Washington Nationals “Best of the Rest” Position Players of the 2010s

Now that the list of second-tier pitchers has been unveiled, it’s time to do the same thing for positions players. They’re certainly not the best of the bunch for Washington over the last decade, but there are a lot of very talented players that deserve to be recognized.

Not all positions are equal, and the bench players aren’t necessarily the next best options they might simply be the best to fill a specific role but it’s fair to say that all of them have been somewhat disrespected historically. Here’s their chance to be honored.

Note: The qualifications for “The Omissions” for position players below are having played at least 81 games (half a season) for the franchise, with each player being noted at their primary position during each season except for a couple exceptions who had differing primary positions in back-to-back seasons without playing 81 or more games at either, who are instead listed at the position they played more during those two seasons combined.

Catcher

The Starter: Matt Wieters

The Stats (2017–18): 199 games, .230 average, .303 on-base percentage, 18 home runs, 67 runs scored, 82 RBIs, 30 percent caught stealing

This is actually one of few very difficult positions to find a solid player for. As a whole, catcher was almost always one of the team’s weakest positions, and the top pair of players will be saved for later.

There were a couple ways to go with this, but it’s ultimately only fair to give Wieters the honor. He was far from flashy, but he did have a strong arm and decent pop as a switch hitter although his lack of speed often turned doubles into singles. His better days were undeniably in Baltimore, though.

The Omissions

Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez (2010–11): 155 games, .255 average, 6 home runs, 46 runs scored, 68 RBIs, 39 percent caught stealing

Jesus Flores (2011–12): 113 games, .212 average, 7 home runs, 27 runs scored, 28 RBIs, 16 percent caught stealing

Jose Lobaton (2014–17): 200 games, .210 average, 12 home runs, 50 runs scored, 51 RBIs, 26 percent caught stealing

First Base

The Starter: Adam LaRoche

The Stats (2011–14): 489 games, .249 average, .341 on-base percentage, 82 home runs, 234 runs scored, 269 RBIs

It was incredibly difficult to decide on the franchise’s best overall first baseman, and that’s partially a testament to how important LaRoche was for a considerable stretch of the decade. If he could’ve avoided an injury-riddled debut season in 2011 and a lackluster 2013, he’d be up with the big boys. In his other two seasons, he was among the most valuable first basemen in the National League. He even won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger along with a sixth-place MVP finish in 2012.

Unfortunately, the down years did happen, and they hurt his stat line considerably. However, he still notched 27 home runs and 89 RBIs on a per-162 game basis during his tenure in Washington. Add his consistently Gold Glove-caliber defense and veteran leadership to that, and you realize just how valuable he was to a young, up-and-coming roster.

The Omissions

Tyler Moore (2014–15): 139 games, .212 average, .267 on-base percentage, 10 home runs, 22 runs scored, 41 RBIs

Clint Robinson (2015–16): 230 games, .257 average, .337 on-base percentage, 15 home runs, 60 runs scored, 60 RBIs

Adam Lind (2017): 116 games, .303 average, .362 on-base percentage, 14 home runs, 39 runs scored, 59 RBIs

Mark Reynolds (2018): 86 games, .248 average, .328 on-base percentage, 13 home runs, 26 runs scored, 40 RBIs

Matt Adams (2018–19): 205 games, .240 average, .302 on-base percentage, 38 home runs, 79 runs scored, 104 RBIs

Second Base

The Starter: Asdrubal Cabrera

The Stats (2014, ’19): 87 games, .268 average, .351 on-base percentage, 11 home runs, 44 runs scored, 61 RBIs, 3 stolen bases

I’ll be honest with you; this position is just weird. There were essentially only two full-time starters at the keystone in the decade, and you’ll see one of their names shortly at another position. And actually, Brian Dozier was the starter at second base for most of 2019. So how is Cabrera in this spot?

