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Roster review: Zach Walters

Nov 20, 2013, 12:04 PM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Age on Opening Day 2014: 24

How acquired: Trade with Diamondbacks, July 2011

MLB service time: 27 days

2013 salary+bonuses: $495,900

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2017, free agent in 2020

2013 Stats: 8 G, 9 PA, 8 AB, 2 R, 3 H, RBI, BB, .375 BA, 1.069 OPS, 191 OPS+, 0.2 WAR

2013 analysis: Most of Zach Walters’ 2013 season took place at Triple-A Syracuse where he made a drastic improvement in his power numbers. After hitting 25 home runs combined through his first three years in the minor leagues, Walters exploded for 29 last season to tie the International League high for 2013. The power surge raised his big league stock pretty quickly and earned him a September call-up to Washington. Davey Johnson framed it at the time as a reward for his season with the Chiefs, but Walters surely wants more.

Walters, 24, appeared in only eight games with the Nats and started just one, the team’s final outing of the year. In the short window he had, however, Walters experienced relative success. He got a hit in his first at-bat, breaking up rookie Jose Fernandez’ no-hit bid in the sixth inning on Sept. 6. He only saw eight more plate appearances and added a pair of hits including one triple.

2014 outlook: Walters wasn’t afforded enough time in the majors last year to produce a sample size to draw from, which could work against his chances to make the team out of spring training next year. The Nats were burned by an inexperienced bench and Walters only has minor league accolades to draw from. He’s certainly got the talent to justify a roster spot, especially given he bats switch, but it could be bad timing.

The Nats will likely see if he can recreate his 2013 season in the early goings at Triple-A this year and go from there. If he comes out putting up similar power numbers, he could really be an asset. The Nats could bring him up to boost their bench, use him as a trade chip (maybe even before the season starts) or line him up for a starting job in the future. With Adam LaRoche’s contract set to expire after 2014, and Anthony Rendon’s apparent position flexibility, the Nats’ infield could be in flux this time next year. Walters could find his way into that mix if the Nats decide to promote from within.

  1. TimDz - Nov 20, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    He looks like he should be applying for his learners permit….

    • letswin3 - Nov 20, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      Hopefully a baby-faced assassin with a big stick.

  2. Doc - Nov 20, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    Probably should have taken on some Winter League games to work on his fielding. Another player to compete with Lombo for the bench.

    If he keeps improving his ABs, he’ll be in demand somewhere besides the Nats. Great pick-up by our scouts. Jason who????

    • pdowdy83 - Nov 20, 2013 at 2:33 PM

      Walters is in Venezuela playing winter ball. He has played in 15 games. Looks like he may be done now as he hasn’t played in a game since 11/1 although it still has him listed as active. He is on the same team as Roark (don’t see where he has pitched though) and Rosenbaum. I can’t find any defensive stats for the league though.

  3. Hiram Hover - Nov 20, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    I note the complete absence of any reference to his defense in this write up.

    An example of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”?

  4. scnatsfan - Nov 20, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Remember everyone complained about Desi’s fielding too. Some guys just take longer, hopefully Walters is one of them.

    • Hiram Hover - Nov 20, 2013 at 1:36 PM

      As I remember, everyone complained about Desi’s defense for a couple of years, because for a couple of years, Desi’s defense stank.

      Thankfully, it got better, and people stopped complaining. The fact that he started hitting a lot better helped too.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 20, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      On the surface it would be a good comparison (rookie Desi to Walters) if their issues were the same. Not all errors are created equal. Desi made aggressive errors and errors of inexperience and then a few oops where he just booted the ball. Walters errors are these field-able oops that come in bunches. I think his mind keeps out thinking his hands as in he pulls up his glove before the ball is in it as he knows he has a speedy runner. Maybe he is fixable but they better decide soon. I think 3rd base or even 2nd or the outfield could fit him better.

      • Doc - Nov 20, 2013 at 2:34 PM

        Just wonderiin’ Ghost, with all the Nats’ supervisory personnel running around the minor league system, if anybody has been working with Walters’ fielding??

        Some things we just find out about later than we would want to.

