Tuesday, November 16, 2004

 

Position Analysis - First Base

First Baseman
Starter: Nick Johnson/Brad Wilkerson
Back-Up: The other
Minors: Larry Broadway

NICK JOHNSON
Bats:
Left Age in 2005: 26 Contract: 2004 1.25 Million One-Year
2004 Stats: .251 7 33 40 BB 58 K .398 SLG .359 OBP

Past: Nick tore up the minors and was the heir apparent Yankees first baseman of the future. The only question was weather he'd develop the major league power expected from a first baseman. The Yankees didn't bother to find out. Signing Jason Giambi, Nick's services no longer needed, and a couple years later he was traded to the Expos in the Javier Vasquez trade.

Present: In his first year as an Expos, Nick kept everything on the DL, and I don't mean "down low". Nick had had a couple of injuries with the Yanks. Now, a bad back hurt Nick in the beginning of the year and a pitch to the face took him out for the rest. Subsequently, his stats were completely subpar, especially considering his position.

Future:
Best Case:
1) Nick gets and stays healthy. There's no doubt about it - this kid can hit. He's got a great eye and a quick bat. If he can be healthy for an entire year he will produce. 2) He develops some pop over the next few years. Given these two things Nick could be a second-tier near All-Star type player, maybe better.
Worst Case: The injuries get the better of Nick. Never able to get past it - he ends up a part time player, a good part-timer, but a part-timer nonetheless.
Probable: We always hope injury prone guys will get over it, but they never seem to. The first time you get one - it just puts strains on other parts of your body - makes other injuries more possible. He'll probably be a 110/120 games a year player, always on the bench for a few weeks. Given that he won't quite develop power and will be a productive player, though underachieving for a first baseman.


BRAD WILKERSON

Bats: Left Age in 2005: 27/2 Contract: Free Agent
2004 Stats: .255 32 67 106 BB 152 K .498 SLG .374 OBP

Past: Like Nick, Brad tore up the minors, though with a little more expected power a little less expected average. Unlike Nick, Brad found himself on a team that needed him. His first few years were rather successful, though it was the general consensus that he could be an great player, and he was only playing at a good level

Present: Brad stepped it up a notch this past year. He added to his power and improved his BB/K ratio. He proved he could hit left-handed pitchers. He was more than a pleasant surprise. With Vidro down, he was the Expos best offensive player. A fairly gifted, though not superior, athelete, the first baseman played left field for the first half of the year. After Nick went down with an injury he played first base.

Future:
Best Case:
Brad gains a bit better eye to go along with the gains that he made. With the natural progression in power Brad becomes a premier offensive player in the league. A .300 40 HR type of guy who is the backbone of this franchise
Worst Case: Brad's hitting is a bit of a fluke. His progression against lefties and patience at the plate kind of level out and he settles into a .250 25+HR player. A nice supplementary player
Probable: I don't see any reason to believe Brad will "Level off". His slugging versus lefties has always been high. I can see the walks and strikeouts to stabalizing as he is a free swinger, but that should only effect his average a bit. I see him scraping the top players in the league, batting around .270/.280 with 35-40 HR for several years.


LARRY BROADWAY

Bats:
Left Age in 2005: 24 Contract: Minor League Level
2004 (Minor League) Stats:
.271 22 71 68 BB 102 K .452 SLG

Present: Larry started and finished the year in Double A Harrisburg (Go Senators!). While some were disappointed Larry did not get moved up to Triple A, Triple A is really a now a stopping point for people going to the majors (which Larry wasn't with Nick and Brad in the way) or players moved from AA up that didn't cut it the first time.

Future: All signs point to a productive hitter - though not a star. (I don't guess on minor leaguers though)

FREE AGENTS:

The Expos are looking for more than a nice bat, they are looking for power and first base is a place to get it. Carlos Delgado is available and a familiar name for the fan, as is Richie Sexson, though both have their question marks. The best of the rest? Tino Martinez, David Segui, Brad Fullmer, and Julio Franco all could be good starters for a team with an awful first baseman, but this does not describe Montreal. They'll probably be too expensive and/or unwilling to be back-ups. An interesting back-up choice? Andres Galarraga. The Expos get a right-handed bat, that has a chance of having some pop (hit well enough in SF in 2003 to justify a back-up slot). More than that they bring in a guy people generally like and with lots of history to the franchise and a 400 HR chase that would add some early season interest.

DECISION:
I came into this thinking I would be all for Nick Johnson. One of this teams faults last year was the inability to take pitches. I really hate that. Nick is better at that than others, maybe best on the team. He would also project to be a pretty good hitter. Brad is better but since Brad is not a liability (and is in fact pretty good) in the outfield, playing Nick at first would not take away from his chances (nor is the outfield filled with people who must start).

However the Expos NEED power. If they drop Batista -they'll have no returning non-Wilkerson players with more than 15 HRs in 2004, and probably noone that you would think could consistently hit more than 25. Where do you get power? Well you can get it easiest at first base. (though third base is an option). I don't think Nick will ever get that type of power you want from a first baseman, so, as much as it hurts me to say it, I say trade him. He should have enough value to get back a good pitcher. Then agressively go after Delgado or Sexson. (there is another option - but we'll discuss that when we get to third base)

As long as you can keep Wilkerson in the outfield - you should - because 1st base is easy to fill with good hitters.


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