Washington Nationals: Where Should Adam Eaton Hit In The Lineup?

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Jul 20, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton (1) advances to third base on a hit by a teammate during the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Seattle defeated Chicago, 6-5, in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 20, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton (1) advances to third base on a hit by a teammate during the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Seattle defeated Chicago, 6-5, in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Now that Adam Eaton is with the Washington Nationals, where should he hit in the lineup?

For the last couple of days, we have dissected the Washington Nationals trading their top three pitching prospects for White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton. Now, the question is where Eaton should hit in the lineup when the team begins the season April 3 against the Miami Marlins?

During the 2016 season, Eaton led off in 119 games for the White Sox. The left-handed hitter had a .276 average out of that leadoff spot with 11 home runs and 46 RBI’s. When he got on out of that leadoff spot, he was a threat to score as evident by his 68 runs scored (tied for fifth in the American League).

Normally, Eaton would be a shoe in for the leadoff spot in the batting order. But, Trea Turner was an instant sparkplug at the top of the order for the Nats this past season. Both of these hitters can change the game with their speed and their ability to turn doubles into triples.

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When looking at both of these hitters as a leadoff option, one of the things to look for is who makes the pitcher work and throws more pitches. Last season, Eaton saw 3.78 pitches per appearances while Turner was at 3.8. Of course, Turner had fewer plate appearances since he didn’t start the season in the Majors.

In addition to seeing nearly four pitches per at-bat, both of these hitters can get on-base at a high rate. Eaton has had an on-base percentage of over .360 each of the last three seasons while Turner had a .370 on-base percentage in 2016. Both of these hitters are great at the top of the order, but one hitter can change that.

When Dusty Baker put Jayson Werth in the number two spot last season, Werth turned his season around. He had a .363 on-base percentage as the second hitter in the order, had 13 home runs (fifth in the National League), and walked 57 times (most in the National League). Plus, he saw 4.78 pitches per plate appearance, which is a very good number.

Now in D.C, Eaton will wear the number two, which was last worn by Denard Span. If Eaton can follow up the same production out of the leadoff spot as Span did, he will have a successful career in D.C.

Dusty Baker has many options to go with in terms of how he constructs his lineup. When Eaton was on MLB Network Radio Thursday night, he talked about how he saw himself as a top of the order hitter:

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Ideally, the top of the order is where Eaton should hit in this lineup. After the Washington Nationals lacked a leadoff hitter for the early portion of the season last year (Ben Revere injury), they now have the luxury of going into 2017 with two candidates for that spot in the lineup.

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