Welcome to “Get To Know a Nat.” There are currently 39 men on the 40 man roster, and we’re going to give you the straight scoop on all of them! Not sure where to start with player and season previews? Not ready to jump into heavy metrics? Just want to get to know the players, what they do, and what to expect from them in 2013? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Name: Stephen Paul Lombardozzi Jr.
DOB: September 20, 1988
From: Fulton, Maryland
Role: Bench Player Positions Played: Primarily Second Base
Hand: Switch Hitter, but throws Righty
With the Nats Since: Drafted in 2008, Debuted in 2011
I have a special little place in my heart for Steve Lombardozzi. He was the first player in my first Spring Training last year that I saw and got to say “Jeez! Look at him! That guy is going to make the club this year!” Plus, you know, he had a long Italian surname (which always makes me feel good). Sure enough, Lombo worked his way up to the Nats as a bench player, playing in to 126 of the Nats 162 games. He had himself a very nice little year, even helping to rattle the cages for the “replace Danny Espinosa” contingent in the fan base. (I talked about that more on the Espi post and won’t reiterate here).
In 2013, Lombardozzi won’t have the luxury of being a pleasant surprise. His performance as a utility infielder will be depended upon this year. The Nationals will need to give guys breaks, pinch hit and otherwise utilize Lombo to get their team through a very long season. What’s more, the new-look Nationals aren’t as easy a fit for Lombo as they used to be. Still, the Nationals will find ways to use Lombardozzi, and when they do he’ll need to perform like he did last year.
What To Expect: Let’s start with a look at Baseball-Reference and what Steve Lombardozzi did last year at the plate:
A very respectable season for a rookie on a big league club with lots of other people performing very well around him. 273/317/354 is a nice slash line for a guy who is by and large a singles hitter (Of his 105 hits only 22 were for extra bases). This is fairly consistent with his minor league production as well (298/369/411) and his being a rookie. So there is room for improvement without it being too much of a shock, but overall what you saw is what you’re likely to get from Lombo. His hitting, however, isn’t what really makes him valuable. His defense and flexibility in which positions he plays are what sets him apart and makes him useful to the Nationals. To the point:
In 2012, Lombo played four different positions- 51 games at 2B, 41 in LF, 13 at #B and one game at the shortstop position. In 113 games he’s appeared between 2011 and 2012 in as a fielder (including 89 starts) he’s played more than 800 innings and made 5 errors total at those four positions. This type of flexibility gives the Nationals great utility (hence the term “Utility Player“) by having one guy that can replace any of four different players.
This is where Lombo is really useful to the Washington Nationals. Of all the players in the system that could currently replace him, very few (if any, I think) can cover that much ground (pun intended).
If It All Goes Wrong: Let’s not paint too rosy of a picture, however. Even if he is the same player he was last year, Lombo has a tough mountain to climb with the team this year. Let’s look at his batting numbers cut up into the batting order:
He took the overwhelming majority of his hacks in the top spot of the order. Lombo doesn’t play CF but the current CF, Denard Span, does hit in the top spot. That’s why the team went and got Span-because he does that very well. It would never really make sense to take Span out for Lombo from a fielding perspective, but it makes almost equally bad sense to have them both in the batting order. In fact the three starters for which he would sub most regularly (Bryce Harper, Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman) are very different hitters. They are all in places in the lineup (3rd, 4th, 7th) where a single isn’t going to help all that much usually.
So a lack of success might not be Steve Lombardozzi’s fault as much as it is the fault of the system he is in. Steve might still be a square peg, but the the Nationals may have created a hexagonal hole for him to fill.
This is, of course, on top of the usual trappings of failure that come with a second season in the major leagues. The rest of the will have caught up to Lombo a bit, and he’ll need to keep getting better at the plate to keep up. With plenty of options left on his contract, the Nationals could be in a position to send him down to Syracuse and maybe bring up Anthony Rendon in his place ( a player who is less versatile, but fits their batting order better). Lombo was also the talk of trade rumors in the offseason, and they may pick up again if the team hasn’t found a way to make him fit this year.
If It All Goes Right: It’s a weird spot for Lombo, but if all goes right (just like if it all goes wrong) it might not have anything to do with him at all. I don’t think he’s suddenly going to become a power hitter, but if the team is playing well and he is there mostly as a defensive replacement for 3B/LF late in games that will suit the team well. If the Nationals are already winning, scoring runs becomes less important than saving them-something Lombo could do well in the stead of a recovering Ryan Zimmerman or still-learning Bryce Harper.
As I said at the outset, I really like Lombo for silly personal reasons, and because he’s a solid player. I want him to do well, and I think he can do well-but I’m not fully sure what that means in the context of the team as currently constituted. His will be one of the more interesting cases to watch as the 2013 campaign progresses.
Get To Know More Nats!
Starting Rotation: Ross Detwiler, Dan Haren, Jordan Zimmermann
Outfielders: Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Jayson Werth
Catchers: Wilson Ramos, Kurt Suzuki
Infielders: Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond
Bench: Tyler Moore, Roger Bernadina, Chad Tracy
Bullpen: Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen, Zach Duke, Tyler Clippard, Henry Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano
Callups: Part I, Part II