The Washington Nationals have an abundance of offensive riches. They’ve survived the problems in their bullpen for now, and have stayed in first place thanks to a strong starting rotation and incredible hitting from the likes of Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman.
When offseason-acquisition and center fielder Adam Eaton was lost for the year in late April with a torn ACL, I had concerns with the viability of starting Michael Taylor in his place. Taylor, however, has come around the last few games, hitting .391 with two homers since May 10. In fact, the Nationals lead the National League in team hits, runs scored, RBI, batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS and OPS+ this year. Their offense is so stacked that they have a player currently hitting .341 on the bench, a victim of a numbers game.
That player is Adam Lind, who has enjoyed a great start to 2017, but unfortunately has not enjoyed much playing time. Through his first 25 games, he has hit three home runs and 14 RBI in just 44 at bats, and his .400 OBP would rank fourth on the club if he was a full-time player. Once a mainstay in the Toronto Blue Jays’ lineup, it’s a bit surprising that Lind was never an All-Star in Canada, especially during his career-year of 2009, when he hit .305 with 35 homers and 114 RBI. Lind has hit 20 or more homers six times, including 20 last year with the Seattle Mariners, proving that he still had more to offer in the big leagues for this season. He signed with the Nationals on February 15, and has a mutual option for next year, which he could decline should he feel that he would get more playing time elsewhere.
The problem with Lind is that outside of pinch-hit spots and designated hitter opportunities when the ‘Nats play in an American League park, his only real option comes at first base, a spot now locked down by Zimmerman. He has seen time at first in 10 occasions this year, giving Zimmerman some time off. Lind has played 224 games in the outfield during his career, but all those chances came in left field, now occupied in D.C. by Werth. Even if there was an opening in the corner outfield spot, he hasn’t even played there since 2010. In 13 pinch-hit chances this year, he has seven hits, including all three of his homers. Will the ‘Nats stick with him in that role all season, and will he be on board with playing so infrequently despite numbers indicating that he should start?
Unless Zimmerman or Werth unfortunately go down with injuries, I’m not sure that there’s any room for Lind to start full-time, no matter how high his batting average climbs. If Taylor proves that he deserves to start in center field, and Trea Turner recovers from a slow start to the season, the Nationals will likely be willing to life with the problem of having a hot-hitter on the bench who struggles to find playing time.
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