Monday, March 30, 2009

Nats Nuggets

Jon Heyman's latest column notes two things we should probably be afraid of:

First, apparently Boras isn't kidding about the $50 mil demands. Heyman's key quote: "Now Boras is said to want $50 million on a six-year contract, a contract proposal that was first floated as a possibility by Peter Gammons. It seemed fanciful when it was first thrown out there. But apparently it's deadly serious. Besides [fictional player Sid] Finch, executives say they believe the other comparable player Boras sees is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who got $52 million over six years from the Red Sox after starring for years in the Japanese League. Boras, who declined to comment, apparently is suggesting the tens of thousands of previously drafted players over the past 40 years aren't in Strasburg's league."

Yikes. Even if he chooses $30 mil as his sticking point, the Nats will pass. Unless his demands are between $10 and $20 mil, I don't see the Nats signing Strasburg. I do think that, in the end, they will get it done, but just the rumors are scary to think about (not in terms of money, but in terms of "oh no, we might not get Strasburg!").

Second (and in the long run, more important): Heyman says that Rizzo and Bowden both wanted to meet Crow's asking price, but the Lerners and Kasten wouldn't budge from $3.3 mil. That is scary. The first round of the draft is not the time to be cheap when you have a team whose minor league system, frankly, sucks. Enough of this "precedent" garbage. Just get it done.

Moving along, Chico Harlan posted up the Nats who are out of options over at Nats Journal.
Here's how I see them stacking up, from most likely to make the roster to least likely:
* Joel Hanrahan, Josh Willingham, Willie Harris, Daniel Cabrera, Anderson Hernandez, Ronnie Belliard-locks
* Steven Shell, Mike Hinckley, Kory Casto-Casto and Hinckley should not make the team, and Shell is iffy, but I can see all 3 making it. Since the Nats are starting with 14 hitters, Casto will probably break camp with the team, and I would expect Shell to as well. Hinckley is probably headed to waivers/Syracuse in my opinion.
* Wily Mo Pena (gone)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The roster, it is a changin'

As you've probably seen already, the Nats have made a plethora of moves and announcements today:

Dmitri officially has been placed on the 40-man roster, taking Wily Mo Pena's spot, as he was put on irrevocable waivers. [Nationals Journal]

Both Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmermann will be parts of the ML rotation. Martis will start the year as #4 and Zimmermann will start the year in AAA and be called up when the #5 starter is needed.

Javier Valentin refused his assignment to AAA and became a free agent.

Jose Castillo and Corey Patterson were sent to AAA (thank God!!).

Collin Balester also was sent to AAA. [Nationals Journal]

What does this all mean? It means we are going in the right direction. We are going into Opening Day with the best pitchers we have in the rotation and the best position players at bat and in the field. Cutting deadweights like Wily Mo Pena is something Bowden was way too hesitant to do. Glad to see Rizzo's got the guts to do it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Some Baseball America Links (and a bonus quote from Keith Law)

Check this out: Ralph Dickenson, the Nats' roving hitting instructor, chats with Baseball America's Ben Badler about Chris Marrero, Michael Burgess, Derek Norris, J.P. Ramirez and Destin Hood. In another post, Badler blogs from today's Nats games against the Braves (major) and Tigers (minor).

Jim Callis discusses what the Nats could ask for the #1 pick if draft picks were dealable. In a different post, he says Steven Strasburg would be the #3 prospect in their top 100 if he were eligible.

Some pretty good stuff here, worth checking out!

And a bonus quote from Keith Law: "Handshake deals are illegal under MLB rules, folks. The Nats should tell Young’s agent to shove it. An oral agreement is only worth as much as the paper it’s written on." If only...

Thursday Inbox: Bowden's ghost continues to haunt the Nats

First off, here's your inbox:

Kearns is having a good spring, hitting .333 with two home runs and seven RBIs. Do you think he is having success because he's back with his buddy Dunn?
-- David M., Woodbridge, Conn.

No, he's having success because he's not hurt anymore. And whatever Ladson said about his stance and Eckstein and stuff.

Bill, here's your $1 million question: Will the Nationals become playoff contenders in 2009?
-- Alex C., Montreal

No. They still don't have enough pitching. 2010 isn't out of the question and 2009 will be an improvement, but I think .500 is about the most realistically optimistic we can be.

Is Willy Mo Pena still in the running to get on the 25-man roster?
-- David, W., Arlington, Va.

He can't be. His power never returned (1 XBH in Spring Training). He's worthless in the field. Without power, he's nothing, and right now, he is without power.

Jordan Zimmermann is the real deal. He is the savior to this franchise. What are your thoughts on him?
-- Brent N., Hamel, Minn.

ZNN is NOT the savior to this franchise. I'm sorry for being such a Debbie Downer today, but he hasn't even thrown an inning above AA! Why put so much pressure on him? Just let him pitch and call him a "savior" after the season if that's what he ends up being.

If Nick Johnson gets hurt this season, will Dunn move to first base?
-- Jack S., Washington, D.C.

Apparently, Dmitri Young might snag some AB's as well. The team is going to put him back onto the 40-man (Thanks, Bowden). I'm guessing that if Johnson got hurt, assuming health for everyone else, Dunn would get about 65% of the playing time at 1B with Dmitri getting the other 35%. (Side note on Young-I think it's funny that Rizzo is going to honor Young's "handshake agreement" with Bowden, considering Bowden himself probably wouldn't honor it. "(Jeff) Shaw claimed at the time that Bowden had agreed not to trade him as part of a contract that involved Shaw taking less money from the Reds than he could have gotten elsewhere. “We had a handshake deal that he wasn't going to trade me,” Shaw said. “Three months later, he traded me. ... If I had been in the room with him, I would have killed him.").

The Nationals can't possibly go north with Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, Dunn, Kearns, Pena and Josh Willingham on the 25-roster. Who is going to get cut or traded?
-- Bobby M. Gaithersburg, Md.

Cut: Pena. Trade: Willingham

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday Evening Link Parade

Some interesting stuff for you tonight.

Bill Nye the Science Guy is a Nats fan! See the first poll at the bottom of the post! [DC Sports Bog

Dmitri Young is smelling a trade [Half Street Blues]

The Nats are going to start the season with a 4-man rotation and 14 hitters []

Ladson speculates that the "extra" bench guy will be Kory Casto, Dmitri Young or Wily Mo Pena, but not a catcher. Also, Rule 5 draftee Terrell Young is "suffering" from right shoulder pain. Says he's fine now. Might we be stashing him for a while on the DL? [Ladson's Blog]

Anderson Hernandez pulled a hammy tonight, apparently pretty bad. See the second poll at the bottom of the post. []

Sunday, March 22, 2009

2008-09 Winter League Conclusions

Originally, I was going to merge this post with a Spring Training post, but instead decided to do them separately. Here are 6 guys that stuck out (or in two cases, struck out) to me:

IF Anderson Hernandez (.338/.390/.489)
Anderson has made obvious improvements lately, even though I rarely admit it. He'll still never armount to much of anything with the bat, but he's started doing something pretty valuable for a career .232 hitter: not swinging. His walk % at all levels in 2008 (7.4 % in AAA, 11% in ML and 8% in the Dominican Winter Leauge/Caribbean Series) was much better than at any point since 2004, the last time he broke 6% at any level. His K % is still higher than I want, but that improved as well. For Hernandez-as well as anyone else, really-you're just looking for a continuation of the progress made in the 2008 regular season.

