Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Uncertainty Over Flores

The uncertainty over Jesus Flores being ready for Opening Day 2010 really puts a damper on what looked to be a locked up position on Our Washington Nationals. Despite not playing full seasons in any of his three Major League campaigns, Flores has shown enough catching and hitting skills to be projected as a solid starter, a possible All-Star. Those beliefs now a little bit in doubt after right labrum surgery yesterday performed by Dr.James Andrews.

Whenever someone is put under the knife, there is no 100% assurance everything will return to normal. Many players have returned to have effective careers, even pitchers, others have not. No, Jesus Flores will not have to worry about throwing his breaking ball over the plate, he never has. But tossing a fastball to second base will still be an integral part of his backstop resume. And Our Number 3 must be able to throw out those challenging runners attempting to steal on a regular basis. In limited duty this past year, Jesus threw out 42% of those would-be basestealers (8 for 19), his all-time best.

A good number, though small sample size, to consider this off-season. What should Our Washington Nationals do to solidify their catching position on the Major League Roster? There is NO ONE at AA or AAA considered even a prospect. Washington's 2009 Minor League Player Of The Year--Derek Norris--just completed low A Ball--and will not be rushed to Nationals Park. That's good as Derek needs to become a more complete player first.

Which leaves General Manager Mike Rizzo contemplating all options for 2010.

Wil Nieves and Josh Bard have proven to be backups when forced into the starting lineup in 2009. Neither able to contribute in a significant way with their bats and Bard's season long groin strain effecting his efficiency as well--power lost with Flores on the sidelines. Washington needs to find more take charge guys behind the plate. Attitude folks that Jesus was developing into. Ring Leaders that can ride a pitcher, make them better and get the most out of their talents under the heat and pressure of any game.

Brian Schneider has always been able to do that. Pudge Rodriquez too. And so can Victor Martinez. All potential free agents this winter in a weak market for catchers. All of whom are nearing or are already on the down sides of their careers.

If Our Washington Nationals are convinced Jesus Flores can return in early April 100%, and be ready to contribute in the manner so many within the organization have come to expect--then picking up a solid backup catcher this off-season will be a priority. But if even the slightest doubt exists on Jesus' health--trading for or signing a reliable and steady backstop to provide strength to our still young pitching staff should become a top priority. Our Pitchers and Catchers need to be on the same page, understanding each other and each batter faced. Not lost over what to do, which has happened many times this past season.

A veteran and experienced catcher can be a world of difference to a pitching staff. Jesus Flores was developing into one and and still may (keep those fingers crossed), but The Uncertainty Over Flores returning has spotted a new light on a weakness in our system. Catching is one of the hardest positions to fill in the game and Our Washington Nationals need to spend some time this off-season contemplating what to do. Deciding the proper course to take behind the plate to help Our Team now and in the future.

Here's the best to Jesus Flores' health. We want him back strong and ready to go. And with hopes Our Washington Nationals can move forward again in this key position on the baseball diamond.

Jesus Flores Photo--Copyright Nats320--All Rights Reserved


SenatorNat said...

It seems probable that Schneider will return - relatively cheap and reliable insurance policy v. Flores still hobbled for the first part or even substantial portions of next season. My guess is that Rizzo is counting on Flores returning to full strength and maintaining it for years to come - that he is considered young and strong, and that the tear was small...

The team psychologically is going to have a difficult time diverting from its current plan which would sign free agent starters Doug Davis and probably Livo should he continue to produce quality starts, penciling in for start of 2010: 1. Lannan; 2. Davis; 3. Olsen; 4.Detwiler or Martin; and 5. Livo. Bergmann replaced as long reliever by Stammen. Wild card in this is probably Matt Chico - he might wow some folks on his return in Spring Training. (Ballester; Mock; Bergmann are not going to make it in the Bigs - they and probably Martis too are minor leaguers.)

Signing Davis and Livo costs no more than $9 million total. Then, get back Beimel or someone of his caliber for $1.5 million more. This leaves about $8 million for Orlando Hudson and/or corner outfielder, e.g., Xavier Nady, after signing Schneider.

Team will be getting older, but by keeping Desmond and the return of Flores, can still claim that it is a young team building...Plus, by planning to bring up Storen and Strasburg after the All-Star break, it will seem like the Plan is still on schedule...And, speaking of youth:

Bet the house now on Bryce Harper being the Nats first MLB draftee overall 2010, since they are going to be afraid to risk injury to Jesus and/or he is still hurt by draft time. Can he play in majors by 19-20 will be the big question.

Trust in youth, which must be served. But free agents which are mostly past 30. All balanced.

An Briosca Mor said...

SenatorNat, Xavier Nady had Tommy John surgery earlier this season - for the second time. Are you advocating that the Lerners acquire him so that he and Jordan Zimmermann can become rehab buddies, and maybe even qualify for the bulk discount?