Within the past week, the Washington Nationals added veterans Jamey Carroll and Mike Fontenot to go along with Emmanuel Burris as potential candidates for the Nationals’ 25 roster. The Nationals have a need for middle infield depth, and these veteran signees go along with Danny Espinosa, Zach Walters, and Jeff Kobernus as players who will compete for these positions in spring training.
Burris is a light hitting infielder who spent all of 2013 with Cincinnati’s AAA squad. He began his MLB career in San Francisco, and has a .243 career average. His track record on defense is nothing special, and therefore, may not have much to offer as a member of the roster. Burris will need an exceptionally strong spring training to gain a spot on the MLB roster.
Carroll has been in the MLB since 2002, and has a .272 career batting average. He was on the original Nationals roster, and could prove to be a valuable piece off of the bench. If Carroll does not get a spot on the opening day roster, he could be sent to the minor leagues and earn a call up later in the season.
Fontenot appears to be the main competition to Carroll in spring training coming from outside of the organization. Fontenot did not play in the majors in 2013, as he was a member of the Tampa Bay Rays AAA team in Durham. He is a .265 career hitter and has spent time with the Cubs, Giants, and Phillies.
Espinosa, Walters, and Kobernus all have potential to be reserve infielders at the MLB level. Espinosa has more than one season of major league experience, but his low contact rate makes him a liability off of the bench. There is also belief around the league that he may be traded before the season begins. Walters has power, and if the Nationals decide to go in the direction of youth, he is their best option in my opinion. The Nats seem to prefer Kobernus as an outfielder, so he may not have a role in this competition.
If the Nationals would rather have a veteran off of the bench, I believe they will promote Carroll to the big league squad. However, if they want to let a younger player make his mark in the majors, I think they will select Zach Walters. Washington has given themselves many options for this role on the team, so the competition in spring training should be intriguing.