Roster Construction for 2011: Who Stays and Who Goes?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, September 23, 2010 | , , | 7 comments »

The other day, Bill Ladson at MLB.com took a look at the Washington Nationals current roster and gave an educated guess as to which of those players would stay or go for 2011.  Since I've been working on a piece like that myself, I thought I'd roll it out there and offer my opinion for debate. 

ABSOLUTE KEEPERS

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B:  Get it out of the way.  The Face isn't going anywhere, but his contract does expire after 2013.

Ian Desmond, SS:  Sure, his error total leads the league.  But name me a true rookie shortstop who didn't have a high error total.  His range is unsurpassed.

Danny Espinosa, 2B:  He could start 2011 in Syracuse, but more likely he's shown enough with the bat in September to get a legitimate shot at starting at second next season.  He's a gold glove waiting to happen at second.

Alberto Gonzalez, UTL:  Defensively he can play anywhere in the infield, and he's hitting enough, especially against left-handers (.298/.328/.368), to pinch-hit as well.

Nyjer Morgan, CF:  Yes, he'll be back.  I'm sure of it.  And against RHPs, he's legit (lifetime .309/.360/.388).  But they have to get a platoon partner for him.  HAVE TO.

Roger Bernadina, OF:  Bernie has shown enough that in a platoon he can be a real valuable player, but he's overmatched if he has to play every day.  A Bernie/Morse duo in right the next two years until you-know-who is ready wouldn't be the worst thing.

Michael Morse, OF/1B:  Look, I love Morse as much as the next guy.  Well, maybe not that much.  But he's been most productive when picking the right spots to use him.  He lacks defensively, making a platoon situation best for him too.

Ivan Rodriguez, C:  He's been exactly who we thought he was:  decent average, sub-.300 OBP, good (but not great) defensively.  He'll need about 180 hits to reach 3000 at the end of the season, though.  Hard to see that happening next year.

Wilson Ramos, C:  Defensively, he's ready.  Good target, quick feet, strong arm.  Will probably never be more than a No. 8 hitter though, showing some pop, but low averages and OBP.  Hopefully he plays more than Pudge's backup did this season.

Livan Hernandez, RHSP:  His reward contract has already been granted, and will likely be the Opening Day starter, short of the Nats signing a major free agent pitcher which I do not expect them to do.  Livo fans, be careful what you wish for though.

Jason Marquis, RHSP:  Made six of seven quality starts since returning from DL.  He's under contract next season and will be in the rotation.  Hope he's good enough for the Nats can flip him at trade deadline like they did with Capps this year.

John Lannan, LHSP:  The "Luckiest Man in Baseball" is back to his old tricks, with one new one:  he's striking some guys out.  His K/9 and K/BB since coming off the DL both eclipse career highs.

Jordan Zimmermann. RHSP:  J-Zimm wowed everyone with his 9 K performance against the Marlins, but he's mostly struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery.  The velocity is there, but his control and command will still take time.  The recovery from TJ is 12-18 months, and he's still in recovery.  People have to remember that.

Tyler Clippard, RHRP, Sean Burnett, LHRP, Doug Slaten, LHRP:  Lumping all these guys together.  The bullpen is the reason the Nats will end up however many games better than last season, plain and simple.  These guys are the primary reasons why.

Drew Storen, RHRP:  Up until the last week or so, I would have said he's the anointed closer.  But every time Riggleman talks about Storen these days, it seems less likely he trusts Storen in that role.  Regardless, he's in the pen next year either saving or settting up.

PROBABLE KEEPERS

Yunesky Maya, RHSP:  The Nats will give him every opportunity to make the big league rotation next season.  He's got a tremendous curveball, and good slider and change-up, but his fastball is flat at 88-89 MPH and very hittable if he doesn't keep it down in the zone. 

Joe Bisenius, RHRP:  He came out of nowhere this year, pitching in three different levels of the minors.  But the fact the Nats put him on the 40-man to protect him says a lot.  97 MPH doesn't grow on trees.

Collin Balester, RHRP: You know what? Ballystar has been really good. In 15 innings he's struck out 22, a dramatic rise in K-rate over his career numbers. Relieving suits him, and his arsenal and personality scream "closer". I'm just sayin'. Also, he's just 24.

