The Nationals Aren’t Using Their Best Power Hitter

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies
Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies / Dustin Bradford/GettyImages

The Nationals lineup is far from inspiring. In addition to lacking consistent hitters, Washington's most frequently used hitters have very limited slugging ability.

In that regard, Mike Rizzo and company were banking on Joey Meneses and veteran additions like Dominic Smith, Jeimer Candelario and Corey Dickerson to add some level of value. So far, they haven't, and it's crippled the lineup on a nightly basis.

Through 15 games, all Nationals hitters have combined for six home runs, and their extra-base hit rate (4.9 percent) is the lowest in the majors by a healthy margin.

With that being the case, why has manager Dave Martinez been so reluctant to play outfielder Stone Garrett?

Since his spectacular three-game stretch early this month, Garrett has gone six games without being included in the lineup - or even entering as a pinch hitter.

Let's not kid ourselves here. Garrett hasn't proven much at the major league level up to this point. Sure, he's batting .583 with a home run and two walks in his 14 plate appearances his season. But still, that's all it is - 14 plate appearances - and he only has 98 plate appearances as a big leaguer.

Even so, a few things stand out about Garrett in comparison the the rest of Washington's roster.

First, his small-sample size numbers blow everyone else's out of the water. Through Saturday's game against the Guardians, Garrett's OPS was more than twice as high as Lane Thomas' - the next best on the team. Thomas is almost exactly average in that category, and everyone else is worse than that.

To further that point, think about who he's competing with for play time. Keeping Thomas in the lineup is fine - particularly given his newfound defensive prowess in right field - but none of Alex Call, Meneses and Smith have an OPS higher than .610, which is around 100 points below league average. It would be more than justified to bench any of them in favor of Garrett, with him sliding in to play either left field or designated hitter.

Smith has been among the worst hitters in the majors so far this season, judging by traditional metrics and Baseball Savant - which rates his average exit velocity, barrel rate, hard hit rate and expected slugging in the bottom five percent of the league.

Garrett is also only 27 years old, with a track record in the minor leagues that suggests his productivity may not entirely be a fluke. Across parts of three seasons at the Triple-A level, Garrett has batted .276 with an .892 OPS. A lot of that was in the Pacific Coast League, which is known to be very hitter-friendly, but the numbers still speak for something.

Most of all, Garrett simply looks the part of a traditional slugger. If you had to bet on any Nationals player to hit a ball 500 feet, he'd be the guy. There's certainly potential that his upside is too good to be true, but it's tantalizing.

Here's the reality of the situation: Washington isn't going to win a ton of games this season. Longevity has be at the forefront for the entire organization, and Stone Garrett is as likely as any hitter (aside from Keibert Ruiz, CJ Abrams, Luis Garcia and perhaps Lane Thomas) to be a long-term piece on the Nationals roster.

Why not see what a guy like that can do for you over a longer sample size?

If it doesn't happen now, he may never get the chance, as Dickerson - a veteran outfielder - is bound to return from the injured list in the not-too-distant future and likely take over the starting role in left field.

Yet in all likelihood, as unfathomable as it seems, Garrett will probably continue to sit out of most games and be demoted to Triple-A once Dickerson returns.