Due to the recent injuries to the Washington Nationals outfielders, their depth is a big question mark late in the season
You aren’t going to find many holes with this Washington Nationals team as they push towards the postseason. However, there has to be a big concern when looking at the team’s outfield depth. It started with Adam Eaton’s injury in April and the team has used 13 different outfielders this year.
Right now, Bryce Harper is on the disabled list and has only played catch and done some light running. Jayson Werth has tightness in his shoulder, and Brian Goodwin is likely out the rest of the season with a groin injury.
If Harper has to miss the first round of the playoffs, that leaves a messy situation in terms of which outfielder makes the postseason roster. The Nats have a variety of options they can choose from, but as Dusty Baker told Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post, don’t expect Wilmer Difo to play the outfield
"“Botched play, whatever it is, could ruin a kid if you have that over your head. … You try not to put him in that situation. I’d rather had a bona fide outfielder out there.”"
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The Nats have plenty of offensive options to turn to off the bench in a postseason game. Of course, there is Adam Lind, who is arguably the best pinch-hitter in team history. Plus, Howie Kendrick has versatility and is known for his clutch hitting and Wilmer Difo has been a pleasant surprise.
However, there’s one thing those three players have in common and its not a good thing. They don’t play great defense. Assuming Werth is healthy, the team doesn’t have an option they can turn to in that scenario as a defensive replacement.
As a team, Nats outfielders are at -4 defensive runs saved, which is 19th in baseball (according to Fangraphs). This stat does include the good season Michael Taylor is having defensively in center field (seven runs saved). Taylor has center field locked up, but what about the corners?
Lately, Baker has used Alejandro de Aza in right field. De Aza has hit just .167 in 18 games with the Nats, but he is the lone veteran option that the team has. No one should expect Victor Robles to make the postseason roster because he probably won’t get many at-bats down the stretch.
One name to keep an eye on is Andrew Stevenson. Outside of Taylor and Harper, he is arguably the team’s best defensive outfielder. Last month, he made a diving catch in left field against the Marlins and Dee Gordon in the ninth inning to save a win. His offense hasn’t been great (.184 in 30 games), but he would be the kind of outfielder the Nats could use.
Over the next couple of weeks, these young outfielders such as Stevenson and Rafael Bautista as well as the veteran de Aza have a chance to make their case for a postseason roster spot if Harper can’t play. Once the team clinches the NL East, they will get more chances to play.
Until Harper and Werth are 100 percent again, the outfield depth is going to be one of the storylines to watch for the remainder of the season.