- Rendon bangs his knee
- Yuney Escobar gets shut down for 7-10 days
- Werth has off-season surgery and likely won't be ready for Opening Day
- Span had his second surgery of the off-season and will probably miss months.
I wouldn't exactly say they are "piling up" and as of right now there's no reason to believe the season has come off the rails (or even had to slow down because a cow wandered on the track), but the more injuries that we see now, the closer the Nats come to the point where the next one will matter in terms of playoffs or not. They've lost some cushion. That's something.
Here is my completely official ranking of the players in terms of who they can and can't afford to lose to injury.
#1 Rendon - Rendon showed himself to be an MVP caliber player in 2014, but just as important he plays a position where the Nats have no clear back-up. Perhaps a Trea Turner or Wilmer Difo could shift positions but we're not sure when these guys will be ready to contribute, let alone hoping them to do it this year while learning a new position. An injury to Rendon would almost certainly mean then a lot more Kevin Frandsen and stupid questions about Zimmerman moving back. Shudder.
#2 Desmond - All that back-up stuff I just said about Rendon applies to Desmond too, but Turner wouldn't have to change positions and let's face it, Ian ain't Anthony with the bat. But while it's not as big a loss, Desmond down would take away a big power bat and would probably mean Espinosa at 2nd and Yuney at shortstop. Given Escobar's sudden aging in 2014, this is an iffy situation at best.
#3 Span - Uh oh! Why does Span rank above his outfield compatriots? Because Span is the keystone here. It's his great defense that is needed to compensate for Bryce's lack of instincts and Werth's calcification. It's his decent offense that makes him a positive rather than a necessary neutral. It's his existence as a speedy CF that lets Matt put him at the top of the line-up, a spot that seemed to create constant unecessary headaches for managers and fans. Taylor might be able to get the defense down but they aren't high on him providing the offense, at least not in 2015. If he isn't hitting then he's not batting first which means... oh god, not this again.
#4 Bryce - Losing either corner OF would be bad news as the back-up plans are questionable. The hope is Nate McLouth will bounce back but he's rehabbing from off-season surgery (you know how it is - one guy gets it they all have to) after him... Michael Taylor? Mike Carp? Tyler Moore? Jeff Kobernus? Or the most likely scenario... Frandsen. There are lots of solutions here so there are better chances of finding one that works but still there's likely a lot of crap to sort through. Why Bryce over Werth? I expect about the same total production from both so it comes down to Bryce being the lefty power bat in a line-up with no other lefty power bats (and with Span down for a while no other lefty)
#5 Werth - See the above. Werth may rank behind Span and Bryce but he could (should?) still be the best bat on the team so he's still indispensible, just not as indispensible to me.
The Big Problems
#6 Storen - "What? I don't care about Storen! The guy's a choker and relief pitchers are a dime a dozen!" Sure I feel you. Now think about what would happen if Storen goes down. I'll wait.
Ugly ain't it? As much as we'd like to believe that the Nats are going to use a lack of guys in defined roles to maximize bullpen leverage the truth is they are going to fiddle with three or four guys until they find 7th and 8th innings guys because that's how baseball is. They should be able to do this but who knows how long it will take? Add one more hole to the mix and how won't it take up half the season at least. And the whole "closer" thing?
#7 Zimmerman - We like to think a Zimm renaissance is just around the corner but more likely he'll hit like .275 and have 23 homers and play pretty good first base. That's good. But that's not indispensibly good especially at first. The same guys that could take over at corner OF could take over at first, and probably play it better. Plus you could also move Werth there.
#8-#10 ZNN/Max/Stras - Any order you like. I don't love Roark as much as most guys but it's clear he's a pretty good guy to have sitting out there as your 6th man. So losing a pitcher isn't as big a deal to the Nats as it is for most teams. Still ZNN/Max/Stras aren't ordinary pitchers, they're among the best and losing them will hurt unless you have a Top 20 guy to replace him. Despite Roark's 2014 I don't see him as that.
The We'd Rather Nots
#11 Gio - Gio isn't in the ZNN/Max/Stras category, he seems to be getting a bit older and losing some stuff, but he is the only lefty arm on the staff and among the possible replacements as well. You lose an aspect of the team if Gio goes down that they can't replace.
#12 Ramos - This is less about Ramos than the chain of events losing him would set off. I expect Ramos will get injured. And here's a secret - Ramos hasn't hit all that well either. He is kind of replaceable. But catchers are hard to come by and losing Ramos makes Lobaton the starter (don't want) and Leon/Solano the back-ups (really don't want).
The Well Whatevers
#13 Fister - Roark is pretty much just as good in my eyes. Hey, my list. I don't think the Nats miss a beat if Fister goes down. The only reason I'd care is that it takes away the pitching safety net in case there is another injury.
#14 Escobar - The last regular, I don't think much of Escobar. His shoulder might have been the reason he couldn't hit or field last year. Maybe. But why couldn't he run either? I mean he's never been great but he basically was a statue last year. I think he's a marginal player who at 31 can no longer get over nicks and dings which hey, he's still getting. He'll likely be below average but could be terrible. So if he goes down and slick fielding pop-master every third AB strikeout Espinosa takes over. Eh. Don't really care.
The Other One that Matters
#15 Lobaton - Even if Ramos is healthy he's not playing 154. So the back-up catcher will get a non ignorable amount of plate appearances. Do you remember how bad Leon and Solano were? Lobaton didn't have a good 2014 but you still rather have him in this position than those two.