[February 19th] -- Larry Broadway
was at a career cross-roads this past season. Blocked from the major league roster by Nick Johnson, Broadway realized that his future might lie with another organization. His hope was to prove himself at 'AAA' New Orleans
in 2006 and then hope for the best. His season looked promising. After an injury plagued 2005 season, Broadway remained healthy for much of the year, batting .288-15-78 in 123 games before a late-season shoulder injury ended his season.
When he first saw Broadway hit, former Zephyrs' manager Tim Foli nicknamed the Duke University graduate "Olerud" because of his tall, slender build and "natural" left-handed stroke. It was thought that Broadway would have a higher average than most first baseman, but less power. Things have changed, however. Broadway used his "downtime" during his injury rehab in 2005 to gain 20 pounds of muscle, going from a lanky 220 to a solid 240. The above image [left] was taken during Spring Training 2005, while the other was taken during his Arizona Fall League stint following the 2005 season. His strength training paid off as Broadway was one of the AFL's top hitters that year.
But is he good enough to eventually replace Nick Johnson? With more than 1,500 at bats in the major leagues, we can make some general conclusions about Nick's ability to help the Nationals in the long term. For his career, Johnson has averaged a home run every 27 at-bats, similar to John Olerud's 29.7 . Power-hitting first baseman typically hit a homer every 15 or so at bats. Jason Giambi (16.5), Albert Pujols (14.7) and Carlos Delgado (14.9) all fall within that range. Johnson never will never be a slugger. Assuming that Nick can stay healthy for an entire season, he would likely never hit more than 25 home runs, not enough for a team already devoid of power.
Larry Broadway's solid 2006 season, coupled with his proven success in the minor leagues, should provide him the chance to at least try to win a starting job - somewhere. Manny Acta said he's the first choice to cover for Johnson at first until he regains his health, and a solid effort there could allow Jim Bowden to trade him for prospects when Nick returns.
It's not that I don't want to see Nick Johnson at first for the next three years, it's that I want to be able to count on the Nationals' first baseman (whoever it is) to play 155 games a year.
That's not too much to ask, is it?