Friday, February 25, 2011

Room for Bernadina and Ankiel?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Roger Bernadina has "superstar potential," according to Jim Riggleman.
VIERA, Fla. -- It's pretty clear the Nationals are going to enter the 2011 season with no set, everyday left fielder. What's not necessarily clear is how many different left fielders they'll have in the rotation.

Three guys are in the mix (Roger Bernadina, Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel) and each offers some particular skill that should be able to help this team. But can the Nationals afford to carry all three on their 25-man roster, especially with Bernadina and Ankiel possessing similar games?

"We're looking at that real close," Jim Riggleman said this morning. "That affects some other spots. That affects [Matt] Stairs. That affects [Laynce] Nix. All those guys are good players with a lot of major-league experience. We've got to be a little creative if we're going to keep them all, but they're all good players. We're a long way from sorting that out."

The Nationals remain high on Bernadina, whose combination of speed, defense and power makes him an intriguing long-term possibility. Bernadina, though, hasn't quite proven himself at this level yet.

"We're still searching there to see exactly what we have," Riggleman said. "Roger has got superstar potential, but he's kind of played ... like an average major-league ballplayer. Which is very flattering. There's not many people that can be an average major-league ballplayer. But we feel like there's more in there. We're waiting on him to take that next step."

Ankiel, on the other hand, has significant experience, having compiled 55 homers and 181 RBI over 1,393 big-league plate appearances. His experience could be an advantage, but at the same time it also makes him a better alternative as a pinch-hitter off the bench.

Morse, as the only right-handed hitter of the trio, seems a lock to make it as part of the left-field platoon.

So what do the Nationals' do? Well, they could keep all three on the roster, though it may come at the expense of an extra infielder like Alberto Gonzalez or Alex Cora or a pinch-hitting specialist like Stairs.

Bernadina does have an option left, so he could be sent to Class AAA Syracuse without having to pass through waivers.

And, of course, there is another possibility: If the Nationals decide Nyjer Morgan isn't going to be their center fielder, they could drop him and then use either Ankiel or Bernadina in center. That doesn't sound like the organization's preferred course of action, but Riggleman sidestepped the question a bit this morning when asked if left field is the only starting position on the field up for grabs this spring.

"If we've got a game tomorrow, Nyjer's out center fielder," the manager said. "Nyjer's been working really hard. He and Rick Eckstein seem to really be clicking and making a couple adjustments. So we're counting on Nyjer to be our center fielder. I guess that's the long version of [saying] you're right: Left field is pretty much where we're competing, other than maybe a pitching spot somewhere."


Flavorade said...

I guess I'm not so sure why the front office and coaching staff is so enamoured of Matt Stairs. He sounds like a great guy and a potential future coach/manager, but unless they think regular playing time in Syracuse will help Bernadina make the next step, I just cannot see how he doesn't add more to the team than does a 42 or 43 year-old pinch hitting specialist.

Theophilus said...

Have always thought the choice was between Ankiel and Stairs. Reading WaPo this morning, I'm thinking it may be between Stairs and the Gonzalez/Cora tandem. If both Ankiel and Stairs stick, then Morse becomes the break-glass-in-case of emergency infielder. It would be so much easier if Ankiel could just hit .260 and they could trade Morgan to a team in the Mexican League.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Flavorade... Just like Joey Cora passing along Maury Wills bunting skills to Nyjer Morgan, a veteran pinch hitter like Matt Stairs is able to mentor potential pinch hitters like Morse or Ankiel over the next 30 days.
These kind of camp invitees bring so much more than is first apparent. And a role in Syracuse should no one pick them up at the end of Spring Training would also be beneficial to the organization.

Slidell said...

Well--- at least the door is open a crack in CF. I guess that's progress. If Nyjer's attitude has come around, he shouldn't be thrown under the bus. But, his performances last year would not seem to entitle him to be removed from the "discussion" mix.

N. Cognito said...

From my perspective, I'm simply not keen on one dimensional guys such as Stairs. He can pinch hit, but you really don't want him in the field or on the bases.

Sunderland said...

natsjack, you're completely right about the value of Stairs in ST. And if Stairs would accept a role in Syracuse, it would be great for our orgnization and a good step towards Stairs getting into coaching / management.
But I sincerely hope we don't keep him on the 25 man roster, unless it just the first couple weeks of April while we have only 4 SP's on the roster.