IF Ronnie Belliard (.307/.378/.534)
During the regular season, Belliard was phenomenal between DL stints, with a .900 OPS. His season was cut short in early September, so all I wanted was some at-bats. He had just about 100 PA in his winter league and hit well, so it was a success.

OF Justin Maxwell (.220/.400/.455)
Maxwell was only a little unlucky in terms of BABIP and saw K numbers skyrocket, so the .220 batting average isn't encouraging. He was, however every bit as good in terms of walks as he was bad in terms of K's. With career minor league K and BB %'s of 26% and 11% respectively, his 29% K% and 22% BB% in Winter League ball don't look all that bad. And, he didn't get hurt!

IF Ian Desmond (.267/.364/.525)
Desmond's percentages improved as well. His 25% K% was significantly better than his 37% career average and his 14% BB% was a little bit better than his career minor league average of 12%. Hope that this year he can match that BB% rather than the 7.5% he's put up at AA so far in his career.

C Jesus Flores (.247/.295/.412)
His lack of plate discpline is really quite alarming. He needs to walk more than 6% of the time everywhere, even if he's playing high schoolers.

OF Edgardo Baez (.238/.262/.288)
He isn't really much of a prospect anyways, but getting blown away by Puerto Rican Winter League pitchers isn't going to help that either. Seriously, a 34% K% and 4% BB% in a league where Ben Grezlovski put up a 3.20 ERA?

If you want to check out complete stats for Nats in Winter Leagues, click here.

Stances on a few things

First of all, I'm sure most (if not all) of you have seen and heard about Chico-gate by now. My stance: I agree with Mike from Nationals Fanboy Looser-Chico made a mistake, apologized for it and we need to get over it. He didn't choose this beat (in Soviet Russia, beat chooses you), but still is a good writer (with the potential to be a great one) and does a fine job, considering covering baseball is a 24/7/365 event.

Lastings Milledge has been named the leadoff hitter. My stance: AGAINST! FJB had a nice post up today concerning optimizing the batting order, and while I do disagree a bit with some of it, I wholeheartedly agree with batting the OBP monsters at the top. Putting Milledge and Guzman, two of our three most undisciplined starters (the other being free-swingin Flores), 1-2 is just plain stupid.

Cutting Shawn Hill: A necessary evil. It seems that with guys like Hill, the only way to quit the whole "he's so good, but he's always hurt" mantra is to cut bait completely. I still believe Hill can be a great #3 starter, but I think it was time for him to go.

Signing Joe Beimel and Josh Bard: Both good moves. Beimel provides steadiness in the pen-he's more or less a known quantity. Not flashy, not as good as his 2008 line, but good enough to be worth $2 mil. Bard is solid and you can't argue with the price ($600k), especially when you consider the fact that he might end up being the starting catcher. From the looks of things, he's either awesome or terrible every year. Hopefully this is one of those awesome years.

Sunday Inbox

Ladson's at it again! Inbox time!

I've been a fan of Hill's since he made his debut with the Expos in 2004. I don't understand why the Nationals released a man with his great work ethic. The team has had patience with first baseman Nick Johnson. I think you will agree Hill had tremendous upside.
-- Ben F., Suffolk, Va.

To be honest, Hill's time was up with up. He might be a great pitcher somewhere else, but we just couldn't count on him anymore. The team was better off moving on, in my opinion.

How is Johnson looking this spring?
-- Lou L., Sacramento, Calif.

Numbers are decieving (and pretty much pointless in Spring Training), but from what I've heard so far, Nick the Stick is looking decent. Here's to hoping he can play 130 games this year.

Do you think that the Nationals are going to miss Perez? Last year, he ate up a lot of innings and had a decent ERA. I never understood why the Nats didn't reward him with a Major League contract.
-- Phil I., Rockville, Md.

No. He was league average, yes, but they have a lot more pitchers this year capable of doing so. And I don't think it's good to have 3 LHP in the rotation, either. Olsen is his replacement, and at least Olsen has upside.

You said recently to not get ahead of ourselves when talking about right-hander Steven Strasburg -- but how can we not? He is the greatest prospect to come along since right-hander Mark Prior, and we have the No. 1 pick. Are you saying the Nats aren't going to pick him?
-- Michael S. Richmond, Va.

Look at what you just said..."the greatest prospect to come along since right-hander Mark Prior." Remember what happened to Mark Prior? Don't get ahead of yourself, there is no such thing as a known quantity in college baseball (or really in any kind of baseball).

Right-hander Jason Bergmann has yet to give up an earned run. I think he is really making a case to make the team and showing how much he wants to stay in the Majors. What are his chances?
-- Alex C., Montreal

He'll make the team as a middle reliever...a 75% chance.

Is Jesus Colome still alive in the competition to make the bullpen? You don't have his name listed on the depth chart.
-- Joseph M., Westwood, NJ

Also a 75% chance. For both of them, we'll see them anyways so it's not a huge deal if they don't make the initial Opening Day roster.

I would like to see the Nationals hire Frank Howard as a hitting coach. Is this possible?
-- Alan N., Washington D.C.

As a hitting coach, no. He should be hired somewhere in the system, but  not as the hitting coach. Think "special instructor" type roles. Team Ambassador? Something like that?

Fighting for .500: Conclusions

To read all installments of "Fighting for .500", click here.

Over the last month or so, FJB, Hendo and Farid have gone over how the Nats can possibly go .500 this year. I'll try too, but with a different method: comparing the 2009 Nats to the 2005 Nats, who went 81-81.

Position Players:
2005: 13.9 WAR
2009: 23.32 WAR

Starting Pitchers:
2005: 19.2 WAR
2009: 9.9 WAR

Relief Pitchers:
2005: 12.3 WAR
2009: 3.1 WAR

2005: 45.4 WAR 
2009: 36.32 WAR

So there you have it. The 2009 Nationals do not stack up favorably to the 2005 Nats. We really need pitching.

Some things that could tilt this all in the Nats' favor:
Breakout years from Dukes, Milledge and/or Flores
Breakout years from Cabrera, ZNN, Hanrahan and Rivera
Johnson staying healthy
Olsen returning to rookie year form
Dealing an OF (Willingham?) for a decent SP
Holding on to Kearns as the 4th OF, as he's much more valuable than people think

.500 is still a possiblity, but a lot of things have to go perfectly in our favor and a lot of things simply can't happen.

Fighting for .500: Relief Pitchers

To read all installments of "Fighting for .500", click here.

Over the last month or so, FJB, Hendo and Farid have gone over how the Nats can possibly go .500 this year. I'll try too, but with a different method: comparing the 2009 Nats to the 2005 Nats, who went 81-81. I ran the pitching numbers myself using a spreadsheet from Beyond the Box Score. Innings pitched predictions have been done by me with some help from Fangraphs. On a side note, I adjusted the position players post for the addition of Josh Bard. Great move.

Relievers are also going to be depressing. Remember how the 2009 Nats pretty much blew the 2005 Nats out of the water in terms of hitting/fielding? Well, our relievers are significantly worse this year. I'd like to point out that only relief appearances are considered in this post. A pitcher who both started and relieved in the same season (or projects to do so) will be considered two different pitchers to me.

2005: Chad Cordero
2009: Joel Hanrahan

Pretty much no matter how good Hanrahan is this year, he can't even come close to the 2005 Chief. Cordero was worth an incredible 5.5 WAR in 2005-more valuable than every other pitcher on the team except Patterson. Best case scenario pegs Hanrahan around 1.5 WAR, but I'm projecting him at 0.9 for now.

