Feb 132012
 

This may be the spring training with the least drama, if not the fewest players, of the eight spring trainings for the Washington Nationals. As of this writing, there are just 15 non-roster invitees — a far cry from the days when there were 70+ guys in camp.

For the most part, the drama appears to be more of the “normal” variety: who’s gonna man the bench, who’s gonna be the 5th starter, who’s gonna be the last man out of the bullpen, etc. Some of the beat guys are already making predictions on who the final 25 will be and it seems rather reasonable to me.

I’m not downplaying the Bryce Harper madness, which I know will play a big part of the 2012 story line, but I’m not going to feed that monster, either. I think the Nats brass will serve up all the usual bromides about “the best 25,” with perhaps even Davey Johnson playing the good cop and Mike Rizzo playing the bad cop. We’ll probably see some (breathless) stories comparing him to Ken Griffey Jr. and/or Alex Rodriguez in the past and Mike Trout in the present. Or perhaps we’ll get a cautionary tale about Jason Heyward, especially if the 2010 N.L. Rookie of the Year starts very fast or very slowly in Buena Vista.

What will change things in a hurry is if there’s a trade of an existing starter or two. It’s no secret that the Nats are hurting for a CF and that they have a perceived surplus of starting pitchers (pay no attention to those two guys that have had Tommy John surgery the past year or two). Perennial punching bag Ian Desmond is another trade option (as long as you’re convinced that Danny Espinosa will revert to first-half form). But I don’t anticipate such a trade happening any earlier than the last week of March (if at all).

Aside from Harper, I think most of the prospect drama this year will be whether or not Steve Lombardozzi makes the club as a bench player. The only potential wrinkle I can foresee is Johnson deciding on a platoon, which I can’t recall happening recently with two switch-hitters. I put it out there only because Espinosa’s splits finished so severely last season (.222/.312/.390 vs. RHPs; .283/.361/.496 vs. LHPs) while Lombardozzi was closer to the ideal of being even. The safer bet is to see Lombardozzi return to Syracuse so he can play everyday (and maintain trade value).

Of course, there’s an outside shot that Corey Brown can displace Roger Bernadina as a spare outfielder. Perhaps Mike Cameron will start too slowly again for the Nats to carry him. Or maybe Adam LaRoche won’t be fully healthy or effective after nearly a year off.

It’s also possible someone will shock us from the bullpen, but I think the lack of options for most will be the deciding factor. Dan Cortes and the Ryans (Perry and Mattheus) are your top candidates for the Syracuse-to-DC shuttle (formerly known as the Balester back-and-forth). Otherwise, we’re looking to see if anyone can move up from Harrisburg (Rafael Martin, Erik Arnesen, Pat Lehman).

As always, my hope is to dig up what I can while watching from afar and keep the conversation going until the minors start up on April 5th.

  18 Responses to “2012 Spring Training Thoughts”

  1. Thanks for the NRI list; the only surprise is Rafael Martin — good for him.
    Thank you for not playing the Harper game, let’s wait to see where he starts in April before anything else.

  2. If they were to platoon Espinosa/Lombo before having Desmond sent to the bench (Espinosa lesser of two evils by a mile), I imagine Nats Town would have a meltdown.

    • Not that it takes much for that to happen ;-)

    • Even though Lombardozzi’s minor-league numbers (save HR’s & SLG) have been equal to or better than Espinosa’s and Desmond’s at each stop, I don’t think he’ll get get a real chance to prove his worth in Spring Training.

      The fanbase is clearly split on Desmond, while the FO & on-field management still seems to be projecting him as something he may never become. This season will likely go a long way in proving who’s right & who’s wrong.

  3. Luke, any chance that Wilkie ever gets a chance to crack the ‘pen in the Show, or will he have to go somewhere else to get a real look?

  4. The Harper game! Wow! Even though You and Luke agree that Harper is not ready, I’m still into the ‘Harper game’. And the Desmond game and the Detweiler game. But what do I know.

  5. For discusion, here are some guys I think could make the jump from GCL to Hagerstown.

    Wes Schill
    Wander Ramos
    Bobby Lucas

    • I hope you’re right! :)

    • I know tomorrow they are making the final cuts. Does anybody have any idea who the cuts would be. As far as GCL, Hagerstown and Auburn are concerned. I’m not 100% how it works.

      • It’s tough to guess, and foolhardy to try. Auburn and GCL’s rosters are meaningless right now. You’ll hear/read of a player being assigned to Auburn, which is code for XST = Extended Spring Training, which is a limbo of sorts.

        Since I’m not in FL, I won’t know the who until the BA transaction post comes out next week. Full-season affiliates won’t release the rosters until the week after.

        • Thanks. Patience is not one of my strong suits, and it kills me not knowing. I know Wes Schill has had a good spring training, but he’s also a non-drafted free agent, which is a concern.

  6. Are you suggesting that Martin, Arnesen, or Lehman could have a shot at the Big’s this year?

    • Of those 3, I would say that Martin may stand an outside chance at seeing time in DC this season. However, the chances may be pretty slim, barring some trades or injuries.

    • No, I think the drama there is which of those three makes the Chiefs roster, if any. It’s possible all three could return to Harrisburg, pushed down by 40-man guys like Stammen, Maya, Severino, Perry, Mattheus. A lot’s going to depend on how the 4A’s shake out and/or stick.

  7. […] of these moves are particularly surprising, including Harper. As noted last month, most of the competition for the Opening Day roster is for the bench, the ‘pen, and the No. 5 […]

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