Washington Nationals Placing High Priority on Center Field, Leadoff Spot

By Timothy Holland
Eric Hartline- US PRESSWIRE

After eight years of using stop gap measures, the Washington Nationals are making a strong effort to find a center fielder and lead off hitter. Washington hopes that they addressed both issues by trading with the Minnesota Twins for Denard Span. Trading for Span is not the only move that the Nationals have made concerning center field and lead off. Though they feel that Span will do well, the organization is working on options for the future.

Span will play in 2013. Washington did not trade for him unless he was going to start. He is a .284 lifetime hitter with speed that not many on the Nationals can match. Washington has him for the next two years with an option for a third. He will be 30 in 2014 and the Nationals will have to make a decision on whether they want to sign him long term. If the team’s current negotiations with first baseman Adam LaRoche are any indication, there is no guarantee they will keep Span.

If Span does not pan out, Washington will have to come up with someone to take his place in order to stay a pennant contender. If he keeps the center field and lead off spots for the next two years, then the Nationals must have someone ready in 2015 in case they don’t pick up the option. The team is preparing for both scenarios now.

In the first, if Span does not pan out Washington may put Bryce Harper back in center. The 2012 NL Rookie of the Year played most of last season there and did very well. However, center field is not his natural position and the Nationals would rather see him in right.

At the end of last season, Washington called up Eury Perez. The Nationals are very high on him as he batted .314 in three minor league stops. Perez, also, stole 51 bases. Though he still needs to learn more discipline at the plate, Perez will get a chance to prove himself next spring and could be an option if anything happens to Span.

As for the future, Perez is in the mix there as well, but will have competition. Washington has loaded up on center field prospects the same way that they have young pitchers.

Michael Taylor was drafted as a shortstop, but moved to center. At Class A Potomac, he batted .242 and stole 19 bases. Taylor may be two years away from being ready for the majors which is just about the time that Span’s contract runs out.

Then there is 2011 first round pick Brian Goodwin. The third player chosen by Washington that year, he made quick strides and advanced to Class AA Harrisburg last season. Goodwin showed power and speed as he hit .280 with 14 home runs and 52 RBI.

Since the Nationals were born in 2005, they have never had a solid, lead off hitting center fielder. Washington has never had any depth at the position as well. The organization knows this and is trying to stockpile talent there. It seems as though they are doing this.

The trade for Span, having Harper as a proven backup and developing talent in the minors should solve Washington’s center field and lead off hitter situation for a while.

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