Monday, February 13, 2012

Spring storylines: Trying to bounce back

US Presswire photo
Jayson Werth can only hope his second year in a Nats uniform is better than his first.
With pitchers and catchers due to report Sunday, we've reached the home stretch of the offseason. All week, we'll count down the five biggest storylines facing the Nationals at spring training. Today, it's storyline No. 5: Players who need to bounce back from a rough 2011...

Jayson Werth sat before a room full of reporters, cameras and microphones on Dec. 15, 2010, and gave a blunt answer to a question plenty of observers were wondering after the Nationals handed the right fielder $126 million: How much pressure will you feel after signing one of the largest contracts in baseball history?

"I don't foresee any undue pressure," Werth said. "I just want to go out there and play my game."

Fourteen months later, it's hard to believe Werth didn't succumb to some amount of pressure in his first season in Washington. How else to explain his worst offensive numbers in six years: a .232 average, .718 OPS, 58 RBI and 160 strikeouts?

There were, of course, other mitigating factors. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche each suffered major injuries early in the season. That left Werth as the lone established veteran in the Nationals' lineup and left everyone looking to him to carry the load. It didn't help that managers Jim Riggleman and Davey Johnson shuffled him throughout their daily lineups, starting him at least five times in each of the top six spots in the order.

Whatever the reason for Werth's struggles, it happened. Which could lead to even more scrutiny and pressure on the 32-year-old as he prepares for the second of his seven years in D.C.

Werth, though, won't be alone when he arrives in Viera. Pressure will also be on two other members of the lineup looking to bounce back after poor seasons: LaRoche and Ian Desmond.

If not for Werth's massive struggles after signing that gargantuan contract, LaRoche might well have been the member of the Nationals lineup receiving the most scrutiny in 2011. Signed to a modest, two-year, $16 million contract last winter, the veteran first baseman was supposed to produce his usually consistent numbers at the plate (.275 average, 25 homers, 90 RBI) while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense.

But early in spring training, LaRoche started feeling discomfort in his left shoulder. Eventually, he was diagnosed with a torn labrum. And though he believed he could play through the injury and continue to produce the way he always had, it quickly became clear the bum shoulder sapped him of all his power.

By late May, with his batting average sitting at .172 and his slugging percentage at an awful .258, LaRoche finally admitted he couldn't continue. He had season-ending surgery to repair the tear and turned his attention to 2012.

Now that he's healthy again, can LaRoche be counted on to revert to his pre-injury form? The Nationals insist the answer is yes. Asked last week whether there's any concern about the state of LaRoche's shoulder, one club official responded: "None."

But until he actually starts facing live pitching and hitting the ball with authority, and until he starts firing in relay throws from shallow right field to the plate, we won't know for certain whether LaRoche is all the way back.

Injuries played no role in Desmond's 2011 offensive struggles; he played 154 games but batted a mediocre .253 while reaching base at a paltry .298 clip. Put it all together, and the young shortstop wound up with the fifth-worst OPS (.656) among all qualifying National League hitters. Throw in his 23 errors (third-most among all major-league shortstops) and Desmond had little to boast about at the end of the season.

The Nationals, though, are committed to the 26-year-old, a 2004 draft pick of the Montreal Expos who has been a member of the organization longer than any player other than outfielder Roger Bernadina (who signed in 2001).

Team officials point to two trends as evidence Desmond is poised to bounce back this season:

1. He made some significant strides at the plate during the second half of 2011. After hitting .223 with a .264 on-base percentage and .308 slugging percentage prior to the All-Star Game, he improved in all three categories after the break (.289/.338/.417). Those numbers got even better after Johnson bumped Desmond up to the leadoff position in mid-August, enough to convince the Nationals to hand him the job heading into spring training.

2. He also significantly cut down on his defensive mistakes as the season progressed. On April 25, in only his 20th game of the year, Desmond committed his seventh error. He left the club the next day to join his wife for the birth of their first child and upon returning played much cleaner baseball, committing 16 errors over his final 134 games.

As was the case with Desmond, Werth displayed some signs of progress as the 2011 season played out. His offensive "slash line" prior to the All-Star break: .215/.319/.362. After the All-Star break: .255/.345/.426.

Still, the Nationals aren't paying $126 million for a .255 hitter. They expect more from Werth in his second season, hoping he'll be more relaxed in his second go-around, especially with healthy run producers surrounding him in the lineup at last.

Whether Werth can relax amid the attention and pressure that is sure to hover around him this spring remains to be seen. Such is life when you're the richest player in franchise history and you've yet to come close to earning your keep.

131 comments:

MicheleS said...

Bounce Back: Werth needs it for me. So I can wear his Jersey and not be mocked by friends and foes alike!

Gonat said...

How much pressure will you feel after signing one of the largest contracts in baseball history?

"I don't foresee any undue pressure," Werth said. "I just want to go out there and play my game."
__________________________
Many factors played into Werth's problems and most of it started with the internal combustible pressure he put on himself with the big contract, then he played with nagging injuries and actually finished the year on a high note.

The most perplexing numbers to me was that Werth hit LH pitching much worse than RH pitching which is a total opposite from his career numbers and not typical for a RH batter.

Who can explain that one?

Anonymous said...

Add RZim and SS to the " needs to bounce back" list.

Anonymous said...

Werth and LaRoche as guys who are looking to bounce back, ok, fine. Those two have each had solid, repeated success. But Desmond has never been up enough to use the "bounce back". The idea that Desmond may be trending, if he keeps up his big momentum, toward being a middle of the pack SS in the bigs does not make me feel all warm and fuzzy about the Nats chances for success.

Positively Half St. said...

If Desmond isn't in a position to bounce back, we need Danny Espinosa to bounce back from a poor second half last year. Honestly, though, that would seem more like "growth" than "bouncing back."

+1/2St.

LoveDaNats said...

Can you imagine the team if each one lives up to his potential? The odds that everyone gets their act together at the same time are slim. Oh, the October tickets I would buy!

