Noah Frank joins our show to talk about where the Nats are right now and how they look for 2015. On the show: the 25 man roster, the rash of injuries suffered by the team, how good is the Nationals rotation, is this bullpen sustainable, Strasburg, Harper, a little Matt Williams, an NL East preview, a rest of the MLB preview, and plenty more. Enjoy!
-or, lightly running, as the case may be. But too bad, I wrote all of this out before I saw this tweet, so I’m going to continue with my “how ugly could this get?” post.
The worst news first: Anthony Rendon went from sitting out for a few days to having no timetable. That’s really scary. CL strains (of any kind) can get ugly quick, even if they are mild. As HarperGordeck from Natsbaseball blog points out, the prospect of Kevin Frandsen at third for a month, or longer, is laughably scary.
There’s been a little over a week of spring training games, and here are some of my reactions to the headlines from this last week.
The Big Picture is that most things look fine right now. Apart from what I’ll discuss below, most players seem to be doing very well. Pitcher be pitchin’, hitters be hittin’, fielders be fieldin’. Except as outlined below, no alarms, no surprises. Of course, it could be a dumpster fire of performance and I still wouldn’t be concerned. It’s spring, for cryin’ out loud! The one thing you don’t want to happen is to have…
The Nationals will feature four position players not playing the position they primarily played last year. In his Monday chat, T. Boswell (oh Lord save me I am linking to a BOZ CHAT) remarked that the Nats shaky 2014 defense (which is a suspect sentiment given he’s employing fielding percentage, and Fangraphs ranked the Nats 7th overall) would now feature Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and the newly added Yunel Escobar all playing different positions on the field.
If I put aside the general grating against my brain every time I read something Boz writes, he’s right that this is a pretty big question. How will these guys fare in their different spots? We’ve touched on this already in our outfielder post (positing that Harper ought to flourish in right, while Werth may be able to handle left a bit better than he handled right). Shortstops tend to do well at second, and I’m not sure anyone has assumed anything other than Ryan Zimmerman can do a passable job at 1B, where his throwing (typically considered his weak spot) ought not come into play nearly at all.
Now with this post: I could postulate, what-if, speculate or pretend I can give you some direct, informative answer on how these guys will do in their new position. Or, I could fear-cast, telling you this will all end poorly based on nothing . I don’t want to do either of those things mostly because neither really answers the question. Frankly, nothing short of spring training and, ultimately, the 2015 season will tell us how they will fare.
Even though we can’t know what will happen, we can take a look at the reasons behind some of these moves. When faced with a question without a certain answer, we can only do the best we can with the information we have. So, instead, (in 101 style) let’s ask why these moves are being made at all, and look at some evidence for why.
Every year, we put together player profiles for the Nationals players likely to make the 25 man roster. This way you’ll have a better idea of just who is taking the field. Except for a few notable exceptions, the Washington Nationals of 2015 will be the same team you’ve been watching for a few years. So we’re going to forego lengthy profiles of stuff you already know, and focus on capsules for a few players at a time. A quicker, more forward focused view for the savvy fan.
Preview: Nationals fans have watched Jayson Werth morph into the third act of his career with a certain amount of grace and panache. He might not be a 25 HR threat anymore, but he might still be a 20 HR threat: and he’s managed to keep getting on base at nearly a .400 OBP clip. Fewer strikeouts, more walks: Anyone who watches Werth knows his signature at the plate is patience now. Maybe a bit too much patience for those wishing the game would speed up a bit- but alas, the bearded one does what he will.
As far as I can figure, the 2015 Nationals will head into Spring Training with at least 23 of their 25 slots filled and ready to go. A luxury to be sure, and not one that will repeat itself anytime soon. Over the next few seasons, at least a handful of free agents will be leaving each year, many from key positions. For example, the 2016 Nationals could be starting the season without Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond and Denard Span: And that’s just me thinking of starters off the top of my head. Each year after next, similar names may be on the way out the door, each requiring a spring training for new players to become acquainted with the team, young players trying to play their way on, and a parade of healthy competition for starting spots.
