Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trying to spread RyanWilliamsBearPig Awareness

The single biggest threat to college football. Something out there which threatens UVA's very existence and may be the end to Miami football as we know it. I'm talking of course about RyanWilliamsBearPig. It is a running back that roams the backfield of Lane Stadium alone. It is half Ryan Williams, half bear and half pig! Some people say that RyanWilliamsBearPig isn't real. Well I'm here to tell you now, RyanWilliamsBearPig is very real, and he most certainly exists! RyanWilliamsBearPig doesn't care who you are or what you've done. RyanWilliamsBearPig simply wants to get you!

Join the Facebook Group to spread RyanWilliamsBearPig Awareness!

Late Inbox, Link Parade

Sorry it's been so long in between posts...a week without Ladson-bashing is just too long!

Here's your inbox:

I would think a player as strong as outfielder Elijah Dukes would hit far more home runs than he has this season. What are the Nationals doing to improve Dukes' long ball production?
-- Mike, M. Smithfield, Va.

Pitch recognition and getting into hitters counts are the two buzz-topics for Dukes' lack of success at the plate this year, and I tended to agree at first...but then I looked at his game logs. Since coming back from AAA on August 1, Dukes has greatly improved his plate discipline, with 23 walks and 23 strikeouts, but only 12 extra base hits in 46 games. I'm guessing (and hoping) his current lack of power is just an aberration and will come back next year...but 11 HR in 482 PA through all levels this year is a little bit worrisome.

Both FanGraphs and FJB have posted thought-provoking entries on Dukes' "Setback Season," so check them out. Nats Inquisition just posted "Shades of Austin Kearns" regarding Dukes as well.

Do you think Dukes will be with the Nationals next season?
-- Kay B., Washington D.C.

Without a doubt. He's the most talented player in the entire system, has been a model citizen in Washington and is under team control. Rizzo's not a dummy-he's not going to dump Dukes.

Is it possible that the Nationals attempt to acquire DC native Emmanuel Burriss to fill the void at second base? He seems like a solid middle infielder, and I can see him becoming a fan favorite if he was a member of the Nats.
-- Alex H. Washington, D.C.

A move like this wouldn't surprise me, but I don't think Burriss is on the Giants' trade block, nor do I think he is a great option to start for the Nats. As a backup/platoon role, sure, but he's worth more to San Francisco right now than the Nats.

As well as Desmond has played since being called up, don't you think he deserves a chance to take over the starting shortstop position next season, with Guzman moving to second or being dealt? Desmond seems to have a great glove and I think he would fit nicely in the second spot in the order behind Nyjer Morgan.
-- Ryan K, Carlisle, Pa.

The chances of Desmond being the starting SS next year are above 50% I'd say. At the end of the day, I don't think Guzman is going to switch to 2B easily (or happily) and will probably end up being dealt. I'm still hoping for a Desmond-Iwamura infield.

Would the Nationals trade for outfielder Milton Bradley if the Cubs paid all of his salary?
-- David L., Poland

If the Cubs paid all of his salary (unlikely), I would put the chances of it happening at .01%. If they did not pay all of his salary, 0%. The Nats don't particularly need Bradley and it doesn't make sense to add a headache when you don't particularly need the player.

Looks like nothing has changed. This is why I don't like you. You want to trade Adam Dunn? What does this guy have to do to please you? Without him the offense would collapse.

-- Richard A., Annapolis, Md.

"You are entitled to your opinion about me. To your first question,: Yes, indeed, if I could get top pitching and defense in a trade for Dunn, it would make sense. He doesn't have to please me. The question was, if I were in Rizzo's shoes what I would do? I would look to see Dunn gain more range when it comes to playing first base. There is no question Dunn has been great with the bat."

Top pitching in a trade for Dunn? I'll take some of that! Too bad nobody will give up top pitching for Adam Dunn....


2009 Nationals season in graphs (Beyond the Box Score)

The best and worst MLB projections of the year (Vegas Watch) (note-we'll be going over our projections when the season officially ends)

Stammen willing to pitch out of the pen next year (Ladson's Blog)

The Nats celebrate their 5th anniversary today! (Nationals Journal)

Bobby Valentine doesn't rule out returning to the Mets (Yahoo! Sports)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Another Intelligence-Insulting Inbox

I'm a little late to the party this week, but here is your Inbox!

