Friday, December 10, 2010

The Nats' current depth chart

Back home safe and sound in good old Northern Virginia (man, it's freezing here) after a hectic week at the Winter Meetings. Nothing new to report (yet) on either Cliff Lee or Adam LaRoche. The only news I know of that will definitely be announced today involves the Nationals' minor-league coaching staffs. Sounds like former Nats third base coach Tony Beasley is rejoining the organization as manager at Class AA Harrisburg.

So as we wait for that announcement and perhaps some other developments on the free agency front, I thought this would be a good time to run through the Nationals' depth chart at each position, see where things stand and where things still need improvement...

Ivan Rodriguez
Wilson Ramos
Jesus Flores
Status: This is pretty much set. Pudge obviously make the club out of spring training (barring something unforeseen there). The other spot goes to either Ramos or Flores, which much depending on Flores' health (he did homer and double last night in Venezuela).

Michael Morse
Status: Totally up in the air. Mike Rizzo made it clear this week he will address this vacancy from outside the organization. He's not comfortable making Morse the everyday first baseman. LaRoche is clearly the primary target now, with the Orioles also seriously interested in him. There aren't a whole lot of other options in free agency (Lyle Overbay? Brad Hawpe?) and most trade options (Prince Fielder? James Loney?) appear to cost too much.

Danny Espinosa
Alberto Gonzalez
Status: The Nats seem perfectly content to hand this job to Espinosa in spring training. They could still bring in a veteran guy who would serve as an emergency fallback option should Espinosa not be ready, but that doesn't sound like a priority at the moment. Gonzalez is a capable backup infielder at all three positions, but no one's considering him for starting duties.

Ian Desmond
Alberto Gonzalez
Status: Barring a trade for a top-flight pitcher (a possibility, but a remote one, if you ask me) Desmond is back as the starting shortstop. Say what you will about his high error total, but the Nats' brass loves him. They think he'll continue to progress both offensively and defensively, and they already see him as perhaps the most vocal team leader in the clubhouse, a guy who won't be afraid to get in another player's face if needed.

Ryan Zimmerman
Alberto Gonzalez
Status: Uh, they've kind of got the best all-around third baseman in baseball. No need to really say any more than that.

Josh Willingham
Nyjer Morgan
Jayson Werth
Roger Bernadina
Michael Morse
Justin Maxwell
Status: There's still plenty that could change here. Werth is obviously solidified as the starting right fielder. Morgan is the center fielder and leadoff man until Mike Rizzo and Jim Riggleman say otherwise. Willingham is the left fielder ... for now. His name continues to be bandied about as a trade possibility, and I don't think anyone would be surprised if he is dealt at some point this winter (though not until the Nats figure out what they're doing at first base). If Willingham is traded, Bernadina and Morse probably take over as a left-field platoon. The Nats still need to add another guy here, though: A reserve who can perhaps play both outfield and infield and key and can come off the bench to get a big hit.

Livan Hernandez
Jordan Zimmermann
John Lannan
Jason Marquis
Yunesky Maya
Ross Detwiler
Luis Atilano
J.D. Martin
Matt Chico
Garrett Mock
Shairon Martis
Brian Broderick
Status: They're still looking for an anchor to take over the No. 1 spot and bump everyone else down a notch. Whether they can actually acquire that guy, I have my doubts. They're not signing Lee. I don't see them getting into a bidding war for Carl Pavano. Zack Greinke and Matt Garza cost too much in a trade. Maybe there's a second-tier trade candidate who could be had for a more affordable price. Something along the lines of the trade that brought Willingham and Scott Olsen to D.C. a couple years ago. If not, this is what they've got. There are no shortage of candidates for those last couple spots. Whether any of those candidates are likely to succeed is another matter.

Drew Storen
Tyler Clippard
Sean Burnett
Doug Slaten
Collin Balester
Craig Stammen
Elvin Ramirez
Adam Carr
Cole Kimball
Atahualpa Severino
Status: Rizzo would really like to add another veteran arm, a guy who has closing experience but isn't necessarily a full-time closer. The idea is to have someone who can pitch the ninth inning if Storen isn't deemed ready for that job yet. If Storen is ready, then said veteran can pitch in a setup role along with Clippard and Burnett. Slaten figures to be the second lefty, though Severino could push him this spring. Stammen is a good bet to be the long man. Balester has a new challenger in Rule 5 draftee Ramirez for hardest thrower of the group. Carr and Kimball will try to force their way into the mix. Overall, this unit is in pretty good shape.


Pedro said...