Setup: 8th Inning
2005: Gary Majewski
2009: Joe Beimel

Majewski was also pretty incredible in 2005, throwing more than 80 innings of sub-3.00 ERA ball. All-in-all, it was worth 2.6 WAR. Beimel is solid, but just like in Hanrahan's case, how can you match up to that? I've got Beimel at 0.8 WAR, not bad, but not 2.6.

Setup: 7th Inning
2005: Luis Ayala
2009: Saul Rivera

The gap continues to inch closer, but still is way off. Ayala (who I might add was AWESOME every single year before 2008) was worth 1.9 WAR, even though his high inning count was a factor in his elbow problems starting in the spring of 2006. Rivera's ceiling is certainly high on this team and I think he's a great breakout candidate. If we have an infield of Zimmerman-Guzman-Hernandez-Johnson, there will be significantly fewer ground balls that leave the infield. I've got Rivera conservatively at 0.6, but wouldn't be surprised if he put up a 3-ish ERA season, even though it would stray from his career averages.

Other Relievers
2005: Hector Carrasco, Joey Eischen, Jon Rauch, Mike Stanton, Tomo Ohka, Zach Day, Sunny Kim, Jason Bergmann, Darrell Rasner, Travis Hughes, C.J. Nitkowski, T.J. Tucker, Joe Horgan, Antonio Osuna
2009: Jason Bergmann, Jesus Colome, Mike Hinckley, Wil Ledezma, Garrett Mock, Steven Shell, Jorge Sosa, Julian Tavarez, Ryan Wagner, Terrell Young

Carrasco sticks out like a sore thumb in this group, but his swingman role was a little hard to classify. He was worth 2.1 WAR as a reliever in 2005, a ridiculously awesome number. Three other 2005 relievers (Halama, Bergmann and Eischen) were worth 0.5 WAR. The total WAR of all of the above 2005 relievers was 3.3 speaking volumes to the ineptitude of Hughes, Nitkowski, Tucker, Horgan, Kim and Osuna, all of which were worth -0.1 or worse out of the pen.

Of the 2009-ers, only Young is projected to have a negative WAR (and even at that, it's only 0.1), but again nobody is really that special. There are a ton of 0.0's (Bergmann, Hinckley, Ledezma, Sosa, Tavarez and Wagner). The total WAR of all of the non-closer/setup 2009 relievers is 0.7. That kinda sucks.

RP Totals:
2005: 13.2 WAR
2009: 3.1 WAR
Another Ruh-Row, a 10.1 WAR defecit.

Conclusions will be up soon.

Here's the dirty math for the projections (will put it up on Google Docs at some point).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fighting for .500: Starting Pitchers

To read all installments of "Fighting for .500", click here.

Over the last month or so, FJB, Hendo and Farid have gone over how the Nats can possibly go .500 this year. I'll try too, but with a different method: comparing the 2009 Nats to the 2005 Nats, who went 81-81. I ran the pitching numbers myself using a spreadsheet from Beyond the Box Score. Innings pitched predictions have been done by me with some help from Fangraphs.

I'm not going to lie, this is going to be depressing. Remember how the 2009 Nats pretty much blew the 2005 Nats out of the water in terms of hitting/fielding? Yeah, it's the other way around pitching-wise. I'd like to point out that only starts are considered in this post! A pitcher who both started and relieved in the same season (or projects to do so) will be considered two different pitchers to me.

#1 pitcher (WAR-wise)
2005: John Patterson
2009: John Lannan

John Patterson was a monster in 2005, putting up a 3.13 ERA in 198 and 1/3 IP (6 WAR). Comparing him to John Lannan isn't fair. Lannan is a decent pitcher, but he doesn't have quite the numbers or the innings to even be half of 2005 Patterson. I've got Lannan at 2.8 WAR, not bad, but it would have been the #4 starter on the 2005 squad.

#2 pitcher
2005: Esteban Loaiza
2009: Scott Olsen

Again, a terribly unfair comparison. Loaiza sparkled in 2005, with a 3.77 ERA over 217 IP, worth 4.6 WAR. Olsen is projected to be more or less league average over 185 or so innings, worth 2 WAR. Another huge gap.

#3 pitcher 
2005: Livan Hernandez
2009: Daniel Cabrera

2005 Livo was a beast, too! He was worth 4.5 WAR in 2005. Noticing any trends?  Cabrera is worth about 1.7 WAR in 2009 in my book, still pretty far from the 2005 rotation.

#4 pitcher
2005: Hector Carrasco
2009: Collin Balester

Is it sad that Carrasco beats out Martis despite throwing about 75 less innings than I've projected the Wow-in Curacaoan at? Nothing against Martis, though, it was just that Carrasco put up about a 2.00 ERA in 2005, worth 1.3 WAR just as a starter. Martis' projection is conservative-personally, I think he'll outperform a 4.90 ERA and 0.8 WAR, but for the sake of statistical analysis I'll call it that.

#5 pitcher
2005: Tomo Ohka
2009: Shairon Martis

Ohka only had 9 starts in 2005, but was worth 1.1 WAR. Too bad we dealt him for Junior Freakin' Spivey. Like Martis, I expect Balester to outperform his expectations, set at a 5.00 ERA and 0.7 WAR. I think he'll be the one pitcher to edge out his 2005 counterpart projection-wise.

#6 and beyond (pitchers who started/project to start at least 1 game)
2005: Tony Armas, Jr., Ryan Drese, Zach Day, Jon Rauch, Sunny Kim, John Halama, Jason Bergmann, Claudio Vargas, Darrell Rasner, Matt White
These guys were worth a total of 0.8 WAR in 2005, led by Tony Armas Jr.'s 0.7 and killed by Claudio Vargas' -0.7.
2009: Jason Bergmann, Gustavo Chacin, Matt Chico, Garrett Mock, Kip Wells, Jordan Zimmermann
These guys project to be worth a total of 1.7 WAR in 2009, led by Zimmermann and Bergmann at 0.7 and 0.6, respectively, and not helped by Chacin's 0.0 and Wells and Chico's 0.1's.

SP Totals:
2005: 19.2 WAR
2009: 9.9 WAR
Ruh row, a 9.3 WAR deficit.

Here's the dirty math for the projections (will put it up on Google Docs at some point).

As you can see in that link, the relievers' numbers have been crunched. Hopefully I'll be able to finish that post by Sunday afternoon.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Fighting for .500: Position Players

Over the last month or so, FJB, Hendo and Farid have gone over how the Nats can possibly go .500 this year. I'll try too, but with a different method: comparing the 2009 Nats to the 2005 Nats, who went 81-81.

One note-I'm using historical Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stats from BaseballProjection and 2009 projections from Fire Jim Bowden (with wOBA tweaks based on projections from FanGraphs). I'm not so good with the number crunching myself.

Starting Catcher
Scheider had a career year in 2005, posting a .268/.330/.409 line with great defense, worth 2.3 WAR
I've got Flores at a .308 wOBA, a modest improvement over last year. For some reason CHONE hates Flores this year, projecting a regression with the bat from the last 2 years. I think Flores will at worst tread water, this year, but even if the bat improves, he is still a downgrade from the 2005 version of Schneider at 1.21 WAR.

