With the return of Ryan Zimmerman, the Washington Nationals have a first base predicament. How should they proceed with three viable starters?
The Washington Nationals have a plethora of talent at first base, and it might become a problem.
It is akin to basketball team when multiple great offensive players are on the same team. Their talent can’t all shine due to their being only one basketball on the court.
Additionally, each player has their weakness that manager Davey Martinez must keep in mind when deciding whom to write on his lineup card.
Adams cannot play versus left-handed pitchers. His career .613 OPS is downright awful, but his .825 OPS against right-handed pitchers is quite good.
Kendrick is swinging a hot stick in 2019, slashing .332/.383/.584. If tomorrow were a playoff game, Kendrick would be starting as he is currently the teams’ best and most versatile option at first base. However, Kendrick’s injury history and age are well documented, so the Nats can’t run him into the ground during the regular season. He needs proper rest, and there is no way around it.
Zimmerman is two years removed from his All-Star season in 2017 in which he posted a 137 wRC+ and swatted a career-high 36 home runs. Is his prior form attainable anymore with his recent injury history?
So, this raises the obvious question: With all three players on the 25-man roster, what should the Nationals do?
For the sake of this article, let’s assume all games take place in a National League ballpark, so using one as a designated hitter is not an option.
If facing a right-handed starter, Adams should get the bulk of the starts. He will hold the platoon advantage and can give Kendrick his regular rest.
Martinez should sprinkle in Kendrick against righties from time-to-time, but Kendrick needs to be fresh for any and all left-handed starters. Against LHP’s this season, Kendrick’s OPS is 1.053. That is better than Zimmerman’s mark against LHP’s in 2017, which sat at 1.038.
While it may seem cruel to treat the Nationals’ first draft pick as a bench bat, that might be the best option for the team as it is now. He can be a valuable pinch hitter and spot starter. He is also great insurance should Adams or Kendrick get hurt.
Zimmerman still projects as a league average bat. But because of his struggles against right-handed pitchers, and due to Kendrick’s dominance against left-handed pitchers, he might struggle to crack the lineup.
Nats fans know Zimmerman does not have an ego, and it is one of the many reasons he is loved in D.C. He might need to sacrifice his playing time for the betterment of the team.