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Washington Nationals 2012 ASB Position Player Report Card

Jul 7, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond (20) hits a solo homer against the Colorado Rockies during the second inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
Jul 7, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond (20) hits a solo homer against the Colorado Rockies during the second inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

After having savaged team performance with my arbitrary, self-contradictory grading scheme, it's time to apply the relentless Doghouse Curve to the players! I've assigned each position player a letter grade based on their total value to the team, measured in fWAR (fangraphs Wins Above Replacement). While WAR has its problems, I think it's interesting as a consistent (yes, I know we can argue about how consistent it is) way to compare players within and among teams. Using WAR with a fixed grading scale also keeps me (mostly) from tweaking grades based on fan bias. Here's the team report card:

Player Grade
Ian Desmond A+
Tyler Moore A-
Bryce Harper B+
Wilson Ramos B
Jayson Werth B-
Chad Tracy B-
Adam LaRoche B-
Danny Espinosa C
Roger Bernadina C-
Ryan Zimmerman C-
Steve Lombardozzi D+
Jesus Flores D
Michael Morse D
Rick Ankiel D-
Mark DeRosa F
Xavier Nady F-

More about the grading scheme and individual players after the jump! Stats through the games of 08 July courtesy fangraphs and baseball-reference.

Note: somehow I managed to delete Ankiel from my worksheet while I was filtering out the pitchers, but I've added him back. I should have noticed, since the pitchers mostly hit better than he does.

How I grade

I project out each player's current WAR total to a full season, which I define as 650 PA. Then I compare that total to fixed table where 0 WAR or less is an 'F', and grades go up by half a step for each 0.5 WAR (so 2 WAR is a 'C' and 5.5 or more WAR is an 'A+'). In some cases I might still apply fan judgment to bump a grade up or down half a letter (usually if the fWAR defensive component disagrees markedly with my fan eye and the other advanced defensive metrics). Think of the grades this way: 'A' is an All Star, 'B' is a solid everyday starter, 'C' is a fringe starter or a solid bench guy, 'D' is a fringe bench guy, and 'F' either just came off or will soon be on his way to the waiver wire. Keep in mind that 'C' and even 'D' players can be real contributors to a good major league team as role players or off the bench. I've also limited the list to players with 50 or more PA to reduce the impact of small sample size.

Head of the Class ('A' Students)

Ian Desmond leads this list, much to no one's surprise. The slugging shortstop is currently hitting .285/.316/.515 with 17 HRs and 11 SB. I don't like his low walk rate (4.4%), but it's hard to argue with his 124 wRC+ and 3.3 WAR to date. In fact, he's currently the best-performing SS in MLB by more than half a win. And it's not all from his bat, either--both the advanced and traditional fielding stats have him as a bit better than league average (I'd bump him up a bit for defense based on fan judgment, but he's already maxed out the scale). He's currently 12th in the NL in WAR among position players and is on pace for a 6-win season... Could he could get some MVP consideration? Grade: A+ (All-Star/MVP/Silver Slugger)

Tyler Moore leads the rookie contingent (and the non-Desmond veterans...were you expecting someone else?) with his .310/.380/.535 line and 4 HRs in only 79 PA (156 wRC+). I know, it's a little fishy to extrapolate his 0.6 WAR to a full season since he has the least playing time of anyone I'm grading who hasn't spent time on the DL. I don't care. I like his patience, and I like his pop, although I dinged him half a grade because he's looking to be about a half-win below average defensively. Grade: A-

Major League Achievers ('B' Students)

Bryce Harper heads the next tier of reliable everyday starters. He's hitting .282/.354/.472 (127 wRC+) with 8 HRs and 10 SB in 277 PA with 1.7 WAR so far this season. He's walking a decent amount (9.7%), and the advanced stats have his defense as about half a win above average, despite his newness to CF. He's a solid contender for NL RoY, trailing league-leading rookie Zack Cozart by 0.0004 WAR with 18 fewer games played. And remember: this kid is only 19 years old! Grade: B+ (Rookie of the Year)

Wilson Ramos is solidly in the second tier of solid contributors, making his season-ending injury sting all the more. He hit .265/.354/.398 (103 wRC+) in 96 PA with 3 HRs, 0.6 WAR, and a 12.5% walk rate before going on the DL. However, I dinged him half a grade for defensive troubles (UZR fangraphs has him as league-average, but he's a win to half-a-win below average by TZR, DRS, and my own lying eyes). Get well soon, Wilson. Also, please work on plays at the plate. Grade: B

