Deal He Got: 7 years, 18 million/year
Deal He Should Have Got: 5 years, 12 million/year
Jayson Werth is a classic late bloomer, and that’s less worrisome for a hitter than it is for a pitcher when you hear talk of nine-digit contracts. He is a five tool player, although not especially flashy in any of the five tools. Werth does everything at an above average level.
His .296 batting average in 2010 was a bit of a fluke. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .352 hints towards some luck, and he’s probably more of a .270 guy like we saw the two previous years.
The Washington Nationals are paying for the .296 (among other things), but let’s be realistic: he’s a fine hitter, but not a great one, at least in terms of making contact with the ball. That .296 went a long way to the widespread perception that Jayson Werth has superstar talent. One scout went so far as to claim Werth is a better player than Matt Holliday, which is ludicrous.
Werth’s power is very real, however, and his 0.81 ground ball to fly ball ratio is encouraging. His 87 home runs over three seasons also looks good, although there may not be a better hitting environment than Citizen’s Bank Park. In comparison, Nationals Park is 3 feet deeper down the left field line, 8 feet deeper to center, and 5 feet deeper down the right field line.
A few feet here and there do matter. A quick look at his hit chart (on MLB.com) shows that about 11 of his home runs hit at home over the years might not have left Nationals Park. This changes a lot because, while he has legitimate power to all fields, it’s probably legitimate low-20s HR power in 2011.
A 53/60 success rate in steal attempts is especially impressive, because now we can pin the “speed/power combination” label on Werth. It seems unlikely to me that Werth will accumulate much more than his previous career high in steals, which was twenty. He probably was not signed as a base stealer, so the speed is a nice bonus. It isn’t a key selling point, like it is for Carl Crawford, as Werth’s defense is decent and he possesses an above average arm with good range.
I’m a bit of a plate-discipline junkie, so Werth’s value is a bit higher in my eyes than it might have been in others’. Only eleven hitters swung at fewer pitches out of the zone in 2010, although Werth also swung at a below-average percentage of pitches in the strike zone. As a result, he runs up the strikeouts and the walks.
Werth's discipline is both a blessing and a curse. His strikeout rate is almost in the red as it is, so hopefully it doesn’t get too much worse. That said, Jayson Werth brings enough power, discipline, and speed to the table to be rightfully ranked as one of the top ten free agents of 2010.
I like Jayson Werth quite a bit. Like Carl Crawford, he’s a well rounded hitter who would have helped any team in 2011. Certainly less flashy than Crawford, Werth is arguably more valuable, especially if he keeps the walks coming.
The Nationals have picked up a quality all around player. They may not be thrilled to employ a 38-year old Jayson Werth, but he has the talent to be very productive.
One hitch in the team’s plan is that they have now become extremely right-handed, but talks about their bright future are founded. Werth brings a veteran presence to a young ball club, and will fit in nicely.