Final Predictions for Every Nationals Spring Training Position Battle
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Opening Day is less than two weeks away, and predictions need to be made regarding the final position battles remaining in the Washington Nationals' camp.
General manager Mike Rizzo constructed a team so deep that there really aren't many position battles to analyze.
The battles remaining are for relatively minimal roles on the team. Chad Tracy and Tyler Moore are competing for the role of reserve first baseman. Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler are fighting over the No. 4 spot in the rotation. Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos are battling over who will see the bulk of the time behind the plate.
Spring training has been a strong indicator of who will get the nod come Opening Day, though the winners of these battles will not be assured those spots as the season progresses. Based on their spring performances, though, these players should win their respective position battles.
Reserve 1st Baseman: Chad Tracy vs. Tyler Moore
Chad Tracy offers depth at third base as well.
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In the postseason, the Nationals carried both Chad Tracy and Tyler Moore. That was a direct result of only carrying four starting pitchers, however, so there's a strong possibility that only one will make the Opening Day squad.
Tracy played 73 games in 2012 with Washington, primarily being used as a pinch hitter. He hit .269 with three home runs.
The numbers weren't great, but Tracy's veteran presence was important to the success of the young team. This should also bode well for him this season.
That being said, he hasn't had a good spring training with the bat. He's hitting just .200 with one home run and eight strikeouts in 35 at-bats.
Moore, on the other hand, has compiled a batting average of .261 while cranking out three home runs. His upside is significantly higher than Tracy (who has already peaked and is likely declining), so that should give him a strong advantage in this one.
The fact that he still has options in the minors gives Rizzo and Davey Johnson some versatility in terms of decision-making, but Moore should be the guy moving forward.
He's too good to be in Triple-A in 2013.
Winner: Tyler Moore
No. 4 Starter: Dan Haren vs. Ross Detwiler
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When Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler are competing for the No. 4 spot in the rotation, there shouldn't be any questions regarding the team's pitching depth. I'd take either one in a heartbeat as my No. 4 (or No. 3, for that matter).
Detwiler was huge for the Nationals last season after Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan did not perform as expected, tallying 10 wins with a 3.40 ERA.
Haren experienced a down season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, though still made 30 starts for the eighth straight season. His 4.33 ERA was the highest of his career as a full-time starter, but Rizzo seems to think that there's plenty left in the tank for 2013.
Davey Johnson is reportedly eyeing Haren as the team's No. 4 starter (via James Wagner of the Washington Post), with Detwiler rounding out the rotation at No. 5.
Haren's pitched to a 5.79 ERA in spring training, however, so that decision isn't necessarily warranted by the numbers. Detwiler hasn't been much better at 4.15, but his 7.3 SO/9 and just one walk issued suggest that he's just had a bit of bad luck.
Johnson has generally been a man of his word when it comes to handling players (see: Strasburg, Stephen), so the report is likely how it'll go down for the Opening Day roster.
Winner: Dan Haren
Starting Catcher: Kurt Suzuki vs. Wilson Ramos
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The catcher position never really had a solid contributor since the team moved back to Washington prior to the 2005 season. That figures to be the same in 2013, though there are several candidates that will see time behind the plate at some point in the season.
Sandy Leon is nearly guaranteed to head down to Triple-A after spring training; his inexperience and questionable bat have made him the odd man out. But don't be surprised if he sees time later in the season.
The real battle comes down to Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos. Suzuki was the team's primary starter after being acquired from the Oakland Athletics before the trade deadline, but his offense leaves much to be desired.
He's hitting just .261 with one home run and two RBI this spring, compared to the .444 average Ramos has put up. Ramos does have fewer at-bats, but he has most definitely outperformed Suzuki with the bat.
In the end, Suzuki will likely start on Opening Day, as his presence behind the plate vastly outweighs his offensive faults. Ramos will get his fair share of opportunities and has a legitimate chance at being named the starter at some time down the road.
That time just isn't Opening Day.
Winner: Kurt Suzuki