With the loss of two starting hitters from last year, are the Washington Nationals balanced at the plate? A closer look tells the story.
The Washington Nationals are worried about power.
Not from a nearby plant, or the speed of a Max Scherzer fastball, but launching pad “See…You…Later” power. If you want to be specific, right-handed home run ability.
With the departure of Wilson Ramos to Tampa Bay, and dumping Danny Espinosa to the Los Angeles Angels, the Nats lost two of their six hitters in the lineup who smashed over 20 home runs last year. As Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth age, Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post wonders if there is the right mix of balanced power in the lineup.
She talks about Chris Carter, Mark Trumbo and Jose Bautista—all righty boomers—and if they would be a decent fit. The answer is no. As corner outfielder/first baseman, the Nats have solid players in those positions.
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Zimmerman hit rockets off his bat, but right at people. If he fixes the timing issue, he can have a great 2017. Werth is still a productive player at the top of the lineup and the other corner outfielder is Bryce Harper. We think he will be okay.
The offense, overall, is in good shape. Yes, they lose 47 homers between Espinosa and Ramos. They also lose Espinosa’s .209 batting average and 174 strikeouts. A fair deal.
What did they get back?
Well, Adam Eaton hammered 14 homers a year for the last three. Trea Turner projects out to 26 homers over a full season. And that Harper can punch out 40 or more when locked in. It may not be right-handed power, but a full 2017 from Turner and Eaton returns 27 homers off that drop.
Eaton whiffed 115 times in 2016. He also hit .284 and produced an OBP of .362. Those 59 less strikeouts and 60-point increase in on-base percentage will offset the loss of power.
The wildcard is Derek Norris. If he is the everyday catcher, he can hit double-digit home run numbers from the right side. The last two seasons, with playing home games at anti-hitter Oakland-Alameda and San Diego’s Petco Park, he smashed 14 a year. Nationals park is an oasis for hitters in comparison.
What Norris needs to do is hit for average. In 2016, he had a .186 batting average and a .255 OBP. Makes you almost miss Espinosa.
If the Nats sign no other starters this offseason, they go into the 2017 season with six of the eight everyday starters the same as the second half of last year. Only Eaton and Norris are new to the lineup.
Last season saw the Washington Nationals score more runs than any other over 162 games in franchise history, including Montreal, but excluding strike-shortened seasons. With the loss of strikeouts at the bottom of the lineup and the added speed of Eaton, there is no reason they cannot be as, or more, productive in 2017.
You would take another 95-win season, right?