Theophilus said...

Concur with the unknown Anon @ 7:56 Also, bounce back for Espinosa, who flailed after the All-Star break. Re-bounces for Zimmermann and Wang, who need to demonstrate stamina, continued recovery from surgeries. Rebound for Burnett would be nice, too. This team is good enough to win the NL East if everyone plays close to ability but doesn't have the depth to cover for misfiring sparkplugs.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, Zuck wants us all to fight like cats and dogs today. He is actually inviting discourse on Ian Desmond. Yikes. OK, I am game . . .

The club can say whatever they want to say to Zuckerman and the other media about this or that trend they like about Ian’s performance, there is very little in Desmond's skill set or in his history as a big leaguer to be very excited about. He has plus athleticism and plus speed (but he does not make enough contact and his pitch recognition is terrible), so he may have the ability to get it together, but after 1,300 PA's with 262 K's and a .691 OPS (and an inexplicable inability to hit LHP in 2011) and .957 fldg% to date in MLB, I think that an optimistic projection for Desmond is to hit .270/.315/.400 and be in the middle of the pack with the glove. That's good stuff for a SS, but not playoff team leadoff man stuff. Having Ian deliver that stat line from the bottom of the order would be fine, but they need someone to get on and get over for the mashers and Ian may play himself out of the lineup if they have some other option (Lombo maybe) that allows them to get a middle infielder at the top of the order (no other position can really deliver that lineup spot currently). Ian has started very poorly the last two years; he can’t do it again. He needs to start the season hitting much closer to that .289 than to the .223 he dragged into the ASB last year (he hit .218 in May, .217 in June), or he’s not going to be playing every day, and he may find himself in Cuse. Pressure is on Desmond in a big way.

MicheleS wears a Werth jersey?! Ha! (BTW, I have the road grey one.) ;-)

Best 25 go North!

dfh21

Anonymous8 said...

This is a 5 part story and we should expect stories on Desi, Zim, LaRoche and Espi coming up.

MicheleS said...

DFH21..

Mine is the Red jersey! I also have the Espinosa #18 in red. That will be his "Rookie" Jersey... I hear he is changing his number this year...

Shersey's from now on!

Agree on a bounce back for Ian.. Maybe, the bounce back is his batting average and he keeps his errors down.

Gonat said...

Cutter Dykstra @CutterDykstra
“@str8edgeracer: one last night in the hills then it's off to AZ! " -> great offseason bro, let's kill it this season!
______________________________________

Funniest tweet of the weekend. Cutter Dykstra commenting on CJ Wilson's tweet. "great offseason bro, let's kill it this season!"

Maybe this is another new storyline and Cutter Dykstra will kill it and have a breakout year!

Ok, back to reality.

Anonymous said...

MicheleS -- I almost always wear a Zim road grey jersey (I think that it is the 2009 variant, but not sure -- the every year tweaks to the unies is annoying, no?).

I think I read in here that either Espi or Desmond was going to wear No. 20 (Frank Robinson's number). Not sure.

dfh21

Feel Wood said...

I think I read in here that either Espi or Desmond was going to wear No. 20 (Frank Robinson's number). Not sure.

If you look at the roster list on the nationals.com site, it shows Espinosa wearing #8 and Desmond wearing #20.

I also have the Espinosa #18 in red.

I have the actual Espinosa #18 in red, that I won in the Jerseys Off Their Backs raffle at the last home game. Maybe if Espy has a great career or makes the HoF it will be worth something someday as the last time he ever wore the #18 red.

Cease the Opportunity said...

It's all Desmond's fault?

Jim Kurtzke said...

With all these weak performances, it's a miracle that th Nats won 80 games

Just sayin' said...

Anon8,

Not a five-part story, but five different storylines. Here's guessing the other four Spring Storylines (in no particular order) will be: pitching, where does Bryce Harper end up, the CF situation, and either something on Zimmerman or something on the rising sophomores (Ramos and Espinosa).

natsfan1a said...

Until such time as he gets it together or leaves the team, at which point it will be the fault of the Player to be Scorned Later.

It's all Desmond's fault?

blovy8 said...

What I'd want to know Mark, is do we expect Desmond to have a .350 BABIP all year? He was still striking out 21 percent of the time during that stretch, I think, which was 2 percent more than the year before, and his batting average on balls in play has been about .315 overall in 1300 AB, and .317 the last two years. That's pretty steady, DJ's batting advice notwithstanding. He could have a lucky year and get to .280 again, but since that K rate didn't really change in the second half, he looks more like who he's been - a .260 hitter who doesn't walk much and probably hits 10-12 homers.

Drew said...

Maggy Ordonez
busting his ankle (and rump)
he gets dumped by Detroit.
Who to exploit?

Tries Venezuela
"Do Wilson's cops pull out stops every time
the bandits abduct?
I am so plucked."

All the old outfielders
where do they all come from?

All the old outfielders
where do they all belong?

Mark L said...

I'm convinced Desmond has some very compromising photos of Rizzo in his possession. Why else would you leave a gold glove SS at 2nd base for no other apparent reason.
Espinosa just ran out of gas last season; no surprise as it was his first full season and he'll be better prepared this year.

Rat Man said...

Perhaps Werth hit so poorly last year because all his hair caused him to swing late.

Anonymous said...

Maybe less time trimming facial hair and more time in the batting cage could work for Jayson?

Traveler8 said...

Gotta say, Drew, I am enjoying the daily installments - thanks!

Anonymous said...

I did not blame Desmond for anything (and I so could have -- my sources say he was the second shooter behind the grassy knoll in Dallas back in 63'), but it is what it is. Desmond's a big question mark for the club and he's under pressure to perform to the lofty expectations management has had for him; he likely needs to play well early (especially with the glove IMO) or his job's in jeopardy -- as it should be.

dfh21

Sunderland said...

