The Washington Nationals missed the playoffs in part because of an early-season rash of stolen base thefts by the Baltimore Orioles. So they brought back former Orioles second baseman and hot-hitting outfielder Ian Desmond to cover some of the expected hot corner vacancy. If Desmond is the one stealing bases for the Nationals in spring training, no one should have to worry about how Will Venable or Danny Espinosa will manage the switch on the diamond, since Desmond is the only switch-hitter on the team.
But we won’t have to worry about Desmas stealing bases for awhile, as he’s currently serving a two-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. We do know that he’s got some big potential: In 2018, Desmond got on base at a .441 clip while slugging .373 and making 74 total outs. Those skills are particularly valuable to a young manager like Dave Martinez, who will be putting hitters in unfamiliar spots this season, although Martinez hasn’t yet announced who’ll be pulling the trigger in the NL East slugfest with the Atlanta Braves.
But that didn’t stop a star pitcher from stealing from some of the players who couldn’t at Spring Training on Monday. Was that gettable (courtesy of Astros reporter Evan Drellich, who posted the video on Twitter)? Can we buy that (courtesy of Twitter user wsalch)? Will this (courtesy of Jarrett Bell) work?
As for the first day of spring training for those competing for jobs, Ian Desmond starts his 2-game suspension, Brandon Kintzler is cleared to join bullpen and the make the put their first-round pick, Hunter Renfroe, on waivers. pic.twitter.com/qzYE1TBtbQ — Evan Drellich () February 12, 2019
Now, let’s return to catcher Trea Turner, who just kind of kicked the crap out of some people on his first day back after he was mysteriously activated from the disabled list and then received only limited at-bats against minor leaguers. First off, had Martinez – who has limited time as a starting manager on major league staffs to try out other lineups – not burned Turner at the dish with a slow lineup card, it’s possible he’d have started Turner at shortstop with him back in camp and playing so well.
But, in the absence of too much running around, it’s understandable that Martinez wasn’t going to risk splitting up the double-play combo of himself and Trea Turner for the first two games of spring training. Also, it seems like the only reason he signed Turner to a multi-year, $38 million contract is because he might never be in the same position where he can send out two straight starting catchers in his first year in the dugout.
Elsewhere, I think we can all agree that Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper are definitely not your everyday centerfielders, but that’s what the Nationals signed them to be last offseason. They’re also the only big-time hitters in a lineup that also featured Ryan Zimmerman, Justin Bour, Matt Adams and Brian Goodwin. The Kansas City Royals realized they weren’t ever going to win without a run game, and while Harper’s numbers were fine last season, they were largely a product of the pitching staff (15.5 homers, a .253/.318/.466 slash line) and not on-base ability or stolen base stealing.
Without Harper, the Nationals’ lineup is that much weaker. The Royals did some study last season, which supports that notion. Desmons, to put it politely, not doing any better in spring training than he did in October. The Nationals are hoping that, with the addition of his cost-controlled $7 million in 2021, Ian Desmond will deliver a much-needed slugging boost. And though Bryce Harper’s numbers suggest his stolen base skills aren’t going to suddenly get a major boost, spring training is a good time to plant the seeds of hope.
Your 2019 Nationals lineup: