Heading into the off-season, Washington’s lineup lacked some much-needed pop. Mike Rizzo fixed that by acquiring Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber. How does the lineup look like now heading into 2021?
Earlier today, Jim Bowden tweeted that Dave Martinez told him what Washington’s lineup currently projects heading into the season.
At first glance, Martinez is going under the assumption that there won’t be a universal DH for 2021. This complicates matters a bit because it forces Kyle Schwarber to play left field. He has 29 career outfield assists in left, but also -12 DRS. Last year the Nationals were last in the league in DRS with -43 and avoided fixing the issue. Instead, they added Schwarber and Josh Bell, both of whom are known as defensive liabilities. Rather, they were brought in to hit bombs, which they both excel at. In 2019 Bell hit .277, with 37 homers, 116 RBIs, and an OPS of .936, while Schwarber hit .250, with 38 homers, 92 RBIs, and an OPS of .871. Each had their own struggles in 2020, but Washington is hoping a change of scenery will get the two back on track. The Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long is one of the best in the business and will have the chance to help both of the sluggers work on their swings. Additionally, Schwarber will be reunited with manager Dave Martinez, who was his bench coach in Chicago for three seasons.
Trea Turner will continue to lead off, which was expected. But I would prefer a change at the top. Turner truly broke out in 2020, proving that he can finally hit for average and power. Move him down to the two spot and hand the leadoff reigns to Victor Robles. This might sound insane, but Robles has the talent and speed to jumpstart the Nationals offense. During his rookie season in 2019, he hit .255, with 17 homers, 62 RBIs, and an OBP of .326. Not eye-popping numbers, but a solid start. He took a major step back in 2020, trying too hard to swing for the fences on every swing. Robles needs to take the Juan Soto approach and just put the ball in play. He has above-average speed that needs to be utilized.
After hitting .276, with two homers and 16 RBIs in his first shot in the majors, Luis Garcia will not be starting at second. He will probably start the season in the minors in order to work on his defense. While holding down second in Starlin Castro’s absence, Garcia recorded -4 DRS. Only 20, Garcia doesn’t need to be rushed back to the majors. With a small taste of the majors, Garcia knows what he needs to work on so when he’s called up again, he can stick. Starlin Castro who broke his wrist in 2020, will be leaned on for his consistent bat. He isn’t known for power, but hitting for average. Before his injury, he was third on the team in average, with a .267. His absence was greatly missed and he will be pivotal in helping set up the bottom of the lineup.
Barring a trade, Carter Kieboom is the presumptive starter at third. He has yet to be given a full opportunity but has struggled at the plate in a small sample size. In 138 MLB at-bats, he is hitting .181, with two homers, 11 RBIs, and an OPS of .541. A disastrous start, but the former top prospect deserves an equal chance to prove he can make the jump. Defensively, Kieboom has vastly improved. A natural shortstop, the youngster has learned third on the fly and is thriving. Last year he had five DRS and a .8 UZR. Now he will just need his bat to come around.
Overall, Mike Rizzo has done a solid job, but it would be preferred if he added one more bat to round out the lineup. The front office is banking on Robles and Kieboom taking the next step while hoping Bell and Schwarber bounce back. The defense will be a problem, but Washington will be much more productive at the plate.