With Spring Training ending this week, I thought it would be nice to reflect on some of the highs and lows from Washington Nationals camp this year!
First and foremost, it was absolutely awesome to see Ryan Zimmerman back in a Nationals uniform after taking 2020 off due to COVID concerns. Through Sunday’s game against St. Louis, Zimmerman has hit .480, with a .519 on-base percentage and a 1.280 slugging percentage. This is all in addition to six home runs and 15 RBI, which are outstanding numbers for nine games played.
With Zim looking like his old self this Spring, it is also refreshing to see how the newest additions, Bell and Schwarber are performing in the Grapefruit League. Bell has his six home runs, is batting .391 and has an OPS of 1.346. He and Zimmerman combining at first and taking DH duties in AL parks will go a long way this season if this production continues. Schwarber on the other hand has taken over duties in left field and had a slow start to the spring. With his swing adjustments and working with Kevin Long, he is now batting .261 with four home runs and 8 RBI. These guys are crucial to the Nationals success in 2021and possibly beyond.
With these veteran players seeming to round into form, it is also incredibly promising to see prospects Rutledge, Cavalli, and Cuff perform at a high level. Both Rutledge and Cavalli have pitched in West Palm this spring and did not disappoint. It is only Spring Training, but the future of the Nationals pitching staff rests on their shoulders as Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin get older. Cluff, who plays shortstop, has also looked really promising this Spring. While not having the time in meaningful Spring games as other prospects, he shows promise on defense and also versatility.
The Lows of Spring Training 2021
Now for the bad of Spring, specifically the bullpen and Carter Kieboom. The Nationals made a move to acquire Brad Hand this offseason and he was set to be a key cog in the pen along with Rainey and Hudson on the backend. So far this year, those three have ERAs of 14.29, 13.50, and 11.12 respectively. Not exactly ideal for your high-leverage relievers, who need to protect leads late in games. In fairness to Rainey, he was coming off injury, so it is hopeful that he gets right and improves. The lone bright spot has been Wander Suero who has posted a 1.23 ERA and 14.7 K/9.
Kieboom, who was projected by management to take over as the everyday third baseman, has been basically a disaster. While it seems his glove has improved at third, his bat is pretty much nonexistent. Batting .133 with 17 strikeouts in only 45 ABs, management sending him down to
Triple A was really the only choice. It is very disappointing to see such a promising player struggle, but a team in “win now mode” like the Nationals cannot afford to wait around for a 23-year-old to figure it out.
We have also seen Turner and Soto struggle at the plate, but given their past it is unlikely that this carries over into the regular season. Nationals fans should be absolutely fired up to see this team take the field in 2021 and make another run at a championship. We definitely can’t wait for Opening Night against the New York Mets!
Edited by: Jonathan Mailloux