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What’s left for the Nationals to decide?

Mar 19, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

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We have reached the home stretch of spring training. There are nine days left before the Nationals break camp and head north for good. Which means it’s just about time to make those final roster decisions that have been looming all spring.

I’m heading back to Viera myself this morning and (hopefully) will be on-site at Space Coast Stadium well before tonight’s 6:05 p.m. ballgame against the Astros. While I’m en route, here’s a look at what the Nats must accomplish over the next nine days…

1. Is Doug Fister good to go?
The right-hander hasn’t pitched in a Grapefruit League game since March 2, after which he experienced elbow pain. But he has slowly worked his way back since then, with no major issues. Fister, who was diagnosed with elbow inflammation and no structural damage, played catch on flat ground for three straight days, threw off a bullpen mound and then pitched two innings in a minor-league game on Monday. He should be ready now to start a big-league game, perhaps Saturday against the Marlins or Sunday against the Mets. If that goes well, there’s every reason to believe Fister will be ready to make his first start of the regular season. The Nationals aren’t completely out of the woods yet, but they appear to be close.

2. Who’s the No. 5 starter?
With Ross Detwiler now headed to the bullpen, the Nationals must decide between Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan (and possibly Chris Young) for the final spot in their Opening Day rotation. After his scheduled start Monday in Lakeland was rained out, Roark faced minor-league hitters yesterday. Jordan is scheduled to start tonight against Houston. Neither young right-hander has clearly distinguished himself from the other this spring. Will the Nats make this decision based on their final few starts in Florida, or will they base it on other factors?

3. Who’s the 7th reliever?
There seemingly had been two bullpen spots up for grabs all spring, but the Detwiler move now leaves only one job available. And there remain a whole bunch of guys in the mix. Right-handers Ryan Mattheus and Ross Ohlendorf probably won’t be fully recovered from minor injuries in time, so cross them off the list. That leaves fellow right-handers Christian Garcia, Aaron Barrett, Luis Ayala, Manny Delcarmen and Blake Treinin in the competition. Unless the Nationals decide to go with another lefty, their third out of the ‘pen. That would keep Xavier Cedeno and Michael Gonzalez in the mix as well. Needless to say, the Nats could choose to go in any of a number of ways here.

4. Who’s the starting second baseman?
It has seemed like a formality all along, but until Williams actually names Anthony Rendon his Opening Day second baseman, this technically remains an undecided position. Danny Espinosa, to his credit, has performed well this spring and has impressed the coaching staff and front office with his approach at the plate. All signs point to Espinosa opening the season as Rendon’s backup at second base and Ian Desmond’s backup at shortstop.

5. Who’s the last guy off the bench?
Assuming Espinosa is on the club — and assuming Nate McLouth, Scott Hairston and Jose Lobaton are safely heading north with the team — there is one final spot on the bench up for grabs. It almost certainly will go to a right-handed hitter, and the two obvious contenders are Tyler Moore and Jamey Carroll. Moore offers far more upside and a power bat off the bench, but there is legitimate reason to question where he would get his at-bats if Ryan Zimmerman indeed backs up Adam LaRoche at first base. Carroll also would have a hard time cracking the lineup at any of the other three infield positions, but he’s also more accustomed to holding down a bench job at this stage of his career. The question, though, is how much the 40-year-old has left in his tank.

  1. Theophilus T.S. - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:09 AM

    I still think Detwiler is the pitcher of 2012, not 2013. When he hits free agency after 2015 he’ll sign with some team that looks at him as a starter and end up with 7-8 seasons in a major league rotation.

    I think we need to give Williams credit for making a decision based on the current state of affairs not on some statistics warped by injury, mismanagement and inexperience. Fact No. 1: The Nats were in semi-desperate need of another LH reliever. Cedeno is a LOOGY on his best days and Ron Villone on his worst. Gonzalez is only marginally better and doesn’t seem ready to go north w/ the big club. Solis and Purke are still recovering, need experience and are starters by trade. Fact No. 2: Detwiler’s development of his curve and slider as supplementary pitches is still a work in progress. Fact No. 3: Although it may not seem so on the surface, the rest of the BP is still in a state of flux. In the back of Rizzo’s mind, Soriano is on the edge of cratering, in June or July if not April. Who knows how reliable he will be by the end of the season? He can’t keep giving up base runners without paying the price forever. In which instance Rizzo/Williams will need to develop new seventh- and eighth-inning options. (Both the Red Sox and the Cardinals had to switch horses in mid-stream last year in order to make it to the post-season.) None of the lesser RH lights (Garcia, Mattheus, Ayala, etc.) has shone, either.

