Washington Nationals: Making the Case for Adam Eaton to Bat Near the Top of the Lineup
By Drew Douglas
Newly acquired outfielder, Adam Eaton has been frequently batting near the bottom of the lineup this Spring for the Washington Nationals. Will he move up in the order by opening day?
After the Washington Nationals acquired Adam Eaton from the Chicago White Sox in early December, many people thought that he would end up batting at or near the top of the lineup.
While playing in Chicago last season, Eaton primarily hit leadoff or in the two hole. He led off in 119 games and batted second in 30 games. Eaton is a great table setter and is made for the top of the lineup. Last season, he hit .276 while leading off, and .314 while in the two hole.
Eaton hit for a better average in the two hole last season, but Dusty Baker will likely be reluctant to bat him in front of lefties, Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper. This would create a logjam of left-handed hitters and could potentially lead to matchup issues late in games. However, Eaton, Murphy, and Harper are all elite hitters and are capable of hitting any pitcher, regardless of what hand they hit with.
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Eaton is an ideal top of the lineup hitter. He gets on base a lot and has good speed so he is capable of creating havoc on the base paths. He has always had an outstanding on base percentage, and his career low is only .314, which would be a good year for plenty of major leaguers.
Plus, Eaton has also finished with double digit steals in each of the last three seasons. He should benefit from first base coach, Davey Lopes, and enjoy an increase in stolen bases this year.
Trea Turner is going to hit leadoff for the Nats after an outstanding rookie season last year, but Eaton would make a great two hole hitter. Turner and Eaton are both capable of getting on base frequently and stealing lots of bases.
With these two at the top of the lineup, Murphy, Harper, and Anthony Rendon would have lots of great opportunities to drive in runs. Having two leadoff type hitters at the top of the lineup also gives you a “second chance” to get a speed guy on base in front of the heavy hitters if the leadoff hitter is retired.
In order to acquire Eaton, the Washington Nationals had to give up Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning. The deal was widely criticized at the time and many people thought the Nats gave up too much.
Mike Rizzo most likely did not give up three of his top pitching prospects to acquire Eaton, just to have him hit near the bottom of the lineup. Rizzo wanted Eaton hitting at or near the top of the lineup and creating run scoring opportunities for the heart of the lineup.
As stated earlier, batting Eaton second could potentially create an issue with three lefties batting in a row, which is a positive aspect of having Eaton bat a little further down in the lineup. Another positive is that it would create great depth throughout the lineup.
If Ryan Zimmerman is not able to rebound in 2017 and Jayson Werth struggles in his age 37 season, the bottom of the lineup could provide very little production. With Eaton near the bottom, the Nats have great hitters throughout the entire lineup.
With that being said, I would still prefer to have Eaton batting near the top, but there are positives and negatives to both options. The Nats 2017 lineup should be one of the most potent lineups in team history, and there aren’t really any bad batting order options.
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Dusty Baker has 21 years of managerial experience and I’m sure he will put together the lineup that gives the Nats the best chance of winning. If I were in his position, I would bat Eaton in the two hole behind Turner, but you know what they say, “In Dusty we trusty.”