Nationals Baseball: Off-Season Position Discussion : Second Base

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Off-Season Position Discussion : Second Base

2023 at second base did not go as the Nats wanted it to and yet it went exactly as should have been expected which makes the Nats reactions this year extremely curious.  After 2022, Luis Garcia had a lock on the position. He was average at the plate and while a disaster at SS, seemingly average in the field at 2B. He provided a cheap combo to not worry about moving forward. Just do that again and the Nats would be fine. Grow into a better player, a distinct possibility for a 22 year old, and the Nats would be very happy. 

Instead Garcia sort of floundered taking a step back both offensively and defensively. Instead of an average position it was a negative. To try to shake things up Garcia was sent down where he promptly didn't do much better. But the Nats talked about him trying harder and focusing and they brought him up again after a month. He didn't immediately do anything either but finished with a flourish, maybe being the Nats best hitter in the last two weeks. Motivation? Randomness? 

Another reason he was brought back up were the replacements for Garcia in his time off did little. Chavis and Vargas could field but neither could hit and Alu, in his limited time did neither. There were no quick solutions. 

But perhaps is there a long term one? Abrams took a step forward this year to a viable player and was once one of the top prospects in the game. He should hang onto SS. That means Brady House, who had a rebound year, moves to 3rd. If not guaranteed it seems likely that duo will be seen from the end of 2024 through 2025 as the Nats test the youth movement to its fullest. That means any other FA or minor leaguer now looks at 2B as their way in. Trey Lipscomb, hot for 2/3rds of 2023 then ice-cold? Fan favorite Not my favorite Jake Alu who made the least of two short major league opportunities? Super young riser Yohandy Morales? Try to force it one more time Carter Keiboom?  All have to be eyeing 2B.

Presumed Plan : 

Garcia starts at 2B. If he plays well he stays. If he doesn't the Nats start to rotate in anyone good on the 40 man

Reasoning behind Presumed Plan : 

A FA is pretty much out. 2B manned by a flawed 24 year old who was perfectly OK in 2022 is not where this team should focus. 

That leaves the minors to push Luis and while there are several players knocking on the door it's a soft knock a couple rooms away. There's no immediate push to Luis. With no one forcing the situation giving him another go at it makes sense. If someone suddenly bursts through the doors the Nats can re-evaluate then. 2024 is not a competitive year in the plans. 

My Take :  

Garcia seems like the next Robles. A guy with talent that's probably underperforming but who also is made a scapegoat by the Nats.  He should be allowed to make his large amount of contact and field ok letting age and development add a little power to it. But the Nats seem to want to make him a more selective hitter. It's not producing more walks or better hit balls instead making him more vulnerable to lower pitches in the zone that he now feels he needs to go after since he can't chase higher pitches out wide.

If the Nats leave him alone I think Garcia holds off the competition. If the Nats keep forcing him to go away from what probably is a 100-110 OPS+ major league bat on the small chance of making him something greater, I think he fails. 

Whether or not that failure leads to replacement is anyone's guess. You all know that I am not high on Alu.  I am low. Very low. He stinks.  Lipscomb got everyone excited but just died at the end of the year. Probably that's the grind getting to him but hitting .136 / .174 / .185 for a fifth of the season can't be ignored completely. Yohandy is probably the most exciting one - a guy that just hit in college who continued to do just that in the minors albeit with strangely limited power.  Do the Nats try the former SS at 2B? It's possible. But it's probably more likely they start using him at 1B. He's a big unknown only playing 18 g in A, 18 in A+ and 4 in AA and it's hard to project anything for him just yet. 

Given all that Garcia likely plays 2B for most of, if not all the year. This is what I would do so... good! After that I don't know. He seems to be on Rizzo's bad side but he probably slots in as the perfectly acceptable 4th in an all-young all-cheap infield in 2025, or in a young infield with a 1B FA.


DezoPenguin said...

The sad state of the 2B FA market this year also plays a part. Whit Merrifield, for example, is hardly the kind of upgrade from Garcia one would argue is worth spending money on. A pillow contract for a 33-year-old Kolten Wong in the hope he can be the next Candelario? Garcia at least has some hope of improving while young (for what it's worth, FanGraphs projects him for 1.5-ish WAR and an average bat). At least Hoskins at 1B has a high chance of being a plus hitter, but the

John C. said...

Brady House has already moved to 3b; he played zero games at SS in 2023. I’m mildly amused by the tendency to ascribe players’ struggles to the Nats (Robles’s and Garcia’s being blamed on the Nats doing them wrong) vs. a player’s lack of mental or physical ability to compete at the MLB level. For a certain corner of fandom Alu will doubtless be seen in this category (like Lombardozzi was). And yet Carter Kieboom is simply regarded as AAAA (when he’s not regarded as a had case). We do have our favorites.

Garcia will get his last stand in 2024. As Harper notes, no one is pushing him yet. Longer term depends on how the players in the minor league queue develop.

Harper said...

John - apologies if the tense was confusing but yes, House has already moved. The acquisition of Abrams was the final straw in that regard.

When the Nats call out players I tend to get suspicious. Like if they were saying he can't do something in particular I'd be more inclined, but when they act like it's a moral failing... I don't know. We definitely do form opinions early and have to be shaken from them. But that's ok. "I don't know until it's obvious" is pretty boring