Of the four rookies on the Nationals roster, one is getting enough attention and media coverage to make your head spin. You have an idea which one I’m referring to?
I know, that’s a clown question, bro.
If you get into a conversation about the Nats these days, Bryce Harper is almost certainly the first name to come up. He finds his way into every Nationals highlight, dominates the social media landscape and is a hot topic among those who aren’t even fans of the team that currently leads the National League East by five full games.
The impact that Harper has made early on in his rookie year has been incredible. After a six-game road trip in which he batted .476 (10-for-21) with two homers, two doubles, five RBIs and a 1.399 OPS, Harper’s season average is now above .300.
He’s up to .303 on the year with seven home runs, 20 extra-base hits and a .933 OPS, which, if he had enough plate appearances to qualify, would rank 16th in all of baseball.
Harper has been truly exceptional thus far. But let’s not overlook the play of the two other rookies who have been called on recently.
Over the last month or so, Steve Lombardozzi has settled in as the Nationals’ left fielder and leadoff hitter against right-handed starters. The lifelong middle infielder has done a remarkable job adapting to a new position on the fly, making all the routine plays in left, occasionally adding in a defensive gem and rarely looking out of place in the process.
The number of times that I’ve seen Lombardozzi take a bad route to a ball or look lost in left field have been incredibly few and far between, which is a testament to his baseball savvy and work ethic.
At the plate, Lombardozzi has slowed down a bit after a very strong month of May in which he batted .348 with a .392 on-base percentage, but his season numbers (.275/.338/.355) are still strong. Lombardozzi has stabilized the top of the Nats lineup, allowing Ian Desmond to settle into the No. 6 spot in the order and Danny Espinosa the No. 7 hole, giving the Nats legitimate power from 2-8 in the lineup.
Then there’s Tyler Moore, who played sparingly during his first stint with the Nats this season, but has gotten more at-bats since his June 7 call-up and is starting to come around at the plate.
In his 31 at-bats this season, Moore is now batting .290 with two homers, two doubles and five RBIs. All four of those extra-base hits came during the last week, when Moore had six hits in 12 trips to the plate.
Backup catcher Jhonatan Solano has impressed during his limited playing time, as well, going 4-for-10 with a home run and throwing out three of the seven runners who have attempted to steal on him.
Harper will clearly be the rookie who will generate the bulk of the production and attention in this Nationals lineup. That’s a given. But Lombardozzi and Moore have also played well when called upon.
Most days, the Nats start two rookies at the top of their order, which is impressive enough for a first-place team, and if Moore can continue to hit, could become a vital bat off the bench during games he isn’t in the lineup. That’s quite a luxury for manager Davey Johnson to work with.
On a side note: Tonight is Ryan Zimmerman’s “A Night At The Park” at Nats Park, an event benefiting his ziMS foundation, which is dedicated to the treatment and ultimate cure of Multiple Sclerosis. The band Guster will perform, there will be silent and live auctions and a number of Zimmerman’s teammates will be in attendance.
It’s still not too late to buy tickets for the event. To do so, go to http://www.anightatthepark.com/.