Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Monday Inbox and update

A quick update: I am currently all the way through Chase Lambin on my (hopefully) exhaustive list of Nats additions since the trade deadline last year. I have 23 names finished and 28 names left.

Here are 2 examples of what I'm doing:
RHP Miguel Batista (signed to MLC w/ NRI. 2009 org: SEA. 1 WS Ring)
The 39 year old righty (and writer) has bounced around the majors for parts of 15 seasons. I said in February that "I think Batista will be a heavily-used member of the Nats' bullpen this year. Maybe not good, but heavily-used." I'll stick with that assessment for now. Don't expect to see the 4.04 ERA he put up last year but at the same time, don't expect the 6.26 ERA he put up in 2008, either. Somewhere in the high 4's or low 5's sounds about right for both Batista and a 39 year old non-roster invitee.
Baseball-Reference Page, FanGraphs Page, my original post

RHP Robinson Fabian (acquired from COL in July 2009 trade with RHP Ryan Mattheus for LHP Joe Beimel. 2009 orgs: COL and WAS)
Fabian is an intriguing prospect that is really frustrating to try and figure out. The 24 year old supposedly has a 97 mph fastball, but only struck out 5.4 batters per 9 innings in 2009 (as opposed to his career average of 6.8 K/9). For someone described as "a thrower and not a pitcher" (see the above link), he doesn't walk that many batters either, though: 2.10 BB/9 in 2009, 3.1 BB/9 for his career. But given the fact that Fabian has decent control (3.03 BB/9 or better from 2007-09), keeps the ball in the yard (0.77 HR/9 in low A and above) and has a 97 mph heater, he's worth something. We just don't know what to expect from him...still.

The Joe Beimel deal was a good one, even if Fabian and Ryan Mattheus don't turn out to do anything. Moving an upcoming free agent reliever at the deadline for two arms with upside is something a last place team should do 10 times out of 10.

Hopefully I'll have the list completely done at some point this week, depending on how much time it takes for me to study for a test I have on Thursday. Anyways, here's the inbox:

Nyjer Morgan has really sparked everybody in the short time he has been on the team. How important is he, and can he be a difference-maker to pull the team closer to .500?
-- Robbie C., Washington, D.C.

I've tried to be easier on Ladson lately, but he expects Morgan to score 120 runs in 2010. Over his career, Morgan has scored 108 runs in his 172 stats while hitting .310/.368/.399, which would equate to about 102 runs over a 162 game season (which is assuming he starts all 162 games). So 120 is a little out of reach in my opinion.

But, back to Robbie's question: Nyjer is very important and he can be a difference-maker. But he's not something we can count on 100%. At 29 (almost 30), he's at or around his peak. He's never played more than 120 games in an ML season. He still can't hit lefthanded pitching. So we're looking at a defensive whiz with potential durability issues who can lead off against righties.

Do you agree with manager Jim Riggleman with the fact that left-hander Scott Olsen is a lock for the rotation if he's healthy? With all those other pitchers battling for a rotation spot, don't you think Olsen needs a good Spring Training to make it?
-- Alex C., Montreal

I'm usually in the Olsen camp, but I don't see a reason why Riggleman guaranteed Olsen a rotation spot if he's healthy. His track record hasn't been that good as of late and I'm not convinced he's a better candidate than guys like Stammen or Martin (although he has a higher upside, as seen in his 2006 season). I think that if Ross Detwiler didn't get hurt, Riggleman might not have made the same guarantee.

What role do you see Willie Harris playing for the Nationals this season?
-- Craig E., Leesburg, Va.

I don't see it being any different than it has been for the last 2 years unless somebody goes down, just like Ladson. That being said, I could also see him getting a chance to start a few more games at 2B if Kennedy falters (which wouldn't be a huge surprise), but most of those innings would instead go to Desmond or Guzman I'm sure.

If the Nationals give Adam Dunn a contract extension, what does that mean for Chris Marrero?
-- Evan S., Chevy Chase, Md.

Marrero is far from a guarantee, and a lot of people think his ceiling is as a Major League regular. He's still a few years away, with less than 100 plate appearances at AA under his belt, so there's no rush to make a decision. Check out more on Marrero in my"Do or Die Time" post from January.

Does it worry you that no one on the Nationals collected more than 100 strikeouts? The closest one was right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, and he was out for most of the second half of the season.
-- Ray U., Washington, D.C.

Yes. In 2009, there were 16 teams with a .500 win percentage or better. Only 6 of those teams had below the league average in K's. On the other hand, the top 7 teams in K's all had 83 or more wins. It's not a perfect science, and teams that don't strike out a lot of batters can succeed (the 2009 Angels, Cardinals and Rangers can all serve as examples), but there is less margin for error for the defense. The Nats' defense, while improved, is still not that great. They committed 143 errors last year, 19 more than any other team. For every Zimmerman and Morgan they have, they have a Dunn, Guzman or Willingham to cancel them out. A few fireballers like Strasburg and Zimmermann could help the team steal some more games simply by keeping the ball out of the field of play.

Where does outfielder Justin Maxwell fit into the scheme of things?
-- Pam K., Frederick, Md.

I think Maxwell has a decent shot of making the team as a 4th outfielder, mostly depending on whether or not Nyjer Morgan can learn how to hit lefties in Spring Training. If Morgan can't, I think we'll see Maxwell up as a platoon starter who gets a few spot starts in LF and RF as well.

Why didn't the Nationals pick up Ryan Church after he was non-tendered?
-- Kimon G., Bethesda, Md.

I wanted the Nats to make a run after Church for nostalgic purposes, but he's not a make-or-break player that was needed. And he's not worth the $1.5 million plus incentives the Pirates are paying him. And I'm not sure he would really want to come back; Church's relationship with the Front Office was never sparkles and sunshine. Even though Leatherpants is gone, there are still plenty of remnants in the system from his time as commander-in-chief.

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