The Nationals weren’t a team that relied heavily on speed in 2012. They didn’t have to.
When healthy, the Nats’ starting lineup featured eight guys who have hit at least 15 home runs in a season. Seven of those players have legitimate 25-homer power.
The Nats also had a strong overall team on-base percentage, which nearly slotted them in the top third of the league in that category.
They were tied for 14th in the league in stolen bases last season, swiping 105 bags. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.
In 2013, though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see those stolen base numbers rise a bit.
A lot of that, of course, will be thanks to Denard Span, who gives the Nationals an element atop their lineup that they haven’t had before.
Span gets on base at an impressive clip (he has a career .357 OBP), and while his single-season career-high in stolen bases is just 26, we can expect to see that number increase in a Nats uniform.
The Twins didn’t ask Span to run a ton over the last five seasons, and so he didn’t. He won’t necessarily have to run a ton in D.C., either, but Span’s speed is one of the qualities that Nats general manager Mike Rizzo likes about the 28-year-old center fielder.
Rizzo has said that he expects Span to run more in the coming seasons, and Span has said he’s looking forward to improving his baserunning skills and crafting that part of his game.
A spot or two (or possibly three, if Adam LaRoche doesn’t re-sign) below Span in the Nationals’ batting order will be Bryce Harper, who is coming off a season in which he stole 18 bases in 24 chances.
The precocious teenager that we saw last season isn’t a teenager anymore after turning 20 in October, but he will still look to push the envelope and make things happen on the bases, perhaps even more so in 2013, with a full year of major league experience under his belt.
Harper also won’t be playing center field this season (Span will be slotted there, putting Harper in a corner outfield spot), which should keep his legs fresher and theoretically leave him with more gas in the tank which can be expended on the bases.
In addition to higher stolen base numbers, we can also expect to see more examples of players going from first to third, or second to home. Harper brought plenty of that last season, and Span should, as well.
Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa will have a shot to follow up with a second straight 20-plus stolen base season, and while Jayson Werth will be another year older, a season of improved health could allow him to get back on the plus side of the 15-stolen base mark.
The Nats won’t necessarily build their offensive attack around speed like some teams do, but we should see more action on the bases from them this season than we have in seasons past.