It is that time to talk about some of the top names that could be wearing a Nats jersey in Spring Training, and the hottest rumor that won’t go away is Matt Wieters. You will read below the analysis on Wieters which throws some cold water on that idea. We know for sure that the dreams of Edwin Encarnacion playing for the Nationals will not happen as he is headed to Cleveland.
Adding one additional bench bat makes a lot of sense to go with a quartet we are projecting of:
- Jose Lobaton/Derek Norris
- Chris Heisey
- Wilmer Difo
- Brian Goodwin or Michael A. Taylor
Here is a discussion of potential bench players:
- Matt Wieters. He did not have a strong second half of his 2016 season, and he has large road splits which has to make you nervous because his .687 road OPS is nothing to get excited about. He also batted .227 in the 2nd half of the season, and that makes him a bounceback candidate. Wieters has played 12 career games in Nats Park and has a .191/.235/.362/.597 slash. That has to cause you to shake your head side-to-side. No. Pass on him.
- Stephen Drew. He has been tied to the Nats of course and was a bright spot in 2016 until he was stricken with vertigo and went on the DL. Drew did a great job filling in defensively all over the infield, and he hit right-handed pitchers to a slash of.276/.351/.559/.910. The issues with Drew are his health and his age. He will turn 34-years-old in March.
- Luis Valbuena. His 2016 season was going great until he went on the DL with a hamstring tear that required surgery. Valbuena made a wise decision playing in the Winter League to show his hamstring was 100%. Valbuena has played every infield position, but the Astros used him almost exclusively in 2016 as a 3rd baseman. Valbuena is a 31-year-old lefty who has always hit right-handed pitchers well, and finally showed he could also hit lefties where he actually achieved a higher batting average. His slash against righties was .258/.362/.479 /.841. Valbuena has the same issue as Wieters where he just doesn’t bat well in Nats Park. Maybe it’s because Nats pitchers are so good. Valbuena hits very well in CitiField where he bats .379 and in Miami he has a .500 slugging percentage.
- Brandon Moss. Moss slumped miserably in September (.099 BA) and it really skewed his overall stats for 2016 which were very good until September 1st. Moss finished 2016 with a slash of .225/.300/.484/.784. Moss at Nationals Park is excellent in 7 career games as he has slashed .364/.391/.636/1.028. If we knew what was wrong with Moss in September, it might clear up that concern, and we have reached out to his agent Mark Pieper (Update: Pieper reached out to us. ISE and Pieper do not rep Moss. He thinks he is rep’d by Aces).
On relief pitchers, we are not going to recommend a closer; however, one name is a previous top closer in Greg Holland.
- Greg Holland. We had previously reported that Greg Holland had met with Mike Rizzo at the Winter Meetings. The Nationals were also at his private showcase last month where Holland threw for scouts and was clocked at 89-91mph on his fastball. Holland is working his way back from an ulnar collateral ligament TJ surgery. While there are certainly concerns about Holland’s health, he is the highest ceiling
playerreliever available, and with that comes a higher demand from clubs looking for upside. Expect his agent Scott Boras to push for an early exit in the deal so his client can take advantage of a strong finish to the 2017 season via an opt-out or player option. This is not to say the Nationals should do this rather what may part of a final negotiation.
- Boone Logan. Logan is the top name in lefty relief pitchers, and his numbers are excellent especially when you consider he pitched his home games in 2016 in the thin air of Colorado. He held lefties to a .142 batting average. Logan is 32-years-old.
We only have one name for starting pitchers, and this is Jason Hammel. He would fit in as a #4 or #5 starter if Mike Rizzo chose to add another starter to deepen his rotation.