Washington Nationals: Andrew Stevenson ready for a major league role

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 21: Andrew Stevenson #45 of the Washington Nationals singles against the New York Mets during the eighth inning at Nationals Park on September 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 21: Andrew Stevenson #45 of the Washington Nationals singles against the New York Mets during the eighth inning at Nationals Park on September 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

We’re into the fifth week of 2018 Report Cards, reviewing each member of the Washington Nationals. Andrew Stevenson is next, looking ready for a bigger role

We’re flying towards the end of our 2018 Report Card series at District on Deck. Next up is Andrew Stevenson, who appeared to take a step forward in his development, which perhaps could earn him more playing time with the Washington Nationals next year.

He finished the season with a .253/.306/.320 slash line, while driving in 13 runs and hitting his first career major league home run. He also had a career day out in San Francisco with a 4 for 6 performance in which he doubled twice and drove in four that will sure to live long in his memory.

With only one minor league option now remaining for Stevenson, he has to make an impression next year. But if 2018 was just the first step to him becoming a role player, then he’s certainly on the right path with the Nats.

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The Positives for Stevenson

After some work with hitting coach Kevin Long the offseason, Andrew Stevenson was able to add a bit more power into his game. His groundball percentage of 46.0 in the majors in 2018 was the lowest it had been in any year at any level as he worked specifically worked on getting the ball in the air more. While his major league time was limited, he was able to better his slugging percentage from .193 in 2017 to .320 last season. But in Triple-A, he flashed even more pop, with a .338 slugging, while batting only .235 and hitting six home runs, which was just as many as he had in three previous minor league seasons.

Stevenson appeared to get better as a pinch hitter late in the season after the trades of Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams opened up a roster spot. Over the course of the season, Stevenson had the second best pinch-hitting batting average on the team among players who had at least 10 pinch-hit plate appearances. He seemed to work good ABs late in the year, despite a spike in strikeouts, and being good off the bench will be vital in his potential 2019 role.

Areas for Improvement

Unfortunately, Stevenson’s was still striking out at an alarming rate last season, which suppressed his batting average. In 2018 he struck out 26.7 percent of the time which was the sixth highest on the team among those who had at least 50 plate appearances. The main reason for this was the swing-and-miss in his game, as he possessed the highest swinging strike percentage on the team at 17.1 percent. Last year, his percentage was just 10.4 and has profiled as a contact hitter, so it’s possible that we could put this down to an adjustment period as Long revamps his swing, and may improve next year.

While Stevenson’s slash line was pretty average, it’s worrying that it was supported by a high BABIP of .333 this year. Part of that comes from the elevated strikeout rate mentioned above, but also his walk rate dropped drastically to 7.0 percent which is among the lowest rates of his career. He was swinging a lot at pitches outside the zone, with a 37.0 percent swing rate on those pitches, compared to a 33.8 percent last season in the majors. Hopefully, as he sees more and more major league pitching, his discipline at the highest level will improve, but as a pinch hitter, it may not do so quickly.

The Final Grade

Overall, Andrew Stevenson’s season went probably about as expected, with a lot of time in Triple-A before being a solid role-player in the bigs. He’s now put himself in a battle for the fourth outfielder role with Michael Taylor heading into the offseason.

He arguably performed as well as Taylor on a per plate appearance basis and will cost a fraction of Taylor’s salary next year. There’s still a lot for him to prove if he has to be forced into regular action, but there’s reason to believe he could be a solid backup outfielder in his career. C

C. . OF. Washington Nationals. ANDREW STEVENSON

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Remember to keep an eye out for more Washington Nationals 2018 Report Cards during the upcoming weeks here at District on Deck.