Nationals Baseball: Wednesday Slowie

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wednesday Slowie

It does end up being Belisle. This isn't really surprising considering (1) Belisle is a veteran with some recent success, (2) Belisle pitched for Dusty in Cincinnati, and most importantly (3) the Nats can move Gott and Treinen down to AAA. They can't do that with Belisle (or at least Matt had an opt out he'd likely have taken if they were going to do that). It's a safe move allowing them to test out Belisle first then move onto others if he or someone else fails or gets injured. It wouldn't have worked in reverse.

Will Sean Burnett get the same treatment? Probably. While he never pitched for Dusty, he's had more consistent success albiet not recently due to injury. Most importantly again, he has an opt-out on April 1st. The Nats can keep him, try him out, and put Gott and Treinen in storage in Syracuse. Unless Burnett agrees (or they lie to him) they can't do that to him because he'll opt-out first (and someone will grab him).

I thought Belisle's iffy spring and age, added to the want to go with Gott and Treinen, would have forced him out. I was wrong there. I can't imagine a younger, likely better, and lefty arm doesn't also win over those two.

I'm still going with Heisey for the final bench spot.

Opening Day Questions :

Do the Nats really have any? Yes, but none feel particularly pressing right now, especially in comparison to last year's "Oh three regulars are going to start the season injured" issue.
  • Boz took on the fair question about the bullpen. It should be better, but because they didn't add any specifically great arms during the off-season we can only say "should". Along with the how will they do, what will they do is also a question. Who is the set-up guy? Will there be a 7th inning guy? Seems like Rivero - Kelley - Papelbon is likely but we'll see if Dusty sticks to that with veterans like Belisle and maybe Burnett on the roster.
  • Zimmerman, Werth, and Rendon all had no issues playing this spring. That changes the injury question from one of presence to one of production. None of these three's spring warrants anything more than a "keep an eye on it" as the season starts. 
  • A deeper look at production is probably warranted for Danny Espinosa, who is hitting .133 / .235 / .233 so far. That might be ignorable if not for the fact he hit .206 / .259 / .346 in the 2nd half of 2015 and .219 / .283 / .351 the year before that. If he fails do the Nats turn to Trea Turner, who they'd like to keep in the minors for a couple months both to get some work in and to work his service time? Or do they tough it out with Stephen Drew?
  • The playing time for MAT is of interest as well. MAT was bad last year, but given his age the Nats are hoping with a year under his belt he can turn a corner. He seemed to be doing that in the spring (.455 / .500 / .841).  A strict platoon with Revere was the most likely scenario early in the spring but it now seems like MAT should get as many at bats as possible. An easy solution to get MAT another start a week would be to use him to rest Werth as well, but Werth may not be happy about that plan.
  • Can Wilson Ramos turn it around? Ramos and Lobaton combined to give the Nats one of the worst hitting catching situations in the majors last year.  Ramos got LASIK and seems better but the slate is cleaned come day one. If he can't then there's good reason to believe the Nats will seek a catching upgrade at some point in 2016.
  • A sneaky question will be how the defense on the right side of the field ends up being. Daniel Murphy has worked on his D but has never been known as a slick fielder, and Werth can't be considered anything other than a detriment in right. (Yes Werth is a fixture, in more ways than one, in left - my bad) Zimmerman, it was thought, might be able to cover a bit for the two him, but if he's slowed at all by his foot injuries this could become an issue. 
Other questions are either more philosophical (how will Dusty do? can the team really rally around Papelbon?) or require unexpected issues to arise early to bring them to the fore (who's first in line for starting pitching depth?). Discuss them at your leisure.

The spring is nearing its end and it was almost a perfect one for the Nats. The spring didn't bring in any new questions. There were no injuries, no surprisingly bad performances by key players. All of the questions above were questions before the spring as well and I'd say that only one, the "can Espinosa hit well enough" question, feels more worrisome today than on March 1st. That's about as good as you can hope for, I think.


Chinatown Express said...

On the Effectively Wild podcast last week, Chelsea Janes claimed that Papelbon is a clubhouse leader. Like, she said that unironically. So maybe he is? Even though these guys are on TV 6 days a week, we really have no idea what their workplace dynamic is. If Papelbon has problems, they seem like to be production based, not personnel based.

