Washington Nationals: Keep The Speed Up In 2017
Last season, the Washington Nationals were one of the best teams in the National League at stealing bases. They need to keep that trend up in 2017
Back in 2015, the Washington Nationals stole the second fewest bases of any team in the National League under manager Matt Williams. During that following offseason, the team made coaching changes with manager Dusty Baker and first base coach Davey Lopes. With those changes came a new philosophy change and the team was active on the bases in 2016.
This past season, the Washington Nationals stole 121 bases in 160 attempts, which was the fifth highest of any team in the National League and the highest among all NL playoff teams. In fact, the San Francisco Giants (eighth in stolen bases) were the only other playoff team in the top ten (Cubs were 11th).
Out of those 121 steals, the Washington Nationals had five players who had ten or more steals and Danny Espinosa was one stolen base from making that six players. Of course, Trea Turner ended up being one of the reasons for that success as he stole 33 bases, despite not starting the season with the big league club.
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Other than Turner, Bryce Harper stole a career-high 21 bases, which was three more than when he won Rookie Of the Year (18) and 15 more than he won the MVP in 2015 (six). Plus, with Anthony Rendon fully healthy, he stole ten or more bases for the second time in his career (12 in 2016).
When looking at this Washington Nationals squad heading into 2017, the one thing I am looking forward to watching is the amount of stolen bases Turner and new center fielder Adam Eaton can have as a duo. If Turner could stay healthy and play a full season at shortstop, he should be able to at least match 33 stolen bases. The wild card here is Eaton.
Last season, with the White Sox, Eaton stole 14 bases. While Eaton has stolen ten or more bases each of the last three years, Eaton stole fewer bases than Todd Frazier (15) last season. Of course, Frazier is more well known for his power than his stolen bases. As a team, the White Sox have stolen fewer than 80 bases each of the last two seasons (77 in 2016 and 68 in 2015).
With Eaton now in D.C., it wouldn’t be a surprise if he attempted to steal more with the Nats compared to when he was with the White Sox. If both Turner and Eaton can make an impact on the bases, that’s going to allow the power bats in this offense more chances to drive in runs.
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While it is only late December, it’s never too early to look at some projections. If you look at the STEAMER projections on Fangraphs, the Washington Nationals are projected to have five players steal ten or more bases. It’s no surprise Turner would lead the team (35), but they also project Wilmer Difo to have 12 steals in 75 games.
On Monday, my fellow co-editor Ron Juckett wrote about how the Washington Nationals need to keep the power rolling in 2017. For my Nats New Year’s resolution, the speed needs to be the key if this team wants to be a championship contender once again.