Previewing the Washington Nationals Lineup Heading into 2016

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The Washington Nationals ranked tenth in all of baseball in runs scored last season. How is their lineup shaping up heading into 2016?

As the calendar year comes to an end, I will be taking a look at where each of the components of the 25-man roster stand entering 2016. First up: the starting lineup, which will be looking to rebound after injuries decimated the batting order a season ago.

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Leadoff

LF – Jayson Werth (age 36, bats R/throws R) owed $21 million in 2016

2015 Stats: .221/.302/.384 with 73 hits, 12 home runs, 1 triple, 16 doubles, 42 RBIs, 51 runs scored, 0 stolen bases (1 attempt), 38 walks, and 84 strikeouts in 88 games.

Don’t be quick to judge. Werth, while putting together one of the worst seasons of his career, shined at the top of the order. The Beard hit .318/.388/.580 in the leadoff spot in 2015, the highest batting average at the position in the MLB last season among players with at least 88 at bats there. While he doesn’t draw the walks or steal bases like the stereotypical leadoff hitter should, neither does anyone else on the Nationals’ roster.

No. 2 Hitter

2B – Daniel Murphy (30, L/R) reportedly owed approximately $12.5 million

2015 Stats: .281/.322/.449 with 140 hits, 14 home runs, 2 triples, 38 doubles, 73 RBIs, 56 runs scored, 2 stolen bases (4 attempts), 31 walks, and 38 strikeouts in 130 games.

The newest addition to the Nats’ roster, Murphy joins the Nats after seven seasons with New York Mets. The former 13th round pick profiles as a reliable lefty-bat with decent power and a low strikeout rate, providing an additional southpaw presence to complement Harper at the top of the lineup. In his career, Murphy has stolen 10+ bases in three separate seasons, raising the question of how new manger Dusty Baker will utilize that facet of his game.

No. 3 Hitter

RF – Bryce Harper (23, L/R) owed $5 million

2015 Stats: .330/.460*/.649* with 172 hits, 42* home runs, 1 triple, 38 doubles, 99 RBIs, 118* runs scored, 6 stolen bases (10 attempts), 124 walks, and 131 strikeouts in 153 games.

*Indicates led National League

Coming off one of the greatest offensive seasons by a 22-year old in MLB history, expectations have never been higher for the Nats’ right fielder. Owner of the perfect combination of patience, power, and consistency, Harper will look to carry on his success from his MVP season. As if there were any need for improvement, Bryce will be looking to cut down on strikeouts and be more aggressive on the basepaths.

Cleanup

1B – Ryan Zimmerman (31, R/R) owed $14 million

2015 Stats: .249/.308/.465 with 86 hits, 16 home runs, 1 triple, 25 doubles, 73 RBIs, 43 runs scored, 1 stolen base (1 attempt), 33 walks, and 79 strikeouts in 95 games.

Zimmerman made an appearance in less than 100 games for the second consecutive season, leaving this particular baseball writer skeptical about his ability to stay healthy entering his age-31 season. When he is on the field, however, the former Face of the Franchise can be one of the most dangerous hitters in the Nationals’ lineup. Given a full season, it isn’t unreasonable to expect 25 homers out of him.

No. 5 Hitter

3B – Anthony Rendon (25, R/R) projected to earn $2.5 million in arbitration**

2015 Stats: .264/.344/.363 with 82 hits, 5 home runs, 0 triples, 16 doubles, 25 RBIs, 43 runs scored, 1 stolen base (2 attempts), 36 walks, and 70 strikeouts in 80 games.

The injuries that plagued Anthony Rendon throughout his high school and college career hit him right in the face in 2015, limiting him to 80 games only a season removed from a top-5 finish in MVP voting. At only 25-years old, Rendon could very well be one of the best players in baseball once again in 2016. He will be able to start the season fully healthy at his natural position of third base for the first time in his young career, and could be poised for a big season.

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No. 6 Hitter

C – Wilson Ramos (28, R/R) projected to earn $5.3 million in arbitration**

2015 Stats: .229/.258/.358 with 109 hits, 15 home runs, 0 triples, 16 doubles, 68 RBIs, 41 runs scored, 0 stolen bases (0 attempts), 21 walks, and 101 strikeouts in 128 games.

The story with Ramos was always along the lines of, ‘just give him a full season and he’ll perform.’ Well, he got his full season, but the results just weren’t there. Given that he can’t even run at full speed, constantly grounds into double plays, and hardly ever draws walks, the book on Wilson Ramos may already be written. He will still be able to provide decent power, but needless to say, expectations will be at an all-time low for the Venezuelan catcher heading into next season.

No. 7 Hitter

SS – Danny Espinosa (28, S/R) projected to earn $2.7 million in arbitration**

2015 Stats: .240/.311/.409 with 88 hits, 13 home runs, 1 triple, 21 doubles, 37 RBIs, 59 runs scored, 5 stolen bases (7 attempts), 33 walks, and 106 strikeouts in 118 games.

Essentially a poor man’s Ben Zobrist, Espinosa boasts experience at all four infield positions and the corner outfield while batting from both sides of the plate. After putting together his first ever season with less strikeouts than games played, Espi will be looking to crack the Opening Day lineup at shortstop for the first time in his career. For a basic breakdown of his platoon splits, here’s the gist: he hits for power from the left side and average from the right.

No. 8 Hitter

CF – Michael Taylor (24, R/R) owed approximately $500,000

2015 Stats: .229/.282/.358 with 108 hits, 14 home runs, 2 triples, 15 doubles, 63 RBIs, 49 runs scored, 16 stolen bases (19 attempts), 35 walks, and 158 strikeouts in 138 games.

In 2015, Taylor ranked tied for ninth in the MLB in strikeouts, but had less at-bats than all eight of the players ahead of him. His inability to cut down on the K’s is a concerning red flag for an organization that was betting on him taking over the starting center field job in 2016. Keeping that in mind, Taylor is only 24. There is no reason to think that there aren’t many bright years ahead of him.

**Projections according to MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes

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