Also, it's obvious that Rizzo brought in competition for Nyjer, and that the CF position is not locked down. But Nyjer still has the edge, and a big edge, because his upside is really big and he's the closest thing we have to a real leadoff hitter.

Tcostant said...

You know I read this post and it is interesting. But, I look at Bernadina and I think he is one of the better players on the team, so I really don't see him getting sent to the minors under any sernerio. Even if he doesn't hit in the spring, I think he did enough last year to have some role, even if Ankiel is hitting the coveroff the ball.

I'm just saying...

NatsJack in Florida said...

Sunderland... I totally agree. I was just pointing out the untold benefits of having guys like Cora and Stairs around.
I can'r see Stairs on the roster for anything more than the first 10 days till that 5th starter is needed.
And Tcostant... I'm a huge believer in Bernadina.

Gnashnail said...

Does any other team have or even flourish with a pinch hitting specialist. The WaPo piece this morning sheds good light on Stairs, but honestly, can we afford a one-dimensional player on a 25 man roster these days? Even when we only need 4 SPs?

Theophilus said...

Morgan:"upside?" What makes anyone think he has upside? With the possible exception of Maybin in SD, I can't think of another CF in the majors who has Morgan's "skill set" (if you could call it that) -- no arm, zero power. And that's assuming he could hit somewhere in the neighborhood of what he did in 2009, And go catch the ball instead of run around in circles. And not get caught picking dandelions at first. He's almost 31. The best you could say about the non-self embarrassing Morgan is that he holds the place in the lineup for a couple years until a real ballplayer comes along.

Pilchard said...

So, the Nats are considering demoting Bernadina or Ankiel in favor of Matt Stairs?

Is that serious?

Stairs turns 43 tomorrow. Realize that he continues to live off the playoff HR against the Dodgers in the 2008 NLCS, but since then, these are Stairs stats:

203 ABs .212 BA .425 SLG

He can not play in the field at all, and is slower than Livan Hernandez. Impossible to think that aging Matt Stairs would make a more significant contribution to this team than Bernadina or Ankiel. Really fear that the front office is going to out-think themselves on this one. Really hope that the Nats are smart enough to avoid the late-May situation where Stairs is hitting .194 and is forced to stumble around the OF in a late game sitation like Christian Guzman last year.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Pilchard.... That's what Spring Training is for... Let it play out. Rizzo is a believer in having athletic multi-pupose guys and Stairs is NOT that. But he does serve a great 30 day purpose and he is great in the clubhouse. Again, let it play out.

greg said...

most people can't put up that stat line as a pinch hitter. it's not as easy as you seem to think.

first, he slugged 475, not 425. his OPS was 781. not tremendous as an everyday player, but very few players can hit those numbers as a pinch hitter.

.232 .306 .475 .781

Anonymous said...

I can't think of another CF in the majors who has Morgan's "skill set" (if you could call it that) -- no arm, zero power.

That's it in a nutshell. Morgan can be an awesome three tool player and the prototypical lead off guy. But the arm is the reason why Pittsburgh had him starting in left field. He is an excellent three tool left fielder. Not a CF. Thus you have Werth playing some center, Corey Brown, Rick Ankiel, and even Bryce Harper.

@Theophilus, the problem is who else besides Morgan is really capable of leading off at this point? Heck they aren't even sure who should bat second?

(Noting that Werth basically almost volunteered to do that seeing the gaping hole at the top of the order. If you start Morse in left you have another #5 hitter and Zimmerman could bat 4th with La Roche third. )

Riggleman really concerns me when he says there is "no competition". But then we hear Mike Rizzo speak about having the most competition for positions in this camp compared to the past ...

Please explain the communication disconnect between the GM and his manager?

N. Cognito said...

Theophilus said...
"Morgan:"upside?" What makes anyone think he has upside?"

Look at his stats before last year. Just as players have career years, they have career bad years, too.

greg said...

just realized you mean his SLG in 09/10 combined, not just last year.

but last year he was a very serviceable PH off the bench, as the numbers attest. and in a horrible hitters park (SD).

he's also one of the best PHs of all time.

i can understand the argument against reserving a bench spot for a pure PH, especially on a team that isn't contending. but to act like the guy doesn't have a viable skill set to bring to the table is to not understand what the role of a professional PH really is.

Anonymous said...

Werth in right, Morse/Ankiel platoon in left, Bernadina in center. Nyjer...anywhere but here.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Anonymous @ 11:42... And where is the quote by Riggleman that says "there is no competition"?

