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What jobs are still up for grabs?

Mar 14, 2011, 2:45 PM EDT

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Craig Stammen is trying to win a spot in the Nationals' bullpen.

The midway point of spring training has come and gone, and though the Nationals haven't quite reached the home stretch, it's fast approaching.

Over these final 2 1/2 weeks of camp, the Nats have a number of decisions to make, trying to put pieces of the puzzle together that ultimately produces the 25-man Opening Day roster. The way these various pieces interlock, one decision can directly affect two or three others, complicating the process.

Everyone knew what the biggest roster battles were entering the spring. But where do things stand now, on March 14?

Let's run through several competitions…

LEFT FIELD
Entering camp: Roger Bernadina vs. Michael Morse vs. Rick Ankiel

This one has all but been decided already. Morse has been a beast at the plate this spring, going 14-for-28 with five homers, 10 RBI and an insane 1.623 OPS. That prompted both Jim Riggleman and Mike RizzoRead more »

  1. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 14, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    And another review that fails to mention Brian Broderick who has been lights out for the entire camp. He's a Rule 5 guy that needs serious consideration.

  2. Mr. Doggett - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    Sounds like you pretty much have it figured out. One sidenote: How awesome is it that at this time last year, almost the entire rotation was up for grabs and now we only have one spot "open." I'm not saying that the other 4 are all stellar 20-game winners, but still. It's a REALLY good sign.

  3. JD - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    Good call NatsJack, I think that the Nats are in good shape to make some secondary trades to keep beefing up their talent pool. Lots of teams will come out of ST needing a catcher, decent starter, good bullpen arm etc. This is the 1st time in years we have some good depth which we can take advantage of.

  4. Steve M. - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    Mark Zuckerman said…With Morse in the lineup, do they need to ensure they have another right-handed bat off the bench?On the last thread I posted an outside shot for Chris Marrero who is a long shot as is Bixler.Here is a piece from Ben Goessling on Marrero with comments from Riggleman:Chris Marrero is still in Nationals camp, which is probably partially a function of the Nationals needing a first baseman to alternate with Adam LaRoche. But he's hitting .438/.471/.563 in nine games, and has turned some heads. "He's been really good," Riggleman said. "He looks better around the bag, defensively. He's made some adjustments. His stance, and where his hands are, are different than last year. I think somebody got to him at (Double-A) Harrisburg last year, maybe (hitting coach) Troy Gingrich, maybe Chris himself. But he's put his hands in a place he's really comfortable with, and he's driving the ball to right center. He's really making a statement he's going to be a big league player."

  5. Feel Wood - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    "That puts both of these guys in something of a competition with Nyjer Morgan for the job in center field. It's still Morgan's to lose, and it seems unlikely the Nationals are just going to cut ties with Nyjer"According to various published and broadcast reports, the Nats are trying to remake pretty much every aspect of Nyjer's game this spring. Bo Porter is trying to make him into a better baserunner, Rick Eckstein has changed his stance and approach at the plate, and he's been instructed to play a much shallower center field. Recall that last year they were attempting to remake Nyjer from a head first slider into a feet first slider. That attempted remake turned out to be a challenge and ultimate failure for him, so it stands to reason that this year's much more extensive remake is going to be even more of an uphill climb. But if (as it appears now) he is unable to achieve success with all these changes to his game by the time they head north, they don't need to cut ties with him. He has an option left, so he could be sent to Syracuse to continue working on this stuff. Meanwhile, they don't seem to be trying to change Bernadina or Ankiel at all, so provided they continue to look good it's easy to see both of them on the team and splitting time in center.

  6. Steve M. - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Mark Zuckerman said…Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett and Todd Coffey assured of jobs. Doug Slaten and Henry Rodriguez likely assured of jobs. So Mark is saying Drew Storen has kept a spot which leaves one spot left which most likely goes to Gaudin.The starting rotation is really set with Gorzelanny unless Rizzo surprises us with a trade.Catcher is Pudge and Ramos so no real surprise there.It looks to me that Nyjer Morgan still isn't a given which makes the whole discussion very interesting of the OF and the bench. Personally, Nyjer hasn't earned it and while Bernadina isn't much better, Bernadina is still an upgrade. Corey Brown still isn't ready to show us what he has so he will definitely head to AAA and becomes an interesting scenario for mid-year call-up if Ankiel can't perform as I am assuming Ankiel is a lock as he is the best OF defensive upgrade as the late inning Willie Harris replacement for Morse in a double-switch (LOL).