Craig Stammen, RHRP:  Stammen's been the good soldier this year, doing what's asked of him and being happy to do it.  I think the boat has sailed on him as a starter in the organization though, so if he can continue to be happy in the "Miguel Batista" swingman role, he can serve a very useful role in the pen.

BACK TO THE MINORS

Ross Detwiler, LHSP:  If the Nats sign a veteran starter, Detwiler will surely go back to Syracuse.  He's capable of good strikeout rates, but the same thing that makes him effective -- his funky delivery -- also causes his hip injuries.  He has to really impress in spring training to earn a job.

J.D. Martin, RHSP:  Martin has missed the second half of the season with a back injury, and he'll be organizational depth next season if he's retained.

Luis Atilano, RHSP:  Atilano is still young and was pressed into duty this year before he was ready before his elbow injury.  His ceiling is really limited though as a pitch-to-contact guy without a special pitch.

Garrett Mock, RHSP:  Mock got back on a mound in the minors after recovering from cervical spine surgery early in the season, going 1-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts.  He has some of the best stuff in the system, but a injury-ravaged season at age 27 kinda leaves him in the dust.

ON THE FENCE

Josh Willingham, LF:  The Hammer was having a very nice season until he made an awkward slide into second and tore the meniscus in his knee, requiring surgery.  He'll be due a significant raise through arbitration, so the team will need to decide what they want to do with him quickly.  But I think all involved saw what happened to the offense after he got hurt.

PROBABLY NOT

Justin Maxwell, OF:  His power/speed/defense combo is just so hard to ignore, but his contact-making ability at the big league level is exposed.  They might keep him in the system, or let him walk, but I don't see him making the club in spring training.

Miguel Batista, RHRP, Joel Peralta, RHRP:  Fungible relievers.  Batista has pitched three times since Sept. 3.  That should tell you something.  Peralta's career year (2.06 ERA) will get attention somewhere, if not here.

INJURED

Stephen Strasburg, RHSP:  Regardless if he's not taking anyone's calls but the doctor's right now, the Nats hope his recovery from TJ goes as smoothly as Zimmermann's did, and they can see him on a Major League mound next September.

Chien-Ming Wang, RHSP:  I don't think he'll ever throw a pitch in a Washington Nationals uniform, despite his attendance at the Florida Instructional league right now.

Jesus Flores, C:  Flores is scheduled to play in the instructional league as well, after missing more than a year with his injured right shoulder.  The mis-diagnosis and bungling of his rehab last year derailed what could have been a real promising career.  What a shame.  The guy's only 25 though, so the Nats don't want to write him off yet.

NOT RETURNING

Willie Harris, UTL:  There are cheaper, younger, more talented guys around -- in the system and out -- to take Willie's place.  Give the guy credit, he's still popping a few homers here and there, and he'll probably find work somewhere next season, but it won't be in DC.

Adam Kennedy, 2B:  Did what was asked of him, but he's clearly not happy riding the pine in September while Espinosa gets training time.  Completely replaceable skill set.  Nats could pick up his option, but again, they can also find someone cheaper to fill the role of insurance should they feel Espi isn't ready.

Kevin Mench, PH:  Let's be honest, he was pretty fortunate to be drawing a MLB paycheck the last six weeks.  He's had 23 at bats since Aug. 7.

Wil Nieves, C:  I hope the Nats keep him in the system.  He's a tireless worker with a great attitude and the nicest guy I've ever met in the Major Leagues.  His limitations as a ball player have been detailed elsewhere ad nauseum, so I won't repeat them.  He'd make a great coach someday.

Scott Olsen, LHSPThis.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Adam Dunn, 1B:  I have no idea.  Neither side really has much incentive to get a deal done before Dunn can file for free agency, unless the team is looking for goodwill with a certain portion of the fanbase. 

Frankly, I think he files and he'll have to decide between getting a four-year deal to be a DH, or a three-year deal here for less money to continue to play 1B, because I don't think there's another NL team that will make him a legitimate offer.

WHAT I WOULD DO

Here's the fun part.  Bring Hammer back.  Find platoon partner for Morgan in CF (maybe this guy).  Let Bernie/Morse have RF.  Don't cave into Dunn's camp and take him back on the team's terms (2-3 years) or invest the money you would have spent on younger, more athletic players (maybe him, him, or him) or a veteran pitcher.

