Sunday, April 4, 2010

Playing Out of Position... at (almost) Every Position

One of the trends that's emerging over the Riggleman-Rizzo tenure is a willingness to move players around the diamond to positions they've never played before. All teams move players around from time to time, and it can sometimes be a good idea, or a bad one, depending on the player and the situation.

This spring, the Nationals' willingness to move players has resulted in a depth chart where as many as half the players on the field at any given time could be playing a position where they have little or no major league experience.

Consider these career numbers (regular season only):
Willie Harris: 10 innings in RF
Willy Taveras: 1 inning in RF
Mike Morse: 28 games total in the outfield (and 11 in the minors)
Cristian Guzman: 0 innings at 2B, 3B, RF, etc.
Josh Willingham: 4 innings at 1B

There are other less extreme examples. Adam Dunn is still relatively new to first base. Justin Maxwell hasn't played much in right, nor has Roger Bernadina. Alberto Gonzalez hasn't played much at third. Etc.

Now, again, this isn't necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. You can improve your team by reshuffling the players to a more optimal defensive alignment, or by finding more at bats for better hitters. Some of these position changes might not even matter much. How different is RF from CF? Assuming Harris and Taveras can make the throws, probably not much. And it's not that unusual--just a more extreme version of what you see on every team from time to time.

But it's at least noteworthy. First, it's not like the Nationals are being forced into this scenario because of injuries. They're starting the season healthy, and this is plan A. They planned it this way. Second, it could make the team more mistake-prone, and that's something to watch. Third, Rizzo's talked so much about upgrading the defense during the off-season year. This is another indication that he really didn't prioritize that.

Finally, my biggest question is that the team isn't really moving players so much as asking a lot of guys to be utility players. One super-utility guy on the roster should be plenty--they shouldn't need four. It seems less like this is a plan and more just a lot of tinkering, resulting in a misshapen final product. If that's what's happening, it's a bad process that doesn't bode well for the future.


Positively Half St. said...

It makes me uncomfortable, too, but not so much that I will become a utility fan. My position still remains Washington Nationals Fan. I'm not versatile enough to fit the Indians into my sympathies, as well, for instance.

Eric said...

The only player I'm really worried about is Tavaras out of position as a baseball player.

Anonymous said...

I think all the utility players are temporary options right now. We have seen Rizzo trying to find a trade for players in RF. Rizzo may need another 2 offseasons to field an ideal team to his liking. We will just have to live with Tavaras for now. I will be surprised if Tavaras will be with Nats at the end of the year.