        He’s a raw talent that needs some work. Seems to have a good arm, good speed, and some good power–more power than Desi or Espi displayed at similar levels of development.

        Might be good to see him work the bench and graduate to a position (OF?) when some players (ALR, JDub) move on. Of course, on the bench for a young player in the NL is not much of an opportunity.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 20, 2013 at 5:38 PM

        Davey worked with him during early BP and I don’t think he gave him more than an inning in the field during a blowout. That sort of gives you an indication of Davey who really doesn’t trust youngsters. We were fortunate though that Rendon got his opportunity with Davey at the helm.

        NatsJack would probably know what they did in the Minors with Walters.

      • Joe Seamhead - Nov 20, 2013 at 7:02 PM

        I almost never went with the “Well, he can’t play the infield, so let’s stick him to the outfield,” mentality. Walters can crush the ball, at least in AAA, but by most accounts he’s got a brick for a glove. Most pros in the know always felt that Desmond was a player, and that he had the makings to be a good shortstop. I don’t read such reports on Walters.

  5. NatsLady - Nov 20, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Off-topic. Apparently the Giants are going to give Javier Lopez three years ($13 MM). You know Rizzo was never going to match that.

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/11/20/giants-re-sign-javier-lopez-to-three-year-deal/

    • jd - Nov 20, 2013 at 4:20 PM

      That stings. I think he was a perfect fit.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 20, 2013 at 5:44 PM

        Yep, I said this yesterday. The 3 years is nuts but his FMV is $5 million per year now so if they cut him loose after 2 years it cost them $3 million if you use market values and really less using AFV.

        Still, no way I pay that either as the Giants would’ve been smarter to go $6 mill on a 1 year deal.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 20, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    This is how bad the Zach Walters fielding dilemma is. He had only 555 chances last year and committed 38 errors. If you extrapolate (?) that into a full season of approximately 700 chances that would mean that on average Walters would commit 48 errors.

    Desi commited 34 his rookie year at 24 years old. That’s the same age Walters is now. Any number north of 25 errors is bad. Yes, Desi was bad but he wasn’t stone hands with the glove.

    Stats say Walters was even worse at 3rd than shortstop. No way he gets a bench spot until they find a new position or he proves he’s able to field.

    Ian Desmond in his last MiLB season at age 23 between AA n AAA made 28 errors in comparison.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Nov 20, 2013 at 3:01 PM

      Zoilo Versailles had 49 errors in 784 minor league chances, 39 in his Major League MVP season. Does anyone think he wasn’t qualified to sit on a major league bench?

    • Section 222 - Nov 20, 2013 at 4:04 PM

      Tracy couldn’t field, and he got a bench spot. I guess I just don’t agree that fielding is crucial for a guy coming off the bench. He’s going to pinch hit and start every few weeks when someone needs a day or two off. That’s a lot different than playing every day at SS.

      Frankly, I’m not happy with any of the chioices, and I’d rather Rizzo found a free agent who can hit for the utility infield bench spot. But if we’re staying with the current choices, if Walters shows this spring that he can hit MLB pitching, I’d go with him, and just bring Espi up if someone gets injured.

      • Hiram Hover - Nov 20, 2013 at 4:18 PM

        Depends on whom you see him replacing on the bench.

        Tracy had ~130 innings in the field last year. Lombo had 700+. Even if you ignore Lombo’s time in the OF (and how many us wouldn’t like to do that?), he had nearly 400 innings in the IF last year, and more in 2012.

        So if Walters is taking Lombo’s spot, yes, his defense matters. It’s not everything, but Chase’s post completely ignores it.

      • Section 222 - Nov 22, 2013 at 2:03 PM

        You make a good point, but Lombo had a lot of innings in the field in part because Rendon was a rookie who needed fairly frequent relief. He only played 714 innings himself last year. So I expect our utility infielder will play less infield than Lombo did last year, not more. Rendon won’t be a Desi-like iron man, but he’s going to play a lot of baseball and get better and better in the field, cutting down on the need for a stellar defender off the bench.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 20, 2013 at 5:45 PM

        Thank you Hiram. That’s how I see it.