Drew - You are rockin' it this week.

dfh21 - "I think that an optimistic projection for Desmond is to hit .270/.315/.400 and be in the middle of the pack with the glove. That's good stuff for a SS, but not playoff team leadoff man stuff."
This is right on. Desmond may be plenty good enough to be a capable MLB shortstop, but unlikely to be good enough to be a capable lead off hitter.

I am absolutely convinced Werth improves quite a bit. And just as convinced LaRoche will be his old self.

Eugene in Oregon said...

Gonat @ 7:34 said: "The most perplexing numbers to me was that Werth hit LH pitching much worse than RH pitching which is a total opposite from his career numbers and not typical for a RH batter. Who can explain that one?"
===========================

I can't explain it, but I can offer a couple of numbers/thoughts to put it in perspective. I'll use OBP (instead of BA) because it's a better marker of Werth's value.

The first possibility is just sample size. Going into 2011, Werth had had 884 PAs against left handers and had a career OBP against them that was just shy of .400. Those 884 PAs represented a full 31% of his PAs. But in 2011, he only got 21% of his PAs against left handers (for a total of 137). In other words, he only hit against LHs for the equivalent of about a five-week stretch (i.e., if he were playing against them every game).

That said, he really was awful against them. His career OBP against lefties starting the season was about .398; by the end of the season he brought his career number down to .382 by putting up a 2011 OBP of only .307 (against lefties). He was almost two full standard deviations off from his career number. That means he was just barely within the 95% probability range, and well beyond the 75% (most likely) range.

Looking at his OBP against RHs, the picture was a bit better and within expectations. His OBP (against RHP) in 2011 was .336, vs. a career number (going into 2011) of around .353. He could have produced an OBP (against RHP) as low as .330 and still been right at the 75% point. In other words, his 2011 season (against righties) was at the very low end of expectations but still within the range of what we could have reasonably expected.

Cease the Opportunity said...

I don't know what management thinks in regards to how Desmond will be evaluated after this season, but I expect it might be a make or break year for him. Make, batting .275, .320 OBP, 85 runs. Anything in this area I'd say would be a terrific season. I clairvoyantly envision Desmond as the starting SS in the 2012 All Star game. Just wait and see :)

BullpenCatcher said...

There are key issues for everyone in the lineup:

Batting Order

Desmond - can he keep up a good OBP, maybe walk more often and continue to improve his defense

Werth - Jayson should be hitting second and striking out less, if he fails to produce in thsi role he needs to be moved to 7th in the lineup

Zimmerman - STAY HEALTHY

Laroche - SEE ABOVE

Morse - Is Morse 2012, like Morse 2011 or a 20 HR 70 RBI guy as his career averages show. Also needs to reduce K's

Ramos - Move on from the unfortunate events this offseason and be the 20HR and 70 RBI guy

Espinosa - cut down on K's and become more effective from the left side

Ankiel/Bernadina - Rick needs to cut down on K's and hit north of .250 ; Bernie needs to be more patient at the plate and hit nort of .250

Steve M. said...

Eugene/Gonat - Excellent analysis. Those LH AB's really sunk Jayson's overall numbers. His RH numbers by contrast weren't all that bad.

If Jayson can get back to close to career numbers against left-handed pitching, his stats overall should come back. Easier said than done.

To the Anon @ 9:46AM, Jayson spent probably too much time in the cage obsessing over his batting. I believe that the old saying about batting "being more mental than physical" was part of the problem with Jayson.

Tom in AR said...

In 2011 Werth had 10 ABs against Cliff Lee and he slashed .100/.091/.200 (how can his OBP be less than his average? Stats from MLB.com)

In 2011 Werth had 6 ABs against Cole Hamels, he slashed .000/.143/.000

In 2010 Werth had 7 ABs against John Lannan and he slashed .571/.625/1.286

The career numbers against Lannan aren't quite as good, 24 ABs with a slash of .333/.429/.917

Werth also has 7 career ABs against Ross Detwiler with a slash of .429/.500/.429

I am seeing a trend here which may account for the discrepancy in 2011 versus his career numbers batting against left handers.

Feel Wood said...

To the Anon @ 9:46AM, Jayson spent probably too much time in the cage obsessing over his batting. I believe that the old saying about batting "being more mental than physical" was part of the problem with Jayson.

There was a lot of facial hair futzing on Werth's part last year, but it seemed to be an outgrowth of his problems at the plate rather than the cause of them. Superstition is big with ballplayers, meaning that he probably thought "maybe if I shave the beard I'll find my groove" and then when that didn't work it was "maybe if I grow the beard I'll find my groove." If Werth was on a team with a facial hair policy like the Yankees, he would have been totally screwed. Or he'd have been wearing the high socks one day and the long pants the next.

Feel Wood said...

In 2011 Werth had 10 ABs against Cliff Lee and he slashed .100/.091/.200 (how can his OBP be less than his average? Stats from MLB.com)

Batting average is calculated on at bats while OBP is calculated on plate appearances. Add one sac fly or sac bunt to his one hit in 10 ABs, and his OBP becomes .091.

Steve M. said...

Bill Ladson writes: "The Nationals enter Spring Training with a different attitude. For the first time in their history, they expect to win. And they have every right to feel this way."

I usually don't agree with Bill but he is right about this.

Can the Nats take their September magic with the addition of improvements to the pitching and the return of Adam LaRoche plus the team maturation and improve to 85+ wins?

This has to be the year to take early advantage of a lighter April schedule and rack up some big wins early on, taking momentum into May and continue on. For the last 2 years in May this is where the team has to set its course of making changes to its 25 man roster. In 2010, momentum was killed in early May on the West Coast swing. In 2011, it was after May 2nd where the Nats were 4 1/2 games behind the Phillies only to lose ground from that point on.

I am concerned about the "Best Fit for the 25 going North" and then by May 1st making whatever changes can be made to keep the team moving forward with momentum as that May 4th to 6th meeting in DC with the Phillies should hopefully have impact for the Top of the NL East.

From there the Nats can focus on that momentum and working towards getting to that 10 games above .500 level and maintaining that +10 level. If they can do that by July 31st, then Rizzo can work some trade deadline magic for the stretch run.

