Tag: Ryan Zimmerman

Anthony Rendon

Anthony Rendon’s knee is still sore, Opening Day status in doubt


Anthony Rendon’s left knee remains sore two full weeks after suffering a sprained MCL that the Nationals initially thought would be a 2-3 day injury.

James Wagner of the Washington Post writes that the Nationals plan to give the All-Star third baseman more rest, but there’s no official timetable for his return and “Rendon may run out of time to be ready for Opening Day.”

Rendon played 153 games last year in his first full season, replacing Ryan Zimmerman as the Nationals’ everyday third baseman and emerging as one of the league’s best all-around players by hitting .287 with 21 homers, 17 steals, and an .824 OPS to go with stellar defense at age 24.

2015 Preview: Washington Nationals

Max Scherzer

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Washington Nationals.

The Big Question: Will the Nationals finally live up to expectations after falling short of them in each of the last three seasons?

In 2012, the Nationals took the NL East from the Phillies, winning 98 games and reaching the post-season for the first time since moving to the nation’s capital and for the first time in franchise history since 1981, when the then-Expos lost the NLCS to the Dodgers. In 2013, they were many experts’ pre-season picks to win the World Series but slumped throughout most of the season and only finished at 86 wins thanks to a late-season surge. And in 2014, they reclaimed the NL East but still fell short of expectations when they lost the NLDS to the Wild Card-winning Giants in four games.

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo made a big splash into the free agent market during the off-season, signing starter Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract. Scherzer bolsters what was already a threatening rotation which includes Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, and Gio Gonzalez. Scherzer, the 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner, again led the AL in wins with 18 while compiling a 3.15 ERA with a 252/63 K/BB ratio. Zimmermann finished last season with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio in 199 2/3 innings, and ended the regular season on a high note with a no-hitter at home against the Marlins. Strasburg finished at 3.14 with a 242/43 K/BB ratio in 215 innings; Fister, 2.41 and 98/24 in 164; and Gonzalez 3.57 and 162/56 in 158 2/3. You won’t find a better one-through-five in baseball, and god help you if you have to face Scherzer/Zimmermann/Strasburg in a short playoff series.

As strong as the pitching is, the offense is nothing to sneeze at, either. The only players to take at least 240 trips to the plate and post a below-average adjusted OPS (also known as OPS+) last season were Danny Espinosa (74) and Wilson Ramos (91). Going into 2015, they’ll have four players who could each get into double-digits in steals in Anthony Rendon, Denard Span, Ian Desmond, and Jayson Werth. They could have as many as five hitters slug 20-plus home runs in Rendon and Desmond – who both accomplished the feat last season – along with Werth, Bryce Harper, and a healthy Ryan Zimmerman.

The Nationals’ biggest weakness appears to be their bullpen. Drew Storen returns as the closer after taking over for Rafael Soriano late in the season. Storen finished the 2014 campaign with a 1.12 ERA and a 46/11 K/BB ratio in 56 1/3 innings. He has a spotty track record and relievers in general are a fickle bunch, but there’s good reason to believe his performance was more real than illusory.

There won’t be any excuses for the Nationals if they don’t live up to expectations in 2015. And they’re expected to not just reach the post-season, but win the World Series. Zimmermann, Fister, Desmond, and Span can each potentially become free agents after the season. The Nationals will have a lot of tough decisions to make, and they’ll only be tougher if they can’t accomplish all of their 2015 goals.

What else is going on?

  • The Nationals acquired Yunel Escobar from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Tyler Clippard in January. Escobar, a shortstop by trade, will slide over to second base and form a double-play combo with Desmond. Escobar, 32, has posted a sub-.700 OPS in each of the last three seasons. If there is a weak link in the Nationals’ lineup, Escobar is it.
  • Casey Janssen, the former closer for the Blue Jays, will set up behind Storen. He’ll receive $5 million from the Nationals in total: $3.5 million in 2015 and $1.5 million as part of a buyout for the 2016 season along with a $7 million mutual option. Janssen, 33, made his regular season debut in May due to back problems and finished the season with his worst ERA (3.94) since 2009. Though his control was still pristine, his ability to miss bats took a nosedive. If he can’t rediscover that ability, the Nationals could have problems bridging the gap to Storen.
  • Harper expects to step up in 2015. The first overall pick in the 2010 draft, Harper has been productive but has had trouble staying on the field – he racked up fewer than 500 plate appearances in each of the last two seasons – and hasn’t quite been as productive as his skill set would indicate. He’s only 22 years old and the sky is still the limit. A jump from All-Star to MVP candidate would go a long way towards the Nationals living up to expectations.
  • Zimmerman is moving across the diamond from third base to first base. Though the move will help him defensively, he will have to hit to provide value at the position. In 2014, the average third baseman posted a .714 OPS; the average first baseman was found at .745.

Prediction: The Nationals win the NL East running away with 97 wins.

Anthony Rendon has a sprained MCL in his left knee

Anthony Rendon

Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon has been diagnosed with a sprained MCL in his left knee, but for now at least the team insists it’s a minor injury that will only sideline him for a few days.

Of course, already this spring we’ve seen plenty of “minor” injuries across baseball quickly prove to be very serious and the Nationals have a lot of banged up position players right now led by Denard Span and his 4-6 recovery timetable for core muscle surgery.

Rendon was one of the best all-around players in the league last season as a 24-year-old in his first full MLB campaign, hitting .287 with 21 homers and an .824 OPS while taking over for Ryan Zimmerman as the starting third baseman.

He was injured on a diving play during Monday’s game.

Bryce Harper: “I have to step up a little bit.”

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper didn’t exactly put up bad numbers last season, but they weren’t indicative of his talent. He also missed 57 games on the disabled list after tearing the UCL in his left hand while sliding into third base. He finished with a .273/.344/.423 slash line with 13 home runs and 32 RBI in 395 plate appearances.

Harper thinks he has to do more to contribute to the Nationals’ offense in 2015. Via MLB.com’s Bill Ladson:

“I’ll help out for sure,” Harper said. “After losing LaRoche, I have to step up a little bit. I have to do what I need to do. Our pitching is going to take us to the top, hopefully, but we still have to have offense. We have to do the things we need to do. I’m ready to go. I’ll be feeling good.”

The Nationals’ calling card is certainly their pitching, but their offense is nothing to sneeze at, either. Last season, infielder Danny Espinosa and catcher Wilson Ramos were the only two of nine players to take at least 240 trips to the plate and post a below-average adjusted OPS (OPS+; below 100). Harper’s OPS+ was 111, bested by Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth, and Anthony Rendon.

Ryan Zimmerman is “looking forward to the challenge” of being the Nationals’ first baseman

ryan zimmerman getty

In making no effort to re-sign free agent Adam LaRoche the Nationals signaled that first base is Ryan Zimmerman’s new full-time position after shoulder problems forced a move for the former Gold Glove third baseman.

Nationals manager Matt Williams, who played 17 seasons as a third baseman and logged just 106 career innings at first base, told Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com that he’s “pretty confident” Zimmerman will fare well across the diamond because “he’s an athlete … he can do it.”

Zimmerman said he plans to put in a lot of work at first base during spring training after getting only a crash course there previously:

That’s going to take a lot of work. Everyone thinks you just go over to first base and kind of hide him there, but it’s a tough position. There’s a lot of things I have to learn, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Zimmerman has five years and $74 million remaining on his contract and the Nationals’ outfield is set with Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth flanking Denard Span, so one way or another it’ll work for him at first base.