Tuesday, December 12, 2006

So-What Do We Actually Have? Part 2


Nats320
As bad as Our Washington Nationals starting pitching may be--the everyday lineup is not awful--mediocre at best. But, once you get past those starters, the bench is very thin and relatively inexperienced.

Brian Schneider is a decent catcher, that for the first 4 months of 2006 was terrible. Another of the Nats World Baseball Classic participants, that never really had spring training--and suffered badly for it. Couldn't hit, anything, and his defense, especially when it came to throwing out would-be baserunners was way off. Then, around mid-August, his timing seemed to click, his confidence rose and he finished the season strong. In fact, Brian knocked in a career high 55 run, and hit his career average of .256. 33 more baserunners advanced on steals of Schneider, far more than any previous seasons. Signed to a 3 year, reasonable contract, Brian will be around, until Washington finds another quality backstop--because right now, we don't have another.

Of course, last week's Rule 5 draft provided the Nats with what many are considering the steal of the minor league picks. From The New York Mets, Jimbo took the unprotected Jesus Flores from New York's Single A team. Flores hits with some power, and is considered a fine young backstop. The fact that Washington must keep Flores on the Major League Roster all of 2007, whether he's ready or not--tells the dire situation this franchise is in, right now, to compete.

Which leaves last year's late callup--Brandon Harper wondering whether he will make the club in 2007. The 30 year old career minor leaguer, made his Major League debut last August 9th and was respectable with the bat, fairly competent behind the plate, although he failed to throw out a single base runner in nine attempts.

Schneider is obviously the starter, Flores makes the club, whether he stinks or not--early on. Harper may not have a future, depending on the rest of the bench makeup. So, once again, we, as fans, will have to find another Rick Short to cheer for this season.

Most everybody's favorite to watch play, Nick Johnson is penciled in as the starting First Basemen. But, as most everyone realizes, Nick is fighting back from a brutal broken leg accident last September at Shea Stadium. No one is really going to know his real playing condition until Spring Training. I would not be surprised to see him struggle out of the gate. And, that's too bad--as Nick is quite the team player, hustler-setting a good example for every other player on the team.

Which may give the 25 years old Larry Broadway his chance to make the Big Club. Broadway, also recovering from a separated shoulder--is a lefthanded swinger with power. Nats Manager, Manny Acta, has publicly praised him. This coming spring training may be his shot with Washington. If not, he may well become trade bait.

And, then Jose Vidro would become the 3rd choice to play first base. Vidro--on the downside of a decent career, is locked into 2 more additional seasons with Washington for $8 Million per--his range in the field was down noticeably last season. And, Bowden has been unable to trade Jose, for just about anything--Vidro's salary scaring many teams off.

Jose needs some place to play, as the better he does performe, the chances for moving him on to a contender will increase in 2007, thus returning something much more promising.

Its unlikely, Vidro will be the everyday second basemen, as the logjam of contracts fills the middle infield of this team. The much maligned Cristian Guzman will return from his injury aborted 2006 season. If healthy, The Guz will be the starting shortstop--no doubt (If he sucks early, I just can't imagine the near riotous noise level at RFK that will follow him). And, FLop, Felipe Lopez, will move over the second base (hopefully--lessening his very erratic fielding problems) and bat leadoff.

Ryan Zimmerman will be the 3rd Baseman. Nothing more do I have to say about this WONDERFUL YOUNG PLAYER!! Hopefully Ryan will play a long time, in Washington--and develop into a Hall of Fame Player. Z is very special.

Back up infielders include the very speedy Bernie Castro, Minor League signee, Jose Wilson and journeyman utility man, Jose Macias (who played last season in Japan). Castro provides decent defense, base runner agility--but he, along with the other 2 choices are not promising. It all brings to mind the weak bench of 2005. Which, for Our Nats, was terrible.

As long as Austin Kearns has recovered mentally from his accident with Nick Johnson--"Bluegrass" is the starting right fielder. Above average outfielder with a decent arm--as I always say-"Austin attended the Marlon Byrd School of Hitting" Austin has a brutal upper cut swing--that seems to get him in trouble more than not. Before he came to Washington in the big trade, I liked him. As I have watched him closely over the last half season of 2006--less so.

The rest of the outfield is hurting badly. For me, and alot of fans out there--Ryan Church should just be given the starting Left Fielder's job. Throw him out there, give him 500 At-Bats--See what the man can actually do. Instead of continually trashing him, to the media--especially to Ladson at nationals.com.

Kory Casto is a fine young talent--but, he doesn't need to be rushed. If Jimbo is serious about dumping Church--you might as well see him play well for them, and get something better back in return--like the starter Bowden is obviously asking for. Casto does not hit lefties well--the sign of a platoon player. Let him learn, before wasting him.

Alex Escobar should be the everyday centerfielder. A 5 tool player (although shaky at chasing hard hit flys) with the capability of being the most exciting talent on the team. Yet, just can't stay healthy. Has probably pulled his hamstring muscle, at one time, just getting out of bed. I love this guy--Escobar provided more excitement than any other player not named Soriano and Zimmerman in 2006. Yet, Alex only played 33 games.