    In sum, I think the decision was genuinely motivated by the best interests of the team. Jordan’s last start certainly wasn’t persuasive. Roark may be a different case; reports of his minor league game against the Tiggers are certainly encouraging — but it’s still a minor league game. Which is why Young is still in the conversation. I think the brain trust has decided a power LH arm in the BP is more valuable (what a turnaround from last year!) than the difference between what they could get from Detwiler as a starter and what they think they might be able to get from one of the alternatives.

    • Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:22 AM

      Roark’s outing was definitely exciting. It sounds like the kind of total dominance you’d expect from someone like even Zinn in a minute league game. If I read it right, they had to add outs to the innings to get him enough pitches. Pretty wild! I really think he’s the man for the job, and would be pretty optimistic if he gets it.

      • Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:29 AM

        “a minute league game” – ha! Thanks autocorrect.

        Also wanted to emphasize that I think you’re right that Det was moved to the pen due to strategic considerations as much as anything else, but I do think the quality of the alternatives shouldn’t be overlooked. If they weren’t capable of giving Det at least a run for his money, I have no doubt Det would be starting. On the flipside, I also think Det probably would be starting if any of the #5 alternatives were a lefty and all other aspects of their skill were the same.

    • dgourds - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:54 AM

      +1 with pretty much everything you said. But I think #5 is pretty much Roark’s.

  2. natsfan1a - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:20 AM

    6. I just want to watch some real baseball.

    (Safe travels, Mark.)

    • Joe Seamhead - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:34 AM

      Soon, Grasshopper, soon!

      • MicheleS - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:10 AM

        Not soon enough. grumble. Shakes Fists at Mother Nature.

  3. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    1. I hope so.
    2. Roark with TJ getting work in AAA
    3. I hope it is garcia for all the right reasons
    4. Rendon
    5. I hope it is moore for all the right reasons

  4. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:40 AM

    http://insider.espn.go.com/blog/keith-law/post?id=2033
    Does anyone know the other 8 names besides Skaggs and Rendon?

    • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:41 AM

      not asking for the write up, just names so I can look up their stats for fantasy purposes.

  5. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/a/23064
    I have not finished reading it but looks like a good read.

    • Wisp Of Smoke - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:12 AM

      Adam Eaton, Jurickson Profar, Drew Smyly, Derek Norris, Wily Peralta, Anthony Rizzo, Chris Archer, Oswaldo, Arcia.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:21 AM

        Thanks! much appreciated! He has been fairly successful in the past I believe so I will definitely keep an eye on these folks.

      • Wisp Of Smoke - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:22 AM

        No problem.

    • Doc - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:17 AM

      Yes it is a good read!

      Thanks, Faraz!

  6. natinalsgo - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:03 AM

    Best 25 go North! ;)

  7. sjm308 - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    Nice to see all the options and these have pretty much been the questions all spring (maybe adding RZimms throws)
    1. Don’t rush – we can go w/ both Roark & TJ for a week or two if needed
    2. I think it’s Roark but will not be upset with either. Silly to think Young is even in this discussion
    3. If # 2 is TJ then it’s Roark. If Roark starts then it’s ??? Ok I go Ayala but as soon as Garcia shows consistency in AAA he is up. (I really like both Barrett & Treinan & think both will pitch in the majors this year)
    4. Not even a decision anymore and probably never really was a competition. Rendon is special.
    5. It won’t happen but trade or release Hairston and keep both Moore and Carroll

    One last thing on Det.
    People who are praising Williams for this move seriously don’t think he went into Rizzo with this idea do you? This came from all 3 sitting down and deciding what is best for the team. Williams merely delivered the message.

    Go Nats!

    • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:09 AM

      this is why I favor Roark over TJ because I have a feeling that Roark will go to bullpen if he does not make rotation. I want the backup to be at AAA.

    • Doc - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:24 AM

      Kobernus over good ol’ Jamey, any day, any week, any month, any year. Pinch runner for anyone,late in the game and Kobernus is on his way to the plate.

      Moore is a keeper, Hairston isn’t.

      Haven’t seen enough of BP types, but I was hoping the Garcia would be the guy. Lots to pick from, but say no to most of the lefties and most of the righties. Like Treinan—Rizzo did it again. He’s this year’s Ian Krol.

    • nats128 - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:28 AM

      sjm, I would say add RZ’s shoulder.