Cease the Opportunity said...

For Werth you can't change an acorn into a walnut. I don't see his approach at the plate changing one bit. Just hope those batting around him are better and his number should approach his career averages but not surpass them...

Cease the Opportunity said...

For Werth you can't change an acorn into a walnut. I don't see his approach at the plate changing one bit. Just hope those batting around him are better and his number should approach his career averages but not surpass them...

blovy8 said...

What are the odds the Nats screw with the Orioles and claim Angle?

PAY TO PLAY said...

Feel Wood said...
In 2011 Werth had 10 ABs against Cliff Lee and he slashed .100/.091/.200 (how can his OBP be less than his average? Stats from MLB.com)

Batting average is calculated on at bats while OBP is calculated on plate appearances. Add one sac fly or sac bunt to his one hit in 10 ABs, and his OBP becomes .091.

February 13, 2012 10:52 AM


Good job on that. A very strange anomaly in a small sample size gives you one of those stats that you don't see too often!

Yah, Cliff Lee owns him on the OBP! UGLY

Feel Wood said...

Good job on that. A very strange anomaly in a small sample size gives you one of those stats that you don't see too often!

There was a time early in the season a few years ago when Cristian "I never take a walk" Guzman's OBP was lower than his BA for this very reason. I remembered that.

whatsanattau said...

My bromance for Desmond aside, I am willing to acknowledge poor offensive performance MLB career to date. I think giving up on him prior to this year would have been a mistake and I think he gets a solid run at success this year. If he goes on one of his defensive slumps or fails to get the bat going by June he probably runs out of rope and they will have to use either Lombardozzi, DeRosa, or another to fill the infield. Espinosa gets more time, but faces a similar future 18-24 months from now if he has not stabilized his offensive and defensive production (I think he will).

Mark says Desmond did not have a health impact last year, but I'm not sure. He did play 150+ games, but I think he had some leg issues. There was some noise about that in the May/June time frame. Maybe they were not impactful, but I got the impression they were - at least on the basepaths and possibly in the batters box.

Sub .300 OBP is not acceptable for a full time player. Approaching .340 is probably the most you can hope for from Desi. If he settles in at .320 with low power and 20+ errors, that would likely not be good enough to keep the job.

I'm rooting for him. But this is could be a make or break year for him with the Nats.

Feel Wood said...

Yah, Cliff Lee owns him on the OBP! UGLY

But Danny Espinosa's three homers off Cliff Lee last year does offset that a bit.

blovy8 said...

As many pitches as Werth looks at, I really think he should hit 2nd, he can run well enough to get some throws over to first, and go to 3rd on a single. He's probably got a little less power than Morse or LaRoche, and if you're breaking up your righties at any point, how far down do you go? I think it's better to get runners on for by putting Werth higher. If Zimmerman is his normal self batting behind him, you'd rather throw him Werth a strike, the trick is getting him to swing. You're gonna have a really aggressive number one hitter, and even though Bernadina's numbers have been best playing in the two spot, he's not really earned a job, and throws away a lot of at bats, leading to some really quick innings with he and Desmond back to back after the pitcher's spot or leading off.

Anonymous said...

Gol dangit, Scotty, I said 'beam me up!'

Steve M. said...

blovy8, if Desmond does his job, the numbers for everyone else will look much better. Werth projects decently in the 2 hole although Bernadina put up good numbers in the 2 hole in 2011.

Overall in Bernadina's career in 31 games in the 6 hole, Bernadina puts up All Star numbers: .305/.380/.516/.895

As much as Davey needs to get offense going, I am hoping Ankiel at most is a late inning defensive replacement.

Desi 2B
Werth RF
Zim 3B
LaRoche 1B
Morse LF
Bernadina CF
Espi 2B
Ramos C

Still not sure if bat Morse 4th or 5th with LaRoche to get some LH/RH going.

If Bernadina batted 2nd than you break up the LH/RH much better with Werth batting 6th which also gets greater speed near the top of the order although Jayson is a smart baserunner.

PAY TO PLAY said...

Gio Gonzalez's locker is next to Edwin Jackson's in the Viera locker room. Just saw a photo on NatsPR on twitter if you have access.

blovy8 said...

That makes it easier for them to find their lockers than the plate.

Rabbit said...

Werth just can't stand the heat. He gets all that money and if he can't tag along on someone else's apron strings, well, we saw what happens. Werth is not a player to rise to the occasion. He wilts under pressure. I don't see him improving much this season. Sure he will a little. If you throw anything against a wall, something will stick. I really don't have any confidence in him except for a strike-out in a pressure situation.

Walt D. said...

I read that Johnny Damon is avail. Could he be a good fit for the NATS? Article claims Damon still has the legs to run down balls in the OF, and he really wants to get to 3000 hits.

Anonymous said...

Werth has no business being in the 2 hole this year. They did not have a lot of choice last year. DeRosa/Bernadina or something like that fills the 2 hole as things stand now, I might guess. Werth has 30 HR potential, it does not make much sense to have him (a guy who also K's a ton) up there looking to make contact to move a guy, or dropping a bunt or whatever. He should be hitting 5th or 6th, where he had his big succcess in Philly.

dfh21

Mark'd said...

Rabbit, I disagree about Werth under pressure. Guy was good in the post season and in Philly which I hear is a tough place to play.

Anonymous said...

I think the deal with Damon is that he wants to play regularly. And it sure seems like he still can. But with Harper in the wings would he? It would take an early spring training injury but, yes, he would fit with the Nats as a corner outfielder and left-handed bat. He would have a far greater impact than Ankiel thats for sure.

Anonymous said...

Werth in the 2 hole? Three right handed hitters in a row?

This is where either Lombardozzi or Espinosa would fit in. The left-handed bat wedge in there.

I can't see Johnson batting Desmond, Werth, Zimmerman, Morse all in a row in what is going to be a tougher NL East.

