Monday, March 22, 2010

The Right Field Situation

In 2008, Willie Harris seized the opportunity presented when half the Nationals roster went on the DL or was named "Austin Kearns" (who may be stumbling into a roster spot in Cleveland). He will never be a long term solution, or a guy that will bat .300, but his ability to play defense and capitalize on mistakes (via the walk, occasional long ball, or heady base running) make him a fairly valuable player against right-handed pitching. He posted a WAR of 3.3 in 2008, and will likely be in the range of 3 wins again with 400 plate appearances. Elijah Dukes, on the other hand, after showing that 3-4 win potential in 2008, did nothing with the additional playing time, somehow cratering out negative value.

Many fans and personnel felt sorry that Willie Harris took the shaft last season, complimenting him on his professionalism despite his offensive numbers suffering in the limited playing time. Moving forward, everybody knows Willie is hardly a long term solution at the position, but given the right opportunities, such as platooning against righties and batting behind a running threat like Nyjer Morgan, he should thrive in 2010. And given Dukes' negative clubhouse impact, who is to say a simple move like this isn't worth more than 3 wins?

Next season, maybe Willie Harris gets squeezed out by a free agent, but this year, even with a bat like Jermaine Dye lurking out there, the Nats should trust their locker room. Dye is likely worth negative value (trust me, I had him on my fantasy team and his second half was pretty special) both on the field and in the clubhouse. Yes, maybe if Dukes or Dye had played to their ABSOLUTE BEST, the Nats are a 76 win team as opposed to a 72, but more than likely the team wins 68 instead.

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