The Washington Nationals were among the league leaders in stolen bases, but they could be even better in 2019 if they are able to fully utilize their speed.
One area that the Washington Nationals have been consistently strong in during recent seasons is stealing bases. But it’s entirely possible that they could actually take a step forward in that department in 2019.
Last season, the Nationals swiped 119 bags, 11 more than in 2017, which ranked second in the National League behind the Milwaukee Brewers, and fifth in the majors. They were also caught 33 times, which ranked in the middle of the pack at joint 13th in the major leagues.
Pretty good right? Yes, but with the way the Nats roster is shaping up as we look ahead to next season, it has a serious chance to grow even more. The team appears to healthier, younger and hopefully, with a sophomore manager who may be more willing to let his baserunners loose more often.
More from District on Deck
- Latest DraftKings Sportsbook Promo Code in Maryland: Bet $5, Win $200 Guaranteed
- Nationals Claim Jeter Downs Off Waivers
- Washington Nationals Minor League Spotlight: Robert Hassell III
- Washington Nationals Tuesday Q&A
- 3 Free Agents the Nationals Should Gamble On
Let’s start at the top with Trea Turner, who led the NL in stolen bases last season, which will come as no surprise to anyone. However, what was surprising, is that despite playing in all 162 games, he finished off the year with just 43 steals. Remember, this was a player who swiped 46 in just 98 games a season ago.
Perhaps some of this was to do with the fact that he hit second more often than he hit leadoff last year, as Adam Eaton was available for the most part. With Bryce Harper seemingly hitting behind Turner frequently, manager Dave Martinez may have been hesitant to essentially take the bat out of his former MVP’s hands.
While that’s understandable, it’s not like the outfielder had an easy out hitting behind him. The fourth spot in the lineup was usually occupied by Anthony Rendon, but Ryan Zimmerman also saw a fair amount of time there. Both hitters could do significant enough damage that simply bypassing Harper wouldn’t gain much, therefore, even if Harper returns and is frequently behind Turner, that shouldn’t put off Martinez from letting his best base-stealer run wild in the right situation.
The biggest difference in the team’s ability to rack up the steals is going to be the budding star, Victor Robles. The youngster has swiped at least 22 bases in each of his five professional seasons in the organization, and that’s despite only playing more than 75 games in two seasons, due to injury and only playing short-season during the early years.
As amazing as it may seem, Robles is one of not many players who could potentially match Turner in terms of speed, it’s just about harnessing that speed. He projects as someone who could easily top 40 or 50 steals at the highest level, and maybe more if he can continue to develop that areas of his game.
If you pair the two real speedsters with solid stolen base contributions from the likes of Eaton, Rendon, new acquisition Brian Dozier, and perhaps some off-the-bench speed in Michael Taylor, there’s no reason why the Nats can’t be the top dog in all of baseball next season.
However, one area several Nats fans will agree that needs improving is the carelessness on the bases. Too often last year, the Nationals gave up easy outs on the bases that likely cost themselves several chances to score.
That’s something Martinez is hoping to correct during Spring Training this year with his “little things” mantra. The manager doesn’t run the bases himself, so it’s impossible to cut it out completely, but if the team can improve in cutting down the number of TOOTBLANs, they are likely to be one of the best baserunning teams in the league.
There may be no team in baseball that can match the Washington Nationals in terms of raw speed on their roster. If the team can truly harness that speed, then they could become the most lethal in the majors on the basepaths.