As Spring Training comes to an end, smaller scale roster battles begin to fully reveal themselves. This is no different for the Washington Nationals, who now have two relatively small scale battles going on. One is the battle to round out the rotation, which is all down to Taylor Jordan, and the battle for the final bench spot. The final three players remaining contending for that spot are Jamey Carroll, Tyler Moore and Jeff Kobernus, and all bring different skills to the table.
If Davey Johnson was still managing this team, then it would barely be a competition, as Johnson prefers to have big, strong players on the bench who can come up and put the ball in the seats late in a game to get his team ahead. Alas, Johnson is no longer managing this team, and Matt Williams seems to want to have versatile players who can provide a complete skill set. Of course, we know Moore well and his power potential, but he struggled coming off the bench in 2013, which led to a demotion, and upon his recall, we all saw the true potential of his bat. That power is really all he can provide, and unfortunately, that could work to his detriment.
As we know, Carroll is an original Nationals player from 2005, and at 40 is looking for one last go around the stable before retirement. Carroll is an established pinch hitter with an impressive career .339/.471/.397 slash line in those situations, aside from his 12 years of major league experience. That leadership, combined with his positional versatility, being able to play third base, shortstop and second, could put Carroll on the inside track to that final bench spot, as it seems Williams and Mike Rizzo want a more veteran bench in 2014.
Of course, Kobernus can play second base and has the speed needed to play center field as well, and does not look out of place in the outfield a la Moore or Steve Lombardozzi. Not yet 26, Kobernus has spent the last three springs in major league camp, two with Washington and one with the Detroit Tigers, who took him in the Rule 5 draft, then returned him. Kobernus has not exactly wowed couches with his stats in camp, as in 30 at-bats this spring, Kobernus is hitting an unimpressive .233/.303/.300. Sure, Kobernus has a lot of speed, but not every team can afford to carry a specialist who only runs late in games. Kobernus could be bringing up the rear in this competition, and it would not be surprising.
Moore is a backup first baseman who can be mildly serviceable in the outfield when he is needed, but not someone who should be trotted out there every day, and is definitely better versed at first base. Unfortunately, with Williams seemingly set on giving Ryan Zimmerman opportunities to play first in 2014 when a tough lefty is on the mound, Moore simply does not seem to have a spot on this incarnation of the Nationals. Thus, it seems this bench will be more athletic, and that simply cannot include Moore.