Nationals Baseball: Span-ning the Globe

Friday, November 30, 2012

Span-ning the Globe

Why not just keep Bryce in center?

You could say that they thought his body type wasn't made for CF as he filled out, or that they wanted to save his legs but I think it comes down to the fact that it didn't seem like he had the instincts to play CF. He made up for that as best he could through his natural ability, and actually had a decent year in center according to the stats, but the same stats had him below average in RF.

Would he have gotten better over time?  I guess, but this more of a scouting decision and I think they wanted a guy out there in the most important OF positions that they trusted to be a plus fielder.

So Span in center and Bryce over in LF?

Well... given the rocket mounted on Bryce's shoulder, it may make more sense to move him to right in order to cut down on those first to third runners and let Werth play LF.  I'd expect that's the way it'll shake out.

How does Span compare to Bourn?  Upton?

He's not the transcendent fielder that Bourn has been recently, but he's good, better than Upton.

Offensively he's a pretty big question mark. In 2005 and 6 it looked like he might be a star.  His line was .305 / .390 / .422 over that period and at 24 and 25 you thought he still had another step or two to take. But in the past three years he hasn't looked nearly as strong.  2011 can be forgiven as injury riddled, but 2010's .264 / .331 / .348 did happen. Last year he was a bit above average.

Who's the real Denard? If I were to guess I'd say something not quite as good as last year, something very average. In other words, not as good as Upton, who's power makes him special, but about the same as Bourn.

Some more facts

Span can run but outside of an awesome 2010, he steals bases at a low 70s% clip. That's good but not great or anything.

Span hits a TON of grounballs. He was 11th in the league in 2012, 9th in 2010. He also doesn't strike out or walk very often. He is completely a leg it out type of player, but it does mean he'll hit into a few more DPs than you might expect. This is something that might be an issue down the line but not something I'd worry about in the next couple of years.

If you ARE looking to be worried about something, Span's stats away from Minnesota have been dreadful the past few years.

2010 : .228 / .293 / .309
2012 :  .235 / .278 / .315

I can't really explain the drop in average but having even less power is in part because Target Field seems to be pretty good for allowing triples. Nationals Park seems not to be, so don't expect a SLG over .400. 

Injury riddled?

Yeah most of 2011 was lost because of a concussion issue.  Seemed fine in 2012 though.

OK so even though it's not a big difference, a smidge really, he's likely not as good as Bourn or Upton. Why him and not them?

Both Upton and Bourn would have required 5 year commitments at about 15 mill a year.  Span can be let go after 2 years and he's a LOT cheaper (~5Mill next, 6.5 in 2014).  This fits into the Nats plan that (1) Goodwin will be their CF of the future and (2) the Nats will have money free starting in 2015 to start signing the guys they want out of Desmond, ZNN, Stras, Gio etc..
So are the Nats better now?

For old timey baseball guys definitely.  You'll hear a lot about how they have a "true lead-off guy" etc etc.  They'll love it just because it's what they've been told for 100 years a team should look like.  Of course just last year the Nats won 98 games with Werth at leadoff but the crushing force of reality can take time to seep in.

For us soulless automatons... well, it depends on if they sign LaRoche and trade Morse or let Adam walk and move Morse. The OF defense is going to be better. If Morse stays, the first base defense takes a hit though and if you just look at last years stats, losing LaRoche would matter much more than losing Morse.  So I'd say if the Nats end up with Morse at first then they'd be ever so slightly worse, if they end up with LaRoche they'd be ever so slightly better.

Really, though, I don't think it's that big a deal from what it means on the field. Really what it's about is it gives the Nats freedom now and later to make big money deals they may want to make.

What about Meyer?

Oh he's good.  You know when someone is drafted and they say "Best case, he develops in way X"?  That's what Meyer has been doing.  The issues people have had with him are mainly control based and he's looked pretty good with that issue in A-ball.  He also handled the minor promotion from A to A+ easily.  (Minor league stats here) He's a ground ball guy which keeps the home runs down.  He's not the best minor league arm out there but he's sitting around #30 right now, and a good showing in AA would kick him up fast.

Side note the Nats farm is pretty bereft of young healthy arms now.  Everyone else is either not a big time prospect (Rosenbaum) or coming back from injury (Solis, Purke, Giolito). 

If he was that good why did the Nats deal him?

Because the top 4 pitchers are set until 2015 barring injury.  Zimmermann and Detwiler are both here through 2015. Strasburg through 2016.  Gio potentially through 2018 if the Nats want him that long. Gio is the oldest of the group and he won't turn 28 until late next season. You have to figure the injury risk near-term is slight.

That means there is plenty of time to develop, or trade for, or sign another stud pitcher if you think the Nats need one.  Meyer was a damn good prospect, but an A-ball pitcher is expendable when you have this type or rotation in the majors.

What's next for the Nats?