What are the chances of Cristian Guzman being traded this offseason?
-- Ross B., Washington

I was surprised when they didn't trade him at the deadline. The emergence of Ian Desmond makes it likely that they will try to move him, but will anyone actually want to take on that salary?

If you were in general manager Mike Rizzo's shoes, what you would do to make the Nationals better?

-- Ron J., Washington

"I would trade Dunn, Guzman or Josh Willingham to get more pitching and speed. You may have to trade two of the three to get what you want. Nyjer Morgan's absence has proven that they are too slow on the bases."-Ladson

Bill, you're wrong. You need to trade all 3 of them, plus Slothburg (0 career stolen bases) and Zimmerman (only 2 stolen bases this year).

In all seriousness, the Nats need to add 2 starting pitchers, 3 relief pitchers (one being a closer), a catcher and a second baseman to be competitive. A little too long of a list for me to predict a huge improvement next year.

You said that next year's rotation is still unknown except for John Lannan. What about Stephen Strasburg?
-- Alex C., Montreal

Ummm...really? He hasn't thrown a single pitch in the Nationals organization. Tony Gwynn said he was not ready for the big leagues. He might not be worse than what we've got, but we're not exactly in a "win now" mode.

Right-hander Shairon Martis has more wins in a short period of time than all the other Nationals' starters. He should have been called up to the big leagues this month.
-- Stan C., New York

Have you even been to in the last month? There was an article about Martis being shut down and it was mentioned in the last Inbox. And unfortunately, you're not the only person in the world who uses wins as the primary rating for pitchers. Ugh.

I really liked the competitive spirit of Jamey Carroll when he played with the Nationals. Pete Orr reminds me of Jamey in that way. What do you think?
-- Jim T., Beaufort, S.C.

Competitive spirit, yes. Talent, no. Pete Orr is miles away from Jamey Carroll talent-wise, and that's saying something.

I've heard lots of talk about the Nats going after second baseman Orlando Hudson. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see Hudson in a Nationals uniform. But what do you think the chances are they will really signing him?
-- Matt H., Tallahassee, Fla.

5%. The Nats may throw a lot of money at him, but so are 29 other teams.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bill Ladson=Joe Morgan

From yesterday's inbox:
Bill Ladson: "I don't think the offense is in great shape. With Nyjer Morgan out of the lineup, this team is too slow on the basepaths. It needs more speed. It shouldn't rely on just the home run."

From a chat today at (via FanGraphs):

What do the Oakland A’s need to do be competitive again?

Joe Morgan: "Become more athletic. Sometimes, when I look at the A’s players, I think they’re playing softball. They have some big guys who try to hit the ball out of the ballpark. They strike out a lot. They just are not in position to make things happen on the basepaths. They’ve never really been a team to run or steal bases, bunt guys over or hit and run. They’ve always tried to hit the big home run. Now they have one guy in Davis. Their philosophy was working for a while, but now that philosophy doesn’t work any more. You have to be more athletic, steal some bases in order to be a well rounded team. You don’t have to steal a lot of bases, but you have to have the threat there."

Oh, the joy of thinking the old-fashioned way.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Inbox interjection, snark edition

Inbox time, boy oh boy!

I recently read about the September callups for the Nationals. I was shocked not to see Matt Chico's name on the list. I really liked him in 2007 when he was the team's most consistent starting pitcher.
-- Ben F., Suffolk, Va.

Here's a list of the Nationals' most consistent starting pitchers, year by year:

2005-Livan Hernandez/John Patterson/Esteban Loaiza-Patterson and Loaiza are out of baseball and Livan will be soon

2006-Mike O'Connor-O'Connor was last seen pitching for the Royals' AAA affiliate, his 3rd team of 2009 after the Nats and Padres. He'll likely be out of baseball soon.

2007-Matt Chico

2008-John Lannan/Odalis Perez-Perez is out of baseball

2009-John Lannan

Out of the 7 names, 3 are out of baseball and 2 likely will be soon. Not exactly great company if you ask me. Chico wasn't really very good in the first place. I don't expect to see him back.

Why didn't the Nationals call up right-hander Shairon Martis when the roster expanded? Of all the Nationals pitchers this season, he had one of the better records and should be given more serious consideration to play in the Majors.
-- Joe W., Waldorf, Md.

