Contractually I am obligated to say that my favorite baseball website is Citizens of Natstown. However, my next favorite website is FanGraphs and if you don’t read their content you need to do it now. Anyways the writers over at FanGraphs have ranked teams by position group for each position based on a combination of playing time estimates and ZiPS and Steamer projections. Teams were then ranked by the total WAR produced by those projections. Let’s
take a look at where the Nationals ranked.
Catcher, 18th in MLB, Third in NL East
The FanGraphs guys are a bit bearish on Wilson Ramos ability to play this season, projecting him to only get 230 plate appearances this season, which seems awfully low. Otherwise the projection seems to be good as Ramos is pegged for a .260/.320/.412 season and Kurt Suzuki is at .253/.304/.383. If Ramos is able to play more this season than the Nationals will likely find themselves higher up this list at season’s end.
First Base, 16th in MLB, Third in NL East
The projections see a real step back for Adam LaRoche as they seem him garnering 2.4 WAR, much less than his 3.8 WAR last season. The Nats as a group find themselves behind the Braves and bit surprisingly Ike Davis and the Mets in the NL East. Anyways 2.4 fWAR is a solid starter and that’s what the Nats really need from LaRoche, they’ll
get their value elsewhere.
Second Base, 12th in MLB, Third in NL East
So far there seems to be a trend here with regard to position in the NL East, but like catcher and first base, second base for the Nationals isn’t supposed to be a strength. Danny Espinosa projects out to be a 2.7 WAR player, another solid starter. His glove and arm particularly stand out and second base and as is he’s already a valuable second baseman. If Espinosa can get his contact rate up a bit the Nats will easily find themselves among the top 10.
Shortstop, Fifth in MLB, First in NL East
Here’s one of the places where the Nationals will be looking for some star value in 2013. Ian Desmond last season was a 5.4 WAR player which if he kept it up would make him a bona fide superstar. More likely than not though he will take a modest step back this season but that doesn’t mean he won’t still be one of the best shortstops in the Major Leagues. The projections have him at 3.3 WAR and that is quite good and if the changes he made last year
stick he could easily exceed that.
Third Base, Fifth in MLB, Second in NL East
Not a surprise really here as Mr. Face of the Franchise Ryan Zimmerman is already known to be one of the best third baseman in baseball. In the NL East he’s only beaten by his 757 compadre David Wright of the Mets. Of note, the FanGraphs playing time projections believe this is the year Nats fans finally see top prospect Anthony Rendon make his debut. So we got that going for us.
Left Field, Seventh in MLB, Second in NL East
Bryce Harper is really good at baseball, which I’m sure comes as a shock. Harper checks in at 3.6 WAR which is actually lower than his 2012 total of 4.9 due to a bit of projected regression in his slugging and defensive value. Only .4 WAR separate Harper and the Braves’ Justin Upton and it wouldn’t be surprising if Harper ends up ahead of him. Interestingly, Tyler Moore, natural first baseman, projects better in left field where he adds .1 WAR.
Center Field, 18th in MLB, Second in NL East
Center field is the tightest position group with only .5 WAR separating the Nationals and the No. 10 Orioles. Denard Span’s lack of power likely drags him down here, but the Nationals aren’t really counting on him to hit even 5 home runs so that isn’t an issue. Span provides an above average bat with great speed as well as being one of the best defenders at a premium position. Good news for Shark fans is that the projections like him pegging him for a .309 wOBA and contributing .4 WAR in just 105 plate appearances which is solid for a fourth outfielder.
Right Field, 13th in MLB, Third in NL East
Resident tweeting beard @jwerthsbeard may be feeling a bit disrespected but the Nationals checking in at the 13 spot is pretty good. It is no secret that Jayson Werth is on the wrong side of 30 and the projections don’t think his power will make it back to his Phillies levels, but for a position scarce on talent the Nationals are looking good. Werth will still likely contribute a high on-base percentage and smart base running which is perfect for the two spot in the lineup which he will likely occupy.
That’s it for the position players and for being the second fiddle to the pitchers the Nationals hitters don’t look too bad. Overall the Nationals have only two players projected below league average and neither is due to player ineptitude. In the NL East the Nats don’t have a single position group ranked below third, which only the Braves can also say. The pitchers will come out next week and the Nationals will surely score high there and we’ll have a good grasp on just how the Nats fit in to the MLB puzzle.