NL East leading Washington Nationals come to town
Dusty Baker has his Nationals leading the NL East as they come into town for a three game set. The first game will be a marquee matchup with Clayton Kershaw squaring off against Steve Strasburg.
The Nationals under performed last year and made one big change adding 2015 postseason hero Daniel Murphy to the lineup. They also got back an injured Anthony Rendon. This is an interesting team, and the best hitter on the team is not who you would expect.
Let’s get to it:
C – Wilson Ramos is probably not a house hold baseball name, but maybe if the Nationals can get deeper into the postseason in 2016 he will become one. As it is, Ramos is the best hitting catcher in the National League, with a wRC+ of 151. Ramos leads all NL catchers with 11 home runs, and 38 runs batted in. He’s been a force in 2016.
1st Base – Ryan Zimmerman has been very bad this year. The one time 3rd baseman has moved over to 1st base, but it has not helped his offense any. Not only is Zimmerman one of the worst offensive first baseman in the National League this year, he has been especially bad this June with a triple stat line of .174 / .216 / .326 . For his career Zimmerman has an OPS+ of 118 but in 2016 it is a paltry 87.
2nd base – Daniel Murphy – the 2015 postseason Babe Ruth, has moved his game over to the Nationals, and is now doing his best Charlie Gehringer imitation. Murphy is leading the NL in hits (92), batting average (.358), and OPS (.995). He has slowed down in June, so just imagine what he was doing before June came.
ShortStop – for most of the year, National fans have asked for rookie Trea Turner to get the call at SS. That was because Danny Espinosa simply wasn’t hitting enough. I’m not sure what the fans are asking for now, but Danny Espinosa is banging. Espinosa on May 25th had an OPS of .581. Eighty five plate appearances later his OPS is at .716 thanks to a stretch that has seen him hit nine home runs giving him twelve for the year.
3rd base – Anthony Rendon in 2014 was considered one of the best young infielders in the game finishing fifth in the MVP voting at just age 24. Two years later he’s still trying to regain that level after suffering through injuries in 2015. Rendon started out slow but has picked it up. On May 9th Rendon was hitting .211 with a .586 OPS. Since that time Rendon has hit in .289 / .372 / .500 in 148 plate appearances.
RF – 2015 MVP Bryce Harper started the 2016 as though he was going to win back to back MVP awards. At the end of April Harper had an OPS of 1.121. He seemed to be getting walked over and over. Not sure what happened but Harper followed that great April with very pedestrian months in May and June. Harper had a slug% of .714 with nine home runs in April. His slug% in both May and June are sub .400 with a total of five home runs. He might get scary again, but right now, he’s not so scary.
CF – Ben Revere and Michael Taylor – Revere had won the everyday job only to lose it this past weekend. Dusty announced this morning that going forward Revere would only play against right hand pitching, and that Taylor would play against left hand pitching. This announcement came on the heels of Taylor blasting two home runs yesterday. Revere has struggled all year and could be considered the worst hitting CF in baseball with his triple stat line of .213 / .264 / .280. May not be long before he loses all his at bats. Taylor on the other hand is smoking hot with a 1.053 OPS in June.
LF – Jayson Werth still takes his injury ravaged body out to left field most of the time. Werth struggled in April and May, but has found his stroke in June, and now has his OPS up to .747 on the heels of his .915 OPS in June
In a nutshell the hot Nationals are Ramos / Espinosa / Rendon / Werth / Taylor. The cold Nationals are Zimmerman / Revere
Murphy has been the best hitter in the NL but is slowing down. Harper was the best hitter in the NL in April but has become ordinary since then.
Going to be a tough series.