    • Hiram Hover - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:31 AM

      sjm – Agree about who/how the Det decision was made.

      But remember, this is still the honeymoon, and people want to give the new manager credit he doesn’t (solely) deserve.

      When the honeymoon is over, people will assign him blame he doesn’t deserve either – so it will all balance out!

  8. mlblogsnatsboy - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    I’ve been in Viera since the first week of games and I haven’t seen any evidence that it’s a foregone conclusion that Rendon is the starter. Rendon seems to be traveling with the B squad during split squad games while Espinosa has stayed back with the established regulars. In my opinion Espinosa has outplayed Rendon this spring, showing much better plate discipline while being smartly aggressive on the bases and playing excellent defense. If this truly was an open competition, I think Espinosa has a leg up at this point, based on daily observation. Maybe Mark knows something I don’t.

    • nats128 - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:31 AM

      I guessed you missed the quotes in Williams interview last week when the WaPo asked him about lineup formation and he said he could see Rendon batting 2nd or back in the lineup. There was no mention of Espinosa.

      This is a sham of a “tryout”. Rendon won the spot last year and the potential going forward for Rendon is off the charts. Read Keith Laws projections or even ZIPS, Steamer, or other projection services and Rendon is the starter unless Rizzo lost his %*(*$*# mind.

    • Doc - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:34 AM

      Like to see some stats where ARen has been ‘out-played’ by Espi.

      Danny is definitely the more experienced middle infielder, but that is where the story ends.

      If actually true, ARen has been on the B squad more because it is accepted that he’s the 2B guy. Espi was on the A squad because ol’ Matty wanted to evaluate his ‘comeback’. Espi has made progress, and maybe will make some more as the season progresses.

      One thing is for certain, Danny is not the hitter that Rendon is, and not the hitter that Rendon will become.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:48 AM

        +3

      • natsjackinfl - Mar 19, 2014 at 10:22 AM

        Make that +4.

      • Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 10:57 AM

        IMO your reasoning for why Espi was on the B squad strikes me as trying to make the evidence fit a theory, rather than devising a theory to fit the evidence.

        I personally feel both were truly being tried out, but we’ll get more meaningful insight throughout the final 9 games. Williams has maintained that the first half was to get the utility guys regular at bats, and the second half was to ramp up the starters. Will be interesting to see who starts to get more playing time from here on out, imo.

      • Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 10:58 AM

        Er, sorry, “…why *Rendon* has been on the B squad…”

    • Steve - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:56 AM

      Espinosa has great defensive abilities, but offensive limitations should also be considered. Rendon is the starter. Espinosa can be a defensive replacement for late innings when Nats are leading. His poor hitting, especially in clutch situations, limits his value.

    • JamesFan - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      Not a chance. If Espinoza gets the position and is hitting .200 with some rally-killing strikeouts at the end of April, everybody looks dumb and Espi will get torched by Nats fans. Easy decision is to give the job to Rendon as his to lose and see what Espi does off the bench.

      If Williams picks Espi, it will be a courageous decision but a high-risk one for a first year manager of a high caliber team.

      • Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        Agreed it would be a bold move. If he does pick Espi, and Espi struggles, it will be very interesting to see how he handles it.

  9. Hiram Hover - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    1. I join everyone else in hoping, lighting candles, crossing fingers, etc.

    2. Roark (not because he’s necessarily better than TJ, but because TJ would benefit more from time in the minors)

    3. Barrett – because there’s usually one ST shocker, and Det to the BP ain’t that surprising

    4. Hahahahahahaha

    5. TyMo. Carroll was around just in case Danny imploded. He hasn’t.

  10. philipd763 - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    Detwiler should have been traded two years ago when it was obvious he was a brittle 5 inning pitcher. Now, he has very little trade value.

    • adcwonk - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:39 AM

      … unless he become a standout reliever. See, e.g., Clippard, Tyler

      (if it was “obvious he was a brittle 5 inning pitcher”, then other teams wouldn’t have offered so much, either, no?)

    • Steve - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:52 AM

      Exactly. Detwiler has had his chances and seldom made it past the fifth inning. Also, as said, he is fragile.

  11. thelatencn - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    They were supposed to set the rotation yesterday. So who’s pitching tonight…tomorrow…Friday?

    • Jb - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:29 AM

      The sequence clearly will be Stras, Gio, JZ, Fister, #5. The day to watch is Friday, which lines up with OD in NY. JZ is due to start Friday. If he does, that means they pick up the sequence in the middle, with JZ for the opener, Stras for the home opener, and Stras/Gio/JZ lined up for both ATL series.

