Who is Currently Winning the Nationals’ Position Battles?

Coming into Spring Training, the Nationals had several questions concerning their Opening Day roster. Who is going to start at second base? Who is going to be the fifth starter? Who is going to fill out the bullpen? With Spring Training games almost half way through, many answers to these questions are coming into shape. Today, we examine who has the edge at each of these position battles.

Starting Second Baseman

CompetitorsDanny Espinosa (Spring Stats: 4 for 17, 1 RBI, 1 XBH, 1 SB)

Anthony Rendon (5 for 16, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 7 SO)

Both players started off their springs looking rusty, going a combined 0 for 17 with 8 strikeouts. Since then, however, Rendon and Espinosa have gone from frigid to scorching hot. Rendon has gone 5 for his last 9 with a home run off of Joe Kelly in yesterday’s contest.

rendon hr

Espinosa has been equally good over the past few games, going 4 for 7 with a walk and some impressive defense:

espinosa ranges

Espinosa has also impressed with aggressive baserunning, as well as with his swing from the left side of the plate.

Espinosa’s improved baserunning is most likely a product of Matt Williams’ tutelage, as is the aggression on the bases from other Nationals such as Denard Span and Ian Desmond.  Both Espinosa and Rendon have displayed the full range of their abilities. However, despite Matt Williams’ strong fondness for Espinosa, Rendon came into this battle with the edge due to his production and pedigree, and has done little to fall off the top of the depth chart. 

VERDICT: As of March 10th, Anthony Rendon maintains a slight edge over Danny Espinosa.

Fifth Starter

Competitors: Ross Detwiler (3.1 IP, 10.80 ERA, 4 ER, 4 Ks)

Tanner Roark (4.2 IP, 1.93 ERA, 1 ER, 3 Ks)

Taylor Jordan (7 IP, 3.86 ERA, 3 ER, 11 Ks)

Spring Training stats must be taken with a grain of salt, especially with pitchers. Often times, pitchers will be hit hard because they are working on a new pitch or new approach for the regular season. That is exactly the case for Ross Detwiler, as his inflated 10.80 ERA is a product of him working on his curveball, which has looked good at times this spring.

While Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark have been impressive thus far in Spring, this is still Detwiler’s job to lose, and unless something big happens, it doesn’t look like that will change.

VERDICT: As of March 10th, Ross Detwiler will be the Nationals fifth starter, with Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark starting the year in the minors.

Final Two Bullpen Spots

CandidatesChristian Garcia (4.1 IP, 8.31 ERA, 4 ER, 6 Ks)

Luis Ayala (4.1 IP, 8.31 ERA, 4 ER, 3 Ks)

Manny Delcarmen (3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 ER, 5 Ks)

Ross Ohlendorf (0 IP, INF ERA, 2 ER, 0 Ks)

Mike Gonzalez (NO STATS)

Ryan Mattheus (NO STATS)

Xavier Cedeno (4 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 ER, 3 Ks)

Anything can happen with this competition. Both Luis Ayala and Christian Garcia’s ERAs have been inflated by one bad outing — each has had an outing in which they gave up four runs. Ross Ohlendorf only has one appearance, in which he struggled before being removed from the game with an injury. Manny Delcarmen, whose chances of making the team are slim, has pitched very well thus far, allowing only two baserunners in three innings of work. Ryan Mattheus suffered a bruised rib before the start of Spring Training game, and thus has yet to see any action this Spring. Lefty specialist Xavier Cedeno, who saw time with the Nationals in September, has been very impressive in limited time this spring, allowing just 2 hits in 4 innings. Mike Gonzalez, who signed with the Nationals last week on a minor league contract, is scheduled to pitch some time this week for the Nationals. The composition of the bullpen’s final two spots depends just as much on manager preference as it does spring performance, and manager Matt Williams seems to prefer filling those spots with a lefty one-out guy and a righty long reliever. Cedeno has not done anything to prove that he shouldn’t be the Nationals LOOGY, and if he is healthy, Ohlendorf seems likely retain his role on the team.

VERDICT: As of March 10th, Xavier Cedeno and Ross Ohlendorf will be the last two Nationals to make the bullpen.

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