Mark--What's the lasting connection with Tony Beasley? Why does he get brought back when someone like John Stearns was simply let go?

natscan reduxit said...

... say Mark, where do you place Chien-Ming Wong in the list of pitchers? Maybe I missed something somewhere; is he still on the team payroll?

Go Nats!!

natscan reduxit said...

... say Mark, where do you place Chien-Ming Wong in the list of pitchers? Maybe I missed something somewhere; is he still on the team payroll?

Go Nats!!

Mark Zuckerman said...

For now, Wang is a free agent. He was non-tendered last week. If the Nats re-sign him (sounds like a decent possibility) then he'll be added to the mix. Same would go for Brandon Webb if they sign him.

James Hoy said...

Isn't David Eckstein available? I thought I read that he was. And he can play the outfield too, I believe.

As for a reliever with some closing experience, I think Jon Rauch is available too.

Coupla cheap options...

pdowdy83 said...

A 2nd tier starter would be good. Maybe Kevin Slowey or Wandy Rodriguez or even Nolasco. Wandy and Nolasco are better than Slowey but Slowey could be cheaper. He has 3 years of team control left and has pitched pretty well in the AL. A 6.9k/9 and about a 4:1 k/bb ratio. You would have to think a 6.9 k/9 would go to around 7.5 in the NL which is solid. Hasn't racked up a lot of innings though. Still he is only 26 with more upside than Pavano.

Doc said...

Lots of question marks, but it's a stronger club going into ST than last years' group.

Catching, middle infield, and BP may be the best we've seen the Nats.

Some time back, Mark you said that Flores will start in the minors after ST, with a deal done with Pudge, and moving Flores back up.

I think that still holds true, particularly if Flores continues on his VWL pace--guy's hitting .370, and throwing runners out regularly.

Anonymous said...

"The Nats still need to add another guy here, though: A reserve who can perhaps play both outfield and infield and key and can come off the bench to get a big hit."

The Mets must hate him, and so do many Nats fans. But this sounds a lot like Willie Harris.

pdowdy83 said...

@ james hoy. I like both Eckstein and Rauch. Both would be solid fits in my opinion.

JD said...

We have to have another decent left handed bat either at 1st or in the outfield; we also have to upgrade the starting pitching somehow and a Capps type signing would also be very nice.

If we don't upgrade in the middle infield I think that at the very least we should flip Desmond and Espinosa; Danny is the better short stop but I think that Orlando Hudson can be had for a reasonable price and I suspect that Desmond's value will plateau unless he suddenly becomes more reliable in the field and also learns to take a pitch or two.

MGG said...

Mark, what's the hold up with LaRoche? I mean I know we're in contention with the O's for him but just throw him a decent offer and get it done already! I'm going to be disappointed if we don't get him and I don't see any better options out there. Also has anyone said what the cost of Prince Fielder is?

Faraz Shaikh said...

So when I put together an everyday lineup with players off of this depth chart. This is what I get:

Nyjer Morgan, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Josh Willingham, Mike Morse / Adam Laroche, Danny Espinosa, Pudge / Ramos.

Four RH hitters in the middle of the order? Morgan as leadoff experiment part II? Questionable speed on basepaths? Rotation lacks punch? I think we can do better.

Besides DE, we don't have a single switch hitter on our roster, do we?

And what's wrong with Lyle Overbay as our 1B? He is supposed to be one of the better 1B around the league.

Section 223 said...

I see that Rizzo is doing what he said he would last season. Stronger defense, stronger pitching(still working on that part). I imagine the next week or so could be interesting as far as adding some more pieces.

On a side note, I find it pretty amusing that Lee hasn't signed with the Yanks yet. I mean they offered him 250 million, Coney Island, and a hunting dog named Blue. What's the delay? Maybe he dosen't like his jersey number.

Slopitchtom said...

I'd like to see them bring back Jon Rauch as the veteran out of the bullpen. As BQ just posted, what about Lyle Overbay at 1B? Why is nobody talking about him? I think he would be a good short term fix. Hit 20 HRs last year.

JD said...


There is nothing wrong with Overbay for a year or two (not much punch); similarly there are other options out there via trade which we haven't thought of (Alonso?)

The hold up with LaRoche may be years; I don't think we want to commit to him for more than a couple of years; the Werth contract while very exciting is also very dangerous in that if he starts declining (not unlikely) we can end up with years of dead money; you don't want to have to many of these on the books; keep in mind we are gonna have to give Zim a bigger contract than Werth someday soon.

VladiHondo said...