Innings limit...and if you use still use records to judge pitchers, please stay away from keyboards.

I understand that Mike Morse is a shortstop, but has there been any consideration about trying him out at short or second?
-- Matt D., Alexandria, Va.

Huh? I understand that Matt D. is from Alexandria, but is there any consideration about him moving to Alexandria?

Nats need to rethink Morse if they want him to play just 1B/OF.

Mets catcher Brian Schneider is a free agent after this season. Do you see him back with the Nationals as a backup catcher? He's a great defensive backstop and could help both Jesus Flores and the pitching staff as a mentor. What do you think?
-- Geoff B., Las Vegas

Please bring Schneider back. I like Bard a lot, but he's poor defensively (I'd rather have my backup catcher excel defensively and hit like Livan Hernandez than hit and field like Josh Bard). Nieves is below average. Schneider would bring stability to the pitching staff, and it certainly wouldn't hurt to have a lefthanded hitting catcher.

During the offseason, the Nationals should get better pitching for the rotation and the bullpen, but the offense is in great shape. What do you think?
-- Jonathan G., New York

Ladson: "I don't think the offense is in great shape. With Nyjer Morgan out of the lineup, this team is too slow on the basepaths. It needs more speed. It shouldn't rely on just the home run."

Well, now we know Joe Morgan's pseudonym is Bill Ladson.

I think Garrett Mock has monster stuff and deserves to be in the rotation. The same can be said about J.D. Martin, but for some reason, his stuff doesn't impress me.
-- Ryan R., Fairfax, Va.

For some reason, J.D. Martin's stuff doesn't impress me either.

Will the Nats keep Pete Orr around at least as a utilityman? I am so impressed with him. He's such a pro, and I can't help but root for him.
-- James W., Warrenton, Va.

Are these people kidding? If today's mailbag question ran the Nats, they would be lucky not to lose 150 games.

The lineup would consist of this:

CF Nyjer Morgan

LF Willie Harris

3B Ryan Zimmerman

RF Elijah Dukes (Willingham is too slow)

SS Cristian Guzman (I feel like this is the pro-Guzman crowd)

1B Mike Morse (Dunn is too slow)

C Brian Schneider

2B Pete Orr


2010 Roster Building-Starting Pitchers (External Options)

Next in line for my new plan for the Nats are Starting Pitchers. Follow along with the series here.

From my observations, the Nats have one lock for the rotation: John Lannan. I expect a spot to be given to Strasburg (whether he deserves it or not) and another to be reserved for some combination of Detwiler/Stammen/Mock/Martin. That leaves two open spots for the Nats to fill in the free agent market. The Washington Times went through some candidates today and came out suggesting Randy Wolf and Jon Garland.

