The Nats can compete in 2009 if they spend money correctly and effectively. Let me repeat that. The Nats can compete in 2009 if they spend money correctly and effectively. This is not going to be another "Maybe Next Year" post...the offseason has started, pieces have been added (Olsen, Willingham), removed (Chief, Wagner, Schroder, Bonifacio) and signed elsewhere (Affeldt, Dempster). Whether or not the Nats can compete with these players is really up to you, but I think that we're a few key pieces away from being competitive. And as much as I would love to get these key pieces through the system, we're still way far off from fielding a .500 team just with our own system guys (and minimal free agent/trade additions). Numbers are rounded after the third decimal place, so if you're keeping score at home and things don't add up, that's why.
UTIL Jerry Hairston, Jr.-Look, I love Willie Harris as much as the next guy, but we need a super sub who is more experienced in the infield. Hairston has spent significant time over the last few years at three vital positions: 2B, SS and CF. We can guarantee him playing time (if we want to compete, we can't be starting Alberto Gonzalez all of the time). He played for $500k last year. I think we can get him anywhere from $1 mil to $1.5 mil.
1B/3B/PH Russ Branyan-He's the force off of the bench that we've been missing since Daryle Ward was traded. When you sign bench guys, you don't want ones that are all-around mediocre like Aaron Boone. I don't care that Branyan strikes out a ton-he makes up for it by hitting a crapload of home runs off of the bench. He made $800k last year. How about $1.5 mil for a great bench bat?
1B/OF Adam Dunn-Yes, I went there. Like it or not, he is one of the most productive batters in baseball. We need to stop dreaming about Nick Johnson now. Let him be our best bat off the bench (even better than Branyan!) and if he's healthy, move Dunn to the OF. I'm tired of counting on Johnson with no contingency plan. It's time to count on Dunn with Johnson (and then Willingham and then Da Meat Hook and then Branyan) as the contingency plan. Will 4 years, $48 mil be enough? If not, I'm down for 5 years, $60 mil.
Where would all of this leave us offensively? (note-in 2008, the ML average was exactly 6300 total PA, which averages out to exactly 700 per position. Pitchers averaged about 300 PA give or take, so about 5900 go to hitters (including PH appearances). My projections on PH plate appearances may be a bit off, but it's the best I could do. Generally speaking, I've tried to use "main guys" as I have a total of 21 guys that will be used in my projections. I've broken everything down by position as follows:
C: Jesus Flores-400 PA, Wil Nieves-250 PA, Luke Montz-50 PA
1B: Adam Dunn-400 PA, Nick Johnson-100 PA, Dmitri Young-100 PA, Josh Willingham-100 PA
2B: Jerry Hairston, Jr. -250 PA, Anderson Hernandez-250 PA, Ronnie Belliard-175 PA, Alberto Gonzales-25 PA
3B: Ryan Zimmerman-500 PA, Ronnie Belliard-75 PA, Russ Branyan-75 PA, Leonard Davis-50 PA
SS: Cristian Guzman-500 PA, Alberto Gonzales-100 PA, Jerry Hairston, Jr.-75 PA, Anderson Hernandez-25 PA
OF: Lastings Milledge-525 PA, Elijah Dukes-400 PA, Josh Willingham-350 PA, Austin Kearns-300 PA, Adam Dunn-200 PA, Wily Mo Pena-100 PA, Roger Bernadina-75 PA, Ryan Langerhans-75 PA, Jerry Hairston, Jr.-50 PA, Leonard Davis-25 PA
Now let's look at production by player. I've combined the MARCEL projections for 2009 with some of my own (based mostly on the 2008 season). Let's see how the Nats stack up.
Ronnie Belliard-300 PA-I have Ronnie hitting .274/.347/.441, amounting to 37.448 Runs Created.
Roger Bernadina-80 PA-I have the Rockin' Curacaoan hitting .261/.317/.377, amounting to 7.009 RC.
Russell Branyan-150 PA-I have our new Daryle Ward hitting .242/.342/.590, amounting to 22.812 RC.
Leonard Davis-60 PA-I have the Good Lenny hitting .260/.314/.468, amounting to 6.882 RC.
Elijah Dukes-400 PA-I'm playing it safe with Elijah because of injury concerns. I have him hitting .255/.383/.499, good for 54.631 RC.
Adam Dunn-600 PA-Dunn's down for .246/.391/.522, worth 82.202 RC.
Jesus Flores-400 PA-Does .262/.322/.412 sound right? If so, 43.797 RC.
Alberto Gonzalez-150 PA-.264/.333/.398 equals 15.963 RC.
Cristian Guzman-500 PA-.314/.344/.449, equaling 66.703 RC.
Jerry Hairston, Jr-375 PA-.265/.338/.398, totalling 39.318 RC.
Anderson Hernandez-300 PA-very close to Hairston, at .270/.337/.396-32.676 RC.
Nick Johnson-100 PA-This is where the projection is incredibly conservative, putting my end total of RC near the bottom of what it COULD become if Nicky J is healthy-.266/.412/.505, worth 20.488 RC.
Austin Kearns-350 PA-He's gonna bounce back, trust me-.258/.357/.430, worth 40.645 RC.
Ryan Langerhans-95 PA-.233/.378/.387 is worth 10.289 RC.
Lastings Milledge-525 PA-.274/.337/.451 is worth 62.965 RC.
Luke Montz-50 PA-.261/.343/.420 is a total shot in the dark (probably a little high), but over 50 PA it doesn't make too much of a difference. 5.610 RC.
Wil Nieves-250 PA-Won't impress with the bat this year, but good with the glove. I have him at .247/.305/.367, worth 22.535 RC.
Josh Willingham-450 PA-The new guy will impress some with his eye and power, but if my projections are correct, he will be the 5th or 6th best hitter in the lineup, perhaps taking some pressure off? .262/.359/.453, worth 54.528 RC.
Dmitri Young-100 PA-We know Da Meat can hit .282/.364/.466. That's worth 15.576 RC.
Ryan Zimmerman-500 PA-He's a good breakout candidate this year, but let's keep our projections realistic: .282/.351/.456, worth 64.580 RC.
All-together, this would provide 722.701 RC. Add in the pitchers' 300 PA at their 2008 production (.090/.133/.102), worth another 2.947 RC, and you end up with 725.648 RC. Consider the breakout possibilities from the likes of Dukes, Milledge, Zimmerman and Flores and that could rise even higher. Say we expect a little bit more production across the board and it ends up evening out at 730 RC. That would be a 89 run improvement over last year. Sure, it's not as much as you'd expect with so many changes, but that level of production, even with last year's poor overall pitching, would even out to 71 wins. So without improving our rotation a single bit, we would go 71-91. Come back by the weekend and I'll show you my plan to get the pitching up to par to get us up to (and maybe even over) .500.
We all know none of this is going to happen under the Lerner administration, but it's fun to dream, right?