BinM said...

dfh: Werth had 30HR potential when he was in that bandbox known as Citizens' Bank Park. If he can start delivering 38-40 doubles, 20-22HR, with a .270/.340/.440 slash and solid defense at Navy Yard, I'd be satisfied.

HHover said...

Desmond

He’s never going to be an elite SS, and he doesn’t have to be. There’s pretty much no team without the initials NYY that can afford an elite player at every position--most playoff teams have at least one barely adequate player at one spot or another. Esp. for a team not initialled "NYY," one of Desi's big advantages--at least until next year--is that he's still making league minimum.

Those things are all true, but it would be foolish to expect Davey and Mike Rizzo to say them: “Yeah, Desmond’s not that good, is he? But sometimes mediocre is good enough. At least he’s dirt cheap for another year, and we’ve got other problems now, so we’ll hold our noses, hope for the best, and worry about him later.”

NatsJack in Florida said...

Cespedis to the Oakland A's.

Just sayin' said...

NatsJack,

Saw that. Love it. Hope he does well, but not in the NL.

Steve M. said...

dfh21, look at my mock lineup and it makes sense to put Bernadina in the 2 hole and Werth in the 6 hole against RH pitching. The projected lineup with Bryce Harper most likely moves Harper to the 6 or 7 hole and Werth back to the 2 hole or maybe Espi against LH pitching only.

Bryce Harper when he learns plate discipline could be the long-term solution in the 2 hole.

Bernadina in the 2 hole in 15 games in 2011 slashed .313/.333/.563/.896 I don't have access to neutralizing numbers to see what they were in the 2 hole vs. RH pitching. I will assume even better.

Here is Ankiel in the 2 hole .209/.278/.297/.575 in 38 games last year which is awful. Ankiel's best OPS was in leadoff lst year in 18 games .273/.313/.468/.781 and may be where Rick could fill in if Desi falters. The OBP isn't great but thats a decent OPS. Ankiel actually hit his most HRs from the leadoff.

I still think it has to be the best guy wins the last OF spot considering we know Morse and Werth have 2 of the spots locked up so that leaves Bernie, Ankiel, Cameron and Bryce Harper to grab the starters job.

DeRosa can play both LF and RF and can play RF to push Werth to CF against LH pitching to platoon with Bernadina, Ankiel or Harper.

I really hope it is a fair competition for the starters job.

Steve M. said...

Glad Cespedes chose Oakland over Miami. Potential big bullet dodged facing him 18 times a year!

blovy8 said...

Bernadina's career splits are best in the sixth and ninth spots, maybe DJ should bat the pitcher eighth? I'm sure almost all of that is interleague play, but still.

CN said...

http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/7570918/yoenis-cespedes-agrees-deal-oakland-athletics-sources-say

As long as he stays away from the Marlins, I'm OK with that. Interesting that the Marlins were offering about the same money (it was reported on HBT that they offered $40M), but he opted to go to Oakland instead of the Cuban-friendly Marlins. Oakland's got a lot of young talent, as they've re-tooled with several big trades in winter

Steve M. said...

Very surprised that the A's are going to pay that type of cash as it doesn't seem Beane's style.

I laughed my rear-end off when the Orioles were listed as a suitor for Cespedes. The O's seem to attach their name to everyone including ManRam.

Closing the book on the Miami Marlins acquisitions as many thought Cespedes was a done deal going there, overall, the Marlins add Jose Reyes and get back Josh Johnson from his injury (time will tell). Buehrle gets added and they lose Javier Vasquez to a potential retirement and Carlos Zambrano still needs to overcome his issues and demons.

While I see that the Marlins upgraded the offense, I don't see overall a large improvement unless you believe Ozzie Guillen can do better than previous managers.

Sunderland said...

Steve M. said...
Glad Cespedes chose Oakland over Miami. Potential big bullet dodged facing him 18 times a year!

February 13, 2012 12:46 PM

I'm amazed how much respect Cespedes is getting. He was a great hitter in a league where Maya was a great pitcher. Maybe he'll become an MLB star, but the odds are against like they are against any NCAA or AA stud.

Anonymous said...

Steve M. I like your breakdown of the lineup stuff. I think that CF is going to be mostly Werth and that RF is going to see some serious platooning -- some combo of DeRosa/Cameron/Bernadina/Ankiel, with Werth shifting over to play RF in some scenarios. If LaRoche is not tearing it up against LHP, they may move Morse to 1B to get an extra RHB in the OF from time to time too (so Cameron and DeRosa could be out there at the same time). Morse may be coming out of a lot of games very late for a defensive sub of one of these other guys. So, I think that the OF cast will get plenty of PT. When Harper comes to town I have no idea which guys stay on the roster.

dfh21

Steve M. said...

Sunderland, I think that is why Rizzo stayed away given the risk reward. Spending that type of cash on him is a big risk and only for 4 years when he should start in the Minors will start eating into the cash quickly. Still, glad he went to the A's.

Anonymous said...

I think Cespedes made a good call with Oakland. He'll play a corner OF, he'll play in the bigs from day 1 probably, he'll get a good lineup spot and the expectations will be reasonable. And he'll have the potential of making oceans more money than he would have gotten on the 6 yr deal the Marlins threw at him.

dfh21

blovy8 said...

Even if Beane is trying to develop Cespedes a little to flip him for more prospects, that's a lot of money in the first year where he has to show something. The rest of the offseason, they were loading up with guys for a few years down the road, by then, Cespedes will be a free agent or in his last year, since the deal appears to eliminate his arbitration years.

PAY TO PLAY said...

This was from Tuesday 2/7/12 on MLBTR:

•Cespedes is arriving in Miami today to meet with Katz, tweets Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post, and he's expected to meet with the Marlins tomorrow for a ballpark tour.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that executives from other teams may visit Cespedes later in Miami as well.

The Orioles are planning a scouting trip to see Cespedes within seven to ten days, tweets Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun.
------------

The Orioles plan of 7 to 10 days from Feb 7th would put that date at tomorrow at the earliest. You snooze, you lose and to lose out to the Oakland A's in a bidding war of cash, that is really pathetic if that was a player you coveted.

