As we enter the final stages of the 2009 season, the Nats are trying to figure out who should stay and become part of the team's future and who doesn't fit their plans for 2010 and beyond. Former players like Lastings Milledge, Joel Hanrahan, Anderson Hernandez and Nick Johnson are no longer with the team (though NJ could return as a free agent this winter). Elijah Dukes spent some time back in the minors but is now back with the big-league team. Is he the answer at RF? He struggled badly last year before turning it around in the 2nd half of 2008. His play has been inconsistent this year. He was on a hot streak a few weeks ago but now he's in a slump. His average has dipped to .236. He only has 7 HR in 254 AB but he has driven in 45 runs. He has 2 stolen bases but he's been "caught stealing" 8 times. Many of those were actually Dukes getting picked off of 1B.
No doubt that Dukes is a very strong and very fast player... but is he a real starting RF on a good MLB team? I don't know but he hasn't done much to establish himself as the RF. Besides the lack of power, the low average and the 1B pickoffs, he has proven to be fragile. Unless he picks it up in the last weeks of the season, I think the Nats need to take a serious look at the RF position and maybe find someone else for the position. Or find a LF and move Willingham back to RF.
If the Nats actually re-sign Nick Johnson, Dunn would move back to LF and Willingham to RF. As good as NJ is, I don't think that would be a good move. Dunn struggles badly in LF. Though he's no Gold Glover at 1B either, I think he could be an adequate 1B. It's better to keep Dunn's bat and leave him at 1B, and then figure out what to do about RF. Are there any prospects in the minors who are ready for next season? Bernadina and Maxwell need to show a little more before staying on at the major league level.
I don't have a definite answer to this question but it would be interesting to read what others have to say.