There is a huge elephant in the Nationals clubhouse centered around one of their prospects and what Spring Training will entail for this young man. That man is Steve Lombardozzi.
Seriously, this is a player that has been mentioned by everyone in NatsTown as a successor for the Nationals middle infield - at 2nd base with Espinosa moving to his natural position, SS. For the record, Mike Rizzo refused to include Lombardozzi in a few trades last year that would've netted the ballclub a center fielder. And barring a trade, are the Nationals really going to make a 23 year-old prospect a utility infielder? Would you?
This offseason saw Lombo crack every major prospect-ranking list, ranking #8 for Baseball Prospectus, #10 for Baseball America, and #13 for Fangraphs. According to Baseball America, he is the Best Defensive Infielder in the entire Nationals System - high praise from one of the top media outlets for prospects.
There is always some wiggle room involved with this kind of thing and according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Davey Johnson plans to use him in a "hybrid" role to get him to 300 Major League ABs in 2012. I have no idea how this is going to effect his development, and if anyone tells you they do know, they are lying.
Let's check out some of his minor league numbers, bullet-point style:
- He has had an average of approx. 606 ABs/year for the past three years.
- In those three years he has hit .296, .294, and .309 in A, A+/AA, and AA/AAA respectively.
- His career MiLB OBP is .369 - this is over 447 games.
- His career MiLB K% is 12.5%.
- Last season he had just 2 errors in 539 chances at 2B.
The truth of the matter is that, according to his MiLB stats, he is ready to make the jump to the Majors.
So once again, would it be wise for the team to bring Lombo up north with the big club come Opening Day for "hybrid" role? Does he play 2nd Base and you bench Espinosa or have Espi play Short? Does he play Short and you bench the more veteran Desmond or have Desi play 2nd?
What do you think, CapBallers?