with maturity and aggressiveness, Williams-ball. I have had an eye on him since he had a nine RBI game in Hagerstown at the beginning of 2012, and he after almost two years, we can safely say the light is on in his mental approach and he is passing every test with an organization that refuses to rush him but cannot keep him a secret to the rest of us. Unlike the other player of the year types who get traded at high value, I don;t see him getting shipped anywhere but to Washington as an eventual everyday outfielder.

    Walters has also elevated himself way into the conversation. It seems the organization is testing him for a utility role, to see if he can carry himself off the bench. But a bat like that has to be in the starting lineup and they know it, as do other organizations. His defensive potential does not reach that of his competition at the major league level. But his defense is certainly not as bad as his numbers reflected last year.

    I can’t see him sitting on the bench in Washington. One wonders whether he will be playing different infield positions in AAA everyday. That can’t be easy, but he will be a valuable trade chip if he is not rushed and if Zimmerman, Desmond, and Rendon all produce this year as they should.

    Skole is demonstrating that he is the Skole of before he got hurt. Except he is better defensively, and usable both at first and third. Great that he will have the time to get his legs under him at AA.

    Aaron Barrett is also introducing himself well. He can follow the traditional developmental trajectory and be ready to join a bullpen competition next year. His and others’ progression will easily replace Soriano and perhaps (never easily) Clippard.

    With Santana signing with Atlanta, and the free agent market picked clean, I have to think the Nats will be trading off assets for lower farm pieces, needs of which identified this spring.

    Tyler Moore is getting a lot of at bats, and the team is running out of room and time to see whether he can produce off the bench or can blossom into Chris Davis. Unless LaRoche gets injured, Moore’s value may never get higher without the team putting him in every day.

    Does Brock Peterson’s success spell the expendable end of Moore, to a team that needs a first baseman and has farm depth? I think so, especially because they are so high on Skole and Zimmerman is being thought of as an option across the diamond.

    Espinosa, to me, is being showcased for a trade. He is great to have contributing in the late innings on defense, but he will never get the at bats to catch fire. Perhaps the organization sends him to Syracuse to play every day. As soon as they do, however, he becomes a AAA player value-wise, not a player who is “blocked.” The end of spring being what it is, someone has to need a starting 2B or SS enough to overpay. Jamey Carroll may be the second coming of Mark DeRosa, but if the team can get value for Espinosa, he is there and showing he can still play. I think we are seeing the last of him.

    Wilson! Imagine, now he is being thought about as the cleanup hitter. No strikeouts all spring. Wow.

    And of course, I wish the Nats never traded Billy Burns, a winner of a player. But Blevins has outperformed more than one of the bullpen fixtures, to be fair. As aggressive as Burns is, imagine how many SB he would have playing for Matt Williams? What a weapon.

    No way does Roark go back to AAA. Does Christian Garcia? He is pitching like he remembers 2012, and there are still a couple of weeks left. With Garcia and Barrett, we could see a very, very different late innings for the Nats in 2015 (everything is barring injury, of course).

    We should all be particularly proud of how well thought of the organization is by ots players and others. It is clear that Washington, in a couple of years, has become a destination job for quality ballplayers who can make a choice. To rival even the Yankees (but for obviously different reasons).

    This is the byproduct, arguably, of the visible 2012 Strasburg decision, the development talents of the coaching staff, the fire of Bryce Harper, the leadership of Jayson Werth, and even the rehabilitative skills of the training staff as well. Rizzo gets the credit, even as Roy Clark defected.

    The whole organization is poised for a special year, if healthy. Bryce, Rendon, Strasburg, Zimmerman, Ramos, all seeming to be on the verge of taking it up another notch, which makes for a pretty special unit, ready to start fast and to keep a foot on the pedal.

    forensicane

    14 Mar 14 at 11:07 am

  20. I DON’T pay that much attention to spring training stats . . . for established guys. But Espinoza is no longer established, and he has to hit in the spring to have any value, to the Nats or to anyone else. He had one good week but then has gone back in the tank. But yes, it is encouraging that his ugly K’s are significantly down. Look, I’ve said before that it would be terrific for the team and for him if he can bounce back. He’s in a class by himself defensively among the contenders/pretenders. But he’s got to be able to hit and get on base. And he’s got to prove that in Viera.

