Washington Nationals 2017 Player Preview: Jayson Werth

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Aug 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth (28) hits a home run during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth (28) hits a home run during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /
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Washington Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth is heading into the final year of his seven year deal.  What kind of production can the Nats expect to receive from the 37-year old?

In December of 2010, the Washington Nationals were pretty irrelevant and had finished last in the National League East in five out of their six seasons in DC.  All of that changed the moment they signed Jayson Werth.

By signing Werth, the Nats showed other players that they were serious about contending, allowing them to have more of a chance while trying to sign free agents.  The Nats had also just drafted Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in each of the previous two summers.  Although they had yet to finish above .500, the Nats looked like a team ready to compete in just a few years.

Werth had recently won a World Series in 2008 with the Philadelphia Phillies, and quickly became a great clubhouse presence for a young team.  In Werth’s first season in Washington, they showed vast improvement and finished just half a game below .500.

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In Werth’s second season, the Nats were able to win 98 games and make it to the postseason for the first time in team history.  Werth brought great talent to DC, but more importantly, he changed the culture.

Now here we are in 2017, six years into Werth’s seven-year deal.  The Nats have made it to the postseason three times, and Werth has always been a mainstay in the heart of the lineup.  Werth will be turning 38 in May.  He is past his prime and is no longer the great player that originally signed with the Nationals.  Yet he remains a very valuable asset to the Nats.

First, Werth consistently puts up great at bats.  In 2016, he led the major leagues with 4.6 pitches per plate appearance.  Batting early in the lineup, this is great for allowing teammates to see as much of the opposing pitcher as possible before their at bat.  It also allows the Nats to get through pitchers quicker and wear out the opposing team’s bullpen.

Another valuable attribute of Werth’s is his great veteran presence.  He has played in 15 big league seasons and has had many different experiences.  Werth has been a World Series champion, he’s been part of a rebuild, he’s dealt with injuries, and he’s changed positions.  He is a great resource for his teammates to rely on if they are facing new challenges.

Werth has truly done it all over the course of his career.

Defensively, the Nats cannot expect Werth to be in the Gold Glove conversation.  Nevertheless, he makes the plays that he is supposed to make.  Werth can occasionally make a bonehead mistake in the outfield, but that can really be said of anyone.  He can also make extraordinary plays, which isn’t typical for a player his age.

2017 will arguably be the most important season in Werth’s Nationals stint.  Werth has said himself that his Nationals legacy will be determined by this season.  His goal has always been to bring a championship to DC, and although he has had a great a Nationals career, he will view anything short of a ring as a disappointment.

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Werth has been extremely focused on this season, which should allow him to continue to be a key contributor to a postseason caliber team, even as a 38-year-old.  It should be fun to watch the wily veteran in what is quite possibly the final year of his franchise changing Nationals career.

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