Advantage: 2005 (2.3 WAR to 1.21 WAR, a 1.09 WAR difference)

Backup Catcher
Bennett was atrocious in 2005, worth -0.5 WAR. In reality, he's atrocious every year, but Bowden didn't seem to realize that.
2009: Josh Bard
Bard is a large improvement over either Wil Nieves or Javier Valentin. I've updated my projections to a 65-35% split in playing time between Flores and Bard, and Bard is worth almost as much. I've got Bard at 1.14 WAR, a huge, huge improvement over Gary Bennett.

Advantage: 2009 (1.14 WAR to -0.5 WAR, a 1.64 WAR difference)

Starting First Baseman
Nick was healthy for a significant part of the season for the second time ever in 2005, beating his previous career high in games played of 129 by 2 with 131 and his previous career high in plate appearances of 441 by 106 with 547. This was good for a 4.2 WAR.
Johnson is projected this year to be more productive than in 2005 (.389 wOBA vs. 2005's .379), but with significantly less playing time, and thus a lower WAR of 2.74. Keep in mind that Johnson's lower projected playing time will lead to more playing time for Adam Dunn at 1B and more for Kearns and Willingham in LF rather than seeing the likes of Aaron Boone and Kory Casto picking up slack at 1B like last year, so it's not quite as bad as it seems.

Advantage: 2005, but that doesn't tell the whole story (4.2 WAR to 2.74 WAR, a 1.46 WAR difference)

Backup First Baseman
I'm not going to lie, I was a huge fan of Carlito's Way in 2005, but he was pretty terrible, with a -0.4 WAR.
2009: Adam Dunn
This is going to be unfair. At the 45% of PT I project Dunn to have at 1B, he's projected to have a 1.05 WAR. Not as high as you might expect, but his defensive stats kill him almost as much as they help Nick Johnson.

Advantage: 2009 (1.05 WAR to -0.4 WAR, a 1.01 WAR difference)

Second Basemen
Funny, in 2005, Jose Vidro and Jamey Carroll almost split time at 2B and in 2009, Anderson Hernandez and Ronnie Belliard will probably split time pretty evenly Nice how things work out.

In 2005, Vidro was worth 0.9 WAR, which is pretty ordinary. He was hurt, though. Big Surprise
Carroll was pretty much the anti-Vidro, putting up terrible numbers with the bat but decent ones in the field, He ended up with a 0.7 WAR.
2005 total: 1.6 WAR

I'm not a big Anderson Hernandez fan, but I do expect him to win 55% of the playing time at 2B. at a .288 wOBA, he'll rely on his glove to reach his projection of a 0.5 WAR.
I have trouble giving up on Belliard, as he's been great for us for the last two years. He'll come back down to Earth after a stellar half-season last year, but shouldn't fall much further than his 2007 season. Expect something along the lines of .280/.330/.430. A .330 wOBA would put him at a 0.99 WAR, and he's hit .330 all but twice in his ten year ML career.
2009 total: 1.49 WAR

Advantage: 2005 (1.6 WAR to 1.49 WAR, a 0.11 WAR difference)

Starting Third Baseman
Vinny used all the juice he had left (perhaps literally) in 2005, posting his last career positive WAR of 1.0.
The biggest difference between 2005 and 2009 is some semblance of well-rounded players. Besides Johnson, there weren't really any players who could play defense and hit as well. The 2009 team features Johnson, Zimmerman, Guzman (if he can be 90% of what he was last year) and Dukes who can do this. I've got Zimmerman down for a 4.89 WAR, which is easily the best on the team and also a conservative guess hitting-wise.

Advantage: 2009 (4.89 WAR to 1.0 WAR, a 3.89 WAR difference)

Backup Third Baseman
It's amazing that in 61 PA in 2005, Zimmerman posted a 0.5 WAR, half of Castilla's 1.0 WAR that was attained in 549 PA.
Casto will probably take away a decent number of Belliard's innings at 3B, but Belliard is the one I can run numbers on.  He's worth 0.13 WAR, mainly because I only have him at 10% of the plate appearances at 3B. Although if Zimmerman can come up with a 0.5 WAR in about 9% of the PA's at 3B...

Advantage: 2005 (0.5 WAR to 0.13 WAR, a 0.37 WAR difference)

Starting Shortstop
If you told me in the summer of 2005 that Guzman would be penned in (not just penciled in) as the starting SS in 2009, I would have gone back to being a full-time Cubs fan. Guz was worth -1.8 WAR in 2005.
After a miraculous 2008 season (where he was worth 4.3 WAR), Guzman's gotta fall off at least a little bit. I've got him at 1.99 WAR, still decent enough considering his 2005 season.

Advantage: 2009 (1.99 WAR to -1.8 WAR, a 3.79 WAR difference)

Backup Shortstop
I realize that Jamey Carroll was the primary backup SS in 2005, but I couldn't split up the stats and Carroll fit in so well at here's Spivey. We'll just call this role "Backup Infielder #2." In not too much time with the Nats, Spivey was worth 0.5 WAR.
In not too much time with the Nats in 2009, I've got Gonzalez down for being worth 0.2 WAR. If only we could say the same about his evil twin...

Advantage: 2005 (0.5 WAR to 0.2 WAR, a 0.3 WAR difference)

I'm just going to post them all in a big lump because it's hard to separate the 2005 guys by position.
2005: Jose Guillen: A decent year for Jose, worth 2.3 WAR. Anyone remember the home/away splits?
Brad Wilkerson: The 3rd best year of Wilkie's career ended up being worth 2.0 WAR.
Preston Wilson: Was he worth Zach Day and J.J. Davis? At the time, no, but it ended up being a wash as everyone in the deal turned out bad. 0.5 WAR.
Ryan Church: Not enough playing time for someone as good as he is (compared to those who were around him), 1.4 WAR.
Marlon Byrd: Not too good with the bat, OK with the glove, 0.3 WAR
2005 total: 6.5 WAR

2009: Adam Dunn: Here for the other portion of his playing time. Worth 1.61 WAR.
Elijah Dukes: Worth 2.39 WAR in around 455 PA. Imagine what he could do with 700 PA. Or imagine if he has a breakout year. I'm excited.
Lastings Milledge: If his defense stays bad and his bat improves decently, we're expecting a value of 1.39 WAR. If his defense improves and his bat breaks out, I'll be surprised.
Josh Willingham: I wish we could plug him in for 25% of the at-bats behind the plate where his bat would make him a top-10 catcher, even if his defense was below average (and, judging by his limited stats from 2004-06 in the Majors, it wasn't all that bad). In LF, he'll give poor defense and a value of 0.86 WAR in limited time. If Johnson gets hurt and Willingham stays healthy, he could give us 30 HR. Or his value could be better in a platoon role (like that of Jayson Werth in Philly). Here's something you might hear a lot this year: potential. Too bad he's 30.
Austin Kearns: Patience has been running thin with Austin, but I think he's been playing hurt the last few years. All 5 projections predict a great improvement over last year and numbers close to that of his 2005 and 2007 seasons. He's worth an incredible 1.13 WAR in only about 250 PA, way more than that of Willingham in 20% less playing time.
Willie Harris: Harris will not be as good of a htiter as last year, but he will be as good of a fielder. I hope Manny can find him some AB's at 2B and 3B, because he'll get stuck behind a lot of guys in the OF. He's worth a little less than Kearns in the same number of PA. I have him at 1.09 WAR.
2009 total: 8.47

Advantage: 2009 (8.47 WAR to 6.5 WAR, a difference of 1.97 WAR).

