With the universal designated hitter (DH) likely to be incorporated next season, the Washington Nationals can potentially gain a middle-of-the-order type bat every day. This allows the Nationals to get a bit more creative on who plays what position, especially if they acquire a position player this offseason.
One of the reasons this works so well for the Nationals is that it allows Victor Robles to be an everyday player without the concern of his lack of offensive production. In 2019, Robles was a solid regular despite being a below-average player at the plate. This is in large part because of his elite defense in center field. Unfortunately, Robles has not quite been the same since then, grading out just below average over the past two seasons and slightly above average this season. If he can turn around and become the elite defensive center fielder again in 2022, the Nationals are a much better team.
With the current options on the Nationals roster, the simplest (and likely the best) option is to change who is the DH based on the handedness of the pitcher the Nationals are facing. When facing a left-handed starting pitcher, the Nationals would start Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Bell at first base and DH. You could get away with starting either at one position or the other. Bell has made tremendous strides at first this season and Zimmerman is not getting any younger and Davey Martinez likely would not want to risk injuring Mr. National on what is likely going to be his retirement tour.
In left field, the Nationals’ front office could get creative and put either Yadiel Hernandez, who is having a breakout year, or Lane Thomas, who the Nationals acquired in the Jon Lester trade, out there. With right-handed pitchers. the Nationals will most definitely have Josh Bell and Yadiel Hernandez in the lineup, and this would allow Andrew Stevenson to get more playing time. This would undoubtedly improve the defense, something the Nationals have been struggling with over the past few seasons.
This gets complicated if Zimmerman retires, an idea that has floated around recently. If Zimmerman does retire, the only hole in the lineup would be against left-handed pitching. This could potentially elevate the role of Lane Thomas. The Nationals could even use it as a spot to get Carter Kieboom off the field, which would improve them defensively.
This improvement in defense is very necessary for the Nationals. Right now, they are middle of the pack in most defensive statistics. Having a top-five defense in baseball would monumentally improve the pitching, which is the core pillar that General Manager Mike Rizzo builds off of.