Monday, May 14, 2012

Missing Pieces

Breaking News: The Nats have some injured players. Michael Morse, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, Drew Storen, Brad Lidge, Chien-Ming Wang all missing in action. For previous Nats teams, the season would be over, but the current Nats, lets call them Nats 2.0: the Natitude Edition, have the tools to succeed in this almost worst case scenario. Why? Lets break it down:

Michael Morse, Jayson Werth: Undoubtedly, the Nats need Morse and Werth to contend, they are keystone pieces that cannot be replaced. But not only are they missing the production, Bryce Harper's development may well be stunted. Just two weeks into his MLB career, he needs serious protection in the line-up. It took opposing pitchers all of a week to stop pitching to him. He is fed a steady diet of out pitches and has expanded his zone in a press to produce. Not ideal. A line-up that includes Zimmerman, Morse, LaRoche and Werth is a much friendlier place for Harper to develop his approach as a major league player. (Unless he somehow figures out how to devour a steady diet of breaking pitches, in which case he is some sort of Ted Williams/Ken Griffey Jr. cyborg)

Wilson Ramos: Love Wilson Ramos. But over the first month of the season, coupled with Henry Rodriguez fragile psyche, have shown Ramos to be sub-par defensively. His ability to block balls in the dirt is not developed and that is not a calming influence on a young staff. Jesus Flores can play major league baseball. He showed already this weekend he is a better backstop (At one point during Sunday's disaster of a ninth inning Dave Jagler pointed out that one of HRod's 54 foot fastballs would have been at the backstop if Wilson Ramos were catching). I don't believe the offensive drop-off will be that steep, and in fact if you remember Jesus first season as a back stop, he was clutch at the plate, delivering a number of important hits with runners in scoring position.

Chien-Ming Wang: The Wang/Lannan/Detwiler problem has turned out in the best possible way for the Nats development. The talent prospect has realized much of his potential and seized a spot in the rotation. Wang can take his time rehabbing and if he shows he is healthy he may draw interest from other teams in need of a starter and willing to take a flyer based on low salary and the potential return. John Lannan should always occupy a spot in Nats fans' hearts, but he has never had the talent to carry a staff or be a consistent contributor to a major league rotation. Nick Cafardo suggested today that teams may be more interested in Wang than Lannan, and at this point, the potential Wang beats the lackluster Lannan. Plus, I don't know if you heard, but the Nats have a problem with injuries, so a surplus of arms, might not be a bad thing.

Drew Storen, Brad Lidge: It should be clear to almost everyone after Sunday that Henry Rodriguez does not have the mental make-up to be a closer. And to be fair, that is not what anyone had in mind when this team was built. Drew Storen is looking pretty important these days isn't he? And wouldn't it have been nice to give Henry a night off Sunday and throw Brad Lidge out there with a three-run lead. You think Lidge walks anyone with a three run lead? The bullpen right now is a problem. A closer by committee? Open tryouts? Throw darts at a roster? This much is clear: I would be more comfortable with Rick Ankiel closing games than Henry Rodriguez.

Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler will keep this team in games through 6 or 7 innings almost every night. Players are going to ebb and flow offensively. Someone or someones may figure out how to close out a game. The Nats will get through these injuries with a record somewhere close to .500. At that point, imagine what the full team Mike Rizzo has assembled can do...

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