External options:
John Lackey (RHP-Type A Free Agent)
Lackey is the only real ace on the market. He's due for a big pay day and hasn't shown any regression from his career averages even at age 30. My concern is that he'll be looking for a 4 or 5 year deal, which isn't something I ever want to give to a pitcher on the wrong side of 30. Still, he's the crown jewel of the market...I just doubt the Nats will get in on the bidding war.
Randy Wolf (LHP-Type A)
Randy Wolf has not been very consistent since turning 30, but a very good past two years has vaulted him into Type A status. I don't advocate signing type A free agents unless they're really difference makers, and don't think Wolf is really one. With injury concerns and ineffectiveness from 2005-07, I think the Nats should stay away.
Rich Harden (RHP-Type A)
Harden is a completely different animal from Wolf (no pun intended). He is immensely talented and has shown pretty good results over the years, but can never seem to stay healthy. I think the Nats are best off staying away from Harden as well, as they can find similarly talented and injury prone pitchers without having to give up a pick.
Jon Garland (RHP-Type B, 2010 option)
Garland is a nightmare for me to evaluate. He always puts up 190+ innings and double digit wins despite being, well, average. He doesn't strike anybody out and gives up a decent bit of runs, but he finds a way to win. He's actually a lot younger than I thought (turns 30 later this month). He could be valuable to eat innings, but I don't think he's much of an improvement over Livan Hernandez to be honest.
Jason Marquis (RHP-Type B)
Marquis is essentially the same pitcher as Garland from a statistical standpoint. He strikes out a few more batters, walks a few more, and keeps the ball in the yard a little better, but he's still an average pitcher. For some reason, I think Marquis will age better than Garland, so I wouldn't mind seeing the Nats go after him.
Joel Pineiro (RHP-Type B)
Will the real Joel Pineiro please stand up? His groundball rates are significantly higher than at any other point in his career, and his ERA is much lower. I don't expect him to be nearly as good as he was this season, but he's a pretty good pitcher to be honest. His "bad years" in 2005 and 06 look more unlucky (and perhaps caused by injury) than simply "bad." I think Pineiro is better than Marquis and Garland, but not as much of a known quantity. What I do know is that I would be intrigued by him (in a good way) starting for the Nats in 2010.
Tim Hudson (RHP-2010 option)
It all depends on whether or not the Braves pick up his $12 million option for next year (I don't expect them to, although they could bypass it with an extension). Hudson is a really, really good pitcher bouncing back from injury after a decade of health and prosperity. His first three starts back have looked pretty in tune with is career averages (small sample size). I'd like the Nats to chase Hudson, as he could be a great mentor for Strasburg and the staff.
Pavano has been much better in 2009 than his numbers have indicated. I think he could be good for 200 innings of around a 4-4.25 ERA next year for a very reasonable price. The risk is a bit higher than with most, but I like Pavano's chances to return to being a pretty good pitcher.
Erik Bedard (LHP, Type B), Brandon Webb (RHP, Type B, 2010 Option), Justin Duchsherer (RHP, Type B) and Ben Sheets (RHP)
This is the Nats' real chance to snag an ace. Signing one of these guys would give the Nats another Shawn Hill or John Patterson, but I'd take 10 Justin Duchsherer starts and 25 Craig Stammen starts over 35 Jon Garland starts any day (ironically, FanGraphs used Sheets and Garland to show how A + Replacement >= B before the 2009 season).
This blog advocates signing two free agent starters: one of either John Lackey, Jason Marquis or Joel Pineiro as well as one of either Justin Duchsherer or Carl Pavano.

2009 production by Nats Starting Pitchers to date: 30-55, 5.07 ERA, 6 CG, 1 shutout, 779 and 2/3 IP, 5.2 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.485 WHIP
2010 projection: Better peripherals, more innings pitched, similar ERA.
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.
Splits for the Nats' 2009 season by position can be found at Baseball-Reference.

Friday, September 11, 2009

2010 Roster Building-Starting Pitchers (Internal Options)

Next in line for my new plan for the Nats are Starting Pitchers. Follow along with the series here.

