In 22 days, all the Nationals diehards will be preparing to head to Nationals Park on Opening Day. Until then, we're going to predict the 25 man roster. With one catch. We're going to do it one day at a time. This way, we can provide more in depth thoughts on who we think is going to make the roster, why we think so, and what to expect from them in 2011. On the morning of Opening Day, we'll post the real 25-man compared with what we predicted.
Our list rolls on this morning with our starting first baseman, Adam LaRoche.
Why?: As this offseason wound down, the first base crowd became sparse, until only one remained, Mr. The Rock. Pena had gone to Chicago, Dunn and Konerko to the other side of Chicago, Lee to our Beltway neighbors, and eventually the Nats and LaRoche agreed to terms on a 2 year/$16 Million dollar contract. Now, don't get me wrong, our original analysis had LaRoche as the best fit for our ballclub; veteran presence, power, solid defense. In no way do I feel that LaRoche is simply a bridesmaid in this situation.
We are paying LaRoche extremely fair market value, considering he has produced more than $8 million/yr for 4 of the past 5 years, according to Fangraphs WAR -> Dollars conversion based on free agent value. And the one year he didn't hit $8 million, he was at $7.8.
What should you expect?: With LaRoche you should expect 150+ games, with a .270 AVG, 23-27 Homers, and 95-105 RBI.
His value is going to come from a lot more than just those middle of the order numbers. The Rock's defense has improved greatly over his career, which last year placed him as the 3rd best 1B in baseball, ahead of such names as Albert Pujols, Mark Texiera, Joey Votto, and Adrian Gonzalez. His glove is going to help our young infielders try to decrease the amount of errors, both mental and physical, because they no longer have to worry about the first baseman missing the ball.
Barring the insane signing (Pujols), the Nationals will have LaRoche, a proven leader, manning first base for the next two years. Enjoy watching Web Gems.