The scare with Danny Espinosa yesterday ("Oh no!!1! He's frajile!!!" says Stupid Fan #1) highlights how fleeting major league success can be. One day you're a star to be, the next day you've been auf'd by an errant foul ball. (Yes, I made a Project Runway reference. It's my blog.) Chances of long-term success for any one player, even the best of them (see Strasburg, Steven) start slim and get slimmer.
Yet hope springs eternal for every young player and for every old baseball scribe. Which is why it's no surprise the Nats resident Spirit Squad leader Tom Boswell wrote this article the other day. In it he tries to be calm but you can sense the excitement in the overall theme. Surely one or two of Morse, Espinosa, ZNN, Detwiler, Desmond, Maya, Ramos, Bernadina, Storen, and Kimball will be a standout, right? Maybe even a star, right? Sure none of these are good bets but other teams get lucky, right?
Since there is so much hedging in the article it's hard to disagree with Boz. But really I guess it depends on what you mean as a "standout". A decent major leaguer for 3-4 years, that's not a standout to me. I'm thinking a good 7-10 year long career, with an outside shot at an all-star game in their best years. (think what Willingham will likely end with) I thought about it and put these odds on the 8 players listed above - ignoring the relievers because what do I care about relievers?
Totally unscientific, just based on opinion odds at being a standout player, from worst odds to best -
Bernadina : 100 to 1 : Not terribly old but not terribly good either. Like Morse he'll probably spend a lot of time being jerked around. Unlike Morse it's because he doesn't really do anything good enough to make teams not want to take a look at someone else. He's good enough to play everyday and not embarrass the team, at least for a few years, but nothing more than that.
Maya : 75 to 1 : Rizzo isn't a fool. He didn't push Maya too fast. He thought "hey the guy is 28 and been pitching for years. If he's not ready now, when will he be?" He wasn't. He is being asked to face the hardest competition in his life just when he's starting to lose his stuff. Could the Nats get a couple decent years out of him? Maybe. But that's not a standout is it?
Detwiler : 50 to 1 : Like Zimmerman in that he's already had an injury - and one harder to figure out. He probably doesn't need another year to recover, but he also hasn't impressed yet in the majors. He has control issues that need to be cleared up and his K:BB ratio in Spring is less impressive because players don't walk out of Florida. (the isoOBP in Spring is noticeably lower than during the regular season). Age 25 is generally when standouts round into form with a couple ok years in the books, not when they still are trying to figure things out. This pedigree as a batter would be more forgiving but pitchers have a much spottier track record.
Desmond : 40 to 1 : He's made the majors so that's going for him. On the other hand is that post from the other day.
ZNN : 10 to 1 : He's a great talent but he's 25 and already had serious arm issues. It'll take him more than last year to get back to form from TJ, and he's lost crucial time where he should have been learning to pitch with his best stuff. Still he should be good in the years that matter for the Nats. I'm not hopeful much beyond that - at least as a starter. Squeeze what you can get from those years.
Morse : 8 to 1 : He hit in the minors, he hit in the majors when given the chance. Thing is he's getting to the age where he'll start to decline. He's not the best fielder in a time where fielding is starting to be looked at more and more (possibly too much). He's got a reputation as "not a starter". I think he's got a few good years in him but most likely he'll be jerked around too much to have that lengthy career.
Espinosa : 5 to 1 : Yes, Boz I DO care that he strikes out. It means he has trouble making contact. But he supposedly fields well enough so that all he has to do is hit in the .250 range to have an extended career bopping 15-20 homers. That's harder than it sounds, especially for a guy that never hit for average in the minors, but given his age, it's not a crazy bet at all.
Ramos : 3 to 1 : He probably won't ever be a league leading hitter overall, but he's hit for average and some pop while being young for every level AND he did it while playing catcher. He should easily hurdle that low bar that is "offense for a catcher" into a nice long career.
Totally unscientific odds that none of them become a standout? Somewhere around 40%
(But if it makes you feel better if we were just looking at the 2012-2014 range I do like Morse and ZNN to be productive at some point during that time period. So the odds that none of these would be a standout during those years would be probably like 15%... or 3324% what do I know I'm just making this up)