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[March 24th] -- Okay, Jose Guillen is entrenched in right field, and Alfonso Soriano is set in left, at least for 2006. All that's left to figure out is who is going to man center field for the Nationals. There are three options: Ryan Church, Marlon Byrd and Frank Robinson's favorite, Brandon Watson.

Had Ryan Church not been injured, he would have likely ended the season somewhere around .300-22-85, numbers he was projected to finish the year with on the day he got hurt. He is one of the very few lefties in the league who hit southpaws better than righties. Church reminds me of former Expo Grady Sizemore, who hit .289-22-81 for Cleveland last year. But Jim Bowden isn't a fan because he thinks he didn't play with pain. No matter what he does here, Bowden, and Frank Robinson to an extent, considers him "tainted goods." He'll probably make an all-star game or two during his career, but he's not going to do it here in D.C.

Marlon Byrd was thought so little of by Ed Wade and the Philadelphia Phillies that he was traded to the Nationals for Endy Chavez. Byrd, who hit .303-7-45 as a rookie in 2003, fell on his face the next year before being traded to D.C. Byrd's build is that of a power hitter, but he's never been able to hit more than 7 homers in a season. Frank Robinson grew tired of his lack of power and sent him to New Orleans last summer to work with roving hitting instructor Mitchell Page. It worked. He came back a different hitter, consistently stroking the ball off, and over, the outfield fence. Bowden was so impressed that he said that Byrd "would hit 20-25 homers a year" if given the chance to play every day. Thus far, he is proving Bowden right, hitting two home runs and sporting a .999 OPS this spring. Given 500 at bats, Byrd would likely produce numbers similar to Church.

The Nationals have two players under team control, capable of combining for 45 home runs and 160 RBI's, and yet the team hopes that Brandon Watson will be the Nationals opening day starter. Watson, in 2,500 minor league at bats, has a career .301 batting average. But he also has a career .699 OPS, suggesting that his offense is too soft to make a real difference. True, he's stolen 130 bases in the minors, but with only a 65% success rate. A player who averages a home run every 625 at bats needs an OPS of at least .800. Wastson has never come close to that number.

Without a doubt, Brandon Watson is the least talented of the three. Church and Byrd have combined for more than 1,400 major league at-bats; Watson has 40 at bats. Five years from now, Byrd and Church will be major-league starters, and Watson will probably be out of baseball. Like Endy Chavez before him, his speed and quickness have caused Bowden and Robinson to overlook his deficiencies. Sooner or later, the team will give up on Brandon Watson and move on.

By then, however, he probably will have been the starter for half a season, and Byrd, maybe Church, maybe both, will be playing for another team, leaving Michael Tucker as the team's only hope in center field.


When it comes to choosing outfielders, speed kills.

Hey Farid,

Sorry it took so long to get back to you about my logo. I did NOT do it myself, it was there already courtesy of the last guy who ran the MVN Nationals blog. Sorry I can't be a bigger help.

I would love for Byrd to start ... he was the leadoff batter for the Phillies the year he hit .303 ... I think he could go .300 - 15 - 60 with 15 steals. What do you think?
I think he could easily hit that well, maybe more. I would rather have Church in left and have Soriano play somewhere else (like New York!)
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no. we're better with soriano in left and ryan church in center. we should then trade byrd for pitching.
If we're going to trade someone, trade Church -- he has value. Most of the other teams still think that Marlon Byrd is that "singles" hitter they remember with the Phillies.
We should move Soriano to SS, get rid of Clayton/Guzman/Mr. Pinkus at that spot for the season, put Church in LF (he's a better corner OF I think), and have a Byrd/Watson platoon type thing at center.
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