Back in January we highlighted the best of the Spring Training Battles and then last week we did a quick recap of how those battles were going thus far, in our Spring Training Battles: Week 1. Its now been 2 weeks, and its time to look and see how our battles are working out.
Catchers - Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores vs. Pudge Rodriguez
- Who starts on Opening Day? Will we see both of the young stud's replace the veteran HOFer? Will Flores finally be healthy?
We are still 100% expecting Pudge to start on Opening Day, that will not change. In the backup role it was a better week for Flores but not by much, he was only able to muster 1 hit (though it was a 3-run bomb to right center). Jesus is now hitting just .063 compared to Ramos who is hitting .250. Things almost made a drastic turn when the Astros lost Catcher Jason Castro for the season with an ACL tear, prompting Houston to inquire for Flores. Stay tuned, I'm sure all parties will be watching about that surgically repaired shoulder. But for now, its Ramos' job to lose.
Infield Bench - Alex Cora vs Alberto Gonzalez
- Does Gonzalez have a leg up because of his history on the club, or will it go to the more experienced Alex Cora?
Compared to last week, we have a much larger sample size for both of these players, and the tale of the tape is becoming a little bit clearer. The AG is now hitting .281 with 9 hits and 2 RBI in 32 at-bats and Cora is hitting .412 (7 for 17) with an RBI. In the field, Cora has made 1 error to AG's 0. In the end, I believe that it will be attitude, not stats, will have the greatest influence on the final decision.
Heads up for infielder Brian Bixler who is hitting .474 with 9 hits in 19 ABs.
Outfield - Left-Field* - Rick Ankiel vs. Roger Bernadina vs. Michael Morse
- Will there be a straight lefty-righty platoon? Who will start Opening Day? Will all 3 make the roster?
We are adding an asterisk to this post, because, lets be honest for a second - this is now Michael Morse's job. Morse, after a 1 for 4 day on Monday, is now hitting .469 with 5 HRs and 10 RBI. Sunday, while Capitol Baseball was driving home from Florida, Riggleman and Rizzo said that Morse was "winning" the LF job, and by this point it should be won. So, with that in mind. This section is now going to be the battle for the CF job, between Ankiel, Bernadina, and Morgan.
Outfield - Center-Field - Nyjer Morgan vs. Roger Bernadina vs. Rick Ankiel
- Who will win?
In the same discussion with Morse "winning" the LF job, both Riggs and Rizzo said that the CF job was now the true battle and that so far, Morgan is the front-runner (barely).
It was a good week for both Ankiel and Morgan, as Bernadina faltered both at the plate and in the field. When the week started I would've said that Bernie was in the lead, but now I, too, have to switch my allegiances back to Morgan. Ankiel will do what he does (homers) and he is an attractive bench option, more than capable of coming in due to injury. Bernadina's option will come into play in this situation, as will Ankiel's major league deal.
Ankiel is hitting just .194/.219/.548, 3 HR and 8 RBI.
Bernadina is hitting .281/.324/.438, 1 HR and 7 RBI.
Morgan is hitting .212/.316/.242, 0 HR and 1 RBI. Key here is increased BB #'s.
Outfield Bench - Losers of Left-Field Starter battle vs. Matt Stairs
- Will the veteran's big left-handed bat and power potential keep him on the roster?
Riggleman said this week that Matt Stairs is likely to make the roster, and I have no idea how or why. Anyway, if I am being forced to go through this, lets look at his stats. He is hitting .333 in a very small sample size, just 12 ABs. He has 1 2B and 3 RBIs, and thats really about it. Its widely assumed that he can't play the field, and he has seen 0 action there this spring. I can't fathom a way that we would have Matt Stairs in there as a bench bat, when Rick Ankiel can provide the exact same thing (HR Potential) plus above average defense.
Starting Pitchers - Battle for the 5th Rotation Spot
- Will Gorzelanny win the 5th spot? Will he be handed the job even if he has a bad spring? What happens to those who don't win the 5th spot; minors or release? What will a healthy Chien-Ming Wang look like? Will Detwiler finally reach his potential? What will a dominant Venezuelan Winter Leagues performance mean for Yunesky Maya, has he turned the corner?
There is a lot of stuff here so let me post some basic numbers before pounding out some analysis.
Gorzelanny - 2.1 IP. 5 H. 3 R. 2 ER. 3 BB. 1 K. 7.71 ERA.
Wang - Ruled Out
Detwiler - 9 IP. 9 H. 3 R. 2 ER. 1 BB. 10 K. 2.00 ERA.
Maya - 8.2 IP. 8 H. 2 R. 1 ER. 4 BB. 8 K. 1.04 ERA.
Lannan - 7.1 IP. 7 H. 6 R. 6 ER. 4 BB. 4 K. 7.36 ERA.
So. If I told you to pick 2 of these people to join Livo, Marquis, and Zimmermann who would you pick? Right now, without question I would pick Detwiler and Maya - but I don't run a Major League Baseball club. But it is looking more and more likely that both of those pitchers will be starting their season in Syracuse.
For those of you that were unlucky enough to be in Kissimee for the Nats - Astros on Friday, you had to sit through a Gorzelanny's rough first outing. His 2nd start should paint a better picture, as should his 3rd and 4th. I don't think that the Nats should be giving him a roster spot, he needs to earn it.
Its time to start questioning Lannan. He turned it on after his demotion last year and seemed to turn a corner, but he has struggled to put batters away; as evidenced by his high ERA. It's expected for him to make the rotation to start the season, but the question is how long he will be in DC.
Maya and Detwiler both threw while Capitol Baseball was in attendance and this is what we can tell you. These pitchers are ready. Both pitchers have been plagued with atrocious defense. But they are ready. I hope its not too long before we see Maya's looping curve and Detwiler's tight slider in Nats Park.
Bullpen - Battle for the Bullpen
- Who will be given a spot based on last year's performance? Will Storen be sent to the minors? Will Todd Coffey and Chad Gaudin be given spots regardless of performance? What will Henry Rodriguez do? Will Balester control the ball enough to earn a spot? Will Chad Gaudin earn a spot?
For me, the Nats should be questioning the bullpen. Tyler Clippard is struggling, Sean Burnett has had trouble getting batters out, Todd Coffey has had troubles, and Doug Slaten hasn't come to play yet. And these are the players widely expected to be given jobs. When it comes to the others... well, its a mixed bag.
Craig Stammen has had a great spring, posting a 1.50 ERA in 6 innings. Chad Gaudin is sitting in great position after a fantastic 5 inning 0-run performance on Thursday. Drew Storen got a talking to after struggling through 3 batters on Thursday, but after a talking to from McCatty he has struck out 4 in just 2 IP. Henry Rodriguez showed his wildness in his first "uncomfortable" outing, walking 3 in just 0.1 IP. Bally* has given up 2 ER in his 5 innings of work, not bad. Stay tuned here.
What are your thoughts on these battles? Should Stairs be given a spot? Should Lannan be given a rotation spot? Has Storen turned the corner? Who's your rotation this far? Share in the comments!