See if they can get LaRoche to take a 2-year deal and if they can then trade Morse + whatever for a decent 5th pitcher. Really we're all still waiting out Josh Hamilton right now as he'll cause a bunch of dominoes to fall.


DCNatty said...

so you seem indifferent about the trade?

only thing i disagree with you on is Span dropping a bit this year. Id say he stays the same or ups production a bit. Hes further removed from the concussion year, and hes not playing for the Twins. Who are Horrible.

Harper said...

DCNatty - if for some reason this is all they do - Bring in Span, let LaRoche go, then sign some blah pitcher for the next 2 years to be #5 then yeah - I'm indifferent.

You did see those H/R splits right? His "power" is going to drop so he may hit .295 and get on base at a .350 clip but his lack of pop is going to keep him from making a big jump up (or at least that's what the initial glance tells me)

Harper said...

I like it as part of a combination of things... assuming those things happen

LetsGoNats said...

I agree with you Harper but one thing you didnt mention was his salary. The reason I like this trade is because of how cheap they got there cf piece. Yes they traded Meyers but they are paying span 11 million over two years. That is cheap compared to anyone else available. But saving money is only helpful if they use it somewhere else like by resigning LaRoche or getting a plus fifth starter.

Donald said...

While I kind of agree that we don't need a prototypical lead-off guy, being able to move Werth and Harper down in the batting order should help their production too, no? I'd like to see Harper bat clean up. If runners are on in front of him, he takes advantage of his power. If he's leading off the inning, he can still bunt his way on if he feels like it.

Froggy said...

I know there are a lot of Bernadina haters out there, but don't the fielding stats show that he played well defensively? He has speed and power and seems to hit the ball more in the air than Span. Not sure what about Span should have me all excited, other than the change to chemistry maybe.

As for LaRoche, I think this situation isn't going to get all of a sudden better and he ends up walking. I'm not worried about Morse at 1st. Yeah, we lose some of that GG insurance Adam gave, but if Zimmerman's shoulder recovers from surgery, then maybe we don't need it next year.

Worse case, you shop Morse before the AB.

cass said...

So we should expect an average bat and an above average glove for a slightly-above-average player overall?

I must admit I thought Harper was great in center, but this should be good for him long term as getting out of center will put less wear and tear on his legs.

Not sure Span's any better than Werth as a lead-off hitter (Werth on-based .387 last year), but having the two of them at the top of the lineup should give Harper, Zimm, and either Morse or LaRoche some runners to drive in.

At this point, I'll trust Rizzo's scouting instincts and note that it's nice to have another African American on the team.

Skippy said...

Realistically, do we lose anything by trading Morse for a number 4/5 starter? Tyler Moore could play first with little drop off by the numbers. In 2012, Morse had 18 home runs in 406 at bats or approximately 100 full-time games. Moore had 10 home runs in 156 at bats or approximately 40 full-time games. I know Morse was dealing with his wrist issue for a good part of last year but his career high was in 2011 when he hit 31. Moore, granted in a small sample set, could potently hit 40 based on last years numbers. Do I think he would ever hit 40? No. Let's remember that he hit 31 HRs in A+, 31 HRs in AA, and 9 HRs in AAA in only 29 games. But could he hit 30 squeezed between Desmond and Espinsona? Possibly. And we gain a true fielding first baseman. I wished he was lefthanded for multiple reasons, but he's not...and neither is Morse. Oh, and did I mention, we have club control until 2019!

JWLumley said...

They essentially just traded for Bourn, but he's a lot and I mean a lot cheaper and younger too. Also, you have to take the concussion issues into affect both good and bad. Yes, he's more likely to have something pop up from that in the future, but there is an obvious reason for his somewhat decline in 2011 and 2012, so there's some real upside.

The reason I like this trade is the way that DJ seems to have been able to help young hitters throughout his career. I'm not expecting Span to turn into Ichiro, but in CF, but I think he should continue to be a 3-4 WAR player and that's a pretty good thing.

Also, comparing LaRoche's 2012 numbers to Morse's 2012 numbers and expecting their 2013 numbers to play out in anything close to a similar fashion is just silly.

Harper said...

LGN - It was in there (~5, 6.5) You're last sentence is the key though. Saving $ here only matters if they spend it somewhere else

Donald - Not enough that it matters, but you know what. We all think it should be one way and it makes no difference really, so I don't have a huge problem with saying let's just do it the way we want.

Froggy - He's an good LF and can hang in CF if need be. His power is not that much better than Span and last year he was helped alot by a career high .359 BABIP.

If you think he's turned the corner as a hitter (he DID hit more Line Drives) and you think Bryce could be good in CF then, yes Span adds little, but most people, including people in the Nats org, don't believe either.

