Sunday, April 18, 2021

Predicting the Washington Nationals Opening Day Lineup

How Washington Nationals Manager Dave Martinez Will Piece the Washington Nationals Lineup Together for Opening Day

Well, with Opening Day just days away, let’s spend some time thinking about how the Washington Nationals are going to line up when they take the field against the New York Mets on April 1, 2021.

Here is our projected lineup and reasoning behind the placements.

(1) Victor Robles (Position: CF) (Bats: Right)

As we have noted, Victor Robles would be perfect to leadoff for the Washington Nationals. From our article on this subject: “The 22-year-old Robles has been a leadoff hitter the majority of his career outside of Washington DC and he has done a very good job in 21 games leading off for the Nationals. During those 94 plate appearances, Robles hit .306/.362/.518. Obviously, a team cannot make this move based on a small sample size, so you have to look at other things as well. Robles can still be a headache on the basepaths and, just like Turner, can turn a walk or a single into a double.” 

Robles has also been very productive in the leadoff spot during Spring Training. Dave Martinez has noted that Robles has been putting extra work in the batting cages and with hitting coach Kevin Long: “I like that he’s working counts,” Martinez said. “He’s getting deep in counts, he’s seeing a lot of pitches. That’s kind of nice. I think by him spreading out, it’s going to help him do that and swing at more strikes instead of balls outside the zone.” 

During Spring Training, Robles has produced an impressive .286/.375/.629 hit line in 40 plate appearances.  The 23-year-old Robles has scored nine runs, recorded 10 hits, including three homers, scored nine runs and stolen four bases in 13 games.

(2) Juan Soto (RF) (Bats: Left)

Now, this might be a bit shocking, but after talking with Chris Russell from Team 980 and thinking about it, batting Soto second is making more and more sense. One of the main problems that the Nationals saw with Anthony Rendon’s departure in 2020 is that Soto lacked “protection” behind him in the lineup to put the ball into play and get hits. 

By moving Soto into the second slot and putting someone like a Trea Turner behind him, it might be possible for Soto to see some good pitches and do some more damage at the plate. Over the past few Spring Training games, we have seen manager Dave Martinez experiment a bit with having Soto and Turner swap spots; however, we like Soto hitting second in the lineup. 

(3) Trea Turner (SS) (Bats: Right)

As we just mentioned over the past few Spring Training games, Dave Martinez has been experimenting a bit with having Soto and Turner swap spots between two and three.  However, until things change a bit in terms of performance in the cleanup spot, Turner might be the better fit in the third spot of the lineup. 

(4) Josh Bell (1B) (Switch Hitter) 

Over the offseason, Mike Rizzo acquired Josh Bell to not only play first base, but also to add a much-needed power bat to the lineup. During Spring Training, Bell has shown that 2020 was just a blip in his career. In 35 at-bats, Bell has 12 hits for a .375 average, including four monster home runs and four doubles for a .875 slugging percentage. The slugger is also tied with Ryan Zimmerman for the team lead this Spring with 9 RBI. The Nationals need Bell to continue at this pace during the season, and if he does, the top four in their lineup will cause problems for the opposition. 

(5) Kyle Schwarber (LF) (Bats: Left)

Another offseason addition Mike Rizzo hoped would add some power to the lineup, Kyle Schwarber is another player trying to bounce back after a tough 2020 season. During Spring Training, Schwarber has had some mixed results. So far, the former Chicago Cub has struck out 14 times while drawing just five walks. He’s managed six hits, including a pair of homers, and knocked in four runs. Hopefully, by Opening Day, Schwarber will regain the consistent form and power that haunted opposing pitchers during his career. Having two power bats back-to-back in the lineup would make a difference. 

Additionally, since Schwarber is a lefty and Bell is a switch hitter, it allows Dave Martinez to go Right, Left, Right in the heart of the order. 

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(6) Yan Gomes (C) (Bats: Right)

I originally had Yan Gomes penciled in behind Luis Garcia. However, after looking at the lineup, hitting Gomes after Schwarber will make it nearly impossible for an opposing manager to match up relievers with the batting order, especially with the rule that requires relief pitchers to face a minimum of three hitters. 

Gomes has had an impressive Spring Training at the plate. In his 27 plate appearances, Gomes has eight hits, a pair of walks and three RBI with a .333 batting average and .407 OBP.

(7) Luis Garica (2B) (Bats: Left) 

As I mentioned with Yan Gomes, I only placed Luis in the seventh spot to give Martinez the ability to go lefty-righty throughout the order.  This could be a good advantage throughout the season. Yan Gomes and Luis Garica could be swapped based upon who is catching and other potential matchups. 

(8) Carter Kieboom (3B) (Bats: Right) 

It might be good for Carter Kieboom to be placed towards the end of the order as it might relieve some pressure off his performance. This spot will let him focus on just hitting, gain confidence, and find more consistency in his swing. Even though Kieboom has had a rough time during Spring Training, maybe this is the year that he turns it on! We are all rooting for him to do so!  

Edited by: Jonathan Mailloux

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