Monday, August 28, 2006
EVALUATING ALL THINGS NATS
2006 is a LOST season, We all know that. Its been that way for some time. So, with everyone so depressed, I thought I would look at what we have that is GOOD (and there is some). And really, if we had better pitching, the Nationals would be far from terrible.
Catching: Brian Schnieder has had a POOR 2006 season. His offensive production has been far below what a veteran 29 year old backstop with some pop should produce. And, his ability to throw out baserunners, his number 1 best asset over the early part of his MLB career, has eluded him this season. As the 2006 season is drawing to its conclusion, he's hit much better and thrown out more baserunners. The Nats terrible pitching has not helped. As, very few pitchers seem to be able to hold runners. Brian is a talented backstop, having a poor year. He's also the ONLY decent catcher we have. He's signed for 2 more seasons. We could actually do alot worse that Schneider. He can call a good game, behind the plate. He's worth building around. But, we need a BACKUP BADLY. A GOOD ONE!! Preferably a Right Handed hitting catcher.
First Base: Hitting wise, Nick Johnson is having his BEST season in the Majors. Fielding--one of his worst. I would love to see Nick hit better in the clutch. He does not seem to be a good clean up hitter. And, as patient as he can be at the plate, drawing a decent amount of walks, he tends to swing at the first pitch, when the game is on the line, especially with bases loaded. His 2006 fielding problems seem to be more of a mental problem, as he's made an error, he has begun to think about everything hit his way-- making everything worse.
NIck Johnson is a very good player, and anyone that wants to get rid of him, for having some problems in one season on a very bad team--has got to be crazy. This guy, quietly, is a quality, respected player.
Second Base--Jose Vidro has no range, limited power, and if he didn't get injured before the July 31 trading deadline, would have certaintly been traded. Might well be traded over the winter before 2007, his $8 Million payroll is far to much for this team, and could be used to better use--like RESIGN Soriano.
Bernie Castro, Henry Mateo, Melvin Dorta, all have some talent, just not a complete package among them. Very possible that Felipe Lopez could be moved to second for 2007, unless the Nationals either eat Cristian Guzman's contract or let THE GUZ play short next season. None of these options are acceptable to me. Guz and Lopez have HUGE holes in their games.
Shortstop--Guz and FLop--not much more to say than I just said above. The Nationals may be the weakest team defensively UP THE MIDDLE of any team in baseball.
Third Base--Ryan Zimmerman--AT 21 is a tremendous young player. Can Hit, Hit For Power, Field His Position, Throw and has decent speed on the bases. I would rate him a 4 1/2 tool player. Franchise Player, can deliver in the clutch, both in the field and at the plate. LOVE THIS GUY!!
But he needs a reliable, quality backup, same with shortstop, to give the guys a breather every once in a while.
Leftfield--Alfonso Soriano--impact player, everyone knows how much I LOVE this guy. Crowd Pleaser, a player everyone in Washington knows about. Believe we should resign him, he's worth the cost. Improved dramatically in the outfield, but still tends to loose interest and loafs at times during game action. Nonetheless, the ONLY player on the team that EVERYONE watches whenever he steps to the plate. If Soriano was on the Nats in 2005, instead of Wilkerson, we would have made the PLAYOFFS!!
Centerfield--Alex Escobar-Walking MASH UNIT--can't stay healhty, but when he did play, showed the 5 Tools everyone thought he had as a youngster. Tends to misplay some flyballs, especially liners. If he could stay healthy, would probably be the shoo-in Centerfielder for 2007. But, since he can't, Ryan Church is getting is chance to show that HE DOES BELONG. Church has trouble with the breaking ball, but can deliver at times, and is a decent fielder. Has better power numbers against lefties, but Frank Robinson doesn't seem to know that for some reason. I like both of these guys, Escobar was very impressive batting 7th in the lineup--Both should be on the 2007 team. Both deserve the opportunity.
Rightfield--Austin Kearns. Decent outfielder, good arm, can cut off balls into the corner very well, struggled at the plate since arriving in Washington. Can't imagine Jim Bowden giving up on one of his boys. Hope he can somehow work out that UPPER CUT swing that gets him in so much trouble at the plate.
Reserve Outfielders: Jose Guillen, contract up, injured, not likely to be back for 6-12 months. Really believe he WILL COME BACK TO THE NATS for an incentive laden contract. No doubt in my mind, that when healthy is a DANGEROUS hitter. Can carry a team, has he did while healthy in early 2005. Loves playing in DC. A serious DIVA, but never dull. CAN HELP.
