Monday, January 9, 2012

Fielder(s) in the Outfield

Welcome back after a wonderful holiday break! We sure are glad to be back here talking about baseball in what seems to be a rumor-filled and results-less offseason.

We here at Capitol Baseball like to go in a bit of a different direction every now and then, and now is no exception. Everyone in NatsTown knows exactly what is going on with Prince Fielder - nothing at all. The Nats are in play, obviously, but so are a lot of teams and there really is no way of knowing anything at all about where he could be going. That being said, there has still been a lot of internet ink focused on the slugger of large pedigree - our stand is out there in podcast form (hint: let's do it!). We think it's time to focus on other things until there is something real to report on that front - so today we are going to discuss the options out there in the Outfield.

(Get it? Fielder(s) in the Outfield? You thought I was going to write about Prince Fielder... See what I did there?)

As of now the Nats have a few different options in the outfield, but that all changes with the signing of a certain player so let's just go with what we have at this exact moment:

The Shoe-Ins:
- Jayson Werth - Owed a metric butt ton of dollars over the next 6 years, get used to seeing his soul patch roaming the outfield - the only question is where. There are a few different ways that this could break depending on who makes the Opening Day roster - which we will get into a bit later.

- Michael Morse - As of right now, pencil him in for Left Field on Opening Day in ChiTown. Those in the National Media saw Morse rise to fame this past season, but those loyal NatsTown followers saw the spark start in the 2010 season when he would go 3-4 with a Double and Home Run only to be benched the next day by Riggleman. If he can repeat his 2011 performance the Nationals will be in contention for most of the year. I know it sounds cliche, but this is a make-or-break year for Michael Morse's future.

The Contenders:
- Roger Bernadina - Many pundits and fans though that this would be the year, but once again he failed to deliver when given the chance to be an everyday starter. He is still under team control so he provides the team with a cheap option, as well as some speed and solid defense. The issue being that his OPS (.664) doesn't compute offensively with his best defensive position, Left Field, where he posted a 24.1 UZR/150 in 2011. I wouldn't be surprised if Bernadina doesn't break camp with the Nats in 2011.

- Mike Cameron - Signed a few weeks ago to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, Mike Cameron has had a long and impressive career for just a one-time all star. And although he is 39 years-old, all current defensive metrics project him as an above average defender in the outfield. He can easily manage to roam around CF (where he had a 17.7 UZR/150 in 2011) until he gets bumped to a 4th spot when our next player cracks the big leagues.

- Bryce Harper - The phenom. It is no secret that Davey Johnson yearns for this kid to make the majors out of Spring Training - a season in which he will be 19 years-old the entire time. If he were to have a solid March there is definitely a chance he could break camp with the big club (especially if Cameron and Bernadina struggle) - most likely in RF with Werth moving to CF. Don't rule it out - he is that good.

- Eury Perez - I've included Perez only because he is on the 40-man roster; placed there to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He played 2011 at High-A Potomac, and unless he hits 1.000 and Slugs 4.000 in at least 30 ABs in Spring Training he will be earmarked for Harrisburg to start 2012.

- Mark DeRosa - At the downswing of a solid career, DeRosa projects as much more of a utility infielder during 2012 than an outfielder. He will be 37 years-old when the season begins, and he hasn't played outfield since playing just 21 games there back in 2010 - don't count on DeRosa logging any significant time (if at all) in the Nats outfield.

- Rick Ankiel - The only player on this list that is not on the roster. Joe and I have discussed the possibility of bringing back Ankiel for the 2012 season, and frankly we are surprised that he doesn't have a deal anywhere yet. When he was signed last winter, everyone expected him to have some offensive pop while struggling in the field; the reality was the exact opposite, a solid defender with a weak bat. Ankiel would be brought back on a 1-year deal, which would most likely be a half-year and trade once Bryce Harper ascends to the Bigs in June. His 11.6 UZR/150 in CF would fit nicely between the Morse and Werth sandwich.

So, there you have it. The 2012 options for the Nats outfield based on the currently constructed roster (plus Ankiel).

What combination would you like to see (based on current roster only!)?

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