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TRIPLE - A, MY DEAR WATSON?

[March 28th] -- Since January, we've been hearing indirectly (Bill Ladson) and directly (Frank Robinson and Jim Bowden) that the Washington Nationals wanted, the Washington Nationals needed Brandon Watson to win the starting job in center field this spring. The team's 45 stolen bases was an embarrassment, and Watson, it was hoped, would help bring station-to-station baseball to Washington. It was hoped that Watson would hit around .300 this spring, steal a few bases and have an improved on-base percentage. So far this spring, Watson is batting .311, has a .368 on base percentage, and has stolen seven bases in eight attempts. He's done everything asked of him.

So why is the Nationals' unofficially-official spokesman Bill Ladson telling the world that the center field job will go to either Ryan Church or Marlon Byrd? What went wrong?

Well, part of what went wrong is Alfonso Soriano's significant defensive liabilities. Brandon Watson is over-matched in center field, and has trouble getting to balls hit over his head. His arm isn't terribly strong either. He'd be perfect in left field, and my guess is that if Soriano wasn't stuck there, Watson would be the team's starting left fielder. Unfortunately for Watson, Soriano would be even worse in center that Watson. Because the team is beginning to realize just how bad Soriano is going to be in left, they understand that the team has to have a center fielder good enough to clean up at least some of his mistakes. Watson just isn't able to do that. Both Ryan Church and Marlon Byrd are good enough defensively to not only hold down their position effectively but cover a third of Soriano's as well.

Because Byrd strikes out less than Church (1:3.5 vs. 1:4.5), and because he has some experience at the top of the lineup, Byrd will likely win the starting job, but with Church getting plenty of playing time as his backup.

The Soriano trade continues to haunt Jim Bowden. He wants Watson in the outfield, but can't play him there because he's got to hide Soriano somewhere. The good news is, if this is good news, that Soriano will likely be traded for prospects by mid-season, allowing Watson to be called up from New Orleans and take over left permanently, leaving Church and Byrd to continue their battle in center.

Will the "Soriano saga" ever end?


Comments:
I could see a Byrd/Church platoon early then a job getting handed out. CF isn't made out for Church in my opinion. Byrd's the CF while Church is more of a corners man.
 
Soriano's huge defensive shortcomings in left field and his unwillingness to learn the position with any vigor will cause the Nationals to trade him sooner rather than later. The only way Soriano sticks around very long is if Vidro has health problems.
 
King - Church is actually a better defensive CF than Byrd. Neither are the ideal leadoff solution.
 
Farid - Bergmann has something that most of the other Nats pitchers don't ... options remaining. Bergmann can be sent down to AAA while guys like Felix Rodriguez and Jon Rauch would have to approve the move and/or clear waivers. One guy who does have options left is Gary Majewski. Majewski has been struggling so far this spring. Whether it be from overuse last year or something else, it may make sense to give Majewski a bit more time in extended spring training leaving an opening for Bergmann.
 
Well, Church is packing his bag for New Orleans today... prepare to be wowed by Brandon Watson's all singles hitting season and caught stealing after.

I also read that we purchased the contract of Daryle Ward...

This is just wonderful! Church and Bergmann sent down to make room for Brandon Watson and Daryle Ward!
 
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