Cabrera wasn’t good after being traded to Washington from Cleveland in 2014 there’s no nicer way to put it. However, he got a chance at redemption in 2019 after being released by the Rangers last summer and subsequently re-signing with the Nationals. In the blink of an eye, he supplanted Dozier, and it lasted all the way through the postseason. He was one of the team’s best hitters during the stretch run of the regular season.

For the sake of getting the top hitters into the starting lineup, it’s tempting to bump Cabrera to shortstop, but that’s not a position he played for more than a handful of games in Washington, so that would be cheating.

The Omissions

Alberto Gonzalez (2010): 114 games, .247 average, .277 on-base percentage, 0 home runs, 19 runs scored, 5 RBIs, 0 stolen bases

Christian Guzman (2010): 89 games, .282 average, .327 on-base percentage, 2 home runs, 42 runs scored, 25 RBIs, 4 stolen bases

Adam Kennedy (2010): 135 games, .249 average, .327 on-base percentage, 3 home runs, 43 runs scored, 31 RBIs, 14 stolen bases

Steve Lombardozzi (2011–13): 257 games, .264 average, .297 on-base percentage, 5 home runs, 68 runs scored, 50 RBIs, 9 stolen bases

Wilmer Difo (2015–16, ’18): 194 games, .235 average, .304 on-base percentage, 8 home runs, 70 run scored, 49 RBIs, 13 stolen bases

Adrian Sanchez (2017–19): 90 games, .263 average, .280 on-base percentage, 0 home runs, 17 runs scored, 15 RBIs, 0 stolen bases

Shortstop

The Starter: Danny Espinosa

The Stats (2010–2016, including second base): 779 games, .226 average, .302 on-base percentage, 92 home runs, 337 runs, 285 RBIs, 60 stolen bases

This is the second of three positions that doesn’t have a high-quality starter on this roster. Espinosa was a starter in Washington for parts of seven seasons, and only one of them was at shortstop. Nonetheless, he isn’t a terrible option in this spot, and it’s largely tied to his defensive ability.

Espinosa was a seemingly Gold Glove-caliber second baseman, and he remained at least average on that end when he moved to shortstop. He hit for more power (24 home runs) in his lone season at short than any other year in his career, although his batting average dipped to just above the Mendoza line (.209).

The Omissions

Stephen Drew (2017–18): 116 games, .261 average, .325 on-base percentage, 9 home runs, 33 runs scored, 38 RBIs, 0 stolen bases

Wilmer Difo (2017, ’19): 167 games, .266 average, .318 on-base percentage, 7 home runs, 62 runs scored, 29 RBIs, 10 stolen bases

Third Base

The Starter: Yunel Escobar

The Stats (2015): 139 games, .314 average, .375 on-base percentage, 9 home runs, 75 runs scored, 56 RBIs, 2 stolen bases

Given the available options, Escobar is the slam dunk answer here. I’ll refrain from saying any more about the history of the position to keep from spoiling who makes the top roster.

Escobar’s tenure was short-lived, sandwiched between stints with the Rays and Angels. Still, he had a productive 2015 season, albeit without hitting for a ton of power or providing much speed. There are clear reasons why he didn’t last long in Washington, though.

The Omissions

Alex Cora (2011): 91 games, .224 average, .287 on-base percentage, 0 home runs, 12 runs scored, 6 RBIs, 2 stolen bases

Chad Tracy (2012–13): 165 games, .230 average, .286 on-base percentage, 7 home runs, 13 runs scored, 25 RBIs, 0 stolen bases

Outfield

Left Field: Adam Eaton

The Stats (2017–19): 269 games, .288 average, .377 on-base percentage, 22 home runs, 182 runs scored, 95 RBIs, 27 stolen bases

I’m cheating a little bit here. The vast majority of Eaton’s reps in Washington have come in right field, but he hasn’t exactly lit it up there, and there’s someone else who also primarily played in right while also looking like an aesthetically better fit. But that’s not what’s most important. What makes Eaton the best man for this job?

