Washington Nationals Roster Battles: 3 Most Intriguing Spring Position Battles
Ahhh, Spring Training is in full-effect, and the start of the 2012 season is just about on top of us.
It is truly a beautiful time of year. Young talent is trying to showcase itself to win a roster spot, while veterans are trying to keep their jobs on major league clubs.
In this case, the Washington Nationals have already settled a major debate regarding one Bryce Harper. Apparently he'll get a bit more seasoned in the minors before becoming the next Ken Griffey Jr.
Fear not, Nats fans, there still are a couple of other intriguing position battles that deserve to be discussed.
Center field, right field and the fifth starting pitcher are all great examples.
While it would seem that these questions could be answered somewhat easily, when looked upon a bit more obtusely, perhaps the choices won't be so obvious.
Let's have a look.
Jayson Werth: Center Field, Right Field or Bench?
The day the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to a lucrative contract I just shook my head. I thought, "Am I the only one not drinking the Kool-Aid?"
Werth, other than while in Philly, played in 382 games for the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Nationals. In those five seasons, he has a combined batting line of .238/.322/.399/.721 or, in other words, pretty average.
While with the Phillies, in four years he batting line was a bit more impressive: .284/.380/.506/.885 or, pretty good, right?
The issue is, Werth's numbers in Philly were bolstered by two years and he was just mediocre in his other two seasons.
I get the appeal: He's tall, good defensively, fast, but let's face it, he sucks at the plate.
Sort of like a faster Adam Dunn.
Sure, he has the high price tag, but his .232 batting average for the Nats in 2011 may not be worth trolling him in the outfield as a starter in 2012.
Absurd you say?
No more absurd than paying a .230 hitter $126 million to be mediocre for your otherwise exceptional ballclub.
Rick Ankiel: Center Field, Right Field or Bench?
I want to really like the Rick Ankiel story: pitcher turned outfielder, makes a career for himself, yadda, yadda, yadda, but I believe in brass tacks and what have you done for me lately?
In the curious case of Rick Ankiel, that lately translates into not so much.
The "measuring stick" otherwise known as Jayson Werth didn't really set the bar all that high in 2011 now, did he?
Ankiel is a career .246 hitter whose best years may be behind him (see: 2007 and 2008), but for what the Nats are paying him in 2012, it may be worth the gamble to see if he can rekindle some of that St. Louis Cardinal magic he has exhibited in the past.
If he can bring a .275 average to the table, the Nats could find that $1.5 million he's set to make a bargain.
Roger Bernadina: Center Field, Right Field or Bench?
Quick, what does Roger Bernadina have that Jayson Werth doesn't?
If you answered heart, you're correct.
Sure, Bernadina is another case of a low .240's hitter, but what weighs in his favor, in my mind, is the fact that he is younger than both Werth and Ankiel.
Bernadina, when on the field, can show flashes of solid ball playing.
I won't go so far as to call it brilliance.
However, I ask this, if given the time to play on a permanent basis, could he be a solid performer in the outfield?
He IS only 27. Still plenty of time to develop... right?
Mark DeRosa: Center Field, Right Field or Bench?
Mark DeRosa, the proverbial "old man" in this equation. At 36 years of age, he is four years older than Werth or Ankeil and nine years older than Bernadina.
Be that as it may, DeRosa is also a career .272 hitter with plus power and the ability to drive in runs.
Be still my heart, a player that can produce in the outfield.
No, he is no Josh Hamilton, but DeRosa is a solid baseball player and provides offense that the Nationals will gladly accept.
At 36, his speed is not what it once was, nor is his bat, but the potential for a higher OBP is there with him. His career .341 OBP is better than any other option the Nats have in the outfield.
The question with DeRosa is his durability, as it is with any ballplayer over the age of 35.
Chien-Ming Wang: Fifth Starter?
In the mid-2000's Chien-Ming Wang was unstoppable.
That ended five years ago.
Since that time his health has been questionable at best. However, the Nats must see something in him right now in order for him to be vying for a rotation spot.
Having gone just 4-3 in 2011 in 11 starts leaves one longing for a more solid body of work, but his ERA of 4.04 and 1.283 WHIP leaves me curious as to how he would/will produce given the opportunity to start another full season.
John Lannan: Fifth Starter?
Can we all just agree that the Nats are going to trade Lannan?
Great, that saves me some time.
Ross Detwiler: Fifth Starter?
Ross Detwiler is a big, strong lefty that is still just 26 years of age.
While only starting in 10 games in 2011 and appearing in 15, Detwiler managed a solid 3.00 ERA and 1.258 WHIP.
That's the makings of something good.
I don't care that he only pitched 66 innings, the kid has some really solid stuff and could prove to be a vital cog in the Nats rotation.
It's worth mentioning, the kid gets better every year he plays. Think about that.
Ugh, I hate to say it, but I think it should still be Jayson Werth. He can't possibly be that bad two years in a row, right?
I would like to see Roger Bernadina there. The kid has a lot of talent, so I say give him the spot until he plays himself out of it.
Ross Detwiler folks, no question.