CapPeterson said...

Agree on Nyjer's "skills set." He is a poor man's Juan Pierre, is he not? Who now plays LF, not CF, right?

Theophilus said...

N-Cog --

Until 2009, Morgan in Pittsburgh was a part-time player, less than 300 AB over two seasons. He has no credibility reserve to draw on. Performance-wise there's a 50 percent chance last year is what you'll get. Add the adled behavior on the field and you get a guy with a glass arm who strikes out a lot, runs into outs and needs a prescription for seconal.

The Morgan of August '09 was an exciting player whose performance was so far over his norm there was no reasonable basis for assuming it would continue. If he plays like that for six months in '11, the Nats will finish second. But the best of what we're likely to get is far, far short of that.

Feel Wood said...

"Morgan can be an awesome three tool player and the prototypical lead off guy. But the arm is the reason why Pittsburgh had him starting in left field."

No, Andrew McCutchen is the reason the Pirates had Morgan playing left field. And if it's his arm that's Morgan's problem, the outfield position where having a good arm matters least would be center field.

SonnyG10 said...

I'm not too worried about Nyjer playing center field for now. I believe Rizzo will not hesitate to replace Nyjer if a better option comes along. However, good lead-off hitters are as hard to come by as No 1 starting pitchers and Rizzo and Riggleman are not going to shoot themselves in the foot and alienate Nyjer until they have a replacement.

On a couple of side notes, Mark I really enjoyed meeting you at Space Coast Stadium.
Natsjack in Fla, I tried to meet you based on Mark's description of you, but I couldn't find you. I asked three different people if they were Natsjack, but alas, none were. Maybe next time I come to ST. Part of my kitchen pass to see the Nats was to take my wife exploring Florida, so I'll be off doing that for a while.

JD said...

The comparison between Juan Pierre and Morgan is actually very valid.

Juan Pierre - .298 .347 .366

Nyjer Morgan - .283 .344 .340

Neither is very good and I don't like Nyjer's act either but I,m not sold on Bernadina just yet particularly as a lead off hitter.

phil dunn said...

Picking up Matt Stairs never made any sense.

MGG said...

Hey mark I just heard that the phillies are asking about Morse, is there any truth to this? And just how much would they be looking to trade for him?

N. Cognito said...

I do not believe Morgan is as bad as he was last year, nor as good as he was in Pittsburgh. If he rebounds to something decent, that'll be great, but I'd rather the Nats look elsewhere for a leadoff hitter and CFer next year.

Steve M. said...

Read this on MLBTR about the Phillies and Morse!

Tcostant said...

I can see Stairs value to a team. I grew up watching some pretty bad Mets teams and Rusty Staub was a good tool to have late in games. A good pinch hitter can mean wins and the Nationals can use everyone they can get.

On the topoc of wins, the bookmakers have spoke, they peg the Nationals over/under for wins at 72.

PAY TO PLAY said...

I saw on MLB Network that Nick Johnson is one of a dozen players that is still unemployed.

I would take Nick Johnson as a PH over Matt Stairs any day of the week for league minimum.

Soul Possession, PFB Sofa said...

Just because they invited the guy to ST, that doesn't mean he is Plan A. It gives them a Plan ... whatever, C or D.

Steve M. said...

Tcostant said... On the topoc of wins, the bookmakers have spoke, they peg the Nationals over/under for wins at 72.

I see after Wainwright was injured they moved the Cardinals down to 83.5 from 89.

To have the Nats under the Mets goes against the grain but again this is the betting line.

I would think if you bet to tease it with the Over for the Nats and the Under for the Mets that would work out.

MGG said...

Thanks Steve M. that MLBTR article makes me think why the Nats would do this, I'm not that "up" on the phillies so could someone tell me if they have a piece we need that they would be willing to trade for Morse?

Steady Eddie said...

If he can continue to improve as his off-season work suggests, Bernie is the one with the long-term future with the Nats.

What all of this broken-record angst about Nyjer ignores is that by June 2012, the Nats' center fielder will be Jayson Werth or Bryce Harper.

Even the Nyjer of 2009 has no future with the club after that date. And Rizzo has said little more than that Nyjer is the starting CF in ST. Either he loses his job by Opening Day or early in the season, or he plays decently enough to be worth something more than a bag o' balls to a contender, hopefully by this Year's trade deadline so the Nats can move along.