      • dcsportsfan2277 - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:04 PM

        I can live with that! JZimm has certainly earned the season opener in NY. April is no picnic with 6 games with Braves, 4 with Cards, 3 with Halo’s and 4 with Padres as well as the Marlins, Mets and Astros. Go Nats!

  12. philipd763 - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    “Danny has performed well this spring.”, according to Mark. Well, he’s batting .192 and still striking out. That looks to me like the Danny of 2013.

    • Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      Based on a recent calculation I did, he’s striking out 16% of the time this spring, vs. 23% last spring and ~30% the last three regular seasons. So, while his BA is still terrible, his plate discipline does seem to have improved. According to FanGraphs, that puts him in Average – Above Average territory, whereas historically he’s been Below Average – Awful.

      • Hiram Hover - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:42 AM

        This is right.

        And even more crucially – given the small sample size and uneven quality of competition in ST, what they’re evaluating is not so much the overall #s as his approach. And so far at least, they’ve said good things about that–cutting down his swing with 2 strikes, for example.

        Even in the best case scenario, I think Danny is going to be a high K guy. He needs to get back to tolerably and not abominably high.

  13. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    Moving RD to bullpen does make our bullpen a bit expensive I think (I have not compared to other teams’ bullpen) and even in future, if RD remains there for 2015.

    • Doc - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:44 AM

      Faraz, this may come as a shock, but baseball money is not real money.

      Who cares how much the BP costs??? Not me!

      Rizzo likes to pretend that he cares about BP costs.

      But if Rizzo really cared about BP costs he wouldn’t have signed Borass’s orphaned FA that nobody else wanted to sign, Sorryano.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 10:05 AM

        since I just realized that soriano won’t likely be with us next year, this may not matter much.

    • sjm308 - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      Faraz – while appreciate you concern about money, in my opinion, it is not a big factor for this team or front office.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        You are right! Our team roster is pretty much set but I was just talking comparison wise. We may have one of the expensive bullpens, but if we win world series, no one would care about that.

  14. wearenationals - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    My 5 cents…
    1. Yes. He has 2 weeks to go to get ready for his start.
    2. Roark, for sure. TJ in Syracuse.
    3. Garcia
    4. RenDON! Danny makes team as backup utility and PH/PR.
    5. Zach Walters. My bench includes McLouth, Espinosa, Lobaton, Moore. Buh-bye, Jaime and Scotty.

    • Doc - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:48 AM

      You got it wearenationals!!!

      Moore makes it a tough decision for them. There are a few teams that are after him, and nobody’s after Hairston.

      Zach needs a bit more reps, particularly with his fielding. Work on the K’s, work on the fielding in AAA–he’s a keeper!

      • davecydell - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:56 PM

        Moore is a future AL DH making big $s

  15. Joe Seamhead - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    I disagree about Detwiler having very little trade value. I think you’d be surprised what he’d fetch right now with all of the starters around the league going down with serious injuries.

    • Joe Seamhead - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:49 AM

      Just because he isn’t a starter on this team with all of the talent they have doesn’t mean that Oakland, or Houston, or even Atlanta[Gasp!] wouldn’t want him right about now.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Mar 19, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      +1

    • Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:04 AM

      Not to mention, in my very limited experience I get the sense that teams are usually hemorrhaging solid relievers…seems like there’s always a scramble by various teams to shore up the ‘pen by the middle of the season. If that’s true, could it be that his trade value will increase as a result of this move.

      Or, could it be I need to learn more about the scientific art of trading? If so, I’m all ears ;)

      • Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:05 AM

        Ugh! I’m too reliant on editing.

        “I get the sense that teams *aren’t* usually hemorrhaging solid relievers”.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:49 PM

      I agree, lots of teams would consider him better than the back end of the rotation they have, and he’s relatively cheap for a starter, and not too overpriced for the power lefty bullpen guy the Nats are asking him to be, and he’s controlled through two more years. But what would they give up? I think a top prospect would be a lot to expect, but the least you can accept, in this case, at this point in the season.

  16. chiefwj - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    A comment on the Rendon on the “B” squad vs. “A” squad:

    I think Williams & Rizzo made a conscious decision to treat Espinosa like a veteran/valuable commodity rather than a pariah, and not who has a leg up on the job. So, Espinosa plays at home while Rendon, the younger player, rides the bus. This is consistent with giving Espinosa a raise above the CBA minimum, which they didn’t have to do. Don’t think this stuff isn’t noticed in the clubhouse.