Let the rest ride.  The team as constructed above is already 5-8 games better than this year.  Save the rest of your bullets for 2012 when Strasburg is back.  The 2012 free agent class is loaded with talent, Rizzo can fill the holes then.

7 comments

  1. David Lint // September 23, 2010 at 12:56 PM  

    Dave... good article... but I disagree with a few key points.

    1. Do not bring back Morgan. If he's brought back, he will not platoon... he'll play everyday. I have no faith in the organization to see his limitations.

    2. When you listed guys that could be replacements for Dunn, you listed players that would have to be traded for. Who are the players the Nats, have, and are willing to move, that other teams covet? I don't see many.

    3. One guy I would be willing to move is Desmond. Espinosa is clearly the better defender and his skill set on offense would make him an All-Star SS. As is, he's an average 2B. You can find solid 2B (ODogg) etc. etc. but you're not going to find a talent like Espinosa. I really think the team is wasting his value at 2B.

  2. Dave Nichols // September 23, 2010 at 1:04 PM  

    David, thanks for the comments. talking with folks, Morgan will be back barring further incident that changes their mind. i also agree with you that they won't platoon him, but it's obvious it's needed.

    Nats got Hammer & Olsen for spare parts. never underestimate MLB GMs lack of acuity.

    i go the other way than you on the Espi/Desi argument. just a matter of opinion.

  3. Andrew // September 23, 2010 at 1:25 PM  

    Dave, glad to see your comments with your projections.

    Next year probably won't be a playoff team so the team can take a chance on Espinosa and allow him to learn on the job. I agree that he will be a Gold Glove defender there. I like his energy level too. Likewise, I think the team can give Desmond another year at SS.

    I agree with David Lint on this outfield and Nyjer. If you can't trade Nyjer then he stays on the bench and platoons with a RH centerfielder.

    Dave, I disagree with you on Joel Peralta. I think he is a keeper so long as he isn't overused.

    No brainer on the "Gone" list.

    Still think they will find a way to keep Dunn.

    Hoping the team concentrates on 1 key outfielder to add either through trade or Free Agency.

    The Nats have bargaining chips and it may be the off-season to finally trade one for a promising young outfielder. The Nats have these 3 pitchers and Nyjer to package for the right outfielder (pick 1 from list):

    J.D. Martin, RHSP
    Luis Atilano, RHSP
    Garrett Mock, RHSP

    The bench has to be strengthened as it was pathetic this year. I would hate to look at the stats of Maxwell/Nieves/Harris in a pure Average/OBP.

    Maxwell is now out of options after this season so either trade him or break ties. His body language to me speaks volumes and his stats speak a sad truth. Why is he here? He can barely hit lefties when given creampuff matchups and certainly can't hit righties this season with any power and a pitiful BA.

    This is a fat (phat) Free Agent market this offseason for relievers so the Nats can strengthen there further.

    I hate to say it, if they are looking for any bargain basement FAs for the starting rotation, save your money as again this probably won't be a playoff year. Spend it on Dunn's contract!

  4. Andrew // September 23, 2010 at 1:58 PM  

    Dave - You didn't have Kasten as on the fence and outta here!

  5. Anonymous // September 23, 2010 at 2:39 PM  

    You forgot Peralta ...

  6. Anonymous // September 24, 2010 at 11:55 AM  

    "Collin Balester, RHRP: Relieving suits him, and his arsenal and personality scream "closer". I'm just sayin'."

    His random acts of wildness - exemplified by the two beanballs plus numerous other backstop-hitting high and tight pitches, including one that rebounded all the way out to third base - scream Joel Hanrahan. Let the Balester as closer experiment take place in Pittsburgh. I'm just sayin'.

  7. Dave Nichols // September 24, 2010 at 12:32 PM  

    Anon: Hanrahan is 4-1 with 5 saves, 3.43 ERA, 1.157 WHIP, 12.7 K/9, 4.04 K/BB this season. dude has 93 Ks in 65.2 IP.

    he had an incredible string of "bad luck" (.431 BABiP) in first half of 2009.

    i'd take him back any day.

    again, Bally is just 24. you don't throw away arms that can throw 96-97 MPH.