Back in January we highlighted the best of the Spring Training Battles and then the past few week's we've done quick recaps of how those battles were going thus far, in our Spring Training Battles: Week 1, followed by Spring Training Battles: Week 2. Its now been 3 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?
For all intents and purposes Jesus Flores is now out of the running for the job of backup. There has been some movement on the Ramos-as-Starter front, thanks to hard working MLB.com beat writer Bill Ladson. Ladson posted an article stating that "The Nationals are so impressed with catcher Wilson Ramos that they are thinking about making him the Opening Day starter behind the plate, according to two baseball sources." Interesting developments indeed, but I still believe that the only way Ramos would get the nod over Pudge would be if Pudge's lingering calf strain flares up again.
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?
We have an old-fashioned battle between these two players, one veteran, one kid trying to prove something to his bosses. Sample size between the two utility players still differs greatly, but so far Cora is out-hitting the AG, .400 to .326; both really solid numbers. I see Cora making the team due to attitude and veteran stats, look for the team to take offers for Gonzalez if this is the case.
Outfield - Center-Field - Nyjer Morgan vs. Roger Bernadina vs. Rick Ankiel
- Who will win?
Now that Michael Morse is the starting left-fielder, we have quite a battle brewing in CF. Roger Bernadina started the spring on an absolute tear, but has come way back down to Earth since then, while looking very lost in CF. Nyjer Morgan started the spring mired in a huge funk, and has since broken out of it, though 5 steals to 3 caught stealings is a big issue. Rick Ankiel is quietly going about his business, hitting a very Maxwellian .182, while showing massive power with the bat and with his arm. Coming into play will be the fact that both Bernadina and Morgan have an option remaining, giving the Nats a chance to monkey around all season.
Bill Ladson also posted an article saying that, as of Friday (and tweeted feverishly during todays tilt) Ankiel is the front runner for the starting CF job. In which case, would Espi be the lead off hitter? Discuss.
Outfield Bench - Losers of Center-Field Starter battle vs. Matt Stairs
- Will the veteran's big left-handed bat and power potential keep him on the roster?
Still being claimed as deserving a spot on the Opening Day roster, Stairs as done little to prove his worth as a power bat off of the bench, considering he is just Rick Ankiel that can't play defense. But, its looking like Riggs and Rizzo want Stairs on the roster - so enjoy the fact that we are wasting a roster spot on a luxury player (luxury player - someone that a contender needs, not the Nats).
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?
Gorzelanny has pitched well enough in his past few starts to earn this job. His last 9 innings have shown the pitcher the Nats acquired from Chicago in the winter, 3 ER, 5 BB and 7 K. Maya and Detwiler will be sent to AAA, because they have options, and they will duke it out over who will be the first one called up.
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?
RED ALERT: Goes out to our pitchers with +10 ERAs; Tyler Clippard (12.79) and Drew Storen (11.74). It should be very scary to the Nats management that two of their top tier closer options going into the Spring are struggling so much. Clippard will make the team regardless, but whether he closes or not is another discussion for another day. It should be noted now that Sean Burnett has a 0.00 ERA in 8.1 IP... Storen, however, has options remaining and might need some no-pressure situations to get the kinks out.
Gaudin has proven his effectiveness as a long-man out of the pen and has a chance to unseat Craig Stammen in that role.
There is still not a large enough sample size on Henry Rodriguez, but I have to think that he will make the team over Collin Balester, due to the options game again.
Brian Broderick will make the team. His 0.71 ERA is the 2nd best on the roster and he has more than earned a spot. If you don't use him, you lose him.
What do you think about Stairs as a roster player? Will Storen be in Nats Park on March 31st? Alberto Gonzalez? What about the bullpen? Share your thoughts in the comments!