If Escobar goes down again--Nook Logan will get his final chance to make a Big League Team as an everyday player. Tremendous Speed, fine outfielder instincts--just can't hit a lick from the left side. His speed will get him on base with a bunt here and there, but Logan can't expect to be successful doing that, each and every time he walks to the plate. Nook would be a very decent 4th outfielder.

And, if both of the above fail, or Church is traded--the career journey powerhitting Mike Restovich will provide the muscle off the bench. A right handed version of Daryle Ward. Restovich can pound the ball--yet not consistently. At one time, a rising star in the Twins Organization-never a starter. Now in his 5th organization is 4 seasons. Not a good sign.

If Manny Acta could send out his everyday starting lineup for all 162 games--Our Nationals might be competitive and score some runs. There is some power, speed and bat contact hitters. But, with injuries, slumps and just bad play--that's not going to happen. There are so many holes on the bench and uncertainty in the field--that the team Washington puts on the field on a daily basis in 2006--may just be, (and I hate saying this)--terrible.

OK--so I said. Maybe some luck will come our way--and hopeful signs of improvement will follow. Not expecting a miracle though.

8 comments:

Eddie Cunningham said...

BTW, this has nothing to do with your blog, but I have noticed that it is possible to buy a 20-game season ticket package for as low as $100. I'm seriously thinking of "pledging my allegiance", if not before Christmas then by my birthday (three weeks after Xmas Eve)...

Screech's Best Friend said...

Eddie: What's even more amazing is that you can buy an 81 game package for a total of $405. Cheaper than 1971 with the Washington Senators. Of course, those seats are in the outfield, but who is going to keep you from moving around on most games.

Eddie Cunningham said...

$405 would be a little steep for me right now, and besides---I doubt I would be able to go to all 20 games. 20 games sounds like a reasonable price. I think I will have time to get this in January and still get seats for the new park. (Of course, the Nats could pull a Boston Red Sox and sell out EVERY home game, but I don't think that is going to happen.)

I'd better be going to bed soon. Why do I have the feeling that thanks to Scott Boras' greed, D-Mat is going to end up pitching for the Seibu Lions again next year?

SenatorNat said...

SBF has provided excellent run-down and analysis, per usual of the everyday line-up. As a retrospect, amazing to think of what Jamie Carroll; Toma Okha: Claudia Vargas; Darrell Ward; and Brad Wilkerson would mean to the team in the overall!

So - where is the potential "pocketful of miracles" which could drive the Nationals' naysayers to despair in 2007.

SBF has already mentioned two which have the greatest potential to change the dynamic to the positive: Alex Escobar, everyday and healthy; and a rookie of the year- styled year for Larry Broadway. Add Z not having an injury prone or sophomore slump year: the big three (Schneider; Johnson; and Vidro) playing healthy and up to their career limits; and Ryan Church becoming a darling of Manny Acta. (Helps to have Logan ready to inject speed, as needed, too.)

There really isn't that much different than the line-up in 2005 for overall power, even if everyone plays up to par and better: but speed is certainly better overall...

This is likely to be a team that is essentially a AAA club, night in and night out, but is also potentially a team where a young, heady manager puts an aggressive, motivated team on the field - instructed to play heads-up, and keep their heads-up.

Thus, the intangible of not having a curmudgeon at the helm - hyper-critical of young and average-ability players' foilibles - may truly change the dynamic for the better.

Thus,it would be fun to see Acta and the boys frustrate "The Producers" (Stan and Jim), as there is almost a perverse satisfaction, seemingly, on the part of brass, to set the stage for staggering (albeit Bowden hates this word!) losses in 2007! (Some idiot sent my mistress a calendar, which reveals me at Nationals games, when I told her I "had to be with the wife tonight!" I am doomed...)

Anonymous said...

Speaking of season tix—I'm completely falling for Kasten's ploy as far as reserving a place in the new stadium goes, but since I've never bought season tickets before, I was wondering how the "seniority" (for lack of a better term) works. I assume full season ticket holders get the first crack at upgrading their seats the following year, yes? Then 40-game and 20-game plans respectively? And do better (ie more expensive seats) get first crack at buying even better seats the following year? And can you easily increase the number of seats from year to year?

In short: if I go ahead and get one 20-game plan for $100 in 2007 could I move up to two, higher-qualitgy seats in a full game plan in 2008 easily? Or would I effectively be at the back of the line?

Love the blog. Love you and your whole section's attitude. Love baseball! Go NATS!

Benji said...

Hi, it's Benji
I agree with the things you say exoect Church. He was given shots, and didn't take advantage. Trade for pitching please.

Also could you add me to your links
aatn.blogspot.com

Screech's Best Friend said...

Benji: More than happy too--Already done.

Eddie Cunningham said...

I'm not worried about "upgrading" my seats if I get a $100 season ticket package. For most of the games where I will be going, the nosebleed outfield seats will be enough. For games where I might want to take a friend or family members, I assume that I can buy better inidividual game tickets at the box office or on ebay. I actually look forward to the day when fans start complaining that it is too difficult to get Nats tickets because the stadium is packed!

Oh, one more thing. The guy at the White Flint Nats store said there is talk of maybe keeping that store open all year instead of shutting it down after the holidays are over. As it is now, it will stay up at White Flint through my birthday. (1/14)