Strength Up The Middle
By Editorial Staff
Centerfield, shortstop, second base, and catcher positions need to have solid players who are strong defensively and produce offense. There is little argument to addressing the roster up the middle as seen from the Texas Rangers, who lead the league in runs scored and was one of the best teams defensively with Molina, Andrus, Hamilton, and Kinsler. The Nationals are filling these voids and providing depth at these positions. Roger Bernadina has proven that he is a future gold glove winner with his tremendous range and howitzer arm, which could allow him to be the every day center fielder. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinoza have the opportunity to rival the tandem in Philadelphia as one of the best duo up the middle in the league. Future Hall of Fame catcher Pudge Rodriguez will anchor the team behind the plate with his bat and command of the pitching staff, but this season he will have more support from his backup.
The issue last season was the lack of depth and offensive production at these positions. Pudge Rodriguez suffered an injury during the Baltimore series last season, and at that point the losing skid began and the National’s never made it back to .500. The addition of Wilson Ramos and potential return of Jesus Flores provide depth and competition at the catcher position. The Nationals will not likely hold more than two catchers on their roster, thus the performances behind the plate this season may be quite productive due to the improved depth. Pudge will be the starter, but there may not be the steep drop off this season in offensive production from the catcher position when he is out of the lineup.
Ian Desmond and Danny Espinoza just need to duplicate last season and have more time playing together to lock down the middle. Double plays are great for closing innings and helping save pitchers from reaching their pitch count early in the game. Their defense could get more innings out of the starters and keep the bullpen from being flat midseason. Alberto Gonzalez off the bench has proved to be an asset providing strong defense, and in only 186 at bats he produced a .277 batting average.
Roger Bernadina can be summed up at centerfield by the play that was made against the Blue Jays two years ago. He makes a highlight reel catch crashing into the wall only to break his ankle, and without hesitation proceeds to hit the cutoff in the air from the warning track. His ability to take over at leadoff in the batting order is not a misguided thought either as he possesses speed as well as power, hitting eleven home runs last season. Nyjer Morgan must play within his ability and execute as Roger Bernadina has proved that he must be in the lineup every day.
The Nationals are following a plan to provide the infrastructure of a competitive team that will challenge for the NL East in the near future. The middle has been addressed during last season, and now Ryan Zimmerman has been paired with strength up the middle. Mike Rizzo has put together a roster that can get the job done, and now it is up to Jim Riggleman to direct this team to more victories. The Nationals must now learn how to win games regularly and develop the swagger that they can win no matter who is on the schedule.