As recently as last season, Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa were two of the most criticized players on the Washington Nationals. Now, one is an All Star, and the other has steamrolled the offense for the last month.
While relatively forgiving compared to places like New York, the Washington Nationals’ fanbase rarely shies away from criticizing its own players. Whether it’s Jayson Werth or Jonathan Papelbon, almost anyone on the roster is fair game for criticism — and a lot of it.
Two of the most criticized players in recent Nationals history are Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa. Over the last several years, neither player lived up to their understandably high expectations.
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Ramos was always projected to be a powerful catcher who could bring a much needed boost to the middle of the lineup. But Ramos never emerged into that player, with injuries, inconsistent offense and defensive mishaps making many wonder if the Nationals should look elsewhere for their catcher of the future.
Now, in his walk year, Ramos is having by far the best season of his career.
Ramos is batting .335 this season — the second best batting average in baseball and nearly 70 points above his career norm. In 71 games this season, Ramos is just three home runs shy of matching his career-high of 16. His 46 RBIs are just 22 shy of his career high as well.
The long-running assumption with Ramos was that, if he managed to stay healthy for a full season, he would be an offensive juggernaut. Last season, however, Ramos played a career-high 128 games and still struggled mightily at the plate. But things are different this year.
Not only is nobody criticizing Ramos, but he’s suddenly developed into perhaps the second most import player on the Nationals. While there’s still a ways to go this year, Ramos is well on his way to the best season of his career right before he hits free agency.
He’s already been rewarded for his first-half success, being named as a reserve to the NL All-Star team last night.
Similarly, Espinosa is also in the midst of the best season of his career. He’s dominated at the plate, and he’s done it knowing full well that the Nationals and their fans are not-so-patiently waiting to call up shortstop prospect Trea Turner to take his spot in the lineup.
Needless to say, Espinosa’s job is very much secure right now.
The switch-hitting infielder is batting .246 with 18 home runs and 49 RBIs this season. Espinosa has been on fire over the last month, batting .327 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs over his last 30 games.
Not long ago, many fans wanted the team to cut ties with Espinosa, clearing the way for Turner, who remains the Nationals’ shortstop of the future. For a while it even seemed like the Nationals might give Turner the starting job out of Spring Training.
For now, however, Espinosa is on fire. And like Ramos, he’s a crucial part of the lineup of a first-place team.
Ramos and Espinosa were once among the team’s most criticized players. Now, they’re basking in praise, and they could help lead the Nationals to the postseason.