Today, we're going to discuss the position players on the Washington Nationals 40-man roster that are on the bubble. These players could end up on the 25-man, as trade bait, or in the minors. In a few instances, they may even end up out of the organization entirely. Here we go:The Probables:
Rick Ankiel: This is a gut call here. The Nats seem intent on picking up a center fielder in the offseason. If they do, it probably relegates Ankiel to a 4th outfielder utility type role. If they don't, he could easily see time in center field again. His marked improvement at the plate in the 2nd half of this past season combined with his best-in-baseball center field arm should all but guarantee him a spot on the 2012 roster.
Steve Lombardozzi: The young middle infielder is probably going to make the 25-man roster; his role may be different depending on a few factors, though. At this point, it seems likely that he'd make it as the utility guy, though he doesn't have a lot of experience outside of 2nd base. The ideal situation for him, though, would have Ian Desmond being dealt in the offseason. If that happened, Danny Espinosa would move to shortstop, his natural position, and Lombo would take the second base job full time while the newly-drafted Anthony Rendon gets ready. There is a situation that would have Lombardozzi heading back to the minors for more regular at-bats, but it probably involves including Brian Bixler on the 25-man if the Nats don't pick up another outfield free agent. He's a fine player, but not an ideal solution for the 2012 season.
Ian Desmond: This seems to be a recurring thing with Desi. Will he be traded? What's his value like? What can the team get for him? If the Nats do decide to shop Desmond, Tampa Bay is a likely target. BJ Upton will probably be back up on the block, even if unofficially, and the Rays could use a strong shortstop. Desmond is one of the few Expos leftovers on the Nationals roster, so as the team looks to push for the post-season in 2012, the question really is: to the Nationals see him in their future? At the start of this season, the answer was a resounding yes. Right now, I'm not so sure.
Jesus Flores: Flores seemed to be a lock to make the roster as the backup catcher to Ramos, but he showed some serious frustration toward the end of the season with his lack of playing time. With Ramos looking to be a 100+ game per season catcher, that doesn't leave many opportunities for a back up to see action. The Nats might move him not because they don't like him, but because he doesn't see himself as a long-term fit with the team.
Roger Bernadina: The Shark is another one of those former Expos still left in the organization. The writing seems to be on the wall that he's running out of opportunities. Players are outgrowing his progress, and the team is getting better by the season. His ability to hit for power and his ridiculous speed means he would have serious value for a team looking for those pieces, but he's not a lead off hitter, so his value with the Nats is significantly demished because of it. He and Desmond could be a big part of a trade for BJ Upton.
Wait and See:
Chris Marrero: What happens with Marrero largely depends on what happens with Adam LaRoche. If LaRoche is healthy and on the Opening Day roster, it will be another season started in Syracuse for the Nats First Baseman of the Future. (Sorry for all that alliteration. Not really.) At some point soon, the Nationals are going to have to give him an extended try in the bigs, or his time to grow may pass him by. His September call up time this season did prove that he has what it takes to do the job if he gets the opportunity. There's just an $8 million man in front of him blocking the way.
Next time, the On the Bubble - Pitchers Edition. That one should be fun.