How high are the Washington Nationals on Stephen Lombardozzi, a Fulton, Maryland-born, 22-year-old, 6'0'', 170 lb second baseman drafted in the 19th Round of the '08 Draft out of St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg, Florida with the 571st overall pick? When he was called up to Triple-A Syracuse after putting up a .309/.366/.454 slash line at Double-A Harrisburg, the Nats' Director of Player Development, Doug Harris, told MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr that Lombardozzi, "... is not blessed with tremendous tools, but he gets more out of what he has than most guys. He continues to put himself in position to be recognized at the big leagues."
In four seasons in the Nats' system, the son of former Major Leaguer Steve Lombardozzi, who played 446 games over six seasons with the Twins and Astros, has a combined .299/.371/.414 line with 85 doubles, 26 triples and 65 stolen bases in 91 attempts. Lombardozzi's hit 20 of the doubles, seven triples and seven HR's this season between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, with a .309/.366/.454 slash in 65 games for the Senators and a .324/.368/.441 line with the Chiefs.
For comparison's sake, Danny Espinosa, drafted in the 3rd Round in 2008, had a .270/.365/.455 slash over three seasons in the Nats' system, with a .268/.337/.464 line in 2010 when the 23-year-old shortstop-turned-second-baseman earned a September call-up to the Majors. Ian Desmond spent six seasons in the minors between the time the Montreal Expos drafted him in the 3rd Round of the '04 Draft and his MLB debut, compiling a .259/.326/.388 slash in 638 games, but in 2009, a then-23-year-old Desmond put up Lombardozzi-esque numbers at Double and Triple-A before he was called to the nation's capital.
In 97 games between the Senators and Chiefs, Desmond had a .330/.401/.477 slash in 2009, with 24 doubles and seven home runs in 348 at bats. In his first taste of major league action, Desmond hit in 23 of 82 at bats, posting a .280/.318/.561 slash in 21 games. Espinosa ended his 2010 campaign with 28 games and 103 at bats with the Nats in which he hit .214 with a .277 OBP and .447 SLG, connecting for four doubles and six HR's. Lombardozzi's next in line. Will his minor league numbers translate? Danny Espinosa, in his first full season in D.C., has a .234/.321/.440 slash with 15 doubles and 17 HR's in 368 at bats. Desmond, in his second full season, has seen his slash drop from .269/.308/.392 last season to .225/.274/.308 so far this year.
Defense was always an issue for Desmond, not so much for Espinosa, who transitioned from shortstop to second and has been nearly flawless at second this season. Desmond struggled defensively at nearly every level in spite of his impressive arm and range, but this year, playing alongside Espinosa, he's turned things around. Lombardozzi's been close to perfect defensively at second with just two errors this season, a .995 fld% on the year and a.985 fld% during his time in the Nats' system.
In another interview about Lombardozzi by MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr, Triple-A Skipper Randy Knorr actually said they call the infielder "Mr. Perfect", describing Lombardozzi as, ".. an extremely hard worker,'", who Knorr said. "... just knows the game."
Pat Corrales, who was a roving instructor in the Nats' system before he returned to Davey Johnson's bench with the Nationals, told MLB.com's Bill Ladson recently in a story entitled, "Corrales impressed with Lombardozzi", that Lombardozzi, "... does things to help the team win. He bunts, plays great defense, hits behind the runners," and he was taught to play the game the right way by his father, Corrales said, "He is bound to make his move." Mr. Ladson, however, closed by quoting a baseball source who said that in spite of the talk of dealing Ian Desmond and flipping Espinosa back to short to bring up Lombardozzi, "... the Nationals like what they have now with Espinosa and shortstop Ian Desmond as their double-play combination."
While the word out of Washington is that Desmond is a "core" part of the team, who's not likely to be dealt this week, both FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal last week, and Yahoo!Sports.com's Jeff Passan just yesterday, have reported that Desmond is being talked about in trade discussions. FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal specifically mentioned in his article entitled, "The Nats: Ready to deal?", that Desmond could be available this week because, "Some club officials would like to move Espinosa to short and promote Triple-A second baseman Steve Lombardozzi to play second."
In Yahoo!Sports.com's Jeff Passan's article entitled, "Market for B.J. Upton doesn’t lack intrigue", he writes that, "Desmond is available, despite Rizzo’s public proclamations they’re holding onto him," and a scout Mr. Passan talks to tells him, "Rizz has liked [B.J. Upton] for so long, and now that he’s available, I just think he’ll pay what he needs to." Whether or not that "what he needs to" will include Desmond we'll have to wait to see.