Monday, October 13, 2008

Mailbag time!

The best time of the week-MAILBAG TIME!

What do you think Austin Kearns's future is with the Nats?
-- Ryan S., Millersville, Md.

He will be back and will be the starting RF. He won't be an all-star, but he'll hit AT THE VERY LEAST .260/.340/.430 with stellar defense, assuming he's healthy (not a safe assumption). Nobody will take his salary and the Nats won't buy him out when he has the potential to come back big.

Does Willie Harris have a shot as an everyday player?
-- Tim T., Reston, Va.

No. He's an awesome utility guy, but the position he's best at, LF, demands a ton more power out of a player. If he's smart, he sticks with the Nats because they'll offer him a ton of playing time at his non-premium defensive positions (3B).

About a year ago, I asked if you thought a Chad Cordero trade for Jason Bay was a possibility. You said, "That would be a steal for the Pirates. I want to know why Bay slumped so badly for the Bucs last year." Do you think a player like Bay would have salvaged the poor offense and provided the extra power the Nationals needed throughout the season?
-- Brandon P., Bethesda, Md.

I'm LOLing at Ladson's answer: "Besides the poor offense that you mentioned, there were a lot of injuries, the team played poorly on defense and pitching was shaky, at best. Here's another thing the fans don't talk about: The base running was awful, especially during the second half. "

Yes, but trading a reliever for Jason Freaking Bay would have been a steal for the Pirates? I love the Chief, but relief pitchers are the most overpriced commodity in baseball. You have to make that trade 10 out of 10 times (if it were actually on the table, which I doubt). Bay would have made the Nats better offensively, but not enough to escape the cellar.

I have followed Levale Speigner since he was in high school. What are his prospects for next season?
-- Terri S., Lisbon, Ohio

If he makes a 40-man roster, it will not be with the Nats. If it is with the Nats, I will start weeping.

After the last four seasons, how can we view pitching as the one area not in need of a new coach? The Nationals rank near the bottom of every category in pitching as well as hitting, but we're not replacing the pitching coach during this major housecleaning?
-- Bill W., Alexandria, Va.

The problem isn't Randy St. Claire-it's the garbage he's forced to work with. Unless we're talking someone like the Leo Mazzone of the 1990s as pitching coach, our pitchers would get worse rather than better with a different pitching coach. Hope you didn't forget our one-season-wonders Hector Carrasco, Esteban Loaiza and Odalis Perez...I attribute all of their collective success to St. Claire.

What is Ryan Wagner's status with the team?
-- Ross B., Highland, Va.

According to Ladson, his shoulder is healthy and he will be ready for Spring Training. I don't see him making the ML squad unless he has a great spring training-he's behind Hanrahan, Mock, Rivera, Bergmann, Shell, Hinckley, etc. already.

Why do you keep saying that Lastings Milledge is a building block given his numbers in the Major Leagues? Compare his numbers to the center fielders on contending teams - Elijah Dukes and Justin Maxwell have shown much more potential.
-- Kimon G., Bethesda, Md.

As Ladson hinted, Dukes and Maxwell are very injury-prone. Milledge has done a lot at a very young age. You can't help but be encouraged by a .268/.330/.402 slash line out of a 23 year old. Dukes will be the long-term CF, though, and Millz with Thrillz will be in LF.

How safe is Manny Acta's job, and how long does his current contract run?
-- Frank H., Northampton, UK

This is something that I've been struggling with. I know Manny does a great job with the guys, but there is really no way to judge a manager who is stuck with crappy players. I've never been impressed with Acta's in-game strategy, but his morale boosting is worth keeping him around for...I say hold on to him until the Baby Nats grow up and Acta actually has something to work with. If he fails then, he's gone.

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