I will give a pass to the Marlins as they already spent a lot in the off-season but the Orioles are beyond pathetic. Just seeing Angelos tying his name to Fielder, Buehrle, Cespedes and just about every other big name FA is a waste of key strokes.

whatsanattau said...

I know it's not going to happen and probably for good reason, but just saying ... Damon playing left and leading off for the Nats would solve more problems than it creates. An outfield of Damon, Werth, Morse would be weak defensively and putting LaRoche on the bench to allow an outfield of Damon, Werth, and Bernadina/Cameron/Ankiel would not be much better. But from an offensive standpoint: Damon, Desmond, Zimm, Morse, LaRoche, Werth, Espinosa, and Ramos (or another combination) would be interesting. OK, now back to reality ....

Sunderland said...

If Cespedes plays in the bigs from day 1, I will be suprised and I would expect him to flop. There's no way he's ready for this level of pitching. He did real well in the World Baseball Classic until he faced decent picthing from Japan, and then he sucked (small sample size caveat). He never had to face US, DR or Venezuela pitching in the WBC.

Tcostant said...

In a surprising move the Marlins did not land Cespedes. Why Oakland? The A's gave him a 4 year deal, where he is a free agent after that. Why MLB would let a team, do a deal where a guys is a free agant before 6 years is beyond my understanding.

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/02/13/jose-canseco-is-still-trying-to-play-baseball/#/2012/02/13/yoenis-cespedes-signs-with-the-oakland-athletics/

blovy8 said...

Damon isn't a terrible idea offensively, but you'd just need Desmond to go REALLY far into the outfield for those relay throws...

NatsJack in Florida said...

There are two names people keep bringing up that the organization has ABSOLUYELY ZERO interesy in.
1. Johnny Damon
2. Marlon Byrd

Damon because he is only a DH and Byrd because he's way over priced and and way over rated.

NatsJack in Florida said...

the "y" is too close to the "t" for my fat thumbs.

blovy8 said...

If the price drops low enough, like it did with Jackson, and teams that need DH's like the Yankees choose other players, we'll see if another surprise happens. All of a sudden, you get Damon saying his legs feel great, and he could play outfield five times a week for less than 5 million.

Anonymous said...

All of a sudden, you get Damon saying his legs feel great, and he could play outfield five times a week for less than 5 million.

His arm still wouldn't be worth five cents. Pass.

Section 215 Row A said...

Rabbit said re: Werth:

I really don't have any confidence in him except for a strike-out in a pressure situation.

In a pressure situation, I am equally confident he can ground into a double play (given an runner on first and one out or less).

Bowdenball said...

Mark said:

Still, the Nationals aren't paying $126 million for a .255 hitter.


Well then they should have saved their money, because he's a career .264 hitter.

Jayson Werth isn't Ichiro. His value comes in getting on base, hitting for decent power, making smart moves on the basepaths, and playing above-average corner OF defense.

If he has an OPS above .850 like he did for four years in a row in Philly, I don't care if he bats .220. And neither should the Nationals or any of their fans.

blovy8 said...

Mark, the Nats aren't paying 126 million for a .255 hitter; but they ARE paying it for a .265 hitter who is at the end of his peak years.

Anonymous said...

Unless the money's very low (like $1.5M maybe), I am guessing that Damon will go on a minor league deal. If Jaun Pierre took one, Damon's not much different of a player, then Damon needs to take one, get into a camp and show a club that his wheels can carry him around well enough in the OF. His arm being terrible is not such a big deal for a guy playing LF, so I don't think that inadequacy alone is holding him back.

dfh21

blovy8 said...

Sorry, BB, was typing as you wrote that...

Anonymous said...

After reading that the A's (from all teams)landed Cespedes, has anyone heard of any recent significant international signings by the Nats? I'm not just talking about major league contract offers, but signifcant signings to stock up the minor league system.I understand that the Maya and Smiley Gonzales fiascos probably traumatized them from making any more big splashes, but come on,it just seems like that have given up completely.Natsjack, you seem to be in the know, have you heard anything about their ineternational amateur scouting intentions/direction?

Tcostant said...

Mostly small stuff, but the Nationals have done some international signings:

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20110224&content_id=16720222&vkey=pr_was&fext=.jsp&c_id=was

blovy8 said...

Are there any signs the Nats would pony up for Soler? Rizzo seemed to like him better.

greg said...

dfh, i just don't see any scenario where werth is playing CF when any of ankiel/cameron/bernadina is in the game. the whole concept of werth in CF was to make room for a corner OF (in particular, for harper when he gets to the show). the idea of playing him in CF when there's a legitimate (or ate least more legitimate than werth, i.e., bernadina) CF in the game doesn't make sense to me. and ankiel/cameron, in particular, are significantly better defensively in CF.

so i see them playing quite a bit, but never with werth in CF. he'll move over to RF whenever they're in the game.

Anonymous said...

Greg -- I agree. I should have been more clear. I expect that Werth plays CF against LHP if, and pretty much only if, Mike Cameron is unavailable (he's kinda frail) or does not make the club (which is possible).

dfh21

DaveB said...

Theophilus way back at 8:18am mentioned Burnett as a bounce-back candidate, but Burnett had the lowest ERA (1.02) in the entire bullpen for all of Aug. and Sept. (save for Stammen who only had 5 outings, all in Sept.). Burnett made a mound adjustment in late July and was lights-out after that. He'll be just fine.

NatsJack in Florida said...

The Nats approach to international deveiopement is like all the other teams when it comes to The Dominican Republic. Most of these kids are signed at 16 - 18 years old and left to develope in the summer rookie league down there.

I've seen a few in the Florida rookie league and a couple brought to Fall Instructional League.

This past fall they had a 17 year old catcher working as a bullpen guy that looks like someome they might be tracking but at that age we're talking at least 4 more years of developement. He's every bit of 6'2" and 220lbs.

