For a team that has struggled to win for the past six seasons, the Washington Nationals have a surprisingly large number of former players on other big league teams in 2012. For some all-star break kicks, we here at District on Deck thought it would be fun to see how these former Nats are doing and how much better (or worse) off the local nine is without them.
Assessment: Even with the season-ending injury to Wilson Ramos, the Nats are definitely better off with their current tandem of Jesus Flores and Jhonatan Solano. Schneider and Nieves are at the end of their careers. Both struggle to hit and throw runners out, but are solid defensively otherwise. Norris may become an all-star, but he is only beginning his major league career. His shortcomings on defense may require him to move to a 1B/DH role.
Assessment: Dunn has rediscovered the home run stroke that deserted him in 2011. He has 25 homers and 60 RBI, despite an extremely low batting average. His glove, however, is as bad as ever. Johnson struggled in Baltimore, had a couple of good weeks, and has re-injured his wrist. With the all-around fine play of Adam LaRoche, Tyler Moore as a right-handed back-up and Chad Tracy‘s pinch hitting excellence, the Nats are far better off now at first base.
Assessment: Though Carroll is a solid veteran player and full of class, he is at the end of his underrated career. He has lost range in the field and struggled to hit. The other two are roster fillers, on their respective clubs only because they have no one else in the organization to play their roles. With Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Lombardozzi, and Mark DeRosa, the Nationals aren’t missing any of these guys.
Josh Willingham, Twins: 81 G, 291 AB, 21 DO, 19 HR, .261/.376/.536
Nyjer Morgan, Brewers: 74 G, 220 AB, 2 HR, .230/.298/.281
Austin Kearns, Marlins: 36 G, 85 AB, 4 HR, .267/.353/.480
Justin Maxwell, Astros: 62 G, 121 AB, 8 HR, .231/.324/.471 (50 K’s in 121 AB’s!)
Alfonso Soriano, Cubs: 79 G, 294 AB, 15 HR, .265/.323/.469
Lance Nix, Phillies: 22 G, 46 AB, 2 HR, .326/.392/.979
Assessment: Willingham is having a fantastic year in Minnesota and represented the Twins in the all-star game. Before the Nationals starting hitting, it sure looked like they could have used the bat of the man affectionately known as “The Hammer” in D.C. On the other hand, Willingham remains a poor fielder and still has not proven he can last an entire season. Without the DH, he has far less value in the NL.
As most predicted, Soriano has become an average player at best in the last years of his massive contract.His speed and power have largely deserted him. Morgan has also regressed and is likely close to wearing out his welcome yet again. Maxwell had some good moments for the Astros, who have regressed after a surprising start, but still cannot hit consistently and strike outs far too often. Kearns had a hot start in Flordia, but cooled off and got injured.
With Bryce Harper, Michael Morse, Moore, and Lombardozzi playing leading roles and Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina adding defense and speed as reserves, the Nationals, overall, have a better group. If Jayson Werth hits at his career norms when he returns, it will reduce the sting of watching Willingham’s hitting highlights as the season progresses.
Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins: 39 G, 149 AB, 20 SB, .268/.351/.315
Jerry Hairston, Dodgers: 57 G, 172 AB, 4 HR, .297/.369/.424
Willie Harris, Reds: 25 G, 44 AB, .114/.170/.205
Brian Bixler, Astros: 27 G, 65 AB, 2 HR, .246/.300/.415
Adam Kennedy, Dodgers: 61 G, 123 AB, 1 HR, .228/.315/.305
Assessment: Bonifacio is an excellent player and the Marlins have struggled without him. He learned how to use his speed and batting eye to get on base more often in 2011 and can play every position except catcher. Any team, including the Nationals, can make good use of Bonifacio’s talent.
The rest of the group is aging and of limited skills. Hairston had a blistering start for Los Angeles, hitting so well early in the season he sometimes batted fourth. He has tailed off, though, as age and the law of averages are catching up to him. Harris, Bixler, and Kennedy offer versatility, and the first two also offer speed. None can hit much better than a pitcher.
Tommy Milone A’s: 17 G, 108 IP, 8-6, 3.57 ERA, 1.182 WHIP
Joel Hanrahan, Pirates: 35 G, 34 IP, 4-0, 23 saves, 2.38 ERA, 1.118 WHIP
Jerome Williams, Angels: 13 G, 83 IP, 6-5, 4.46 ERA, 1.379 WHIP
Joel Peralta, Rays: 40 G, 34 IP, 1-3, 2 saves, 4.81. 1.010 WHIP
Matt Capps, Twins: 27 G, 26 IP, 1-4, 14 saves, 3.42 ERA, 1.063 WHIP
Bill Bray, Reds: 8 G, 4 IP, 0-0, 11.25 ERA,3.00 WHIP
Livan Hernandez, Braves/Brewers: 24 G, 39 IP, 2-1, 1 save (first in career), 5.26 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
Kip Wells, Padres: 3 G, 18 IP, 1-2, 2.50 ERA, 1.556 WHIP
Jon Rauch, Mets: 37 G, 31 IP, 3-7, 1 save, 4.02 ERA, 1.149 WHIP
Luis Ayala, Orioles: 34 G, 40 IP, 2-2, 1 save, 2.48 ERA, 1.175 WHIP
Jason Marquis, Twins/Padres: 14 G, 78 IP, 3-9, 5.79 ERA, 1.622 WHIP
Miguel Batista, Mets: 26 G, 41 IP, 1-2, 4.20, 1.672 WHIP
Chad Durbin, Braves: 42 G, 33 IP, 3-1, 3.78 ERA, 1.320 WHIP
Assessment: After examining this list, one conclusion is that the Nationals, since 2009, have developed fine pitching, with depth to spare, another credit to Mike Rizzo and his team. Hanrahan is an all-star closer, while Peralta, Ayala, Capps, and Durbin are having fine seasons so far out of the bullpen. Add two near Nationals to this list — Aaron Crow and Aroldis Chapman, both all-stars — and Rizzo’s accomplishment grows more impressive.
Other than Tom Milone, the starters looks like a collection of journeyman, has-beens, and one great player, Livan, who is likely in the final season of his career. Williams and Wells have had a few good moments, but neither are likely to be top tier pitchers.
So, the best 25-man roster of former Nats would look like this:
C – Norris
1B – Dunn
2B – Carroll
SS – Bonifacio
3B – Hairston
LF – Willingham
CF – Maxwell/Morgan platoon
RF – Soriano
Bench — Schneider or Nieves, Kearns, Johnson, Bixler or Gonzalez
While this team would have some strengths — Bonifacio leading off, the power of Willingham, Dunn and Soriano, the versatility of Hairston, a decent bullpen with an elite closer in Hanrahan — it would struggle in the field and have abysmal starting pitching.
Overall, the current Washington roster far exceeds the castoffs in talent, potential, and ability to become a winning or even contending ball club. Clearly, the front office is in good hands with Rizzo at the helm.