Expectations for the Nationals this season are certainly not high. This year is the first of a likely few that will be more about player development rather than winning games. While winning is still desired, you shouldn't be shocked to hear that the mantra for DC baseball is player development.
However, by no means does that give poor performing players a free pass. This is Major League Baseball: the only players that get a free pass are the superstars going through a slump. Obviously, the Nats don't have any of those.
I hope that the Nationals do not turn a blind eye to poor performance for the sake of giving players time. That's why we are here today; these are 3 Nationals that need to be kept on a short leash this season.
1. Davey Martinez (and staff)
Yep, we're going here.
We're less than 10 games into the season, and we've already seen many red flags from Davey Martinez and his staff. For a staff that has World Series experience, let alone a World Championship win, this is certainly concerning. The impact that coaches have on a young team is immeasurable; so fans should be watching them closely.
This season is just getting underway, but multiple times now Davey Martinez has made some... suspect decisions. Most notably, his decisions when it comes to pitching; when to take out the starter and look toward the bullpen. Specifically, in Patrick Corbin's April 4th start against the Rays.
Corbin went twice as long as he did on Opening Day, not getting pulled until the 6th inning. The major problem with this is that Corbin had given up 10 hits, and posted an 8.00 ERA. The biggest issue here is that the Rays were able to DOUBLE their score before Martinez called the bullpen to take Corbin out of the game.
Get this: Patrick Corbin's final 11 batters made contact with the ball. His last strikeout was the first batter of the fourth, and he finished the 6th inning. Does that not stand out to anyone else? On multiple occasions Martinez has waited too long to make a pitching change, and it's come back to bite the Nats.
That tells the story about Martinez, but what about his staff? A rather discouraging finding was brought to light on Nats' twitter this past week, regarding pitching coach Jim Hickey.
How are you a pitching coach in Major League Baseball... and don't know the names of your guys? Especially when you're only responsible for 12 guys out of the entire 40 man roster? Maybe this was just a one-time slip up, but I can't help but feel like some of these coaches have no interest in being a part of a rebuilding culture.
2. Kyle Finnegan
If you want to have the "it's too early" conversation, that's fine. However, Finnegan just hasn't been good to begin the season. How bad is it?
Finnegan owns a 27.00 ERA
27.00 ERA. Yes, you read that right. His performance against Tampa Bay on April 4 was shockingly bad. If you check the box score, Finnegan only got through 1/3 of the inning, but gave up a walk and 5 hits, three of them being home runs. He gave up back-to-back homers to the Rays' Raley and J. Lowe, allowed a single, a double, and then a Diaz three run homer to end his evening.
I would like to cast part of the blame to Davey Martinez, who, for some reason, stayed with the freezing cold hand and threw away the 6-6 tie that the Nationals had with the Rays when Finnegan took the mound.
Finnegan has got to seriously start turning some heads, or else his position as a closer could be in serious jeopardy. If this carries on for much longer, I think that Finnegan could be pitching somewhere else; and I'm not too sure it'll be in the majors.
3. Corey Dickerson
Dickerson only appeared in the first two games for the Nationals before being moved to the 10-day IL with a left calf strain. That's not the reason he's on this list.
While I don't think that the Nationals should give up on Dickerson right away, I don't think this injury is doing him any favors in terms of a more consistent role with the team. Lane Thomas and Victor Robles have played at a suprising level so far this year, so I have to imagine they'll have relatively consistent appearance in the outfield this year.
That leaves one spot. Can Dickerson win it? I can't be sure. I do think that it would be worth while for Rizzo/Martinez to look at other guys (Stone Garrett anyone?).
If Dickerson's bat comes back better than when he left (only four plate appearances, but two strikeouts), then I feel like his spot could be a little safer. After all, Mike Rizzo signed him as outfield depth, AND a left handed bat. However, if the Nationals find a hot hand, I have no doubt that Dickerson could be moved to the bench.
(I couldn't resist using that picture)