I'm not terribly worried with Morse's fielding. More worried where Adam's production will come from (though it might not have even come from him in 2013)

cass - In Rizzo we trust. (

Skippy - It's not the power we worry about it's the average. He only broke .258 in one month (he hit .421) Best guess for 2013 he's likely to be a .230-.240 kind of hitter. yeah he could hit 30 home runs still because the power is legit but...wait what was the point? Oh yeah... with Morse you have a chance of a killer year, with Moore you have a chance of a terrible one. Most likely you'd lose a little going from Morse to Moore but like you say with that power it wouldn't be a HUGE loss. but people are thinking about 2012 in their comparisons and that leave LaRoche's big season as the one to fill.

Pig Pen - about ALR and MM numbers, it's not that we are sure they'll hit that good next year, it's trying to recreating the team that was. How do we recreate those offensive numbers that won 98 games? It could come from Morse, or LaRoche, it's not coming from Span.

bdrube said...

Okay, I'll make a fearless prediction: Morse for Matt Garza, the other guy Rizzo was Jonezing for two years ago. Fifth starter problem solved, assuming Garza passes his physical. As for the Cubs, they'd get a guy relatively cheaply who will be fun for their fans to watch for a year as they try to rebuild.

bdrube said...

Oops--I should have added that the Cubs can trade Morse at the deadline just as easily as they could Garza.

cass said...


Yeah, in Rizzo we trust. At least to some degree.

He's earned it after last year. I was skeptical that Gio would be worth the prospects we gave up for him, but Rizzo correctly saw his potential. Rizzo and others in the org kept saying that Desmond would be a star even while most of us fans and saber types preferred Espinosa and saw Desmond's ceiling as an average SS at. I thought LaRoche was washed up while Rizzo had faith he'd bounce back after last season. Rizzo has also built a good farm system, much of it used to acquire key pieces via trade.

Just saying that after the last couple of years, I've learned that sometimes Rizzo seems to see things with his scouting knowledge that I might miss just looking at the stats. He makes mistakes sometimes, sure. But he seems to be good at what he does, so I'll give him a small benefit of the doubt, especially with a deal that seems like it could go either way.

Tl;dr: Yeah, I think Rizzo is a good GM.

Donald said...

Last year's opening day's line-up was:
Desmond - SS
Espinosa - 2B
Zimmerman - 3B
LaRoche - 1B
Werth - RF
DeRosa - LF
Bernadina - CF
Ramos - C

Clearly, we should be starting 2013 with a better line-up than that.

But the playoff line-up at the end of the season was:
Werth - RF
Harper - CF
Zimmerman - 3B
LaRoche - 1B
Morse - LF
Desmond - SS
Espinosa - 2B
Suzuki - C

If we're trying to see how the 2013 team stacks up to 2012, which 2012 version is the right comparison?

In any case, I think a line up of:
Span - CF
Werth - LF
Zimmerman - 3B
Harper - RF
LaRoche 1B
Desmond - SS
Espinosa - 2B
Ramos/Suzuki - C

is as strong defensively and offensively as almost any in the NL.

JWLumley said...

Harper - I get what you're saying now, but I think you might want to reframe that and say it's about creating the same run differential. Span is a really good defensive CF, maybe as good as Bourn. He's going to really improve the team's run prevention not just himself, but also in that it will allow Harper to move to RF and Werth in LF, that's some range for a flyball/strikeout staff. If, and I understand it's a big IF, Morse can stay healthy I expect his 2013 numbers to be better than ALR's.

BlueLoneWolf said...

I hate trading away young arms for slightly above average if not just average players. Only thing is that this move portends more moves. If they stick with Morse, they'll have payroll cash to spend on a bigger pitcher. Stick with LaRoche, and you've got trading possibilities. A package of stuff might get a pitcher or a bigger-time player elsewhere. Rizzo likely was trying to make himself more ready for when the other dominoes fall, as you said. Right now it's between Hamilton and Grienke for the first to fall.

Harper said...

bdrube - I don't see the Cubs doing that. but hey, dare to dream

cass - sorry, that's not a sad face. it's just a stray parenthesis. I do think Rizzo has earned the benefit of any doubt.

Donald - yeah it is that good. Exciting times, eh?

PP - you're right. I will say that defensive stats vary a bit too much to depend on them on any single year but over two years, well I'd expect no worse than a equal run differential

BLW - I generally don't like it either but the Nats are a team ready to win now. That changes everyhting

Nattydread said...

More than anything, I like the way Rizzo was proactive in this trade. After (mouthpiece??? ha!) Boswell quotes him as saying he's fine standing pat, he TRADES a better deal at CF than FA Upton or Bourne.

And, he puts pressure on LaRoche:"We have options now." No negative message, simply stone-faced poker. "We'll do it with or without you, Adam".

Good cop Johnson asks Laroche to "bring his pen" to the charity golf tournament. Classic.

All this to set up more deals during the winter meeting.

Skippy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Skippy said...

Harper, you stated that Moore only hit better than .258 in one month. However, his record shows he generally hits better than that when he plays everyday. At Syracuse he batted .307, and .270 at Harrisburg...where was the primary bat in the order. He should be able to hit .275 consistently while still providing power if playing everyday at the major league level.