    • NatsNut - Mar 19, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      +1

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      +2

  17. scnatsfan - Mar 19, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    For those say it is a small sample for Espi, I give you last year. Yeah, I know he was hurt. So I give you the year before. Danny won’t have much value as he will the backup with sporadic at bats and occasional pinch hits – I don’t see him offensively thriving in that situation. Slice it any way you want, Rendon is a guy who needs to be in the lineup.

  18. Theophilus T.S. - Mar 19, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    I’ll continue to advocate Hairston’s departure until it happens even if it takes until the August 31 waiver trade deadline. With McLouth — Moore — available, he’s redundant. There’s no need for a RH-hitting fifth OF. In the event of an emergency — defined as a mid-game sprained ankle or worse with one OF already down — Moore can play the OF for a few days, likely without costing more defensively than if Hairston was out there. If there is a more serious injury there are OFs in the high minors who can be summoned w/in 24 hours.

    The same argument in favor of a fifth RH OF applies even more to the need for a fifth IF to back up Z’man, Desmond and Rendon. If one of them goes down, who is the backup’s backup? It happens that the Nats’ options for a backup IF are better than the reasons for keeping Hairston.

    Maybe Rizzo can spin Hairston back to the Mets for a PTBNL; they need OFs and liked Hairston so much they let him go after his one “breakout” season.

    • sjm308 - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      Theo – I will continue to join you and just can’t understand how the FO/MW doesn’t see Hairston-Moore as redundant and why they would keep the older guy over the younger guy. The only thing that is added into this is that they could option Moore back to AAA but he absolutely crushed it there last year and to me, proves nothing.

  19. NatsNut - Mar 19, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    Danny is batting .192? That actually IS an improvement.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      leave the poor guy alone, please! :(

      • NatsNut - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:44 PM

        LOL. Ok.

    • Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      16% SO this spring training vs. 23% last spring training and ~30% for each of the last three regular seasons.

      Definitely improving.

  20. Kenz aFan - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    1. With a couple of starts to get ready, along with a few bullpen sessions, Fister should be ready to start the season. But, and here’s the but, Fister could be used to give the Nats more time to make that all important final decision on the 5th starter. They could place Fister on the 15-Day DL to open the season and give his slot to Jordan or Young. Pacing Fister on the DL would also give him 3 extra starts (in the minor league camp) to get ready. That could be a factor.
    2. Even though Chris Young has pitched better than both Roark and Jordan, albeit marginally, I’m pretty sure that Roark will get the nod.
    3. So far in camp, Barrett has been the best reliever, followed in order by Cedeno and Delcarmen. As deserving as he’s shown himself to be, in consistently “getting the job done” Barrett heads the minors while Cedeno gets the 7th spot as the team’s LOOGY.
    4. This has been a “false open competition” because Rendon has had the job since Espinosa lost it last year, and Rendon hasn’t played himself out of the job he won. Rendon is the opening day 2B.
    5. Zach Walter is the most deserving, and IMO, would be a much better guy off the bench than Espinosa ever would be. Remember, attitude plays a big part of being a bench jockey, and Espi will never truly accept coming off the bench. He will sooner (my preference) or later get traded, because his days with the Nats are numbered.

    FWIW, my bench consists of: Catcher, Jose Lobaton, infielders Zach Walters and Jamey Carroll, along with outfielders Nate McLouth and Tyler Moore. (Hairston gets DFA’d and Espinosa heads to Syracuse (if he’s not traded).

    That gives the bench 2 switch-hitters, one lefty bat and two right-handed bats, some power and some infield flexibility.

    • therealjohnc - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:46 AM

      How on Earth do all of you know what Espinosa’s mental attitude is, what it was, or how he is perceived in the clubhouse? So many commentators post with certainty about some or all of these things, and I’m interested in your sources.

      The people who are promoting Zach Walters to the big league squad were probably big Babe Laufenberg fans back in the day. Walters’ glove is questionable, his power last year was fluky, and his plate discipline is also questionable. He needs to play every day to work on those things – and being the 25th guy on the bench in DC isn’t going to get that done. Walters has put himself on the radar, and has earned his spot on the 40 man roster with his power and athleticism – he’s already put that trade (for Jason Marquis – wow) firmly into the W column for Rizzo. Let Walters continue to work on his game and become a guy that you seriously consider as a potential regular.