But the future is the future, and today is today: And today, the Nats won’t have to think too hard about a lot of the spots on the team. Each MLB club is allotted a 25 man roster to play day-to-day with, and an expanded 40 man roster where the additional 15 players are in the minor leagues, but available for call up at a moment’s notice.
Seriously, I just went through the roster and I’m not sure there is anywhere for anyone to break into the top 25. There, legitimately, may be no camp battles in 2015. So let’s count them up.
Look gang, this week’s talking points…I”m not in a super chipper mood. I know normally I’ve taken on the tone of “hey it’ll all be okay” but I’ve got to admit, this has got me spooked. As such the talking points I’m giving you this week may be a bit more dour than you are used to.
It’s not that they got swept by the Braves, it’s that they got themselves hurt doing it.
It’s true. Friday I was engaged in several twitter chains talking about the relative “worth” of a game against the Braves. In my mind, the games are not much more important than against any other NL East team. So with only 6 games done, and 13 to go I wouldn’t say I’m happy about the Nats being 1-5 against the Braves, but I’m not ready to panic yet.
Although, I guess while we are on the topic the only reason I have to not panic is the larger, grander scheme of baseball. Things tend to even out, and good teams tend to go in peaks and valleys. So I’m really just sort of betting black here because it keeps coming up red and it just has to come up black sooner or later, right? right? (Translation: The Nats have certainly given me very little reason to believe they can beat Atlanta…but I felt that way about the Nats/Phillies series for years, so it could happen!)
No, the real problem is that the Nats added to their walking (or not walking) wounded. Doug Fister has yet to make a start, Scott Hairston pulled a lat and Wilson Ramos is also out a month before the series started.
By the start of the game on Sunday Denard Span was put on the 7 day DL as an overly cautious move to protect against concussion, Jayson Werth (who is still playing) pulled his groin, and Ryan Zimmerman broke his thumb getting tagged out on a slide back to second base.
The only way I saw the Nats losing was through extensive injury. Go ahead, look through our 2014 player previews. This is how it starts.
LT: that said, I think the #Nats are in far better shape to deal with this spell of injuries than they were in 2013. Dropoff not as steep.
There is no good time to miss players, but April is better than September for sure. Plus, the Nats are in much better shape than last year to deal with injuries.
As Citizens of Natstown tweeted above, and most reasonable baseball people agree, the Nats bench this year is much better suited to deal with a month long injuries.
The infield depth is much better than the outfield depth, so having to shift guys around there is a little easier. Nate McLouth profiles very well to replace Denard Span in CF (particularly given Denard’s slowish start…again) for the short term.
And yeah, all the games count equally, so missing Zim, Ramos, Span, Fister, etc. is never a good thing. But if you could choose to to get them back in a month and still have most of the season to go, or lose them to injury near the end of the year during a playoff push…well I’ll take this version. The 2012 Nats were successful in large part because they managed to tread water for about 2-3 months while starters recovered from injury. The post-all-star-break Nats were in good shape down the stretch because the team got more talented without having to trade for it.
Unfortunately, my mindset is changed. I don’t expect the Nats to go out there and own it for the next month (though I’m happy to be surprised). I’m now in full “tread water” mode. I expect they’ll be keeping pace, rather than setting it, and hopefully pouring it on starting in June or so.
Yeah I don’t know what Mike Rizzo is thinking here. I mean you’re the GM, you have to stick up for your guys…but maybe not say it like that.
Not that I think the Braves are scouring for bulletin board martial, nor do I believe that is really a “thing,” but I think you can say “we have full confidence in our team” and “We know we can win these games.” Without having to posit you are both “not scared” and are better than the team that has handed your team’s ass to it over the last going on two years.
Nationals101 has it all wrong. James O’Hara was the only voice of reason all weekend during that series.
James is another wonderful writer over at CitsofNatstown. He wrote this on Saturday and you should read it. here are his tweets from when I was indulging in full on panic mode:
All of these things are completely true and ought to give Nats fans smarting from an ass-kicking in Atlanta. Take solace in the young man’s wisdom, and follow him on twitter.