It might be time to start recognizing that after 50-60% of the season completely wasted with the bat, Jayson Werth might be back. It’s not like he’s hitting spectacularly at the moment, but he appears to be back to his old self. He no longer appears lost at the plate, fearful of striking out, missing a slider by 5 feet. In fact, he looks like Jayson Werth.
In his last 34 games and 146 PAs, which is a little above 20% of a season, he has hit .286/.363/.485. That’s an OPS of .848 over 1/5 of the year. That is NOT a “hot” streak by any means for a guy of Werth’s capabilities. But it might be about what most people expected when he was signed. Sure, some people expected a .900+ OPS, but he only did that in 2010. From 2007-2009, in one of the best hitters parks in the league, his OPS was .870. Take away Citizens’ Bank Park, add in the fact that he has to face the Phillies pitchers, would you expect more than an .848 OPS over a whole season? Probably not.
I’ve just updated my article on the local pro baseball team of the late 1800s. Thanks to the Twitter personality known as @MorseBeard, I was given some new information on the location of the original stadium the team used. I’ve added that info, so if you’ve already read it, there’s some nice addition to what was there. If you haven’t, well, go check it out! You can even learn about that Cornelius McGillicuddy fellow that Bob Carpenter was referring to on TV yesterday.
What strikes me initially is how much is paid to guys who aren’t playing at all anymore – Pudge, Strasburg, LaRoche and Marquis total over 30%. Although Marquis DID contribute this year, and we’ll definitely see Stephen (and probably Ivan) again in September. Money’s certainly not everything, but that’s close to a waste of 1/3 of the payroll this year (if you believe that Marquis was utterly replaceable, and ignore that paying Strasburg this year is an investment in the future). Imagine what this team can do if the payroll increases, and players who actually contribute make up a higher percentage of it. What strikes you when you see this?
On Monday night, the Nats signed all of their top 4 picks, each of which brings something unique to the table. They each have significant upside, but also have potentially debilitating issues. So which one of these guys will end up making a difference for the Nationals?
Will it be Anthony Rendon, the great hitting prospect who is going to play third base, assuming his shoulder cooperates, conspicuously blocked by Ryan Zimmerman?
Maybe Alex Meyer, the 6’9″ righty who can unleash a 98 mph fastball, has a devastating slider, but may never have enough control to make the big league squad.
Is it Brian Goodwin, a speedy center fielder with a great eye, who hasn’t shown he can make the reads yet to actually play a decent CF, and hasn’t distributed the kind of power to suggest he’d play elsewhere?
Or Matt Purke, the lefty former top prospect who can hit the low 90s when he’s healthy, which he hasn’t been for a while?
So who you got – and I’m talking contributing to the Nats, not some other team.
The Nats had, as Mark Zuckerman pointed out, a big night. They signed all four of their top picks, and that is a good thing. Don’t let memories of Jim Bowden and Aaron Crow fool you – this is perfectly normal. More than 90% of prospects sign, and most of those who don’t sign had indicated that they really wanted to go to college. Even Josh Bell, who sent a letter to all 30 teams saying he wouldn’t sign, signed with the Pirates. Still, this is very good news, and should generate real excitement. Let’s take a look, once again, at who the Nats picked. For a more in depth of the first three, check out my Day 1 draft analysis. Below are just a few highlights and lots of quotes from people more knowledgeable about prospects than I am:
Anthony Rendon (Pick #6 – 3B, Rice)
A 6’0″ third baseman, the Nats can dream about putting him at second base so he has somewhere to play in the majors, but some evaluators think that’s not gonna happen. Regardless of where he plays, he can hit. He has a GREAT eye and some real power. He has had injury concerns that we probably won’t know enough about until next season, but if he’s healthy he should be able to hit his way up to the majors very quickly. He rnaked #2 on Keith Law’s final predraft rankings, and is considered by many to be the best hitter in this year’s draft. A few quotes on him:
Keith Law – “…once Rendon’s shoulder is healthy his bat and eye should let him advance quickly through the minors.”
Kevin Goldstein – “If Rendon IS healthy, he projects as a .280-.300 hitter with tons of walks, 20-25 home runs and plus defense at third. Only question about him other than health was that he didn’t necessarily have a big time pro body at 6-0/190.”
If you haven’t noticed, Michael Morse is having a pretty good season with the bat. But while he continues to rake the ball, what isn’t being talked about is just how good he really is.
He’s currently hitting .323/.371/.562 in his first full year of being a starter. This gives him an OPS+ of 155, good enough for best in the history of the Nationals. He actually has the second best OPS, behind Nick Johnson’s 2006 number of .948, the year he finished with an incredible .428 OBP. But thanks to adjusting for the league now, with hitting down across the board, Morse is actually better compared to the rest of the league than Johnson was.
