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Roster preview: Nate McLouth

Jan 23, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

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Age on Opening Day 2014: 32

How acquired: Free agent, Dec. 2013

2014 salary: $5 million

2013 stats (w/BAL): 146 G, 593 PA, 76 R, 137 H, 31 2B, 4 3B, 12 HR, 36 RBI, 30 SB, 53 BB, 86 SO, .258 AVG, .329 OBP, .399 SLG, .729 OPS, 1 E, 4.0 UZR, 2.5 WAR

2014 storyline: After resurrecting his career in Baltimore, McLouth now finds himself in D.C., secure with a 2-year, $10.75 million contract. A former All-Star and Gold Glove winner in Pittsburgh six years ago, he’s versatile and can play all three outfield positions well. He’s speedy and just stole a career-high 30 bases last season. And he’s got some pop in his bat, having clubbed 12 homers and 31 doubles for the Orioles.

Playing time won’t come easy for McLouth with the Nationals, who have three established starting outfielders in Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth. But manager Matt Williams wants to give his regulars days off, and GM Mike Rizzo astutely noted that his club’s fourth outfielder received roughly 300 at-bats each of the last three seasons. So McLouth should find his way into the lineup and onto the field, holding down a key role.

Best-case scenario: McLouth’s best-case scenario would probably involve a worst-case scenario for somebody else in the Nationals’ outfield, because it’s the only way he’ll get considerable playing time. But let’s suppose he’s forced into the daily lineup and gets 500 plate appearances. Based on his performance last year in Baltimore, he’s certainly capable of hitting .270 with 15 homers, 35 doubles and 30 steals. Not bad production from a fourth outfielder.

Worst-case scenario: Yes, he’s coming off a great year with the Orioles, but McLouth is only a couple years removed from some awful performances in Atlanta and Pittsburgh. It’s not outrageous to worry he could slip right back into that rut, struggle to keep his batting average at the Mendoza Line and not get many opportunities to utilize his speed. Most troubling in this scenario is the fact the Nats have already committed $5 million to him in 2015, not to mention a $6.5 million club option (or $750,000 buyout) in 2016.

Most-likely scenario: McLouth should be an upgrade over Roger Bernadina as the Nationals’ fourth outfielder and top left-handed bat off the bench. It may be a challenge for Williams to get him 300 at-bats, but in whatever playing time he gets, McLouth should be able to hit .250 with a .330 on-base percentage, produce some timely extra-base hits, play solid defense around the outfield and swipe 15 bases.

  1. Joe Seamhead - Jan 23, 2014 at 6:42 AM

    2 degrees on my front porch right now, I must first say how thankful I am for this column. That said, I will say again how thankful that I also am that we should not be subject to. AAA level infielders playing the outfield this year. I also think that Nate McLouth should be thanking the powers that be that he has ended up at the right place, at the right time, and getting a very generous payday out of the deal.

  2. natsfan1a - Jan 23, 2014 at 7:41 AM

    Also 2 degrees here. I’m thankful for NI, heating, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh, and that I don’t have to make these baseball decisions (or shell out the $$$ for them). :-)

  3. natsfan1a - Jan 23, 2014 at 7:43 AM

    Oh, and 21 day, 01 hour, 17 min.

  4. edshelton2013 - Jan 23, 2014 at 8:24 AM

    Yes, McLouth is making good money, but he could have started for a lot of teams. I think Rizzo/Williams sold him on the idea that he’ll get significant playing time (400ABs?). Barring injury to a starter, that means all 3 outfielders will get “rested”, whether they like it or not.

  5. Hiram Hover - Jan 23, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    I don’t think it will be that much of a challenge to get McL to 300 ABs, if that’s what management wants. As Rizzo points out, they did it over the last several years with their 4th OF anyway.

    McL probably starts with a floor of around 220-40 ABs, figuring that Span and Bryce start no more than 150 games each, and Werth, per Mark’s own most likely scenario, plays 130. So that’s 12+12+32 = 56 starts right there (yes, we’ve got Hairston and TyMo on the bench too, but the less we see of them in the OF, the better). Add in a healthy # of PH appearances for McL as the main LH bench bat, and leave in some room to expect the unexpected, and it won’t be too hard.

