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Young vs. Johnson (Plus Detwiler's Debut!)

One other small thing: Nationals signed Hector Carrasco to a Class AAA contract and he's at Columbus. Remember how good he was a couple years ago? Could be insurance if they trade some bullpen arms in the next week.

A new addition at 2:10 p.m. to this earlier post:

Ross Detwiler, the Nationals' top pick in the June draft, made his pro debut today for the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals, facing a Dodgers rookie team. The numbers:

2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

Nats officials were told both the hits were bloops, and that Detwiler pitched between 92-94 mph with his fastball.

The plan: Three or four starts in the GCL, then a likely promotion to Class A Potomac. After that, who knows?

Back to your regularly scheduled post.

So it appears the question on everyone's mind pertains to Dmitri Young - where he fits now, where he fits in the next two weeks, where he might fit in the future. A reasonable question, and as so many of you have brought up, one that might relate to Nick Johnson's situation.

I asked Jim Bowden the other day precisely that question: Does Young's situation at all pertain to Johnson's? Here's what he said:

"I'd say this. If we had an opportunity to make a trade to make our team win a world championship faster, we're going to make that trade. That's the best way to answer that question."

I suggested, after a pause, that he might be answering all questions around the trade deadline like this. He said:

"But it's important to understand it. I also think Dmitri's a really good player to keep. I think he has a mission. He's hitting .330 from both sides. He's on a mission. He keeps getting better and he keeps working harder. I think he's been a great story. We'd like to keep him."

What we've learned about the Bowden/Kasten regime from last year's Alfonso Soriano situation is that they know what they want in return for their players, and even if the rest of baseball rolls their eyes at them, they're not going to be forced into a move for P.R. purposes. So there is an actual chance that Young remains here, I suppose.

But let's get back to Nick vs. Dmitri. It's important to take note of their contract situations. Young, of course, was signed to a minor-league deal in spring training that was to pay him $500,000 if he made the team. Best bargain in baseball so far? That's a discussion for another time. Johnson is in the first year of a three-year, $16.5-million deal that pays him $5.5 million each season. He signed that extension in spring training 2006, and the Nationals considered it a good bargain bet because if he was healthy, he'd be a steal, yet it wasn't so exorbitant that if he got hurt they'd be hamstrung. Thus far, they've received a season of each.

As of this moment, here are their career averages over a 162-game season (which, of course, is an important distinction, because Johnson has never played more than 147 games in a year, Young not more than 155, but it's a decent way of averaging things out, I suppose):

Dmitri Young:
.293 average, .349 on-base percentage, .479 slugging percentage, 21 HR, 83 RBI, 36 doubles

Nick Johnson:
.272 average, .395 on-base percentage, .458 slugging percentage, 21 HR, 80 RBI, 36 doubles

They're really not that different statistically. Johnson, of course, gets on base at a higher rate. Young, for his career, has hit for a bit more power and a bit better average.

Let's look at Young this year vs. Johnson last year.

Young in 2007:
.342 avg., .393 OBP, .523 SLG, 9 HR (on pace for 16), 52 RBI (on pace for 90), 26 doubles (on pace for 45)

Johnson in 2006:
.290 avg., .428 OBP, .520 SLG, 23 HR, 77 RBI, 46 doubles

Again, really not that different. Young's average is much higher, but Johnson makes up for it with his OBP. The only higher OBPs in the National League last year? Albert Pujols (.431) and Miguel Cabrera (.430). That helped Johnson to eighth place in the N.L. in OPS (on-base plus slugging), trailing only some of the best offensive players in the league - Pujols, Ryan Howard, Lance Berkman, Cabrera, Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins. Young's current .916 OPS is 16th in the N.L., trailing guys like Aaron Rowand, Hunter Pence and Hanley Ramirez.

Fielding: This one's harder to pin down statistically. Empirically, we know that Johnson is a better fielder than Young, whose nine errors are second-most among N.L. first basemen, trailing only Milwaukee's Prince Fielder (10). His fielding percentage of .985 is worst among N.L. first baseman who have played at least two-thirds of their teams games.

This, of course, doesn't account for the low throws Young has either scooped out or has let go by, etc. It's worth remembering, though, that Johnson had a horrid defensive season last year. He led all N.L. first basemen with 15 errors, and had trouble scooping balls that, in 2005, he made look routine. The Nationals expect him to round back into form when he returns, but he was jittery at first last year, so the gap in defense - while it should be large - might not be as big a deal as we think.

So what does all this mean? Not that much, really, if you go back to Bowden's original quote. I talked to three baseball people yesterday - not involved with the Nationals - who thought that Young would not be enough to bring a top-flight prospect. Most contenders, they pointed out, aren't in the market for a DH/1B type. But sitting here right now, I don't know whether Bowden is demanding a top-caliber prospect. I will, of course, try to find out.

I still can't get Minnesota out of my mind (not sure whether the Twins consider themselves contenders or not), but one person pointed out how the public perception of Young's past problems might not play well in the Twin Cities (regardless of how much we here in D.C. would tell them that he has been a positive force in this clubhouse). Another pointed out that the Twins' clubhouse is among the best in baseball (with Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau setting a terrific tone), and they're very wary of disturbing that in any way. (Worth noting that the Twins theory is mine and mine alone, based on seeing the Twins for that series and thinking about Young replacing Tyner as the DH, and how much deeper the lineup would seem.)

There you have it. I thought about starting a poll - keep Dmitri or trade him - but I think that's unfair unless we know specifically what's being offered in return. But since this is what folks have been talking about for a couple days, let the debate rage on.

Housekeeping: I'll get you lineups from the park. Gamer featured a bit of a discussion of Zimmerman's glove work, coupled with the heads-up play from Young in the field. Notebook has Jason Bergmann, Lopez leading off and some Langerhans. I'll monitor Zimmerman's wrist, too. He says it's fine. I'm not totally convinced, but I'd be shocked if he's not in the lineup. Podcast had a little of everything, and there's a clip from "Washington Post Live" of my appearance yesterday, in which Phil Wood clearly was in the "Keep Dmitri" camp. (Yesterday was one of those six-sided media days, a bit of a sports media cube, for me: newspaper stories, TV, radio, the Journal, chat and podcast.)

Talk to you later.

By Barry Svrluga  |  July 19, 2007; 11:48 AM ET
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