Trade Chips

Not since 2005, their first year back in Washington, have the Nationals been so hopeful about its postseason chances as the season heads into June. This leaves the Lerners and GM Mike Rizzo in an unaccustomed situation. Instead of sellers, the Nationals are in a position to become buyers as the trade deadline approaches.

Rumors have already begun swirling around players like the Houston Astros’ right-handed pitcher Roy Oswalt who will be available for the right price. And with any rumor about who the Nats will acquire, comes the names of minor league prospects that they’ll potentially ship off in a trade. Per Howard Megdal of in a May 25th post:

The smart money is probably on a deal centered around pitcher Brad Meyers, whose tremendous results at Double-A this year- 27 strikeouts, four walks in 22 2/3 innings, 0.79 ERA- are only tempered by questions about how his stuff will translate at higher levels.

Other pieces that could draw Houston’s interest include 2006 first rounder Chris Marrero as a possible replacement for Lance Berkman at first base (though his Double-A numbers are underwhelming so far), and Danny Espinosa, whose strong play and effective plate discipline at shortstop for Double-A Harrisburg makes him appear pretty close to big-league ready.

All three names that Megdal mentions can be found on a nightly basis suiting up for the Senators. Let’s take a closer look at these three prospects.

Brad Meyers (left) – Meyers is a 6’6″ righthander who throws his fastball in the low 90s with sink. In the past, he has been compared favorably to Derek Lowe and projects to be a #3 or #4 starter on a Major League pitching staff. This year in Harrisburg he has been lights out only allowing two earned runs in his four starts of 22 2/3 innings. His K/9 rate is a lofty 10.7 while his K/BB rate has increased dramatically to 6.75 due to improved control. These are the kinds of metrics that have him as a potential centerpiece to many trade opportunities.

The Nationals also appear to have a litany of talented, young starters like Lannan, Olsen, Strasburg, Arnesen, and Milone in the organization so they could deal from a position of strength.

Chris Marrero – Marrero was the 15th overall selection in the 2006 draft and is still very young at 21 years of age. The Nationals have moved him from the outfield to first base to give him a better shot at making the big leagues, but if the team re-signs Adam Dunn in the offseason that leaves Marrero’s future very uncertain. After a slow start to this season, his power numbers (7 HR/24 RBI) are coming around, but he’s still struggling at a .255 batting average. Much like the AAA Syracuse Chiefs’ first basemen Josh Whitesell and Chris Duncan, Marrero fails to put the ball in play and strikes out entirely too much.

If you had asked me last year about Marrero’s prospects, I would have thought he was a sure major leaguer. But after watching him fail to make needed adjustments at the plate and continue to struggle on his defense (31 errors in roughly 2 full seasons at 1B, I’m not so sure anymore.

Danny Espinosa – Espinosa was a 2008 3rd round selection out of Long Beach State and is currently ranked as the #5 prospect in the Nationals’ organization by Baseball America. I have to disagree (or at least be confused) with Megdal’s assertion that Espinosa has effective plate discipline. In his first full year last season, Espinosa drew 74 walks while striking out 129 times. So far this year in a little more than a quarter of the season, he has only walked 16 times and his on-base percentage is only .349.

With Ian Desmond appearing to be Washington’s shortstop of the present and the future, Espinosa is going to need to change over to second base or be traded to see any significant time in the majors.

Pay special attention in the next couple of weeks to how these rumors change the play of those mentioned. To hear that any day you may be packing up your belongings, your life and in some cases your family has to affect their focus and concentration. Others may view a change as a fresh start and treat the way they play as an audition process for prospective teams.

In case you haven’t heard, Harrisburg was fortunate to be selected to host this year’s Eastern League All-Star Game on Wednesday, July 14th. Tickets to the general public go on sale next Tuesday, June 1st. This will be an excellent opportunity to show off our city, our new ballpark, and our baseball passion while hosting the EL’s best of the best.

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