The Nats' outfield picture cleared up a little bit this week when Lastings Milledge was optioned to AAA and Roger Bernadina was recalled.
Bernadina will give Manny another left-handed pinch hitting option, as well as a base stealing threat. I wouldn't be surprised to see him used in late innings to shore up our defense either.
There are a lot of things to like about Lastings Milledge...He will be an outstanding hitter in the big leagues; he can steal a base; he has some "POP" in his bat; and he plays hard.
However, he is not a center fielder on the major league level. He might become one, but it's going to take a lot of hard work.
I think anyone who knows a little something about outfield play realizes that his biggest challenge was reading the ball off the bat. He got bad jumps and took terrible angles and routes to the ball.
He has two of the best defensive outfielders that have ever played the game in Devon White and Marquis Grissom as his instructors, but I didn't see any improvement from last year. Maybe he's just a left fielder.
As far as the other outfielders are concerned, Manny will have an easier time getting enough at bats to keep four of them sharp. Dunn should play every day....whether in left field or at first base, he should play 150+ games. HE CAN FLAT OUT MASH! And he's averaged 157 games played the last five years. He is an average to below average left fielder, but he will give you all that he's got. (Get a lead and replace him for defense in the 8th or 9th).
Elijah Dukes in my mind is the most talented player we have on the whole team. He can run, field, hit, hit with power and has a cannon for a throwing arm. That's five tools isn't it!
Austin Kearns has always been a favorite of mine going all the way back to the days in Cincinnati when I saw him rip apart National League pitching to the tune of a .315 batting average. He is such a solid player all the way around, a Gold Glove type right fielder and an excellent baserunner, even if he only possesses average speed. I believe his injures in the past have caused the drop off in his stats. Working with new hitting coach Rick Eckstein and being 100% healthy, he should put up impressive numbers again.
Nobody was more excited for the Nats than me when we acquired Josh Willingham. The man can play. He is one of the best fastball hitters in the league. He has power, runs extremely well for a big man and plays a SOLID left field.
I'm not sure how Manny is going to do it, but if Willingham gets 400 plus AB's he should hit 25+ doubles and 20 HRs and drive in 70 runs or more. Hey, he's only 30!
As far as this 0-7 start, that's exactly one week right? RIGHT! We have 25 weeks left. Let the boys play some good 'ole fashioned hardball and they'll be OK.