By now, you know the drill. Read up on all of the previous "Maybe Next Year" posts here.
Tonight's edition is the bench. Keep in mind that the bench predicted is done assuming the starting lineup is how I set it here and also assuming the pitching staff consists of 5 starters and 7 relievers, leaving us with 5 bench players on a normal basis. Due to the extreme right-handedness of my lineup (Guzman, a switch hitter, and Dunn, a left handed hitter, were the only two non-righties in my lineup), the bench will consist of 3 lefties and two righties. This really only made a difference in my final pick, which I'll talk about more later. I'll withold 2009 predictions for these guys, as it's kinda silly to predict them considering I did the starters' predictions based on about a full season of play.
R/R Luke Montz-C/1B (no ML contract yet, will cost $400k or less in '09)
At first I had Nieves, but why not Montz? The kid hit .282/.368/.536 to start the year in Harrisburg and has hit .260/.328/.462 in AA and above in his career, to go with 42 XBH's in 407 at bats. As long as the walks continue to rise and the K's continue to fall, Montz will be a servicable backup catcher and first baseman.
L/L Nick Johnson-1B (under contract, $5.5 mil in '09)
We all know what we get with Nicky J: a metric ton of walks, decent power, great defense and multiple trips to the DL. When Nick The Stick (or Slick Nick) is on the DL, I suppose Leonard Davis, Justin Maxwell or Mike Daniel get their chances to prove themselves (Casto will play more 1B then). Side note: Nick Johnson stole 16 bases in A ball? WAT?
R/R Wily Mo Pena-OF (option-$5 mil for the Nats to pick up, $2 mil for Pena to pick up, $2 mil likely)
Do we have to keep him? Unfortunately, yes. We'll decline our part of the option (if for some reason we accept, I'll go bezerk), but Pena will undoubtedly pick up his part, as $2 mil is a nice bounty for a pathetic 35 OPS+ (Odalis Perez has a 38 OPS+ this year). Pena gets $1 mil for each HR he has hit. Meh. Maybe next year he'll return to the Wily Mo we hoped we would get, the one who put up OPS+ above 100 from 2004-06 (and with the Nats in 37 games last year). Maybe he'll get back on track with his "top comparables" on Baseball-Reference.com (Cory Snyder, Austin Kearns, Phil Plantier, Albert Belle, Mike Marshall, Jermaine Dye, Frank Thomas, Preston Wilson, George Bell and Willie Stargell round out the top 10). I'd say expect more homers, continued poor defense and a different '10 uniform in Wily Mo's future.
L/R Willie Harris-2B/3B/SS/OF (resigned, $1 mil for 1 year)
Willie's a pretty big no-brainer. He's got speed, plays plenty of positions, and has been a decent player this year. He's still only at .221/.335/.379 over the year, but he has hit .273/.385/.429 since June 1. In terms of contract estimation, we'll just say Harris receives a $200k raise over his 2008 salary to make it an even $1 mil.
L/R Kory Casto-1B/3B/OF (under contract, $400k auto-renew likely)
Kory barely edged out Leonard Davis in my book, but his left-handedness and experience gives him the edge here. He plays above-average defense at 4 positions (1B/3B/LF/RF). He hasn't swung the bat great overall, but is hitting .294/.368/.412 in July. I would be very happy with that production over a full season. I'd expect more along the lines of .280/.340/.400 though. And after seeing Ryan Langerhans for most of 2007, I would still be very happy with that.
The odd men out: Leonard Davis, Justin Maxwell and Mike Daniel (lack of high-level experience), Ryan Langerhans, Wil Nieves and Peterson T. Orr (lack of success in the Majors, low-ceiling) and (needs to start wherever he is).
Total Bench Cost: $9.6 mil (estimate), most of which goes to Johnson at $5.5 mil.
Check in tomorrow for Maybe Next Year? Part Six: The Bullpen!