A Washington Nationals Blog

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

1st Base

This is one of the main issues for the Nats in Spring Training. Who is going to start at 1st? I know that there are a lot, I mean A LOT, of people in the blogosphere and the chat rooms that wonder why it is even a question and just want to give D-Young the job. Now, Da Meat had a great, no wonderful, no, oh just insert your own superlative for good season last year. But those were career numbers. And need we forget that his defense was a little shaky at times. Plus, Dimitri is old. I mean pretty much on the back side of his career and not going to be getting any better old. The odds are that he won't repeat the numbers and magic of last year, and even if he comes close won't do it in '09. So Da Meat is clearly not the long, or even really mid-term solution at first.

So then why not Nick? Well, Nick Johnson can hit, and hit, and hit. And walk. And hit more. So then why is a guy that is 29 with a .420 OBP who led the Nats in AVG his last semi-full season not starting? The short answer is: Nick is accident prone. I don't think its his fault. I just think that he has some Karmic inbalance that means for every walk he draws he must have a requisite number of days on the DL. '05 and '06 were great seasons for Nick. He sat out all of '07. But even if he is an injury risk, he still probably has 3 or more good seasons in him than Young does. I hate to say it and if people actually read this blog, feel free to argue, but Nick is simply younger. 34 is just a bigger number than 29. I'm sorry, that's how math works.

So fine, one might be around longer, the other is likely not going to fall down the stairs on the way back into the dugout. So lets look at numbers. Nick has a better career OBP. Young has better AVG and SLG, though both have solid numbers in all three. Nick strikes out slightly more often, but walks something like 3 times more often. They are almost even on RBIs and home runs if you adjust for the number of at-bats. So offensively, it is basically a dead heat.

That means, gulp, intangibles. Both are considered leaders and good clubhouse influences from what I have read. But Young is clearly seen as a leader and a mentor for some of the 'project' players like Dukes. That is a role that almost nobody else in baseball and certainly nobody in DC can fill in quite the same fashion. Also, even though Young's age works against him as a longer term solution, it works for him in a strange way that he is a less desirable trade quantity. Nick, as a still semi-young or at least baseball middle-aged player has more trade value.

The Nats have moved Chris Marrero, the former outfield prospect to 1B. This seems to be the organization's attempt to give a kid with limited speed and outfield defense a shot to use his good bat at the Major League level. Chris hit a combined .275 with 23 homers at Hagerstown Low-A and Potomac High-A last season. He is just now trying 1B. He will not be ready this season. He probably won't be ready next season. But if he is going to be the First Baseman of the Future, it will probably happen in 2010. Oh, and Dimitri is signed through the 2009 season with an option for 2010. Funny how that works, isn't it?

So, it looks like Nick, if healthy, will be traded in favor of Dimitri assuming he is healthy and last year wasn't a total fluke. But in either case, don't get too attached, both of them are really not more than a 1 or 2 season holder until we can find a younger, maybe more powerful, first baseman. But for now, its going to be Da Meat bobble night, and praying that he can hide Dukes' cell phone all season long.

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