Spring Training right now boils down to two topics. Let's discuss them now so we can concentrate on watching basketball for the next month.
1. Who will be the 5th starter? - Strasburg will start. Zimmermann will start. Gonzalez will start. Jackson will start. The first two are simply the best pitchers the Nats have. Gonzalez is a step behind them, but better than the rest. Jackson, in theory, should be in the "next best" group with Gio, but in practice he hasn't quite made that happen. Still you don't pay 10 million for a guy to middle relieve. So it comes down to Wang, Lannan, and Detwiler.
You all know how I feel. (Lannan, Lannan, Lannan). Now what do I think?
Well I don't think it should be Wang. As a Yankees fan, I can tell you that the love of Chien-Ming is built on a house of cards. He was never truly a special pitcher, more a guy that got the breaks for a couple years when he was surrounded by starters either underperforming, unlucky, or unloved. It was the comparison to those guys, added to the win total in that market, that makes people a bit too fond of this guy. But the like of Wang is reasonable. He was a good pitcher prior to injury. If healthy he should be on a major league rotation. His age though (32 next season), injury history, and type of pitcher he is makes him the least appealing to me.
Lannan is fine. He's objectively the least talented of the three but you can't argue with the results. Yes, eventually he won't be able to keep this up but that's true of all pitchers. With 3 1/2 seasons telling us one thing, it's far more likely to me that there is something about Lannan that we haven't been able to tease out in the stats. Not grit or heart or anything like that, something concrete, but still something that we don't know. In this new era of baseball when nearly everything is explainable, it can be hard to accept that there is something knowable out there that hasn't been quantified but to me it seems apparent there is. But here's the kicker, in my head I still don't pick Lannan for the rotation. For all that he is, Lannan is still at best a #3 rotation type guy and probably more a 4/5. We know the ceiling, and we know with the number of guys on the way with higher ones that Lannan is not long for the Nationals. With an option left he seems to be a fair starter but great insurance.
Detwiler is my "head" pick. He's the youngest and the potential maybe to be something special. Oh, it's unlikely, true, but Wang wasn't special when he was thought to be (5 years ago), and Lannan has a mound of data saying the same. Detwiler, under control through 2016, though may in fact be. So why not find out now? If he was substantially worse than Lannan or Wang, I'd feel differently, but he wasn't last year. The Nats haven't gone all in on 2012. It still seems to be a year of finding out where the last pieces for the run are going to need to go. Starting Wang or Lannan, doesn't answer a question. Starting Detwiler might.
If Lannan gets the nod, I'll be happy. If Detwiler gets the nod, I'll understand. If Wang gets the nod, well it's not the worst thing in the world and he may be the choice for those dying to make the playoffs in 2012.*
2. Will Bryce Harper start with the team? This is a little simpler. No. No is the answer. Not unless you are wanting desperately to win this year. The money cost by the clock starting likely isn't worth the extra win that may or may not make the difference. Nor is a good idea to jury-rig an OF together for one year to do it.
Yes he was very good in the AFL. He was also very mediocre in AA. He fits so much better into 2013 that I'd love to see him kept down for a whole year (though I doubt that'll happen). If he forces the issue, so be it, but we aren't going to be able to tell that from silly Spring Training stats.
Let's do the annual dance, shall we? Who led the Nats in hitting last ST? Jeff Fisher. What about among players, who, you know, play in the majors? Adam LaRoche. Ok but who was 2nd? Alberto Gonzalez. Well who led the team in ERA? A few with 0.00 but the one with the most IP was Sean Burnett. What about Clip and Storen? 7.73 and 11.12, respectively.
SPRING TRAINING STATS ARE MEANINGLESS. They should know right now what they are going to do with Bryce and they should announce it. It should be minor leagues, but if it's majors so be it. Just don't let it be because he has 4 homers in Viera.
*This may seem contrary to what I've said in earlier posts say... about being mad CF is still a mess, or Desmond might lead off, because it might cost the Nats a win. But I don't see those things as questions. You aren't potentially solving anything keeping CF a mess. Desmond has never shown himself to be decent as a lead-off hitter. This isn't taking a bad gamble, this is wasting time. That's never a good idea.