Plugging the Leaking LF Hole

As mentioned I mentioned in the last post, the Nationals are hitting .103/.218/.132 out of the left field position in this young season. It’s bad when you’re LF OPS is just under your OPS from your pitchers. While I made the case that this offense is not as bad as people think and will get better anyway, LF is something that should be addressed while waiting for the return of Mike Morse.

Tyler Moore

The talk is that Tyler Moore will be the guy to take the position. I don’t disagree that he has the best bat for the job in AAA (he’s hitting .299/.360/.597 at the moment) but he’s played LF all of 2 games in his pro career, having always been a 1B. I think he will get an opportunity this season, but I’m not sure if it’s going to happen in the next 2 weeks or so, given Rizzo’s commitment to defense. As reader @Sultan_of_Stat pointed out over Twitter, it’s not like the Nats have had good defensive left fielders the last few years, although I’d caution relying on UZR/150 in such short timeframes. So if Moore is ambulatory in LF at all, yes, he’ll probably get called up to do it at some point. But Moore has still only played 2 games in his entire pro career out there, so I have a hard time believing Rizzo thinks he’s ready to do it just yet.

As for Moore’s hitting, I think his number’s this year are a bit misleading. He’s a power hitter for sure, hitting 31 HRs in each of the last two seasons. But his career minor league splits are .267/.319/.486, and it’s probably unrealistic to think that he’ll hit any better than that in the majors. Of course, a .250/.300/.450 or something in LF right now would be a great fill in at this point until Mike Morse comes back, compared to what they’ve had before. And that’s not to say he couldn’t do better than that. Expect power from him, just be realistic about his abilities to get on base.

Corey Brown

Another potential LF callup is Corey Brown, who is more quietly having an outstanding start in AAA, hitting .271/.400/.443. He’s always been able to take a walk, and his career stats of .264/.354/.475 look better than they probably should indicate. He’s been considered a toolsy outfielder who’s never been able to put it all together with the bat. But he can play CF, so LF won’t be an issue for him at all. And I think that the Nats would love to have him hit well enough to use him in LF for now, and feel confident moving him to CF when Morse is back. If he keeps this up, I wouldn’t be shocked if he got called up rather than Moore.

Brett Carroll

Another possibility is Brett Carroll, who made the roster out of spring training. He was DFA’d to make room for Rick Ankiel’s return after the first week of games, but he has enough experience to fill in immediately without much question of what he’ll bring, unlike the other two guys. Unfortunately, what he brings isn’t that much. He’s a career .201/.280/.319 hitter in the majors, and while he hasn’t been that bad in AAA the last few years, he hasn’t been particularly good, which is a bad sign for a 27 or 28 year old minor leaguer. The Nats could certainly bring him up to play some LF, but there’s no reason to think he’d hit much better than Xavier Nady, or anyone else, other than if they catch him during a hot streak.

Jason Michaels

Upon first draft I didn’t even put Michaels on the list. This is because the 35 year old journeyman outfielder has pretty much stunk in AAA this year. But he has been a little less stinky lately, raising his AVG, OBP and SLG over the last week to bad from horrible, and hitting 2 HRs in the last 3 games including a game winner today. Is he a stong hitter? No, but he’s a right handed hitter with significant playing time that could help in the inevitable starts vs LHP where Ankiel and Bernadina might be deemed overmatched. At this point I’d think he’s the least likely of the group, but if he continues his hot streak, the Nats may see if it can translate to a good week or two in the bigs.

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