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Zimmerman heats up, Maxwell slumps, Marquis makes progress

I'll have a longer post later on about Craig Stammen and the start that may have solidified his spot in the Nationals' rotation. First, some quick hits from the Nationals' fifth win in seven games:

Ryan Zimmerman is on fire: Early this spring, despite some gaudy early numbers, Ryan Zimmerman felt like he wasn't yet locked in. "I'm getting to the point now where I feel almost there," Zimmerman said Monday. "I'm happy with what I've done. I'm trying to get back to where I was last year and try and do that for a whole season instead of three-quarters of a season."

"Almost" there? Zimmerman went 2 for 3 with two home runs Monday, with the only out being a line drive to right field. It is easy to overlook Zimmerman this time of year because you pretty much know what you're going to get once the season arrives. It's worth noting how on point he's been early. He's batting .457 with a 1.443 OPS, which is, you know, pretty good.

"This is right where he ended last year," Manager Jim Riggleman said.

Zimmerman was typically subdued about his hot start. About his first homer Monday, a high blast that rode the wind, he said, "That's an out during the season." He allowed that he feels good, but he doesn't pay attention to the results.

"I don't put any stock into anything in spring," Zimmerman said. "As long as I can feel comfortable and, more important, stay healthy, then I think you're going to be ready. Once the season starts, you are who you are."

Justin Maxwell is running out of time: Justin Maxwell could be a wonderful spring training story. He's a local kid. His attitude toward everyone he meets is, to borrow from scouting jargo, plus-plus. He has a chance to become a major contributor after the release of Elijah Dukes.

The only thing lacking is production, which happens to be the most important thing. Maxwell, after an 0-for-3 afternoon Monday, is 4 for 39 (.103) on the spring. Maxwell seemingly has the tools to play at this level, but the only knock is whether he can be a major league hitter. ("The jury's out," one scout opined the other day.) If he wants to make the roster, he needs to prove it now.

"He's probably pressing a little bit," Riggleman said. "We keep putting him out there, and the player has to win the job."

Mike Morse has also tailed after a fast start, a drop-off due in large part to the four days he missed with strep throat. Morse went 1 for 4 on Monday, but his on-base percentage is still at .282 for the spring.

"He's may be taking a few pitches that he was being a little more aggressive on earlier," Riggleman said. "He's competing for a job. He needs to be producing. There's about six or eight guys there competing for a couple spots. They're all competing for those jobs."

Jason Marquis still has some work to do: Jason Marquis summarized his start as "a step in the right direction," which was both accurate and not wholly encouraging. He improved from his first two starts, but he still allowed seven hits, a walk, and three runs in 4 2/3 innings. He needed 90 pitches, 59 of which were strikes.

"It was better," Marquis said. "It's not where I want it to be. I was making more quality pitches than I was last time. A little more life on the ball. I'm going to keep working until I get it right."

Marquis wants to start feeling more comfortable in his delivery and get a better feel for his breaking ball in particular. He's got two more spring training starts before he starts the second game of the Nationals' season.

"At least here, you're allowed the leniency if something doesn't feel right," Marquis said. "That's why we're here."

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 22, 2010; 5:47 PM ET
Categories:  Jason Marquis , Justin Maxwell , Ryan Zimmerman  
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Next: Craig Stammen states his case for Nationals rotation

Comments

Pretty much says it all except that Stammen is the story of this spring ... and that not giving JD Martin a real chance will come back to haunt this FO.

Posted by: periculum | March 22, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Interesting article by Sam Diamant on Maxwell starting in right this year (not every game given his injury history and super willy). Sees him as 1.6 wins above replacement.

compares him to :

"While planning out this post, I was trying to think of a comparison for Maxwell. The best one that I came up with is Mike Cameron. Since 2002, Cameron has posted less than 4.1 WAR only three times, and even his down years produced WARs of 3.2, 2.0, and 2.2.
Cameron was called up for good at age 24, two years younger than Justin Maxwell will be in 2010. Keep that in mind while you read Maxwell’s and Cameron’s career minor league statistics.
Mike Cameron: 2554 PA, 10.9% BB, 21.8% K, .319 BABIP, .775 OPS, .338 wOBA
Justin Maxwell: 1506 PA, 11.3% BB, 24.6% K, .317 BABIP, .793 OPS, .346 wOBA"

http://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/article_external/Whos_starting_in_right_field_for_the_Nationals/2282431

Posted by: periculum | March 22, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Maxwell has it all & more defensively, is willing to do 'the little things' (sacrifice, draw walks, steal bases) but can't buy a hit this spring. But with Taveras having a good spring, I fear historic speed may win out. Bernadina may have a leg-up as well, simply because he hits from the left side.

Posted by: BinM | March 22, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

BinM - I agree with you.

Maxwell, after an 0-for-3 afternoon Monday, is 4 for 39 (.103) on the spring.

That is pathetic numbers for a guy who considering his hits have been off of scrubs.

His starting pitcher today went 1 for 3.

When he talked about Dukes and distractions, you would think OK, no more distractions as Dukes is gone, and YOU still aren't hitting.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 22, 2010 8:41 PM | Report abuse

yes, but ... spring training is a really lousy time to be in a slump, and sometimes it can cost you a career, but he really does seem to be pressing, is all.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 22, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Regarding Maxwell: teams need to have some confidence in their ability to judge ability and not base decisions on a ridiculously small sample size under conditions that scarcely resemble the regular season.

My own sense is that it is time to give Maxwell the job and see if he can do it over a reasonable period of time. If he can't, there are options. It's not like they're headed for the World Series this year anyway.

But whether or not the job goes to Maxwell, the idea of basing decisions on a handful of spring training at bats -- a sample size that would be dismissed as a minor slump during the regular season -- is crazy.

Posted by: Meridian1 | March 23, 2010 7:23 AM | Report abuse

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