  7. Anonymous - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    The problem with Marerro is that you can't put him in the outfield so he is a first baseman and pinch hitter only. **IF** he had a left handed bat and glove he would almost be a lock to make the team as the left-handed pinch hitter. As things stand now they may use Nix in that role sending Stairs to AAA along with Cora. Bixler may make the team as the right handed bat and he can play the outfield. Stairs and Cora in Syracuse would be extremely valuable to the franchise. This may a year where some top prospects finish up in AAA and that could in fact include Harper at some point. Corey Brown, Chris Marerro, Steven Lombardozzi, Derrick Norris, Josh Johnson, Jesus Valdez, Tyler Moore, Jhonotan Solano and Chris Curran are all prospects who look like they could be working in both Syracuse and/or Harrisburg.And I agree about Broderick. They keep trotting him out and he keeps pitching well? What's the deal with him?

  8. HHover - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    @NatsJackAre you saying Broderick deserves to be mentioned, or that he deserves to take someone else's place on the OD roster? I agree with the first; but for the second, it's hard to see whose place he takes.@Steve MI agree there are encouraging signs for Marrero. But to keep him on that path, I think you want him playing regularly in the minors rather than occasionally off the bench.

  9. Sec314 - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    I'd have to agree that the starting rotation is Livo, Lannan, Zimmermann, Marquis and Gorzelanny. Much as I like Lannan for his guttiness, however, I hope they keep him (and the others) on a short leash and are willing to make changes FAST rather than sending someone out to the mound every five days who clearly isn't ready. Lannan has not looked good this Spring and his luck and spunk may have run their course.I like the idea of pressure pushing up from Syracuse on daily basis.

  10. Doc - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    What's with the $750K non-guaranteed signing of Ron Villone? Nats' spiritual leader at Syracuse??I agree with NatsJack that Broderick shouldn't be overlooked. Gorzelanny hasn't had a good opportunity, but he still looks like the weakest of the group. Even if Ballystar goes to AAA, I think he's a BP keeper at some point during the Nats' season.

  11. Steve M. - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    HHover, I agree with you on Marrero it was just an interesting comment on started on the other thread then to see Goessling ask Riggleman about him definitely could get you thinking that there is the slightest chance. It is really the smallest of chances but with Michael Morse starting in LF, it opens up the question as to what RH they will have backup LaRoche in a LH/LH matchup where Riggleman would prefer a RH 1st baseman in those spots. I guess we could see Alberto Gonzalez there.

  12. JD - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    HHover, Broderick is a rule 5 pickup so he must make the team or be returned to his former team (Cards) for half the pickup price. I don't see how some of these battles get resolved without some trades.

  13. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    I can't see why he continues to be overlooked (Broderick, that is). Balester and Stammen still have options and Ramirez is damaged goods. That boils down to Gaudin or Broderick. This is what I really like about this year. We actually get to see Rizzo and crew make some seriously difficult decisions.

  14. PAY TO PLAY - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    Sec314 said… I'd have to agree that the starting rotation is Livo, Lannan, Zimmermann, Marquis and Gorzelanny. Much as I like Lannan for his guttiness, however, I hope they keep him (and the others) on a short leash and are willing to make changes FAST rather than sending someone out to the mound every five days who clearly isn't ready. Lannan has not looked good this Spring and his luck and spunk may have run their course.I like the idea of pressure pushing up from Syracuse on daily basis. March 14, 2011 11:29 AM Well said. Finally a rotation with legit reserves in AAA that aren't named Mock, Martin, Martis & MattC.Still holding out hope for a trade with the Royals for a legit CF.

  15. HersheyPhil - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    Not a word about Cole Kimball – He makes the team at this point if he keeps up his great spring.

  16. joemktg - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    I'm looking at OF completely differently. I think the competition for LF is over: goes to Morse. The competition is really for CF at this point, between Nyjer, Bernadina (didn't help himself with that gaffe vs. Yanks on Saturday), and Ankiel. The forthcoming Marquis situation is interesting, and works out well for the Nats: with Detwiler and Maya in the wings, and Marquis an FA after this season, I'm looking for a prospective contending team with pitching issues, e.g., Yanks, to come in a work a deal. Rizzo can sit back on this one, and let the best deal come forward in due course. So no issues with Detwiler and/or Maya going to Syracuse, as they'll be back shortly.

  17. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    Cole Kimball goes to Syracuse to learn the closer role.But he's an injury or a failed performance away from getting to D.C.

  18. Anonymous - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    To me, Nyjer is all but done here. He doesn't fit what Rizzo's looking for attitude-wise and he's replaceable. Listen to us talk about how much one person or the other deserves a roster spot and there's one guy who slated to start that no one (at least from reading) is saying really deserves it. My bet is Rizzo's looking to shop him or he goes to AAA.Natslifer

  19. sjm 308 - Mar 14, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    Hard to think that the Cards, with all their pitching woes early on won't jump on getting Broderick back. Not sure what we give up for him but Nats Jack is right, he has been great.I like Hairston, Ankiel, Bernadina (if he is not starting in CF) and the last choice is tough. If you go with Nix, you have little flexibility in the infield except that Espinosa can move over to short to rest Desmond. If you go with Cora or Gonzalez you definitely have more flexibility (Gonzo can play both corner spots as well). Its great to have these tough choices all the way through the line-up.

