Werth’s Injury Will Keep Harper Around

The 18-10 Nationals remain in first place after taking two of three from the Phillies over the weekend, but their seasonal outlook significantly worsened when Jayson Werth left Sunday night’s game with a wrist injury.

Werth slid to make a catch on Placido Polanco‘s blooper in the sixth inning. While it appeared that he made the catch, the ball fell out of his glove as his wrist awkwardly bent backward. A few minutes later, Werth was replaced by Xavier Nady, and after the game it was reported that he broke his left wrist.

At a minimum, Werth will miss six weeks. He joins Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche as valuable Nationals out of action. The injury also ensures that Bryce Harper won’t get sent back down to the minors once some of the injured players return. Regardless, losing Werth clearly hurts the Nationals outfield, and opens up another hole in the lineup they may not be able to fill internally.

Werth is no stranger to wrist injuries, as he broke the same left wrist while playing for the 2005 Dodgers. He missed the entire 2006 season and didn’t begin to play effectively again until signing with the Phillies for the 2007 campaign. He may technically return in six weeks, but it seems unlikely that he will immediately return to being the Jayson Werth that helped the Nationals get out to a hot start.

And while six weeks might not seem like that long of a recovery time, given the circumstances, the more important time frame is when Werth’s effectiveness will return after he comes off of the disabled list. Because that time frame is uncertain, especially after considering what happened the last time he broke his left wrist, the Nationals should seriously consider external options.

Replacing Morse — assuming that he would have played left field with LaRoche at first base — was one thing with Harper knocking on the door. Replacing both Morse and Werth isn’t easy, and the Nationals don’t have another phenom prospect waiting in the wings to take over. If they stick with rostered players, the likeliest scenario involves shifting Harper to right field, going with Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina in center field, and using Bernadina, Nady and Chad Tracy in left field.

While having a number of outfielders gives the Nationals some flexibility, the non-Harper players mentioned above aren’t particularly effective. Since 2010, Bernadina has a .305 wOBA and just 1.2 WAR. Tracy has a .290 wOBA and has basically been a replacement player over his 202 plate appearances. Nady has an even worse .277 wOBA, and with his poor fielding, has been 1.6 wins below replacement.

These players don’t exactly boast significant platoon advantages either. Bernadina has a career .300 wOBA against righties and a .305 wOBA since 2010. Tracy, a fellow lefty, has just a .280 wOBA against righties over the same span, and 190 of his 202 PAs have come against opposite-handed pitchers. Nady, a righty, has a .286 wOBA over 273 PAs against lefties throughout the same span.

Going with Nady, Bernadina and Tracy might make some sense if there was one problem area in the lineup, but with Zimmerman, Morse and LaRoche also out, replacing Werth with some form of that trio seems suboptimal.

Granted, the Nationals will start to see their injured players return soon, which might render the pursuit of external help moot. However, if any of Zimmerman, Morse or LaRoche experience setbacks, the Nationals would do themselves well to pick up the phone and inquire on the availability of corner outfielders outside the organization.

The Nationals could also try Tyler Moore out in lieu of Tracy, Nady and Bernadina, but whether it was an oversight on his part or not, Davey Johnson didn’t mention Moore along with the other outfielders as left field solutions after Sunday’s game. Moore projects about as well as those players — .285 wOBA per ZiPS — but has shown impressive power in the minors. At this juncture, it can’t hurt to test him out, especially if the flip side involves less playing time for Nady. However, given the Nationals usage of Nady and Tracy, it seems more likely that Moore will get demoted when those on the disabled list return to action.

A week ago it seemed like the Nationals might have a tough decision to make with regards to Harper and his presence on the major league roster once Zimmerman and Morse came off of the disabled list. Now it seems that his spot is not only safe, but that he’ll be counted on as a key contributor the rest of the way.




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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


30 Responses to “Werth’s Injury Will Keep Harper Around”

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  1. bburrell says:

    There is also Tyler Moore in theory. But it seems as if they Nats aren’t really that keen on giving him a shot right now.

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  2. Max says:

    Free Tyler Moore!

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  3. jorgath says:

    Your article is incorrect. Harper was in no danger of being sent down anytime before Michael Morse returns – and that’s at least 6 weeks away. Werth’s injury keeps Tyler Moore, as has been mentioned, from being sent down when Zimmerman comes back. Remember that LaRoche was just sat for about 4 games, not actually placed on the DL – he’s on the active roster.

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  4. pdowdy83 says:

    It appears Zimmerman and LaRoche are both going to be returning tomorrow night. Zimmerman being activated from the DL will coincide with Werth being put on it so that negates anyone being sent down.

    Although an outfield that includes Ankiel/Nady/Bernadina/Tracy playing in 2 of 3 spots is slightly terrifying to think about watching on a nightly basis. I hope they do decide to at least give Moore games against left handed pitchers because Nady is god awful these days.

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  5. Al says:

    Yet another FanGraphs article where everything after the title is completely unnecessary

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    • kick me in the GO NATS says:

      Another Fangraphs comment that once begun being written rendered everything afterwards thought by the author completely unnecessary.

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  6. Mtaus says:

    Yeah I don’t really see how you can leave Tyler Moore out of the article completely

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  7. LD Smith says:

    I agree that seeing some analysis of how this affects Tyler Moore in the article is very important. Even if you expect him to be demoted regardless, he is an OF on the roster today and is somehow impacted by the Werth injury.

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      I added a few sentences on Moore — Johnson didn’t mention him and I missed him. I don’t really see the Nats giving him a legit chance right now, but anything is possible when two of the alternatives are Chad Tracy and Xavier Nady.

