May 7, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .262/.322/.373
Team ERA: 2.32
Runs per game: 3.42
Bryce Harper, RF: 3 HR/ 8 RBI/ 1.047 OPS
Was there any way he wouldn’t make it on here? Harper’s memorable three-homer game Wednesday afternoon was obviously the high point of what’s been a very solid start to his season. We’ve been used to seeing him put on power displays in the past, but we probably haven’t seen him as locked in as he is right now. Though he’s not hitting .300 just yet (his average sits at .265 at the moment), his NL-leading 26 walks is a telling sign of of both the 22-year-old’s increasingly patient approach at the plate as well as opposing pitchers’ respect of him. For all that’s been said about him since he’s been in the big leagues, it’s easy to forget that he’s still nine months younger than the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, this year’s “it” prospect. It’s still really early in the year, but perhaps we’re on the cusp of watching Harper transform into the transcendent player many expect him to be.
Yunel Escobar, 3B: .345 AVG/ 4 RBI/ .355 OBP
Maybe it’s the fresh start with a new team, maybe it’s the added protection in the lineup, but Escobar seems to be feeling right at home with the Nats thus far. Over the last week, he notched the highest average of any of the everyday players, keyed by Monday’s career best 5-for-5 effort in a comeback win over the Marlins. For a player whose track record suggests he’s a solid-but-not-spectacular hitter, he sure seems to be in the middle of nearly every big rally the club has had over the last few weeks. And as an added bonus, he’s been able to hold down the fort at third base while Anthony Rendon has been out.
Drew Storen, RP: 4 GP/ 3 Sv/ 0.00 ERA
A lot of fans still get shivers when Storen comes on in the ninth to close out a game, but more often than not he gets the job done. In what was a bounce-back week for the beleaguered Nats bullpen, he was especially dominant; he allowed just two base runners in four innings, struck out four and walked none en route to earning three saves. On the season, his ERA is at 1.50 and has a 13-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. As with any closer, a few bad outings will stick out in the minds of many, but Storen has turned in far more good than bad so far in 2015.
Gio Gonzalez, SP: 7.0 IP/ 0.00 ERA/ 9 K
On a night where the Nats offense mustered just one run, Gio picked a nice time to turn in his best performance of the season. He shut out the division-leading Mets in seven innings of work while striking out nine and walking two to earn his second win of the year. He was putting hitters away with his entire arsenal: Whether it was the curveball that fell off the table, the changeup or the fastball that hit 94 mph at times, Gonzalez looked like he had everything working in the Big Apple. It was the type of start that’d make other clubs envious that he’s considered a “back of the rotation” guy for the Nats, when he could easily be much more if he were on practically any other team in the league.
Jayson Werth, LF: .227 OBP/ .227 SLG
With Werth landing in this spot three weeks in a row, it might be time for the Nats to wonder what’s wrong with their three-hole hitter. Matt Williams opted to rest him two days in a row due to a “cranky” shoulder, and perhaps the time off would do Werth well. But if he’s still feeling the effects of offseason shoulder surgery, what’s to say he won’t struggle again once he’s reinserted into the lineup? That’s the worry here, and if that’s the case, you wonder how long it’ll take before he gets back to being his old self.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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