Washington Nationals: Predicting the 2018 Opening Day lineup

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: Bryce Harper /
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.311-.312 Avg. 16-19 HR 72-83 RBI .367-368 OBP 33-39 2B

If things continue progressing well for Murphy, he could start on Opening Day. Slot him behind Harper and move Zimmerman and Turner down one slot.

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A lot will depend on how soon he can get into game action and how the knee feels after full baseball activities. The micro-fracture was not discovered until after the Nats season ended and recovery from his surgery puts Murphy healthy early in the season.

Once he is, the Nationals offense will be in full flight.

A bonus for Murphy, as he starts a contract year, is the addition of old hitting coach Kevin Long. With the New York Mets, Long developed Murphy into the student of hitting he is today while demolishing the Cubs with home runs during the 2015 NL Championship Series.

The above projections are unkind to Murphy. If he plays the 140-150 games expected, add a few more homers and doubles. In his two years in Washington, he has yet to hit under .322. There is no reason to expect anything lower.

The Long-Murphy combination should lead to higher production. Watch to see if Murphy draws more walks and chooses his pitches better. His 52 walks last year was a career-high. Although he will never approach Harper’s walk rate, anything over 60 is a tremendous boost to a lethal offense.

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