Not in the Jon "Lurch" Rauch camp, he's never seemed like much of a "chemistry" guy, he's just sort of an ass from what I saw down one spring training.

Along with Jose Guillen, Damian Jackson, and a few choice others, lets keep Rauch in the nice-to-have-known-ya-but-please-never-call-me camp.

Dan H. said...

I still don't understand non-tendering Peralta. The above bull-pen could be very strong, but it could also be below-average. Much will depend upon whether Storen is ready, if the younger guys (including Balester) can contribute at all, and if there are any additions or subtractions (the loss of Clippard would have a major impact). Peralta was just one possible puzzle piece, rather than the key to the bullpen. But it doesn't make sense to me that he was discarded.

JD said...

Section 223,

It sure sounds like if Texas is within earshot he would rather go back there. Why go to the Yankees and be part of that circus if you can stay in Texas and be the main man? whether you get $150 mil or $160 mil what's the difference; how much can one spend in a couple of lifetimes?

Sunderland said...

Lyle Overbay? One of the better 1B's around the league? Seriously?
Because his performance would indicate he's actually a lot closer to being one of the worst full time 1B's in MLB.

Of qualifying 1B's from 2010.
Avg - .243, ranked 2nd to last in all of MLB, ahead of only Carlos Pena (and part time 1B / C Mike Napoli)
OBP - .329, in the bottom third
SLG - .433, in the bottom third.
Can't hit lefties (a .700 OPS)

Overbay also played in Toronto, most home runs per game (2.91), and his home away splits show that.
LaRoche also played in a homer friendly park, but his home away splits, and his righty lefty splits, are well balanced.

Overbay is definitely a step down from LaRoche, who is also nearly 3 years younger.

I would think LaRoche is trying to lengthen his deal by playing O's and Nats, and perhaps others, against each other.

Mr Baseball said...

What do you think about moving Desmond to 1B and putting Espinosa at SS. This way you have the best of both positions. You would not have to think about Desmond's throwing errors. Also, I think he could be a natural at 1B. Can't Rizzo and Double Switch think outside of the box? I've coached baseball over 50 years and this would be a move worth trying! Espinosa is going to turn out to be the better SS. SS is your second most important position and the 1B should be your second best fielder, in the infield. With Desmond's height and hands, he could make the other infielders look better on their poor throws and save alot of their throwing errors.

Section 223 said...

The hunting, fishing, and maragritas are better in Texas than, say, Long Island.

Knoxville Nat said...


Any idea what the status of everyone's favorite "Miss Iowa", Miguel Batista is these days?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Knoxville Nat: Batista is a free agent. Haven't heard his name come up at all this winter, though I suppose the Nats could bring him back (probably on a minor-league deal) before camp opens.

Anonymous said...

BQ - Espinosa is a switch hitter ....

Jimmy - I think putting Desmond at 1B is a waste of his range and I don't think his bat is strong enough for the position.

DFL said...

Just as likely is that Hernandez, Marquis and Lannan pitch to 5.00 ERAs, Werth hits .250, Espinoza hits around the Mendoza line once his weaknesses are figured out(which occurred in late September last year), "Boots" Desmond lives up to his nickname and the catching duo of Rodriguez/Ramos provide little punch, Rodriguez due to age and Ramos due to not being ready for Major League pitching. Maybe the Nats will be in the running for first pick in the draft in 2011.

Mr Baseball said...


I think we are stuck in a follow the leader world. Wil Clark, Mickey Vernon and others were pretty good 1B and not power hitters. I still think you build your team arount pitching and defense In time Desmond will probably become a 20-25 HR man!

Section 223 said...

Bummer. That's a pretty gloomy forcast. So, we're starting the season 10 games under .500?

Anonymous said...


I thought I had read that Justin Maxwell had Tommy John Surgery after the season. He is on your depth chart. Will he be ready to play or is will he be on the DL and have to be replaced.

As far as Tony Beasley goes. I have spent some time with him in the past. His son and my son have played baseball with each other and now against each other. I can tell you that he is one of the brightest baseball people I have ever talked to. He is also an excellent instructor when it comes to young people. Perhaps I am a little biased, but he would be an asset if he is coming back.

Anonymous said...

It's "Clank!" Desmond.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the rundown of the potential epth chart barring trades or other signings:

On the fielding side of things:

OF - Maxwell: Is Maxwell really on anyone's depth chart!? Please tell me Rizzo has not said that Maxwell is going to play a kep role this year, I just don't see him with the organization at all after ST.

OF - We need another quality defensive OF, IMHO...what about Scott Posednik, speed and a good glove, espcially if Willingham gets moved, he will be much better in LEF than Bernadina or Morse.

