Washington Nationals: Seven Best Right-Handed Hitters in Nats History
By Tim James
For the Washington Nationals to work their way back into contention in the National League East race, right-handed hitters Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick must play significant roles.
With both of the veterans enjoying superb seasons to date, it got me thinking on where they stand in Nats history in terms of production as a right-handed hitter.
Here is my take on who makes the cut as the top seven right-handed hitters in Nationals history.
#7- HOWIE KENDRICK
The 35-year-old infielder has been a line drive machine since coming to the Nats in 2017, hitting .306 with an impressive .861 OPS in his Nats career. With nine home runs in the Nationals’ first 47 games this year, Kendrick is on pace to exceed his career high of 18 set in 2011 while playing for the Angels. While some hitters’ production declines with age, the rock-solid Kendrick’s is improving.
#6- TREA TURNER
Great speed and surprising extra-base pop are Trea Turner’s specialties, and only an inability to avoid strikeouts keeps the Nats’ shortstop from moving up higher on this list. Since his breakout 2016 season (.342 average, 13 homers, 33 steals in only 98 games), Turner has been a staple at the top of Washington’s lineup. Turner’s recovery from an early season finger fracture has been slow, but if the speedster can regain his pre-injury form, the Nats’ chances of success will improve dramatically.
#5- MICHAEL MORSE
One of the more popular players in Nats’ history, Michael Morse displayed tremendous power to all fields during his four years with Washington. His 2011 season (.303 average, 31 homers, 95 RBI) is among the best seasons for any hitter in Nats’ history, and he played a significant role in Washington’s 2012 division winning season as well. Morse’s .857 OPS during his tenure in Washington was the third highest ever among right-handed hitters with at least 300 plate appearances as a National.
#4- JAYSON WERTH
When the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to a huge free-agent deal before the 2011 season, many experts called the contact one of baseball’s worst ever. Looking back at Werth’s tenure in Washington, it is clear that the experts swung and missed. Werth brought a discerning batting eye, extra-base power and winning drive to a Nats’ lineup that was lacking in those categories. From an individual standpoint, Werth’s 2013 season was his best. The lanky outfielder hit .318 with 25 homers and 82 RBI despite missing over a month to injury in the early part of the year. Washington’s four divisional championship seasons from 2012 through 2017 were due in large measure to contributions from the team’s first big free agent signing.
#3- RYAN ZIMMERMAN
The “Face of the Franchise” has had some ups and downs in his Nats’ career, primarily due to injuries, but there’s no doubting Ryan Zimmerman’s production when healthy. Known as Mr. Walk-Off for his numerous game-ending hits, Zimmerman can carry a team when hot. His output in recent seasons (except for his 2017 All-Star year) has waned, but Zimmerman is still a presence in Washington’s lineup. Time will tell whether he’ll be part of that lineup later this season.
#2- ALFONSO SORIANO
Not much went right for in 2006 for the Nats, but that team did feature a player who put arguably the second best (behind Bryce Harper’s MVP year in 2015) offensive season in Washington history. Combining speed and power that defied his lithe frame, Alfonso Soriano captivated Nats’ fans and tormented their opponents in 2006, becoming the first player in MLB history with 40 plus homers, doubles and steals in the same year. There were few compelling reasons to follow the Nats in 2006, but getting to watch Soriano was probably the biggest.
#1- ANTHONY RENDON
This year will likely be the one that the multi-talented Rendon will finally be recognized for what he is, namely one of Major League Baseball’s best players. Anthony Rendon’s 1.068 OPS is among the best in the National League, and “Tony Two Bags” is on pace to post his third consecutive season with 40 or more doubles.
An antiperspirant campaign in 1984 introduced the phrase “never let them see you sweat” into American culture. The unflappable Rendon is the embodiment of that phrase on the baseball field. It will be up to Nats’ fans to sweat it out in upcoming months as we wait to see whether Rendon will be part of Washington’s long-term plans.