  7. Theophilus T.S. - Nov 20, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    So much wrong w/ this post. Starting with, “the Nats were let down by an inexperienced bench.” Lombardozzi had around 400 PA in 2012, Moore about 200,. if I recall. More important they were let down by Tracy, Bernadina and to some extent Suzuki, big time.

    Whether it’s “oops” errors (Walters) or aggressive errors (Desmond), defense isn’t every thing, especially among bench players. The Nats starters are quite adequate defensively; what they need is players who can hit the ball out of the infield. If his defense is permanently execrable, well, Uggla has demonstrated that defense ain’t every thing.

    Another player who’s shown he earned a major league spot but the organization insists on treating him as a career AAA/AAAA leaguer. They could trade Lombardozzi for a minor league LH relief prospect, put Walters in his spot (how alike are they: switch hitter, ltd. defensively, but one of them can get the ball to the fence?) and not do any worse than they did last year. And they might do better.

    • nats128 - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:06 PM

      Who can forget that game losing error commited by Cristian Guzman in RF in Houston. The ball will find you. Chad Tracy last year throwing the ball in the 1st row of the stands helped lead to a loss. Paul LoDuca playing LF or 1B as a replacement player. Sometimes bench players have to play defense and bad plays happen especially when a player is playing out of position.

      Zach Walters probably should have been changed out of shortstop a while ago. Its his bat that has propelled him and any comparisons to Zoilo Versailles still isnt a real good comparison because he was a MVP who had the tradeoff of being a dynamic run producer. 784 chances would put Walters at 54 errors and Zoilo’s worst season was 39 errors and still achieved a .950 fielding percentage. Guess what, that was higher than Ryan Zimmerman achieved this year (.945) at a less demanding position, and we know how Davey and the fanbase felt about that.

  8. jd - Nov 20, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    Theo I agree with your point. This is why I don’t understand why Lombo is perceived as being a valuable bench player. He gets on base at a painful .281 clip with no power, is unable to play SS and is average at best at 2nd base and below average at 3rd or in the outfield. What I also don’t understand is why there is such negative focus on Scott Hairston who homers every 25 at bats and has had excellent power seasons in San Diego and New York which are 2 of the toughest parks to homer in. Yes, he doesn’t hit righties so well, so don’t play him against righties.

    • David Proctor - Nov 20, 2013 at 4:38 PM

      Scott Hairston doesn’t deserve anywhere near the criticism that he gets here.

    • sjm308 - Nov 20, 2013 at 4:51 PM

      Excellent points. If I hear one more time about Lombo’s ability to hit a sacrifice fly or bunt when called for it will be one more time too many. He is gritty, he hustles and I appreciate that but he is not the end all and be all for this team. jd – I agree. I do think Hairston in a full season will prove to be so much better than Tracy. I also wish we had that left handed bat to go with his power. I am not sure how important defense is to the bench and I am also not sure if its better for him to start in AAA and get lots of playing time, but I do know that I will not be upset if he is with the big club when the season starts. So your real competition with the bench is just two spots.
      I think Moore is pretty well set.
      I think Hairston is pretty well set.
      The back up catcher will be a competition but with just a few players.
      That leaves two spots – Lombo, Walters, Espinosa, I guess Rivera (is he still around?) & Kobernus for the infield
      And – Brown, Perez, and whoever Rizzo plucks from free agency, trades or rule 5.

  9. natsjackinfl - Nov 20, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    At 6 foot 2 inches tall, how about a switch hitting first baseman with some serious pop? I see a possible position switch in Zach’s future.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 20, 2013 at 5:47 PM

      That’s what I’ve been thinking and I think they try him at LF and 1st.

  10. jd - Nov 20, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    NatsJack,

    in 516 at bats at AAA Walters had an OBP of .286. That’s just not very good.

    • natsjackinfl - Nov 20, 2013 at 6:26 PM

      I know JD. That definitely needs improvement.

      • nats128 - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:11 PM

        Nobody thinks hes a starter, do they? He projects to be a bench player at best and with the fielding, the OBP and the K’s he is becoming a analysis in frustration as if people are trying to convince himself that he belongs. Theres veteran floaters who can do more and he doesnt even come close to Espinosa. I cant believe I just wrote that!

