The way these rookies are playing, who needs veterans? As you may have not been totally paying attention to baseball this weekend, with the start of college football and the fact that the Nats are playing for nothing, you may have missed what the youngsters on this team have been able to do. Of course, Danny Espinosa had such a day that the local news was forced to mention baseball for a moment, but he’s not the only rookie doing well right now. But let’s start with him
Espinosa has now had 16 ABs in his career, 9 of which have resulted in hits, 3 of them doubles and 3 of them homers. He managed to hit two yesterday, one being a grand slam. He has given no reason to doubt that he can hit in the majors, but keep in mind that even if he hit 16 HRs in 16 ABs, it’s still not enough to truly judge a player. Ok maybe 16 for 16 with 16 HRs would be, but you get my meaning. He has yet to take a walk in the majors, and his inability to do so will hamper him at some point, but the .563/.563/1.313 is still pretty impressive. So far so good and this is as amazing a start as any rookie could have.
Meanwhile, on the other side of second base, depending on the day, Ian Desmond has quietly recovered from his midseason slump to bring his numbers up to .289/.324/.427. Not quite as much power as one would have hoped, but his recovery in itself (from an OPS low of .659 on June 30th) is something to be excited about. He has hit .340/.370/.497 since July 1, which is now no longer that small of sample, with 211 PAs in 57 games. It’s almost 1/3 of a season, and he keeps going, with 10 hits in 17 ABs in September.
Moving down the center of the time brings you to the catching position, and rookie Wilson Ramos. Ramos, who couldn’t hit in AAA with the Twins then couldn’t stop hitting with the Nats’ AAA club, played in his second game with Washington this Sunday. In his first game with the team, he struck out twice and looked lost at the plate. This time, he didn’t strike out, managed a hit and played strong defense.
Jason Marquis mentioned that he felt comfortable throwing to the rookie, saying, “He’s definitely got a bright future. Real big target, real soft hands. He’s confident in what he’s doing back there. It makes you a little more confident on the mound. I enjoyed throwing to him.” He hasn’t had the major league success yet of Espinosa or Desmond (with his 35 ABs, he should already have 6 HRs, if he were on the Espinosa plan). The Nats stated that they’d play him 50-50 with Rodriguez, and he too will get a chance to produce.
Lest we forget that 26 year old non-rookie Roger Bernadina is still having a strong year, despite a rough patch at the end of the summer, he may not hit like a corner outfielder, but his .266/.324/.420 isn’t bad for a center fielder. The .744 OPS puts him at the bottom of the top 20 among MLB CFers, 10th in NL. If you have any inkling that he may improve over the next couple of years, just getting that OPS up to .751 ties him for 8th in the NL with Victorino, all the way up to .800 would rank him 6th. In other words, he’s not all the far away from ranking at that strong player but not a star, in terms of how CFs can hit. As a corner, he’s nothing special, but in center, he may have a few years of being quite good ahead of him.
And, oh yeah, this team has a 25 year old third basemen who can play as well. Ryan Zimmerman is currently ranked 2nd in the majors in WAR, behind Josh Hamilton, according to Fangraphs. Assuming this holds form and these players continue to produce (ok so Ramos hasn’t done it yet), that is 5 players 26 years old or younger, including 3 rookies, of your 8 starters in the field that are young and impressive. That’s a pretty good ratio for the future, and an impressive rookie core up the middle.