2005: 13.9 WAR (thanks, Guz!)
2009: 23.32 WAR

So basically, the 2009 Nats are projected to be 8.54 wins better offensively/defensively than the 2005 Nats. But that's only half of the story. Hopefully I'll be able to get the other half done by  sometime Wednesday or Thursday.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Because blogging > studying! Here's your Inbox:

Free agent Pedro Martinez would win some games and draw fans in Washington. The Nationals could use a tested starter. Any thoughts?
-- Kyle S. Arlington, Va.

Martinez is the type of veteran the Nats SHOULD sign. He's an ex-star (unlike Paul Lo Duca, who was just an ex-decent player). His velocity is apparently back, his pitches are moving well...he would be a great fit and could teach our guys something.

I saw Ivan Rodriguez in the World Baseball Classic, and he looks impressive. He has not signed with a Major League team yet. Would the Nationals be interested in him as a mentor to Jesus Flores and a backup catcher?
-- Raul T., Arlington, Va.

Along with Pedro, I think Pudge would be a good signing, but for defensive reasons. Like Ladson said, however, it depends on whether or not he'd be willing to accept a backup/split role. I don't believe Flores is going to be able to catch a full season successfully at this basis, just a feeling. Plus, we could use a catcher who is famous for catching would-be base stealers to make them think twice when running on Daniel Cabrera.

It is exciting to think that in the not too distance future, the Nationals are going to have John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg leading this starting pitching staff for years to come.
-- Rich R., Slingerlands, N.Y.

It is exciting, but there are no guarantees. Lannan relies a lot on pinpoint control and changing speeds, something that is near impossible to be compeltely consistent on through a career. Zimmermann and Strasburg have never thrown above AA before, so they aren't sure things either. All three (and Balester and Martis, too) have a wealth of talent. It's up to our coaching staff to try and corral this talent and mold some awesome pitchers. Pray for no injuries as well.

What will the Nats do with their crowded outfield? Obviously, Austin Kearns or Elijah Dukes will not accept a backup role.
-- Michael R., St. John's, Newfoundland

I think Willingham will be dealt. I also think Kearns will accept a backup role if asked (or at least a "start 2 of every 4 days" sort of deal). With Johnson being Johnson and Dukes being Dukes (and Willingham being Willingham), I think injuries might sort things out.

I would like to see the Nationals acknowledge earlier Washington teams rather than the Montreal Expos. Surely, Washington fans prefer to think of a team history that includes Walter Johnson, Bucky Harris and Frank Howard, rather than one featuring Andre Dawson, who never played a game in Washington.
-- Larry F., Gaithersburg, Md.

Unfortunately, the Twins and Rangers "own" the franchise records, per se. Anything involving The Big Train and Hondo would have to be filed under "Washington DC baseball records" instead of "Nationals Franchise Records." Technicality, yes, but it's tacky to take a team from a city and then pretend like they never existed.

Bonus: newcomer Julian Tavarez compares the Nats to Jennifer Lopez and Josh Towers and Justin Maxwell will not make it past the next roster cut tomorrow.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


This is going to be a quick post, but I just wanted to give a quick anecdote:

Today, my sister and I went to the Caps' practice at Kettler and hung around afterwards to get some autographs and pictures and stuff. And I see this kid in a wheelchair with a big green cast on his leg (I think I overheard his dad saying he had knee surgery of some sort). There were a few signatures, but big spaces because the kid wanted to get his cast signed by the Caps. He picked a bad day in sorts to get signatures, because only 5 Caps by my count came out of the front door. 3 of them-Nylander, Erskine and Poti were already gone by the time he got there.

Bruce Boudreau came outside (with a Sidney Crosby stick, no less..."for charity." We told him to scrape it up on the sidewalk a little bit) and chatted for a minute with the kid, signed his cast, then continued to sign autographs and take pictures with everyone (including myself). Then Mike Green came outside, signed the kid's cast and every single thing put in front of him (and took pictures with anyone who asked, as well). Finally, Ovechkin came out and looked like he was in a rush to get to his car. He didn't look like he saw the kid in the wheelchair at first, but I guess saw him out of the corner of his eye and diverted his course to go sign his cast. In a rush, Ovie said "only for kids" and signed anything belonging to the under-5-feet crowd, but I was very impressed with the Caps' biggest players' availability. Bravo, Capitals.

Here's the best picture I could get of Ovie signing the kid's cast:

Friday, March 13, 2009

More on the Nats

Julian Tavarez was signed to a minor league deal worth $500k if he makes the team. Signings like this are essential to baseball teams-he helps fill out AAA and will create competition for ML spots both in Spring Training and the regular season. And, as Svrluga mentions in Nats Journal, he had a 3.98 ERA against the NL last year, so his 5.10 overall ERA is a little misleading. What makes a bounceback more probable: a 4.16 FIP last year. Between Bill James, CHONE, Marcel and ZiPS, his expected ERA is about 4.64 next year. Pencil me in for 4.50, tops.

Ladson notes on his blog that McGeary is not dropping out of Stanford completely, but rather sitting out the Spring quarter so he can pitch for a pretty much full season. Smart move by McGeary, as he's already way ahead of his class load (wish I could say the same about myself, and I'm not a professional baseball player for my summer job). He's got 4-5 quarters left (needs 80 more credits, max credits able to be taken per semester=20...he says 4 but that seems too utopian for this Nats fan). Works for me.

And also on Ladson's blog, he puts out his "Dream Lineup":

I like mine with Guzman and Johnson 1-2 and Harris at 8 at 2B...Come on, Bill, how can you leave Millz with Thrillz out of the lineup?

Thursday late night odds and ends

Well, I finally have enough fodder to constitute a whole post.

First off, the Caps beat the Flyers tonight. Good. I hate the Flyers.

Second, the Hokies beat Miami today. Also good. I also hate Miami. They need to do work tomorrow, though.

Next, the Rangers are getting a compensation pick for their prospect, Alexei Cherepanov, that died of heart faliure in a KHL game in Russia back in October. To be honest, this makes no sense to me and sets a terrible precedent for the NHL. Where do you draw the line? Players have died before and their teams were not given draft pick compensation (Len Bias, anyone?). Is a career-ending injury sustained in the minors not enough to get a compensation pick but death is? It is a subject that shouldn't really be questioned for respect reasons, but I don't see why the NHL would do this.

In other news, did anyone else (besides Kenny G) watch the Syracuse-UConn game tonight? Epic. 6 overtimes! Here's a link to the boxscore-the replay of the game should be up by tomorrow and it is definitely worth watching. Total tallies-244 points, 66 fouls, 82/208 shots, 16/59 3-pointers, 70 minutes of game time. Wow.

Last but not least, some Nats thoughts:

Good: Cabrera's 1st hit, Kip Wells signing (couldn't hurt).
Bad: Thinking about signing Duaner "Right-handed Odalis" Sanchez, Kory Casto's chances of making the Opening Day roster (and also his chances of getting claimed on waivers), Chad Cordero signing with the Mariners. Farewell, Chief!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Inbox

2 in 4 days, hooray! It's Ladson time.

Should the Nationals hold on to right-hander Shawn Hill? Will outfielder Elijah Dukes have a big year? Those are two of the many questions Nats fans want to know during Spring Training. Here are answers to some of those questions.

With Hill constantly getting hurt as a starter, wouldn't it be ideal for him to be moved to the bullpen? I hear he has great stuff, but his lack of endurance scares me. 
-- Rafael B., Miami

Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES. Or does moving Hill to the pen just make too much sense?

I'll keep saying it again and again. When are the Nationals going to wake up and smell the coffee concerning Hill? He is injured far too often. I think there are a couple of young pitchers in the organization that would do much better than him. 
-- Jorge T., Springfield, Va.

