May 13, 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: .357/.396/.619
Team ERA: 5.26
Runs per game: 7.8
Bryce Harper, RF: 7 HR/ 16 RBI/ 2.181 OPS
The way he’s going these days, we’re not sure if he’ll ever not be on this list. Harper, at 22, looks to be blossoming into the elite talent many projected him to be when he was drafted first overall in 2010. His power potential has always been there, but it’s his patient approach at the plate this season that’s taken his game to the next level. Even in at-bats when he’s not launching bombs, he’s opting not to over-swing, instead taking close pitches and showing that he’s perfectly content shooting a single the other way if need be. What’s scariest about Harper’s ascension is that no one truly knows what his ceiling is. If this is just the beginning, what’ll his numbers look like by season’s end?
Wilson Ramos, C: .350 AVG/ 5 RBI/ .500 SLG
Speaking of reaching potential, Ramos’ 15-game hitting streak highlights something Nats fans have been thinking for a few years: If only he can stay healthy. The 27-year-old catcher has played in more than 100 games just once in his career, and that was in 2011. So for the past few seasons, he hasn’t really been able to show what he could do over the course of a full year. The Nats believe he can be one of the best hitting catchers in the league, and so far, he’s proving them right. His .320 average is tops among qualified NL catchers, and is second in baseball only to Oakland’s Stephen Vogt.
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B: .409 AVG/ 2 HR/ 8 RBI
Of all the Nats who are currently on a hot streak, Zimmerman’s recent run at the plate has to be most satisfying for the club. Not only is it a reminder that, when healthy, the veteran infielder’s still got it, but that his potential return to form makes this offense as lethal as any in the NL. For the season, he’s hitting .349 with runners in scoring position, so while his season average isn’t super high just yet (.244), he’s doing more than enough to protect Harper in the lineup.
Max Scherzer, SP: 14.0 IP/ 2-0/ 16 K
Scherzer may be the perfect example of why a looking at a pitcher’s win total doesn’t tell the whole story. He’s been tagged with three losses, but has still been unquestionably the team’s best starting pitcher thus far. He leads the rotation in seemingly all the major statistical categories, whether it’s ERA (1.99), strikeouts (55) or WHIP (0.93). Sure, he’s had a few blemishes here and there, but for the most part he’s been the ace the Nats hoped he’d be when he was given that $210 million contract in January.
Stephen Strasburg, SP: 0-1/ 3.1 IP/ 18.90 ERA
It might officially be time for Nats fans to start worrying about Strasburg. After Tuesday night’s outing, he’s now been unable to get out of the fourth inning in consecutive starts. The first time was understandable, as he was taken out of the game as a precaution for fear of further injury. But in Arizona he turned in what was by far his worst start of the season, surrendering seven earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings. As always with him, it’s hard to pinpoint the primary culprit for his struggles. Sometimes it’s command, other times it’s his mechanics, health, or any combination thereof. Whatever it is, it’s put Strasburg in one of his biggest funks ever. His ERA on the season is an alarming 6.06, which as Mark Zuckerman noted earlier this morning, is good for 106th out of the 112 qualified major-league starters. Ouch.
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.
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