IF - Alberto Gonzalez is a nice backup but he cannot be the only one, we need another backup infielder and not just one who can field but one who can hit and hit with some double ability, too many role players have been snatched up already and I fear another season with a BAD bench is upon us while we were basking in the glory of the Werth signing. Why not sign Bill Hall is much better than willie Harris?? how about Orlando Hudson and move Desmond for a real starting pitcher!?

1B - Is Morse or for that matter Willingham, a serious option at 1B for anyone with authority in this organization!? Neither would be a defensive upgrade to Dunn. Why isn't Marerro or Moore on this depth chart, I think barring the signing of two first baseman this offseason, I have to think one of them will get their shot this season to see what they are made of and may get some more exposure with the big club during ST. If we do not sign LaRoche it is a big drop off talent wise and I would suck it up and go with one of the young kids and sign a role player to fill in at 1B if they falter OR sign a veteran to buy the young guys one more year of experience in the minors, how about Troy Glaus, he is beast sure he only hit. 240 last year but he can rake! Why is no one mentioning him!? What about a short contract for Derek Lee? Again, to buy time Moore and Marerro.

SP - We have 3, we need 5 and we have about a dozen candidates for those two spots, none of whom except for Maya will probably have a positive impact in 2011. We NEED to sign two legit starters who caould be a #1, #2, or #3 on a real major league staff, not just ours, anything ashort of this is a failure and insurance we will lose 100 games again!

BP - We need a veteran closer, who at worst is a good 1/2 season rental and turns into a Cappsesque deal and at best a guy who is saving games for us when we are better in 2012.

Steve M. said...

Mark Zuckerman wrote...after a hectic week at the Winter Meetings. Nothing new to report (yet) on either Cliff Lee or Adam LaRoche.

Mark, is it within journalistic bounds to call the agents of some of these players for the inside scoop? I would love to hear your one-on-one with Braunecker (Lee), O'Connell (Pavano) and Milchin (LaRoche).

Anonymous said...

I have been impressed and intrigued by the performances of C Derek Norris and 2B Steve Lombardozzi in the minors and more recently in the AFL. Do you anticipate any promotions coming for either of them next year?

Mark in Arlington

Steve M. said...

Anon at 1:28, I totally disagree with you about Morse's defense. Morse will turn out to be a very good 1st baseman defensively with significant playing time. He was brought up as an infielder and is very athletic. You give him time at 1st base and he will surprise you how good he is. He is a big target that will improve. If he was a lefty with consistent offensive power numbers, he would have the job. I just think the Nats brass is concerned more about how he would do full-time on the offensive side of the ledger.

NatinBeantown said...

I agree, Steve M., and I think he's (once-again) a victim of circumstance--despite his splits, I just think there's no way we can enter the season with another righthanded bat at 1B. I think he is an outstanding bench bat, though, and think he'll get significantly more AB's as the 4th OF and backup 1B than he got in the first half of last year.

Anonymous said...

If Morse isn't athletic in the OF (the assessment we were hearing by the end of last season), why/how will he become athletic at 1B? And he is still a right-handed bat. We need a left-handed bat at 1B. I like the idea that has been floated of moving Willingham (and others) for pitching and letting Morse and Bernadina split LF. I would say, however, that Morse would be better than Marerro on the basis of what has been said here by people who have seen him play.

johninmpls said...

Freezing in VA? It's 38 degrees in Arlington right now. It'll be 47 Saturday and Sunday.

The forecasted high in Minneapolis Sunday is 0. Think about that: philosophically, the high temperature doesn't exist. We're looking forward to warming up to nil.

It's kind of like how the third starter on a competetive team would be the staff ace in Washington - it's all relative.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Steve M. said...
Mark, is it within journalistic bounds to call the agents of some of these players for the inside scoop? I would love to hear your one-on-one with Braunecker (Lee), O'Connell (Pavano) and Milchin (LaRoche).

Talking to agents is absolutely part of this job and something I do regularly. Sometimes it produces on-the-record quotes (such as the stuff I ran from Scott Boras the other day in Orlando). Sometimes it produces off-the-record information that winds up in my articles but isn't attributed to the agent directly.

You have to be careful when it comes to agents, though. They obviously have an agenda (promoting their clients) and you have to take the information you get from them with that in mind. Just as you have to take any information you get from team officials with the knowledge they have their own agenda. That's why often I won't necessarily print a direct quote from one or the other but try to combine both takes and put it into my own words for a better understanding of what's really going on.

