The Nationals were the beneficiaries of an otherworldly power from Kyle schwarber in June. Schwarber’s hot streak has been well-documented, but to sum it up, Schwarber hit 16 home runs after June 12 to finish with the second-most June homers of all time. Better yet, in that 19-game streak, the Nationals finished 15-4, putting the team back to .500 and firmly in the conversation for the NL East crown. They are 2.5 games behind the Mets entering the game on Saturday.
But now it’s July, and the Nationals have a strong new reality to face. Schwarber left Friday’s game with a hamstring injury, and while there hasn’t been a move listed yet, manager Dave Martinez called the injury “significant” and said he will be out for more than 10 days injury list period, by Todd dybas from Inside the Clubhouse. That’s not a death sentence for the Nats, but it is a crushing blow for a team that has long been one of the heaviest teams in the league.
Not only do the Nationals lack the depth to cover major injuries, there is too little system depth to shore up those weaknesses through the trade. Case and point: Trea turner it’s the day-to-day after dipping your finger into a triple, forcing the team to use the receiver Alex Avila as his starting second baseman the next day. But this isn’t just an administrative misunderstanding or a bit of a bad timing that left the Nats temporarily with few hands in the frame. Their shortage of capable MLB infielders is such that they immediately turned around and switched to Alcides Escobar of royalty.
The fact that the Nationals have some kind of question that Escobar is the answer to should be a telling indication of their current circumstances. Escobar hasn’t played in the majors since 2018. He hasn’t hit base with an OBP clip better than .300 since 2014. He has never topped .400 SLG in a season. For the optimists, he has a capable glove. The Royals won a World Series with Escobar at shortstop, and he posted a league batting average the past two seasons at Triple-A. During six seasons from 2011 to 2016, Escobar averaged 1.82 rWAR / 1.83 fWAR per season. That’s not star quality, but he’s a capable major league player.
To return to the crowd of half-empty cups, those years were firmly in Escobar’s physical prime, and at 34, he’s way beyond that. He averaged -1.45 rWAR / -0.2 fWAR in his last two seasons in the majors, which, to reiterate, was three seasons ago.
Okay, it’s unclear at this point what the Nationals’ plan is for Escobar. He is at Nats Park and in uniform, but no move has been made on the roster as they wait to see if Turner can play Saturday, according to Jesse dougherty from the Washington Post. It’s not a surprise to see Escobar in DC, as the Nationals like veterans who “have been there before.” Their list is a testament to that fact, relying as they have on discards such as Jordy mercer, Josh harrison other Gerardo Parra.
Short term, Humberto Arteaga He had selected his contract and started short on Friday. Arteaga is another scrap of the Royals. Arteaga was the Royals’ 20th prospect in the Baseball America rankings in 2013, and has never been better than 93 wRC + at any level.
The caveat to the Nats’ shortstop problem is that it doesn’t look like Turner will be out for long. For a couple of days, Arteaga or even Escobar are good remedies. But if Turner’s injury extends to one season on the disabled list, the Nats might consider turning to one of the top two prospects: Luis Garcia or Carter Kieboom. The shine is gone from these two, but they are still tremendously promising, and both are winning Triple-A. The problem is that neither of them is shaping up to be shortstop. Garcia has started 25 games short at Rochester, but has been grappling with his own injury concerns.
Garcia, still 21, is the only inside option for the Nats who has any chance of holding the line in the event of a Turner injury. That said, there is no replacement for Turner, who has been among the game’s most productive regulars at 3.6 fWAR, tied for sixth among ranked position players in the majors.
Going back to left field, the Nats are going to have a similar problem replacing Schwarber. Gerardo Parra will be in the lineup until a move is made on the roster, but beyond Parra, only Josh harrison has experience in gardens. Some sort of move on the roster should come soon, as the Nats are playing off a two-man bench if Schwarber and Turner aren’t available.
Parra’s contributions as a clubhouse presence can’t be discounted, not when “Baby Shark” continues to rev Nats Park’s engines every time he steps up to the plate. With the ability to play all three field venues, Parra certainly adds enough value to maintain a spot on the roster, but he’s too widespread as an everyday player.
Beyond Parra, Yadiel Hernandez You are more likely to get the call as the regular left dropped until Schwarber returns, especially with Andrew Stevenson so out. (Stevenson is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment on Sunday, notes Dougherty.) Hernandez has some power and regularly hits quality at-bats. In his youth, he could play all three outfield spots, but now he’s best used in a corner. He has mashed a .309 / .367 / .618 tune in 14 games since transferring to Triple-A, where the Nats sent him to get more regular playing time.
The 33-year-old rookie may seem like an uninspired option at first glance, but there’s at least some reason to believe he can hack it: He hit .333 / .390 / .417 in 41 plate appearances earlier this season when playing with regularity. time like Juan SotoReplacement of injuries. His overall line slid to .261 / .316 / .362 in 76 plate appearances, but with Schwarber and Soto healthy, Hernandez’s chances were limited to pinch-hitting.
As with Turner, no one is exactly capable of taking on the role that Schwarber left, at least as it was in June. But it was unlikely even Schwarber was still that guy. The macro issue for the Nationals is not replacing Turner and Schwarber in the next few days or even weeks; is that the talent pool behind the active roster is small enough that it’s not hard to imagine a total collapse, which is why teams continue to keep a close eye on the Nats as the trade deadline approaches.
On the one hand, Stephen strasburg could return; Patrick Corbin he could find his way; Turner’s finger problem could pass quickly; Soto could suffer a long-awaited power surge; other Daniel hudson, Tanner rainey other Kyle finnegan He could make hasty returns from the disabled list to bolster the bullpen. In a relatively limp NL East, the Nationals can certainly make a run for it.
On the other hand, Strasburg’s mysterious ill health could remain mysterious and poor; Corbin could have a hard time finding his mechanical consistency all season long; And with just an injury or two, the offense could fall apart. That was the story of the Nationals in 2020, which resulted in a last-place club. That was also the case in 2019 when, stop me if you’ve heard this before, Turner’s finger injury nearly ruined his season. The clock is on to see how the Nats respond to Schwarber’s injury. At the very least, we now know that Schwarber won’t be back anytime soon, literally ending the race that put them back in contention.