There’s an argument for Josh Willingham, but he was only in town for one season in the decade, compared to Eaton’s three. Even from a statistical perspective, whereas Willingham has an advantage in the power categories, Eaton makes up for it with speed at the top of the batting order, leadership, and overall energy. Every team needs a spark plug, and “Spanky” certainly is one, even though injuries have stalled his tenure at various points.

Center Field: Michael A. Taylor

The Stats (2014–19): 536 games, .240 average, .294 on-base percentage, 48 home runs, 193 runs scored, 168 RBIs, 77 stolen bases

If you’re looking for consistency in the batter’s box, this guy is not for you. He has plenty of value defensively including a top-three Gold Glove finish in 2017 and on the base paths, but “sporadic” is probably the kindest way to describe his production at the plate. Then again, he has a knack for performing in the clutch when it’s least expected. He hit a home run in his lone at-bat in the World Series, to name one example. And as a friend recently reminded me, he did hit a ball 490 feet once, so there’s certainly something in his swing.

The numbers aren’t particularly favorable for MAT, but defense is the name of the game in center field for the most part, anyway. The occasional clutch hit is just icing on the cake.

Right Field: Jayson Werth

The Stats (2011–17): 808 games, .263 average, .355 on-base percentage, 109 home runs, 450 runs scored, 393 RBIs, 55 stolen bases

Here’s that guy that kept Eaton out of right field. In some respects, he shouldn’t even be on this roster. After all, his signing in Washington was essentially the beginning of the extended run of dominance the Nationals are still enjoying today. The biggest reason why he isn’t on the final roster is the spectacular duo of corner outfielders that showed up later.

Admittedly, Werth had peaks and valleys, but the peaks are too great to ignore. He had a three-year stretch (2012–14) during which he batted .303 with 46 home runs, 211 runs scored, and 195 RBIs in 357 games injuries were always an obstacle as primarily the No. 3 hitter in the lineup the passer of the baton from Denard Span and Anthony Rendon to the sluggers. Add in the facial hair, comically brash personality and a few clutch moments, and he had an extended run as a cult hero in Washington that can’t go unrewarded.

It feels unfair to point out that his seven-year batting average in Washington was barely over .260 and that he arguably became a liability late in his career, because in his prime he was probably a top five player in the MLB at his position he finished in the top 20 in MVP voting in 2013 and 2014.

The Omissions

Willie Harris (2010): 132 games, .183 average, .291 on-base percentage, 10 home runs, 25 runs scored, 32 RBIs, 5 stolen bases

Roger “The Shark” Bernadina (2010–13): 439 games, .245 average, .311 on-base percentage, 25 home runs, 135 runs scored, 105 RBIs, 51 stolen bases

Laynce Nix (2011): 124 games, .250 average, .299 on-base percentage, 16 home runs, 38 runs scored, 44 RBIs, 2 stolen bases

Rick Ankiel (2011–12): 190 games, .236 average, .292 on-base percentage, 14 home runs, 61 runs scored, 52 RBIs, 11 stolen bases

Tyler Moore (2012–13): 138 games, .241 average, .292 on-base percentage, 14 home runs, 36 runs scored, 50 RBIs, 0 stolen bases

Scott Hairston (2013–14): 94 games, .215 average, .250 on-base percentage, 3 home runs, 11 runs scored, 15 RBIs, 0 stolen bases

Kevin Frandsen (2014): 105 games, .259 average, .299 on-base percentage, 1 home run, 17 runs scored, 17 RBIs, 0 stolen bases

Ben Revere (2016): 103 games, .217 average, .260 on-base percentage, 2 home runs, 44 runs scored, 24 RBIs, 14 stolen bases

Chris Heisey (2016–17): 121 games, .197 average, .265 on-base percentage, 10 home runs, 26 runs scored, 22 RBIs, 0 stolen bases

Brian Goodwin (2016–18): 144 games, .246 average, .315 on-base percentage, 16 home runs, 51 runs scored, 47 RBIs, 9 stolen bases