Faraz Shaikh said...

In my earlier post, I made a slight mistake. One of the main reasons we let go of Dunn was because of his defensive side as a player. I thought Overbay would be a significant upgrade over Dunn or Laroche defensively., wouldn't he?

Anyways, DE is the only switch hitter on the entire roster, isn't he?

I think we are still away from couple major changes in the lineup.

ForDaFanz said...

Why isn't Jeff Francis mentioned more prominently? I have seen national reports that the Nats have been in contact with his agent but haven't seen much mention from local beat writers. Seems to me that either Webb or Wang with Francis would be a nice off-season haul for boosting the rotation.

Lee's price has escalated to the point (according to reports) where I'm not sure it makes sense for the Nats to commit that much money - unless it's to lock up Strasburg long term. One fan's opinion.

Anonymous said...

good -- and sobering -- assessment of where the Nats stand. Not really closer than on Opening Day.
Also thanks on the insight re the contacts with agents. Though your word of caution makes me wonder all the more why you believed everything Kenny Williams said about not having offered anything valuable to the Nats for Dunn. He got his guy now, why would he admit he would have given away major talent only a few months ago? Doesn't make sense.

BFBrown said...

I realize this is water over the dam, but Adam Dunn's alleged liabilities at first base in general were about the same as Ryan Howard's. In specific, Dunn's UZR rating on fangraph for 2010 is -3.3. ( A positive number is better than a negative number ). Carlos Pena, for example, has a -3.7. Cabrera is -6.1, Fielder -8.4, Jones -8.4, Howard -11.8, Glaus -12.3 and Konerko is -14.7. Adam LaRoche, on the other hand is 4.8, third best in the majors.
Using this stat, Dunn is a better defensive firstbaseman than Howard or Konerko and you didn't hear the Phillies or the Sox moaning this year about how they needed to upgrade their D at 1B.
I love the Jason Werth signing. And I'll be pleased if they get LaRoche, but I think they got this backwards. They should have signed LaRoche and then signed Werth. But we'll how this plays out. I also think they should have signed Dunn this Summer. Having him hit right behind Werth and ahead of Zimmerman would have put the Nats closer to a winning record.
This is the year we will find out if Desmond is a creditable SS. As an armchair manager I saw a terrible SS who cost them 7 or 8 games. Same goes for Brickhead Clippard. He stubbornly refuses to learn how to pitch. Robb Dibble was a boor, but he was spot on about Clippard allowing hitters to club his third best pitch over and over again. ( Why didn't McCatty simply ban him from throwing his change-up ? It is a minor league pitch. The kid has a decent fastball. I'd cut bait with him. Ballester has a much better upside.) I'd trade Desmond now, if someone would give me value for him, move Espinosa to SS and let Lombardozzi bake in at 2nd. If we're all about defense and speed, those are the right moves.
Again, Kudos for Werth but we've done nothing to upgrade the starting pitching. We need a break out year from Detweiler. Zimmerman looks to be very good. Maya has to settle down. Then it is Livo and Marquis. Is this a winning staff ? I don't think Cincy or Philly is going to lose sleep facing them.
It looks like the Nats are playing for 2012 and 13, when they are banking on having Strasburg leading the staff with Zimmerman, Maya, Detweiler and Millone, Solis or Cole. But that is a future staff on paper, which is far cry from Rizzo's pledge to get a top starter this year.
The challenge in the dugout is not much different. Riggelman is a fine man, but he is not LaRussa or Joe Madden, or Ron Washington. Steve McCatty's only other year as a pitching coach was a disaster in Detroit and our hitting coach is equally unproven. Why are we trying to mask that and catch lightning in so many bottles.
Riggelman looked burned out by the losing to me 3/4ths of the way through the year. I didn't see any fire in that dugout from anyone
Mike Morse looks like an everyday OF to me. All he does is play good defense, hit .300, drive the ball and get along with everyone. Morgan is a head case who better fix it fast. I would not go North with him. I'd send his pouting little boy game to AAA and make him beg to come back after he learns to respect the game and stop swinging at the first pitch.
If we're going to keep Desmond, have him lead off. Let Bernadina play center and get rid of Morgan. Give him and Morse a full season with Werth coaching them.
Comments ?

N. Cognito said...

It is my understanding that for firstbaseman, you should use 3 years worth of UZR ratings to get a true picture of a firstbaseman's fielding ability.
If that is true, can people STOP saying Dunn is a good fielding firstbaseman, based upon one year of UZR rating.
Thank you.
The Logic Committee.

Post a Comment