    PS – Playing McL and resting Werth probably makes Werth better too, as a number of commenters (zmunch and sjm, and apologies if I forgot someone else) said yesterday.

  6. sjm308 - Jan 23, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    I don’t have a thermometer but I do believe its cold. Not sure why but the herd of deer that usually traipse back and forth in our yard are nowhere to be seen, at least no tracks on our back yard which does make it kinda pretty. Oh,,,,, baseball,,,,, sorry.

    If McClouth can just reach Mark’s most likely, give all 3 guys a little more rest than last year and make it possible that Tyler Moore never plays a minute in the outfield, I will be happy. I will be happier if we go into the playoffs with a rested group of outfielders but that is getting way too ahead of things.

    I hear he is also a really good clubhouse guy so this looks like a terrific pickup. My nephew, the Oriole fanatic is really pissed.

    Go Nats!!

    • Sonny G 10 - Jan 23, 2014 at 1:04 PM

      Your nephew being pissed sounds like a good omen for us, Coach. Go Nats!

  7. tcostant - Jan 23, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    BTW – The Nationals are making a “major” concert annoncement at 10:30am today. I wonder how you can beat the last two years of Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen…

  8. David Proctor - Jan 23, 2014 at 8:53 AM

    Bernadina had 309 ABs in 2011, 227 ABs in 2012 and 152 in 2013 (but only played half the season with us of course). Lombardozzi got 29 games in LF in 2012 and 20 in 2013. Assume 3 ABs a game (because he didn’t always finish the games in LF) and that’s another 60-90 ABs. So on the low end, that’s 287. On the high end, he could get as many as 400.

    I’m not factoring Tyler Moore in because Moore’s OF at-bats will likely go to Scott Hairston.

    Also, FWIW, even in 2011 when McLouth hit only .228 with the Braves, he got on base a lot. He had a .344 OBP that year.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jan 23, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      Slightly off topic, but one problem I have always had with OBP? It doesn’t include ‘reach on error’ or ROE. Why is that? Some guys, and it isn’t just the speedsters, reach base a very measurable number of times in their career on hit balls ruled errors by some guys called official scorers. It makes very little sense. I have two questions for those more sabermatic knowledgable than me: Do any of the advanced stats take ROE into consideration when reaching their metrics? And does anybody know where one can find charts on this stat? It always seemed to me that a few guys had an uncanny ability to reach base on the opposition’s miscues. Pete Rose and Derrick Jeter come to mind. I always thought it very unfair that if a guy reaches on an error, then ultimately scored a run, that even though he helped his team, he gets penalized on his personal stats.

      • Hiram Hover - Jan 23, 2014 at 10:00 AM

        Interesting question. I think from the sabremetric point of view, the real problem is that there is something called an “error” in the first place, but here’s an article that agrees with you:

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-error-of-the-reached-on-error/

        .
        You can find the ROE stat at baseball reference. Fangraphs, oddly, doesnt seem to have it.

  9. edshelton2013 - Jan 23, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    sjm308:
    You said “I hear (McLouth) is a really good clubhouse guy”. I recall reading a post here when we got McLouth that he’s a born-again Christian who proselytizes in the clubhouse. Not sure how well that will go over.

  10. Theophilus T.S. - Jan 23, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    I’m not sure McLouth would have gotten offers to cfrom many other teams, if any, at the price he received from the Nats. The teams that might see McLouth as good enuf to be a starter — e.g., Baltimore, which let him walk with a gaping hole in LF — wouldn’t spend that kind of money. They’d prefer a shiny, inexpensive, unproven new toy and or a stop-gap retread at Barney’s prices. Boston is another example: even though they could afford to bid big, they’ll play Bradley in CF — not much more proven than Corey Brown — backed up by Sizemore — hasn’t been healthy/done anything significant since 2009.

    Which is a preface to saying that McLouth fell into a golden opportunity. The McLouth signing, and the Pfister trade, show that Rizzo has taken a significant step forward in his plan to build a perennial contender from the core out. Over two years, given the vagaries of injuries, McLouth is likely to average at least 350 PAs, including a couple of stretches of 20 or more consecutive starts. By filling occasional holes professionally he’ll be as big a contributor to a successful team as a number of players who start every day.