Andrew Stevenson (2017–19): 124 games, .241 average, .323 on-base percentage, 1 home run, 18 runs scored, 14 RBIs, 2 stolen bases

Gerardo Parra (2019): 89 games, .250 average, .300 on-base percentage, 8 home runs, 30 runs scored, 42 RBIs, 6 stolen bases

Potential Lineup

  1. LF Adam Eaton
  2. 3B Yunel Escobar
  3. RF Jayson Werth
  4. 1B Adam LaRoche
  5. 2B Asdrubal Cabrera
  6. C Matt Wieters
  7. CF Michael A. Taylor
  8. Pitcher
  9. SS Danny Espinosa

Bench

Brian Dozier (Infield)

The Stats (2019): 135 games, .238 average, .340 on-base percentage, 20 home runs, 54 runs scored, 50 RBIs, 3 stolen bases

He’d likely only play second base with Cabrera sliding to third base or shortstop when needed but he’s a bit quicker than most of the rest of the roster and provides significant power-hitting upside for a middle infielder. Aside from being the go-to infielder off the bench, he’d be an option in any other role without being the top option at anything.

Adam Dunn (First Base)

The Stats (2010): 158 games, .260 average, .356 on-base percentage, 38 home runs, 85 runs scored, 103 RBIs

He’s the best-fitted player to be the backup first baseman, but that’s not really why he’s on the roster. There were probably only a handful of better power hitters in the league during his prime. Even off the bench, he’s an ideal candidate to provide a spark to the offense. Theoretically, if the team was playing in an American League ballpark, he would become the starting designated hitter, adding considerable thump to the heart of the lineup.

Yan Gomes (Catcher)

The Stats (2019): 97 games, .223 average, 12 home runs, 36 runs scored, 43 RBIs, 31 percent caught stealing

There’s actually a decent argument to be made for starting Gomes instead of Wieters, but he was never truly an everyday player. Off the bench, he becomes an asset. His productivity at the plate rivals Wieters, and some pitchers would likely prefer throwing to Gomes.

Nyjer Morgan (Outfield)

The Stats (2010): 136 games, .253 average, .319 on-base percentage, 0 home runs, 60 runs scored, 24 RBIs, 34 stolen bases

He’s not nearly as accomplished of a hitter as other players on the roster. This pick is all about speed and swagger. It’s a role that could almost be filled by Gerardo Parra, but “Tony Plush” would serve as the go-to defensive substitution in the outfield and pinch-runner, which is very important on a roster that doesn’t include much speed. Don’t get caught up in the goose egg under home runs.

Josh Willingham (Outfield)

The Stats (2010): 114 games, .268 average, .389 on-base percentage, 16 home runs, 54 runs scored, 56 RBIs, 8 stolen bases

If Dunn was the team’s most dangerous hitter at the beginning of the decade, Willingham might’ve been the next best thing. If he stayed healthier, his total production would look a lot more appealing, but he’s a guy who hit a pair of grand slams in consecutive innings in 2009. From an offensive perspective, he would be the top backup at both corner outfield spots, and he’d be a serviceable DH as well as his more obvious role as a pinch-hitter.

Rest of the Roster

Here’s a reminder of who the second-tier pitchers who will complete this roster were.

Starting Pitchers

Patrick Corbin, Doug Fister, Ross Detwiler, Anibal Sanchez, Livan Hernandez

Closer

Rafael Soriano

Setup

Matt Capps, Matt Albers

Extra Right-Handers

Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley

Extra Left-Handers

Sean Burnett, Felipe Rivero

Analysis

Should you feel extreme confidence in this roster? Maybe not. There certainly are some holes across the roster, but it’s also filled with plenty of talented players. As long as the most important players could avoid injuries, this roster could probably contend for a playoff spot.

As a reminder, none of these players were the best at their position or even fall within the (loosely defined, somewhat role-specific) top 25 out of all positions  for the franchise in the last decade. That should serve as evidence of how amazing the 2010s were for the Nationals.

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