      Trading Espinosa creates an aching vulnerability for the Nationals, a team with championship ambitions. If (*knock on wood*) Desmond were to be hurt for any prolonged period of time the Nationals would have Espinosa as a backup to stabilize the infield. The defensive benefit alone would be worth carrying his bat (park him in the #8 spot); if there’s one position on the diamond where defense is at a premium it’s SS. Walters? Betting on a player with a career OBP in AAA of .281 (yes, that’s OBP, not batting average – blech) and a questionable glove is a heck of a thing for a team with WS ambitions. Carroll? A 40yo player with an OPS of .518 last year? Seriously? The other alternatives aren’t SS at all (Rendon, Kobernus, etc). Trading Espinosa would be a foolish risk for the Nationals, and I don’t think that Mike Rizzo is foolish.

      • Hiram Hover - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:57 AM

        +1.

        I’m tired of folks who talk about Danny’s state of mind as if they are his shrink, or the clubhouse as if they’re an eavesdropping towel boy.

      • Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:21 PM

        +1 more…drove me nuts last year. It’s actually pretty tame this year…of course it’s also just spring training ;).

        Great overview of the defensive vulnerability that would be exposed if we let Espi go, johnc.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        John, chill out. Kenza made many good points and you tear him apart like a defense attorney for Espinosa.

        I took what he said as opinion and not fact and the only reason Espi doesn’t make the OD roster is if there truly is a desire to place him in AAA where he can play every day. Espi IMHO sulked on the bench last year. It’s a human response that many of us in the same situation could give off the same vibe but it doesn’t mean he has a bad attitude. That ‘tude label has followed Espi be it right or wrong.

        I agree with what you say on bench formation and the Best 25 won’t Go North as Hairston already has his plane ticket. As much as people want that best 5 on the bench, Rizzo has every season stuck with that 1 guy be it Stairs or Tracy or Hairston. Sure, maybe this is the shocker and TyMo or Kobernus takes his place on March 31, I doubt it.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        The people who are promoting Zach Walters to the big league squad were probably big Babe Laufenberg fans back in the day.

        At first I thought you meant Babe Dahlgren, and was trying to figure out what that meant. Now I get it.

      • letswin3 - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:12 PM

        I’d love to have Walters “fluky” power, switch-hitting bat on the bench. And his 29 “fluky” round-trippers last season have been followed by a ST bat that has been nothing short of eye-popping (393 avg.) … day in and day out. And his defense at short one day recently was described by a TV guy as “Jeteresqe”. His glove may not yet be as reliable as Dannys, but he hasn’t embarrassed himself in the field either … and his bat is worthy of possessing a spot in the Washington bat rack. I’ve seen way too many weak grounders to the right side, or third strikes, from Danny when there were runners in scoring position and 2 outs. And how many 2nd basemen lead an entire league in K’s? If Williams and Rizzo want to field the best 25, it shouldn’t be that hard to make the decision to move Danny and give Walters his shot.

      • Hiram Hover - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:26 PM

        Folks do realize that calling his D “Jeteresque” is a backhanded compliment at best, right?

      • Kenz aFan - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:28 PM

        By state of mind (or attitude) I am not talking about Espinosa as a clubhouse presence. I am saying attitude is very important in playing a part time roll, and Espinosa WILL NEVER see himself as a part time player. FOr one he thought only of himself when he hid or lied about the seriousness of his injury two years ago, making him in my book, and in that of many others, as being NOT A TEAM PLAYER. Baseball, last I heard is still a team sport and teams win games, not individuals.

        I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’ve never heard of Babe Laufenberg, whoever he (or she) is. Just because I don’t place players on a pedestal, doesn’t mean I am less a fan or that I’m less knowledgeable. In simpler terms, no one fan’s opinion is worth more or less than the next fan’s. You and a few other “holier than thou” fans don’t run the roost, there others out here that are equally allowed to share their opinions.

        You love Espinosa, good for you. I bet you still think the Brad Wilkerson trade was a bad one for Washington. Being the face of the franchise means nothing, just like it meant nothing in Wilkerson’s case. Why do I bring up Brad Wilkerson, you ask, well, he’s just as meaningful to me as Babe Laufenberg is to you. Thing is, I’m sure most fans have heard of Brad Wilkerson, as for Babe Laufenberg, I’m pretty sure you couldn’t find 3 people DC area Nats fans who knew who he was.

        Your way of thinking is passé and very old school.

