Washington Nationals' Outfield Upgrade: Jayson Werth

Jayson Werth #28 of the Washington Nationals is going to be a significant improvement over what the Nats had in right field last season. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Ian Desmond put in a third of an inning. Alberto Gonzalez an inning and two-thirds. Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman put Cristian Guzman in right field eight times, playing the career-infielder out there for 32.1 innings total. Willy Taveras played 14 games, started five and put 57.2 innings in in right. Justin Maxwell, who was traded to the New York Yankees last week, had a chance to earn the starting job when Elijah Dukes was dismissed, but he played his way out of the Nationals' plans in 29 games, 10 starts and 120.0 innings. Willie Harris, who was the Opening Day right fielder, logged 220.1 innings in right in 2010, behind only Roger Bernadina, 77 games, 57 starts and 492.1 IP, and Michael Morse, 72 games, 64 starts and 510.1 innings. Combined, the eight players provided the Washington Nationals with 24 doubles, 26 HR's, 86 RBI's and a .248/.327/.439 line out of right field in 2010.

In Philadelphia, Jayson Werth played 135 games, starting in right 131 times and putting in 1171.0 innings total over which the 31-year-old 8-year veteran hit a league-leading 46 doubles with 27 HR's (down from 36 in '09), 85 RBI's (down from 99 the year before) and a .296/.388/.532 slash line. 

Bill James' projections for the 2010 season had Werth putting up a .269/.369/.490 slash line with 25 doubles, 28 HR's and 88 RBI's. In 2011, Mr. James' projections have Werth providing the Nationals with a .275/.375/.493 line with 34 doubles, 28 HR's and 91 RBI's. Marcel's projections: .271/.362/.482, 29 doubles, 25 HR's and 77 RBI's. Provided he stays healthy, Werth's played an average if 150 games per season over the last three years after taking over in right when Aaron Rowand's departure from Philadelphia shifted Shane Victorino to center.

The top three RFers last year in D.C., Willie Harris, Roger Bernadina and Michael Morse, playing all over the field, were worth a combined 1.9 WAR in 2010. Werth alone was wor...uh, good for 5.0 WAR. Morse had a -16.7 UZR/150, Bernadina a -11.0 UZR/150 in right, and Willie Harris -9.5. Jayson Werth, who D.C. GM Mike Rizzo described as a, "middle-of-the-order bat, an above-average athlete and elite defender," who will, "win games for the Nationals on both offense and defense," in a letter to Nats fans after the signing, finished the 2010 season with a 985 fld%, 4 errors and a -2.9 UZR/150 in right field. 

Werth, called by the Nats' general manager a "prototypical National League player" like the Nats' Face of the Franchise Ryan Zimmerman, who, "wants to be part of a baseball renaissance in the nation's capital," isn't necessarily going to bring folks to the park on his own. In his introductory press conference, however, he did say that, "...going forward," the Nationals are, "going to put something together that I think the city and fans will come accustomed to love and come out and see us on a nightly basis." The Nationals clearly thought signing Werth would attract high profile, elite-level talent to the nation's capital this winter. Werth's agent claimed in an MLB Network Radio interview last week that the signing made Washington, "a different brand." "It is now an acknowledged brand," Mr. Boras said, "Their fans know it. Other players know it. And it provides a brand value to the franchise that did not exist prior to Jayson Werth signing."

An elite defender? A "prototypical" NL player? A brand-changer? As long as he proves to be more than a complementary player, as some saw him in a Philadelphia lineup that featured Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, or even if he's just that in a future Nats' lineup that features Zimmerman and Bryce Harper, Werth's not only a significant upgrade over what the Nationals had in right last season, he's, "one of 10 hitters to average at least 29 home runs and post an OPS+ of 130 or better since 2008," as ESPN.com's Stats and Info blog noted in an article on the Nats' signing entitled, "Many elements to Werth's free agent value", where the writers also noted that, "Werth's OPS, adjusted for playing much of the time in Citizen's Bank Park, is 132 in that span, meaning he was 32 percent better than a league average player." Werth was also, "among the major league leaders in Win Probability Added," last season, and, "(measured by the defensive metric, Runs Saved), Werth's arm ranked third-best in the majors among rightfielders last season." The only question is what 7-year/$126M dollar contract the Nationals gave the outfielder will do to Washington's ability to continue to build a contender in the future?

• Nats' OF: 

LF : The Washington Nationals' Roger Bernadina Project.

CF: Washington Nationals' Nyjer Morgan, The ?'s Remain The Same.

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