Next in line for my new plan for the Nats is Shortstop. Follow along with the series here.
Other possibilities in the organization: Alberto Gonzalez
From the "sure thing in the system," third base to the polar opposite, shortstop, we go. Essentially, I expect the Nats to push Desmond into the starting role in September to see how he fares. If he can handle ML pitching, they'll pencil him in as the starting SS going into 2010. If he can't, they'll probably panic, as there really isn't much of a plan B. Guzman has no range anymore (and is rumored to be moving to 2B next year anyways), Gonzalez has been below average both offensively and defensively and the free agent market is full of has-beens, never-weres and Marco Scutaro, who will never play up to his 2009 season again. Close your eyes and say a little prayer, Nats fans, as Ian Desmond is the best and most realistic option they have.
Sleeper Pick (from the organization): Danny Espinosa
Often overshadowed by guys like Derek Norris and Chris Marrero, the Nats do have a shortstop in the system who could be a real stud. Danny Espinosa didn't have a "breakout" year in terms of conventional judgment (.261/.371/.448, 17 HR, 88 R, 68 RBI), but he did progress in exactly the way the Nats need him to: solidly and quickly. I don't think the Nats will give Espinosa a huge chance in Spring Training, but if he starts in Harrisburg and takes off, he could surpass Ian Desmond very quickly. He plays very solid defense, packs a little pop and takes walks at a pretty high 13.3% clip. His one major fault-strikeouts. They're not to a Justin Maxwell, Michael Burgess or Adam Dunn level of scariness, but it's really not ideal to have a whole lot of guys striking out once in every four plate appearances. Still, I think Espinosa could explode through the system and be a steady-gloved SS in Washington from 2011 onward.
None of these guys really excite me. Crosby and Greene seem to do the same thing as Mike Morse, but are paid more to do so. For some reason, I've soured on Everett lately, but he does still have an excellent glove (albeit an awful bat).
2009 production by Nats shortstops to date: .281/.303/.389, 7 HR, 76 R, 61 RBI
2010 projection: It all depends on which direction the Nats go. If they do what I expect and stick Ian Desmond at SS for better or for worse, expect similar offensive production, a lot more balls fielded, but a lot more throwing errors.
A list of the Nats currently under contract can also be found at Cot's.
The latest projected Elias Rankings (for Type A/B Free Agent purposes) can be found at MLB Trade Rumors.