I'll meet you halfway. Hill is worth keeping around. It's worth taking a chance that he'll one day get healthy because when healthy, he's not just good, he's really good. But what the team needs to do is stop expecting him to be healthy, because he's not. Consider him Nick Johnson-enjoy his 1/4 of the season while it lasts.

If first basemen Chris Marrero and Nick Johnson continue to have good springs, would that affect how the Nats think about Johnson's future with the club? 
-- Brett L., Washington, D.C.

With his injury last year, Marrero is really nowhere near ML-ready. I can see Johnson being dealt, but instead of rushing Marrero to the bigs, Dunn or Willingham would shift to 1B.

Do you think the Nats will eat the salaries of Dmitri Young and Austin Kearns in an effort to keep the best players on the roster? I think the bench looks much better with Willie Harris, Ronnie Belliard, Josh Willingham, Roger Bernadina and Wil Nieves. 
-- Chris O., Ashland, Va.

Dmitri's not going to be on the bench, so to be honest that doesn't have any effect here. I wish people would actually give Kearns a chance instead of considering his 2008 season extreme and uncharacteristic suckitude  rather than caused by injury suckitude.

Don't you think they should keep Young and put him on the bench? I think he would be a great pinch-hitter. 
-- Michael B., Epsom, N.H.

They are keeping Young, but he isn't close to being healthy enough right now to be worth a roster shot.

As a season-ticket holder, I watched Dukes improve his hitting during the latter half of the season. He developed a keen eye for the strike zone and seldom swung at bad pitches. I believe he will draw a lot of walks and be one of the best hitters on the team this year. What is your take? 
-- Charles K., Va.

I like you, Charles K. Glad to see some good insight here as opposed to "I LIKE ______________ LET'S START HIM!!!" or "KEARNS SUCKS!!!!!1!!!"

Can we expect to see President Barack Obama throwing out the first pitch at the home opener? 
-- Michael L., Williamsburg, Va.

Don't expect it, but be pleasantly surprised if he does. He's a sports fan so I think he will throw out a home opener, but could you blame him for throwing it out for the White Sox, his favorite team?

Are the Nats interested in free agent Will Ohman? They need bullpen help, and he is a young lefty. 
-- Rich R., Slingerlands, N.Y.

"I see the Nationals making a trade to improve their bullpen."-Ladson

That's dangerous in my opinion. Ohman could be had for ~$1 mil. We would have to give up a prospect to get a lefty, so why not spring an extra $500k or so to get a player without having to give one up.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thursday Inbox

Straight from Ladson's mouth!

What position will Adam Dunn play? Can Josh Willingham go behind the plate? Those are two of the many questions Nats fans want to know during Spring Training. Here are answers to some of those questions.

What position will Dunn play this season?
-- Ambrose D., Rockville, Md.

Left field, until Nick the Stick gets hurt at least. He'll play 1B exclusively in 2010.

Josh Willingham used to be a catcher. With the crowded outfield, is there any possibility that he could be the team's starting or backup catcher?
-- Alex C., Montreal, Canada

"That is a good question. I just don't see it at this time. The only way I see Willingham behind the plate is if Jesus Flores and Wil Nieves are hurt. The Nationals are happy with what they have at the catcher position."-Ladson

The only way Willingham SHOULDN'T catch is if he's physically incapable of doing it anymore (and I could see that being the case). The Nats being happy with their catchers is a terrible excuse, as Willingham would be a HUGE upgrade over Nieves and a much better hitter at least than Flores.

The Nationals gave up on second baseman Orlando Hudson because he was out of their price range, but he signed with the Dodgers for $3.4 million. If this was too much, how much did they expect to pay for him?
-- Chris V., Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

"I don't think Washington needed a second baseman. I think Ronnie Belliard, Willie Harris and Anderson Hernandez are good enough to play the position."-Ladson 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Belliard is a good hitter and a bad fielder, Hernandez is a bad hitter and a good fielder and Harris (to this point at least) hasn't seemed to be in the Nats' plans at 2B.

I'm guessing Hudson would have cost us ~$4 mil at least. We have to overpay for free agents since we were so bad last year. With his injury concerns, I can understand why the Nats passed, but to say they didn't need a second baseman is preposterous.

What's pitcher Jack McGeary's current status? I thought I had heard that he was leaving Stanford this spring to concentrate on baseball full time. Is he in Viera, Fla. ? 
-- Hendo, Silver Spring, Md.

"McGeary is still at Stanford and is not expected to report to camp until Monday. There have been reports that McGeary is going to quit school, but he has not made it official."-Ladson

That's a legit scoop, Bill. All of the speculation led us to believe it was a 100% deal. Guess we all spoke too soon.

I thought reliever Chad Cordero did not want to come back to the Nationals, yet I am hearing constantly that club is interested in signing him. Is Cordero seriously thinking about signing with Washington? 
-- Jonathan P., Woodbridge, Va.

"Now that Jim Bowden is no longer the general manager, I think there is no question that Cordero would consider coming back to the Nationals. Cordero was upset that Bowden announced last May that he would be non-tendered. Such an announcement is not made until the offseason. Cordero vowed not to come back to Washington if Bowden was the GM."-Ladson

2 scoops in 1 mailbag! I like it! I'm sure the Chief would love to be back with the Nats-they're probably willing to pay him more than anyone else (for nostalgic purposes) and he would have way fewer people in his way when he attempts his comeback.

Given that Austin Kearns hasn't played well since he arrived in Washington, shouldn't the Nationals be looking at Jorge Padilla as a backup outfielder? He comes a lot cheaper. 
-- Neil B., Sheffield, England

Padilla is terrible. Off the top of my head, here are 14 players that I'd rather see in our OF than him on Opening Day: Dukes, Milledge, Dunn, Willingham (all givens), Harris, Kearns (more upside), Pena (more upside), Davis, Maxwell, Langerhans, Casto, Bernadina, Lowrance and Daniel. I might even consider Dmitri Young and Corey Patterson. Padilla has no ML upside-he's a AAAA player and a mediocre one at that. He's not worth a second look, to be honest. I'm sure he's a nice guy and all, but he'll be a Syracuse Sky Chief all year.

What are Dmitri Young's chances of making a Major League roster? He was the Nats' best player two years ago. 
-- Dick L., Centreville, Va.

If Johnson gets hurt, it's about a 50/50 shot (assuming Meat's health, which is never a good assumption to make). If everyone's healthy, less than 10%. He needs to get under 300 pounds before we even think about it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Nationals Offseason in Review-Part 1: Additions

If you look around, most blogs do some sort of "offseason in review" entry, usually for a blog of another team (for perspective purposes). These reviews are good and all, but are nowhere near complete, because they don't need to be. But here at DCSportsPlus, we try to be as complete and comprehensive as possible, so we'll go over every single addition and subtraction in the entire 2008-09 offseason, starting in September. I know this is not the usual start of offseasons, but that is when the beginning of personnel changes for the following season do begin, whether we admit it or not.

Let me clarify that my definition of "addition" is loose. This is for players who were signed, traded for, re-signed, had options exercised or were added in the Rule 5 draft. As you will see, there are a few little "surprises" thrown in there.

MLC means minor league contract. All other contracts should be assumed to be Major League.
NRI means Non-Roster Invitation to Spring Training
Split minor league contracts (for example Alex Cintron's $600k/$90k deal) means if he makes the ML roster, he makes $600k and if he stays in the minors he makes $90k.
If terms are not posted, that means I couldn't find them.
Please post in the comments if you have any corrections or if I missed someone.

