In certain sports there are players more important than others for the success of the franchise. Take Quarterback for example. You have the ball each and every down on offense to which you are more important than say the second tight end or the slot receiver. In baseball, you have superstars but role players will sometimes make or break your team when those superstars aren’t on their game. When it comes to this specific “Harper-less” Nationals club, it is something we have yet to see in over seven years of having that star on our team. These are my Top 10 rankings of importance of this 2019 Washington Nationals Active Roster.
Max Scherzer – (Starting Pitcher)
Multiple Cy Young awards (at least one in each league), leadership, durability, endurance, and most of all the confidence we all have with him on the bump is why this guy is my number one. He is a beast on the mound and no matter if he has a few bad outings or not, he is still the best pitcher in baseball. We are witnessing greatness, be thankful.
Anthony Rendon – (3rd Base)
The next great one is in our midst. Yes, we know he does not have that flair or flash that someone like Harper has, but he may have the most all-around game in this organization. Batting .371 this season and having an on-base percentage of over .450, he is in the Top 10 for each category. Dating back to the start of the 2017 season, he has a combined .309 batting average and a .409 on-base percentage. Can you ask for anything more? Oh wait, he is also one of the best fielding 3rd basemen in ALL of baseball. Three words: PAY THE MAN!
Juan Soto/Victor Robles – (LF/CF)
Combined at the third spot are our young guns in the outfield. These two were the main reason we let Harper go eat cheese steaks with all of those boo birds in Philly. Juan Soto came on the scene last year with little warning. He was on fire from the start and did not let up one bit coming up one spot short of Rookie of the Year. Robles on the other hand got hurt in the minors so we saw a lot less of him last year. Yet, we have heard his name around the majors and the Nationals organization for multiple years. The sight of having these two in the outfield for the foreseeable future gave Mike Rizzo and the organization confidence in not paying for the service of one Bryce Harper. They have had some struggles this year but think about it this way. When we were their age, we were in some bar somewhere not thinking of the exam we had coming up the following Friday. They are in the Major Leagues being leaned on by thousands. Give ’em some time!
Stephen Strasburg – (Starting Pitcher)
This rank may differ for some people but to me it is a no brainer. I am a Strasburg homer. I was at his debut and get pumped for each and every one of his starts. He is a monster on the mound and watching him buckle professionals at the knees or paint the black on a consistent basis is astounding to watch. Now yes, he does have injury concerns but if he was replaceable or not a big deal, why would we concern so much on his injury history? He may not be the prodigy we all thought he was but I will take starts like we just saw on Easter Sunday over any regular journeyman starter.
Yan Gomes/Kurt Suzuki – (Catcher Platoon)
This may come as a shock but do you know how important a catcher is to a baseball team? Just like the center position in football, the catcher touches the ball in 95% of the ballgame. Catching foul tips, people stealing, calling pitches, framing borderline pitches etc. The things a catcher does on a daily basis is a running list. I ranked these two additions to the squad this high because of the level of difficulty in the position and the performance they give. Our struggles over the years with Wieters was known. The Buffalo you say? Try having him run down the first baseline without pulling a hamstring or laboring to even get to the bag. I will take this platoon over anything we have had in the last five years. Suzuki has been one of my favorites for years. He always has a smile on and frames pitches with the best of them. Plus, with his limited time playing, he is leading the team hitting with runners on base going (6 for 15) with a .400 batting average and .444 on-base percentage. With Gomes primarily in the American League this is my first good look at his game and I am liking the presence he brings behind the dish.
Patrick Corbin/Sean Doolittle – (Starting Pitcher/Closer)
Combining these two is kind of a cop-out but they equal the same importance. Having a third starter is pretty much on point with having a quality closer. 90% of your season series’ are three games. The playoffs, if you get there, is made for 3-4 man rotations. If you have a Max Scherzer you can throw him on short rest so that means you can go with a three-man rotation come playoff time. At this time in the season with a handful of starts from our main guys, Patrick Corbin has been most impressive. With opposing batters hitting less than .200 on him and a below 2.36 ERA, you CANNOT ask of anything more of your newest pitching acquisition. Of qualified pitchers, Corbin ranks in the Top 11 in the MLB of WHIP (Walks + Hits / IP) and ERA. Doolittle on the other hand has been needed A LOT more than he should be at this point. Yet, even with his over usage, he has a 0.90 ERA. Imagine if the Nats could get to the 9th inning only using him for save situations. Wouldn’t that be a site!
Adam Eaton – (RF)
Adam Eaton was a great addition for this squad a few years ago. Even though injuries have somewhat plagued him since he has been here, he has produced when he has played. Since the start of the 2017 season, he has a combined .302 batting average and a .407 on-base percentage. He has helped the young core in the outfield with leading by example and showing how a class act should be in the Major Leagues. Eaton provides a good bat at the top of the lineup and a good clubhouse presence for one of the youngest rosters in the league.
Howie Kendrick – (Utility IF/OF)
If you think Howie Kendrick is replaceable, you’re sadly mistaken. People overlook Howie because he does not play everyday. You need to understand the importance of Mr. Kendrick as some people probably call him. He doesn’t hit moon shots like Harper or hit as consistent as Rendon, but my god having a career .291 hitter coming off the bench that has experience playing both infield and outfield is a rare commodity. Grabbing him back in 2017 is a move I will always applaud Rizzo for completing. He has constantly come up clutch for us in big spots. Focus in on this year for instance. He is getting on base 46% of the time, hitting .387 overall, and has a .467 batting average in the teams 10 wins. Along with that .467 average, he has four extra-base hits including all of his homers this season. Tell me some reasons he isn’t valuable to our team, I’ll wait….
Trea Turner – (Starting Shortstop)
He is a tad low on my list because we have yet to see enough of him to evaluate his true potential. He has had less than 100 games in two of his first three seasons, and last year was really his breakout year in what was a down year for the organization as a whole. We’ve heard the potential on the base paths, the cannon from shortstop, and the above average hitting potential he has, but we won’t get the full taste of his potential until a larger sample size is commenced. Once he comes back from the finger injury, we will get to see what Trea Turner has in store.
Matt Adams – (1B/OF)
Big City! I have been favoring Matt Adams to start over Ryan Zimmerman for two seasons now. He has a far bigger impact, in my opinion, than Zimmerman. Since the start of the 2018 season, Adams has a batting average of .275 with runners on base and .351 with runners in scoring position. Comparing his stats to Zimmerman, he is 41 points higher with runners on and 128 points higher with runners in scoring position. He won’t be a clean-up type hitter but can come through in some bigger spots that Zimmerman has failed to do in recent years. But I think the biggest thing is the bat off the bench. It is very difficult to find someone to come off the bench with Home Run potential. With Kendrick taking the cake with the “hit in a pinch” bat off the bench, Adams is your big bopper. He is not the best overall baseball player but comes through when you need him.