There was quite the discussion on Sunday on what the Washington Nationals 2016 bench could look like for 2016. Bench personnel change and evolve during the course of a 162 game season.
Most fans expect Espinosa to be a starter when the 2016 season begins which will create an opening for a backup middle infielder to begin the season. Currently on the 40 man roster, the middle infielders are Rendon, Espinosa, Trea Turner, Wilmer Difo, and Chris Bostick. Soon Daniel Murphy will join that list. If your Opening Day starters are Rendon 3B, Espinosa SS, Murphy 2B, and Turner, Difo and Bostick all begin the season in the Minors than that would mean Rizzo will be acquiring a middle infielder for the bench.
Dusty and Rizzo also have Tyler Moore and Clint Robinson as extra 1st basemen, and both players can also add emergency depth as outfielders. There is no guarantee both Moore and Robinson will make the Opening Day roster as Daniel Murphy could find himself as the 1st back-up to Ryan Zimmerman at 1st base.
In the outfield based on depth there is Harper, Werth, Taylor, den Dekker, and Brian Goodwin. As of now Werth LF, Taylor CF, and Harper RF would be your starting outfield; however, it is very possible that Mike Rizzo will acquire another outfielder before Spring Training starts which would push Taylor to the bench or to get reps in AAA.
— Clint Robinson (@BatHoarder) December 21, 2015
The Nats 2015 bench showed versatility and a player like Michael A. Taylor was thrust into a starting role when he was projected to be depth playing in AAA. Clint Robinson was supposed to be Matt Williams big lefty bat, and he ended up appearing in more games than Ryan Zimmerman and started 77 games.
The Nats bench once again was near the bottom in pinch hitting ranking 24th in the Majors based on OPS:
The average NL team had a .220 BA in pinch-hitting and the Nats were at a disappointing .168 average well below the Mendoza line.
Those are some poor bench stats as a group. On the outside looking in is former Dusty Baker pupil Chris Heisey who will be competing for a bench spot and he slashed .250/.400/1.000/1.400 in pinch-hitting in 2015 in a small sample size.
Interestingly, in a sample size larger than den Dekker’s, a rumored target of Rizzo’s was one of the best pinch hitters in baseball last year and that would Gerardo Parra who slashed .500/.524/.700/1.224 in 21 times at the plate in 2015 as a pinch-hitter. In games that Parra did not start in 2015 for the Brewers, he was the 1st man off the bench to pinch-hit.
As mentioned, the Nats could look to add another middle infielder, and one name mentioned is Kelly Johnson who the Nationals are very familiar with as a pinch-hitter. The lefty had a sample size almost the size of Uggla’s slashing .273/.333/.409/.742.
Jeff Francoeur was perhaps the best righty pinch-hitter in all of baseball in a larger sample size as he slashed .367/.355/.567/.922 and Frenchy is a Free Agent also.
Mike Rizzo has options to improve the bench.