He’s currently in 2nd place in the batting title race in NL, but winning that may not be doable. Jose Reyes is comfortable ahead, batting .336, and has about 60 more ABs, meaning sitting on the DL for a few weeks won’t drop him out of the competition, and Morse has to catch up rather than hope Jose falters. And his .323 would also be best in the history of the Nationals, for full time players, of course. But he doesn’t just look great among Nats players.
Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to make a rehab start in the minors this weekend. Time to rejoice! Or shake your fist at the irresponsibility of the organization. Whichever suits you.
I firmly land on the side of this being a good idea. I think if there was any reason, medically, to keep him from pitching, the Nats wouldn’t be pitching him. And if there isn’t any reason, then he should be pitching. Keep in mind, despite some gaudy numbers (2.91 ERA, 12.2 K/9, 5.41 K/BB) he still wasn’t perfect last year. He gave up a few runs, not many, but a few. He pitched for a team that doesn’t always score enough. He, in other words, needs to learn how to pitch even better. This isn’t to say he won’t be great, but even the best pitchers get into jams, feel pressure, and need to overcome hiccups. Pitching in the majors this year helps him get practice in those situations.
Again, I am assuming the doctors have looked at him and decided that no more damage can be done by pitching now as opposed to months down the road. If this is the case, it is better for the Nats to get him going and allow him to pitch in real major league games. I’m not the only one who thinks this. I tried asking Keith Law in his chat today about it, although Alan from Boston beat me to it, asking, “What are your thoughts on the Nationals bringing Strasburg back to pitch this year with only a few months remaining.” KLaw responded:
Don’t look now, but some of the guys on this team are actually hitting. Throughout the season, Mike Morse has been a great hitter, but nobody else has done it consistently. Danny Espinosa started out great, but hasn’t really hit since the beginning of July. The same relative time frame can be said about Laynce Nix. But all of sudden, if you are paying attention, you’ll notice that some other guys are actually hitting for this team.
Ian Desmond has experienced a resurgance of hitting in the last few weeks. Since July 6, about a week before the All Star break, he is hitting .292/.373/.446. Even if you don’t include last night’s game with the HR, his OPS was .753 over that span. It’s probably nothing more than a hot streak, but it has raised his OPS 48 points in that time. If he can do it for another 20 games, or even more, he’ll finish the season with numbers that aren’t SO bad for a starting SS.
Jayson Werth is also in the midst of a hot streak. His dates back to the All Star break on the dot. Since his return from the time off (no, he did not get selected this year) he has hit .288/.400/.475, but he’s looked even better in his last 12 games. From July 19, he’s hit .341/.442/.591. That can defined as a legitimate hot streak, I think, and unlike the numbers Desi has put up, is even hot for a GOOD hitter. Whether this is because of the time off, or just pure luck, we may never know. But we can certainly count this as a good sign that Werth never completely lost his ability to hit. With its return this last 2 weeks, I have some confidence that it won’t disappear permanently.
The Nats didn’t make any real big moves this weekend, but they did make a couple of moves that are very good ones. They traded two vets with expiring contracts for some minor leaguers. Don’t get me wrong, both Jerry Hairston and Jason Marquis provided some value to this team. Marquis had a WAR of 0.8, putting him just above your average replacement player. But his 3.95 ERA and 8-5 record looked nice, and he did eat up 120.2 innings. Hairston played all over the field, infield and outfield, while posting a 102 OPS+, good for 6th best on the team. But neither guy was going to earn the Nats a draft pick after this season, and there’s no reason to think keeping them would give Washington a better chance to re-sign them, if the team was so inclined.
In exchange for the 35 year old utility man, the Nationals picked up Erik Komatsu, a 23 year old outfielder, from the Milwaukee Brewers. While this wasn’t a Wilson Ramos level fleecing, the Nats certainly got a potential major leaguer in exchange for someone who probably wouldn’t have been around in 2012. Komatsu is a lefty who has played a good amount of center field. If he can stick there, and there are some doubts, he has real potential. He is hitting .294/.393/.416 in AA right now, and that OBP has to catch your eye. He’s quick, although his SB percentage of 70% in the minors indicates he’s not a great basestealer, just a somewhat fast guy.
Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus listed him as the Brewers #14 prospect this year, calling him a potential bench outfielder. But that was before another great season of OBP-ness. After the trade, he said that Komatsu proved himself this year after his 2010 breakout, has shown excellent ability to walk and keep his strikeouts down. Goldstein brings up his lack of CF ability, though, saying he CAN play there but probably not full time. But he asserts “What he can do is hit right-handed pitching, run well, and play all three outfield positions, which should lead to a long career as a second division starter or fourth outfielder in the big leagues.”