Internal options:
John Lannan (LHP, under team control for 2010)
Lannan is the one sure thing the Nats have. He's the only pitcher on the current 25-man roster that would be worthy of a rotation spot for a playoff team. For a rotation lacking stability, he's really the strong point.
Stephen Strasburg (RHP, under team control for 2010)
I do not believe Strasburg is Major League ready yet (subject to change after the Arizona Fall League/Spring Training). I do believe the Nats will push him into the Majors either for the start of the season or at least by the All Star Break. His other-worldly talent is well-known...let's just hope he can translate it to major league success.
Ross Detwiler (LHP, under team control for 2010)
I usually group the Nats' young starting pitchers together, but I believe Detwiler should be considered separately. Detwiler is more talented than Stammen, Martis, Balester, Mock and Martis. And while he didn't necessarily look good in his 10-start stint with the Nats this summer, he was the only one out of the six with an FIP that would look particularly desirable in a major league rotation (3.89). I have high expectations for Detwiler to put up better actual numbers next year, and for his rate stats to improve as well. If I had to name a breakout candidate for the Nats in 2010, I would go with Detwiler.
Livan Hernandez (RHP, needs to be resigned)
Call me crazy, but I believe Livan when he says he'll be better in 2010. Maybe not a whole lot better, but I could see him posting double digit wins and an ERA in the 4.75-5.25 range. His FIP hasn't been lower since his memorable 2005 campaign and his K rates are back into an acceptable range. He won't break out next year, but I do think Livan can certainly be a passable #5 starter.
Garrett Mock (RHP, under team control)
Here we go, from Livan to one of the guys the Nats got for Livan back 2006. After his 2008 season, I felt like Mock was best suited as a reliever for the rest of his career, but I think he took a step forward in 2009. I don't expect him to light the world on fire next year, but I could see him continuing his progression to around a 4.50 ERA or so...not great, but acceptable.
J.D. Martin (RHP, under team control)
I'm a big J.D. Martin fan, but I don't think the Nats should count on him for the rotation next year. His FIP, BABIP and LOB% all suggest he's been lucky this year (and not just a little lucky, either). Unless he can greatly reduce his HRs allowed and increase his K's to at least 5-6 per inning, I don't think Martin will be able to cement himself into a starting role. Long relief, sure, but not a starting role.
Craig Stammen (RHP, under team control)
Looking at Stammen's AAA and ML rate stats, his K rate has dropped at an alarming pace in 2009, from 7-8 K/9 in each level in 2008 down to 3.15 in AAA and 4.08 in the Majors. I'm guessing it has to do with his elbow issues. If that's the case, Stammen could be another breakout candidate in 2010, as he is the anti-Martin in terms of luck-his FIP, BABIP and LOB% all suggest he was unlucky in 2009.
Shairon Martis (RHP, under team control for 2010)
I'm going to get this out of the way: I'm not a Shairon Martis believer. He walked more batters than he struck out this year and somehow earned his 5.25 ERA with a large amount of luck in terms of LOB% and BABIP. Martis is my #1 disappointment candidate for 2010. He'll still only be 23, though, so he has time to get those K rates back up. Then I'll be a believer again.
Collin Balester (RHP, under team control for 2010)
Like Martis, Balester deserved worse than his 2009 numbers. Hard to do when you have a 6.82 ERA, but he did it. Balester is a bounceback candidate for me because he has the physical tools to succeed again.
Sleeper Pick (from the organization): Brad Meyers
Wait, the Nats have a young pitcher who didn't regress in 2009? Believe it or not, Meyers had an awesome 2009, dominating both high-A ball and AA in about half a season in each. At both levels, he averaged at least 3 K/BB and kept the ball in the yard at an awesome rate, giving up only 3 HR all season. His semi-low innings count this year (136 and 1/3) says that he'll either be up pretty fast or not at all. He won't be a September call-up, because he'll be beyond his limit.

For the record, I do not think Matt Chico or Scott Olsen will be seen in Nats uniforms in 2010. I expect both to be non-tendered this offseason.
2009 production by Nats Starting Pitchers to date: 30-55, 5.07 ERA, 6 CG, 1 shutout, 779 and 2/3 IP, 5.2 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.485 WHIP
2010 projection: Better peripherals, more innings pitched, similar ERA.
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.
Splits for the Nats' 2009 season by position can be found at Baseball-Reference.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

2010 Roster Building-Offense

We've reached the finishing point for the offense in my new plan for the Nats. Follow along with the series here.

My finalized ideal (feasibly ideal, that is) hitting roster (predicted roles in parenthesis):
Josh Bard (C Backup-needs to be resigned)
Jesus Flores (C Starter-under team control for 2010)
Ian Desmond (SS Backup-under team control for 2010)
Adam Dunn (1B Starter-under team control for 2010)
Alberto Gonzalez (2B/SS Backup-under team control for 2010)
Akinori Iwamura (2B Starter-needs to be signed)
Mike Morse (1B/SS/OF Backup-under team control for 2010)
Ryan Zimmerman (3B Starter-under team control for 2010)
Elijah Dukes (RF Starter-under team control for 2010)
Willie Harris (2B/3B/OF Backup-under team control for 2010)
Norris Hopper (OF Backup-under team control for 2010)
Nyjer Morgan (CF Starter-under team control for 2010)
Josh Willingham (LF Starter-under team control for 2010)
Gone: Cristian Guzman (trade/release), Wil Nieves (AAA), Justin Maxwell (AAA), Pete Orr (AAA/release), Jorge Padilla (AAA/release)

Nyjer Morgan-CF
Akinori Iwamura-2B
Ryan Zimmerman-3B
Adam Dunn-1B
Josh Willingham-LF
Elijah Dukes-RF
Jesus Flores-C
Ian Desmond-SS

In my opinion, this lineup would be above-average offensively (Zimmerman, Dunn, Willingham should be above average. Morgan, Iwamura, Dukes and Flores should be average at worst. Desmond will probably be average, but isn't a sure thing. Defensively, we have two of the league's elite (Zimmerman and Morgan), a bunch of average with breakout potential (Dukes, Flores and Desmond), some below-average sluggers (Dunn and Willingham) and Iwamura, who is above average. So on the whole, this 13-man hitting roster could be above-average as a group.
The funny thing-if the Nats can dump Guzman, they could actually save money with a much better lineup. Dunn's rising salary could inhibit that, but it could, with some clever maneuvering. Please, Rizzo, make this roster happen!

