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AND JUST WHEN WE THOUGHT CASTO WAS 'THE MAN' IN LEFT

[December 15th] -- The obvious question now being asked these days is, "who will be the starting left fielder come opening day for the Nationals, Chris Snelling, Ryan Church or Kory Casto?

If Jim Bowden and Manny Acta are counting on Snelling as their every day left fielder, then the Nationals are putting themselves in a position to fail. There is little doubt that the team will best be served by having Alex Escobar start in center -- Nook Logan has just too many holes in his game to play every day (at least the Tigers thought so). But are there three outfielders in the National league that have had more injury problems in recent years than Chris Snelling, Alex Escobar and Austin Kearns? We forget that Kearns couldn't stay healthy during his time in Cincinnati -- that's why guys like Wily Mo Pena got the opportunity to play every day.

There is now little doubt that Ryan Church will be traded in the near future for a starting pitcher, and while I don't like it, I can at least accept it. One thing is for sure, both Chris Snelling and Kory Casto will need to be part of a platoon in left. Playing for Harrisburg last year, Casto hit only .169 against lefties. Snelling has done even worse against left-handers, batting .117 since his major league debut in 2002.

Mike Restovich, 27, batted .311 with 7 home runs and 19 RBI's against lefties at 'AAA' Iowa last year. Based on a 550 at-bat season (something he could never do against lefties, but it gives you an idea of his ability), he would have hit 36 homers and 98 RBI's over a full season. He had a .413 OBP against lefties and his .979 OPS was one the best in the league. Assuming that Restovich would see roughly 200 at-bats in a platoon, he would likely hit something like .275-13-38, give or take.

Based on Snelling's major league statistics, he would likely hit about .271-15-40 with a .356 OBP. A platoon of Snelling and Restovich, then, would create solid production out of left field: .273-28-78 with a .387 OBP (again, give or take). At this point, every Nats' fan would love to count on that type of production out of left field next year.

But what about Kory Casto? I think he's ready for the major leagues, and I know that he can't hit lefties, at least not yet. If in fact he's ready, I wouldn't be surprised to see him put up numbers similar to those of Chris Snelling. And it's not like you can "play the kid" over the veteran (you know, that's part of 'the plan') because they are both 25 years old.

If Snelling gets the nod in left field, then Acta has no choice but to send Kory Casto to 'AAA' Columbus; he isn't experienced enough to languish on a major league bench. And if Casto wins the starting job in left, what happens to Nook Logan? Having lost Alfonso Soriano's bat to free agency, I can't foresee a scenario where the Nationals can afford Logan's defense in center over Escobar's offense.

There is one more possibility in the outfield. We could start the season with Casto/Restovich in left, Escobar in center and either Ryan Church or Chris Snelling in right. Church might bring a #3-4 starting pitcher, but Austin Kearns could bring a #2, especially if Jim Bowden throws in a low-level prospect. Given 500 at bats, Church has proven he could provide the same offensive punch as Kearns.

I guess it just depends on how big a chance Jimbo is willing to take.


Comments:
Farid: I have said for a long time, Kory Casto does not make the team, unless someone else is traded, and that's Church. Bowden's not going to jump him directly from AA when Kory Casto still can't hit lefties. Not going to happen. I really believe that. Restovich will get very little playing time, unless there is a major injury. He is a journeyman, nothing more. And, I am hoping Escobar has a fairly injury free season and Logan flames out to no end.
 
If Restovich gets little playing time, then Casto isn't playing either. I can't believe the Nats would put him in that public of a trial with his having little chance of success. A guy who didn't hit lefties in the minors isn't suddenly going to hit lefties at the major league level.

The only other possibility would be Escobar platooning with Casto, but that leaves Nook Logan in center, which scares me a little bit too.
 
Kasten and Bowden may have wrecked Ryan Church's trade value. Very stupidly, they have widely advertised his perceived short comings because they dislike him so much. If there was ever a case of crapping in their own mess kits, this is it. If they had concentrated on the very respectable numbers he put up under adverse conditions over the past two seasons, instead of getting down in the gutter and destroying Church's reputation, they might have gotten a decent starting pitcher for him. Not now. Farid, you and I know why they hate him and it has nothing to do with baseball.
 
We do have a glut of OF (especially LH hitting OF), don't we? Clearing Vidro off the roster (**fingers crossed on physical**) helps, but it still looks to me like they'll need to carry Macias (assuming he makes the team) plus a SS-oriented utility guy. Plus Flores---plus perhaps a No. 2 catcher in front of Flores, like Brandon Harper.

Add it all up, and even assuming Church will be gone, there might not be enough room on the roster for Escobar + Restovich. Or, perhaps, Casto? Or, perhaps, Logan? Seems Macias' versatility might squeeze someone in the OF out of a job.

Not that I'm saying Logan will be gone, b/c you need a CF in the event Escobar gets hurt. But I think you guys are right that Casto might be in Columbus, until Snelling injures himself.

Ought to be interesting!
 
I think you can pretty much count on the fact that of the guys you listed, at any given moment of the season, at least one of them will be injured. I think that the lot of them will bascially rotate more or less equally around between the OF, Columbus, and the DL, with none having the title of designated full-time starter.
 
Its actually funny--despite the fact The Nationals may well be terrible in 2007--there's still alot to chat about, debate and enjoy, even about players that are barely Major League, if at all--in the first place. It really is amazing.
 
The Nats seem to be setting themselves up for a defense oriented team. Makes sense -- the pitching will need all the help in the world. Here's how I see the position players: C -- Schneider, Flores; 1B -- Johnson, Broadway; 2B -- Lopez; SS -- Guzman; 3B -- Zimmerman; IF -- Wilson or Macias; LF -- Escobar; CF -- Logan; RF - Kearns; OF -- Snelling, Restovich. This assumes Church is traded for a starter; if that doesn't happen, I think Church will be in LF, Escobar/Logan will split time in CF and Restovich will be in the minors. Another possibility is that Cordero is traded to the Red Sox for Pena (who will play LF) and one or more of the Red Sox's top pitching prospects (Buchholz, Bowden, Hansen, Cox?). Unless Boston agrees to include top pitching prospects, I don't think that the Cordero trade happens. I think that they will deal Cordero either this year or next -- remember the interview that he gave last year to the California paper (I seem to remember it was the Orange County paper) where he said he wanted to come back to California when he becomes a free agent.

Pitch
 
On dealing Cordero:

When can Cordero become a FA? Probably not for awhile. Maybe Nats, as a money-oriented franchise right now, are getting worried about Cordero's future arbitration outcomes.

I thought the idea was to dump older guys for prospects, but keep the young guys like Cordero, still 24--and if they are good, like Cordero, then ink them to multi-year deals.

Wily Mo strikes out too much, doesn't walk, and doesn't hit for average. What a combination! We would be tired of him by mid-season.
 
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