Nats Early Spring Training Developments

In 2012 Jordan Zimmermann threw fastballs between 86.9 and 96.4 MPH sitting mostly at 93.1 MPH and his change-up he threw between 83.4 and 87.6 MPH with the average being 86.1. The change-up isn't just a change of speeds pitch it is also a movement pitch, but the range of speeds of Jordan Zimmermann's change-up put it too close to his fastball. In the two innings that Jordan Zimmermann threw in the Nats 2-2 tie to the Marlins his change-up was reportedly sitting between 83-84 MPH. If Zimmermann can kill the speed consistently to that level then the change-up will finally develop into a pitch that Zimmermann can feel comfortable in using. It is hard to say that a player that has been as good as Zimmermann was in 2011 and 2012 has room to improve, but a true change of speeds pitch would add an entirely different dimension to Jordan Zimmermann as a pitcher and allow him to evolve to the next level. 

The other big development from yesterday's game is that the Nats top prospect, Anthony Rendon, hit a homerun. This caused people to get very excited and start to wonder when he will get to the big leagues. The answer is Opening Day 2015. That is far off and there is a strong possibility that Rendon will be major league ready by the middle of this season, but the Nats have no spot for him, and they aren't going to call-up Rendon as an injury replacement to go back down. When Anthony Rendon is called up it is going to be to stay.  

Some have brought up the possibility of Rendon going to second, but Danny Espinosa was a 3.5 fWAR player in his rookie season and 3.8 fWAR last season. Of full time second basemen Danny Espinosa ranked fifth in fWAR, and tops in UZR. Mike Rizzo is a defensive minded GM and it is doubtful that he would move a third baseman with bad ankles to a position as defensively stressful as second base. The Nats are working with Rendon on his foot work around the bag, but if he can learn the footwork for middle infield he can play any position on the field. The one spot that is opening up after the 2014 season is first base. The Nats could either put Rendon there or they could move an outfielder to first and put Rendon in left. It is much easier for a player to slide down the defensive spectrum than to crawl up it. 

Of the top ten fWAR 2B (Cano, Hill, Pedroia, Phillips, Espinosa, Uggla, Walker, Infante, Kinsler, Kipnis) most were primarily short stops in the minors. The one lone exception is Neil Walker who was a catcher/third baseman before transitioning to second, but Walker is also a -5.0 career UZR/150 at second. History is not on the side of the transition from third base to second. If Rendon can do it, good for him but it is doubtful and more important than the defensive position he has to hit better than his .162/.305/.368 batting line from AA last season.

Still the possibility remains that Rendon will be ready before the Nats are ready for him, but in that case leaving him in the minors for an extra season/season and a half isn't the worst thing. Once Rendon is called up the service clock will start ticking and by waiting until 2015 when Rendon will be entering his age 25 season the Nats will get all of his prime years at the major league level. Where he plays and when he plays will primarily be determined by him and what happens with the current players on the Nats. Rendon isn't going to be used as an injury replacement and none of the Nats position players are scheduled to become free agents before the end of the 2014 season. By that time Rendon will be more than ready, but by waiting the Nats will be getting more of the best years of his career.  

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