Washington Nationals: Taylor, Robinson and Difo Fight For Two Spots
The latest round of roster cuts by the Washington Nationals sets up the last week of the Grapefruit League. Which players will go north with the club?
The battle for the last two spots on the Washington Nationals bench is down to three players.
As expected, Pedro Severino was optioned Saturday to Triple-A Syracuse after the Nats win over the Houston Astros. Matt Wieters is the starting catcher while Jose Lobaton will backup. Severino needs regular playing time, something he will not get with the big club.
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The surprise in these options is Brian Goodwin. Projected to be in a tight battle with Michael Taylor for the 13th position player and reserve outfielder, Goodwin struggled this spring at the plate and in the field.
At the time of his option, Goodwin was 5-for-44—a .114 average—with 13 strikeouts. A number that leads the team. He made it difficult for Dusty Baker and Mike Rizzo to choose him over the red-hot Taylor. Optioning him with five games to go in Florida was not expected.
Goodwin’s option does not give Taylor an automatic spot.
Although Taylor beat his supposed competition, he still has to sweat a three-way fight for those two positions. Clint Robinson—not setting the world on fire in his audition with Adam Lind—and Wilmer Difo are his challengers.
Difo is the breakout player of the spring.
As he plays new positions, such as center field, Difo has hit well, stole bases and shown versatility. A .304 batting average and two triples make him the unexpected dark horse to make the club. The question with him is this, is he ready to play 60-80 games in super-utility role or is he better off laying every day in Syracuse?
You can make an argument for both but, at 24, getting regular playing time is best. Still, his play on both sides of the ball gives him a real chance.
Taylor has the best chance to guarantee his roster spot. A well-known hitter in the Grapefruit League, this year is no exception. Batting .390 in 41 at-bats, Taylor has a walk-off home run to his credit along with six stolen bases. He would have played more, but missed almost a week after the death of his father.
The downside to Taylor is his ability to make consistent contact. When he hits, he is a good player. In his 18 games, however, he has yet to draw a walk and struck out 10 times. Those are not good numbers and is the reason the door is ajar for Difo.
Next: Jon Rauch: Ten Years Later
The last week in Florida will settle a few story lines. As you follow this week ahead, how these three players perform is the hot one to follow.