Starting Pitchers will be up sometime tomorrow!

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.
Splits for the Nats' 2009 season by position can be found at Baseball-Reference.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2010 Roster Building-Right Fielders

Next in line for my new plan for the Nats is Right Field. Follow along with the series here.

Best combination of idealistic and realistic candidates: Elijah Dukes and Mark DeRosa
Other possibilities in the organization: Justin Maxwell and Leonard Davis
The Nats really, really, REALLY need Elijah Dukes to return to his 2008 form next year. Why is that? There is no other option on the market for a full-time RF that the Nats would realistically go after (or that would want to come to the Nats). Dukes has significantly lower power and walk numbers this year in addition to huge drop in defensive value in RF. FJB suggests Dukes needs to find himself in more hitters counts, and it certainly makes sense. We know Dukes is capable of returning to his 2008 self in terms of power. We can hope he returns to that form in terms of his eye and his defense. I believe he'll rebound, and I don't believe for a second that the Nats would non-tender him. It doesn't make sense from a talent perspective, but it also doesn't make sense when you consider the poor free agent market.
The best option out there for the Nats is Mark DeRosa, who would fit in very well with the Nats. It would give them a backup plan at 2B in case the Guzman transition fails, a good corner OF platoon guy and really a competant fielder at every position besides C and CF. It wouldn't be fair to call DeRosa a "bench guy" (and obviously, he wouldn't agree to that role), but he would be a nomad of sorts, playing mostly 2B and RF. I think he would be a good signing and would continue to give the Nats more options defensively.
As I've said before about Maxwell and Davis, neither are really ideal candidates, but that's the (lack of) depth of the Nats in AAA/AA. Mike Daniel could emerge as another option, but his setback season in 2009 doesn't exactly help his candidacy.
Sleeper Pick (from the organization): Austin Kearns
Apparently his value didn't bottom out after the 2008 season. I'll avoid talking about Kearns a whole lot, but he is what he is: a 29 year old plus defender who was seeing 70s and 80s in his R and RBI totals only two seasons ago. The Nats certainly won't pick up his option, but Kearns might flock back to familiarity in a weak free agent market. I wouldn't bet on it, but it wouldn't surprise me.
Sleeper Pick (from outside the organization): Jermaine Dye
It may seem out of the blue, but Dye may be the Nats' one chance of making a statement in the free agent market this offseason. I don't see them chasing Holliday or Bay, but could go after Dye if the White Sox fail to pick up his option or offer him arbitration (he's a type A free agent, and not really worth giving up the draft picks). He's still a slugger, but is poor in the field, so it may seem like another Dunn/Willingham addition, but if the Nats for some reason non-tender Dukes (they shouldn't, but that's not to say that they couldn't), he could be an option.
2009 production by Nats right fielders to date: .247/.345/.444, 21 HR, 59 R, 84 RBI
2010 projection: Improved slash line, similar number of HR/RBI, more runs. Less Kearns/2009 Dukes=more production.
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.
Splits for the Nats' 2009 season by position can be found at Baseball-Reference.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

2010 Roster Building-Center Fielders

Next in line for my new plan for the Nats is Center Field. Follow along with the series here.

