The day after the Orioles and Nationals clinched playoff berths, Baltimore, at least, fielded a respectable lineup. Jimmy Paredes and Christian Walker look a little out of place in their order, but they are mostly the result of losing Manny Machado and Chris Davis.
The Nationals? Not so much. Their lineup on Tuesday was barely recognizable, unless you watch a fair bit of International League baseball:
1. Michael Taylor, CF
2. Danny Espinosa, SS
3. Kevin Frandsen, 3B
4. Tyler Moore, 1B
5. Nate Schierholtz, RF
6. Steven Souza, LF
7. Jeff Kobernus, 2B
8. Sandy Leon, C
9. Blake Treinen, P
They aren’t all new faces. Espinosa and Schierholtz each have 300 plate appearances this season, and even Frandsen has 200. Still, their lineup was about as inexperienced as you can have in the majors. Let’s break them down.
Espinosa threatened 20-20 seasons in both 2011 and 2012, and he has eight home runs and eight steals in limited at-bats this season. However, a career worst 33.3 percent strikeout rate and 5.3 percent walk rate have submarined his batting average, runs, and RBI totals this season. Schierholtz scoffs at Espinosa’s .220/.284/.361 line and raises it a .190/.238/.300 line. Meanwhile, Frandsen offers no power and no speed.
Michael Taylor and Steven Souza are the prospects of the bunch. Taylor spent most of the year in Double-A, where he hit .313/.396/.539 with 22 home runs and 34 steals. Obviously those counting stats look good, but his 29.5 percent strikeout rate is worrisome. In a 12-game sample in the bigs this season, Taylor has confirmed those concerns with a 39.1 percent strikeout rate, which makes him unusable.
Souza enjoyed an extremely productive season in Triple-A this season. He hit .350/.432/.590 with 18 home runs and 26 steals over 407 plate appearances there. The power has been a slow build for the 25-year-old Souza (and he hit his first major-league home run on Wednesday), but he has shown speed at every level and could be a nice stolen base play over the last week-plus of the season. His 37.5 percent strikeout rate is nearly as bad as Taylor’s in his limited big-league opportunities, but that is out of character for Souza, who struck out just 18.4 percent of the time in Triple-A this year.
Tyler Moore and Jeff Kobernus may not have a future in the majors, but they provide a little bit of power and speed, respectively, for deep, NL-only owners desperate to win the corresponding categories. Moore reached 30 home runs at two different stops in the lower minors and hit 10 homers for the Nationals in 171 plate appearances in 2012. Kobernus has stolen 40 or more bases three times in the minors. However, pay attention to your league. Despite playing second base on Wednesday, Kobernus may be outfield-only in your league.
Sandy Leon is a glove-first catcher who has hit below .200 in just over 100 career plate appearances in the majors. While that does nothing for his fantasy value, it is not altogether bad news for Blake Treinen or any other Nationals pitcher he catches over the last two weeks. Treinen allowed just three hits and one walk over five innings on Wednesday, but his three strikeouts corroborate his limited potential in roto formats. Even in Triple-A, Treinen barely struck out seven batters per nine this season.
Scott Spratt is a fantasy sports writer for FanGraphs and Pro Football Focus. He is a Sloan Sports Conference Research Paper Competition and FSWA award winner. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @Scott_Spratt