Hopes for the Second Half

Ok, technically, the Nationals’ season is more like 57% over not 50% over, but let’s skip the games played and just go with the All Star Game as the traditional midway point. There are a few things I’m really hoping to happen this half that would make me more confident going in to next season. While a playoff berth this year is still possible, the team just isn’t THAT good yet. I’m more concerned with them getting ready to make an actual run at a playoff spot in 2012. These aren’t predictions, these are just some things I’d like to see.

Trade

There aren’t too many trade chips for this team, but Jason Marquis is one of them. His ERA+ of 95 is about what you’d expect, and its nothing to get other teams foaming at the mouth. But he’s a free agent at the end of the year who isn’t likely to yield compensation picks. He’s worthless to them come the end of this season, but someone else might be able to use him. Livan Hernandez is in the same boat, and has actually pitched slightly better, but has legal issues which may make him harder to trade. If they can turn either of these guys into anything of value in the trade market, they gotta do it.

Jerry Hairston has performed well enough in fill-in roles, hitting just about what his career numbers would indicate. If there is a team that needs someone to play any of the myriad of positions he can play, why not get some value for him? They won’t get much, but something is better than nothing.

Laynce Nix is interesting because many might not want to trade him, figuring he can start in LF for the rest of the season and next year too. The problem is, he is a free agent after this season, and probably stands to make more than the $700K he’s making right now.

His .274/.314/.502 is a little OBP-low, but that power is going to be attractive to teams making playoff runs. But Nix has a stunningly bad .339 OPS (in only 24 pAs) against lefties, which certainly limits his value. Still, they might be able to get more for him than any other player they’re willing to part with. If they’re willing to part with him.

Just Keep It Up

Mike Morse doesn’t have to keep hitting .306/.351/.535 to make me happy, which is good, cause he probably won’t. But he currently ranks 11th in the NL among qualified hitters in OPS, and if he can stay up in the top 20 or 30, that will be a good sign that they have a legitimate hitter starting in either LF or 1B next year. Someone they can rely on and stick in the middle of the order.

The potential Rookie of the Year, Danny Espinosa has the 2nd best OPS among NL second basemen. He’s having a great year, and the only thing he really needs to do is not have a significant dropoff. Sure, an improvement in AVG and OBP would be nice, but that can come next year. This year, if he finishes .242/.332/.460, exactly where he’s hitting now, you gotta be happy.

Wilson Ramos is a 23 year old catcher with a history of not being able to take a walk, and a great bat. This year he’s hitting .251/.328/.425, which bodes very well for the future. It appears that he actually DOES walk some, and if his average improves as he matures, you can see him being a top flight catcher with the bat. Just keep this up this year, and I’ll be happy.

Improvements

The obvious one is Jayson Werth. He has been absolutely lost at the plate all year, hitting just .215/.319./362. But he’s a career .272/.367/.481 coming in to this season, with even better numbers the last few seasons. A decent second half, where he just gets out of this swoon, is more important than him hitting home runs or batting .300 for a month. If he does just enough to look like himself for the next 3 months, I’ll have confidence that he can add something to the team.

Things might be easier if Ian Desmond doesn’t improve, because at least they’d know he isn’t worth the effort. But his defensive abilities this season have been so much better than last year, that you never know what he might do year to year. If he can put together a second half that shows progress, he could live to fight another day. But his .572 OPS ranks him 121 out of 122 among NL players with at least 200 PAs. His glove has actually been good enough to keep his WAR positive (0.4 according to BR, 0.2 from fangraphs) but just barely. That great glove though, makes you think, if he could just hit a little… Plus he managed a .700 OPS last year, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility. But, I can’t see much patience for this beyond September of this year.

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