Best combination of idealistic and realistic candidates: Nyjer Morgan and Willie Harris
Other possibilities in the organization: Justin Maxwell and Elijah Dukes
Let me point out first that I love Nyjer Morgan. Let me point out second that he is not as much of a sure thing as we think. Is he ridiculously fast? Yes. Is he a ridiculolusly good defensive centerfielder? Yes. Is he a legit leadoff man? Ehhhh...I'm still not convinced.
Morgan showed excellent improvement in his batting eye in the first part of the year with Pittsburgh (from less than 6% in both ML and AAA in 2008 to 9.4% in his 278 plate appearances with the Pirates) but regressed greatly with the Nats (back down to 5.4%). It is not safe to assume he will walk at the same rate in 2010 as he did in 2009, nor is it safe to assume that he will even come close to the robust .351/.396/.435 batting line he put up for the Nats. If he stays below a 6% walk rate, he'd have to hit .290 or above to maintain the .350 OBP that is asthetically pleasing for a leadoff man.
What we do know is that Nyjer is an excellent fielder and a better baserunner than in his past (a 77% success rate is good, and much better than his 64% success rate with Pittsburgh). These two traits in themselves are incredibly valuable, so much that before Nyjer's breakout in Washington, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs argued that he was just as valuable as Adam Dunn. What we do not know is if Nyjer is really the leadoff man we expect him to be. I certainly hope he is (and believe he is), but it's not as much of a sure thing as we think.
In terms of the other guys, Dukes would only be the long-term CF if a player outside of the organization was brought in to play RF and Morgan was injured. Even so, I would expect Maxwell and Harris to pass him on the food chain, like they have this year. Harris could have a big bounce-back year, as his BB% and isolated slugging have either risen or stayed constant but his batting average has bottomed out. If his luck evens out, he could have another 2008-level season in 2010. Maxwell continues to disappoint me, but I do believe he'll eventually be at the very least a good 4th outfielder for the Nats.
Sleeper Pick (from the organization): Norris Hopper
Sitting in AAA is a player not dissimilar to Nyjer Morgan. Hopper has hopped from organization to organization in 2009, coming over to the Nats in August along with Daryle Ward from the White Sox. FJB ran a nice post about Hopper's value when Morgan came down, and I do believe he would be an excellent player to have as a 5th outfielder and start in CF vs left-handed opposing pitchers (for the record, Morgan is very bad against LHP in his career: .200/.302/.286 in 183 plate appearances whereas Hopper is very good against LHP in his career: .367/.406/.456 in 175 plate appearances). Hopper is basically a right-handed version of Nyjer Morgan (minus a little speed and fielding ability, but not so much that he's below average). It almost makes too much sense to happen, and I really wish the Nats would have given him a shot rather than the obviously not ML-ready Justin Maxwell during the roster expansion.
Sleeper Pick (from outside the organization): Rocco Baldelli
Just as my Randy Winn pick from yesterday, I could see the Nats bringing Baldelli aboard as a Kearns-type, albeit one with more fielding ability and upside. Baldelli might cost a little bit more based on his decent 2009 season (.254/.315/.462). With his walks and strikeouts rising over his career averages and his isolated power staying steady, I don't think Baldelli is much different of a player than he was in the mid-2000s with the Rays (other than the knowledge of the form of channelopathy he suffers from), and still possesses huge upside. I do expect him to stick with the hometown Red Sox, though, until he truly gets back on his feet from a medical perspective.
2009 production by Nats center fielders to date: .268/.349/.390, 8 HR, 75 R, 53 RBI, 37/53 SB
2010 projection: I expect the slash line to remain semi-constant, with the batting average probably improving into the .280-.290 range (depending on how much Morgan plays), but with the OBP and SLG remaining similar. Runs will improve, but not as much as one might expect, as Morgan does run into a lot of outs on the basepaths. I do believe that next year will be the year that Morgan finally takes the next step into baserunning responsibility. He is a special talent and a smart player, and I think that he could finally become a premiere baserunner (not just basestealer) next year.
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.
Splits for the Nats' 2009 season by position can be found at Baseball-Reference.

Monday, September 7, 2009

2010 Roster Building-Left Fielders

Next in line for my new plan for the Nats is Left Field. Follow along with the series here.

