Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker has several options to consider as he sets the team’s batting order. Who will lead off? Who will bat second? Who hits in the sixth spot?
As District on Deck Expert Ron Juckett highlighted in his examination of the burning questions for the Washington Nationals this spring, one of the more intriguing issues to monitor will be how manager Dusty Baker arranges the batting order.
Baker was recently posed with this very question. While he initially seemed set on the fact that Trea Turner should lead-off, he quickly backtracked as he considered alternatives out loud while talking to the press.
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So what are the options? Going back to Baker’s first inclination, the Nationals could simply have Turner bat leadoff. As we saw from his impressive rookie season, Turner can get hits and do some serious damage around the bases – exactly the qualities a team looks for in a top-of-the-order batter.
However, in a division dominated by right-handed starting pitchers, that may prove advantageous. Not so much when facing a team like the lefty-loaded Los Angeles Dodgers.
Alternatively, a mix from both sides of the plate may be more ideal for disrupting the flow of starting pitchers. A possible solution is batting Jayson Werth second and moving Eaton back to sixth in the order.
Werth has proven success in this role, and would be an ideal number two if played up to his career averages. This lineup helps shore up Anthony Rendon (Fifth), Ryan Zimmerman (Seventh), and Derek Norris (Eighth) as each would benefit from a quality hitter like Eaton around them in the order.
Baker could also set his card with left-handed batter Eaton at the top, followed by Turner, Murphy and Harper. Eaton excelled in the leadoff role with the Chicago White Sox, and there is little doubt that he can do so for the Nationals. This arrangement would result in a good left-right mix to start, and a high-contact, power-hitting crew through cleanup.
One major concern with this scenario is the back of the lineup. The six and seven spots would be taken up by Werth and Zimmerman. While both have a strong batting history, recent years have been hampered with injuries, limited play and decline at the plate. Norris is coming off of a career-low year at the plate, and will likely bat eighth in any scenario.
If Werth, Zimmerman, and Norris slump out of the gate, then the Nationals will have serious problems. The result will be easy outs, stranded base runners, and added strain on the top of the order.
Overall, the Washington Nationals have a solid group of hitters that can get on base and bring real power to the plate. The challenge of setting the perfect mix for a World Championship recipe falls squarely on Baker’s shoulders. He’ll undoubtedly love every minute of that task.