Weekend BlogMarch 01, 2008
Up In the Air Part 2: National League Personnel Choices
By The Baseball Analysts Staff

Last week I took a look at some of the more intriguing position battles facing contending teams in the American League. For the National League I will broaden it a bit. Contending or not (and really who was I to say last week who was and who was not a contender), here are the most interesting decisions facing Managers in the NL.

Washington Nationals First Base & Shortstop

Nick Johnson
/ Dmitri Young & Cristian Guzman / Felipe Lopez

                  Johnson           Young
2007                NA         .320/.378/.491     
2008 (Pecota) .282/.402/.475   .292/.356/.467
2008 (Zips)   .283/.422/.492   .287/.352/.459
             Guzman            Lopez
2007     .328/.380/.466   .245/.308/.352     
2008 (P) .257/.309/.456   .271/.343/.395
2008 (Z) .251/.301/.340   .264/.344/.383

Seems to me the Nats need a Human Resources expert more than they do someone with baseball expertise. Sure, Nick Johnson probably figures to outplay Dmitri Young in 2008 but how do you tell Young to take a seat on the bench after Johnson missed all of 2007 and Young was by all accounts both a tremendous performer and leader. As for shortstop, the 2007 disaster that was Felipe Lopez's season looks very much to have been anomalous. Same goes for Guzman's scorching start in 2007. He is an awful hitter.

There is also a logjam of sorts in the outfield. The Nationals personnel situation will be one to monitor this Spring.

Cincinnati Reds First Base & Center Field

Scott Hatteberg / Joey Votto & Ryan Freel / Jay Bruce

            Hatteberg          Votto
2007     .310/.394/.474   .321/.360/.548     
2008 (P) .286/.368/.441   .277/.356/.495
2008 (Z) .261/.348/.374   .281/.357/.466
              Freel            Bruce
2007     .245/.308/.347   .319/.375/.587 (A+/AA/AAA)     
2008 (P) .260/.334/.370   .270/.336/.513
2008 (Z) .264/.346/.376   .266/.317/.476

Like the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cincinnati's hopes this season will rest on how Dusty Baker uses the resources at hand. According to Baseball America, Bruce is the very best prospect in baseball. Votto has a career .476 slugging percentage in five Minor League seasons. Now 24 and coming off a scorching September call-up last year, he seems primed for regular play. That Jeff Keppinger might now take over for the injured Alex Gonzalez seems to mean one more potential upgrade for the Reds. If Votto, Bruce and Keppinger combine for 1200 plate appearances in 2008, I think they can push Milwaukee and Chicago for the division.

Los Angeles Dodgers Outfield

Juan Pierre / Andre Ethier / Matt Kemp

                AVG    OBP    SLG 
Juan Pierre    .292   .330   .358
Andre Ethier   .292   .359   .465
Matt Kemp      .300   .344   .484

I switched the format here and provided composite projections for 2008 only. Cory Schwartz of MLB Blogs' Fantasy 411 compiled these numbers.

We discussed it Tuesday in our Two on Two NL West Preview. The personnel is there for Joe Torre. It is now up to him to make sure playing time is granted to the appropriate individuals.

Colorado Rockies Second Base

Jayson Nix / Marcus Giles

              Giles             Nix
2007     .229/.304/.317   .292/.342/.451 (AAA) 
2008 (P) .274/.349/.419   .263/.314/.400
2008 (Z) .247/.346/.392   .257/.305/.384

I know it looks like the starting job is his to lose but I can't figure out this Jayson Nix thing. His career offensive totals in the Minor Leagues are such that it is hard to imagine he is a good enough fielder to merit starting consideration for a team aiming to win a World Championship. Moreover, Nix has spent two full seasons at both AA and AAA, not exactly characteristic of championship caliber talent.

Patrick Sullivan, 3/1/08, 11:59 AM EST


Re: Cincinnati Reds

Jay Bruce isn't likely competing against Freel for CF, he is likely playing against Norris Hopper for CF who Dusty Baker seems to love.

The "major" reason Jayson Nix hasn't been in major leagues is that there was a second baseman already in place. I think you will find out Jayson is a great defender.

The Rockies have a tough decision ahead of them at second. While Nix and Giles are the 'frontrunners,' so to speak, Jeff Baker, Ian Stewart, Clint Barmes, and Omar Quintanilla are also getting a look. Quintanilla is the only one who has no real shot at winning the position (Barmes is on the outside looking in, as well), but if Baker or Stewart can prove they can field at second - both are natural third basemen - then one of them may very well be the starting second baseman on opening day. Both are likely to put up better offensive numbers than either Giles or Nix.