Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Leadoff Plan B

Ian Desmond will be the Nats shortstop for 2012. He will begin the year as the lead-off man, whether or not he stays there for 2012 is very much up in the air. So far this spring he is just 3 for 20 and 0 walks. Zero. His OBP is a paltry .150 with 7 Ks in 20 ABs. These are not the numbers you want to see out of your lead-off man, even if it is spring training. So maybe its time we talk about possible plan Bs. Here are several possible scenarios for names you might see at the top of the line-up card should Desmond have a less than stellar April and May.

Danny Espinosa: Last year he got on-base at a .323 clip, not ideal. But he is speedy, a switch hitter, and perhaps with a lead-off hitters approach and mindset he could train himself to walk more and see more pitches he could see both his OBP and SLG %s rise. I believe he would be the first plan B should Desi fail in the 1 hole.

Jayson Werth: He was signed by the Nats to be a run-producer in the middle of the line-up. But perhaps he will end up having more value as a guy with a lifetime .360 OBP. He is athletic and smart and could adapt to the strategies of the lead-off spot. With Zim, Morse and eventually Bryce, he may not be counted on as much to drive in runs, freeing him up to lead-off.

Rick Ankiel: If we get this far down the Plan B hierarchy...we are in trouble. But I believe in a man named Rick Ankiel. He is an athlete, he knows how pitchers think and can jump start an inning with an extra-base hit. He hit for a .340 OBP back in 2008 and is capable of stealing bases. He strikes out too much, but again, this would definely be a stop-gap solution.

Unnamed Player Traded For: Rizzo wants that long term solution for CF and the lead-off spot. The MLB Trade Rumor heat has died down somewhat on Nats trading for a CF, but that's when it seems Rizzo strikes. It would not shock me in the least if at some point before April 5 Mike swings a deal for a young outfielder with high OBP potential.

On a roster with plenty of talent, the lead-off spot has to worry Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo. If Ian Desmond proves incapable of holding down the lead-off spot, the cupboard is pretty bare when it comes to OBP and speed. So Nats fans, hold your breath for Ian Desmond and cross your fingers for Mike Rizzo and the CF trade market.


  1. With all the pressure already heaped upon him to play steady defense at shortstop, it astonishes me that the team would even consider beginning another season with Desmond at the lead-off spot. The fact that Davey Johnson has already publicly stated he is not impressed with the newly tinkered batting stance Desmond brought to camp only adds to the concern. If the team is looking to move its surplus of pitchers like Lannan and Gorzlanney, shouldn't Rizzo seek a possible short-term solution to the CF/lead-off position question by swapping for a player such as Rajai Davis (Blue Jays), who is much more natural at the top of the order?

  2. How about Lombardozzi? He has a lifetime OBP of .360 in the minors and stole 30 bases last year while mostly batting leadoff. Experience would seem to be his only drawback.

  3. I'm interested to see if Corey Brown continues to be hot. If he rips it up in Syracuse, and Desmond flails, this could be interesting.

    But Brown is more likely to get hurt again, I'm afraid.

  4. I feel that Lombo would get called up before the Nats would result to using Ankiel. Or maybe Corey Brown, knowing how much Johnson praised him, if it is late enough in the season that the Nats feel he has had time to improve in the minors. I can see Espinosa or Werth getting time in the leadoff spot, but I have a hard time believing it would get further than that in your list.

  5. Lombo would need to take over at 2nd and move espi to ss...i really think its going to take 3 or 4 months of all around bad play for ian desmond to be supplanted as an every day player. corey brown would be good, but again is he going to start every day on a team with morse werth and harper?

  6. You forgot Lombardozzi who has been trained for the task throughout his minor league career. Many professionals in baseball doubt Desmond. And there are those within the organization as well. If he continues with his experimental stance he will likely be optioned to AAA to work on it. Lombo will likely move to second. Espinosa to shortstop.