Nationals Baseball: Offseason Position Discussion : First Base

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Offseason Position Discussion : First Base

Presumed Plan : Adam LaRoche will continue to be the starter at first base.  Tyler Moore will likely take up the primary back-up role, fitting in somewhere between a true back-up and a platoon.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Adam Laroche had an off year but offensively it wasn't as horrible as it seemed. A marked increase in OBP (.095 isoOBP) helped offset a big drop in SLG (isoSLG .239 to .166). He still hit righties for ok pop and with a return to career level BABIP he should put up a more typical unimpressive LaRochesque year in 2014, which not coincidentally he is being paid 12 million for.

Tyler Moore has proven over the last 2 years that he does not belong in AAA, putting up a .315 / .390 / .620 line over the course of two seasons. His right handedness complements LaRoche well and he can provide cheap late inning pop off the bench. 

Problems with Presumed Plan :  Adam LaRoche overall did have a horrible year. His mid career defensive renaissance has passed and once again he's a statue, albeit one with soft hands*. He continues to be surprisingly slow in general. Offensively there are problems too. His slumps seem to be getting longer, not only did he open with his typical slow start (.159 / .227 / .284) but his July (.136 / .213 / .259) was a big reason the complete team took a month to get going. His power drop is concerning as he was well below his career isoSLG of .210. He's almost a punch and judy hitter versus lefties now, "slugging" at a .336 rate.

Of course the alternative, Tyler Moore, has bigger issues. Those impressive AAA line have come in fairly limited play (29 games last year, 45 this year) and his major league performances have been less than impressive. After June of last year he's hit all of .220 with an unacceptable .265 OBP.  While he has shown some pop in the past, this season he has not. Even in his hot stretch at the end he only hit 1 home run and a few doubles. And as you probably know, he doesn't offer anything else to a ball club outside of what he does at the plate.

My take : Basically the Nats are stuck as there is a dearth of first basemen on the market. I look at it and throw up my hands. Adam LaRoche is the starter. Hope he bounces back next year rather than crashes out. Honestly though he should be just ok and we should all just be happy we get that.

Is Tyler Moore the back-up? Not in my world. I've never liked what I've seen from the kid as he has no strike zone recognition. Now, I will note that he does seem to hit a lot better when he starts. I think he is a type that responds to playing time. So a platoon then? Well, if we're doing a strict platoon I would want Jeff Baker first. That guy kills lefties and plays a decent first. Failing that then I suppose you can TRY Moore, but with the very short leash that should have existed in 2013. I wouldn't be happy about that though. If you aren't platooning than Moore doesn't have much use on the bench, other than the fact that he indeed hits RH. I guess I might try a Lyle Overbay to back-up and provide some defensive help at the position. (but honestly can the Nats be convinced LaRoche hasn't got range and would need a late inning D replacement?) 

Outside the Box Suggestion :
I toyed with moving someone to first but LaRoche shouldn't be terrible next year so moving him to the bench rather than a dominant platoon position would only be worth it if you could sign someone really good in this move. I'm not sure there's anyone available that I'd think of like that. Maybe if you could get Hart or Choo for cheaper/fewer years than we think they'd go for you could try Werth at first (or Hart for that matter) but that's gonna have to wait until the market plays out (and how often do you see guys go for less than you think they will?) So platoon idea it is.

Platoon yes, but bring back Mike Morse to do it. Now hear me out. He might be terrible at the plate and he will almost certainly be terrible in the field but you are buying super low right now. We're talking near minor league contract levels after the crappy season he put up in 2013. Sign him for peanuts, for one year, and give it a go with him as LaRoche's platoon partner. Something about Morse and the Nats worked, maybe moving back here to a league he grew familiar with would help him find a spark. If it doesn't work out you cut him and whatever. As for Moore, see if he can put up those great AAA numbers in... you know... at least half a AAA season. If he does that than maybe he warrants a closer look.

*Danny Espinosa where are you! It's funny that Span came in, and played great defense but the team as a  whole crashed. Zimm played in and lost his range. LaRoche and Werth are aging out. Bryce looks more and more average the more time he spends out there. It was a team built with defense in mind but right now might only have two good defensive players. Luckily they are up the middle but still.


Anonymous said...

Probably a dumb idea, but what about a deal with the Twins for Doumit to provide switch hitting depth behind the plate, at first and in the OF.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, went back through previous posts and I missed the Doumit comment the other day... apparently not an original idea.

