Michael Taylor has been lighting it up this spring. Photo via wp
Bill Ladson‘s inboxes seem to now just be sporadic Spring Training devices. I should do more post-Boswell chat reaction posts to drum up conversation. Nonetheless, here’s Ladson’s latest mailbag and how i’d have answered the questions he took.
Q: Former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden believes Michael Taylor should be the starting left fielder over Jayson Werth. What is your take on it?
A: My take is, “thats why Jim Bowden isn’t a GM anymore.” Or even a manager. Yes Michael Taylor has had a great spring. He also struck out, a lot, in 2015, (158 Ks in 511 PAs for a nifty 31% clip) and (per his splits) didn’t really improve much as the season progressed. Meanwhile Jayson Werth put up very, very good numbers in 2013 and 2014, the two most recent seasons when he wasn’t hurt. In both of those seasons he put up oWAR of 4.7 (his total bWAR figures being drug down by his idiot manager continuing to play him in RF instead of left).
Of course, Werth isn’t getting any younger. There’s not guarantee that he hasn’t fallen off a cliff of performance.
So what’s the answer? You let Werth play his way to the bench. The odds are that someone’s getting hurt in our OF and Taylor is going to get 400-500 ABs anyway. So he’s gonna get playing time. But there’s just no way that Dusty Baker the “veteran’s manager” is going to sit a long-time vet and team leader by virtue of a few weeks of Florida ABs. It may take half a season of under-performance, but eventually these things sort themselves out. This is basically what Ladson said too.
Q: What do you think is Baker’s toughest decision before heading north?
A: What socks to wear on opening day? Honestly, there’s really very little to decide upon with this team. They’ve had a very injury-free spring. The rotation was basically settled upon months ago. The trades that Mike Rizzo made to solidify the roster also had the effect of basically locking up the roster going north. Maybe there will be a surprise in the bullpen but that seems unlikely too; the team acquired all these guys for a reason and it wasn’t to compete for a bullpen slot.
The obvious answer prior to spring training was “who starts at Shortstop” but I’ve never thought there was any question that Danny Espinosa will be the starter. That’s not to say I don’t recognize the potential of Trea Turner (he’s not a top 10-15 prospect on most pundits’ sheets for nothing), but returning to a theme, I just had a hard time thinking that a manager like Baker was going to go with a guy with 5 weeks of service time over a guy with nearly 5 years. As with Taylor/Werth though, this situation likely sorts itself out. If Espinosa hits .200 for April, then he’ll switch places with Stephen Drew and the team will start thinking hard about bringing back up Turner (especially if he’s hitting .320 in AAA).
I think there’s still some question at the edge of the bench; do you go with who I think they’ll go with (Tyler Moore and Clint Robinson) or do we get a surprise DFA so they can stick with someone like Matt den Dekker? Ladson also says its the last bench spot, where Moore is the incumbent but a number of guys could stick based on spring performance, specifically Scott Sizemore, who might be a bit more positionally flexible than Moore.
Q: What is your biggest concern about the Nationals?
A: Bullpen. We’ve talked about how the Nats, despite all their injuries on offense last year, really struggled in terms of run prevention as the core reason they went from 96 to 83 wins. Now they’re rolling out nearly a 100% changed bullpen from opening day last year. How will it perform? Will it be able to hold down the fort?
We also likely are taking a step back in the rotation, unless Strasburg remembers his September form and brings that from day one. But, we hopefully counter this with a step forward in offense, with healthy seasons from Anthony Rendon and the veterans. Ladson also says Bullpen.
Q: Who do you see having a breakout year in the Nationals’ farm system?
A: Well, do you count Giolito at this point? Probably not. I’m going to go with the prospects who are getting publicity but who are still in the lower minors. Guys like Victor Robles, Anderson Franco. I’d like to see what Max Schrock can do. I’m excited to see what Taylor Hearn can bring to the table with a full season. The two Lees: Andrew Lee and Nick Lee. Ladson mentions Severino; meh; i think we know what we have with Severino by now; great catcher, no hit, #8 hitter in the majors. I think you see this team let both Ramos and Lobaton go this coming off-season and find a new starter with Severino as the backup. But that’s a year away so lots could change.
Q: Should the Nationals consider trading Stephen Strasburg before the non-waiver Trade Deadline since it seems he has no interest in returning to Washington next year?
A: Nope. You try to WIN when you have guys like Strasburg, not flip them away like you’re some small market team stashing away prospects for the future. This isn’t Tampa Bay; this is the #5 market in the nation. Besides, who said Strasburg has “no interest” in returning to Washington?? I’ve never read that. His agent is Scott Boras, who always advises going to free agency, and next year’s FA class is weak, meaning Strasburg will probably get into a bidding war for his services. Its the modern game; he’ll be overpaid, he’ll get too many years, and he’ll likely get priced out of the comfort level of Ted Lerner and company. But that’s not the same as implying that Strasburg doesn’t want to be playing in Washington. Would you give Strasburg 8yrs/$200M? Because that’s the going rate for an Ace-quality guy like him on the market. Ladson agrees.
Q: What do you think of Blake Treinen? Is he a starter or reliever?
A: I think he’s a starter at heart but a reliever in reality. That is unless he can actually develop a 50-55 grade third pitch that he can reliably get lefties out with. If that’s the case, then he could become a very effective starter. And it does seem like the Nationals are thinking the same thing. He’s definitely pitching this spring like he’s a starter; perhaps the team is thinking about Treinen as the longer guy instead of Petit. Ladson says he’s showing progress and his spring stats are good; is he the 6th starter over A.J. Cole or Austin Voth at this point? If someone goes down with injury, are you trying out Trienen or are you calling up the kid Giolito?