        While having a good (great is better) glove off the bench isn’t a bad thing, it’s extremely rare when a sub’s glove helps win games. It’s their bats. Espinosa couldn’t hit a barn door for average if he was standing on it. BTW, I didn’t say Espinosa wouldn’t make the team, just that I thought and preferred someone else. My “opinion” differs from you, fine, and trying to make yourself appear to have baseball savvy isn’t working with me. I’ve attended more than 2,000 games in my life and I’m not impressed with people who try to give the impression they know everything there is about the game.

        I learn every day and will keep on learning. It’s too bad (sad really) that you’ve learned it all already and have no room for other people’s opinions.

        BTW, ask Rizzo if every player in the system is being developed as a “major league regular” or if they envision different roles for some of the better players in the minors. He will say, while they certainly hope every player develops into a major league regular, the future of some of the better players will be that of a role player, be it off the bench or in the bullpen.

      • letswin3 - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:28 PM

        HH, I think I understand your “backhanded compliment” reference. Actually, I think the TV guy reference was to a Walters jumping throw from the hole to first powered mainly by a strong arm. I understand that Walters is not likely to be a candidate for a Gold Glove, but I don’t think a bench utility infielder should be expected to be that kind of defender …that position (the bench guy) should be a pinch hitter (Walters’ bat is actually better that Danny’s) and a replacement for injuries and days off. Walters has also played third and SS this ST. He’s not a bad middle infielder, he’s an adequate middle infielder with a bat that’s a measurable improvement over Danny. Is Zack’s discipline at the plate what it should be? No, but he’s improved this entire spring, and he’s never led any league in strikeouts, like Danny has. Kenz aFan and I are unlikely to get our wish of seeing Walters win that middle infielder bench seat, but I’m convinced that there is at least an argument for it.

      • Hiram Hover - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:46 PM

        letswin3

        There is certainly an argument for Walters – you and I disagree on its merits, but you put it well.

        What bugged me above was Kenz aFan’s claims about Danny’s mindset and qualities as a team mate if he were a bench player. That wasn’t an argument based on evidence – it’s just conjecture and projection.

      • therealjohnc - Mar 20, 2014 at 11:10 AM

        Heh. Kenz, I’m not an Espinosa fan. I shivered when MW said there was a competition for the second base job, and have been quietly relieved that this seems to have been just window dressing. As for Walters, I don’t dislike him – I got to see him at FanFest, and liked him. Overall I tend to lean towards minor leaguers, although I’m not as wildly optimistic as some are around here. Even with all that, I think that right now Espinosa is a better SS option. If Walters can improve his defense and batting eye while maintaining a good power level at AAA he more firmly states his place in the picture. His OBP at AAA is dreadful, and assuming that it will go up at the big league level is wishful thinking. You might be able to find one or two players that have done it over the past half century or so. Maybe. And I only call Walters’s power “fluky” because before he hit 29 HRs last year he had hit 25 over the previous three seasons. Which is the real Walters?

        FWIW “mind reading” does bug me. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and I can’t say that I’ve never caught myself doing it – but I try to stamp it out in myself when I see it because I know what I’m reading in their minds or “seeing” in the clubhouse is likely more a product of my own guesses and prejudices than facts. I try to be aware of the things that I don’t know as well as the things that I do. Beware of confirmation bias.

        For me it’s a cold look at the team, the players, and the various options. I didn’t even go out on a limb and say that Espinosa makes the team, although I think that’s likely based on the options. They might go with Carroll as the backup middle infielder instead. Heck, I think there’s a small but nonzero chance they keep Peterson over Moore because Peterson can also play 3b. What I don’t think happens is that Espinosa gets traded, for all the reasons that I just laid out.

      • therealjohnc - Mar 20, 2014 at 11:26 AM

        And Kenz, your guesses about me are pretty wildly off base. Well, mostly – I do cop to being a pompous know-it-all on occasion, and don’t mind when people call me on it from time to time. And I do like reading and learning from those who provide a solid basis for their opinions. While everyone is entitled to an opinion, not all opinions are entitled to equal weight. I hear and respect the argument that Walters’s power offsets his other liabilities, offensive and defensive. My skepticism is not based on the idea that the concept is bad; in the post-PED (more or less) era power is at a premium. But counting on Walters producing that power in the big leagues is questionable because his power popped up last year and may not be sustainable, while his plate discipline was always bad and worsened at AAA. We’ll see how it plays out.