Doc said...

If Nick Johnson wouldn't break the bank, that would be neat bench strength. The guy can field 1B pretty well too. His OBP is traditionally good, so coming off the bench to PH he'd be a good bet for at least a walk.

Unfortunately, he's kinda brittle. I think his last injury happened while swinging in the batter's box.

I knew there'd be some teams interested in Morse. I thought that the Cubbies would also come calling.

Steve M. said...

MGG - Domonic Brown who was the presumptive pick to take over for Jayson Werth failed to impress in his post-All Star game callup. He is still a Top 10 prospect but as all good scouts do, they exploited his weaknesses with a lot of breaking pitches and fast balls under his hands. In 62 ABs he batted .210 with a .257 OBP. His clutch numbers are better so he got in some RBIs but I think the Phils are worried being so LH in their lineup.

The Phillies have been dangling Joe Blanton who is their #5 pitcher and he is a Free Agent after 2012.

Would the Phillies go man for man in that trade? Probably not. My guess is they want to trade Domonic Brown straight up for Morse which makes the Nats real LH.

What I find so interesting is all the phone calls Rizzo gets on Morse but the Nats don't project Morse as a starter. I still think he needs to play at least 120 games a year.

JD said...

Steve M.

No way the Phills trade Brown straight up for Morse. As you said Brown is still a top 10 prospect; last I checked Morse is not in that category age wise or potential.

Wally said...

@Steve M said "My guess is they want to trade Domonic Brown straight up for Morse which makes the Nats real LH."

I very much doubt that. He may not have done that well last year, but he is still highly thought of. They probably want a RH OF to platoon with him, hence Morse. I am sure it is either Blanton or some lower prospects, but that Rizzo isn't that interested.

I understand the Stairs signing more than Ankiel, frankly. His (Ankiel's) D is not good enough to play in CF regularly, and his LH doesn't allow for a platoon with Morgan. He seems highly redundant to Bernie, who is cheaper with a higher upside, and even Nix offers mostly the same O with better D in CF that could be a fallback for Morgan.

Steve M. said...

What I didn't mention above was also how poorly Domonic Brown did in Winter Ball. The Phils fanbase is concerned about him though their Batting Coach says he just fixed him.

We have seen many prospects not work out so I don't put much weight in "sure things" and a team that has the best rotation in baseball making a move to shore up their one trouble area makes sense.

Knoxville Nat said...

If I'm Rizzo and the Phillies are asking about Morse and offering another outfielder in return, I think I'd be taking a good long look at Ben Francisco. I liked what he did in Cleveland and never understood why the Phils didn't play him more especially against LH pitching instead of Raul Ibanez. But then again I'd probably be more inclined to keep Morse and just play him.

upperdeck4 said...

1:23pm: Heyman says (on Twitter) the Nationals are not inclined to trade Morse to the Phillies, or anywhere else for that matter. They're intrigued by the work he's done with hitting coach Rick Eckstein.

BinM said...

I have a hard time limiting the argument to just LF & Bernadina or Ankiel. As Werth looked at it (quite astutely, I might add), it's two positions; CF & LF. And there are effectively eight players in the mix for a maximum of four spots on the 25-man roster. Let's look at them as individuals...

>Ankiel, R. -(31yo, L/L): Has arm, glove & decent range in either LF or CF, but has low OBP & high K rate at plate.
>Bernadina, R. -(26yo, L/L): Can play all three OF positions competently, decent speed, range, arm & glove, but lacks power for a corner OF.
>Brown, C. -(27yo, L/L): Has speed & range for CF, but unproven above AA level.
>Hairston, J. -(35yo, R/R): Also in the mix for an IF bench job, good as a Utility-type player.
>Morgan, N. -(30yo, L/L): Great speed & range, but lacks arm & power.
>Morse, M. -(29yo, R/R): Corner OF power, good eye at plate against both RH & LH pitching, limited defensively to corner IF-OF positions.
>Nix, L. -(31yo, L/L, NRI): Corner OF option, fighting uphill battle against 40-man roster players.
>Stairs, M. -(43yo, L/R, NRI): Limited to PH role at this point in his career.

Of the eight I've listed, Ankiel, Bernadina, Hairston, Morse & Morgan probably have the best chances of making the 25-man roster, with Hairston having an additional edge of being able to play the IF as well.

We'll see how it plays out...

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