  11. David Proctor - Nov 20, 2013 at 7:17 PM

    Dan Kolko ‏@masnKolko 37s
    #Nats add LHP Sammy Solis, OF Michael Taylor and RHP Aaron Barrett to 40-man roster and DFA LHPs Fernando Abad and Tyler Robertson

    Wasn’t expecting Abad to be DFA’d.

    • Jw - Nov 20, 2013 at 7:31 PM

      Why not? As the Italians would say, he’s Abad.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:12 PM

      Does that mean Abad cleared waivers?

  12. Joe Seamhead - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:02 PM

    After reading all the posts so far this off season I go with :

    A: Ross Detweiler going to the pen makes a lot of sense.

    B: Danny Espinosa is at a do or die point in his career. If he doesn’t start listening to coaches regarding his hitting approach, well, at least he’ll be able to say he made it to the show, but if he can’t produce at the plate, and soon, then he better start looking for a non-baseball job.

    C: Taylor Jordan will be the 5th starter, unless Rizzo packages him in a trade.That said, I’m not sure who the 4th starter is.

    D: Like many others here, I’d like to see Rizzo get a ML caliber 4th outfielder. The consensus is that neither Brown or Perez are going to ever be the real deal.Some say Scott Hairston gets a bum rap. I like the guy, but he can only hit LHP and his defense was never great, and let’s just say that he hasn’t exactly aged very well out there. His arm is no better than Lombo’s.

    E: Sign Navarro to back up Ramos.

    F: If ALR doesn’t hit early, they can’t afford to stick with him as the sole first baseman for very long. I admit to being a huge proponent to re-signing him last year, the primary reason was that I didn’t think there was anyone else in the organization that could give the young pitching staff the defensive protection at first that they needed. A crappy 1B makes for higher ERA’s and for pitchers having to too often get 4 outs an inning. Whether his health, meds, age, or maybe even Drake being there all year, whatever the reason, or reasons, Adam was a disappointment. I wasn’t assuming that he’d hit his 2012 numbers, but I honestly expected somewhere in the neighborhood of .270/ 20-25 HRs/ 80 RBI’s. He wasn’t there on either side of the field. If Tyler Moore isn’t the answer, then a Plan B has got to be formulated in case Adam is done.

    G: “G” is for Gio. Between game 5 in the 2012 playoffs, and the PED scam, Gio’s smile was MIA most of the year. I hope that we get the goof ball Gio back.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:53 PM

      A. Detwiler will be on the Opening Day roster as a starter unless he’s
      traded. If he can’t show in the regular season he can handle it he will be
      yanked quickly and put in the pen.
      B. I expect the decision on Espinosa has already been made. If he isn’t
      traded I think Jayson Werth as unofficial team captain will make a
      recommendation of whether Espi can be good for team chemistry. He still has to show
      he can hit. I predict he will be traded or start in AAA as bench depth. If
      he can show he can hit, I could see him and Lombo trading places.
      C. Yes, on Taylor Jordan. I’d like to hear NatsJack’s thoughts on this.
      I love Taylor’s upside. As a sinker baller nobody on the Nats starters
      relied more on infield defense than Taylor and with better D would look even
      better + he deserved more run support (like Stras, Gio and the rest).
      D. You’re preaching to the choir here. As much as I like Corey’s potential,
      we’ve waited too long. He’s not the answer but still could figure into the
      bench. Corey has tools that fit well on the bench but not as the primary
      4th outfielder.
      E. There’s a few options that Rizzo has for backup catcher.
      F. Again, you’re preaching to the choir and glad you said because if I said
      it I’d catch grief.
      G. I liked the September Gio. I can’t imagine the stress he was under.

    • nats128 - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:53 PM

      I appreciate that you put your predictions down on paper. Good job on most. I agree with those that think Rizzo will have some loyalty to Detweiler. Once the Nats go with Laroche it will be difficult to make a change during the season. If the Nats get a quality 4th outfielder it gives Rizzo and Williams options on switching in and out to possibly shift an outfielder to 1st base. Everyone has to produce both ways offense/defense.

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