For the last few years the Washington Nationals have been looking desperately for an everyday center fielder and a leadoff hitter. They found their guy in Minnesota, trading for center fielder Denard Span in November. A very good defensive outfielder and prototypical leadoff hitter, Span is going to fill both holes on a Nationals team that had very few to begin with. Such a complete player the Nationals think Span is, the team has been eyeing to get him now for almost three seasons. The effect of the Span acquisition is felt all the way through the lineup, offensively and defensively.
Span gives manager Davey Johnson the luxury of moving Bryce Harper to left field and Jayson Werth to right field. Harper has blazing speed for a left fielder and an arm that can thrown out any runner at the plate. It gives Werth an everyday position in the field after bouncing around all three positions in 2012. The Harper-Span-Werth outfield will be one of the best defensively in the game. The big move for Span was not without sacrifice for the Nationals. The addition of Span essentially moved fan and team favorite left fielder Michael Morse out of his position. It was thought that Morse would move to first base if the Nationals could not sign Adam LaRoche. When the Nationals re-signed LaRoche to return at first base it left Morse without a position and ended up trading him to Seattle in a 3-team deal.
The Nationals will miss Morse and his offensive production but the addition of Span makes the Nationals much better defensively. Span had a fielding percentage of .989 last year, higher than any other outfielder on the team. With relieving Harper of duties in center it will put less strain on the 20-year old and will save Werth by playing in right. The starters will have the ability to take a day off or two, or even rotate positions to limit wear and tear. All 3 outfielders can play all 3 positions. The bench is strong for Washington as well.
The Nationals feel that have a future star in Tyler Moore. Johnson loves his versatility as he can play several outfield positions, third and first base. Moore also packs a pop with the bat, hitting 10 home runs and 29 RBIs in only 75 games. Moore will play mostly in left, which will spell Harper or give Span the day off with Harper moving to center. Werth can get a day off with Harper taking his spot and Moore in left. The possibilities are vast and gives Johnson a huge advantage going to his bench in late inning situations and with matching up against lefties.
Then there's also Roger Bernadina. Another fast, very good defensive outfielder that also has a flair for the dramatic, "the shark" had several game-winning moments for the Nationals. His experience in center will also be ideal for pinch-hitting situations that don't cause a huge defensive drop off. At 28, he is reaching his prime and he will also take a lot of responsibilities at all the outfield positions. This Nationals team is favored to win for a reason and the depth and talent in the outfield is one of the reasons why. The quality depth and versatility that the Nationals have in their outfield give them a great balance of speed, arm strength, ground coverage, experience, and leadership. The only issue for Johnson will be keeping the hot guys in and balancing that everyone gets their chance to contribute. Outfield is looking like a strong position this year for 2013.
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