Predicting Home Run Totals for Nationals Starters
By Nick Meyers
The Nationals have made several moves this offseason, mainly to their lineup and bench, adding the likes of Corey Dickerson, Dominic Smith, Stone Garrett and Jeimer Candelario. For a team that really struggled to provide any sort of pop after the trades of Juan Soto and Josh Bell at the trade deadline, it’s good to see them bring in new players to try and get the offense going early in 2023. However, none of the players they added are necessarily heralded for their home run potential, which got me thinking… Who in this Nationals lineup leads the team in home runs this season?
Lane Thomas led the club with 17 home runs last season, so the bar is not especially high. Joey Meneses had an impressive 13 home runs in 56 games, but a near 40 home run pace is not likely sustainable for the 31 year old sophomore. So just as a fun, or not so fun, exercise, we’re going to look at the presumed Nationals’ starting lineup and predict their home run totals for the 2023 season. We’ll assume everyone stays relatively healthy and finishes 2023 as a member of the Nationals.
1. CJ Abrams – 5 Home Runs
Not necessarily known for his power, and can definitely contribute in other ways offensively, CJ Abrams has yet to hit a home run as a member of the Nationals. Given that the Nationals have been advocating for him to hit MORE groundballs, that might not change for a while. Still, over 162 games and different ballparks, Abrams is bound to hit a few. They might be in the form of an inside-the-parker, but Abrams will get on the board.
2. Luis Garcia – 10 Home Runs
Looking to establish himself firmly after spending portions of the past three seasons split between AAA and the MLB, Garcia has displayed some sneaky pop in his bat. He’s a fan of the high fastball, but has displayed an ability to handle that pitch. He’ll undoubtedly be looking to cut down his chase rate and improve his walk rate, which might drop his theoretically Home Run total a bit, but I think he still gets to double digits.
3. Joey Meneses – 16 Home Runs
Some might get mad at me for this take, but I don’t see Joey Meneses coming anywhere close to his offensive production from last season in 2023. It was a great story, especially when fans needed something to root for on this team, but I think his production will very much regress towards the mean. Still, he very well could lead the team in home runs with 16.
4. Jeimer Candelario – 16 Home Runs
Comerica Park is a notoriously difficult park to hit in. Just ask Nick Castellanos.
Candelario faired OK hitting in the park he called home for the past few seasons, hitting 13 last season in what was not a great performance by him. Moving to Nationals Park, which is about middle-of-the-road to hit in, should be a big improvement for him. He won’t hit 30, and 16 still might be on the low end, but I think he will be streaky for the Nats this year, similar to Lane Thomas last season.
5. Lane Thomas – 12 Home Runs
Thomas had a respectable campaign last season in his first full year as a starter. He was very streaky, and when the home runs came, they came in bunches. People forget, but Lane Thomas did hit three home runs in one game last year. I do think Thomas finds himself in much more of a platoon situation this year, which will bring his numbers down a touch.
6. Dominic Smith – 7 Home Runs
For the man that had zero home runs in 152 plate appearances last season, it is only up from here. There are some, the Nats included, that believe Smith can recapture his 2019/20 form, but he only hit 11 home runs in 145 games in 2021. So while I do think he will hit more than zero home runs in 2023, I don’t think he will have a 35+ home run pace like he did in 2020.
7. Corey Dickerson – 6 Home Runs
Corey Dickerson has had a very respectable career in the big leagues, but I do think his best days are behind him. He had 3 seasons of 24+ home runs from 2014-2017, but has not hit more than 13 in a season since, and has had only 6 each of the past two seasons. Like Thomas, I think Dickerson finds himself in a platoon role, lowering his potential home run total ceiling. If he hits 6 home runs again, I think the Nationals will have gotten what they paid for.
8. Keibert Ruiz – 10 Home Runs
I think Keibert Ruiz needs more respect. Catchers are not known for their offensive production, nor are they expected to necessarily produce offensively at a high level. Catchers make their living behind the plate, commanding the pitching staff. Ruiz not only has displayed an advanced ability to call a great game, and throw out runners, but is no slouch with the bat either. With 7 home runs last year, I think he gets to double digits this year. Keep in mind, Starting Catchers only play 100-120 games a year, so I think 10 home runs would be a very solid outcome for Ruiz.
9. Victor Robles – 8 Home Runs
I was shocked when I saw Victor Robles had 6 home runs last season. I thought he MAYBE had 2 home runs. But he is known for swinging for the fences, so we’ll give him two more than last year.
Let’s be honest, if Robles hits one home run in the first two months of the season, it is a win. This post is in no way concerning Victor Robles. The Nationals have better odds at winning the World Series in 2023 than Victor Robles leading this team in Home Runs.