I've also seen a couple of 18 year old pitchers that project out as guys who may develope (6'4", 215lbs) but all these take time.

There's no doubt the "Smileygate" fiasco set them back but like with the big club, proper developememt takes discipline and patience. (uhh ohh...I sense another JayB rant coming).

NatsJack in Florida said...

And blovy8......rumor has it that the Cubs are willing to go 27.5 million for Soler. That's more money than Strasburg got.

Just sayin' said...

Re the discussion of Damon and other potential (or already-signed) minor-league-deal FAs:

Did folks see the late post someone added to yesterday's thread about how the new CBA impacts minor-league deals for veterans?

I went to the link and it basically says that if a six-year veteran (e.g., Damon, Cameron, Ankiel, Livan) is signed on a minor-league deal but then doesn't make the 25-man roster, to send him to the minors the team has to (a) immediately pay the player $100k, and (b) the player has the right to opt out of the contract by June 1 and become a free agent (if he hasn't been called up).

The column suggested that this is a new twist which could mean that a number of veterans will become available just before 25-man rosters are set, as teams release veteran players they don't need immediately and don't expect to call up before June 1.

I know that some veterans used to get opt-out clauses in the event they didn't make a team's opening day roster, but the implication here was that we'd see more activity in those last days of March than in the past.

gonatsgo said...

At least when you throw Desi under the bus right from the start it gives Lannan a day off!

Tcostant said...

3 Nationals on the list (if I didn't miss one):

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16020

Anonymous said...

Lannan's going to be riding on that bus out of town to some AL club. His bus leaves the terminal about 10 minutes after Roy Oswalt sings someplace.

Just sayin' said...

NatsJack,

Yes, but Strasburg only had two choices: sign or not.

Soler potentially has 30 choices.

Not saying it's a fair system, but it's current system.

Tcostant said...

You can't compare Soler's contract with what Strasburg got; it just plain Apples and Oranges. Soler is a free agent, if Strasburg was a total free agent the year he was drafted, he would have got close to $50M. This is like comparing what Joey Votto got ve. Prince Fielder, where one could go anyway; while one had to deal with the Reds only.

NatsJack in Florida said...

my comment was more towards "too rich for me".

Wally said...

I don't get what the A's are doing. If MLBTR has the terms correctly, they gave Cespedes a 4 yr//$36m deal and he can become a FA after that. They trade Gio and Cahill, who they controlled for about that long, apparently for $$ reasons. Yet sign this guy for probably more money without getting any more years. I don't get it.

Plus that seems like a ton of money for a guy with no major league track record. Hitters are so tough to figure, it is not like you can measure a 95mph FB. You don't know if a hitter can make it until they get the the majors, I think.

That is a lot of money for Cespedes, and Soler (if true). I'd pass.

Anonymous said...

Wally -- I think that the A's are banking on Cespedes being a star level player, and a star level guy is worth more than twice what they paid. Hence the risk/reward signing. Even if the first year is lost due to adjustment, if the guy produces to near an All Star level in 2013, then this is a good deal for Oakland. And if the guy does not turn into a real player, then the deal does not kill them in that it is not SO much money that the club is hamstrung. I guess.

dfh21

Tcostant said...

Wally they are hoping for Josh Willingham stats with much better defense.

Will said...

Tom in AR got me thinking. Just how much did Werth's stats suffer from having to face the Phillies pitching staff 18 games instead of the Nats.

First, let me preface this by saying it's not scientific, but it's still very interesting.

I took Werth's 2010 stats vs the Nats and substituted them in place of his 2011 stats vs the Phillies.

His stats go from:
.232/.330/.389
to
.245/.336/.431

That is quite a change! Werth's OPS would have increased by 49 points from .718 to .767.

That's considerably better than I'd have expected!

Anonymous said...

Funny rant from Jim Bowden on XM today about Cespedes. Paraphrasing. He said that some scouts and GMs love tools, and doesn't he know that! So you sign a guy with tools and potential and most of the time it doesn't work - "It never worked for me." NOW he tells us.

He thinks Cespedes is a 4 tool player, no proven bat, and thinks the Marlins and others passed because some of the few scouts that can rate the bat said he wasn't going to hit.

He said he learned too late to save his career how hard it is for scouts to predict hitting, only "2%" can do it.

Utec

Whatsanattau said...

Bowden did what he had to do under MLB ownership and then later under Kasten and the Lerners. His mistakes were his own, but he was not playing with a full budget so he took high risk decisions hoping to strike it big. He struck out too often because he swung at bad pitches. But he was not the idiot some people made him out to be. He didn't sing Dimitri Young or trade for Elijah Dukes or draft toolsy players because he thought they were the best players. He did those things because given what he had to work with he had limited options.

NatsJack in Florida said...

I'm sorry. Leather pants and a segway at a baseball complex makes you a clown.

Anonymous said...

Whatsan -- I agree. I am not some huge Bowden fan, but the guy was dumpster diving, holding cattle calls and playing long shots because the club was not looking to pay for known quality players. Most of his work was done before the revenue stream of the new park was available for payroll and with a shoe string budget on scouting and statistical evaluation. And all things considered, his misses did not kill the club (no back-breaking long term stupid contracts -- the Kearns deal was not a stupid contract, it just did not work out, there is a difference -- and he did not trade away anything of real substance -- maybe the Bonafacio trade, but Olsen and Willingham was a nice haul). He could have been a lot worse.

dfh21

Natslifer said...

What a great day. Cespedes goes to the A's and the Marlins agree to be "The Franchise". A perfect circus for Ozzie G.

Just sayin' said...

I am neither a Bowden defender nor hater. But I have always given him just a little benefit of the doubt, since I assume he developed some version of PTSD after having worked under Marge Schott in Cincinnati.

Whatsanattau said...

Well to be fair I said he was not an idiot. I didn't say he was not a clown...

Theophilus said...

