Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Danny Espinosa would benefit from not hitting eighth on a regular basis.
The only position still unfilled, of course, is first base. But I fully expect the Nats and Adam LaRoche to come to terms on a two-year contract in the very near future, perhaps before the end of the day. Simply put, the two sides need each other right now, and there's no sense dragging this out much longer.
So we pretty much know who will be in the Nationals' Opening Day lineup. What we don't know is where they will be in the Nationals' Opening Day lineup.
Who hits leadoff? Who bats cleanup? Does Jim Riggleman try to break up his left-handed and right-handed hitters, or does he just go with the best lineup 1 through 8, regardless of what side of the plate each guy hits from?
I'm interested to know how you would line these guys up, but first a couple of my own thoughts...
-- If Morgan is in the lineup, he's got to hit leadoff. He's worthless as anything else. You can debate whether he should be in the lineup at all. But if he is, he needs to be at the top.
-- Desmond should bat second. I know he's not the picture-perfect No. 2 hitter, especially with his low OBP and penchant for striking out. But Desmond was dramatically more productive out of the 2-hole last year than anywhere else. (He hit .326 with a .359 OBP and .489 slugging percentage when batting second, as opposed to .254 with a .304 OBP and .388 slugging percentage when batting eighth.)
-- Assuming the Nats sign him, LaRoche probably should hit cleanup, in between Zimmerman and Werth. It breaks up the right-handed hitters. And even though it relegates the guy with the 14th largest contract in history to the 5-hole, it's not really an insult to Werth. The guy hit fifth through most of his time in Philadelphia. And LaRoche (who only hit two fewer homers than Werth and drove in 15 more runs than his new teammate last year) has more plate appearances as a cleanup hitter in his career than any other spot in the lineup. Werth, meanwhile, has only 32 career plate appearances in the No. 4 spot.
-- The catcher should hit eighth. With all due respect to Rodriguez and what he's accomplished in his career, he's just not productive enough anymore to hit higher in the lineup. Also, Pudge is experienced enough to understand how to approach the 8-hole, which is maybe the toughest place to hit in the National League. With the pitcher in the on-deck circle, you rarely get anything good to hit. It requires patience, something young big-leaguers haven't always developed. We saw that last season with Desmond (who hit eighth most of the first half and struggled). Espinosa would be in a similar situation this year, and the last thing the Nats want to do is make the rookie's life even tougher. Let him hit seventh, with the catcher behind him.
So, taking all of that into consideration, here's what I've come up with...
1. CF Nyjer Morgan
2. SS Ian Desmond
3. 3B Ryan Zimmerman
4. 1B Adam LaRoche
5. RF Jayson Werth
6. LF Roger Bernadina/Michael Morse/Rick Ankiel
7. 2B Danny Espinosa
8. C Ivan Rodriguez/Wilson Ramos/Jesus Flores
What do you think?