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Spring Offensive Update – March 22

March 22, 2010

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post that compared Nats 2009 season OBP and SLG to MLB averages (Nats Powerful Productivity).  We now have enough data through the first couple of weeks of spring training to recompute the comparison with the current roster.  I computed the MLB 2010 spring training OBP and SLG averages through March 21st.  After 18,743 ABs this spring, the OBP average is 0.347 – SLG is 0.438. Here’s how the Nats stack up through Sunday’s games…

I limited this chart to players with a minimum of 15 ABs. As a reminder, players in the upper right quadrant are above the league average in both OBP and SLG. Players above horizontal SLG line have a higher than average SLG – players to the right of the vertical OBP line have a higher than average OBP.

Outfield

This chart makes it easy to see why Jim Riggleman said that as of Sunday, Willie Harris is slated to be the everyday right fielder. Willy Taveras is the only other outfielder on the roster hitting at a serviceable right fielder pace. Unfortunately, neither Harris nor Taveras is likely to continue at their current pace. Nyjer Morgan has had an abysmal spring. Hopefully this is 100% due to the hamstring issue he has been having. If Morgan continues his current pace (0.143/0.182/0.190), it will be a long year for the Nats. Josh Willingham – 0.300/0.364/0.700 – is off to a quick start after returning from paternity leave. Certainly at this point, outfield productivity is a potential issue.

Infield

Ryan Zimmerman is off to an unsustainable pace at 0.438/0.455/0.813. At shortstop, Ian Desmond is dominating Cristian Guzman at the plate. Add Guzman’s weak throw across his body Sunday, and it looks like this race is over. (Will the Nats eat Guzman’s salary, or place him on the DL and hope to get something for him in a deadline trade this summer?) Adam Kennedy is performing OK, but it would be nice to see someone with his speed have a higher OBP. Eric Bruntlett is certainly making a case to be the utility infielder over Alberto GonzalezAdam Dunn has shown no power at the plate this spring. It’s concerning in that he’s been having lower back spasms, which once they start, seem to continue through the remainder of a player’s career. Although Dunn and the team claim it is a non-issue, it certainly something for Nats fans to keep an eye on. Overall, the Nats are better off with the 2010 tandem of Desmond/Kennedy than the 2009 teaming of Guzman/platoon. If Dunn can get and stay healthy, the 2010 infield will be an improvement over 2009.

Catcher

It’s good to see Pudge Rodriuguez‘s (0.333/0.360/0.333) OBP closing in on .400. He struggled to get on base in 2009. Given that he looks like the every day catcher for 2010, the Nats will need for him to have a solid year with the bat. Wil Nieves is hitting close to his career averages – it’s not great, but it’s what you expect.

Others

Several of the players on this chart are no longer on the MLB roster. Chris Morgan, and Pete Orr have been sent down to the minors. Elijah Dukes was cut. Justin Maxwell is not going to make the 25 man roster, again because of his bat. Maxwell has had the second most plate appearances this spring, and has coughed up this line – 0.111/0.267/0.222.

Overall, if Morgan and Dunn can regain their health and their career average productivity (Morgan’s 2009 stint with the Nats was above his career numbers), the Nats will have major league quality players at every position. It could be enough to stay away from 100 loses.

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