Young - cut
Carroll - cut
Moore - sent down
Kobernus - sent down
Leon - sent down
Mattheus - sent down
Cedeno - sent down
Frandsen - signed
This means along with the expected McLouth and Lobaton bench players, the bench is Espinosa, Hairston, and Fransden. Aaron Barrett earns the last role in the pen. The winner of Roark/Jordan starts, the loser goes down. No long relief role available.
Why Aaron Barrett? He pitched very well in 2012 (A-ball) and 2013 (AA-ball), combining to put up a an ERA around 2.10. While the 2.5 ish BB rate in the minors might translate into something in the majors just a smidge higher that you might like, the 12.5 ish K-rate makes up for it. He also doesn't give up a lot of HRs (9 in 150 minor league innings). In short, he looks like a decent reliever, he pitched well in spring, and with Detwiler pushed the the pen they didn't NEED another lefty. They could roll with Barrett. It's a shame for Ryan Mattheus, who also looked good in spring and had good 2011-2012 seasons in the majors, but he's a 30 year old about to hit arbitration eligibility. He's not long for this team.
Why Kevin "It should be Fransden" Frandsen? Why indeed. Outside of what appears to be a fluke 2012, he's been below average at the plate. He does hit LHP better historically and last season, but so does Hairston, and Espinosa. Lobaton was better batting L vs RHP last year, but historically falls with Hairston and Espinosa. Frandsen's defense is also nothing special so it's really less about him and more about the other choices Rizzo left himself. Jamey Carroll is 1000 years old and was terrible at the plate last year. Maybe he has a decent year or two in the field left in him, but if not he's probably worthless. Jeff Kobernus' primary talent is speed which made him a very useful pinch runner and gave him good range at 2nd, but he's a singly Joe in the model of Lombo, who needs to hit for average to be useful, really zero pop.
Rizzo looked at the choices and though Frandsen was slightly better. I disagree but not strongly enough to care.
Why do I disagree? Let's see how the Nats bench covers the ideal bench construction parameters :
- Every position covered - No. There's no real 1st baseman back-up. You could argue Zimm is being groomed but right now Frandsen (40G at first in 2013, 4 before then) is the most experienced choice. And I'd argue there's not a CF back-up either as McLouth really can't handle that position.
- L/R balance - Not Really. Technically you do with Espinosa and Lobaton being switch hitters, but managers hate using the back-up catcher to hit (which is why Leon was cut so late) and Espinosa was never a good LHB. So it's pretty much McLouth and pray it doesn't come up again.
- D replacement IF - Yes. Danny is good regardless of how his hitting is doing, and frankly the starters are pretty good themselves so this isn't the most pressing issue. Still good to have in case Rendon doesn't quite get it like we all think he will.
- D replacement OF - Eh. McLouth is good enough in the corner to replace Werth late if he continues to decline, but he's not really good, you know?
- Pinch runner? Good enough. McLouth is good, Danny is ok.
- Pop? Hairston, if he's still got it, is good vs LHP. The rest are all ok assuming Espy can hit, but as noted above it's really vs LHP we're talking about.
What really comes through is the "everyone can take a pitch deep" bench. No, they aren't necessarily likely to do it, but with no Carroll or Kobernus, no more Lombo, you really cut out the guys who were no threat at all. That's where I think Rizzo's strategy lies in constructing this bench. His eggs are in the "pop" basket. Unfortunately I don't think the "pop" here is enough and I think it's of limited value since RHP can pretty much kill it.
It's not a bad bench. It's a better bench than last year. Is it a good bench? Probably not but even good teams have hard times making good benches. Lobaton alone probably bumps the Nats up to "fair" and if the team is healthy, that should be enough. If it's not healthy? Well Rizzo can hopefully deal with that when he needs to.