The Nationals Infield

According to MockDraftCentral.com, the Nationals infield has a couple of top 100 players, a top 150 player, and two others who are on the edge of fantasy viability. But as far as value goes, I think the three that drafters like the most are probably the ones I like the least. And one of those two the drafters have on the edge of viability is not within the realm of viability if you ask me.

Catcher

Name PA HR SB R RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS
Wilson Ramos 440 18  0 53 65 0.268 0.322 0.442 0.764

Ramos’ ADP is 244th, placing him just on the edge of fantasy relevance. With the projection I’ve listed above (projections are my own), I have him as the #11 catcher this year. Last year, 11 catchers finished with an ESPN player rater number in the top 250. The drafters are spot on having Ramos going at the tail end of shallow mixed league drafts.

Ramos is interesting because there is a possibility that he could be a top five catcher or completely irrelevant. They key is simply playing time. In the last two seasons combined he has come up just shy of 400 PA. My PA projection is fairly optimistic, and the Fan projections are slightly more optimistic coming in at 467 PA. The higher that PA total gets above 450, the higher he’ll finish among catchers.

For example, Oliver projects everyone for 600 PA, and Oliver has Ramos getting to 24 home runs and 86 RBI with that much work. If he could simply get to 500 PA, my home run projection would climb up to 20-21 and the RBI projection would be about 75. In the last decade, there have only been eight catcher seasons with 20+ HR, 75+ RBI and a .268 average or better. If you’re a sucker for upside, wait and take Ramos as your catcher.

First Base

Name PA HR SB R RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS
Adam LaRoche 550 18 1 62 66 0.245 0.325 0.41 0.735

Laroche’s MDC.com ADP is 142, but I don’t even have Laroche in my top 150 hitters. Once pitchers are added to the mix, he doesn’t even crack my top 250 overall. And it’s hard to figure out what’s going on over at MDC because all four of the projection systems listed on our site, including Fan projections, don’t have Laroche bouncing back anywhere near where he was in 2012.

As JP Breen noted in Laroche’s Fangraphs+ blurb, Laroche was unable to repeat 2012 because his platoon split problem reared its ugly head. Prior to 2011, Laroche had a career .319 wOBA against left-handed pitching. But in 2012 he had a .349 wOBA against same-handed pitching. Why? Mainly because his HR/FB rate was 10% higher against lefties. But last year his HR/FB against LHP was well below his career average at 8.3%.

A slight bounce back might be in order, but you simply cannot own Laroche and play him against lefties. That limits him strictly to platoon use, and there’s absolutely no reason to spend a top 150 pick on a guy you can’t play everyday. If you have deep benches and can get Laroche closer to 250 than 150, then it might not be a horrible idea to pair him up with another left-handed 1B with platoon issues (say, Adam Lind). But that’s the extent of Laroche’s usefulness.

Second Base

Name PA HR SB R RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS
Anthony Rendon 500 10 2 60 57 0.26 0.338 0.41 0.748

My projection is basically right in line with Steamer, Oliver, and ZiPS. Those models may project a hair more power than I do, but those three systems all feel almost exactly the same about Rendon. I don’t really see a good reason to disagree with such a consensus. Rendon may have more power upside, but I’d be a bit surprised if it showed up right away. The rate stats are good, and the counting stats aside from speed are respectable, but there’s just nothing special going on here. I have Rendon at 21st among second basemen and around 275 overall. Maybe next year.

Third Base

Name PA HR SB R RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS
Ryan Zimmerman 600 23 5 74 74 0.27 0.338 0.460 0.798

Zimm’s last two seasons have been pretty similar and line up pretty well with his career averages. But he has been giving up a little contact and patience in the last two years in exchange for a little extra power. His contact rate has been under 80% in each of the last two seasons for the first times in his career, and his swing rate has been about 42% in the last two years and was about 40% the three years prior. But his average home run and fly ball distance has been way up the last two seasons, and he had the sixth best batted ball distance last year. That’s why his average is projected around .270 by me and the computer models. But he has upside in the power categories if he can avoid his usual injury issues.

Shortstop

Name PA HR SB R RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS
Ian Desmond 640 19 17 72 71 0.266 0.316 0.435 0.751

I wrote about Desmond extensively earlier in the offseason. The long story short is that Desmond’s contact skills don’t line up with the .280 and .292 batting averages he has posted the last two seasons. That’s why Steamer, Oliver and ZiPS all have him below .280. I’m a little lower than all three just because his contact skills have always been bad and have been getting worse. With fewer hits I also see his R+RBI total slipping closer to 140 as opposed to 150. I’m also hesitant to say he reaches 650+ PA again given he has averaged just over 600 PA in his four years as a regular. So I’ve faded his playing time and thus his power and speed a bit from where they were last year.

The fading here and there really just takes Desmond out of the discussion to be an elite shortstop. Hanley and Tulo are obviously the class of the field, and I have Andrus and Segura a cut below that pair but a cut above the group I place Desmond in along with Reyes and Everth and maaaaayyyyybe Starlin Castro. On MDC he’s being drafted as an elite shortstop going third among them and 32nd overall. But the level of production I’m expecting fits more in the 75-100 range. Don’t overpay.

We hoped you liked reading The Nationals Infield by Brett Talley!

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You can find more of Brett's work on TheFantasyFix.com or follow him on Twitter @TheRealTAL.

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Ace2000
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Ace2000

Great stuff! You know, I’m starting to wonder how useful the ADPs from Mock Draft Central are at this point. I realize all formats are different, but having done a number of mocks on ESPN, Ramos is going a good 100 picks earlier than he is on MDC, and LaRoche is undrafted in standard leagues. That makes a lot more sense to me than where MDC has each of them.