Chas R said...

Harper, I remember some posts about how to fix the LaRoche - 1B problem during the season. I think it was a consensus we are stuck with him, and it's really not that bad.

Did you see the reports about his ADD medication and the weight loss? I wonder how much that played into his bad year?

Although I am a big Michael Morse fan and would love to see him back in a platoon role with LaRoche, and some T-Mo fill-ins too... what do you think about going after that Jose Abreu kid?

Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

I would like to personally begin the "Bring back the Morse Horse!" campaign with you

Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

Oh and I agree the Doumit idea is not bad a bad idea at all imo. Very underrated hitter (albeit with defense leaving something to be desired, wherever you put him in the field)

Nattydread said...

First base for the Nats is a depressing topic.

How about Harper at first, and then add another serious bat in the outfield? No chance of hime running into walls at first. Dump LaRoche. To upgrade the Nats' hitting you've got to get rid of at least one streaky, slow-to-start, aging good-make-up guys. I don't want to hear about LaRoche with a .146 BA next May. Jeez. Can't carry that any more.

Bote Man said...

With (my) presumed manager-to-be Randy Knorr I think there will be less twiddling of thumbs while waiting for good things to happen and more "produce or you're gone" attitude.

IFF that all holds true, then experimenting with Morse wouldn't be a bad idea, but I think 2013 is closer to his true talent level at this point in his career.

I've lost count (because I haven't really counted) how many times a young "slugger" floundered when he came up to the majors, then suddenly found his stroke and became valuable. Could this be Moore? If so, when will he blossom? Do the Nats dump Moore only to watch him flourish with his next team? Do we give him another half season with not-Eckstein to see what he produces with more regular playing time?

My biggest hope is that whoever is implanted at 1B be able to catch more of Zim's errant throws across the diamond as long as his shoulder remains a question mark.

Donald said...

Here's an out of the box suggestion -- use the off-season to teach Zach Walters to play 1B and use him in place of Moore. As an infielder with a strong arm, he may end up being a better defensive 1B than Moore and should have more range than LaRoche. He'd also be on the roster to spell Desmond when needed.

The real question for the Nats though, is what to do about this position in 2015. There aren't any hot prospects in the minors that are likely to take over, so who do they get?

blovy8 said...

Yeah, I like the Doumit idea too as as a catching/OF depth move, but I noticed he hasn't played 1st much in the last several years. He's only making 3.5 million, so I assume that they'll have to give up a legitimate player for him, but last year's numbers maybe dropped his value back to an reasonable target.

I don't think we have a big enough sample to really know what Moore is on the ML level, he stopped hitting homers the last two months and hit for average, that doesn't seem like the same guy. Even so, I agree that he strikes out too much to have value unless his ISO is up over .200, since he's a lousy fielder. Hell, maybe the Twins can use him often enough to find out if he can be that guy - they're in a better position to try.

blovy8 said...

After LaRoche, the next guy in the pipeline was probably supposed to be Matt Skole, but the TJ surgery set him back in the plan. AA is a major hurdle for a prospect, and he just hasn't gotten that chance yet, so it does seem wide open for 2015 for a free agent/position move if they wanted to go in that direction.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm missing something, but why not slide Zimmerman over to first. The guy still has a great glove and certainly more range than the "statue" LaRoche. Also, Ryan's arm is not getting better and is now the weakest part of his game where it used to be a strength. He's had to change his throwing motion and he is now throwing pies. Stick him at first as his bat is still valuable. With this LaRoche would be more than tolerable as a back-up.
As for third base, go pick up a power bat or an OBP guy and keep Rendon at 2nd. If none are available look for a 2B guy with the same qualities (power or OBP) and move Rendon to 3rd. It's his natural position anyway. Thoughts?

As much as I'd love Cano here, he's asking way to much and whoever signs him to 10yrs, I pity them.

Chas R said...

I don't see the advantage to moving Zimm to 1B, then having to fill the hole at 3B. There are indications Zimm is coping much better with the surgery to his shoulder and the effect on his throwing. I wouldn't move him and have him learn a new position... yet. I think he still has at least a year left at 3B, and Rendon is progressing nicely at 2B.

I think to just platoon with LaRoche, either with T-Mo, an FA pick-up, or take a chance with the Abreu kid.

Anonymous said...

If possible, it's time for Rizzo to work his magic and see what prospects he can get for LaRoche. Then what? Well, Werth likely will be at 1B sooner or later, before his contract is up. Also, if Skole proves healthy in AZ, does he suddenly become an option for the big club?

