Washington Nationals: Matt Adams provides valuable insurance

CINCINNATI, OH - MARCH 31: Matt Adams /

Washington Nationals first baseman Matt Adams might be sparsely used, but he can be a true asset off the bench this season.

This season, Washington Nationals first baseman Matt Adams has taken on a new role.  After starting for the St. Louis Cardinals in years past and the Atlanta Braves last season, Adams will serve as Ryan Zimmerman’s backup.

His best season came in 2014 with St. Louis.  Adams slugged 15 home runs, drove in 68 runs and batted .288.

Perhaps Adams is more well known for his postseason heroics that season.  In the NLDS against the Dodgers, Adams took the National League MVP Clayton Kershaw deep in what would add gasoline to fire that was the “Kershaw stinks in the playoffs” narrative.  He would go on to hit two more home runs in the NLCS against San Francisco before eventually falling to the future World Series champs.

But now, it’s back to square one and Adams will try to recreate some of that magic in Washington. And everyone in Washington should be thankful he’s here.

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In addition to playing first base, Adams dabbled in the outfield.  36 of his 389 starts came from either left field or right field. Certainly, the Nats will avoid putting him in the outfield when possible, but in an emergency, he’s an option. Think of Adams as a better hitting version of Clint Robinson from 2015, but without the awesome nickname.

Also, Adams is a great insurance policy for Zimmerman, who has been fragile in years past. Adams can still rake at the major-league level.   With a career OPS of .785, he is no slouch at the plate.

Even if Zimmerman is healthy, Adams can still be a platoon option for Davey Martinez.

Adams is a career .285 hitter against right-handed pitching with a .829 OPS.  Adams’ isolated power (ISO) mark against righties is .210. That’s a great, trending towards excellent mark according to Fangraphs.com.

Zimmerman is a career .271 hitter against righties with a .791 OPS and .190 ISO.  Sure, the differences are small.  And in a postseason game against a right-handed pitcher, Zimmerman will surely get the start.  But it goes to show that Adams is a quality bat in this league and a truly valuable bat to have come off the bench.

Adams also brings valuable postseason experience to the team.  His 91 postseason at-bats are second-most on the team, behind Howie Kendrick’s 105.  Postseason experience is something the Nationals need after the departure of Jayson Werth last offseason.

Next: Memories of Nats Park

Adams’ signing with the Nationals only caused a blip on the radar of fans. Some might not know he’s on the team at all.  However, by the end of the season, he will have proven his worth many, many times over.