Best combination of idealistic and realistic candidates: Adam Dunn and Willie Harris
Other possibilities in the organization: Josh Willingham, Jorge Padilla, Leonard Davis
The Nats may not know exactly what they have in LF for the 2010 season, but they do know that they have something. Between Dunn and Willingham, you have a great hitting, poor fielding LF. I expect the team to stick one or the other at 1B, and while I'm hoping for Willingham to anchor the infield, I half-expect the Nats to keep Dunn there just for continuity's sake. I don't expect any major changes to LF next year...just a lot of seeing Dunn/Willingham replaced in the late innings by Willie Harris. I do not expect to see Leonard Davis (at least not at the beginning of the year), nor do I expect to see Jorge Padilla (nice story, but at some point he has to get more than 1 hit).
Sleeper Pick (from the organization): Marvin Lowrance
Lowrance really needs to be challenged to start the 2010 year. He had a poor 2009 season in terms of batting average, but his walk and strikeout rates were consistent and his power remained intact. If he starts hot, I can see him forcing his way into DC, even as just a bench player. I see him having the potential to be a Daryle Ward-type (if he can handle coming off of the bench).
Sleeper Pick (from outside the organization): Randy Winn
In 2010, Winn could serve the role that Austin Kearns was supposed to fill in 2009. He can play both corners very well, but has lost a step and is average at best defensively in CF (but with Nyjer Morgan, he would only be a fill-in there anyways). With Winn, you get consistency: decent bat, speed, defense, and few mistakes. What else do you want in a 4th outfielder?
2009 production by Nats left fielders to date: .276/.399/.519, 28 HR, 84 R, 77 RBI
2010 projection: I expect the rate stats to drop a bit (always assume the worst and hope for the best). The counting stats should probably increase in 2010 with more certainty in starting positions and stuff. .265/.380/.490 with 35 HR, 90 R and 100 RBI would fulfill that prediction. I'd be happy with that.
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.
Splits for the Nats' 2009 season by position can be found at Baseball-Reference.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

2010 Roster Building-Shortstops

Next in line for my new plan for the Nats is Shortstop. Follow along with the series here.

Best combination of idealistic and realistic candidates: Ian Desmond and Cristian Guzman
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.
Sleeper Pick (from outside the organization): Adam Everett, Bobby Crosby or Khalil Greene
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.
Splits for the Nats' 2009 season by position can be found at Baseball-Reference.

Guess what time it is? If you guessed Inbox time, you're right!

After two seasons of almost 200 losses, I think the Nationals need to sign some free agents to bridge the gap. Is management seriously considering acquiring veteran starting pitching, a few relief pitchers and at least two position players?
-- Joseph M., Eynon, Pa.

I expect the Nats to sign a veteran SP or two (but no more than that), a handful of mediocre relievers and a 2B. Not enough to compete with, but enough to continue the build...and the top 10 draft picks.

Do you see the Nationals trying to trade for Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla in the offseason? Washington has made many trades with Florida in the past, and it would be great if Uggla could be the Nationals' long-term solution at second base.
-- Patrick S., Fairfax, Va.

I doubt they would go in this direction. They don't really need another good bat/bad glove guy. If anything, they'll go after a leadoff/#2 hitter type who can handle the glove well to fill in at 2B.

With the pickup of Nyjer Morgan in center field, do you believe Justin Maxwell has trade value? I feel he could develop into a star center fielder if given the opportunity to grow and have a decent amount of at-bats.
-- Mick F., Springfield, Va.

I disagree. Until Maxwell can prove that he can handle the bat, I doubt anyone would give up anything that would make it worth it for the Nats to trade him. He'll be a National for a while I believe.

With Greg Maddux's brother, Mike, doing a great job in Texas, do you feel there might be a chance for Greg to come to the Nationals as a pitching coach?
-- Andy C., Nevada, Mo.

If anyone can go from never being an acutal pitching coach to being an ML pitching coach, it's Greg Maddux. I doubt it would happen, but it would be quite a catch for the Nats.

What are the odds of keeping Livan Hernandez? He has more commitment to D.C. than anyone I've ever seen. Why not?
-- Rafael B., Miami

We'll see how much committment he has to DC if they only offer him a minor league contract. I doubt they would offer him anything more than that, but stranger things have happened...

What are the Nationals' plans for Alberto Gonzalez?
-- Chris P., Alabama

I think he thrives in a part-time role as opposed to a starting role. They definitely need to hold on to him, but I don't see them relying on him to do anything more than backup Guzman/Desmond/the other middle infielders.

I would like to see the Nationals sign Vladimir Guerrero and undo one of the biggest mistakes in Nats/Expos history.
-- Michael R., St. John's, Canada

No. Guerrero has begun a clear decline, one that has seen his BB rate drop to 4.5% this year and his isolated power dropping below .200 for the first time since 1997. He's still an offensively valuable player for the time being, but, as Ladson says, the Nats are better off going for players with upside, not those on the decline.

And for the record, the 2010 Roster Building series will continue sometime tonight with shortstop!