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PROGNATSTICATIONS: Ryan Church

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Most important thing about Church? "I'm a real good person."

To tell the truth, I'm kind of tired---long day, want to finish a post I've been working on for days, but won't, because continual news involving ex-Padres isn't really helping there. (Our San Diego counterparts are claiming scoreboard, by the way.)

What else is there to say about Church? Here's the facts, or at least factual-sounding statements closely resembling facts:

  • He's got something of an injury history.
  • He's probably too old for projected stardom.
  • He's a good enough hitter, one of the few in the system who can hit for both average and power.
  • He's a capable enough centerfielder.
  • He's, to a certain extent, "proven."
  • He's basically assured of nothing at this point.
For more, I'll refer you to Mark Zuckerman's first-ever Times mailbag. Please understand that I'm not hyping this mailbag at the expense of others; it's just that Zuckmerman answered a long question relating to Church, and I figured I'd mention it:
Q: The Nationals really have been down on Ryan Church since the start. As a fan who watched a ton of games (ha, not on TV, of course!) last summer, I have never understood this. Church was a rookie of the month, was a solid rookie of the year candidate and plays the game well both in the field and at the plate. Yet the combination of Bowden and Robinson really doubted him, messed with his head by trying to force him into the pinch-hitter role and seemed quick to disrespect him.
    I've never heard a real excuse for why. We've heard bits and pieces about how they weren't happy with his inability to play while injured, but I think there's more to it than that. What's really going on, and why aren't they giving this guy a legit shot? -- Mike Hart

A: This subject came up during our morning briefing with Frank Robinson just the other day. Robinson was careful with his words but gave his honest opinion: Each player has his own tolerance for pain, and there's nothing wrong with that. Still, as a manager you're probably subconsciously going to appreciate a guy who routinely plays hurt more than a guy whose pain threshold is lower.
    I think that has a little to do with Church's situation. No one questions the severity of the rib/shoulder injury he suffered making that game-saving catch in Pittsburgh in June. Doubts were raised when he needed to go on the DL in late August upon breaking his pinky toe off a foul ball.
    But I believe that's only a small part of the Church story. I think there's some concern within the organization about his major drop-off in offensive production in the second half of 2005 (nearly 100 points). Did injuries have something to do with that? Probably. Might the league have started figuring Church out, too? There's a good chance.
    There's one more piece to the equation, and that is the current makeup of the Nationals' lineup. With Brad Wilkerson gone, there's really no one to lead off. That's why you have heard so much this spring about Brandon Watson getting a shot at winning the job. Watson is the only prototypical leadoff man on the roster, so it certainly would help things a lot if he seized this opportunity.
    Don't count Church out, though. He has all the skills to be a quality major leaguer, and if he outperforms Watson this spring, he will force his way into the starting lineup (even if he has to lead off).

At any rate, like I said, I'm tired. I could make a chart---or something resembling a chart---of Church's career stats, but I don't wanna. Instead, here's his stats. I'll tell you what I think in the comments; you tell me what you think.