  20. RIchard - Mar 14, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    I wonder if the Nats would ask Stairs to go to Syracuse. Would Stairs go? He's major league, left handed pinch hitter. Period. Syracuse doesn't appear to be a fit. Seems like this year Rizzo will have to do some wheeling and dealing toward the end of camp.

  21. PAY TO PLAY - Mar 14, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    I think Alberto Gonzalez has the leg up being a righty and he played 3 games last year at 1st base which now needs a RH backup so I see Alberto getting a roster spot and Cora is probably the odd man out.

  22. Matthew J - Mar 14, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    If CF is up in the air, it will have an impact on the starting lineup as well. We pretty much know the lineup if Nyjer sticks around. If Bernie wins, it doesnt seem as simple as swapping him in at leadoff, right?

  23. Steve M. - Mar 14, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    FWIW, here is Adam Kilgore's picks from early this morning as he did a roster guess with Nyjer as the CF and Gaudin taking the last bullpen spot and here is his bench w/ Ramos:21. Jerry Hairston22. Rick Ankiel23. Roger Bernadina24. Alex Cora25. Laynce Nix

  24. NatinBeantown - Mar 14, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    Matthew makes a good point about who hits leadoff if Morgan does lose out the starting CF job (or when he's resting). Just to look at the options, of the guys returning from last year, Espinosa had the most PA's at leadoff (81), followed by Bernardina (45) and Gonzo (17). Which is to say that no one had extensive leadoff experience. Jerry Hairston spent the majority of his PA's (230) at leadoff. Werth is an OBA machine, but the team seems to like him at #3.So the most likely leadoff candidate behind Morgan appears to be Espinosa, but that's a tough way to expose a rookie. What spot did he primarily bat at AA Harrisburg

  25. Theophilus - Mar 14, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    Gonzalez is not the right-handed 1B backup. Notwithstanding being the starting left-fielder, Morse is the backup at both 1B and (probably after Hairston and Cora) at 3B. Gonzalez is nearly completely superfluous. Noticeably, however, in the event of a catastrophic injury, there is no viable long-term backup at 3B in the system — except possibly Morse.

  26. JaneB - Mar 14, 2011 at 7:33 PM

    Stairs needs to make a transition to coaching — he's apparently good at teaching people (Werth, for example) now. I say send him to Syracuse and let him start the transition. Maybe he can help The OppoBoppo Kid when he gets there.

  27. Anonymous - Mar 14, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    Kimball looks better than Coffey, Storen, Clippard, and Slaten. NatsJack, I suspect he makes the team as the defacto closer. With Burnett as his left-handed co-closer side-kick. I hope they instead send Storen to Syracuse … to learn how to be a major league STARTER and a #2 slot at that.

  28. Anonymous - Mar 14, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    It looks more and more like Marerro might make this team? But logic would state that he goes to Syracuse and starts at first base there. BUT they already have two first baseman in Syracuse in Aubrey and Barker? And Tyler Moore in AA Harrisburg?

  29. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 14, 2011 at 8:20 PM

    As for Kimball… I don't make this stuff up. He's going to Syracuse no matter how he looks. Clippard and Burnett are lock solid for the pen. Everyone else is fighting for a spot and that includes Storen who has looked much better since he cut down on the number of breaking pitches per inning.

  30. Anonymous8 - Mar 14, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    Theophilus said… Gonzalez is not the right-handed 1B backup. Notwithstanding being the starting left-fielder, Morse is the backup at both 1B ____________________________If there was another Right-handed LF, then Morse could play some 1st base too. Keep in mind that Bernadina and Nyjer are lefties and we know how bad Nyjer is in lefty/lefty matchups so who do you replace them with when a LH pitcher starts and Riggles wants to sit Nyjer and LaRoche?

  31. raymitten - Mar 15, 2011 at 12:26 AM

    I keep reading (not only here) that Bernadina has been 'impressive' but I'm here in Florida and I wonder what people are watching. He has been shaky in the field (he's dropped a few routine fly balls) and at best has been inconsistent at the plate. Nyjer Morgan has been awful, He's been stomping around angry all spring, and has cost the Nats two games in the past week (Including today)misplaying fly balls that should be routine to a major league player. I think Ankiel has looked the best of the CF candidates. He's the only one who has played solid defenseively and while his average isn't high, he's been productive with power and key hits.

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