Friday, March 26, 2010

Shaking Things Out

GM Mike Rizzo had to hope a few more positives would fall into place this March. Alas, many things have looked much the same. There has been the bullpen, erratic starting pitching, poor defense, and an inability to push across as many runs as the other hitters. But not all has gone wrong, some guys have seized the day and proven that they are worthy of playing in the Show.

Seized the Day: Willie Harris
When Elijah Dukes was released, it is hard to imagine that Willie was atop of the pecking order for at bats representing the right field position. The Nats clearly wanted one of the younger options to win the job. All Willie has done is gotten on base, scored runs, and done as much as possible to keep the Nats in games. His defense in one of the corner slots should be well above average, so for a team the received negative value at the 9 last season, this is extremely good news.

Choked on the Bit:
Justin Maxwell
Several years ago, the A's brought young 5-tool prospect they thought could be their franchise center fielder for years to come. Ryan Christienson shredded his way from low A to AAA in a year, enough so that the A's relegated projected starter, 26-year old Jason McDonald, to mop up duty. He stuggled with strikeouts as a rookie, getting on base the next year, and despite being handed the starting job three times on a loaded team, never could hold it down for more than a couple weeks at a time. Eventually the A's were forced to trade for Johnny Damon. Justin Maxwell was given a shot last May to do something Dukes on the DL with a hamstring and responded with an 0-16 binge with 10 strikeouts... even Austin Kearns cringed. Excusable given the circumstances, he earned more playing time in September, responding with a .292/.370/.554, albeit with 21 strikeouts and a slightly inflated but not insane BABIP of .375. This spring was supposed to be Maxwell's oyster. His defense, speed, and youth are fact. He was given the opportunity- the only player getting to the dish more is Ian Desmond (talk about contrast)- and shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that he needs another season in AAA, learning how to bat. Sure, he can hit, yes, when the ball hits his bat. However, in the NL East, there are plenty of guys who are pretty good at missing bats. Roger Bernadina should be the extra outfielder when the team breaks camp. If the Nats believe Dukes was expendable because Maxwell is his eventual replacement, they cannot force the issue as outlined in the Oakland example above.

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