Brian Schneider - In my humble opinion this guy is the best defensive catcher in the National League. Mike Matheny won the '04 Gold Glove but it's more on reputation than results. Last year Schneider just about nullified the running game as he threw out exactly 50% of would be base-stealers. With those success rates most guys will stay put. The left-handed hitter's offensive game isn't spectacular but it's certainly steady and his splits, numbers tallied before and after the all-star game, show he's a first half player who most likely regresses at the plate in the second half because of fatigue. His first half OPS was .740 and his second half was .695. This was further illustrated by his nine homers before the break followed by just three afterwards. He's an excellent fastball hitter who can be very streaky.
Gary Bennett - I wish I could give you some positive news about the team's back up but here's the best I can do. I went looking through his stats and I found that his '04 OPS versus left-handers was a very back-up respectable .769. But a further dig into the stats reveals his career splits versus lefties as a very pedestrian .686. Those are the numbers Schneider gave us last year after the all-star game but here's the sobering part. Dating back to '01 there have been 172 runners who have attempted to steal on Bennett's watch with 135 of them being successful. That's a whopping near 73% success rate. So for all you read on how he's a solid veteran and a good influence you'd also be smart to remember that about the only time Bennett's going to gun someone down is if Andres Galarraga sticks with the Mets. We need a guy who can give Schneider at least 40 games but I don't know how realistic that is with Gary considering our divisional rivals feature guys like Pierre, Castillo, Rollins, Furcal and Reyes. That might be something to watch for.
Keith Osik - He doesn't have a contract so he's just in Florida to catch some sun and give the Nationals another bullpen catcher. Long known as Jason Kendall's caddy in Pittsburgh, Osik is like most back-up receivers who have made a career out of just showing up and not ruffling the feathers of anyone in management. He barely hit a respective .200 last year in two different stints at Triple A so I'd say Osik's career is done it it was anything noteworthy in the first place.
Brendan Harris - This kid's already been sent down and whispers are already afoot that he doesn't have the hands to play third base or the range to play either of the up the middle positions. Harris came from the Cubs organization so in keeping with that theme maybe he's headed for a role like former Cub infield prospect Bobby Hill who's currently valued by the Pirates as a pinch-hitter. Then again Harris is just 24 and he's hit at every level besides MLB and his sample size in the show consists of just 59 at-bats. He hasn't really had enough pro plate appearances to take a guess at whether he can hit for power but if his glove's being called into question already then his best bet as an average first hitter may lay in being a bench player.
Ryan Church - The best thing in the world to have is options, unless of course you're a baseball player and your team holds options on you. In that case they can treat you how they like no matter how ready you appear to be. This is what will hamper Ryan's chances for this season despite boasting some great minor league numbers on his resume. Church made his first splash in '02 putting together a great season while playing in both A and double A, posting 1.002 and .830 OPS totals respectively. The left-handed batter's numbers regressed in '03 and he suffered some injuries but a trade to the Montreal organization seemed to revive him in time for the '04 season. While toiling for the Edmonton Trappers in triple A he logged a remarkable 1.048 OPS including an outstanding .428 OBP. He turned 26 this past September so he's just about ripe in terms of some major league playing time. But the Nationals have the aforementioned options and their projected current fourth outfielder in Termel Sledge also hits left-handed.
Jeffrey Hammonds - It's been quite the ride for the former first overall pick for the Orioles in '92. He was always good but not great for the O's and eventually they dealt him to the Reds where parlayed a bit role into a trip to Coors Field where he had the pre-requisite career year at Coors Field. The Brewers signed him for big money and he disappointed the Milwaukee faithful before his latest re-incarnation as a very productive bench player with a .849 OPS for the '03 edition of the Giants. But last year his numbers took a drastic fall and he wound up trying to land a job with the Nationals. Hammonds has been already sent to Triple A New Orleansas his potential role on the club as a lefty-smashing bat off the bench was already occupied by Will Cordero.
Carlos Baerga - Once an all-star for the resurgent Indians of the mid '90's, the former second baseman's career hits the skids once he took his skills to Shea Stadium and the Mets in '96. Since then he's had a stint for the Padres and also for the Red Sox where his upbeat attitude and pinch hitting landed him a subsequent job with Arizona. Carlos responded with an outstanding .860 OPS in '03 for the Diamondbacks. But much like Hammonds he couldn't produce in his second year off the bench and now he's trying to lock down the last spot on the infield with the Nationals. Up until a week ago his chances looked good but then Bowden announced he was looking for an infielder to back up the shortstop Guzman. Cordero and Carroll are locks to make the club so Baerga will be on his way out if Bowden finds his man.
Henry Mateo – He's injured right now and wasn't likely to make the team anyway but he might re-surface sometime during the season. The last time he showed promise was as a 23 year old in AA in '00 when he hit .287, his OBP was .361 and his OPS .765. That means he never could slug but a middle infielder that could post a .361 OBP and steal 48 bases certainly garnered a second look. His success didn't carry over to AAA, however, and his earmarked role with the Expos would soon be snatched by the aforementioned Carroll and has thus far never been relinquished.
George Arias – Arias has already been sent to triple A but here's a little background on a guy who was once a legitimate prospect in the Angels organization. The Tucson native and third baseman had a half season of time in MLB in '96 to prove his worth. That didn't work out and he eventually moved to Japan after three seasons in the Padres chain. His average in the Orient wasn't anything superlative but he did walk a little and he slugged over 30 homers a season. It would've be a good story if he'd made a splash but Arias is once more adrift in the minor leagues.