The Washington Nationals have one of the most talented infields in baseball. Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman have all received MVP votes in their careers, and Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa are young and talented. Despite all of this talent, the Nationals missed the playoffs last year and one of their leaders is having trouble again this year.
There are few things as painful to watch as a Ryan Zimmerman throw, and it is costing his team. Zimmerman already has two throwing errors in just 40 innings of play in the field this year, and he matched his career high with 15 last year. The throw in this video allowed two unearned runs to score in the fourth inning, tying the game and changing the look of the game. The Nats would go on to lose that game, losing the series in the process. Because of his struggles, and his newly diagnosed arthritic right shoulder, Zimmerman needs to be moved from third.
Luckily for the Nationals, they can solve this issue easily.
Rendon to third
The first step is replacing Zimmerman at third. Anthony Rendon was mlb.com’s number 28 prospect in 2013, and his natural position is third. This means the Nats don’t need to go outside the organization to fill the hole left by Zimmerman, and they can allow one of their top prospects to grow in his natural position.
Espinosa to second
Danny Espinosa has played the majority of his games at second base, but he has been replaced by Rendon in recent years. After striking out 189 times in 2012, Espinosa spent much of 2013 dealing with injuries. A bad wrist and a torn rotator cuff limited him to 44 major league games in 2013, but he claimed to be 100 percent heading into spring. He had an OK spring training, but the Nationals need to make this move because of Zimmerman’s struggles.
Platoon Zimmerman and LaRoche at first
This may be the most difficult part of the move. If they do platoon this pair at first base, they would be committing $26 million to just one position, but it is a better option than benching Zimmerman, the $14 million man. This platoon would fix a major flaw of last years team, and make if a major strength.
LaRoche hit .237 last year, the lowest full season total of his career, and hit under .200 against lefties. Zimmerman struggled against lefties last year, but his career numbers are much better. Zimmerman’s .259 mark against lefties last year was 61 points lower than his career average of 310.
LaRoche is just marginally better than Zimmerman against righties, but his defense is very good. His long 6’3″ frame helps him scoop and stretch for oncoming throws, and was good enough to make him the Gold Glove Award winner in 2012.
The Nationals were expected to make the playoffs easily, and were a hot pick to win the World Series in 2013. If they want to avoid missing out on the playoffs again, they need to make this change, and they need to make it soon.