Editors Note: It was suggested by a reader that we play copy cat to Brew Crew Ball and rank the top 20 Nationals based on their overall value. Here’s our take at it 20-16, with the rest to follow this week.
15. Tyler Clippard – In 2009 the Washington Nationals decided to move Tyler Clippard from a starter to the bullpen, and that has made all the difference. As we have seen time and time again over the past decade, the best relievers often come from reformed power pitching starters who find the best results when they can pack all of their stuff into one or two innings. Clippard appears to be fitting that mold perfectly as the 25-year-old had an electric 11.08 K/9 for the Nationals in 2010 while winning 11 games in 78 appearances. At times he was dominant.
The only thing that held Clippard back from being an elite reliever in 2010 was his control (or lack there of) and his propensity to give up the fly ball. As a reliever 4.05 BB/9 is pretty unacceptable, especially when you only force 27.8 percent ground balls. The result was that Clippard was often flying by the seat of his pants, putting runners on and either striking them out or allowing hard hit balls to the outfield (many of which were caught, fortunately).
He is only set to make $401,000 in 2010 and still has a ways to go before he is arbitration elibible, meaning there is no doubt that there were general managers inquiring about Clippard at the deadline last year. He can easily provide a boost to any team struggling in the bullpen and for a cheap price. The only thing keeping his value down is that few believe he has closer potential because of the amount of base runners he puts on, however if he can learn to harness his stuff, he might become just too valuable to trade.
14. Roger Bernadina - An ankle injury forced Bernadina to sit out the entirety of 2009, what would have been his rookie season. As a result, a determined 26-year-old came to Vierra this spring to prove that he deserved a spot on the team. The outcome was a pretty solid rookie season for the Nats outfielder who batted .282/.345/.436 in the first half but fell to .246/.307/.384 after a poor end of the year. Regardless of his final line, Bernadina showed a sweet swing from the left side, a solid ability to get on base, and a decent power/speed combination as he combined for 11 homers and 16 stolen bases.
Bernadina’s value lies completely in his ability to develop. At 26, he is a bit old for a rookie outfielder, but he showed solid all-around ability including a great arm in right-field. If he can prove in 2011 that he can extend his first half stats of last season throughout a complete year, and improve his power, then that makes him a serious threat in the outfield with the potential to bat .280/.350/.450 with 20 homers and 20 steals. Of course, that’s a big if, and because of his age he will likely only have one year to prove that he can do it.
Unfortunately, until Bernadina proves that he will take the next step in his development, few teams will want to take the risk on the outfielder as a potential piece of a teams future. That being said, he has just one year of service time and is making the MLB minimum which means that if a team suffers and injury and is in need of a replacement outfielder, they may come knocking on the Nationals door. Other than that, much of Bernadina’s value remains untapped.
13. Sammy Solis - Before you get upset, yes, I know Solis isn’t eligible to be traded, but we are here evaluating players overall value so we will look at him based on his potential value for next year.
Solis is coming off of what was essentially his professional debut in the Arizona Fall League. There he was one of the top starters on the team that won the AFL Championship, not a bad way to get your feet wet. Against the best hitting talent not named Bryce Harper, Solis made five starts going 1-0 with a 3.80 ERA. He struck out twelve while walking only seven.
The Nationals were able to get the big left-hander in what many consider a second round steal. He provides a low 90′s fastball with a lot of movement and was thought to be a potential top ten pick coming out of high-school. He also throws a big, looping left-handed curve and a change-up. His history of back issues cause some to worry that he may not make it through the minors, but if he can stay healthy people believe he projects to be a middle rotation type of starter. Pitching prospects are always at a premium, which means that if the Nats want to make a move to compete in 2012, he could be involved in a trade for a big ticket player. That gives him serious future value.
12. John Lannan - The only people who hate John Lannan more than talent evaluators are Philadelphia Phillies fans. For the last several years all we heard about was how Lannan was getting remarkably lucky, and that statistically he should be doing much worse. And scouts were right, Lannan was, and is, an anomaly. He throws cheese, not gas. He strikes out way too few, and walks too many, he allows too many homers, and puts his team in bad situations. Somehow though, he just finds his way out of it, and that’s what makes him the anomaly.
After a terrible first half in 2010, many scouts had felt the bad luck had finally caught up to Lannan who was 2-5 with a 5.27 ERA in the first half. The Bulldog came back and shut them all up though in the second half, proving that he can still make outs the same way he used to. In 11 games he went 6-3 with a 3.42 ERA and 47 strikeouts. Point made.
Now three full seasons into his MLB career, Lannan has solidified himself as a solid starter who can give you 180 innings with an ERA at about four. You tell me a major league club that wouldn’t want to add that to the middle of their rotation? Lannan is up for his first year of Arbitration this offseason and will likely get a raise from his current $458,000 contract, which decreases his value a bit. Teams may also be wary of acquiring a soft throwing lefty. However, the bottom line is that any team that wants a middle of the rotation starter at a pretty cheap price would be foolish not to consider Lannan.
11. Drew Storen - Storen was overdrafted in 2009 when the Nationals took him 10th overall in the draft, but that was by design. The club wanted to draft a pitcher who could help the bullpen right away, who would sign quickly and cheaply, and who wouldn’t divert their attention from Stephen Strasburg. In Storen they got all of that, bingo, bango, bongo. The club anointed him the closer of the future and in less than a year he had reached the big leagues.
In 54 games this season, Storen recorded four wins, five saves, and a 3.58 ERA. His strikeout rate (8.46/9) was strong but his walk rate (3.58/9)was a little lower than they had hoped. The Nationals are hoping he can develop as a pitcher in 2011, using his 84 MPH slider as potentially a career trademark out pitch. It will likely be un-hittable if he can develop his changeup to truly keep hitters off balance.
For other teams, Storen represents a young pitcher who will likely be a top 10 closer in the next several years, and by no means is a lock. Given the value assigned to closers on the open market, it’s unlikely that any team would break the bank for him until he actually shows dominance. At this point in his career, many people have their own version of Drew Storen waiting in the wings on their own team, he has to prove he can separate from the pack.