Jayson Werth was bouncing back nicely from a lackluster 2011 season before breaking his wrist, hitting .276/.372/.439 (127 wRC+) with 3 HRs. With his roughly league-average fielding, he'd put up 0.6 WAR in 113 PA. It will be good to have him back in the stretch run. Grade: B-

Chad Tracy was Davey's primary Hairy-Chested Bench Bat, hitting .265/.327/.510 (115 wRC+) with 3 HRs and 0.3 WAR in 55 PA before going on the DL with a groin injury. He even racked up decent defensive numbers in limited time on the corner IF spots. He'll be another great stretch-run addition if he comes back healthy. Grade: B-

Adam LaRoche effortlessly hit .255/.340/.496 (119 wRC+) with 15 HRs and 1.4 WAR in 324 PA. His graceful defense at the cool corner is roughly half a win better than average, which bumped him up half a grade (although I nearly left him in the 'C' level just so I could refer to him as, "the gentlemanliest of gentleman ballplayers"). Grade: B-

Gentleman Ballplayers ('C' Students)

Danny Espinosa has struggled a bit this year, hitting .232/.309/.374 (91 wRC+) with 7 HRs and 1.1 WAR in 82 games and 340 PA. The advanced fielding stats agree with my fan eye that he's a half-win to a full win better than average with the glove at the keystone, which compensates for the slow start at the plate. Grade: C

Roger Bernadina has finally broken out of the sub-replacement cellar, which pained me greatly every time I had to put him there. Life as a bench bat and role player seems to be agreeing with him, as he's hit .252/.339/.387 (104 wRC+) with 2 HRs, 8 SB, and 0.4 WAR in 128 PA. The advanced metrics still hate on his defense to the tune of about a win below average, but CHOMP! Grade: C-

Ryan Zimmerman has struggled with a shoulder injury for most of the season, and we can hope that his .243/.308/.386 (86 wRC+) line with 8 HRs will improve in the second half. He's put up 0.8 WAR at the hot corner so far, in spite of some struggles on defense. The advanced stats put him around a half-win below average with the glove. Grade: C-

Needs Improvement ('D' Students)

Steve Lombardozzi has hit .266/.328/.342 (85 wRC+) with 1 HR and 2 SB in 206 PA. Surprisingly, he's been about a half-win above average defensively as he's learned how to play LF on the fly, and I bumped him up half a grade for it. Unfortunately, his 0.3 WAR is getting dragged down by grading his middle-infielder bat on a corner-outfielder curve--the lack of pop really hurts him. Grade: D+

Jesus Flores has weathered many a beating behind the plate while putting up a .230/.273/.351 (61 wRC+) batting line with 3 HRs and 0.2 WAR in 188 PA. That isn't getting it done offensively, even for a catcher. His defense is about league average. For comparison, Ramos put up more than three times as much WAR in just over half the playing time. Grade: D

Michael Morse hasn't really hit his stride yet, rushing back from the DL to hit .289/.310/.430 (98 wRC+) with 4 HRs and 0.1 WAR in 142 PA. Astonishingly, the advanced fielding stats actually like his defense so far to the tune of a win above average! That's small sample size for you. Grade: D

Rick Ankiel has put up a .228/.282/.411 line (76 wRC+) with 5 HRs and a team-leading 34.5% strikeout rate. The advanced fielding stats have him at average to slightly below average. He's barely above replacement, with 0.06 WAR. Lay off the high fastball, Rick. Grade: D-

Not Helping ('F' Students)

Mark DeRosa has hit .133/.286/.200 (44 wRC+) with a 17.9% walk rate in 55 PA as he's wandered on and off the DL. Why do pitchers ever throw him anything but strikes? His -0.2 WAR means he has no business on a major league roster. Grade: F

Xavier Nady has apparently made it his personal mission in life to confound me, hitting .157/.211/.275 (25 wRC+) but with 3 clutch HRs in 109 PA. He's also a butcher with the glove, being about a full win below average in the OF. If you extrapolated his -0.9 WAR to a full season, he would almost entirely cancel out Ian Desmond's near-MVP season. Stop blocking Corey Brown's roster spot! Grade: F-

Parent/Teacher Conference

Looking at these grades, I think we have some cause for optimism. Nady is already on the DL. He shouldn't see much playing time in the second half, while Tracy should be back soon as a welcome replacement. We can probably expect Morse and Zim to do better in the second half, too. Moore probably won't keep up his current hot pace, but Harp seems to be making the initial round of adjustments and could more than make up for Tyler falling off. Finally, stay hot, Ian Desmond! [drinks]