Stephen Drew had a good spring. Maybe he'll still look good enough to spend six weeks at starting SS if Espi is legit bad. Selfishly, I'd like to see the Nats manipulate Turner's service time enough to get them another year of control. I don't care about the Super 2 deadline, but obviously the Lerners and Rizzo do.

MAT should play as much as possible. I have no reason to believe Ben Revere is the more valuable option in CF. At the very least, MAT should be subbed into CF in the 7th inning of every game in which we have a lead, either replacing BR or moving BR to left to replace Werth.

Dmitri Young said...

On the Tony Kornheiser Show this morning, Chelsea Janes said that Turner being sent down had nothing to do with "contract issues" or money but rather the Nats were just making a baseball decision, waiting for Turner to show he is ready for the majors. No mention of service time considerations.

I think it's more likely that she is taking the Boz path of saying what the team wants her to say than she was that far off the truth about Turner.

Bjd1207 said...

Wait you think we roll into the season with 4 lefties in the pen? Also we might bring in 2 more and send Ross to AAA for a start with this 4 man rotation they're talking about for the first week and a half.

@C-Ex - No reason to believe he's more valuable than MAT? How about his track record the last 4 seasons as a 2 WAR player?

1natsfan said...

Espinosa is merely a place holder. I view him as a upgrade over Desmond in the field and equal to Desmond's performance at the plate last year. Think of Espinosa as a throw back to when short stop was an all glove/no stick position. The only way I see him getting benched is if he really screws it up in the field. As soon as Turner is ready, Espinosa is done.

Harper said...

CXP - I imagine that Papelbon is a presence in the clubhouse and absent any real leadership that's taken for leadership.

I agree, picking up someone that wouldn't obviously take his spot everyday was a half-step not a full one (but it helps depth and it unloaded storen -so you do make the deal)

DY - according to what I've heard, Turner's play was questionable enough that the Nats story can play. Still I would have never said it had nothing to do with the contract when you have middling guys at 2B right now and the Nats obviously benefit service time wise with him down

BJD - 4? Rivero, Perez, Burnett... ? Did Matt Grace hide in the luggage? Have you demoted Gio? What am I missing?

1natsfan - I agree they want him to stick until Turner is ready but the no hit SS is a much rarer breed now. I think he can stick if the Nats score and win. Any trouble with that and hit struggles will become a replaceable issue.

Mythra said...

Espinosa plays until the control date for Turner rolls over. They started with the same plan in 2012 with Bryce, until injuries forced their hand.

Danny will never be an above average MLB hitter. Word amongst scouts/manager types was that he was hard to coach for extended periods of time. If he hasn't taken instruction by now, he'll likely not change. Rent him until Turner can be called up and cut him loose.

Surprised at Belisle, but Harper's logic is sound. If he fails, call up someone from the Syracuse Stash.

Bjd1207 said...

Ha, TIL that Belisle is a righty. I'll see myself out

Harper said...

BJD - who would make a dumb mistake like confusing left and right?! Only an idiot! I mean in the comments, obviously in a blog post it's completely undertandable if not expected.

Donald said...

I know it's water under the bridge, but I'm still a little aggravated by the Nat's use of Turner last year. Why did they call him up for so long and then barely use him? It probably won't matter too much in the long run, but if he's only going to Syracuse to extend his clock, they wouldn't have to wait nearly as long if they had called him up much later last year. And if he's going to Syracuse because what he really needs is more time in the minors playing every day, then why take him away from that last year? If they called him up last year to see how he would handle the majors or to give the team a needed spark then why park him on the bench most of the time? It seems like they could have thought things out better and if Rizzo and Williams weren't on the same page on how to use him, they should have settled it before calling him up.

Bryceroni said...

This X 100. The nats are not in a situation where they can afford to put their second best team on the field and yet that's exactly what they're doing.

Mythra said...

While I agree with the statement about the odd use of Turner last season, I don't agree with the 2nd best team argument until the team has played a few games that count. Keep in mind, that when Turner did play, he wasn't exactly hitting well. His speed cannot be topped, and his defense is average to plus. No argument there. He's hit in the minors, but that hasn't translated to MLB success, YET.

Offensively, Danny had a better slash line. Granted, Trea had a small sample size, and wasn't used by Matt Williams in any sane sort of way. But to say Trea is better than Danny, I can only agree on potential upside.

