Monday, May 9, 2011

Gregor Blanco, Rick Ankiel, or a Red-Hot Poker?

First question: When did the Nationals become the landing pad for washed out Kansas City Royals? Isn't that what Pittsburgh is for?

As replacement-level free talent goes, you could do worse than Gregor Blanco. The advanced metrics say he's below average in the field but can handle LF and CF without hurting you too badly. I only saw him play left when he was with Atlanta, but I don't remember anything to contradict those numbers. At the plate, he takes a lot of walks but has no power at all. If he's plan B for the failed Mike Morse experiment, you can think of him as a poor-man's Ryan Langerhans. (Zing! I really burned Rizzo there didn't I!)

It's a tough question now--at this point what should the Nationals do in the outfield? After deciding to trade Josh Willingham for whatever they could get (a move that I supported), failing to sign any kind of starting-caliber stop-gap free agent (Ankiel doesn't count), and dumping Nyjer Morgan (a move that I guess had to happen), the Nationals were left with the motley group of Morse, Ankiel, Laynce Nix, Jerry Hairston, and Roger Bernadina to cover two-thirds of the outfield. None of those guys have been any better than you'd expect.

One decision seems pretty easy: give Bernadina regular playing time. He's at least kind of young-ish, and he was better last year than Ankiel and Morse have been.

After that? Going into the season I'd kind of hoped that Corey Brown might work his way into the picture, but he's whiffed 37 times in 87 ABs for Syracuse. There isn't anyone else in the system anywhere near ready or good.

I suppose it'll be Ankiel as soon as he's healthy, since he's the guy making $1.5 million. But why not Blanco? The Nationals have a huge OBP problem. Today they ran out a line-up that had five guys with OBPs under .300. That's more than half the line-up my friends. And the rest of the lineup included Adam LaRoche and Jerry Hairston at .310 and Danny Espinosa at .313. The other guy was Bernadina, who'd only had 8 plate appearances at the start of the day and went 0-4. He'll catch up to the rest by the end of the Atlanta series.

Bottom line, this is another one of those situations where the problem isn't really the moves the team is making now to fill their holes. It's that the player development system hasn't produced a single starting-caliber option in the outfield since Ryan Church. Now they're left scrambling for other team's cast-offs to fill two key spots, and the results are unlikely to be anything but ugly.

7 comments:

Basil said...

Agreed.

I like Blanco .... but then I sort of dream for MLB to turn into a modified deadball kind of thing.

Bonsai said...

Bryce Harper HURFF A DURFF...

In all seriousness, who was available in free agency who might have been a better pickup than Ankiel?

Steven said...

I dunno--Jayson Werth? Oh, right...

Overall it's really hard to fill needs through FA. I've been preaching this for years. Free agents are by definition older, usually declining players that their own team decided they didn't bother to re-sign. So the real problem is that the Nationals haven't developed their own good outfielders through scouting and player development.

Blame Elijah Dukes, Mike Burgess, Lastings Milledge, Justin Maxwell... Or blame them for passing on Jason Heyward and Matt LaPorta when they took Ross Detwiler...

It's easy to play 2020 hindsight, but the point is that the scouting and player development system hasn't produced enough talent to fill the team's needs. By the time you get to December 2010, and you have literally zero in-house options for your entire outfield (not to mention first base), you're screwed.

Bonsai said...

The FA question was more in response to "failing to sign any kind of starting-caliber stop-gap free agent (Ankiel doesn't count)" than anything.

I think the scouting is starting to turn around, but yes of course there's about a ten year crater in talent that has to be overcome first.

Once the Nats begin their inevitable downslide, it will be interesting to see who goes on the market, and what Rizzo can pull of in return. Who would you rather keep, Marquis or Gorzelanny? I'm thinking Gorzo since he's younger and a lefty, although he might fetch more.

Steven said...

Well, having adequately rejected the premise of the question, I'll play along. I always kinda like Fred Lewis. He probably would have been my choice over Rick Ankiel.

Harper said...

I'm just glad Kory Casto isn't around anymore to be foisted upon Nats fans as the next medium-sized thing.

Piero said...

Corey Brown like so many "experienced winning veterans" on the Nats roster like Mr. "Stares"? is a slow starter. His bat is starting to come around ... we'll have to see where he's at in June.