Washington Nationals: Adam Eaton bolsters 2018 lineup
By Brian Foley
With outfielder Adam Eaton expected to return from injury this season, the Washington Nationals can now add another piece to their already dynamic lineup.
Healthy or not, the Washington Nationals have the best lineup in the National League. Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, and Michael Taylor all missed massive chunks of 2017, and the Nationals still led the NL in OPS. Now that all four are back and (fingers crossed) healthy, new manager Dave Martinez can lay out a dynamic lineup to attack opposing pitchers.
In December, Martinez said he would like to bat Eaton atop the order, which will deepen an already strong lineup. Since 2014, Eaton owns a .363 on-base percentage (21st in baseball) and an 8.7 percent walk rate (41st in baseball). Turner has been the Nats’ main leadoff hitter when healthy over the last 18 months, but his 5.7 percent walk rate since 2016 falls well short of Eaton’s elite table-setting skills.
After slotting Eaton at leadoff, the rest of the lineup easily falls into place, with lefty-righty balance throughout the order.
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*used numbers from 2017 season
Even after an injury-plagued season, Turner is such a dynamic power-speed threat that he must be wedged into the top of the lineup. He can just as easily drive in Eaton from the two-hole as he can keep the line moving for Harper and company in the middle of the order.
The Nationals may have the best 1-6 hitters in baseball. Between the six of them, they have been named to 10 All-Star games and earned MVP votes 11 times. Turner has swiped 79 bags in his last 171 games. Anthony Rendon led the majors in WAR last season. And backing up the top six hitters is an athletic, up-and-coming centerfielder who posted an .806 OPS last year. Matt Wieters is the one weak spot in the lineup, but it would be hard for him to hit worse than he did in 2017, and the Nats’ offense managed just fine. Any production from him would be gravy.
Some pundits have suggested Harper hit second. I am a big proponent of batting your best hitter in the two-hole, but in this lineup, it seems unnecessary. Eaton and Turner are All-Star-caliber bats, so the Nationals wouldn’t simply be tossing lineup filler out in front of Harper. They can more than hold their own and will provide additional RBI opportunities for Harper and Rendon.
Next: Pitch clock's affect on the staff
If injuries begin to once again pile up, then the Nationals should revisit the batting order question. But for now, Martinez seems to be on the right path.