Defensively, Danny is better. Turner might get to a plus defender, but Danny is still tops with the glove.

Speed and upside still go to Trea. Danny is not going to drastically improve. Trea is still learning and not yet to peak performance.

Revere vs MAT 2nd best team.

MAT has upside on raw potential, defense and power. Revere hits for average, and is a leadoff, on-base guy. It's a wash on speed.
I agree that giving MAT a chance to start 1-2 times a week by sitting Werth or Revere makes sense. He's a hot hand now. Play him until he isn't.

Back to my favorite word, "IF". If Revere starts off 1 for 50 and Trea hits .400 in Syracuse, my points are really off base.I will gladly concede the point if that happens and hope Rizzo gets Dusty to put the kids in to play. I -want- MAT and Turner to be All-Stars. I really do.

Flapjack said...

A word in Danny's defense (no pun): If you start him every day, maybe you get the 800+ OPS guy you saw in the first half of 2015. If you bring him off the bench, well... Better to trade him now if he's on a short leash. A long leash takes you into June.

Ryan DC said...

I am SHOCKED that Harper is looking at spring training numbers to argue that MAT has turned a corner offensively. In that small a sample size, the only stats that stabilize quickly enough to have more than a coin flip chance at being meaningful are plate discipline related, and guess what: 14 Ks in 48 at bats (against 4 walks) does not suggest that MAT has solved his contact issues. Unless he is hitting a home run every 20 at bats or taking a lot of bases on balls, that kind of K rate is not going to play as a starter. We might be better off giving him a few months at Syracuse to work on bringing down the strikeouts, but we don't have any other decent defensive outfielders so he's stuck trying to figure it out getting one or two starts a week against big league pitching. Until he can demonstrate better plate discipline, maximizing his plate appearances at the major league level is very risky.

Bjd1207 said...

@Ryan DC - Well believe it or not both the K% and BB% are trending the right direction for Michael compared to last year. He's at 27% K rate and 7.6% BB rate in Spring Training, compared to 30.1%/6.8% last year.

And the other thing that stabilizes quicker is ISO, and Taylor is averaging well over 1 HR per 20 AB's.

I'm not saying the ST stats should be taken into account any more than you're saying. But if they ARE taken into account, he is moving in the right direction.

Harper said...

RyanDC - I didn't mean to say that but I can see why you got that. I was tying together two separate points but didn't do a good job clarifying that. (1) MAT should have as many at bats as possible. I said in October I liked MAT over Span bc I knew MAT could cover for Werth in the OF and MAT deserves another season to see if he's adapted. I also said the Nats could improve by replacing MAT with a very good OF. However, I've further said - Revere ain't that. If it were up to me, MAT would be the starter and Revere the 4th OF. (2) MAT is hitting well in spring. That doesn't matter as far as stat analysis, or at least it only matters as 4 weeks of spurious data can go. I've basically put that as confirming/denying previous thinking (so in this case if you liked MAT turning a corner this helps your argument... a little) and "breaking ties" (so if you didn't really go one way or other on MAT vs Revere - might as well use these stats). Really it's not the stats as much as the scouts that matter and I'm not there scouting.

I'm not arguing MAT turned a corner. I'm arguing that the spring makes it even harder for Revere-ophiles to say Revere should play the bulk of games at MATs expense. You can argue that's wrong because the spring shouldn't matter, and things shouldn't have changed. That's reasonable, if not very realistic given what we know about how baseball reacts to spring numbers. However, for me, given that I already wanted MAT to start the bulk of games, it gives me something else to point to along with his power, his defense, his age, and what he means for the future of the Nats.

Ryan DC said...

@Harper - I guess if you're saying that you would rather let MAT play himself out of a starting spot (or not, hopefully) than have him force himself into one, then I can sort of agree with that. The risk is that you give him too many at bats without his performance improving and all of a sudden you've let half the season go by with one of the worst hitters in baseball getting regular plate appearances. Revere is not a great hitter, but he was still about 30% better than Taylor was last season--roughly the same difference between Manny Machado and Asdrubal Cabrera. Given where the Nats are on the win curve, I'm not sure betting on Taylor to dramatically improve in the space of one season would be a gamble worth making.