As far as bringing in a slugger, either for OF or 1B, the Nats just don't have the trade chips to land a middle-of-the-order guy. The outside-the-box thought would be someone like Braun, who really needs a change of scenery--if the Nats could get him without dipping into the core. (Yes, he's a jerk, but . . .) A smaller deal would be to sign Choo (if he's not too overpriced) and move Werth to 1B.

I wouldn't be against bringing back the Beast on the (very) cheap, perhaps in the hope that Skole will be ready sooner or later (particularly since Morse never makes it a full season). I agree with Harper that Moore just isn't an everyday option for a contending club. Neither is Doumit.

Anonymous said...

Rizzo and Billy Beane team up again, preferably with a third team that would take LaRoche as part of the deal. The Nats pick up Josh Donaldson, then he and Zim flip a coin to see who goes to first (probably Donaldson, if Zim's arm is truly healthy). Beane also throws in Derrick Norris to fill the DC backup catcher hole. The Nats could include Skole in this deal as there would be no place for him at 1B or 3B for the foreseeable future.

Anonymous said...

Or make a strong push for Cano, and if they can work out a deal for him put Rendon at third, move Zim to first, and trade LaRoche to anyone who'll eat some of his salary.

Anonymous said...

Love the idea of getting Morse. Probably can get him fairly cheap on a 1-year deal. I actually liked his defense at 1B when he played there and a full offseason of training will help. Just promise to never let him in the OF.
Less OF will hopefully keep him healthy. His bat has the potential to be really good, as saw in 2011. If he fails it's not bad- Moore could do his job.

Anonymous said...

I would rather see long-term deals for Desi and Zmnn than selling the farm to buy Cano, or probably even Choo. ($100 mil for Choo? Really?)

By and large, this is a sorry free agent class. That might improve the Nats' chances at finding a team that would take LaRoche. At the same time, it makes it difficult to point to anyone who would come at a fair price who would be demonstrably better. Napoli is pretty much a RH comp for LaRoche, with higher OBP but more K's and worse defense. Then it's rapidly downhill from there.

So I'm essentially back to where Harper is--*maybe* sign Morse to platoon with ALR? It's painful to look at Morse's 2013 stats, though.

Skole and Espy--get well soon to give us some options!

blovy8 said...

Man, I hope Dusty Baker isn't on Rizzo's radar now...

Chas R said...

No, no, no.... no Dusty please...

I saw a report that they asked to interview Girardi though!

natsman12 said...

Fellow Nats fans, the tragic anniversary is around the corner!

Hear the BALLAD of 26 OUTS (A Nationals Tragedy):

John C. said...

Jeff Baker? Fool's gold, my friend. One fluky year at age 32 in limited action in a hitter's ballpark does not offset years of mediocrity. Before 2013, he hadn't hit significantly above league average since 2006 (in Colorado). Do not want.

The anonymous commenter who said that Zimmerman's throwing "is not getting better" clearly doesn't actually watch the games. Zim is fine at third.

More about fielding metrics: using any one year of fielding metrics to assess range is also a fool's errand. Even those who develop the stats will tell you that you need three years of data for a reliable assessment. And before you rank on the Nats defense, it's actually better than league average. Don't be fooled by # of errors or fielding percentage; the former is subject to the vagaries of official scorers, the latter doesn't account for range. What the Nats' defense was pretty good at was converting balls in play into outs - they were 11th of 30 MLB teams in that category. With Zim's shoulder recuperating, Rendong getting a chance to actually practice playing second base and Harper getting another year in the OF (and hopefully swapping positions with Werth), the Nats should get back to their 2012 defensive levels (5th in MLB)

Froggy said...

Although I wasn't a believer at first, I think Zimm has worked through some throwing issues and could be on the upward trajectory to recovery. A lot will depend on needed rest and his offseason program for sure. So that could be good news as it sure would be great to have him 'back'.

After watching Bryce for the past two years, I think he is an average OF with a great arm. I know he is still learning and is fortunate to have Span and Werth to mentor him, but he should be playing RF. Therefore, IMO I think the Nats are in a great position all around as you COULD put Zimm, Harper, Werth, or Walters at 1B if you had to.

That said, I think we should go out and get the best OF / corner (whatever) bat(s) possible and then shuffle things up and make them fit.

And of course bring back the Beast!