    Now if Rizzo would just replace Hairston I’d be very much more happy.

  11. edshelton2013 - Jan 23, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    natsfan1a:
    Thanks for setting the record straight on the proselytizing in the clubhouse. It was Jamey Carroll (as reported by zmunchkin on Jan.9), not McLouth. I could care less who he converts but it might get tiresome listening to it.
    I might even prefer loud rap music.

  12. natsfan1a - Jan 23, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    You’re welcome. I don’t care about conversions either, unless they involve closers. :-)

  13. micksback1 - Jan 23, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    in theory, both Mclouth and Harriston should keep the OF from fatigue

  14. tcostant - Jan 23, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    So I’m still looking for two more season ticket partners who can take 10 games each.

    The info is here:

    http://nationals.splitseasontickets.com/public/listing/257

    But you can save some fees the Nationals will charge you, if you email me directly at my user id with at hotmail dot com, after it.

    • Section 222 - Jan 23, 2014 at 11:59 AM

      I was going to take this opportunity to promote using the BBS on the NIDO spreadsheet as a way to keep this information out there for our community. But tcostant has already posted his announcement there:

      http://prettyfrickenbueno.wordpress.com/whos-going/his-her-ni-bbs/

      So if a week from now you realize you want to join his ticket group and don’t want to search back in the posts for the email address, just go there.

      • tcostant - Jan 23, 2014 at 12:58 PM

        thx

  15. pdowdy83 - Jan 23, 2014 at 12:59 PM

    MLBTradrumors:

    The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Nippon Professional Baseball league of Japan have released former big leaguer Bryan LaHair, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com.

    He would be worth a flyer for left handed power on the bench. If the team was looking at Lyle Overbay there’s no reason not to look at LaHair for the same role.

    • pdowdy83 - Jan 23, 2014 at 1:04 PM

      He has a solid .289/.356/.479 slash line against righties with 20 homers and 24 doubles in 506 career plate appearances. He also has a very good .326/.356/.558 line as a pinch hitter in his career.

  16. David Proctor - Jan 23, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    Livan Hernandez is going to be at NatsFest, for anybody going and interested.

    • water47 - Jan 23, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      Awesome. He has always been a good nice guy and I think he still has the Nat’s career record for wins!

    • natsfan1a - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      Cool – thanks for the heads up!

    • zmunchkin - Jan 23, 2014 at 5:25 PM

      Yes indeed. I always loved watching LIvan pitch.

      But watching him bunt was even better. The Nats would be smart to bring him in as a coach just to teach everyone on the team how to bunt.

    • janebeard - Jan 23, 2014 at 7:19 PM

      Livo at FanFest! I was excited before, but now I’ll be may-not-sleep-well excited. I still love him. And yes, his bunt was a thing of beauty and joy. And now I know whose shersey to wear!

  17. flnatsfan - Jan 23, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    According to Ken Rosenthal…Rays are signing Balfour

    • scnatsfan - Jan 23, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      And again Storen exhales

    • Sonny G 10 - Jan 23, 2014 at 1:20 PM

      Hmmm…Rizzo must have read my post.:)

      • Joe Seamhead - Jan 23, 2014 at 5:35 PM

        Wow! Flying Pigs! Rosenthal was wrong.[sic].

        I never thought Mike Rizzo was serious about signing Balfor.

  18. David Proctor - Jan 23, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    Balfour to the Rays. 2 years/$12M.

    • tcostant - Jan 23, 2014 at 1:35 PM

      Correct:

      This just goes to show you how overpaid our closer is…

      • water47 - Jan 23, 2014 at 1:40 PM

        Agreed.

      • David Proctor - Jan 23, 2014 at 1:43 PM

        Indeed. But only one year left….though, there is the deferred money issue.

    • Hiram Hover - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:26 PM

      So in other words, Angelos cost this guy maybe $3M. Nice.

  19. water47 - Jan 23, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    Nate is the type of signing a contender makes. He is a very nice bench player who adds depth and when an injury comes along her is good replacement. I am concerned that we have both Hairston and McClouth but better to have too many than too few.

    Let’s see if there is one more move in Rizzo’s bag of tricks. – Here is an interesting article about Rizzo’s Jan Habits

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