In the past you might have thought those words would be followed with “on his own recognizance,” but it’s just followed with “by the Washington Nationals.” It was a surprise, I’m sure, for most, as there was no indication that this was going to happen. It leaves a void in the assume starting roster, as Dukes was penciled in to be the right fielder. But he didn’t hit much at all so far this spring, and for whatever reason, they decided to end the relationship today. Time to move on, so the question now is who will be the starting right fielder? A few options:

  • Mike Morse – Looked ok in September for the Nats (.250/.291/.481) and has has a strong spring so far (.259/.310/.519)
  • Ian Desmond – If he’s the best hitting option, I guess they could put him out there, but I’d really rather see him playing SS in the minors than OF in the majors unless he proves he can’t play infield
  • Jermaine Dye – He’s out there, he still can hit, and they need someone. But he’s a terrible fielder towards the end of his career.
  • Willie Harris – Hit lights out this spring, the team is comfortable with him, and he can play the field. Although he is certainly a below average hitter for the position, he’s not a total waste, with an OPS+ of 100 and 101 the last two years.
  • Kevin Mench – He’s only had 12 ABs this spring, but he’s playing, and hitting well in the limited time. Maybe they think he can play
  • Justin Maxwell – Hasn’t looked good this spring and hasn’t indicated that he will be able to hit in the majors yet. But he may end up on the major league roster as a 5th guy still and get some time there
  • Roger Bernadina – Everyone’s favorite Rogearvin has had a decent spring and while he barely played at all in 2009 (28 total PAs) he looked good in 2008. They may not see a need to keep him in AAA any longer
  • Willy Taveras – I guess. I mean, he’s on the squad, he can field, but… he just can’t hit at all
  • Chris Duncan – 2 for 21 this spring, probably not a ton of confidence that he’s going to be helpful
  • Adam Dunn or Josh Willingham, with the other playing left field. Certainly a great hitting outfield, and Morgan can help cover over some mistakes. Then they’d need a first baseman, and there isn’t much there – Josh Whitesell, Chris Marrero who isn’t ready yet and Chris Duncan are all longshots. I personally think you could have the ABL patrolling centerfield and the defense still wouldn’t be good enough with Willingham and Dunn out there
  • Wily Mo Pena – No. Just… no
  • Another thought – they could play Desmond at short, Guzman at second and move Adam Kennedy to the outfield. He, like Harris, doesn’t hit well enough for a RF, but in a pinch it could work, and Kennedy’s already played a dozen or so games out there. It’s not ideal, but it’s one way to get the guys in there.

That’s pretty exhaustive, although there’s always room for more surprises. If I had to pick, I think Mench is still a longshot to make the club, and Desmond is an infielder. I’d guess Morse will get his chance as the start, with Harris filling in. If Bernadina looks good in the next few weeks, he will be the 5th outfielder, otherwise it’s Maxwell

As for my feelings on the loss of Dukes – well, I still believed the guy could hit in the majors. He’s got an incredible eye and knows patience. But the Nats either saw something to make them think all he could do was walk (a .260/.360/.380 RF isn’t that useful), or they didn’t want the baggage. Perhaps something happened where enough was enough with him. If you’re cynical, you might think it was Mike Morse’s spring, who knows. Natsinsider has alot more on the subject, inlcuding comments by Riggleman and Rizzo. I won’t miss his attitude, his past, or his injuries, but i’ll miss dreaming about his potential

By Charlie