Additions (in alphabetical order):

RHP Matt Avery (trade-CHC)
Avery is probably at best going to be organizational fodder, as a 25 year old without any experience above AA. If the walk rates come down in 2009 as drastically as they went up in 2008, he might end up being a 6th/7th man out of the bullpen.

Bobby Brownlie (resigned to MLC, NRI)
Brownlie is also organizational fodder at this point. The former Cubs top prospect did well at AA last year (as a 26/27 year old), but has never solved AAA. He's not an option IMO.

UTIL Freddie Bynum (signed to MLC-2008 org BAL, NRI)
Fast, decent defender, terrible hitter. Sound like a he-who-will-never-be-named-again (HWWNBNA) signing to you? At least he can play every position but C and 1B.

Daniel Cabrera (signed to 1 year, $2.6 mil contract-2008 org BAL)
My first impression of this deal looked like something along the lines of Macaulay Culkin's scream-face in Home Alone, but the deal has grown on me a little. Still, be skeptical, so you won't be disappointed if (and semi-likely, when) he fails to meet expectations. Three good articles on Cabrera you should read: FJB, Baseball Insider and Baseball Prospectus.
B-R Page, my original post, confirmation

2B/3B Jose Castillo (signed to MLC-2008 orgs SF and HOU, NRI)
He hasn't ever really been good at any level. Two .800 OPS seasons in the low minors were the best he ever did. Since he's not a good hitter, he must be a good fielder, right? Wrong. I don't really know how this guy made his rise to the majors, but at least he's relatively young and has been at least 75% of an average ML batter in his career (as opposed to Anderson Hernandez, who is about 50% of an average ML batter). Although we might want to consider calling him up during the month of May, where he's a career .320/.363/.495 hitter in 415 PA. All things considered, we'll probably see him playing a little bit of second base this year when Hernandez proves to be a huge bust.

LHP Gustavo Chacin (signed to 1 year MLC, worth $600k if he makes the Nats-2008 org TOR, NRI)
The soft-tossing lefty had an awesome rookie year in 2005, with a 13-9 record and a 3.72 ERA (and 119 ERA+). Here's what Wikipedia has to say: He can't grow hair due to AA (no, not Alcoholics Anonymous, although he should join that, as he got a DUI on my birthday in 2007). He always wears sunglasses during days he starts. The Blue Jays had a cologne promotion in 2006 in his honor. And he was supposedly treated unfairly by the Blue Jays. Waaaaaaaay too much drama for me when we're talking about a guy with injury issues who didn't pitch in the majors last year and hasn't pitched effectively since 2005.

IF Alex Cintron (signed to 1 year, $600k/$90k MLC-2008 org BAL, NRI)
With Cintron, you'll start to notice two trends-guys who spent 2008 with Baltimore (Bynum, Cabrera) and guys who had 1 excellent season in the majors and nothing else (see Chacin, Patterson). He's consistently below-average-to-average with the bat, but once again, he's closer to replacement value offensively than Hernandez.

RHP Jesus Colome (resigned to MLC, NRI)
We know him, we (don't) love him, but we will definitely see him in DC in April. He's a great pitcher for probably 8 of every 10 games, then absolutely atrocious in the other 2 out of 10. For example, he gave up earned runs in 17 of 61 games last year. In 9 of those 17 games, he gave up at least 2. In 2 games, he gave up at least 5. When he's on, he's on. When he's off, he sparks anger that trumps his actual value in my mind.

1B/OF Adam Dunn (signed to 2 year, $20 mil contract-2008 orgs CIN and AZ)
Despite the lack of defensive value and high strikeout total, we have ourselves a gamechanger, finally. And he gets on base more than enough for the likes of Dukes, Flores, Johnson, Willingham, etc. to knock him in. And at only a 2 year commitment, the deal is a steal.

1B Brad Eldred (signed to MLC-2008 org CHW, NRI)
He'll never see DC this year. Signed at the wrong time, to be honest. He's buried behind Johnson, Dunn, Young (and probably even Belliard, Rhinehart, Casto in the eventual line of succession). If we get all the way to that point, we're beyond screwed to the point where it doesn't even matter. But he's basically Adam Dunn without the walks-low batting average, tons of K's, tons of power.

RHP Gary Glover (signed to MLC-2008 orgs TB and DET)
Glover's not a bad guy to have around in case of a ton of injury, but he's not somebody you want to pencil into your bullpen. Career 5.03 ERA, only 1 season with higher than a 100 ERA+ (but, like I said, his career ERA+ of 89 is passable in case of apocalyptic injury). Solid guy to have around. Nats Journal commenter JohnInMpls said it best: "Before this signing, the Nats needed some bullpen help. After this signing, the Nats will still need bullpen help."

RHP Ben Grezlovski (signed to MLC-2008 org Long Island-Atlantic League)
Nothing to see here, just organizational fodder.

3B Joel Guzman (signed to MLC-2008 org TB, NRI)
I like the signing, and NFA agreed, saying "Whether a new organization finally kick starts him is an enormous question. A nice gamble for a team that can afford to give it a shot. FJB took a different stance, however, saying "He just hasn't projected into the guy people saw when he was a sleek 20-year-old athlete, and it's been two years since everyone else figured out that Guzman is a bust. Twenty-nine other GMs collectively rolled their eyes at this JimBo special." I don't think it can hurt signing someone with decent potential, especially when he's not really blocking anyone.
UTIL Willie Harris (resigned to 2 year, $3 mil contract)
I'm surprised that Wee Willie's breakout 2008 was actually below league average, with a 98 OPS+. Paying for defense is very smart in this case, because Willie is an awesome defender. $1.5 mil per year over 2 years is about as low risk as it comes, anyways. And, I'll hop on the soapbox and say that Willie should be our permanent starting 2B.

C Javi Herrera (resigned to MLC, NRI)
He's a dime-a-dozen catcher, one who hits .250/.330/.360ish with okayish defense. He'll be one of the first cuts in Spring Training and will back up Luke Montz and Javier Valentin in Syracuse this year.

1B Nick Johnson (missed last 122 games in 2008 due to injury)
Getting back Nick the Stick (along with his glove, "the Slick") is just like signing an awesome free agent...for about 40 games, at least. I think the Dunn signing and the Willingham trade will be best for Johnson's longevity, as he'll be able to take a lot of days off when he needs them.

LHP Justin Jones (resigned to MLC, NRI)
I've always been a fan of Jones, probably because he was brought up originally with the Cubs. He's hittable, but doesn't walk too many batters, strikes out a decent number and gives up almost no HR's.

OF Ryan Langerhans (resigned to MLC, NRI)
Langherhans is the 5th OF you WANT to have, not Wily Mo Pena. He's an excellent fielder, has a decent eye and some pop. He has contact issues, though, but that's why he's a 5th OF. I'm pushing for the Nats to drop Wily Mo and keep Langerhans on the radar for the 25th roster spot. Very unlikely, but at least we have him in reserve for when we need him.

RHP Preston Larrison (signed to MLC-2008 orgs CLE and DET, NRI)
Called "Chris Schroder deluxe" by Beyond the Box Score. He'll get at least 25-30 innings with the Nats this year. Tons of ground balls, tons of double plays...sounds like a good guy to have.

