How long is the leash for certain struggling Nationals players?

The Nationals have a solid record overall, sitting at 15-16 after dropping a series to the Rangers, but there are several players whose prolonged struggles are prompting many questions about their immediate future with the team.
Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins
Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

The Nationals generally are playing competitive baseball. They sit at 15-16 on the young season and while we have barely scratched the surface of even thinking about playoffs, through just under 20% of the season the Nationals are only one game back of a Wild Card spot.

This is not me saying the Nationals will be a Wild Card team - I had them projected to lose 100 games prior to the season. Instead, this is just an acknowledgement that the Nationals, while under .500, are off to a better start than I think many expected.

This does not mean everything is going swimmingly, however.

The Nationals first and foremost have been ravaged by injuries in recent weeks. It all started with Nick Senzel fracturing his thumb in a freak groundball accident on Opening Day. And as soon as Senzel came back, Joey Gallo got hurt and needed a trip to the Injured List. Not to mention the other Opening Day rostered players like Josiah Gray, Victor Robles and Lane Thomas who are all still currently on the Injured List. Keibert Ruiz also had a lengthy stay on the Injured List as he was battling an illness, and reportedly lost 15-20 pounds because of it.

While it was by design for some players, these injuries have forced the Nationals' hand to some extent to continue to play struggling players. At first, it provides a good opportunity to have players break out of their slump. But after a while, it just becomes pointless to continue to trot them out there. The two players in particular are Eddie Rosario and Joey Meneses.

As you can see from the tweet above, these are four everyday players for the Nationals who are struggling mightily over the past 10 days or so.

Jesse Winker I will give a pass on, for now, as he got off to a great start and by all reports has provided great leadership in the clubhouse. While historically he is not a great defender, he has been fine in Left Field this season. So a pass is granted, for now.

Keibert Ruiz also gets a pass, for now, as the illness and significant drop in playing weight undoubtedly has taken its toll on the young catcher. The Nationals will want to get him right as soon as possible, so I would not be surprised if another IL stint was in his future.

That leaves Rosario and Meneses, as previously mentioned.

The arguments against both players are very similar: they are bat first players who provide little defensively but are also not hitting.

Rosario has been abysmal, to say the least. After an Opening Day home run, it appeared as though the Nationals may have found another late Free Agent signing steal. But since Opening Day, it basically has been all bad for Rosario. He is currently hitting .086 with a .290 OPS and a -15 OPS+. He has a -1.1 bWAR.

Rosario is historically a slow starter, as he has a career .205 batting average in the months of March/April, but there is a difference between a slow start and whatever you call this. The best thing for Rosario has been the emergence of Jacob Young, who is now playing Center Field everyday. At least we don't have to see Rosario in Center anymore.

Meneses on the other hand is not quite as abysmal, but is still tough to justify rostering, let alone playing everyday.

Meneses had a Jeremy Lin "Linsanity" run back in 2022 after the Juan Soto trade. In 56 games in 2022, Meneses in 13 home runs. In the 181 games since then, Meneses has hit 13 home runs, including zero in 2024.

Meneses was meant to be this team's DH, so I won't harp too much on his poor defense (which is poor), but he also frankly is not good enough to be an everyday DH. Meneses has lost all semblance of his power and while he was good with RISP last season, a .259 batting average in those situations this season is nothing to write home about and certainly not enough to keep him on the roster. And he absolutely should not be this team's clean up hitter as he has been recently, despite his struggles. He is hitting .221 with a .534 OPS and a 59 OPS+. He has a -0.3 bWAR.

The one thing I will say in Meneses' defense is that he has hit much better when playing as the DH than as the First Baseman, though it is not a large sample size. In 14 games at First Base, Meneses has hit .164 whereas he has hit .286 as the DH, though those numbers are largely propped up by a couple of bigger games.

The Nationals are still dealing with injuries, so no moves are imminent, I am sure. However, many players are on the mend and once healthy, the Nationals hand will be forced. Players like Victor Robles and Stone Garrett are already on rehab assignments and deserve to be on the Major League roster when healthy. Alex Call frees up one spot, but can you really justify sending down Jacob Young with the way he has played? They would be crazy to do so.

What about when Joey Gallo and Lane Thomas return? Thomas, while not his biggest believer, is not going anywhere and frankly, neither is Gallo. They can send down Trey Lipscomb, sure, but what about the other spot?

There is still some time before those decisions need to be made, but the clock is certainly ticking for Rosario and Meneses. If they do not turn around their season soon, they may find themselves looking for a new team.