Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Inbox

It's that time again! Here is the inbox:

I'm concerned about promoting Stephen Strasburg to the Major Leagues so quickly. I'd like to see him learn how to pitch for a season or two in the Minors first. I remember David Clyde coming up too soon for the Rangers in the early 1970s and would hate to see that repeated.
-- Richard G., Washington, D.C.

I get your point, but the Clyde/Strasburg comparison is apples-to-oranges. Clyde made his ML debut as an 18 year old right out of high school and the same year he was drafted. Even if Strasburg pitched on Opening Day, he would be 3 years older, with 3 years of college at San Diego State and some time spent against legitimate prospects in the Arizona Fall League and some legitimate ML/AAAA/AAAers in Spring Training. That's a ton more experience than Clyde ever had before making his first start.

But I digress to the actual point: Strasburg should only start the year in a Nats uniform if he has an ERA under 1.00 during Spring Training. Unless his other-worldly talent brings other-worldly success, he needs to spend at least a few months in the minors to tune up and learn the game, both on and off of the field.

With Ross Detwiler and Chien-Ming Wang out for a few months, do you think Chuck James might get a chance to become part of the starting rotation?
-- Don M., Stratford, PE, Canada

I would put his chances at 1% or less. James didn't pitch at all in 2009 and was awful in the Majors in 2008 (albeit pretty good in AAA). He was never as good as his numbers indicated, either. He's not a bad guy to have around in case of a large number of catastrophic injuries, but I wouldn't list him amongst the top 10 or so options to break camp in the starting rotation.

Bringing back reliever Ron Villone made me wonder why the Nats didn't re-sign Mike MacDougal. MacDougal was one of the few bright spots last year.
-- Luke H., Prince Frederick, Md.

Well, considering Meiklejohn only got a minor league deal from the Marlins, apparently every other team felt the same way about him. He had more walks than strikeouts for goodness sake! Again, he's not a bad fall back option for the league minimum, but just because he led the worst team in baseball in saves doesn't make him a good closer.

Since Wang will not be available until later in the season, would the Nationals have any interest in pursuing John Smoltz as an early-season starter and then moving him to the bullpen where he could provide leadership and help shore up middle relief?
-- Glenn B., Arlington, Va.

If they could sign him to a deal worth $2 mil or less plus incentives, I'd be fine with it. His stats from last year are deceiving; he had a 3-8 record and a 6.35 ERA but a 3.87 FIP. He'll definitely bounce back at least some from a poor season last year, but I wouldn't be willing to pay him anywhere near the $5.5 mil he was guaranteed last year.

One other note on Smoltz-he only threw 80 innings last year and 28 in 2008. Don't expect him to be able to toss 150 innings.

I find it interesting that you focus so much on the defensive weaknesses of Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Cristian Guzman. Yet, you seem to have a selective memory when it comes to the defense of Elijah Dukes, who was average at best and had many misplays and errors.
-- Robert M., Daytona Beach, Fla

The difference between Dukes and Willingham/Dunn is that Dukes actually gets to the ball and THEN makes an error. Dukes has a career UZR/150 of 2.8 in RF and I'd be more than happy with that.

I noticed that outfielder Chris Duncan is a non-roster invitee. He was a fan favorite in St. Louis. What are his chances of making the roster out of Spring Training?
-- Tim S. Richmond, Va.

I think he has a great chance to be honest. The Nats don't have any lefthanded hitters with any pop to come off the bench. If he puts up decent numbers in Spring Training, I think he'll stick. With a career line of .270/.366/.485 against righties, I think he'd be an awesome guy to have around to serve as a late game pinch hitter or Elijah Dukes platoon partner IF he rebounds from an awful stretch in 2007-08. But like Ladson said, pairing him back up with Rick Eckstein could help him a bunch.

Dunn seems fine at first base, and everyone is raving about Chris Marrero's bat, but what about Mike Morse? When he came up late last year, he looked solid as a rock to me.
-- Woody S., Arlington, Va.

Morse is a pretty decent bench bat, but I'm not counting on him to do a lot more than that. His bat is essentially Cristian Guzman's but with more power. He rarely walks but strikes out a lot, which could hurt his chances as the season rolls on.

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