Sunday, February 21, 2016


The Washington Nationals brought in veteran manager Dusty Baker during the winter to replace the in over his head Matt Williams and already changes are abound when it comes to the team's starting personnel.  One of the bigger battles of Nationals camp as confirmed by Baker on Saturday is at shortstop where THREE players of varying experience will battle it out this spring to earn the starting spot.  Baker mentioned not only incumbent Danny Espinoza but also highly-touted youngster Trea Turner and free agent signee Stephen Drew.  There is some fantasy baseball implications from Baker's decision, with more of an emphasis on one guy in particular.  So let's handicap the race and see what each guy could offer if he wins the job.

Stephen Drew:  There may not have been a worse every day hitter in the major leagues over the last two seasons then 33-year-old veteran Stephen Drew.  After hitting a sickening .162 in 2014, Drew "rebounded" to bat just .201 in 2015 for the New York Yankees.  On the plus side (if there can be one), Drew did hit 17 home runs which is a very impressive number for a shortstop but he was a complete liability everywhere else.  Now moving from the offensive haven that is Yankee Stadium to the spacious Nationals ballpark, Drew has no business on any fantasy baseball roster.  He has the longest shot to win the job given the offensive issues and Drew looks more like a late-inning defensive replacement.

Danny Espinosa:  In 2011 and 2012, Espinosa carried some decent fantasy baseball value as a rare middle infielder who could both hit for power and steal bases.  This despite annually horrific batting averages that were caused by a crazy K rate.  Well the bottom has fallen out on Espinosa the last three seasons due to injuries and further growing holes in his swing.  While it was semi-positive that Espinosa hit 13 home runs last season, his speed looks like it is almost shot as he swiped just 5 bags and the average remained ugly at .240.  At the age of 28, Espinosa is still young enough to rebound a bit and being a veteran like he is always counts extra for a Dusty Baker team.  If Baker frustratingly goes the veteran route again, Espinosa will be the guy but he will carry value just in NL-only formats.

Trea Turner:  This is where the intrigue lies as Turner has very intriguing pedigree as the 14th overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft.  After coming over to the Nats via trade, Turner lit up the minor leagues by hitting .322 with 8 home runs and 29 steals in 116 games split between Double-A and Triple-A.  With an advanced approach to hitting, Turner could quickly become a .300-hitting shortstop who can steal 25 bases with a few home runs.  That is very appealing at the always shallow shortstop spot and Turner has to be on all sleeper lists for 2016 drafts as a result.  While you can't discount the Baker factor in favoring veterans, Turner has way too much talent not to be a major factor at some point this season.

When you put it all together, Trea Turner is the only guy worth your attention in this bunch and the kid could easily be a top ten fantasy baseball shortstop if he wins the spring battle.  Draft him in the late middle rounds and hope Baker comes to his sense on this. 


1 comment:

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