        And while more people here will remember Wilkerson (“Got Wilk?”) over Laufenberg, suffice it to say that Laufenberg is well known among DC natives of a certain vintage who are sports fans. There are a lot of people in this town who are perfectly comfortable rooting for the local teams in more than one sport. Excommunicating fans who do so is not only silly, it’s bad for baseball in DC.

    • Pete "Hit 'n Run" Wood - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      I agree totally with Kenz afan. that’s easier than trying to figure out how to post a whole comment:)

  21. micksback1 - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    I think its clear that Roark is our 5th starter and he has earned it. Only thing left is for the batting order to be decided for the opener

  22. micksback1 - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    what I like about roark is his swagger and confidence.

  23. Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    While I agree with others that Rendon is and will likely remain a more reliable at bat than Espi, I don’t think that’s the whole picture here. A few things to consider within the strategic frame of small ball, which Williams is clearly emphasizing much more than Davey ever did:

    – of Espi and Rendon, who is more likely to get themselves across home plate once they are on base
    – of Espi and Rendon, whose defense is more likely to prevent runs from scoring?

    IMO, both of these factors are critical to winning with a small ball approach.

    • Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:28 AM

      On a whim I calculated the % of runs scored for total at bats. Espi has crossed home 19% (6/31) of the time that he has batted this spring training; Rendon has crossed home 14% (4/24) of the time.

      I have no idea if this measurement means anything though…heh.

      • Doc - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        Uhhh…Eric, I have no idea if it means anything either. LOL

        Good data digging though!

      • natinalsgo - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        When you are on the B team you may not have the RBI guys behind you. Means not much. The player controls his BA and OBP and SLG almost exclusively and that’s about the most objective data that you can compare in a large sample size. Small sample sizes are almost worthless as BABIP needs more reps to become a useful indicator.

      • Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        “Small sample sizes are almost worthless as BABIP needs more reps to become a useful indicator.”

        Agreed…and isn’t BABIP exactly what is tanking Espi’s BA at the moment?

        “The player controls his BA and OBP and SLG almost exclusively and that’s about the most objective data that you can compare in a large sample size.”

        I think the ability to extend a hit by a base (e.g., a 1B to a 2B) and stolen base percentage are also important indicators as far as getting across home plate, and are also objective measures of a player’s skills.

        A fair point about the RBI guys, though.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      I am a huge Espi fan but it is hard for me to see past significant difference that Rendon and Espi are projected to have in their OBP. I would love for Espi to make difficult for Rendon to slip up by performing better than everyone’s expectations.

      • Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:31 AM

        I’m in the same boat. I’m actually much more ambivalent this year than last regarding whether Espi *should* start, even though I really want him to prove that he’s the right choice.

  24. Eric - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    I’m in the same boat. I’m actually much more ambivalent this year than last regarding whether Espi *should* start, even though I really want him to prove that he’s the right choice.

  25. David Proctor - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    Fangraphs on our catchers:

    “Wilson Ramos’ initials are WAR. If he can ever stay healthy, he could be worth a lot of it. His defensive skills seem to be perfectly fine, he’s only 26, and he owns a career 109 wRC+ while last year he trimmed his strikeout rate while boosting his power. Staying on the field is the key for Ramos, and as long as he’s able to do that, the Nationals might well have a top-five backstop. Because of Ramos’ health concerns, the Nationals made it an offseason priority to land themselves a reliable reserve. Lobaton fits, as a guy who was squeezed out of Tampa Bay, and while Washington would obviously like for Ramos to play as much as he possibly can, Lobaton’s an all-right option if he’s forced to play a couple weeks in a row. He’s coming off a quietly good 311 plate appearances.”

    • natinalsgo - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:04 PM

      That’s some great stuff. I wonder if “top-five” is in the Majors or in the NL. With Sheriff McCann gone from the NL I’m counting:

      1. Yadier Molina 2. Buster Posey 3. Willy Ramos

      • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:08 PM

        can’t imagine it being top five in majors. santana, mauer ahead of him easily among some others.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:10 PM

        And McCann. I’d say Top 7 to be fair.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:12 PM

        castro, maybe perez or lucroy. top 10 is more like it.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        You can still put a healthy Ramos above them which I think is what he was doing. Health is the key.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        I hope he becomes top five in majors. I would love that.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 76 57 --
ATLANTA 71 64 6.0
MIAMI 65 68 11.0
NEW YORK 63 72 14.0
PHILADELPHIA 61 73 15.5
Through Friday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
SAT: Nats at Mariners, 9:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Mariners, 4:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Dodgers, 8:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Dodgers, 4:10 p.m.
THU: OFF
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

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TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
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