May 17, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth (28) sits in the dugout with a bandaged left wrist during the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jayson Werth has two fractured bones in his wrist that was hit by a pitch during the San Diego Padres series on May 15th. He is projected to be out for two months, and will probably need a rehab assignment after that to get back to playing form.
Who will take his place in left field? There has been speculation that the Nationals may need to go out and acquire another outfielder to fill Werth’s roster spot until he returns.
There is no need for the Nationals to expend the time, effort, players or money to obtain a replacement. If we review the options that the Nationals have internally, whether they are already on the major league roster or in the minors, it is clear that the Nationals have no need to go out and acquire any players.
Let’s first keep in mind that Werth has either not been on the roster this season or has been performing below par when he was with the team. He was not on the major league team at the beginning of the season, still healing from his off season shoulder surgery. He did not rejoin the team until April 13th. He did not have a spring training or much of a rehab assignment.
There was panic at the beginning of the season because the Nationals were not producing at the plate. The opening day roster was missing Denard Span, Anthony Rendon and Werth. As soon as Werth was declared “ready” he was rushed back to the team in an effort to bolster the offensive production.
That move did not work. Werth, before his injury, was batting .208 with 12 RBI. Matt Williams had Werth batting in the three hole, and that level of non-production from the three hole hitter was a problem.
Here are the options that the Nationals already have in the organization that can fill the left field position
Michael Taylor is currently on the major league roster and with the team. He started the year in center field when Span was still recovering from his abdominal surgery. Taylor may be an upgrade defensively over Werth in left field, as he covers more ground.
Taylor could use the everyday at bats and the opportunity to give the Nationals a long look at him to see if he is ready to man center field next year if the team decides to part ways with Span, who will be a free agent.
Michael has been striking out a ton lately, which is not surprising given his lack of major league experience. He is hitting .219 at the moment and hasn’t really been very productive since being recalled from AAA Syracuse.
Tyler Moore is on the team as a bench player. He has learned to play the outfield to be able to get spot starts. Moore came up as a first baseman, but his path to that position has been blocked on this team first by Adam LaRoche and currently by Ryan Zimmerman.
Everyone knows Moore has power. The issue for Tyler has always been keeping his timing intact when he is not playing everyday. Getting more opportunities to bat would be to Tyler’s benefit.
Moore is an adequate left fielder. He does not have the defensive ability or speed of Taylor. However, he is not a severe liability in the position.
Clint Robinson is another bench player who can play left field. Robinson is a left hander, which would give Matt Williams the ability to platoon him and give him the start when facing a right handed pitcher.
Robinson also has power and would benefit from getting more at bats than he has been receiving lately.
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The Nationals acquired Matt den Dekker from the New York Mets in a trade during spring training. Den Dekker is a good outfielder with great range who can play all three outfield positions. He has major league experience with the Mets and started the year on the Nats major league roster when both Span and Werth were on the DL.
Den Dekker is currently playing at AAA Syracuse, where he is batting .236. Den Dekker doesn’t have much power, but he does have adequate speed. He bats left handed.
Tony Gwynn, Jr.
Tony Gwynn, Jr. is another outfielder playing at AAA Syracuse for the Nationals who is available to be called up and fill in if the Nationals need to add another outfielder to the roster. He is hitting .225 with the Syracuse Chiefs. Gwynn, like Den Dekker, isn’t known for his power.
The Nationals have three players on the current team that can play left field. If Taylor needs to play center field to give Span a day off, either Moore or Robinson can make the start in left field. The Nats have den Dekker and Gwynn stashed in the minors who are available to be added to the roster if the need arises.
The Nationals have at least five options either on the team or in the minors to play left field during Werth’s absence. It would be silly to go out and acquire another outfielder when Taylor, Moore and Robinson need at bats and playing time in left field. Moore and Robinson will be better pinch hitters if they are getting more regular at bats in game situations.
If the Nationals go out and acquire another outfielder, someone will have to go back to the minors (probably Taylor) and Moore and Robinson will continue to sit on the bench. Whoever the Nationals acquire will need to be able to play center field in the event Span needs a day off. A trade would involve giving up prospects for a two month fill in player, which doesn’t sound like the best use of the Nationals prospects.
Overall, this is not a problem to panic about. The Nationals have plenty of players to play left field for the next several months. All of them hit at least as well as Werth was hitting before he was injured, and Taylor is a better defensive left fielder than was Werth. Additional at bats for Moore and Robinson will only help their bench production.