Friday, January 27, 2012

Nationals in the Outfield

No...this isn't a straight to dvd Disney sequel, it's an entry about the Nationals OF for 2012 and the issues it may pose. As of right now, the OF is looking like Jason Werth, a converted Catcher in CF, Michael Morse, a converted 1B in LF, and either Bryce Harper, a converted Catcher in RF, or Roger Bernadina who was brutal in CF and would just be a stop gap until Bryce is ready.

An outfield made up entirely of Catchers and First Basemen with a rather spacious OF area doesn't sound like the greatest formula for saving runs. The offensive implications are rather nice, if Werth can bounce back and have a normal year, combined with a young slugging 1B who if not for a decent contract for LaRoche would be the starter there, and possibly the best offensive prospect in the game in the same OF has some real potential.

According to Rtot (BBREF DEF metrics) Werth has been an above avg. defensive CF for his career including more than usual in WAS last year. Bernadina has been pretty bad in CF, but has done well in the corners, LF more than RF because he doesn't have the arm you'd like to see out there, a tad below average. His Rtot numbers are off the chart for LF, good for RF and not good for CF. Morse is interesting because has been right about avg. at 1B before last year and then was pretty bad last year when he had his most playing time there. In LF he wasn't any better, and he looks like he would be the guy that would be moved to DH if this were the AL. Hiding him in LF is made harder when you don't have great OF in Center and Right that you can shift over. It's a bit too early to get a good read on Harper since advanced metrics really aren't kept on minor leaguers, but his .960 fielding % and 8 errors isn't really encouraging.

All things considered, this is a situation that requires more watching as the Nats have been feeling out trades for CF all offseason, and Werth should in theory be more of an asset in RF than in CF, with him in RF and a better defensive CF out there you can cheat players over towards LF saving some of the exposure that Morse leaves you with in order to get his 30HR in the lineup.

Possible solutions:

Cespedes, OF - DR: He was granted FA this past week, and it's open season for the cuban export. He is viewed by some, including members of the Nats FO that think he's more of a corner OF than a CF. That might explain the shifting of Werth to CF, but it's hard to tell at this point.

Adam Jones, OF - BAL: Questions about his true intentions of extending in Baltimore have been hanging around for a year now, and with him a few years out from FA, his value could be at it's highest. A good mix of offense and defense could be exactly what WAS needs, but do they have the pieces to go get him? Rendon could make things work, but he can't be dealt until the summer.

A spring training casualty. Every year guys get cut, maybe someone will show up on the scrap heap that could help, but the odds aren't great for that one.

While it's not exactly a glaring black hole, this is definitely a position that the Nats can upgrade in. A midseason trade is likely, depending on the advancement of both Rendon and Harper.

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