What is striking is how Cespedes shrunk from a $60MM player in December to a $36MM player in February. And even at that price only two teams were actually sufficiently interested to make an offer. All of the bloggers and "experts" who shilled for the $60MM Cespedes should be ashamed of themselves. In the end, he's $500K more expensive than Crisp, and that should be the Red Badge of Mediocrity. I see a .227 hitter.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Don't get me wrong. Personally, I like Bowden. It's just that during Spring Training when you can get up close to these guys, Bowden would do something everday that would just make you shake your head.

Rizzo, on the other hand, is baseball 24/7 and the difference shows.

greg said...

theophilus, i don't think cespedes was *ever* a considered $60m player (other than maybe by his own agents and a few talking heads in the media). just because there were rumors that he was looking to get that much doesn't mean any team was ever willing to pony up anywhere close to that.

Anonymous said...

He took a 4 year deal at $36M, not a 6 year deal at $50M, as many projected. It's not like the guy came on the cheap. The pundit ranker guys have him at worst as a top 20 prospect right now. He's got unquestionably good tools - - the speed, the strength - and he did rake to beat the band in the WBC, so it is not like the guy has never been seen playing the game before. I think that he'll perform better than replacement level in 2012 and his poential has gotta be seen s high.

dfh21

natsfan1a said...

Also not a fan, but I agree with others on how Bowden was limited/restrained by to budgetary constraints. Also agree re. his clownish tendencies. What really put me off was the way he fired Chief over the radio. That's not being a clown, that's being a jerk (to use a more polite term). Even as a young kid, Chad handled that situation with a lot more class than JimBo did.

natsfan1a said...

On a happier note, the promotional schedule is now on the team site.

NatsLady said...

Roy Oswalt is singing someplace? Where?

La Coluratura said...

Free agency isn't over until Roy Oswalt sings.

Feel Wood said...

On a happier note, the promotional schedule is now on the team site.

If Strasburg skips the opening series in Chicago and instead makes his first start on Monday 4/9 at the Mets, his second start (and first home start) would fall on Saturday 4/14 against the Reds, which is conveniently (a) Strasburg bobblehead day and (b) a nationally televised 4:05 pm Fox Game of the Week.

You heard it here first.

Anonymous said...

Best 25 go North!

dfh21

Anonymous said...

I hope Oswalt sings soon. Lannan's hot getting any less trade-baitier while we're all waiting for Roy to croon.

natsfan1a said...

Maybe Oswalt's an Orbison guy?

Wally said...

DFH21 and Anon@3:58 - ok, that is the argument for signing Cespedes generally, but getting him for 4 years only seems like a move by a team that thinks it has a 4 year window to win, which is at odds with most other moves the A's have made. That is the thing that puzzles me.

If he makes it to star level, or even Willingham stats, then they probably can't afford him afterwards. If he doesn't then they don't want him back. When they got rid of Bailey, Gio et al, I believed the narrative that they were loading up for a run in a few years.

Waddu eye no said...

Blovy8 -
Great name

Tom in AR said...

Feel Wood - BTW, thanks for the clarification on average versus OBP. I thought it might be something like that.

SCNatsFan said...

I think Lannan's value increases into the spring... unless he gets pounded in spring training. Someone will get hurt, someone will underperform... if its here then we keep him, if not then it is to that team. Right now I have to think his value is as low as it gets.

N. Cognito said...

Feel Wood said...
"On a happier note, the promotional schedule is now on the team site."

Been out for a while, and posted on Nats Insider.

FS said...

Got my diploma and strasburg dvd today. I think I like the DVD better. Woohoo!!!

Anonymous said...

>>>Injuries played no role in Desmond's 2011 offensive struggles;<<<

Completely wrong. He had a groin injury for most of the first half of the season that greatly paid a role in his struggles.

How could you have forgetten that, Mark?

JaneB said...

And.... Any we on Oliver Perez?...

Just asking.

Projected MLB Salaries for 2012 said...

Yankees $204 million
Phillies $170 million
Red Sox $167 million
Angels $140 million
Tigers $132 million
Giants $129 million
Rangers $118 million
Cardinals $111 million
Cubs $105 million
Dodgers $103 million
Marlins $100 million
Brewers $98 million
Twins $98 million
White Sox $98 million
Mets $93 million
Braves $90 million
Nationals $89 million
Reds $85 million
Blue Jays $82 million
Rockies $80 million
Mariners $80 million
D-backs $75 million
Orioles $73 million
Indians $67 million
Rays $62 million
Astros $61 million
Royals $58 million
Padres $53 million
A’s $51 million
Pirates $46 million

(from Baseball Prospectus via YahooSports)

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

NatsJack in Florida said...

Don't get me wrong. Personally, I like Bowden. It's just that during Spring Training when you can get up close to these guys, Bowden would do something everday that would just make you shake your head.

Like trade for WiMP.

NatsLady said...

The Pirates need to register as a charity and start asking for donations. Nats will be glad to send over some cash for McCutcheon.

Cespedes to the A's is a mystery...

natsfan1a said...

IIRC, the link to a partial schedule was posted here earlier. This is the full promotional schedule, which includes Pups in the Park and other activities.

Been out for a while, and posted on Nats Insider.
February 13, 2012 10:46 PM

natsfan1a said...

Congrats, FS. I'm thinking that the diploma might have a bigger payoff down the road, but it's all good. :-)

FS said...

Got my diploma and strasburg dvd today. I think I like the DVD better. Woohoo!!!
February 13, 2012 11:23 PM

Tcostant said...

Randon thoughts from my 6 games at the WBC in San Deigo in 2009:

-Darvish stud. Top 20 ML pitcher, easy.
-Chapman impressive stuff. Needs to work on BB. ML talent likely all-star.
-Cespedes - No lasting impression; I was more impressed with some of Japan's hitters.

Now Bowden - I also thinks he gets a bum rap, because he had no resources. He mad one major trade. As noted he need to dumpster dive because MLB was trading prospects left and right. But I do think Rizzo is the better GM.

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