At the beginning of the year, the Nationals’ infield might have seemed a strength. Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Anthony Rendon and Adam LaRoche, with Danny Espinosa in reserve? Especially if you told then’s version of yourself that LaRoche would resurge and Rendon would surge, you’d be happy with what you had.
Even with the injury to Zimmerman, you could argue that that a team with a 93% chance of making the playoffs might be fine with their current infield. Sure, Espinosa is hovering too close to replacement level for comfort, but they could win enough games with him in there to make the postseason, and Zimmerman might be healthy by then.
Then again, winning the division and making the postseason are two different things. This team needs to keep pace with the Braves. And so they traded Zach Walters for Asdrubal Cabrera.
And the upgrade over Danny Espinosa is undebatable. Though Espinosa has recovered some of his value from his nadir, and is showing some power and speed, there are two facets of his game that have not recovered. His league-average or better walk rate has not returned (5.6% BB%), and his glove is not rated well this year (-1.1 UZR). Cabrera should be able to match that defense with the shift from short, and his offense is just about league average these days.
They’re trading a potential shortstop for a couple months of a second baseman. You can’t debate that. Even as he’s moved on to other positions, Zach Walters played twice as many games at short than any other.
But even while you acknowledge the risk, you can point to the risk inherent in Walters. Not only as a prospect, but as a prospect with a low walk rate and a high strikeout rate. Prospects with that sort of a profile at 24 years old in Triple-A had an 88% bust rate according to Chris St. John’s work.
So, yeah, they took a chance. A chance that has about 12% likelihood of burning them.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.
How does Walters project as a 3B or corner OF? Have to think he won’t stick at SS with Lindor coming through soon.
That bust rate is agnostic of position, so it’s the same! In fact, it could be harder for him to be a major leaguer because you ask more of the bat in those positions.
I’d venture to guess he doesn’t “stick” anywhere, per se. If he pans out, it is most likely as a utility player. In the OF, he’d slot behind Brantley, Naquin and Ramsey, not to mention Frazier or Zimmer in the future. And there is not room for him in the IF.