WBC May Not Be Good For Nationals

(Photo: Getty Images)

You'll forgive the Washington Nationals if they wouldn't be big fans of the World Baseball Classic. After all, the WBC could rob the Nationals of getting a full look at some developing young players.

For all of the fanfare and excitement that the WBC generates, you have to wonder if it really is a good idea. Imagine what happens if a marquee player like Derek Jeter were to go down with a season-ending injury. While that's possibly the worst case scenario, there is another scenario that should concern the Nationals; Teams don't get a full look at young players who are close to making the club.

The two players that it could make the most difference to are Roger Bernadina and Shairon Martis, who are both on the provisional roster for The Netherlands. Both players got their first taste of the majors last season and both could conceivably make the club out of spring training.

Bernadina hit .211 in 26 games, but has solid skills to work with. He earned his major league audition largely on the basis of his performance at both Harrisburg and Columbus, where he hit a combined .335 with nine home runs, his highest total since playing in A-ball back in 2005. With the Nationals outfield already a little crowded, Bernadina would likely need every opportunity available to showcase just what he could give the Nationals. Instead, he could be playing in the WBC, where gauging a player's performance is much more difficult, and the Nationals may not get their full opportunity to see him in camp.

Martis is also in a sticky situation. The right-hander, who was on The Netherlands' roster in 2006, also made his major league debut last season with the Nationals. Back in 2006, he was in the Giants organization and wasn't nearing a spot on their major league roster.

Unlike Bernadina, Martis doesn't face the logjam that currently describes the Nationals outfield. Instead, he's in a mix of pitchers who will battle from beginning to end for spots in the Nationals rotation, especially if Shawn Hill isn't ready to start the season. On the other hand, Martis has made just seven starts at the Triple-A level and could very easily start the year in the minors, waiting for a return to the big league club.

The WBC schedule opens on March 5 and the final isn't played until March 23, meaning that with added workout time prior to the classic, players could miss just about a month with their club. Teams are generally reluctant to stand in the way of their players representing their home country, but you have to wonder whether it's beneficial to players like Bernadina and Martis, who are on the cusp of the majors.

Interestingly enough, another player who the Nationals may prefer to keep in camp rather than have play in the WBC is a veteran. Daniel Cabrera, who signed a one-year deal with the Nationals, is coming off of a rough season where he posted a 5.25 ERA with the Baltimore Orioles. The hope is that a change of scenery and some work with Nationals pitching coach Randy St. Claire, could help Cabrera turn things around. Instead, Cabrera could be pitching for the Dominican Republic in the WBC.

The WBC could also play a role in determining the Nationals utility infielders. Pete Orr (Canada) and Jose Castillo (Venezuela) are both in contention for spots on the Nationals roster and could have a tough battle for spots. Time away could take them out of the picture for too long and give other players the opportunity they would need to grab a roster spot away from Orr and Castillo.

Other Nationals in the tournament won't have their fate determined as much by the WBC as the others. Saul Rivera (Puerto Rico) has cemented his spot in the Nationals bullpen and doesn't have to prove what he can do to the Nationals staff. And Jorge Padilla (Puerto Rico) is generally a minor league journeyman with little shot at making the Nationals out of camp and likely won't be missed.

The WBC isn't a bad idea. International competition is always great and it provides an opportunity to see major league players mixed in with players who haven't had the opportunity to be discovered by teams in the states. It's good competition and is generally a good, high quality brand of baseball. Still, if baseball at the major league level truly is a business - and it is - then do teams want potentially important employees taking time away from the office?


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