RHP Dan Leatherman (resigned to MLC) 
Leatherman's had great numbers to this point. So great that his agent compared him to Cole Hamels and Dave Bush. Well, he strikes out a ton of batters, walked very few in 2008, gives up almost no homers, and even allows a fairly low number of hits. What's not to like?
LHP Wil Ledezma (signed to 1 year, $750k MLC-2008 orgs SD and AZ, NRI)
He's consistently inconsistent, which is kinda expected out of a LHP. Maybe Randy can turn him into an effective LOOGY. If not, no real loss either.  

RHP J.D. Martin (signed to MLC-2008 org CLE, NRI)
A command specialist who throws strikes? Sign me up! He'll compete for a swingman/spot starter role.

LHP Jack McGeary (will forgo further education to play full-time)
Having him around all year is a huge, huge deal. Hopefully he'll turn his awesome K/BB and HR allowed numbers into awesome all-around numbers in 2009.

C Gustavo Molina (signed to MLC-2008 org NYM, NRI)
Not a good hitter by any standards, but did throw out 41% of attempted base-stealers last year in AAA. Not related to the other Molinas, either.

OF Ricardo Nanita (Rule 5 pick-AAA portion-2008 org CHW)
Nanita isn't much more than organizational fodder at this point, but he was the top CHW prospect in terms of strike zone discipline in 2006!

LHP Scott Olsen (trade-Marlins-signed to 1 year, $2.8 mil contract)
OK...I know Olsen has been in a statistical freefall over the last 2 years (just ask FJB), but he's still only going to be 25 years old this year...I'd like to think there's room for improvement. If he pitches anything like he did in 2006 at 22 years old, we have ourselves a steal. Just look at his top 10 comparables by age at Baseball-Reference...Lots of good names (Viola, Perez, Sheets, Brett, Glavine) and 2 bad ones (Weaver and Milton).
IF Pete Orr (resigned to MLC, NRI)
I went so far as to say in a post last year "I'd rather see Failipe Lopez start than Peterson T. Orr" That's the truth, the whole truth and nothin' but the truth! Orr is a AAAA player who will never hit well enough to play in the majors. His glove and speed are nice to have in the system, but I'd go so far as to say I'd rather start Anderson Hernandez than Orr.
OF Jorge Padilla (resigned to MLC, NRI)
Classic AAAA guy...does everything well enough to keep getting resigned to minor league deals but nothing well enough to get more than a few days' look during Spring Training. He'll get buried behind all of our OF this year, maybe even dealt for another AAAA player.

OF Corey Patterson (signed to 1 year, $800k MLC-2008 org CIN, NRI)
Ugh, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. If only Corey Patterson had plate discipline...he's actually put up decent power and speed numbers in his career while being regarded as a decent fielder. But, seriously, a 169 to 768 BB to K ratio?

OF Wily Mo Pena (1 year, $2 mil player option exercised)
Well, the good news is that Wily Mo will improve. There's nowhere to go but up! Wily Mo's OPS of .510 last year was worse than Odalis Perez' OPS of .619 in a 3 month span from April 15 to July 13. To be honest, though, I think it was the injuries keeping him from giving any sort of usefullness last year. Maybe he'll revert to the .255/.310/.490 guy we traded for in 2007. Maybe he'll improve over that (he's still only 27). Maybe he'll be terrible again. He'll get a chance to prove his case in Spring Training.

RHP Chris Rivera (signed to MLC-2008 org Washington-Frontier League)
Seriously, he's low level organizational fodder. Nothing worth looking at here. Got cut from an independent league team last summer FWIW. Richmond native.

RHP Steve Schmoll (resigned to MLC)
After 3 years in AAA, we stuck him in AA last year (as a 28-year-old). Has decent minor league numbers, maybe he'll get a shot, but he didn't get an invite to ST. UMD grad.

RHP Zach Segovia (resigned to MLC)
Segovia pitched on 6 different teams last year (GCL Nats, Hagerstown, Potomac, Clearwater, Harrisburg and Reading) for the Phillies and Nats. He was listed as the Phillies #7 prospect in 2007 by but has always been plagued by arm issues. He's a bounceback candidate, but only if he gets his fastball velocity back.

RHP Jorge Sosa (signed to 1 year, $850k MLC-2008 orgs NYM and HOU, NRI)
We have the owner of probably the luckiest season of all time. In 2005, he went 13-3 with a 2.55 ERA, 64 walks, 85 K's, 1.388 WHIP and a 166 ERA+. He's barely touched a 4.55 ERA since then, let alone 3.55 or 2.55. A pointless signing in my book, as he's gonna be 32 years old and has been effective in one season out of 7 in his career.

3B/OF Jemel Spearman (resigned to MLC)
Organizational fodder...decent speed, ok eye, no power. In a corner infielder/outfielder, that's no good (although in his defense, he's played a little 2B as well).
B-R Page, my original post, confirmation

RHP Josh Towers (signed to MLC-2008 org COL, NRI)
He's got the hot head of Scott Olsen, just without the upside. Has allowed exactly the same amount of BB and HR in his career, which speaks volumes to his control and ability to serve up meatballs.

C Javier Valentin (signed to 1 year, $850k/$90k MLC with $350k in possible incentives-2008 org CIN, NRI)
The more I look at it, the more I think Valentin will be on the Opening Day roster. He's put up solid but unspectacular numbers for the last 4 years (OPS+'s all above 82, which is fine for a backup catcher...although that's a little better than Flores' numbers in the last 2 years). I have no idea what happened to his arm in 2007 (5 for 40 catching would-be basestealers), but hopefully he'll revert to the ~33% numbers he had in the beginning of his career.
OF Mike Vento (signed to MLC-2008 org TOR)
AAAA bat making his second stint with the Nats organization (2006 was the first). Not enough power for a AAAA bat, either.

RHP Ryan Wagner (resigned to MLC, NRI)
Hopefully Wags can resurrect his career this year. Note-Hanrahan is his #3 comparable on B-R. Here's what I had to say about Wagner in November: "I've always thought in the back of my mind that Wagner would become a force again. I doubt it more and more every day, but it's a good career move for him to resign with an organization so weak in ML-ready relievers."

1B/3B Matt Whitney (signed to MLC-2008 org CLE, 2007 Nats Rule 5 pick, NRI)
Scary loss of power last year, but the improvement in both BB's and K's almost makes up for it. He'll probably start in Harrisburg and hopefully be pushed up to Syracuse at some point. 3rd former Indians top prospect to sign with the Nats this offseason (Larrison and Martin were the others).

LHP Dave Williams (signed to MLC-2008 org Yokohama-Japan)
Yawn. Was once a good young LHP, fell off inexplicably after the 2005 season, had a semi-resurgence in 2007, but did nothing special last year in Japan.

1B/OF Josh Willingham (trade-Marlins-signed 1 year, $2.95 mil contract with $100k in possible incentives)
Josh is a solid addition. He's a good hitter with injury problems. Hopefully we can convert him to 1B and platoon him with Nick Johnson (with some OF starts at times for Willingham as well). What I like about him is his consistency-his career OPS's in the 1st and 2nd halves of seasons are only .002 apart. He'll help out the ML squad for sure.

IF Marcos Yepez (resigned to MLC)
The Montreal holdover has speed and nothing else above average. At 27 years old, his future in this organization doesn't really exist beyond AA backup.

RHP Terrell Young (Rule 5 pick-ML portion-2008 org CIN)
An interesting pick. Bowden went the no-experience-above-A+-ball route again with Young. Here's a good scouting report on him. At least we didn't flip him for Willy Taveras.