    I’m not on the Walters bandwagon and advocated all winter that he be traded before anyone looked beyond the 29 HRs. But you do have to give the kid credit for showing up and making it hard to send him out. He has no experience at 2B and is suspect at SS, though, so I have a hard time seeing him in the utility role. I think they’re going to want someone with strong 2B skills in case Rendon is needed at 3B.

    John C. and I will have to agree to disagree on Hairston. He was awful against RHP last year and doesn’t bring much anywhere in the field or on the bases. I said that I do think he probably makes the team, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it or not believe that there are better options. It is a good observation that he has been getting more work at 1B and what that might mean for Moore (in a negative way). Souza has also seen some time at 1B. The bottom line here is probably that Moore has options and probably more trade-ability than Hairston.

    Andrew, I’ve never known what to think about the “get him more ABs in the minors” argument for guys like Souza. Sure, anyone is going to be in a better rhythm playing every day. Moore crushed it when he went down to Syracuse last year. But should we make the same argument about Espinoza if he’s not going to be the starter? Or should we keep him – or Souza or Kobernus – and play them irregularly with the big club if they’re the best options available?

    Forensicane – I like Skole better than some others do, but I still can’t buy him as a regular at 3B.

    As for the fifth starter, the spring stats are less important for Det than they are for the two less-established guys. They know what they’ve got in Det, both pro and con. Obviously they’d like to see a little more development since they’ve got him working on more pitches. Frankly, I don’t think any of us know what Williams, McCatty, and Rizzo will be looking at to decide it. Det of course is on the squad regardless, and Roark probably is as well with Ohlendorf out of the equation. Jordan will only stay in DC if he’s starting.

    Let’s all just be thankful that we’ve got three good options, particularly considering the desperate times for our associates down in GA. I feel very bad for Medlen personally, but I do chuckle at the organization as a whole, particularly since it was just being sainted a couple of weeks ago for its approach to locking up its players. They were gambling on several of those arms, and they put that money they saved by taking those gambles into the extensions. Now they’ve lost their draft pick and perhaps a lot more.

    KW

    14 Mar 14 at 12:19 pm

  21. My two Spring Training stat thoughts:
    - Tom Glavine once reportedly spent an entire spring training inning throwing the same pitch over and over; a changeup over the outside corner. His infielders knew it, his manager knew it … and soon the opposing team knew it as well. And he predictably got hammered as hitters sat on it and pounded it. He didnt’ care that his ST ERA grew into the teens; he cared because he was working on one particular pitch.
    - Earlier this spring training, Ryan Zimmerman noted (paraphrasing) that “I know I can hit a 90mph fastball down the middle … i’m looking to get deeper into counts to see other pitches and try to hit them.” This was in explanation why he was taking a bunch of pitches and not attacking in his early spring at bats.

    So, yes, always take *some* players’ spring training stats with a grain of salt.

    However.

    I honestly don’t think the guys who are actively trying to make the team, guys who may or may not get sent to AAA and guys who aren’t sure what their roles are yet are absolutely trying as hard as they can this spring training. Zach Walters’ great stats are meaningful, as is Taylor Jordan’s stats and Espinosa’s stats. Of course … the other side effect is “small sample sizes.” Walters isn’t going to hit .475 for the year.

    Todd Boss

    14 Mar 14 at 12:40 pm

  22. 4th and 5th starter competition: I can agree with that, and it’ll likely happen if Fister has any more setbacks. Start him on 15-day DL, which would give probably Jordan the 5th spot for at least a couple of weeks…

    Lots of great debate here … sorry i’m late to the party.

    Todd Boss

    14 Mar 14 at 12:44 pm

  23. Not a good day for Jordan, even with the wind blowing in.

    KW

    14 Mar 14 at 2:58 pm

  24. I’ll have some of what forensicane is having!

    John C.

    14 Mar 14 at 10:16 pm

  25. How many ABs would Souza get if brought up as 5th OF? Very few. I would think it would be more valuable to have a pinch runner like Kobernus who could possibly get in every day. Give Souza another month or two until an injury and then get him some regular time to see what he has.

    Andrew R

    15 Mar 14 at 12:01 am

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