Spring Training is right around the corner for the Washington Nationals, as only four days separate them from pitchers and catchers reporting to Viera to begin one of the most compelling seasons in the franchise’s history. There will be a lot of storylines surrounding this team as they head to Florida, and one of them will be, as it has been for years, the second base job.
The Nationals have a few candidates who could win the job going in the year, and it is probably a little more wide open than the team lets on. Names like Danny Espinosa, Zach Walters and Anthony Rendon are the young studs with potential, and grizzled vets are looking for one last hurrah in the likes of Jamey Carroll and Mike Fontenot, who have both been every day players. As we know, Rendon was able to jump ahead of Espinosa on the depth chart in 2013, mostly because of Espinosa’s nagging injuries, which pushed Washington brass to do something, which was also spurred by the team’s slow start.
This spring should be very interesting, because Espinosa, who has said with the benefit of hindsight that had he known he had a broken wrist he would not have played, is seemingly about as healthy as he can possibly be with his shoulder issue looking to win back his job. Rendon showed that though he had very little second base experience, he was able to man the position adequately and is looking to solidify his job in the Nationals’ everyday roster. Walters also cannot be ignored, as he did hit 29 home runs in Triple-A while playing shortstop everyday and could steal the spotlight from both of the aforementioned guys, though he did bat .253, which is not exactly inspiring.
If I were to put a handicap on the competition, I would probably put Rendon as the front runner, Espinosa his stiffest competition, and Walters as the easy dark horse. Rendon finished out the year as the Nationals’ second baseman, and gave fans no reason to believe he is unable to handle either the rigors of a major league season or major league pitching. Espinosa first needs to prove he is not being stubborn when it comes to his shoulder, and if he is able to get past that, he will get as fair a chance as any player of making the team. Walters could open some eyes as well, since he definitely has the power potential, and being a shortstop by trade he can probably play the defense needed at second.
Without a doubt, second base will most likely be the fiercest competition in the spring. Though if certain issues, like Espinosa’s shoulder, reassert themselves, it may be a very one-sided competition.