Kory Casto--The rising young star in the Nats Minor League System. Has hit well everywhere, now at AA Harrisburg. Can't imagine the Nats not letting him start 2007 at AAA. Frank Diaz, also at AA Harrisburg. Terrific Fielder, not the hitter and RBI producer that Casto is. But talented.
Bench: Daryle Ward (perfect pinch hitter off the bench) having a terrific 2006. Worth keeping. Dangerous. Marlon Anderson, decent fill in spot player, can hit, with tremendous speed for a 33 year old. Better than I expected. Like him. Helpful.
Robert Fick, Brandon Harper, Mike Vento, Mateo, etc. All below average bench players. We need a SERIOUS BACKUP CATCHER. No replacement for Schneider has just KILLED us in 2006. Need a good utility infielder (LIKE JAMEY CARROLL). We don't have one. Bowden needs to do his homework.
Starting Pitching: Well it just SUCKS!! Need John Patterson to come back strong, but even if he does, there is NO ONE ELSE behind him. No one. I've talked about it before, but JIMBO did a great job of destroying the limited pitching depth the Expos did have before moving here. The Nationals will need to hire a bunch of free agents to fill these roles for 2007, as there is NO ONE in the minors even closely ready. Ortiz, Astacio, Armas--they can all go away. Don't care much for O'Connor and Drese. Billy Trabor, I can't figure out. I did like Shawn Hill the few times I saw him pitch. Has maturity and command on the mound. And, the guy can actually BUNT the ball when called upon at the plate. Brian Lawrence owes us for 2006. The Nats are going to buy out his hefty contract for 2007. If he's not all about money, very unlikely, he would resign with Washington, knowing he WILL get the chance to pitch, in the rotation in 2007.
One way or another, the starting pitching, and what Bowden does to fix it over the winter, will make or break next season for all us fans.
Relief Pitching: Like Chad Cordero (despite he heart attack way of pitching), Jon Rauch (if he would just bear down when he's ahead and not give up so many cheap home runs). We need Luis Ayala back strong for 2007 to set up the Chief. Ryan Wagner has shown a serious slider the last 2 weeks, and I like how he stands up and talks about his outings after he fails. Big body, strange delivery from the elbow. Wagner--impressed with the guy the more I see him. Micah Bowie--came out of nowhere, once Mike Stanton was traded, to be very dependable out of the pen from the lefthanded side. Freak injury has him on the DL right now. If he comes back as good as before the injury, Bowie makes the team, no question, in 2007 . There is a real sleeper in the Minors at AA Harrisburg right now--Zechry Zinicola. Drafted in the 6th round by the Nats in the 2007 Draft, he has STORMED his way through Rookie ball--GULF COAST LEAGUE Nationals, Savannah Low A Ball, Potomac High A ball is now closing out games for AA Harrisburg. At every stop, this Arizona State hurler has been nothing short of lights out. If he keeps it up, I can't imagine this guy not making the team out of the bullpen in 2007. I saw him pitch 3 games in Woodbridge for the Potomac Nationals, as a closer, he was HEAD AND SHOULDERS, above every other pitcher from both teams. Has yet give up a homer this summer.
Managing: I realize that Frank Robinson is our most famous persona. He's handled the team through some terrible times. Love, at times, how he gets into players faces. But, his time has come. We need a more competent leader making the decisions on the field. Sorry Frank, you have got to go. But you deserve a meaningful position with the team, if you desire.
Coaches: Randy St.Claire can stay forever, as far as I am concerned. The guy knows his stuff. Mitchell Paige, Davey Lopes and Randy Knorr don't have much of an opinion on. Tony Beasley should be outright fired. The guy is a terrible 3rd base coach. Eddie Rodriguez seems to be a decent bench coach.
The Nationals will be lucky to be a .500 team in 2007. And its all depends on the rag tag starting pitching the team can cobble together. Even if Soriano goes away as a free agent, those 2 DRAFT PICKS the team receives will have no impact for 4 years down the line. So we might as well resign our most exciting player. The 2nd base and shortstop situation must be hammered out EARLY in the winter. It can't linger like Soriano did all through spring training, 2006. The Nationals are going to have to be creative. There is some decent talent on the squad, and a few goodies in the minors, but we really need "PITCHING, PITCHING, PITCHING!!" What do you say--Jimbo, Mr. Kasten!!?? Please don't let the fanbase suffer as badly as we are at the end of the 2006 season. We as fans have been through alot over the embarrasing transfer of the franchise to Washington, and stadium debacle. GIVE US SO HOPE!!