The trade for Denard Span gave the Nats the lead-off hitting centerfielder they have been looking for for a long time, but it also brought up a few other questions. One of those being who will bat second. The Nats could move Werth into the two hole and take advantage of his OBP and base running ability or they could return Werth to his more typical fifth spot in the order to take advantage of his power that should return a year removed from the wrist injury that sidelined him for most of the 2012 season. There is another option and it comes from a player that is on the Nats roster.
If a lead-off hitters job is to get on base and then try and score the number two hitters job is to help facilitate that. A prototypical number two hitter is someone that can move the lead-off hitter around the bases or act like a lead-off hitter themselves in case they don’t. Steve Lombardozzi suffered ups and downs during the course of the 2012 season and at times he looked like the on base machine the Nats needed at the top of the order, and at others it felt like he was barely there, but through it all he only struck out 11.1% of the time. The one thing Lombardozzi will do that a number two hitter should do is put the ball in play.
Lombardozzi is the low power, high contact hitter that should be hitting second behind a player like Span. Breaking down Steve Lombardozzi further it can quickly be seen where his weaknesses lied in 2012. vs. left handed pitching Lombo had a .532 OPS as opposed to .715 against right handed pitchers. Lombo is much better as a left handed batter against right handed batters than he is from the other side of the plate. That could improve with time as he had a third of the PA against left handers as he did right handers. Lombardozzi was also better when he played his natural position of second base batting .291/.332/.392.
For a comparison to what Lombardozzi brings to the table an average number two hitter in baseball in 2012 hit .262/.321/.393 and the average second baseman hit .257/.318/.383. Overall Lombardozzi hit .273/.317/.354 which gives him less power than the average second baseman and number two hitter, but playing full time at his natural position and batting between Span and Zimmerman would help to improve those numbers. Lombardozzi’s batting line as a second baseman is better than average in all categories and the power is in line with what is expected from a number two hitter.
All of this ends up begging the question of what happens to Danny Espinosa or why a player with such a bright future would no longer be a part of the Nats. A lot of this depends on what happens with LaRoche, but even if LaRoche is back the Nats are going to have a bottom of the order that doesn’t get on base and hits for power with Morse, Desmond, and Espinosa, and there is a good chance that either Desmond or Espinosa would end up batting second in order to allow Werth to bat in the run producing fifth spot. From a line-up construction stand point the Nats only need one or two of the low OBP high SLG batters. What the Nats need is a high contact type who can handle the bat in the way that Steve Lombardozzi does.
If the Nats do resign LaRoche then Espinosa makes a little more sense if Morse is moved, but that would still leave either Werth or Harper batting second and as both should be more run producers in 2013 than they were in 2012 that doesn’t make the best sense in the world either. There is also the thought that if the Nats want to add a starting pitcher via trade they will have to give up Espinosa in the deal. Lots of teams could use a 20/20 2B that can play gold glove level defense.