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      • jorgath says:

        Friendly nitpick – I think you accidentally wrote “more” instead of “Moore” in one of those new sentences.

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      • jorgath says:

        Also, you didn’t address the other thing I mentioned above: Adam LaRoche isn’t on the DL, he’s day-to-day. So his coming back doesn’t require a corresponding move, it just means the Nats aren’t playing a man short on their active roster.

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      • Eric Seidman says:

        I said he was injured, not on the disabled list. On the shelf to me refers to being injured and out of action, whether it be DL’d or like LaRoche’s case. I don’t think I said anywhere that LaRoche coming back requires a move.

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      • jorgath says:

        I agree, you didn’t. But the article didn’t read very clearly on that point. I’m not trying to attack you – this is a constructive criticism being offered. My point is that even without the Werth injury, if you factor in Moore’s likely yo-yo season between the majors and AAA, Harper wasn’t going to worry about being sent down until Michael Morse returns, which is another month or two away. With Werth out (I’ve heard 6-12 weeks)…yeah. Not happening.

        One other factor: Roger Bernadina may or may not have an option left (I don’t remember). If he does, he’s far worse than Harper. He’d probably be sent down before Harper. If he doesn’t, Harper might have been in danger.

        So, well here’s the summary: Werth’s injury guarantees that the Nats keep Harper around, sure. But it moves the chances they wouldn’t keep him from about 10% to 0%, not from 70% to 0%.

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      • Eric Seidman says:

        It’s all good — nobody said you were attacking.

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  8. Colin says:

    Harper’s play will keep Harper around.
    He’s been too good, especially relative to the other options, to consider sending back to AAA.
    It only would have become a question when Morse returns. With the Werth injury, it’s not.
    Lastly, LF is supposed to be Roger “The Shark” Bernadina’s best OF position defensively. Maybe it will click this time.

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  9. L.UZR says:

    Now that Hamels beaned Harper he has to stay.

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  10. philosofool says:

    Rizzo basically said, before Werth’s injury, that all Harper had to do to stay in the big leagues was continue to play well. His exact words were “We’re not dumb.”

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  11. Jake says:

    Now it’s apparently 12 weeks. Ouch.

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  12. BillWallace says:

    The title of this article is wrong. Harper hitting like an all-star will keep him around. The Werth injury is what would keep him around even if he weren’t hitting.

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  13. OUCody says:

    If they need a LF replacement, they can look at the Jays for Thames or Snider. Time for the Nats to finally be buyers.

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    • jorgath says:

      My personal inclination is to offer the Cubs something ridiculously cash-heavy player-low for Soriano. Such as “we’ll give you Cutter Dykstra, we’ll take on all his salary, and we’ll give you half of what you’ve already paid him this year.”

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  14. Jarrett says:

    “Dusty” Johnson is a moron to go with Nady, a guy who’s only proven he can’t perform over the last 4 years. This team is bordering on young and exciting. They should be pushing Moore to continue his 12 months of incredible progress. Instead, they’ll probably let him sit until he develops a confidence problem, then bat him twice and demote. When that happens, I’ll have to disagree with Rizzo, “You are dumb.”

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  15. Will says:

    The Nats also have Corey Brown and Mark Teahen in the minors, if they are so inclined.

    Brown still has some prospect luster from a couple years ago. And given he’s a plus defender, it doesn’t really matter what he does with the bat to be an improvement on Xavier Nady.

    But really, Bobby Abreu would be looking really good right now…

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    • Cidron says:

      Bobby Abreau, looking good right now.. Guess thats why he is playing OF for the Dodgers

      News: Abreu is making his first start as a Dodgers on Saturday, the Dodgers’ official Twitter feed reports. (Sat May 5)

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  16. RobBob says:

    The reason Johnson hasn’t played Moore more (sorry, had to do it) is that he was supposed to be up just for a few games until Zimmerman returned. Johnson said he didn’t want to thrust him into a role as a starter when he would lose that role within a week. The situation has now changed, and they may decide that Moore should stay at with the big league club at least until Morse gets back in June (and maybe even beyond, since Morse would DH in the interleague games). A longer stint may mean that Moore gets a starting role, but even this is unclear. There’s a danger that he could end up struggling big time, and his rapid development over the last couple of years could suffer a severe set-back.

    Finally, as to the title of this post, as other have said: Harper was in no danger of being demoted before Werth got injured. It was not going to happen.

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    • Jarrett says:

      Sometimes people can make the mistake of “over-thinking it”. I imagine Tyler Moore isn’t stupid. Just because he starts for a few games, doesn’t mean it’s either now or never for his entire career. Come on, play the best players when they’re playing well. It’s really not rocket science, and managers like Johnson would do better by getting out of the way.

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  17. Boomer says:

    While watching the game last night, as soon as Werth came up with the dropped ball and flipped it back to the infield, he grabbed his wrist and you could tell something was seriously wrong…my exact thought was ‘Wow, this will only give the Nationals an extra opportunity to keep the kid on the big club for an extended period’. Plus Harper has not done anything to be sent down anyway hitting .307 and vindicating himself after he was initiated to the big leagues by Hamels by stealing home. Exciting!!!

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    • jorgath says:

      Huh. My exact thought, from my seats up in LF upper deck, was “GOD DAMN IT! NOOO!!!!” My exact words, too.

      Of course, I’m a Nats fan.

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  18. Hurtlockertwo says:

    I’d be surprised if Werth is back in 12 weeks, swinging that piece of wood is hard on your wrists and his left arm muscles will atropy some by being immobilized.

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