Since their move to the nation’s capital, the Washington Nationals have had a seemingly perpetual hole at second base.
Whether it was Jose Vidro, Ronnie Belliard or Junior Spivey, Washington has never been able to find a consistent second baseman that has taken a stranglehold on the position, both offensively and defensively.
The only time when Washington thought they had a second baseman for years to come was the first half of 2011 with, you guessed it, Danny Espinosa. His struggles have been well documented, and he is currently mired in the minors without a September call-up.
As this is the case, one could assume Espinosa has been leapfrogged to a degree by other players in the organization, such as a guy like Zach Walters.
Walters hit 29 home runs this season in Triple-A, and has shown power recently in his minor league career. Walters was acquired in 2011 for Jason Marquis, and seemed to be a throw-in guy that would probably be a bench player for Washington down the road.
The one qualm many had with Espinosa was that he was a better hitter right-handed than he was left-handed. Some even clamored for Espinosa to hit right-handed full time so to combat this, which is obviously ridiculous. Walters is actually a better hitter left-handed than he is right-handed, as he bats .256 left-handed and .244 right-handed, with with 25 home runs from the former side of the plate.
Washington could make some serious changes to their infield this winter. Adam LaRoche, on his way to easily his worst statistical year since his rookie season, could be dealt, both because of this abysmal year offensively and with Ryan Zimmerman‘s continuous throwing problems, which makes him a candidate to jump across the diamond to first base.
If this were to happen, then Anthony Rendon could make a return to the hot corner, his natural position. If these chips are to fall, and I strongly expect they will, then that leaves a hole at, you guessed it, second base.
Washington could look to the free agent market for a second baseman, with Robinson Cano leading the pack of free agents. Cano would not come cheap, but putting him in a lineup with Bryce Harper, Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos and Rendon could make Washington’s lineup even scarier.
Needless to say, GM Mike Rizzo is one who will look to his own organization first for filling holes. What the Nationals could do is create an open competition between Walters and Steve Lombardozzi for the second base job, or even simply go with a platoon with the duo.
Neither of them are particularly strong against left-handed pitchers (nowhere near Espinosa at least), but if Washington wants to keep themselves financially flexible, they could allow the Lombardozzi and Walters to duke it out and ride the hot hand as long as they can.
Washington could also allow Tyler Moore to try and win the starting first base job in the event LaRoche is traded and Zimmerman does not want to switch to first, but it’s much more likely that Zimmerman moves. Washington could go after Cano, but with so many young players they would have to lock up over the next few seasons, it may behoove them to start a Spring competition and ride out the hot hand until one of them takes hold of the job.